« PreviousContinue »
ed persons suspect to be inconsistent and contradictory, and when he cannot reconcile them, he knoweth they are reconcilable : for he hath laid his foundation well, and then he reduceth other truths to that, and buildeth them on it. And so he doth by the hardest providences : whoever is high or low, whoever prospereth or is afflicted, however human affairs are carried, and all things seem to go against the church and cause of Christ, he knoweth yet that God is good to Israel, (Psal. lxxiii. 1, 2.) and that he is the righteous Judge of all the earth;" and that the “righteous shall have dominion in the morning," and “it shall go well with them that fear the Lord;" for he goeth intó the sanctuary, and foreseeth the end ; Eccles. viii. 11-13. Psal. Ixxiii. 17. cxv. 11. 13. xxxi. 19.
2. But the weak Christian is very hard put to it, when he meeteth with difficult passages of Scripture, and when he seeth it "go with the righteous according to the work of the wicked, and with the wicked according to the work of the righteous;" Eccles. vii. 14. Though he is not overturned by such difficulties, yet his foot is ready to slip, and he digesteth them with much perplexity and trouble.
3. But the seeming, unsettled Christian is often overcome by them, and turneth away from Christ, and saith, “These are hard sayings, or hard providences, who can bear them ;' John vi. 60. 66. And thus unbelief thence gathereth matter for its increase.
XXXI. 1. A Christian indeed is one that can exercise all God's graces in conjunction, and in their proper places and proportion, without setting one against another, or neglecting one while he is exercising another. He can be humbled without hindering his thankfulness and joy; and he can be thankful and joyful without hindering his due humility: his knowledge doth not destroy, but quicken his zeal: his wisdom hindereth not, but furthereth his innocency. his faith is a help to his repentance, and his repentance to his faith : his love to himself doth not hinder, but help his love to others; and his love to God is the end of both. He can mourn for the sins of the times, and the calamities of the church, yea, for his own sins and imperfections, and yet rejoice for the mercies which he hath in possession, or in hope. He findeth that piety and charity are necessarily conjunct ; and every grace and duty is a help to all the rest. Yea, Vol. II.
he can exercise his graces methodically, which is the comeliness and beauty of his heart and life; 1 Thess. v. 12, 13. 16—21. 1 Pet.
. ii. 17.
2. But the weak Christian, though he have every grace, and his obedience is universal, yet can he hardly set himself to any duty, but it hindereth him from some other duty, through the narrowness and weakness of his mind. When he is humbling himself in confession of sin, he can scarce be lively in thankfulness for mercy : when he rejoiceth, it hindereth his humiliation; he can hardly do one duty without omitting or hindering another : he is either all for joy or all for sorrow; all for love or all for fear; and cannot well do many things at once, but is apt to separate the truth and duties which God hath inseparably conjoined.
3. And for the seeming Christian, he exerciseth no grace in sincerity, nor is he universal in his obedience to God; though he may have the image of every grace and duty.
XXXII. 1. A Chistian indeed is more in getting and using his graces, than in inquiring whether he have them: he is very desirous to be assured that he is sincere, but he is more desirous to be so: and he knoweth that even assurance is got more by the exercise and increase of grace, than by bare inquiry whether we have it already : not that he is a neglecter of self-examination, but he oftener asketh • What shall I do to be saved ?' than · How shall I know that I shall be saved ?
2. But the weak Christian hath more of self, and less of God in his solicitude: and though he be willing to obey the whole law of Christ, yet he is much more solicitous to know that he is out of danger, and shall be saved, than to be fully pleasing unto God; and therefore proportionably, he is more in inquiring by what marks he may know that he shall be saved, than by what means he may attain more holiness, and what diligence is necessary to his salvation.
3. But the seeming Christian is most careful how to prosper in the world, or please his flesh : and next how he may be sure to escape damnation when he hath done ; and least of all, how he inay conform to Christ in holiness.
XXXIII. 1. A Christian indeed doth study duty more than events; and is more careful what he shall be towards God, than what he shall have from God, in this life. He looketh to his own part more than unto God's, as knowing that it is he that is like to fail; but God will never fail of his part: he is much more suspicious of himself than of God; and when any thing goeth amiss, he blameth himself, and not God's providence: he knoweth that the hairs of his head are numbered, and that his Father knoweth what he needeth ; and that God is infinitely wiser, and fitter to dispose of him, than he is to choose for himself, and that God loveth him better than he can love himself; and therefore he thankfully accepteth that easy, indulgent command, “Cast all your care on him, for he careth for you. Take no thought what ye shall eat or drink, or wherewith ye shall be clothed;" Heb. xii. 15. xiii. v. Job i. 21, 22. Matt. x. 30. vi. 25. 31, 32. 1 Pet. v. 7.
