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here possessed and enjoyed in the world, will not be pleasant to you, unless you can think withal, that you have subordinated them to this purpose.
4. Consider that those that are willing thus to spend their lives as a journey towards heaven, may have heaven.
Heaven, as high as it is, and glorious as it is, is attainable for such poor worthless creatures as we are. We, even such worms, may attain to have for our home, that glorious region that is the habitation of the glorious angels; yea, the dwelling-place of the glorious Son of God; and where is the glorious presence of the great Jehovah. And we may have it freely; there is no high price that is demanded of us for this privilege. We may have it without money and without price; if we are but willing to set out and go on towards it; are but willing to travel the road that leads to it, and bend our course that way as long as we live; we may and shall have heaven for our eternal resting place.
5. Let it be considered, that if our lives be not a journey towards heaven, they will be a journey to hell.
We cannot continue here always, but we must go somewhere else. All mankind after they have been in this world a little while, go out of it, and there are but two places that they go to; the two great receptacles of all that depart out of this world; the one is heaven; whither a few, a small number in comparison, travel ; the way that leads hither, is but thinly occupied with travellers. And the other is hell, whither the bulk of mankind do throng. And one or the other of these must be our journey's end ; the issue of our course in this world.
I shall conclude by giving some directions.
1. Labor to get a sense of the vanity of this world, or the vanity of it on account of the little satisfaction that is to be enjoyed here; and on account of its short continuance, and unserviceableness when we most stand in need of help, viz., on a death-bed.
All men, that live any considerable time in the world, see abundance that might convince them of the vanity of the world, if they would but consider.
Be persuaded to exercise consideration, when you see and hear, from time to time, of the death of others. Labor to turn your thoughts this way. See if you can see the vanity of this world in such a glass. If you were sensible how vain a thing this world is, you would see that it is not worthy that your life should be spent to the purposes thereof ; and all is lost that is not soine way aimed at heaven.
2. Labor to be much acquainted with heaven.
If you are not acquainted with it, you will not be likely to spend your life as a journey thither. You will not be sensible of the worth of it; nor will you long for it. Unless you are much conversant in your mind with a better good, it will be exceeding difficult to you to have your hearts loose from these things, and to use them only in subordination to something else, and to be ready to part with them for the sake of that better good.
Labor therefore to obtain a realizing sense of a heavenly world, to get a firm belief of the reality of it, and to be very much conversant with it in your thoughts.
3. Seek heaven only by Jesus Christ.
Christ tells us that he is the way, and the truth, and the life, John xiv. 6. He tells us that he is the door of the sheep: “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved ; and go in and out, and find pasture,” John x. 9. If we, therefore, would improve our lives as a journey towards heaven, we must seek it by him, and not by our own righteousness; as expecting to obtain only for his sake, looking to him, having our dependence on bim only for the pur
chase of heaven, and procuring it for us by his merit. And expect strength to walk in a way of holiness, the way that leads to heaven, only from him.
4. Let Christians help one another in going this journey.
There are many ways that Christians might greatly help and forward one another in their way to heaven, by religious conference, and otherwise. And persons greatly need help in this way, which is, as I have observed, a difficult way.
Let Christians be exhorted to go this journey, as it were in company, conversing together while their journey shall end, and assisting one another. Company is very desirable in a journey, but in none so much as in this.
Let Christians go united, and not fall out by the way, which would be the way to hinder one another ; but use all means they can to help one another up the hill.
This is the way to be more successful in travelling, and to have the more joyful meeting at their Father's house in glory.
JOSEPH'S GREAT TEMPTATION AND GRACIOUS DELIVERANCE.
GENESIS xxxix. 12.–And he left his garment in her hand, and fed, and got him out.
We have an account here, and in the context, of that remarkable behavior of Joseph in the house of Potiphar, that was the occasion both of his great affliction, and also afterwards of his high advancement and great prosperity in the land of Egypt. The behavior that I speak of, is that which was on occasion of the temptation that his mistress laid before him to commit uncleanness with her.
