Iohannes Scott S. T. P.

PRACTICAL DISCOURSES Upon several Subjects.

Vol. I.

By IOHN SCOTT D. D. late Rector of St. Giles's in the Fields.

LONDON: Printed for Walter Kettilby at the Bishop's-Head in S. Paul's Church-yard; and Samuel Manship at the Ship near the Royal Exchange in Cornhil. 1697.

To the Honorable WILLIAM MOUNTAGUE, Esq

THE following Discourses do breath the Spirit of the Author, (who being dead yet speaketh.) For they Carry in them a very sensible Con­cern for the honor of God, and for that (in which that honor has chiefly displayed it self to us,) the good of Mankind. For it will be no hard Matter for a considering Reader to be Convinced, that Misery (whether here, or hereafter) is the fatal Consequence of wickedness; and that to make our selves happy we must make our [Page] selves Good. And therefore it is hoped, that the seasonable publi­cation of them may by God's bles­sing, and by the sweet and forci­ble insinuations of that Candor, Zeal, and Reason, with which they are inculcated, at least assist a vitious Age to Recollect it self; and may so far do so, as to be a means to reclaim some of those, who have blotted it with that Character. And this hope is so much the greater, because, as we may rationally expect God's bles­sing upon our good Endeavors; so we may the more firmly do so, when such our Endeavors are warm and hearty. The Good and Merciful God accompany the [Page] design of the Author with his Grace; and extend that Grace to the utmost extent of the publi­cation; and by making both effe­ctual turn our hopes into prophesie.

Sir, The Relations of the de­ceased Author having observed your great respect and kindness to him, and your diligent attendance upon his Ministry, hope the Dedi­cation of these excellent Reliques of his will be acceptable to you, as they are like to be of singular use, profit and advantage to all pious and good Christians.

The CONTENTS.

  • A Discourse concerning Bodily Exercise in Religi­on, upon 1 Tim. 4 6. Page 1.
  • A Discourse of the Necessity of a Publick National Re­pentance; upon Ezek. 18. 30. P. 77.
  • A Discourse concerning the meet Fruits of Repent­ance, and the necessity of bringing forth such Fruits; upon Matth. 3. 8. P. 140.
  • A Discourse concerning a Death-bed Repentance; upon Matth. 25. 10. P. 189.
  • A Discourse concerning the great Evil of deferring Repentance; upon Rev. 2. 21. P. 230.
  • A Discourse of Submission to the Will of God; upon Luke 22. 42. P. 268.
  • A Discourse concerning Self-denyal; upon Matth. 16 24. P. 305.
  • A Resolution of that grand Case, How a Man may know whether he be in a state of Grace and Fa­vour with God; upon 1 John 3. 7. P. 357.
  • A Discourse concerning the Nature of Wilful Sins, shewing how incessant they are with a good State, or our being born of God; upon 1 Joh. 3. 9. P. 384.
  • A Discourse of the Excellency of the Christian Re­ligion to procure Peace and Satisfaction of Mind; upon John 14. 27. P. 415.
  • A Discourse shewing that when Mens Minds are di­vided between God and their Lusts, they must lead very anxious and unstable Lives; upon James 1. 8. P. 454.
1 TIMOTHY IV. 6.‘Bodily exercise profiteth little; but god­liness is profitable unto all things, ha­ving promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.’

THE great Design of Christianity being to promote our future Hap­piness, and qualify us for it; Things are more or less valua­ble in its esteem, as they more or less con­duce to this great and excellent End. And hence the Apostle tells us, that of all the Virtues Christianity obliges us to, Charity is the greatest, 1 Cor. xiii. 13. that is, a sin­cere Love of God, and an universal good Will to Men; and the greatest it is upon this account, because of all Virtues it is most congenial to the Heavenly State, that being a State of endless Love and pure Friendship; and all other Virtues are va­lued more or less proportionably, as they partake of this Virtue of Charity. To give Worth to our Faith, it is necessary it should work by Love, Galat. v. 6. To make our Knowledge acceptable, it is necessary it should run into Love, 1 Cor. viii. 2, 3. yea without Charity the Gift of Miracles, Alms­giving, [Page 2] and Martyrdom it self are Things of no value in the accounts of Christianity, 1 Cor. xiii. 1, 2, 3. Nay so much is this great Virtue designed by the Christian Re­ligion, that the Apostle tells us that the end of the Commandment is Charity, 1 Tim. l. 5. that is, all the Duties which the Com­mandment enjoyns are designed only as Means to advance and perfect our Love to God and Men: And all Means, you know, are more or less excellent proportionably, as they conduce to the Ends they are de­signed for. Wherefore since our future Happiness is the ultimate End of Christia­nity, and universal Love our most necessa­ry Qualification for it, it necessarily follows that the Goodness of all Religious Means consists in their Aptitude to abstract and purify our Affections; to exalt and subli­mate our Love, and to propagate in us that godlike and heavenly Temper, which is so necessary to qualify us for the Enjoyment of God and Heaven. But alas! how or­dinary is it for Men to mistake their Means for their Ends, and to value themselves up­on doing those Things, which if they be not directed to a farther End, are altoge­ther insignificant; accounting those Things to be absolutely good, which are but rela­tively so, and which, unless they conduce to that which is good, are perfectly indif­ferent. [Page 3] Of which we have too many sad Instances among our selves; for how many are there, who though they have nothing else to prize themselves for, but only of their keeping of Fasts and looking sourly on a Sunday, their hearing so many Sermons, and numbering so many Prayers; are yet bloated with as high Conceits of their own Sanctity and Godliness, as if they had commenced Saints, and were arrived to the highest degrees of Perfection: And tho Pride and Malice, Covetousness and Ambi­tion, are the only Graces they are eminent in, yet shall you see these empty wretched Things pearched upon the Pinacle of Self-Conceit, and from thence looking down up­on poor moral Mortals as if they were Things of an inferior Species, not worthy to be reckoned in the same Class of Beings with themselves. Such flaunting Hypo­crites, it seems, there have always been, and in these later Times it is foretold they should abound; for so the Apostle tells us 1 Tim. iv. 1. that the Spirit speaketh expresly, that in the later Ages there should arise a sort of People who departing from the Faith, should give heed to seducing spirits and do­ctrines of devils; who should forbid marriage, and command Abstinence from Meats, vers. 3. that is, as I suppose, should place all their Religion in outward and bodily Severities, [Page 4] which at best are only Means and Instru­ments of Religion; and that in these they should pride themselves, as if they were the only Saints of the Age: whereas, in truth, they would prove the rankest Hypo­crites that ever appeared in a religious Vi­zard. And of these he exhorts Timothy carefully to forewarn his Flock, and for his own part to reject their profane and ridicu­lous Fables; and rather to exercise himself in true substantial Godliness, than in such outward bodily Rigors and Severities; for which he subjoyns this general Reason, for bodily exercise profiteth little, that is, mere outward bodily Exercise in Religion abstra­cted from inward Piety and Godliness, is of very little avail in a Religious Account: For the bodily Exercise here spoken of, it seems, was such as had some little Profit attending it, and consequently was such as had some general Tendency to Good, and was improveable to some advantage, had it been wisely managed and directed. For [...], here translated little, is not so to be understood, as if it signified nothing; because it is here opposed to something that is greater, viz. to [...]: Bodily Ex­ercise profiteth little, but Godliness is profitable for all things; and therefore this bodily Ex­ercise must profit something, though less than Godliness, which is profitable for all [Page 5] things: As when Plato says [...], Socrates must be a little attended, but Truth a great deal more. And if it be such an Exercise as doth profit a little, then it must be such as is Religious, and is of some small account in Religion. In the Prosecution of this Subject therefore I shall do these two things:

  • I. Shew you what this outward or bodily Exercise in Religion is.
  • II. In what Cases it is that it profits little.

I. Wherein doth this bodily Exercise con­sist? I answer, it consists in these six things:

  • 1. In an outward visible Profession of Re­ligion.
  • 2. In bodily Severities upon Religious Accounts.
  • 3. In bodily Passions in Religion.
  • 4. In bodily Worship.
  • 5. In bodily Fluency and Volubility in Re­ligious Exercises.
  • 6. In a mere outward Form or Round of Religious Duties.

1. It consists in an outward visible Pro­fession of Religion. That we should make a visible Profession of the true Religion, when it is sufficiently proposed to us, is an unquestionable Duty, and that for this [Page 6] Reason; because not to profess visibly what we believe to be the true Religion, is an open disowning of God, who is the imme­diate Object of all true Religion. For he that believes that this is the Will of God, and yet is either ashamed or afraid openly to avow and acknowledge it, declares that he is either ashamed of God, or that he fears Man more than God; both which are high­ly impious. Besides, by our visible own­ing of Religion, we propose it to others, who by our Example may be perswaded to embrace it as well as we; and it is our Duty not only to entertain the true Reli­gion our selves, but so far as in us lies, to propagate it to others; that so diffusing our Light round about us, others may be di­rected to Heaven by it as well as our selves. This therefore is of some Account with God, that we visibly profess the true Religion; but if this be all we do, it will profit us but very little. For if we do not own Religion in our Actions, while we profess it in our Words, we contradict our selves; our Pra­ctice gives the Lye to our Creed, and our wicked Lives baffle our holy Profession: for while a Man acts contrary to the Rules of his Religion, he doth as effectually disown it, as if he should openly renounce his Bap­tism, and make a publick Recantation of Christianity. For as our Profession of Reli­gion [Page 7] is performed by a visible signification of our Belief of it, and as this may be sig­nified by our Actions as well as our Words; so in effect we do renounce Religion when we give any visible signification that we do not believe it; and this we do as well when we act like Infidels, as when by Words we de­clare our Infidelity. For by our Deeds we may signify our Minds as well as by our Words, and he that acts as if he did not be­lieve, doth give a more convincing Argu­ment of his Infidelity, than all his Words or Professions can be of the contrary; because it is rationally supposable that a Man will rather pretend to believe what he doth not, than that he will act contrary to his own Belief and Judgment; it being a greater de­gree of Violence to our selves to act contra­ry to what we do believe, than to pretend to believe what we do not. So that it is not all our Talk and verbal owning of Reli­gion that will serve the end of a visible Pro­fession, which is, so to own God as to in­duce others to own him as well as our selves; because he that denies God in his Actions will never be able to induce others to believe that he doth sincerely own him in his Words and Profassions. Wherefore unless we will live up to the Rules of our Religion, we were as good not to make any visible Profession of it; for our Profession will serve [Page 8] no good Ends of Religion; it may indeed disgrace it in the Opinion of those who mea­sure its Goodness by the Lives of its Vo­taries; for either they will think that our Religion teaches us to live as we do, and that will make them abhor it; or else they will imagine that notwithstanding our Pro­fession we do not believe it, and that will make them suspect it to be a Cheat and Im­posture. So that for any Good Christianity is like to reap from wicked Christians profes­sing it, it were highly desirable that they would renounce their Baptism, and openly declare themselves Atheists or Infidels; be­cause by their Actions they blaspheme the Religion they profess, and by assuming to themselves the holy Name of Christians they do but more openly profane it.

2. Another sort of bodily Exercise that is of some, though but little Account in Reli­gion; is our voluntary undergoing of bodi­ly Rigours or Severities upon the score of Religion. There is doubtless a very wise use to be made of bodily Severities in Religi­on, provided they be but used with that Prudence and Caution as they ought to be; for they are excellent Remedies against ma­ny of our inordinate fleshly Inclinations, to came our extravagant Appetites, and to ren­der them more tractable to the Commands of Reason and Religion: besides, that in the [Page 9] general they are of singular Use to wean our Souls from the Pleasures of the Body, which do often corrupt the palate of the Mind, and render it incapable of relishing divine Enjoyments. For if we indulge to our Appetites all those lawful Pleasures which they crave, our Souls will be apt to contract too great a Familiarity with the Flesh, and to be so taken up with the De­lights and Satisfactions of it, as to neglect those diviner Pleasures for which they were created, and which are more natural and congenial to them; and considering that in our future State we must live without these Bodies, and take leave of all the Pleasures of them, it is very requisite that we should now before-hand wean and abstract our selves from the Enjoyments of corporeal Sense, that so when we come to part with them we may know how to be happy without them, and be fit to live the Lives of naked Spirits. And therefore we find that there has scarce been any Religion whatsoever pretending to qua­lify Men for another Life, but hath imposed Fasting and Abstinence, and other bodily Severities, as proper Means to lustrate and purify the Mind, and to prepare it for im­mediate Converses with God and separated Spirits; but then the Consequence was, that the over-strict Imposition of these In­strumentals of Religion occasioned a world [Page 10] of Superstition; for being so strictly impo­sed, they obtained so far in the Opinion of the World, as to be reckoned among the Essentials of Religion, and counted absolute­ly good, and in their own Nature pleasing and grateful unto God; which possibly by degrees introduced those [...], horrid and bloody Mysteries into the Hea­then Religion. For Mankind being once possessed with such an Opinion of God, as to think he was pleased and delighted to see his poor Creatures afflict and punish them­selves; it was easie from thence to infer that he would be much more pleased to see them butcher themselves, and sprinkle his Altars with their own Blood. And as this over-weening Opinion did probably intro­duce humane Sacrifices into the Heathen Re­ligion; so it is certain that it hath intro­duced sundry false Doctrines into the Ro­mish; as particularly, that Fasting, and Whipping our selves, and going on Pilgri­mages, are meritorious Things; that by them we expiate our Sins, and make Satisfaction to the Justice of God: as if the Guilt that binds us over to eternal Perdition were to be expiated by a sound Whipping, or a short Pilgrimage were a proportionable Commu­tation for the eternal Penance of Hell Fire. But these are the vain Imaginations of Men, who would faign impose Laws upon God, [Page 11] and prescribe to him the Measures of Punish­ment; who would do as wickedly as they please, and suffer what they please for so doing. But let us not deceive our selves, if we will choose to sin, it is reasonable that that God whom we offend by our Sin should choose and appoint our Punishment. It is by no means fit that Criminals should be their own Iudges; for if they were, they would have very little Reason to be afraid of sinning; because they would be obliged to suffer no more for it than what they plea­sed themselves: but the Right of punishing is in the offended Party; and therefore if we will offend God by violating his Laws, we have no right to choose our own Penance, but must, whether we will or no, submit to what He thinks fit to inflict upon us; and what that is he hath told us before-hand, even everlasting Expulsion from his Presence into the Society and Portion of Devils, and damned Spirits. So that for us to expect to attone and satisfy God by little voluntary Penances of our own, is just as unreasona­ble as if a Murderer should cut off his lit­tle Finger, and thereupon expect to be ex­cused from the Penalty of the Law.

And as these bodily Severities are no Ex­piations of our Sins, so neither are they in their own Nature pleasing and grateful unto God: for he is a good God, and an univer­sal [Page 12] Lover of all his Creation; and conse­quently can be no farther pleased with the Sufferings and Afflictions of any of his Creatures, than as they are necessary either to do them good, or to make them exem­plary to others, or to vindicate the Honour of his own violated Laws; neither of which Ends are served by voluntary Penances and Severities as such, if they be not subordi­nated to the Ends of Virtue and Religion. For what can Fasting signify, if it be not designed to famish our Lusts? Can our hun­gry Bowels be a delightful Spectacle to that God who feeds the young Ravens, and takes so much care to provide for all his Creation? What Virtue is there in the Chastning of our Bodies, if it be not inten­ded to humble and mortify our Souls? Do we think that that God, who is so zealous of our Welfare, can be recreated with our Miseries, or take pleasure in our tragical Looks, and bloody Shoulders? 'Tis true, so far as these things are Instruments of Good to us, they are pleasing unto God, even as all other Instruments of Religion; but it is not the suffering of our Bodies he is pleased with, but the good which it doth our Souls: but if they do our Souls no good, if they do not purify our Affections, and wean us from fleshly Desires, and make us more fit for the heavenly State, they are as in­significant [Page 13] in the Account of God, as the paring of our Nails, or the clipping of our Hair.

3. Another sort of these bodily Exercises that are of some, though but little account in Religion, is bodily Passions in Religion. There is, I confess, an excellent Use to be made of our bodily Passions in the Exercise of our Religion, provided we do not place our Religion in them; for if we do, they will betray us into the grossest Cheats and Impostures. For in the general we find, that our Passions do wing our intellectual Facul­ties, and render them more intense and ex­pedite in their Operations. For whilst the Soul and Body are united to one another, there is a mutual Reflowing and Communi­cation of Passions between them, insomuch that whensoever the Soul is any ways affe­cted with any Object, there immediately follows a suitable Perturbation or Passion in the Body; and then this Passion of the Body, as it is grateful or ingrateful to it, doth more vigorously affect the Soul with Love or Aversation; and then the Soul be­ing thus reaffected and incited by the bodily Passion, will more vehemently pursue or shun the Object which caused its first Motion or Affection. When therefore our Souls and Bodies do thus sympathize with each other in the Exercises of Religion, we must ne­cessarily [Page 14] perform them with greater Vigour and Intension.

But to make this more plain to you, I will briefly instance in those four great Passions of Religion, viz. Love, and Hatred, and Sorrow, and Ioy. As for that of Love; when the Soul is affected with God, or Virtue, or any other amiable Objects of Religion; im­mediately there follows a sweet and grateful Passion in the Body. For the Heart being dilated towards the beloved Object, puts the Blood and Spirits into a free and placid Motion, which diffuses a certain agreeable Heat into the Breast, and invigorates the Brain with a flood of active Spirits; and then the Soul being sensible of this grateful Emotion in the Body, is thereby more vi­gorously incited to pursue those amiable Ob­jects wherewith she was first affected. And so for Hatred; when the Soul is practically convinced by the Arguments of Religion of the Odiousness of any Evil it forbids, the En­mity and Hatred she hath towards it causes an anxious Contraction of the Heart, and Compression of the Animal Spirits, which produces a Chilness in the Breast, a retarding of the Blood, and an unequal motion of the Pulse; and then the Soul sympathizing with the Body, cannot but be sensible of this ungrateful Passion it is put into, which must needs add to her Hatred of those odi­ous [Page 15] Objects which were the Cause of it, and cause her more vehemently to shun and avoid them. So again when the Soul is moved to Sorrow and Repentance for any past Sins and Miscarriages, the sad Regrets she suffers within her self produce a very doleful Pas­sion in the Body; such as pinches the Heart, congeals the Blood, and causes an ungrateful Languor of the Spirits; and then by com­passionating her grieved Consort, she is there­by excited to a higher degree of Displeasure against those Sins that caused its Grief and Disturbance. Lastly, when the Soul is joy­ed and delighted with any religious Object, or Exercise; by that sweet Complacency she enjoys within her self, there is produced a most pleasant Emotion in the Body, the Ani­mal Spirits flowing to the Heart in an equal and placid Stream; where being arrived through its dilated Orifices, they sooth and tickle it into a most sensible Pleasure; and then the Soul being affected with the Body's Pleasure, doth from thence derive an addi­tional Joy, which doth more vigorously en­courage her to pursue those Objects, and continue those Exercises from whence her Original Joy proceeded.

So that, you see, that by reason of that perpetual Intercourse there is between our Souls and our Bodies, there is an excellent Use even of our sensitive Passions in Religi­on. [Page 16] And it cannot be denied but that a gen­tle Temper of Body, whose Passions are soft, and easie, and ductile, and apt to be com­moved with the Soul, may be of great ad­vantage in our Religious Exercises; because whensoever it is religiously affected, its Pas­sions will be apt to intend and quicken the Affections of the Soul, and to render them more vigorous and active; but farther than this, they are of no account at all in Religi­on. For as there are many Men who are sincerely good, that yet cannot raise their sen­sitive Passions in their religious Exercises; that are heartily sorry for their Sins, and yet cannot weep for them; that do entirely love God and delight in his Service, and yet cannot put their Blood and Spirits into the enravishing Emotions of sensitive Love and Joy: so on the other hand, there are many gross Hypocrites that have not one dram of true Piety in them, who yet in their Religi­ous Exercises can put themselves into won­drous Transports of bodily Passion; that can pour out their Confessions in Floods of Tears, and cause their Hearts to dilate into Raptures of sensitive Love, and their Spirits to tickle them into Ecstasies of Joy; which is purely to be resolved into the different Tempers of Mens Bodies, some Tempers being natu­rally so calm and sedate, as that they are scarce capable of being disturbed into a Pas­sion; [Page 17] others again so soft and tender and impressible, that the most frivolous Fancy is able to raise a Commotion in them. And hence we see that some People can weep most heartily at the Misfortunes of Lovers in Plays and Romances, and as much rejoyce at their good Successes, though they know that both are Fictions and mere Idea's of Fancy; whereas others can scarce shed a Tear or raise a sensitive Joy at the real Cala­mities or Prosperities of a Friend; whom yet they love a great deal more than these Men can possibly do their feigned and Ro­mantick Heroes. And yet alas how very of­ten do Men place the whole of their Religi­on in these mechanical Motions of their Blood and Spirits; that think they are ex­ceeding good, if they can but chafe them­selves into a devout Passion; and that it is an infallible Sign of Godliness that their Blood and Spirits are easily moved by religi­ous Idea's, and apt to be elevated or dejected according as sad or joyous Arguments are pathetically represented to their Fancies: and though they do not understand the Argu­ment, or which is all one to them, though that which is delivered for Argument is mere Gibberish, and insignificant Canting, that hath nothing of Argument or Reality in it, only some empty Fiction is conveyed to their Fancies by a musical Voice in fanciful [Page 18] Expressions; yet because they are affected by it, and it raises a sensible Perturbation in their Blood and Spirits, they presently con­clude it to be an Income of God, and an in­fallible Token of his special Love and Fa­vour to them; as if it were a Sign of God­liness, and a Mark of God's Favourites to be affected with Nonsense, feathered with soft and delicate Phrases, and pointed with pa­thetick Accents.

Thus there are some Men who believe themselves to be converted, meerly because they have run through all the Stages of Pas­sion, in that new Road of Artificial Conver­sion which some modern Authors have found out; for according as the Work of Conversi­on hath been described by some modern Authors, it is wholly placed in so many different Scenes of Passion. For first a Man must pass under the Discipline of the Law, and the Spirit of Bondage; that is, he must be frightned into a Sense of his lost and un­done Condition, and in this Sense he must grieve bitterly for his Sins as the Causes of his Ruin and Perdition; and this is that which they call Conviction and Compunction. From hence he must proceed into the Evan­gelical State, and pass into the Spirit of Adoption, the Entrance of which is Contri­tion or Humiliation; which consists in an ingenuous Sorrow for Sin, proceeding from a [Page 19] passionate Sense of God's Love and Goodness; and then having acted over all these mourn­ful Passions, he embraces and lays hold up­on Christ, which is the concluding Scene, and is altogether made up of Ioy and Exul­tation, and so the Work of Conversion is finish'd. Now though I do not at all deny, but to the Conversion of an habitual Sinner it is indispensably necessary that he should be convinc'd of his Danger, and deeply af­fected with Sorrow and Remorse for his Folly and Wickedness; (and therefore would not be so understood, as if I intended to discountenance these holy Passions, which are such necessary Introductions to a sincere Conversion:) yet neither do I doubt, but by the help of a melancholy Fancy attended with soft and easie Passions, a Man may perform all these Parts of Conversion, and yet be never the better for it; for many times these Passions are only the necessary ef­fects of a diseased Fancy, and are altogether as mechanical as the beating of our Pulse, or the Circulation of our Blood. And hence we see that this kind of Conversion, which wholly consists of bodily Passions, doth com­monly both begin and end with some lan­guishing Distemper of the Body, in which the Fancy is over-clouded, and the Motion of the Blood and Spirits retarded by the Prevalence of black and melancholy Humours; [Page 20] which being once evacuated, the Man's Body returns again to its former Temper, and upon this he becomes the same Man again that he was before his pretended Con­version. And accordingly it is observed by those very Persons who place the whole Work of Conversion in these Mechanical Passions, that generally after the Pangs of Regeneration are over, their Converts grow cold, and careless, and remiss in Religion; and so like to what they were in the State of Nature, that you would hardly believe they had ever been converted; which is a plain Evidence that this sort of Conversion doth not reach the Soul, that it doth not alter our practical Judgment of things, nor rationally determine our Wills to new Choices and Resolutions; and consequently that it is nothing but a mere Train of sensitive Passi­ons mechanically excited by the Fancy. And hence you may observe in the Modern Sto­ries of our Religious Melancholians, that they commonly pass out of one Passion into ano­ther without any manner of Reasoning and Discourse; now they are in the Depths of Grief and Despair, by and by upon the Pi­nacle of Ioy and Assurance; and yet they are the same Men, neither better nor worse, when they do despair, as when they are as­sured; and consequently have no more Rea­son to be assured now, than they had when [Page 21] they were encompassed with all the Horrors of Desperation. For the only Reason any Man hath to be assured of God's Love, is his Likeness and Conformity to Him; which is that alone that endears us unto God, and entitles us to the Promise of his Favour. And yet though these Men do not pretend to be better, or more Godlike now they are assured, than they were when they despaired; yet their Hearts are overwhelmed with Floods of sensitive Joy, and they are strange­ly comforted they know not how nor where­fore: And though while they were in De­spair, they thought of those Promises and Motives of Comfort that now ravish and transport them, and had every whit as much Reason to lay claim to them too; yet then they lay like Cakes of Ice at their Hearts without affording them the least Gleam of Warmth and Comfort; which is a plain evidence that both their Ioys and Sorrows are the products of bodily Temper, and not of Reason and Iudgment; because they pass out of one into the other without any interve­nient Discourse, and are agitated into con­trary Passions whilst they are under the same Rational Motives; are dejected this moment, and comforted the next, which argues, that their Reason hath no hand in their Passions; for if it had, they could never be so con­trarily affected. Nor can it be supposed, [Page 22] that such irrational Passions are raised in them by the Divine Spirit; because He or­dinarily works upon Men in an humane and rational way, beginning with their Under­standings, and so perswading their Wills, and exciting their Passions by rational Motives and Arguments: Those Passions therefore that are not so excited can be resolved into no other Principle but that of bodily Tem­per. And accordingly you may observe, that all this Train of Passions, wherein too many Men do place the whole of their Con­version, are necessarily connected and chain­ed to one another; so that if you move but the first Link, all the rest will naturally follow; which is a plain Argument that they may be excited not only in a free and ratio­nal, but also in a necessary, or mechanical way. As for instance, Suppose these Men before their pretended Conversion to have a good Dose of Melancholy in their Tempers, this will naturally dispose them to terrible and mournful Conceits; and being thus dis­posed, their tender Fancies are easily im­pressed with dreadful Images of the Wrath of God, and their own undone Condition: And according as the Temper of their Bodies is more or less disposed to fear, so this frightful Passion continues longer or shorter upon 'em; if it continues longer, it will by the reiterated Impressions of those dreadful [Page 23] Objects that first raised it, by degrees be heightned into Horror and Desperation; and when it is so then the Man is under Convi­ction of his undone Condition, and under the Terrors of the Law, and the Spirit of Bondage; which, according to the new Me­thod, is always the first step to Conversion. And when the first Fury of Despair is over, it naturally issues into a deep Melancholy, and there spends it self in woful Regrets, and self-condemning Reflections; and this is that which they call Attrition, or Compunction, which is the next Step to be taken in this methodical way of Conversion. And hence many People do continue many Years toge­ther in this languishing state, in all which time they believe themselves to be under the Lash of the Law, and the Discipline of the Spirit of Bondage; when, God knows, ma­ny times there is nothing in it but a mere melancholy Humour tinctured and heightned with dismal Notions of Religion. But then when the Melancholy begins to disperse, and to make way for the Spirits to flow into the Brain in a more brisk and active Tor­rent, and so to warm and refresh the droop­ing Fancy; they will by degrees scatter those horrid Images and dismal Fancies of Religi­on that rid the Imagination, and raised those tragical Passions; and so the Man will gra­dually emerge out of the Spirit of Bondage [Page 24] into a more comfortable and Evangelical Con­dition. For now his Fancy being something more lightsome, but still retaining some Re­liques of its former Darkness, will be dis­posed for grateful as well as dismal Phan­tasms, and to be impressed by lovely and joyous, as well as terrible and mournful Ob­jects. So that if now God or Christ, or any other Object of Religion, be but represented to the Man in such a Dress of Metaphors and glistering Allusions, as is apt to affect his carnalized Fancy, he will presently form such charming Conceits and pleasant Imagi­nations of them, as will necessarily put his Blood and Spirits into a most amorous Emo­tion towards them; so that now he shall seem inflamed with the Love of Christ, and fancy him twined in his Arms and Embraces: whereas in Reality the Thing he is so infi­nitely fond of, is nothing but an Idol of his own Fancy, a mere Baby-Christ, drest up by his own Imagination in all the Charms of sensual Beauty, and furnished with Smiles, and Kisses, and Caresses, and all the pretty Indearments of a doating Lover. And now the Man's Fancy being thus partly hung with fine Pictures of Christ, those Reliques of Melancholy Vapours that are yet remain­ing in it, will very much dispose it to sad and mournful Conceits; especially when this Idol of Christ, which he so much doats up­on, [Page 25] shall be represented as weeping over his Sins, and grieved at the Unkindnesse he shews him. And now his Fancy being thus furnished with such a Mixture of amorous and mournful Imaginations, must necessarily beget in him a Mixture of Love and Grief and cause him to mourn for his Sins; because they make his Saviour grieve whom he seems to love so dearly: And this is Humiliation, which is the third Stage in this imaginary Road of Conversion. And now the Man having set up so gay an Image of Christ in his Fancy, and felt within himself such sen­sible Pangs of Love towards him, and Grief for the Affronts and Unkindnesses he hath offered him, his amorous Imagination will presently suggest to him, that doubtless so sweet a Saviour cannot but be conquered with all these passionate Indearments, and smitten with a reciprocal Love upon so ma­ny feeling Expressions of his Kindness to­wards him; and being possest with this Imagination, he will presently fancy his dear Image of Christ into all the Postures of a transported Lover; smiling upon him, weep­ing over him, and spreading out his Arms to embrace him; upon which there will fol­low such a sweet Effusion of his Spirits to­wards his enamoured Saviour, that he will fansy himself to be leaping into his Arms, and rolling in his Bosom, and resting, and [Page 26] leaning, and relying upon him. And now his Fancy having carried him to his Iourney's End, and lodged him in the Embraces of his Saviour, O the Joy and Ravishment! he feels his Heart pant through Excess of Delight, and is ready to break with its own Raptures. And thus you see how this whole Method of Conversion may be easily trans­acted by an active and melancholy Fancy.

