for fasting, they said, had a devil. "The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'behold a man gluttonous, and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners." But wisdom is justified of her children;" Matt. xi. 18, 19 And the weak Christians; Rom. xiv. 1-3. did censure those that did eat those meats and do those things, which they conceived to be unlawful. They that err themselves, and make God a service which he never appointed, will censure all as lukewarm, or temporizers, or wide-conscienced men, that err not with them, and place not their religion in such superstitious observances, as "touch not, taste not, handle not," &c. Col. ii. 18. 21-23. And the raw, - censorious Christians are offended with the charitable Christian, because he damneth not as many and as readily as they, and shutteth not enough out of the number of believers, and judgeth not rigorously enough of their ways. In a word, he is taken by one sort to be too strict, and by the other to be too compliant or indifferent in religion; because he placeth not the kingdom of God in meats and days, and such like circumstances, but in "righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost;" Rom. xiv. 15-17. And as Paul withstood Peter to the face, for drawing men to make scruple or conscience of things lawful; Gal. ii. 11-13; so is the sound Christian withstood by the superstitious, for not making scruple of lawful things.

2. And the weak Christian is in the same case, so long as he followeth prudent, pious, charitable guides. But if he be taken in the snares of superstitton, he pleaseth the superstitious party, though he displease the world.

3. And whereas the solid Christian will not stir an inch from truth and duty, to escape either the hatred of the wicked, or the bitterest censures of the sectary, or the weak; the hypocrite must needs have one party on his side: for if both condemn him, and neither applaud him, he loseth his peculiar reward: Matt. vi. 2. 5. xxiii. 5-8.

LVII. 1. The confirmed Christian doth understand the necessity of a faithful ministry, for the safety of the weak, (as well as the conversion of the wicked) and for the preservation of the interest of religion upon earth! And therefore no personal unworthiness of ministers, nor any calumnies of enemies can make bim think or speak dishonourably of that sacred office. But he reverenceth it as instituted

[ocr errors]

by Christ; and though he loathe the sottishness and wickedness of those that run before they are sent, and are utterly insufficient or ungodly, and take it up for a living or trade only, as they would a common work; and are sons of Belial, that know not the Lord, and cause the offering of the Lord to be abhorred;" 1 Sam. ii. 2. 17. Yet no such temptation shall overthrow his reverence to the office, which is the ordinance of Christ; much less will he be unthankful to those who are able and faithful in their office, and labour instantly for the good of souls, as willing to spend and be spent for their salvation. When the world abuseth and derideth, and injureth them, he is one that honoureth them both for their work and master's sake, and the experience which he hath had of the blessing of God on their labours to himself. For he knoweth that the smiting of the shepherds, is but the devil's ancient way for the scattering of the flock; though he knoweth that" if the salt hath lost its savour, it is good for nothing, neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men cast it out, and it is trodden under foot; (he that hath ears to hear, let him hear);" Luke xiv. 34, 35. Matt. v. 13, 14. Yet he also knoweth, that he "that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet, shalĮ receive a prophet's reward;" Matt. x. 41, 42. And that, "he that receiveth them, receiveth Christ, and he that despiseth them (that are sent by him) despiseth him;” Luke x. 16. He therefore readily obeyeth those commands, Heb. xiii. 17. "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves; for they watch for your souls as those that must give an account; 1 Thess. v. 12, 13. We beseech you brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them very highly in love for their works' sake, and be at peace among yourselves; 1 Tim. v. 17. Let the elders that rule well, be counted worthy of double honour; especially they who labour in the word and doctrine."

2. But though the weak Christian be of the same mind so far as he is sanctified, yet is he much more easily tempted into a wrangling censoriousness against his teachers, though they be never so able and holy men; and by seducers may be drawn to oppose them, or speak contemptuously of them, as the Galatians did of Paul, and some of the Corinthains; accounting him as their enemy for telling them the truth

when lately they would have plucked out their eyes to do him good; Gal. iv. 15, 16.

3. But the hypocrite is most easily engaged against them, either when they grate upon the guilt of his former sin, or open his hypocrisy, or plainly cross him in his carnal interest, or else when his pride hath conquered his sobriety, and engaged him in some sect or erroneous way, which his teachers are against, and would reduce him from; John vi. 66. Mark v. 27. 2 Chron. xxv. 16.

LVIII. 1. A Christian indeed is one that hath stored up such manifold experience of the fulfilling of God's promises, and the hearing of prayers, and the goodness of his holy ways, as will greatly fortify him against all temptations to infidelity, apostasy, or distrust. No one hath stronger temptations usually than he, and no one is so well furnished with weapons to resist them. The arguments of most others are fetched out of their books only; but he hath moreover a life of experience to confirm his faith, and so hath the witness in himself. He hath tried and found that in God, in holiness, in faith, in prayer, which will never suffer him to forsake them. Yea, it is like that he hath upon record some such wonders in the answer of prayers, as might do much to silence an infidel himself. I am sure many Christians have had such strange appearances of the extraordinary hand of God, that hath done much to destroy the remnants of their own unbelief; Psal. lxvi. 16.

