Praeparatio Evangelica: OR, A Plain and Practical DISCOURSE CONCERNING The SOUL'S Preparation FOR A Blessed Eternity.

Being the Substance of several SERMONS Preach'd at LEEDS.

By TIMOTHY MANLOVE, Minister of the Gospel.

Heb. 12.14.

Follow Peace with all Men, and HOLI­NESS, without which no Man shall see the LORD.

1 Joh. 4.16.

God is LOVE; and he that dwelleth in Love, dwelleth in God, and God in him.

Heb. 2.3.

How shall we escape if we neglect so great Salvation?

LONDON; Printed for Nevill Simmons, Bookseller in Sheffield, Yorkshire: And sold by George Coniers, at the Ring in Little Britain, 1698.

To the Diligent and Serious READER.

CƲstom obligeth me to say some­thing by way of Preface, and the weight of the Subject be­fore us is such, as requires the ut­most Diligence to press the serious Con­sideration of it upon all to whom it is presented.

That the Soul of Man is in its own Nature fitted for Immortality, be­ing capable of subsisting and acting in a state of separation from the Body, and therefore designed thereto, is a Truth commonly acknowledged amongst Chri­stians, yea, and amongst Pagans too; as I have proved at large in a former Trea­tise.

Now if this be a Truth, 'tis cer­tainly a very important one, how little soever considered by the unthinking World. Must we live for ever? Sure­ly it highly concerns us to examin [...] whither we are going? what State w [...] are like to enter upon when the uncer­tain Term of our present Life shall be at an end? Shall it be well or il [...] with us to all Eternity?

The Resolution of this great Que­stion depends upon our Behaviour whil [...] we are in the Body, for accoraing to that we must be judged whether it b [...] good or bad, 2 Cor. 5.10.

The Goodness or Wickedness of ou [...] Actions is to be measured by their a­greeableness or disagreeableness to th [...] Divine Law; which is norma offici [...] & judicii, a Rule to live by, and by which we must be judged.

The Duties which God hath enjoin [...] are such, as in their own Nature do manifestly tend to qualify and f [...] us for that eternal Blessedness, which he hath prepared for his holy ones.

It is therefore of great consequence to understand in some competent mea­sure the Nature of the Heavenly Fe­licity; because the more clear and di­stinct our Apprehensions are in this Matter, the more will our Hearts be raised to desire it, and our Endea­vours quickened in the pursuit of it, and the better we shall understand the way that leads to it.

The absolute necessity of Holiness, in order to our everlasting Happiness, is rather confessed, than well under­stood by the generality of those that bear the Christian Name; and this not for want of sutable Means and Helps in order to such Knowledg, but for want of Hearts to use them, Prov. 17.16. Men's thoughts are otherwise taken up, and their carnal Minds are averse from Considerations of this na­ture.

That Holiness is necessary, because God hath commanded it, is a very great Truth, and nothing but the Truth, but yet it is not the whole Truth nei­ther: [Page]For besides this legal Necessity of it, there is also a natural Necessity in the case, it being as impossible in the nature of the thing that we should be happy without being holy, as that a blind Man should be delighted with Colours, or one that is deaf with Sounds and Harmony.

And this will appear if we consider what it is that must make a rational immortal Spirit compleatly blessed; namely, the enjoyment of the most holy, glorious, blessed God, whereunto an unholy Soul is utterly indisposed, and disaffected; and therefore cannot be happy till its Temper be altered, and made sutable to the Object; that is, holy.

The Saints in Glory are taken up with God, admiring, loving, praising, and delighting in him as their chief Good, their only Soul-satisfying Por­tion, yea, and as infinitely and ami­ably good in himself; and withal in­joying the most sweet and refreshing sense of his Love to them, without [Page]any Clouds, Darkness, or Interrupti­ons. Now, this kind of Happiness is no way sutable to the Genius and Disposition of an unsanctified Heart, and how should a Man be happy while his very Soul is averse to, and at Enmity against that which alone can make him so?

This is the woful case of the far greater part of the World, which loud­ly calls for our deepest Lamentations over it, and our utmost Endeavours to redress it.

To this purpose I have thought meet to publish the following Discourse, where­in I have laboured to lay open our Way, and our End, beginning with the latter, according to the order of intention.

I have therefore first laid down a short, plain, scriptural Account of that blessed State reserved in Heaven for true Believers, and then proceeded to open the Nature of that great Work of Grace, whereby we must be prepa­red, [Page]wrought, or made meet for that State. Each of these gives Light to the other, the End and Way are so near a-kin that they differ rather in degree than in kind, Grace is Glo­ry begun, Glory is Grace perfect­ed.

If these things were well weighed, and compared together, the advantage would be very great every way. Give me leave to mention some few Parti­culars.

  • 1. This would effectually put to si­lence the ignorant Cavils of foolish Men, who complain that the ways of Holiness are too strict and precise for them. Did they but better know what the Bless'd Above are doing, and what they are enjoying, they would quick­ly see reason to conclude, that the greatest Diligence and Care we can use is all little enough to ripen us for so holy, so glorious, so perfect a State.
  • [Page]2. It would certainly pull down the groundless Presumptions of Self-deceiv­ing Hypocrites, who promise to them­selves Heaven at last, tho they be utter Strangers to that vital Power of Religion, without which there's no coming thither. No wonder that Men who hope for they know not what hereafter, live they know not, or care not how while they are here: But, whatsoever a Man sows, that shall he also reap. Gal. 6.7.
  • 3. This would also shew us what way and manner of religious Worship is like to be most acceptable to God, and ad­vantagious to our selves, viz. That which tends most to refine and spiritu­alize our Hearts, and so to fit them for Heaven.
  • 4. And consequently what ends we ought to propose to our selves in every religious Duty: Namely, that we may get as near unto God, and be as in­ward with him, as possibly we can, till we come to the State of full and per­fect Communion with him.
  • [Page]5. And what need there is of Di­vine Grace to elevate and raise our Hearts to such high and holy things as these. Alas, what poor work shall we make with spiritual things if we be left to our selves!
  • 6. This will greatly support the Peo­ple of God under the difficulties of their present State and Work: Their spiritual Conflicts will soon be over, and Heaven will make amends for all. The end to which the dispised ways of Holiness lead, is unspeakably glo­rious.

Lastly; if the best of us did more clearly apprehend and frequently con­sider the Blessedness of a future State, and the necessary Connexion or near Alliance between Holiness and Happi­ness, this would put Life into all our Motions and Tendencies Heaven-ward, and would give a most refreshing relish and savour to all our Duties.

These and many more such advan­tages would accrue to us from a right [Page]understanding of our way, and our end compared with each other. But I must not make too large a Preface to so small a Book.

Nor will I stay to apologize (as the manner of some is) for the Weakness and Imperfections of the ensuing Trea­tise. Only I tell thee, I have studied that both as to the Matter, Method, and Stile, it might be plain, practi­cal, and profitable for the use of vul­gar Readers, not to gratify the ca­pricious wanton humors of those who have itching Ears; but to edify ho­nest upright Hearts. I hope I can tru­ly say in some measure, that as to the applause of Men, desii curare, I have done regarding it. VVith me it is a very small Matter to be judg­ed of Man's Judgment, 1 Cor. 4.3.

Therefore to conclude; if thou wilt read deliberatly what I have written, and consider it impartially, and carry it home to thine own Heart and Con­science, by that prudent Self-application [Page]which the nature of thy Case shall require, I hope thou wilt get real ad­vantage by it; and when thou hast so done, forget not to pray for him,

Who is a very unworthy Servant of the best and greatest Master. Timothy Manlove.

THE CONTENTS.

  • CHAP. I. THE Dependance of the Words up­on what goes before. Their Literal and Real Importance. The Point of Doctrine to be insisted upon. The Method wherein it is to be han­dled. Page 1.
  • CHAP. II. Some general Account of the Heavenly Felicity; to which are subjoyned some short Hints, how unfit we are by Na­ture for that blessed State, and how we came to be so. 9.
  • [Page]CHAP. III. A further Enquiry into the Nature of that great Change, whereby the Souls of Believers are wrought and prepared for Heaven. 22.
  • CHAP. IV. Of the several Steps whereby this blessed Work is begun, carried on, and per­fected in the Soul. 38.
  • CHAP. V. Plain Proof from Scripture, and the nature of the thing, that none can come to Heaven, till they be wrought or prepared for it by Divine Grace. 48.
  • CHAP. VI. Several Inferences of Truth drawn from the foregoing Discourse. 61.
  • [Page]CHAP. VII. Reproof to those Persons who wrong their own Souls by presumptuous hopes of Heaven, while they are utter Stran­gers to this great work of Grace, whereby they should be prepared for it. Shewing how vain, sinful, dan­gerous and unnatural it is for them thus to deceive themselves. 72.
  • CHAP. VIII. How much it concerns us to examin our selves, whether we be wrought for Heaven or no. Sundry Motives to excite us to this necessary Duty. 82.
  • CHAP. IX. Directions for the more successful ma­nagement of this great Duty of Self-Examination. 90.
  • [Page]CHAP. X. Sundry Questions proposed by which to ex­amin the State of our Souls. 98.
  • CHAP. XI. The Exhortation in several Branches. 1. To those who are not yet wrought for Heaven, directing them what Methods to take in order to their Con­version. 117.
  • CHAP. XII. Directions to those who have attain­ed to greater degrees of Assurance and Comfort. 158.
2 COR. 5.5.

Now he that hath wrought us for the self-same thing is GOD.

CHAP. I.

The Dependance of the Words upon what goes before. Their Literal and Real Importance. The Point of Doctrine to be insisted upon. The Method wherein it is to be handled.

IN the foregoing Chapter we have an account of the many sufferings, and dangers to which the Apostle himself, and his Fellow-labourers in the Work of the Gospel were exposed. Vers. 8, 9. &c. Troubled on every side,perplexed,perse­cuted,cast down,Always bearing about in the Body the dying of the Lord Jesus, i. e. by suffering for his sake, and in conformity to him: As it follows vers. 11. Alway delivered unto Death for Jesus sake.

Moreover, he tells us what it was that bore up their Spirits, and kept them from fainting under all these Pressures, namely, a believing prospect of future Glo­ry, whereof Christ's Resurrection was a certain Argu­ment [Page 2]and Pledg, vers. 13, 14. We also believe, and therefore speak: Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus, shall raise up us also by Jesus, vers. 16. For which cause we faint not, &c.

He then proceeds to make a Comparison between their present Troubles, and the Joy that was set before them. As for the former, he speaks as tho he account­ed them scarce worth naming: but of the latter, as if no words could be found great enough to express it. vers. 17. For our light affliction which is but for a mo­ment, worketh for us a far more exceeding, and eternal w [...]ight of Glory. [ [...]] one Hyperbole upon another, and yet all little enough to signify the deep sense which he had of the transcen­dent worth, and excellency of that weighty Glory concerning which he speaks. Thus Rom. 8.18. For [...]eckon that the Sufferings of this present time, are not wor­thy to be compared with the Glory which shall be revealed is us. This he did upon due deli [...]eration, well weigh­ing the Point, [ [...], expendo] as Grotius ob­serves some of the Ancients render it.

Thus ye see whence it was that they fetch't their Supports amidst all the conflicts and difficulties they met with in this World. What they look't or aimed at [ [...],] viz. The things not seen, which are eternal, vers. 18. This was the Prize they ran for; and which they expected at length to obtain.

And now, that none might think that their hopes were wavering, uncertain or ill-grounded, he goes on in this Chapter, wherein the Text is, to declare how full and satisfying their Assurance was, in this matter, and why it was so.

Vers. 1. For we know that if our Earthly House of this Tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, &c. Note [...]ere, that Faith is a certain infallible sort of Know­ledg [we know.] So Joh. 6.69. We believe, and ar [...] sure. Rom. 8.28. We know that all things work toge­ther for good to them that love God. 1 Cor. 15.58. Y [...] know that your Labour is not in vain in the Lord.

Nor were their Desires after this blessed State less ear­nest, than their Belief and Hopes were firm and steady. vers. 2.3, 4. We groan earnestly, desiring to be cloathed upon with our house which is from Heaven,that Mor­tality might be swallowed up of Life.

And thus we are brought to the Text, in which the Apostle lays down some further grounds of this their Confidence, viz. They were wrought for the Heaven­ly Glory, and that by God himself: Who also had given unto them the earnest of the Spirit, as it immediately fol­lows; and therefore, (says he) we are always confident, vers. 6. Again vers. 8. We are confident, I say▪ and willing rather to be absent from the Body, and to be present with the Lord. q.d. We do not run as at uncertainties, nor fight as Men that beat the Air, but know whom we have trusted, and that he will not fail our trust. This is the Faith we walk by at present, till we come to the World of immediate sight and fruition. Vers. 7.

And now let us return to the words of the Text, and consider more distinctly, both the literal and real importance of them.

Now he that hath wrought us] i. e. made, formed, or fitted us. The word signifies to fashion or. polish a thing which was rude or unshapen before; and so 'tis u­sed by the Septuagint, Exod. 35.33. 1 Kings 6.36.

For the self-same thing] viz. That blessed State in which Mortality shall be swallowed up of Life, whereof he had been speaking just before, vers. 4. or if you un­derstand it of those desires and groanings Heaven-ward which are wrought in the Souls of Believers, it comes all to a sense; for none, but those who are prepared for Heaven, do rightly and judiciously desire it, as shall be shewn more at large hereafter.

Is God] even he that hath provided that Glory for us, vers. 1. hath also fitted us for it. The Order and Te­nour of the words is very remarkable; God is not the Subject, but the Predicate of this Proposition. It is not thus expressed [now God hath wrought us for this] tho that had been true, but the same Truth is spoken [Page 4]with a more piercing Emphasis and Majesty, as the words are here placed. He that hath wrought us,is God, q. d. Would you know the reason of our Confidence, Hope, and earnest Desires after Heaven? Why, we are wrought for it. Do you ask how we came to be so, or who hath thus wrought us? 'Tis God that hath done it, who always acts like himself; therefore this work is divine, beseeming its great Author, such as none but he could effect, the Finger of God is plain in it, and for that reason we doubt not but the Issue will be answerably glorious and excellent. The same way of expression ye have, Chap. 1.21. Now he which sta­blisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is GOD.

As for the real importance of the words, the only remaining difficulty (if that be any) is what divine work the Apostle here speaks of. In answer to this, I shall only take notice of the three following particu­lars, which are most full and comprehensive in the case.

(1.) God as he is our Creator, and the God of Na­ture, hath given us immortal Souls; furnish'd with facul­ties to prepare for a better Life. He hath made them pure, spiritual, noble, intellectual Substances, no [...] consisting of any contrary Principles, which by acting upon, or against each other, might infer the dissolution of the whole. Now, in that he has given the Soul such a Nature, 'tis manifest that he designs it for an e­ternal State, because he doth nothing in vain, but al­ways fits his Creatures for the respective ends where­unto he hath appointed them: And since both Grac [...] and Glory presuppose Nature, that is, the Fundamental Capacity of the Subject, therefore this particular may well enough be taken in, tho it cannot reasonably he imagined, that this is the main (much less the only) thing intended in the Text. The Souls of the vil [...] Men (yea even the Devils themselves) are thus fa [...] wrought for an Everlasting State. But it is not m [...] Immortality, but a glorious and blessed Immortality [Page 5]that's here spoken of: So that to be wrought for this self-same thing, must needs signify something peculiar unto true Believers, for they only have a right to the Heavenly Glory: and besides the Greek word [ [...]] seems not so naturally to signify the cre­ating of a Soul, as some subsequent work upon it al­ready created; to which it's natural essence is presup­posed, not produced by it.

(2.) As our Redeemer, and the God of governing re­conciling Grace, he hath opened the way to Heaven for us, and so deals with us upon Terms of Mercy and Compassion, in order to our recovery from that sinful and miserable state, into which we had brought our selves. To this end the Eternal Son of God, in the fulness of time sanctified a Portion of Humane Na­ture, and took it into union with the Divine, and in it fulfilled all Righteousness, perfectly obeyed the Law, offered up himself a Sacrifice to satisfy Divine Justice, conquered Satan, Death, and Hell; died, arose, as­cended, and was glorified, that we might chearfully and believingly follow him. Thus Human Nature in the Person of our great Mediatour was wrought through [...]ariety of Labours and Sufferings, till it arrived to the highest Advancement; that from hence we might be assured how great things are intended for us, if we do not reject the Counsel of God against our selves. He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Rom. 8.32. He is gone before to prepare a place for us, and to take possession, &c. his Arms are ever open to receive returning Sinners; the more weary and heavy laden with the Burden of Sin, the fitter for him to ex­ercise his Office upon. He will cast out none that sin­cerely come to him. None are excluded who do not by wilful and final Impenitency exclude themselves. On his part all things are ready: what then remains but that we thankfully lay hold on this Tree of Life, and by Faith feed thereon, that we may live for ever?

(3.) As he is our Sanctifier, and the Applyer and [Page 6]Perfecter of all to fit us for Glory, he works in the Souls of his People those holy Qualifications, Tenden­cies, and Affections, whereby the Heavenly State be­comes con-natural and agreeable to them, or rather they to it. To live, and have a being in a furture State is o [...] thing, to be happy therein another. Meer Immortality fits you for the former immediately, but only in a more remote sense for the latter. O Sirs, it is but cold com­fort to know that your Souls are immortal, if in the mean time ye be utterly in the dark, whether it shall be well or ill with them hereafter. Live they must to all Eternity; but if a great deal of care be not taken in time, that Life is like to prove worse than Death Therefore (ye know) that Eternal Life is usually taken in the best sense: Mat. 25.46. The Righteous into Lis [...] Eternal. Rom. 6.23. The Gist of God is Eternal Lis [...]. Those in Hell live too, because they cannot, not be­cause they would not die: Know then, that you Souls are no less capable of exquisite Torment and Misery, than of Joy and Blessedness in another World; their everlasting Weal or Woe depends mo [...] directly and nearly upon Moral Qualities, than upon their Natural Essence. As wicked Men are silling up th [...] measure of their Sins, and so making themselves rip [...] for Ruin, Treasuring up Wrath against the Day of VVrat [...] Rom. 25. So God by his Grace qualifies and prepare [...] his People for Heaven, enabling and habitnating the [...] to those spiritual Desires and Endeavours which ar [...] suted thereto. Vers. 9. Wherefore we labour, th [...] whether present, or absent, we may be accepted of him Phil. 2.13. He worketh in them, both to will and to [...] of his good Pleasure. A Work so great that it emula [...] even Creation it self, insomuch that the Persons th [...] wrought upon are new Creatures, as vers. 17. of th [...] Chapter. If any Man be in Christ, he is a new Creatur [...] not in point of Essence or Faculties, but of new Qual [...] ­ties and Dispositions wherewith they are endued. An [...] thus we must be wrought for this self same thing Hence Believers, as such, are called God's Workmanship [Page 7]created in Christ Jesus unto good Works. Ephes. 2.10. His Building, raised and framed by him, for an habita­tion of God through the Spirit. Vers. 22. His Husbandry, 1 Cor. 3.9. Being cultivated by him, to bring forth that Fruit unto Holiness, the end whereof is Everlasting Life. Rom. 6.22. Thus they are the work of his Hands, Trees of Righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified. Isa. 60.21. Ch. 61.3. So these Vessels of Mercy, are prepared for Glory. Rom. 8.23. Made meet to be Partakers of the Inheritance of the Saints in Light. Col. 1.12. Well set, or rightly dispo­s [...]d for the Kingdom of God. As the word signifies, Luke 9.62. [ [...].]

And this it is which the Text principally aims at, wherein you may observe several things.

  • 1. That great work whereof the Apostle here speaks as a thing already done. He that hath wrought, &c.
  • 2. The Author of this Work, viz. The Blessed God himself.
  • 3. The Subjects, or Persons upon whom it was wrought. Namely the Apostle himself, and o­ther Gospel-Ministers, [Ʋs] yet not so as to ex­clude any other Persons, who had obtained like precious Faith with them, 2 Pet. 1.1. Or that had believed through their Word. Joh. 17.20. See the foregoing Chapter, vers. 14. as also Chap. 1.21. [us with you.]
  • 4. The end and design of this great Work; name­ly to fit them for Heaven, giving them a Tem­per suted thereto, and causing them to long after it.
  • 5. The necessity of this great Work, as may be ga­thered from the Relation which these words bear to the Context. And more especially by the word [now, or bur, [...]] which connects this Verse with the fore-going, q. d. we know that the Heavenly Inheritance shall be ours. And we earnestly de­sire [Page 8]to be there, vers. 1, 2. &c. But then it must be remembred that we are wrought for this self-same thing, otherwise our Hopes were presumptu­ous, our Confidence meer self-deceit. Accord­ing to which plain Exposition this little Particle [ [...]] is big enough to exclude all from Heaven, who are not in some measure thus wrought for it.

And now 'tis obvious, that many points of Doctrine might easily be drawn from these words, thus o­pened and divided: But I will mention no more than one, which I design to insist upon, and to it all the rest may be reduced.

Doct. There's no coming to Heaven, till we be wrought or prepared for it, by the Power of Divine Grace.

In handling this Point, three things must be distinct­ly spoken to.

  • I. The Explication of it, or what it means.
  • II. The Proof of it, or how it appears.
  • III. The Use and Improvement of it, or what may be deduced from it, either to inform our Judg­ments, or to direct and regulate our Practice.

As to the first of these I shall proceed as follows.

  • 1. To give you some general Account of the Hea­venly Felicity for which we must be prepared.
  • 2. Set before you a more distinct and large Explica­tion, of that great Work of Grace whereby the Souls of Believers are fitted for Glory.

Without some competent Knowledg of the End, we are not like to understand the Means: And except we enquire into (yea and chuse) the Way, we shall, never come to enjoy the blessed End.

CHAP. II.

Some general Account of the Heavenly Felicity; to which are subjoyned some short Hints, how unfit we are by Na­ture for that blessed State, and how we came to be so.

'TIS not to be thought strange, that our Concep­tions fall exceeding short, and our Expressions yet shorter, when we come to discourse concerning that Glory, which is within the Vail: Who can, at this distance, give any other than a very imperfect Account of that fulness of Joy, which is in the Pre­sence of God, and those everlasting Pleasures which are at his Right Hand. Psal. 16.11.

Yet are we not left wholly in the dark neither, somewhat of Heaven may be known (and therefore should diligently be enquired after) while we are here on Earth; all cannot till we come thither.

At present we have some Revelation of it, both objective and subjective, viz. so far as is sutable to our present State. 'Tis revealed to us, Life and Immortality are brought to light by the Gospel, 2 Tim. 1.10. 'Tis revealed in us: true Believers, have the foretasts of it, in those Exercises of Grace which lead to it.

Tho it doth not yet (fully) appear what we shall be, yet in part it doth. For, we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is, 1 Joh. 3.2. Tho out Life is hid with Christ in God: Col. 3.3. Yet nor so, as if nothing of it could be known, but rather that it might be more earnestly searched after. Even as in him are bid all the Treasures [Page 10]of Wisdom and Knowledg. Chap. 2.3. compared with Prov. 2.2, 3, 4. See also 1 Cor. 2.9, 10. Eye hath not seen, nor Ear heard, &c. but God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit,— vers. 12. that we might know th [...] things that are freely given to us of God.

Well then, it is a great advantage that we have [...] Map of the Holy Land; a Description of the New J [...] ­rusalem set before us in the Sacred Records: And ye [...] greater, if we taste the Sweetness, and feel the Power of those Gospel Discoveries in our own Spirits. But then those that do so, can hardly make others under­stand these grateful Relishes: The Joys of Believen are such as Strangers intermeddle not with, cannot be rightly apprehended but by inward vital Sense and Ex­perience, known only to them that have them: Word [...] can but saintly exp [...]ess them, for they are unspeak able 1 Pet. 1.8. How much more inexpressible must those Pleasures be, which, in Heaven, are grown up to fui [...] perfection?

Therefore as to what is unrevealed let us wait [...] while, it cannot be long, time runs fast on, Eternity is almost upon us. The Concerns of our Souls are in safe Hands: "Our Eyes (as one observes) are in our "glorified Head Jesu Christ. He knows for us, what "we are not yet admitted to the Knowledg of. Le [...] this quiet us notwithstanding our remaining Darkness We are going to the World of Light.

However, in the mean time let us take care that we be not guilty of any willful affected Ignorance in this Matter. Let not Sloth prevent, nor presumptuous Cu­riosity pervert our Enquiries about it. Labour after as distinct and clear a Knowledg of Heaven as you can, but be sure to keep close to the Rule.

It seems plain from Scripture, (as also from the Na­ture of the thing) that the Heavenly Felicity consists mainly in, or results from two things.

  • 1. A perfect fitness for the enjoyment of the glori­ous blessed God.
  • 2. The actual enjoyment of him.

These are most intimately essential to that blessed State, and therefore to be principally considered: Tho there are also certain adjuncts and circumstances of this Blessedness, which must not be wholly passed by; but of these afterwards. We will begin with the other.

1. A perfect fitness for the enjoyment of God. The faculties of the Soul shall be refined, strengthned, en­larged, replenish'd to the utmost of their Capacities, with fulness of Divine Grace, and therein confirmed, and settled past all danger of revolt or decay; and therefore compleatly fitted (subjectively) for Ever­lasting Communion with the blessed God, their objec­tive Happiness, Portion, ALL. As Action and Fruition presuppose Being and Nature, so the perfection of the former is necessary to that of the latter. The best of Men, while here below, have great remainders of sinful Weakness, all their Graces are enfeebled by a contrary principle of Corruption dwelling in them. Hence it is, that the workings of their Souls towards God are so weak and languid, and the Joys of Communion with him so often interrupted and obscured: But in Heaven it will not be so. There we shall have Strength without Weakness, Light without Darkness, Love without any remaining Aversion. And then 'tis no won­der that we shall have Joy without Sorrow.

I know that some are ignorant and vain enough to talk of a sinless Perfection here on Earth: And once I met with one who had the Face to tell me, that (were it not for a little Passion) for ought he knew, he was perfect. I presently ask'd him, whether he thought he loved God, as well as he ought to love him? This put him to a stand, or rather made him go back from his former Assertion. Alas, how little do such Men know of their own Hearts, or of the Latitude and Extent of the Divine Law! Psal. 119.96. Thy Commandment is ex­ceeding broad.

'Tis very observable that the Scripture has recorded the imperfections of the People of God, even as to those particulars wherein they were most eminent. [Page 12]Thus Numb. 12.3. The Man Moses was very meek, a­bove all the Men which were upon the Face of the Earth. Yet we read, Psal. 106.33. That his Spirit was so pro­voked, that he spake unadvisedly with his Lips. Inso­much that for this reason he was not permitted to go into the promised Land, Deut. 32.51, 52. I mention not, how that when his anger was hot, he broke the Tables of Stone, written with the Finger of God, Exod. 32.19. because 'tis likely that was done by pe­culiar Divine Instinct, to shew that rebellious People how unworthy they were of so great a Blessing: And how well they themselves deserved to be broken in pieces, and utterly cast off.

Of Job 'tis said in general, Chap. 2.3. That there was none like him in the Earth, a perfect and upright Man, &c. and particularly Jam. 5.11. Ye have heard of the Pati­ence of Job. And have we not heard of his Impati­ence too? Chap. 3. when he cursed his Day, &c.

How renowned was Solomon for Wisdom! Who yet committed great Folly in Israel, even in his Old Age, 1 Kings 11.4, &c.

How remarkably forward and Zealous for Christ do we find Peter to have been upon many occasions! yet pitifully baffled by two silly Maids one after another, to the denial of his Master, Mat. 26.69, 71.

Thus you see how many strong Ones have fallen, and been wounded, even in those parts where their greatest Strength lay. Is it not then the heighth of Madness (or Fanaticism) to talk of universal Sinless perfection on this side Heaven?

Surely the most able experienc'd Christians speak at another rate. Phil. 3.12. Not as tho I had already at­tained, either were already perfect. So 1 Joh. 1.8. If we say we have no Sin, we deceive our selves, and the truth is not in us.

But if once we get safe to Heaven, we shall sin no more: Grace will then be grown up to its full maturi­ty; and shall never be weakened by any contrary Prin­ciple more. There are the Spirits of just Men made [Page 13]perfect indeed. Heb. 12.23. There are no complaints of dull Inactivity, and listlessness to spiritual work. Paul is not there crying out (as he doth in that sorrowful, yet comfortable Chapter. Rom. 7.) Me miser [...]m! O wretched Man that I am! &c. The good that I would, I do not,I am carnal, sold under Sin,Sin dwel­leth in me,Evil is present with me, —&c. No, no, there's no room for any of this there.

All those Clouds of Darkness and Confusion where­with our Minds are so over-shadowed in this present State, will then be quite dissipated and gone.

The remnants of our Disaffection and Enmity against God, which are now the matter or occasion of our most grievous and piercing Complaints, will then be perfectly mastered, and wrought out.

All these Distempers will be cured, which must needs cause so great a Pleasure, as none can have a full no­tion of but they who feel and possess it.

Then shall we find in our selves a fulness of Spiri­tual Life, Strength, and Vigour; then shall we be sur­rounded with the glorious Light of a perfect Day; then shall we be perfectly reconciled to the Love of the only Soul-satisfying Object. No wonder that Sorrow and Sighing are over, when Sin and all the cursed Ef­fects of it, which occasioned them, are done away.

How great things are spoken of the first rudiments, and imperfect beginnings of this blessed State, in that work of Grace which leads to it. The truly Godly even in this Life are all glorious within, Psal. 45.13. Chan­ged from Glory to Glory, 2 Cor. 3.18. Partakers of the Divine Nature, 2 Pet. 1.4. Thus true Grace is Glory begun in the Soul: And the Relation which it bears to the Heavenly Perfection, to which it is tending, puts an high value upon it. How much more valuable then must that Perfection it self be! If the new Creature in its present Infant-State be so aimable, what will it be when we come to perfect Manhood, when we shall arrive to the highest pitch of Excellency whereof our Natures are capable; even so high as to be com­pleatly [Page 14]qualified for the more immediate enjoyment o [...] God himself!

I had almost forgot to mention that our Bodies shal [...] be raised, spiritualized, and made like unto Christ's glori­ous Body. As to which I shall only say, that suiable Object will not be wanting to the Organs or Power wherewith they shall be endued.

Finally, tho it will remain true to all Eternity, th [...] we were once Sinners, yet 'twill be as true, that w [...] are pardoned and reconciled through Christ, and there­fore that the Guilt of our Sins shall never separate be­tween us and our God, or make us unfit for Comm [...] ­nion with him any more.

2. The actual Enjoyment of God. This it is which must compleat the Happiness of the Soul; for this en [...] it was prepared by Grace, and advanced to that high Perfection in Glory, whereof we have been speaking viz. that it might perfectly enjoy the most glorio [...] perfect God.

Under this Head there are two things which must b [...] distinctly considered, tho they cannot be really di­vided.

  • 1. The lively actings of the Soul towards God.
  • 2. Its constant reception of Communications from him.

1. All the Faculties and Powers of the perfected Soul shall be taken up with God, acting towards him terminating upon him, resting in him.

The Ʋnderstanding shall be employ'd in contempla­ting the gloriou [...] Excellencies of the Divine Nature: His Power, Wisdom, Goodness, his Truth and Faithful­ness, his glorious Holiness, that Attribute of Attributes (as one calls it) which runs as it were through all the rest, and casts a Glory upon every one, Exod. 15.11. Glorious in Holiness; his awful Majestick Soveraignty, &c. all these will then appear to open view. 'Twere easy to enlarge upon each of these, and 'tis sit you should do so; let me help you a little.

His Power] by which he made the World, stretched [Page 15]out the Heavens, laid the Foundations of the Earth, or hanged it upon nothing, poised by its own weight, set bounds to the proud waves of the Sea, and re­strained the madder Rage of the tumultuous People. Yea, that Power whereby he first drew them unto Christ, and made them willing in the Day of their Espousals with him: Even that exceeding greatness of his Power, according to the working of the might of his Power. Ephes. 1.19. and by which they have been kept through Faith unto Salvation.

His Wisdom] that appears so eminently in the Order and Harmony of all his Works: And particularly which framed and contrived the wonderful Design of our Re­demption by Jesus Chri [...] ▪ This manifold Wisdom of God which the Angels desire to look into, will then shine forth conspicuously to the ravishing of all the Be­holders, especially those who have shared most deeply in the blessed Effects of it.

His Goodness] an Attribute which he delights to ho­nour. Thus when Moses prays, Exod. 33.18. I be­seech thee shew me thy Glory: vers. 19. He said, I will make all my Goodness pass before thee, &c. Thus we read of the Riches of his Goodness, Rom. 2.4. And that none is good save one, that is God, Luk. 18.19. O how love­ly and attractive will the Divine Goodness appear to us in all the various Aspects, and Manifestations of it, when we come to Heaven! Verily, if there could be a­ny room for Grief in those Regions of Blessedness, it must certainly arise from the remembrance of the ma­ny Affronts and Indignities which we had formerly put upon this blessed Attribute, by slighting, undervaluing, or entertaining mean, low, narrow thoughts of it, &c. But here, as Goodness will triumph in overlooking the Contempts which have been put upon it, so it will not suffer us to disquiet our selves about them.

The Glory of his Truth and Faithfulness will appear, in the fulfilling of those exceeding great and precious Promises which he made, The True and Faithful God: And particularly in this, that he never suffered us to be [Page 16]tempted above what we were able, 1 Cor. 10.13. How will this be admired, when we are got safe out of the reach of all Temptations?

The Excellency of Holiness will then be known i [...] that Holy Place: and the Divine Majesty for ever a­dored by his holy Ones. But I must not stay to enlarge upon these. I have shewed you the way, exercise your own Thoughts, and you cannot want Matter Only see that your Hearts be sutably affected as y [...] go on.

Thus the Eyes of our Understandings being opened strengthned, enlarged, shall for ever feed upon the Divine Glory. Faith will be turned into Vision, we shall wa [...]k by sight.

Stop here a little, and consider what you have been reading,— How pleasant a thing is knowledg to the Soul, tho it be but that of inferior Objects? But how much more del [...]ful will it be to know him, who i [...] the Fountain of B [...]m [...], the Cause of Causes, the Spri [...] of Action, the Source and Original of all Perfection the everl [...]sting I AM? What is all other Knowledge compared to this? Then shall the Eye be satisfied with seeing; and our Joy (not Sorrow) encreased by o [...] Knowledg.

What we know of God in our present-state, is nex [...] to nothing in comparison of what we shall then know We now see but darkly, as in a Glass; our Thoughts o [...] God are weak, confused, and childish, as the Apostl [...] speaks, 1 Cor. 13.11, 12. But when that which i [...] perfect is come, these childish things must be put away and a more noble manly Knowledg succeed in thei [...] room. A sight of his Back-parts is now no small Pri­vilege, but his Face shall then be seen. Exod. 33.23.

Moreover, our Knowledg shall be transforming, ou [...] Eye shall affect our Hearts, or (as a Learned Man ex­presseth it) we shall look our selves into his Likeness Psal. 17.15. I will behold thy FaceI shall be satisful with thy Likeness. 1 Joh. 3.2. We shall be like him for we shall see him as he is.

If after all this, you desire to know whether we shall immediately behold the pure Essence of God: I answer, stay till you come thither: 'tis certain that we shall see him in his wonderful Works, we shall see him in our glorified Head. Who is the brightness of his Glory, and the express Image of his Person. Heb. 1.3. But as for the very Essence of God, whether we shall behold that, I cannot tell; but for many Reasons strongly incline to the Negative.

Our Wills shall for ever cleave unto God as the most amiable perfect Good in himself, and the most sutable Good for us: And, as such, we shall love him, and rest in him with the highest Delight and Complacency. Our Hearts will be entirely and unchangably fixed and determined for God: There will be no idolatrous▪ di­viding of them between Him and the Creature. We shall love him with a full and perfect Freedom of Spirit, and yet be sweetly constrained thereto by an happy Necessity. It will then be as easy (and infinitely more pleasant) to love him, as now it is to love our selves, our own Felicity, or our dearest Friends. To live with him, and in him, will be our very Element. To breath is not more natural here on Earth, than to love God will be in Heaven. Indeed nothing else will there be valued (no not our own selves) but in him, and for him. Then will the rich and mighty Sense of those glorious words be felt, and therefore understood, 1 Joh. 4.16. God is LOVE; and he that dwelleth in Love, dwelleth in God, and God in him. Then shall we be filled with all the Fulness of God. Eph. 3.19. The more we love him, the more we shall enjoy him. This holy Love is the end of Vision, and therefore rather to be called Beatifick than it. The Acts of the Under­standing are in order to those of the Will, and the Di­vine Glory in the compleat Blessedness of his Holy Ones the End of both.

