« PreviousContinue »
more on this ordinary, yet very necessary subject ; because many have done so worthily herein. Read them.
5. Walk humbly with your God. A hint may be given respecting a close walk with God, but I shall speak most of that soul-enriching grace of humility. O Christians, the best means of edification is a holy conversation. God communicates secrets, and solace to them that walk with him. A man of a well-ordered conversation shall see God's salvation.* A master will entrust a faithful, careful, painful servant with a larger talent,t for such a one is a credit to his master, and promotes his designs. Bringing forth much fruit glorifies God and edifies man, and surely the Lord will dignify such fruitful vines with more care in dressing, and yet more of his blessing to help their abundant fruit-bearing; those shall have more clear discoveries of God's will, who carefully do it; and such as do his commandments have right to the tree of life,-that they may come to it when they please, and eat abundantly, and live for ever. There is an incomparable advantage in close-walking. In keeping the commandments there is this reward, that every act of obedience doth increase ability to obey. Every step reneweth strength. Saints go from strength to strength, for the way of the Lord is strength to the upright. Nothing evidenceth and increaseth grace so much as holiness; therefore, as he that hath called you is holy, so be you holy, in all manner of conversation; and let me persuade you to be very humble. God gives more grace to the humble; humility is not only a grace, but a vessel to receive more, the high and holy God fills the humble and lowly heart. The King of heaven loves to walk upon this blessed pavement.
“ Blessed are the * Psal. L. 23.
+ Matth. xxv. 21.
poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, and such a soul is the fittest receptacle for the precious riches of this heavenly kingdom. Much of the riches of the ancients consisted in their garments, and a Christian's treasure lies much in his vesture, some whereof is his larger upper coat; that is, Christ's righteousness imputed, which covers all defects and imperfections. Some are closer garments, girded to the soul by the girdle of truth and sincerity. These are the garments of sanctification; one choice part whereof is humility, 1 Pet. v. 5. “ Be clothed with humility.” | Some think the word imports what as a string or ribband ties together the precious pearls of divine graces ; these adorn the soul, and if this string break they are all scattered. Humility is the knot of every virtue,the ornament of every grace. Hence I have read a quotation out of Basil, who calls humility [Ongavpopuláktov Travroç åyabov] the storehouse or magazine of all good. Would to God we were all humble and holy walkers, and we should quickly have our hearts furnished with a treasure! Consecration in the time of the law was by filling the hand, and he that is consecrated to the Lord shall have his heart filled, especially they that are emptied of all self-conceit, shall be filled with much of God's fulness. Valley-souls are usually covered over with a rich harvest of precious fruits.f Humility is likewise a fit disposition for entertaining divine truths, these choice grafts will like best in a low ground. A meek soul will bid truths welcome; for an humble heart looks upon every truth of God as infinitely above
John vii. 17. Rev. xxii. 14. Psal. xix. 11. Psal. lxxxiv. 7. Prov. x. 29. Jam. iv. 6. Isa. lvii. 15. Mat. v. 3.
+ Την ταπεινοφροσύνην έγκομβώσασθε, humilitatem animi vobis infixam habete: Eras. on kóußos, a knot, vid. Leigh Crit. # Psalm lxv. 13.
|| Jam. i. 21.
* John XV.
itself, and, therefore, falls down under it, and saith, “ Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.” An humble soul owns the authority of God in his word, wherever it finds it, whoever brings it, so that even a " little child may lead him”* any whither with a twinethread of Scripture discoveries. But proud men and truth can never hit it, for they think scorn to put their necks under the yoke of truth, and it will have the victory where it lodgeth. Those were proud men that would not obey truth in Jeremiah's mouth,t and therefore must that prophet take down their crests before they could be right disciples of truth, Jer. xiii. 15. “ Hear ye, give ear, be not proud.” And observe this, a proud man is always on the losing hand, both in the account of God and man, and in his natural or acquired accomplishments. The more a man conceits to himself some imaginary attainments, the more he loseth. The stomach may be so stuffed with noxious things that a man cannot eat; or swelled with flatulency, which may prove dangerous. This, however, is not a right fulness, but a disordered state. Just thus is it with men's souls. The swelling disease hinders health by either truths or graces.
