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live; we cannot but die, in their neglect. Were it any other than madness in me to rely upon a presupposed decree; willingly forbearing, the while, the means whereby it is brought about? To say, “ H I shall live, I shall live though I eat not; if I shall die, though I eat I shall not live : therefore I will not eat; but cast myself upon God's providence, whether to live or die :" in doing thus, what am I other, than a self-murderer?
It is a prevailing policy of the Devil, so to work by his temptations upon the heart of man, that, in temporal things, he shall trust to the means, without regard to the providence of the God that gives them; in spiritual, he should cast himself upon the providence of a God, without respect to the means whereby they are effected: whereas, if both these go not together, we lose either God, or ourselves, or both.
It is true, that if God had peremptorily declared his absolute will concerning the state or event of any creature, we might not endeavour or hope to alter bis decree. If God have said to a Moses, Go up to the mount, and die there, it is not for that obedient servant of God to say, “ Yet I will lay up some years' provision, if perchance I may yet live.”
Although even thus, in the minatory declarations of God's pur. pose, because we know not what conditions may be secretly intend. ed, we may use what means we may for a diversion. The Ninevites heard that express word from Jonah, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be destroyed; and, though they believed the Prophet, yet they betook themselves to an universal humiliation for the prevention of the judgment. David heard from the mouth of Nathan, The child, that is born unto thee, shall surely die ; 2 Sam. xii. 14 : yet he besought God, and fasted, and lay all night upon the earth, and could say, IVho can tell, whether God will be gracious to me, that the child may live? v. 22. Good Hezekiah was sick unto death; and hears from Isaiah, Set thy house in order, for thou shalt die, and not live ; 2 Kings xx. 1,2 : yet, he turns his face to the wall, and prays; and makes use of his bunch of figs, and recovers ; v. 7.
But, where the counsel of God is altogether secret, without the least glimpse of revelation, for a man to pass a peremptory doom upon himself; and either, thereupon, wilfully to neglect the known means of his good, or to run willingly upon those courses which will necessarily work his destruction; it is the highest degree of madness, that can be incident into a reasonable creature.
The Father of Mercies hath appointed means of the salvation of mankind, which lie open to them, if they would not be wanting to themselves : but especially to us, who are within the bosom of his Church, he hath held forth saving helps in abundance. What warnings, what reproofs, what exhortations, what invitations, what entreaties, what importunities hath he forborne for our conversion ! what menaces, what afflictions, what judgments, hath he not made Use of for the prevention of our damnation! Can there be now any man so desperately mad, as to shut heaven gates against him. self, which the merciful God leaves open for him? or, as to break
open the gates of hell, and rush violently into the pit of destruction, which God had latched against him?
Thou sayest, “ If I be predestined to life, my sins cannot damn me.”
Man! thou beginnest at the wrong end; in that thou takest thy first rise at God's eternal counsels, and then judgest donbtfully of thine own ways. It is not for thee to begin first at heaven, and then to descend to earth : this course is presumptuous and damnable. What are those secret and closed books of God's eternal decree and preordination, unto thee? They are only for the eyes of him, that wrote them : The Lord knoweth them, that are his. Look, if thou wilt, upon the outer seal of those divine secrets; and, read, Let every one, that nameth the name of Christ, depart from iniquily; 2 Tim. ii. 19.
Thy way lies from earth to heaven. The revealed will of God, by which only we are to be regulated, is, “ Repent, believe, obey; and thou shalt be saved : live and die in thy sins, impenitent, unbelieving; thou shalt be damned." According to this rule, frame thou thy courses and resolutions : and, if thou canst be so great an enemy to thine own soul, as determinately to contenin the means of salvation, and to tread wilfully in the paths of death, who can say other, but thou art fair for hell ?
But, if thou shalt carefully use and improve those good means which God hath ordained for thy conversion, and shalt thereupon find that true grace is wrought in thy soul; that thou abhorrest all evil ways, that thou dost truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and heartily purposest and endeavourest to live holily and conscionably in this present world; thou mayest now as assuredly know thy name written in heaven, as if thou hadst read it in those eternal characters of God's secret council. Plainly, it is not for thee to say, “I am predestinate to life: therefore, thus I shall do, and thus I shall speed :" but, contrarily, “ Thus hath God wrought in me : therefore, I am predestinate. Let me do well, it cannot but be well with me: Glory, and honour', and peace to every man, that worketh good ; Rom. ii. 10. Let me do my utmost diligence to make my calling and election sure; 2 Pet. i. 10: I am safe, and shall be happy."
