Page images

fore-band, that he would give us this preparatory grace, as the earnest of that felicity, may well be trusted to perform his word in our actual glorification.

Sect. 12. And now, O weak and fearful soul! why shouldest thou draw back, as if the case were yet left doubtful? Is not thy foundation firm? Is not the way of life, through the valley of death, made safe by him that conquereth death? Art thou not yet delivered from the bondage of thy fears, when the gaoler and executioner, who had the power of death, hath, by Christ, been put out of his power, as to thee? Is not all this evidence true and sure? Hast thou not the witness in thyself? Hast thou not found the motions, the effectual operations, the renewing changes, of this spirit in thee long ago ? And is he not still the agent and witness of Christ, residing and operating in thee? Whence else are thy groanings after God; thy desires to be nearer to his glory; to know him better ; to love him more? Whence came all the pleasure thou hast had in his sacred truth, and ways, and service? Who else overcame thy folly, and pride, and vain desires, so far as they are overcome? Who made it thy choice to sit at the feet of Christ, and hear his word, as the better part, and to despise the honors and preferments of the world, and to account them all as dung and dross? Who breathed in thee all those requests that thou hast sent up to God? Overvalue not corrupted nature, it bringeth not forth such fruits as these : if thou doubt of that, remember what thou wast in the hour of temptation, even of poor and weak temptations. And how small a matter hath drawn thee to sin, when God did but leave thee to thyself. Forget not the days of youthful vanity : overlook not the case of the miserable world, even of thy sinful neighbors, who, in the midst of light still live in darkness, and hear not the loudest calls of God: look about on thousands that, in the same land, and under the same teaching, and after the greatest judgment and deliverance, run on to all excess of riot, and, as past feeling, as greedily vicious and unclean. Is it no work of Christ's Spirit that hath made thee to differ? Thou hast nothing to boast of, and much to be humbled for; but thou hast also much to be thank

: ful for. Thy holy desires are, alas! too weak; but they are holy: thy love hath been too cold; but it is holiness, and the most holy

God, that thou hast loved. Thy hopes in God have been too low; but it is God thou hast hoped in, and his love and glory thou hast hoped for. Thy prayers have been too dull and interrupted; but it is holiness and heaven that thou hast most prayed for. Thy labors and endeavors have been too slothful; but it is God, and glory, and the good of mankind, that thou hast labored for. Though thy motion were too weak and slow, it hath been Godward; and, therefore, it was froin God. O bless the Lord, that hath not only given thee a word that beareth the image of God, and is sealed by uncontrolled miracles, to be the matter of thy belief, but hath also fulfilled his promises so oft and notably to thee, in the answer of prayers, and in great and convincing deliverances of thyself and many others; and hath, by wonders, oft assisted thy faith! Bless that God of light and love, who, besides the universal attestation of his word, long ago given to all the church, bath given thee the internal seal, the nearer in-dwelling attestation, the effects of power, light, and love, imprinted on thy nature, mind, and will, the witness in thyself, that the word of God is not a human dream, or liseless thing; that by regeneration hath been here preparing thee for the light of glory, as by generation he prepared thee to see this light, and converse with

And wilt thou yet doubt and fear against all this evidence, experience, and foretaste ?

Sect. 13. I think it not needless labor to confirm my soul in the full persuasion of the truth of its own immortal nature, and of a future life of joy or misery to mankind, and of the certain truth of the christian faith ; the being of God, and his perfection, hath so great evidence, that I find no great temptation to doubt of it, any more than whether there be an earth, or a sun; and the atheist seemeth to me to be in that no better than mad. The christian verity is known only by supernatural revelation; but by such revelation it is so attested externally to the world, and internally to holy souls, as maketh faith the ruling, victorious, consolatory principle, by which we must live, and not by sight; but the souls immortality and reward hereafter is of a middle nature, viz., of natural revelation, but incomparably less clear than the being of a God; and therefore, by the addition of evangelical (supernatural) revelation, is made to us much



more clear and sure. And I find among the infidels of this age, that most who deny the christian verity, do almost as much deny or question the retribution of a future life. And they that are fully satisfied of this, do find Christianity so excellently congruous to it, as greatly facilitateth the work of faith. Therefore, I think, that there is scarce any verity more needful to be thoroughly digested into a full assurance, than this of the soul's immortality, and hope of future happiness.

