Page images
PDF
EPUB

degrees, except you have a perfection of parts in integrity of heart; and you will never reach glory, unless Christ draw you with him, in his ascension by his merit, and Spirit; therefore, see to your interest, and then grow in grace, and if you do these things, you shall never fail.

CHAP. XII.

EXPERIENCES WHICH SHOULD BE TREASURED UP.

The third sort of precious useful things which the Christian is to lay up, are those various experiences, he hath in all passages of his life. Certainly, a Christian may be a great gainer this way; this is a grand duty, a character of solid wisdom, and a means of more. So saith the Psalmist, concerning the various acts of divine Providence, in Psal. cvii. 43, “Whoso is wise, and will observe those things, even they shall understand the loving kindness of the Lord;" as if he had said, such as set their hearts to consider of the Lord's blessed and embroidered workmanship in the world have wise and observant spirits, and shall grow still wiser, and see more of God in his dispensations, than other men. God opens his secret cabinet to observant Christians, but he is much offended with those that regard not his works, and threatens to destroy them, and not to build them up.-Psal. xxviii. 5. But this is too high a work for brutish, sottish souls ; t it is the good soul that lays up experiences. The righteous man, saith Solomon, wisely considereth the house of the wicked, Prov. xxi. 12; * Psal. xxv. 14. Isai. v. 12.

+ Psal. xcii. 5-7.

*

that is, he takes notice what becomes of it, how the Lord deals with wicked men, and their houses, and so in all other affairs, both public and private, he observes, God's carriage to both good and bad, in mercy and judgment, as Scripture testifies. *

But I shall rather keep close to the Christian's personal experience which relates to himself, and desire every child of God to treasure up experiences of these four sorts, namely,

Of the vanity of the world, the treachery of his heart, the bitterness of sin, and heavenly discoveries.

1. Lay up experiences of the world's vanity. Solomon was making such a collection all his life long, and recorded it in his Ecclesiastes, in his declining old age. He had great opportunities, and extraordinary faculties and means that capacitated him for such an experiment; he knew better than any man breathing, what the flattering world could do for her beloved minions, yet, cries out at last, “ all is vanity, yea, vexing vanity;" and the whole book is an induction of particulars, to prove this assertion. And, what can the man do that cometh after the king ?+ Alas, sirs, if you make the like investigation, you must needs make the same conclusion; you cannot search more into, nor make more of the creature than Solomon, yet he found vanity engraven upon the choicest enjoyment; and have not you also found the like in your time and observation ? Well then, Christian, rub off the rust and dust of old experiences, read the wise man's last and soundest lectures on the whole creation, and let your dear-bought experience comment thereupon, and lay up both text and comment in your hearts for after-times. Poor soul! consider, didst thou ever trust the world, but it deceived thee? Hath it not failed thee at such a time?

Jer. ix. 12, 13. Hos. xiv. 9.

+ Eccl. ii. 12.

and disappointed thee in such a case? O, how didst thou bless thyself in such an expectation ? but, alas, thou didst but grasp the sand or smoke. Hast thou not found riches uncertain, friends inconstant, relations vanishing ? * Have you not seen the world passing away, † and the treble enjoyments of it, pleasure, profit, and preferment, just like the sliding stream of a swift river, hastening towards their primitive chaos of vanity and confusion ? However men may be bewitched with the world's bravery, yet the Spirit of God judgeth of it but as a mere phantasy, or pageant shew, or as a mathematical figure, which is but a notion, an idea in the fancy or imagination; † at the best it is but an accidental figure without substance. What solid content have you ever found in it? When you have sought to the creature, hath it not answered, “ It is not in me to fill the soul, or do you good ?” or at best, it is but like a dream of the night vision, when the hungry and thirsty think they eat and drink, but are faint when they awake. Have not your souls found this too true by sad experience ? Why now, lay up these things, produce them out of your stock, and learn thereby to trust the world no more. Oh, what good may these do you upon a temptation to carnal confidence ! Tremble, Christian, to pierce and prejudice thy soul again, never lean upon this broken reed, that will run into thy hand and heart, and pierce thee with many sorrows here, and be in danger of drowning thee in eternal perdition.-1 Tim. vi. 9,10. The truth is, there nothing answers our desires and hopes in this world,

* 1 Tim. vi. 17.

+ 1 John, ii. 16, 17.

* Acts, xxv. 23. 1 Cor. vii. 31. oxõua.
|| Isai. xxix. 7, 8.
§ Nihil æque adeptis et concupiscentibus gratum.--Plin.

nothing pleases us so well in the fruition, as in the expectation, we find the world but a lie, and the sweetest comforts, lying vanities, and, as one saith, our leaningstaff becomes a knocking cudgel. Well then, since you have found it so, look upon it as such, and lay up that experience.

2. Lay up experiences of the treachery of the heart. Read over Mr. Dyke's treatise on the deceitfulness of the heart, and compare your own experience with that book; but especially read and study well this multifarious book of a depraved heart, consider and remember those ways of guile and guilt, that have cost thy soul so dear; as thus, in such a duty my heart gave me the slip-in such a temptation, my heart led away my hand or foot, and caused my flesh to sin—in such an enjoyment my perfidious heart stole away—in such an affliction I had discontented risings of heart, and my tumultuous, quarrelsome spirit made me to speak unadvisedly with my lips; I will never trust this deceitful heart again. Who but a fool will venture his whole estate with a known thief? What wise man will trust a known juggler? Solomon saith, “ He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool ;" * and I shall be the most errant fool that breathes, if after so many cheating tricks, I should confide in this perfidious traitor. Ah, Christian, I appeal to thine own experience, how many a woful instance hast thou had of the heart's deceitfulness! It is apt to deceive, and as easy to be deceived, and self-deceit is the most dangerous. The heart, since the fall, is naturally of a vafrous, subtile, and fickle temper, and is still made worse and worse, by the deceitfulness of sin, Heb. iii. 13, which is, as it were woven and twisted in the frame and constitution thereof, and so those two cheats conspire to undo the poor soul; and were not God a more fast friend to the saint, than he is to himself, there were no salvation for a poor sinner; for every man is a Satan to himself, * and the sincere saint will pray most, with divine Austin, † to be delivered from that evil man, himself; and is more afraid of the folly that is bound up in his own heart, than of assaults from without; and, indeed, the reason of a soul's self-confidence, is self-ignorance, or not laying up experiences of the heart's deceitfulness. The truth is, a poor self deceiving sinner dares not look into his heart, lest he find not things there as he fancieth, or would persuade himself, but puts all to the venture, like a desperate bankrupt. A child of God, however, cannot but see this treachery that others hide or counterfeit, and willingly sees it, and as sadly laments it, and as watchfully avoids those deceits. Observe it, though deceivings by the heart be bad, yet observing and laying up such sad experiences, is certainly good, and of singular use to the sincere and serious soul. The Lord help us all so to note, and be afraid of our naughty spirits, that we may trust them less, and God 'more, while we live.

* Prov. xxviii. 26.

3. Lay up experiences of sin's bitterness. Consider what have been the insinuating ways of sin and Satan to entangle you, and the sad effects of sin. What tears, and groans, and bitter bickerings it has cost your captivated souls, to extricate yourselves, and regulate your state. Oh, the intricate windings of that crooked serpent! What strange and subtile methods and devices has Satan used, to trap and overtake you with his fresh and furious assaults! How often hath he presented the bait and hid the hook ? Hath he not set before your credulous souls the pleasure or profit of a

Quisque sibi Satan est. + A malo homine meipso libera me, Domine.

« PreviousContinue »