O, therefore, be you humble, self-denying souls; sensible of your own defects. Be nothing in your own eyes, and you shall be a temple for the God of all grace to abide in, and to walk constantly in; yea, he will fill you with abundance of grace here and glory hereafter.
6. Be much in secret prayer. Pray much and pray in secret : a word on both. O, pray without ceasing ! ! that is, keep a constant praying disposition, and lay hold. on every fit season for that duty. While prayer standeth still, the trade of religion standeth still, and there is nothing got. All comes into the soul by this door. * Isa. xi. 6. t Jer. xliii. 2.
1 Thess. v. 17.
It is good for a Christian to keep up set and stated times of prayer. Daniel and David prayed three times a day, in extraordinary cases seven times a day. * It is not lost labour to be much on our knees. We cannot go to God too often. I am sure not oftener than we shall be welcome if we pray aright, for the holy of holies is ever open, and our High Priest ever lives to make intercession for us; prayer was made in the Jewish temple service morning and evening, and we must be constant and instant in prayer, † as the hunting dog that will not cease following the game till he have got it; so must we pursue the Lord, and persevere with strength, till we have obtained what we want. There is a kind of omnipotence in prayer; as it was said of Luther, he could do with God, even what he would. At present I would advise all Christians to keep up a constant set time of prayer. What if thou gettest little thereby ? yet, wait on God still. Tradesmen will go to markets and fairs, and set open their shop doors and windows, though there be little to be done or gotten many times ; so let the Christian keep this market of holy duties, and go upon the exchange to spy what good bargain he can meet with for his soul. Learn to maintain commerce with heaven still, lest you lose your custom. Keep canonical hours as it were of prayer, though your hearts be often out of frame. Venture upon duty, and try what the Lord will do with you. It is the folly of our trifling spirits to put off duty, when our hearts are not in tune, with expectation that they will be in a better frame another time. But do we think that one sin will excuse another? or that we
• Dan. vi. 10. Psal. lv. 17. Psal. cxix. 164.
* Rom. xii. 12. Τη προσευχη πρόσκαρτερούντες, in oratione perdurantes.-Beza. Continue with strength : à Kapteīv, id est, fortiter tolerare.--Leigh's Crit. Sac.
shall be better fitted by a present neglect ? No, certainly. We ought to stir up ourselves to take hold on God, for why should Satan be gratified by a total forbearance ? Will not disuse make us lother to go to God another time? Yea, have we not found it in Scripture and experience, that a dead and discouraged entrance upon duty hath increased to sweet enlargements, and ravishments of spirit ? Search and see. . Usually a heart-engagement hath ended in a heart-enlargement, and God-enjoyment. God will bring an engaged heart nearer himself.—Jer. xxx. 21. None ever lost their labour in struggling with their untoward hearts. Oh, Christians, be sure you be found in prayer, though you come hardly to it, and have much ado to keep at it, and have more hazard to get something by it; though with Jonathan and his armour bearer you clamber up the hill on your bands and knees, and fight when
you mount the top; yet, you shall get the victory, and the spoils of such a conflict will be the most enriching. One Pisgah-sight of Christ in a promise will quit the cost and hazard a thousand-fold. The evidence and advantage of such a performance will be the best, and worth all the rest ; yea, for ought I know, though you meet not with God as you desire at that time, yet God may own and crown that undertaking as much as the most heart-melting exercise, because there is most of obedience in that, and conscience of duty is as acceptable a motive to duty as sense of present recompense.
But withal, keep up a course of secret prayer; withdraw yourselves into a corner according to the rule, Matt. vi. 6. God is wont to dispense his choicest blessings to solitary souls. When Jacob was left alone, he wrestled with the angel of the covenant and prevailed.-Gen. xxxii. 24. John and Ezekiel had