« PreviousContinue »
was first taken. All flesh is grass, says the prophet, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field. And this is no metaphorical expression, but a real truth; for what is that which I feed upon, but merely grass, digested into corn, flesh, and the like, which, by a second digestion, is transfused and converted into the substance of my body? And hence it is that my body is but like the grass, or flower of the field, fading, transient, and momentary, to-day flourishing in all its glory, to-morrow cut down, dried up, and withered. But now, how far is this beneath the spiritual and incorruptible nature of my immortal soul ?" which subsists of itself, and can never be dissolved ; being not compounded of any earthly or elementary matter, as the body is, but is a pure spiritual substance, infused into me by God, to whom, after a short abode in the body, it is to return, and to live and continue for ever, either in a state of happiness or misery in another life.
But must it so indeed? How much then does it concern me seriously to bethink myself, where I had best to lead this everlasting life, in the heavenly mansions of eternal glory, or else in the dreadful dungeon of infernal misery? But betwixt these (as there is no medium, so) there is no comparison ; and, therefore, I shall not put it to the question, which place to choose to live in : but, without giving the other that honour to stand in competition with it, I this morning, with the leave of the most high God, do choose the land of Canaan, the kingdom of heaven, to be the lot of mine inheritance, the only seat of bliss and glory for my
soul to rest and dwell in to all eternity.
But heaven, they say, is a place hard to come at; yea, the King of that glorious place hath told me, that strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, that leads to eternal life, and that there be but few that find it, Matth. vii. 14. yea, and that many shall seek to enter in, and shall not be able, Luke iii. 24. What, therefore, must I do? Why, I must either resolve to make it my
business to get to heaven, or else I must never hope or expect to come thither. Without any farther dispute therefore about it, I resolve at this time, in the presence of Almighty God, that, from this day forward, I will make it my whole business here upon earth to look after my happiness in heaven, and to walk circumspectly in those blessed paths that God hath appointed all to walk in that ever expect to come to him.
Now, though there be but one way, and that a narrow one too, that leads to heaven, yet there are two things requisite to all those that walk in it; and they are, faith and obedience, to believe and to live aright. So that it as much behoves me to have my faith rightly confirmed in the fundamentals of religion, as to have my obedience exactly conformed to the laws of God. And these two duties are so inseparably united, that the former cannot well be supposed without the latter ; for I cannot obey what God hath commanded me, unless I first believe what he hath taught me. And they are both equally difficult, as they are necessary: indeed, of the two, I think it is harder to lay the sure foundation of faith, than to build the superstructure of obedience upon it; for it seems next to impossible for one that believes every truth, not to obey every command, that is written in the word of God. But it is not so easy a thing as it is commonly thought to believe the word of God, and to be firmly established in the necessary points of religion; especially in these wicked times wherein we live ; in which there are so many pernicious errors and damnable heresies crept into the articles of some men's faith, as do not only shock the foundation of the church of Christ, but strike at the root of all religion. The first thing, therefore, that, by the grace of God, I am resolved to do, in reference to my everlasting estate, is, to see my faith, that it be both rightly placed, and firmly fixed, that I may not be as a wave tossed to and
fro with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning craftiness of those that lic in wait to deceive; but that I may be thoroughly settled in my faith and judgment concerning those things, the knowledge of, and assent unto, which is absolutely necessary to my future happiness. Let therefore what times soever come upon me; let what temptations soever be thrown before me; I am resolved, by the grace of God, stedfastly to believe as followeth.
ARTICLE I. I believe there is one God, the Being of all beings. THE other articles of my faith I think to be true, because they are so; this is true, because I think it 50 : for if there was no God, and so this article not true, I could not be, and so not think it true. But in that I think, I am sure I am ; and in that I am, I am sure there is a God; for if there was no God, how came I to be? How came I hither? Who gave me my being? Myself? that could not be; for before I had a being, I was nothing; and therefore could do nothing, much less make myself a being. Did my parents give me my being ? Alas! they knew not that I should be, before I was; and therefore, certainly, could not give me my being, when I was not.
As to my soul, (which I call myself,) it is plain they could not give me that, because it is a being of a spiritual nature, quite distinct from matter, (as my own experience tells me,) and therefore could not be the product of any natural or material agent: for, that a bodily substance should give being to a spiritual one, implies a contradiction. And if it could neither make itself, nor take its rise from any earthly or secondary cause, I may certainly conclude, from my own reason, as well as from divine revelation, that it must be infused by God, though I am not able to determine either when, or how, it was done.
As to my body; indeed I must own it was derived from my parents, who were immediately concerned in bringing the materials of it together: but then, who made up these coarse materials into the form or figure of a body? Was this the effect of natural generation? But how came my parents by this generative power ? Did they derive it, by succession, from our first parents in Paradise ? Be it so. But whence came they? Did they spring out of the earth ? No. What then? Were they made by chance? This could not be; for as chance seldom or never produces any one effect that is regular and uniform, so it cannot be supposed that a being of such admirable beauty, symmetry, and. proportion, and such a nice contexture of parts, as the body of man is, should ever be jumbled together by a fortuitous concourse of atoms, which nothing but the chimeras of Epicurus could ever reduce into a regular form and composition.
And the like may be said of all other created beings in the world. For there is no natural cause can give being to any thing, unless it has that being it gives in itself; for it is a received maxim in philosophy, that no thing can give what it has not. And so, however the bodies of men, or brutes, or plants, may now, in the ordinary course of nature, be produced by generation, yet there must needs be some one supreme almighty Being in the world, that has the being of all other beings in itself; who first created these several species, and endued them with this generative power to propagate their kind. And this supreme Being is that which we call God.
Hence it is, that there is not a leaf, no not a line, in this great book of the creation, wherein we may not clearly read the existence and perfections of the great and glorious Creator, and that even by the glimmering light of nature. For, who is it that bedecked yonder stately canopy of heaven with those glistering spangles, the stars ? Who is it that commands the sun to run his course, and the moon to ride her circuit so constantly about the world? Who is it that formed me
so curiously in my mother's womb ? Who is it that gives my stomach power to digest such variety of meats into chyle, and my heart or liver to turn them all to blood, and thence to send each particle to its proper place, and all to keep up this crazy carcase ? Doubtless, these and such-like things, however ordinary or natural they may appear to us at present, are in themselves very great and wonderful effects, that must, at first, be produced by some infinitely powerful and supernatural agent, the high and mighty God, who is not only the chiefest of beings, but the Being of all beings whatsoever.
I say, the Being of all beings, because whatsoever excellency or perfection is in any other thing, is eminently, yea, infinitely comprehended in him; so that he is not only the creature's perfection in the concrete, but in the abstract too; he is not only all-wise, allgood, all-mighty, &c. but he is all-wisdom, all-goodness, all-might, all-mercy, all-justice, all-glory, &c. And as he is the ocean and abyss of all these perfections in himself, so is he the fountain of them all to us. Insomuch that we have nothing, not so much as the least moment of life, but what is communicated to us from this everliving God. And not only what we, poor sinful worms, are, or have, but even whatsoever those nobler creatures the angels have, it is but a beam darted from this sun, it is but a stream flowing from this overflowing fountain.
Lift up thine eyes, therefore, O my soul, and fix them a little upon this glorious object! How glorious, how transcendently glorious, must he needs be, who is the Being of all beings, the perfection of all perfections, the very glory of all glories, the eternal God! He is the glory of love and goodness, who is good, and doth good continually unto me, though I be evil, and do evil continually against him. He is the glory of wisdom and knowledge, unto whom all the secret thoughts, the inward motions and retirements of