« ElőzőTovább »
evidence of knowledge to propound a useful question seasonably, as well as to answer it solidly.
Doubts well raised do lock,
The speaker to thee, and preserve thy stock. * It is our great loss that we can make no better use of one another; unimproved society is the bane of Christian converse, for when we meet one another, and trifle away time without advantage, it increaseth our guilt, and discourageth our hearts, for we are apt to say, we will meet no more, because our coming together is for the worse and not for the better, for many times our spirits are embittered by exasperating contentions. But O sirs, when you meet together purposely, or accidentally, improve your time in some holy discourses. Spend not all your fleeting hours about news or worldly affairs, but set afoot some religious talk. Talk sometimes as Christians, as well as men and chapmen. Let somebody begin and break the ice. Many are apt enough to cast down the bone of contention; do you present the marrow of religion, that you may edify one another. Sit not together as mutes, or as men of the world, discoursing about matters of state or trading, or of the weather, or your ages, which was Pharaoh's question to Jacob, † and that to his sons was of the like import; but if there be ever a wise man among you, fetch some spark from heaven, and throw it amongst your companions, that every one may bring his stick to the fire, and by the bellows of mutual love, it may be raised to a flame, that thereby your hearts may be warmed, and even burn within you, as did the hearts of the two travelling disciples by Christ's opening to them the Scriptures; and then record and lay up what you have got in profitable conversation. Thus was the book of Proverbs collected, and hereby you might fill
* Herb. Church-porch, p. 11.
+ Gen. xlvii.
books and memories with useful observations; yet, take this caution, let not your end be to hear stories and notions, nor yet only polemical discourses, to furnish your heads with arguments for all subjects and companies, but let your principal end be to get your hearts bettered, grace strengthened, lusts weakened, lives reformed, consciences resolved. Oh, the advantage you may have by Christian society! You may get good by others, do good to others; yea, observe it, your profitable discourses with others will reflect upon yourselves with advantage. Scholars find that conference rubs up their memories, revives their reading, and in a sort, gives them the mastery over their notions, and imprints them deeper within them, when almost obliterated. Hence a famous scholar did return many thanks, to one that was many degrees below him, for affording him so fair`an opportunity of private discourse; and a Jewish Doctor could say, he had learned much from his masters, more from his equals, but most of all from his scholars, hence their proverb, "I have learned by teaching."* Experience doth tell us that having to do in others' doubts, temptations, desertions, corruptions, directs us how to deal in our own cases; therefore, I advise you, be not shy in helping the weak, because thereby you do a double service to yourselves and to others, by one act or motion of your lips feeding others, and digesting your own food. Besides, this Christian communion being God's institution, is seconded with his benediction, and gracious acceptance. The members of Christ's mystical body, speaking the truth in love, † or truthing it in love, as the word imports, do grow up into him in all things, even Christ the head, and so that which is lacking in one joint, is made
* Docendo didici.
+ See Eph. iv. 15, 16. ̓Αληθένοντες δὲ ἔν ἀγάπῃ.
up by the usefulness of another; and for God's acceptance of the saint's holy conference, see the famous text in Mal. iii. 16. But that which I am urging is, the advantage that your souls will have by it; one live coal laid to a dead one, kindles it; a ripe grape put to a green one, ripens it. Company is of an assimilating nature, and grace, like fire, will beget its like; and it is an advantage to trade with rich merchants in precious commodities, for then we shall get well-stocked with riches. So it is here, yea observe it, when a company of Christians meet together for spiritual purposes, Jesus Christ makes one more, and he is instead of many more; he walks from person to person, and inquires what they want, and Joseph-like, richly fills their sacks with a transcendant treasure. Where Christ keeps house, there is nothing wanting, he that girded himself to serve his disciples will wait to be gracious, and satisfy hungry souls. Christ walks in the midst of the golden candlesticks, and feeds the lamps of the sanctuary with oil. Go forth, therefore, poor soul, by the footsteps of the flock," and feed the kids, beside the shepherds' tents;" be found in the communion of saints,-be not content to have that article in your creed merely, but let it be in your practice. Wait on God in public ordinances; every religious act there will help to fill your souls, prayer, reading, singing psalms, the word preached, the sacraments administered. You may get good by baptism, and the Lord's supper, faithfully used, and believingly improved; and therefore, let every soul, that would have a treasure of grace, be found in the use of these holy ordinances; yet, observe this caution, that though the sacraments be necessary, and the great means of spiritual life, yet not in that manner and respect, as food is to a natural life, * Cant. i. 8.
because they contain in themselves no vital force or efficacy. "They are" saith a reverend author, *“not physical, but moral instruments of salvation ;-all receive not the grace of God, who receive the sacraments of his grace, neither is it ordinarily his will to bestow the grace of sacraments on any, but by the sacraments.” A little after, he saith, "they are moral instruments, the use whereof is in our hands, the effect in his; for the use, we have his express commandment; for the effect, his conditional promise; and, we may expect his performance of the promise, upon our obedience to his command." He quoteth Hugo, comparing the sacraments to a vessel, and the grace therein to the medicine therein exhibited, and we should apply the spiritual good therein to our distempered spirits. † But I have been too large on this head. I shall shut up this piece of the directory for obtaining a treasure, with an expression of Cyprian's, " He cannot be fit for martyrdom, who is not armed by the Church for the conflict, and that mind faints, which is not raised and animated by receiving the eucharist," or Lord's supper. So the communion of saints in that choice ordinance, is a fortifying and furnishing exercise.
* Hooker's Ecclés. Polity, Book 5, par. 57, page 229.
+ Hugo, de Sacramentis, lib. 1, cap. 3, 4.—Si ergo vasa sunt spiritualis gratiæ sacramenta, non ex suo sanant, quia vasa, ægrotum non curant, sed medicina.
Primo idoneus esse non potest ad martyrium, qui ab Ecclesia non armatur ad prælium; et mens deficit, quam, non accepta Eucharistia erigit, et accendit.-Cyp. Epist. ad Cornel, lib. 1, Epis. 2, page 41.
TRUTHS WHICH A CHRISTIAN SHOULD TREASURE UP.
THE second head of directions, is to descend more particularly to give some instructions respecting what the Christian is to treasure up. In opening the doctrine I told you, he is to treasure up these four rich commodities, wherewith he may furnish his inward man, namely,
Truths, Graces, Experiences and Comforts.
I shall resume my discourse on these, and give you a particular account of something in all of them, wherewith the bosom of a Christian is to be filled and furnished.
For the first, a Christian is to store up all truths: the filings of gold are precious, the least star in the firmament hath some influence, so all truths have their peculiar preciousness and efficacy. Truth is a sacred deposit, which God hath committed into the hands of ministers and people, which must not be lost at any rate, for all the world cannot give a price proportionable to the least truth. To this end was Christ born, yea, and shed his dearest blood, even to bear witness to the truth, and to purchase the publication of it. It is very dangerous to be careless of lesser truths, for there is nothing superfluous in the sacred canon. † Things comparatively little may be great in their sphere, season, and consequences, and it is sad to break the golden chain of truths. Yet we are, especially, to treasure up fundamental and seasonable truths; doctrines that we
* Tην каλǹν паρакатаlýкην. 2 Tim. i. 14. 1 Tim. vi. 20. + Matt. v. 19. Jam. ii. 10.