« PreviousContinue »
stians challenge the first place among all the mourners in the world.
Infer. 4. Is grace so iovaluably precious ? How precious then ought the ordinances of God to be to our souls, by which grace is first communicated, and afterwards improved in our fouls ! “ The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thou. “ fands of gold and filver," Psal. cxix 72. and good reason, whill it imparts aod improves that to which gold and silver are but dross and dung.
None but these that value got grace, will ever flight the means, or despise and injure the iostruments thereof. It is a fad sign of a graceless world, wheä thefe precious things fall under contempts and Nights.
Infer. 5. If grace be so precious, how watchful should all gracious perfoos be in the days of temptation! The design of temptation is to rob you of your treasure: When cut-purses get into the croud, we use to say, Friends, look to your purles. How many brave Christians have we read and heard of, that have rather "chosen to part with their lives, thao with their graces, who have “refilted unto blood, Ariving against fio ?" Heb. xii. 4.
O, Chrisians ! you live in a cheating age; many seeming Christians have lost all, and many real Christians have loft much; so much, that they are like to see but little comfort in this world, who are like to go mourning to the grave with that lamenta tion, Job xxix. 2, 3. “O that it were with me as in times “
Infer. 6. To conclude : Is there such precious worth in fav. ing grace? Then blejs God for, and diligently use all means to increase and improve it in your souls. It is gold for precioufness, and for usefuloefs, and must not be laid up in a Dapkin: That is a fin condemned by the very scope of that parable, Matth. XXV. 14, 15.
All Christians indeed have not the fame advantages of improvement; but all muft improve it according to the advantages they have, in order to an account. Reserved Chriftians, who live too abftracted from the society and communion of others, and disperse not their streams abroad to the benefit of others, por improve the graces of others for their own benefit, are wapting both to their owo duty and comfort. See you a man rich in grace, O irade with him if you can, to improve your felves by him; and the rather, because you know not how foon death may snatch him from you, and with him all his stock of grace is gonc from you too, except what you made your own
whilft you conversed with him : But, alas ! alas ! instead of holy, profitable, foul-improving communion, fome are fullenly reserved; some are negligent and lazy; some are litigious and wrangling; more apt to draw forth the dross, than the gold; I mean the corruptions, than graces of others. And how few there be that drive a profitable trade for increase of grace, is fad to confider,
And as grace is not improved by communion with men, so I doubt most Christians thrive but little in their communion with God: We are too feldom in our closets, too little upon our knees; and when we are there, we gain but little; we come not off such gainers by duty as we might. O Christians ! thiok when you are hearing and praying, I am now trading with heaven for that which is infoitely better than gold. God is rich to all that call upon him: What a treasure may I get this hour, if the fault be not in mine owo heart? And thus of the fecond observation.
CH A P. IV. Wherein the third doctrine, being the main subject of this trea
tise, is opened, and the method of the whole discourse stated.
DOCT. I. That only is to be accounted true grace, which is able to endure
all those trials appointed or permitted for the discovery of it.
SE CT 1.
in a state of trial in this world. First, he tries, and theo he crowas them ; James i. 12. Blessed is the man that “ endureth temptation, werpooleov, i. e. [probation or trial]; “ for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life,” &c.
No man can say what he is; whether his graces be true or false, till they be tried and examined by those things which are to them as fire is to gold. These self-deceivers in the text thought they had grace; yea, they thought they had been rich ia grace; but it proved no better than drofs : And therefore Christ here counsels them to buy of him gold tried in the fire ; 2. e. true grace indeed, which appears to be so upon
the various proofs and examinations of its sincerity, which are to be made
in this world, as well as in the great folema trial it must come
Graces. 1. First, The opinions and judgments of men are tried as by fire ; in which feale we are to undertand that place, i Cor. iii
, 12, 13. “ Now if any man build upon this foundation, gold, “ lilver, precious fooes, wood, hay, Aubble, coery man's " work shall be made manifeft; for the day shall declare it, " because it shall be revealed by fire, and the fire shall try eve. si
ry man's work, of what sort it is.” This text speaks of such persons as hold the foundation of Christianity, bot yet superstructed fuch doctrines and practices, as were no more able to endure the trial, thao hay, wood, or stubble, cao endure the fire. Such a person hereby brings himself to danger ; and though the apostle will not deny the poffibility, yet he asserts the difficulty of his falvation ; “ shall be saved, yet so as by fire t;" i, e. as a man is faved by leaping out of his house at midnight, when it is all on fire a. bout his ears ; for so that phrale imports, Amos iv. 11. and Jude 23. Glad to escape naked, and with the loss of his goods ; blessing God he hath his life for a prey: As little regard shall such have to their erroneous notions and unfcriptural opinions
2. Secondly, The graces of men are brought to the test, as well as their opinions. Trial will be made of their hearts, as well as their heads; and upon this trial the everlasting safety and happiness of the person depends. If a man's opioions be fome of them fouod hay or stubble, yet so long as he holds the head, and is right in the foundation, he may be saved; but if a man's supposed graces be found so, all the world cannot fave him : There is oo way of escape, if he fioally deceive himself herein. And of this trial of graces my text speaks : Sincere grace is gold tried by fire.