'Tis the Saying of a great Divine [Mr. Baxter] You are deceived, if you think that any one Notion [Page 18]speaketh more to you of Heaven, and of your ulti­mate End, than the LOVE of GOD.

Then will the weary Soul be at rest, and never more disturbed with fruitless Desires and Endeavours after things which cannot profit: It hath now found its Center; no more of broken Cisterns, 'tis got to the Fountain of living Waters: It can now say, I am at ease, I have enough, I have all.

If all Love have (or rather is) Complacency and Delight in the very nature of it, as St. Augustine, and many others after him observe. O how pleasant wil [...] it be, perfectly to love, so perfect, so glorious an Ob­ject! The God of Love fit us for it: The more we love him, the nearer are we to Heaven: Be sure you re­member that, or else I lose my labour, ye your Souls.

As for the vital Power of the Soul, that acte [...] both in the workings of the Understanding and Wi [...] and makes them lively and vigorous; and will be eve [...] ready to yield obedience to the Divine Pleasure, ever [...] thing of Duty will be con-natural to it.

2. The perfected Soul shall receive everlasting Influ­ences and Communications from God: Its most enla [...] ­ged Capacities shall be compleatly filled. As in the first formation of the new Creature, we are first act [...] by the Grace and Power of God, and then act toward him, and by so acting, are fitted to receive more from him: so will it be when we come to Heaven. The glorious perfected Soul is a Creature still; and there­fore holds its ALL, in full dependence upon its God it offers nothing to him but what it hath first receive from him. He is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginni [...] and the End, the First and the Last; the Fountain [...] that Blessed LIFE by which it lives: In his LIGH [...] it sees Light, and by the continual effusions of h [...] LOVE shed abroad upon it, 'tis constrained to lo [...] him; His mighty Hand enables it to bear this weigh [...] of Glory; the Light wherein it rejoyceth is that of h [...] Countenance, and his attractive Love determines it [...] himself: It owns him in all, and is ever wrapt up [...] [Page 19]the highest admiration of condescending Goodness. 'Tis more sensible than ever of its own nothingness, as it is that God is All in All. As Heaven is a State of the highest Advancement, so it is of the deepest Humility. ‘The nearer they are to God (says one) the more apprehensive of their distance.’ For (as the same Reverend Person [Mr. Howe] observes elsewhere) ‘the distance even of a glorified Creature, from the Glorious God, is still infinitely greater than between it, and the silliest Worm, the minutest Atom of Dust.’ Hence we find that even the Seraphims veil their Faces before the infinite Majesty. Isa. 6.2. The Four and Twenty Elders fall down before him, and cast their Crowns before his Throne, worshipping him that liveth for ever and ever. Rev. 4.10, 11. Chap. 5.14. Thus run the Triumphant Praises of the New Jerusalem, No [...] unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy Name give Glory.

Such are the Exercises, such the Fruitions of those blessed Souls, who have washed their Robes, and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb. Rev. 7.14, 15. &c. Such is the Glory to which they are advanced, tho they were sometimes afar off, as well as we: Now they are near indeed, they stand in his Presence, and he that sits upon the Throne dwells among them; they know him, love him, and live to him, and feel by in­ward, sweet, vital Experience, that they are known of him, beloved by him, and that he lives in them.

As for the Adjuncts, and concurrent Circumstances, &c. of this blessed State, I shall only say,

The Place is glorious. The Throne of the Eternal God. [...]sa. 66.1. Thus saith the Lord, The Heaven is my Throne. Thus the Great Mediatour, Rev. 3.21. To him that o­vercometh will I grant to sit with me in my Throne, even as [...] also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his Throne. The light of the Sun or Moon will be needless [...]here, for the Glory of God doth lighten it, and the Lamb [...] the Light thereof. Chap. 21.23.

The Society will be sutable, even Angels and glori­fied [Page 20]Saints, all whose Happiness will be ours, and ours theirs; for narrow Selfishness hath no place there.

But that which crowns all the rest is, this Blessed­ness shall be Eternal; Rev. 3.12. Him that overcometh will I make a Pillar in the Temple of my God, and HE SHALL GO NO MORE OƲT. O blessed Words! and thrice blessed State! Happy they that are safe landed; all dangers are over with them for ever. I cannot name it without fear of missing it, yet I have Hope. The Lord forgive the Remnants of Ʋnbelief, Faintness, and Impatience, that are in us: We would needs have the Crown without overcoming: God help us patiently to wait, and quietly to trust our Almigh­ty, All-wise, and most gracious Guide. Thou shalt guide me with thy Counsel, and afterward receive me [...] Glory. Psal. 73.24. If any Man serve me, let him fol­low me; and where I am, there shall also my Servant be; if any Man serve me, him will my Father honour. John 12.26. Therefore let us not be slothful, but Following of them, who through Faith and Patience inherit the Pro­mises, Heb. 6.12.

Thus I have given you a poor, weak, imperfect Account of the Heavenly Felicity: Nevertheless from what hath been said, 'tis easy to inser, how utterly un­fit the best of us were (and all unregenerate Person still are) by Nature for this blessen State; nor will it be amiss to make some enquiry, how the Nature of Man came to be so corrupted, and ill-disposed to its Supreme Happiness, and Ultimate End? Of both these briefly, because it will prepare you to understand wha [...] is to come after.

1. 'Tis manifest that unregenerate Persons, as such and therefore all of them are utterly unfit for Heaven This is a most evident Truth; he that runs may real it: Even they themselves might easily discern it, were they not blinded, and befooled by their Lusts. On [...] would think it should not (I am sure it ought not) [...] scape their Notice, how averse their Hearts are from God, Christ, Holiness, and by consequence from Hea­ven, [Page 21]tho something there is (but they know not well what) which they pretend to desire under that Name: Carnal they are, and therefore savour not the things of the Spirit. The Spirit [...]f their Minds is inwardly and deeply disaffected towards God, Enmity (even in the Abstract) against him; alienated from him; no Pulse, no Breathing, no Tendency towards him; they care not for coming near him, but gladly would (if they knew how) secure themselves from him. Their Thoughts and Affections are taken up with other Ob­jects; their Time and Strength are laid out in pamper­ing, and caring for that Flesh which they carry to and fro with them; and therefore they love the World as affording sutable Provision for it: But the love of the Father is not in them. This their Way is their Folly; yet their Posterity approve their Sayings. Psal. 49.13.

And now, judg ye, whether such Persons be fit for the Heavenly State or no, review the Description which hath been given of it. What! Shall Men imagin them­selves meet for the Enjoyment of God, so long as they hate him, industriously exclude him from their Thought; avoid all Acquaintance with him, prefer the most empty Trifles before him, persist in wilful Rebellion against him? How should this be? At how vast a distance are such Men from Happiness! ‘Cer­tainly (as one says) the Notion and Nature of Bles­sedness must be changed, or else the Temper of their Spirits; either they must have new Hearts created, or a new Heaven if ever they be happy.’

2. Let us enquire a little how the Nature of Man came to be so depraved and unfit for its Happiness and End. Certain we are that from the beginning it was not so. God made Man upright: but he quickly lost his Integrity, by with-drawing himself from his dear Dependance upon, and Subjection to his Maker; he would needs have his Concerns in his own Hands, and be at his own disposal: Thus he sought out many In­ventions, changed his ultimate End, fell from God to himself, and so [...]came unholy and unhappy both at once; [Page 22]and was upon the very brink of the extremest Misery, and past all hope of recovery, if Infinite Wisdom and Goodness had not stept in to his Relief.

Thus by one Man Sin entered into the World: by this woful Apostacy human Nature became so corrupted; this it was that introduced those wretched Distempers of Spirit, which make Men so unfit for Heaven, as ye have heard. Hence it is that by Nature we are Children of Wrath. Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Our first Parents could not transmit to their Posterity, that Holiness and Purity of Nature, even that Holy Image of God which they had lost themselves. There­fore we are estranged from God even from the Womb, shapen in Iniquity, and conceived in Sin: And for that reason not fit for the Heavenly Glory, till we have re­ceived a new Nature, i. e. till we be wrought for this self-same thing.

So necessary it is that a mighty Change pass upon us, to prepare us for a blessed Eternity: And indeed the ve­ry Nature of that change is not obscurely intimated, and pointed at in what has been spoken: Which now we come more largely and distinctly to treat of.

CHAP. III.

A further Enquiry into the Nature of that great Change, whereby the Souls of Believers are wrought and prepared for Heaven.

I Know not who thou art that readest these Lines, but if this kind of Doctrine seem strange or uncouth to thee, (as most things do that are not after the com­mon Mode) I counsel thee to shut the Book, stop [...] [Page 23]little; and before thou proceedest any further, consider well what thou hast read already, particularly what hath been delivered concerning the Blessedness of Holy Souls in Heaven; namely, that it consists in a perfect fitness for the Enjoyment of God, and in the actual Enjoy­ment of him; in knowing him, loving him, delight­ing and resting in him, admiring, adoring, serving and praising him to all Eternity, and in receiving the most sweet and refreshing Influences and Communications from him.

Digest this well, form as distinct a conception of it as thou canst. And then put the Question to thy own Reason: What kind of preparation seems necessary to fit a Man for such an Happiness as this? And especially ask thy self, how should a Man's Heart be disposed and affected towards God in this World, that he may be qualified for perfect Happiness, and rest in the Enjoy­ment of God in a better World? Think well how thou wouldst answer this Question, as if it were for thy Life; yea know that the Life of thy Soul is concerned in it.

This (by God's Blessing) will prepare thee to un­derstand, and believe, what I am about to offer to thee. But if thou wilt not exercise thy Reason as a Man, I expect not thou should'st become a sincere Christian: For let me tell thee, serious Godliness, or true Chri­stianity, is the most rational manly thing in the World.

And now I proceed to the Point, in the following method.

  • I. I will set before you some general Account of the Nature of this great Change.
  • II. I will endeavour to shew you more distinctly the several steps whereby this blessed Work is begun, carried on, and perfected in the Soul.

As for the first of these, in general, you may observe as follows.

I. This great change consists in turning unto the LORD, from whom we have so deeply revolted. We fell from God in the Loins of our first Parents (as Levi payed Tithes in Abraham, Heb. 7.9, 10.) We brought not original Righteousness (but Natures exceedingly corrupted) into the World with us; and many actual Transgressions have proceeded from that Corruption, so that our Iniquity is become exceeding sinful; therefore we must be deeply humbled for the Wickedness of our Hearts and Lives, and so return un­to the Lord from whom we are fallen. Isa. 55.7. Let the Wicked forsake his way, and the Ʋnrighteous Man his Thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, &c. Chap. 1. 16, 17, 18. Wash ye, make you clean, put away the Evil of your doings:cease to do Evil, learn to do well:Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD. Ezek. 33.11. As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no Pleasure in the death of the Wicked;turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die. O Sirs, ye must turn, or die. All your Idols must be renounced, especially carnal SELF, to which the rest are subservient. Whatever stands in Competition or Contrariety to God, so far as it doth so, must be rejected with the greatest Abhorrence and Detestation, that you may cleave entirely to him.

They that are far from God, shall perish, Psal. 73.27. You must be brought near to him, or else you cannot possibly escape: none but he can satisfy the vast Desires of your Souls; how then should ye be happy while ye affect a distance from him: 'Tis a perfect Contradicti­on, as shall be shewn in its proper place.

All our Faculties and Powers must be wrought upon, or influenced by this great Change.

1. The Soul is naturally a vital active Substance, as appears by the Vigour and Sprightliness of its Moti­ons: yea the best Philosophy supposeth that it is never out of action. But what then? Towards God 'tis unactive, stupid, dead. And therefore it must be quick­ned by the same Power, which raised up Jesus Christ from the dead, Ephes. 1.10, 20. Ch. 2.1, 4, 5, 6. Its [Page 25] vital Power must be further enlivened, by a new Prin­ciple of Divine Spiritual Life, that it may be enabled and inclined to move readily, strongly, constantly to­wards God, from whom this Spiritual Life is derived, through Christ, and therefore it acts towards him, and terminates in him, the same way: Thus the active Pow­er must be sanctified, that we may be strong in the Lord, and in the Power of his Might, Ephes. 6.10.

Observe therefore, that this vital Faculty of the Soul is no less capable of being improved, corrobora­ted, or strengthened by holy Habits, than either of the other two, viz. The Ʋnderstanding and Will; tho these are commonly most taken notice of; it is an essential Power or Virtue of the Soul, as well as they. It susci­tates them to action, and communicates Life and Vi­gour to them (ad intra;) as it executes the Com­mands of the Will, directed by the Understanding (ad extra:) The former sort of these Acts lying deep and inward are less observed, (and by many scarce at all) the latter (viz. the Executive Acts) are more o­pen and discernable.

Therefore this vital active Power must be wrought to an holy Vivacity or Liveliness for God, that we may move towards him, and for him, readily, with Promp­titude and Quickness of Spirit: And not be Lazy or Listless to Duty; strongly, with holy Fortitude and Vigour, and not be formal, lifeless, or indifferent in Duty. What a Shame is it that Men should pretend to have Heaven in their Eye, and yet stand still, or move so slowly, as if they cared not whether ever they got thither or no? constantly, with an holy Steadfastness, not discouraged by difficulties that arise in the way, not fainting, nor weary of well doing.

2. The Soul is naturally an Intelligent Being, ca­pable of enquiring after Truth, yea, and strongly en­clined so to do. All Men are desirous of Knowledg, in one kind or other; some vehemently set upon it, and very industrious and eager in their Pursuits after it; they compass Sea and Land to attain it, and highly va­lue themselves upon it.

But then, as to the things of God, Matters of Spi­ritual and Eternal Consequence, we are by. Nature not only ignorant of them, but strangely blockish and un­disposed to a right Acquaintance with them. We not only want the actual Knowledg of them, but also a due aptitude and fitness to know them: Hence you shall find many Persons, who as to other Matters are very quick and apprehensive, but in a perfect Mist as to those Truths wherein the Welfare of their Souls is more immediately concerned; yea, Multitudes there are, who have sate so long under the Means of Knowledg, that it might justly be expected they should be able to teach others but yet are themselves so dull, that they have need to be taught again which be the first Principles of the Ora­cles of God. Heb. 5.11, 12. Others there are, who have, indeed, a Form of Knowledg. Rom. 2.20. (and it may be a Form of Godliness too) but not the Power of it: Many superficial Notions floating in their Imaginations, and not a little puff'd up with them Tho still they know nothing as they ought to know Some Acquaintance they have with Words or Signs, but are Strangers to the Things signified by them. They know not the truth as it is in Jesus, to the putting o [...] of the Old Man. Ephes. 4.21, 22. They may seem to have learned a great deal extensively, but intensively they have learn'd nothing. The Articles of their professed Creed, are not in their Faith, unless dreaming might pass for believing. Isa. 53.1. Who hath believed on Report? 1 Cor. 2.14. The natural Man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, &c. In seeing they see not; neither do they understand. Mat. 13.13.

Thus the State of Unregeneracy is a State of Dark­ness; even such as might be felt, were they not past feeling too: They are not only in the Dark, but they are Darkness. Ephes. 5.8. An impure Mass of con­globated Darkness; as one expresses it.

But when it pleaseth God by the Power of his Grace to work savingly upon a Soul, he causeth his Light to shine out of Darkness, irradiates the Understanding, [Page 27]and enables it to discern spiritual things in a spiritual manner. This is done by the special Illumination or powerful Demonstration of the Spirit: This produceth new Apprehensions of things. The Man sees with o­ther Eyes, and knows to purpose what he only thought he knew before. The Lord hath given him an Heart to perceive, Deut. 29.4. he is now convinced that Jesus Christ is the chitfest among ten Thousand, — altogether lovely, Cant. 5.10, 16. Tho formerly he could see no Form nor Comliness in him. Isa. 53.2. Now the Beauty of Holiness appears, and he is even amazed at himself to think that he saw it no sooner.

Thus Divine Light breaks in upon the Under­standing, the Day-spring from an high visits it, The new Man is renewed in Knowledg. Col. 3.10. Turn­ing unto God is a rational intelligent Act, sincere Religion moves not blindly. But that brings me to another Head.

3. The main point in this great Change is yet behind, I mean the Sanctification of the Will: This is the Facul­ty which stands it out the longest against God; being most wickedly averse from him, and therefore hardli­est brought to yield to the Importunities of his Grace. Ye will not come to me, that ye might have Life. How often would I have gathered thy Children together, even as a Hen gathereth her Chickens under her Wings, and ye would not! Mat. 23.37. My People would not hearken to my Voice: And Israel would none of me.

'Tis in this unwillingness that their Impotency doth mainly consist, they cannot find in their Hearts to com­ply. O what deep Convictions, what Fears and Ter­rours, what Pangs and Throws, what vehement Strug­lings do some undergo before they yield! And some who never yield at all! Their faint Inclinations to that which is good, are over-powered by a more strong A­version; thus the rebellious Will of Man stands it out against the Law and Grace of God. 'Tis a far easier matter to convince Men's Understandings, of the rea­sonableness and necessity of turning to God, than to [Page 28]cure that Disaffection and Enmity which is rooted in their Wills and Hearts against him. Therefore, I say, the main Work lies here, viz. In turning the bent of the Will, and putting it in a right posture God-ward; determining our Resolutions for him; powerfully and sweetly enclining us to close with him; drawing, and e­ven constraining us with the Cords of a Man, the Bands of Love: working our Hearts to that temper whereof the Psalmist's Words are very expressive, Psal. 73.25. WHOM HAVE I IN HEAVEN but Thee? &c. When this is done, then is the Heart of the Old Man broken, then the Soul stands no longer at such an unkind distance from God as it did before. But being begotten of him, hath an ingenious Child-like Affec­tion towards him. O my God, I can resist no longer; thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed; thy Love hath overcome me, victorious Grace has got the day, Other Lords, besides thee, have had Dominion over me: But by Thee only will I make mention of thy Name. Isa. 26.13. Thus they cry, Abba, Father, and feel at length how good it is to draw near to God. Psal. 73.28.

In this it is that true Grace, Holiness, or real Godli­ness doth principally consist: Namely in such an in­clination of the Will towards God; it is the giving our Hearts to him which before were most unreasonably and wickedly alienated from him. 'Tis this which he doth especially call for, insist upon, and expect from us; this he sets most by, and without it will not accept of any thing else that we can offer. Prov. 23.26. My Son, give me thine Heart. This is more than all whole Barnt-offerings and Sacrifices, Mark. 12.33. Thus the wandering Soul is brought back to its proper Center and Best.

'Tis an honest Friendly good-natured Disposition of Heart God-wards, always tempered with dutiful Reve­rence to so adorable a Majesty; who needeth not such poor silly Worms as we, but will be gracious to whom be will be gracious, and will shew Mercy on whom he will shew Mercy. Exod. 33.19. Thus the design of the [Page 29]Gospel is to bring us into Fellowship with God. 1 John 1.3. That henceforth we may converse with him as our best and dearest Friend. And confidently expect from him all that Kindness and Faithfulness which be­longs to such a Relation; and what may we not hope for from such a Friend, such a Father? Nothing shall be wanting that's fit for him to give, or for us to receive. Luk. 19.31. Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. The Love of God to his People (as one ob­serves) cannot be overset, it knows no difficulties. The greater the Performance or Vouchsafement, the more sutable to Divine Love.

Again, this great Change is an opening of our Hearts towards God, which before were shy, reserved, estran­ged, shut up against him. Tho they were always his by Title, yet not till now by Consent; before, he had (jus ad rem) a right to them; now, he hath (jus in re) an actual Interest in them, and Possession of them. The Everlasting Doors are now opened, and the King of Glory is entered in. Psal. 24. Thus we give unto God the things that are God's.

How shall I make it plainer? 'Tis a sincere, deep, inward, hearty, prevailing Love to him, who is Love and Goodness it self. This is the Life and Substance of all true Religion, the fulfilling of the Law in one Word, LOVE. Without this thou hast only the shadow of Holiness, but really art nothing, 1 Cor. 13.2.

The Truth is, the Will is the first Subject of moral Good and Evil: 'Tis turned from God by Sin, yea and set against him. Grace reduceth and reconciles it to him again; so that the tendencies of the renewed Soul are towards God, that it may know him more, love and serve him better, be brought yet nearer to him; and more fully conformed to his Will. It detests all thoughts of Happiness in which the Enjoyment of God is not included; or rather which is not wholly includ­ed in that Enjoyment. ‘He says unto the Lord, Thou art my God, I cannot take up with any thing [Page 30]else for my Portion and Supreme Good; my Soul panteth after thee, longeth for thee, and is even weary of it self to find any Remnants of its old A­version from thee. These are my daily Groans, O that I could ascend more! Send forth, O Lord, thy powerful attractive Love, let that holy Flame con­sume my Dross, that the nobler part may know in home, its rest, its all. How precious are thy Thoughts unto me, O God, how great is the sum of them▪ I knew in some measure long since that none but God could make me compleatly happy, I have often heard of this by the hearing of the Ear, but now I know it better, mine Eye sees it, I find and feel that my Soul is otherwise affected towards thee than i [...] was before.’

Thus the Passage betwixt the Head and Heart is o­pened, thus the Will is determined for God: And those Truths which before only hovered in the Brain, or Imagination, sink down, work into the very Soul, and attemper it to themselves.

I have been somewhat large upon this Head, but all's little enough to make unregenerate Persons understand these things, tho still they pretend to love God. But I proceed:

4. The sensitive Passions or Affections must also be sanctified, so as to fall in with the superior Faculties (especially the Will) and be subservient to them, in order to the great Ends of Holiness or Religion. That is, they must be devoted unto God, exercised upon him and for him. The rational and sensitive Appetite are so nearly connexed, at least in this Life, that the Acts of the former (so far as we perceive them) al­ways take in somewhat of the latter, and are com­monly described accordingly.

Moreover, the Passions of Affections are oft-times an occasion, or means, to awaken and excite our Reason and Will to do their duty; and therefore of exceeding great use, if rightly managed and improved.

And tho the great Work of Grace lies principally [Page 31]in the higher Faculties of the Soul, as intellectual: Namely in the vital active Power, Ʋnderstanding and WILL: And must there be mainly sought and enqui­red after. viz. Whether we have an high Estimation of God, and do resolvedly and rationally cleave to him, endeavouring to act sutably in our Lives and Conversa­tions, &c.

Again, tho it must be granted that our Passions are not so apt to be moved by spiritual and invisible Ob­jects as by sensible things that are near us, &c. and withal, that they are many times strongest, where Judgment is weakest, and very uncertain too, as depend­ing much upon the Constitution of the Body, &c.

Yet, I must needs say, that those Persons whose Affections move sensibly and freely toward other things, but scarce stir at all as to the best and highest Ob­jects, are certainly in a weak and languid State of Soul, if not quite dead.

If we be indeed risen with Christ; then, as we ought, so we shall, in some measure, set our Affecti­ons on things above, Col. 3.1, 2. If the Will be pre­dominantly for God, 'tis not to be supposed but that the Affections will in some degree go along with it, and if they move but slowly, it will be matter of Grief, and will put us upon earnest Strivings to raise them to a bet­ter Frame.

'Tis past doubt that true Grace tends in its own Nature to heal all the Diseases of the Soul, to rectify all its Faculties and Powers, and so the Passions and Affections amongst the rest: That is, to take them off from wrong Objects, to moderate their Excesses, to turn them into a right Channel; nor are these tenden­cies fruitless, the Effect is, in part accomplisht. So far as this great Change takes place and prevails in the Soul, the Affections of Love, Desire, Joy, Delight, Hatred, Sorrow, Fear, and the rest, will be moving to­wards their proper Objects and Ends. We shall hate and abhor what is displeasing to God; mourn that we have so often offended; earnestly desire to be accepted [Page 32]with him; and to enjoy more of him, hunger and thirst after Righteousness. And therefore, we shall strive to love God more seelingly, and so to rejoice and delight in him; and tho many Impediments and Dif­ficulties arise in our way, yet still Grace will be tend­ing to these things. And we are greatly wanting to our selves, if we do not daily endeavour to stir up the Grace of God that is in us, that all the Powers of our Souls may be quickened more and more in their Moti­ons by it: If we stay till our Affections stir of them­selves, we may wait long enough. 'Tis our part ac­tively to concur with and by that gracious Help which is afforded us, in order to the qu [...]ckening and spiritu­alizing of them, and bringing them more under the command of the Will, till at length they be accustom'd and inured to move more naturally, freely and strongly Heaven-ward.

Nor must we faint or be discouraged tho we find our Hearts sluggish and averse to such work as this: We must persist in duty notwithstanding this Indisposition. And wait for God's Help in his own way: Yea we must cast our selves into his Arms, tho he may seem, as it were, to shut up himself from our Prayers, and to withhold the sweet Influences of his Grace. It may be he withdraws to see how we will take it; shall we not lament (and follow so much the harder) after him? what tho we have not sensible Comfort, let us stay our selves on him; and against Hope believe in Hope. Rom. 4.18. Duties are sweet when recovered out of the Hand of Temptations and Difficulties; we are bound, but God is free: What you want as to the seeling of Affection, make out in deep and rational Resolutions for God, and ye will get ground even while ye think ye lose it.

5. Even the Body it self must be sanctified, that is, presented or devoted unto God, and used for him. This is the Will of God, that every one of us possess his Ves­sel in Sanctification. 1 Thess. 4.3, 4. That Sin reign not in our Mortal Body, but that we yield our Members as In­struments [Page 33]of Righteousness unto God. Rom. 6.12, 13. Our Bodies are for the Lord,they are Members of Christ, &c. 1 Cor. 6.13, 15. Temples of the Holy-Ghost, vers. 19. The Body must be used as a Servant to the Soul, and both employed in the Service of God. 1 Cor. 6.20. Glorify God in your Body, and in your Spi­rit which are God's. 'Tis true indeed that bodily Ex­ercise profiteth little, without or in comparison of that which is spiritual. 1 Tim. 4.8. To bow the Knee, while our Spirits remain stubborn and unbroken. To lift up our Eyes Heaven-ward, if our Souls be not al­so lifted up. To draw nigh to God with our Lips when our Hearts are far from him, is an Addition of Hypocrisy to all the rest of our Iniquity. But on the other hand, 'tis as true that if our Souls be for God, our Bodies will be subservient to them, and their Members accordingly used by them. The Eyes will be opened to behold the wonderful Discoveries which he hath made of himself in his Works, and in his Word: The Ears to hear the Instructions of Wisdom: The Lips to praise and magnify Him, and by spiritual Discourse to edify others, feed many, and minister Grace to the Hearers.

Therefore, tho our Hearts must be first look'd at in the Service of God. Yet care must also be taken that our Words and Deportment be also sutable and becom­ing; because outward Worship is expressive of that which is inward, and reflects back again upon the Heart it self: As Habits are strengthened and increased by the Acts which flow from them; so are internal Affections by correspondent Expressions and Behaviour in Duty. Tho we must not so cry up and magnify the Externals of Worship, as to overlook the inward Life and Soul of it, as Hypocrites who love to be seen of Men are wont to do. So on the other Hand, we ought not to pretend our good Meanings or Spirituality in Divine Worship, to excuse us from befitting Gestures or outward Demeanour therein: Nor must we be for­ward to judg and censure others, as if they were meer [Page 34]Ceremonious Hypocrires, because they seem to put Religion into a more fine or formal dress, than we our selves have been used to. In short, let us neither be rude nor antick in Matters of this Nature; but let the Frame of our Spirits, as also our Words and Gestures be reverent, grave and serious, lest we be found guil­ty of prophaning holy things. God is to be worship­ped by the whole Man.

Thus ye see that our intellectual and sensitive Facul­ties, yea and our Bodies too must according to their se­veral Capacities be all sanctified and devoted unto God. Which is fully comprehended in those Words of the Apostle, 1 Thess. 5.23. And the very God of Peace sanc­tify you wholly: And I pray God your whole SPIRIT, and SOƲL, and BODY be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thus much for the first Head, viz. That this great Change consists in turning unto the Lord from whom we have so deeply revolted.

II. Since it is only in and through Jesus Christ that God is reconcilable to fallen Man, 'tis highly necessa­ry that we have a due regard to him in this Matter.

Joh. 14.6. No Man cometh unto the Father but by me. So vers. 19. of this Chapter, God was in Christ recon­ciling the World unto himself. Neither is there Sal­vation in any other. Acts 4.12. As God himself is our ultimate End, so Jesus Christ is the principal means and way to bring us to that End. The Will of God is so fully declared in this Point, viz. That we can have no access to the Father but by the Son, that it would be insolent daring Presum [...]ption for us to attempt it any other way. Never think of approaching the Presence of God, transacting with him, presenting your selves or services to him, or of expecting any Favour from him, but in and through Christ. Joh. 5.23. He that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Fa­ther which hath sent him. 'Tis therefore requisite that we set an high value upon this great Mediatour, that we dearly love him, and sincerely commit our selves [Page 35]to his Conduct, that he may bring us to God. As all the Divine Favours and Blessings are communicated to us through Christ, Ephes. 1.3. 2 Pet. 1.3. So we our selves, and all our Sacrifices must be offered unto God the same way: That is, we must ascend unto him by the same Medium through which he descends to us: or else no acceptance is to be look'd for. 1 Pet. 2.5. How should guilty Rebels adventure into the Presence of the Holy, Righteous, Sin hating God, but by him who hath made Atonement for our Sins? Take [...]eed therefore that you leave not him out. Remem­ber, it is upon Terms of Grace that we are received in­to Covenant with God, and of that Covenant Christ [...]s the Mediatour; who therefore has taught us to dis­tinguish between Faith in God, as God, and in himself, [...]s Mediator. Joh. 14.1. Ye believe in God, believe also in me. 'Tis well for us that we have him to stand betwixt us and all Danger, lest the consuming Fire should break forth upon us, and our Blood be mingled with our Sacrifices.

Hence we find Repentance toward God, and Faith [...]oward our Lord Jesus Christ joined together, as the Sum and Substance of the Apostle's Preaching, Act [...] 20.21. The former of these is the changing of the Mind, or the turning of the Soul [ [...]] from Sin and Vanity to God, as our End: The latter is an [...]pplying of our selves to Jesus Christ, as the way to [...]hat End. That is, we must return unto God as our God, by alively Faith in his Son as our Prince and Sa­viour, without whom neither Pardon nor Peace can be expected.

Not as if the Father was of himself averse to Mer­cy or Compassion, but only prevail'd upon, and as it were over-perswaded thereto by the Death-Merits and Intercession of his Son. Have a care of such Blasphe­mous Conceits as these, than which nothing is more directly contrary to the design of the Gospel. But still remember, it was not becoming the Majesty and Holiness of God, nor agreeable to the ends of Govern­ment, [Page 36]to receive such as we are into favour immediately but through a Mediator, whom of his own free Love [...] hath provided for us. John 3.16. For God so lo [...] the World, &c. So here verse 18. All things are of God [...] who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus. 'Tis a gre [...] Duty indeed, to admire the love of the Son: But O [...] not forget to admire also the Father's love.

III. And because it is the Office of the Holy Spirit to apply and communicate the Grace of Christ, there­fore it concerns us to own, eye, and acknowledg h [...] accordingly in this whole business. As Jesus Christ [...] the Way to the Father: So the Holy-Ghost is the Wa [...] ­ness of the Son, his Agent upon Earth, his Advoca [...] with the Sons of Men, to plead his Cause, and to di [...] ­pense his Grace. Who is therefore called by Tertula [...] [Christi Agens & Vicarius] and by a Learned Man [...] our own, the Supreme Minister of Christ's King­dom.

Therefore tho' all the Persons [or Subsistences in the blessed Trinity do concur to the production [...] the new Creature, yet this great work of Sanctification is by a certain peculiar eminency of Attribution a­scribed to the Holy Spirit. 'Tis called the Sanctification of the Spirit. 2 Thess. 2.13. 1 Pet. 1.2. It is the Spi­rit that quickeneth, enlighteneth, and draweth or Souls to Christ, and to the Father by him. Therefore in all our Motions, and Tendencies God ward, we m [...] look unto this Spirit for help; and act Faith upon him for the Assistances and Influences of his Grace: If w [...] attempt any thing of this nature in our own strength we shall certainly be baffled in our endeavours, and make nothing of it. We ought to cry hard after the Spirit, and carefully to observe all his Accesses to us, and the impressions of his Grace upon us; and always to strike in with his Motions; to do most when he helps most: and thus our work will be like to succeed, and prosper in our Hand.

Great care is to be taken how we carry it towards him, that we may not quench, resist, grieve, or vex the [Page 37]Spirit, either by stifling Convictions, or running coun­ [...]er to the dictates of Conscience, or by foolish Delays, [...]nd Slothfulness. The help of the Spirit is to be ex­ [...]ected in a diligent, humble, conscientious attendance [...]pon him in his own way, viz. The use of his ap­ [...]ointed Means. O remember that your Duties, Gra­ [...]s, and Comforts, will all be dead things, or nothing, [...] the Spirit of God be not the Life of them all. His [...]race must be thankfully acknowledged in all the [...]rength we get, in all the progress we make, and we [...]ust still depend upon him for more: Yea, we ought [...] be more distinct, and explicit, in the workings of [...]aith towards him, than commonly we are? We were [...]ptized in the Name of the Holy-Ghost, as well as of [...]e Father, and the Son: The three Persons are one [...]od, equal in Power and Glory; in this Trinity none is [...]ore or after other; none is greater or less than ano­ [...]er. Whence then cometh it to pass, that we are [...] defective in that part of the Life of Faith, which [...]specteth the third Person? This is a great dishonour [...] him, and an injury to our selves. But I must not [...]y to enlarge upon that here.

I only add. 'Tis the Office of the Spirit to help our [...]firmities: Rom. 8.26. Through him we must mortify the [...]eds of the Body, that we may live. Ver. 13. By him [...] Love of God is shed abroad in the Hearts of Believers. [...] 5.5. He seals them to the day of Redemption. [...]itnesseth with their Spirits that they are the Chil­dren of God. Is the earnest of our Inheritance: But [...] any Man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none [...] his.

Thus I have shewed you the nature of this great work, [...]. That it is the turning of a Person to God in Christ, [...]en to know, love, and live to him, and all this by the [...]ace and Help of the Holy Spirit.

Thus, I say, we must be qualified and prepared for [...]e Heavenly Glory.

CHAP. IV.

Of the several Steps whereby this blesse [...] Work is begun, carried on, and per­fected in the Soul.

HAving thus far opened the Nature of that gr [...] Work, whereby we must be prepared for H [...] ven, if ever we come thither: I come now to cons [...] more distinctly the order wherein 'tis carried on, [...] how 'tis begun, advanced, and perfected.

And here I design not to trouble you with over [...] rious Enquiries about the way and manner of [...] Spirit's working on the Souls of Men, or how the [...] ficacy of Grace is reconcilable with the natural li [...] ty of the rational Creature: But shall content my [...] to wave Controversies, and insist upon some few pl [...] necessary, acknowledged Truths, as being most s [...] to the intent of this Discourse. And they are [...] that follow:

First. There are certain previous workings of a [...] common sort of Grace, whereby God is wont to [...] pare Men for special saving Grace.

'Tis his usual Method to bring his Works (wh [...] of Nature or Grace) to their intended Perfection [...] degrees. He delights to glorify his Power, [...] and Goodness, by advancing things to an observable be [...] ty and excellency from very small, or seemingly [...] considerable beginnings. Not to speak of the [...] Creation of the World, or of the fashioning of [...] Child in the Womb, and the production of other [...] nimals, and also Vegetables, &c. It is easy to take [...] tice of the various Dispensations of the Law (or [...] [Page 39]venant) of Grace, and the gradual increase of Scrip­ture-Light and Discoveries, till at length the Sun of Righteousness himself appeared, Heb. 1.1, 2, 3.

But to come to the point: 'tis certain, the new Crea­ture is wrought by degrees; and as God hath appointed a course of Means to be used, Duties to be performed in order to our Conversion, and Salvation: So he af­fords the help of his Grace in various Measures, as seems meet [...]o his Infinite Wisdom.

Thus there are some commoner Operations of the Ho­ly Spirit, which usually go along with the Gospel, and put Men into a nearer preparation, for special Grace than they were in before. Tho' God may sometimes, even in an instant, convert the most unprepared obdu­rate Persons; yet it is not his ordinary Metho [...] so to do, nor have any such Persons reason to expect to be thus dealt with.

As the Word is the Instrument by which God work­eth upon Souls, so he first enables them in some mea­sure to understand it, and then to believe it, and so by it he awakes them from their stupid Security; convin­ceth them of the Sinfulness, and Danger of an unre­generate State: Makes them solicitous about their e­ternal Welfare. What shall I do to be saved? How shall I escape the Damnation of Hell? Thus they are brought to see their need of Christ, as Men that are lost and undone without him: As also to perceive the necessity of Holiness in order to Happiness: Hereupon they make some Resolutions and fair Promises of amend­ment, and put forth some seemingly hopeful endea­vours to become new Men: Insomuch that they are almost perswaded to be Christians indeed; and are not far from the Kingdom of God: Tho' they must be brought yet nearer, or else they are lost for ever.

