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that should swallow up our souls, drink up our spirits, are heard as a tale that is told, disregarded by most, scorned by too many. What can be spoken so important, or of so tremendous consequence, or of so confessed truth, or with so awful solemnity and premised mention of the sacred name of the Lord, as not to find either a very slight entertainment or contemptuous rejection; and this by persons avowing themselves christians ? We seem to have little or no advantage, in urging men upon their own principles, and with things they most readily and professedly assent to. Their hearts are as much untouched, and void of impression by the Christian doctrine, as if they were of another religion. How unlike is the Christian world to the Christian doctrine? The seal is fair and excellent, but the impression is languid, or not visible. Where is that serious godliness, that heavenliness, that purity, that spirituality, that righteousness, that peace, unto which the Christian religion is most aptly designed to work and form the spirits of men? We think to be saved by an empty name; and glory in the shew and appearance of that, the life and power whereof we hate and deride. It is a reproach with us not to be called a christian, and a greater reproach to be
If such and such doctrines obtain not in our professed belief, we are heretics or infidels; if they do in our practice, we are precisians and fools. To be so serious, and circumspect, and strict, and holy, to make the practice of godliness so much our business, as the known and avowed principles of our religion do plainly exact from us (yea, though we come, as we cannot but do, unspeakably short of that required measure) is to make one's self a common derision and scorn. Not to be professedly religious is barbarous, to be so in good earnest ridiculous. In other things men are wont to act and practice according to the known rules of their several callings and professions, and he would be reckoned the common fool of the neighborhood that should not do so : the husbandman that should sow when others reap, or contrive his harvest into the depth of winter, or sow fitches, and expect to reap wheat; the merchant that should venture abroad his most precious commodities in a leaky bottom, without pilot or compass, or to places not likely to afford him any valuable return. In religion only it must be accounted absurd, to be and do according to its known agreed principles, and he a fool that shall but practice as all about him profess to believe. Lord! whence is this apprehended inconsistency between the profession and practice of religion? what hath thus stupified and unmanned the world, that seriousness in religion should be thought the character of a fool? that men must visibly make a mockery of the most fundamental articles of faith only to save their reputation, and be afraid to be serious, lest they should be thought mad! Were the doctrine here opened, believed in earnest, were the due proper impress of it upon our spirits, or (as the pagan moralist's
*expression is) were our minds transfigured into it; what manner of persons should we be in all holy conversation and godliness? But it is thought enough to have it in our creed, though never in our hearts : and such as will not deride the holiness it should produce, yet endeavor it not, nor go about to apply and urge truths upon their own souls to any such purpose. What should turn into grace and spirit and life, turns all into notion and talk; and men think all is well, if their heads be filled, and their tongues tipt, with what should transform their souls, and govern their lives. How are the most awful truths, and that should have greatest power upon men's spirits, trifled with as matters only of speculation and discourse! They are heard but as empty, airy words and presently evaporate, pass away into words again ; like food, as Seneca speaks, Non prodest cibus, nec corpori accedit, qui statim sumptus emittitur : that comes up presently, the same that it was taken in ; which (as he saith) profits not, nor makes any accession to the body at all. Sen. Epist. A like case (as another ingeniously speaks,) Eπει και τα πρόβατα, ε χόρτον φέροντα τοις ποίμεσιν επιδεικνύει πόσον έφαγεν, αλλά την νόμην έσω πέψαντα,έριον έξω φέρει και γάλα και συ τοίνυν, μή ταχέως βήματα τους ιδιωταϊς επιδείκνευε, αλλά απ' αυτών csodávcov sa egya: as if sheep when they had been feeding, should present their shepherds with the very grass itself which they have cropt, and shew how much they had eaten. No, saith he, they concoct it, and so yield them wool and milk. Epictet. And so, saith he, do not you (namely when vou have been instructed) presently go and utter words among the more ignorant (meaning they should not do so in a way of ostentation, to shew how much they knew more than others)" but works that follow upon the concoction of what hath been by words made known to them.” Let christians be ashamed that they need this instruction from heathen teachers.
