Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

peace of comfort, is this, • Take heed that you content not yourself with a cheap course of religion, and such a serving of God, as costeth you little or nothing. But in your abstaining from sin, in your rising out of sin, and in your discharge of duty, incline most to that way which is most self-denying, and displeasing to the flesh, (so you be sure it be a lawful way.) And when you are called ont to any work which will stand you in extraordinary labor and cost, you must be so far from shrinking and drawing your neck out of the yoke, that you must look upon it as a special price that is put into your hand, and singular advantage and opportunity for the increase of your comforts.'

This rule is like the rest of the Christian doctrine, which is not thoroughly understood by any way but experience. Libertines and sensual professors that never tried it, did never well understand it. I could find in my heart to be large in explaining and applying it, but that I have been so large beyond my first intentions in the former Directions, that I will cut off the rest as short as I well can.

Let none be so wickedly injurious to me, as to say, I speak or think of any merit, properly so called, in any the costliest work of man.

Fasten not that on me, which I both disclaim, and desire the reader to take heed of. But I must tell you these two things.

1. That a cheap religion is far more uncertain evidence of sincerity, than a dear. It will not discover so well to a man's soul, whether he prefer Christ before the world, and whether he take him and his benefits for his portion and treasure.

2. That a cheap religion is not usually accompanied with any notable degree of comforts, although the person be a sincere-hearted Christian.

Every hypocrite can submit to a religion that will cost him liule ; much more, which will get reputation with men of greatest wisdom and piety; yea, he may stick to it, so it will not undo him in the world. If a man have knowledge, and gifts of utterance, and strength of body, it is no costly matter to speak many good words, or to be earnest in opposing the sins of others, and to preach zealously and frequently, (much more if he have double honor by it, reverent obedience, and maintenance, as ministers of the Gos

pel have, or ought to have.) It is hard to discern sincerity in such a course of piety and duty. Woe to those persecutors that shall put us to the trial how far we can go in suffering for Christ; but it should be a matter of rejoicing to us, when we are put upon it. To be patient in tribulation is not enough; but to rejoice in it is also the duty of a saint. Let those that think this draweth men to rejoice too much in themselves, but hear what the Lord Jesus himself saith, and his Spirit in his apostles: "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake ; for their's is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my name's sake : rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven;” Matt. v. 10–12. “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations (not inward temptations of the devil and our lust, but trials by persecution ;) knowing that the trying of your faith worketh patience. Blessed is the man that endureth temptation ; for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him ;'' James i. 2, 3. 12. See Luke vi. 23. 1 Pet. iv. 13. Acts v. 41. 2 Cor. vi. 10. vii. 4. Col. i. 11. Heb. x. 34. 2 Cor. xiii. 9. xii. 15. O how gloriously doth a tried faith shine, to the comfort of the believer, and the admiration of the beholders! How easily may a Christian try himself at such a time, when God is trying him! One hour's experience, when we have found that our faith can endure the furnace, and that we can hazard or let go all for Christ, will more effectually resolve all our doubtings of our sincerity, than many a month's trial by mere questioning of our own deceitful hearts.

Object. ' But, you may say, what if God call me not to suffer. ing or hazards? Must I cast myself upon it without a call ? Or must I be therefore without comfort ?'

Answ. No; you shall not need to cast yourself upon suffering, nor yet to be without comfort for want of it. I know no man but may serve God at dearer rates to the flesh that most of us do, without stepping out of the way of his duty. Nay, he must do it, except he will avoid his duty. Never had the church yet such times of prosperity, but that faithful duty would hazard men, and cause their trouble in the flesh. Can you not, nay, ought you not, to put yourself to greater labor for men's souls? If you should but go day after day among the poor, ignorant people where you live, and instruct them in the knowledge of God, and bear with all their weakness and rudeness, and continue thus with patience, this might cost you soine labor, and perhaps contempt from many of the unthankful. And yet you