Now tho' all this fall short of a through Change, yet it hath a preparatory tendency thereto. Somewhat of this kind ordinarily goes before the work of Conver­sion. Therefore such Impressions are not to be slight­ed, 'tis dangerous to smother Convictions, by suffer­ing [Page 40]the noise, and hurry of the worldly Business, or sensual Delights, to divert our Thoughts from these things.

Secondly. Special saving Grace determines the Soul to a sincere and hearty closure with God in Christ. Here is the turning point; this it is to which the fore­mention'd preparations tend: And in which they must issue, and terminate to make us Christians indeed: 'Till this be done, the Person is in a carnal unregene­rate State. We turn not unto God as God, if we turn not to him as the chief Good; and we turn not to him as the chief Good, so long as we prefer any other Object or Interest before him. I know indeed, that the best of Men may sometimes have hankering Desires after their former Idols, and for this they la­ment, and mourn in secret: But still the stated, prede­minant, habitual bent of their Hearts is for God; and there is nothing which they more loath themselves for, than because they love God no more. Hinc illae l [...] ­chrimae.

Mark 12.30. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy Heart, and with all thy Soul, and with all thy Mind, and with all thy Strength. How many Alls are here? ‘Yet (says one) if we had ten thousand times more Powers and Principles, we ought to love God with them all too. It is an emphatical Translation of that Elegant Text of the Apostle Rom. 5.5. The Love of God is shed abroad in our Hearts, — a co­vering of the Soul, as the Waters cover the Sea. — O that God would fill up all my Capacities, and make me yet more capacious! O that he would take up all the room in me, and O that he would make for himself more room in my Soul! Mr. Shaw's Meditations, pag. 30, 31.

Can you imagin that you love God at all in a saving sense, if ye love him not above all? Why, this holy Love is the grand significant vital Motion of the Soul; 'tis the Root from whence all acceptable Service springs, and upon which it grows; or the Principle in­to [Page 41]which it is resolved: 'Tis for want of this, that car­nal Minds are not subject to the Law of God, neither indeed can be. Rom. 8.7. Our Eye must be singly fix'd upon God, as our Supream End and chief Good; and so it will be full of Light; and our Hearts must be accordingly affected towards him. A double Mind, a Heart and a Heart, (as 'tis in the Hebrew, Psal. 12.2.) is hateful in the sight of God. A divided Heart is a faulty Heart, Hos. 10.2. Hence turning unto God with the whole Heart, is opposed to Treachery, Falshood, and an hypocritical shew of Conversion. Jer. 3.10. Her treacherous Sister Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole Heart, but feignedly, saith the Lord.

As for the Interest of the great Mediatour in this matter, himself hath plainly shew'd us that if we love Father, or Mother, Wife, or Children, &c. yea, or our own Lives, more than him, we are not worthy of him, can­not be his Disciples. Mar. 10.37. Luke 14.26. Ye see here how he insists upon the prevailing degree of our love to him.

And indeed the serious contemplation of the love of God in Christ, is a most powerful Means to raise up our Souls to sutable returns of love to God again. He that hath known the Son, hath also known the Father, Joh. 14.7.

Behold here, and admire the wonderful Wisdom that appears in the contrivance of our Redemption: Our Sin had brought us under the just Wrath and Dis­pleasure of the Almighty: And also had corrupted our very Vitals, and turned our Hearts against God. And now let us see how aptly things were laid for the removal of both these, that so the Reconciliation might be mutual, and compleat. He to us, and we to him, 2 Cor. 5.18, 19, 20.

God hath provided a ransom for us, to make way for his being reconciled to us, without any reflection upon himself, or his Government. To this end he hath sent his Son into the World, to reveal his Love, and Grace, and to do, and suffer so much for us.

And that we might be capable of a saving Intere [...] in the benefits of this great Redemption, we are obli­ged to believe in the Redeemer, and by him in God 2 Cor. 3.4. 1 Pet. 1.21. Now 'tis plain that such [...] Faith tends in its own Nature, to produce holy Lo [...] to God, (who hath thus first loved us) and so to ef­fect the Reconciliation on our part. Study this well, the substance of Christianity is contained in it.

‘As Christ as Mediatour, is the summary mean and way to the Father, to bring Man home to his Creatour: So Faith in Christ is a mediating Grace, to work in us the Love of God. As Mr. Baxter ha [...] it.’

‘No other Grace or Duty is accepted of God nor will prove our Salvation, any further than i [...] participateth of predominant Love to God: But thi [...] predominant Love is always an evidence of Life ibid.

Thirdly. The same Power which hath brought the work thus far, doth maintain, and keep alive the Prin­ciple of Grace implanted in the Soul. Our Spiritua [...] Life (no less than the Natural) depends upon the con­tinual influx of its Almighty Author. In him we live, and move, and have our Being; not only as Men, but as Christians, or new Men. The Strength of that habi­tual Grace subjected in us, would never hold our, with­out daily Influences of efficient Grace still working upon us. Thus we are kept by the Power of God, through Faith unto Salvation, 1 Pet. 1.5. And preserved unto his Heavenly Kingdom, 2 Tim. 4.18.

We know what woful work our first Parents made, when their Concerns were left in their own Hands; how shamefully they betray'd their Trust, and ruined at once themselves, and their Posterity; and this through the meer mutability of their Nature, tho' upright, and innocent, as it came out of God's Hand. What then might be expected from us, who have not only mutable Natures, but great Remnants of Sin and Corruption, even in the very best of us. Surely if our [Page 43]stock of Grace were left only to our own management, we should soon turn Bankrupts.

Let it be considered, that Grace is not a natural, but supernatural Principle; not essential, but an additional to our Beings; not born with us, but as it were a stranger, or new comer in us: And that our Hearts are not wholly dispossessed of those Objects which are against its work, nor delivered from those Principles which have an enmity to it: Yea, that we often lose some degrees of it, and therefore should quickly lose the rest, if the divine Power were not engaged in our Preservation, and that Faithfulness which will not suffer us to be tempted above what we are able, 1 Cor. 10.13. This holy Seed would soon come to nothing in so un­kindly a Soil as our Hearts are, were it not cherish'd and watered by the same Hand that placed it there. This Spark of Divine Light would quickly be extin­guish'd, if not kept in, and refreshed, by continual Emanations from the Father of Lights.

'Tis true we are commanded to keep our Hearts with all diligence, [or above all keeping] Prov. 4.23. To stand upon our guard, to be stedfast and unmoveable. That is, we must put forth our utmost Endeavours, (for God works by means) but if we trust to our Hearts, we are Fools, Prov. 28.26. I may allude to that Psal. 127.1. Except the Lord keep the City, the Watch-man waketh but in vain.

Well then, we must do our utmost to keep that good thing that is committed to us; but how? By the assis­tance of the Holy-Ghost, which dwelleth in us. 2 Tim. 1.14. So Jude 21. Keep your selves in the Love of God. But then vers. 24, 25. He teacheth them to look higher than their own Endeavours in this matter. Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling;To the only wise God our Saviour, be Glory, and Majesty, Domi­nion, and Power, both now, and ever. Amen.

Fourthly. By the same Almighty Power, the new Creature is carried on gradually towards its designed Perfection. Phil. 1.6. Being confident of this very thing, [Page 44]that he which hath begun a good work in you, will per­form [or finish] it, until the Day of Jesus Christ. The Life of Grace is not only kept whole in the Soul, but more abundant Life given it: According to the design of its merciful Saviour. Joh. 10.10. I am come that they might have Life, and that they might have it more a­bundantly. That Heavenly Light which hath shined in upon it, increaseth more and more unto a perfect Day. Prov. 4.18. The principle of holy LOVE is cherish'd, and blown up, till at length it come to a pure and perfect Flame.

That which hath been already wrought is good, so far as it goes; but the blessed Author of it will not leave his work imperfect; it shall be all very good, be­fore he has done with it. As at the first Creation, Gen. 1.31. God intends for his Children not only a Per­fection of parts, but of degrees: And in so doing, he deals with them according to the manifest Tendency of that divine Nature, whereof he hath made them Partakers.

Can any thing be more agreeable, than for those who have tasted that the Lord is gracious, to desire more full, and satisfying relishes of his Grace? And has he given them those Desires to abuse, and torment them? It cannot be. Surely those that hunger and thirst after Righteousness, shall be filled. Mat. 5.6. Yea by how much the greater their Longings are, so much the fit­ter for large Communications. Psal. 81.10. Open thy Mouth wide, and I will fill it. Ask great things, and with earnest Desires, and ye shall receive, that your Joy may be full.

This leaves a black Note upon those who are at a stand in Matters of Religion; make no progress, but seem well enough content with the measures to which they have attained. I tell you, such Persons have great reason to suspect their own Sincerity; nay, if this be their stated, constant, habitual Temper, they may justly be pronounced Hypocrites. He that thinks he hath Grace enough, has certainly no true saving [Page 45]Grace at all. Living Natures, as Plants, Children, &c. thrive till they come to Perfection. Pieces of Art, or dead Things, as the Image of a Child, a withered Plant, are at a stand, or grow worse. Phil. 3.14. I press to­ward the Mark. Sincerae sanctitatis inse parabile signum est. desiderium sincerum perfectionis. Method. Theol. part 3. pag. 216. A sincere Desire of Perfection, is an inse­perable Sign of sincere Holiness.

Is it to be thought that that Man has any saving Knowledg of God, or sincere hearty Love to him, who doth not desire to know him better, and to love him more? Ye that have experienc'd what these things mean, consider of it, take advice, and speak your Minds. But as for empty lifeless Hypocrites, I except against them, they are not competent Judges in the Case: Because they savour not the things of the Spirit, but have their Judgments bribed, and over-swayed, by the Fleshly Interest.

We are expressly commanded to grow in Grace, to be always abounding in the work of the Lord. And it must needs be of ill Signification, as to our State, if such commands weigh nothing with us.

But with the truly Godly it is not so; the Grace which they have already received, inclines them to la­bour after more, tho' still it is God that worketh in them. Heb. 13.20, 21.

Fifthly, and Lastly. The Souls of Believers are at their death made perfect in Holiness. Somewhat hath been spoken of this already, which is now to be fur­ther illustrated and proved. The Scripture assures us, that the Souls of the Godly, being separated from their Bodies, do pass into Glory, or into the Presence of Christ, Abraham's Bosom. Thus our Lord tells the Penitent Thief, Luk. 23.43. To Day shalt thou be with me in Paradise. So the Apostle in this Context, We are willing rather to be absent from the Body, and to be present with the Lord. vers. 8. We are also told, that the Angels shall be our Convoys to bring us thither. Luke 16.22. Now 'tis certain, that no unclean thing, nothing [Page 46]that defileth can enter into the heavenly state. From whence it follows, that the Souls of the Faithful shall then be perfectly freed from all sinful Weaknesses; and therefore must need: be perfectly holy: For 'tis Non-sense to suppose a middle state in this case, viz. in a rational Creature, obliged by the Law of its Nature, to a perfect conformity to the Will of its Creaton. But what needs further reasoning, when we are plain­ly told of the Spirits of just Men-made perfect?

Thus 'tis evident, that when Death hath opened the Womb of Time, or drawn aside the Vail, and let us into Eternity; all our sinful Imperfections will be lest behind us; and never trouble us more. How weak so­ever our present Insant-sta [...]e on Earth is; there is no­thing above but perfect Holiness, and Love. Thus the Day of Death is the Birth-day of the gracious Soul's Perfection. This is our third Birth (as one speaks) and therefore no wonder if there be some Pangs, and Difficulties in it: As there was in the Birth of Nature, and in that of Grace, so in this of Glory. Should not the thoughts of this make Death welcome? It may be you will say, Death is an Enemy to Nature. But is it not a conquered Enemy? Has not our Lord Jesus Christ, even in our Nature overcome it? Has he not taken away the sting of it? And in so doing, gained us the victory. 1 Cor. 15.55. &c. Yea, by the Pow­er and Wisdom of our mighty Redeemer, this Ene­my, Death, is turned to our advantage; To die is gain. Is in terrible to Nature? What is Faith for, but to con­quer such Fears? Must we not die in Faith, as well as live by is?

But to return to the Point.

'Tis no wonder if such sinful imperfect Creatures as we, be much at a loss in our apprehensions concern­ing a State of Sin less Perfection, both as to the nature of it, and the manner how 'tis brought about: But for all this, it is not hard to conceive, that there are seve­ral things which may greatly contribute thereto. I will just name three Particulars,

  • 1. These Bodies will then be laid aside, and who knows not what heavy Weights, what Prisons, what Snares they have been to our Souls? Bodies of Sin, and Death, God knows, Rom. 7.23, 24.
  • 2. And therefore, those holy Habits which had the commanding Influence upon the Hearts and Lives of true Believers; but were miserably obscured, and kept at an under by the Mists and Darkness of the ani­ [...]nal State, shall then display themselves, and appear in their own likeness: Which is not unintelligible, espe­cially if the nature of an habit, consist in a secret, deep, [...]mperceptible constant act of the Soul; and who can say it doth not so?
  • 3 The admission of the Soul into the sight of the glorious God; this is much to be considered in this matter.

'Tis easy to enlarge upon all these, but to what pur­pose? Tu ratiocinare, ego credam. The Physician of [...]our Souls knows how to perfect their Cure, in ways to [...]us incomprehensible.

Thus we have considered the several Steps, whereby the work of Grace is begun, and carried on till it come to Perfection.

I would only add, that in this whole Business no vi­olence is done to our natural Faculties: Grace pre­supposeth Nature, which it heals, and rectifies, but doth not destroy; tho' the workings of the Spirit in this matter be powerful, and efficacious, yet they are also sweet and agreeable. They will act most freely, when made free by Grace; 'tis so determin'd, that it also determines it self; that is, it moves spontaneously to­wards God, or, having received the influx of his Grace, actively concurs therewith, viz. Being first a­nimated, and quickened thereby. And thus much for the explication of the Doctrine.

CHAP. V.

Plain Proof from Scripture, and th [...] nature of the thing, that none ca [...] come to Heaven, till they be wrought, or prepared for it by Divine Grace.

THO' what has been already said, in order [...] the opening of the Doctrine, hath at the sai [...] time carried the Proof thereof along with it; th [...] great Truth having so much Self-evidence in it, th [...] one would think, being once understood, it could no [...] but be assented to; yet because 'tis exceeding common for Men to bear up themselves with the hopes of Hea­ven, tho' they be utter Strangers to this great work of Grace; and withal, because it is very dangerous s [...] to do: Therefore let me give you the Proof of wh [...] has been thus far explained, and set before you.

Men are slower of belief, as to this great Article [...] the Christian Doctrine, than to most (I might say a [...]y) other, as a Learned Man observes, [Mr. How's Blessed­ness of the Righteous, pag. 242.]

But, Let God be true, but every Man a Liar, Rom. 3.4. Therefore,

1. None are chosen to Salvation, but through San­ctification of the Spirit. God's eternal decree of E­lection connecteth the End and the Means, Holiness and Happiness, Grace and Glory, together. The Scripture is most full and plain in this case. Rom. 8.29. Whom he did foreknow, them, he also did predesti­nate to be conformed to the Image of his Son. And what follows? Them he also called, justified, glorified. Ephes. 1.4. According as he hath chosen us in him before the [Page 49]Foundation of the World, that we should be holy, and without blame before him in LOVE, 2 Tim. 1.9. Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy Cal­ling, not according to our works, but according to his own Purpose and Grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus, before the World began. See more 2 Thess. 2.13. 1 Pet. 1, 2. Is it not plain from these Scriptures, that there is such a thing as Election of particular Persons to e­ternal Life: And that as God doth decree to give e­ternal Life upon certain conditions, so he doth also decree to give those conditions to certain Persons: And the execution of the Decree is ever answerable to the Decree it self? Ephes. 1.11. Being predestinated according to the purpose of him, who worketh all things after the counsel of his own Will. Deny this, and you may deny any thing. Will you reverse the Decrees of Heaven, or deny them, because they sure not with your own carnal Temper? Or will you try to put a­sunder what God has join'd together? Or expect to be saved without being first sanctified? The Counsel of the Lord that shall stand, Prov. 19.21. If ever ye come to to Heaven, ye must first be conformed to the holy Image of Jesus Christ, or sanctified by his Spi­rit.

Is not eternal Life the Gift of God, and has he not told us the way in which he hath determin'd to give it, and is it not downright madness to expect it out of God's way?

If therefore you be sollicitous concerning your e­verlasting Welfare, do not take the preposterous course of those Persons, who beginning at the wrong end first, amuse themselves about the eternal Decrees of God; remember secret things belong to him, revealed to you; therefore turn your Thoughts inward, examin whether you have been effectually called, so as to consent to the holy Covenant, and if so, ye may comsortably conclude concerning your Election. 2 Pet. 1.10. 2 Cor. 13.5.

But because there are some Persons, who affect to [Page 50]cavil against this sort of Doctrine; I have thought meet to transcribe part of the 17th Article of the Church of England. Valeat quantum valere potest.

‘Predestination to Life, is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the Foundations of the World were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his Counsel, secret to us, to deliver from Curse and Damnation, those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of Mankind, and to bring them by Christ to Everlasting Salvation, as Vessels made to honour Wherefore, they which be endued with so excellent a Benefit of God, be called according to God's pur­pose by his Spirit, working in due Season: They through Grace obey the Calling: They be justified freely: They be made Sons of God by Adoption. They be made like the Image of his only begotten Son Jesus Christ: They walk religiously in good Works, and at length by God's Mercy they attain to Everlasting Felicity, &c.

To conclude; you must either acknowledg the De­cree of Election, or say that all Men shall be saved, [...] that none shall be so. For nothing can be more evi­dent than that God decrees whatsoever he effects.

2. Redeeming Love hath joined Sanctification and Salvation together. It was no part of our Blessed Sa­viour's design, to procure the admission of unholy Souls (while such) to Heaven: That would have been to have laid Heaven and Hell common. But he hath made way for the Communication of that Grace which must fit us for Glory, and then for our entrance thereinto. 1 John 3.8. He that committeth Sin, is o [...] the Devil, for the Devil sinneth from the beginning. Fo [...] this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that [...]e might destroy the works of the Devil. Matth. 1.21. He shall save his People from (not in) their Sins. Ti [...] 2.14. Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all Iniquity, and purity unto himself a peculiar Peo­ple, zealous of good works. Ephes. 5.25, 26. Christ loved the Church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify, and cleanse it.

The Grace of the Redeemer was never intended to exempt us from the Obligation of Obedience to our Creator, but to bring us back thereto.

The promisory part of the Law of Innocency, is in­deed ceased by reason of our Incapacity. A guilty Creature can lay no claim to Life and Happiness, by virtue of a Covenant which required perfect and per­petual Obedience as the Condition thereof. But then the preceptive part of that Law is still so far in force, that the least violation of the Divine Law is Sin: And the least Sin makes perpetual Punishment our due; ex­cept pardoning Mercy interpose for our deliver­ance.

And here it is that the Grace of the Redeemer takes place: Tho' perfect Obedience be still command­ed us; yet it is not insisted upon as a condition, where­upon our Eternal Happiness is suspended.

Sincerity shall be accepted through the Maths and Mediation of Jesus Christ, who hath in his own Per­son fulfilled all Righteousness, and withal offered up himself a Sacrifice, to satisfy Divine Justice for our Disobedience. Pray be clear in these things.

Do not expect that Christ will save you, unless you [...]ay down your Arms, and submit to the Divine So­veraignty. How can there be Peace between God and your Souls, so long as ye resolve to persist in your Rebellion? Is Christ the Minister of Sin? Or shall we continue in Sin that Grace may abound? God forbid. Jesus Christ is exalted by the Father to be a Prince and a Saviour: To give first Repentance, and then For­givness: To turn Men's Hearts from Sin, and then to pardon it.

If ye expect to be saved any other way than through the Merits and Satisfaction of Christ, say so; and then we shall know that ye are Infidels: But if not; then know ye that Sanctification is an essential part of that Salvation which Christ hath designed for his Peo­pel.

3. It is a manifest affront to the holy Spirit of God, [Page 52]to imagine that Men can be saved without being wrought for it by his renewing Grace. 'Tis in effect to nullify or deny the Office of the Holy-Ghost; as if his gracious Operations upon the Souls of Men were need­less, or superfluous things. Or at least that Men may attain to Happiness without them. Is this to believe in the Holy-Ghost, or is it not rather to blasphe [...] him? Do ye not tremble to approach so near to the [...] pardonable Sin?

If Men may be saved without being sanctified, [...] what purpose are all the Influences of the Spirit [...] God upon his People? If Holiness be so needless [...] thing, that a Man may come to Heaven well enou [...] without it, why doth the Spirit strive so long w [...] poor Creatures to make them holy? Why doth [...] still follow them with the earnest Sollici [...]ations of [...] Grace (notwithstanding their unkind Resistance) fro [...] one Ordinance and Providence to another? H [...] great a work is it to quicken, Illuminate, and draw [...] God, a dead, blind, disaffected Soul! and to upho [...] and carry on the work, as has been already opene [...] ▪ What mighty Power doth the Spirit put forth in [...] this! and dare ye say 'tis more than needs? Or prom [...] to your selves Salvation without it? This would [...] not only to tread under Foot the Son of God, (as have heard under the former head) but to do desp [...] unto the Spirit of Grace.

I wonder not that such Men make a scoff at the Spiritual Worship of God: the Lord convert, and p [...] don them for they know not what they say, nor wh [...] they affirm, 1 Tim. 1.7. But measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves amongst themselves, [...] not wise, or [understand it not] 2 Cor. 10.12.

Surely in God's account none are look'd upon as [...] Worshippers, but they who worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth; for the Father seeketh such to wo [...] him. Joh. 4.23. But that brings me to,

4. The Institution of the Gospel-Ministry and Or­dinances, is a further Proof of this great Truth. [...] [Page 53]works by his appointed Means; Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. The Gospel is called the Ministration of the Spirit, 2 Cor. 3.8. As also the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus, Rom. 8.2. And well may it be so called by way of eminency, be­cause greater measures of Grace are given under the Gospel-Dispensation, than were usual before.

Now, the sacred Office of the Ministry is institured in subserviency to the Influences and Operations of the holy Spirit. 'Tis he that qualifies Ministers for their work, assists them in it, and makes it successful to the attainment of its end. Moreover, the Sum and Substance of that Errand, upon which we are sent, ye have in the latter end of this Chapter. Vers. 18, 19, 20. Namely to tell you, that God was in Christ, re­conciling the World unto himself,hath committed unto us the word of Reconciliation. Now then we are Am­bassadours for Christ, as tho' God did beseech you by us, we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.

Our business therefore is to treat with Sinners in the Name of God, and the Redeemer: That we may perswade them to comply with the offers of Free Grace. And to edify, strengthen, and help the Joys of those who have heartily complied. Ephes. 4.11, 12, 13.

And O how strict a charge is laid upon us! That we be instant in Season, and out of Season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all Long-suffering and Doctrine. For the time will come when, &c. (we may now say 'tis already come) 2 Tim. 4.2, 3, 4. And that we watch for your Souls, as they that must give an account, Heb. 13.17. and warn you of your danger, that your Blood may not he required at our Hand. Ezek. 3.18. And who is suf­ficient for these things? 2 Cor. 2.16.

Well then; if Men may be saved without being wrought for it, &c. of what use is the ministerial Office? Or why are we so strictly charged?

Moreover, the whole Course of Rellgious Duty that is appointed us, with that Seriousness and Spiritua­lity [Page 54]therein required, doth fully prove the Point we have in hand: The holy reverent Worship of God in his Ordinances, doth powerfully tend to raise our Souls nearer to him, and to make them more like him; to heal our spiritual Distempers, and to refine and purify all our Faculties and Powers, and so to prepare and sit us for the State of Heavenly Perfection. Therefore we must not look upon such appointments, as if they were only meer arbitrary Injunctions, to ex­act homage from us: But (tho' Soveraign Authority is to be acknowledged in them) we must also consider how infinite Wisdom and Goodness has sured out Work to our End, our present Duty to our future Happi­ness; that by the one we might be prepared for the o­ther. From whence 'tis evident, that Holiness is ne­cessary to the Work and Business of our present Life, as also to our future Blessedness. We can neither serve nor enjoy God here or hereafter, without being wrought thereto by his Grace. I mention nor the heartless Service of Hypocrites, as not being worth taking notice of. Hence also ye may learn what ends to propose to your selves in every part of Divine Wor­ship. But I proceed,

5. None but those who are thus wrought upon, have any right to the Heavenly Felicity according to the Tenour of the Gospel-Covenant. Unregenerate Per­sons, as such, are peremptorily excluded, even by the Law of Grace it self. Ye cannot produce the least Syllable in Scripture, whereupon to ground those hopes of Heaven, wherewith such Men are wont to flatter themselves. But I can shew you enough to con­found, and overthrow their wicked Presumptions for ever. The Sentence of their Condemnation is legible in almost every Leaf of the Bible; yet will they not consider it, nor lay it to Heart. He that believeth not, is condemned already; he shall not see Life, but the Wrath of God abideth on him. Except a Man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God. Joh. 3.3, 18, 36. If ye live after the Flesh, shall die: without HOLINESS [Page 55]no Man shall see the Lord. These are the true and faith­ful Sayings of God. All this was settled long before thou wert born; if thou hast any exceptions against it, thou comest too late with them, (as one says.)

Assure your selves that these sacred Constitutions can­not be disanulled: Your Unbelief shall not make the Truth of God of none effect; ye will quickly fa [...]d whose word shall stand, his or yours.

[...] true indeed, Pardon and Life are freely offered by the Gospel-grant, if thou wilt repent and turn to God throu [...] Christ. Otherwise it brings upon thee an heavier Co [...]demn [...]tion, than thou wert under before. John 3.10. a sorer Punishment, Heb 10.29.

The c [...] speaks it self: Thou canst plead no Interest in the saving Benefits of the Covenant of Grace, un­less thou come up to the Terms thereof: Abused Mer­cy turns to greater Indignation. Therefore it much concerns you to inquire what those Terms are, and not to venture your Souls upon Uncertainties. Behold, the Judg standeth before the Door, Jam. 5.9. What is the Chaff to the Wheat, saith the Lord? Jer. 23.28. Mat. 3.12.

6. None but those who are thus wrought upon, have the earnest and first Principles of the Heavenly Fe­licity: How then should they have the thing it self?

Do ye expect the Fruit without the Seed? the Per­fection of Holiness and Happiness without the Begin­nings thereof? the Inheritance without the Earnest? How can these things be? How absurd are such Hopes as these? Would ye be perfect Men in Christ, without first going through the Infant-State of Christianity? That is, being converted and becoming as little Chil­dren?

As for the truly Godly, they have Eternal Life a­biding in them; even that saving, transforming, prac­tical Knowledg of God and Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent, which is the Inchoation thereof: But the Un­godly are not so, being dead in Trespasses and Sins: [Page 56] To be carnally minded is Death: They sow to the Flesh, what then can they expect (reasonably) to reap but Corruption? Would ye sow one sort of Grain, and reap another?

Know therefore, that the holy Spirit of God work­ing in the Souls of Believers, sutable Inclinations Heaven-ward, and Desires after it, (that is, rational, judicious, holy Desires) doth thereby give them an earnest of it; but still remember, If any Man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his, Rom. 8, 9.

7. The Guilt of Sin, which all unregenerate Per­sons are under, stands between them and Heaven. I hope ye know that ye are Sinners, and that ye must be justified before you can be glorified. The weight of Guilt must needs press you down into everlasting Dark­ness, if it be not taken off by pardoning Mercy and Grace. And do ye not also know that there is no Par­don without true Repentance? And withal that true Repentance is nothing less than the turning of the Soul from Sin to God, a change of the Temper and Dispo­sition of the Heart; the very work whereof we have all this while been speaking. Repentance toward God.

Hence the Gospel was ushered in with the preaching of Repentance, Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at band. That so all Men might know upon what terms they were like to enjoy the blessed Priveledges of this glorious Gospel Constitution.

And here I must tell you, it is not enough to say that you are sorry for your past Sins, now the Pleasure of them is over, and Conscience (it may be) uneasy a­bout them. No, no; the bent of your Hearts must either be turned against Sin, to hate, abhor it, and mourn for it, as 'tis displeasing and hateful in the sight of God, &c. or else Iniquity will be your rain.

Moreover, the Sincerity of your Repentance, or of this change of Heart, from the Love of Sin, to the Love of God and Holiness, must appear, by bringing forth Fruits meet for Repentance.

8. All that ever have entred into that blessed State, were first prepared for it, and effectually wrought upon by Divine Grace.

The case of Infants need not stop us, such as have been saved from the Womb, have also been sanctified from thence.

But 'tis the case of the Adult, or grown Persons, which falls more directly under our Consideration. Search the Scriptures, and you may find there how those Persons are characteriz'd and described who are gone to Heaven before us. 'Tis true they all had their failings, which they groaned under, and longed to be delivered from: But as to the main, they were Men that walked with God: Ordered their Conversa­tions, as seeing him that is invisible: Men that lived humble, mortified, self-denying Lives, chusing rather to suffer Affliction with the People of God, than to en­joy the Pleasures of Sin for a season: That mourned for the Abominations of the Times and Places where­in they lived; whose righteous Souls were vexed with the filthy Conversation of the Wicked; in a word, Men that confessed themselves Strangers and Pilgrims on the Earth; sought and Heavenly Country, and wait­ed for the Salvation of the Lord. See Heb. 11.

Thus ye have heard how the Saints now in Glory got thither; and will ye dream of coming to Heaven any other way? They were all wrought for that blessed State, and so must ye; or else fall short of it, and pe­rish.

As it is matter of great Encouragement and Comfort to the Godly, to think how many Thousands are got to Heaven, the same way by which they themselves (through Grace) are going: So one would think it should damp the hopes of graceless Hypocrites, to find themselves in a quite different, yea contrary way.

9. The Scripture assures us, that the Righteous them­selves are scarcely saved, 1 [...]et 4.18. [...] vix, egrè; i. e. tho they are certainly saved, yet not without a [Page 58]great deal of difficulty. The same word ye have Acts 14.18 S [...]ved they are, but not without much striving, by reason of the straitness of the Gate, and the narrowness of the Way which leads to Life; many Ene­mies to conflict with; many Temptations, Doubts and Fears, to overcome; many Storms and Tempest [...] to get through, before they come safe to the Ha­ven. What say ye to all this? Do these things offen [...] ye? They are true for all that.

And now consider what the Apostle infers from this in the words immediately following: Where shall the Ʋngodly, and the Sinner appear? What shall become of them? Why the Psalmist gives you an answer to this, Psal. 1.4, 5. They are like the Chaff which the Wind driveth away: therefore the Ʋngodly shall not stand in the Judgment, nor Sinners in the Congregation of the Righteous; they shall be driven away in their own wicked­ness.

Well Sirs, Do ye think much to be told of the Diffi­culties that lie in the way to Heaven? Are ye for a cheap, formal, customary, easy way of Religion? Do ye think that the greatest Earnestness, Care and Serious­ness, which we can possibly use to secure our Ever­lasting Interest, is making more adoe than needs▪ Look ye to it, go on and prosper; but remember, that the Righteous themselves are scarcely saved.

10. Lastly, 'Tis impossible, in the very nature of the thing, that an unholy Soul should enjoy the Hea­venly Felicity. This is evident, if ye will but com­pare the Temper and Spirit of unregenerate Persons, with the Account that has been given concerning the State of future Glory. The nature of Things must be quite overthrown, and the grossest Contradictions re­conciled, before an unrenewed Person, as such, can be happy.

I know that all Men have some general injudicious Tendencies (even by Nature) towards Happiness: But as for those upon whom this great Change has not past, they neither know, nor truly desire that which [Page 59]alone can make them blessed. They are most misera­bly confounded in their own Wishes, and cannot tell what they would be at. They say indeed that they desire, and hope for Heaven; but in the mean time they know not what they talk of. Were it possible they should be admitted thither; why, so long as their cor­rupt depraved temper of Spirit remaineth upon them, they would be quite out of their Element, and unhap­py even in Heaven it self.

The reason is plain; there must be a sutableness be­tween the Faculties and the Objects, or else what Fru­tion, what Pleasure can there be? Would the most pompous magnificient Shews signify any thing to a blind Man, or a Confort of the most Harmonious Mu­sick to the Deaf? Why, just so it is here: The Hearts of the Sons of Men, till sanctified by Divine Grace, are utterly unfit for the Society, the Work, the Enjoy­ments of Heaven.

As for the Society, 'tis holy, there's a Communion of Saints in Perfection: But the Hearts of carnal Men are impure, and unholy: There are none like them to converse with in Heaven.

Those above are employ'd in admiring, loving, prais­ [...]ng, and glorifying the blessed God: And 'tis the en­ [...]oyment of him that makes them happy in that State. But certain it is, that the Souls of Ungodly Men are [...]eeply averse from God, and at Enmity against him; [...]ow then should they be blessed in the enjoyment of [...]ne whom they never loved, when to enjoy him is [...]o love and delight in him? O Sirs, ye must either [...]e made holy, that is, conformed unto God, in the [...]ame and disposition of your Spirits, or else Heaven [...]annot be Heaven to you.

Therefore I beseech you deal truly with your selves [...]n this Matter, let me put it to your Consciences; [...]ea, do ye put it to them your selves, and then tell [...]e, How do ye relish that sort of Life on Earth, which is most like to the Heavenly Life? How are ye [...]ffected to those things which have a nearer Tendency [Page 60]to lead you God-ward? Is his holy Day the Joy of your Hearts? Are ye delighted in his Worship? Do ye strive in every Duty to get as near to him, through Christ, as you can? What Pleasure do ye take is discoursing concerning the things of God? In speak­ing of the Glory of His Majesty, and the Wonders of his Grace, the Holiness and Perfection of his Law, &c. What say ye? Do such things as these are agree with you? Or are they not a weariness to you? Are ye nor ready to think that Lords-Days return too o [...]. And that strict and serious Religion is intolerable Pro­ciseness? Do not your Hearts rise against it? Are [...]e not glad when the Service of God is over? Tho sour thing ye would do to secure Heaven for a reserve, who ye can enjoy the World no longer? Is not this the ve­ry Temper of your Spirits? And is it not very deplo­rable? Alas! what should ye do in Heaven with sod Hearts as these? Would ye not be eternally. weary o [...] an Eternal Sabbath? Would not your ungracious Spi­rits be ever recoiling and uneasy? Do ye not yet see that there is no coming to the new Jerusalem without new Hearts? If not, 'tis because ye shut your Eyes.

Certainly if unregenerate Men might have [...]n Ha­ven of their own choosing, it would be vastly diffe­rent (even quite another thing) from that which Go [...] hath prepared for them that LOVE him. But he should Men be happy against their own Wills? Or it State to which the Temper of their Spirits is not su [...]ed So true is that great Saying of a Worthy Divine ‘When God hath so determined, that without [...] ­ness none shall see him; he lays no other Law upon unholy Souls, than what their own impure Nature lay upon themselves. [Bl [...]ssedness of the Righteou [...] pag. 46]

By this time ye see, or may see if ye will, th [...] except the Decrees of God can be reverst, the de­sign of Redemption perverted, the Office of the h [...] Spirit nullified, the Institution of the Ministry a [...] Ordinances run down, the Threarnings of the Gosp [...] [Page 61]made of none Effect, the Inheritance be attained with­out the earnest, a new way found to Heaven which none ever discovered before; and all this while the Righteous themselves are scarcely saved; in a word (unless the nature of things be quite overturn'd, and palpable Contradictions made to agree) none can come to Heaven till they be prepared, and wrought for it by Divine Grace. Lo this, we have searched it, so it is; hear it, and know thou it, for thy good, [Heb. for thy self] Job 5.27.

CHAP. VI.

Several Inferences of Truth drawn from the foregoing Discourse.

THus we have fully proved, that except ye will be holy, ye cannot be happy: If this therefore be so clear and certain a Truth, it must needs be also a very weighty and important one: a thing much to be consi­dered, and closely applied; because our Spiritual and Eternal Welfare, and (what is infinitely more than either) the Glory of the Great God is so nearly con­cerned in it.

Now since there are many other Truths, which have an intimate connexion with, and dependance upon this great Doctrine; let us begin with the Consideration of these, for the informing of our Judgments.

Inser. 1. We may learn from hence the great Worth and Excellency of real Holiness. Real (I say) in opposition to that vain, empty shew of Religion, wherewith Multitudes make a shift to deceive them­selves; even because they know no better, and that because they will not know. Satan hath taken advan­tage [Page 62]by their own Corruption to blind their Minds, and close their Eyes; and thus, they choose Darkness rather than Light, because their Deeds are Evil. Hence it is that they see no Beauty in Holiness; no more than they do the Form and Comliness of the great Pattern and Pro­curer of it. Isa. 53.2.