And as it may be, so I doubt not but ma­ny times it is; for how many Men are there who strongly imagine themselves to have been converted, that yet are never the bet­ter for it, being still as averse unto God and true Goodness as ever they were before; nay and many times are so far from being better'd by their Conversion, that they are a great deal the worse for it; for instead of forsaking all Sin, which is that wherein true Conversion doth consist, they only shift their Vices, and many times in laying one Devil, they conjure up seven worse in the room of it. Perhaps before they fansied themselves to have been converted, they were openly lewd and profane; they would swear and be drunk, and wallow in Sensuality and Voluptuousness; but notwithstanding these beastly and damnable Crimes, they had some very amiable Qualities in them; they were courteous and affable, and kind and obliging; faithful in their Professions, and just and [Page 27] honest in their Dealings; but now alas! by passing through these dismal Stages of pre­tended Conversion, they have contracted such a mass of melancholy Humours as hath quite soured their sweet and lovely Tempers into Pride and Envy, Peevishness and Faction, In­solence and Censoriousness, and all the other Ingredients of a sullen and unsociable Nature. So that though now indeed they will not be openly lewd and profane, as they were be­fore, yet, which is a great deal worse, they will be false and ill-natur'd, and griping and ungovernable; and, which is worst of all, they will be all this while under the Dis­guise of Religion, and the Patronage of a deceived Conscience: so that whereas their former Vices had only the Possession of their Wills, but not of their Consciences, these are seized of both, which renders their Condi­tion the more dangerous. For heretofore Virtue and Religion had a strong Party with­in them, there being a Law in their Minds that warred against the Law in their Mem­bers; but now all is subdued to the Domini­on of their Sins, and their Wills and Con­sciences, like Simeon and Levi, become Bre­thren in Iniquity. Whilst therefore Men place their Religion in such artificial Trains of Passion, they will be liable to all manner of Cheats and Impostures. For the Generality of Men being ignorant of the Power of Me­lancholy, [Page 28] and of the Frame and Structure of their own Bodies; if their Fancies are but tinctured with Religion, they will be apt to attribute every extraordinary Emotion they feel to the immediate Influence of the Spirit of God, and to account that to be Grace and Inspiration which is a mere neces­sary Effect of Matter and Motion; and be­ing once possessed with this Conceit, they lye open to all the Follies of Enthusiasm; for now nothing will satisfy them but Heats of Fancy, and Transports of Passion; and whilst they should be attending to the sober Dictates of Scripture and right Reason, they will be looking for Incomes, and Impulses, and secret Manifestations; and consequently, will be apt to interpret every odd Whimsey for an inward Whisper from Heaven, and every brisk Emotion of their Spirits for an immediate Smile of God's Countenance; than which, I dare boldly say, there is nothing more mischievous to Religion, or contrary to the Life and Power of it. For Religion is a wise, a still, and silent thing, that consists not in Frisks of Fancy, and Whirlwinds of Passion; but in a divine Temper of Mind, and an universal Resignation of our Wills to God; and this not only in intermittent Fits of Passion, but in the midst of cool Thoughts and calm Deliberations. For true Religion is a State of a fixt and constant Nature, that [Page 29] doth not come and go, like the Colours of a blushing Face, but is the natural and true Complexion of the Soul. How religious soever therefore we may be in our passionate Heats and Transports, it it altogether insig­nificant, unless the standing Temper of our Minds be good, and our Religion be settled in our Natures. For though it cannot be de­nied but these our bodily Passions do profit something, as they are useful Instruments of Religion; yet I think it is very apparent from what hath been said, that he who pla­ces his Religion in them doth but deceive his own Soul.

4. Another sort of bodily Exercise that is of some, though but little Account in Religi­on, is Fluency and Volubility in Religious Ex­ercises, or a Readiness of wording our Thoughts in proper and affecting Expressi­ons; either in Prayer to God, or in speaking of God and Things divine: the proper Use of which is this, that in Prayer it is apt to exoite and kindle our devout and religious Affections. For besides that Scantiness of Words in Prayer doth divert the Mind by putting it to the Trouble of inventing new Expressions to clothe its Thoughts and Desires, which because of its Inability to attend ma­ny things at once, must needs interrupt its Zeal and Intention, and so make Breaks and Chasms in its Devotions; whereas when a [Page 30] Man expresses himself easily and fluently, so that his Words keep pace with his Desires and Affections, he will be able to keep his Thoughts more intent, and to fix himself upon God with all the united Vigour of his Mind, which not being disturbed with the Difficulty of expressing its Desires, will be the more at leisure to intend them, that so its Devotions may flow secundo flumine, in a more easie and undisturbed Current: be­sides which, I say, we all find by Experi­ence, that proper and fluent Expressions are in their own Nature apt to warm and height­en our Affections, which nothing hath a greater Influence in than the Charms of pa­thetical Oratory. To be able therefore to word our Prayers in proper and ready Expres­sions, is of considerable Advantage to our Devotions; our Words being so apt to affect our Minds, and our Passions to keep time with the Musick of our own Language: and whilst we wear these Bodies about us, and our Souls are so clogged and depressed with fleshly Desires, we have need enough to use all Arts and Advantages of spiriting and enli­vening our Devotions. But yet I confess, of all these bodily Exercises, this is the least considerable in Religion; because we may ea­sily supply the Defect of natural Fluency by excellent Forms of Prayer, the Use of which is doubtless far more expedient than the best [Page 31] of our extempore Effusions. For he that uses a Form, hath nothing else to do in Prayer but only to recollect his own Thoughts, and fix them upon God; and to keep his Mind affected with a due Sense of the Divine Ma­jesty, and his own Need of and Dependance upon him: whereas he that prays extempore, besides all this, is concerned to invent pro­per and apt Expressions, lest he should be impertinent or indecent in his Addresses unto God; unless he expects that the Spirit should immediately dictate to him the Words of his Prayer, which is to suppose himself a Person immediately inspired, and his Pray­er of Divine Revelation; and consequently, of equal Authority with the Scriptures them­selves. But the best Religious Use that can be made of Fluency and Volubility of Speech, is in speaking to others of God and Things Divine; here it is useful indeed to make a Man an Orator for Religion, and to enable him to recommend it more effectually to o­thers. Thus far therefore this sort of bodily Exercise may be profitable, both as it may be made instrumental to raise our own Devo­tions, and to propagate true Piety unto others; but beyond this, I know no place at all that it hath in Religion: for there is no doubt but we may be very good Men without this Gift of Fluency, and very bad Men with it, there being no Necessity of [Page 32] Consequence from an honest Heart to a volu­ble Tongue. And certainly that which pro­ceeds from no higher Principle than meer natural Enthusiasm, and consequently may be easily attained by Persons grosly hypocri­tical and debauched, ought not to be looked upon as a Mark of Godliness. And yet alas! how many Men are there that place all their Religion in their Tongues, and esteem it as a certain Sign of Grace that they are able to pray in fluent Expressions, and to talk of God in rapturous Flights of Fancy? For they be­ing most commonly straitned in their Reli­gious Exercises, and not able to vent them­selves with any Freedom or Readiness; when they fall into an extraordinary Fit of Fluen­cy and Enlargement, of which they can give no natural Account, they presently conclude it to be an immediate Gift of God's Spirit, and a special Token of his peculiar Favour to them. And accordingly, if you peruse the late Histories of the spiritual Experiences of our modern Converts, you will find that they contain little else but strange Relations of their rapturous Discourses, and wondrous Enlargements in Frayer; which because they have something extraordinary in them, are generally thought to be the immediate Ef­fects of the Divine Spirit: whereas com­monly they proceed meerly from the present Temper of the Body, and are as mechanical as [Page 33] any other Operations of Nature. For let a Man's Body be but put into a fervent Tem­per, his Spirits into quick but manageable Motions, this will naturally produce in him a more fine and exquisite Power of Percepti­on, by causing the Images of Things to come faster into his Fancy, and to appear more distinct there; and then his Fancy being more pregnant with new Idea's and Images than it uses to be, his Expressions must ne­cessarily be more fluent and easie. But then if when this natural Fervour of his Temper be intended with Vapours of heated Melan­choly, his Fancy be but often impressed and rubbed upon with the most vehement and moving Objects of Religion, such as God and Christ, and Heaven and Hell; it must necessarily raise in him great and vehement Passions, and dictate to him pathetick and rapturous Expressions. And this hath been commonly experimented by the Devoto's of all Religions; for even among the devouter Turks and Heathens we may find as notori­ous Instances of those Incomes and Enlarge­ments, as in any of our modern Histories of Christian Experiences. Thus the Heathen Poets; in all high Flushes of their Fancy, conceited themselves divinely inspired: Est Deus in nobis, agitante calescimus illo. And that great Orator Aristides positively affirms himself to be inspired in his Orations; be­cause [Page 34] sometimes he felt in himself an extra­ordinary Vein of Fluency, which was only ex­cited by a brisker Agitation of his Spirits. Wherefore it is not at all to be wondered at if, when Men are employed in Religious Exercises, the same natural Enthusiasm, espe­cially when it is exalted by Religious Melan­choly, should so wing and inspire their Fan­cies. For there is no Man whatsoever, that is but religiously inclined, and of a soft and impressive Temper, but by familiarizing his Fancy to the great Objects of Religion, and setting them before his Mind in distinct and affecting Idea's, may easily chafe himself in­to such a Pathos as to be able to talk to, or of, God and Religion, in lofty and rapturous Strains of Divine Rhetorick; nor is it any Argument of such a Man's being inspired, that his Discourse doth so move and affect those that hear him; because all Language that is soft, fluent, and pathetical, is natural­ly apt to make deep Impressions on the Au­ditors. For even the Grecian Sophists, as Plutarch tells us, by their singing Tones, and honied Words, and effeminate Phrases and Ac­cents, did very often transport their Audi­tors into a kind of Bacchical Enthusiasm: And no doubt but the Hearers of whom he speaks, who were wont to applaud their Orators at the End of their Declamations with a [...], [Page 35] divinely, heavenly, preciously, unimitably spoken, found themselves as much moved, as many a Man doth at a Sermon; who yet thinks it is not the Art of the Preacher, but the Spirit of God speaking in and by him that warms and excites them. Wherefore as we would not deceive and undo our own Souls, let us have a great care that we do not place our Religion in any such Enthusi­astick Fervors of Spirit, and Overflowings of Fancy; for though this may be a helpful In­strument to us in our Religious Exercises, yet it is not by this that we are to estimate the Goodness of them, but by those Laws and Circumstances which do moralize humane Actions, and render them reasonable, and holy, and good. For 'tis not in loud Noises or melting Expressions that the divine Spirit is discovered, but in a divine Nature and God­like Disposition; and the Effects of true Re­ligion are not to be look'd for in Words and Talk, but in Life and Action; and therefore St. Paul tells the Corinthians, some of whom, it seems, had too great an Opinion of his Way of Religious Rhetorication, that he would come among them and know, not the speech of them that were puffed up, but the power; for the Kingdom of God, saith he, con­sisteth not in word, but in power, 1 Cor. iv. 19, 20.

[Page 36] Fifthly, Another sort of bodily Exercise that is of some, though but little, Account in Religion, is outward and bodily Worship. There is no doubt but we ought, when we are worshipping God, to signify the profound sense that we have of his Majesty and Great­ness by outward Adorations and an humble and lowly Demeanour. For though we may signify to God the Honour and Worship that we owe him by the internal Acts of our Mind, by our Love, and Fear, and Hope, and Admiration, because he sees our Hearts and discerns the most secret Motions of our Souls; yet since to him we owe the Mem­bers of our Bodies, as well as the Faculties of our Minds, it is very reasonable that we should worship him with both, that both our Bodies and Minds should offer the Tri­bute of Homage which they owe to the Foun­tain of their Beings; that so having each of them a share in the Bounties of God, they may be Co-partners too in the Returns of Gratitude to him. And though the internal Acts of our Minds do sufficiently signify unto God our Esteem and Veneration of Him, yet it is highly reasonable, especially in our publick Addresses to him, that we should sig­nify it to Men also, that they may be excited by our Example to glorify God, and to ac­knowledge and adore the infinite Perfecti­ons of his Nature: and we have no other [Page 37] way to signify to Men our Veneration of God, but only by corporeal Actions, that is, by such Actions or Gestures of the Body as either by Nature or by Custom are significant of our inward Esteem and Adoration of him. And this, without doubt, is a Part of Na­tural Religion; forasmuch as there never was any People of any Religion whatsoever, but what have always expressed their Venerati­on of the Divinities whom they owned, by such external Reverences as were customary amongst them. And accordingly we are enjoined in Scripture to offer up unto God the Homage of our Bodies as well as of our Souls; to worship, and bow down, and kneel before the Lord our Maker, Psal. xcv. 6. and to glorifie him with our Souls and Bodies, which are his, 1 Cor. vi. 20. And when the Devil solicited our Saviour with the Promise of all the Kingdoms of the World to bow down and worship him, that is, to render him external Homage and Reverence, our Savi­our rejects the Motion with an it is written, thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve, Matth. iv. 10. which Words must be understood of external as well as internal Worship, otherwise his An­swer is no wise pertinent to the Devil's Pro­posals, which extended only to external Worship and Adoration.

[Page 38] And as bodily Worship is enjoined by ex­press Precept, so it is warranted by the con­current Examples of all holy Men; for in the Old Testament you have almost as many Examples of it, as there are Instances of de­vout and religious Persons: and so observant were the Jews of all external Reverence in their Religious Exercises, that to fall down and kneel before the Lord our Maker seems to have been Proverbial of their Prayers and Publick Worship. And lest any Man should ima­gine these bodily Reverences to have been Part of that Ceremonial Worship that was abolish'd by the Gospel, there are sufficient Examples of it recorded in the New Testa­ment both to excite and warrant our Imita­tion. For even the blessed Iesus himself who thought it no Robbery to be equal with God, yet being in the Form of a Servant, he thought it no scorn to kneel and prostrate himself before him; for thus when he was in his last Agony, it is said, that he fell on his face, and prayed, Matth. xxxvi. 39. which in those Eastern Countries was a Signification of the profoundest Reverence: and afterwards when having awoke his Disciples, he retur­ned to his Prayer again, St. Luke tells us that he fell upon his knees and prayed, Luke xxii. 41. Thus of St. Stephen, when he was breathing out his Soul in that hearty Prayer for his Enemies, it is said that he kneeled [Page 39] down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this Sin to their Charge, Acts vii. 60. So also St. Peter, when he came to raise Tabi­tha from the dead, is said to kneel down and pray, Acts ix. 40. And St. Paul acquainting the Ephesians how earnestly he prayed for them, thus expresses himself; for this Cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Ie­sus Christ, Ephes. iii. 14. And when he was going to Rome, and had taken his last Fare­wel of the Brethren at Miletum, it is said that he kneeled down, and prayed with them, Acts xx. 36. And how loudly soever some of our new-fashioned Christians may explode ex­ternal Reverence under a Pretence of wor­shipping God in a more spiritual Manner, it is certain that there never was any thing even externally more devout and solemn than the Religious Assemblies of the Primitive Christians; for generally at the Reading of their publick Liturgies, the whole Congrega­tion kneeled down upon the bare Floor with their Heads uncovered, their Eyes lift up to Heaven, and their Hands stretched forth in fashion of a Cross; and then the whole Con­gregation being composed into a deep Si­lence, the Minister began the publick Ser­vice in a most serious and humble manner, not throwing about his Prayers at random with a clamorous, wild, and confused Voice, but pronouncing them with a most decorous [Page 40] Calmness and Modesty: the People in the mean time demeaning themselves so solemn­ly and uniformly, that you would have thought the whole Assembly to have been animated with one Soul, and that Soul to have been nothing else but a vital Sense of the adorable Majesty and supereminent Per­fections of God. So heavenly wide was the Primitive Pattern from the Rudeness and Irreverence of our modern Devotions, that I doubt not should those blessed Martyrs and Confessors of our holy Religion arise from their Graves, and come into our publick As­semblies, they would suspect that we met to­gether rather to be worshipp'd by God than to worship him; our usual Postures being much fitter for Iudges than for Supplicants, and such as rather bespeak us to be recei­ving Petitions from God, than offering up Prayers to him. For what Sign do we give that we come to worship the great Majesty above, when we rudely squat upon our Seats with our Hats half on, as if we thought it too great a Condescension to uncover our Heads, and kneel before the Lord our Maker; and that we made not bold enough with him, unless we treated him as our Fellow, and it were a piece of holy Familiarity to be saucy in our Language, and irreverent in our Addresses to him?

[Page 41] But by what hath been said I think it is apparent, that bodily Worship is of so much Account and Necessity in Religion, that to ne­glect it is a Piece of great Injustice to God, and an high Affront to his Majesty, where­unto we owe the lowliest Homage and Ado­ration. But after all it must be acknow­ledged, that unless our bodily Worship be at­tended with an inward lively Sense of God, with great and worthy Thoughts of him and suitable Affections towards him, it is all but a perfect Pageantry; which, tho' it makes a goodly Shew, hath nothing of Substance or Reality in it: Nay if by those external Reve­rences we render him, we do not express the inward Veneration of our Souls; while we pretend to worship him, we mock him to his Face; and by offering him a Shell which hath no Kernel in it, we only seek to put a Trick upon him, to make him believe we honour and adore him, when in reality we do but more demurely flout him, and with our Mock-Obeysances affront him with greater Ce­remony: If therefore we do not bow our Hearts before him as well as our Knees, in our most solemn Addresses to him, we are but so many liveless Images of Prayer, that, like our Grandfathers Statues on their Tombs, have our Hands and Eyes lift up to Heaven, but no Soul to animate our De­votions. But God expects that those that [Page 42] worship Him should approach him with pure and humble Minds, with their Wills inspired with divine Affections, and their Souls touched with an over-awing Sense of his. Ma­jesty; without which he accounts all our bodily Adorations to be nothing but demure Scorns, and complemental Mockeries; and therefore upon this very Account God de­nounced most fearful Judgments against Is­rael, because they drew near him with their mouths, and with their lips did honour him, when their hearts were removed far from him, Isa. xxix. 13.

Sixthly, and lastly, Another sort of bodily Exercise that is of some, tho' but little Ac­count in Religion, is a mere outward Form or Round of Religious Duties, such as saying of our Prayers, hearing the Word of God, and receiving of Sacraments, and the like; which are all of them expresly enjoined by the Christian Religion, as the Means by which we are to purge our Minds from all Impurity and Wickedness, and to acquire those divine Habits of Piety and Vertue, which are ne­cessary to qualify us for eternal Life: And without all doubt, such Means they are as, if rightly used, will by the Blessing of God, and their own natural Efficacy, exceedingly [...]onduce to those great and worthy Ends for which they were ordained. For what Means can be more conducive to our Reformation [Page 43] and Amendment, than constant and diligent Prayer? for, besides that hereby we move God to enable us to our Duty by his own Grace and Assistance; by these our solemn Addresses to him we take an effectual Course to abstract our Minds from carnal and sensitive Things; to excite and raise our Affections towards God, and inspire our Souls with an awful Sense of his Majesty; which are the most rational Antidotes we can take against the venomous Temptations of Sin. How ne­cessary is it to make us throughly good, that we should seriously and diligently attend upon the Preaching and publick Ministries of God's Word; the great End of which is to state and describe the Bounds of Christian Duty, and to explain and enforce those migh­ty Motives which Christianity urges to ob­lige us to it? both which are indispensably necessary to our Reformation; because a Man cannot be good, unless he knows his Duty, and when he knows it, he will not be good, un­less he be perswaded to it. What can be more conducive to our Growth and Progress in all Christian Grace and Virtue, than frequent Receiving of the Holy Sacrament? which, besides as it is a Channel and Conveyance of the Divine Grace and Assistance to all worthy Communicants, doth sensibly represent to us one of the mightiest Arguments to Obedience in all the Christian Religion, viz. the Death [Page 44] and Sacrifice of our blessed Redeemer. For here we see his bloody Tragedy acted before our Eyes, the breaking of his Body and the pouring out of his Blood for us being visibly represented to us; which dismal Spectacle (if we have any Remains of Ingenuity in us) cannot but affect us both with Love to Him who suffered so deeply for us, and with Horror against our Sins, which brought those Sufferings upon Him: and being thus affected, how can we forbear vowing Re­venge upon our Sins, and perpetual Obedience to our most loving Redeemer, which is one great End of this sacred Festival? So that these outward Duties are not only necessary, as they are enjoined by our Religion, but al­so as they are effectual Means and Instru­ments of that internal Piety and Virtue, which our Religion doth principally require and design: and therefore doubtless it can­not but be a great Sin for any Christian to live in the ordinary Neglect of these instru­mental Duties, because in so doing he doth not only affront the Authority of that holy Religion to which he hath vowed Submission and Obedience, but also rejects the Means of his own Recovery and Reformation, and so doth openly declare himself a reckless profli­gate Creature, one that neither is good, nor ever intends to be so. But yet after all it must be acknowledged, that he that only [Page 45] prays, and hears, and receives Sacraments, and places all his Religion in a perpetual Round of these outward Performances, hath nothing of the Life and Spirit of true Reli­gion in him: For, as I have already observed to you, these Duties are intended only for Means and Instruments of that internal Purity of Mind, and those Divine and Godlike Dis­positions of Soul, wherein the Life and Sub­stance of Religion doth consist. Now you know it is not barely the using of Means that either is or doth Good, but the using them to some good End or Purpose: as for in­stance, Books are Means and Instruments of Learning; but it is not barely the using of Books, or turning over the Leaves of them, that will make Men wise or learned; but the using them so, as to understand the Contents of them, and acquaint our selves with the Things and Notions contained in them. Thus Prayer, and Hearing the Word of God, and Receiving of Sacraments, are doubtless excel­lent Means to make Men good and virtuous; but barely to use them, without any farther Intention, is to do a thing that signifies no­thing, that neither is good in it self, nor will do any good to us: If we would use them to any Purpose, we must use them to the End, they are designed for, or else we had as good not use them at all. For we may as soon become good Scholars barely by turning [Page 46] over the Leaves of learned Books, as we shall good Christians barely by praying, and hearing, and receiving. If we do not pray to the End we may be more humble and heaven­ly-minded; if we do not hear, and receive Sa­craments to the End we may be more just and charitable and meek and temperate; we take a great deal of Pains to no purpose. For tho' a Hammer and a File are excellent Tools to make a Watch, or a Clock, or any such curious Machin; yet doubtless you would account that Man extremely imperti­nent that should reckon himself a skilful Mechanick meerly because he knocks and files with them. And by the same Rule, tho' Prayers and Sacraments are excellent Instru­ments of Christian Piety and Virtue, yet it is a ridiculous Vanity for a Man to esteem himself a good Christian, meerly because he prays and communicates; because as the Art of the Mechanick consists not barely in using his Tools, but in using them so, as to per­fect and accomplish his Work with them; so the Virtue of a Christian consists not barely in Praying, Hearing, and Receiving, but in using these Duties with that Religious Art and Skill, as is necessary to render them ef­fectually subservient to the Ends of Piety and Virtue; and unless we use them to these Ends, we were as good not use them at all for any Benefit we are likely to reap from [Page 47] them. For what doth it signify for a Man to confess his Sins to God, if he only go round in a Circle of confessing and sinning, and sinning and confessing again? Is it any Pleasure to the Almighty, do we think, to hear us read over, with tragical Looks and woful Tones, the odious Catalogue of our uncancelled Guilts? is he so fond of the Affronts and Injuries we do him, as to take delight in hearing them recounted? No, doubtless, it is impossible. 'Tis true, he hath commanded us to confess our Sins to him; but why hath he done so? why, that our Confession might be instrumental to our Reformation; that it might affect us with Shame and Sorrow for our Sins, and Horror and Indignation against them; and if this be not the Effect of it, we do but blazon our Shame, when we confess our Sins, and pre­fer a Bill of Indictment against our selves. To what purpose do we daily offer up our Prayers unto God, if we do not endeavour by our Lives to please him? Can we imagine him so easie a Soveraign as to be soothed and flattered with the humble Petitions and In­treaties of open and avowed Rebels? Certain­ly if we do, we are infinitely mistaken: he bids us pray to him indeed, but why? why, that by our constant Addresses to him we might be always affected with so deep a Sense of his Soveraignty over us and our own Depen­dance [Page 48] upon him, as might keep us continu­ally in Awe of Him; and if this be not the Effect of our Prayers, we only talk to the Air, and spend our Breath to no purpose. To what End do we praise God, and make Rhetorical Acknowledgments of his Glory and Goodness, if we do not imitate him in those Perfections for which we admire and laud him? Do we think so wise, so great a Being can ever be pleased and tickled to hear him­self extolled and commended by a little of that fading Breath which himself gave being to? alas! no; he needs not our poor Praises to emblazon and magnify him, being infinitely glorious in his own Perfections, and a suffi­cient Stage and Theatre to Himself. 'Tis true he bids us praise him, but why? why, that he might provoke us to imitate what we do commend, and to transcribe into our own selves those adorable Perfections which we laud and admire in Him; and if this be not the Effect of our praising him, all the Good we say of him is nothing but Flattery and Complement. To what purpose do we come to Church to hear Sermons and pious Exhor­tations, if we do not live them too? Do we think to please God by meeting together to gratify our Ears or Curiosity with some new Notions, or quaint Piece of Oratory? If we do, we are much mistaken. He hath com­manded us indeed, diligently to attend the [Page 49] publick Preaching and Ministers of Religi­on; and why hath he done so, but only that we might learn his Will, and be instru­cted in the Motives to Obedience? And if this be not the Effect of our Hearing, we had as good spend our time in hearing the whistling of the Wind, or the roaring of the Sea. In a word, to what End do we receive the holy Sacrament, if we do not improve in Virtue by it? Do you think to please an All-wise God by eating a little Bread, and drinking a little Wine, in a de­vout and humble Posture? Is it likely that so wise a Being should be taken with such an insignificant Trifle? 'Tis true, He hath instituted this holy Solemnity for a perpetu­al Memory of our Saviour's Passion; but is this all do you think? Has he commanded us to meet, and eat and drink together, only to remember that a great while ago the blessed Iesus was crucified at Ierusalem? no, doubtless; that which he ultimately design­ed by this solemn Memorial was to in­flame our Love, to confirm our Faith, and strengthen our Resolutions of Obedience; and if this be not the Effect of it, our receiving the Sacrament is of no more Account in Re­ligion, than if we should eat and drink on­ly to satisfy our Hunger and Thirst. This I have the longer insisted upon, because it is so ordinary for Men to place all their Re­ligion [Page 50] in these instrumental Duties, and to believe themselves highly in favour with God, meerly because they pray very often, and hear a great many Sermons, and are constant Communicants at the Lord's Ta­ble; when God knows all this is only the Religion of the Means, and is good only as it tends farther to produce in us a divine Temper of Mind, and to make us sober, and righteous, and godly in this present World; which if it doth not effect, it doth nothing at all, but is altogether vain and insignifi­cant. Wherefore as you would not deceive and ruin your own Souls, beware of mista­king the Means of Godliness for Godliness it self, and of taking up your Rest there, where you should only bait, in order to a farther Progress; lest falling short of your Duty, you fall short of the Reward of it, and in the End receive your Portion with Hy­pocrites in the Lake that burns with Fire and Brimstone.

2. Having shewed what that bodily Exer­cise is which profits something in Religion, tho', compared with Godliness it self, but very little; I now proceed to the second thing proposed, which was to shew you in what Respects it is that this bodily Exercise doth profit but little. In general it profits but little in respect of those great and noble [Page 51] Ends which Religion doth most principally aim at: for there are four great Advantages which Religion doth principally design and intend us:

  • 1. To reconcile us unto God;
  • 2. To perfect our Natures;
  • 3. To intitle us to Heaven;
  • 4. To qualify us for Heaven;

And to each of these, these kinds of bodily Exercise are no farther profitable than as they conduce to a holy Life and internal Purity and Goodness; which is that alone by which these great Advantages are to be obtained: so that tho' they profit something, yea very much, as they are Means of Godliness, yet compared with Godliness it self, they profit but very little; because these are only in­strumental to make us godly, but it is God­liness alone that reconciles us unto God, and perfects our Natures, and qualifies us for Heaven. In these four Respects therefore these kinds of bodily Exercise do, in compa­rison with Godliness, profit but very little.

1. As to the reconciling us to God. 'Tis true, this bodily Religion is instrumental to reconcile us unto God, so far as it tends to purify our Minds, and to inspire us with a divine and God-like Nature; but farther than this, it hath no Influence at all upon it; for there is nothing can reconcile God to us, or us to God, but only a mutual Likeness [Page 52] and Agreement. While we continue in our Sins, we cannot love God, our Nature be­ing repugnant to His, who is infinitely holy, and pure, and good; nor can He love us, His Nature being repugnant to ours, which is vile, and wicked, and unreasonable. And how can two Natures be reconciled, which have such mutual Antipathies to each other? How can we love him whilst we are so pre­valently averse to all that is lovely and ami­able in Him, and so unreasonably fond of every thing that He hates and abhors? Doubtless while there is such a Contrariety between God and us, it is impossible we should love him without hating our selves. Hence the Apostle tells us, that the carnal Mind is not only an enemy, but that it is en­mity it self to God, Rom. viii. 7. It is Spight and Rancor in the Abstract, being as repug­nant to His pure and holy Nature, as Heaven is to Hell, or Light to Darkness. And the same Apostle gives us an Account of this Enmity, and shews us from whence it doth arise, Col. i. 21. And you that were sometime alienated and enemies in your minds by wicked works: These are the Make-baits that in­fuse into our Souls a secret Enmity to God, by inspiring them with such Dispositions as are altogether repugnant to the Purity and Heliness of his Nature; and there is nothing will extinguish these wicked Dispositions, [Page 53] from whence our Enmity to God doth arise, but only the contrary Habits of Virtue and true Goodness. So that all our bodily Exerci­ses in Religion do no otherwise tend to re­concile our Minds to God, than as they are instrumental to destroy the Body of Sin in us, and to beget in us a Divine and God-like Nature; which if they do not effect, they will leave us at as great a distance from God as ever they found us; and after all our Pro­fessions, and bodily Severities, our rapturous Passions in Religion, and fluent Strains of Devotion; after our Hearing, and Praying, and Receiving of Sacraments, we shall be found as utter Enemies to God as ever we were before: For there is nothing can re­concile the Mind of a Man to God, but on­ly a thorough Conformity and Agreement in Nature with him. And as we cannot be reconciled to God without being godly, so neither can God be reconciled to us. 'Tis true he bears a hearty Good-will to all his Creation, and earnestly desires the Welfare of every Being that he hath made capable of any degree of Happiness; and there is no Man whatsoever excluded from this his universal Benevolence, which with out­stretched Arms embraces the whole Creati­on: But it is impossible he should love any, so as to be pleased with or delighted in them, but only those that are good; for tho' his [Page 54] Love be terminated upon infinite Objects, yet it is founded upon one unchangeable Rea­son, and that is true Goodness, which is the only Motive of wise and reasonable Love. Thus he loves Himself, not purely because he is Himself; for that would be rather an Instinct, than a reasonable Love; but because he is good: and he loves Himself above all other Things, not out of a blind unreasona­ble Fondness to himself, but because he knows Himself to be the highest and most perfect Good. And if upon an impossible Supposition, he were less good than he is, he would doubtless love himself less than he doth; but because his own Essence is the fairest Copy, and most perfect Idea of Good­ness; therefore if he love reasonably, he must love Himself most; and consequently love all other things proportionably as they ap­proach and resemble Himself in Goodness, and Purity, and Holiness. For if he love him­self best, because he is most good, he must necessarily love all other things proportion­ably as they are more or less good; and in­deed he could not love Himself infinitely, should he love us for any other Reason, but that for which he loves Himself: For he can love Himself no farther than he hath Rea­son for it; and therefore if he had other Reasons to love us, beyond what he hath to love Himself, he would not love Him­self [Page 55] infinitely; because he would not have infinite Reason for it. So that it is plain, God loves Himself and us for the same ge­neral Reason. And as he doth not love Himself, but because he is good; so he doth not love us, meerly because we are such and such Men, out of a peculiar Fondness to our individual Persons; but because we resemble Him in that Goodness and Purity for which he loves Himself. For one of these three things we must say, That either God loves us for no Reason at all, which would be a degrading of his most wise Love into a foolish Fondness; or else that he loves us for our Sins, which would be to make Him love different Objects, Himself and us, up­on contrary Reasons; or that he loves us for our Goodness, and Conformity to his own most pure and perfect Nature. This there­fore is that alone, that will reconcile God to us, and without this all our bodily Religion is insignificant. Tho' we should profess Re­ligion with the Constancy of Martyrs, and our whole Lives were a continued Rapture of Religious Passions; tho' we should fast our selves into Skeletons, and pray till our Knees clave to the ground; tho' we should live upon Sacraments, and hear as many Sermons as there are hours in the Day; yet if upon all this we do not grow more cha­ritable and benevolent, more honest and tem­perate, [Page 56] more humble and heavenly minded, it will be all to no purpose; for when all is done, there is nothing but true Goodness can indear us to the good God. So that it is ap­parent, that notwithstanding all our bodily Exercises, so long as we continue in our Sins, there is so vast a Gulf between God and us, that neither we can go to Him, nor he come to us; and, unless God alters his Nature by becoming impure as we are im­pure, or we alter ours by becoming pure as He is pure, so immense is the Distance be­tween him and us, that it is impossible we should ever meet and agree. What the Pro­phet therefore says of Sacrifice, may be said of all bodily Religion, Will the Lord be plea­sed with thousands of Rams or ten thousand ri­vers of Oil? Will he be reconciled with zea­lous Professions, fluent Prayers, or melting Passions? no, no; He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good. And what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do Iustice, to love Mer­cy, and to walk humbly with thy God, Micah vi. 7, 8.