2. But alas ! how guilty is the weak Christian of meddling with God's part of the work! How sinfully careful what will become of him, and of his family, and affairs, and of the church, as if he were afraid lest God would prove forgetful, unfaithful, or insufficient for his work! So imperfect is his trust in God. .
3. And the seeming Christian really trusteth him not at all, for any thing that he can trust himself or the creature for; he will have two strings to his bow if he can; but it is in man that he placeth his greatest trust for any thing that man can do. Indeed to save his soul he knoweth none but God is to be trusted, and therefore his life is still preferred before his soul; and consequently man whom he trusted most with his life and prosperity, is really trusted before God, however God may have the name; Jer. xvii. 5. 7. Psal. xxxiv. 8. xx. 7. xxxiv. 22. xxxvii. 3.
XXXIV. 1. A Christian indeed is much more studious of his own duty towards others, than of theirs to him ; he is much more fearful of doing wrong, than of receiving wrong: he is more troubled if he say ill of others, than if others speak ill of him : he had far rather be slandered himself, than slander others; or be censured himself, than censure others; or be unjustly hurt himself, than unjustly hurt another; or to be put out of his own possessions or right, than to put another out of his; he is oftener and sharper in judging and reproving himself than others; he falleth out with himself more frequently than with others; and is more troubled with himself than with all the world besides; he taketh himself for his greatest enemy, and knoweth that his danger is most at home; and that if he can escape but from bimself, no one in earth or hell can undo bim; he is more careful of his duty to his prince, his parents, his pastor, or bis master, than of theirs to him; he is much more unwilling to be disobedient to them in any lawful thing, or to dishonor them, than to be oppressed, or unjustly afflicted, or abused by them. And all this is, because he knoweth that sin is worse than present suffering; and that he is not to answer for other men's sins, but for his own; nor shall he be condemed for the sins of any but himself; and that many millions are condemned for wronging others, but no one for being wronged by others: 1 Pet. iv. 12—16. Matt. v. 10–12. 1 Pet. ü. 13. 15-17.
2. And the weak Christian is of the same mind in the main ; but with so much imperfection, that he is much more frequent in censuring others, and complaining of their wrongs, and finding fault with them, and aggravating all that is said or done against himself, when he is hardly made so sensible of as great miscarriages in himself, as having much more uncharitableness, partiality, and selfishness, than a confirmed Christian haihi. There are few things which weakness of grace doth more ordinarily appear in, than this partiality and selfishness, in judging of the faults or duties of others, and of
How apt are (not only hypocrites, bui) weak Christians, to aggravate all that is done against them; and to extenuate or justily all that they do against another. O what a noise they make of it, if they think that any one hath wronged them, defamed them, disparaged them, or encroached on their right. If God himself be blasphemed or abused, they can more patiently bear it, and make not so great a matter of it. Who heareth of such angry complaints on God's behalf, as on men's own? Of such passionate invectives, such sharp prosecutions, against those that wrong both God and men's souls, as against those that wrong a selfish person. (And usually every man seemeth to wrong him who keepeth from him any thing
which he would have, or saith any thing of him which is displeasing to him.) Go to the assizes and courts of justice ; look into the prisons, and inquire whether it be zeal for God, or for men's selves, which is the plaintiff and prosecutor ? and whether it be for wronging God or them, that all the stir is made ? Men are ready to say, God is sufficient to right himself. As if he were not the Original and the End of laws and government, and magistrates were not his officers, to promote obedience to him in the world.
At this time how universal is men's complaint against their governors! how common are the cries of the poor and sufferers, of the greatness of their burdens, miseries, and wants. But how few lament the sins against government, which this land hath been sadly guilty of! The pastors complain of the people's contempt: the people complain of the pastor's insufficiency and lives. The master complaineth how hard it is to get good servants, that will mind their business and profit as if it were their own : servants complaining of their masters for over laboring them or using them too hardly. Landlords
say that their tenants cheat them : and tenants say that their landlords oppress and grind them. But if you were Christians indeed, the most common and sad complaints would be against yourselves. 'I am not so good a ruler, so peaceable a subject, so good a landlord, so good a tenant, so good a master, so good a servant, as I ought to be. Your ruler's sin, your subject's sin, your landlord's sin, your tenant's sin, your master's sin, your servant's sin, shall not be charged upon you in judgment, nor condemn you, but your own sin. How much more, therefore, should you complain of your own, than of theirs ?
3. As for the seeming Christian, I have told you already, that selfishness is bis nature and predominant constitution; and according to
1; self-interest, he judgeth of almost all things; of the faults and duties of others and himself. And therefore no man seemeth honest or innocent to him, who displeaseth him, and is against his wordly interest. Cross him about mine and thine, and he will beknave the bonestest man alive, and call bis ancient friend bis enemy. But of his dealings with them, he is not so scrupulous, nor so censorious of himself.