Page images

we waited for thee; the desire of our soul is to thy name, and to the remembrance of thee. With my soul have I desired thee in the night, yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early, &c.* Therefore plain it is, there is a sinful distemper to be wrought out, an ungodly disposition of heart, which it concerns thee not to rest till thou see removed.

(4.) Consider, that to become godly, or this change of inclinations and dispositions towards God, is that which of all others the soul doth most strongly reluctate and strive against; and which therefore it undergoes with greatest difficulty and regret. It is a horrid and amazing thing it should be so, but Scripture and experience leave it undoubted that so it is. What! that the highest excellency, the most perfect beauty, loveliness, and love itself should so little attract a reasonable, spiritual being that issued thence ? His own offspring so unkind! what more than monstrous unnaturalness is this, so to disaffect one's own original ! It were easy to accumulate and heap up considerations that would render this astonishingly strange. So things are reckoned upon several accounts, either as they are more rare and unfrequent (which is the vulgar way of estimating wonders) or as their causes are of more difficult investigation; or (if they are moral wonders) as they are more unreasonable or causeless ; upon this last account, Christ marvelled at the Jews' unbelief : (Mark 6. 6.) and so is this hatred justly marvellous; as being altogether without a cause ? But thence to infer there is no such thing, were to dispute against the sun. No truth hath more of light and evidence in it, though none more of terror and prodigy. To how many thousand objects is the mind of man indifferent ? can turn itself to this or that; run with facility all points of the compass, among the whole universe of beings : but assay only to draw it to God, and it recoils : thoughts and affections revolt, and decline all converse with that blessed object! Toward other objects, it freely opens and dilates itself, as under the benign beams of a warm sun; there are placid, complacential emotions; amicable, sprightly converses and embraces. Towards God only it is presently contracted and shut up; life retires, and it becomes as a stone, cold, rigid and impenetrable: the quite contrary to what is required (which also those very precepts do plainly imply ;) it is alive to sin, to the world, to vanity; but crucified, mortified, dead to God and Jesus Christ. Rom. 6. 11.

The natures of many men that are harsh, fierce and savage, admit of many cultivations and refinings; and by moral precept, the exercise and improvement of reason, with a severe animadversion and observance of themselves, they become mild, tractable, gentle, meek. The story of the physiognomist's guess at the temper of Socrates is known. But of all other, the disaf

*Psal. 63. 5. 6.-104, 34.-139. 17. 18. Isa. 26. 8.



fected soul is least inclinable ever to become good-natured towards God, wherein grace or holiness doth consist. Here it is most unpersuadable, never facile to this change. One would have thought no affection should have been so natural, so deeply inwrought into the spirit of man, as an affection towards the Father of spirits; but here he most of all discovers himself to be without natural affection: surely here is a sad proof, that such affection doth not ascend. The whole duty of man, as to the principle of it, resolves into love. That is the fulfilling of the law. As to its object; the two tables divide it between God and our neighbor; and accordingly divide that love. Upon those two branches whereof; love to God, and love to our neighbor, hang all the law and the prophets. The wickedness of the world hath killed this love at the very root, and indisposed the nature of man to all exercises of it, either way, whether towards God or his neighbor. It hath not only rendered man unmeet for holy communion with God, but in a great measure for civil society with one another. It hath destroyed good nature ; made men false, envious, barbarous ; turned the world; especially the dark places of the earth, where the light of the gospel shines not, into habitations of cruelty. But who sees not the enmity and disaffection of men's hearts towards God is the more deeply rooted, and less superable evil?

