« PreviousContinue »
XII. 1. A Christian indeed, is one that unfeignedly desireth to attain to the highest degree of holiness, and to be perfectly freed from every thing that is sin He desireth perfection, though not with a perfect desire. He sitteth not down contentedly in any low degree of grace. He looketh on the holiest (how poor soever) with much more reverence and esteem than on the most rich and honorable in the world; and he had far rather be one of the most holy, than one of the most prosperous and great; he had rather be a Paul or Timothy, than a Cæsar or an Alexander. He complaineth of nothing with so much sorrow, as that he can know and love his God no more! How happy an exchange would he count it, if he had more of the knowledge and love of God, though he lost all his wealth and honor in the world ! His smallest sins are a greater burden to him, than his greatest corporal wants and sufferings : as Paul, who because he could not perfectly fulfil God's law, and be as good as he would, he crieth out as in bondage, “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death ?” Rom. vii. 24.
2. And for the weak Christian, though he is habitually and resolvedly of the same mind, yet, alas! his desires after perfection are much more languid in him; and he hath too much patience and
2 reconciledness to some of his sins, and sometimes taketh them to be sweet; so that his enmity to his pride, or covetousness, or passion, is much abated, and suffereth his sin to waste his grace, and wound bis conscience, and hinder much of his communion with God. He seeth not the odiousness of sin, nor the beauty of holiness, with so clear a sight as the confirmed Christian doth : he hateth sin more for the ill effects of it, than for its malignant, hateful nature : he seeth not clearly the intrinsic evil that is in sin, which maketh it deserve the pains of hell: nor doth he discern the difference between a holy and unholy soul, so clearly as the stronger christian doth ; 1 Cor. iii. 2, 3. Heb. xii. 1.
3. And as for the seeming Christian, though he may approve of persect holiness in another, and may wish for it himself, when he thinketh of it but in the general, and not as it is exclusive and destructive of his beloved sin ; yet when it cometh to particulars, he cannot away with it; he is so far from desiring it, that he will not
endure it. The name of holiness he liketh; and that preservation from hell which is the consequent of it; but when he understandeth what it is, he hath no mind of it. That holiness which should cure his ambition and pride, and make him contented with a low condition, he doth not like: he loveth not that holiness, which would deprive him of his covetousness, his intemperance in pleasant meats and drinks, his fleshly lusts, and inordinate pleasures. Nor doth he desire that holiness should employ his soul in the love of God, and in daily prayer, and meditating on his word, and raise him to a heavenly life on earth.
XIII. 1. A Christian indeed, is one that maketh God and heaven the end, reward and motive of his life; and liveth not in the world for any thing in the world, but for that endless happiness which the next world only can afford. The reasons which actuate his thoughts, and choice, and all his life, are fetched from heaven. The interest of God and his soul as to eternity, is the ruling interest in him. As a traveler goeth all the way, and beareth all the difficulties of it, for the sake of the end or place that he is going to, (however he may talk of many other matters by the way ;) so is it with a Christian; he knoweth nothing worthy of his life and labors, but that which he hopeth for hereafter. This world is too sinful, and too vile and short to be his felicity. His very trade and work in the world is to lay up a treasure in heaven, (Matt. vi. 20.) “ and to lay up a good foundation against the time to come, and to lay hold on eternal life;" (1 Tim. vi. 19.) and therefore his very heart is there, (Matt. vi. 21.) and he is employed in seeking and setting his affections on the things above : (Col. iii. 1-3.) and his conversation and traffic are in heaven; (Phil. iïi. 20, 21.) “ he looketh not at the things which are seen, which are temporal, but at the things which are not seen, which are eternal :" (2 Cor. iv. 18.) he is a stranger upon earth, and heaven is to him as his home.
2. The weak Christian also hath the same end, and hope, and motive; and preferreth his hopes of the life to come, before all the wealth and pleasures of this lise : but yet his thoughts of heaven are much more strange and dull; he hath so much doubting and fear yet mixed with his faith and hope, that he looketh before him to his
everlasting state, with backwardness and trouble, and with small de sire and delight. He hath so much hope of heaven, as to abate hi sears of hell, and make him think of eternity with more quietnes than he could do, if he found himself unregenerate ; but not so much as to make his thoughts of heaven so free, and sweet, and frequent, nor his desires after it so strong, as the confirmed Christian's are : and therefore his duties, and his speech of heaven, and his endeavors to obtain it, are all more languid and unconstant; and he is much more prone to fall in love with earth, and to entertain the motions of reconciliation to the world, and to have his heart too much set upon some place, or person, or thing below, and to be either delighted too much in the possession of it, or afflicted and troubled too much with the loss of it: earthly things are too much the motives of his life, and the reasons of his joys and griefs: though he hath the true belief of a life to come, and it prevaileth in the main against the world, yet it is but little that he useth to the commanding, and raising, and comforting his soul, in comparison of what a strong believer doth; Matt. xvi. 22, 23.
