Page images
PDF
EPUB

ourselves by the same rule. He tells us, when God shall judge every one according to his works (the great business of the judgmeut day,) eternal life shall be the portion of them, who by patient continuance in well-doing, sought glory, and honor, and immortality : (Rom. 2. 6. 7.) which are but other expressions of the same thing. What can be more plain? They shall have eternal life and glory that seek it; whose hearts are towards it. Again, speaking of true christians, draxgotixws, (that is in a way of contradistinction from Pseudo-christians, such as he saith were enemies of the cross,) he gives us among other, this brand of these latter, that they did mind earthly things, and tells us, their end should be destruction ; but gives us this opposite character of the other, our conversation is in heaven; (Phil. 3. 18.-20.) our trade and business, our daily negotiations, as well as the privileges of our citizenship lie there, as his expression imports, and thence intimates the opposite end of such, whence we look for a Saviour; not destruction, but salvation. And in the same context of Seripture, where they that are risen with Christ, and who shall appear with him in glory, are required to set their mind on things above, and not on things on the earth : (Col. 3. 1, 2, 3, 4.) that we may understand this, not to be their duty only, but their character, we are immediately told, they who follow not this counsel, and mortify not their earthly members (those lusts that dispose men towards the earth, and to grovel in the dust, as the graces of the Spirit dispose them heavenward, and to converse with glory) are the children of disobedience, upon whom the wrath of God cometh. The faith, the just live by, is the substance of things hoped for, &c. Heb. 1, 13, 16. Such believers are confessed, avowed strangers on earth ; and seekers of the better, the heavenly country, whence it is said, God will not be ashamed to be called their God; plainly implying, that as for low, terrene spirits, that love to creep on the earth, and embrace dunghills, God will be ashamed of them; he will for ever disdain a relation to them, while and as such. And if we will be determined by the express word of our great Redeemer, to whom we owe all the hopes of this blessedness; when he had been advising not to lay up treasure on earth, but in heaven, he presently adds, Where your treasure is, there will your hearts be also. Mat. 6. 19, 20, 21. If thy treasure, thy great interest, thy precious and most valuable good be above, that will attract thy heart, it will certainly be disposed thitherward.

Yet bere it must carefully be considered, that inasmuch as this blessedness is thy end, that is, thy supreme good (as the notion of treasure also imports,) thy heart must be set upon it above any other enjoyment; else all is to no purpose. It is not a faint, slight, cver-mastered inclination that will serve the turn, but (as all the forementioned scriptures import) such as will bespeak it a man's business to seek heaven, his main work; and give

ground to say of him, his heart is there. If two lovers solicit the same person, and speaking of them in comparisons she say, this hath my heart; is it tolerable to understand her, as meaning him she loves less ? so absurd would it be to understand scriptures, that speak of such an intention of heart heaven-ward, as if the faintest desire, coldest wish, or most lazy inconstant endeavor were all they meant. No, it is a steady, prevalent, victorious direction of heart towards the future glory, in comparison whereof, thou despisest all things else (all temporal, terrene things,) that must be the evidential ground of thy hope to enjoy it. And therefore in this, deal faithfully with thy own soul, and demand of -it; Dost thou esteem this blessedness above all things else? Do the thoughts of it continually return upon thee, and thy mind and heart, as it were naturally run out to it? Are thy chiefest solicitudes and cares taken about it, lest thou shouldst fall short and suffer a disappointment? Dost thou savour it with pleasure ; hath it a sweet and grateful relish to thy soul? Dost thou bend all thy powers to pursue and press on towards it ? Urge thyself to give answer truly to such imquiries; and to consider them seriously, that thou mayst do so. Such whose spirits are either most highly raised and lifted up to heaven, or most deeply depressed and sunk into the earth, may make the clearest judgment of themselves. With them that are of a middle temper, the trial will be more difficult, yet not fruitless, if it be managed with serious diligence, though no certain conclusion or judgment be made thereupon. For the true design and use of all such inquiries and reflections upon ourselves ( which let it be duly considered) is, not to bring us into a state of cessation from further endeavors ; as if we had nothing more to do (suppose we judge the best of our state that can be thought,) but to keep us in a wakeful temper of spirit; that we may not forget ourselves in the great business we have yet before us, but go on with renewed vigor through the whole course of renewed endeavors, wherein we are to be still conversant, till we have attained our utmost mark and end. Therefore is this present inquiry directed, as introductive to the further duty, that in the following rules is yet to be recommended.

CHAPTER XVII.

Rule 3. Directing such as upon inquiry find, or see cause to suspect, a total

aversation in themselves to this blessedness, to be speedy and restless in their endeavors to have the temper of their spirits altered and suitable to it. Doubts and objections concerning the use of such endeavors, in such a case, answered. Some considerations to enforce this direction propounded and pressed.