There is a twofold trial of grace; active and passive.
First, An active trial of it, in which we try it ourselves, 2 Cor. xiii. 5. “ Examine yourselves; prove yourselves;" i.e. measure your hearts, duties and graces, by the rule of the word;
* Upon a thorough trial they raoith into smoke.
† From which judgment he thall escape juft as one does naked, or with his bare life, out of the midst of fames. Chryfoftome.
fee how they answer to that rule: Bring your hearts and the word together by folema felf-examination; confer with your reins, and commune with your own hearts.
Secondly, A paflive trial of it: whether we try it or no, God will try it, he will bring our gold to the touchstone, and to the fire. “ Thou, O Lord, kpowest me; thou hast seen
me, and tried mine heart towards thee,” faith the prophet, Jer. xii. 3.
Sometimes he tries the strength and ability of his fervants graces ; and thus he tried Abraham, Heb. xi. 17. And some times he tries the foundaess and fincerity of our graces ; so the Ephesian angel was tried, and found dross, Rev. ii. 2. And so Job was tried, and found true gold, Jub xxiii. 10. These trials are not made by God for his owo information ; for he koows what is in man; bis eyes pierce bis heart and reins ; but for our information ; which is the true sense of Deur, viii. 2. “ Thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God “ led thec these forty years in the wilderness to humble thee, " and to prove thee, to know what was in thy heart ;" i. e. to make the know it, by giving thee such experiments and trials of it in those wilderness Straits and difficulties.
And these are the trials of grace I am here to speak of, pot excluding the active trials made by ourselves ; no, no, all these trials made by God upon us, are designed to put us upon the trial of ourselves : When God tries, we fhould try too.
Now the method into which I shall cast this discourse, shall be to thew you,
1. Firf, What those things are which try the fincerity of our graces, as fire tries gold.
2. Secondly, For what ends doth God put the graces of his people upon such trials io this world.
3. Thirdly, That such grace only is facere as cap endure these trials.
4. Fourthly, and lastly, To apply the whole, in the main uses of it.
SECT. II. 1. First, WHat those things are which try the fincerity of
grace, as fire tries gold. Before I enter into particulars, it will be needful to acquaint you, that the subject before me is full of difficulties. There is need, as one fpeaks, of much cautious respect to the various lizes and degrees of growth among Chriftians, and the viciffitudes of their inward cate; else we may darken and perplex the way, instead of clearing it.
The portraiture of a Christian is such as pone can draw to one model, but with respect to the infancy of fome, as well as the age and strength of others.
Great heed ought also to be had in the application of marks and signs; we should first try them, before we try ourselves or others by them. Marks and ligos are by some diftinguished into exclusive, inclusive, and positive : Exclusive marks serve to shut out bold pretenders, by shewiag them how far they come short of a saving work of grace ; and they are commonly taken from fome aecessary common duty, as hearing, praying, &c. He that doth not fhele things, canoot have any work of grace in him; and yet if he do them, he cannot from thence conclude his estate to be gracious : He that so concludes, deceives himself.
Inclusive marks rather discover the degrees than the truth of grace, and are rather intended for comfort thao for conviction : if we find them in ourselves, we do not only find sincerity, but eminency of grace: They being taken from fome raised degree and eminent acts of grace in confirmed and grown Christians.
Betwixt the two former there is a middle fort of marks, which are called positive marks, and they are such as are always, and only found, in regenerate fouls: The hypocrite hath them not ; the growo Christian hath them, and that in an eminent degree:
The poorest Christian hath them in a lower, but saving degree : Great care must be taken in the application of them. And it is paft
, doubt, that many weak and injudicious Christians have been greatly prejudiced by finding the experiences of eminent Christians proposed as rules to measure their sincerity by. Alas! these no more fit their fouls, than Saul's armour did David's, body.
These things being premised, and a due care carried along with us through this discourse, I shall next come to the particulars, and New you what those thiogs are which discover the state and tempers of our souls. Aod though it be true, that there is no condition we are in, no providence that befals us, but it takes fome proof, and makes fome discovery of our hearts; yet, to limit this discourse, and fall into particulars as soon as we can, I fhall shew what trials are made of our graces in this world, by our prosperity, aod our adversity ; by our corruptions, and our duties; and, lallly, by our sufferings upon the score and account of religion.