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Lord humble us because we have no more, when there is so much to be had in our all-sufficient treasury.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR A GRACELESS HEART TO OBTAIN A TREASURE OF GOOD.
A THIRD use is of direction, how a poor soul may be furnished with a rich and suitable heart-treasure. Now, this is useful to sinners and saints, and it is the latter to whom I shall principally address myself. But because the treasure of true grace is absolutely necessary, I shall lay down some few directions for the graceless soul, that it may have a right principle, without which it cannot bring forth one good thought, word, or work. This is the habit without which there can be no gracious acts; this is the root, without which there can be no fruit to God; this is that stock to trade with, without which there can be no transactions with God, or true heaping up of the fore-mentioned treasure of sanctifying truths, spiritual graces, heartmelting experiences, or heart-cheering comforts. I know the School-men* have long disputes about the generating, acquiring, or infusing of habits, as whether any habit be from nature? or be caused by acts, or by one act? or whether habits be infused by God? But we must distinguish betwixt inferior habits, that are merely natural, and spiritual, gracious habits, that are supernatural; these are of a heavenly extract and origin. Yet we are to wait upon God in
* Aquin. Sum Prim. Sec. Qu. 51. Art. 1-4. Qu. 109. Ubi videas decimas questiones de gratia agitatas.
the use of his appointed means; so saith the Apostle"Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do, of his own good pleasure," Phil. ii. 12, 13.* This text both confuteth the speculative free-willer, and convinceth the practical loiterer, that grace is to be had from God in his way, though it is not purchased by man's working. I purposely wave the schoolmen's voluminous disputes concerning grace, and shall propound these seven directions to poor graceless souls; and they are plain and practical duties.
1. Withdraw from the world. At some times learn to sequester yourselves from the cares, affairs, comforts, cumbers, and company here below. Do not think you can hoard up in a crowd. Satan loves to fish in troubled waters, but so doth not Christ; the noise of Cain's hammers, in building cities, drowned the voice of conscience. A man will best enjoy himself alone; solitary recesses are of singular advantage, both for getting and increasing grace: "Through desire a man having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom," Prov. xviii. 1. In this you may and must be separatists: let me advise you (and, Oh, that I could prevail at least thus far) to treat and entertain yourselves by yourselves. He is a wicked man, and resolves to continue so, that dare not entertain himself with discourses about spiritual subjects and soul affairs: it were more safe to know the worst, before you feel the worst. Let your solitary thoughts be working about things of eternity; accustom yourselves to secret and serious pondering. I have read, that the father of a prodigal left it as his death-bed charge, unto his only son, to spend a quarter of an hour every day in
• What persons may do towards their own conversion, see Morn. Lect. Case of Consc. p. 33.
retired thinking, but left him at liberty to think of what he would: the son having this liberty to please himself in the subject, sets himself to the performance of his promise; his thoughts one day recall his past pleasures; another, contrive his future delights; but at length becoming inquisitive to know what might be his Father's end in proposing this task, he thought his father was a wise and good man, therefore surely he intended and hoped that he would some time or other think of religion; when this had leavened his thoughts they multiplied abundantly, neither could he contain them in so short a confinement, but was that night sleepless, and afterwards restless, till he became seriously religious.*
By all means use sometimes to be alone,
Salute thyself; see what thy soul doth wear;
And tumble up and down what thou find'st there.
Oh, sirs, you little know what good effects a serious consideration may produce! God propounds it, and men have practised it, as the great expedient to begin and promote repentance. Consider what you came into the world for-whither you must go if you die this moment-what a state you were born in-what is the need and nature of regeneration-what the worth and price of your immortal souls, and, through God's blessing, these thoughts may leave some good impressions.
2. Be at a point concerning your state. Be exact and impartial in searching your hearts, to find out your state. Trifle not in this great work of self-examina
* Morning Lect. at Crippl. Consc. p. 9.
+ Herb. Church-porch, p. 6.
tion; be not afraid to know the worst of thyself; make a curious and critical heart-anatomy; try whether "Jesus Christ be in you ;"* do as the goldsmith, who brings his gold to the balance, so do you weigh yourselves in the balance of the sanctuary; judge not of your state by the common opinion of others concerning you, but by Scripture characters, and bring your virtues to the touchstone; pierce them through, to try whether they be genuine graces or moral endowments; see whether your treasure be that "gold that is tried in the fire," that is, in the fiery furnace of affliction and persecution. Oh, how many are deceived with imaginary felicities, and empty flourishes! Take heed of being put off with gifts, instead of grace; conviction, instead of conversion; outward reformation, instead of saving sanctification; which is the damning and undoing of thousands of souls. Why will you not use as much diligence for your souls as you do for your bodies, or estates? If your body be in a dangerous disease, or your estate at hazard in an intricate suit, you will run and ride, and make friends, and pay any money, to know what shall become of them, or to secure them: and are not your souls of more worth than a putrid carcase, or dunghill estate? Sirs, pose yourselves with serious questions :-Heart, how is it with thee? Art thou renewed? What life of grace is in thee? Are thy graces of the right stamp? Whither art thou going? And get distinct and positive answers to such questions as these. Let not thy treacherous heart dally with thee; be not put off with general hopes and groundless conjectures. A man is easily induced to believe what he would have to be true; but rest not there, try further, make it out how it comes to be so, detect and answer every flaw in thy
* 2 Cor. xiii. 5. δοκιμάζετε, πειράζετε.
spiritual estate. If thou canst not do this thyself, make thy case known to some able Minister, or experienced Christian; tell them how things are with thee, beg advice; ask them how it was with their souls, and thou shalt find much help this way. Yet after all, suspect thine own heart; call in aid from heaven; desire the Lord to search thee;* and be willing to be sifted to the bran, searched to the bottom. David is so intent upon it, and so afraid of a mistake, that he useth three emphatical words, in that challenge he makes for his soul's inquisition, Psalm xxvi. 2. "Examine me, O Lord, and prove me, try my reins and my heart." The first word imports a viewing us as from a watch-tower; the second word imports a trying, or finding out a thing by questions, or an inquiry by signs or tests; the last word imports such a trial, as separates the dross from the gold, or the dregs from the wine; so the Christian would be tried and purged, that grace may appear true, sincere, solid; and indeed it is as much as your souls are worth; therefore take the most effectual course to clear your state to yourselves, and be not put off with any answer, but what will be accepted by God at the great day.
3. Mourn over your empty hearts: if you find things not right in your own hearts lament your state, cry out with a loud and bitter cry, as Esau did when the blessing was gone; lament and say, woe and alas that ever I was born! that I have lived thus long without God in the world, at first entrance into it a bankrupt, and ever since a spiritual beggar. what will become of me, if I die in this estate? there
* Psalm cxxxix. 23.
+ probavit, exploravit, tentavit; D signo agnoscere, conflavit; y defæcavit. Met. probavit; inde Sarepta, civitas metallica, nomen habet ab officinis quibus metalla excoquuntur.