The beloved apostle gives us a plain and sad intimation how the case is, as to this, when he reasons thus; He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? He argues from the less to the greater; and this is the ground upon which his argument is built that the loving of God is a matter of greater difficulty, and from which the spirit of man is more remote, than loving of his neighbor. And he withall insinuates an account why it is so ; God's remoteness from our sense, which is indeed a cause, but no excuse : it is a peccant, faulty cause. For is our so gross sensuality no sin ? that nothing should affect our hearts, but what we can see with our eyes? as if our sense were the only measure or judge of excellencies. We are not all flesh, what have we done with our souls ? if we cannot see God with our eyes, why do we not with our minds ? at least so much of him we might, as to discern his excellency above all things else. How come our souls to lose their dominion, and to be so slavishly subject to a ruling sense ? but the reason less concerns our present purpose ; that whereof it is the reason ; that implied assertion, that men are in a less disposition to the love of God than their neigbors, is the sad truth we are now considering. There are certain homiletical virtues, that much adorn and polish the nature of man, urbanity, fidelity, justice, patience of injuries, compassion towards the miserable, &c. and indeed without these, the world would break up, and all civil societies disband, if at least they did not in some degree ob

tain. But in the mean time men are at the greatest distance imaginable from any disposition to society with God. They have some love for one another, but none for him. And yet it must be remembered, that love to our neighbor, and all the consequent exertions of it, becoming duty by the divine law, ought to be performed as acts of obedience to God, and therefore ought to grow from the stock and root of a divine love; I mean, love to God. They are otherwise but spurious virtues, bastard fruits (men gather not grapes of thorns, &c.) they grow from a tree of another kind; and whatever semblance they may have of the true, they want their constituent form, their life and soul. Though love to the brethren is made a character of the regenerate state, of having passed from death to life; 1 John. 3. 14. it is yet but a more remote, and is itself brought to trial by this higher and more immediate one, and which is more intimately connatural to the new creature, even the love of God; By this we know we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. chap. 5. 2. A respect to God* specifies every virtue and duty. Whatever is loved and served, and not in him and for him (servato ordine finis, keeping the chosen end in view, as the school phrase is,) becomes an idol ; and that love and service is idolatry. And what a discovery is here of disaffection to God; that in the exercise of such (the above-mentioned) virtues one single act shall be torn from itself, from its specifying moral form, only to leave out him. A promise shall be kept, but without any respect to God, for even the promises made to him are broken without any scruple. That which is another's shall be rendered to him ; but God shall not be regarded in the business. An alms given, for the Lord's sake left out. That which concerns my neigbor often done, but what concerns God therein, as it were studiously omitted. This is what he that runs may read, that though the hearts of men are not to one another as they should, they are much more averse towards God.

Men are easier of acquaintance towards one another, they slide insensibly into each others bosom ; even the most churlish, morose natures are wrought upon by assiduous repeated kindnesses, gutla cavat lapidem, &c. as often-falling drops at length wear and work into very stones : towards God their hearts are more impenetrable than rocks, harder than adamants. He is seeking with some an acquaintance all their days: they live their whole age under the gospel, and yet are never won. They hearken to one another, but are utterly unpersuadable towards God; as the deaf adder that hears not the voice of the charmer though charming never so wisely. The clearest reason, the most powerful

*Proinde virtutes quas sibi videtur habere, nisi ad Deum retulerit, etiam ipsa vitia sunt potius quam virtutes. Whatever virtues a man may seem to himself to possess, if he do not refer them all to God, they are vices, rather than virtues.

arguments move them not : no nor the most insinuative allurements, the sweetest breathings of love: “How often would I have gathered thee, as the hen her chickens under her wings, and