We read in the beginning of the chapter how Joseph, after he had been so cruelly treated by his brethren, and sold into Egypt for a slave, was advanced in the house of Potiphar, who had bought him. Joseph was one that feared God, and therefore God was with him; and wonderfully ordered things for him, and so influenced the heart of Potiphar his master, that instead of keeping him as a mere slave, to which purpose he was sold, he made him his steward and overseer over his house, and all that he had was put into his hands; insomuch that we are told, verse 6, “ that he left all that he had in his hand; and that he knew not aught that he had, save the bread which he did eat.” While Joseph was in these prosperous circumstances, he met with a great temptation in his master's house; so we are told that he, being a goodly person, and well favored, his mistress cast her eyes upon and lusted after him, and used all her art to tempt him to coinmit uncleanness with her.
Concerning this temptation, and his behavior under it, many things are worthy to be noted.
We may observe, how great the temptation was that he was under. It is to be considered, Joseph was now in his youth, a season of life when persons are most liable to be overcome by temptations of this nature. And he was in a state of unexpected prosperity in Potiphar's house, which has a tendency to lift persons up, especially young ones, whereby commonly they more easily fall before temptations.
And then the superiority of the person that laid the temptation before him rendered it much the greater. She was his mistress, and he a servant under ber. And the manner of her tempting him. She did not only carry herself so to Joseph, as to give him cause to suspect that he might be admitted to such criminal converse with her, that yet might be accompanied with some apprehension, that possibly he might be mistaken, and so deter him from adventuring on such a proposal; but she directly proposed it to him; plainly manifesting her disposition to it
. So that here was no such thing as a suspicion of her unwillingness to deter him, but a manifestation of her desire to entice him to it. Yea, she appeared greatly engaged in the matter. And there was not only her desire manifested to entice him, but her authority over him to enforce the temptation. She was his mistress, and he might well imagine, that if he utterly refused a compliance, he should incur her displeasure; and she, being his master's wife, had power to do much to his disadvantage, and to render his circumstances more uncomfortable in the family.
And the temptation was the greater, in that she did not only tempt him once, but frequently, day by day, verse 10. And at last became more violent VOL. IV.
with him. She caught him by his garment, saying, lie with me : as in the verse of the text.
His behavior was very remarkable under these temptations. He absolutely refused any compliance with them: he made no reply that manifested as though the temptation had gained at all upon him; so much as to hesitate about it, or at all to deliberate upon it. He complied in no degree, either to the gross act she proposed, or any thing tending towards it, or that should in a lesser degree be gratifying to her wicked inclination. And he persisted, resolute and unshaken under her continual solicitations: verse 10, “ And it came to pass as she spake to Joseph, day by day, that he hearkened not unto her, to lie by ber, or to be with her.” He, to his utmost, avoided so much as being where she was. And the motives and principles from which he acted, manifested by his reply to her solicitations, are remarkable.
He first sets before her how injuriously he should act against his master, if he should comply with her proposal: “Behold my master-hath committed all that he hath to my hand; there is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife." But he then proceeded to inform her of that which, above all things, deterred him from a compliance, viz., that it would be great wickedness, and sin against God: "How shall I do this, and sin against God!" He would not do any such thing, as he would not injure his master; but that which influenced more than all on this occasion, was the fear of sinning against God. On this account he persisted in his resolution to the last.
In the text we have an account of his behavior under the last and greatest temptation that he had from her. This temptation was great, as we are told it was at a time when there was nobody in the house but he and his mistress, verse 11; there was an opportunity to commit the fact with the greatest secrecy. And at this time it seems that she was more violent than ever before: “she caught him by the garment,” &c. She laid hold on him as though she was resolute to attain her purpose of him.
Under these circumstances he not only refused her, but fled from her, as he would have done from one that was going to assassinate
, or murder him; he escaped as for his life. He not only would not be guilty of such a fact, but neither would he by any means be in the house with her, where he should be in the way of her temptation.