Thy words were found, and I did eat them (saith the prophet,) and thy word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart. Divine truth is only so far at present grateful or useful for future, as it is received by faith and consideration, and in the love thereof into the very heart, and there turned in succum et sanguinem : into real nutriment to the soul : so shall man live by the word of God. Hence is the application of it (both personal and ministerial) of so great necessity. If the truths of the gospel were of the same alloy with some parts of philosophy whose end is attained as soon as they are known; if the Scriptare-doctrine (the whole entire system of it) were not a doctrine after godliness; if it were not designed to sanctify and make men holy; or if the hearts of men did not reluctate, were easily
*Scientiam qui didicit, et facienda et vitanda præcepit, nondum sapiens est, nisi in ea quæ didicit transfiguratus est animus. Though a man have learned moral science and may teach what is to be done, and what is to be avoided, yet he is not a wise man unless his mind is transfigured into his doctrine.
receptive of its impressions ; our work were as soon done, as such a doctrine were nakedly proposed : but the state of the case in these respects is known and evident. The tenor and aspect of gospel truth speaks its end; and experience too plainly speaks the oppositeness of men's spirits. All therefore we read and hear is lost if it be not urgently applied: the Lord grant it be not then too. Therefore, reader, let thy mind and heart concur in the following improvement of this doctrine, which will be wholly comprehended under these two heads. Inferences of truth, and rules of duty that are consequent and connatural thereto.
First. Inferences of truth deducible from it.
1. True blessedness consists not in any sensual enjoyment. The blessedness of a man can be but one ; most only one. He can have but one highest and best good. And its proper character is, that it finally satisfies and gives rest to his spirit. This the face and likeness of God doth; his glory beheld and participated. Here then alone his full blessedness must be understood to lie. Therefore as this might many other ways be evinced to be true; so it evidently appears to be the proper issue of the present truth, and is plainly proved by it. But alas! it needs a great deal more to be pressed than proved. O that it were but as much considered as it is known! The experience of almost six thousand years, hath (one would think sufficiently) testified the incompetency of every worldly thing to make men happy ; that the present pleasing of our senses, and the gratification of our animal part is not blessedness; that men are still left unsatisfied notwithstanding. But the practice and course of the world are such, as if this were some late and rare experiment; which (for curiosity) every one must be trying over again. Every age renews the enquiry after an earthly felicity ; the design is entailed (as the Spanish designs are said to be,) and re-inforced with as great confidence and vigor from age to age, as if none had been baffled or defeated in it before; or that it were likely to take at last. Had this been the alone folly of the first age, it had admitted some excuse; but that the world should still be cheated by the same so often repeated impostures, presents us with a sad prospect of the deplorable state of mankind. This their way is their folly, yet their posterity approve, &c. Psal. 49. 13. The wearied wits and wasted estates, laid out upon the philosopher's stone, afford but a faint, defective representation of this case.
What chemistry can extract heaven out of a clod of clay?
What art can make blessedness spring and grow out of this cold earth ? If all created nature be vexed and tortured never so long, who can expect this elixir ? Yet after so many frustrated attempts, so much time and strength, and labor lost, men are still as eagerly and vainly busy as ever; are perpetually tossed by unsatisfied desires, laboring in the fire, wearying them
selves for very vanity, distracted by the uncertain, and often contrary motions of a ravenous appetite, and a blind mind, that would be happy, and knows not how. With what sounding bowels, with what compassionate tears should the state of mankind be lamented, by all that understand the worth of a soul? What serious heart doth not melt and bleed for miserable
men, (through a just nemesis*) so perpetually mocked with shadows, cheated with false, delusive appearances, infatuated and betrayed by their own senses. They walk but in a vain shew, disquieting themselves in vain ; their days fee away as a shadow, their strength is only labor and sorrow; while they rise up early and lie down late, to seek rest in trouble and life in death. They run away from blessedness while they pretend to pursue it, and suffer themselves to be fed down without regret to perdition, “ as an ox to the slaughter, and a fool to the correction of the stocks, till a dart strike through their liver :" descend patiently to the chambers of death, not so much as once thinking, whither are we going? dream of nothing but an earthly paradise, till they find themselves amidst the infernal regions.
