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faith. It is here that we must be united to Christ, made wise to salvation, renewed by his Spirit, and conformed to his likeness. It is here that we must overcome all the temptations of the devil, the world, and the flesh, and perform all the duties towards God and man, that must be rewarded. It is here that Christ must be believed in with the heart to righteousness, and with the mouth confessed to salvation. It is here that we must suffer with him, that we may reign with him, and be faithful to the death, that we may receive the crown of life. Here we must so run that we may obtain.
III. Yea, we have greater work here to do than mere securing our own salvation. We are members of the world and church, and we must labor to do good to man. We are trusted with our Master' talents for his service, in our places to do our best to propagate his truth and grace and church; and to bring home souls, and honor bis cause, and edify his flock, and further the salvation of as many as we can. All this is to be done on earth, if we will secure the end of all in heaven.
Use. 1. It is, then, an error (though it is but few, I think, that are guilty of it,) to think that all religion lieth in minding only the life to come, and disregarding all things in this present life, all true Christians must seriously mind both the end and the means, or way. If they mind not, believingly, the end, they will never be faithful in the use of means. If they mind not, and use not diligently, the means, they will never obtain the end. None can use earth well that prefer not heaven, and none come to heaven, at age, that are not prepared by well using earth. Heaven must have the deepest esteem, and habitual love, and desire, and joy ; but earth must have more of our daily thoughts for present practice. A man that traveleth to the most desirable home, hath a habit of desire to it all the way, but his present business is his travel; and horse, and company, and inns, and ways, and weariness, &c., may take up more of his sensible thoughts, and of his talk, and action, than his home.
Use 2. I have oft marvelled to find David, in the Psalms, and other saints, before Christ's coming, to have expressed so great a sense of the things of this present life, and to have said so little of another ; to have made so great a matter of prosperity, dominions, and vic
tories, on one hand, and of enemies, success, and persecution, on the other. But I consider that it was not for mere personal, carnal interest, but for the church of God, and for his honor, word and worship. And they knew that if things go well with us on earth, they will be sure to go well in heaven. If the militant church prosper in holiness, there is no doubt but it will triumph in glory. God will be sure to do his part in receiving souls, if they be here prepared for his receipt. And Satan doth much of his damning work by men; if we escape their temptations, we escape much of our danger. If idolaters prospered, Israel was tempted to idolatry. The Greek church is almost swallowed up by Turkish prosperity and dominion. Most follow the powerful and prosperous side. And, therefore for God's cause, and for heavenly, everlasting interest, our own state, but much more the church's, must be greatly regarded here on earth.
Indeed, if earth be desired only for earth, and prosperity loved but for the present welfare of the flesh, it is the certain mark of damning carnality, and an earthly mind. But to desire peace, and prosperity, and power, to be in the hands of wise and faithful men, for the sake of souls, and the increase of the church, and the honor of God, that his name may be hallowed, his kingdom come, and bis will done on earth, as it is in heaven ; this is to be the chief of our
prayers to God.
Use 3. Be not unthankful, then, O my soul, for the mercies of this present life, for those to thy body, to thy friends, to the land of thy nativity, and especially to the church of God.
1. This body is so nearly united to thee, that it must needs be a great help, or bindrance. Had it been more afilicted, it might have
, been a discouraging clog; like a tired horse, in a journey, or an ill tool to a workman, or an untuned instrument in music. A sick or bad servant in an house is a great trouble, and a bad wife much more, but thy body is nearer thee than either, and will be more of thy concern.
And yet if it had been more strong and healthful, sense and appetite would have been strong, and lust wonld have been strong, and therefore danger would have been greater, and victory and salvation much more difficult. Even weak senses and temptations have 100 oft prevailed. How knowest thou, then, what stronger might have done? When I see a thirsty man in a fever or dropsy, and especially
when I see strong and healthful youths, bred up in fulness, and among temptations, how mad they are in sin, and how violently they are carried to it, bearing down God's rebukes, and conscience, and parents, and friends, and all regard to their salvation, it tells me how great a mercy I had, even in a body not liable to their case.
And many a bodily deliverance hath been of great use to my soul, renewing my time, and opportunity, and strength, for service, and bringing frequent and fresh reports of the love of God.
If bodily mercies were not of great use to the soul, Christ would not so much have showed his saving love, by healing all manner of diseases, as he did. Nor would God promise us a resurrection of the body, if a congruous body did not further the welfare of the soul.
2. And I am obliged to great thankfulness to God for the mercies of this life which he hath showed to my friends; that which furthers their joy should increase mine. I ought to rejoice with them that rejoice. Nature and grace teach us to be glad when our friends are well, and prosper, though all in order to better things than bodily welfare.
