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wisdom of the wise shall perish? Isa. xxix. 13, 14. Do I not bear him say, by his Prophet Jeremiah, They will deceive every one his neighbour; and will not speak the truth. Their tongue is an arrow shot out : it speaketh deceit : one speaketh peaceably to his neighbour, with his mouth; but, in heart, he layeth his wait. Shall I not visit them for these things, saith the Lord ? shall not my soul be avenged of such a nation as this? Jer. ix. 5, 8, 9.
Indeed, this is the way to beguile the eyes of men like ourselves : for who would mistrust a mortified face ? an eye and hand lifted up to heaven? a tongue, that speaks holy things? But, when we have to do with a Searcher of Hearts, what madness is it to think there can be any wisdom, or understanding, or counsel against the Lord ! Woe be to them, therefore, that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord : and their works are in the dark ; and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us? Isa. xxix. 15. Woe be to the rebellious children, saith the Lord, that take counsel, but not of me; that cover with a covering, but not of my Spirit : that they may.
add sin to sin; ch. xxx. 1. Shall I then cleanse the outside of the cup, while I am within full of extortion and excess ? Matt. xxiii. 25. Shall I fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness? Isa. lviii. 4. Shall I, under pretence of long prayers, devour widows' houses ? Matt. xxiii. 14. Shall I put on thy form, and transfigure myself into an angel of light? 2 Cor. xi. 14. Shall not the all-seeing eye of the Righteous God find me out, in my damnable simulation? Hath not he said, and will make it good, I hough thou wash thee with nitre, and take thee much soap; yet thine iniquity is marked before me ? Jer. ii. 22. Hath not my Saviour, who shall be our Judge, said, Therefore thou shalt receive the greater damnation ? Matt. xxiii. 14. Can there be any heavier doom, that can fall from that awful mouth, than, “ Receive thy portion with hypocrites ?"
Let those, therefore, that are ambitious of a higher room in hell, maintain a form af godliness, and deny the power of it; 2 Tim. ii. 5: face wickedness, with piety : stalk under religion, for the aims of policy : juggle with God and the world : case a devil with a saint; and row towards hell, while they look heaven-ward.
For me, All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit which God gives me is in my nostrils, I shall walk in mine uprightness ; Job xxvii
. 3. All false ways, and false semblances, shall my soul utterly abhor; Ps. xxvi. 11. that so, at the parting, my rejoicing may be the testimony of my conscience, that, in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with jleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, I have had my conversation in the world; 2 Cor. i. 12.
“ Why shouldst thou lose any thing of thy height? Thou art not
made of common nould : neither art thou as others. If thou
apart, and avoid the contagion of common breath :” Repelled. If pride were thy ruin, Wicked Spirit, how fain wouldest thou make it mine also! This was thy first killing suggestion to our first parents in paradise, soon after thine own fall, as if it had been lately before thy own case, Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil; Gen. iii. 5. That, which thou foundest so deadly to thyself, thou art enviously willing to feoff upon man; that if, through thy temptation, pride may compass him about as a chain, (Ps. Ixxiii. 6.) he may bear thee company in those everlasting chains, wherein thou art reserved under darkness, to the judgment of the Great Day;
Thou well knowest, that the ready way to make me odious unto God, is, to make me proud of myself. “Pride and arrogancy, and the evil way, doth he hate; Prov. viii. 13. The day of the Lord of Hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, saith the Prophet; Isa. ii. 12. He huth scattered the proud in the imaginations of their hearts, saith the Blessed Virgin ; Luke i. 51. sisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble, saith the Apostle; James iv. 6. 1 Pet. v. 5. The Lord will destroy the house of the proud, saith Solomon; Prov. xv. 25 : and his father David, before him, Thine eyes are upon the haughty, that thou mayest bring them down ; 2 Sam. xxii. 28: down, indeed; even to the bottom of that pit of perdition. Make me but proud therefore, and I am thine: sure I am, God will not own me; and, if I could be in heaven with this sin, would cast me down headlong into hell; Isaiah
Thou biddest me not to lose any thing of my height :-Alas, poor wretched dwarf that I am! what height have 1? If I have but grace enough, to know and bewail my own misery and nothingness, it is the great mercy of my God. "Who maketh me to differ from another ? and what have I, that I have not received ? and if I have received it, why should I glory in it as my own ? 1 Cor. iv. 7. Whatsoever thou persuadest me, let me rather lose of my height, than add to my stature, and affect too high a pitch. That humility, is rewarded with honour; this pride, with ruin. It is the word of truth himself, Whosoever shall eralt himself shall be abased ; and he, that shall humble himself, shall be eralted ; Mat. xxiii. 12. Luke xiv. 11. xviii. 14. The way then, to lose my whole height, yea my
ing, is, to be lifted up, in and above myself: for, though I should build my nest as high as the eagle, or advance a throne amongst the stars : yet, how soon shall he cast me down into the dust; yea, without my repentance, into the nethermost hell!