2. Bodily Exercise profits but little in com­parison with Godliness, as to the perfecting of our Natures. 'Tis true, this bodily Ex­ercise is instrumental of our Perfection, so far as it promotes in us the Virtues of Godliness and Religion; if it makes us meek and hum­ble, and just, and charitable, and temperate; [Page 57] if it inspires us with a sincere Love to God, and a dutiful Awe and Dread of his Maje­sty; if it produces in us a hearty Submission to his Will, and a constant Dependence up­on his Truth and Goodness; then indeed it doth effectually conduce to the Perfection and Accomplishment of our Natures, it being productive of that wherein the Perfection of our Natures doth consist: But if these are not the Effects of it, we are never the better for it, and after all our Hearing, and Praying, and Professing, our Nature will be still as maim'd and imperfect as ever it was before. For the Perfection of a Rational Nature consists not in Forms and Outsides, and such and such bodily Motions and me­chanical Exercises of our Sense and Passion, but in being wise and good; in having our Understandings informed with the Principles of right Reason, and our Wills and Affecti­ons regulated by them. For to be a perfect Man, is to live up to the highest Principle of Humane Nature, and that is Reason; which is the proper Character of our Beings that distinguishes us from all sublunary Na­tures, and sets us in a Form of Being above them. When therefore we are released from the Slaveries of Sense and Passion, and all our Powers are perfectly subdued to this superior Principle, as to do every thing that it commands, and nothing that it forbids, [Page 58] and we choose and refuse, and love and hate, and hope, and fear, and desire, and delight, according as right Reason directs and dictates to us; then, and not till then, we are come to the full Stature of perfect Men in Christ Iesus. Now what else is Godliness, but only an Habit of living ac­cording to the Laws of Reason, or an accu­stoming our selves in all our Circumstances, to do those Things that are most fit and reasonable; to demean our selves towards God, our Selves, and all the World, with that Devotion, Sobriety, and Justice, as becomes Rational Beings placed in our Con­dition and Circumstances? This is Godliness; and till we are in some measure arrived to this, our Faculties are wholly out of Joint, notwithstanding all our bodily Religion. For so long as we live in a state of Sin, we live in Rebellion to our own Reason, and the Na­tural Polity of our Souls is dissolved into a wild confused Anarchy. Our Reason, that was made to govern us, is inslaved by its own Vassals, and forced to truckle to our Passions and Appetites. The Law in our Members controuls the Law in our Minds, and countermands the Dictates of our purest Reason; and so our Nature is turned up­side-down, and the Cardinal Points of our Motion changed into quite contrary Positi­ons. And so far is our Nature from being [Page 59] perfected without Godliness, that it is the most wretched confused thing in the whole World; a mere undistinguished Chaos, where frigida cum calidis, Sense and Reason, Brute and Man, are shuffled together in a heap of rude and undigested Ruins: and being in this sick disorderly Condition, what can recover us but only inuring and accustom­ing our selves to live godlily; or, which is all one, according to the Prescripts of right Reason? This, by degrees, will re-advance our Reason to its native Throne, and reduce our rebellious Passions and Appetites to a pure and spiritual Mind: This will set our dis­jointed Faculties in order, and restore our decayed Nature to its primitive Health and Vigour. For by inuring our selves to a Life of Reason, our Passions and Appetites will by degrees be tamed and civiliz'd, so that at length it will be natural and easie to us; and then we shall chearfully go on from one degree of Virtue to another, till all the Un­evennesses of our Natures are filed off, and our Souls are polished into living Images of the most perfect God; till we come to that heavenly permanent state of ever knowing and doing that which is best and most reaso­nable: and this is the utmost Pitch of Perfe­ction that any reasonable Nature can aspire to. So that it is Godliness alone that doth perfect our Natures, and restore us to the [Page 60] pure state of reasonable Beings. For to be perfectly godly is to be perfectly conformable to the eternal Laws of Reason; and he that is so, is advanced to the utmost Pitch of Per­fection that his reasonable Nature is capa­ble of.

3. Bodily Exercise profits but little in comparison with Godliness, as to the entitling us to Heaven and eternal Life: For God hath been so gracious, as not only to assure us that there is a Heaven and future Happi­ness, but he hath also promised it to us upon certain Terms and Conditions, that so by performing these, we might not only believe that there is a Heaven, but also be inspired with a certain Hope of enjoying it. For upon our performing the Condition upon which Heaven is promised to us, we are vested with such an inalie­nable Right to it, as we can never be dis­seised of; unless the God of Truth break his Word, which he can never do, until he ceases to be God. This therefore is one great Advantage which Religion doth de­sign us, to beget in us such a lively Hope of that blessed Immortality which it promises to us, as might carry us chearfully through all the weary Stages of our Duty, and support our Minds under all the Calamities of this present World. And without all doubt, the Hope of Heaven is the greatest Blessing [Page 61] that we are capable of on this side Heaven; for if we had all the World before us, and every Pleasure of it were distilled to a Quin­tessence to feast our Desires and entertain our licorice Appetites, what a poor inconsiderable Trifle would it be, compared with the Hope of being transformed into the Like­ness of God, and dwelling for ever in His Presence, there to spend a blissful Eternity with Saints and Angels, Arch-angels and Se­raphims, in one continued everlasting Act of rapturous Love and Ioy? What mean things are all the sickly Joys, the empty, flat, eva­nid Pleasures this World doth afford us, compared with the ravishing Pleasures and divine Contentments that spring from such vast and mighty Hopes? This Hope of Hea­ven therefore being so highly advantageous to us, God hath therefore promised it to us upon certain Terms and Conditions, that so we might have a sure Foundation to build our Hope upon; that we might know upon what Grounds we are to expect that blessed Reward, which we could never have done, had God left himself free to with-hold or be­stow it upon us, according to the arbitrary, and, to us, uncertain Determinations of his Will, and not bequeathed it to us upon such Conditions by his own irrevocable Pro­mise. That therefore which gives us a Right to Heaven, and is the only true [Page 62] Ground of our Hopes of it, is our perform­ing the Condition upon which it is promised to us; and the Condition upon which it is promised to us, is nothing less than true and universal Godliness. And hence the Apostle tells us, that without holiness no man shall see the Lord, Heb. xii. 14. and our Saviour, in Matth. v. restrains the Beatitudes of the o­ther World to those that are poor in Spirit, and pure in Heart, that are benign and mer­ciful, that hunger and thirst after Righteous­ness, and that endure the unjust Persecuti­ons of the World with Christian Patience, and Courage, and Constancy. And the Promise of eternal Life is limited by the Apo­stle to those who by patient continuance in well­doing, seek for glory, and honour, and immor­tality, Rom. ii. 7. And if Godliness be the sole Condition of eternal Life, then it necessa­rily follows, that all our bodily Exercises in Religion do no farther conduce to entitle us to it, than as they conduce to make us god­ly and vertuous; which if they do not effect, they give us no more Right to Heaven, or Ground to hope for it, than the most indiffe­rent Actions in the World. Hence our Sa­viour hath told us before hand, that we may know what to trust to, Not every one that saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doth the will of my Father which is in heaven, Matth. [Page 63] vii. 21. that is, not every one that professes my Name, and acknowledges me for his Lord and Master, and makes solemn Prayers and Addresses to me, shall be admitted into the Kingdom of Happiness; such outward bodily Exercises as these will never entitle any Man unto that blessed Condition: Tho' you should profess my Name never so solemnly, and pray to me with never so much Fervor and Earnestness, yet do not think I will be brib'd by such Trifles to connive at your Sins, and admit you into Heaven notwith­standing all your Impieties; no, no; I do assure you before hand, that you may know what to trust to, that there is nothing but your sincere Submission unto the Will of my Father, shall ever perswade me to receive you into his heavenly Kingdom. Let us not therefore flatter our selves any longer with vain Expectances of Heaven, upon the ac­count of our bodily Religion; for unless our Natures are chang'd, and our Minds refor­med and better'd by it, we may as well lay claim to Heaven because we eat and drink and sleep, as because we pray, and hear, and receive Sacraments: For tho' these bodily Ex­ercises are profitable Means to entitle us to Heaven, yet it is only upon this Account, because they are Means to make us good; but if they do not effect this, they are all but so many insignificant Cyphers. He there­fore [Page 64] that builds his Hope of Heaven meer­ly upon bodily Religion, builds upon a sandy Foundation, which if he finally trust to, will sink under him, and bury him in eternal Ruins.

4. And lastly, Bodily Exercise profits but little in comparison with Godliness, as to the qualifying us for Heaven; which is a distinct Consideration from the former. For supposing we could have a Right to Heaven, without being disposed and qualify'd for it, it would be no Advantage at all to us; for be­fore we can enjoy Heaven, our Minds must be reconciled to the Pleasures and Delights of it, or else it is impossible they should be Pleasures to us. Now in the Temper of eve­ry wicked Mind there is a natural Antipa­thy unto all those pure and spiritual Joys wherewith the heavenly State abounds, which being pure, and chaste, and refined, can ne­ver agree with the vitiated Palate of a base degenerate Soul. For what Concord can there be between spiteful and devilish Spirits, and the Fountain of all Love and Goodness? between sensual and carnalized Souls that understand no other Pleasures but only those of the Flesh, and those pure and vir­gin Spirits that never eat nor drink, but live for ever upon Wisdom, and Holiness, and Love, and Contemplation? How could I be happy in seeing that God, whom I cannot [Page 65] love; in conversing with those Spirits, whose Genius and Temper I abhor; and in being for ever employed in those heavenly Exerci­ses, to which I have the greatest Aversation; no, no; till I am of the same Disposition with those celestial Inhabitants, and my Mind is contempered to the heavenly State, it is im­possible that Heaven and I should ever agree; and I may as well see without Eyes, or hear without Ears, as enjoy Heaven with­out a Heavenly Disposition. For as to the main, we shall be of the same Temper of Mind when we come into the other World, as we are of while we continue in this, it being unimaginable how our Disposition should be totally changed meerly by passing out of one World into another; and there­fore as in this World it is Likeness that doth congregate and associate Beings together, so doubtless it is in the other too: so that if we carry thither with us our wicked devilish Dispositions, (as we shall doubtless do, un­less we subdue and mortify them here) there will be no Company fit for us to assc­ciate with, but only the Devils, and dam­ned Ghosts of wicked Men; with whom our wretched Spirits being already joined by a Likeness of Nature, will be forced to con­gregate, as soon as ever they are excom­municated from the Society of Mortals. For whither should they flock but to the Birds [Page 66] of their own Feather? Where should they join Society, but with those malignant Spi­rits to whom they are joined already by a Community of Natures? For supposing that when they are landed in Eternity, it were left to their own Liberty to go either to Hea­ven or Hell; yet Heaven would be no Place for them, the Air of that bright Empire of eternal Day would never agree with their black and hellish Natures; for alas! what should they do among those blessed Souls that inhabit it, to whose Godlike Natures, divine Conversations, and heavenly Employ­ments, they have the greatest Repugnancy and Aversation? From hence therefore it is apparent, that to our comfortable Possession of Heaven it is not only necessary we should have a Right to it, but also that we should be prepared and qualified for it; and as to this, all our bodily Exercises in Religion are no farther profitable than as they are effe­ctual Means of true substantial Godliness. For when the Soul goes out of this Body, it must leave all this bodily Religion behind it, and carry nothing with it into Eternity, but on­ly those divine Virtues and heavenly Dispo­sitions, which by the Means of this bodily Religion it did here acquire. For our out­ward Professions and bodily Severities and Passions, our praying, and hearing, and re­ceiving of Sacraments, are all but Scaffolds [Page 67] to this heavenly Building of inward Purity and Goodness; and when once this is fi­nished for Eternity, then must these Scaf­folds go down as Things of no farther Use or Necessity. But as for the Graces of the Mind, they shall stand for ever as the only fit Habitations of the heavenly Pleasures; and therefore 'tis impossible that these our bodily Exercises should formally dispose our Souls for Heaven, since in Heaven they shall wholly cease. For altho' our Love and Ioy, and all our sweeter Affections, shall there be kept in everlasting Exercise, yet shall they be wholly refined from all bodily Passi­on, because there we shall be stript into na­ked and unbodied Spirits. Our Love shall unite our Wills to God and the whole Choir of blessed Spirits, without any Warmth of Spirit, or Expansions of Heart. Our Ioy be­ing purely the Jubilee of our Minds and the Recreation of our Reason, shall flow without Shouts or Noises in a most sweet but silent Current; and the whole Scene of our Hap­piness shall be transacted on the Stage of our Reason. There being therefore no room for bodily Exercise in this heavenly State, it is impossible we should be qualified by it for the Enjoyment of Heaven; but doubtless, our Fitness for Heaven must consist in such inherent Qualities of Mind as separate Souls may carry to Heaven with them; and what [Page 68] these are, may be easily concluded by consi­dering what the Employment of Heaven is; which, so far as we are given to understand of it, consists in contemplating and adoring the Divinity, and in conversing with those pure and blessed Spirits that dwell for ever in his Presence. Now to make us fit for such an Employment, the only necessary Qua­lities of Mind are an universal Love, and a profound Humility, which two are the fun­damental Vertues of Religion, of which all the other Vertues are so many different Ope­rations. 'Tis true, our Love and Humility will not have all the same Operations in the other World as they have in this, because there we shall not have the same Occasions for them; for being placed above all Suffer­ings in the Enjoyment of the most perfect Good, we shall have no occasion either for the passive Vertues of Patience, and Meekness, and Forgiveness of Injuries; nor yet for those active Vertues which speak us distant from our Happiness, such as Faith and Hope, which shall be swallow'd up in Vision and Fruition. But tho' in that blessed State we shall have no occasion to express our Love and Humility in such Acts as these, yet without these two great Vertues we shall be no ways capable of the heavenly Employ­ment; for what Pleasure can we take in contemplating the Being of God, if we do not [Page 69] love Him? Doubtless our own Antipathy to the Goodness and Purity of His Nature will either avert our Eyes from beholding him, or render the Sight of him horrible and dreadful to us. And if we do not contem­plate him with an humble and lowly Mind, the Sight of his supereminent Perfections will either provoke our Envy or Contempt, make us pine to see our selves out-shone by him, or contemn his Glories out of an over­weening Opinion of our own. Again, if we do not love God, we cannot adore him with a free and chearful Mind; and if we are proud and self-conceited, instead of God we shall adore our Selves, and become our own Idols and Votaries. So that without Humi­lity and Love we shall be no ways fit for the other part of that sweet Employment which consists in conversing with holy and blessed Spirits; for their Conversation being whol­ly regulated by the sacred Laws of wise and holy Friendship, and consisting in an ever­lasting Intercourse of chaste and mutual In­dearments; no Soul can be capable of bear­ing a Part in it that is not inspired with uni­versal Love and great Humility; both which are indispensibly necessary to every wise and friendly Conversation: For where Humility is wanting, every Trifle will offend; and where Charity is wanting, every Offence will kindle an unquenchable Discord. So that a [Page 70] proud malicious Nature can converse no where with Satisfaction, much less with those bles­sed Souls, in whose most pure and perfect Friendship there is not the least Intermix­ture either of Flattery or Envy; for being all perfectly good and perfectly happy, they can neither over-value themselves, nor envy what another enjoys; so that in all their Conversation there is no Entertainment ei­ther for Pride or Malice, but on the contra­ry there is nothing but what is distasteful to them: for where there are none that over­value either themselves or others, but every one loves every one with a sincere and invio­lable Friendship, there can be no Conversa­tion but what is distasteful to an arrogant and malicious Temper. What then should a proud malignant Spirit do among those hap­py Beings, a great Part of whose Heaven con­sists in rejoycing in each others Happiness? Doubtless could such a Spirit be admitted into their Society, their Bliss would so enrage its Envy, their Perfection so upbraid its Baseness, that it would find nothing but Causes of Discontent in a Conversation so disagreeable to its Nature: so that without universal Love and profound Humility, there is nothing in Heaven that we can enjoy; there being no Employment in that blessed State that is agreeable to the Genius of a proud and malicious Mind. So that unless [Page 71] our bodily Religion doth make us really good by begetting in us those heavenly Vertues of Humility and Love, it is altogether im­pertinent as to the disposing of us for Hea­ven; and after all our fasting, and praying, and hearing, and receiving of Sacraments, we shall be found as remote from Heaven, and as unprepared for it, as if we had spent our time in gathering Cockles, or telling the Sands upon the Sea-shore. So that tho' this bodily Exercise be highly useful and ne­cessary to our Reformation and Amendment, and is in it self a very conducive Means to in­ternal Holiness and Goodness; yet compa­red with Godliness it self, wherein our Ho­liness and Goodness doth consist, it is of very little Account, either as to the reconciling us to God, or the perfecting our Natures, or to the entitling us to Heaven, or qualify­ing us for it.

Now from hence we may learn, what the true End is of external and bodily Religion: It is not required for its own sake without any farther End or Intention, but for the sake of Godliness, which is the ultimate Mark at which it ought to be levelled and dire­cted. And therefore as he that would build an House must make use of the Means, the Tools and Materials of Building; but if he think to build the House meerly by using [Page 72] these Means, by cutting the Wood and car­ving the Stone, without any farther Aim or Intention, he will find himself extreamly mistaken: so he that would be godly must use the Means of Godliness; he must profess the true Religion, and pray, and hear, and receive Sacraments; but he that thinks he is godly meerly because he uses these Means, tho' he doth not at all concern himself to direct them unto the great End for which they were designed, doth but deceive and abuse his own Soul. For, for God's sake, what doth it signify for a Man to pray in his Family, and afterwards to go and cheat in his Shop? to keep the Lord's Day strictly, and play the Knave all the Week after? What doth it avail for a Man to hear the Word of God, if he make no Conscience of obeying it? to receive the Sacrament of Charity, if he still retain Hatred and Ill-will to his Neighbour? Do we think that God is so fond of these instrumental Duties of Religion, as for their sakes to dispense with these gross and fulsome Immoralities? No, no; these are things only fit to cheat Chil­dren and Fools withal. But let us not ima­gine, that the wise and holy God will be so imposed upon; that when he hath ordained these Duties only as the Means of acquiring that universal Purity and Goodness which he principally intends and requires, he will be [Page 73] contented barely with your using these Means, whether the great Ends for which he design­ed them be ever obtained by you or no. If you should enjoin your Servant to copy out such a Letter or Manuscript, and for that End should require him to use Pen, Ink, and Paper; would you not think him extream­ly absurd or insolent, should he come and shew you a large insignificant Scribble, and tell you that according to your Command he had used the Pen, Ink, and Paper, tho' indeed he had not transcribed one Word with them of what you did command and enjoin him? And yet thus rudely and inso­lently do you deal by God, who place all your Religion in the instrumental Duties of it. God doth require of you that you should copy out his Iustice, Purity, and Goodness, and transcribe them into your own Natures; and in order to your doing of this, he hath prescribed you certain Means and Instru­ments, such as Prayer, and Hearing, and re­ceiving of Sacraments; and when you come to give him an account of that mighty Task he hath enjoined you, you shew him an in­significant Flourish of Religion, and have no­thing to say for your selves but that accor­ding to his Appointment you have prayed, and heard, and received Sacraments; but you must confess that with all these you have not transcribed one Tittle or Iota of that [Page 74] Purity and Holiness which he required at your hands. Is this a proper account, do you think, to be given to the wise and holy Soveraign of the World? Would you be thus mocked by your own Servants? and dare you presume thus to mock the great God, between whom and you there is infi­nitely a greater distance than between you and the meanest Vassal about you? In the Name of God, for what End do you pray? Is it to please him with a fine Speech, or an humble and eloquent Address? or is it to persmade him by your fawning Submissions to befriend you in all your Wickedness and Rebellion against him? If either of these be your Aims, I must plainly tell you, you were as good save your Breath for some other purpose; but if you pray to him up­on a sincere Design, to affect your Minds with an awful Sense of God, and to obtain of him Grace to enable you to repent and amend, and for Pardon and Mercy upon your unfeigned Repentance; then your Prayer must necessarily make you more meek, and humble, and industrious to please him by a free and generous Obedience. To what purpose do you come to hear the Word of God? Do you think it gratifies the Almigh­ty that you will please to give him the Hear­ing? or that you meet in the publick Assem­blies to furnish your Heads with Notions [Page 75] and your Tongues with Discourse? If this be your Opinion, I must needs tell you, you have very mean Apprehensions of God, to think him a Being capable to be pleased with such a mean and inconsiderable Trifle: but, if you come with humble, honest, and teachable Minds to learn the Will of God in order to your obeying it, your hearing will necessarily lead you to the Practice of all those excellent Virtues which God requires at your hands. What do you design when you receive the Sacrament? is it to please God with offering Vows to him, which you do not mean to perform, to pacify him with a short Pang of religious Passion, with shed­ding a few Tears over your bleeding Savi­our; or to get your Pardon sealed with the Blood of the Covenant without Repentance and Reformation? If so, I must needs tell you, you receive the Sacrament to no other purpose, but only to deceive and abuse your own Souls. But if you come with an honest Design to remember the great things that your Saviour hath done for you; to excite your Love to him with the Spectacle of his Passion, and to renew your Communion with the Saints, and your Vows of Obedience unto God; you will then infallibly be made better by it, and be more and more accom­plish'd in every part of true and real Good­ness. So that unless we perform this outward [Page 76] and bodily Religion to the Purposes of true Godliness, we perform it to no purpose at all. Let me therefore beseech you, even for God's sake and your own Souls, do not rest in this bodily Religion, think not that you have done enough, when you have fasted and prayed, heard and received Sacraments; for if you do, you are short of your Duty, and will infallibly fall short of the Reward of it. These Things indeed we must by no means neglect, they being the necessary Means and Instruments of our Reformation; but if we do not use them as such, we take a great deal of Pains to no purpose; if they do not render us more humble and charitable, more sober and heavenly-minded, we have spent all our Labour in vain, and in the End shall have no other Reward for it but the Portion of Hypocrites in the Lake of Fire and Brimstone.

EZEKIEL XVIII. 30.‘Repent and turn your selves from all your Transgressions, so Iniquity shall not be your Ruin.’

THE great Design of this Chapter is to answer an Objection which the Iews were wont to make against the Righteousness of God's Procedure with them; viz. That he punish­ed them not only for their own, but for their Fathers Sins. Which Objection, tho it did not at all impeach the Righteousness of God, it being no Injustice in Him to inflict temporal Evils upon the Children for their Fathers Sins; yet that they might urge it no more as a Pretence of Gods unrighteous dealing with them, God assures them by his Prophet that from thenceforth he would re­mit that Right he had to make them smart for their Fathers Iniquities, and inflict no other Punishment upon them than what was due for their own personal Faults; that if they did well, they should fare well, not­withstanding the Sins of their Parents; and that if they did wickedly, they should sure­ly smart for it, how well soever their Parents behaved themselves. Nay, says he, your [Page 78] Fathers Merit or Demerit shall henceforth be so far from excusing you from, or expo­sing you to Punishment, that you shall not suffer for your own past Wickedness, if you repent of it, nor yet escape for your past Righteousness if you revolt from it. This is the Sum of the whole Chapter to the 24th Verse: and yet, says he, the house of Israel says, the way of the Lord is not equal. O house of Israel are not my ways equal? Are not your ways unequal? Can any method of rewarding and punishing be more equal than this which I now propose? or can any Accusation be more injurious than this of yours against me? but know, 'tis not your unjust reproaches shall make me desist from this my most righte­ous procedure. Therefore, says he Verse the 30th, I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways; how much soever you reproach and calumniate me, I will strictly insist upon this method of rewarding and Punishing you according as you repent of, or persevere in your Iniquities; and to let you see that I will be as ready to reward you upon the former, as to punish you upon the latter, do but for once make a tryal of me, repent and turn your selves from all your trangressions, and you shall surely find that your past iniquity shall not be your ruine. The sense of which Words resolves into two Pro­positions:

  • [Page 79]1. That the Iniquity of any People or Na­tion tends directly to their Ruine.
  • 2. That true Repentance and Amendment is the certain way to prevent the Ruine which Iniquity tends to.

I begin with the first, that the Iniquity of any People or Nation tends directly to their Ruine: So it shall not—intimating that if they did not repent their Iniquity would certainly end in their Ruine. And of the Truth of this the constant Experience of all Ages is a sufficient Testimony; for if you consult either sacred or prophane History, you will find that Iniquity, like the Worm at the root of Ionah's gourd, hath many times blasted the most flourishing Kingdoms, pulled down their Banks, and laid them open to such Inundations of Misery, as have final­ly overwhelm'd and destroy'd them. And those that have made the strictest Enquiries into humane Affairs have constantly observed that the Rise and Fall of Nations hath been more owing to their Virtue and Vice than to any other Cause, and that upon these two Hinges generally the Fates of Empires turn; that the Foundations of their Rise were laid in vertuous, brave, and generous Actions, and that by Wickedness and Corrup­tion of Manners they were undermined, and sunk into a final Ruine. But the Truth of this will yet more fully appear by consider­ing [Page 80] how many ways Vice doth contribute to the Ruine and Destruction of a Kingdom; all which I shall reduce to these eight Heads:

  • 1. It doth it by depriving Kingdoms and Nations of the Favour and Protection of God.
  • 2. By inflicting positive Plagues and Pu­nishments upon them.
  • 3. By corrupting and infatuating their Counsels.
  • 4. By melting and emasculating their Courage.
  • 5. By breaking and disturbing their Or­der.
  • 6. By dissolving their Unity and Con­cord.
  • 7. By consuming their Wealth and Sub­stance.
  • 8. By debasing their Esteem and Reputa­tion.

1. Wickedness directly tends to the Ruine of Kingdoms and Nations, as it deprives them of the Divine Favour and Protection. For if we acknowledge God to be the Almighty Lord and Soveraign of the World, we can­not but confess that the Strength and Esta­blishment of Kingdoms is founded in His Favour and Protection; that his Goodness, Wisdom, and Power are the Pillars upon which those vast and mighty Structures lean; [Page 81] and consequently that if he withdraw from them those necessary Supports, they cannot stand, but must inevitably sink under their own Weight into irreparable Ruines. For nothing can subsist without God, and much less Kingdoms and Nations which have so many Principles of Corruption lurking within their own Bowels, and in which there are compounded so many boisterous Passions, repugnant Humors, inconsistent De­signs and contesting Interests; all which like the contrary Qualities of our Bodies do by their mutual jarring with one another con­tinually tend to the Dissolution of the whole. So that did not the wise and Almighty Pro­vidence of God continually superintend these contrary Principles, and by its skilful min­gling them with one another, preserve them in a just and due Temper, those great and unweildy Bodies in which they do reside, would be every moment in danger of being diseased, corrupted and destroyed by them. But now the Sins of Nations do mightily contribute to the depriving them of this Be­nefit of Gods Providence and Protection; for how can any Kingdom or Nation expect that God will continue to protect them in their Rebellions against Himself? that he who is so implacable an Enemy of wickedness, and so zealous an Assertor of his own Honour and Authority, will employ his Power to [Page 82] patronize them in the one, and take their part against the other: and if he with­draw his upholding Providence from a Na­tion, he needs do no more; for now it must sink of its own accord, and like a falling House, when its prop is removed, its Weight will bear it down and quickly crush it into Ruines.

2. Wickedness tends to the Ruine of Kingdoms and Nations not only by enga­ging God to withdraw his Protection from, but also to inflict positive Plagues and Pu­nishments upon them. For God being the supreme Soveraign of the World, and espe­cially of this World of Men who are so ex­treamly prone to contemn and violate the Laws of his Government, it is necessary that since our Hopes and Fears are the master­springs of all our Motions, he should take especial Care, as on the one hand to allure us to our Duty by the Hope of Reward, so on the other to awe us into it by the Fear of Punishment; and if he should not, there would be no confining such extravagant Creatures, as we are, within any Rule or Compass. Now as for particular Offenders, the great Scene of God's Rewarding and Punishing them is the future State, where every Man must answer for himself and re­ceive the just Retributions of his own Acti­ons; but as for sinful and vertuous Nations, [Page 83] they are capable only of being rewarded and punished in this Life; there being no such thing as particular Nations and King­doms in the Life to come; where Heaven and Hell are the two Nations into which the Spirits of Men are distributed; so that if wicked Nations were not punished here as such, they could never be punished at all. And if there were no such Punishments set up like Banks and Shores to break the Inso­lence and check the overflowing Wickedness of Sinners, the whole World would soon be­come a Sink and Deluge of Iniquity: and therefore tho' here God many times spares particular Offenders, there being a future State in which he can reckon with them and call them to a strict account for all their Af­fronts and Provocations; yet 'tis very rare, if ever, that he suffers wicked Nations to go unpunished here; because if he should, as such they would escape for ever. And how would it weaken the Government of the World, if when God sees a People confede­rate against him, blow the Trumpets of Re­bellion and gather into Armies to urge war against him, he should sit still with his hands in his bosom and take no notice of it? for tho' among Men the Multitude of Offen­ders be many times the Cause of their Impu­nity, because of the Weakness of Humane Go­vernments which are glad to spare, where [Page 84] they are not strong enough to punish; yet in the Government of God things are quite otherwise: no Combination of Sinners is too hard for Him, and the greater and more numerous the Offenders are, the more his Iu­stice is concerned to vindicate the Affront. However therefore God may pass by single Sinners in this world, yet when a Nation combines against him, when hand joins in hand, the wicked shall not go unpunished.

3. Wickedness tends to the Ruine of King­doms and Nations as it contributes to the corrupting and infatuating of their Counsels. For Vice and Wickedness doth very much de­press the Minds, and weaken the Under­standings of Men; it doth so warp their Judgments, and cast such mists of Prejudice around their Reason, that they are not able to discern the Issues and Consequents of things; for when they are overpowered by their Lusts, their Affections will mislead their Minds, and impose upon them for Truth and Realities their own unreasonable Wishes and Desires: And when we advise in the midst of a Company of head-strong Passions and Appetites, we are like Rehoboam amongst his young and hair-brain'd Counsellors, who re­presented things to him not as they were in themselves, but according to his own Desires and Inclinations. And when the Counsels of a Nation are steered by its own vicious Af­fections, [Page 85] that will most commonly seem best which is most unreasonable, and so Storms will many times be mistaken for Calms, and Rocks for safe and quiet Harbours. No Man is fit to counsel for a publick Good but he that is led by simple and unbiassed Reason, because he only will attend impartially to the Reasons of things, and accommodate his Ad­vices to the publick Necessities and Exigen­cies of Affairs; but when the Man himself is governed by any unreasonable Appetite or Affection, that will ever and anon intermin­gle with this Judgment and biass his coun­sels towards its own unreasonable Desires and Inclinations. And when such blind Af­fections as Pride and Ambition, Covetousness and Revenge sit at the stern, and are the Pi­lots and Steer-men of a Kingdom; how can it be expected but that in the midst of so many Rocks and Quick-sands that surround it, it should run a ground, or be split in pieces?