3. But the seeming Christian would serve God and mammon, and placeth his chief and most certain happiness practically on earth. Though speculatively he know and say that heaven is better, yet doth he not practically judge it to be so to him; and therefore he loveth the world above it, and he doth most carefully lay up a treasure on earth; (Matt. vi. 19.) and is resolved first to seek and secure his portion here below; and yet he taketh heaven for a reserve, as knowing that the world will cast him off at last, and die he must, there is no remedy; and therefore he taketh heaven as next unto the best, as his second hope, as better than hell, and will go in religion as far as he can, without the loss of his prosperity here; so that earth and flesh do govern and command the design and tenor of his life ; but heaven and his soul shall have all that they can spare ; which may be enough to make him pass with men for one eminently religious ; 1 John ii. 15. Matt. xiii. 22. Luke xviii. 22, 23.-xiv. 24, 33. Psal. xvii. 14. Phil. iii. 18—20.
XIV. 1. A Christian indeed, is one that having taken heaven for his felicity, doth account no labor or cost too great for the obtaining
of it. He hath nothing so dear to him in this world, which he cannot spare and part with for God and the world to come. He doth not only notionally know that nothing should seem too dear or hard for the securing of our salvation; but he knoweth this practically, and is resolved accordingly. Though difficulties may hinder him in particular acts, and his executions come not up to the height of his desires (Rom. vii. 16, 17, &c.), yet he is resolved that he will never break terms with Christ. There is no duty so hard which he is not willing and resolved to perform; and no sin so sweet or gainful which he is not willing to forsake: he knoweth how unprofitable a bargain he makes, who winneth the world, and looseth his own soul; and that no gain can ransom his soul, or recompense him for the loss of his salvation ; Mark viii. 36. He knoweth that it is impossible to be a loser by God, or to purchase heaven at too dear a rate; he knoweth that whatsoever it cost him, heaven will fully pay for all; and that it is the worldling's labor, and not the saint's, that is repented of at last. He marveleth more at distracted sinners, for making such a stir for wealth, and honors, and command, than they marvel at him for making so much ado for heaven. He knoweth that this world may be 100 dearly bought, but so cannot his salvation; yea, he knoweth that even our duty itself, is not our smallest privilege and mercy; and that the more we do for God, the more we receive, and the greater is our gain and honor; and that the sufferings of believers for righteousness sake, do not only prognosticate their joys in heaven, but occasion here the greatest joys that any short of heaven partake of; Matt. v. 11, 12. Rom. v. 1-3, &c. He is not one that desireth the end without the means, and would be saved, so it may be on cheap and easy terms; but he absolutely yieldeth to the terms of Christ, and saith with Austin, “Da quod jubes, et jube quod vis;' 'Cause me to do what thou commandest, and command what thou wilt.' Though Pelagius contradicted the first sentence, and the flesh the second, yet Augustine owned both, and so doth every true believer : he greatly complaineth of his backwardness to obey, but never complaineth of the strictness of the command. He loveth the holiness, justness and goodness of the laws, when he bewaileth the unholiness and badness of his heart: he desireth not God to comVOL. II.
mand him less, but desireth grace and ability to do more. He is so far from the mind of the ungodly world, who cry out against too much holiness, and making so much ado for heaven, that he desireth even to reach to the degree of angels, and would fain have “God's will to be done on earth, as it is done in heaven;" and therefore the more desireth to be in heaven, that he may do it better; Psal. cxix. 5. Rom. vii. 24.
2. The weak Christian hath the same estimation and resolution : but when it comes to practice, as his will is less confirmed, and more corrupted and divided, so little impediments and difficulties are great temptations to him, and stop him more in the way of his obedience. All his duty is much more tedious to him, and all his sufferings are much more burdensome to him, than to confirmed Christians; and therefore he is more easily tempted into omissions and impatience, and walketh not so evenly or comfortably with God. When the spirit is willing, it yieldeth oft to the weakness of the flesh, because it is willing in too remiss a degree ; Matt. xxvi. 41. Gal. ii. 14.
3. But the seeming Christian (though notionally and generally he may approve of strictness) yet secretly at the heart hath always this reserve, that he will not serve God at too dear a rate. His worldly felicity he cannot part with, for all the hopes of the life to come; and
yet he will not, he dare not renounce and give up those hopes; and therefore he maketh himself a religion of the easiest and cheapest parts of Christianity, (among which, sometimes, the strictest opinions may fall out to be one part, so be it they be separated from the strictest practice :) and this easy, cheap religion he will needs believe to be true Christianity and godliness, and so will hope to be saved upon these terms : and though he cannot but know that it is the certain character of a hypocrite, to have any thing nearer and dearer to his heart than God, yet he hopeth that it is not so with him, because his convinced judgment can say, that God is best, and the world is vanity, while yet bis heart and affections so much contradict his opinion, as almost to say, “ There is no God;" for his heart knoweth and loveth no God as God, that is, above his worldly happiness. He is resolved to do so much in religion as he findeth necessary to delude his conscience, and make himself believe that he is godly,