This behavior of Joseph is doubtless recorded for the instruction of all: therefore, from the words I shall observe this
DOCTRINE. It is our duty, not only to avoid those things that are themselves sinful, but also, as far as may be, those things that lead and expose to sin.
Thus did Joseph : he not only refused actually to commit uncleanness with his mistress, who enticed him, but refused to be there, where he should be in the way of temptation, verse 10. He refused to lie by her, or be with her: and in the text we are told, he fled, and got him out ; would by no means be in her company. Though it was no sin in itself for Joseph to be in the house where his mistress was, but under these circumstances it would expose him to sin. Joseph was sensible he had naturally a corrupt heart, that tended to betray him to sin; and therefore he would by no means be in the way of temptation ; but with haste he fled, he ran from the dangerous place. Inasmuch as he was exposed to sin in that house where he was, he fled out of it with as
much hasse as if the house had been all a light of fire, or full of enemies, who stood ready with drawn swords to stab him to the very heart. When she took him by the garment, he left his garment in her hands : he had rather lose his garment than stay a moment there, where he was in such danger of losing his chastity.
I say in the doctrine, that persons should avoid things that expose to sin, as far as may be, because the case may be so, that persons may be called to expose hemselves to temptation; and when it is so, they may hope for divine strength and protection under temptations.
The case may be so that it may be a man's indispensable duty to undertake an office, or piece of work, that is attended with a great deal of temptation. Thus, although ordinarily a man ought not to run into that temptation, of being exposed to persecution for the true religion, lest the temptation should be too hard for him; but should avoid it as much as may be therefore, Christ thus directs his disciples, Matt. x. 23, “ When ye be persecuted in one city flee to another"); yet the case may be so, that a man may be called not to fee from persecution, but to run the venture of such a trial, trusting in God to uphold him under it. Ministers and magistrates may be obliged to continue with their people in such circumstances; as Nehemiah says, Neh. vi. 11, “Should such a man as I flee ?” So the apostles.
Yea they may be called to go into the midst of it, to those places where they cannot reasonably expect but to meet with such temptations. So sometimes the apostles did. Paul went up to Jerusalem, when he knew beforehand, that there, bonds and afflictions awaited him, Acts xx. 23.
So in some other cases, the necessity of affairs may call upon men to engage in some business that is peculiarly attended with temptations. But when it is so, men are indeed in this way, least exposed to sin ; for they are always safest in the way of duty: Prov. x. 9, “ He that walketh uprightly, walketh surely." And though there be many things by which they may have extraordinary temptations, in the affairs they have undertaken, yet if they have a clear call to it, it is no presumption to hope for divine support and preservation in it.
But for persons needlessly to expose themselves to temptation, and to do those things that tend to sin, is unwarrantable and contrary to that excellent example we have set before us in the text. And that we ought to avoid not only those things that are in themselves sinful, but also those things that lead and expose to sin, is manifested by the following arguments :
I. It is a thing very evident and manifest, that we ought to use our utmost endeavors to avoid sin, which is inconsistent with needlessly doing those things that expose and lead to sin. That we ought to do our utinost to avoid sin is manifest, that being the greatest evil; and the greater any evil is, the greater care, and the more earnest endeavors does it require to avoid it. This is plain, and what we by our practice show, that we are all sensible of the truth of. Those things that appear to us very great and dreadful evils, do we use proportionably great care to avoid. And therefore the greatest evil of all requires the greatest and utmost care to avoid it.
Sin is an infinite evil, because committed against an infinitely great and excellent Being, and so a violation of infinite obligation; therefore, however great our care be to avoid sin, it cannot be more than proportionable to the evil we would avoid. Our care and endeavor cannot be infinite, as the evil of sin is infinite ; but yet it ought to be to the utmost of our power; we ought to use every method that tends to the avoiding of sin. This is manifest to reason
And not only so, but this is positively required of us in the word of God,