Thou tellest me, that, which the Pharisee said of himself, I am not as others : true : for I can say, with the Chosen Vessel, that I am the chief of sinners.
Thou wouldest bring me into an opinion, that I am more holy and more wise than my neighbours :- I am a stranger to other men's graces : I am acquainted with my own wants : yea, I so well know my own sinfulness and folly, that I hang down my head in a just shame for both. I know that he, who was holier than I, could say, I know that in me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing ; Rom. vii. 18 : and he, that was wiser than I, could say, Surely, I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of
man : I neither learned wisdom, nor have the knowledge of the Holy ; Prov. xxx. 2, 3. All the holiness that I have attained unto, is, to see and lament my defects of holiness; and all my wisdom, is, to descry and complain of my own ignorance and foolishness.
Am I better gifted than another ? - Thou art an ill judge of either, who enviest the gifts of both. But, if I be so, they are gifts still : and such gifts, as the donor hath not absolutely given away from himself to me; but hath given, or lent them ratber, to me, for an improvement to his own use : which I have no more reason to be proud of, than the honest factor of his master's stock; received by him, not for possession, but for traffic.
Am I more enlightened than others ? — The more do I discera my own darkness; and the more do I find cause to be humbled under the sense of it. But, if the greater light, which thou sayest is in me, were not of a human imagination, but of divine irradiation, what‘more reason should I have to be proud of it, than that, in this more temperate clime, I have more sunshine than those of Lapland and Finland, and the rest of those more northern nations ? So much the more reason have I to be thankful : none, to be proud.
Why should I, therefore, overlook the meanest of my fellowChristians : who may, perhaps, have more interest in God than myself? for it is not our knowledge that so much endears us to God, as our affections. Perhaps, he, that knows less, may love more; and, if he had been blessed with my means, would have known
Neither is it the distribution of the talents, that argues fa. your ; but the grace to employ them to the benefit of the Giver : if he, that received the one talent, had gained another, he had received more thanks, than he, that, upon the receipt of five talents, had gained one. The Spirit breathes where it listeth : and there may lie secret graces in the bosom of those, who pass for common Christians, that may find greater acceptation in heaven, than those, whose profession makes a fairer ostentation of boliness.
I can pity, therefore, those, that are ignorant, and apparently
graceless : but, for those, that profess both to know and love Christ, while their lives deny not the power of godliness, I dare not spend upon them either my contempt or censure ; lest, while I judge wrongfully, I be justly judged: much less dare I separate myself from their communion, as contagious.
Thou knowest how little it were to thine advantage, that I should be persuaded to depart from the tents of the notoriously wicked; and to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness : Numb. xvi. 20, 21. 2 Cor. vi. 17. Eph. v. 11.: as too well understanding, that evil conversation corrupts good manners; 1 Cor. xv. 33. and that a participation in sin draws on a partnership in judgment; Num. xvi. 26.
Neither know I, whether thou shouldest gain more by my joining with evil society, or my separating from good: infection follows upon the one; distraction, upon the other.