They do not approve things that are excellent. If they meddle with Matters of Religion, they do but debase them: First by forming low and unworthy Notions of them, sutable to their own degenerate Tempers and Spirits; then they act accordingly; and after all highly value themselves upon what they have done.

Nevertheless the high Excellency of Holiness, ma­nifestly appears from the three following Particulars which may easily be drawn from what has been already delivered.

1. Its Original. 'Tis from Heaven, the blessed God is himself the Author of it, as in the Text. He that hath wrought us for the self-same thing is God. 'Tis a Divine Work, and that not a common Work neither, but wrought in a way of special Grace; and therefore it has a peculiar Excellency in it. Insomuch that the Subjects of this great Change are denominated, born of God, Joh. 1.13. born from above, chap. 33. as the word [ [...]] may be rendred. Hereupon they are advanced to the Name and Relation of Children: 1 Joh. 3.1. Behold what manner of Love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the Sons of God. So called, and not miscalled, for so they are, as vers. 2. Now are we the Sons of God.

2. The Nature of true Holiness speaks the Excel­lency of it. 'Tis the Soul's Conformity to the blessed God; his Image drawn upon it, a Participiation of the Divine Nature: which sweetly and effectually inclines all the Faculties and Powers of our Souls God-ward; and so far as it prevails upon us, it takes away our un­kind Aversion and Estrangedness from him, and teach­eth us to center upon him, as our Portion, Happiness, and chief Good. In short it is our devotedness unto [Page 63]God, which implies a Separation from whatsoever; stands in opposition against him, as such.

So that had the Apostle been silent as to the Author of this great Work, the very Nature of it might have told us whence it is, for it bears the Image and Super­scription of God upon it.

Little do the proud Despisers of Holiness consider what they say, or against whom it is that they sprit them­selves, make a wide Mouth, and draw out the [...] Isa. 57.4. To vilify this work is a dishonour to its Author. To cast Dirt upon the Image, is an affront to its great Original, who scorneth their Scorners, sits in the Heavens, and laughs at them, for he seeth that their Day is coming, Psal. 37 13.

3. The blessed End and Issue of Holiness shews you the worth of it; it comes from above, and thither it leads; and is at last compleated in the Heavenly Per­fection. Judg then of the Way and Means by the End; here is the Faith and Patience of the Saints. They are high-born, and a sutable Inheritance is designed them. To think or speak slightly of Holiness, is to contemn Heaven it self; which is a State of Perfection therein.

Wo unto them that draw Iniquity with Cords of Vanity, and Sin as it were with a Cart-Rope. That put Darkness for Light, and Light for Darkness. Isa 5.18, 20. It may be at last they'll say (as one of their Predecessors did) let me die the Death of the Righteous: Not from any love to Righteousness, but from a slavish Fear of the just Punishment of their Impiety; and therefore those forced Cries will avail them nothing.

Inser. 2. Learn from hence the Reasonableness and Equity, yea, the wonderful Grace and Benignity of the Divine Government over fall'n Man! See what a Connexion there is between our Duty and Interest. All the Precepts which God hath given us, may justly he esteemed as so many Directions which have a natural Tendency to our own Welfare. 'Tis true they have [Page 60] [...] [Page 61] [...] [Page 62] [...] [Page 63] [...] [Page 64]the nature of Laws, being enforced by the Divin [...] Command. But is that any Injury to us, that the mo [...] blessed glorious God has, by his Soveraign Righ [...] Authority over us, obliged us to be happy? Put us under such a Law, that we cannot be innocently miserable if we perish it shall be our own fault that we do so [...] Well may it be called a Paternal Government, God i [...] pleased to deal with us in a way sutable to that Tid [...] which he has condescended to take unto himself, vi [...] The Father of Spirits. Behold how tenderly and ge [...] ly he deals with his Off-spring: even the rational Sou [...] that issued from him. His Love invites them; h [...] Authority enjoys them to be happy; he reasons th [...] Case with them, why will ye die? Yea, he beseeched them in the most earnest moving manner, as tho G [...] did beseech you by us, 2 Cor 5.20. They are impo [...] cuned from time to time, in his Name, to lay aside the [...] Frowardness and Enmity against him, who alone [...] make them compleatly blessed: And thus he waits [...] be gracious to them. How little do we deserve to [...] thus treated; methinks this should make us even to [...] ashamed and blush, to consider our unworthy [...] disingenuous Carriage towards him; and convio [...] us at length, how much better it is to be under [...] Government, than to be left to our own Conduct.

His Commandments are not grievous; The first a [...] principal of them is this, Thou shalt love the Lord [...] God with all thine Heart, &c. What but the despert [...] Wickedness of our depraved sinful Natures can ma [...] this seem an hard Saying? Whom should we love, not him who is infinitely Good in himself, and th [...] most sutable Good for us? The Author of all the Ble [...] sings that we ever enjoyed; upon whom both [...] Beings, and Well-beings, do entirely depend: Ye [...] he doth not put us off with Trifles, but offers him [...] [...] to be the Object of our Love: And promiseth all tho [...] Returns of Kindness and Benignity, which can ra [...] onally be desired to make us happy: And can ye y [...] refuse to love? O what is the cause of your so migh [...] [Page 65]an Aversion from him? What Iniquity have ye ever found in him? Jer. 2.5. Lord, into how great Confusion and Distraction are we fallen, by forsaking him, and sink­ing into our own wretched selves! Alas, that our Hearts should be so averse from closing with the infinite, universal, all comprehending Good! He hath made our Capacities such as none but himself can fill and satisfy: Therefore we must needs be uneasy or restless, while we keep at a distance from him: Surely then no Pre­cept can tend more directly to our own Felicity, than this of loving God with all our Hearts: And to this all the rest are reduced; for 'tis the fulfilling of the Law: and surely the Obedience of Love will be pleasant; if thy Mind be once brought up to this holy Love the work is done; thy Cavils against any other Commands will then be at an end. Thou wilt ever justify the Divine Law, and humble thy self, that in so many things thou fallest short. Thou wilt then see reason to convince thee, that even those things which thou wast wont to look upon as over great Severities in Religion, were nothing but what the nature of thy Case made neces­sary in order to thy Cure. That no needless Restraints are laid upon thee: that the most exact Watchfulness, the greatest Mortification and Self-denial, are all little enough to keep so froward a Nature within its due Bounds. In a word, thou wilt see, that God hath re­strained thee from nothing which was truly good for thee, but only denied thee the liberty of Self undoing; and therefore that his ways are equal, how unequal so­ever thine own ways have been.

Infer. 3. Learn from hence what woful work Sin hath made in human Nature; forasmuch as so great a Power of Divine Grace is necessary to refit and qualify [...]it for its proper Use and End. All our Faculties and Powers are exceedingly depraved and enfeebled by the Fall. In us (that is, in our Flesh) there dwells no good [...]ing. When we would do good, evil is present with us, Rom. 7.18, 21. They that are in the Flesh (that is, all [Page 66]unregenerate Persons) cannot please God. Chap. 8.8.

Some indeed there are, who deny Original Sin, and would perswade us that 'tis only by imitation that we become wicked: But the Scripture is full and clear in the Case. Psal. 51.5. Behold, I was shapen in Iniquity, and in Sin did my Mother couceive me. Even the best of Men were by nature Children of Wrath, as well as others. Ephes. 2.3. Hence our Saviour shews us the necessity of Regeneration, Joh. [...].5, 6. —That which is bore of the Flesh is Flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit. Vers. 7. Marvel not that I said into thee, [...] must [...]e born again. Is not Death the wages of Sin? Do not Infants die, even before they are capable of actual Sin? therefore they have original Sin. And why are they washed with Water in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy-Ghost, if they have no sinful Defile­ment upon them? and whence is it that Corruption doth so early discover it self in them, but because they brought it into the World with them?

True it is that our first Parents were created in a ho­ly and happy State, endued with the Knowledg and Love of God, fitted for Communion with him, and perfect Obedience to him, &c. This Man once was; lad to say was, and is not. Our Gold is become Dress the Crown is fallen from our Head. Wo unto us, for w [...] have sinned. How are the Mighty fallen!

The Distempers of our Souls are now past number­ing: The Understanding and Will, which were made to govern the inferiour Faoulties, (the one by guidance the other by command) are themselves enslaved to Lust and Appetite. So that Man is born like a wild A­s [...]s Colt: Folly and Vanity it bound up in his Heart from h [...] very Child-hood.

Being departed from God (the Center in which a [...] our Faculties should unite, and for whom they ought to be improved and employ'd) we are become at va­riance with one another, and each Man with himself▪ Not to mention the bitter Strifes and Envyings, the bloody VVars and Contentions, whereby Nations [Page 67]and Kingdoms, yea and lesser Societies too, rise up one against another, it may not be amiss to consider how strangely inconsistent even with themselves ungodly Men are: One would think they were made up of Con­tradictions, and Absurdities. The sensitive part is a­gainst the rational: The VVill against the Judgment, their Practice gives the Lie to their Profession: They say and do not, or they say one thing, and do the quite contrary▪ They are like the troubled Sea, when it cannot rest, whose Waters cast up Mire and Dire, Isa. 57.20. The Body which was made to be a Servant, is become their Ruler; and this is one of those things which the Earth can­not bear, Prov. 30.21, 22. A thing greatly to be la­mented. Lam. 5.8. From hence it is that these Con­vulsions and Disorders do proceed: Professing to be Wise, they are become Fools, and that more especially as to those things wherein they are most concerned to have their VVits about them. Wise to do Evil, but to do Good they have no Knowledg. Tit. 1.16. They profess that they know God, but in Works they deny him, being a­bominable, disobedient, and unto every good work repro­bate. With their Mouths they shew much Love, but their Hearts go out after their Idols. They would be happy, but cannot endure the thoughts of that which alone. can make them so. They enquire the way to Zion, but set their Faces quite contrary. They pretend to be­lieve the Evil and Danger of Sin, but will not be per­swaded to leave it. They oft complain of the Vanity of this VVorld, and of the Crosses and Disappointments they met with in it; but will not be prevailed with to set their Hearts upon a better: Yea, many of them are sondest of these present Enjoyments, when they grow old, and cannot but know that they must quickly leave them. Yea some of thein hate and revile others for living in some measure up to the Rules of that Religion which they themselves profess. The time would fail me to mention the thousandth part of that Nonsense whereof they are continually guilty. So be­sotted a thing is a carnal Heart! As if their Lusts had [Page 68]not only bereaved them of all due Sense of Religion, but of their Wits too both together.

Thus the Case stands with unregenerate Persons, till the Grace of God rectify these disorders, and bring their Souls into a better Frame: And O how great a work is this! See what the Apostle speaks of it, Ephes. 1.19. And what is the exceeding [ [...], transcendant, Hyperbolical] greatness of his Power to us ward who believe according to the working [Energy] of his Mighty Power. [ [...]] the Might of his Power, &c.

Therefore, Sirs, lay the Ax to the Root of the Tree, consider thorowly, and bewail deeply your original Cor­ruption. Pray hard for renewing Grace, it will sig­nify little for you to empty some of the Streams, while the Fountain is disregarded, which will fill up all a­gain. Corruption lies deep in you, and will take a great deal of pains to master it, and root it out; nor can ye expect that God will do it, without the concur­rence of your own Endeavours with, and under his Grace. Phil. 2.12, 13.

Infer. 4. Learn also from hence the Weakness, Wicked­ness, or both, of those Persons who go about to deny or obscure the Doctrine of special Grace. Their Weak­ness, I say, in disowning a thing so manifest both by Scripture, and Experience. Their Wickedness in attempting to rob God of the Glory which is due to him on this account. They cry up the natural Free­dom of Man's Will, but consider not its moral Impo­tency or Indisposition to that which is God; it's cur­sed Aversion from God and Holiness, which will never be overcome but by the Power of Free Grace. I know indeed that if Men were truly willing, then the work were done, and therefore the Obstinacy of their Wills makes them inexcusable. John 5.40. Ye will not come to me that ye might have Life. But I also know, that if ever they be made willing, it must be in the Day of God's Power. Psal. 110.3. No Man can come to [Page 69]me, except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him. That is, their Wills are so corrupt, that they cannot find in their Hearts to renounce their Lusts, and give up themselves to the obedience of the Gospel. They affect a distance from God, care not for coming near him: They are dead in Trespasses and Sins.

Tho still they have natural Faculties, intellective and elective Powers, (else we might as well preach to Walls as Men) yet when all's done, 'tis Grace that must sanctify and heal these Faculties, and determine them God-ward, or else they are lost for ever. That some are thus wrought upon is plain Matter of Fact, ye need go no further then the Text for Proof thereof. And 'tis as plain that others are left under the Power of their own willful Enmity, and Alienation from God. In short, that any are sanctified and saved is to be ascri­bed to special Grace, that the rest perish is their own do­ing, not strictly and properly because they could not, but because they would not do otherwise. The De­struction which falls upon them is of their own chusing in that they will not be perswaded to forsake the way that leads to it. Prov. 8.36. He that sinneth against me, wrongeth his own Soul: All they that hate me, love Death.

The Law of Grace is establish'd, ordered in all things, and sure. The Terms of Salvation are unalterably settled, and God will judg Men accordingly, without respect of Persons; and so shall the Sentence of Judg­ment be executed too.

Moreover, God gives unto all Men such degrees of Grace and Help, as is meet for him to give; and more by far than they duly improve. And if they would rightly use what they have (so far as they are able) they have great encouragement to expect more; therefore his proceedings with them, for their will­ful Neglects, are beyond all just exception.

Again; if over and above all this, he give to some Persons (as 'tis certain he doth) yet greater Proportions of Grace, even so much as shall effectually work upon [Page 70]them, and fit them for Heaven, who can say unto him what dost thou? May he not do what he will with his own? Is there any Injustice in all this?

What say ye? Are not some Persons saved? Are they not saved by Grace? Is not this Grace the Gift of God? Doth God give it in time, and did he not decree to give it from Eternity? Where then are your Cavils a­gainst Election and special Grace? Surely you will not deny but that Multitudes perish by their own wilful final Impenitency, through the Righteous Judgment of God, because they hated him, and would not that he should reign over them.

Infer. 5. Lastly, Ye may learn from hence how ex­ceeding dangerous it is to resist and quench the Spirit of Grace.

Ye have heard it fully proved, that there is a great work which must be done upon your Souls, or ye are undone for ever: And dare ye neglect the offered Help of the Spirit? Do ye not yet know that by a commoner sort of Grace, he usually prepares Men for special Grace? And can ye expect the latter, while ye despise or improve not the former? Do ye not consider that such neglects are like to leave you under greater Guilt and Hardness than ye were before? Why then do ye delay to strike in, and comply with the inward Motions of the Spirit? Why do ye not pray earnestly for more of his help? Do ye not sometimes feel some awakening Convictions, some Desires, some Purposes which have atendency toward your Conversion? Whence are these but from the blessed Spirit of God? And when he calls, will ye behave your selves as if ye heard nor, or were not at leisure to regard him? How will ye be able to answer this at last? How comes it to pass, that ye put off things of this nature with some slight and short En­deavours, and then return to your wonted Coldness, and Formality, or Indifferency again? Have ye no where thus to trifle but upon the brink of Everlasting Ruin? Know ye not that the Flames of Hell are every [Page 71]Moment ready to catch hold upon you? Surely it be­comes you to stir as for your Lives: Do ye not trem­ble to think how dreadful your Case would be, if the blessed God should swear in his Wrath that his holy Spirit (whom ye have so often affronted and grieved) should strive no more with you? How can you read without Terrour such Passages as these in Scripture, Prov. 1.24, &c. Because I have called, and ye refused, &c. I also will laugh at your Calamity, and mock when your Fear cometh.They shall call upon me, but I will not answer. Ezek. 24.13. Because I haave purged thee, (that is used Means in order to thy Reformation) and thou wast not purged, thou shalt not be purged from thy Filthiness any more, till I have caused my Fury, to rest upon thee. Rev. 22.11. He that is unjust, let him be unjust still; and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still, &c. See also Heb. 10.26, 27, 28, 29. &c.

Therefore I say again, 'tis no time to trifle, unless ye be prepared to undergo the Fury of the Almighty, who will certainly revenge the Injuries which have been done to his Patience and Long-suffering.

CHAP. VII.

Reproof to those Persons who wrong their own Souls by presumptuous Hopes of Heaven, while they are utter Stran­gers to this great work of Grace, whereby they should be prepared for it. Shewing how vain, sinful, dan­gerous and unnatural it is for them thus to deceive themselves.

THus we have considered several Inferences of Truth arising from the Doctrine. Let us now proceed to observe what further use may be made of it.

And here 'tis obvious, at first sight, that this Doc­trine is also profitable for Reproof and Correction, [...] ye have already seen it is for Instruction, or the Infor­mation of your Judgments.

Well then, is it so that none can come to Heaven till they be prepared, and wrought for it by the Power of divine Grace? Certainly those Persons are greatly to be reproved who flatter themselves with the Hope of Eternal Happiness, tho they be utter Strangers [...] this renewing Change, this great preparing work: And O how great is the number of such Persons! Shou [...] ye converse with all ye meet in the Streets, Marke [...] places, or in more Solemn Assemblies, and enquire [...] them concerning this Matter, would they not all [...] a Man tell you, that they hope to be saved; excep [...] perhaps some few poor trembling Christians, who scar [...] know how to think any thing well and comfortably con­cerning [Page 73]themselves: But as for the loose Generality, and formal empty Professors, which make up far the greater Number, 'tis likely some of them might take it as an Affront to have their Hopes of Heaven called in question: How common an Asseveration is it [as I hope to be sa­ved!] O Sirs, if Salvation was as common as the hopes of it are, we would no more say that the Gate is strait, or the Way narrow, but rather that they are wide indeed: Nor would we say few find it, but few miss it.

'Tis the saying of a great Divine, — ‘For my own part if I had but one Sermon to preach while I lived, I think this should be it, to perswade down all your ungrounded hopes of Heaven; not to leave you there in Despair, but that ye may hope upon better Grounds, which will never deceive you. [Mr. Baxt. Saints Rest.]

I have shewed you already how common it is for Men thus to abuse themselves with presumptuous hopes of Heaven: Give me leave also to tell you how vain, sinful, dangerous, and how unnatural it is so to do: And by consequence how justly such Persons deserve to be reproved.

First, 'Tis a vain thing for Men thus to deceive, and befool themselves. Their hopes of Salvation are lying Vanities, if we consider,

Either the Nature or Duration of them.

1. As to their Nature. They are meer Creatures of their own Imagination (and yet deserve not to be called entia rationis neither, for they are most highly irrational) empty Appearances, having no solid Con­sistency in them, no firm Foundation to stand upon, Sparks of their own kindling. How fitly are such hopes compared to a Spiders Web, Job 8.13, 14. The Men are asleep in Sin, and lo, these are their Dreams! Or if ye will, they are distracted, not yet come to them­selves, Luke 15.17. And these are the ravings of their distemper'd Imaginations: And all that Comfort which [Page 74]they get by them is no better than Delusion, and Im­posture: They put a Cheat upon themselves, and hate to be told of it.

2. These hopes are vain as to their Duration, Job 20.5. The Triumphing of the Wicked is short, and the Joy of the Hypocrite but for a Moment. His Hope shall perish. And as it is compared to the Spider's house [for so it is in the Hebrew, [...]:] So 'tis said in the next words, he shall lean upon his House, but it shall not stand; he shall hold it fast, but it shall not endure, Job 8.14, 15. The hopes of the Ungodly meet with frequent Interruptions in this Life; Fears, Doubts; and misgiving Thoughts do often disturb them in de­spight of their carnal Security: The Approaches of Death shake them yet more. But however, the first Moment of their entrance into Eternity puts an end to their foolish Presumptions for ever. Job 27.8. What is the hope of the Hypocrite when God takes away his Soul? Chap. 11.20. The Eyes of the Wicked shall fail, and they shall not escape, and their Hopes shall be as the giving up of the Ghost. Chap. 18.5. The Light of the Wicked shall [...]e put out, and the Spark of his Fire shall not shine. Thus ye see they trust in Vanity, feed upon Wind, and lie down in Sorrow at last.

Secondly, Their hopes are sinful. There is a great deal of Impiety and Wickedness in them. All the Attributes of God are affronted, and in some sort de­nied by such groundless Presumptions.

1. These impious hopes are utterly inconsistent with those Apprehensions which we ought to have concerning the Holiness and Purity of the Divine Nature. He is glorious in HOLINESS; the Foolish shall not stand in his sight, he is of purer Eyes than to behold Iniquity: He hateth the workers thereof.

To imagine therefore that impure unrenewed Souls, should be admitted into the blessed Presence of God, and partake of the heavenly Joys, without being first wrought and prepared for it by sanctifying Grace: To suppose this, I say, would be to deny the Divine Holi­ness, [Page 75]or to obscure the Lustre and Glory of it: Yea, and to think that God is altogether such an one as them­selves, Psal. 50.21. O Sirs, were ye but duly sensible of his infinite Purity in whose sight the Heavens are not clean, Job 15.15. it would make you cry out, Who can stand before this HOLY Lord God! Or to abhor your selves, and repent in Dust and Ashes, as a far better Man did, Job 42.6. Or with the Evangelical Prophet to cry our, Wo is me, for I am undone; because I am a Man of unclean Lips,for mine Eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts, Isa. 6.5. This would quickly drive you unto Christ, that under the shadow of his Wings ye might be safe.

2. The Truth of God is disowned and contradicted by these daring Presumptions. How great a matter doth God make of his Veracity: Psal. 138.2. I will praise thy Name forthy Truth, for thou hast magnified thy Word above all thy Name. But, O what light ac­count do these Self-deceivers make thereof! tho no­thing is more earnestly, frequently and plainly incul­cated in Scripture, than the necessity of Holiness to fit Men for Heaven: Tho they are told that the Flock of Christ is but a little Flock; and that few find the way that leads to Life: And that the Workers of Iniquity shall be doomed to depart from the blessed Presence of God for ever: Yet they go on in carnal Security, and hope still, as if all these Warnings were but idle Tales: Thus they impute Falshood to the God of Truth, He that believeth not God, hath made him a Liar, 1 Joh. 5.10. Can there be more horrid Blasphe­my then this?

3. The inflexible Justice and Righteousness of God are contemned and slighted by such Persons. Shall not the Judg of all the Earth do right? Will he justify the Wicked? No, no; they that do so, are an A [...]omi­nation to him, Prov. 17.15. Tho he be merciful and gra­cious, long-suffering, &c. yet he will by no means clean the guilty, Exod. 34.6, 7. It is a Righteous thing with him to recompense Vengeance to the Ungodly, and in [Page 76]so doing, he vindicates his own Holiness, Truth, and Government. God that is holy, shall be sanctified in Righ­teousness, Isa. 5.16. Has he made Laws so just and good, and will he not keep up the honour of them, and see that they be duly executed? He needs not rule the World by Deceit, his Threatnings, as well as his Promises, are true; and the final Judgment will quick­ly convince the World that so it is. The Law which he has given us, is a Rule to live by, and to be judged by. Therefore as 'tis just, so 'tis certain, that the impious Hopes of wicked Men will be baffled and disappointed at last.

I might add, that the Patience, Goodness and Long-suffering of God are despised by such Persons, who wilfully continue in Sin, and yet think to escape his righteous Judgment, Rom. 2.3, 4.

Thirdly, Such groundless Hopes are exceeding dan­gerous to themselves and others.

1. To themselves, as might easily be proved by ma­ny Particulars; I will mention only two.

  • (1.) Hereby they are hardened in their impenitent unregenerate State. These blind Presumptions are so many strong holds of Satan in their Souls, whereby he keeps Possession of them. As I may, at least allude to that, Luke 11.21. When a strong Man armed keepeth his palace, his Goods are in peace. A false Peace indeed, maintained and cherished by the Father of Lies, who is all the while carrying on his Design against them is the Dark, and when the Vail is drawn aside, will readily let them know that they have lost, and he has got the Game. Thus he blinds their Minds, and makes sport with them, (as the Philistines did with Samso [...] when they had put out his Eyes) leads them Captive at his will.

    These vain Hopes hinder the due Efficacy of the Means of Grace upon them: Tho we tell them of their Danger over and over, with never so much plainness, yet they foolishly conceit that their Case is safe e­nough: And this puts a stop to their further Endea­vours; [Page 77]and so we are forc'd to leave them where we found them, or worse; flattering themselves, either that they are regenerate already, or else that they may be saved without so much ado. Those Convictions of the Sinfulness and Misery of their present State, which should help to prepare them for Christ, are by this Means prevented. Mat. 9.12. They that be whole, need not a Physician, &c. Thus it was with the Scribes and Pharisees; Are we blind also? Hence our Lord as­sures us that Publicans and Harlots go into the Kingdom of God before such, Mat. 21.31, 32. viz. as being more likely to be brought to Conviction and Humiliati­on than those Self-conceited Pretenders were. Isa. 44.20. Hefeedeth on Ashes; a deceived Heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his Soul, nor say, is there not a Lie in my Right Hand?

  • (2.) This unhappy Presumption makes their final Ruin more dreadful and amazing when it comes, Mat. 7.26, 27. He that heareth these Sayings of mine, and doth them not, shall be likened unto a Foolish Man, which built his House upon the Sand: And the Rain descended, &c. and it fell, and great was the fall of it. A great fall in­deed, when a Man who in his expectations was as high as Heaven, shall in reality find himself as low as Hell. This must needs be an astonishing Disappointment: And so much the more, because the Matter will then be past redress: O with what Anguish and Bitterness will they then cry out! Alas, are all our hopes of Heaven come to this! how will Conscience wrack and torment them for having slighted all the Warnings which were given them? How will the great Deceiver triumph and insult over them, when they are past hope and help for e­ver?

Tho the Destruction of all wicked Men will be terri­ble; yet that of Self-deceiving Hypocrites will be most surprizing, because least expected. Isa. 33.14. The Sin­ners in Zion are afraid; Fearfulness hath surprized the Hy­pocrites: Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who a [...]onest us shall dwell with everlasting burnings, [Page 78]or with the Burnings of Eternity, [ [...]] 1 Thess. 5.3. For when they shall say, Peace and Safety; then sudden Destruction cometh upon them.

Then will they find to their endless Confusion, that there is no Peace to the wicked; tho before they would never be perswaded to believe it; they could not en­dure sound Doctrine, it was too strict for them, they had itching Ears, Isa. 30.10. Speak unto us smooth things. But their Righteous Judg will not flatter them. The Flames of Hell will confute their Folly. Lo this is the Portion of them who forget God; thus shall their hopes fall and rise no more. So dangerous are their Pre­sumptions to themselves.

2. They are also dangerous to others, who fro [...] hence take encouragement to cherish the like ground­less Hopes. Thus they mutually harden one another against God, as if they had made a Covenant with Death, and an Agreement with Hell. For they have made Lies their Refuge, and under Falshood have they hid them­selves, Isa. 28.15. As Noise and Company puts great­er Boldness into Armies, than there is in single Person alone; so is it here. As if God would spare them be­cause of their Multitudes, tho his Holiness. Truth, and Justice are engaged to the contrary. How should such Men prosper? Job. 9.4. Why, say they, we take no greater liberty, nor hope better for our selves, that our Neighbours do: What, shall none be saved but; a few strict precise Persons, who pretend to greater Ho­liness and Diligence than all about them? God forbid. Thus they go on.

But stay a little, and consider the matter as you go▪ If ye be in the wrong, it is not your following a Mul­titude therein that will serve to excuse you. Have ye never read that Christ expects his Disciples should do more than others? Mat. 5.47. And that he hath chosen them out of the World, and therefore they are not of it, nor must be conformed to it? Know there­fore that those very Persons, who are most earnest and diligent in the way to Heaven, are withal most sensi­ble [Page 79]in how many things they fall short of their Duty; and least prone to flatter themselves with presumptu­ous Hopes. And are ye they that shall escape in your [...]gross Negligence, and vain Confidence? No such matter.

[...] Fourthly, and Lastly. It is very unnatural thus to sooth up your selves with vain Hopes. The Principle of Self preservation is most deeply implanted in human Nature, and accordingly is wont to take place in all other Cases but this, where yet there is most need of it. If your Lives, Liberties, Estates, Reputations, &c. were in danger, how thankful would ye be to any that would warn you of that Danger, and help you to avoid it? But while your Souls are exposed to the utmost hazard, ye cannot endure to be told the truth of the case. They hate him that reproveth in the Gate! And thus they play about the sides of the Pit, and so drop in one after another, without so much as think­ing seriously whither they are going, (as Flies about the Flame of a Candle, till it catch hold upon them) O more than brutish Stupidity! Is it not enough that Satan will do his worst to deceive you, but must ye also favour the Deceit, and take part with your Ene­my against your selves? While your Friends stand by and pitty you, but cannot help you, because ye are re­solved to have your own way.

Were not your Understandings made to enquire af­ter Truth? Is it not natural to them so to do? Why then do ye keep them in an affected Ignorance of those things for which they were principally given you? And all this, while the Light shines round about you, tho ye close your Eyes against it; and that in a mat­ter of everlasting consequence, even the One thing needful. It is not necessary that you be richer or greater in the World, more honoured or respected by others; or that ye fare more deliciously than your Neighbours: But 'tis highly necessary that your Peace be made with God through Christ, and the Diseases of your Souls healed by the Grace of the Spirit, or else [Page 80]you are ruined for ever to all Intents and Purposes. How unnatural a thing is it to lay out your selves so earnestly in providing for the Flesh, while the better part, even the immortal Soul, is betrayed, starved and undone.

Have ye not been told already, that your foolish Presumptions cannot be supported, except the very nature of things be overturned? Because Holiness is essentially included in the true Happiness of the rational Creature: And therefore to expect the one, without the other, is to separate a thing from it self: As if a Man should put out his own Eyes that he might see more clearly: Would not this be very natural think ye?

Ye see then how vain, sinful, dangerous and unn [...] ­tural it is, thus to abuse your selves. I have consider­ed these Particulars distinctly, tho indeed they cannot really be divided, being most intimately connected to­gether, and involved one in the Nature of another; for Vanity in a reasonable Creature is sinful: If idle Words must be accounted for, to be sure idle Hopes will not pass free. Again, that which is sinful must needs be dangerous, nor doth any thing else deserve to be called dangerous but Sin; for 'tis this that puts a Sting into all Dangers whatsoever: But he that walks uprightly, walks surely. And then again, to run wilfully upon so much Vanity, Sin, and Danger, is certainly unnatural, if Self-Destruction deserve to be so called. And so it appears, how greatly those Persons are to be reproved, who thus cheat and impose upon them­selves.

Object. But some will be ready enough to say, That this is strange kind of Doctrine, and that it is like, 1. To drive Men to Despair. And so, 2. to distract them. And then at last, 3. to break their Hearts. To which I answer.

Answ. It may perhaps be strange to you, (and so much the more is the pity, that ye should be no bet­ter acquainted with your Bibles:) But 'tis not the [Page 81]less true for all that. As for the rest of the Ob­jection,

1. Ye ought not to despair of finding Mercy with God through Christ upon Gospel-Terms: The infinite Goodness of God, and the sufficiency of Christ's Sa­tisfaction are not to be doubted of; as great Sinners as you have been pardoned: And many also have perish'd who never sinned at the rate that ye have done. Take that along with you; as the former Consideration may keep you from sinful Despair, let the latter keep you from Presumption.

Let me therefore tell you withal, that you ought to despair of being saved in any other way, but what God had appointed. He is merciful indeed, but he is also just and true; Except ye repent ye shall perish. The wicked shall be turned into Hell. If ye live after the Flesh ye shall die, &c. Do not think that God will falsify his Word, to justify your Presumptions: Will ye slight his Mercy, and then complain of him as unmerciful?

As to the 2d. Have not such Persons the plain Symp­toms of Distraction upon them already? Are they not laying violent Hands upon themselves? How can they be madder than they are, and yet they must not be told of it for fear of distracting or disturbing them! That is, we must not use our Endeavours to bring them to their Wits again.

As for the Third. The Sacrifice of God is a broken Spirit, Psal. 51. Your Hearts must be broken, that is, throughly humbled for your past Folly, in order to your future Reformation. You must be weary and heavy laden under a Sense of your Sins, that Christ may give you rest; broken, that he may heal you. The whole need not a Physician.

CHAP. VIII.

How much it concerns us to examin our selves, whether we be wrought for Heaven or no. Sundry Motives to excite us to this necessary Duty.

WE now proceed to an use of Examination. Is it so, that none can come to Heaven till they be wrought and prepared for it by special Grace? Surely 'tis high time to turn your Thoughts inward, and to stir up Conscience to do its Office, methinks ye should in this have been before-hand with me: I would be loth to suppose that ye should have heard all this, which has been said under the foregoing Heads, concerning the Nature and Necessity of this great Work, with so little Self-Application, as not to have put the Question to your own Hearts before now.

Am I thus wrought upon? Have I experienc'd such a Change in the temper of my Spirit Godward as may encourage me to hope that I am past from Death to Life, disposed and inclined to be happy in the [...] ­joymen [...] of God? &c. A weighty Question indeed! 'tis all one as if you enquited whether ye were Heirs of Heaven, or within a step of Hell; Children of God or of the Devil. Or, as if a Line should be drawn to sepa­rate between the living and the dead in this Congrega­tion: On the one side, lo, here are so many Persons wrought upon and quickened by the Spirit of God, who have the Principles and Seed of Eternal Life a­biding in them.

On the other, lo, here are so many stupid, carnal wretched Souls, under the just Wrath and Indignation [Page 83]of the Almighty, dead in Trespasses and Si [...]s; liable e­very Moment to the severe Strokes of avenging Ju­stice.

'Tis not to be wondered at, if secret misgivings of Heart, and consciousness of Guilt, cause an exceeding Averseness in unregenerate Men to this work of Self-examination, and make them even afraid of conver­sing with themselves: As desperate Bankrupts who dread to look into their Books of Account, being sen­sible that Matters are ill with them.

And it is also sad, that there should be room for such a Question as this, or at least any great difficulty in resolving it. What! ye that have so long sate under the Means of Grace, and had these things so often and so earnestly press'd upon you, and not yet wrought upon, not yet turned to God? This is a sad Case: yet (I fear) no sadder than true. O happy Congregation if all, yea or most in it, were thus prepared and fitted for Heaven! however, be your case what it will, 'tis necessary ye know it.

Therefore in handling this Use, I shall,

  • I. Lay down some Motives briefly to excite you to this Duty of Self-Examination.
  • II. Give some Directions for the more successful Ma­nagement thereof.
  • III. Offer some Questions which ye may propose to your selves, in order to the trial of your State.

I begin with the first of these.

Motive 1. Some competent Knowledg of your Spi­ [...]itual Estate and Condition is attainable. I might have spoken higher, but chose to proceed by Steps. Ye may indeed meet with some, who, to excuse their [...]n Ignorance or Sloth in this Matter, will tell you [...]at [...]o Man can know whether he be in a State of [Page 84]Grace, or no; but that we must trust God with our Souls, and hope the best: And true it is that we must trust God with our Souls; but 'tis also as true, that he hath so far entrusted us with them, as to command our utmost Care and Diligence about them: And he will quickly call us to an account, how we have dischar­ged our Trust; what we have done with his Creature? And if we be found to have betrayed our Souls by neg­ligence and carnal Security, it will not serve our turn to say that we trusted him with them, unless ye can sup­pose that our Presumption should justify our Careless­ness; that is, one Sin excuse anothe [...].

I tell▪ you therefore, ye are not left under a necessi­tated unavoidable Ignorance in this Point. Your un­acquaintance with your own Souls, as to their State Godward, is wilful and affected. I am not putting you upon Impossibilities. Others have attained not [...] to some competent Knowledg, but even to a certainty [...] the case; and that both ways. Thus Sinners are us [...] ­ally prepared for converting Grace, viz. by a tho [...]o [...] conviction of the Sinfulness and Misery of their unre­generate State: And on the other hand, many good Christians have arrived to a comfortable, quie [...] (and some even to a transporting) assurance of the [...] saving special Interest in the Love of God through Christ, and consequently of their Right to Heav [...] and that by the same Means and Helps which are vouch­safed, or offered to you.

Motive 2. To this end God hath given us the Fac [...] ­ty or Power of Self-Reflexion, that we might exami [...] our Hearts and Lives, and so pass a right Judgme [...] concerning our spiritual Estate. Prov. 20.27. T [...]e Sp [...] ­rit of Man is the Candle of the Lord, searching all [...] inward parts of the Belly. Conscience is set up as Light in the Soul, not to be extinguish'd or put under [...] Bushel, but to observe and try our selves by [...] What Man [...]weth the things of, a Man, [...] Spirit of Man which is [...]n him▪ Were it not for [...] [Page 85]Self reflective Power, we should not be capable of moral Government in a rational way; how should we rectify what is amiss, or enjoy the Comforts of sincere Obedience, but by examining both our hearts and Lives?