ye would not.” God draws with the cords of a man, with the bands of love; but they still perversely keep at an unkind distance.* Men use to believe one another (were there no credit given to each others words, and some mutual confidence in one another, there could be no human converse, all must affect solitude, and dwell in dens and deserts as wild beasts,) but how incredulous are they of all divine revelations ? though testified with never so convincing evidence! who hath believed our report! The word of the eternal God is regarded (O amazing wickedness) as we would the word of a child or a fool; no sober, rational man, but his narrations, promises or threatenings, are more reckoned of. Men are more reconçilable to one another when enemies, more constant when friends. How often doth the power of a conquering enemy, and the distress of the conquered, work a submission on this part, and a remission on that. How often are haughty spirits stooped by a series of calamities, and made ductile : proud arrogants formed, by necessity and misery, into humble supplicants, so as to lie prostrate at the feet of a man that may help or hurt them; while still the same persons retain indomitable unyielding spirits towards God, under their most afflictive pressures. Though his gracious nature and infinite fulness promise the most certain and liberal relief, it is the remotest thing from their thoughts to make any address to him. They cry because of the oppression of the mighty but none says Where is God my Maker, who giveth songs in the night ? (Job. 35. 10.) rather perish under their burdens than look towards God, when his own visible hand is against them, or upon them, and their lives at his mercy; they stand it out to the last breath; and are more hardly humbled than consumed; sooner burn than weep; shrivelled up into ashes sooner than melted into tears ; scorched with great heat yet repent not to give glory to God : Rev. 16. 9. gnaw their tongues for pain, and yet still more disposed to blaspheme than pray or sue for mercy, Dreadful thought! as to one anothers reconciliations among men are not impossible or unfrequent, even of mortal enemies; but they are utterly implacable towards God ! yet they often wrong one another; but they cannot pretend, God ever did them the least wrong, yea, they have lived by his bounty all their days. They say to God, “Depart from us, yet he filleth their houses with good things. So true is the historian'st observation, “ Hatred is sharpest where most unjust.”

*Mat. 23. 37. See Psal. 81. & to 13. Prov. 1. 20. to 24. &c. Hos. 11. 4.

Tacitus speaking of the hatred of Tiberius and Augusta against German. ieus, the causers whereof, saith he, were acriores, quia iniquæ.

Yea, when there seems at least to have been a reconciliation wrought, are treacheries, covenant-breakings, revolts, strangeness, so frequent among men towards one another, as from them towards God? How inconsistent with friendship is it, according to common estimate, to be always promising, never performing; upon any or no occasion to break off intercourses, by unkind alienations, or mutual hostilities; to be morose, reserved each to other; to decline or disaffect each others converse; to shut out one another from their hearts and thoughts. But how common and unregretted are these carriages towards the blessed God? It were easy to expatiate on this argument, and multiply instances of this greater disaffection. But in a word, what observing person may not see, what serious person would not grieve to see the barbarous, sooner putting on civility ; the riotous, sobriety; the treacherous, fidelity; the morose, urbanity; the injurious, equity ; the churlish and covetous, benignity and charity ; than the ungodly man, piety and sincere devotedness unto God? Here is the principal wound and distemper sin hath infected the nature of man with : Though he have suffered a universal impairment, he is chiefly prejudiced in regard of his tendency towards God; and what concerns the duties of the first table. Here the breach is greatest, and here is its greatest need of repair. True it is; an inoffensive, winning deportment towards men, is not without its excellency, and necessity too. And it doth indeed unsufferably reproach Christianity, and unbecome a disciple of Christ; yea it discovers a man not to be led by his Spirit, and so to be none of his ; to indulge himself in immoral deportment towards men; to be undutiful towards superiors; unconversable towards equals; oppressive towards inferiors; unjust towards any. Yet is a holy disposition of heart towards God, most earnestly, and in the first place to be endeavored (which will then draw on the rest) as having in it the highest equity and excellency, and being of the most immediate necessity to our blessedness.

(5.) Consider, that there may be some gradual tendencies, or fainter essays towards godliness, that fall short of real godliness, or come not up to that thorough change and determination of heart God-ward, that is necessary to blessedness. There may be a returning, but not to the most high, wherein man may be (as the prophet immediately subjoins Hos. 7. 16.) like a deceitlul bow, not fully bent, that will not reach the mark; they come not home to God. Many may be almost persuaded; and even within reach of heaven, not far from the kingdom of God; may seek to enter, and not be able; their hearts being somewhat inclinable, but more averse ; for they can only be unable as they are unwilling. The soul is in no possibility of taking up a complacential rest in God, till it be brought to this, to move toward him spontaneously and with, as it were, a self-motion. And

« PreviousContinue »