3. That is upon such reflection we find or suspect ourselves wholly disaffected and unsuitable to this blessedness, we apply ourselves to speedy, incessant endeavors to get the temper of our spirits changed and fitted thereto. The state of the case speaks itself, that there is no sitting still here. This is no condition, soul, to be rested in ; unless thou art provided to encounter the terrors of eternal darkness, and endure the torture of everlasting burnings. Yet am I not unapprehensive how great a difficulty a carnal heart will make of it to bestir itself in order to any redress of so deplorable a case. And how real a difficulty it is, to say any thing that will be thought regardable to such a one. Our sad experience tells us, that our most efficacious words are commonly wont to be entertained as neglected puffs of wind ; our most convictive reasonings and persuasive exhortations lost (yea, and though they are managed too in the name of the great God) as upon the deaf and dead: which is too often apt to tempt into that resolution, of speaking no more in that

And were it not that the dread of that great majesty restrains us, how hard were it to forbear such expostulations ; “Lord, why are we commonly sent upon so vain an errand ? why are we required to speak to them that will not hear, and expose thy sacred truths and counsels to the contempt of sinful worms; to labor day by day in vain, and spend our strength for nought?” Yea, we cannot forbear to complain, “ None so labor in vain as we: of all men none so generally improsperous and unsuccessful. Others are wont to see the fruit of their labors, in proportion to the expense of strength in them: but our strength is labor and sorrow (for the most part) without the return of a joyful fruit. The husbandman plows in hope, and sows in hope, and is commonly partaker of his hope: we are sent to plow and sow among rocks and thorns, and in the highway; how seldom fall we upon good ground? Where have we any increase ? Yea, Lord, how often are men the harder for all

[ocr errors]

our labors with them, the deader for all endeavors to quicken them? Our breath kills them whom thou sendest us to speak life to ; and we often become to them a deadly savour. Sometimes, when we think somewhat is done to purpose, our labor all returns, and we are to begin again; and when the duties we persuade to, come directly to cross men's interests and earnal inclinations, they rerolt and start back, as if we were urging them upon flames, or the sword's point; and their own souls and the eternal glory are regarded as a thing of nought : then heaven and hell become with them fancies and dreams; and all that we have said to them false and fabulous. We are to the most as men that mock, in our most serious warnings and counsels; and the word of the Lord is a reproach. We sometimes fill our mouths with arguments, and our hearts with hope, and think, sure they will now yield; but they esteem our strongest reasonings (as Leviathan doth iron and brass) but as straw and rotten wood; and laugh at divine threatenings as he doth at the shaking of the spear. Yea, and when we have convinced them, yet we have done nothing; though we have got their judgments and conscience on our side and their own, their lusts only reluctate and carry all. They will now have their way though they perish. We see them perishing under our very eye, and we cry to them (in thy name, O Lord) to return and live, but they regard us not. For these things, sometimes we weep in secret, and our eyes trickle down with tears; yea, we cry to thee, O Lord, and thou hearest us not; thy hand seems shortened, that it cannot save; it puts not on strength as in the days of old; it hath snatched souls by thousands, as firebrands out of the fire; but now thou hidest and drawest it back. Who hath believed our report? To whom is the arm of the Lord revealed ? Meanwhile even the devil's instruments pr er more than we : and he that makes it his business to tempt and entice down souls to hell, succeeds more than we that would allure them to heaven.

But we must speak, whether men will hear or forbear ; though it concerns us to do it with fear and trembling. Oh, how solemn a business is it to treat with souls! and how much to be dreaded, lest they miscarry through our imprudence or neglect! I write with solicitude what shall become of these lines; with wbat effect they will be read (if they fall into such hands) by them whom they most concern : yea, and with some doubt, whether it were best to write on or forbear. Sometimes one would incline to think it a merciful omission, lest we add to the account and torment of many at last ; but sense of duty towards all, and hope of doing good to some must oversway. Considering therefore the state of such souls I am now dealing with, I apprehend there may be obstructions to the entertainment of the counsel here recommended, of two sorts; partly in their minds, partly in their hearts; something of appearing reason, but more of

[ocr errors]

real perverse will. That which I shall do in pursuance of it, will fall under two answerable heads :-A reply to certain doubts and objections, wherein to meet with the former: and—the proposal of some considerations, wherein to contend against the latter.

(1.) It appears men are grown ingeniously wicked, and have learned how to dispute themselves into hell ; and to neglect what concerns their eternal blessedness with some color and pretence of reason. It will therefore be worth the while to discuss a little their more specious pretences, and consider, their more obvious (supposable) scruples, which will be found to concern either the possibility, lawfulness, advantage or necessity of the endeavors we persuade to.

[1.) Is it a possible undertaking you put us upon ; or, is there any thing we can do in order to the change of our own hearts ? We find ourselves altogether undesirous of those things wherein you state blessedness, and they are without savour to us. lf therefore the notion you give us of blessedness be right, all the work necessary to qualify us for it is yet to be done; we yet remain wholly destitute of any principle of life, that may dispose us to such relishes and enjoyments. If the new creature (as you say) consist in a suitable temper of spirit unto such a state as this, it is as yet wholly unformed in us : And is there any thing to be done by a dead man in order to life? Can a child contribute any thing to its first formation ? or a creature to its coming into being? In answer to this, consider:

If you were serious in what you say, methinks you should have little mind to play the sophisters, and put fallacies upon yourselves, in the matter that concerns the life of your soul. And what else are you now doing? For sure, otherwise one would think it were no such difficulty to understand the difference between the esse simpliciter, the mere being of any thing, and the esse tale, its being such or such; by the addition of somewhat afterward to that being. Though nothing could contribute to its own being simply ; yet sure when it is in being, it may contribute to the bettering or perfecting of itself, (even as the unreasonable creatures themselves do :) and if it be a creature naturally capable of acting with design, it may act designedly in order to its becoming so or so qualified, or the attaining of somewhat yet wanting to its perfection. You cannot be thought so ignorant, but that you know the new creature is only an addition to your former being: and though it be true, that it can do no more to its own production than the unconceived child (as nothing can act before it is) doth it therefore follow, that your reasonable soul, in which it is to be formed, cannot use God's prescribed means in order to that blessed change? You cannot act holily as a saint; but therefore can you not act rationally as a man! I appeal to your reason and conscience in some

23

VOL. J.

« PreviousContinue »