« VorigeDoorgaan »
the cloud and pillar of God's presence led them, though he carried them through giants, terrors, and temptations; so a Christian must resolve to follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth;-he then turneth back to his iniquities, and refuseth to hear the words of the Lord. Secondly, As unprofitable ways: for "who will show us any good?" is the only language of carnal men. "What can the Almighty do for us?" say the wicked in Job; "It is in vain to serve God; what profit have we that we have kept his ordinances?" &c. If we must take our conscience along in all the businesses of our life, there will be no living in the world: notwithstanding the Lord saith, that his words "do good to those that walk uprightly ";" that godliness hath the promises even of this life" that "God will honour those that honour him."Thirdly, As unequal and unreasonable ways, as a strange, a mad, and a foolish strictness, rather the meteor of a speculative brain, than a thing of any real existence; rather votum' than 'veritas:' a wish or figment, than a solid truth. And from such prejudices as these, men grow to wrestle with the Spirit of Christ, to withstand his motions, to quench his suggestions, and to dispute against him. "This people are as they that strive with the priest ";" such a bitter and unreconcilable enmity there is between the two seeds!
Secondly, We may observe, that notwithstanding this natural averseness, yet many, by the power of the Word, are wrought violently, and compulsorily, to tender some unwilling services to Christ, by the spirit of bondage, by the fear of wrath, by the evidences of the curse due to sin, and by the wakefulness of the conscience. "They have turned their back unto me and not their face," saith the Lord :-that notes the disposition of their will. "But, in the time of their trouble, they will say, Arise and save us :"-that notes their compulsory and unnatural devotion. "They shall go with their flocks and their herds," that is, with their pretended sacrifices, and external ceremonies, "to seek the Lord; but they shall not find him, he hath withdrawn himself." As when the Lord sent lions amongst the Samaritans,
q Jer. xi. 10. r Psal. iv. 6. s Job xxii. 7. ii. 7. 1 Tim. iv. 8. y 1 Sam. ii. 30. iv. 4. 1sai. viii. 18. Zech. iii. 8. 1 Cor. i. 21. Hos. v. 5, 6. 2 Kings xvii. 25, 26.
then they sent to enquire after the manner of his worship, fearing him, but yet still serving their own gods. But this compulsory obedience doth not proceed from fear of sind but a fear of Hell. And that plainly appears in the readiness of such men, to apprehend all advantages for enlarging themselves, and in making pretences to flinch away and steal from the Word of grace, in consulting with carnal reason, to silence the doubts, to untie the knots, and to break the bonds of the conscience asunder, and to turn into every diverticle which a corrupted heart can shape, in taking every occasion and pretext to put God off, and delay the payment of their service unto him. Thus Felix when he was frightened with the discourse of St. Paul, put it off with pretence of some further convenient season; and the unwilling Jews, in the time of re-edifying the temple at Jerusalem, “This people say the time is not come, the time that the Lord's house should be built;"-in slighting the warnings, and distinguishing the words of the Scripture out of their spiritual and genuine purity, and so "belying the Lord, and saying, It is not he "-"The word of the Lord," saith the prophet, "is to them a reproach, they have no delight in it;" that is, They esteem me when I preach thy words unto them, rather as a slanderer than as a prophet.-Wouldst thou then know the nature of thy devotion? Abstract all conceits of danger, all workings of the spirit of bondage, the fear of wrath, the pre-occupations of Hell, the estuations and sweatings of a troubled conscience; and if, all these being secluded, thou canst still afford to dedicate thyself to Christ', and be greedily ambitious of his image, that is an evident assurance of an upright heart.
Thirdly, We may observe that, by the power of the Word, there may yet be further wrought in natural men a certain
d Qui gehennas metuit, non peccare metuit, sed ardere: ille autem peccare metuit, qui peccatum ipsum, sicut gehennas, odit. Aug. Ep. 144. In ipsa intus voluntate peccat, qui non voluntate sed timore non peccat. Idem con. 2. Ep. Pelag. 1. 1. cap. 9. et lib. 2. cap. 9.-Non, sicut feram et timeo et edi, ita etiam patrem vereor quem timeo et amo. Clem. Alex. Strom. 1. 2. • Aug. de Nat. et Grat. c. 57. cont. 2. ep. Pelag. lib. 3. c. 4. et Tom. 4. 1. de Sp. et lit. c. ult. f Acts xxiv. 25. 8 Hag. i. 2. h Jer. v. 12, 13. vi. 10. i Nec si, per hypothesin, à Deo potestatem acceperit faciendi ea, quæ sunt prohibita citra ullam pœnam :— sed nec si persuasum habuerit, fore ut Deum lateant quæ gerit, in animum unquam inducet, ut aliquid agat præter rectam rationem. Clem. Alex. Strom. lib. 4.