4. Wickedness tends to the Ruine of King­doms and Nations as it contributes to melt and emasculate their Courage. For tho' it can­not be denied, but that the Valour and Cou­rage of Nations is very much owing to the temper of the Climes in which they are situ­ate, yet 'tis evident that as People of the most effeminate Climes have by Vertue been im­proved into heroick and magnanimous, as the [Page 86] Romans and Persians for instance; so those of the most hardy and courageous Climes have many times by their dissolute Manners been broken and dispirited into the most wretched Cowards and Poultroons; as the English for instance, who tho' they have been ever remarked for a People of a daring and undaunted Genius, yet have sometimes been so melted by their own Softness and Luxury, as that they became Preys to every Dog that hunted them. And indeed Softness, Luxury, and Wantonness, are Vices that will effemi­nate the Spirits and spoil the strain of the most valorous Nation; for as Vertues are increased by Exercise, so they shrink and decay by Inactivity, and there is no State of Life that doth so fetter our Courage and restrain its Vigour and Activity, as that of Idleness and Luxury; in which after it hath stewed and dissolved a while it will convert into the greatest Baseness and Pusil­lanimity: for an intemperate Bowl, a Bed of Sloth and a Dalilah's Lap are Charms suffici­ent to effeminate a Heroe, and bewitch a Ly­on into a timorous Hare. And as these particular Vices do naturally discourage a Nation, so Vice in general hath the same Effect; for it naturally impresses a sense of Guilt upon the Mind, which fills it with such Tears and Herrors as cannot but weaken and [...]pirit the hardiest and most daring Cou­rage. [Page 87] For how can a Man be courageous that is continually stung with the Remorses, and haunted with the restless Furies of his own guilty Mind; that carries a Hell within his own Bosom, and hath a thousand Guilts, like so many grim and ghastly Devils, con­tinually staring him in the Face? Certainly such an One must either lay by his Reason or his Courage, and become a Coward or cease to be a Man. Hence it is said, The wicked fleeth when no man pursueth, but the righteous is bold as a Lyon, Prov. 28. 1. And when a Nation is thus dispirited by their own Lusts and Guilts, then are they ripe for Ruine, and fit to be made a prey for every Nimrod that will hunt and invade them.

5. Wickedness tends to the Ruine of King­doms and Nations, as it breaks and dissolves their Union. For as true Religion knits mens Hearts together by the indissoluble Ligaments of mutual Love and Charity, as it heals their Spirits, and corrects their Pas­sions, and inspires their Natures with all those obliging Graces upon which the Peace and Concord of Society is founded; so on the contrary, Vice and Wickedness tends and divides the hearts of men, sows seeds of Dis­cord in their Natures, frets and inflames their Spirits against one another, and impregnates them with such rude and barbarous Passions as do naturally render them unfociable to [Page 88] each other; such as are Pride and Ambition, Envy and Malice, Covetousness and Revenge, which naturally tend to the Dissolution of Society, and the cutting in sunder all the cords of Friendship and good Neighbourhood. Hence is that of St. Iames, Chap. iv. 1. From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members. Yea doubtless this is the Cause of all those Discords that spoil the Harmony of this Moral World, the Pandora's Box out of which have swarmed all those Strifes and Contentions, Broils, and Confusions that have destroyed and ruined ma­ny flourishing Kingdoms. For tho' the most turbulent Factions are usually faced with zeal for God, yet if you look beyond the Outside, you will always find that most of the Broils that have been conducted un­der the display'd Banners of Religion have been raised and led on by the Devilish Pas­sions of those who have been the most zea­lous Sticklers for and Fomentors of them. Thus Vice, you see, doth naturally divide a Nation; and teares the Members of it in sunder; and our Saviour assures us that when a Kingdom is divided against it self, it is soon brought to desolation, Matthew xii. 25. For those Divisions do mightily im­pair the strength of a Kingdom, which like an impetuous Stream being parted into se­veral [Page 89] Currents runs with far less force, and is much more easily forded. And when once a Nation is torn and separated into Factions, it is at best but like a Confederate Army, which tho' it be united into one Bo­dy hath several contrary Interests and Designs which divides their counsels and makes them suspitious of one another, and so less able to withstand the force of an united Enemy; and in these circumstances what can be expected but that either they should fall out among themselves and sheath their swords in one anothers bowels, or be made an easie prey to the power and rapine of their common Adversary?

6. Wickedness tends to the Ruine of King­doms and Nations, as it disturbs them in their Order and regular Administration. For as Religion lays the Foundations of all good Order in a Kingdom, as it obliges the Gover­nours to all those regular vertues that make them publick Bessings, to Iustice and Libera­lity, to Truth and Mercy, to Constancy and Magnanimity; as it binds the subordinate In­struments and Ministers of State to Fidelity and Diligence as it ingages the Subjects to honour and reverence, to obey and submit to their Governours; so on the contrary, Vice and Wickedness when it hath insinuated it self into a Nation, subverts the whole Order of it, and miserably confounds the Course of [Page 90] its Administration: it introduces into the Go­vernment Opposition and Tyranny, Fraud and Cruelty, Cowardize and Inconstancy; it perverts the Ministers of it into Traytors and Robbers, and turns its Courts of Iustice into dens of Thieves; it alienates the Subjects from their Duty and Allegiance, makes them heady and high-minded, rude and pragmatical, factious and ungovernable; and in a word, spreads such a poisonous Contagion over all the vital Parts of a Nation, as, without a speedy Cure, must necessarily end in the Ruine and Desola­tion of the whole. For such universal Disor­ders are as the Symptoms of Death upon a Na­tion, and like those gentler Convulsions within the Bowels of the Earth do portend the Approach of some dreadful Earthquake. And as when the whole mass of Blood and Humors is corrupted, the Body is sick unto Death, and will putrefy apace into a Carkass; thus when a Kingdom is thus universally dis­ordered, when as the Prophet expresses it, the whole head is sick and the whole heart is faint, when from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot there is no Soundness in it, but all is covered with wounds and bruises and putrefying sores; what can be expected but a speedy and a fatal Period?

7. Wickedness tends to the Ruine of King­doms and Nations, as it consumes their Wealth and Substance. Whilst Vertue and [Page 91] Religion do bear sway in a Nation; to be­sure it is of a frugal and industrious Genius, the People will attend to their own Business and not be intermedling pragmatically in anothers Diocese; They will enjoy themselves within the Bounds of Modesty and Sobriety, and make a conscience of out-spending their Fortunes, and living above their proper Ranks and Degrees in the World. And whilst every Member thus acts within its proper Sphere, the Nation cannot but thrive and prosper, each one by his honest Frugality and Industry being enabled upon all occasions to contribute to the Defence and Support of the Publick. But when once Vice and Wickedness have thrust out Vertue and overspread the Nation, it introduces in its room so many costly, chargeable, and prodigal Lusts, as will soon exhaust its Wealth, and suck the Blood out of its Veins. Then in comes Idleness, and like a Drone lives upon the acquests of Industry: Then Pride begins to spread her Peacocks train, and flaunt out what Frugali­ty had saved, in gorgeous Apparel and sumptuous Furniture. Then Drunkenness and Gluttony begin to call out for Meat and Drink offerings to their God, the Belly; and Lust and Wantnoness to crave Provisions to feed and pamper their insatiate Appetites: in a word, then comes in such a Pack of greedy Hell-hounds to devour the Fruits of [Page 92] our past Frugality and Industry, as are suffi­cient to drain and exhaust the Indies. And when there are so many Locusts swarming in every corner of the Land, what can be expected but that at last they should eat up every green Thing, and devour the Fruits of every Tree? For we may maintain whole Fleets and Armies at a cheaper rate than a few extravagant Lusts, and let but Pride and Idleness, Intemperance and Wantonness be let loose, and allowed to spunge a while upon a Nation, and in a little time they shall more impoverish and consume its Substance, than a long and wasting War. And when the Wealth of a Nation which is the vital Blood that runs and circulates about its Veins and Arteries, is thus continually suck­ed by these insatiate Daughters of the Horse­leech that still cry out Give, Give; its Life must necessarily ebb by degrees, and at the last it must faint away and expire.

8. And lastly, Wickedness tends to the Ruine of Kingdoms and Nations, as it im­pairs and debases their Esteem and Reputati­on. Righteousness exalteth a Nation, saith the Wise Man, but Sin is the reproach of any peo­ple, Prov. xiv. 34. for Vice hath such a na­tural Baseness and Uncomeliness in it, that whenever it appears in its own Colours, it creates a mighty Disesteem of it self in the Minds of all that behold it, and where­ever [Page 93] it goes, it carries an infamous Character along with it; it blasts the Reputation of its own Votaries, covers their Heads with Shame and Dishonour, causes them to rot above ground, and to stink alive, and when they are dead, writes a black and inglorious Me­mory on their Graves. When therefore this foul and noisome Leprosy hath spread it self over the Face of a Nation, it must necessa­rily render it a horrid and monstrous Specta­cle unto all that behold it; and tho' the Universality of Sin may give it some Repu­tation where its Throne and Empire is seat­ed, and render it genteel and fashionable a­mong its own Slaves and Vassals; yet 'tis such a Reputation as hath no bottom to sup­port it. For unless my Honour be founded in some real Excellency, it is not in me, but in the Conceit of him that honours me; his Fancy is the Mint where all my Reputation is coined, and 'tis at his pleasure to stamp me an Angel or a Devil. So that tho' Vice may sometimes be in Vogue where it is uni­versally spread and propagated, yet it being a Vogue without Foundation, all the Credit it gives is only a fantastick Being, a thing that is only the Sport and Dalliance of vulgar Breath and popular Noise; but whilst its own blind Votaries sing Hosanna's to it, and strew its way with Palms, all the World besides exclaim against and cry unanimously Cru­cify [Page 94] it, Crucify it. So that while it is hono­red at home, it is vilified abroad, and tho' we may be sometimes so besotted as to rec­kon it our Glory, yet to be sure all wise and indifferent Iudges will upbraid it to us as our Shame. For what wicked Nation is there that hath ever escaped the Reproaches and Infamy of Mankind, that hath abandoned it self to Fraud and Treachery, to Softness and Effeminacy, to Oppression and Cruelty; and hath not thereupon drawn upon it self the Scorn and Hissing of all the Nations round about it? And when a People are grown cheap and despicable in their Neighbours eyes, when their Faith is suspected, their Truth branded, and their Virtue stained and ble­mished, what Support or friendly Inter­course can they expect from them? Who will trust to their Leagues or Confederacies, or enter into Commerce with them, who have neither Truth nor Iustice to secure them? for so much Reputation as a Nation loses, so much Strength it loses; for 'tis a mighty Strength to a People to be feared and lov'd by their neighbouring Nations, neither of which they can expect to be when once they have sunk their Reputation; for who will dread an effeminate People softned with Luxury and Voluptuousness? or who will love a profligate People distained with Cruelty and Falshood? And when a People hath not [Page 95] Credit enough to make them either fear'd or lov'd, if then they are not ruin'd and de­stroy'd, it is because their Enemies either think it not worth the while, or are not at leisure to attempt it.

And thus you see, how many ways Wickedness contributes to the Ruine of a Na­tion. So that when Wickedness hath over­spread a People, and is become their Epi­demical disease, it doth not only bode their approaching fate, but hastens it, and pulls it headlong down upon them; and without a Miracle they must reform, or sink or pe­rish. For unless God alters the natural Course of things and hinders necessary Causes from producing their Effects, it will be as impossible to hinder the Ruine of a Kingdom that is overwhelmed with Wickedness, and obstinately continues so, as it is to save a House from burning that is wrapt and com­passed round with Flames; because the burn­ing of a House is not a more necessary Effect of the Flames that surround it, than the Ruine of a Nation is of the Sins that overspread it. One way therefore there is left, and only one, for such a Nation to save it self, and that is by Repentance; which brings me to the next Proposition in the Text, That true Repentance and Amendment is the certain way to prevent that Ruine which our Iniquities threaten. Repent and turn [Page 96] your selves from all your trangressions, so ini­quity shall not be your ruin. But before I en­ter upon this Proposition, I shall draw a few practical Inferences from what hath been said.

1. From hence I infer what plagues and nuisances wicked Men are to a Kingdom, since the Tendency of Sin in so many particulars is so very destructive to its Welfare and Interest. These are the grand disturbers of Israel the wretched Incendiaries, that set all in Flames and Combustions about them; their Sins are the Trains that do give Fire to those Mines of Ruine that sink and tear up Kingdoms, and their Breasts are the Semi­naries and Harbourers of those Traitors that do conspire against and undermine our Peace and Happiness. For as for those Traytors without, tho' they were a thousand times if possible more crafty and restless and malicious than they are, we might defy their hellish Plots and Intreagues, and smile at their vain Attempts did not our Sins contribute to make us miserable; but when we by our own Wickedness will joyn hands with their restless Craft and Malice, assist them against our selves and co-operate with them to our own destruction, what remedy is there for us? when the sins of our Friends are con­spiring our ruine together with the malice of our Enemies, how can we hope either, [Page 97] wholly to escape, or much longer to defer it? for if ever that destruction come upon us which hath been so long designing and is now hanging over us, this Epitaph will ve­ry well fit our Tombs, Here lies a miserable Nation, whose Ruine is owing more to their own Sins than to all the Designs and Powers of their Enemies. Consider this therefore, O you Sinners in this our Sion; you are, tho you know it not, in a strict confedera­cy with the Priests and Iesuits against your native Country, against the Protestant Religi­on, and against the Liberties and Properties of English Men; you are accessary to all those Treasons which they have contrived, and are still contriving against the Religion and Laws and Government of the Nation; and if ever they thrive and take effect (which the God of Heaven avert) we may thank you for prospering and succeding them; who by your pride and sensuality, your fraud and faction, your covetousness and oppression do what in you lyes to ripen and give a prospe­rous birth to the treasonous designs of our common Adversaries. And therefore if yet you have any regard either for this sinking Kingdom whose Womb bore you, or to this bleeding Church whose Paps gave you suck (both which in the most sorrowful postures that a Church and Kingdom can be well re­duced to, are now crying out unto you, O [Page 98] you our cruel and unnatural Children, have pity upon us! have pity upon us!) if, I say, you have any regard either for the one or the other, O be now at last perswaded to commiserate their deplorable Condition, to take off those loud-mouthed Sins you have set upon them, and are now like a Pack of Hounds tearing and worrying them in pieces.

2. From hence I infer what is the true Cause of those many national Evils which we feel and justly fear. For since Iniquity doth so directly tend to the Ruine of a Nation, to what other Cause may we more truly attri­bute either those present or those future Evils that have, or shall befal us? When any Calamity befals us we are apt to ascribe it all, either to false or else to partial Causes, and if we reckon Sin among the Causes, to be sure we skip and overlook our own. 'Tis the Carelesness or ill Design of this or t'other Mi­nister of State crys one; 'tis the Peevishness and Faction of such a Gang and Party, crys another; 'tis the Rigour and Severity of those who comply with and contend for the legal Establishment, crys a third; when these at most are but a partial Cause, and the main Spring, God knows, of all our Mischiefs lyes within our own bosom [...]. And tho' ma­ny of us are sensible, as we cannot well be otherwise, that Sin hath a great hand in all our Sufferings and Calamities, yet alas how [Page 99] few are there that reckon their own Sins in­to the tale: They are the sins of the Court crys the City, and the sins of the City crys the Country; they are the sins of the Church crys the Separatist, and the sins of the Cler­gy crys the Laity, and the sins of the Gentry crys the Commonalty. Thus every one washes his own hands, and like the Whore in the Proverbs, wipes his mouth, and crys I have done no wickedness; so that tho' none are guiltless and every one stands accused by his Antagonist, yet if all may be believed, none are guilty: and so the Iudgments of God are posted from Tithing to Tithing, from one Party of Men to another, and no body will own them tho' they call us all Father; which is just as if a company of Peo­ple in a dreadful Conflagration should fall a contending with one another at whose House the fire began, and in the mean time permit it quietly to burn on till it had con­sumed all before it. Whereas if we would put a stop to the Iudgments that begin to flame about our ears, we should every one reflect upon our selves, and bring our Buckets of penitential Tears to extinguish that part of them which our own sins have kindled; and if we would but do thus, if every Man would smite upon his own Thigh and cry, Lord what have I done? then we might hope to see that growing Flame put out and [Page 100] quenched that now waves its curled Head, and threatens universal Ruine: but till once we are brought to a sorrowful sense of our own Sins, and of the share they contribute to the publick Mischiefs, we are not so much as in the way of Recovery. For since the Cause of the Kingdoms Sickness lies, God knows, in all our Breasts, how is it possible we should conspire to remove the whole till we are every Man sensible of his own part? Let us therefore search and examine our own hearts what we have contributed to the publick Disease, and every one purge out his own particular share of it; and then to be sure all will soon be well again, and this poor Kingdom that hath so many years been languishing under the Sins of its Natives, and is now reduced almost to its last gasp, will yet recover, and once more flourish in perfect health and vigour.

3. From hence I infer what is the just Character of those Men who by their Princi­ples and Practices contribute to the Ruine of Kingdoms. For since Iniquity so directly tends to a publick Ruine, we may be sure that those Principles and Practices that natu­rally tend to the same end are Principles and Practices of Iniquity; and yet good God! how many such are there that under the fair disguises of Christian Doctrines and godly Zeal, and with their demure Looks and re­ligious [Page 101] Countenances do many times seduce and cajole weak and well-disposed Minds in­to such seditious Gangs, mutinous Practices and treasonous Conspiracies as do too often end either in their own Ruine, or their na­tive Countreys. Thus in the Church of Rome, what horrid and barbarous Practices have there been occasioned by those Antichristian Doctrines of the lawfulness of destroying Hereticks, deposing and murdering of Kings? How many Kings and Emperors have there been excommunicated, butchered and de­stroyed by them? How many flourishing Kingdoms have there been depopulated, wasted and imbrewed in blood by them? How many millions of Men, Women and Children have there been sacrificed to the demands of those inhumane and blood­thirsty Principles? Insomuch that it may be justly questioned, whether for 600 Years together, these Pretences of Christianity did not destroy more Lives than Christianity it self hath sav'd Souls. And would to God that these destroying Principles had been for ever confined within the Pale of that de­generate Church! Then might our Reforma­tion have boldly challenged to it self the Spirit of Peace and Meekness, of unbounded Charity, unstained Loyalty and firm Allegi­ance, and without a blush in its face have upbraided that Mother of Harlots with be­ing [Page 102] the only Patroness of Treasons, and Rebel­lions, and Confusions. But alas, those that have turned the World upside down are come hither also, and have sown their mis­chievous Principles in our fruitful Fields, where they have sprung up many an ill Weed; and these, God knows, have grown apace. For not to touch upon the old Sores, which for our own Credit sake and our Religions, O would to God were lost in perpetual Oblivion; how many are there this day among us that out of a pre­tence of Zeal for God and Religion, make it their business to divide and tear, rend and distract the Kingdom? who by starting Jealousies and ill Surmises, fetching and car­rying Tales and scandalous Reports against the Government, suggesting miscarriages of State that never were, and blackning and aggravating those that are, do what in them lyes to blow up the Discontents of the Kingdom into an intestine Flame, and, whilst the common Enemy is boring a Hole in the bottom of the Ship, do set the Mariners together by the ears, that so while they are scuffling within they may neglect the danger from without, till one common Ru­ine involves them all, and sinks them toge­ther with their Swords in one anothers Bow­els. And tho' it is notorious to all the World what a mighty Bulwark this Church [Page 103] hath always been to the Reformed Religion, how much it hath been the Dread and Envy of Rome, and the Mark of her Power and Malice; how all her Agents have constantly conspired to fight neither against small nor great, but against the Church of England, in hope that if once this Master-fort were dis­mantled, they should quickly force the lesser Garisons and Citadels to surrender; yet how many Parties have we among our selves, who yet pretend great Zeal to the Reforma­tion, that industriously set themselves to batter down its Sanctuary about its ears; that join their Throats in one common Cry with the Priests and Iesuits, Down with her, down with her even to the ground; and all this to gratify their prejudice againg a few innocent and indifferent Rites, which as pri­vate Communicants they are very little, if at all, concerned in. I do not charge these Men with a Popish Design, tho' I am sure they charge us with it upon far less Reason; but this I say and will maintain it, that whilst they thus industriously set themselves to tear open the Wounds of our Church, and widen them into incurable Schisms, they take a most effectual course to open a gap for Popery, which stands at the door and on­ly waits till the Breach is wide enough for it to enter.

[Page 104] To conclude all therefore, seeing it is the Sin and Wickedness of People and Nations that is the main Spring of their Ruine and Destruction, let us, as we would escape that dismal Ruine, which for several years hath hung over our Heads, and hath been pouring it self upon the Heads of several neighbouring Countreys and Nations, betake our selves to a deep Humiliation for, and hearty Repentance of our Sins, which threa­ten us more than all the Powers of our most powerful Enemies. We are now ingaged in a War against a great Prince, who hath not only by a most salvage and barbarous Persecution of his own Subjects proclaimed himself a mortal Enemy to our Religion, but also by his perfidious Violations of the Laws of Nations, his Infractions of the most sacred Ties and Obligations, and his unparallel'd Cruelties towards all that have fall'n within the Reach of his Power, hath rendred him­self the common Enemy of Mankind, and seems to have been raised up on purpose by God to be the Plague and Scourge of a wic­ked World; his Power having for several years hung over all Christendom like a dis­mal Cloud charged with Thunder and Light­ning, and having discharged it self upon several Countries and Nations in such prodi­grous Showers of Blood, and Tempests of Ruine and Devastation, as scarce any History [Page 105] can paralel: against this mischievous Power that glories in nothing but Outrage, and tri­umphs upon the Ruines of Mankind, we are now engaged in conjunction with almost all the Christian World in a common Defence, there being no remedy left us but either to repel and vanquish it or to lie at its feet, and tamely submit our selves to be trampled in­to Destruction by it: nor is there any Na­tion under the Cope of Heaven that hath greater advantages of curbing it in its Ca­reer than our own, if our own Sins and in­testine Divisions do not spoil all. Wherefore as we hope to succeed in this our necessary Defence of our Religion and our native Country, let us every one in our places in­deavour by laying aside all our Malice and Revenge, our Pride and Faction, to cement those unhappy Breaches that are among our selves, and all betake our selves to a serious and hearty Repentance for our own Sins, that thereby we may reconcile our selves to God and engage his Almighty Power to fight for us.

And thus I have done with the first Pro­position contain'd in these Words, [Repent and turn your selves from all your Transgressions, so Iniquity shall not be your ruine] That the Iniquity of any People or Nation tends di­rectly to their Ruine. And shall now pro­ceed to the second; viz.

[Page 106] That true Repentance and Amendment is the most effectual way to prevent that Ruine which our Iniquities do so natu­rally bring upon us.

This it is upon a twofold Influence it hath,

  • 1. Upon God.
  • 2. Upon our Selves.

1. It hath a powerful Influence upon God, who is the Soveraign Arbitrator of the Fate of Nations, and doth dispose of their Ruine and Happiness as he pleases. For he being the soveraign Lord of the World, and su­pream Moderator of all Issues and Events, there is no particular Kingdom or Nation that is exempt from his Iurisdiction and Disposal, and 'tis in his Power alone to determine of every one of them whether they shall be happy or miserable. It is the Lord that kil­leth and that maketh alive; that bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up; the Lord that maketh poor and maketh rich, that bringeth low and lifteth up, 1 Sam. ii. 6, 7. And as he thus disposes of the Fate of particular Persons, so he doth much more of the Fate of particular Nations: for 'tis he that encrea­seth the Nations, and destroyeth them; he that enlargeth the Nations, and streightneth them, Iob xii. 23. And Dan. iv. 17. it is said, that the most High ruleth in the Kingdom of men, [Page 107] and giveth it to whomsoever he will. And in 2 Kings xix. 15. Hezekiah thus addresses to him, Thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the Kingdoms of the earth. And if the Government and Disposal of Nations be in Gods hand as you see it is, then whatsoever hath an Influence upon God, to oblige and indear him to a Nation, must needs effectual­ly conduce to its Recovery and Welfare; be­cause it makes Him its Friend, who alone can make it happy and miserable: and that which indears God to us, who alone hath Power to rescue and recover us, must needs effectually conduce to our Recovery. Now that Repentance hath such an Influence upon God, will evidently appear, whether we con­sider it,

  • 1. As an Act of natural Iustice and Recti­tude; or,
  • 2. As the primary End and Design of Pu­nishment; or,
  • 3. As the best Reparation we can make him for our Rebellions against him; or,
  • 4. As the Condition upon which he hath voluntarily obliged himself to be reconciled unto us.

1. Consider it as an Act of natural Iustice and Rectitude; and as such it must needs have a powerful Influence upon God: for [Page 108] Iustice or Rectitude of Choice and Action are everlastingly founded in the Nature of God, to whom it is as natural to govern himself and all his Actions by the best and purest Reason, as it is to exist or live. So that whatsoever hath natural Rectitude in it, and is squared and regulated by right Rea­son, must needs be harmonious to the Nature of God, and consequently doth as naturally please and gratify Him as a musical Note doth a musical Ear: for every Nature hath a delightful Gust and Relish of that which is agreeable to it self; and therefore since it is natural to God himself to act according to the eternal Reasons of things, to see others act so too, must needs be grateful to his Nature; but to repent is the most reasonable Action that sinful Creatures can perform. For if it be best and most reasonable not to do amiss at all, then doubtless when we have done amiss, the next most reasonable is to resolve to do so no more, there being the same Reason why he that hath sinned should sin no more, as why he that hath not, should not sin at all. And therefore I can­not but wonder at the wild Assertion of some of our Philosophical Sinners, that to. repent is an Argument of Meanness of Spirit; and discovers in us a weak and irresolute Mind; as if, because I have plaid the Fool, I must resolve to be a Fool for ever, for fear of [Page 109] being accounted weak and irresolute; as if to change a mean and base Resolution were a piece of Meanness and Baseness. Indeed to enter into base Resolutions argues a base or inconsiderate Spirit, but to revoke them is so far from being base or mean, that it is highly rational and generous; there being the same Reason for the revoking a bad Re­solution as there is against the making it; and next to not yielding to an unreasonable Motion, the highest Bravery in a reasona­ble Nature is not to persist in it. For if we are reasonable Beings, our Strength and Bra­very must consist in being constant to our Reason; but to be constant against it, is to be constant Fools, or constant Knaves, or both; and if this be the Character of a brave­ly resolute Mind, much good may it do those heroick Sinners that count it a Reproach to repent. For the main of Repentance consists in the changing of unreasonable for wise and reasonable Resolutions, than which no Change can be more agreeable to the eternal Laws of Reason; and these Laws being founded in the Nature of God, this Change must be in­finitely agreeable to him, and have a most powerful Influence upon him. For since to repent is the most reasonable Action that a Sinner can do, by what can we sinful Crea­tures more effectually indear our selves to [Page 110] God; who being most reasonable himself, must needs be most affected with that which is most reasonable in us.

2. Consider Repentance as the primary End and Design of Punishment, and as such it must needs have a powerful Influence upon God. For there being no such thing as a blind unreasonable Vengeance in the Nature of God, he cannot be supposed to punish for Punishment sake, since that would be to in­flict Misery on others meerly to sport and recreate his own Revenge, that being the only Passion in Nature which a pure Mis­chief can gratify or please. Since therefore there is no such Affection in the Nature of God, we may be sure he doth not punish to please Himself, but to reform and amend his criminal Creatures, and that it is for the Good that Punishment doth us, and not for any Good that it doth Him that he chooses and inflicts it upon us: for he needs not our Misery to make him happy, being most compleatly happy already in the immense Perfection of his own Nature; and it is no­thing but the Want of Happiness in it self that makes any Being desire or design ano­thers Misery. Since therefore God cannot be suppos'd to design our Punishment under the Notion of a pure Misery, it hence ne­cessarily follows, that if he designs any thing, as to be sure he doth, it must be to [Page 111] do us or others Good by it, and consequent­ly, that since it is for the sake of this Good that he inflicts it, he will most readily dis­pence with it, if that be but answered and obtained without it. But now our Repentance doth in a great measure answer and supply the End of our Punishment, which is either to reform us when we have done amiss, or to warn others by our Example not to tread in our Footsteps; both which Ends are in an high degree obtained in our unfeigned Repentance. For if we heartily repent of our past Iniquities, we shall be sure to amend them for the future; and it is impossible that Repentance should be true, which doth not upon the first Opportunity commence into an actual Reformation: and so if it be true also, it will render us exemplary Warn­ings unto others; for it will inflict upon us such bitter Sorrows, such deep Remorses and stinging Reflections as will render us almost as great and eminent Examples of the Evil and Folly of our Sins, as the Punishments that were intended against them: and those of our Brethren in Iniquity that will take no warning by us, when they see the Throbs and Agonies of our Repentance, how it Pierces, Wounds, and Mortifies our Souls; in all probability would be as little affected should they instead of that see the hand of God upon us, chastizing and correcting us [Page 112] for our Follies. For he that heartily repents; makes almost as woful an Experiment of the Folly and Evil of his Sin, as he that hath felt the Punishment of it; and next to a bleeding punished Criminal, there is no such Exam­ple of the Madness of Sin as a weeping, mournful, and dejected Penitent. Since there­fore in both these respects Repentance doth so effectually supply the Designs of our Pu­nishment, we may be sure the merciful God who doth always punish in order to those Designs, will be very much influenced by it. For every Agent is satisfied, when it hath its End, and therefore since our Repen­tance will supply those Ends which God de­signs in our Punishment, we may besure it will highly please and gratify him; for in our Repentance he hath what he aimed at, when he designed to punish us, and to be sure a good God will never be so fond of the Miseries of his Creatures as to punish them to no purpose.

3. Consider Repentance as the best Repara­tion we can make for our past Sins and Re­bellions, and as such also it must needs have a mighty Influence upon God. 'Tis true for Sinners to make a full Reparation to God for the Affronts and Dishonors they have cast upon him, is impossible; because what they have done they can no more undo, than make what is past never to have been. [Page 113] But yet he that heartily repents of his former Sins, for as much as he hates and laments them and wisnes from his Soul that he had never done them, doth hereby morally cancel and rovoke them; for this universal Act of Nolition extending to all his past bad Choices, tho' it cannot so undo as to cause them not to have been, yet it doth so un­will and unchoose them, as that if they were not, they should never be. 'Tis true, God being our supream Lord and Lawgiver, the only compleat Satisfaction we can personally render him is perfect unsinning obedience to his Laws, of which when we have once fail'd there is no after-Act of our own can make him a perfect Reparation; because if our after-Act be an Act of Obedience (as all good and vertuous ones are) God hath the same Right to it, as he had to that wherein we failed, and 'tis impossible that by satis­fying one Debt we should make a full Re­payment of another. But of all our after­ Reparations there is none approaches so near to Innocence and unsinning Obedience, as this of unfeigned Repentance; for all the diffe­rence between an innocent Person and a true Penitent is only this, that the former never chose to Sin, and the latter hath unchosen all his sinful Choices; the one did not Sin when it was in his power to do it, the other would not have sinned, if it were in his power not to do it. So that tho' Re­pentance [Page 114] is by no means equivalent to Inno­cence, yet because of all the after-Acts of a nocent Person it makes the nearest approach to it, it necessarily follows that it is the best and highest Reparation that any sinful Cret­ture can make to an offended God. What better Reparation can I make for the Delight and Pleasure I have taken in offending him than to submit my self to the Pains and Anguish of a bitter and severe Repentance for it? How can I more effectually repair the many Dishonours I have done him by my base and impious Actions, the shameless Affronts I have put upon him, then by lay­ing my stubborn Will at his feet, putting on Shame and Confusion of Face, and abhor­ring my self in Dust and Ashes before him. This being therefore the best Satis­faction that such a sinful People as we are can make to our offended but most mer­ciful God, we may justly hope, that if we render him this, it will have an auspicious Influence upon him to incline him towards us and avert his just Displeasure from us. When he shall sec us prostrate at his Feet, acknowledging with sorrowful Hearts the infinite Injuries we have done him, offer­ing him all the poor Amends we can make him, and grieving that we can offer him no more; such a moving Spectacle cannot but kindle in him a Relenting towards us, and cause his propitions Bowels to resound with Eccho's of Mercy.

