Page images



the least commands, and teacheth men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of God.” And he that teacheth men to sin by the example of his own practice, can little expect to turn them from sin, by his better instructions and exhortations. He that will deliberately sin in a small matter, doth set but a small price on the favor of God and his salvation. Wilful disobedience is odious to God, how small soever the matter be about which it is committed. Who can expect that he should stick at any sin, when his temptation is great, who will considerately commit the least; especially if he will approve and justify it? Therefore the sound Christian will rather forsake his riches, his liberty, his reputation, his friends, and his country, than his conscience; and rather lay down liberty, and life itself, than choose to sin against bis God, as knowing that never man gained by his sin; Rom. ij. 8. Eccles. v. 2. 1 Sam. xv. 15. 21–23. Matt. v. 19. The sin that Saul was rejected for seemed but a little thing; nor the sin that Uzzah was slain for; and the service of God, even his sacrifice and his ark, were the pretence for both. The sin of the Bethshemites, of Achan, of Gehazi, of Annanias and Sapphira, which had grievous punishments, would seem but little things to us. And it is a great aggravation of our sin to be chosen, deliberate, justified, and fathered upon God; and to pretend that we do it for his service, for the worshipping of him, or the doing good to others, as if God would own and bless sinful means, or needed a lie to his service or glory : when he hateth all the workers of iniquity (Psal. v. 5.), and requireth only the sacrifices of righteousness; Psal. iv. 5. He abhorreth sacrifice from polluted hands; they are to him as the offering a dog; and he will ask who hath required this at your hand. See Psal. 1. 8—14. Isa. i. 9—12, &c. lviii. 1-4, &c. Jer. vi. 19, 20. “ The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination to the Lord;" Prov. xv. 8. xxi. 27. It is not pleasing to him; “all that eat thereof shall be polluted ;" Hosea ix. 4. See Isa. lxvi. 1–6. The preaching, the praying, the sacraments of wilful sinners, especially when they choose sin as necessary to his service, are a scorn and mockery put upon the most Holy One: as if your servant should set dung and carrion before you on your table for your food; such offer Christ vinegar and gall to drink.

2. In all this the weakest Christian that is sincere, is of the same mind, saving that in his ordinary course, he useth to place too much of his religion in controversies, and parties, and modes, and ceremonies, (whether being for them or against them,) and allow too great a proportion in his thoughts, and speech, and zeal, and practice; and hindereth the growth of his grace, by living upon less edifying things, and turning too much from the more substantial nutriment.

3. And the seeming Christians are here of different ways. One sort of them place almost all their religion in Pharisaical observation of little, external, ceremonial matters; as their washings, and fastings, and tithings, and formalities, and the tradition of the elders ; or in their several opinions, and ways, and parties, which they call, being of the true church ;' as if their sect were all the church. But living to God in faith and love, and in a heavenly conversation, and worshipping him in spirit and truth, they are utterly unacquainted with. The other sort are truly void of these essential parts of Christianity, in the life and power, as well as the former. But yet being secretly resolved to take up no more of Christianity than will consist with their worldly prosperity and ends, when any sin seemeth necessary to their preserment or safety in the world, their way is to pretend their high esteem of greater matters, for the swallowing of such a sin as an inconsiderable thing. And then they extol those larger souls that live not upon circumstantials, but upon the great and common truths and duties, and pity those men of narrow principles and spirits, who by unnecessary scrupulosity make sin of that which is no sin, and expose themselves to needless trouble. And they would make themselves and others believe that it is their excellency and wisdom, to be abore such trifling scruples. And all is because they never took God and heaven for their all, and therefore are resolved never to loose all for the hopes of heaven ; and therefore to do that, whatever it be, which their worldly interests shall require, and not to be of any religion that will undo them.

And three great pretences are effectual means in this their deceit. One is, because indeed there are a sort of persons that tithe mint and cummin, while they pass by the greatest inatters of the law, and that are causelessly scrupulous, and make that to be sin which indeed is no sin : and when such a scrupulous people are noted by their weakness, and under dishonor among wiser men, the hypocrite hath a very plausible pretence for his hypocrisy, in seeming only to avoid this ignorant scrupulosity, and taking all for such who judge not his sin to be a thing indifferent.

Another great shelter to the credit and conscience of this hypocrite, is the charity of the best, sincerest Christians, who always judge rigidly of themselves, and gently of others. They would rather die than wilfully choose to commit the smallest sin themselves; but if they see another commit it, they judge as favorably of it as the case will bear, and hope that he did it not knowingly or wilfully; for they are bound to hope the best till the worst be evident. This being the upright Christian's case, the hypocrite knoweth that he shall still have a place in the esteem and love of those charitable Christians; (whose integrity and moderation, maketh their judgments most valuable :) and then for the judgment of God, he will venture on it; and for the censures of weaker persons, who themselves are censured by the best of their censoriousness, he can easily bear them.