Therefore I say, Conscience is a Witness, a J [...]dg, ye [...] and a Executioner too: It not only bears Testimony, but passeth Sentence, and inflicts Punishment, or y [...]e [...] Refreshment and Peace, and so gives Men the fore lasts, of Heaven or Hell while they are on En [...]th. Praemium ante praemium is or praejudic [...]m s [...]t [...]ri judicii. 1 Joh. 3.20, 21. If our Heart condemn us, God is greater than our Heart, and knoweth all things! Beloved, if our Heart condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God. Must ye not own such a Faculty? Verily Conscience would flie in your Faces, if ye should deny its Power.

Motive 3. Consider that God hath given you a sure Rule to try your selves by, even his holy Word, by which he himself will try you at last.

'Tis the nature of a Law to constitute what shall be due from us, and what to us; a Rule to live by, and by which we must be judged.

Heb. 4.12. T [...]e Word of God is quick and powerful, sharper [...] than any two▪ edged Sword,and is a Dis­cerner of the Thoughts and Intents of the Heart. (Here we may behold the Comliness or Deformiries of [...] own Souls; as a man doth his natural Face in a Glass. We need not say, who shall ascend into Heaven? The Word is high u [...], whereby we must search our selves: And whether we will attend to it or no, we must stand or fall by it at last. Joh. 12.48. The Word that I have spoken, the same shall judg him in the last Day. 'This is one of those Books that shall be opened, and the smal Sentence will pass according to what is written therein; Rev. 20, 12. They shall be judged according to their Works; the Matter of Fact being recorded in their Book [Conscience]; the Matter of Right in God's Law; and [Page 86]the Conclusion in his Decree. [As Mr. Baxter upon the place.]

Motive 4. We are expresly commanded, thus to ex­amin and try our selves; yea it is mentioned as a great Absurdity that a Christian should be ignorant of him­self. 2 Cor. 13.5. Examin your selves, whether ye be in the Faith; prove your own selves: Know ye not your own selves? &c. As if he had said, Is there any thing nearer to you than your selves? any thing that ye are more concerned to know than your spiritual Estate? that is, whether Christ be in you or no. Are the ways to Heaven and Hell so much alike, that a Man cannot know whither he is going if he would? If the Ends be so vastly different, surely there must be a proportionable difference in the Ways that lead to them.

Motive 5. Ye have comfortable Encouragement to expect the help of the holy Spirit in this work of Self-Examination.

Suppose ye be yet in an unregenerate State; 'tis true ye have then no full proper Covenant-Right to the Influ­ences of the Spirit, yet ye have great reason to hope, that (since he hath been often striving with you, to bring you to a sight and sense of your spiritual Con­cerns) he will not deny the help of his Grace, if ye set your selves in good earnest to the Work, by the assistance already received. Prov. 1.23. T [...]ru you at my Reproof; behold, I will pour out my Spirit unto you, &c. Now 'tis the work of the Spirit to lead Men into their own Hearts, to convince them of Sin, and to quicken, illuminate, and draw, dead, dark, disaffected Souls to the love of God and Holiness.

But if ye be already converted; ye have then a Covenant-Right to the help of the Spirit; ye have f [...]ll and prop [...] Promises to plead in this Matter; he is the Spirit of Christ your Head; and therefore all the living Mem­bers, by virtue of their Relation unto Christ, are also [Page 87]nearly related to, and interested in, that Holy Spirit, whole Office it is to refresh and comfort those Souls whom he hath first renewed by his Grace, to dis­cover to them the Grace which he has given them, to witness with their Spirits that they are the Children of God; and so to enable them to rejoice therein.

Motive 6. Think well, how sad and wretched a case it is to be utterly in the dark as to your spiritual State. Ye cannot tell what a Day may bring forth, Prov. 27.1. For ought ye know ye may be in Hell the next hour; because ye are uncertain whether God be your Friend or your Enemy; whether ye have any saving Interest in Christ; whether ye be sanctified by the Spirit, or not. Is not this a woful Case, when thou liest down, when thou risest up, when thou goest out or comest in, thou knowest not but that the very next Moment the divine Fury may rest upon thee! Can'st thou think of Death, and not tremble, and of Judgment, and not be astonish'd? When thou art invited to a Funeral, how can'st thou forbear thinking, that it will quickly be thine [...]wn Case? and yet thou art ignorant what will become of thy immortal Soul at that Day: Methinks this should make thee a Terrour to thy self, and to all that are about thee.

Motive 7. Consider how impatient thou art of being in suspence, or at uncertainty in Matters of far less consequence. If thou have but a Law-Suit in Hand, how uneasy till thou know the Issue; if a Purchase to make, how careful to see that the Title be good, and the Conveyances firm and sure: If thou be taken with any threatning Distemper, how earnest and sollicitous art thou to know what the Physician thinks of thy Di­stemper. Pray Sir, What think you? Did you ever see any in such a Case before? Did they recover? Do you hope the Distemper may go off? But O, how few are there that express any such Care about their Souls! how few that will come to a Minister and enquire of [Page 88]him, O Sir! What shall I do to be saved? I fear I am not yet wrought for Heaven, I find my Heart dead to spiritual Things, but vigorous and sprightly in its Pursuits after worldly Vanities; I find I am out of my Element, when engaged in Religious Duties: What think you? Is there any Hope? O help me speedily; lest Death overtake me unprepared for it! O how seldom do we meet with any that shew such a concern for their Souls as this?

It were easy to heap up many more such Considera­tions as these, to excite you to this necessary work of Self-Reflection: I shall only add as follows, without the Formality of making distinct Heads.

Think with your selves, how common a thing it is for men to be mistaken about their spiritual Estate; and withal how dangerous it is; remember, God himself will quickly judg you, and the way to escape the Se­verity of his Judgment is to enter into Judgment with your selves. 1 Cor. 11.31. If we would judg ourselves, we should not be judged.

Moreover, either ye are thus wrought for Heaven by renewing Grace, or not. If ye be, the closest t [...]al will greatly refresh and comfort you, by discovering that the work is already done: Then may ye comfortably go on with the remaining part of Duty, which is yet be­fore you; ye may come with boldness to the Throne of Grace, as Children to a Father: Ye may read or hear the VVord of God with Joy, when the great Pro­mises of the Gospel are all your own: Ye may come with Confidence to the Lord's Table, when ye know that Christ himself, and all his saving Benefits are yours: Ye may meditate delightfully upon the heavenly Inhe­ritance, when ye know that ye have a right to it. This will support you under all the Sufferings of the present Life, and will make them appear light Afflictions in­deed: And besides all this, it will much conduce to the credit of your Profession, by enabling you to go on chearfully in the ways of Religion; as Men that do not repent of their Choice, not despair of their Cause or of their God.

But on the other hand, if ye be unregenerate; Self-Reflection is one of the first Steps in order to your Recovery. Psal. 119.59. I thought on my Ways, and tur­ned my Feet unto thy Testimonies. So did the Prodigal when he came to himself, Luk. 15.17. When once Men begin to be sollicitous about the Concerns of their Souls, and to enquire, What have we done? What are we doing? Whither are we going? How shall we escape the Wrath to come? This looks hopefully in­deed; tho ye must not stop here neither, nor take up with Convictions instead of Conversion. However, think not that your Wounds are like to be cured, with­out being searched.

But if through a stupid unconcernedness as to the Affairs of your Souls, ye think it not worth the while to give your selves all this trouble, tho in the mean time, ye are eagerly set upon this present World, (as the common Case is) I can then tell you what your Case is, without any further enquiry; ye may spare the La­bour of searching whether ye be regenerate or no; for to deal plainly with you, 'tis certain ye are not. Your brutish [...]cupidity is evidence enough to prove that ye are asleep, yea dead in Sin, condemned already, and that the Wrath of God abideth on you: In a word, as the Lord liveth, there is but a step between you and Hell.

But yet a step there is; your case is not quite desperate, tho it be very dangerous: I must say of you, as of those Patients whose Condition seems very hazardous, the Event is uncertain; but while their's Life their's Hope. Some have recovered▪ who seem'd to be in as ill Cir­cumstances as you; but let me tell you many to one have perish'd.

Even so is here; some have been converted and saved, who were once as dead and stupid about the Concerns of their Souls as ye are: But many to one have been lost for ever. Therefore to flatter you in such a condition, might contribute much to your ruin, which I am not willing to do.

Therefore I tell you, there is just so much hope of [Page 90]your Salvation, as there is of your awakening from this carnal Security, and so repenting and turning to God, and no more.

CHAP. IX.

Directions for the more successful ma­nagement of this great Duty of Self-Examination.

HAving laid down the fore-going Motives, to ex­cite you to this necessary Duty of Self-Reflecti­on, and shew'd you of how ill signification it is for Men to be unconcern'd and indifferent about the State of their Souls: I now come to give some Directions, for the help of such as are sollicitous to know whe­ther they be wrought for Heaven or no?

Direction 1. Take care that ye be impartial in your search, that your Judgments be not perverted or bi­ass'd either way, by fear or favour; but that ye may go according to evidence. The greatest Danger indeed is on the one side, viz. Lest Pride or Self-Love make you judg too favourably concerning your selves. But here remember, that such a mistake may prove your ruin: 'Tis necessary ye know the worst of your case while there is yet hope of redress. Ye have already heard what Multitudes there are that perish by Pre­sumption: To think falsly that ye are in the way to Heaven will never bring you thither; nor will it cure the Diseases of your Souls, to suppose that ye are well enough already; such Ravings are a sad Symptom that your noblest Faculties are impaired and distracted, and therefore that your Distempers are so much the more [Page 91]dangerous. But I need not enlarge upon this, only re­member, that God will quickly try all over again; and whatever your present Judgment be of your selves, his final Judgment will be according to Righteous­ [...]ess.

On the other Hand, some are so timerous and dejected in spirit, that they know not how to believe any thing that is good and comfortable concerning themselves: So far are they from presumptious Self-Conceit, that they run into a quite contrary extream; and standing in their own Light, cannot discern the Evidences of their Sincerity. Fain they would be assured that their Hearts are right with God, but have not strength of Spirit enough to conclude that it is so, through meer Fear, lest it should prove otherwise: They vehement­ly wish it, but cannot perswade themselves to believe it; still thinking 'tis too good News to be true. Like Old Jacob, when they told him that Joseph was alive, his Heart fainted, for he believed them not, Gen. 45.26. or as the poor Jews, when the Lord turned again the Cap­tivity of Zion, they were like them that dream, Psal. 126.1. They could scarce believe their own Senses and Understandings in the Matter. Even so it is with many poor, melancholly, doubting Christians; they desire to be sincere, but fear that they are not so: And those Evidences of true Grace which to another would be discernable, to them are not so. Now, I say, tho such Persons be safe in the Hands of Christ, notwithstand­ing all their Doubts and Jealousies concerning them­selves, and so their mistake cannot prove destructive, as in the former Case: Yet it is of consequence ill e­nough, both in point of Duty, and Comfort. Prudence will reach us to be wary and cautious in so great an Enquiry, to suspect our own Deceitful Hearts, and to watch them narrowly lest they should betray us to vain Hopes; and Humility will teach us to entertain low Thoughts of our selves: But still 'tis unnatural to shut our Eyes against that Light which should refresh and comfort us; and unthankful to overlook or deny the [Page 92]Richos of Grace which have been laid out upon us. Rear as well as Favour, is an Enemy to right and im­partial Judgment.

Direct. 2. This Enquiry must be managed with a great deal of Care▪ and Seriousness. 'Tis a Matter of Life and Death that is before you, and therefore ye had need have your Wits about you. A mistake on the one Hand may destroy your Souls forever: On the other, it may greatly obstruct your spiritual Comfort and growth in Grace. Therefore the most sober judici­ous Consideration is here necessary. Call in your wan­dering Thoughts, keep them close to the work, let them not give you the slip, lest they grow masterless and unruly: Commu [...]e with your Hearts, and let you Spirit make diligent search, Psal. 77.6. There's no trifling in Matters of this Nature; 'tis not a few sligh­ty transient thoughts that will serve the turn, the Prin­ciples of Grace lie deep in the Soul, ye must search for them as for hid Treasure, if you would discover them: And there are depths of Wickedness too, which, must in like manner be searched after with great Care and Strictness [...] if ye would pass a right Judgment of your own Case, ye must excite your sluggish. Hearts to the work; and if your Thoughts fly off from the Business, let Reason interpose its Authority, otherwise a thousand Impertinences will intrude upon you, and so ye will be left in as great darkness and uncertainty, in reference to your spiritual Estate, as ye were in before.

In a word, intensness of thought is needful in this work, that so nothing may escape your observation, which might any way conduce to clear up the Point in Hand.

Direct. 3. See that ye proceed with due order and method in this Business; otherwise ye w [...] confound, perplex and entangle your selves to no purpose. Dif­ficult Cases are not to be resolved without an orderly [Page 93]Proceedure of Thoughts about them. Confusion is the great Enemy to all true Knowledg of what kind so­ever. Take care that ye do not begin at the wrong end first; let Preliminaries be well adjusted, before ye come to the Point it self. Under this Head, take your work in the following order.

1. Understand aright what you are to enquire after, lest ye mistake the Question. The thing to be known, is, whether ye be so far wrought for Heaven, that if it should please God immediatly to require your Souls of you, it would go well with them in another State: That is, whether the condition of your Souls be such, that come Life, come Death, they are safe? Now here [...]ls plain that ye may easily deceive your selves, by stating the Question too high, or too low.

If ye only enquire, whether there be any good in you which hath a tendency towards this great work of Regeneration, ye then fall short in the Point; for I have told you before, that there may be ve­ry deep Convictions of the necessity of this renew­ing Change, yea and some saint Essays, Resolutions, or Endeavours towards it, which are only the Ef­fects of common Grace, and if they be rested in, do as certainly end in Destruction, as down right Profane­ness does.

Again, there are various Degrees and Measures of Grace among the People of God themselves: All that are sincere are not of the same stature or standing; some have received more Talents, a greater stock of Grace than others. If therefore ye enquire immediatly whether ye have attained to such or such Measures, to which some others (who perhaps are above you) have arrived, ye then lay a Snare for your own Comfort and Peace by carrying the Question too high at first. Your present Business is to examin whether your Graces be sincire; as for the degres of them, let that be enquired into afterward. 'Tis likely ye are not so good as the best, nor so bad as the worst; the Question is whether of the two ye are more like to in the main. Do not [Page 94] [...]h [...]cy your selves Saints, because ye are not so vile [...] the vilest: For among unregenerate Persons themselves all are not alike scandalous and hardened in Sin: No [...] yet must ye conclude that ye are Graceless, because some others our-st [...]ip you in Holiness. There is a [...] infant as well as a more strong and confirmed State of Grace.

2. Study well the Rule by which ye are to try your selves. Search the Scriptures, to the Law and to the Testimony; by this ye must try the Spirits and the Doctrines of other Men: How much more nearly doth it concern you to examin your own Hearts and Lives thereby? Acquaint your selves well with the Tenour of the Covenant of Grace; upon what Terms Pardon and Life are offered to poor Sinners; what is essentia [...] necessary to the Being of a sincere Christian, as such; and what is further requisite to his Establishment, Com­fort and Well-being. In the sacred Records ye may find the Nature of those Graces, which qualify and fit Men for Eternal Life; and also the Examples of many, who are gone to Heaven before us, what their Hearts were set upon; how they lived, and how they died: here ye may learn what ye ought to be; where to place your Affections; how to regulate your Lives, that ye may be happy. Ye may see the Characters by which the Heirs of Heaven must be known; and also the op­posite Description of those who shall be excluded from that Felicity. He is unfit to be a Judg, who is igno­rant of the Law or Rule of Judgment. It therefore much concerns you, to converse much with the Holy Scriptures, and to understand the true spiritual sense and meaning of them, which are able to make you wise to Salvation. From hence ye must take your Measures, in judging of the Sincerity of your Faith, Repentance, Love, Obedience, &c. that so ye may not take up with the empty Name of Grace, instead of the thing it self, as too many through Sloth and affected Ignorance do.

And here ye must remember, that the Commandment of God is exceeding broad, extending not only to the [Page 95]Government of our outward Actions and Behaviours, h [...] also to the inward Principles from whence those Actions flow, viz. all the Faculties and Powers of our Souls, Understanding, Will, Imagination, Affection, Sense, Appetite, Habits, Dispositions, &c. must be minded and governed by the Rule, and that in all cir­cumstances, at all times, and in all places, without ex­ception. The Tree must be made good that the Fruit may be so. God has imprinted his holy Image upon his Word, and makes use of it as an Instrument to work a sutable Impression upon us.

3. Ye are next to examin strictly your own Hearts and Lives, and compare them with the Rule, or try them by it; remember I am now speaking only in ge­neral, to prepare you for those particular Questions which are design'd as a further help for the Discovery of your Case.

Only at present let me tell you, ye are not to judg of the State of your Souls by what is unusual and ex­traordinary with you, but by the habitual bent of your Hearts, and the stated ordinary course and tenour of your Lives. An Hypocrite may have some transient Affections and Emotions of Soul towards spiritual Things, and some seeming Fits of Religion for a while; and yet afterwards return with the Dog to his vomit again. Herod heard John Baptist gladly, and did many things. Those on the Rock heard the Word and anon with Joy received it, but had not root in themselves. Mat. 13. Observe here, a living Principle of Grace is a rooted, Principle, fixt in the Heart, and there kept a­live, by the same Power which implanted it. 'Tis said of him that is born of God, that his Seed remaineth in [...]in, Joh. 3 9. In short, the Will is the Man, and the Sincerity of its Resolutions must be known by sutable Indeavours, and the sincerity of those Endeavours by their Success: Of which more hereafter. Or if ye take [...]t the other way, by the main drift and course of your lives, ye may know what are the prevailing habits and [...]spositions of your Souls, (for Men will act according [Page 96]to their predominant Habits) and by these ye may know your State, that is, by reducing all to the Scripture-Rule, as has been said already: Thus must ye try and judg your selves.

4. Ye are then to proceed to Sentence, which i [...] nothing else but the Conclusion that must be drawn from the fore-going Premisses, viz. the Law and Fact com­pared together: Here again keep your hearts close to the Work, and bring it to an issue. Sooner or later this must be done, and the sooner the better: If upon a thorow Enquiry thou find thy self to be yet in [...] unregenerate State, pass sentence accordingly; it will signify nothing to put it off. Be thy Case better o [...] worse, labour to know it, and come to a Conclusion, what it is.

5. Lastly, see that thy Soul be affected with the dis­covery thou hast made. Take it to heart, that tho [...] may'st be prepared for what further work is before thee. Thus proceed orderly.

Direct. 4. Remember that a great deal of patience and constancy is, ordinarily, requisite for the right carrying on this great Work of Self-Examination: Do not think that so weighty a Point is like to be resolved all on a sudden. Ye must search and search again; [...] a Work that must be done, and therefore do not [...] down in Discouragement. What tho ye long contin [...] in Doubt, the case is not singular; many good Christi­ans are kept a great while in suspense betwixt Hope and Fears as to their Sincerity, and that many time for want of Constancy and Judgment in the manage­ment of this Duty of Self-Reflection; and even those who have arrived to a more comfortable assurance i [...] this Matter do yet see reason to be often renewing th [...] Tryal, and to look over their Evidences again, as we [...] knowing what need there is to go upon solid Ground and what a treacherous thing the Heart of Man is.

The truth is, it should be accounted part of our da [...] ­ly Business, as Christians, to commune with our ow [...] [Page 97]Hearts by way of Self-Examination; not that we should be always calling in question our State as to the main; yet even that should sometimes be done, so far as to review the Discoveries which we have formerly made, and to try the Grounds upon which we have proceed­ed, especially upon some particular occasions; as when Temptations arise, or when we are called to any ex­traordinary Duty or Office; yea, or after some unusual falls into Sin, or when Distempers threaten our Disso­lution; as also before we approach the Lord's Table, 'tis but fit that we examin the Evidences of our Sin­cerity; not so as to give way to unjust Doubts and Jea­lousies, but to quiet, compose, and support our Souls in Peace.

Direct. 5. Lastly, see that this Work be rightly cir­cumstantiated both as to Time and Place.

As for the latter of these. Withdraw your selves from the noise and hurry of worldly Business, that ye may attend upon this Work without Distraction: Enter into your Closets, shut the Door upon you, set your selves as in the Presence of the great God; remember that he is the most reverend Witness of all your Proceedings, who stands by and judgeth you while you are judg­ing your selves: A due Sense of this or nothing will over­awe your Minds, and make you impartial and serious in the Business.

As for the circumstance of Time. Have a care of needless delays in this Matter; yet do not rush precipitantly upon it, when you are unfit for such an undertaking. Take such a season for it (as soon as possible) when your Spirits are lively, your Heads clear, your Af­fections calm and composed: Otherwise, if ye set about it when your Heads are confused, your Spirits dejected or oppress'd with Melancholly, &c. and so your Passions tumultuous and afloat, ye will make nothing of it. And therefore ye shall sometimes find that Satan him­self (tho the greatest Enemy to this Work of Self-Examination) will transform himself into an Angel of Light, and put a poor-trembling Soul upon this work, [Page 98]when he knows it is unfit for it; and as ready will he be to triumph over such Persons, and co [...]tempt them to despair, when he sees they are baffled, and confound­ed in their search.

Thus I have endeavoured to direct you in this Point.

I hope I need not tell you, that in all this 'tis necessa­ry to implore the Divine Assistance, humbly begging of him who is the Searcher of Hearts, that he would lead you into your own Souls, and not suffer you to be mistaken in a Matter of such consequence. Tell him, ye cannot be satisfied to hang in suspence, but do sincerely desire to know the truth of your Case, be it better or worse, and that he himself his com­manded you to search and try your selves; that the work is difficult, and ye dare not undertake it in your own strength: In short, that ye are resolved to rely upon him, who is not wont to fail them that seek him and put their trust in him, according to his own ap­pointed way. Say with the Psalmist, Psal. 139.23, 24. Search me, O God, and know my Heart: Try me, and know my Thoughts. And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

CHAP. X.

Sundry Questions proposed by which to examin the State of our Souls.

THese general Directions being premised, we now come to offer you some fu [...]ther help, or to lead you by the Hand through the Duty it self; that so ye may at length discover how the case stands with you in reference to Eternity.

And here let me first tell you, that the main Point to be enquired into, is, how your Souls are affected towar [...]s the glorious blessed God himself. This is the grand comprehensive Question, the Rule and Measure of all [...]he rest, which are intirely subordinate to it. Ob­serve it will, stop a little and consider it: 'Tis this which must help you to understand, remember, and truly to resolve what further Enquiries shall be offered to you, as being the Center wherein they all meet, the End whereunto they are all design'd: If, as to the main, ye be right here, viz If your Souls be duly af­fected towards God, all's your own, you may then con­clude that you are wrought for Heaven indeed; ye shall not miss of Happiness, if there be enough in the infinite A [...]l-sufficient God to m [...]ke you happy. Luk. 15.31. Son, thou are ever with me, and all that I have is thine.

Well then, i [...] in your most serious [...]eliberate Judg­ment ye do highly esteem him, as infinitely good in himself, and the most sutable good for you.

Again, if your Wills and Hearts do sincerely cleave to him, love him, rest in him, resolve for him, as such.

And then, if the stated Cou [...]se of y [...]ur Lives be in the main agreeable to such Appr [...]hensions, and Resolutions. Ye may then go y [...]ur w [...]y, eat your Bread with Joy, and drink your Wine with a merry Heart, because God accept­eth you, Eccles. 9 7.

Yet let me fu [...]ther add, there's a great deal goes to prove that this is re [...]lly and truly your case. Most Men will be ready to say, that they esteem and love God a­bove all. With their Mouth they shew much Love, Ezek. 33.31. Nor would any have been more forward in so professing, than those very Persons to whom our Lord speaks, John 5 42. I know you, that ye have not the Love of God in you.

Let me therefore help you to find out the Truth of your Case, by the following Questions.

Question 1. How do ye relish the notion of an Happiness which consists in the enjoyment of God? I beseech you [Page 100]deal truly and faithfully with your Souls in this; put it close and home to your own Consciences: Consider it well before ye answer it: 'Tis likely, by this time, ye may have learn'd to say that there is no other Hap­piness comparable to this; and that 'tis the enjoyment of God which makes Heaven to be Heaven! and it may be your Understandings are in some measure convinced of the Truth of what ye say, (or else I am sure a great deal of pains has been taken with you to little purpose.) But for all that, I must tell you, the Question is not yet half answered, the main Point is yet behind; the great work of Regeneration lies principally in the WILL. Search therefore a little further, ye may chance to find that your Hearts are more deceitful in this matter than ye thought of; examin narrowly how they stand affected. Right Notions are far more com­mon in the World (as dark as it is) than answerable Affections and Tendencies of Soul are.

Come then, let us go a little deeper into the Case. Ye say ye believe there is no Happiness to be compared with the enjoyment of God: But do ye feel what ye say? Are your Hearts moving towards this Happiness? Lord, I have heard, and believe that thou hast purposed to make thy People blessed in the enjoyment of thy self; 'tis this that my panting Soul breaths after: I plainly feel that nothing else will content me; grant me this, and I have all; I can have no greater, I desire no other Blessedness: Lord, may I but know thee bet­ter, and love thee more, even as much as my Nature is capable of, and enjoy the everlasting Sense of thy Love in a state of perfect Holiness and Purity, I have then enough, I desire no more; whatever else goes un­der the name of Happiness in the World, is but an empty Notion; thou, O Lord, are my Portion, my All. If these or such like Requests be really expressive of the inward, deep, habitual workings of your Souls, ye may then boldly conclude that God will not frustrate nor disappoint such Desires as these which his holy Spirit hath kindled in you. Those, who thus esteem [Page 101]and long for the Heavenly Felicity, shall have it: Hold on therefore to the end, he is faithful that hath promised: If it be thus with you, I tell you, ye are safe.

But on the other Hand; if when ye hear mention made of such a Happiness, ye do, upon deep and impartial search, find no sutableness in the Temper and Tendencies of your Souls, no Desires after it, but [...]ather a secret recoiling and drawing back from it; if, I say, the case be so with you, methinks, I need not tell you ye are not like to be happy in that to which your Hearts are so disaffected. Is not this plain enough? How shall I make it plainer? The Lord help you to understand and consider it: I know carnal Minds are very stupid and blockish as to the apprehension of such things as these. Let me try a-little further if I can drive it into you.

Suppose God should say to you, as once he did to Solomon, 1 Kings 3.5 Ask what I shall give thee. What shall I do for thee to make thee happy? Ask freely, speak thy Mind, let me hear what thou wouldest chuse for thy self.

Why, here I say, if thou canst form to thy self any other notion of Happiness that thou wouldst ra­ther chuse than that whereof we have been speaking, viz. which consists in the enjoyment of God: I tell thee thou art in a woful case. Acts 8.22.23. Repent therefore of this thy Wickedn [...]ss; and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thy Heart may be forgiven thee. For I per­ceive that thou art in the Gall of Bitterness, and in the Bond of Iniquity

Suppose thou mightst enjoy perfect bodily Health, and fulness of worldly Prosperity and Ease, and this for ever: If, I say, thou couldst be content with this for thy Portion; to deal plainly with thee, thou are a graceless wicked Wretch.

Quest. 2. What feeling Apprehensions have ye concerning the woful Corruption of human Nature, especially in respect of its Aversion from God, and Enmi [...]y against him? Were [Page 102]you ever made deep [...]y sensible of this, and throughly humbled for it, so [...]s to [...]ament and bewail it before the Lord? If not, ye may conc [...]ude your [...]e [...]ves to be yet under the power of it; and therefore Strangers to this great work of Grace, which we are searching after. Quare vitia sua nemo confit tur? quia etiam nunc in illis est. Somnium narrare vigelantis est, & vitia suae confiteri sanitatis indicium est. Sence.

But if indeed the e [...]se be better with you, and the bent of your hearts be turned towards God through Christ; having first [...]een made sensible of your sin [...]ul and unhappy estrangedness from h [...]m by Nature: Yet ye cannot but know that there are still some Re­mainders of your old Distemper; Do ye not feel them? Is it possible they should escape your observation? Can ye feel them, and not groan [...]itterly under them, [...]nd long to be delivered from them, that ye may be perfect­ly reconciled unto him, who is infinite amiable Good­ness it self? Are ye not sensibly [...]ffected, even the best of you, to find that your Apprehensions concerning God are yet so d [...]rk and confused? And that the work­ings of your Hearts towards him are so dull and languid, so slow and heavy, a [...]ter all that he has done to draw you by his loving K [...]noness? Can ye think of your un­kind disingenuou [...] Ca [...]riage to so good a God, and not be asham'd and [...]l [...]sh [...]r? Doth it not make you even a Burden to your selves? Can ye [...]orbear crying out in the angu [...]sh of your Sou [...]s, [...]nd pleading earnestly with God on this account; Lord, if it be so, why am I thus? Must I still be complaining, and yet get no near­er thee? O my God, how long! how long! Canst thou behold this Soul that [...]ssued from thee the Father of Spi­rits; Lord canst [...]hou see it lie groveling in the Dust, and looking tow [...]rds thee for help, and wilt thou not pitty it? Where are thy wonted Compassions, and the sounding of thy B [...]we [...]s? Surely they are not restrained? Must m [...]ne E [...]es still fail with looking upwards? O Lord, I must not, I d [...]re not, I cannot entertain hard Thoughts of thee: no, no; 'tis I that have so often [Page 103]grieved thy Holy Spirit, and therefore have no more of his help vouchafed me.

I tell you, Sirs▪ the holiest Persons are most sensi­ble of the weight of indwelling Corrup [...]ion, they strive, they pray, they watch, and war against it; the nearer they are to God, the more sensible of their yet remaining distance from him: Nor is there any thing for which they more loath themselves, than for the Remnants of their Aversion from him.

Quest. 3. How stand ye affected to the Lord Jesus Christ, as he is the Way to the Father, the principal Means to bring us to the Knowledg and Love of God; to Reconciliation and Communion with him, and to the ever­lasting enjoyment of him? Do ye highly value him as such? Do ye study to acquaint your selves with him, to live by Faith upon him, and in holy Obedience and Conformity to him; that so the ends of h [...]s Of­fice may take place with you, viz. that ye may be brought nearer to God by him? Are ye willing to look unto his Scepter, and acknowledg his Soveraignty, as well as to rely upon his Satisfaction? What form, what comliness do ye behold in him? Is he the chiefest a­mong [...]en thousand to you? Have ye well considered, who, or what he is? Even the brightness of his Fathers Glory, and the express Image of his Person: God manifested in the Flesh: The great Imman [...]el, God with us: That the Eternal Word and Wisdom of the Father was cloathe I with human Nature, pr [...]ched his Tent among the Sons of Men: [...]; Joh. 1.14 Con­vers'd familiarly even with the meanest Persons, breath­ing out Love, Compassion, Tenderness, and Benigni­ty towards all, even towards his bi [...]terest Enemies; weeping over Self-destroying Sinners, and at last offer­ing up himself a Propitiatory Sacrifice for us, &c.

O think, and think again, who it was that did all this, even the God of Heaven himself, appearing in the likeness of sinful flesh, Rom. 8.3. O let those words sink deep into your Hearts, John 14.9. He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father. All this was the Lord's do­ing; [Page 104]lo, this was the wonderful condescending way which God was pleased to make choice of, therein to shew us his amiable Goodness; that hereby our aver­sion from him might be healed. Could Men or Angels have thought of such a Contrivance as this; or if they had, durst they have mention'd it? But God's thoughts are not as ours. O the depths of his Wisdom! How will these things transport us when we come to Heaven!

What say ye to all this? Ʋnto them that believe, Christ is precious; Is he so to you? Are ye willing to take up your Cross and follow him? to give up your selves sincerely to him? Is there any thing which you think too dear to part with if he call for it, nay, tho it were Life it self? Know ye not that every true Christian is in disposition a Martyr? Doth not our Lord tell us, that if we love our own Lives more than him, we cannot be his Disci­ples? Doth this Saying offend you? Or do ye think it hard? What if I should tell you, how earnestly de­sirous many of the primitive Christians were to lay down their Lives for the Testimony of Jesus? How they triumphed in the midst of their sharpest Suffer­ings, while the Sense of the dying Love of Jesus Christ was warm and fresh upon their Spirits, Inso­much that Cyprian was fain to write for the comfort of such who were troubled, that they mist of their Hopes of Martyrdom.

O how is the case altered now! what would those Christians say if they saw us at this day? How much we mind our own things, and how little the things of Christ. Would they not think, either that Christianity is al­tered, or rather that we scarce deserve to be called Christians?

Quest. 4. How are ye disposed to spiritual Exercises? What delight do ye take in drawing nigh to God? All Creatures act according to their several Natures, 'tis pleasant and agreeable to them so to do: If therefore ye have a new Nature in you, a Principle of divine spiritual Life, ye will thereby be enclined to holy Ex­ercises; ye will move as it were Naturally towards them; [Page 105]ye will be serious and servent in them; and that for holy Purposes and Ends.

That empty shew of Religion, whereby Hypocrites profane holy things, and deceive their own Souls, is a vain lifeless formal thing, a meer piece of Pageantry; they neither well know what they are doing, nor why they do it: 'Tis rather forc'd than natural, customary than consciencious. No wonder if such be soon weary of Duty, as being Strangers to the sweetness of it! Job. 27.10. Will he (namely the Hypocrite) delight himself in the Almighty? Will he always call upon God?

But now, a truly Religious Person acts in these Matters at another rate. He believes that God is, and that he is the Rewarder of them that diligently seek him: Yea, that he himself will be their exceeding great Re­ward: And this it is that such a Soul longs after; ha­ving chosen God for his Portion; therefore he reckons that a day employ'd in the Service of God is better than a thousand elsewhere.

Holy Souls experience that their spiritual Strength is renewed by waiting upon God; that their Graces are increased by exercise; that their Souls are cleansed and purified, their Corruptions mortified and subdued; and in a word, that the holy Worship of the most holy God helps to make them more like him: And in all this they find those inward relishes of Delight and Pleasure, whereby they are fully convinced, that it is no less their priviledg and advantage that they may, than their Duty that they must attend upon God. They had rather he cut short as to their daily Bread, than denied the liberty of approaching the Throne of Grace. In short, they have Meat to eat which the World knows not of. Thus their Principles incline them to sutable Operations, their Habits to Acts.

If therefore ye find no inclination to Religious Du­ties, but can without any regret let such Opportunities over slip you, having no Delight nor Pleasure in them: But think, if ye durst, ye could live well enough without them. I can then tell you, that ye have no Principle of [Page 106]spiritual Life in you. Holy Work and carnal Hearts do not agree well together: 'Tis a plain case.

Quest. 5 When the Interest of the World and Flesh stands in competition with the Interest of God and the Duty ye owe to nim, which of these both ordinarily the cast­ing Vote with you? Doth the Will and Authority of God weigh more with you, as to the ordinary stated Course of your Lives and Actions, that and other In­terests or Inclinations whatsoever? If your He [...]s be for God, 'tis ce [...]tain your Lives wi [...]e so too▪ for the Issues of Life are from the Heart The Tree is known by its Fruit. Dare ye allow your selves in the wilful or­dinary neglect of known Dut [...]? Dare ye in ulge and gratify your Lusts which ye are commanded to crucify? Al eye for taking up only with the cheap and easy part of Religion, and leaving the more difficult, self-denying part behind? Dare ye upon a prospect of worldly Pleasure, Profit or Honour wi [...]u [...]ly offend the D [...]vine [...]o [...]jesty? Do ye ventu [...]e upon that which is forbidden, or do ye not abhor the very thoughts or mention of it? How shall I do this Wickedness, and sin against God? Some Persons abstain from Sin for want of a convenient opportunity to commit it, others for fear of Reproach or Punishment: But a gracious Soul is acted by a Principle of sincere Love to God, and Holiness, and therefore he hateth every false way. Psa. 119.104. So vers. 106. I have sworn and I will perform it, that I will keep thy Righteous Judgments. Psal. 17 5. Hold up my Goings in thy Paths, that my Foot steps slio not.

Your prevailing Habits, and consequently your State, must be known by your Behaviour in a time of trial; then it must appear whether the Interest of God, or your own Corruptions be predominant in you; whether his Commands, or the Inclinations of the F [...]esh, bear the greater sway with you: That is, whether ye be sincere Christians, or Self-deceiving Hypocrites.

'Tis true in leed, the best of Men, through surprize or the violence of a Temptation, may be overtaken [Page 107]even with gross Sin; but if they fall into it, they do not lie in it, but renew their Repentance, and double thei [...] wa [...]er: Their Wills are habitually more against Sin th [...]n for it; they endeavour to be rid of it, and therefore are not to be denominated Workers of Iniqui­ty. But with the unregenerate the case is otherwise, they love their Sins, and are loth to leave them.