[Page 115] 4. And lastly, consider Repentance as the Condition upon which God hath voluntarily engaged himself to be reconciled unto us, and as such also it must needs have a pow­erful Influence upon him. So in the Text you see he hath obliged himself, upon the Repentance of wicked People, to interpose between their Sin and Ruine, So iniquity shall not be your ruine. So also Iob xxxvi. 8, 9, 10, 11. you have an excellent Account of Gods Readiness to relieve a repenting People, In their Adversity if they be bound in fetters and holden in cords of affliction, then he sheweth them their work and their trangression wherein they have exceeded. He openeth also their ears to discipline and commandeth that they return from their iniquity. If they obey and serve him, they shall spend their days in prosperity and their years in pleasure. But this prehaps you will say is only a Relation of what God usually doth, and not a Promise by which he obliges himself always to do so well, but it supposes such a Promise on Gods part; else there could have been no sure Foundation for Elihu to have promised it. But then Isai. i. 16, 17, 18. you have Gods own word for it, Wash ye, make you clean, put away the evil of your doings from be­fore mine eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do well. Come now and let us reason together saith the Lord, tho' your sins be as Scarlet, they shall be [Page 116] white as snow, though they be red like crimson they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obe­dient, ye shall eat the good of the Land. So also Hosea. xiv. 1, 2. 4. O Israel return unto the Lord thy God for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. Take with you words and turn to the Lord, say unto him take away all iniquity and receive us graciously, so will we render thee the calves of our lips. To which in the 4th Verse God returns this answer of mercy, I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely, for mine anger is turned away from him. I will be as the dew unto Israel, he shall grow as a lilly and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. But these Promises perhaps you will say, respect Israel only, and consequently ought not to be extended unto other Nations; well then let us see in the last place what he hath said to Nations in general Ierem. xviii. 7, 8, At what time I shall speak concerning a Nation and concerning a Kingdom to pluck up and to pull down and to destroy it, if that Nation against whom I have pronounced turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. So that what he had pro­mised before to Israel his People here extends to all Nations, viz. that upon their Repen­tance he will be favourable to them, and re­pent of the Evil he intended against them; which gives us as great a Certainty of the good Influence of our Repentance upon him [Page 117] as we can have of his eternal Truth which is the Foundation of all Certainty. So that if to have God for our Friend can contribute any thing to the saving us from an impend­ing Ruine, then must our Repentance which makes him our Friend be so far the Means of our Salvation.

2. As Repentance hath a great Influence upon God to move and incline him to rescue us from Ruine, so it hath also a mighty In­fluence upon us towards the preventing and obviating our Ruine; so that tho' there were no such thing as a God for it to work upon and engage in our Defence and Protection, or tho' that God should wholly withdraw himself from Action, and absolutely refuse to intermeddle in our Affairs; yet would our Repentance it self by its own natural and necessary Influence most effectually operate towards the Prevention of that Publick Ru­ine; and that these four ways:

  • 1. As it will throughly awaken us into a due sense of our Danger.
  • 2. As it will animate and encourage us with the Hope of Success upon the Use of due and proper Means.
  • 3. As it will take us off from those mis­chievous Actions which do so necessarily con­tribute to our Ruine.
  • 4. As it will put us upon such a regular Course of Action as doth naturally tend [Page 118] to the Publick Good. In all which respects, as I shall shew you, it would be an effectual Means of our Recovery.

1. True Repentance naturally awakens us into a due and serious Sense of our Danger. For a vicious Life doth naturally lull men in­to a Sottish and Senseless Security; it makes them stupid and reckless, and bereaves them of their natural Foresight and Sagacity; for besides that it takes off their Minds from the exercise of Reason, and infatuates them with weak and phantastick Prejudices it renders them so soft and indulgent to their own luxurious and effeminate Genius, that they cannot indure any sad or serious thoughts should intermingle with their Io­vial Airs. So that if Danger stands at any distance from them, they wilfully wink at it, and are afraid to look it in the face, lest it should suggest such thoughts to them as would disturb the Scenes of their Mirth, and dash their Draughts of sinful▪ Pleasures with Wormwood. Hence Amos vi. 1. 3. it is made the Character of the wicked Isra­elites that lived at ease in Zion, that they put far from them the evil day, that is, they would not entertain a thought of the Near­ness of their Danger, lest it should prove a Thorn in their Pillows, and disturb their soft and beloved ease. So also Hosea xi. 9. Strangers have devoured his strength, (saith [Page 119] he speaking of that wicked People) and he knoweth it not, yea gray hairs are here and there upon him, yet he perceiveth it not; that is, tho' they were exceedingly wasted already and had all the Symptoms of an approaching Ruine upon them, yet they were so intent upon their Lusts, and so besotted by them, that they took no notice of it. And if Men will be so stupid as to neglect their Danger, and never think of retreating till they have run themselves into the Iaws of it, what Remedy is there for them? how can they escape that will sleep on securely upon the Brinks of a Precipice, and will not re­gard their Danger till they are dropping headlong into it, and are fallen beyond Pre­vention or Recovery? But when once Men be­take themselves to a course of serious Repen­tance, they will soon recover out of this their Lethargick temper. For Repentance will not only chase away all those effeminate Lusts which barr'd their Understanding a­gainst all Apprehensions of Danger, and rendred them so supine and regardless, but it will make them deeply sensible of the De­sert of their Sin, and what fearful Effects are to be expected from it; so that now they will be so far from thrusting from them the Thoughts of their Danger, that they will reckon it among the numberless Mira­cles of Gods Goodness that they were not [Page 120] long ago swallowed up and consumed by it: and besides those visible Dangers that attend them in the common Course of Things, they will discern a black Cloud arising out of their own Guilts, and gathering into storms of Vengeance, and look upon their past Wick­edness as the dire Omens of an approaching Judgment; and being thus awaken'd into a Sense of the Danger that threatens them, they are so far on their way towards an hap­py Recovery.

2. True Repentance will also animate and incourage a People with the Hope of Suc­cess upon the use of due and proper Means. It is the natural Property of a wicked Life to render Men secure when Danger is at a distance, and desperate when it is near at hand; when it is remote they are afraid to mind it lest it should interrupt their Plea­sures, and mingle Discords with their Har­mony; but when by reason of their Fear they are forced to mind it, the sudden un­expected Alarm it gives them raises such an Uproar in their Thoughts that they can nei­ther find nor force an Escape from it. For the opposite Affections of Humane Nature succeed one another in the same Degree. Thus when we hate those whom we lov'd we usually hate them in the same degree that we lov'd them; and when two contrary Passions follow one another, they are ge­nerally [Page 121] both extream, and by how much the foregoer exceeded the just medium of one way, by so much will the follower exceed the other; just like the vibrations of a Pendulum, the which the farther you swing it this way, the farther it will return the other; and con­sequently the more we exceed in Security whilst Danger is pursuing us, the more we shall exceed in Fear when it hath overtaken us. So that when out of an extravagant Indulgence to their sinful Pleasures Men shut their Eyes against approaching Danger, and will not open them till it is just upon them and stares them in the Face, the gast­ly and surprizing Spectacle will presently transport them out of one Extream into another, out of a deep Security into a dead Dispair; especially considering how natural­ly the Sense of Danger awakens in guilty Minds their natural Dread of God, and fills them with fearful Expectations from Him: and when a Man awakes upon the brinks of a Precipice and all on a suddain sees an apparent Destruction before him, and by this Sight is at the same time roused in­to a dismal Apprehension of an Almighty Vengeance behind him stretching forth its arm to thrust him head-long down, how must it needs appale and astonish him, and disarm him of all Hope and Power of escap­ing. So that out of a secure Impenitence, [Page 122] you see, there is but one remove into an heartless Desperation: and when Men are desperate in the midst of Danger, and are reduced to their wits end; when they have neither Prudence to forecast, nor Courage to execute any method of Recovery, with­out a Miracle their Ruine is unavoidable. Of this you have an eminent Example in the wicked Israelites, who when their Danger was afar off were most unreasonably secure and regardless of it, but when Senacheribs Ar­my had invested their City, and they saw themselves surrounded with Ruine on every side, then their Security immedately converts into the most frightful and horrid Apprehen­sions; for so the Prophet describes it Isaiah xxxiii. 14. The sinners in Zion are afraid, fearfulness hath surprized the hypocrites: who amongst us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who amongst us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? Whilst the Power of that haughty Monarch was at a distance from them, they laughed at and despised it; but now it is at their doors they are so frightned at it, that they had no softer Words to express it by than devouring fire and everlasting burnings: So that if God had not rescued them by a Miracle, their unmanly Fears had so disarm­ed them, that they would have never been able to defend themselves. But now by our Repentance we do most certainly prevent be­ing [Page 123] reduced to this woful Extremity: for that will open our Eyes to all approaching Dangers, and remove those effeminate Lusts out of our way which interrupted our Pro­spect of them; so that we shall see them afar off, and having a free Sight and Expectance of them, shall not be surpriz'd by them when they draw nearer, and are ready to fasten upon us; by which means we shall have Time to arm and fortify our selves a­gainst them, and to prepare to receive them with Courage and Conduct. And when they are come, our Repentance will also animate us with the Hopes of a timely Relief and Succour from above, and encourage us to hold out to the last Extremity in Expectance of God's appearing in the Mount, and a time­ly Interposure between us and Ruine. For this being the Condition upon which God hath promised us his Favour and Friendship, there is no Reason why we should be despe­rate, so long as we live in the Performance of it. So that the Sense of our unfeigned Repentance will inspire us with joyful Hope that God is for us; and what Danger can dishearten us under this glorious Hope that infinite Wisdom and Power is on our side?

3. True Repentance doth also abolish those mischievous Actions which do naturally con­tribute to the Ruine of a People. How much a wicked Course of Life tends to a Nations [Page 124] Ruine, is notorious enough to any Man that hath been an Observer of the Effects and Consequences of humane Actions; how it in­fatuates their Counsels, weakens their Courage, rends their Unity and Concord; how it disor­ders them in all their natural Respects and Dependencies, consumes their Wealth, and prostitutes their Reputation; and how by all these mischievous Effects it gradually wastes and consumes them, and lays the Foundati­on of their inevitable Ruine. So that whilst Vice and Wickedness prevail in a Nation, 'tis like a lingering Consumption in our Bodies that sooths us into an Opinion that we are well and in Health, or flatters us with fair Hopes of Recovery; but in the mean time is undermining the Fort of our Life, and preying upon our Vitals. But it is the most wretch­ed piece of Deceit in the World for a Nation to think it self well while it is wicked; for so many Vices as it hath growing in it, so many Diseases it hath ingendring in its Bow­els, which tho' it may struggle with a while by the natural Strength and Vigour of its Constitution, will by degrees inevitably wea­ken it, and without a speedy and effectual Purgation finally consume and destroy it; and if it were the best constituted Nation in the World, it would be impossible for it not to decay and languish under the malignant Influ­ence of an Epidemical Wickedness. That there­fore [Page 125] which purges away this corrupt Humor out of which all National Diseases spring, must needs be the most effectual Means of a dying Nations Recovery, and that, and that only, is Repentance, one essential Part whereof consists in putting off the Body of Sin, ceasing to do Evil and denying all Un­godliness and Worldly Lusts. And if once this bad Cause were removed, all the mis­chievous Effects of it would immediately cease, and thereupon the sick and declining Kingdom that groans and languishes under them would immediately mend, and in a little time recover its native Health and Vi­gour. For what should hinder it from growing well, when the malignant Cause of all its Distempers is removed? when that which befools its Counsels, Dissolves, its Cou­rage disorder its Harmony, breaks its Unity, lavishes out its Wealth and Reputation is ut­terly abolish'd; what should hinder it from growing up again into a wise and a valiant, an orderly and unanimous, a wealthy and re­nowned Nation?

4. And lastly, true Repentance doth also put us upon such a Course of Action as doth naturally tend to the Publick Good. For Repentance doth not only consist in ceasing to do Evil, but in learning to do Well, in putting on the new Man as well as putting off the old, that is, it is an intire Submission [Page 126] of our souls to God, to do what he com­mands, as well as to forbear what he forbids, and the Matter of his Commands is such as all of it tends to the publick Good: and if the several Ranks and Orders of Men where­of a Nation is composed would but unani­mously conspire in that Course of Action which God hath enjoyned, it would doubt­less more contribute to the Weal and Prospe­rity of such a Nation, than the wisest Coun­sels or most puissant Forces without it. If those that sit at the Helm would but once resolve to stear by those excellent Rules of honest Prudence, impartial Iustice, discreet Mercy, wise Liberality, advised Constancy and Magnanimity, it would doubtless render their Government far more safe and easy, more useful, and prosperous, than all the crafty Tricks, dark Intreagues, and wiley Subterfuges of wicked Policy, which instead of promoting the Government do generally lead it into a perplexed Maze, and leave it there miserably bewildred and intangled. Again, if those that are Subjects would but learn to govern themselves by those Laws of Candor and Modesty, of Meekness and Fi­delity, of Submission and Loyalty, which God hath enjoyned them; with what Peace and Quiet, Safety and Contentment might they enjoy themselves under the Shadow of Go­vernment. In a word, if the Rich would be [Page 127] but as courteous and charitable, the Poor as thankful and industrious, and all as just and honest, as kind, and gentle, as ready to assist, forbear and forgive one another as God re­quires, what a most glorious and happy Socie­ty would there spring out of such a regular Course of Action? doubtless for Peace and Contentment, for Bliss and Happiness, next to Heaven it self, there is no Place compa­rable to a vertuous Nation, and were I in quest of a terrestrial Paradise, I should soon­er expect it in a barren Wilderness inhabited with a vertuous People, than in the most fruitful and delicious Canaan peopled with wicked and degenerous Natives. Since there­fore a virtuous Course of Action hath so di­rect a Tendency to the publick Good, it hence necessarily follows that Repentance, which is the Entrance and Introduction to it, must needs very much contribute to the Safety and Recovery of a Nation; because it puts the several parts of it into such a Course of Life and Conversation as mutually conduces to the Peace and Happiness and Preservation of the Whole: so that whether we consider the powerful Influence it hath upon God, or the good Effect it hath upon us, you see 'tis a most efficacious Instrument of publick Hap­piness and Salvation. Wherefore if the Con­sideration of our own private Interest, and everlasting fate in another World be not suf­ficient [Page 128] to move us to a serious Repentance, let us add to this the Consideration of our temporal Concerns, which are all involved in the fate of the Nation. For the publick Good is a common Bank in which every Member hath a share, and consequently whatsoever Damage that suffers, we must expect to bear our Part of it. And yet, God help us! if we impartially view the Designs and Be­haviour of the Generality, we would hardly think that they did seriously believe there were any such thing as a Common Weal among us, every one almost endeavouring to advance his own Interest though it be up­on the publick Ruine, and all our Pretences to the Publick being little else but a con­trasting of Parties running a Tilt at one another, whilst the Common Good lyes be­tween them, and is equally trampled on by both sides. Wherefore as we would not betray our Common Interest, and bury our selves in the publick Ruine, let us be persuaded to consider our ways before it be too late, and turn to the Lord by a deep and hearty Repentance. And to move you hereunto I shall desire you to consider these few things.

  • 1. What imminent Danger we are in.
  • 2. How much we have all contributed to it.
  • 3. How possible it is to prevent it by our timely Repentance.
  • [Page 129] 4. How much our personal Repentance will avail us tho' we should not prevent it.
  • 5. How dearly we shall repent when it is too late, if we do not endeavour the Preven­tion of it by repenting now.

1. Consider the imminent Danger we are in. For if we consider our present Circum­stances, how many visible Causes there are conspiring to effect our Ruine, how we lye open to the common Adversary that doth so vigorously pursue our Destruction, and like an unwalled Vineyard, are surrounded with wild Boars without, and over-run with little Foxes within, which, tho' they are of dif­ferent Kinds, agree in the same Ends, and concur to waste and to destroy; how whilst these little Foxes are pulling down the Vine above, the wild Boars are waiting under­neath to seize and to devour both; how the restless and indefatigable Malice of our Romish Adversaries without is assisted with the furious Zeal of our hair-brain'd Factions within, who tho' they cannot be insensible how much their Divisions weaken and expose us, yet seem resolved rather to venture all than not to be uppermost; how our Counsels puzzl'd and entangled, and our Procedures clogg'd and incumbred; how our Choices are poiz'd and suspended between contrary Evils that seem so equally great, that we can hardly determine which is the least; in a [Page 130] word, how our Mischiefs are chain'd and link'd to one another, so that we cannot re­move one without drawing on another in the room of it, and the suspicion of future makes us afraid to provide against present Mischiefs: if, I say, we consider all these things, we cannot but be sensible how great and near our Danger is, and how earnestly it calls up­on us for a speedy and effectual Remedy. And when we are encompast with so many Dan­gers on every side, it is not prodigious Sottishness for us to stand gazing on them with our Hands in our Bosoms, making Speeches about them, and telling frightful Stories of them to one another, whilst like a spreading Gangreen they are growing up­on us, and creeping insensibly to our Hearts, whilst the proper Remedy of them is in our own hands, and by a timely Application we may quickly cure and prevent them. When we see our selves upon the Borders of Ruine, is it a time to stand chattering at the Wind, spending our Breath in fruitless Complaints, impotent Invectives, and factious Murmur­ings? When if, instead of finding fault with our Superiors, arraigning the Government, and quarrelling at the publick Management and Conduct, we would at least resolve to find Fault with our selves, arraign our own Vices at the Bar of an impartial Conscience, and make a through Inquisition into the ill [Page 131] Conduct of our own Lives and Manners, we might cure the Evils and prevent the Dan­gers which we talk and complain of to no purpose? Certainly if ever Dangers call'd for a speedy Repentance, ours do; but if we will be deaf to their Cries we desperately abandon our selves to the dismal and piti­less Desert of our own Folly and Mad­ness.

2. Consider how much we have all con­tributed to the Dangers that are pressing up­on us. I doubt if we impartially survey our selves and take a severe Account of our own Doings, there be very few, if any, that will be able to acquit themselves of having some hand in those publick Mischiefs that hang over us; that in all Particulars have behaved themselves so soberly and circum­spectly as to contribute nothing towards the filling up the Kingdoms Iniquities. Tho' many of us indeed have not been carried away with the impetuous Current of open Profaneness and Debauchery, yet perhaps we have suffered our selves to be born down with the contrary Stream of Faction, Schism, or demure Hypocrisy; by which we have not only scandaliz'd our Religion, and weaken'd the Interest of it, imbrolled our Government, and disturbed the methods of our Happiness; but also highly incens'd against us the God of Peace and Truth, and Order. And tho▪ [Page 132] others of us have neither been profane nor factious, yet it may be we have been remiss and lukewarm in Religion, or extreamly un­fruitful under those rich Manurings and growing Showers which it continually af­fords us; by which we have mightily pro­vok'd our God to remove our Candlestick, and leave us in the dark; to cut us down like fruitless Trees that are good for nothing, but only to burthen and cumber the ground: and if one way or 'tother we have contribu­ted to those publick Calamities that threaten us, we have no other way to repair the In­jury we have done our Country, but by our timely and serious Repentance: this is the only Balsam by which we can hope to heal those Wounds we have given her; and if when we have wounded we refuse to cure her, 'tho the Means are in our own hands, we are doubly guilty of her Blood, and shall be doubly charg'd with it whenever an Inquisition is made for it. So that Repentance is a Debt we owe the Nation for the Mis­chiefs which our Sins have done to it, and which we can no otherwise repair but by repenting of those Sins before it is too late, lest we leave such a Reckoning behind us as will ruine the Kingdom, and undo suc­ceeding Generations to discharge it.

3. Consider how possible it is yet to pre­vent our Danger by a timely Repentance. [Page 133] Tho' our Condition be full of Hazard, yet, God be praised, it is not altogether despe­rate; tho' we are inter pontem & fontem de­scending between the Bridge and River, yet there are a thousand Accidents may inter­vene, and catch us in our Fall and set us safe a shore again; and that Almighty Pro­vidence which orders and disposes the Issues and Events of Things, hath infinite ways, which we foresee not, to change the confu­sed Scene of our Affairs, and reduce our Chaos into Order. And how willing and ready he is to do it, is visible enough by his Long-suffering towards us, and his patient Endurance of our Provocations, in expecta­tion that at length his Goodness may lead us to Repentance. How careful and industrious hath he been to discover our Danger to us? to draw the Curtain from before the dark Designs of our Enemies, and to unmask their intended Mischiefs in despite of all their Arts of Concealment? And considering thro' how many Difficulties the Providence of God hath pressed in carrying on the hap­py Discovery, how strangely he hath forced it on, and scattered the Clouds before it, we have abundant Reason to acknowledge his Readiness to succour and relieve us, to pre­vent our being surprized with an unexpect­ed Ruine, and swallowed up by it before we were aware. For what should his Aim be in [Page 134] shewing us our Danger, but only to awake us to Repentance, that so by that powerful Motive he might be induced to rescue and deliver us; Why should he warn us so long before hand of the Blow that is falling up­on us, but only to give us Space and Op­portunity to prevent it by our timely Repen­tance? So that ever since the Discovery of our Danger, Deliverance hath been waiting up­on us, expecting that happy moment when we would open the door of our Repentance to it, and invite it in, and make it wel­come. But hitherto, alas! we have shut the door against it, and made it wait in vain: for several Months the willing Child hath been strugling for Birth in the Womb of Pro­vidence, and yet it is unborn; and still it struggles, but all in vain, for want of our Repentance to open the Womb to it, and pro­mote its travail to a happy Birth. And do we yet stand still as Persons unconcern'd, when ours, our Country's, and our Childrens Fate depends upon the Issue of it? When we may yet be safe, if by abandoning our Wickedness we will but assist to our Deliver­ance, shall we stand looking on with our Hands in our Bosoms, and see it stifled in the Womb?

4. Consider how much our personal Re­pentance will avail us tho' we should not prevent our present Danger by it. For I [Page 135] know it will be objected, To what pur­pose should we repent, if others still go on in their Wickedness? Can it be hoped that our personal Amendment should have such a mighty Influence as to disperse that mighty Cloud of Iudgments that hangs over the whole Nation? To which, in the first place, I answer, that perhaps it may. It may be there is not yet a sufficient Number of right­ous Persons among us to move the holy God to be propitious to this sinful Nation; and if for the sake of five righteous Persons God would have saved a Sodom, why may not you hope that by adding your selves to the far greater number of righteous Persons among us, you may yet prevail with God to save the whole Nation; and for the pos­sible Hope of being Saviours to our native Country, who would not make such a cheap and easie Experiment? But suppose it should not produce this happy Effect, that not­withstanding our personal Repentance the Cloud should break, and discharge a bloody Storm upon the Kingdom; yet I dare secure you, you shall never have Cause to repent of your Repentance; for God will either call you into his Chambers, shut his door upon you, and hide you for a little mo­ment till the Indignation is overpast, or he will turn it into such an inestimable Blessing that you shall be sure to reap from it un­speakably [Page 136] more Good than Prejudice; and whilst impenitent Wretches shall be lashed at the same time both by God and their own Consciences, whilst they shall be surrounded with Darkness and Horror on every side, and not be able to discover any glimps of day either within, or without, or above them; whilst Heaven and Earth, and their own Consciences are storming together about their Ears, so that which way soever they turn themselves, they are miserable; whilst God disowns them, their own Consciences re­proach them, and the World will no longer help or succour them; you, being reconciled by your Repentance both to your God and your Conscience, will have a safe Retreat within your own Bosoms, whereinto you may retire, and be merry in spight of For­tune; and being there entertained with the ravishing sense of your Fathers Love, with the soft Harmonies of a quiet Conscience, and the glorious Hopes of a blessed Immor­tality hereafter, you will not only be inabled to support your share of the publick Calami­ty, but also to rejoyce and triumph under it. So that would you be but persuaded to re­pent, I durst assure you, you shall find the Benefit of it either in the Removal of the Iudgments you fear, or in the Assistance it would give you to undergo them bravely.

[Page 137] 5. And lastly, Consider how dearly we shall repent when it is too late; if we do not endeavour to prevent our Danger by repen­ting now when we are groveling under those dreadful Iudgments that hang lowering over us. When our Religion, Liberties and Pro­perties are seized, and become a prey to our insulting Enemies; when our Country is spoiled or imbrewed in Blood by intestine Broils or Forein Invasions, and all is invol­ved in Ruines and Confusions round about us; then we shall remember with the Tears in our Eyes that we had once an Opportunity to be happy; that if we would have been contended to part with a few base Lusts that did unman and prostitute our Natures, we might have been still a blessed and pros­perous People; that if we would have been so wise as to have sacrificed to Gods ap­proaching Iudgments our Sensuality and Pro­faneness, our Faction, Oppression and Hypocrisy, they would then have fairly retreated and left us in the quiet Enjoyment of all our spiritual and temporal Blessings we enjoy'd; whereas now being incensed and drawn on by our desperate Obstinacy, they have made a dismal Spoil of all, and left us nothing but our Sins and Guilts to bear us compa­ny in our Miseries. When we shall see our desolate Country that was heretofore the Queen of Nations sitting like a mournful [Page 138] Widow in the dust, with her Head un­crowned, her Garments torn, her Breast wounded, and all her Parts besmeared with Blood; when we shall see our Church unpa­led and all her fences trodden down by wild Beasts; her Beauty defaced, her Sun extin­guished, or overcast with Darkness and Confusion; how will it cut our Hearts to think that all this is the Product of our own Follies, and that if we would have been per­suaded betime to abandon our Lusts and li­sten to sober Counsels, all these dismal Ruines and Desolations might have easily been pre­vented. O then we shall lament our Follies and wring our woful hands, and wish a thou­sand and a thousand times that we had been wiser before it was too late! Seeing there­fore it is not yet too late, let us for once resolve to make a tryal what good our Re­pentance can do to the Publick; and O would to God we would once conspire to make this blessed Experiment! and if upon our making it, a Cure doth not yet follow, if we do not sensibly perceive our Grievances abate, our Dangers vanish, our Enemies weakened and disheartned, and our broken Counsels retrieved and united in the publick Good, I will be contented to undergo Cassan­dra's Fate never to be believed in my Affirma­tions more. For this I am sure of, Repentance cannot fail of a good Effect, and that be­sides [Page 139] all the Good it would do us by its own natural and necessary Influence, it would reconcile Him to us that hath the disposal of our Fate, and then all would go well, and God even our own God would give us his blessing. Which he of his infinite Mercy grant, to whom with his eternal Son and Spirit be ascribed of us and all the World all Honour and Glory and Power from this time forth and for evermore.

Amen.

MATTHEW III. 8.

Bring forth Fruits meet for Repentance.

THese Words are a Part of Iohn Baptist's Sermon to the Pharisees and Sudducees of whom mention is made in the foregoing Verse: the first of which being a sort of demure and formal Hypocrites, who under religious Pre­tences shrouded the blackest Villanies; the second, a Company of Atheistical Debauchees, who, to supersede the troublesome Obliga­tions of their Consciences, and to obtain of themselves a free Dispensation to be wicked, denied the Existence of Spirits and the Life to come. The Baptist, upon their Address to be admitted to his Baptism, sharply re­prehends them both under one common Name, O Generation of Vipers, who hath war­ned you to flee from the wrath to come! and then he goes on, Bring forth fruits meet for Repentance. As much as if he should have said, ‘O ye worst of Men, ye brood of ve­nomous Miscreants! I perceive by your coming hither some body or other hath alarmed you with the Forewarnings of that dreadful Vengeance that is falling upon this Generation; and now to prevent it, [Page 141] you pretend Repentance of your Sins, because you have heard that I baptize with Water unto Repentance, you would needs assume this outward Badge of Pe­nitents. But I know you well enough, ye are a pack of arrant Knaves and Hy­pocrites, and howsoever at present you may be frightned into a demure Pretence of Repentance, I know your Hearts are as wicked as ever, and that you will not part with one of those Lusts which ren­der you so base and infamous. And there­fore, for my part, till I have better hopes of you, I am resolved I will have nothing to do with you. Go therefore, bring forth fruits meet for Repentance; let me see by your Actions that you are Penitents in­deed, and then if you come I shall gladly receive you to this my solemn Sacrament of Repentance. This I take to be the most natural and genuine Sense of the Words, and I know but one Objection of any weight against it, that whereas this Account makes Iohn Baptist to have refused them his Bap­tism, other Texts of Scripture seem to assert, that they themselves refused to be baptised of him, and they did not come to him under a Pretence of Repentance, but upon a Design to cavil with him, and expose his Baptism to the People: for Luke 7. 30. it is said, that the Pharisees and Lawyers rejected, the counsel [Page 142] of God against themselves, i. e. the Counsel which God, by Iohn the Baptist, gave them, being not baptised of him; but what Counsel was it that they rejected? Was it the Coun­sel of being baptised? No such matter; for Iohn Baptist never advised them to it, but the Counsel he gave them was to repent, and to bring forth fruits meet for Repentance. And this they rejected; for which they were not baptised of him. Not but that they would have been, if they could; for it is expresly said in the Verse foregoing my Text, that they came to Iohn's Baptism, but Iohn know­ing their Hypocrisy would by no means ad­mit them to it, till they had first brought forth such Fruits as were meet and proper for Repentance. In handling of which Words, I shall endeavour these Three things:

  • 1. To shew you what this Repentance is of which he exhorts them to bring forth the meet Fruits.
  • 2. What the meet Fruits of this Repentance are.
  • 3. The Necessity of bringing forth such Fruits.