And another covert for the hypocrite in this case, is the different judgments of learned and religious men, who make a controversy of the matter. And what duty or sin is there that is not become a controversy? Yea, and among men otherwise well esteemed of, (except in the essentials of religion). And if once it be a controversy, whether it be a sin or not, the hypocrite can say, 'I am of the judgment of such and such good and learned men ; they are very judicious, excellent persons; and we must not judge one another in controverted cases; though we differ in judgment, we must not differ in affection. And thus because he hath a shelter for his reputation from the censures of men, by the countenance of such as accompany him in his sin, he is as quiet as if he were secured from the censures of the Almighty.

XL. 1. A Christian indeed is one that highly valueth time; he abhorreth idleness, and all diversions, which would rob him of his time, and hinder him from his work. He knoweth how much work he hath to do, and of what unspeakable consequence to his soul, (if not also to others.) He knoweth that he hath a soul to save or lose;

a heaven to win; a hell to escape; a death and judgment to prepare for; many a sin to mortify, and many graces to get, and exercise, and increase; and many enemies and temptations to evercome; and that he shall never have more time of trial; but what is now undone, must be undone for ever. He knoweth how short and hasty time is, and also how uncertain ; and how short many hundred years is to prepare for an everlasting state, if all were spent in greatest diligence : and therefore he wondereth at those miserable souls, that have time to spare, and waste in those fooleries which they call pastimes, even in stage-plays, cards, and dice, and long and tedious feastings, delights, compliments, idleness, and overlong or needless visits or recreations. He marvelleth at the distraction or sottishness of those persons, that can play, and prate, and loiter, and feast away precious hours, as if their poor, unprepared souls had nothing to do, while they stand at the very brink of a dreadful eternity; and are so fearfully unready as they are. He taketh that person who would cheat him of his time, by any of these forenamed baits, to be worse to him than a thief that would take his purse from him by the highway. O precious time! how highly doth he value it, when he thinks of his everlasting state, and thinks what haste his death is making, and what reckoning he must make for every moment; what abundance of work hath he for every hour, which he is grieved that he cannot do! He hath a calling to follow, and he hath a heart to search, and watch, and study; and a God to seek and faithfully serve; and many to do good to; and abundance of particular duties to perform in order to every one of these. But, alas! time doth make such haste away, that many things are left undone, and he is afraid lest death will find him very much behindhand : and therefore he is up and doing, as one that hath use for every minute; and worketh while it is day, because he knoweth that the night is coming when none can work ; John ix. 4. Redeeming time is much of his wisdom and his work; Eph. v. 16. Col. iv. 5. He had rather labor in the house of correction, than live the swinish life of idle and voluptuous gentlemen, or beggars that live to no higher end, than to live or to please their flesh; or to live as worldlings, that lose all their lives in the service of a perishing world. He knoweth how precious time will be ere


long, in the eyes of those that now make light of it, and trifle it away as a contemned thing, as if they had too much.

2. The weak Christian is of the same mind in the main : But when it cometh to particular practice, he is like a weak or a weary traveler, that goeth but slowly, and maketh many a stop. Though his face is still heavenwards, he goeth but a little way in a day: he is too easily tempted to idle, or talk, or feast, or play away an hour unlawfully, so it be not his ordinary course, and he do it but seldom. He taketh not the loss of an hour for so great a loss as the confirmed Christian doth : he could sooner be persuaded to live (though not an idle and unprofitable, yet) an easier, less profitable life. The world and the flesh have far more of his hours, than they ought to have; though his weakness tell him that he hath most need of diligence.

3. But the time of a seeming Christian is most at the service of his fleshly interest; and for that it is principally employed. And for that he can redeem it, and grudge if it be lost. But as he liveth not to God, so he cannot redeem his time for God. He loseth it even

when he seemeth to employ it best; when he is praying, or otherI wise worshipping God, and doing that good which feedeth his false

hopes, he is not redeeming his time in all this. While he is sleeping in security, and deluding his soul with a few formal words, and an image of religion, and his time passeth on, and he is hurried away to the dreadful day, and his damnation slumbereth not, 2 Pet. ii. 3. Prov. xx. 4. Matt. xxv. 6-8.

XLI. 1. A Christian indeed is one whose very heart is set upon doing good: as one that is made to be profitable to others, according to his ability and place; even as the sun is made to shine upon the world; he could not be content to live idly, or to labor unprofitably, or to get never so much to himself, unless he some way contributed to the good of others. Not that he grudgeth at the smallness of his talents, and lowness or obscurity of his place, for he knoweth that God may dispose his creatures and talents as he please; and that where much is given, much is required: Matt. xxv. Luke xii. 48. xix. 23. But what his Lord hath trusted him with, he is loath to hide, and willing to improve to his Master's usc. He is so far from

« PreviousContinue »