Quest. 6 Do ye love to be plainly dealt with as to the great Concerns of your Souls? Are ye for awakening, convincing, searching Light? or had he rather sleep on and take your rest? Are ye earnestly desirous to know your Duty better in order to practice? Have ye no Sin which ye are not willing to find out? Have ye dis­covered none which ye are not resolved to leave? Do ye take it well to be prudently and faithfully reproved? He that hateth Reproof is brutish, shall die, suddenly be destroy'd, and that without Remedy Faithful are the Wounds of a Friend. Let the Righteous smite me, it shall be a Kindness; and let him reprove me, it shall be an excellent O [...]le, &c. Psal. 141.5. It is a woful Sign when Men desire to be foothed up and flattered in their evil ways. And woe be to those who humour them therein, and daub with untempered Morter. Ezek. 13.10. Joh. 3.19, 20. This is the Condemnation, that Light is come into the World, &c. For every one that doeth Evil hateth the Light, neither cometh to the Light, l [...]st his Deeds should be reproved. But a gracious Soul is for an home and close application of the most searching, powerful, convincing Truths, and for judging himself impartially by them. Hyp [...]crites indeed are forward to judg others; they can espy Motes in their Brother's Eye; bu [...] O how favourable are they to themselves, how ready to cloak and extenuate their own Sins? 'Tis a sign your Cause is naught, when ye would have it shuffled over without searching.

Quest. 7. Do ye earnestly desire and endeavour after greater degrees of Holiness both in Heart and Life? Were [Page 108]it put to your choice, whether had ye rather be as holy as Abraham, David, Daniel, &c. or any other of the most eminent Saints ye have heard or read of, or as great and successful in the World as Cesar, Alexander, Scipio, or any the like? &c.

This is a plain Question, but 'tis worth your while to put it close to your own Conscience [...]. Sensible things are apt to make very strong Impressions upon us, while spiritual Objects, tho infinitely more excellent, are but coldly or indifferently regarded. If ye be truly gra­cious, ye will certainly desire to be more (yea to be perfectly) so: And your Desires will be seconded with answerable Endeavours.

As for inward habitual Holiness. Ye will still be taking pains with your own Souls, to bring them to a more full conformity to the blessed God: This ye will aim at in all your Religious Exercises, viz. That ye may get more Knowledg of God, more intimate Acquain­tance and Communion with him through Christ: That your Hearts may be carried out more earnestly, purtly, and strongly towards him; in short, that ye may be more inward with him, and near to him: And that whatever ye find in your selves contrary to him, may be more and more rooted out, mort [...]fied, and destroy­ed: Ye will even hunger and thirst after Righteousness, Mat. 5.6. All the Afflictions ye meet with in the World, will be as nothing to you, if compared with the Burden of remaining Corruption; especially A­verseness from God.

As for Holiness of Life. Ye will lay out your selves for God, your Time, your Strength, your All will be at his Service: As accounting that there is nothing else worth living for; but the promoting of his Glory, and the pleasing of his Will. Ye will therefore en­deavour to abound in the Work of the Lord: And joyfully embrace Opportunities put into your Hand, to testify your Love by Obedience; tho the Flesh should be a loser or a sufferer by it: Yea you will seek for such opportunities, and contrive with your selves, [Page 109]how ye may be most serviceable to the Honour and In­terest of your God.

But if as to these Matters ye be cold and careless, ye may well suspect your selves to be false and unsound at the bottom.

Quest. 8. Do ye heartily love and value all that are truly Godly, as such? Is your delight in the Excellent Ones of the Earth? Do ye love the Soci [...]ty and Converse of such Persons? Are ye heartily concerned for their Welfare? And ready to relieve their Wants and Necessities. How dwelleth the Love of God in that Man who shatteth up his bowels of Compassion from his Brother? 1 Joh. 3.17.

The Hearts of wicked Men rise against those who are more strict and serious than themselves. They can hardly afford them a good Word or Look; but put Nick-Names upon them, and could wish they were rooted out of the Earth. Others there are, who, tho not so desperately malignant, do yet think that less Care and Strictness might serve the turn, and are offended to see them make so much ado about Religion. But all those who truly love God, love his holy Image where-ever they can discern it, love those that are begotten of him, love those that love him, as such. So that Love to the People of God, is principally and ultimate­ly referred unto God himself, who is loved in them, and they for his sake.

1 Joh. 3.14. We know that we have passed from Death unto Life, because we love the Brethren. But then, ye must observe it is not every lower degree of Love to the Godly, even as such, that will prove your Sinceri­ty, but it must be such a prevailing degree of Love to them, as will argue the predominancy of your Love to God himself, upon whose account they are loved. Take these together, and they will help to prove and illustrate each other. Thus, chap. 5.2. By this we know that we love the Children of God, when we love God and keep his Commandments. So then, love to the Brethren is a more remote mark of Sincerity, and must it self be tried [Page 110]by this more immediate one, viz. Love to God him­self.

Quest. 9. What way do your Thoughts most naturally turn for support in an hour of Trouble? Whence do y [...] fetch your greatest Relief at such a time, when sharp Afflictions press hard upon you?

It must indeed be acknowledged, that even Nature it self seems to promp Men to look up towards God when they are under extream Difficulties, and some (for Fashion) will do it sooner: But in the mean time, the greatest Supports and Comforts of Ungodly Men are usually taken from the Creature: They hope the Tide will turn, and Matters go better with them in the World, and this it is that keeps them from sinking; sometimes they trust in their Riches, sometimes in their Friends, sometimes to their own Conduct and Ma­nagement; in short, they will turn their Eyes every way for Satisfaction and Ease, rather than towards God.

The Reason is plain, they are estranged from him, and have not learn'd to take up with him for their only Soul-satisfying Portion and Happiness: They like not the thoughts of this, but shun it as a thing unsutable to them: They will rather weary themselves with a thou­sand fruitless Attempts to sind rest in the Creature, than seek it in him who alone can give it. Perhaps when they are forced, and even fired out of all other Refuges, they will then come crying to God; but what can such a constrained shew of Devotion signify? Ʋtumur Deo, fruun [...]ur creaturis. They would, as it were, make use of God, to serve a turn, but their Hearts, their Love and Delight is upon the Crea­tures.

As for the truly Godly, the Case is otherwise with them, their Hopes and Comforts are of a more divine Original. Lord, what wa [...] I for? My hope is in thee? Altho the Fig Tree shall not blossom, &c. yet will I rejoice in the Lord, Hab. 3.17, 18. Some trust in Chariots, and [Page 111]some in Horses: But we will remember the Name of the Lord our God, Psal. 20.7. There be many that say, who will shew us any good? Lord list thou up the Light of thy Countenance upon us. [...]sal. 4 6 In the Multitude of my Thoughts (Heb. troublesome perplexed Thoughts) within me try Comforts delig [...]t my Soul.

Thus the Spirit of Adoption te [...]ch [...]th Believers to lay open their Complaints to their Heavenly Father; to cast their C [...]re upon him to place their H [...]ppiness in him, to fetch their Comforts from him: And this as Matter of choice, not meerly out o [...] constraint: The Name of the Lord is a strong Tower: The Righteous [...] ­neth into it and is safe, Prov. 19.10. Psal. 94.32. The Lord is my Defence, and my God is the R [...]ck of my Refuge. They know them elves to be Stranger in this World, and therefore expect no great Matters from it. Heaven is their home: Their Treasure, their Hopes, their Joys, their Hearts are there. Of this we have full Proof in the Context▪ as has been already observed.

By these and such like Questions ye may try your State.

I know there are different degrees of Grace; all that are truly Godly will not be alike able to answer what has been proposed: Nor would I make sad the Heart of the weakest sincere Christian. There may be great Failures and Imperfections, but that which I would advise you to, is strictly to observe, what is the prevailing bent of your Hearts in all this.

But I have one Question more, fit for the strongest to try themselves by; tho the weakest are not uncon­cerned in it neither.

Quest. 10. Do ye love God, as God, for himself, above your selves, or any other Object whatsoever?

That in point of Duty we ought thus to love God is past dispute, unless we will renounce at once both Rea­son and Religion. Mark. 12.30. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with ALL thy Heart, and with ALL thy Soul, &c. this is the first and the great Commandment. Mat. 22.38. [Page 112] And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy Neigh­bour as thy self. Here 'tis plain that we ought to love God totally, without any Limitations or Restrictions, with all our Power, Mind, and Will; with a Love transcending either that of our selves, or our Neigh­bours. I suppose ye will readily grant that God must be loved better than your Neighbours, and yet they must be loved as your selves; therefore God must be loved better than your selves too. Thus the necessita [...] praecepti is plain.

But since there is more in the Precepts of the Divine Law than in the Condition of Salvation; otherwise none could be saved without perfect Obedience: There­fore here ariseth a great Question before us, viz. Whe­ther such a Love to God, as God, above our selves, o [...] our own Happiness, &c. be so necessary, necessitate medii, that no Man is to be accounted in a State of Salvation, who doth not thus love God better than himself?

What I have to say in answer to this, shall be digested into the following Particulars, with submission to better Judgments.

1. 'Tis very odd and dangerous to say, that that Man is in a State of Grace, who loveth not God as God; doth not this sound very absurdly and strangely? We will leave it to the Ear, which, as Elihu says, tri [...] Words, Job 34.3.

2. 'Tis clearer by far than the Sun at Noon-day, that God, as God, is infinitely better than our selves, and the whole Creation besides. I would not so much un­dervalue your Judgments as to think, that ye stand in need of having this pro [...]ed to you: Nor would I so far overv [...]ue your Piety, as to think that there is no need of pressing it upon you, that your Hearts may be sutably affected with it.

3. Therefore we love not God, as God, if we love him not better than our selves, or our own Interest and Happiness, as such: Because, as God, he is infinitely better than we are, or can be. God is the universal Self originated, independent, unchangeable GOOD; but [Page 113]the goodness of the Creatures is particular, limited, de­rived, and entirely dependant upon him: And therefore by no means to be set in competition with him, Isa. 40.25.

4. 'Tis certain that God hath deeply implanted in our Natures a Principle of Self-Love: And that he makes use of it, both in order to our Preservation and Government. This it is which engageth us in the use of Means in order to our own Welfare, and is sup­posed in all the Precepts, Promises and Threatnings that are set before us. This Principle neither can, nor ought to be extirpated, but it must be regulated, and kept within its due Bounds, or in its proper Place, in order to the best and highest Ends.

5. 'Tis also evident that by the Apostacy our Self-Love is become inordinate, perverse, and therefore exceeding sinful: So that Self-denial is one of the first steps towards our Recovery, Mat. 16.24.

We are fallen from God to our selves, and are for setting up our own little, carnal, supported Self-Inte­rest, in opposition to that full and proper Interest that he has in us: that is, we would be Gods to our selves; this is the grand fundamental disorder of human Na­ture, the Heart of the Old Man. This has disjointed us, and rendred us offensive to God, and uneasy to our selves, and to all about us, till we be reduced and set right again.

So then this sensual corrupt Self-Love must be mor­tified; but lawful and just Self-Love must be improved, as was said before.

6. In assigning the Notion of our chief or ultimate End, God's Glory and our own Salvation must not be separated: For our intention must take in both; but then the latter must be considered as in full Subordi­nation to the former. We may and ought to desire our own Eternal Happiness, that God may be glorified therein, who is well pleased and delighted in the Wel­fare and Perfection of his holy ones. Our supreme [Page 114]End must fall in with his, who made all things for him­self, that he alone may have the Glory.

7. Therefore to love God only or chiefly for our selves, as a means to our own Happiness, is greatly to affront and dishonour him, by preferring our selves before him, the Creature before the Creator, the silly Interest of a crawling Worm, before the glorious all-comprehending Interest of the supreme infinite Ma­jesty. 'Tis to invert the order of things, while we make our selves the end, and consider him but as a means in order thereto: As if we were better, or more amiable than he; or our Happiness more valu­able than his Glory. Such Profaneness is not to be en­dured, but abhorred. Know ye not that the whole Creation has no worth in it but what is derived from God, and to be measured by its Relation to him.

8. To love God with a pure, raised, transcendent, superlative Love for himself, as the most amiable and perfect Good, from, by, and to whom we and all things else are: And then to love our selves and all other Objects for him, as the supreme ultimate End of all; this is the true Method of holy Love, towards greater Mea­sures whereof the best of us should be ever aspiring. Is it not highly reasonable that he who is best should be most loved? That he who is the Author of our Be­ings should be our End? That we should aim at and intend him in all; in a word that the love of our selves should be subjected to the highest and purest Love of God? Urge these things upon your selves, take pains with your own Hearts to bring them to such a Frame; plead the Cause of God with your Souls, till the Fire kindle, and ye be carried up above Self, to Him, and all by the help of the Holy Spirit.

'Tis true indeed, he needs not you, nor your Love, neither can ye be profitable to him thereby, Job 22.2, 3. Your Goodness extendeth not to him. Psal. 16.2. The ad­vantage is like to be your own, and should not the Glory be his? As carnal inordinate self-seeking is no better than self-destroying: So, to go our of our selves, and [Page 115]to be as it were estrange I from, and lost to our selves, that we may seek God, live in him and enjoy Commu­nion with him; this I say is the true way to advance our own Interest, while we seem to overlook it; be­cause by this Means we shall find our selves, and our All in God with infin [...]te advantage. How much some of the People of God have been carried out in holy Zeal for his Honour, [...]bove their own particular Self-In­terest, ye may see Exod 32.32. Numb. 14.12. Rom. 9.3. Which places I must not now stay to enlarge upon.

9 But here it must be remembred, that God being immaterial and invisible, is not an Object of Sense, nor directly of sensitive passi [...]nate Love. Therefore the Heart may be inwardly, deeply, predominantly, and there­fore sincerely for God, tho as to the passionate part, we may find our selves more sensibly carried out towards other Objects. Because the nearness and sensibleness of the Creature promoteth such sensible workings in the lower sensitive Faculties, and corporeal Spirits. As for example:

A sincere Christian may be more feelingly affected to­wards a dear Friend or Relation, or some other Crea­ture-enjoyment, than towards God himself; yet doth it not therefore follow that his Heart is more for these things than for God, because were he put to trial, he would forsake all these Enjoyments, rather than for­sake God or quit his Interest in him, whereby it appears that his Mind and Wi [...]l are more for God, tho the lower sensitive Appetite work most feelingly toward sen­sible Objects.

10. Therefore tho it be essential to Holiness to love God for himself, as our absolutely ultimate End, and therefore better than our selves; yet there may be some secret conception or beginning of this Love in a Soul long before the Person in whom it is perceives it. Because we are apt to judg of our selves by what appears most sensibly in us, and to overlook what lies more deep and inward. Now, as was said before, love to self, and to the Creatures, operates in a more sensible, [Page 116]passionate feeling manner, than holy intellectual Love doth. Because God, being a Spirit, is not so near to our Senses and Passions as the Creature is.

Therefore, because I would not make sad the Hearts of any whom God would not have made sad, Ezek. 13.22. nor give an advantage to Satan, to disquiet the Soul of the weakest sincere Christian: Let me say to such, as follows;

Supposing that ye are satisfied that God, as God, is infi­nitely more amiable than your selves, and that he is your absolutely supreme, chief or ultimate End; and there­fore that ye ought to love him, as such, above your selves.

Again, if ye do earnestly desire that Happiness which consists in so loving him above any other Happiness whatsoever: Tho in the mean time ye dare not say that ye love God for himself, above your selves; but are, it may be, more sensibly and feelingly concerned for your own Welfare, that ye may escape the Wrath to come, than for his Glory. Yet ye he wail this, and desire an Heart to love God more for himself: And to refer your own Interest and all to him.

Why, if the Case be thus with you, I would not have ye be discouraged, or cast down: For it seems to me, that ye have the seeds and beginnings of this holy Love to God for himself, whereof we have been speaking: And our Lord will not break the bruised Reed, nor quench the smoaking Flax.

Let me therefore earnestly beseech you to pray hard for further Influences of the Spirit of Love; and take pains with your own Hearts to raise them more above self unto God, that your Spark may become a Flame, and that ye may be even swallowed up of holy Love: So will ye find that Comfort, Peace, and Assu­rance which ye are so pensively seeking and enquiring after. O learn at length to pore less upon your own poor, dark, drooping Souls, and look more at him who is LIGHT, and in whom there is no Darkness at all.

As for the common sort of the ignorant Pretenders to the Love of God and Holiness, all this will seem to them more ado than needs. Nor is it difficult to con­found their Pretences without going thus high.

To these I would say: If (as ye profess) ye truly love God, whence is that ye think no more of him? And that ye speak no more of him? And delight no more in converse with him? Are no more concerned when he is dishonoured? Nor grieved for your own Sins, and the Sins of others against him? How comes it to pass that so many Religious Duties are wholly neg­lected by you? And others so miserably trifled in, and slubber'd over? Whence is it that your Lusts are so much indulged, and that ye keep in league with his Enemies, &c.? Is this the Love ye speak of? It might well become you to know your selves better.

Thus much for the Use of Examination.

CHAP. XI.

The Exhortation in several Branches. 1. To those who are not yet wrought for Heaven, directing them what Methods to take in order to their Con­version.

IT may justly be expected that the Issue of the fore-going Examination will be various, according to the different State or Circumstances of the Persons who shall think it worth their while to concern them selves seriously therein.

  • 1. 'Tis not uncharitable to suppose, that some may find great reason to conclude that this renewing [Page 118]Change has not yet passed upon them; a sad Conclusion, God knows, but necessary to be made where 'tis true. O happy Congregation indeed, if this were an unrea­sonable Supposition! happy, I say, if all among you were thus wrought for Heaven!
  • 2. 'Tis likely there may be others not altogether without hopes, that this great Change is wrought up­on them▪ nor yet without Fears of the contrary, but full of Doubt and Hesitations about it.
  • 3. And surely there are some among you, who, through Grace, are able comfortably to conclude, that they are indeed passed from Death to Life; whose Hopes do qui [...]e overrop their Fears in his Matter.

Now that which I would endeavour, through God's Assistance, is, to speak a word in season to all these in order.

To the first sort, with deep concern for them, trem­bling over them, travelling in bi [...]th with them till Christ be formed in them. Help Lord!

To the second, with a due Mixture of Tenderness and Judgment, Compassion and Discretion.

To the third, with humble Thankfulness and an Heart enlarged in Love to God and our Redeemer, that our Joy may be full.

All this, I say, I would do, but of my self can do nothing. O for more Faith in the blessed Spirit of our glorified Head.

And now I proceed to the Exhortation.

1. To those who are yet in an unregenerate State.

Come, come, bestir your selves; what have ye been doing all this while? what are ye dreaming of? It is high time to awake out of sleep, and to hasten your escape from the Wrath to come, while there is yet Hope. Little know ye but your Glass may be almost run, and yet alas your great Work is undone. Let me say to you, as Gen. 19.17. Escape for your Lives, look not behind you, lest ye be consumed.

If therefore, ye would be converted and saved, let me also press upon you the following Directions.

O Lord my God, I beseech thee send me good speed this day; and grant that the strong holds of Satan may be broken; and the Interest of thy Son, my Lord, be advanced, and that the Kingdom of Glory may be hast­ened: Lord remember the Requests (tho too few, and cold) that have been put up to Heaven both in publick and in secret on this behalf, and give a gracious Answer. Even so. Amen.

Direct. 1. Set your selves in good earnest to the se­rious Consideration of your Spiritual Concerns. Ex­ercise your most sober deliberate Thoughts about them. Ye wi [...]l find one Day that it would have been better for you not to have had Reason, than not to use it about the Interests of your Souls. Better I say that ye had filled up the room of the meanest Gu [...]t, Worm, or Mole in the Creation, than of Men, if ye do not im­prove [...]nd use your noblest Faculties [...]o their proper Ends. Ye can think naturally and easily, early and late, with much earnestness and constancy about other Mat [...]ers, how to buy and sell and get Gain, and other such important Trifles, [...]pardon the Contradiction for 'tis of your own making.) But l [...]t me ask you, have ye no thoughts to spare about your Eternal Concerns, where ye must dwell for ever, what shall become of your immortal Souls, when they must abide in Flesh no longer? Do not these things deserve to be thought of? What do ye think your Reason was given you for? Can ye expect to be san [...]tified and saved without any Endeavours of your own in order thereto? Or is it likely your Endeavours should be to any purpose, un­less your Minds be first awakened, to proceed ratio­nally in the Matter? To ask your selves what ye are? Whence ye came? Where ye are placed? Whither ye are going? What ye have to [...]o? Try to answer these things to your selves. I must not stay to enlarge upon them: Do not expect to become Religious by chance, it must be by choice (through Grace) or not at all. And is it likely that the Will should act blindly [Page 120]in the Case, or chuse the Ways of God, before the Understanding be convinced of the Worth and Excel­lency of them? And what Conviction without Consi­deration?

I thought I had told you before, that God works upon Men as rational Creatures, upon the Will by the Mediation of the Understanding: But 'tis the design of Satan to keep you asleep in carnal Security, to find your Thoughts other employment, that he may divert you from considering these things, for which your Reason was principally given you: And are ye willing thus to be led blindfold to Hell? (Lord, open their Eves that they may see): O think how ye will ever be able to an­swer it to God or your own Consciences, that ye have been so stupidly inconsiderate, as to the things of your everlasting Peace? All Wickedness may be resolved into Inconsiderateness. Isa. 1.3, 4. My People doth not consider. Ah sinful Nation! a People laden with Iniquity.

Well then, Sirs, if ye think your Souls worth so much Labour, I would offer to you some Particulars to be considered in the following order.

1. Consider well how sinful and miserable an unre­generate State is.

As for the sinfulness of it. It is a State of Hostility against Heaven. In Scripture account all unregenerate Men are Enemies to God, yea Enmity it self. Rom. 8.7. Col. 1.21. They are said to contemn him, de­spise him, and to cast him behind their back: They kick against him, they hate and abhor him, Ze [...]h. 11.8. My Soul loathed them, and their Soul also abhorred me. Is not this, think you, a sinful State indeed? And is it not in some respect so much the worse, in that they profess or pretend to the contrary? With their Mouth they shew much Love: but in reality, they do alienate themselves from him who has the most full and absolute propriety in them. They rebel against their most Righteous Governour; and ungrate­fully abuse the Riches of his Mercy and Goodness. [Page 121]They tread under-foot the Son of God, and will not that he should reign over them, and therefore are justly accounted Enemies; and must expect to be treated accordingly, Luk. 19.27. But those mine Enemies which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me. They do despite unto the Spirit of Grace, Heb. 10.29. And in all this they prefidiously break their baptismal Covenant, wherein they were solemnly devoted to God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. And withal they wilfully destroy themselves, and wrong their own Souls. But that brings me to the other Consideration.

An unregenerate State is a miserable State. How should it he otherwise? Can a Man harden himself against God and prosper? No, no: Such Persons are under the Wrath and Indignation of the Almighty, an Abo­mination to him; he is of purer Eyes than to behold them. His holy Law is armed with most dreadful Curses, and Threatnings against them. God shall wound the Head of his Enemies; and the hairy Scalp of such a one as goeth on still in his Trespasses, Psal. 68.21. They are Slaves of Satan, led Captive by him at his Will, who employs them in treasuring up unto them­selves Wrath against the Day of Wrath: Even the Offers of Gospel-Grace which are daily made to them, as they aggravate their Sin, will also make their Con­demnation heavier. Thus that which was designed for their Good, becomes the savour of Death unto Death unto them. What shall I say? They are Heirs of Hell, condemned already in Point of Law; tho Judgment has not yet passed the final Sentence: They are not sure of being spared an hour longer. One would think this should make them ill at ease, till the Affairs of their Souls be in a better posture.

'Tis wonderful to think what shift they make to a­void the Anticipations of Hell in their own Breasts. Put all this together, and then tell me whether it be not a miserable State. Psal. 50.22. Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tare you in pieces, and there be none to deliver.

2. Think next what great things God himself has done in order to your deliverance from this sinful, mise­rable State: Tho your Trans [...]ressions be many and heinous, he has provided a Ransom for you, the Blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all Sin. Tho your Na­tures be exceedingly corrupted, his Holy Spirit is able and ready to help and heal you, if ye do not willfully resist and grieve him. Prov. 1.23. Turn ye [...]t my Re­proof: behold I will pou [...] out my Spirit unto you. Tho your spiritual Enemies [...]e strong▪ [...]ub [...], and ma [...]g­nant, they cannot destroy you, unless ye o [...]stinately side with them. The Standing Office of the Minis [...]y is appointed to treat with you in order to your Re­conciliation and Peace with G [...]d, 2 Cor. 5.20. Not­withstanding all the Affronts ye have done to the [...]ivi [...]e Patienc [...], God still waits to be gracious to you: Tho ye little deserve [...]o be thus treated, 'tis yet put to your choice that ye may be happy if [...]e will be holy. A Throne of Grace is ere [...]ed for your encou [...]ment: God hath swo [...]n by himself that he del [...]g [...]s no [...] [...]n your Ruin and Destruction, bu [...] [...]her that ye should repe [...]t and live: He condescends in a way of [...]cre [...] and Forgiveness to reason the Case with you: Turn [...], turn ye, why will ye die? Cease to d [...] evil [...]n to [...] well. Come now, and let [...] reason together, saith the Lord: tho your Sins be as Scarlet, they shall be as white as S [...]w; tho they be red like Crimson, they shall be as Wool. Isa▪ 1.16, 17, 18. In a word, Matters are brought so far in order to your Recovery, that nothing but your own Wilfulness and final Impenitency can be your ruin

3. And now consider what it is that God, expects from you in compliance with the Methods of his Grace viz. That from a deep sense of your past Folly, and a belleving Apprehension of his Mercy and Goodness in Christ, ye do sincerely turn unto him through this great Mediator, and then all's your own. Are not these Terms highly reasonable? Are they not full of rich Grace and Benignity? Can ye imagin that Di­vine Mercy should stoop lower? Would ye be saved [Page 123]from Wrath, while ye resolve to persist in your En­mity against God? What then would become of his Holiness and Purity, of his Truth, his Government, his inflexi [...]le Justice and Righteousness? Would ye have an Interest in Christ while ye wilfully reject him? Would ye be saved by his Blood, without being sanctified by his Spirit, and governed by his Law? Or would ye have the Graces and Comforts of the Holy-Ghost while ye are still quenching and resisting his Influences? In short, can ye tell what ye would have? Think well of it, and ye will find either that you Desires are utterly immodest and unreasonable, or e [...]se that he is ready to grant them.

4. Consider also how many Millions are got safe to Heaven, who were once at as great a distance from it as you. The Saints now in Glory were by nature Chil­dren of Wrath as well as others, besides the Guilt of many actual Transgressions: How long did many of them stand it out against the Calls of Divine Grace as ye have done? but at last they yeilded, and so e­scaped. Methinks this Consideration should animate and encourage you, yea and even enflame you with a generous Ambition o [...] attaining the same Happiness. Have so many poor Sinner: found Mercy! why then stand ye looking one upon another, as if ye could not find your hands? Are ye content to pine away in your Iniquities? O [...]! up and be doing, and the Lord in great Mercy be with you.

5. Consider how little the World or Flesh signify to counter ballance the ruin of your immortal Souls. What would it profit a Man if he should gain the whole World? &c. Ye are grosly ignorant of the nature and capacities of your own Souls, if ye think that terrene or sensual Delights and Enjoyments will satisfy them. Isa. 55.2, &c. What tho the Flesh should be abun­dantly provided for, and fair deliciously every day, ye will still find something within you that is not filled: And so in the fulness of your sufficiency ye will be in straits, Job 20.22. And besides Creature-enjoyments are un­certain [Page 124]as well as insufficient: They may be taken from you, ye must be taken from them. Will it be any Re­lief to your miserable Souls in another World to re­member the fleshly Prosperity and Ease ye had in this? Will your Possessions, Sp [...]rt, and Jollity follow you into Eternity? Or will not the remembrance of them rather cut you to the very Heart? When being doom'd to everlasting disconsolate Darkness, ye shall not be able to forget how foolishly ye destroy'd your selves for meer Trifles.

O consider this, and do not hazzard your Souls for a thing of nought.

How fast are ye posting continually towards Eter­nity! Your continuance on Earth is like to be but short at longest: And by reason of its uncertainty may prove much shorter than ye are willing to imagin or hear of. Do ye not see others daily dropping into the Grave before your Eyes, even such as were as like­ly for Life as your selves? And how little do ye know how soon your turn may come! and what if your Glass should be run before your Work be done? where are ye then? It may be when the Fears of Death and Judgment are upon you, ye will then cry out for more time: But how little reason have ye to expect that such Cries should be regarded, from Persons who have trifled away so much time already to no purpose? O labour so to number your Days as to apply your Hearts to Wisdom.

6. Consider how easy the Yoke of Christ is, how light his Burden. Mat. 11.30. I know indeed that the Hear [...] of unregenerate Men are deeply prejudiced against the ways of serious Godliness; partly through their own Corruption, and partly through the Malice and Sub­tilty of the Devil: And therefore such Prejudices must needs be most unworthy and unreasonable. How should there be any Reason or Truth against the God of Truth and Reason? His Service is perfect Freedom; his Commandments are not grievous. Here let me reason the Case a little with you; bring forth your strong Argu­ments. [Page 125]What is there that offends you in the ho­ly Ways of God? Do ye fear they will tend to your loss or disadvantage in the World? Why, are ye yet to learn that a Man's Life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth? Luk. 12.15. Our hea­venly Father knows how far we have need of these things, and is able to furnish a Table in the Wilderness. If we crust him not with our Souls, we are undone; but if we do, i [...] it not very absurd to distrust him as to our outward Concerns? What a preposterous kind of Sollicitude is this! If I have told ye earthly Things and ye believe not; how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly Things? Job. 1.12. I only allude to it.

Nor are there wanting promises to rest upon this Matter. Seek first the Kingdom of God,and all these things shall be added, Mat. 6.33. 1 Tim. 4.8. — Godliness is prof [...]table unto all things, having the promise of the Life that now is, &c. Psal. 37.3. Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the Land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Besides the promise of a [...] Hundred Fold to those who forsake their worldly Enjoyments for his Name's sake, Mat. 19.29.

Do ye apprehend that it will tend to your dishonour to engage strictly in the holy Ways of God? Answ. 'Tis a very small matter to be judged of Mans Judg­ment. Those that honour God, he will honour: But they that despise him, shall be lightly esteemed.

Do ye think that a Life of Holiness is irksome or un­pleasant? Answ. If ye consider the Duties enjoyned, the Promises annexed, the Supports and Assistances vouchsafed to the Godly, the Experience and Testi­monies of those who have tried the Pleasures of both Kinds, yea or the true Notion of Pleasure it self; you will find abundant reason to conclude that there are no Joys comparable to those of the Godly: But that Wisdom excelleth Folly as much as Light doth Dark­ness. The ways of Holiness are ways of Pleasantness, Prov. 3.17.

Thus ye must by serious Consideration endeavour to dispossess those Prejudices which are rooted in the Hearts of unregenerate Men against Religion: There is enough to be said to shew how vain and frivolous their Objections are. Therefore let your Reason be fully satisfied in the case; do not stand in your own Light, plead not for your Disease, nor argue in the Dark against things which ye know not: First try, and then judg: It is not cavilling against your Duty which will serve to excuse you from it.

7. Consider what great encouragement ye have hum­bly to expect the assistance of special Grace, if ye carefully improve the Abilities and Helps that are al­ready granted you. It's likely that Satan and your own corrupt Hearts may suggest to you, that it is to no purpose to trouble your Thoughts about these things, because special Grace is the Gift of God, who di [...] with his own as he pleaseth. But to this I answer; Tho 'tis true that Grace is a free Gift, else it were not Grace: Yet it doth not therefore follow that ye must sit still in a sluggish Stupidity, and expect to be saved without any care or concern of your own about i [...]. Are not the Mercies of common Providence, as Food, Raiment, Friends, Health, &c. the Gifts of God? Will ye therefore argue that no care is to be taken about these things? How then comes it to pass that your Thoughts and Endeavours are employed ear­ly and late in the World, and for it? It seems ye are most willing to be imposed upon, and to have a Cloak for your Sloth in spiritual Matters; tho ye would laugh at him who should argue at the same rate as to temporal Concerns.

Therefore, to be plain with you, I must tell you; ye have no reason to expect the help of special Grace, while through meer Sloth and Perverseness ye will not excite your natural Faculties, nor strike in with Convictions and other Helps of common Grace which are vouchsafed-you. But rather ye may justly fear, lest ye should be given up to a reprobate Sense, to [Page 127]blindness of Mind, and hardness of Heart. For the turning away of the Simple shall slay them, Prov. 1.32.

But on the other Hand; ye are not destitute of En­couragement, if in good earnest ye fall to the work: It may be ye will say that y [...] have no full proper Pro­mise to depend upon for special Grace, tho ye should improve the common Helps that are given you. But here let me ask you, Are there not many dreadful Threa [...]nings to the sloathful Neglectors of this great Salvati [...]n? Are ye not earnestly invite [...] to come in, and accept of Christ? Is not the God with whom ye have to do mere [...]ful and gracious? Is not the great Redeem­er full of Compassions? Are ye not commanded to seek the Lord while he may be sound, and to call upon him while he is near? Isa. 55 6, [...]. And is there not a great deal of Encouragement in all this? His God set you about needless unpr [...]able W [...]? Will he not be sound of them that see him? Do [...]h not he love Ho­liness better than ye? And will he not be as ready to vouchs [...] the san [...] you influence [...] of his Grace, as you are [...]r [...]aly to des [...]e [...] b [...]r after them? What Iniquity have ye [...]u [...] in [...]im, [...]hat ye shoul [...] entertain such mean, low, narrow [...] oughts of his Goodness? Where is the Man, and what is his Name that can say, Lord, I did to my utmost improve the helps thou ga­vest me, and yer thou r [...]'st to give me more? Is not the case quite contrary? I have called, and ye have refused; I have siretched out my Hand, and no Man regarded &c. Prov. 1.24. What got he sloth [...]ul Servant by saying, I knew thee, that thou art an hard Man? Mat. 25, 24. Did this excuse him for hiding his Lord's Mo­ney (tho but one Talent) in the Earth?

Let me make the Matter yet plainer by a familiar Comparison.

Suppose some great Prince or Nobleman, famous for Bounty and Kindness to the distressed, who be­holding a forlorn helpless Creature, miserable, wretched, poor, and blind, and naked, and taking compassion [Page 128]on him should say to him, Friend, come to my Door I have fully supplied the Wants of many whose Circum­stances were as bad as thine, and I delight so to do. Now tho in all this here be not a full direct Promise made to this poor. Wretch, yet would ye not take him for a mad Man who should make light of such an Intimation and Encouragement? Poor Sinner! thou art the Man, so the Case stands between Christ and thee: And because thou art blind, he appoints his Servants to lead thee to him; and this is the Errand upon which I am come this day: do not say but that help was offered thee.

8. Consider how little all that ever ye have done in Matters of Religion will avail you if ye go not through with the Work. If ye be but almost perswaded to be Christians, ye will be but almost sayed. It may be ye expect great Matters from your frequent customary Attendance upon Gospel-Ordinances, and your making a more strict Profession of Religion than many others do: But O remember, The Kingdom of God is not is Word, but in Power, 1 Cor. 4.20. Many will say in the great Day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in th [...] Name? and in thy Name have cast out Devils? Mat. 7.22. which are greater things than ye can pretend to: Yet will he profess unto them, I never knew you: Depart from me ye that work Iniquity, Vers. 23. The foolish Virgins had Lamps of Profession, Mat. 25. but pe­rished for want of Oil, viz. true Grace. In short, a [...] that ever ye have done in the Service of God will prove but lost labour, as to any saving Benefit, except your Hearts be effectually wrought upon and turned to God, as has been fully opened and proved already.

O consider this well, have ye done, and some of you suffered to many things in vain? if it be yet in vain, Gal 3, 4. Yea, hath so much labour been bestowed upon you in vain? Chap. 4.11. So much Grace received in vain, 2 Co [...]. 6.1. O how bitter will the remembrance of these thing be one Day! How will it pierce you to the very Heart to think, alas! is all my Profession, Prayers, Hear­ing, &c. come to this! Namely the Hypocrites Re­ward [Page 129]It had been well for me that I had never known the way of Righteousness, rather than to have rested thus in an outward shew of Religion. Alas! that I should be brought so nigh the Kingdom of God, and yet fall short forever of it!