But, if thou hast been miscarried to lewd courses, and hast lived as without God in the world; while thou dost so, thy case is fearful : but who allowed thee to sit judge upon thine own soul; and to pass a peremptory doom of necessary damnation upon thyself ? Are not the means of grace, God's blessed ordinances, still held forth unto thee? Doth not God still graciously invite thee to repentance? Doth not thy Saviour stand ready, with his arms spread abroad, to receive thee into his bosom? And canst thou be so des. perately and presumptuously merciless to thyself, as to say, “I shall be damned: therefore, I will sin ?” Thou canst not be so wicked, but there may be a possibility of thy reclamation. While God gives thee respite, there may be hope. Be not thou so injurious to thyself, as to usurp the office both of God and the Devil: of God, in passing a final judgment upon thyself; of the Devil, in drawing thyself into damnation. Return, therefore, O sinner, and live break off thy sins by repentance, and be saved. But, if otherwise, know, that God's decree doth neither necessitate thy sin, nor thy damnation : thou mayest thank thyself for both : Thy perdition is of thyself, O Israel ; Hos. xiii. 9.
*** IV'hy wilt thou be singular amongst and above thy neighbours : to
draw needless censures upon thyself? Be wise; and do as the most. Be not so over-squeamish, as not to dispense with thy conscience in some small matters. Lend a lie to a friend : swallow an oath, for fear : be drunk, sometimes, for good-fellowship: falsify thy word, for an advantage : serve the time : frame thyself to all companies. Thus thou shalt be both warm and safe, and kindly
respected :" Repelled. PLAUSIBLE Tempter, what care wouldest thou seem to take of my ease and reputation, that, in the mean time, thou mightest run away with my soul!
Thou persuadest me not to be singular amongst my neighbours. It shall not be my fault, if I be so. If my neighbours be good and virtuous, I am with and for them; let me be hissed at, to go alone: but if otherwise, let me rather go upright alone, than halt with company.
Thou tellest me of censures.— They are spent in vain, that would dishearten me from good, or draw me into evil. I am too deep rooted in my resolutions of good, than to be turned up by every slight wind. I know who it is, that hath said, Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my Name's sake; Matt. v. 11. Let men take leave to talk their pleasure; in what I know I do well, I am censure-proof.
Thou biddest me be wise, and do as the most. These two cannot agree together. Not to follow the most, but the best, is true wisdom. My Saviour hath told me, that many go in the broad way, which leadeth to destruction ; Matt. vii. 13 : and it is the charge of God, Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; Exod. xxiij. 2. While I follow the guidance of my God, I walk confidently; as knowing, I cannot go amiss : as for others, let them look to their own feet; they shall be no guides of mine.
Thou biddest me dispense with my conscience in small matters.I have learnt to call nothing small, that may offend the Majesty of the God of Heaven. Dispensations must only proceed from a greater power: only God is greater than my conscience : where he dispenseth not, it were a vain presumption for me to dispense with myself.
And what are those small matters, wherein thou solicitest my dispensation ?
To lend a lie to a friend ?-Why dost thou not persuade me to lend him my soul ? yea, to give it unto thee for him ? It is a sure word of the Wise Man, « The mouth, that lieih, slayeth the soul;" Wisd. i. 11. How vehement a charge hath the God of Truth laid upon me, to aroid this sin, which thou, the Father of Lies, wouldest draw me unto! Lev. xix. 11. What maryel is it, if each speak for his own? He, who is Truth itself, and loveth truth in the inward parts; John xiv. 6. Ps. li. 6. justly calls for it in the tongue : Laying aside lying, saith the Spirit of God, speak every man truth with his neighbour ; Col. iii. 9. Eph. iv. 25. Thou, who art a lying spirit, wouldest be willing to advance thine own brood, under the fair pretence of friendship. But what ? shall I, to gratify a friend, make God mine enemy? shall I, to rescue a friend from danger, bring destruction upon myself? Thou shalt destroy them, that speak leasings, saith the Psalmist; Ps. v. 6. Without, shall be every one, that loveth or maketh lies; Rev. xxii. 15. TF, therefore, my true attestation may avail my friend, my tongue is his : but, if he must be supported by falsehood, my tongue is neither his, nor mine; but is his, that made it.