1. What this Repentance is of which the Baptist here exhorts them to bring forth meet Fruits? To which I answer, briefly, that by Repentance we are to understand a sincere and thorough change of Mind, which as it hath been often observed, is the pro­per [Page 143] signification of [...], which is the word which the New Testament most com­monly uses for Repentance. And then the Mind is chang'd, when the prevailing Pur­pose and Resolution of it is altered; when upon a due Consideration of the Mischief, Indecency, or Inconvenience of his present Resolution, a Man is effectually persuaded into a contrary Purpose, his Mind, we say, is chang'd; because he hath now a contrary Iudgment of things, which form his Will in­to a contrary Resolution: and when once our Mind is thus chang'd as to any Design or Course of Action we are then said to repent of it. So that to repent of our Sins, is to be effe­ctually chang'd and alter'd in our Minds con­cerning them, so as that whereas before we did in our practical Iudgment prefer them at least pro hic & nunc before our duty, and in our Will embrace and resolutely adhere to them, we do now upon cool Deliberation pronounce them to be the worst of Evils, and as such do heartily purpose and resolve to forsake them. And in this consists the Nature and Essence of Repentance, viz. in a firm Resolu­tion to forsake our Sins upon cool and delibe­rate Judgment. Where, by Resolution I do not mean a mere Logical Conclusion by way of Inference from Premises, that such or such a thing is best and fittest to be done; for in this there is no Choice, the Proceedings of [Page 144] our Reason being as necessary as those of our Sense; and where there is no Choice, there can be no Virtue. But the Resolution of Repentance is an Act of the Will, viz. its decretory and definitive Sentence for the actual Prosecution of such a Course as up­on calm Deliberation is proposed as that which is most fit and necessary. For suppose our Reason and Sense as two Parties pleading their respective Causes and Interests, the one for Vertue, and the other for Vice; and sup­pose that in the Conclusion, either the Mat­ter be left in aequilibrio between them, or that Reason hath baffled Sense, and obtained a clear Conviction that the Cause of Vertue is infinitely best and most preferable, but that still the Will is in suspence, and hath not peremptorily decreed either one way or t'other; why hitherto all that hath been done is but mere Speculation, there is nothing of Choice in it, nothing of Vertue, nor conse­quently of Repentance. But when upon a through hearing of both Parties, the Will interposes its Soveraignty, and pronounces Sentence on Reason and Vertue's side, this is my final Resolution, and this by the Grace of God I will stand to, I will from hence­forth submit to my Duty, how difficult soever it be, and discharge those base mischievous Lusts of mine what Temptations soever may assault me: when, I say, our Will with [Page 145] good Advice and with a full Consent hath pronounced this peremptory Decree and Resolution, our Mind is changed and our Re­pentance actually commenc'd. Thus the Predigal Son, for instance, while he was con­sidering with himself the happy State he was fallen from, How many hired Servants of my Father have bread enough and to spare, and the miserable Condition he was fallen into, and I perish with hunger, was only in the Porch and Entry of Repentance, and had he staid there and gone no farther, all this had been nothing but a dead Speculation not­withstanding which he would have perished in his Sin. But when from hence he pro­ceeded to that peremptory Resolution, I will arise and go to my Father, in that very Mo­ment he became a sincere Penitent; and if in that instant he had been struck dead before ever he had taken one step towards his Fa­ther, he had dyed in a State of Repentance. For it is plain his Mind was changed, he had put off the old man and put on the new, he had formed a new Iudgment and a new Resolution; and if he had immediately died, he had died in Subjection to God, and would have arose and gone to his Father, as he did while he lived. So that the precise Notion of Repentance, you see, consists in the Change of our Mind, that is, of our Iudgment and Resolution: and hence it is [Page 146] called being renewed in the spirit of our Mind, Ephes. iv. 23. and being transformed by the renewing of our Mind Rom. xii. 2. Conso­nantly to which, Hierocles, tho' an Hea­then, thus defines Repentance, [...] &c. that is, Repentance is the beginning of Philosophy, 'tis a Renunciation of Evil Courses, and a Prepa­ration to a Life not to be repented of. So that when a Man hath repented, saith he, he neither quits real for imaginary Goods, nor chooses Evil for fear of unfortunate Acci­dents; but conforms his Iudgment and sub­mits his Will to the divine Canons. And thus you see what that Repentance is of which we are here bid to bring forth meet Fruits.

2. I proceed in the next place to shew what those Fruits are which are meet for this Repen­tance. In general, they are such Fruits or Works as are natural and agreeable to such an in­ward Change of Mind and Resolution as Repen­tance imports, or such as may give a plain De­monstration that you are effectually convinced in your Iudgment of the Baseness and Ma­lignity of your past sinful Courses, and sin­cerely resolved to discard and renounce them for the future. For the Fruits of Repentance are nothing but the proper Acts and Opera­tions of it, and 'tis then and then only that we bring forth these Fruits, when the Effects of a real Repentance do appear in our Life [Page 147] and Conversation, and our Actions do signify that our Judgment condemns our Faults, and our Will renounces them. And according to this account, the Fruits of Repentance may be reduced to these following Particulars.

  • 1. An actual and thorough Reformation.
  • 2. A profound Humility and Self-Abase­ment.
  • 3. A great and tender Modesty in our Ex­pectation.
  • 4. Candor and Gentleness towards others.
  • 5. Simplicity and Integrity of Manners towards the offended Party.
  • 6. Caution and Wariness for the future not to offend again in the same or the like Instances.

1. One necessary Fruit and Effect of our Repentance is an actual and thorough Refor­mation. If those invisible Springs of Action the Iudgment and the Will be changed and rectified, the Wheels of Affection and the Hand of Practice must necessarily move more regularly and orderly: For all our infe­rior Powers being subject to the Authority of the Will, and carried about with the swing of this Primum Mobile, this first great Orb of the Soul, do naturally apply them­selves to the Execution of whatsoever that decrees and resolves on; and to suppose a Man's Iudgment and Will to be reformed when his Life is not, is to suppose that he [Page 148] is not a voluntary Agent but a piece of Clock­work, that he is not determined in his Mo­tions by Choice and Deliberation, but by Weights and Plummets, by necessary Pres­sures and Impulses; which Supposal not on­ly strips him out of all capacity of Repen­tance, but also contradicts all Experience. For this we are as sensible of as we are of our Hunger and Thirst, that while we are our selves, and can deliberate and chuse, we do nothing but what we will, nothing but what we judge to be good pro hic & nunc, and nothing but what we chuse upon so judging. So that for a Man to pretend to be a Penitent in his Heart whilst he is unre­formed in his Life, is to lye against his own Experience. He knows and feels that what he doth he doth voluntarily, with Approbati­on of Iudgment and Consent of Will; and therefore if his Actions are bad, his Iudg­ment and Will must be so too. You say you do heartily repent of your Sins, by which, if you understand what you say, you mean you do absolutely condemn them in your Iudgment, and peremptorily disclaim them in your Will; but still you must con­fess you lead a bad Life and persist in many of those sinful Courses of which you hope you have heartily repented: which is as much as if you should say, I am fully resol­ved I will play the Knave no more, but yet [Page 149] I must confess I do lye and cheat as much as ever; I am peremptorily determined to be very temperate and chaste, but I must ac­knowledge I am very often drunk, and do very often whore: that is to say, you do what you won't do, you won't do what you do, your Will hath no Influence on your Actions, your Actions no relation to your Will, there is no Communication nor Inter­course between your Power of chusing and your Power of acting; so that as you can­not derive the Good that is in your Will to your Practice, so neither can you attribute the Evil that is in your Practice to your Will; all which is as false, and you know it is so, as any Contradiction in Nature. So that a thorough Reformation of Life, you see, is a necessary Fruit and Effect of Repentance, and you may as well suppose a Sun without Light, as Repentance without Amendment, if there be Time and Opportunity for it; for if a Man out-lives the Change of his Mind, there is not a more necessary Con­nexion between his Life and his Motion, than there is between the Change of his Mind and the Reformation of his Manners. And hence we find, that to repent and turn from our evil ways, to repent and do our first Works, to repent and be converted, to repent and turn to God, are in Scripture very often put together to denote the inseparable [Page 150] Connexion that there is between them.

2. Another necessary Fruit and Effect of our Repentance is a profound Humility and Self-Abasement; for between Pride and Re­pentance there is as direct an Opposition, as between any Vice and Vertue whatsoever. To repent of a Fault is to be ashamed of it, to condemn and abhor ones self for it, to hate and renounce it as vile and abominable; and for a Man to do this, and at the same time to be highly opinionated of his own Desert, and plumed with glorious Conceits of him­self, is impossible: such a Sense of our own Shame and Vileness as is implied in a serious and hearty Repentance, can no more consist with a haughty Look, a puffed and self-con­ceited Mind, than Light with Darkness, or excessive Heat with bitter Cold. And upon this Account the Baptist might well upbraid the Pharisees, who were a Sect of the most bloated Monsters that appeared in humane Forms; and yet by offering themselves to his Baptism of Repentance, pretended to be true Penitents. O ye proud Wretches, do you pretend to Repentance? you that have swelled your selves with Self-Conceit till ye are ready to burst again! you that are so full of your selves that you can never forbear overflowing with self Applause and Vainglory! that like a company of Bladders are blown up with your own Breath, and swell and look big, and yet have nothing [Page 151] but Wind in you! go, bring forth fruits meet for Repentance; let me see you grow more hum­ble, mean and prostrate in your own Opinions, and when by this Effect I am satisfied that you are Penitents indeed, I will readily admit you to this my Baptism of Repentance. And God knows, we have too many such Pharisaical Pretenders to Repentance, that under a de­jected Look, a solemn Face and whining Tone do carry as haughty self-conceited Minds as the proudest Pharisees of them all; that ha­ving been affected a little with the Sense of their Sins, and cast down with the fright­ful Apprehensions of God's Wrath and Dis­pleasure, or that having suffered the Terrors of the Spleen, and acted through a few tra­gical Scenes of Melancholy, Fancy, and Passion, are presently borne aloft out of the Spirit of Bondage, as they call it, with such tower­ing and magnificent Conceits of their own Sanctity and Goodness, as causes them to look down with Contempt upon ordinary Mor­tals, to despise their Superiors, and villify their Betters, and separate themselves into Parties, that monopolize all Sanctity and God­liness to themselves; which, whatsoever these Men may think, is doubtless a very dange­rous Symptom of a rotten and diseased Re­pentance. For he that hath truly repented of his Sins, must necessarily have discovered Cause enough in them to humble and abase [Page 152] himself in his own Eyes; and he that after such a Prospect of his own Baseness and Vile­ness as is necessary to Repentance, can upon the next Review applaud and admire himself, and grow fond and conceited of his own Ex­cellencies, hath a Judgment with two Ends like a Prospective, with which he can lessen or magnify himself as oft as he pleases.

3. Another necessary Fruit of Repentance is Modesty. He that is so throughly sensible of a Fault as heartily to repent of it, will be thereby instructed to behave himself more modestly for the future. The Sense of his Fault will cool his Confidence, and render him more bashful and moderate in all his Pre­tensions and Expectations. Should I see a Company of Rebels, upon a Pretence of ha­ving repented of their Disloyalty, not only lay Claim to their Prince's Mercy, but presently fall foul upon his faithful Adherents, and call themselves his best and most loyal Subjects, and pretend to his greatest Favours and Re­wards; I should certainly suspect that they had no Sense of their Guilt, but that in their Hearts they were as very Rebels as ever. And thus, when upon pretence that having hear­tily repented of our Rebellions against God, we presently grow bold and confident, and begin to crow over those who were never in­volved in our Guilts, as a Company of car­nal and moral Wretches; when we are imme­diately [Page 153] flushed with triumphant Assurances of God's Love, and our Loyalty to him, and nothing will serve our Turns but to be pre­sently counted his Darlings and Favourites, it is a very ill sign that we were never yet truly ashamed of our Rebellions; that what­ever we pretend, our Wills are as stubborn and disloyal as ever. And this was the true Genius of the Pharisees whom the Baptist doth here so severely reprehend; who being a proud and conceited Generation, as I shewed you before, made no doubt but God valued them at the same rate as they valued them­selves; and tho' in reality they were a Pack of as ill-condition'd Knaves as ever walked demurely under the Cloak of Religion, tho' they were as factious and turbulent, as cove­tous, griping, and oppressive as the Devil him­self could make them, yet because forsooth they were zealous for their Party, and the Opinions of their Sect, and the little Modes and Affectations that distinguish'd them from other Men, they blew themselves up into as high a Confidence of God's Favour to them, as if they had been the most Saintly and God­like Souls in the World, and did so wholly ingross and monopolize the Kindness of Hea­ven to themselves, that they would scarce al­low the least share of it to any of the rest of Mankind; notwithstanding which they pretended to be Penitents, and as such, it [Page 154] seems would fain have been admitted to Iohn's Baptism. But he, considering how inconsistent their Humour was to their Pre­tence, bids them go bring forth fruits meet for Repentance: As much as if he should have said, ‘You are a special sort of Penitents in­deed! one would think by the Confi­dence of your Talk and Behaviour, you had no Sins to repent of: why you are the godly Party, the only Favourites of Heaven, and will allow none but your selves to pretend to the Smiles of God's Countenance. Go for shame; if you would be accounted Penitents, behave your selves as such, learn to be more mo­dest, to live as becomes Persons that are deeply affected with their Sins and asha­med of their Guilts, and then perhaps I may see cause to admit you to my Bap­tism. And certainly 'tis a very ill sign, when after a few Pangs of Sorrow and Compunction Men are presently perking up into Confidence and Assurance; when they will needs be at the Top of the Ladder before ever they have touched the lowermost Rounds, and be ga­ping for secret Incomes and Manifestations of God's Love before they have manifested their Repentance by their Obedience to him. Sure if they were but as sensible of their Guilt as they ought to be, they would be content­ed to lie still a while with their Mouths in [Page 155] the Dust, and be satisfied that they are not desperate of being restored to God's Favour, but are admitted to hope well, that by God's Blessing on their Endeavours they shall at length arrive to such a state of Goodness as will intitle them to God's Favour and eternal Life. And such Modesty the Sense and Shame of their Guilt would teach them, if it were such as is necessary to an hearty and unfeigned Repentance.

4. Another necessary Fruit of Repentance is Candor and Gentleness towards others. He that hath been so affected with the sense of his own Faults as heartily to repent of them, will not be very forward to censure and condemn the Faults of others: his Mind is so oppressed with the load of his own Sins, that he is not at leisure to find Fault with other Men; or if he were, yet deeply consci­ous, as he is, what abundant Reason he hath to find Fault with himself, that gags and si­lences him. His own Sins fly in his Face while he is censuring other Mens; while he is pertly exposing his Neighbours Fault, his Conscience twits him in the Teeth, and tells him, the Devil rebukes Sin, so that in his own Defence he is forced to be candid and favourable to others, being conscious should he severely reflect upon their Faults, he should thereby libel and upbraid his own. And indeed, 'tis a certain sign that Men [Page 156] have little or no Sense of the Evil and Base­ness of their own Sins, when they are so for­ward and flippant in animadverting upon other Mens. Should you hear a deformed Wretch exposing another Man for the Ble­mishes of his Nature, the Disproportion of his Parts, or the Irregularity of his Features, you would doubtless conclude that either he imagin'd himself to be very handsom, or de­signed to make a Satyr on his own Ugliness. And so when I hear Men that are great Sinners themselves briskly declaiming against the Sins of others, I cannot but conclude that either they conceit themselves to be in­nocent, or have a mind to expose their own Guilt and Shame; but to be sure, were they but as sensible of their own Shame as they ought to be, that would restrain them from throwing Dirt upon others. And doubtless it was upon this Consideration among others, that the Baptist doth here so tartly upbraid the Pharisees; who tho' they had rendred themselves by their malignant Tem­pers and Practices the greatest Pests and Mischiefs of Soceity, the most direct Antipo­des to the Nature of God, and the eternal Laws of Righteousness, were yet the severest Censurers of other Mens Actions in the World. What tragical Clamours did they make against the Publicans and Sinners for play­ing the Beast while they themselves plaid [Page 157] the Devil? What base Interpretations did they make of the holy and innocent Freedoms of our Saviour, whom because he was not of their sower and unsociable Temper, they damned for a Wine-bibber, and a Friend of Publicans and Sinners? In a word, who was more forward than they to emblazon the Faults of other Men, to fetch and carry scandalous Reports, and shake their Heads at the Iniquities of the Times, when, God knows, they themselves were the greatest Plagues and Scandals of the Age they lived in? And with all this Rancor and Bitterness of Temper they would needs pretend to be Penitents; upon which the Baptist bids them bring forth such Fruits as were proper for Penitents. As if he should have said, ‘One may easily discern what goodly Penitents you are, how deeply you are affected with your own Sins by the Noise and Clamour you make against other Mens: you have Wickedness enough of your own to censure and make Invectives on, but while you should be looking inwards, your Eyes are in the Ends of the Earth, observing other Mens Faults and Miscarriges. Go, if you would appear to be Penitents, learn to be more severe upon your selves and more candid to other Men, to make the worst of your own Faults, and the best of your Neighbours; and then I shall [Page 158] have reason to hope that you are Penitents indeed. But 'tis fulsome Hypocrisy for Men to pretend to Repentance whilst they are bitterly censorious and apt to judge hardly of other Men. And to Men of Understanding there is nothing can be more ridiculous, than to see one that is just fallen off from a leud and dissolute Course of Life, presently set up for a Censor of the Age, and with a wise and serious Forehead animadverting upon the Freedoms, and declaiming against the Debaucheries of this or t'other Man; which whatsoever he may think, is a plain De­monstration that he hath never been duly affected with the Sense of his own Sin, and that he is only changing one kind of Wicked­ness for another. For were he but throughly convinced how bad he hath been himself, he would be ashamed to clamour, and inveigh against other Men, and the great sense he would have of the Beam in his own Eye, would make him less apt to take notice of the Mote in his Neighbours.

5. Another necessary Fruit of Repentance is, Simplicity of Heart and Integrity of Manners towards the Party offended; for tho 'tis a Maxim in Policy not to trust to a reconciled Enemy, yet could I be secure of the Sincerity of his Reconciliation, I should have more rea­son to trust him than a constant Friend; be­cause if he be throughly sensible that he hath [Page 159] unjustly offended me and hath heartily repen­ted of it, 'tis reasonably to be supposed that he will not only use me as a Friend for the future, but as a Friend whom he hath injur'd and unjustly provoked, and conse­quently that the sense of the Injury he hath done me, will make him supererogate in Friendship, and by a Superabundance of good Offices endeavour not only to discharge what the Laws of Friendship exact, but also to expiate the unjust Provocations he hath given me. For the very Sense of a past In­jury, when it is heartily repented of, doth naturally kindle into a cordial Affection to­wards him whom we have injured: And thus, if we have heartily repented of our Sins against God, the Sense of what is past will render us more sincere and cordial to him for the future; and by how much the more we have provoked and offended him, by so much the more studious we shall be to serve and obey him. But if our pretended Repen­tance produces in us no other Effect but an outward Shew of Obedience, and renders us more studious to appear good than to be so; if it puts us upon picking and chusing our Duty, upon being zealous about small things to compensate our Negligence and Remiss­ness about great, it is an infallible sign that it is meerly pretended, and that all the Shews we make of Reconciliation are nothing but [Page 160] meer Vizors and Counterfeits. And such was the Temper and Disposition of the Pharisees, they took care to disguise themselves in a pompous Form of Godliness, and to carry a very demure and sanctified Outside. Their Looks were solemn, austere, and mortified, their Tongues all tipt with the Language of Canaan, their Motions and Gestures were ar­tificially composed to the Tune of a humble and heavenly Mind. They fasted thrice a Week, and prayed so long that they made all the Streets ring again with their loud and cla­morous Devotions, and gave Alms too now and then in a good Eccho whence they might be sure to hear their Charities resounded after them in Praises and Commendations. They kept a mighty Noise about the Fringes and Phylacteries, the external Circumstances and Appendages of Religion, and were most zea­lous Assertors of pure Ordinances and pure Worship: but under all this Formality our Saviour tells them they were whited Sepul­chres, who tho' they look gloriously without, are full of Rottenness within. For this de­mure Outside of theirs was only a Disguise under which they cheated and plaid the Knaves more securely. Their long Prayers were nothing but specious Introductions to their Rapines and Oppressions. Their Alms were their Decoys which they sent forth on purpose to train simple and well-meaning Peo­ple [Page 161] into their nets. Their zeal for the Mint and Cummin was the varnish of their Fraud and Injustice. Their long Fasts for Reformation were stirups to their Ambition of being uppermost, and their constant Refresh­ments after them were Widows and Orphans tears. In a word, they would cheat in saintly Language, play the Knaves with their Hands and Eyes lift up to Heaven, and while they seemed to be as fervent as Angels in their Devotions, they were as false and treacherous as Devils in their Dealings. And yet these base People would needs have been admitted for Penitents to the Baptism of Iohn; who considering the Inconsistency of their Temper with their Pretence, tartly up­braids them and bids them bring forth Fruits meet for Repentance; that is, learn to be more simple and sincere in their Carriage to­wards their offended God, study more to be Penitents than to appear such; contract your Shew into Reality, and let it appear by your sincere Respect to God, and Devotion to his Service, that you do heartily repent of your Rebellions against him. And certainly there can be nothing more suspitious than for a young Penitent to affect to make a great Shew of Religion; for true Repentance is na­turally bashful and modest, it shuns the Theater, the tops of houses, and the corners of Streets, and is best pleased with Silence [Page 162] and Retirement; and provided God sees its Tears and hears its Sighs and holy Purposes, it desires no other Spectator or Auditor. For the great Design of a Penitent is to reconcile himself to God, and if he be but so sensible of his Sin as heartily to repent of it; by how much the more he hath offended him for the time past, by so much the more he will stu­dy to please him for the time to come.

6. And lastly, Another necessary Fruit of Repentance is Caution and Wariness for the fu­ture not to offend again in the same or the like Instances. For Repentance is a penal Duty in which a Man undergoes some degree of the smart and punishment of his Fault, in which he indures the Shame and Confusion of a guilty Mind, the Regrets and Remorses of an awaken'd Conscience; and the burnt Child, we say, will dread the Fire. He that hath undergon the severe Discipline of a deep and solemn Repentance will be sure to take warning by it; and be very cautions for the future not to approach those sins for which he hath smarted so severely. And hence we find that Repentance is not only expressed in Scrip­ture by [...] which signifies a Change of Mind, but also by [...] which signifies an After-Care; which shews that though the Essence of Repentance consists in the [...] or Change of our mind, yet [...], or an After-Care to avoid [Page 163] those sins from which our Minds are chang­ed and converted, is a necessary Effect and Fruit of Repentance; it being an usual Fi­gure in Scripture to express Causes by their most natural and easie Effects. And indeed when I see Men boldly approaching and ven­turing towards those Vices of which they pretend to have heartily repented, I cannot but suspect that their Repentance is nothing but a Pretence, that 'twas only a present Pet and Distaste that they took against their sin upon some ungrateful Accident, or under a sudden Qualm of Conscience, and that it never proceeded so far as to a cool and delibe­rate Change of their Judgment and Resoluti­on concerning it. For certainly had they un­dergon those Lashes of Conscience, those sharp and cutting Reflections that are usually necessary to prepare the way for such a Change, they could never be so fool-hardy as to play upon the hole of the Asp again, and to thrust their hands into the den of the Cocka­trice after they have been so severely stung by it; and the Remembrance of those Agonies of Soul, those Spasms and Convulsions of Consci­ence which their sin hath already cost them, would make them tremble to think of it and be instead of a Sea-mark to forewarn and ter­rify them from approaching it again. But such was the humour of the Pharisees, that though they pretended to be Penitents, yet [Page 164] when it served their Cause and Interest they were as bold and venturous at an evil Action as ever. For so our Saviour long after this Reprehension of the Baptist, and consequent­ly after this their pretence of Repentance, charges them with being as intimate and fa­miliar with their old Vices as ever. It was their way indeed, and so it was always, to make their Religion a Cloak and Pretence for their Wickedness; but to serve their own Faction, which they called propagating the Glory of God, they esteemed nothing unlawful. And though in any point that was repug­nant to the Interest of their Sect they were the most nice and scrupulous People in the World; yet to serve their Cause they could lye and forswear themselves with the help of a juggling Reserve or Distinction, as our Sa­viour observes of them Matth. xxiii. 16. And no doubt but they could have taken Oaths and Sacraments too against their Consciences to keep their Placcs in the Sanhedrim, and there carry on their factious and turbulent Designs. It being therefore evident by their being so venturous upon sinful Actions, that their Pretence to Repentance was false, the Baptist dismisses them with this severe Ad­monition, go bring forth Fruits meet for Repen­tance; i. e. let me see you more wary and cautions of running into those sinful Courses of which you now pretend to repent, and [Page 165] then I shall have some reason to believe that you are Penitents indeed. And certainly while a Man affects to draw near to his old Sins, and to dwell in the Neighbourhood of them, whilst he delights in their Remem­brance, and loves to sport and entertain him­self with their phantastick Pleasures, while he affects to dwell within View of their Temptations, to venture to the very Edge and Brink of them, to the very utmost Li­mits of lawful and innocent; it is a very ill sign that he never had that thorough Sense of their Malignity and Danger that is necessary to an hearty Repentance; for if he had, he would be afraid of all Approaches and Ten­dencies towards them, and be ready to start and run away not only from the sins them­selves but even from their Appearances and Resemblances.

And thus I have endeavoured to give you an Account of the natural Fruits and Effects of true Repentance, by considering of which and impartially consulting our own Experi­ence of our selves, we may easily determine whether the Repentance we pretend to, if we pretend to any at all, be true or false. We live in an Age that doth so abound with all sorts and degrees of Wickedness, that a Man can hardly mention any kind of Wickedness, or party of wicked men that are branded for such either in Sacred or Profane History, but [Page 166] it is presently suspected that his design is to reproach and expose some Party or other among our selves. And I confess if men will set themselves to guessing who is meant by the Pharisees, and who by the Sadducees, they may find Parallels enough of both in this de­generate Age; and, God knows they go to­gether too often now in pursuance of worse Designs than those Sadducees and Pharisees that came together to Iohn's Baptism. But if any should ask me who or what Party of Men it is I reflect upon in these severe Repre­sentations I have made of Pharisaical Preten­ders to Repentance, I can truly answer that I intend no one Party of whatsoever Denomi­nation; there being among all Parties a great many that do not so much as pretend to Re­pentance, and among most, as I verily hope, a great many that do more than pretend to it. But the Pharisees whom I mean are those whom the Baptist and after him our Saviour himself do so smartly inveigh against; and if you please to consult St. Matthew xxiii, you will there find them treated with much more Severity by the meekest and most cha­ritable Person that ever was. But if in any Party among our selves there be any such Hypocrites and false Pretenders to Repentance as these Pharisees were, as I doubt there are too many among all Parties, I must then inge­nuously acknowledge that I mean them too. [Page 167] And if any thing that hath been said should reflect upon and gall them, they ought to consider that that is their own Fault. They may avoid being Hypocrites, but We must not avoid declaiming against Hypocrisy, and when ever we do so, we must reflect upon them whether we will or no. If Men will be Hypocrites, our Saviour's Sermon as well, as this will upbraid and expose them, and if it doth so, 'tis not his Fault but theirs who made themselves obnoxious to his Satyrs and Invectives. The only way for you to avoid the Edge of such Reflections is to become honest and sincere Penitents, but if you will not, you must thank your selves, if it cuts and wounds you. For if our Saviour himself had stood this day in this Place, and preach­ed over his Sermon to the Pharisees, it would have been impossible for you not to have been touched and concerned at it, and if you should be so disingenuous as to fall foul on me, as they did on him, I will only propose St. Pauls Quere to you, am I therefore become your Enemy, because I tell you the Truth? and so I have done with the second thing propo­sed, which was to shew you what are the proper Fruits and Effects of Repentance.

3. I now proceed to the Third and last Argument, namely to shew the indispensible Necessity of bringing forth these Fruits, which I shall endeavour to make appear by these fol­lowing Instances.

  • [Page 168]1. That we should bring forth these meet Fruits of Repentance is necessary to the Sa­tisfaction of God.
  • 2. It is necessary to the Satisfaction of our own Consciences.
  • 3. It is necessary to the Obligation of Repen­tance.
  • 4. It is necessary to the Perfection of our Natures.

1. That we should bring forth these meet Fruits of Repentance is necessary to the Sa­tisfaction of God. For though it be wholly owing to Christ's Satisfaction, that lost Sin­ners are admitted to a Possibility of recover­ing themselves by the After-game of Repen­tance, yet God we see hath declared, that without our Repentance he will not be satisfyed. Neither indeed doth Christ's Satisfaction ex­tend to final Impenitence, it cancels none of our Guilts but only those which we heartily repent of, but as to all the rest we are as ac­countable to the Tribunal of God as if he had never died for us. So that all the Fa­vour which the meritorious satisfaction of our Saviour hath obtained for us is only this, that our Repentance shall be accepted instead of our Punishment, that is, that if we unfeign­edly repent of our sins, we shall thereupon be set as right in the sight of God and in the court of Heaven, as if we had undergon the utmost Rigor of the Law. So that now our [Page 169] Repentance being accepted of by God instead of our Punishment, it is necessary that it should be such a Repentance as doth in some measure answer and fulfil the Ends of our Punishment. For since 'tis for wise and good Ends that God punishes, it is not to be ex­pected that he will accept of any thing in the stead of our Punishment which doth not in some measure fulfil and accomplish those Ends; and this no Repentance can do but that which produces the proper Fruits of Re­pentance. For the principal End of Punish­ment is either to amend the Criminal himself, or to warn others not to imitate his Sins by the Example of his Sufferings, which Ends can never be effected by our Repentance un­less it produce in us the visible Fruits of Amendment. For suppose it possible that I should have internally repented, i. e. that my Mind should be really chang'd, that in my Iudgment I should absolutely condemn my sin­ful Courses, and in my Will I should be peremptorily resolved against them, and no actual and visible Reformation should follow; if this I say were possible, it is plain my Re­pentance would be wholly ineffectual both as to my own Amendment and the Amendment of others. If indeed I actually avoided the Sins I condemn and am resolved against, my Repentance would effect the Ends of my Punishment, that is, it would make me a [Page 170] better Man, it would reform my Nature, rectify my Motions, and extinguish my bad Inclinations and corrupt Principles, and prove an effectual Means to reform others too; who by the good Example of my Actions might be as effectually wrought upon, as by the sad Example of my Sufferings. And God having thus obtained his Ends by my Repentance, there is very good reason why he should dispense with my Punishment. But if after I have condemned my Sin and resolved against it, neither my self nor other Men can be reform'd and amended by it, this Change of my Mind will have no influence on my Nature, it will never correct its disorderly Affections, nor subdue its wild and extrava­gant Inclinations; but leave it altogether as vicious and degenerate as it found it. Nei­ther will it have any good Influence upon others, because it doth not appear to them in any visible Effects. So that it is only by bringing forth its natural Fruits that our Re­pentance or Change of Mind serves the Ends of Gods Punishments, and 'tis unreasonable to expect that God should accept of our Repen­tance for our Punishment, when it doth not at all serve the purpose of our Punishment. For this would be to defeat himself, to counter­mine and baffle his own Intentions, and fond­ly to give up his wise and good Ends to the Obstinacy and Perversness of his Creatures. [Page 171] You would fain have God dispense with your Punishment; well, but you ought to con­sider that there are very wise and good Ends that he drives at in punishing you. Would you have him give up these Ends? that is unreasonable, that is to desire him to ac­knowledge that his Ends are not worth aiming at. Why what is to be done then? I will tell you what, you must give him his Ends by your Repentance, that is, by bringing forth such Fruits of Repentance as will effectu­ally amend you, and contribute to amend others, and then you may be secure that God will be satisfyed; but if not, be assured he will prosecute his Ends by your Punishment and take care to warn others by the sad ex­ample of your Sufferings, since you would not take care to warn them by the good ex­ample of your Actions.

2. That we should bring forth these meet Fruits of Repentance is also necessary to the Satisfaction of our Consciences; for without such Fruits a Man can never be rationally satisfyed that his Repentance is real and sincere for if we have made any Observation upon our selves, we cannot but be sensible of our own Fickleness and Mutability, how many Sorts of Men we are under our several Cir­cumstances, how our Mind veers about upon every change of Wind, and into what con­trary Tempers it is moulded upon contrary [Page 172] Chances and Contingencies. And having such an aboundant Experience of our own Inconsistency, how can we rationally conclude upon every Variation of Temper. That this or that is our fixt Judgment or our standing Resolution, that the Mind we are now in will not Change upon the next Change of our Circumstances, and that when contrary Accidents occur we shall not take up contra­ry Resolutions; especially when our Resolu­tions do oppose our Inclinations, and our Inclinations are perpetually importuned and sollicited by outward Objects and Temptati­ons; which is our Case in the matter of Re­pentance. In this case for Men to conclude from the present Bent and Inclination of their Wills that they are steadily fix'd and determined to good Resolutions is a piece of very unreasonable Self-Assurance; for when they know themselves to be so fickle and inconstant in matters to which their Inclina­tions are more indifferent, how much reason have they to suspect the Firmness of those Resolutions to which their Inclinations are so extreamly averse, and from which so ma­ny outward Objects are continually beckon­ing and inviting them? in this case therefore we have no other way to be rationally satis­fied of the Firmness and Stability of the change of our Mind but only by the Fruits and Ef­fects of it, for, if when it hath Opportunity, it [Page 173] doth not pass forth into Action, and display it self upon our Lives in an answerable Practice, if it doth not ordinarily restrain us from those Evils it condemns and resolves against, and spur us on to those good things it approves and consents to, it is most certain it is a mere Cheat and Imposture. For let Men say what they please, it is impossible that any Man should live in those vicious Courses which they absolutely condemn and are sin­cerely resolved against they may now and then quarrel at their sins and take Pet against them upon some little Disappointment or un­handsome Accident, and in the Heat of their Distaste they may condemn and renounce them, but if when their Passion is allayed, they re­sent and return to them again, it is plain that their Minds were never changed, and that the Current of their Iudgment and Will was only interupted by a contrary Gust; but that it was never diverted into a contra­ry Channel. So that what our Saviour asserts of Men is as true of their Repentance, the Tree is known by its Fruits; if our Repen­tance be genuine, it will bring forth the Fruit of Reformation, but if it be barren or bring forth nothing but Leaves and good Words and Professions, it is certainly Spurious and Hypocritical. However therefore Men may juggle with and impose upon their Consciences with false Shews and Semblances, they can [Page 174] never hope to be rationally satisfied of the Truth of their Repentance till the natural Fruits and Effects of it appear in their Lives and Conversations.