3. And such mercies of this life to the land of our habitation must not be undervalued. The want of them are parts of God's threatened curse ; and godliness hath the promise of this life, and of that which is to come, and so is profitable to all things. And when God sends on a land the plagues of famine, pestilence, war, persecution, especially a famine of the word of God, it is a great sin to be insensible of it. If any shall say, 'while heaven is sure, we have no cause to accuse God, or to cast away comfort, hope, or duty,' they say well; but if they say, because heaven is all, we must make light of all that befalleth us on earth,' they say amiss.
Good princes, magistrates, and public-spirited men that promote the safety, peace, and true prosperity of the commonwealth, do hereby very much befriend religion, and men's salvation ; and are greatly to be loved and honored by all. If the civil state, called the commonwealth, do miscarry, or fall into ruin and calamity, the church will fare the worse for it, as the soul doth by the ruins of the body. The Turkish, Muscovite, and such other empires, tell us, how the church consumeth, and dwindles away into contempt, or withered
ceremony and formality, where tyranny brings slavery, beggary, or long persecution on the subjects. Doubtless, divers passages in the Revelations contain the church's glorifying of God, for their power and prosperity on earth, when emperors became Christians: what else can be meant well by Rev. v. 10, “ Hath made us kings and priests to God, and we shall reign on the earth ;” but that Christians shall be brought from under heathen persecution, and have rule and sacred honor in the world, some of them being princes ; some honored church guides; and all a peculiar, honored people. And had not Satan found out that cursed way of getting wicked men, that hate true godliness and peace, into the sacred places of princes and pastors, to do his work against Christ, as in Christ's name; surely no good Christians would have grudged at the power of rulers of state, or church. Sure I am, that many, called fifth-monarchy-men, seem to make this their great hope, that rule shall be in the hands of righteous men; and I think, most religious parties would rejoice if those had very great power, whom they take to be the best and trustiest men ; which shows that it is not the greatness of power in most princes, or sound bishops, that they dislike, but the badness, real or supposed, of those whose power they mislike : who will bla me power to do good?
Sure the three first and great petitions of the Lord's pray er include some temporal welfare of the world and church, without which the spiritual rarely prospereth extensively, (though intensively in a few it may,) since miracles ceased.
4. Be thankful, therefore, for all the church's mercies here on earth; for all the protection of magistracy; the plenty of preachers; the preservation from enemies; the restraint of persecution; the concord of Christians; and increase of godlivess; which in this land it hath had in our ages; notwithstanding all Satan's malignant rage, and all the bloody wars that have interrupted our tranquility. How many psalms of joyful thanksgiving be there for Israel's deliverances, and the preservation of Zion, and God's worship in his sanctuary. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem : they shall prosper that love it. Especially, that the gospel is continued, while so many rage against it, is a mercy not to be made light of.
Use 4. Be especially thankful, O my soul, that God hath made any use of thee, for the service of his church on earth. My God, my soul for this doth magnify thee, and my spirit rejoiceth in the review of thy great undeserved mercy! Oh! what am I, whom thou tookest up from the dunghill or low obscurity, that I should live, mysell, in the constant relish of thy sweet and sacred truth, and with such encouraging success communicate it to others ? That I must say now my public work seems ended, that these sorty-three or forty-four years, I have no reason to think that ever I labored in vain ! O with what gratitude must I look upon all places where I lived and labored ; but, above all, that place that had my strength. I bless thee for the great numbers gone to heaven, and for the continuance of piety, humility, concord, and peace among them.
And for all that by my writings have received any saving light and grace. O my God! let not my own heart be barren while I labor in thy husbandry, to bring others unto holy fruit. Let me not be a stranger to the life and power of that saving truth which I have done so much to communicate to others. O let not my own words and writings condemn me as void of that divine and heavenly nature and life which I have said so much for to the world.
Use 5. Stir up, then, O my soul, thy sincere desires, and all thy faculties, to do the remnant of the work of Christ appointed thee on earth, and then joyfully wait for the heavenly perfection in God's own time.
Thou canst truly say, 6 To live, to me, is Christ.” It is his work for which thou livest : thou hast no other business in the world; but thou dost his work with the mixture of many oversights and imperfections, and too much troublest thy thoughts distrustsully about God's part, who never faileth; if thy work be done, be thankful for what is past, and that thou art come so near the port of rest; if God will add any more to thy days, serve him with double alacrity, now thou art so near the end : the prize is almost within sight : time is swift, and short. Thou hast told others that there is no working in the grave, and that it must be now or never. Though the conceit of meriting of commutative justice be no better than madness, dream not that God will save the wicked, no, nor equally reward the sloth