To swallow an oath for fear?-No, Tempter. I can let down no such morsels: an oath is too sacred, and too awful a thing, for me to put over, out of any outward respects against my conscience. If I swear, the oath is not mine: it is God's; and the reyenge will be his, whose the offence is; Exod. xxii. 11. Ezek. xvi. 59. It is a charge to be trembled at; Ye shall not swear by my Name falsely: neither shalt thou profane the Name of thy God: I am the Lord; Lev. xix. 12. And, if the word of charge be so dreadful, what terror shall we find in the word of judgment ! Lo, God swears too; and, because there is no greater to swear by, he swears by himself: ds I live, surely mine oath that he hath despised, and my covenant which he hath broken, even it will I recompense upon his ouin- head; Ezek. xvii. 19. It was one of the words, that were delivered in fire, and smoak, and thunder and lightning, in Sinai; The Lord will not hold him guiltless, that taketh his name in vain; Esod. xx. 7. I dare not, therefore, fear any thing so much, as the displeasure of the Almighty; and (to die for) will neither take an unlawful oath, nor violate a just one.
As for that sociable excess, whereto thou temptest me, howerer the commonness of the vice may have seemed to abate of the reputation of heinousness, in the opinion of others; yet, to me, it representeth it so much more hateful : as an universal contagion is more grievous, than a local. I cannot purchase the name of goodfellowship, with the loss of my reason, or with the price of a curse. Daily experience makes good that word of Solomon, that Wine is a mocker; Prov. xx. 1 : robbing a man of himself, and leaving a beast in his room. And what woes do I hear denounced against those, that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink ; that continue till night, till the wine inflame them! Isa. v. 11. If any man think he may pride himself in a strong brain and a vi. gorous body; Woe to them, that are mighty to drink wine ; and men of strength, 10 mingle strong drinks ; v. 22. Let the jovialists of the world drink wine in bowls, (Amos vi. 6.) and feast themselves without fear: let me never join myself with that fellowship, where God is banished from the company
Wouldest thou persuade me to falsify my word for an advantage ? what advantage can be so great, as the conscience of truth and fidelity? That man is for God's tabernacle, that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not ; Ps. xv. 4. Let me rather lose by honesty, than gain by falsehood and perfidiousness.
Thou biddest me serve the time :-So I will do, while the time serves not thee: but, if thou shalt have so corrupted the time, that the whole world is set in wickedness, (1 John v. 19.) I will serve my God in opposing it. Gladly will I serve the time, in all good offices, that may tend to rectify it; but, to serve it in a way of flattery, I hate and scorn.
I shall willingly frame myself to all companies : not for a partnership in their vice; but for their reclamation from evil, or encouragement in good. The Chosen Vessel hath, by his example, taught me this charitable and holy pliableness : Though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself a servant unto all ; that I might gain the more. To the Jews, I became as a Jew; that I might gain the Jews : to them, that are under the Law, as under the Law ; that I might gain them, that are under the Law : To them, that are without Law, as without Law, being not without Law to God, but under the Law to Christ; that I might gain theni, that are without Law. To the weak, I became weak ; that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men ; that I might, by all means, sate some ; 1 Cor. ix, 19–22. My only scope shall be spiritual gain : for this will I, like some good merchant, traffic with all nations, with all persons. But, for carnal respects, to put myself, like the first matter, into all forms; to be demure with the strictly-severe, to be debauched with the drunkard, with the atheist profane, with the bigot superstitious; what were this, but to give away my soul to every one, save to the God that owns it; and, while I would be all, to be nothing; and to profess an affront to him, that hath charged me, Be not conformed to this world ? Rom. xii. 2.
Shortly, let me be despicable, and starve, and perish in my inno cent integrity, rather than be warm and safe, and honoured upon so evil conditions.