Sect. 14. And when I consider the great unlikeness of men's hearts and lives to such a belief, as we all profess, I cannot but fear, that not only the ungodly, but most that truly hope for glory, have a far weaker belief (in habit and act) of the soul's immortality, and the truth of the gospel, than they seem to take notice of in themselves. Can I be certain, or fully persuaded, (in habit and act) of the future rewards and punishments of souls, and that we shall be all shortly judged, as we have lived here, and yet not despise all the vanities of this world, and set my heart, with resolution and diligence, to the preparation which must be made by a holy, heavenly, fruitful life, as one whose soul is taken up with the hopes and fears of things of such unspeakable importance. Who could stand dallying, as most men do, at the door of eternity, that did verily believe his immortal soul must be shortly there? Though such an one had no certainty of his own particular title to salvation, the certainty of such a grand concernment (that joy or misery is at hand) would surely awaken him to try, cry, or search; to beg, to strive, to watch, to spare no care, or cost, or labor, to make all sure in a matter of such weight; it could not be but he would do it with speed, and do it with a full resolved soul, and do it with earnest zeal and diligence. What man, that once saw the things which we hear of, even heaven and hell, would not afterwards, (at least in deep regard and seriousness,) exceed the most resolved believer that you know. One would think, in reason, it should be so thought: I confess a wicked heart is very senseless.

Sect. 15. I do confess, that there is much weakness of the belief of things unseen, where yet there is sincerity; but surely there will be some proportion between our belief and its effects. And where

there is little regard, or fear, or hopes, or sorrow, or joy, or resolved diligence for the world to come, I must think that there is (in act at least) but little belief of it, and that such persons little know themselves, how much they secretly doubt, whether it be true. I know that most complain, almost altogether, of the uncertainty of their title to salvation, and little of their uncertainty of a heaven and hell; but were they more certain of this, and truly persuaded of it at the heart, it would do more to bring them to that serious, resolved faithfulness in religion, which would help them more easily to be sure of their sincerity, than long examinations, and many marks talked of, without this, will do.

Sect. 16. And I confess, that the great wisdom of God hath not thought meet, that in the body we should have as clear, and sensible, and lively apprehensions of heaven and hell, as sight would cause. For that would be to have too much of heaven or hell on earth; for the gust would follow the perception, and so full a sense would be some sort of a possession, which we are not fit for in this world. And, therefore, it must be a darker revelation than sight would be, that it may be a lower perception, lest this world and the next should be confounded; and faith and reason should be put out of office, and not duly tried, exercised, and fitted for reward ; but yet faith is faith, and knowledge is knowledge; and he that verily believeth such great, transcendent things, though he see them not, will have some proportionable affections and endeavors.

Sect. 17. I confess also, that man's soul, in flesh, is not fit to bear so deep a sense of heaven and hell as sight would cause; because it here operateth on and with the body, and according to its capacity, which cannot bear so deep a sense without distraction, by screwing up the organs too high, till they break, and so overdoing, would undo all; but yet there is an overruling seriousness, which a certain belief of future things must needs bring the soul to, that truly hath it: and he that is careful and serious for this world, and looketh after a better, but with a slight, unwilling, half-regard, and, in the second place, must give me leave to think, that he believeth but as he liveth, and that his doubting, or unbelief, of the reality of a heaven and hell,

a is greater than his belief. Vol. II.



Sect. 18. O, then, for what should my soul more pray, than for a clearer, and stronger faith? I believe, Lord, help my unbelief! I have many a thousand times groaned to the under the burden of this remnant of darkness and unbelief; I have many a thousand times thought of the evidences of the christian verity, and of the great necessity of a lively, powerful, active faith : I have begged it ; have cried to thee night and day, Lord, increase my faith! I have written and spoken that to others which might be most useful to myself, to raise the apprehensions of faith yet higher, and make them liker those of sense; but yet, yet Lord, how dark is this world! What a dungeon is this flesh! How little clearer is my sight, and little quicker are my perceptions, of unseen things, than long ago! Am I at the highest that man on earth can reach, and that when I am so dark and low! Is there no growth of these apprehensions more to be expected? Doth the soul cease its increase in vigorous perception, when the body ceaseth its increase, or vigor, of sensation ? Must I sit down in so low a measure, while I am drawing nearer to the things believed; and am almost there, where belief must pass into sight and love? Or must I take up with the passive silence and inactivity, which some friars persuade us is nearer to perfection; and, under pretence of annihilation and receptivity, let my sluggish heart alone, and say, that in this neglect I wait for thy operations? O let not a soul, that is driven from this world, and weary of vanity, and can think of little else but immortality, that seeks and cries both night and day for the heavenly light, and fain would have some foretaste of glory, and some more of the first-fruits of the promised joys, let not such a soul either long, or cry, or strive in vain! Punish not my former grieving of thy Spirit, by deserting a soul that crieth for thy grace, so near its great and inconceivable change.

Let me not languish in vain desires, at the door of hope ; nor pass with doubtful thoughts and fears, from this vale of misery. Which should be the season of triumphant faith, and hope, and joy, if not when I am entering on the world of joy ? O thou that hast left us so many consolatory words of promise, that our joy may be full; send, oh! send, the promised Comforter, without whose approaches and heavenly beams, when all is said, and a thousand thoughts and strivings have been essayed, it will still be night and winter with the soul.


« PreviousContinue »