9. Consider how long the Divine Patience hath born with you already. Where had ye been before this Day, but that ye have had to do with a God who is merciful, and gracious, and long-suffering. How easily could he long since have taken your guilty Souls out of your Bodies, and sent them into a place where the E­vil of Sin, and Danger of delaying Repentance are better known? How have ye despised the Riches of his Goodness, and Forbearance, and Long-suffering! Even that Goodness which leads you to Repentance, Rom. 2.4.

How many Instances have ye had of the Divine Be­nignity and Compassion towards you? And yet how lit­tle Effect has all had upon you! Line upon Line, Precept upon Precept, here a little and there a little; and yet all has not prevailed with you to repent and turn to God. Are ye not ashamed! do ye not blush to think of your vile Ingratitude and Disingenuity towards him? Do ye not tremble to consider what the Consequence of such Obstinacy is like to be? Do ye imagin that the Spirit of God will always strive with the wilful Despisers of his Grace? O remember, lento gradu ad vindictam proce­die ita divina, &c. Divine Wrath proceeds slowly to Vengeance, but will compensate that slowness with the weight of it when it comes. Laesa patientia fit furor.

As the Gospel-Dispensation is most spiritual, so spi­ritual Judgments are more common to those who trifle under it, than, perhaps, most Men consider. But I proceed:

Direct. 2. Follow on these Considerations, till su­table Convictions arise from them, and your Hearts be sensibly affected with them. Think not that some ge­neral slighty superficial Thoughts about these things will serve the turn: No, no; they are Matters of greater [Page 130]consequence than so, they nearly concern you, and therefore must be laid to Heart. Urge them home up­on your own Spirits, apply them close; they have a Work to do not only upon your Ʋnderstandings, but upon your Wills, Hearts, and Affections. It is not e­nough that ye acknowledg these things to be true, but ye must press the Matter further; if they be Truths, they are weighty Truths indeed: O labour to feel the weight of them, that they may go to the quick; ap­ply them strictly and warmly to your own Souls. ‘It is (says one) a great part of a Christian's Skill and Duty, to be a good Preacher to himself: There is more in this than most Christians are aware of, or use to practise; this is a lawful and a gainful way of Preaching. No Body here can make question of thy Call, nor deny thee a Licence, nor silence thee, if thou silence not thy self. Imitate the most powerful Prea­cher, and plead with thy own Soul as he is wont to do with his Hearers. [Mr. Baxter.]

Tho such Considerations may wound, pierce, or gall you for the present, 'tis so much the better; ye must be wounded that ye may be healed; ye must be broken that ye may be bound up: The truth is ye have wounded your selves already, and so much the worse, by how much ye are less sensible of it; your putrified Ulcers must be search'd to the bottom if ever ye ex­pect a thorow Cure: Your sluggish Hearts must be a­wakened to purpose; ye have slept too long. O labour to be deeply convinced of your past folly, till ye groan under the weight of that Guilt which ye have contrac­ted: Remember ye are ruined to all Intents and Purpo­ses if your Guilt be not removed; and therefore your present Case is not to be rested in.

There is yet hope for you, but no time to trifle in. Therefore,

Direct. 3. 'Tis highly necessary that ye now come to some besitting Resolution in the case. In general, that ye resolve to do your utmost to put your spiritual [Page 131]Concerns into a better posture: And that henceforth ye will strive earnestly to enter in at the strait Gate: And neglect no Means nor Helps in order thereto: Such Re­solutions as these are most proper in your condition: But if your Hearts still hang back, let me ask ye, what will ye resolve upon? Vita humana sine proposito vaga est & languida.

Will ye put the Matter to the venture, and trouble your Heads no further about it, but still go on at the old, dull, stupid rate?

If so, this is wilfully to destroy your own Souls; and whom can ye blame but your selves?

Will ye sit down in Despair? This is to despise or undervalue the Riches of Gospel-Grace that are set be­fore you. Those that come to Christ, he will in no wise cast out.

Again, will ye delay for a while, and put off the thoughts of these things till hereafter? Answ. This indeed is the common Case, but almost as unreasonable as either of the other two.

Your times are not in your own Hands, ye know not how soon your Souls may be required of you; the longer ye delay, the more difficult it is like to be; and the Spirit that should help you, will be grieved by your backwardness: Satan will have the faster hold of you; and if Death overtake you before the work be done, ye are damned.

Therefore, I say, turn your Thoughts which way you will, all other Resolutions will be found mad and dan­gerous, except that of the Prodigal; I will arise and go to my Father: So do ye. And here let me tell you 'tis needful that your Resolutions be firm and steady, lest those Difficulties which may afterwards arise in your way should discourage you; and that they be speedy, lest Death overtake you unprepared. And also that in this whole business ye be sensible of your own Weakness and Insufficiency, lest ye miscarry through foolish Self-Confidence. But of that more by and by.

Direct. 4. See that your Resolutions be forthwith put into practice. By this it must appear that they are true and hearty; if the VVill be determined in the case, sutable Endeavours will ensue.

And here your work lies in the following Order.

1. Humble your selves deeply in the Presence of God for all that Sin and Folly which hitherto ye have been guilty of. Consider the Evil of Sin as it is con­trary to the holy and pure Nature and Law of God. Call to remembrance your own Sins, and lay them to Heart, that they may not be laid to your Charge. In a particular manner bewail the Corruption of your Natures; and more especially the estrangedness of your Hearts from God, and Enmity against him, with that inor­dinate propension to the Creature, in which the Heart of the Old Man doth mainly consist.

Proceed then to consider those actual Transgressions which have all along issued from this Corruption, viz. Your loss of precious Time, misimprovement of Gos­pel Ordinances and Means of Grace; your Pride, Passion, Earthliness, Sensuality, &c. Confess these things humbly and feelingly in the Presence of God: Labour to melt into an ingenuous Child-like Sorrow, for having carried it so unworthily to so good and graci­ous a Father.

That Sorrow for Sin which proceeds only from fear of Punishment, is the Sorrow of a Slave, and may con­sist with as much Love to Sin as ever: But Godly Sor­row is animated by holy Love to God, which raiseth in the Soul a rational hearty Grief for its Transgressions against him, an hatred of Sin, and Resolution against it for the future. This is Repentance from dead Works, and toward God.

He that covereth his Sins, shall not prosper; but he that confesseth and forsaketh them, shall find Mercy. Prov. 28.13 Yea, as Matters now stand (such is the wonder­ful condescension of the Law of Grace) 'tis an Act of Justice and Faithfulness, as well as Mercy to forgive. [Page 133]Sin wheresoever with true Repentance it is confessed. 1 Joh. 1.9. If we confess our Sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our Sins, &c.

Therefore, I say, give Glory to God, by an humble acknowledgment of your Sins. Lay your selves low, that his Glory may [...]e advanced: Put your Mouths in the Dust, if so be there may be hope. Justify his ho­ly Law, tho in so doing ye condemn your selves. Say with the returning Prodigal, Luk. 15.21. Father, I have sinned against Heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy Son, &c.

2. Thankfully acknowledg the Riches of Free-Grace, in that God is yet pleased to offer you Terms of Reconciliation and Peace. The Golden Scepter is held forth to you that ye may touch it and live. Me­thinks this should encourage you, and put Life and Vi­gour into your Proceedings, and draw out your very Souls in sweet Returns of Love to God. Lord, is there yet Hope; is there any Mercy for such an one as I? Behold I come in Obedience to thy Call. Blessed be God for Jesus Christ.

3. Humbly implore pardoning Mercy for your past Sins, and the help of Divine Grace for your present and future Duty. As the necessity of your Case should make you very earnest and importunate in these Re­quests: So ye have great encouragement given you to strengthen your Faith and Confidence in the Divine Goodness. God delights in Mercy, and hath proclaimed his gracious Name, Exod. 34.6, 9. Use this as an Argu­ment in Prayer, as the Psalmist did, Psal. 25.11. For thy Names sake, O Lord, pardon mine Iniquity, for it is great. Plead the Merits and Satisfaction of Jesus Christ, the Promises of the Gospel, and assure your selves God is as ready to forgive, as ye are to repent and for­sake your Sins. He will not despise a broken and a contrite Heart, Psal. 51.17.

And since the work that lies before you is holy and spiritual, therefore trust not to your own Resolutions or Strength: Pray hard for the help of the Spirit: [...]ay [Page 134]your Souls open to the Influences of his Grace; yield your selves to his Conduct. Carefully strike in with all his Motions. Lord, here am I, what wouldst thou have, me to do? Teach me the way wherein I should go, incline mine Heart to thy Testimonies, strengthen me with Might in my inward Man. Magnify thy Power in my Weakness. Speak, Lord, for thy Servant heareth, draw me, and I will run after thee.

4. And now give up your selves unfeignedly to God in and through Christ. If ye expect he should be your God, that is, your Portion, Happiness, Soul-satis­fying Good, ye must be his People, devoted to his Love and Service: The Covenant must be mutual, else how should it be a Covenant. Let this be done with great Freedom, Chearfulness and Resolution of Spirit, ye will never have reason to repent of your choice. He will be your Shield, and your exceeding great Reward.

5. Live henceforth as becomes the Covenant-People of God. Renounce your Lusts and Corruptions: Let the time past of your Lives suffice you to have fulfilled the Inclinations of the Flesh. Remember ye must now live at another rate than heretofore ye have done. The Glory of God must be your great End; his holy Word your Rule; his blessed Spirit your Leader and Guide; His Promises your Support and Joy. In short, ye must become a peculiar People, zealous of good Works: Still en­deavouring to make further advances in the Knowledg and Love of God, and in Obedience to him.

Direct. 5. Arm your selves, and watch carefully a­gainst those Temptations to which young Converts are in an especial manner liable.

Under this Head I must only give you some short Hints, for to speak fully to this Point, would require a very large Discourse. At first setting out ye enter upon a State of Warfare, and if ye stand not upon your Guard, Satan will be sure to get an advantage against you,

1. Some Persons at their first Conversion meet with extraordinary Raptures of Spiritual Joy, full Assuran­ces of the Love of God, and lively Foretasts of the Heavenly Glory. Their reconciled Father smiles upon them, takes them into his Arms and comforteth them, as one whom his Mother comforteth, and dandleth upon her Knees, as the Prophet speaks, Isa. 66.12, 13.

And now Satan takes an advantage to make them impatient of staying upon Earth any longer; they would needs be removed to Heaven out of hand, and are scarce content to wait God's time. This case, tho not very common, is yet more than a meet Sup­position. To such I would say,

Ye have great reason indeed to be very thank­ful that Matters are so well with you in reference to your eternal State. But O remember how long God waited to be gracious to you; how frequent were the strivings of his Spirit with you before ye would yield! How well contented could ye have been to have continued on Earth for ever, before he gave you these feeling Discoveries of a better State! And how justly might he have left you to pe­rish in your Aversion from him!

But now ye think your own turn is served, and your eternal Welfare secured, ye would quit the Stage, and do no more Service for God, or his Church, in your Generation, but have your full Bles­sedness immediately, as if it were of Debt and not of Grace. Is this your Kindness to your Friend, your Ingenuity, your Gratitude? Is not the Re­ward sure? Shall it not come in season? Will not Heaven be the more welcome after ye have duly wait­ed till ye be at age for that Inheritance? Is there nothing of Unbelief in this your eagerness? He that believeth shall not make hasle, Isa. 28.16. Had not the Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, &c. their time of waiting as well as you? Is not so glorious a State worth waiting for? And besides, if you patiently con­tinue in well-doing, your Glory will be encreasing [...] [Page 136]And to say no more, Eternity will be long enough to enjoy that Blessedness which is designed for you.

Tempt. 2. Are ye tempted to overvalue your pre­sent Attainments?

Answ. Consider ye have nothing but what ye have received, and why then should ye glory as if ye had not received it? 1 Cor. 4.7. Ye have received nothing but what ye must give an account for. Your stock of Grace is to be traded with, your Talents must be im­proved; what reason then have ye to tremble lest in this ye should be found wanting? Moreover, ye bear not the Root, but the Root beareth you; with­out Christ ye can do nothing, be not high minded, but fear. Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed list be fall. 1 Cor. 10.12. Spiritual Pride is the way to lose what ye have got, and to full into the Con­demnation of the Devil. Besides, there is a great deal of Absurdity and Self-contradiction in it; viz. for a Man to have high thoughts of himself, as if he had attained unto great Measures of Grace, when the entertaining of such Thoughts is a sign that he has little true Grace, if any at all. Deep Waters and full Vessels make least noise; the most fruitful Ears of Corn hang downwards; not so, those that are shallow, empty, or blasted.

Tempt. 3. Are ye for a factious siding with this or the other Party, and rashly censuring those that differ from you?

Answ. Think well how great a Sign this is of Weakness in Grace: Unripe Fruit is sow [...], harsh, and unpleasant; so are raw Novices in Christianity: But further Experience and Humility would mellow and sweeten your Temper and Disposition. Remem­ber how great a stress the Gospel lays upon servent Charity; loving one another, is the Note or Mark whereby we must be known to be Christ's Disciples. The grand essential Points of Religion, which ye must [Page 137]live upon, are generally owned, and acknowledged by all Parties: Is it not then a great piece of Folly (tho very common) to over-look these weightier Matters, and to suffer our Zeal to evaporate and spend it self about Wood, Hay, and Stubble? Of this see my Discourse concerning the Immortality of the Soul. Pag. 143. &c.

Tempt. 4. Are ye tempted to grow secure and care­less, because ye think your Case is safe?

Answ. The greater your Hopes of Heaven are, so much the more reason ye have to be watchful against Sin, diligent and active in the way of your Duty: But if ye grow negligent or remiss in Matters of Re­ligion, ye have cause enough to suspect that your Hopes and Confidence are ill-grounded, or not like to last long. 1 Joh. 3.3. Every Man that hath this hope in him, purifies himself, even as he is pure.

Again; there are many Eyes upon you: The great God is the most reverend Witness of all your Thoughts, Words, and Actions: The Angels of God encom­pass you about, and observe your Behaviour: Satan waits to take you at an advantage; your fellow Chri­stians are concerned for your Welfare and Perseve­rance: Wicked Men wait for your halting. Surely this is not a time for you to be slothful or uncon­cerned.

Moreover; suppose you be in a State of Grace: many that have been so have fallen into very grie­vous Sins, and wounded Conscience deeply; and your Safety depends upon the continual Influences of the Holy Spirit: and therefore it must needs be danger­ous to grieve or quench that Spirit, by Laziness or car­nal Security.

Tempt. 5. Doth the prospect of those Difficulties that lie in your way discourage you?

Answ. Is not Heaven worth striving for? Would ye have the Crown without Victory, or a Victory [Page 138]without Conflict, or Conflict without Enemies? [...] ye not know that there are more with you than agai [...] you? If ye be sincere, God is on your side, and wi [...] be with you when you pass through Fire or Water. His Strength is made perfect in Weakness; his Grace [...] sufficient for you. 2 Cor. 12.9.

The greatest Enemies that ye have without [...] I mean Satan and the World, are already vanquish'd by the Captain of your Salvation: And as for the E­nemies within you, that is your own Lusts and Co [...] ­ruptions, tho he had none such in himself to confli [...] with, yet he has procured for you that Grace which shall certainly enable you to overcome them, if ye be not wanting to your selves. What tho indwelling Sin sticks very close to our Natures, it is not essentia [...] to them, nor had any place in Man's primaeval State. And the second Adam came to heal those Diseases which the First had brought upon us. Therefore, tho it be good to be sensible of your own Weakness, and to feel the Burden of Sin, that you may flie to Christ; yet ye have no reason to faint or be discou­raged, because ye have him to flie to.

Tempt. 6. Are ye perplexed with troublesome Scruples as to matter of Practice, that ye dare scarce move forward in the way of your Duty for fear of going wrong?

Answ. 'Tis certain that our best Services while we are here on Earth, will be attended with many sinful Weaknesses and Imperfections: But necessary Duty must not be left un [...]one for fear of mis-doing it. That which God requires of us, is, that we chea [...] ▪ fully and quietly obey his Will so far as we know it, and sincerely endeavour to understand it better▪ Thankfully receiving the Gospel-pardon for our many Failings and Infirmities. If we have the worthiness (for so the Gospel calls it) of Faith, Repentance and sincere Desire: Christ hath the Worthiness of perfect Holiness and Obedience for us. And tho it be our [Page 139]great Duty to keep Conscience tender, that is, to be [...] careful to please God, and fearful of sinning: [...] we must remember that needless Self-tormenting [...]ruples are not at all pleasing to God, but great [...]derances to our Duty, and Devices of Satan to [...]ake Religion burdensome and uneasy to us. And [...]at if these and such other Temptations cease not [...] be troublesome, it is sometimes necessary that we [...]temn them: The Devil (says Luther) is a proud [...]irit, and cannot endure to be slighted. He will [...]d us work enough to do, if we will but parley and [...]gue the case with him. To slight him is to resist [...]m, and then he flies from us.

Tempt. 7. Are ye tempted to ensnare your selves [...]y rash Vows, and to make Duty to your selves [...]hich God never enjoined you; Or to impose [...]asks upon your selves which he has not prescri­ [...]ed?

Answ. The use of Vows is to bind us to the performance of that which God himself had bound [...]s to by his Laws before: That is, to express our Consent and Resolution by a Self-Obligation to obey his Will; but not make a new Religion to our selves, nor to injure our Christian Liberty by Self-devised Snares. Who hath required this at your [...]lands? Such sacred things as Vows are not to be trifled with: our Baptismal Covenant and Sacra­mental Engagements at the Lord's Table must be carefully observed: But Vows about lesser Matters are not to be made without great Consideration and Caution, alteration of Circumstances may make that sinful▪ or however troublesome and inconvenient, which at present appears, and perhaps really is, a Duty: Good Purposes and Resolutions are necessary and safe, and may be changed when the nature of the Case requires it; that is, when they cease to be useful to those Ends whereunto they were first in­tended. But it is a dangerous thing after Vows [Page 140](or Promises made to God) to make enquiry; [...] tho sometimes even that must be done, yet [...] great fear and trembling: For God will not hold [...] guiltless that take his Name in vain.

Tempt. 8. Are you tempted to grow weary of [...] ­rious Religion, and to turn back again to your w [...] ­ted Formality and Negligence?

Answ. Humble your selves deeply before God [...] those Remnants of Corruption which thus dispose you to revolt; renew your Covenant with him [...] Christ; plead the Promise of his holy Spirit; [...] upon his Assistance and Grace: Make not a lig [...] Matter of the least Decays or Declinings in Ho [...] ­ness, for these tend to greater. Gird up the Lo [...] of your Minds, consider the Prize that is set be­fore you: and look to the Examples of those who by Faith and Patience inherit the Promises; S [...] ­vings and Difficulties will be soon over; b [...] i [...] weary of well doing, you shall reap if you faint [...] Gal. 6.9. Whither will ye flie in the Hour of your extremity? if the Lord help you not then, who can help you? if ye forsake him, he will also for­sake you.

Tempt. 9. Is there some beloved Sin which you are especially inclined to, and can scarce forbear or part with it?

Answ. Fortify your Minds with Arguments, [...] your Wills with Resolutions against it. Avoid the occasions of it, and resist the first Strivings and Tendencies towards it. Double your Watch, that ye be not surprized by it; single it out to run i [...] down; mortify and destroy it, as that which most dishonours God, and endangers your own Souls.

Tempt. 10. Are you tempted to place an und [...] Con [...]idence in your own Works or Righteousness?

Answ. Consider that if ye thus go about to establish [Page 141] [...] Righteousness, of your own, you take the way [...] [...]se the Benefit of Christ's Righteousness. If [...]ardon and Life be of Grace, they cannot be of VVorks; else Grace were no more Grace. As we [...]e Creatures, we owe our selves, and all that we [...]ave or can do to God; the greatest Angel in Hea­ven cannot strictly and properly merit any thing of God, how much less such Worms as we? Every [...]y which we sincerely perform is a great Mercy received, and renders us further indebted to that Grace whereby we are enabled thereto. And be­sides, we stand in need of pardon for the sinful Weaknesses of our best Services. VVhen we have done all, we are but unprofitable Servants. Eternal Life is a free Gift: By the Grace of God we are what we are.

II. VVe come now to the second Branch of Exhor­tation, namely, to those who are much in the Dark as to the State of their Souls, not knowing what to think of themselves in reference to this great Question, viz. Whether they be passed from Death to Life? that is, whether they be wrought for Hea­ven or no.

To such Persons I would offer the following Di­rections.

Direct. 1. Remember 'tis no new thing, nor unusual amongst the People of God, to be full of Doubts, Fears, and Spiritual Troubles. Do not think that your Case is singular, lest your Spirits should sink under it. Solamen miseris, &c. There hath nothing befal'n you in this Matter, but what is com­mon to Men, even to very good Christians. It may be Satan will tempt you to think that none ever were so perplex'd with Fears, Uncertainties and misgiving Thoughts as you: But the Scripture is very plain in the case, that a truly gracious Person may sometimes walk in Darkness and have no Light; [Page 142]Isa. [...]0.10. Read also the 88th Psalm. and see [...] that good Man was afflicted, and even distra [...] with the Terrours of the Almighty.

Therefore in all this, God deals no other [...] with you, than he hath done with thousands [...] his dearst Children. And as ye ought not to [...] ­spise the chastenings of the Lord, so neither sho [...] ye faint under them: For whom he loveth he [...] ­steneth, and scourgeth every Son whom he receive. Heb. 12.5, 6.

Direct. 2. Take special care that no secret Lust [...] indulged, no wilful Sin maintained nor allowed [...] Sin will breed Doubts, and Fears, and Sorrow [...] as naturally as a putrified Carcase doth Vermi [...] unless ye be given up to a reprobate Sense. If [...] will make your VVounds bleed afresh, no wo [...] if you feel the smart and anguish of them. If you weaken the Habits of Grace by contrary Acts, you may thank your selves that ye cannot discer [...] the sincerity of those Habits. If ye grieve the Spirit who should comfort you, what can ye ex­pect but to be in the Dark, and so disconsolate. If you play at fast and loose with Conscience, and run counter to its Dictates, you may be sure [...] will wound you for your Folly, and pay you home for the Affronts you put upon it. If you will harbo [...] the Enemies of your Lord, how can ye look for the Light of his Countenance? That Darkness you labour under is self-contracted; these Clouds where of you complain, are of your own raising. If you set up your Idols in your Hearts, God will answer you according to your Idols, Ezek. 14.4. In short, if you will be making bold with Sin, that Sin will cause Sorrow and Trouble, if there be any Life of Grace to feel it. Indeed if the Case be thus with you ye have great reason to bless God that ye are dis­quieted, and not given up to searedness of Con­science; and therefore, I say, away with your Lust, [Page 143] [...] ye expect the Comforts of the Spirit▪ of God; [...] the Assurances of his Love.

Direct. 3. Tho you want these special Comforts of Assurance, do not overlook those general Grounds of Encouragement that are still before you. These are firm, clear, and certain, how wavering, doubtful, and dark soever your Thoughts of your own par­ticular Case may be: These are still at hand, how far soever the Evidences of your Sincerity are to seek: These are the great Foundations upon which your Comforts must be built, and therefore you [...]d need to understand and digest them thorowly, and lay the Apprehensions of them deep in your [...]ouls. Viz.

1. It is certain that God is infinitely Good, and that his Love, Mercy, and Compassion to poor Sinners cannot be measured. He hath proclaimed his Name, that is, his Nature: Exod. 34.6, 7. So Psal. 103.8. The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow is Anger, and plentious in Mercy. Isa. 55.7. He will abundantly pardon: [or multiply to pardon] vers. 8. For my Thoughts are not your Thoughts, neither are your Ways my Ways, saith the Lord. For as the Hea­vens are higher than the Earth, so, &c. q. d. quanto sum sub [...]imior, tanto & clementior, Grot. By how much I am higher than you, by so much I am more mer­ciful. Remember all the Goodness of the Creatures is derived from him, and therefore he must needs be infinitely better than they all. How is it that you call his Power, Omnipotence, his Wisdom or Knowledg, Omniscience; and yet entertain such poor narrow Thoughts of his Goodness! Is he not All-good as well as Almighty, and All-wise? Are not his Attributes all alike Infinite? Is it not the Device of Satan to hide the Goodness of God from you? and to fill you with black unworthy Thoughts of him? that he may either quite keep you from him, or make your walking with him [Page 144]uncomfortable? Therefore, I say, lay this dow [...] as a fundamental Truth, and accordingly stay you [...] ­selves upon it. viz. That however it be, yet [...] is Good.

2. It is also certain that the Satisfaction of Christ is of infinite value: And that he is full of To derness and Pity to poor Sinners. Whatever he [...] or suffered, had a transcendant Excellency and Men in it, from the Dignity of his Person; he was God as well as Man. And his Compassions to poor Sin­ners are every where set forth in the Gospel: [...] earnestly did he treat with them in order to their Reconcillation and Peace with God! How feelingly did he weep over them! How affectionatly did he pray even for those that persecuted and hated him to the Death! He disdained not to conv [...]se with the meanest Persons; the poor and infirm had free access to him: How readily did he she [...] Mercy to their Bodies, to prepare them for the Be­lief and Entertainment of that greater Mercy be bad in store for their Souls!

3. Pardon and Life are freely offered to you all without exception, if ye will accept thereof upon the reasonable terms of the New Covenant. The way is open, Whosoever will, let him take the water of Life freely. God was in Christ reconciling the World to himself. None are excluded by the tenor of the Gospel, but such as exclude themselves by their own wilful and final Impenitency.

Whatsoever Doubts or Difficulties arise before you, still keep close to these three grand Foundations of Comfort and Encouragement. Be your Case as bad as it will, it cannot be desperate, unless ye make it so by persisting obstinarely in it. Remember, the Love of God was the Cause of our Redemption by Jesus Christ; and our Redemption was the Foundation of the New Covenant. You have these three altogether, Joh. 3.16. For God so loved the World, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting Life.

Direct. 4. Waste not your Time in fruitless Musings or heartless Complaints about your doubtful uncertain state, but fall forthwith to your certain Duty. What though you cannot tell whether as yet you have sin­cerely given up your selves to Jesus Christ, and ac­cepted of him; I hope you are past doubt that ye ought so to do: Though ye be in the dark as to what's past, your present Duty is plain and certain: The Door is open, enter and live. Christ is willing if you be willing; he offers his Benefits to you, he presseth them upon you, and urgeth you to accept them: Come then, be of good chear; arise, he calleth you. Gird up the Loins of your Minds; sighing and com­plaining rid no Business: Set your selves to the work with all your might. Admit that you have not yet sincerely closed with Jesus Christ, 'tis not too late to do it now; and it is a thing that must be done, or you are undone forever. But if you suppose or hope you have done it already, it will be so much the easier to do it again; nor will it be lost labour to renew your Covenant with him: The advantage is great every way. If your Souls be habitually for Christ, draw out those Habits into exercise, and that is the way to feel that you have them: Thus Grace will be more discernable, and Conscience more quiet, while you are intent upon your Duty. You may be saved though you should live and die under great Doubts and Fears as to your sincerity, but you cannot be saved except you be sincere. Therefore, observe, it much more concerns you to enquire What shall I do to be saved? than How shall I know that I shall be saved? And indeed this is the most likely way to get assurance, or however such necessary support as may keep you from sinking. It is one thing to have Grace; another thing to know that ye have: The former is absolutely necessary to Salvation, the latter is not so.

Moreover, Little things are not easily discerned, a little Faith, Love, Repentance, &c. (tho sincere) are not so soon discovered: Therefore, I say again, take pains with your own Hearts to bring them nearer to Christ, labour to be carried out towards him with a more full bent and resolution of Soul, even such as may clearly turn the Scale for him against all other Interests whatsoever; and this is the most dutiful, safe and ready way to know that you are sincere. Strong Grace will speak for it self. Children and weak Persons are apt to be peevish and full of Com­plaints, but with those that are more healthy and vigorous it is not so. Well then, either you are now willing to comply with the Offers of the Go­spel, or not; if not, 'tis a sign you are yet in your Sins, and that this great Change has not yet passed upon you: But if you be willing, know that the Law of Grace is as much in force as ever; and therefore 'tis both your Duty and Interest to give up your selves to Christ, as tho you never had done it before. And this is the true way to re­vive and discover any Sparks of Grace in you, which at present lie hid under many Doubts and Discou­ragements. Cast your selves at the Feet of Christ, open your Case to him: Lord, I have a treacher­ous deceitful Heart, I know not how to trust it, I dare not say that I have as yet heartily accept­ed of thee as thou art offered in the Gospel, but since thou art still pleased to renew the Offer; Lord, I desire from the botrom of my Soul, to do it now: O do thou keep this in the imagination of the Thoughts of my Heart, and prepare my Heart into thee. 1 Chron. 29.18.

Direct. 5. Let not the Sense of your present Wants, nor the Fears you are under, make you forget or undervalue the Mercies which you have received. What tho you have not the special Comforts of Assurance? Have you therefore nothing to blest [Page 147]God for? Has he not in some measure awakened you from the gross and brutish Stupidity of a carnal unregenerate State? And made you sollicitous about your spiritual and eternal Concerns? Has he not followed you with the Offers of his Grace, and the Strivings of his Spirit from one Ordinance and Providence to another? Has he not given you some tendencies of Soul towards him, some Desires after him, some Breathings and Longings for an Interest in him? Doth he not still wait to be further gra­cious to you? Are not the Arms of his Love and Grace stretched forth towards you, and ready to embrace you? Doth he not offer to take you by the Hand and reach you to go? What say you to all this? Is there no Tribu [...]e of Thankful­ness due for so much Kindness? Do you think he will take it well at your Hands that so great Fa­vours should be extenuated and made nothing of by you? As if he had been a Wilderness, or a Land of Darkness to you. Jer. 2.31. How can you enter­tain hard Thoughts of so good a God! How can you affect estrangedness from him any longer? Is ingratitude for what you have received the way to get more, or rather to forfeit what you have al­ready? Do ye not know, that to be much in thankfulness would familiarize and sweeten the Thoughts of God to you, and should not ingenu­ity it self teach you to acknowledg his Favours? VVould not this mightily tend to drive away that Darkness, Fear, and bitterness of Spirit whereof you are still complaining? Surely the nearer you get to God in the exercise of Love and Praise, the more your Clouds and Doubts will vanish; the remembrance of Mercy and Kindness received is in its own Nature pleasant and refreshing to the Soul: And the more you own him, the more Light and Comfort you may expect from him. What tho you have not all that you could wish? 'Tis certain you have much more than you deserve, yea contrary [Page 148]to your ill-deservings. Therefore I say, thank God heartily for what you have received, and do not forget his Benefits.

Direct. 6. Observe well whether your own Safe­ty and Comfort be not too eagerly look'd at in your Desires after Assurance, while in the mean time any Glory which may redound to God there­by is but coldly, or not at all regarded. It much concerns you that your ends and aims be rightly or­dered and settled in this Matter; Carnal self too oft intrudes into, and so corrupts our Desires even after spiritual things. VVatch your Hearts narrowly here, 'tis ten to one but you find them very faulty. Our own VVelfare and Peace may indeed be aimed at, but in full Subordination to the Divine Glory. VVhat is the interest of a VVorm, to the honour and interest of the great God? How can you ex­pect to prosper while Self is so much look'd at, and God so little? Know ye not that even your Souls themselves, and all their Hopes and Com­forts, must be entirely submitted to his all-compre­hending Interest? VVell then, let me ask you, what is it that makes you so desirous after Assurance? Is it only that you may be more safe, or that you may be more serviceable? That your Minds may be more quiet, or that you may with more Heart and Vigour lay out your selves for God in-Praise, Thankfulness and Obedience? If it be the Honour of God that you design in it, know that he is glorified by the Humility, Self-resignedness, Patience and Constancy of his Servants, even when they are under great Doubts and Fears, and this he expects from you as most sutable to your present Circumstances. You must not expect all plain way; God is wont to make Men feel the bitterness of their former Diso­bedience, and to lay them low in Self-abhorrence, before he build them high in Comfort and Assu­rance. He delights in glorifying his Grace and [Page 149]Power, by supporting his People under their Fears and Conflicts; as well as in refreshing them with the Joys and Comforts of his holy Spirit. And are ye not willing to submit to his Methods? Here's carnal Self with a witness. VVhat! may he not do what he will with his own? Remem­ber the Disciples in Christ's School are not all of one standing, it is enough that all the Sincere are in safe Hands: Labour therefore rather to be sin­cere, than to know that you are so.

Direct. 7. Lay not too great a Stress upon the stirrings of Affections and the passionate feeling thereof in religious Exercises. These are no sure Marks to judg of your State by: Because they ebb and flow variously according to the Temper and Disposition of our natural animal Spirits. Tho lively Affections in Duty are very desirable, and should be endeavoured after; yet in trying our spiritual Estate, the inward deep rational workings of our Souls towards God are mainly to be look'd at, viz. a fixed and high estimation of him above all in our Understandings, and hearty Resolution for him, and cleaving to him in our Wills, with correspondent Endeavours to please him and be ac­cepted of him, through the whole course of our Lives: In these things it is that the Life of Grace and Duty doth consist. Those are the holiest Souls who are inwardly and deeply most inclined to­wards God, resolved for him, and sollicitous to please him: Not those who have the most tran­sporting Passions or moveable Affections. The sa­cred Recesses of the Mind (as I may allude to that of the Poet, Persius Satyr 2d.) are more inward; the affectionate Part comes more into view. God is not an object of Sense, and therefore more fit for the Understanding and Will, than the Passions to work upon. The grand Essentials of Holiness are more deep and steady; passionate strivings of [Page 150]Affection make a greater noise, but are nothing near so valuable. Besides, weak Judgments and strong Passions oft go together▪ The wisest and weightiest Persons are usually most sedate, and com­posed.

Direct. 8. Remember that God often makes the fullest discoveries of his Love to his People, when they are engaged in the most difficult Self-denying Parts of Duty and Obedience: It would be end­less to tell you of the transporting Joys which many of the martyrs have found in their sharpest Suf­ferings: When all Men have forsaken them, God hath stood by them, and comforted them: He hath visited them in their Prisons, and enlarged their Souls with spiritual Refreshments, when their Bodies have been under confinement: He hath en­abled them to triumph in the very Flames, and to baffle their Enemies by their Patience, Magna­nimity and Chearfulness in Suffering. Paul and Silas sung in the Stocks: Stephen had Heaven o­pened to him when his Enemies were raging a­gainst him: The three Children in the fiery Fur­nace have one walking with them like the Son of God. 'Tis true indeed, we are not to run upon Sufferings till God call us thereto; but if it please him so to do, we ought thankfully to accept of such a Call, as a Prize put into our Hands for the exercise of our Graces, and the advancement of our Comforts. But on the other Hand, if you be for taking up with a cheap and easy Religion, and excusing your selves from the more difficult self-denying Parts of Duty, it is a sign your Gra­ces are but weak at best, and therefore your Com­forts are not like to be strong. Would you sow sparingly and reap plentifully? How can you ex­pect full Assurance-of the Love of God, while you care not how little you lay out your selves for him?

And what tho you are not called to the fiery Trial: Yet if you will but set your selves ear­nestly to the frequent diligent spiritual Exercise of religious Duties, to the mortificaiton of your beloved Lusts, and to the doing of all the good you can in the several places wherein you stand; you will certainly find Difficulties enow to exer­cise your Graces, and to make way for your grea­ter Comforts, because the Flesh will draw back from such work as this: the World is at hand ready to entangle you, Satan will do his worst to hinder you, and so will all his Instruments. Ac­custom your selves to self-denying Obedience, and in so doing you may expect the Comforts of the Holy Spirit.

Direct. 9. Understand aright the ordinary Methods which the Spirit takes in comforting the Souls of Believers, lest you abuse your selves by expecting what is unusual or extraordinary.

'Tis certain that none have a Right to the sa­ving Benefits of the Covenant of Grace, but those who comply with the Terms of that Covenant. Nor can any have the Comforts of Assurance, who do not know that they have so complied. Now 'tis the Spirit that enables us to assent to the Truth of the Gospel, and particularly to the Truth of the Promises that are made to sincere Believers: And it is he that inclines our Hearts by his Grace to accept of the Benefits offered, and to perform the Duties required; that is, truly to repent of our Sins, and to give up our selves to God in Christ: And when we have so done, our Case is safe. But in order to the comfort of Assurance, 'tis further requisite to discern our own sincerity in this Co­venant-closure; and from thence to conclude that we are in a justified State; and have a Right to the heavenly Felicity. Now here we stand in need of further help from the Spirit, that we may [Page 152]be enabled to discern the Grace which he has wrought in us, and so to draw that comfortable Conclusion, viz. that we are passed from Death to Life. Thus you see the Spirit comforteth Be­lievers, and gives them Assurance of Salvation in a rational way, by helping them to discover the Evidences of their Sincerity: And it is foolish Presumption to expect Assurance any other way; as if the Spirit would enable Men to rejoice in they know not what, or to conclude they shall be saved they know not why. We must be able to give a reason of the Hope that is in us, 1 Pet. 3.15. So doth the Apostle here in the words of the Text.