should not do more than your duty, if you have opportunity for it, as most have, or may have, if they will. If you should further hire them to learn catechisms; if you should extend your liberality to the utmost, for relief of the poor, this would cost you somewhat. If you carry on every just cause with resolution, though never so many great friends would draw you to betray it; this may cost you the loss of those friends. If you would but deal plainly with the ungodly, and against all sin, as far as you have opportunity, especially if it be the sins of rulers and gentlemen of name and power in the world, it may cost you somewhat. Nay, though you were ambassadors of Christ, whose office is to deal plainly, and not to please men in evil, upon pain of Christ's displeasure ; you may perhaps turn your great friends to be your great enemies. Go to such a lord, or such a knight, or such a gentleman, and tell him freely, that God looketh for another manner of spending his time, than in hunting and hawking, and sporting and feasting, and that this precious time must be dearly reckoned for. Tell him that God looks he should be the most eminent in holiness, and in a heavenly life, and give an example thereof to all that are below him, as God hath made him more eminent in worldly dignity and possessions. Tell him, that where much is given, much is required; and that a low profession, and dull approbation of that which is good, will serve no man, much less such a man. Tell him, that his riches must be expended to feed and clothe the poor, and promote good uses, and not merely for himself and family, or else he will make but a sad account. And that he must freely engage his reputation, estate, and life, and all for Christ and his Gospel, when he calls you to it; yea, and forsake all for him, if Christ put him to it, or else he can be no disciple of Christ: and then what good will his honors and riches do him, when his soul shall be called for? Try this course with great men, yea with great men that seem religious, and that no further than faithfulness and compassion to men's souls doth bind you, and do it with all the wisdom you can, that is not carnal; and then tell me what it doth cost you.

Let those ministers that are near them, plainly and roundly tell both the parliament-men and commanders of the army, of their unquestionable transgressions, and that according to their nature (and woe to them if they do not,) and then let them tell me what it doth cost them. Alas, sirs, how great a number of professors are base, daubing, self-seeking hypocrites, that cull out the safe, the cheap, the easy part of duty, and leave all the rest! And so ordinarily is this done, that we have made us a new Christianity by it; and the religion of Christ's own making, the self-denying course prescribed by our Master, is almost unknown; and he that should practice it would be taken for a madman, or some self-conceited cynic, or some saucy, if not seditious fellow. It is not, therefore, because Christ hath not prescribed us a more selfdenying, hazardous, laborious way, that men so commonly take up in the cheapest religion; but it is through our false-beartedness to Christ, and the strength of sensual, carnal interests in us, which make us put false interpretations on the plainest precepts of Christ, which charge any unpleasing duty on us, and familistically turn them into allegories, or at least we will not yield to obey him. And truly, I think that our shifting of Christ in this unworthy manner, and even altering that very fraine and nature of Christian religion (by turning that into a flesh-pleasing religion, which is more against the flesh than all the religions else in the world) and dealing so reservedly, superficially and unfaithfully in all his work, is a great cause why Christ doth now appear no more openly for men, and pour out no larger a measure of his Spirit in gists and consolations. When men appeared ordinarily in the most open manner for Christ, in greatest dangers and sufferings, then Christ appeared more openly and eminently for them, (yet is none more for meekness, humility and love, and against unmerciful or dividing zeal, than Christ.)

2. And as you see that a cheap religiousness doth not so discover sincerity ; so secondly, it is not accompanied with that special blessing of God. As God hath engaged himself in his word, that Vol. 1.

56

they shall not lose their reward that give but a cup of water in his name, so he hath more fully engaged himself to those that are most deeply engaged for him; even that they that forsake all for him, shall have manifold recompence in this lise, and in the world to come eternal life. Let the experience of all the world of Christians be produced, and all will attest the same truth, That it is God's usual course to give men larger comforts in dearer duties, than in cheap: nay, seldom doth he give large comforts in cheap duties, and seldom doth he deny them in dearer; so be it they are not made dear by our own sin and foolish indiscretion, but by his command, and our faithfulness in obeying him. Who knows not that the consolation of martyrs is usually above other men's, who hath read of their sufferings and strange sustentations ? Christian, do but try this by thy own experiences, and tell me, when thou hast most resolutely followed Christ in a good cause; when thou hast stood agaiust the faces of the greatest for God; when thou hast cast thy life, thy family and estate upon Christ, and run thyself into the most apparent hazards for his sake; hast thou not come off with more inward peace and comfort, than the cheaper part of thy religion hath afforded thee? When thou hast stood to the truth and Gospel, and hast done good through the greatest opposition, and lost thy greatest and dearest friends, because thou wouldst not forsake Christ and his service, or deal falsely in some cause that he bath trusted thee in ; hast thou not come off with the blessing of peace of conscience? Nay, when thou hast denied thy most importunate appetite, and most crossed thy lusts, and most humbled and abased thyself for God, and denied thy credit, and taken shame to thyself in a free confessing of thy faults, or patiently put up with the greatest abuses, or humbled and tamed thy flesh by necessary abstinence, or any way most displeasing it, by crossing its interest, by bountiful giving, laborious duty, dangers or sufferings, for the sake of the Lord Jesus, bis truth and people; hath it not been far better with thee in thy peace and comforts than before? I know some will be ready to say, that may be from carnal pride in our own doing or suffering. I answer, it may be so; and therefore let all watch against that. But I am certain that this is God's ordinary dealing with his people, and therefore we may ordinarily ex

« ZurückWeiter »