« PreviousContinue »
heart, and hath frequent use for the rod and spur, and therefore is more slow and uneven in his obedience; Gal. v. 17.
3. The seeming Christian is forward in those easy, cheaper parts of duty, which serve to delude his carnal heart, and quiet bim in a worldly life; but he is so backward to thorough sincere obedience in the most flesh-displeasing parts of duty, that he is never brought to it at all; but either he will fit his opinions in religion to his will, and will not believe them to be duties, or else he will do something like them in a superficial, formal way; but the thing itself he will not do. For he is more obedient to his carnal mind and lusts than he is to God; Rom. viii. 6, 7. and forwarder much to sacrifice than obedience; Eccles. v. 1.
XXIII. 1. A Christian indeed doth daily delight himself in God, and findeth more solid content and pleasure in his commands and promises, than in all this world; his duties are sweet to him, and his hopes are sweeter. Religion is not a tiresome task to him; the yoke of Christ is easy to him, and his burden light, and his commandments are not grievous ; Psal. xxxvii. 4 i. 2. xl. 8. xciv. 19. cxix. 16. 35. 47. 70. Matt. xi. 28, 29. John v. 3. That which others take as physic, for mere necessity, against their wills, he goeth to as a feast, with appetite and delight; he prayeth because he loveth to pray; and he thinks and speaks of holy things, because he loveth to do it. And hence it is that he is so much in holy duty, and so unwearied, because be loveth it, and taketh pleasure in it. As voluptuous persons are oft and long at their sports, or merry company, because they love them, and take pleasure in them : so are such Christians oft and long in holy exercises, because their hearts are set upon them as their recreation, and the way and means of their felicity. If it be a delight to a studious man to read those books which most clearly open the abstrusest mysteries of the sciences, or to converse with the most wise and learned men; and if it be a delight to men to converse with their dearest friends, or to hear from them and read their letters ; no marvel if it be a delight to a Christian indeed, to read the Gospel mysteries of love, and to find there the promises of everlasting happiness, and to see in the face of Jesus Christ the clearest image of the Eternal Deity, and foresee the joys
which he shall have for ever. He sticketh not in superficial formality, but breaking the shell doth seed upon the kernel. It is not bare external duty which he is taken up with, nor any mere creature that is bis content; but it is God in creatures and ordinances that he seeketh and liveth upon; and therefore it is that religion is so pleasant to him. He would not change his heavenly delights which he findeth in the exercise of faith, and hope, and love to God, for all the carnal pleasures of this world; he had rather he a doorkeeper in the house of God, than to dwell in the tents or palaces of wickedness. A day in God's court is better to him than a thousand in the court of the
greatest prince on earth. He is not a stranger to "the joy in the • Holy Ghost,” in which the kingdom of God doth in part consist;
Rom. xiv. 17. Psal. lxxxiv. 10. 2. lxv. 4. “ In the multitude of his thoughts within him, the comforts of God do delight his soul;" Psal. xciv. 19. “His meditation of God is sweet, and he is glad in the Lord;" Psal. civ. 34. The freest and sweetest of bis thoughts and words run out upon God and the matters of salvation. The word of God is sweeter to him than honey, and better than thousands of gold and silver; Psal. xix. 10. cxix. 72. 103. Prov. xvi.
And because "his delight is in the law of the Lord, therefore doth he meditate in it day and night;" Psal. i. 2. He seeth great reason for all those commands, “Rejoice evermore;” (1 Thess. v. 16.) “Let the righteous be glad, let them rejoice before God, yea, let them exceedingly rejoice;" (Psal. Ixviii. 3, 4. lxiv. 10. xxxi. 1. xxxii. 11.) “Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, ye righteous; and shout for joy all that are upwright in heart.” He is sorry for the poor, unhappy world, that have no better things than meat, and drink, and clothes, and house, and land, and money, and lust, and play, and domineering over others, to rejoice in : and heartily he wisheth they had but a taste of the saint's delights, that it might make them spit out their luscious, unclean, unwholsome pleasures. One look to Christ, one promise of the Gospel, one serious thought of the life which he must live with God for ever, doth afford his soul more solid comfort than all the kingdoms of the earth can afford. And though he live not continually in these high delights, yet peace with God, and peace of conscience, and some delight in God and godliness, is
the ordinary temperature of his soul, and higher degrees are given him in season for his cordials and his feasts.