3. That we should bring forth these meet Fruits of Repentance, is also necessary to satisfy the Obligation of Repentance: for Re­pentance is not required of us meerly for its own sake, but in order to the Fruits and Effects of it; and the Reason why God ob­liges us to this Change of our Mind, is, be­cause it is a necessary Introduction to a tho­rough Change and Reformation of our Man­ners; and for a Man to condemn Sin in his Judgment meerly to condemn it, and resolve against it in his Will meerly to resolve against it, is so far from being a Vertue, that it is a ridiculous Impertinence. And if we still practise what we condemn, and do what we resolve against, we are so far from answer­ing the Obligation of Repentance, that we do but inhance and aggravate our Impenitence. For he that doth what he condemns sins a­gainst his Knowledge, and flies in the face of his own Convictions; and he that doth what he resolves against, sins against his Promise, and basely falsifies his own Engagements. So that the meer Change of our Mind, you see, abstractedly considered, doth by no means answer the Obligation to Repentance, because the Obligation doth not terminate in it self, [Page 175] but is made with respect to the natural Ef­fects of such a Change; and because this Change in it self is of no farther Use and Significancy in Religion than as it is pregnant with and productive of those Effects. For either the Sin which I condemn in my Iudg­ment is such an Evil as I ought to shun and avoid, or it is not; if it be not, it is no Ver­tue for me to condemn that for an Evil which I need not take care to avoid; if it be, it is a Folly to condemn it, unless I also avoid it. And so again, either the Duty I consent to and resolve upon in my Will is necessa­ry to be done, or it is not; if it be not, it is unnecessary for me to resolve to do it; if it be, it is in vain to resolve to do it unless I perform my Resolution. For as a Cypher which is only in order to a Number signifies nothing, unless a Number be added to it; so a Resolution, which is only in order to Action, is perfectly insignificant, unless it be se­conded with Action. And since it is nothing but the Necessity of doing what we resolve that can make it necessary for us to resolve to do it, we must either deny the Necessity even of our resolving to amend, or acknow­ledge the Necessity of our actual Amendment. So that that inward Change of our Mind which Repentance imports being required on­ly in order to the outward Change of our Manners, it is impossible we should satisfy [Page 176] the Obligation of Repentance without bring­ing forth the Fruits of actual Amendment.

4. And lastly; That we should bring forth these meet Fruits of Repentance is also necessary to accomplish the great Work and Design of Repentance, which is to repair the Decays and Ruins of our Nature, and recover it from the Diseases it hath contracted by sin­ful Courses to a State of Health and Perfecti­on. For Repentances suppose a degeneracy of our Nature, and the great Business and De­sign of it is to raise and recover us. And hence the Prodigals Repentance is called coming to himself Luke xv. 17. implying that before he was gone from himself, that he had abandoned his Reason by which he was constituted a Man, forsaken the Guide and leading Principle of his Nature, and was degenerated either into a Beast or a De­vil; which is a very proper Description of the State of Sinners, who when they depart from God do depart from themselves, and run out of Humanity into Bestiality or Devilish­ness. For they do not govern themselves by Reason as Men should do, but by their Pas­sions and Appetites as Beasts and Devils do; they turn a deaf Ear to the voice of their Reason and Conscience, and constantly chuse and refuse what their own black Passions or brutish Appetites direct them, and in the whole course of their Lives do act like up­right [Page 177] Beasts or incarnate Devils. The pro­per business therefore of Repentance is to bring back these Vagrants, to themselves, and restore them to their Wits and Reason, to rescue them out of the Hands of Passion and Appetite, and put them under the Power of Reason and Conscience, that so for the future they may live like themselves and as becomes rational Beings that are related to God and one another. This is the proper work of Repentance, which it can never effect with­out it bring forth its natural Fruits. For he that so repents of his evil Courses, as not to correct and reform them, how is it possible he should ever be the better for it, when he moves not a step forward from the corrupt and degenerate State of his nature, but only dances round in a Circle, and sins and re­pents, and repents and sins, and at last still returns to the same point. The only way to reform our Nature and subject its Passions and Appetites to its Reason, is to live well, and regulate our Actions by the Laws of Reason and Righteousness; by this we shall by degrees tame and reduce our irregular Incli­nations, and readvance our Reason to its na­tive Throne and Dominion: by forcing our selves, as we must do at first, to the Practice of Vertue and Religion, we shall by degrees acquire vertuous Dispositions, and those will improve into vertuous Habits, and those in [Page 178] the end will grow to Perfection. But if we only condemn our Sins and resolve against them, but do not actually renounce and for­sake them; instead of bettering our Nature we shall more and more debauch and deprave it, and be still declining from bad to worse, and from worse to worse, till at last our Disease becomes desperate and incurable. So that it is indispensibly necessary, you see, that we should bring forth Fruits meet for Repentance, because, unless we do, it is im­possible our Repentance should ever accomplish the Work it is designed for; that it should heal and reform our nature, extinguish its vici­ous Inclinations, and adorn it with those Graces wherein its Beauty and Perfection consists: and we were every whit as good not to repent at all, as to repent so as to be never the better for it. And now give me leave to conclude this Argument with a few Inse­rences.

1. From hence I infer what a ridiculous thing it is for Men to make a fond Pretence of zeal for Religion, while the direct Contra­ries to all the natural Fruits of Repentance do most visibly appear in their Lives and Con­versations. I confess of all the offices that be­long to a Preacher, I am naturally the most averse to that of Reprehension. I do not love to expose Mens Faults, and rake in their filthy Dunghils; and 'tis not only my Charity [Page 179] to Mankind but also the Indisposition of my Nature to find fault, that makes me so hear­tily wish, O would to God that Men were once so good as to need no Reprehension! that so we might have nothing to do but to praise and incourage them, to excite them to go on with the Comforts of Religion and the just Applau­ses and Encomiums of their Vertues. But alas we live in an Age that would make a Stone to speak, and force any Man of any Consci­ence, in despite of all the Candor and Modesty of his nature, to cry aloud against the fulsom Hypocrisies and Impostures that look through our most glorious Pretences to Religion. For, for God's sake Sirs, is it not a Shame, a burning Shame to hear a Company of pro­fessed Atheists and notorious Knaves set up for Zealots and Reformers, and raise a Cla­mour for Liberty of Conscience, and pure Or­dinances? as for the sober and pious Dissenters, I can bear their mistakes with as much Ten­derness and Compassion as any Man, and can make them as large Allowances as I could reasonably desire for my self, if I were in their Condition. But when I see Men rank themselves under the Banners of Religion, that live in open Hostility to its Commands and Precepts, that make no Conscience of blaspheming the Name of God, traducing his Vicegerents and Representatives, defaming and defrauding their Neighbours, and exposing [Page 180] the most Sacred and Serious things to Scorn and Derision; I cannot but suspect that there is Mischief behind the Curtain, what zealous Appearances soever they may make upon the Stage. For it can never enter into my Head, and I wonder how it should into any Bo­dies else, that those Men should ever design well to Religion, whose Principles and Practi­ces are so openly irreligious. They may pretend Religion, for that is so venerable a Name that 'twill serve to set a fair Colour upon the ugliest Intentions; but tho' we may be deceived by a well disguised Hypocrisy, yet sure we can never believe that Profaneness is in earnest, when it pretends to be zealous for Religion and a through Reformation. O would to God that Men would at last be so honest as to appear what they are, or at least not be so ridiculous, as to pretend the quite contrary to what they appear! it would make any honest heart bleed to see how Religion, how the Protestant Religion is rendred cheap and vile by the impudent Pretences which bad Men make to it; Men whose Lives are bad enough to disgrace Popery it self, and who are Protestants only because they are not Pa­pists. In the name of God, Sirs, what have you to do with any Religion, and much more with the Protestant, which by its pure and honest Principles defies and renounces you, which abominates your designs and dis­avows [Page 181] your Actions, and blushes to see how you Profane and Scandalize it by pretend­ing Friendship to and Familiarity with it. For what will strangers think of it, that un­derstand not its Principles, when they hear such as you claim such an intimate Acquain­tance with it? how prone will they be to suspect that 'tis a Religion for your tooth, and that it shelters and patronizes you in all your Wickedness? wherefore for God's sake be at length so just to the Reputation of that Religion you pretend so much zeal for, as either to bring forth the Fruits of it by liv­ing up to its Principles, or not concern your selves any farther about it. For this I am sure of, while such as you pretend to it, it loses much more by the Disgrace which your Lives do cast upon it, then ever it is like to gain by your zeal and your Clamour for it.

2. Hence I also infer how extreamly insuf­ficient that Repentance is, which the Church of Rome doth frankly approve and allow of; which is such as plainly evacuates and super­sedes the Necessity of bringing forth the na­tural Fruits of Repentance; as any one may easily apprehend that will but take the pains impartially to consider the Chain of that Churches Principles. For first the Council of Trent teaches that Attrition, which is nothing but a Sorrow for Sin proceeding from the [Page 182] Fear of Punishments, doth dispose Men to receive Grace in the Sacrament of Penance, and that all the Sacraments of the Gospel, of which Penance is one, do actually confer grace upon those that are disposed for it. So that if he hath but the Grace to be afraid of Hell and to be sorry that he is in Danger of it, it is but confessing his Sins to a Priest and undergoing a short trifling Penance, and upon a few words of Absolution he shall pre­sently be dubbed a true Penitent, and be as effectually instated in the Favour of God as if he had brought forth all the Fruits of Re­pentance. And this Bellarmine tells us is the current Judgment of all their Divines; which if it be true, poor Iudas had very ill luck to be damned; for according to this Do­ctrine he was throughly disposed for Iustifi­cation, it being out of mere Attrition that he hanged himself; so that had he had but a Priest to have administered Penance and Ab­solution to him, that Grace that made him hang himself, would have intitled him to Heaven. 'Tis true indeed they tell us that there is a certain Penance which Men must undergo for their sins in this Life and that if they should not perform what is imposed upon them, or if what is imposed should not be sufficient to satisfy Gods Justice, they must be forced to make it up by their Sufferings in Purgatory. But even against this too that [Page 183] Church hath contrived an excellent Remedy, and that is the Treasury of the superabun­dant Merits of Christ and the Saints, of which at very reasonable Rates Men may purchase such a share, as will immediately pay off all their Purgatory scores, how great soever their present Sins, and how small soever their pre­sent Penances are. For out of this Treasury of Merit you may have Indulgence for a Hun­dred, a Thousand, or a Hundred Thousand Years; and if this will not satisfy, you may besides this have full Indulgence, fuller In­dulgence and fullest Indulgence, and 'tis im­possible you should ever want Merit to keep your Soul out of Purgatory, if you have but Money and Hearts to pay for it. But if you should still be doubtful, you may se­cure all, if you please, by listing your self into an holy Confraternity; for if you will but turn Brother of St. Francis his Cord, you shall presently be intitled to such a stock of Indulgencies as all the Sins you can commit will never be able to out-spend. For at your first putting on this sacred Implement, you have as full and as effectual Pardon as was ever vouchsafed in the Sacrament of Bap­tism. And afterwards should you fall into mortal Sin, 'tis but taking so much Pains as to walk after the monthly Procession, and you shall have a plenary Indulgence which shall attend your holy Cord to the very Ar­ticle [Page 184] of your Death. Besides which, you shall have your share in all the superabun­dant Merits of the Saints, of the Order of Saint Roses, and Saint Clara's and Saint Francis himself, who by preaching to Beasts and teaching Larks and Swallows their Cha­techism, and silly Sheep to bleat out their Canonical Hours, with sundry other such like holy Feats, could not fail to treasure up a vast stock of Merits in the common Bank of his Fraternity. Or if you would be surer yet, you may enter your self a Brother of the holy Fraternity of the 150 Beads of St. Dominick, where, for saying over 150 Ave Maries and 15 Pater Nosters in a week, you shall not only be allowed your Dividend of the superabundant Merits of all the Saints from Adans, and as many Indulgencies as you can possibly have occasion for your self; but such an overplus as will be sufficient to re­deem 115 Souls yearly out of Purgatory. And it would be a very hard case if with all this tackle you should go to Purgatory your self. But if the worst come to the worst, it is but inrolling your self a Brother of St. Si­mons Scapular; and then if you should go to Purgatory, the Virgin Mary hath ingaged her self, if Pope Iohn XXII. doth not foully bely her, to come down to Purgatory every Satur­day night, and pull up every Soul thence that hath worn this sacred Vestment into the [Page 185] holy hill of eternal Life. And when a Fry­ars Cord, or Rochet, or String of Beads are such excellent tools for Men to work out their Salvation with, what need they trouble themselves to bring forth the Fruits of Re­pentance? had these things been only the Conceits of some particular Members of that Church I should not have mentioned them in this place, because to us they cannot but look extreamly ridiculous; but alas they are Cheats that have been founded and establish­ed on the Bulls of their Popes, avowed and contended for by their gravest Doctors, and re­verenced and believed by the devoutest Mem­bers of their Communion. And how can they be obliged to bring forth the Fruits of Re­pentance, who are furnished with so many pretty Devices to get to Heaven without them?

3. And lastly, Hence therefore let us all be persuaded heartily to comply with this Injunction, and bring forth the natural Fruits of Repentance; first to form a hearty and deliberate Resolution against our Sins, and then to put it into Execution by forsaking all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and living sober­ly and righteously and godly in this present World. I do not deny but in this under­taking there are many times very great Difficulties, especially when we first enter up­on it, when after a long Course of Folly [Page 186] we begin to reform; for then we must wre­stle against our own Inclinations and struggle with inveterate Habits; and this perhaps will put us to a greater tryal of our Courage and Constancy than we are now aware of. But if upon a due consideration of the Ar­guments on both sides we can but once per­suade our selves to a through Resolution of Amendment, in all probability we have broke the heart of the main Difficulty of Repentance. It is I confess a hard thing for a Man to persuade himself against all his Habits and Inclinations, to resolve without any reserve in Cold and Deliberate thoughts upon an uni­versal Reformation, at once to resolve to bid adieu forever to all his darling Lusts and their appendant Pleasures. This, as our Sa­viour describes it, is like the cutting off of a right Hand and the plucking out of a right Eye; and therefore must doubtless be attend­ed with vehement Struglings and Reluctances; but when this is done, the sharpest Pang of our Repentance is over; and if now we do not wilfully miscarry, these our bitter Throws like the Virgin Mother's, will soon conclude in Songs and Magnificats. For by arming a firm Resolution against them, we have already bro­ken the main strength of our Lusts, so that now we have nothing to do but to pursue our Victory; and if we have but the Courage to keep the ground we have gotten, and to [Page 187] stand firm to our Resolution that so our con­quered Foe may not be able to rally and reinforce himself against us; we shall soon be crowned with the Joys of a Victory that will lead us into an everlasting Triumph. For our evil Habits, being for a while kept under a constant and severe Restraint, will by degrees decay and languish, and at last expire; and then the Trouble of contending will be over, and all our consequent Religion will be Sweet, and Natural, and Easie; and we shall reap far more Pleasure and Delight from it than ever we did from the most jolly Course of Sinning. For besides that a Reli­gious Life is in it self more agreeable to our rational Faculties, and consequently more grateful unto Humane Nature, whose noblest Pleasures do result from the Exercise of her highest Faculties, and whose highest Faculties are never so vigorously exercised as within the sphere of a Religious Life: Besides which I say we shall therein find an unspeakable Sa­tisfaction of Mind, and such a Calm of Con­science, and such ravishing Ioys and Delights springing out of our sense of the Love of God and our Hopes of a blessed Immortality hereafter, as will abundantly compensate all our Labours past, and render them not only tolerable but delightsom. For how can I think any Pains intolerable, the Endurance whereof will create a constant Harmony within me, [Page 188] will Crown me with the Applause of my own Mind, will indear me to the Fountain of all Love and Goodness, and entertain me with the Hopes of being as happy after a few mo­ments as all the Joys of an everlasting Hea­ven can make me? But I beseech you to con­sider, is it not much easier to indure the Agonies of a bitter Repentance, than the hor­rid Despair of a damned Ghost? to thwart a foolish and unreasonable Lust, than to roar forever upon the Rack of a self-condemning Conscience? if it be so grievous to us to con­tend with an evil habit and struggle a while with a stiff and obstinate Inclination, to re­solve and strive and watch and pray against them, Lord, how grievous will it be to dwell with everlasting Burnings, and to endure the dire Effects of thy unquenchable Fury for­ever? and yet one of these must certainly be endured, for between them there is no medi­um. Wherefore seeing we are under such an absolute Necessity of enduring Hell or the Difficulties of Repentance, in the Name of God let us but act like Men, and of the two chuse that which is most tolerable, and then I am sure we shall follow the counsel of the Text, and bring forth Fruits meet for Repen­tance.

MATTHEW XXV. 10. last part.

And the Door was shut.

THESE Words are the close of the Parable of the ten-Virgins, whom our Saviour distributes in­to five Wise and five Foolish, and by them he represents the different Carriage and Fate of Men both good and bad. For the better understanding of which Parable you must know that our Saviour borrowed this, as well as sundry others, from the Iewish Doctors, of which our learned Shering­ham in his Preface of his Translation of the Ioma hath given us sundry Instances; of which this is one, which to this purpose he transcribes out of the Gemara Babylonica; Rab. Eliezer said, be sure thou repent the day before thou diest. Upon which his Disciples asked him whether a Man might know that hour of his death; whereunto he answers let a Man therefore repent every day, because he knows not when he shall die. Upon which Rab. Iochanan proposes this Parable; a cer­tain rich man prepared a Marriage Feast, to which he called his Servants, but did not tell them the distinct time when this Feast should be: of these Servants some were wise, [Page 190] and some foolish; the wise cloathed them­selves splendidly, and sitting before their Masters house thus thought with themselves, all things are here prepared, and nothing is wanting; wherefore since we are uncer­tain what hour we shall be called, we will wait, that so whensoever he calls us. we may be ready to attend. But the foolish sleepy Servants loitered away their time, concluding thus with themselves; we need not be over-hasty in making our selves ready it being yet a great while before we are like to be called. But on a suddain the Master calls them all to the Supper; upon which the Wise appeared before him ready to attend, but the Foolish being unready would fain have gone away to dress themselves: but the King rèjoycing for those who were rea­dy, and being very angry with those that slept, said, you who are ready shall sit down, and Eat and Drink and Rejoyce; whilst you that slept shall be shut out of Door; for so saith the Lord, behold my Servants shall eat, but you shall hunger, my Servants shall drink, but you shall thirst. This is the Iewish Pa­rable, which for substance being so exactly agreeable with our Saviours, we may very reasonably conclude that his was only a Co­py of that Original; and since the Design of it is evidently to shew the Danger of delaying Repentance to the last, we may fairly sup­pose [Page 191] the Design of our Saviour to be so too. For by the Wise and Foolish Virgins here, our Saviour plainly means good and bad Christians, and by the Marriage feast, that state of Happiness which he hath prepared for the good. By their going forth to meet the Bridegroom is meant their expectation of Christs Coming, either to their particular, or to the general Judgment. By their Lamps in their hands Expositors generally under­stand their visible profession of Christanity. By the Oil that made those Lamps to shine, is meant Charity and good Works, which are the Fruits of a sincere Repentance, and the glory and lustre of our Christian Pro­fession. And as for the Wise who by sincere Repentance had prepared themselves for this feast of heavenly Happiness, they are admitted into it; but as for the Foolish that had put off all to the last, though they be­stirr'd themselves very vigorously in this sad Extremity, yet all was to no purpose; for when they came to ask admittance into Hea­ven, the Door was shut against them, and they are dismissed with this bitter farewel, Ve­rily I say unto you, I know you not. So that the Design of the Words is plainly to represent the sad Catastrophe of a late Repentance, which tho' it may be very active and vigo­rous when things are reduced to the last extre­mity, yet proves most commonly ineffectu­al, [Page 192] and finds the Door of Heaven shut against it.

That therefore which I design from these Words is this, to explain and state what is the Effect of a Death-bed Repentance, by which I mean such a Repentance as after a long Course of Wickedness begins upon the very near and sensible Approach, either of a natural or violent Death, such as is put off till Death is at the Door, and Men perceive themselves to be departing hence, and go­ing away into Eternity. For as for that Re­pentance which is begun in Health, when Death is not in view, and Men are in the midst of Temptations to the contrary, it is much more free and ingenuous than that of a Death-bed can be supposed; and consequent­ly though it should be stopped in its pro­gress by a sudden unexpected Death, yet there is much more hope of it: and that which begins also in a long lingring Sickness, though it be not so free as the former, and therefore not so hopeful, yet is there much more hope of it than of that which begins in more acute Diseases, to which Death more suddenly follows; because it hath much more time to grow in, and to finish and compleat it self by. That late or Death-bed Repentance therefore concerning which we are now inquiring, must be such a Re­pentance as begins in the prospect of a near­approaching [Page 193] Death, and to which that Death doth very suddenly follow. Concerning which I shall enquire these three things.

  • 1. How far it is possible for such a Re­pentance to be effectual.
  • 2. How extreamly hazardous it is whether it ever actually prove effectual to our Happi­ness or no.
  • 3. If it should prove so, yet how impos­sible it is in an ordinary way for us to attain any comfortable Assurance of it.

1. How far it is possible for such a Repen­tance to be effectual. And here I dare not pronounce it to be absolutely and universally Ineffectual, though I confess I am horribly afraid that it very rarely proves otherwise. For the Repentance on which Salvation is entailed necessarily includes a through Change of Soul, that is, a new prevailing Iudgment and Resolution; and for certain wheresoever this really is there is true Repen­tance. For the very Life of Repentance consists in the universal Subjection of our Souls to God, and this Subjection consists in such a firm Resolution of Soul to obey him, as, whensoever occasion is offered, will ren­der us actually obedient. I know there are some who place this Subjection of our Souls to God in an universal Habit of Obedience, but surely they do not consider that an Habit of Obedience, which consistsin an inherent Apt­ness [Page 194] and Facility of obeying, is not attain­able under a long progress in Religion, and that in our first Entrance into the religious State we are so far from being habituated to obey God, that we generally obey with a greatdeal of Difficulty; and while we do so, 'tis a Contradiction to say that we are habitua­ted to Obedience. So that by placing the Souls Subjection to God in such a Habit, we un­dermine the Comfort of all Beginners in Re­ligion, and exclude all those from being faithful Servants who have not conquered the Difficulties of obeying. And therefore I think it much more safe to place our first Subjection to God in a hearty Resolution of obeying; for as Choice and Resolution is the principle of all our voluntary Actions, so it is of our Subjection to God; which being a moral Action must be voluntary, and so begin in Choice or Resolution, from whence if it hath opportunity it will proceed into Action, and that being often repeated will gradually improve into an Habit, and so in time render it natural and easie to us. But if Death should intervene and deprive the Man who is thus sincerely resolved on all op­portunities of actual Obedience, that being accidental makes no change in his main State, the Frame and Temper of his Soul remains the same, it goes into Eternity a faithful Subject to God, and had it continued longer [Page 195] here would have expressed its Subjection in all the necessary Acts of Homage and Obedi­ence. And far be it from us to imagine the condition of such a Soul to be desperate, for though it is true that a holy Life is the in­dispensable Condition of Salvation, yet it is also true that a holy Life is necessarily inclu­ded in this Subjection of our Souls to God. That Man doth live a holy Life who sincere­ly submits his Soul to God, and is firmly re­solved, as occasion offers, to express his submission in all the external Acts of Homage and Obedience. 'Tis true the Death-bed Pe­nitent hath not opportunity to exercise him­self in all the parts of Obedience; he cannot practise Chastity and Temperance, nor any other Vertue, to whose contrary Vice his Sickness hath utterly disabled him; but what of that? neither hath the healthful Penitent always opportunity to practise every Vertue which God injoyns: If he be poor or single, he can no more give Alms, or provide for his Children, than the sick Man can be chaste or temperate, and yet he lives a holy Life, I hope, though he hath no occasion or oppor­tunity to practise either of these Duties. Why then may not the sick Penitent that practises his Duty so far as he hath opportu­nity, that heartily mourns for his sin, and patiently submits to Gods correction, that practises Humility and Devotion, is charitable [Page 196] in forgiving Offences, just in making Resti­tution for Injuries; why may not such a one be as well said to live a holy Life, when he doth all this out of a hearty Subjection of his Soul to God, though he should have no opportunity to practise some other Vertues. For he who is sincerely resolved to submit to the Laws of Temperance and Chastity, is chast and temperate though he never have opportunity to practise them, and all the difference between him and one that lives to practise what he resolves is only this, that the latter will practise it, and the former would; and in Gods account, who sees the Issues of all our Resolutions, he is as really temperate who would be so if he had opportunity, as he who is so when he hath: so that though his Repentance be not strictly the same with the others, yet it being to the same purpose, we cannot ima­gine that the good God will damn him only for a punctilio. If therefore it be possible for the Death-bed Penitent to reduce himself to a firm, prevailing Resolution of obeying God, I see no reason to conclude his Condition to be absolutely desperate; for being so resolved, he is a holy Man, though very imperfectly I confess; and if he go into Eternity with that Resolution with him, that will dispose him for some degree of Happiness. For if his Resolution be such as would have prevail­ed [Page 197] if he had continued in this Life, it will as well prevail in the other; and if it so pre­vail there as to render him actually obedi­ent, it will be necessary consequence render him in some measure a happy and blessed Spi­rit; Obedience to God being as natural a Cause of Happiness, as the Sun is of Light, or the Fire of Heat and Burning. All the Difficulty therefore is this, not whether God will accept of such a Resolution, as whether a Death-bed Repentance can be so far impro­ved as to rise to such a Resolution. And here I must needs confess, and shall here­after make it evident, that the Difficulty of perfecting such a Repentance into such a Re­solution is so exceeding great, that it is the greatest madness in the World for any Man to promise himself success before hand whilst he is in Health, and hath so many better opportunities of Repentance in his hand. But that it is absolutely impossible I dare not say for these following Reasons:

1. Because de facto we sometimes find that the Resolutions of a sick Bed have proved ef­fectual. We know there have been some Men who in a Fit of Sickness when they have looked on themselves as abandoned of all Hopes, have yet betaken themselves to serious Resolutions, which when they have recovered to their former Health, have visi­bly proved effectual. I confess these Sick-bed [Page 198] Resolutions do most commonly die when the Man recovers, and he usually leaves his Bed and his good Purposes together; but since there are some Instances wherein they have held and proved effectual, that is suf­ficient to demonstrate the Possibility of the Thing: for what hath been, may be; and what Reason can be given why some Men may not perform in Eternity what they pro­mised on their Death-beds, as well as others do after their Recovery what they promised on their Sick-beds? As therefore the Relapse of most Men from their Sick-bed Purposes proves it extreamly hard, so the Continu­ance of others stedfast to them proves it possible for such Purposes to be sincere.

2. Another thing that proves it possible is this, that upon a Death-bed oft times the Arguments of Repentance have a more im­mediate Access to the Minds of Men than at any other time, and consequently may be well supposed to be much more effectual and operative. Now the Promises and Threats of Religion will strike more immediately on the Soul, the Goods and Evils which they propose and denounce being nearer at hand, and the Soul perceiving her self within a mo­ment of enjoying the one or suffering the other for ever; and that thick Fog of earth­ly Cares and Pleasures that interrupted her Prospect into the other World being in a [Page 199] great measure dispelled and scattered, she lies more open and uncovered to the Things of Eternity: and therefore as one thing strikes upon another with a natural Effect, as Light strikes upon the Eye, and Sounds up­on the Ear; so eternal Things do upon im­mortal Spirits when there is nothing between to intercept the Stroke, and make most deep and vigorous Impressions on them. And when Heaven and Hell are so near the Soul that she expects almost every moment to ex­pire into the one or the other, who can tell what strange and sudden Alterations they may make in her Temper and Resolutions? So that though I must confess it is a stupendous Effect for a Soul to be changed in the short Twinkling of a Death-bed Repentance, yet when I consider the mighty Influence which the Arguments of Religion may then be rea­sonably supposed to have upon her, I dare not say 'tis absolutely impossible; especially considering,

3. And lastly, That how impossible soe­ver it may be to humane Power, yet 'tis not impossible to the Grace of God. 'Tis true indeed, God ordinarily vouchsafes his Grace to Men proportionably to their Improve­ment of it; and I confess if he proceeds by this Rule with the dying Penitent, he hath less Reason to expect God's Grace now than in any former Period of his Life. But yet [Page 200] we see the Grace of God doth not always proceed by stated Rules and Proportions, for sometimes God hath given the largest Mea­sures of his Grace to those who have made the least Improvements of it: sometimes ve­ry great Sinners have been stopped in their wicked Courses when they least expected it, and turned back by a Grace that was almost irresistible; and tho' this be more ordinary than other Miracles are, so that Men may as reasonably immure themselves, and depend upon God to feed them by Miracle, as put off their Repentance to the last in expecta­tion of having their Souls renewed and chan­ged by such a miraculous Grace; yet who knows but when the poor dying Penitent, under the mighty Hopes and Fears of Eter­nity, is strugling might and main for his Soul, to rescue it from endless Misery; who knows, I say, but the good God may some­times, and in some peculiar Cases, take pity upon him, and by a more than ordinary Grace concur with his Endeavours, and ren­der them successful. 'Tis, I confess, a sad State when Things are brought to this Ex­tremity that he has nothing but this to de­pend on; but yet since the Grace of God is not confined to do thus or thus, and no otherwise; but may, when it pleases, trans­gress the ordinary Methods of its Procedure. I dare not pronounce the State of those [Page 201] Death-bed Penitents wholly desperate, who heartily implore the divine Assistance, and exert their utmost Strength, and use all means within their Power to change the wicked Temper of their minds. For God may hear and pity them if he please, and if he will, there is no doubt but his own Grace concurring with their Endeavours can pro­duce this happy Effect how great and diffi­cult soever it may be. All that can be said therefore in the Case is this, that an internal Change of Soul from a State of Disobedience to a State of universal Subjection to God, is indispensibly necessary to Salvation; that such a Change is possible to the Death-bed Peni­tent, and so consequently is the Salvation which depends upon it. But alas, 'tis bare­ly possible, so barely possible, that while I am in my Wits I think I should hardly venture on it for a thousand Worlds. Which brings me to

2. The next Thing proposed, which was to shew you how fearfully hazardous it is, whether a Man that begins his Religion on his Death-bed can actually arrive to that de­gree of Repentance as is necessary to his fu­ture Happiness. And this will plainly ap­pear if we consider,

  • 1. The great Difficulty of the thing it self.
  • 2. The Impotency and Indisposition of him that is to perform it.
  • [Page 202] 3. The little Reason he hath to expect any extraordinary Aid and Assistance from God.

