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TO “ THE SURE MERCIES OF DAVID."
TO ALL THE HEIRS OF PROMISE, THE SAINTS OF THE MOST
HIGH GOD, THE SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF ABRAHAM, WHOM GOD HATH BETROTHED TO HIMSELF IN THE SWEET GOSPEL COVENANT, AND WHO LIVE IN HOPES OF THEIR NUPTIAL DAY, PREPARING IN GRACE TO ENTER INTO THE CHAMBERS OF GLORY AT DEATH AND THE GENERAL RESURRECTION, GRACE, MERCY AND PEACE.
Two things, my dearly beloved in the Lord, are absolutely necessary to make souls happy ; first, that the thing possessed be fully adequate to the nature of the soul ; and secondly, that it be made over to it legally and everlastingly: for if either any thing be defective at present required to give content, or there be danger of losing it, it is not commensurate to the soul's state or need; for as this immortal spark infused into man, whereby he has become a rational creature, is vast and capacious in its desires and dimensions ; so it is very lasting, yea, everlasting in its continuance and duration ; therefore the riches necessary to make it happy must be both suitable and durable. But all the creatures fall short in both. The soul of man travelling through this spacious universe in its contemplations, and following the guidance of the intellectual faculties, the soul's ear and eye-can get no satisfying sight or report in answer to that curious inquiry, who will shew me any good ? To fix upon the creature, is to set our eyes upon that which is not, for it is vanity; yea, to place our hopes on that which hath a lie in its right hand, and so becomes vexation of spirit in an overwhelming disappointment. Woe to man, if
there were no hopes for him but in this life, and great would be his infelicity, if it were true that there is no God, as atheists say and think. How poorly should this princely thing in man be served with the sordid husks of creature enjoyments! How base and brutish would its life be ! How well becoming man would that epitaph of the Epicure be, which, Cicero saith, fitter to be written on an ox's grave than a man's ?-Hæc habeo quæ edi, quæque ersaturata libido hausit; “ the things my greedy appetite hath devoured are mine.” Let such brutified sots, that understand nothing of the worth or proper food of immortal souls, feed on husks, but let the heaven-born saints aspire to other nourishment; if the mixed multitude of common professors linger after the Egyptian food of cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic,* real saints fare better—they feed on heavenly manna.
The flesh and blood of Christ is the proper pabulum anime, or nourishment of the soul. The soul hath a more delicate appetite, which requires answerable food; it cannot feed on such coarse stuff as worldly delights. Hear David begging as for an alms—but what alms begs he? “mercies ;” and what mercies ? " tender mercies.” Psal. xl. 11, “ Withhold not thy tender mercies from me, O Lord;" as if he said, there are common mercies, that gratify the appetites, and clothe the bodies of good or bad, but these will not serve my turn, nor save my soul ; the mercies that will do me good for ever, are tender things of another stamp, that come streaming through the blood of a Mediator, that spring from covenant love, and such as can fill, and feed, and feast
These are the mercies that God hath dropt into your bosoms, heirs of promise, and these are the mercies described and deciphered in this Treatise ; I have gone out to measure the Land of Promise, and according to grace received, I have
. Num. xi. 4, 5. “Οι δε άλλοι, περιπεφυκότες τω κόσμω, οία φύκιά τινα ενάλοις πέτραις, αθανασίας ολιγωρoύσιν" καθάπερ ο Ιθακήσιος γέρων, ου της αληθείας, και της εν ουρανω πατρίδος, προς δε, και του όντως όντος έμειρόμενος φωτός, αλλά του KAT VOū.—Qui mundo adhæserunt ut marinis petris alga, contemnunt immortalitatem sicut senex Ithacensis, qui non veritatem et coelestem patriam, eamque lucem quæ vere est, sed fumum optabat.-Clem. Alexand. Adm. ad Gen.