2. The spirit of man, inasmuch as it is capable of such a tblessedness, appears an excellent creature. Its natural capacity is supposed; for the psalmist speaks of his own numerical person, the same that then writ; I shall behold ; shall be satisfied; také away this suppositum, and it could not be so said ; or as in Job's words; I shall behold him, and not another for me; it would certainly be another, not the same. Judge hence the excellency of a human soul (the principal subject of this blessedness) without addition of any new natural powers, it is capable of the vision of God; of partaking unto satisfaction the divine likeness. And is not that an excellent creature, that is capable not only of surveying the creation of God, passing through the several ranks and orders of created beings; but of ascending to the Being of beings, of contemplating the divine excellencies, of beholding the bright and glorious face of the blessed God himself; till it have looked itself into his very likeness, and have his en* Ira Dei est ista vita mortalis
, ubi homo vanitati factus est, et dies ejus velut umbra prætereunt, &c. The wrath of God is shewn in this mortal life, wherein man is made like to vanity and his days pass away as a shadow. Aug. de Civ. Dei. 1. 22. c. 24.
† Not that this blessedness can be attained by mere human endeavors, (more whercuf see under the next inference) but there is an inclination, a certain pondus naturæ ; a weight of nature (as some schoolmen speak) by which it propends towards it; or there is the radir, root or fundamentum, foundation, or capacitas, capacity, (as some others) that is that it not only may receive it; but that it may be elevated by grace, actively to concur, by its natural powers, as vital principles towards the attainment of it, according to that known saying of saint Augustine, Posse credere nature est hominis, the power of believing is natural to man, &c.
tire image inwrought into it. The dignity then of the spirit of man is not to be estimated by the circumstances of its present state, as it is here clad with a sordid flesh, inwrapped in darkness, and grovelling in the dust of the earth : but consider the improveableness of its natural powers and faculties; the high perfections it may attain, and the foundations of how glorious a state are laid in its very nature. And then who can tell, whether its possible advancement is more to be admired, or its present calamity deplored. Might this consideration be permitted to settle and fix itself in the hearts of men could any thing be so grievous to them, as their so vast distance from such an attainable blessedness; or any thing be so industriously avoided, so cainestly abhorred, as that viler dejection and abasement of themselves, when they are so low already by divine disposition, to descend lower by their own wickedness; when they are already fallen as low as earth, to precipitate themselves as low as hell. How generous a disdain should that thought raise in men's spirits, of that vile servitude to which they have subjected themselves, a servitude to brutal lusts, to sensual inclinations and desires; as if the highest happiness they did project to themselves were the satisfaction of these! Would they not with a heroic scorn turn away their eyes from beholding vanity, did they consider their own capacity of beholding the divine glory ? could they satisfy themselves to become *like the beasts that perish, did they think of being satisfied with the likeness of God? And who can conceive unto what degree this aggravates the sin of man, that he so little minds ( as it will their misery, that shall fall short of) this blessedness! They had spirits capable of it. Consider thou sensual man whose happiness lies in colors, and tastes, and sounds, (as the moralist ingeniously speaks) that herdest thyself with brute creatures, and aimest no higher than they : as little lookest up, and art as much a stranger to the thoughts and desires of heaven; thy creation did not see thee so low; they are where they were ; but thou are fallen from thy excellency. God did not make thee a brute creature, but thou thyself. Thou hast yet a spirit about thee, that might understand its own original, and alliance to the Father of spirits; that hath a designation in its nature to higher converses and employments. Many myriads of such spirits, of no higher original excellency than thy own, are now in the presence of the highest Majesty ; are prying into the eternal glory, contemplating the perfections of the divine na
* Voluptas bonum pecoris est-Hunc tu (non dico inter viros sed) inter homines numeras ? cujus summum bonum saporibus, ac coloribus, ac sonis constat? excedat ex hoc animalium numero pulcherrimo, ac diis secundo; mutis aggregetur animal pabulo natum. Pleasure is the good of beasts—Do you number such a creature (1 will not say among men but) among human beings whose chief good consists in tastes and colors and sounds ! Let him quit this class of the animate creation which is the fairest and next to God himself
. Let an animal made only for foddering herd with the brutes, &c. Sen. Ep. 92.