2. But the weak Christian hath little of these spiritual delights; his ordinary temper is to apprehend that God and his ways are indeed most delectable ; his very heart acknowledgeth that they are worthiest and fittest to be the matter of his delights: and if he could attain assurance of his especial interest in the love of God, and his part in Christ and life eternal, he would then rejoice in them indeed, and would be more glad than if he were Lord of all the world; but in the meantime, either his fears and doubts are damping his delights; or else (which is much worse) his appetite is dull, and God and holiness relish not with him half so sweetly, as they do with the confirmed Christian; and he is too busy in tasting of fleshly and forbidden pleasures, which yet more deprave his appetite, and dull his desires to the things of God; so that though in his estimation, choice, resolution and endeavor, he much preferreth God before the world; yet as to any delightful sweetness in him, it is but little that he tasteth. He loveth God with a desiring love, and with a seeking love, but with very little of a delighting love. The remnant of corrupt and alien affections do weaken his affections to the things above; and his infant measure of spiritual life, conjunct with many troublesome diseases, allow him very little of the joy of the Holy Ghost. Nay, perhaps he hath more grief, and fear, and doubts, and trouble, and perplexity of mind, than ever he had before he turned unto God, and perhaps he hath yet less pleasure in God, than he had before in sin and sensuality: because he had his sin in a state of fruition, but he hath God only in a seeking, hoping state; he hath the best of sin, and all that ever it will afford him; but he hath yet none of the full felicity which he expecteth in God: the fruition of him is yet but in the prospect of hope. His sensual, sinful life was in its maturity, and the object present in its most alluring state ; but his spiritual life of faith and love, is but yet in its weak beginnings, and the object absent from our sight : he is so busy at first in blowing up his little spark, not knowing whether the fire will kindle or go out, that he hath little of the use or pleasure, either of its light or warmth. Infants come crying into the world, and afterwards oftener cry than laugh;
their senses and reason are not yet perfected, or exercised to partake of the pleasures of life: and when they do come to know what laughter is, they will laugh and cry almost in a breath. And those weak Christians that do come to taste of joy and pleasure in their religious state, it is commonly but as a flash of lightning, which leaveth them as dark as they were before. Sometimes in the beginning, upon their first apprehensions of the love of God in Christ, and of the pardon of their sins, and the privileges of their new condition, and the hopes of everlasting joy, their hearts are transported with unspeakable delight; which is partly from the newness of the thing, and partly because God will let them have some encouraging taste, to draw them further, and to convince them of the difference between the pleasures of sin, and the comforts of believing ; but these first rejoicings soon abate, and turn into a life of doubts, and fears, and griefs, and care, till they are grown to greater understanding, experience, and settledness in the things of God; the root must grow greater and deeper, before it will bear a greater top. Those Christians that in the weakness of grace have frequent joys, are usually persons whose weak and passionate nature doth occasion it: (some women especially) that have strong fancies and passions are always passionately affected with whatsoever they apprehend. And these are like a ship that is tossed in a tempest; that is one while lifted up as to the clounds, and presently cast down as into an infernal gulf: there one day in great joy, and quickly after in as great perplexity and sorrow, because their comforts or sorrows do follow their present feeling, or mutuable apprehensions. But when they come to be confirmed Christians, they will keep a more constant judgment of themselves, and their own condition, and constantly see their grounds of comfort; and when they cannot raise their souls to any high and passionate joys, they yet walk in a settled peace
of soul, and in such competent comforts, as make their lives to be easy and delightful; being well pleased and contented with the happy condition that Christ hath brought them to, and thankful that he left them not in those foolish, vain, pernicious pleasures, which were the way to
3. But the seeming Christian seeketh and taketh up his chief contentment in some carnal thing : if he be so poor and miserable as to have nothing in possession that can much delight him, he will hope for better days hereafter, and that hope shall be his chief delight; or if he have no such hope he will be without delight; and shew his love to the world and flesh, by mourning for that which he cannot have, as others do in rejoicing in what they do possess; and he will, in such a desperate case of misery, be such to the world as the weak Christian is to God, who hath a mourning and desiring love, when he cannot reach to an enjoying and delightful love. His carnal mind most savoureth the things of the flesh, and therefore in them he findeth or seeketh his delights. Though yet he may have also a delight in his superficial kind of religion, his hearing, and reading, and praying, and in his ill-grounded hopes of life eternal : but all this is but subordinate to his chief, earthly pleasure; “ Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinances of their God; they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching unto God.” Isa. lviii. 2. And yet all this was subjected to a covetous, oppressing mind.
“ He that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it, yet hath he not root in himself, but endureth for a while, for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended ;” Matt. xiii. 20. Whereby it appeareth that his love to the word, was subjected to his love to the world.
Object. “But there are two sorts of people that seem to have no fleshly delights at all, and yet are not in the way to salvation, viz. the Quakers and Behmenists that live in great austerity, and some of the religious orders of the Papists, who afflict their flesh.'
Answ. Some of them undergo their fastings and penance for a day, that they may sin the more quietly all the week after; and some of them proudly comfort themselves with the fancies and conceit of being and appearing more excellent in austerity than others; and all these take up with a carnal sort of pleasure. As proud persons are pleased with their own, or other’s conceits of their beauty, or wit, or worldly greatness ; so prouder persons are pleased with