O do not deceive your selves by expecting enthusiastical Impulses, irrational Raptures, inward Voices to tell you that you are the Children of God: But rather endeavour to get such a Frame and Disposition of Soul as becomes his Children, and thence to conclude that you are such. The sanctifying operations of the Spirit in Believers are the Witness or Evidence of their Adopu­on.

Take care also, that you deceive not your selves, by expecting such Raptures of Joy as are extraor­dinary; all are not fit for such degrees of Com­fort, nor would know how to manage themselves if they had it. But if you have so much as to­lerably supports your Spirits, and keeps them from sinking, bless God, and be humble: And have a care of Peevishness or Imparience.

Direct. 10. Distinguish carefully between your State in the main, and the more remote Accidents or Circumstances wherewith it may be attended: Between what's necessary to the Being of a sincere Christian, as such, and what's further requisite to his Well-being, Growth and Comfort: Or (if you will) between foundation and building work: If [Page 153]these things be confounded, it is scarce possible you should have any settled peace and quiet in your Souls.

Those who have truly consented to the Cove­nant of Grace, that is, whose Hearts and Lives are, in the main, for God, Christ, Holiness and Heaven; such, I say, are in a justified State, [...]d have a Right to eternal Life. But then it must be remembred, that even such Persons themselves are oft guilty of great Defects and Intermissions in the exercise of Grace, and in the performance of religious Duties, yea, and sometimes fall in­to great Sins (besides those of daily Infirmity) and therefore are often called to Repentance, Hu­miliation and Amendment, and to renew their Co­venant with God in Christ, and to act Faith upon his Merits and Satisfaction for Pardon and Peace, and to double their Watch and Diligence for the future, when in the mean time they are not, per­haps, obliged at all to call in question their Foun­dation, nor to perplex themselves with Doubts and Fears as to their State in the main. Indeed as for those who oft fall into groffer Sins, and lie long in them, even such Sins as they might easily forbear if they were truly willing, such have great reason to question their own Sincerity: But as for the common Infirmities of the Godly, yea, or their greater falls through Inadvertency, Sur­prize, or the violence of some sudden Temptati­on, the Case here is quite different: If a Work­man when he has laid his Foundation, and is pro­ceeding forward in the Building, should upon evevy lesser, or some few greater mistakes, in the Super­structure, pull down all again, and question the Foun­dation it self, he would make very little progress, and so have but little comfort in his Work: So here, true Believers who are in a justified State, have still need to beg daily Pardon for their daily Sins, yet ought they not to give way to need­less [Page 154]Doubts or misgiving Thoughts as to their State in the main: For if any Man sia, we have an Advo­cate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous. 1 John 2.1. He that is washed, needeth not, save to wash his Feet, but is clean every whit. John 13.10.

When David had sinned so grievously in the matter of Ʋriah, and Nathan the Prophet was se [...] to him to expostulate with him about it, and bring him to a greater Sense of the Evil he had done, &c. we find that he humbly acknowledgeth his Transgression, earnestly implores the Divine Mercy, prays hard that the Holy Spirit of God may not be taken away from him: but we do not find that he was called to doubt of his State in the main, nor can we prove that he did so, but encouraged himself in the Mercy of God. Psal. 51.17. The Sacrisices of God are a broken Spirit, a broken and a contrite Heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

‘There are (says a great Divine) some Sins which every one that repenteth of them, doth so forsake as to cease committing them: and there are some lesser Sins, which they that repent of them do hate indeed, but yet frequently re­new, as our defective degrees in the exercise of Repentance it self, Faith, Love, Trust, Fear, O­bedience, our vain Thoughts and Words, some sinful Passions, &c. many such Sins are fitly cal­led Infirmities, because they consist with Life, and are forgiven. It is of great use to the peace of our Consciences to discern the difference between these two: for one fort require a Con­version to another State; and the other require but a particular Repentance; and when they are unknown, are forgiven without a particular Re­pentance, because our general Repentance is vir­tually, though not actually, particular as to them. One sort are cause of judging our selves ungodly, and the other sort are only cause of Filial Hu­miliation. [Page 155] [Baxter's Directory, part 1. pag. 299.]

Direct. 11. Though you cannot yet attain to the [...]uller comforts of Assurance, do not therefore under­ [...]lue any thing that looks hopefully, or hath a likely endency thereto. Great things are not usually at­ [...]ined but by degrees, and through many difficul­ [...]ies; 'tis no small matter to be certain that we are [...] a justified State, nor is such a certainty so com­mon among true Believers themselves, as perhaps you imagine, who yet have considerable Support [...]nd Comfort from hopeful Probabilities in the case. Now as 'tis necessary to pull down the vain Hopes of presumptious Sinners, so it also is to strengthen and help the Joys and Hopes of weak Christians. Well then, let me ask you, Are you not grieved or the many Offences you have committed against God? at least, Is it not your trouble that you can nourn for Sin no more? that your Hearts are no nore tender and relenting? Is it not your desire, and in some measure your endeavour, to renounce your Sins, and to mortify your Corruptions? Could you bear the thoughts of parting with Christ, or quitting your Interest in him (for all your Doubts) and letting go your hold of him, for any thing that could possibly be offered you in exchange? Would you not even loath and abhor the Proposal? Is it not your endaavour to love him more, and serve him better? Put such Questions as these are to your own Souls, and then judge whether in all this there be not something that appears to be more then like special Grace. And though you are not yet certain that it is so, yet let thus much support you till you can see further: And (as I said before) be thankful for what you have, and strive for more Grace, and then you shall find that spiritual strength and comfort will increase together. And all along be sure to remember that God and the Redeemer are as willing to accept you upon Gospel-terms as [Page 156]you can be to desire it, yea, and infinitely m [...] willing, as loving Holiness better than you do; [...] the March break between Christ and you, it shall [...] through your own refusal. Never was any po [...] Sinner before-hand with him; he is the first in co [...] ­senting, and is a Suitor to us for our full [...] hearty consent, nor will he despise the least tende­cies thereto. He will not break the bruised Reed, o [...] On his part all is safe and clear; prevail but wi­thy own Heart to hold on and go thorow with the work, and All's thine own.

Direct. 12. Be sure that you exercise the mo [...] deep and entire Self-resignation to the soveraign Pleasure of the Divine Will in this matter. Leave it unto God to measure out your Comforts for you, and to determine the Time and Season there­of. Lay your Souls at his Feet with the profound­est Reverence, Humility and Submission; say, as David in another Case, It may be the Lord will look upon my Affliction — But if he say he have no delight in me: behold, here am I, let him do as seems good unto him, 2 Sam. 15.26. O learn to wait upon the Lord, and look for him when he seems to hide his Fa [...]. Isa. 8.17. It is not possible that you should be Losers by thus resigning your Souls and your All into his Hand; 'tis your certain Duty so to do; and it will be a mighty evidence of that Sincerity which you are seeking after. And there are many comfortable Promises made to such actings of Soul as these, and encouraging Examples set before us. Blessed are all they that wait for him. Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine Heart: Wait I say on the Lord. Psal. 20.14. Methinks that such a Promise should do more with you than just keep you from sinking. See also Psalm. 40.1, 2. I waited patiently for the Lord, &c. It is good that a Man should both hope, and quieth wait for the Salvation of the Lord. Lam. 3.26. [Page 157]Remember, God waited long on you before you [...]ould take up any serious thoughts of repenting [...]d down in sullen discontent, because he doth not [...]smediately give you the Comforts of Assurance? [...]ne would think common Ingenuity should teach [...]ou better. Light is sown for the Righteous: [...]nd sooner or later they shall reap the blessed Fruit: But in as much as 'tis sown, it is meet [...]hat they should wait till this precious Fruit grow [...]p, or rather till they themselves be grown to a [...]aturity and fitness for it; God's time is the [...]st time: He knows perfectly what Degrees of Comfort are sittest for you, and what the fittest [...]easons to bestow it: The Husbandman after he [...]h cast his Seed into the Earth, doth not im­ [...]diately expect an Harvest, nor yet say I have [...]boured in vain, I will pull up the Hedg and lay [...]ll waste. No, no, his God instructs him to greater Discretion. Isa. 28.26. He waits till the appointed Season: So do you in the present Case; wait God's time for Comfort, give an early check to the least strivings of Impatience: Say not, Why should I wait upon God any longer? as he, 2 King. 6.33. but rather as the Psalmist, Psal. 42.11. Why art thou cast down, O my Soul? &c. hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise him, &c.

CHAP. XIII.

Directions to those who have attain­ed to greater degrees of Assurance and Comfort.

WE come now to the third Branch of Ex­horcation, namely to those who through Grace have attained unto greater Measures of Assu­rance, and are enabled comfortably to conclude that they are past from Death to Lise: to such I would say,

In general; Hold fast what you have, that no Max take away your Crown, Rev. 3.11. Keep close to God and your Redeemer, live in the Spirit, walk in the Spirit: Be stedfast and unmoveable, always abounding in the Work of the Lord, &c. 1 Cor. 15.58. You know whom you have trusted, gird up therefore the Loins of your Minds. We must tug a while with the Diffificulties of our present State and Work, but these will soon be over. Hea­ven is in view, we are almost there, and shall cer­tainly reap if we faint not. But I proceed to Parti­culars.

Direct. 1. Whatever you do, be sure to keep humble; look upon Pride as the first-born of the Devil. 'Tis a Sin which God doth in an especial manner see himself against. God resisteth the Proud. [ [...]] Jam. 4.6. He stands in battle array, or in direct defiance and opposition against them. God still counteracteth the Proud, as Dr. [Page 159] Manton observes upon the place: 'Twas this which turned Angels into Devils, as may be observed from that of the Apostle. 1 Tim. 3 6. Lest being lifted up with Pride, he fall into the Condemnation of the Devil. Pride is still the fore-runner of some fall and mis­chief or other. And tho in the truly Godly it be in some measure mortified, yet is it not utterly rooted out, but sticks very close to our Natures; and if it be not carefully watched against, it will be taking occasion to shew it self even from our spiritual Gifts or Graces: And whatever it comes near is tainted and corrupted by it. O let us think, and think again, how unsutable it is to our condition to be lifted up with high thoughts of our selves, how much disingenuity there is in is; what have we that we have not received? What were we before we received it? And what should we quickly be again if we were not upheld by the Divine Power? We bear not the Root, but the Root beareth us, Rom. 11.18. Without him we can [...]o nothing, Joh. 15.5 Let us therefore endeavour to be cloathed throughout with Humility, this is (as one says) a Christian's Livery without which Christ will not own us as his Servants. Let us learn of him to be meek and lowly in Heart. Let this Mind be in us that was in Christ, who made himself of no Reputation. [ [...]] emptied himself, &c. Phil. 2.7. Let us exercise our selves frequently and solemnly in Self-Annihilation; that is, in affecting our Hearts with a deep sense of our own Nothingness in the sight of God, and this I advise you to do as a, set Duty by it self, and all little enough to subdue the Pride of our Hearts. Think not that some slight Thoughts or general Acknowledgments of your own Unworthiness, will serve the turn, but labour to feel what you say, and to be nothing in your own Eyes.

Go therefore into your Retirements, sit down and consider the glorious Excellencies of the great [Page 160]God, before whom the Angels vail their Face [...] who looketh upon the Sun and it shineth not, nei­ther are the Heavens clean in his sight: Who do [...] great things, and unsearchable, marvelous things without number, Job 5: 9. Get your Hearts as full as they can hold of adoring and admiring Thoughts of God. And when you have so done, reflect upon you selves, and you will find abundant reason to cry out, Lord, what am I? A Worm and no Max, sinful Dust and Ashes, foolish and ignorant, and as a Beast before thee! Less than the least of a [...] thy Mercies! nothing, or worse than nothing, &c. &c. &c.

I know not any thing more sutable to our Con­dition, more pleasing in the sight of God, more conducive to our spiritual Safety and Comfort, than to be much employed in such exercise as this.

Be not desirous of vain Glory, do not affect the Applause of Men, if you meet with it; watch your Hearts as you would do Gun-powder, Tinder, or Flax when Fire is near. Still say, give Glory to God, I am a poor, vile, worthless Sin­ner.

Direct. 2. Press earnestly towards the Mark. You have not yet attained, there is a great deal of Work still on your Hand, many Enemies to con­flict withal: You have run well hitherto, O have a care of making a stand. — Ad ulteriora ten­dens sempernilque putans actum dum quid super­esset agendum. — (as it was said of Julius Cesar) is a fit Motto for a Christian, still pressing for­ward, aiming at greater Attainments, and thinking nothing done, while any thing remains undone: Phil. 3.13.14. Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before;I press toward the Mark; &c.

Under this Head you may observe the follow­ing Particulars.

1. Carry on a continual Warfare against your re­maining Corruptions; the Flesh will be lusting against the Spirit, so long as we are here on Earth. Labour therefore to keep under the Body, and to bring it in­to subjection. Do not indulge your corrupt carnal Incli­nations, how agreeable soever to your Constitutions or worldly Interest. Have a care of being in love with fleshly Prosperity and Ease. Search after those Sins which do most easily beset you, those Corruptions which do most frequently foil you, and single them out to run them down: Spare them not, but deal with them as Samuel with Agag, hew them in pieces before the Lord. Fortify your selves with Arguments against them: keep a strict watch, go not to the utmost extent of your Christian Liberty; resist the first stirrings of them, the least tendencies towards them. Prov. 30.32. If thou hast done foolishly in lifting up thy self, or if thou hast thought evil, lay thine Hand upon thy Mouth. Avoid as much as possible the occasions of Sin, espe­cially of your beloved Sins: Habituate your selves to frequent serious Thoughts of the Presence of God. Set the Lord always before you, Psal. 16.8.

2. Make not a light Matter of the least decays in Grace, or Tendencies toward backsliding. What tho it should be granted that a regenerate Person cannot (or rather shall not, Jer. 32.40.) fall away finally; yet it is past all Doubt that such an one may fall very fouly, so as to grieve the Holy Spirit, to wound his own Conscience, to blemish his Profession, and to ob­scure his Evidences: 'And is not all this sad enough?

Moreover; 'tis certain Men usually decline by de­grees, and therefore the least Degrees or Tendencies thereto are not to be slighted.

If therefore you find that Conscience begins to grow less tender than formerly it was; if Sin sit lighter, and the sense of remaining Corruption is less grievous to you than heretofore; If you grow more customa­cy [Page 162]and careless in religious Duties, and less regardful to keep up the Life of holy Communion with God in Christ: If you can more easily let slip spiritual Oppor­tunities, and find less relish and sweetness in them than formerly; if the Interest of the the World and Flesh begin to grow more prevalent with you, and you are ready to phancy that 'tis good to be here, while in the mean time your Thoughts of Heaven grow cold and languid, and your Desires or Longings to be with Christ do abate: If you find it thus with you, you had need bestir your selves in good earnest to recover your first Love, and to strengthen the things which remain, and are ready to die. Otherwise you little know how far the Spirit of God may be provoked, and what considerable Degrees both of Grace and Comfort may quickly be lost. I need not tell you that Satan will do his worst to hinder you in your way to Heaven; your own Corruptions, and the Snares of the World will get Ground upon you: You had need row hard against the Stream, which of it self will carry you back, if you press not forward. No [...] progredi erit regredi.

3. Labour to grow in due proportion as to the se­veral parts of Holiness and Duty. The beauty of Ho­liness (as of every thing else) consisteth much in the due symmetry and proportion of the several parts of it. Labour to exercise each Grace and Duty in its proper Order and Place, so that one may not interfere with, nor exclude another. See that your Judgments be well settled as to the great Principles of Religion, that your belief of them be firm, deep and solid. To this end labour to study and digest well the Articles of the Creed; let your Thoughts dwell much upon them, that you may understand the right meaning and due improvment of every Article.

Take care also that your Wills and Affections be full­fraught with becoming Resolutions and Inclinations; that the Purposes and Desires of your Souls be rightly ordered and placed: To this end study well the Lords [Page 163]Prayer, both as to the matter and order of the se­ [...]eral Petitions, and endeavour to form and settle the Inclinations and Tendencies of your Souls according­ly. Especially that the Glory of God be first and last in all your desires, highest in your esteem; and all things else desired in full Subserviency thereto. Here lies the Life of Religion, and this we should be still contending and striving to raise our Hearts more to­wards, that they may move more naturally; easily, and delightfully therein; that God's Interest may be of all others the nearest and dearest to us.

And then for the direction of your Practice, labour to understand the true sense and extent of the ten Com­mandments, to see the Amiableness, Righteousness and Perfection of the Divine Law, that you may heartily approve thereof, love it, and live accordingly. Delight­ing in the Law of God, after the inner Man, Rom. 7.22.

The whole Frame of Christian Principles, Graces and Duties, is beyond measure lovely, in the harmoni­ous connexion of the several parts thereof. Labour therefore that this Frame may be more and more deep­ly imprinted upon your Hearts, and expressed in your Lives, That ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing, Jam. 1.4. If you be maimed in one part, all the rest will fare the worse for that. Remember, Integrity is the Glory of a Christian; viz. that no part be lacking. 2 Cor. 7.1. Perfecting Holiness in the fear of God. That is, let us see that no part of Holiness be wanting in us, and that we be not wanting to any part of Holi­ness, but still pressing forward towards Perfection even in degrees.

Take care, for example, that your Zeal be guided by Knowledg, lest it set all on Fire, and prove mis­chievous to your selves and others, or at best no bet­ter than an Ignis fatuus. And again, let your Know­ledg be improved into holy Zeal and Fervency, that you be not luke-warm or indifferent in Matters of Re­ligion, which most justly challenge our whole Hearts. Rev. 3.1 [...], 16. Let godly Sorrow, Repentance and [Page 164]Humiliation for Sin be so exercised, as not to exclude humble Confidence in the Mercy of God, spiritual Joy, &c.

Again, if God give you a large share of Assurance and Comfort; do not therefore think your selves above the fore-mentioned humbling Exercises; which will be a means to preserve your Purity and Peace.

Moreover, let not the Duties of the first and second Table justle out each other, but let both be duly and carefully observed in the several Branches of them. Think it not enough to be just and upright, or (as they call it) morally honest in your dealings with Men, except you be also serious, hearty, and sincere in the Service of God, and in the devotedness of your Souls to him. And again, think not that any Worship of Service you perform to God will be accepted, while second-Table-duties are wilfully neglected. It is the design of Religion to make us better and more useful in every Relation and Capacity wherein we stand. 1 Pet. 2.16, 17. 2 Pet. 1.5, &c. Tit. 2.12. We are enjoined to live SOBERLY, RIGHTEOƲSLY and GODLY in this present World, viz. We must be Sober in the Government of our Senses, Appetites, Affections, &c. Righteous in our dealings with Men, doing to others as we would that they should do to us. Godly in the Tendency and Inclination of our Souls towards God, and the serious Discharge of Religious Duties.

To conclude this Head; Be not so intent upon any one part of Duty as to overlook the rest. Then shall we not be ashamed when we have respect unto all God's Commandments, Psal. 119.6. I esteem thy Precepts con­cerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way. vers. 128.

4. Continue instant in Prayer. The People of God are called in Scripture a Generation of Seekers. Psal. 24.6. So Psal. 27.8. When thou saidst, Seek ye my Face, my H [...]a [...]t said u [...]to thee, Thy Face, Lord, will I seek. How [...] do we find this Duty press'd upon us! Pray al­ways, [Page 165]pray and faint not, watch unto Prayer. Pray to your Father which seeth in secret. Pray every where, pray without ceasing, &c. Yea, we find the holiest Persons frequently employed in this holy Duty. Psal. 55.17. Evening and Morning, and at Noon will I pray, and cry aloud, and he shall hear my Voice, Psal. 109.4. I prayer, so it is in the Hebrew: As if he were made up of Prayer. It were easy to heap up more Examples, but I forbear. O Sirs, it is on our Knees that we must get Strength to walk with God. The actuating of holy Desires, and presenting them to God, must needs tend in its own Nature to strengthen those Habits of Grace from which such Desires proceed. Besides, as it is the performance of an undeniable Duty, (should not a People seek unto their God?) a most reasonable piece of Service, so an answerable Blessing may be ex­pected upon it. God is the Rewarder of them that di­ligently seek him.

Open thy Mouth wide, and I will fill it, Psal. 81.10. Ask for great things, and with great Earnestness; come not with mean poor narrow thoughts of the Divine Goodness; be not cold nor lazy in your Requests. Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after Righteousness, for they shall be filled. Mat. 5.

A learned Divine mentions secret Prayer in the fore-front of those Duties to which our Souls are naturally most backward. [Mr. Baxter.]

Now one would think our own Necessities should even constrain us to it. Alas, how should we live without it! and how much doth it concern us to strive against our Indisposition to it! How sweet is a Duty when rescued out of the Hands of Difficulties!

O Sirs! whence is it that God hears no oftner from us, and with no greater fervency? Surely frequent and earnest Approaches to the most holy God would be a great means to make us more like him.

Remember, God has ways enow to bring you to your Knees. What if dark Clouds should arise upon you, or some sharp Affliction befal you? then 'tis like­ly, [Page 166]you would come crying after him, and seek him early, Hos. 5.15. But why not without so much ado? why should not gentler Methods prevail with you? Be but acquainted with your own Hearts, and you need not want either Matter or Motives for this great Duty. Never expect to grow in Grace, without keeping up Life and Fervency in Prayer.

Give me leave to shut up this Head, with a Passage which I lately met with in the Life of the Excellent Mr. Philip Henry. To the Publisher whereof I here return my most humble Thanks. 'Tis as fol­lows;

Pag. 75. Be sure you look to secret Duty, keep that up whatever you do; the Soul cannot prosper in the neglect of it. Apostacy generally begins at the Closer-door, secret Prayer is first neglected and carelessly performed, then frequently omitted, and after a while wholly cast off; and then farewel God, and Christ, and all Religion.’

5. Learn the Art of holy Meditation. 'Tis by this that we draw in Life, Strength and Sweetness from those great Gospel-Truths, which inconsiderate Persons lay by as if they were dead or useless things. 'Tis this that enlargeth our Knowledg and clears our Ap­prehensions in spiritual Matters, and sets on work our Resolutions, Affections, and all the Faculties and Powers of our Souls; 'tis a Soul-improving Duty in­deed. Nor can you want Matter for such Meditation, if you will but see your Thoughts at work, and keep them close to it.

Meditate upon the glorious Excellencies and Per­fections of the blessed God, his Power, Wisdom, Goodness, Holiness, Truth, All-sufficiency: Think I say on these, and think again, till becoming Impressions be wrought upon your own Spirits, changing you from Glory to Glory, 2 Cor. 3.18. Think not upon God in a slighty or ordinary manner, but with the greatest Re­verence and Admiration, lest you take his Name in vain, whereof you may be guilty in thought as well [Page 167]as in words. Let every Thought of God be mighty upon you, and participate in some sutable Measure of the greatness of its Almighty Object.

Think much on your blessed Redeemer, who he was, what he did, what he suffered, and why, as also what he has further promised to do. Thus let Christ dwell in your Hearts.

Think on the Holy Spirit of Grace, call to mind his Influences and Operations upon your Souls, how infi­nitely you are obliged to him, how much you have still to do with him. How direct and explicite you ought to be in your actings of Faith upon him, as well as upon the Father and the Son. And how care­ful you should be to carry becomingly towards him.

Think on the Holiness, Purity and Perfection of the Divine Law, how sweet, how reasonable, how ad­vantageous that Obedience is which God has required of us. O how I love thy Law! it is my Meditation all the Day, Psal. 119.97.

Think on the Heavenly Perfection, what the Saints in Glory, and the blessed Angels are doing, what they are enjoying, till your Souls be on the Wing, longing to be joined to that holy and happy Society.

Think on the Graces wherein you are most defective, consider the reasonableness and necessity of them, and how ill you can live without them, or without greater degrees of them. Plead the cause of every Grace with your own Hearts, and in the midst of your Me­ditations lift up your Eyes and your Souls to Heaven for help therein. O that you would be perswaded to try this Course, to engage your selves in the frequent and solemn Exercise of this great Duty of Meditation: the advantage would be great every way. And that you may be the fitter for this more stated Exercise of Meditation, it will be very useful, in the midst of your Employments and Business in the World, to be often sending up a Thought or Ejaculation towards Heaven.

Direct. 3. If your Endeavours thus far prove suc­cessful, so that you find more Grace and Strength com­ing in thereby; lay out your selves so much the mor [...] for God. Much is expected from them to whom much is given. Your Talents are to be traded with, no [...] hidden in a Napkin. As the Goodness of God abounds toward you, you must endeavour to abound in the Work of the Lord; that so it may appear, that the Grace bestowed upon you is not in vain, 1 Cor. 15.10.58. Surely 'tis fit God should have the Glory of his own Gifts, while you have the benefit and comfort of them. This is the way to receive more, To him that hath, shall be given.

Sit down and consider seriously, cast about in your Minds, what shall I do to promote the Honour and In­terest of that God, who has done so much for me? Can you form no Project for greater servicableness? I will try if I can help you by and by; in the mean time resolve to walk with God more humbly, strictly and watchfully than ever yet you have done: and joy­fully to embrace every opportunity which it shall please God to put into your Hands, to testify your Thankfulness by humble and self-denying Obedience. 'Tis true God needs not you, you cannot be profitable unto him: But it is as true that he expects all this from you, as a due Expression of the Gratitude and Inge­nuity of an honest Heart. Tho you cannot profit him, yet obedient you must be; and besides Soveraign Authority, you have many indearing Obligations thereto. I will shew you presently that you need not want work, but will endeavour first to fortify you against the difficulties of it.

Direct. 4. Let Patience have its perfect work. We have need of this Grace at every turn; the Race set before us will never be finish'd, nor scarce one step rightly taken without it. Heb. 12.1.

We must expect to meet with many Afflictions, [Page 169] Psal. 34.19. which cannot be born, nor improved as they ought, without patience. Whether they be such as come more immediately from the Hand of God: Shall we not be subject to the Father of Spi­rits, and live? Heb. 12.9. q. d. We must be sub­ject, our Lives lie on it. To mutiny is mortal; as one glosses upon the place. It is the Lord, let him do what seems good in his Eyes. When God is glorifying himself in correcting us, we must with Aaron hold our Peace. Lev. 10.3. Be still, and know that he is God: Dumb, and not open our Mouths, because he does it.

If we be afflicted by the Pride or Malice of Men, here again we have need of Patience, that we fret not our selves because of Evil-doers; nor enter­tain any peevish revengful Thoughts against them. There's more of Christianity in this than most Pro­fessors think of. To be habitually disposed, to bless those that curse us, and to overcome Evil with Good. And indeed we shall never be able to bear the Contradiction of Sinners, without fainting in our Minds, except we exercise Patience, and eye the Example of Christ, Heb. 12.2, 3.

Again; are we assaulted by the Temptations of Satan? we shall never conquer without Patience.

Moreover, we have need of Patience to carry us through the religious Duties to which we are dai­ly called. Because our sluggish Hearts are still drawing back from Duty, and are prone to grow weary of it, and reluctate against it. These Fruits of Righteousness will be blasted, or miserably im­paired, if not brought forth with Patience, Luke 8.15. So pron [...] are we to be weary of well-doing!

Lastly, We have need of Patience, that after we have done the Will of God, we may receive the Pro­mise, Heb. 10.36. That we may wait God's time for our glorious Reward. The wisest Man tells us, Prov. 13.12. Hope deserred, makes the Heart sick. [Page 170]'Tis Patience therefore that must keep us from fainting. O what need have we to pray, That the Lord would direct our Hearts into the Love of God, and in­to the patient waiting for Christ! 2 Thess. 3.5.

Direct. 5. Put on bowels of Compassion to the Souls of others. Say not with Cain, Am I my Brother's keeper? nor yet think that Ministers on­ly are obliged to promote the common Salvation. Methinks you should be desirous to take as many along with you to Heaven as you can. Are you not taught to pray, That the Name of God may be [...]allowed, his Kingdom come, and his Will be done in Earth, as it is in Heaven? And must not these Pray­ers be seconded with sutable Endeayours in your places? Striving to help on others, will be a means to exercise, and increase your own Gra­ces, and to advance your Comforts: It will be a sign that you love Christ sincerely, when you lay out your selves to promote his Interest. And since God hath had Compassion upon you, ought ye not to have some Compassion upon your Bre­thren. I know the Devil will do his utmost to oppose you, but you must be armed with Reso­lution and Patience. There are more with you than against you.

When you meet with any that are buffeted with Temptations, perplex'd with Doubts and Fears; remember it might have been your own Case. La­bour therefore to administer Comfort to them, by religious Conference, Communication of Ex­periences, and all other proper Means that fall in your way; do not despise the meanest of them.

And then, as for those that are in an unregene­rate State; how can you look upon them, and not be deeply concerned for them? The less they pity themselves, the greater objects of your pity: If the Children of Israel were obliged to be kind to Stran­gers, [Page 171]and not to vex or oppress them, because they themselves had been such in the Land of Egypt, and therefore knew the Heart of a Stranger, Exod. 23.9. Levit. 34. O then what reason have you to pity those that are in an unconverted E­state, estranged from God! It was once your own Case, you cannot but know what a dead, dark, disaffected thing the Heart of such a Person is; how obdurate and senseless. O think what they are doing, and whither they are going, if infi­nite Mercy do not prevent. Happy you, if you can help to save one Soul from Hell! But let me urge this Point somewhat more distinctly.

1. Begin with those that are under your special Care and Charge: If these perish through your neglect, look you to it, their Blood will be re­quired at your Hands. Those of you that have Families, think how much you have to do for God in them. It may be some of you will say, we keep up religious Exercises in our Houses, viz. Praying, Reading the Scriptures, and Sing­ing the Praises of God. I answer, thus far is well, I wish more could say so too: But this is not all that you have to do; Children and Servants are to be dealt with plainly, familiarly, and ten­derly, by you, with all the Skill and Applicati­on you can in order to the Salvation of their Souls. I must not stay to give you particular Directions, honest Hearts and a sincere desire to do their Souls good, will soon put you in a way to do it.

2. You have a great deal to do for the Souls of your Neighbours. Are not many of them ignorant, carnal and ungodly? Can you contrive no way to be helpful to them? Have you no particular In­terest in some of them? Have they no depen­dance upon you? Are they under no special Ob­ligations to you? Why are not all these Advan­tages improved for God? Can you see them perish­ing [Page 172]by Multitudes round about you, and not once open your Mouths to help them? Is this to love your Neighbours as your selves?

3. In a word, I tell you, 'tis your duty to take all opportunities, wherever you come, or with whomsoever you converse, to do good to Souls. I do not mean that sacred Things should be ex­posed by rashness, indiscretion or imprudent ma­nagement, nor Pearls cast before Swine, who will turn again and rent you: But one thing I will tell you, as bad as the World is, the Names of Holiness, Justice, Purity, Religion, &c. are still honourable among Men, and the contrary Vices are accounted odious: No Man would be look'd upon as an impious, profane, unrighteous Villian. Now this gives you some advantage; and a willing Mind may find many ooportunities to bring in good Dis­course, and that in such a way as the wo [...]st of Men should scarce dare to contradict it. There is somewhat in serious Religion which commands Awe and Reverence, even from them that hate it. Herod feared John the Baptist, knowing that he was a just Man and an holy, Mark. 6.20. As for those that are civilized or moralized (as some speak) the difficulty is next to nothing, to bring in some edi­fying Discourse among them, and to leave some good savour behind you. (Christians should be the Salt of the Earth, Mat. 5.13.) And to let them know that the Life of Religion is somewhat more than they seem to place it in. Can you not gent­ly and prudently reprove the Sins of others, where you think it may do good? I know that this is a Duty that goes as much against the Grain as al­most any; but the Scripture is plain, Lev. 19.17. Thou shalt not hate thy Brother in thine Heart, thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy Neighbour, and not suffer Sin to the upon him. Or, as the words may be ren­dered [that thou bear not Sin for him] you make your selves Partakers with other Men in their Sins, [Page 173]if you endeavour not to prevent them. In short, God will own those that own him, and stand up for his Cause; and if that be not enough, see where you can find a better Patron.

Moreover, as for those that are poor and low in the World, you might make way for doing good to their Souls, by shewing Kindness to their Bo­dies, if you thought it worth the while to be at any expence for the interest of Christ in the World. I say no more than this, if it were possible that Grief could have any place in Heaven, this sure would be the matter of it; to remember how lit­tle we had done for God on Earth.

Direct. 6. Be much in the exercise of those Gra­ces and Duties which tend most directly Heaven-ward, and are nearest a kin to that blessed State. This is the way to make you ripe for Glory. You need not stay for all of Heaven till you come thi­ther; there are great Foretasts of it to be enjoyed on Earth, if you be not wanting to your selves. You may feast your Souls upon the Provisions which Christ hath made for your present support, and more especially upon those discoveries which he has given you of the Glory intended for you; and you have need so to do, lest you faint by the way. I may say to you as the Angel to Elijah, 1. King, 19.7. Arise and eat, because the Journey is too great for thee.

1. Live by Faith upon the great Promises of the Gospel, whereby the Heavenly Glory is made sure unto true Believers; realize those Promises: there remaineth a Rest for the People of God. Blessed. are the dead that die in the Lord, &c. If any Man serve me let him follow me, and where I am, there shall also my Servant be. If any Man serve me, him will my Father honour. These are the true Sayings of God. Rev. 19.9. How comes it to pass that they are no more considered, and lived upon? What [Page 174]tho at present we have not the satisfaction of immedi­ate intuition, know ye not that Faith is to be in­stead of sight, till we come to Heaven, Heb. 11.1. But alas! how apt are we to take up with some dark, dreaming, confused Notions and Thoughts, in­stead of the lively Exercise of such a Faith.

2. Labour to stir up in your selves earnest Long­ings after this blessed State. How can we say we love our Lord, if our Hear [...]s be not with him? Should we not set our Affections on things above, where Christ sitteth on the right Hand of God? Col. 3.1, 2. Ou [...] Lord is there, our Inheritance is there, many of our Friends and Acquaintance are gone before; how ill doth it become us to suffer our Hearts to flag as if we were indifferent whether we followed them or no? Surely we should groan earnestly, desiring to be cloathed upon with our House which is from Heaven, 2 Cor. 5.2. Do but observe how eager and intent Worldlings are upon empty Vanities, things that cannot profit: And shall we be so cold and heart­less in the Tendencies of our Souls towards that Happiness which is solid and substantial? Were our Hearts more set upon Heaven, it would put Life and Savour into all our Duties, it would support us under Afflictions, and enable us to baffle Temp­tations; it would be an Evidence of our Sincerity, and raise us above the slavish Fears of Death. But I proceed,

3. Be much in the exercise of a lively well ground­ed Hope. Faith presents the heavenly Glory to the view of the Soul, Desire reacheth forth towards it, Hope lays hold upon it. To this we are begotten again, 1 Pet. 1.3. By this we are saved, Rom. 8.24. See first that your Hopes be rightly grounded, and then that they be duly exercised.

4. And now it is time that your Souls should be affected with spiritual Joy. Faith and Hope must both contribute to this. Thus we read of Joy in believing, and of rejoicing in Hope. Read [Page 175] Psal. 32.11. Phil. 4.4. 1 Thess. 5.16. You are over and over commanded to rejoice, 'tis not left to you as a Matter indifferent: 'Tis as truly a Duty in its place, as Godly Sorrow, Humiliation and Repen­tance are in theirs. And 'tis more noble, as ap­pertaining to the primitive and principal Part of Holiness; whereas the other belong to the medici­nal healing part thereof.

5. Above all things strive to keep up the Warmth and Vigour of holy Love to God and your Redee­mer: Let every other Grace do its part to promote this. Labour still to get nearer to God, more in­ward with him, and that your Hearts may move more naturally towards him. God is Love.

Direct. 7. Observe narrowly the Temper and Be­haviour of those Persons who seem ripest for Hea­ven, and take them for your Examples. Converse much with such: He that walketh with the Wise, shall be wise. In such you may observe manifold Appear­ances of those inward, gracious Principles, by which they are acted. In them you may observe great Humility and Condescension toward such as are their Inferiours. Great tenderness for the Honour and In­terest of God in the World; Great delight in ma­king mention familiarly of those that are gone to Heaven before them; An excellent composure of Gravity and Chearfulness; a weighty Seriousness and Warmth in the Duties of Gods holy Worship: In a word, you may see plainly enough whither they are going, and how beautiful a thing Holiness is thus growing up towards its Perfection.

FINIS.

This keyboarded and encoded edition of the work described above is co-owned by the institutions providing financial support to the Text Creation Partnership. Searching, reading, printing, or downloading EEBO-TCP texts is reserved for the authorized users of these project partner institutions. Permission must be granted for subsequent distribution, in print or electronically, of this EEBO-TCP Phase II text, in whole or in part.