2. But the experiences of the younger, weaker Christians are much shorter, and less serviceable to their faith; and they have not judgment enough to understand and make use of the dealings of God; but are ready to plead his providences unto evil ends and consequences, and to take their own passionate imaginations for the workings of the Spirit. It is ordinary with them to say, this or that was set upon my heart, or spoken to me,' as if it had been some divine inspiration, when it was nothing but the troubled workings of a weak distempered brain: and it is their own fancy and heart that saith that to them, which they think the Spirit of God within them said; Heb. v. 11-13. 2 Thess. ii. 21. John iv. 1. 1 Tim. iv. 1. 1 Cor. xii. 10. Jer. xxiii. 28, 29. 32. xxix. 8.

3. And the hypocrite wanteth those establishing experiments of the power of the Gospel, and the hearing of pray

ers, and fulfilling of promises, and communion with Christ in the Spirit; and therefore he is the more open to the power of temptations, and a subtle disputer will easily corrupt him and carry him away to flat apostasy; for he wanteth the root and witness in himself; Matt. xiii. 21, 22. 1 John v. 10. Heb. vi. 6, 7, 8. Luke viii. 13.

LIX. 1. A Christian indeed, is one that highly valueth sanctified affections and passions, that all he doth may be done as lively as possibly he can; and also holy abilities for expression. But he much more valueth, the three great essential, constant parts of the new creature within him; that is, 1. A high estimation of God, and Christ, and heaven and holiness in his understanding, above all that can be set in any competition. 2. A resolved choice and adhesion of the will, by which he preferreth God, and Christ, and heaven, and holiness, ahove all that can be set against them, and is fixedly resolved here to place his happiness and his hopes. 3. The main drift and endeavours of his life, in which he "seeketh first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; Matt. vi. 33. ix. 20, 21. In these three (his highest estimation, his resolved choice and complacencies, and his chief endeavours) he taketh his standing constant evidences of his sincerity to consist; and by these he trieth himself as to his state, and not by the passionate feelings or affections of his heart; nor by his memory, or gifts, or orderly thinking, or expression. And it is these rational operations of his soul, in which he knoweth that holiness doth principally consist; and therefore he most laboureth to be strong in these. 1. To ground his judgment well. 2. And to resolve and fix his will. 3. And to order his conversation aright; Psal. 1. 23. Yet highly valuing sensible affections and gifts of utterance, but in subserviency to those which are the vital acts; 1 Cor. xiii. Rom. vii. 18, &c. vi. 16. 22. Rom. Col. i. 9. iii. 16.

viii. 13. James ii.

2. But the weak Christian usually placeth most of his religion in the more affectionate and expressive part: he striveth more with his heart for passionate apprehensions, than for complacency and fixed resolution. He is often in doubt of his sincerity, when he wanteth the feeling affectionate workings which he desireth, &c. thinketh he hath no more grace than that he hath sensibility of expressive gifts; and so as he buildeth his comfort upon these inconstant

signs, his comforts are accordingly inconstant. Sometimes he thinketh he hath grace, when his body or other advantages do help the excitation of his lively affections: and when the dulness of his body, or other impediments hinder this, he questioneth his grace again, because he undersandeth not aright the nature and chiefest acts of grace.

3. The hypocrite hath neither the rational nor the passionate part in sincerity but he may go much further in the latter than the former. A quick and passionate nature though unsanctified, may be brought to shed more tears, and express more fervour than many a holy person can: especially upon the excitation of some quickening sermons, or some sharp affliction, or great conviction, or at the approach of death. Few of the most holy persons can constantly retain so lively, fervent, passionate repentings, and desires and resolutions to amend, as some carnal persons have in sickness. The power of fear alone doth make them more earnest, than love maketh many a gracious soul; but when the fear is over, they are the same again. How oft have I heard a sick man most vehemently profess his resolutions for a holy life, which all have come to nothing afterward? How oft have I heard a common drunkard, with tears, cry out against himself for his sin, and yet go on in it? And how many gracious persons have I known whose judgments and wills have been groundedly resolved for God and holiness, and their lives have been holy, fruitful, and obedient, who yet could not shed a tear for sin, nor feel any very great sorrows or joys? If you judge of a man by his earnestness in some good moods, and not by the constant tenor of his life, you will think many a hypocrite to be better than most saints. Who would have thought, that had seen him only in that fit, but that Saul had been a penitent man, when he lift up his voice and wept, and said to David, "Thou art more righteous than I, for thou hast rewarded me good; whereas I have rewarded thee evil; 1 Sam. xxiv. 16-21. A smaller matter will raise some sudden passions, than will renew the soul, and give the preeminence to God, and holiness and heaven, in the judgment, will and conversation; Hosea vi. 4. xiii. 3. Isaiah Iviii. 2. Matt. xiii. 20.

LX. A Christian indeed, confirmed in grace, is one that maketh it the business of his life to prepare for death; and

« ElőzőTovább »