viewed it in the length and breadth thereof, and I have no reason to bring up an evil report on it; it is a land flowing with milk and honey, a blessed and beautiful land, which God careth for, and if the Lord delight in you, he will bring you into it. What though there be giants and Anakim of opposition in heaven's way, fear them not, for they are bread for us, they shall contribute to the saint's nourishment, and their defence is departed from them *; the Lord is with us, let not our hearts faint-God will carry us as upon eagles' wings, he will give us a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night ; sure mercies in the way, and everlasting mercies at the end. This is the true Arabia Felix, yet far beyond that, which though it abounded with spices and gold, profits and pleasures, yet stupified the senses of the inhabitants with its palling sweetness: but there is no nauseous feeling occasioned by a participation of heavenly delights; the longer you enjoy them, the more you long after them, and the fuller draught you take, the sweeter relish they have. Oh the pleasure a soul may have in divine things ! other things will disgust in comparison of these rapturous delights: no pleasures like those that come from above. But that which adds an emphasis to these is, that they are sure as well as sweet, abiding as well as abounding pleasures : God the author and object of them is immutable—the spring of them is the love of God—the meritorious cause, Christ's blood-the way of conveyance, precious promises; all these are settled and invariably the same; as long as the soul needs mercies it enjoys them, for we have grace to help in time of need. God will not, men cannot tear away these mercies from you, when you have a well-grounded title thereunto : God will not; for the gifts and callings of God are without repentance, and whom he loves once he loves to the end : men cannot, for they are above and beyond their reach. These mercies are made sure to you by a covenant of salt,”+ which is a symbol of incorruption : they wear not away with length of time, nor are they snatcht away by human violence: the tyrant's rage cannot wrest sure mercies out of your hearts and hands. This consideration is of singular use in a losing time;
Num. xiv. 7-9.
+ Sole et sale omnia conservantur.
men may take away our estates, liberties, and privileges, but they cannot take away our mercies : they may degrade us and remove us from our functions and offices, but cannot so dissettle our souls as to separate them from their relation to Christ, or à state of grace, or the blessed influences of grace. When Popish bishops took from John Huss the chalice, saying, “O cursed Judas, we take away from thee this chalice of thy salvation;" he answered, “ but I trust unto God the Father omnipotent, and my Lord Jesus Christ, for whose sake I suffer these things, that he will not take away the chalice of his redemption, but I have a steadfast and firm hope, that this day I shall drink thereof in his kingdom."* Yea, men may take away the members of the body, but not the graces and comforts of the soul. Notable is the story of Agatha a primitive martyr. When Quintilian had commanded her breasts to be cut off, she said, “ Art thou not ashamed, O tyrant, to dismember me of what in thy mother was the original source of thy own nourishment ? But go to, rage as much as thou canst, yet two breasts are left, which thou canst not touch, the one of faith, the other of hope ; they supply me with comfort and safety in the midst of torments, and abundant strength to sustain these, is repaired in me by the nourishment I derive from them.” † Alas, it were a sad state of an immortal soul to have nothing but what supplies corporeal wants. How soon may worm, or moth, or fire, or thieves, or tyrants, make a prey of visible riches ! The good things of saints are invisible: happy are you whose mercies are divine, you need not fear plundering or spoiling of your best goods ; these are the true riches ; though you be poor in this world, yet if you be rich in faith, you are heirs of a kingdom ; you live as strangers and pilgrims, for your estates lie in another country: and indeed, a Christian is a paradox in this,
• Fox's Mart. vol. i. p. 823.
+ Quintiliano-dixisse ferunt ex cujus jussu præcisæ sunt ipsi mammillæ, annon te pudet, tyranne, membrum illud in me amputare, quod in matre suxisti ? verum, age sævi quantum poteris : duæ tamen supersunt mammillæ, quas nequis attingere, fidei una, spei altera, hæ mihi vel in mediis tormentis solamen et tutamen suppeditant et earum alimento sustinendi virtus in me reparatur.-Dr. Arrows. Tact. Sac. p. 195.