velleity, a languid and incomplete will, bounded with secret reservations, exceptions, and conditions of its own, which maketh it, upon every new occasion, mutable and inconstant. When the hypocritical Jews came with such a solemn protestation unto the prophet Jeremiah, "The Lord be a true and faithful witness between us, if we do not according to all things for the which the Lord thy God shall send thee unto us'," &c. I suppose they then meant as they spake; and yet this appears in the end, to have been but a velleity and incomplete resolution, a zealous pang of that secret hypocrisy which, in the end, discovered itself, and brake forth into manifest contradiction. When Hazael answered the prophet, "Is thy servant a dog, that he should do thus and thus m?" he then meant no otherwise than he spake; upon the first representation of those bloody facts, he abhorred them as belluine and prodigious villanies: and yet this was but a velleity and fit of good-nature for the time, which did easily wear out with the alteration of occasions. When Judas asked Christ, "Master, is it I that shall betray thee?" (though a man can conceive no hypocrisy too black to come out of the Hell of Judas' heart,) yet possible, and, peradventure, probable it may be, that hearing at that time, and believing that woful judgement pronounced by Christ against his betrayer, "It had been good for that man if he had never been born","—he might then, upon the pang and surprisal of so fearful a doom, secretly and suddenly relent, and resolve to forsake his purpose of treason: which yet, when that storm was over, and his covetous heart was tempted with a bribe, did fearfully return and gather strength again. When the people returned and enquired early, and remembered God their maker, they were in good earnest for the time; and yet that was a velleity, and ungrounded devotion; their heart was not right towards him, neither were they steadfast in his covenant. When Saul, out of the force of natural ingenuity, did, upon the evidence of David's integrity, who slew him not when the Lord had delivered him into his hands,-relent for the time and weep, and acknowledge his righteousness above his own, he spake all this in earnest, as he thought, and yet we find, that he afterwards returned to pursue him again, and was
* Vid. Aqu. p. 3. q. 21. Art. 4. c. Semisauciam hac atque hac versare et jactare voluntatem, &c. Aug. Conf. 1. 8. cap. 8. 1 Jer. xlii. 3, 5, 6, 20. xliii. 2. m2 Kings viii. 13. n Matt. xxvi. 5. ⚫ 1 Sam. xxiv. 16, 19.
once more, by the experience of David's innocency, reduced unto the same acknowledgment. The people, in one place, would have made Christ a king, so much did they seem to honour him; and yet, at another time, when their over-pliable and unresolved affections were wrought upon by the subtile Pharisees, they criedagainst him, as against a slave, “Crucify him, crucify him." So may it be in the general services of God; men may have wishings and wouldings, and good liking of the truth, and some faint and floating resolutions to pursue it, which yet having no firm root, nor proceeding from the whole bent of the heart, from a thorough mortification of sin and evidence of grace, but from such weak and wavering principles, as may be perturbed by every new temptation,-like letters written in sand, they vanish away like a morning dew, and leave the heart as hard and scorched as it was before. The young man (whom, for his ingenuity and forwardness, Christ loved) came in a sad and serious manner to learn of Christ the way to Heaven: and yet we find there were secret reservations, which he had not discerned in himself; upon discovery whereof by Christ he was discouraged and made repent of his resolution P. The apostle speaketh of "a repentance not to be repented of," which hath firm, solid, and permanent reasons to support it: therein secretly intimating that there is likewise a repentance, which, rising out of an incomplete will, and admitting certain secret and undiscerned reservations, doth, upon the appearance of them, flag and fall away, and leave the unfaithful heart to repent of its repentance. St. James tells us, that "a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways"," never uniform nor constant to any rules. Now this division of the mind stands thus:-The heart, on the one side, is taken up with the pleasures of sin for the present; and, on the other, with the desires of salvation for the future: and now according as the workings and representations of the one or other, are at the time more fresh and predominant, in like manner is sin, for that time, either cherished or suppressed. Many men at a good sermon, when the matter is fresh and newly presented, while they are looking on their face in the glass; or in any extremity of sickness, when the provisions of lust do not
P Mark x. 21, 22.
q 2 Cor. vii. 10.
r James i. 8.
relish for the present, when they have none but thoughts of salvation to depend upon, are very resolute to make promises, vows, and professions of better living: but when the pleasures of sin grow strong to present themselves again, they return, like a man recovered of an ague, with more stomach and greediness to their lusts again :-as water which hath been stopped for awhile, rusheth with the more violence, when its passages are opened. A double heart is like the bowls of a scale; according as more weight is put into one or other, so are they indifferently overruled unto either motion, up or down. When I see a vapour ascend out of the earth into the air, why should I not think that it will never leave rising, till it get up to Heaven? and yet because the motion is not natural, but caused either by expulsion from a heat within, or by attraction from a heat without, when the cause of that ascent is abated, and the matter gathers together into a thicker consistence, it grows heavy and falls down again. Even such is the affection of those faint and unresolved desires of men, who, like Agrippa, are but halfpersuaded' to believe in Christ.
But now lastly, We must observe, that in the day of Christ's power, when he, by his Word and Spirit, worketh effectually in the hearts of men, they are then made " freewill offerings," totally willing to obey and serve him in all conditions. The heart of every one stirreth him up, and his Spirit maketh him willing for the work and service of the Lord. They yield themselves' unto the Lord, and their members as weapons of righteousness unto him. They 'offer and present themselves' to God as a living sacrifice ; and therefore they are called porcopa, 'an oblation,' sanctified by the Holy Ghost". Therefore they are said to 'come unto Christ,' by the virtue of his Father's teaching*. To 'run' unto him; to gather themselves' under him as a common head, and to 'flow or flock together' with much mutual encouragement unto the mountain of the Lord; to wait upon him' in his law; to enter into a sure covenant,' and to write and seal it; in one word, 'To serve him with a perfect heart, and with a willing mind :'—when
s Exod. xxxv. 21. t 2 Chron. xxx. 8. Rom. vi. 19. u Rom. xii. 1. xv. 16. Hos. i. 11. Isai. ii. 2, 3. ■ Isai. xlii. 4.
y Isai. lv. 5.
e 1 Chron. xxviii. 9.
* John vi. 45. b Neh. ix. 38.