Those, then, which cast off their communion with Christ and his Church, whether in doctrine or practice, I shall avoid, as the plague, soon and far : but those, who truly profess a real conjunction with that Head and this body, into their secret let my soul come, and unto their assembly let mine honour be united.
But if, where I find weakness of grace and involuntary failings of obedi-, ence, I shall say, Stand by thyself, come not near me, for I am holier than thou, Isa. Ixv. 5. how can I make other account, than that this pride shall be a smoke in the nostrils of the Almighty ; a fire, that burneth all day ? and that he will recompense it into
Shortly, I know none so fit to depart from, as from myself; my own pride, self-love, and the rest of my inbred corruptions : and am so far from overlooking others, that I know none worse than myself.
“ However the zeal of your scrupulous preachers is wont to make the
worst of every thing, and to damn the least slip to no less than hell ; yet there are certain favourable temperaments of circumstances, which may, (if not excuse, yet) extenuate a fault: such as age, complerion, custom, profit, importunity, necessity; which are justly pleadable at the bar both of God and the conscience, and are sufficient to rebate the edge of divine severity :”
Repelied. WICKED Tempter! I know there is nothing upon earth, that so much either troubles thee, or impairs thy kingdom of darkness, as the zeal of conscionable preachers; those, who lift up their voice like a trumpet, and shew God's people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sin ; Is. lviii. i. This is it, that rescues millions of souls from the hand of hell, and gives thee so many foils
in thy spiritual assaults. This godly and faithful zeal represents men's sins to them as they are; and, by sins, the danger of their damnation ; which thy malicious subtlety would fain blanch over, and pailiate to their destruction. But, when thou hast all done, it is not in their power to make sin worse than it is, or in thine to make it better.
As for those favourable temperaments which thou mentionest, they are mere pandarisms of wickedness; fair visors of deformity.
For, to cast a glance upon each of them :
Age is not a more common plea, than unjust. The young man pretends it for his wanton and inordinate lust; the old, for his grippleness, techiness, loquacity : all wrongfully, and not without foul abuse. Youth is taught by thee to call for a swing; and to make vigour and heat of blood a privilege for a wild licentiousness ; for which it can have no claim, but from a charter sealed in hell: I am sure that God, who gives this marrow to his bones, and brawn to his arms, and strength to his sinews, and vivacity to his spirits, looks for another improvement: Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth, saith Solomon; Eccl. xii. I: and his father, before him, Il'herewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by tuhing heed thereto, according to thy word ; Ps. cxix. 9: lo, the young man's ways are foul with lusts and distempered passions, and they must be cleansed; and the way to cleanse them is attendance (not of his own vain pleasures, but) of the holy ordinances of his Maker : thou wouldest have him run loose, like the wild ass in the desert: God tells him, It is good for a man, to bear the yoke in his youth ; Lam. iii. 17: even the yoke of the divine precepts, the stooping whereunto is the best and truest of all freedoms : so as he may be able to say, with the best courtier * of the wickedest king, 1, thy servant, fear the Lord froin my youth : the aberrations from which holy laws of God are so far from finding an excuse from the prime of our years, as that holy Job cries out of them, in the bitterness of his soul, Thou hast made me to possess the iniquities of my youth ; Job xiii. 26 : and, as David vehemently deprecates God's anger for them, Remember not, Lord, the sins of my youth; Ps. xxv. 1. so, Zophar, the Naamathite, notes it for an especial brand of God's judgment upon the wicked man, that his bones are full of the sins of his youth ; Job xx. 11: and God declares it as an especial mercy to his people, Thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth; Isa. liv. 4: the more headstrong, therefore, my youth is, the more strait shall I curb it, and hold it in; and, the more vigorous it is, so much the fitter it is to be consecrated to that God, who is most worthy to be served with the best of his own. As for Old Age, it hath, I grant, its humours and infirmities; but rather for our humiliation, than for our excuse: it is not more common than absurd and unreasonable, that, when we are necessarily leaving the world, we should be most fond in holding it; when we are ceasing
* Obadiah in 1 Kings xviii, 12.