1. It is extreamly hazardous, because of the great Difficulty of the Thing it self. We find by Experience, that after a long Course of Sin, 'tis one of the most difficult Things in the World for a Man to reduce himself to a thorough Resolution of Amendment; for Custom of sinning begets sinful Habits, and sinful Habits are a second Nature to us. So that for a Man to resolve upon a holy Life after he hath been long habituated to the contrary, is to resolve to make War with himself, and to live in open Hostility with the Inclinations of his own Nature; and thus to resolve against the Grain, and incline himself against his own Inclinations, is one of the greatest Acts of Violence that a Man can offer to himself. 'Tis true, in a sudden Heat and Transport it is an easie matter for a Man to resolve upon any thing when he is in a Pet against his Sins, or his Mind is chafed into a religious Temper; but, alas! these inconsiderate Purposes are gene­rally the greatest Cheats in the World, for they rarely, if ever, work any Alteration in the Soul; for though now the Man be in a Pet against his Sins, yet his Judgment of them is the same, and that is the Principle of his standing Resolutions. Men are often [Page 203] angry with their best Friends, and while the Passion continues, they can easily resolve to discard them for ever; but notwithstanding they do so, yet they are Friends still, and love them heartily, though at present they do not perceive it: and as soon as their Pas­sion is over, their Love will return, and immediately cancel all their Resolutions against them. And so it is with these pas­sionate Resolutions Men make against their Sins, which work no Change at all in the standing Temper and Disposition of their Souls and are so far from curing them, that they are only the Intermissions of their Disease; and though at present they are angry with their Sins, and do purpose never to be reconciled to them more, yet still they love them hear­tily though they perceive it not, and as soon as their Passion is over, their Love returns and reverses their Purpose; and so these Fal­lings out of Lovers end in the Renovation of Love: so that these rash and hasty Resoluti­ons are so far from being hearty Submissions unto God, that they only make a Truce with him to fetch Breath and recruit for a farther Rebellion. And thus to resolve, is, I confess, the easiest thing in the World; but for an old Sinner to enter into a serious Resolution of Amendment in the midst of cool and de­liberate Thoughts, when his Sins are about him entertaining him with the fresh Remem­brance [Page 204] of those dear Pleasures they were wont to invite him to; when he is, or sup­poses himself to be invironed with Tempta­tion, and importuned on every side with all those soft Allurements that are so sweet and grateful to him; this, doubtless, is such a Task as will exact his utmost Industry and Consideration. For now he will meet with such Oppositions from his Appetites, such Shrinkings and Recoilings from his Will, such Struglings and Pulbacks from his darling Lusts, as will even distract his Soul, and in­terpose a thousand Impediments to hinder him from coming to a thorough Resolution. So that unless he be armed with great Con­sideration, animated with invincible Courage, and aided by a mighty Grace, after all his Deliberation he will either not resolve at all, or, which is almost as bad, resolve with Re­serves and Exceptions. Since therefore to form a hearty and thorough Resolution of Amendment is so extreamly hard and diffi­cult, what a fearful Hazard must that Man run that remits it to a dying Hour. For how can we hope to accomplish so great a Work in so short a Time? when we croud up a Duty of so vast a Bulk, in so narrow a Room, in how much Danger must it be of being strangled in the Birth for want of Time and Air to breath in? I dare not say it is absolute­ly impossible in so short a Time to make a [Page 205] thorough Change in our Temper and Resolu­tion; but sure I am it is so extreamly diffi­cult, that 'tis the greatest Hazard in the World whether we actually perform it, espe­cially considering.

2. The great Impotency and Indisposition of Death-bed Penitents to perform it. By what hath been said of the Difficulty of it, you plainly perceive that to the Performance of it there is required vast Industry, great Con­sideration, and earnest Strivings and Contests with our selves; but alas! how unable and unfit is a Man for these things when he lies languishing on a Death-bed? when commonly the sickness he languishes under is either such as wholly disables, or extreamly weakens and impairs his Reason; so that either he is whol­ly incapable of such Reflections and Consi­derations as are necessary to a thorough Reso­lution of Amendment, or at least is very un­fit for them. Now in this sad Extreamity what can the poor Wretch do? His sinful Soul sits drowzing on the very Brinks of a dismal Eternity, and Deaths cold hand is thrusting it headlong down; so that if She doth not presently rouze and start up and run away from her Danger, within a very few moments she will awake in everlasting Flames. But alas! how should she rouze her self out of those fatal Slumbers when she hath scarce Reason enough to reflect upon [Page 206] her Danger or to take any Notice of that fearful Precipice before her; when by the distemper of her bodily Organs She is so stund and stupified that she can neither discern where She is, nor whither She is going? But suppose his Sickness be such as leaves him the free Use of his Reason, yet considering how much he must needs be distracted by Pain and Uneasiness, by Weak­ness and Languishment, by the Cares of set­ling his Affairs in this World, and the fright­ful Prospect that he hath of another, it will be impossible for him, without a mighty As­sistance from above, to range his scattered and unweildy Thoughts into such sober Re­flections and serious Considerations as are necessary to the forming of a thorough Reso­lution of Amendment; for such a Resoluti­on can never be formed in a hurry of Passion, but must be the Result of calm and composed Deliberations. For, as I shewed you before, hasty and passionate Resolutions work no Change upon the Soul, and till a Man hath made a new Judgment of Things, it will be in vain for him to make any new Resoluti­ons; because 'tis impossible that any Reso­lution should be lasting that is not founded in the Judgment. But what Capacity can a Man be in to make a new Judgment of Things in the midst of the incessant Hurries and Distractions of a Death-bed, when he cannot [Page 207] consider a quarter of an hour together, but is interrupted almost every moment by a thou­sand Accidents and Avocations? So that to refer our Repentance to a Death-bed is the same thing as to retire into a Battle to medi­tate, or to set up a Closet to study Philosophy in the Head Quarters of an Army, where a Man is as capable of free and undisturbed Contemplations as Men usually are of forming thorough Resolutions of Amendment when they are a dying; which, without an extra­ordinary Assistance from God, being utterly impossible, must needs be extreamly hazard­ous; considering,

3. And lastly, the little Reason such a Man hath to expect any extraordinary Assi­stance from God. When a Man hath slighted all Gods Invitations to Repentance, and wilfully turned a deaf Ear to all the secret Whispers and Importunities of his blessed Spirit, when he hath all his Life-time re­jected the Motions and Tenders of his Grace upon this resolution that he would sin on as long as he was able, and never repent till he could sin no longer; with what con­fidence can he expect that God should vouchsafe him in his dying Hour that extra­ordinary Grace which he stands in need of, and without which he must dye forever? For when a Man hath been mocking God all his Life with the Promises of a future Repen­tance, [Page 208] but from time to time hath still delay­ed and deferred it till he hath driven it to the last Extremity, so that now he must re­pent, or be damned prehaps the next Moment; with what face can he implore such an extra­ordinary Favour from that God with whom he hath so wretchedly prevaricated? For unless we suppose God to be a Being that loves to be provoked, one that is taken with Affronts and Injuries, and consequently that measures his Favours to us by the de­grees and number of our Rebellions against him; we cannot reasonably expect that he should be then most kind to us when we have offended him as much as we are able, and would never be persuaded to repent of our Wickedness till we were able to offend him no more. I desire to have as large Ap­prehensions of the Mercy of God as can be reasonably admitted, but withal I am assured he is the hardest to be imposed upon of any one in the World; and being so, it cannot well be expected that when in despite of his Authority and frequent Invitations to Repentance, the Sinner hath squandred away all his Strength and Vigour in a Course of Wickedness, God should be so indulgent to him on his Death-bed as to supply that Strength which he hath spent in sinning against him by the extraordinary Assistances of his own Grace; especially considering [Page 209] how often he hath declared his Resolution of dispensing his Grace to us in greater or lesser Proportions according to the improve­ments we make of it. So Iames iv. 6, 7, 8. For the Scripture offereth more Grace; and therefore saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble. Submit your selves therefore unto God; resist the Devil, and he will fly from you; draw near unto God, and he will draw near unto you. And thus more ex­presly in the Parable of the Talents, Matt. xxv. 29. For unto every one that hath, that is, im­proves what he hath, shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but from him that hath not, i. e. improves not what he hath, shall be taken away, even that which he hath. God therefore having thus declared that he will lessen or augment his Grace proportionably as we abuse or improve it, we may reasonably expect that the oftener we do repulse its Motions, the weaker will be its Attempts upon us, and so weaker and weaker till 'tis wholly with drawn, and hath given us up for desperate and irreclaimable; and conse­quently if God proceed in this Method, as doubtless he most ordinarily doth, then the longer a Man continues in sin, the more he is abandoned of the Grace of God. So that when the Sinner is arrived to his Death-bed, he may reasonably expect that if Gods Assi­stance be not wholly withdrawn and lessen­ed [Page 210] into nothing, as he may justly fear it will, yet it will be much less vigorous and pow­erful than in any former Period of his Life; and if it be, his Condition is next to despe­rate; for if his Soul be not renewed and changed, within a few Moments it is ruined beyond all recovery. And since to effect this Change is a Work of mighty Difficulty, what but a mighty Grace can enable the dy­ing Penitent in so short a time and with so small a Strength to perform it? So that the Summ of all is this, though the Condition of him that remits his Repentance to a Death-bed be not absolutely desperate, yet 'tis so fearfully hazardous, that nothing on this side Hell can be more wretched and deplorable; and therefore for Men to put off their Re­pentance to the last, and venture their Souls upon so great an Uncertainty, is a piece of the most desperate Folly and Madness. I con­fess when a Man hath been so desperate and cruel to himself as to run himself upon this fearful Venture, I would by no means discourage his Repentance, but rather use all Means to invite and persuade him to it: for Repentance is always the best thing we can do, and when a Man hath been so des­perately besotted as to defer it to a Death-bed, and put himself upon this woful Extremity, this is the last Remedy he can apply, and the best Refuge he hath to fly to. But so [Page 211] long as Men are well and in Health, and have a fair space of Repentance in their hands, I would not for all the World encourage them to run such a desperate Hazard; for next to leaping headlong into Hell without any Repentance at all, doubtless the most desperate Folly a Man can be guilty of is to defer his Repentance till he is dying. And so I pass on to

3. The Third and last thing proposed; which was, to shew you that supposing our Death-bed Penitent should repent effectually, yet how impossible it is for him in an ordi­nary way to attain any comfortable Assurance of it. And indeed considering how many Cheats and Frauds there are under most of our Resolutions of Amendment, it is at least extreamly difficult for us to be any other­wise secure of them than by their Effects and Performances. As for the dying Penitent therefore that doth not long enough survive his Resolution to see the Execution of it, how can he be secure that it is sincere and perfect, especially considering that the Circumstances in which he makes it are such as do conspire to render it extreamly suspitious. For

  • 1. He makes it under the fear of Death.
  • 2. In the Absence of Temptation.
  • 3. Under a great agony of Conscience.
  • 4. In the near Neighbourhood of Eternity.

[Page 212] 1. He makes his Resolution under a mighty fear of Death, which gives him great reason to suspect it. We daily see how much our Humours change and vary upon every Remove out of one Condition into another, and how these do cast the Ballance of our Su­periour Soul and make us every day so many several sorts of Men. Every Wind almost turns our Minds towards a new point, and like Water we take the form of every Vessel we are put into. So that we have great rea­son to suspect that our Death-bed Repentance is not so much the Mould of our Minds, as of the Condition we are put into, and that were we poured back again into an healthful Condition, we should immediately lose our present Shape, and return into our former Figure again. For when Men see their Life is in Gods hand, and that he is ready to cut it in sunder, it is no wonder at all if they do what they can to bribe him to spare them a little longer; and consequently, if they resolve well, and make fair Promises of fu­ture Obedience; which is the best thing they can do in this Extremity. But if their Re­solution be founded in the Fear of Death, its Foundation is contrary to its Performance, the Motive of their Resolution to live well for the future being a presumption that they shall live no longer; And it will be an Act of Reason and Iustice to themselves to stick to [Page 213] their resolution, when the Motive of it is changed: and on the Contrary, of Impru­dence and Unkindness, to forsake the Conclu­sion, when the Premises are consulted. So that upon such grounds as these what can be ex­pected but that this sick Resolver will resume his Sins with his Health if he should reco­ver, and leave his new Vows in that Bed where he first took them up, and discharge his Fears and his good Actions, his Physician and his Confessor together; it being so, how is it possible he should be assured that his Resolution is sincere unless he recover and perform it?

2. He makes his Resolution in the Ab­sence of Temptation, which gives him also great reason to suspect it. For now the Sea­sons of the Pleasures of Sin are over, he can­not relish their Delights because his cloyed Appetite distastes them as the full Stomach doth the Honey-comb: and his Soul being now uninterested in all sinful Pleasure, and being naturally in continual Motion, must necessarily divert the Current of its Action some other way; and the future State to which it is so nearly allied being all it hath to work upon, it is no wonder if the Free­dom of its Motion turn thitherwards, being diverted out of its old Channel: for if he love his Sins or the World never so well, he must leave them whether he will or no: if he dis­like [Page 214] God and his Holiness and an everlasting Abode with him never so much, he is for­ced upon them, or dashed upon eternal Mise­ry, which it is impossible for him to chuse. So that now his good Resolution is scarce an Act of Choice; for tho' he would not chuse to obey God if he could still enjoy his former Lusts, yet they being out of his reach, he must take what is to be had. So that 'tis mighty Suspicious that the Sense of his Re­solution is no more than this, Holiness is good when a Man is just dying, but while he lives and can enjoy his Lusts, they are a great deal better; so that the Approach of Death makes Holiness good to him upon this ac­count only, because there would be some thing worse, and there can no longer be any thing better; and 'tis to be feared he esteems it good only in comparison with Hell which without it will inevitably follow. And when it thus purchases the reputation of be­ing good from the near approach of such a mighty Evil, it is not so much esteemed a Good as a lesser Evil; which argues that the Mans Judgment is not at all altered, for still he looks on Holiness as an Evil, and in chusing it before Hell, he only chuses of two Evils the least, and 'tis extreamly Su­spicious that he would no more have chosen it now than he did while he was Well and in Health, but that it stands at present, out [Page 215] of the Air of Temptation, and is presented to him without the Counterpoize of those sinful Delights for whose sake he formerly rejected it. For there are many Apprehensi­ons which make deep Impressions not only on our Brain and Fansies, but on our Affecti­ons too, whilst these are calm and unpro­voked; which impressions notwithstanding quickly vanish upon the starting of new Ob­jects, and the provocation of contrary Fan­sies and Affections by them; so that it is im­possible to be certain what those good Reso­lutions will come to which a Man makes when he hath no Temptation to the contra­ry. The utmost therefore that can be said of them is this, they may be sincere and they may hold out, but there is an infinite Hazard in them; they are easily made, be­cause at present there is no Temptation against them, no vicious Appetite strong enough to controul them; but there is vast Reason to fear that should the Man recover, and his Appetites return again upon him, the next Temptation would betray him and make him surrender up all his Resolution; and conse­quently if he die before he hath made a Trial of himself, his Condition must needs be ex­treamly uncertain, his Hope must sit upon the Brinks of Despair, and his Soul go tremb­ling into Eternity to think what a Hazard it is now a running.

[Page 216] 3. He resolves under the Horrors and Agonies of an awakened Conscience, and this also renders his Resolution extreamly Suspi­cious. And indeed that Man must be in a dead Sleep that will not awake when Death is sounding the Trumpet of Iudgment in his Ears, and calling him instantly away to give up his unprepared Accounts. For though when Iudgment seems to us at the other end of Heaven all is quiet, yet certainly when Death brings us to the very Seat of it, the Awe of that dreadful Tribunal of which we are now in sight, and the Sense of so ma­ny Guilts staring us in the face, of which we must the next Moment acquit our selves, or Die for ever, must necessarily shake out sleepy Consciences into unspeakable Horrors and Agonies, and make us infinitely Solici­tous to fly from the Wrath that is to come. And in this Distress being conscious to him­self that the best thing he can do is to re­solve upon Amendment for the future, here he puts in for Sanctuary having no other hole to hide his guilty Head. So that now to resolve well is hardly an Act of Choice, and it is much to be feared that 'tis only an Expedient snatched up for the present Extremity; and though now he be very serious, yet that prehaps is only the effect of a suddain Cast of Melancholy on his Thoughts; and if it be, when that removes, [Page 217] his Thoughts will be quite of another Colour, or if it be the Result of a more through Con­viction, yet it is very probable that may go off too when the Mans Circumstances are al­tered; that when the present Tragick Scene is removed out of sight, and the Alarm of his approaching Judgment sounds no longer in his Ears, he will presently let fall those Resolutions again which he took up only as a shield, against his Conscience. And this being so uncertain, what a fearful Hazard must that Man run that depends upon such Resolutions, and imbarks his Soul into Eter­nity in them? For though it is possible they may be sincere, yet it is highly probable that they are not, but as they were raised only by a Storm of Horror, so if that were laid they would fall again; and if they should be False and Hypocritical, as God only knows whether they are or no, the poor Man is certainly lost and undone for ever.

4. And lastly, he resolves in the near Neighbourhood of Eternity, which also ren­ders his Resolution very Suspicious. For the Soul is never more sensible of Eternity than when 'tis walking on the Confines of it; for the very loosing it from the Body wherein it dwells, and in which its Motions are all con­fined, doth many times give her some lesser Degrees of those Advantages which free and naked Spirits have that are not imprisoned in [Page 118] Flesh. For the less the Soul is found to work by the Body, the higher are its Operations, and all her extraordinary Motions are a kind of Ravishment from Sense. It is therefore very probable that when the Soul is leaving the Body, it hath naturally a more sensible Touch and Feeling of its eternal State, because the nearer any thing is to its Residence, the more vehement is its Motion thither; and conse­quently the nearer the Soul is to its eternal Abode, the more quick and vigorous may we reasonably suppose its Motions thither; so that when the other World is in view, and it is just upon the Region of Spirits, it is no wonder if the Sense of her approaching everlasting Fate put her into great Tremblings and Agonies. For now there is nothing be­tween her and Eternity to intercept her Pro­spect of it; no sinful Pleasures or Delights to interrupt her Thoughts of it, or deaden the force of its Impressions: so that if in this State of Things she should not resolve to throw off her Sins and embrace Vertue, when she is in view of that Hell of endless Miseries to which those tend, and of that Heaven of Joys to which this aspires, it would be prodigious. But whether this Resoluti­on will hold when Heaven and Hell are va­nished out of sight again, it is a mighty Ha­zard; and sadly probable it is that if the Man recover from the Brinks of Eternity, [Page 219] and get farther off it, he will soon forget his good Resolutions, and leave all his Piety behind him. For when he resolved, alas he was sick and dying, leaving this World and launching into another; but when he is well again, the Case will be altered; this World will be present to him, and the other a great way off; and when his Resolution is thus abandoned of the Motive that animated and held it together, there is infinite reason to suspect that it will immediately languish and expire. So that the Summ of all is this the Death-bed Penitent may possibly repent sincerely, but 'tis an infinite Hazard whether he will or no; and if he doth, it is ordinari­ly impossible for him to have any comfort­able Assurance of it. I will not deny but in some rare and extraordinary Cases, to serve some great and excellent End, God may immediately suggest Comfort to him and give him the Joy of his Repentance; but whether ever he doth or will do so or no, is more than I am able to determine. For this I am sure of he hath no where obli­ged himself to it, and what he hath not promised, we have no reason to expect. For whatsoever is extraordinary, is more than what is promised, but the ordinary Comforts of dejected Penitents are such as arise from an inward Sense of their own Sincerity, and of the glorious Hopes to which that intitles [Page 220] them. But as for the Sincerity of the Death­bed Penitent it is so indiscernable by reason of Suspicious Circumstances, that without an immediate Revelation it is hardly possible to be perceived, and from any promise, that God hath made, there is not the least en­couragement to hope for any such immediate Revelation. So that if any such Comfort be vouchsafed to him, it is doubtless very rare­ly; because it is extraordinary. I know there is nothing more common than for Men that never repented till they came to die, to die very comfortably; but alas I am horribly afraid that generally their Comforts are no­thing but the Effects either of their Stupidity, or their Disease, or else the Consequence of very false and dangerous Principles.

First, many times it is plainly the Effect of their wretched Stupidity and Sottishness. For some Men we see are so Stupid in their Sins, that nothing but Hell flames will awake them; and though when they feel them­selves upon the edge of Eternity passing into an irreversible Condition, they cannot for­bear reflecting on their Sins, and starting at the dangerous Consequence of them; yet if they can but so far obtain of themselves as to weep for, and resolve against them, they think that all is well again, and so go into Eternity with a great deal of Comfort and Assurance. But these are a sort of Stu­pid [Page 221] Souls that have no regard of themselves, that are dying forever but have not Sense enough to apprehend their Danger, or to feel the Disease of which they are dying; for if they had they would never be so con­fident of their Recovery upon such slight and easie Applications; they would consider how false and hypocritical all their former Resolutions have proved, and how much cause there is to suspect lest those should prove as bad as they, and how impossible it is to impose upon God to whose all-seeing Eye the inmost Nature, and utmost Issues of Things are open and naked, which would necessarily render them extreamly jealous and Solicitous concerning their eternal State. I am now going away into everlasting Weal or Woe, Lord, what will become of me, the only security I have that it will go well with me forever is only this, that I am re­solved upon a future Amendment; but alas I have too much reason to suspect my Reso­lution is rotten at the Core, and if it be, Woe be to me that ever I was Born. This without all doubt would be his Language if he were but throughly awakned into a Sense of his Danger, which because he is not he dies in a Dream of Happiness and will presently awake in real and intolerable Mi­sery. And as this Comfort of the Death­bed Penitent doth often times arise from his Stupidity, so,

[Page 222] Secondly, many times 'tis nothing else but the mere Effect of his Disease. For there are many Diseases that have a natural Enthusiasm attending them, viz. such as al­ternately chill and freeze the Blood, and put the Spirits into unequal Motions; and to such as these Dejections and Transports do as naturally follow, as Shiverings and Burn­ings to an Ague. For when the Blood runs low, and the Spirits are weak and languid, then usually the Scene is all Tragedy; melan­choly Vapours cloud and overwhelm their Fancies, and they are lost in a Wood of Spi­ritual Desertions. But when the Tide turns and warmer Blood flows up into the Brain, and refreshes the drooping Fancy with Brisk and active Spirits, then they are full of Rap­tures and Extasies, which, because they look on as streaming from an heavenly Origi­nal, they labour to swell and heighten to the utmost Brink of their Capacities; in so much that sometimes they are even stifled and overwhelmed with joy: and it is usual for them, especially in high Fevers, when their Blood is more briskly fermented by the sharpness of their Humours, to chafe and tickle themselves into real Trances and Deli­riums, which they, not understanding the Structure of their own Bodies, and the Na­ture of their Disease, do commonly mistake for the immediate Sealings and Incomes of [Page 223] the Spirit of God. So that if they chance to die in one of these Transports, those that are Spectators of their End conclude that they depart in full Assurance, and are most infallibly received into the joy of their Ma­ster; whereas most commonly I fear their Joy expires with them, and leaves them despe­rate and miserable. But then

Thirdly, In the third and last place, their Comfort is many times nothing else but the Effect and Consequence of their own false and dangerous Principles. They have en­tertained such Principles as these, that their own Personal Righteousness is not at all ne­cessary to render them acceptable to God, and that all is required of them is to rest and rely upon Iesus Christ; which if they do, all their Defects and Miscarriages shall be most certainly covered with the Robe of his Righte­ousness, and God will look upon them, and deal with them as if they had been as righte­ous as he. That Men have imbibed such Principles as these, and learned to practise on them, we who converse with Sick-beds cannot be ignorant; for when they have gone on impenitently to their Death-beds, and we come to enquire into the grounds of their Hopes, this we find is the ordinary Refuge they fly to, that Iesus Christ hath obeyed and suffered for them; and therefore they firmly rely upon him, and fling their Souls [Page 224] into his Arms, and make no doubt but he will catch them and save them from the Wrath to come: as if the design of our Sa­viours Undertaking had been to priviledge those who believe in him to Live wickedly, and Die comfortably. That he by his Merit and Satisfaction hath obtained this Grant of his Father, that all who heartily submit themselves unto him shall be received in­to his Favour, notwithstanding their past Rebellions and present Imperfections of Obedience, I think an undoubted Prin­ciple of Christianity; but that he hath ob­tained this Favour for us absolutely whe­ther we submit to his Father or no, is so far from being Christian, that I think 'tis one of the most Antichristian Doctrines that was ever set on broach in the World; for it plainly defeats the main Design of Christia­nity, and totally dissolves all its Obligati­ons. For whereas the principal Drift of Christianity is to teach Men to deny Ungod­liness and Worldly lusts, and to live soberly righteously and godly in this present World, this Doctrine unteaches all again, and gives Men a Dispensation to live as wickedly as they please. For if upon my Reliance upon Christ I shall be received into Gods Favour whether I submit to him or no, farewel to all Obligations of Obedience. What need Men be so Sollicitous of making such hear­ty [Page 225] Submissions of their Souls to God, if the Righteousness of their Saviour be a Sanctuary from the Authority of his Laws? So that for Men to rely confidently upon Christ be­fore they are secure that their Souls are hear­tily subjected to him, is a piece of the great­est Arrogance and Presumption; and tho' they may pacify their Conscience with it when they are dying, yet when they are dead they will find they have made more bold than welcome with their Saviour; that he will not be a Patron to their sins, nor side with them so far in their Rebellions a­gainst his Father, as to shelter them in his Wounds from the due Vengeance of eternal Fire. Altho' therefore these death-bed Peni­tents do too often dye very comfortably, yet considering what false grounds their Com­forts generally stand on, I had much rather see them go down to their Graves in the greatest sorrow and anxiety of Soul; for if they should miscarry, as there is vast reason to fear they will, it grieves my Soul to think what a surprize they will be in, how they will be blanked and amazed when, contrary to their bold Presumptions of waking in im­mortal Joys, they find themselves among De­vils and damned Ghosts abandoned to endless Misery and Despair. And indeed I cannot but wonder that a Man who hath deferred his Repentance to a Death-bed should have [Page 226] the confidence to talk of Comfort and As­surance; which is such a Reward as God usually appropriates to long and most emi­nent Piety. But for a Man that hath rebel­led against God all his days to pirk up pre­sently after a few sighs and submissions, and pretend to as much Assurance of his Savi­our as if he had been his ancient Friend and Familiar, is down right inexcuseable Impu­pudence. Alas poor Man! what less canst thou do in Modesty than spend the small Remainder of thy Days in Sighs, and Tears, and deep Humiliations; and when thou hast done thy utmost, to content thy self with this, that thou art not altogether desperate? But as for Comfort and Assurance, it would well become thee to leave them to those who have better deserved them; for after all thou canst do, if thou gettest to Heaven it will be a Wonder of mercy: so that unless thou art absolutely besotted, thou must die in great fear, and go trembling away into Eter­nity. So miserable is the State of the death­bed Penitent, that it is a mighty Hazard whether ever he repent to purpose, and if he doth, it is ordinarily impossible to reap any comfortable assurance of it.

And now I expect that it will be objected against this Discourse that it savours of too much Rigour and Severity, because it repre­sents the State of dying Penitents so very [Page 227] near to desperate. To which I briefly answer, that if it were absolutely desperate, as I con­fess I think it very near so, yet doubtless the best way is to represent Things as they are: for the nature of the Thing is already fixed, and neither your Opinion nor mine will alter it. Indeed if I could recover a dying Man by telling him that he is not dy­ing, it would be cruelty in me to pronounce him past Recovery; and so could I save the dying Penitent by telling him that he is se­cure. I never very much to blame should I say his Case is desperate; but alass! if it be so, it will be so, let me say what I please; so that in pronouncing that it is so, I only make him sensible of it a few Moments sooner. I do but shew him what he must trust to, and what he will presently be con­vinced of by woeful Experience; and by ringing out a passing Bell to his departing Soul, I do him this kindness at least that he will not be in Hell before he is aware of it. And certainly this is some Charity, tho' it be severe; but yet neither do I represent the Case to be altogether desperate, tho' I must confess some very great and eminent Di­vines have done so; for I have endeavoured to shew that true Repentance is not impossible on a Death-bed, tho' extreamly hazardous and difficult; so that still there is some Hope, [Page 228] enough to incourage the Sinners utmost En­deavour, and keep his Head above water; and for him to give up himself to Despair while there is any glimmering of hope, is to enter into Hell before his time, which is a degree of imprudence next to that he hath been already guilty of, in putting himself upon this dismal Extremity. But suppo­sing it had been represented as wholly despe­rate, yet this can occasion no Man that hears me to despair, unless it be thro' his own Default. For God be praised I am not now preaching to a sick or dying Auditory; you are now well and in health, and have a space and season of Repentance before you, which if you will but diligently improve, you prevent the fearful Hazard whereunto a death-bed Penitence exposes you. But if thro' your own Neglect you should fall in­to it and despair in it, who can you blame but your selves for it. All that I aim at is to prevent your Danger by persuading you to repent betime; but if you will be so cruel to your selves as to delay it till it is too late, and then Despair overtake you, you may thank your selves for it that would take no warning. And therefore to render this Argument yet more effectual, I intend to represent to you at large the Folly and Wickedness of deferring our Repentance to [Page 229] the last, and thereby to excite and pro­voke you to a speedy Resolution of Amend­ment; that so when the Bridegroom comes you may not with these foolish Virgins in my Text find the Door of Heaven shut against you, but that having finished your work, you may be admitted with that good and profitable Servant into the joy of your Master.

REVELATIONS II. 21.‘I gave her space to repent of her forni­cation and she repented not.’

THE Person here spoken of is Ie­sabel, as you may see in the fore­going verse; but who this Iesabel was is very much disputed by Ex­positors. Epiphanius and some that follow him refer this title to those Women Here­ticks, Priscilla, Maximilla, and Quintilla who followed Montanus, and about Commo­dus his Reign took upon them to be Prophe­tesses, and under that pretence propagated many monstrous Heresies. But since it must be after St. Iohn's time that those Women were in the Church of Thiatira, and since St. Iohn here speaks not prophetically of what should be, but historically of what already was, it is not supposeable that these Montanist Women should be the Iesabel here spoken of: besides that the Character here given her doth not agree with that Sect, for these Mon­tanists were a very severe and strict Sect, and that was the main motive which seduced Tertullian to it; whereas this Iesabel, or Sect described by her Name, is here accused of Fornication, and sacrificing to Idols. So that it seems more probable that by her is meant [Page 231] either the whole Sect of the Gnosticks, which as all agree was infamous for Leudness, Un­cleanness and Idolatry; or else some particu­lar Woman who was an eminent Patroness and Ring-leader of that Party. And if he mean this latter, as it seems most probable by the Distinction he makes between her and those that committed Adultery with her, that is, her Followers; then it is probable that he means Helena the Whore of Simon Magus, who was Father of the Gnosticks; whom he stiled his [...], or first Conception. And well might she be called Iesabel, since she so much resembled the Wise of Ahab called by that name in her notorious Whoredoms and Idolatries; but yet in her he reprehends the whole Sect which was all involved with her in the same Impenitence. So that it was equally true both of her and of her Fol­lowers, that God gave them space to repent of their Fornications, and they repented not, that is, Gods patience waited on them, and gave them time to reform their lend and infamous Practices; but still they deferred and put it off, and under all his Forbearance conti­nued obstinate and impenitent. So that the design of the Words is to represent the Evil of Mens putting off their Repentance when God in mercy forbears them, and gives them space enough to perform it. And how great an Evil this is I shall indeavour to represent to you,

  • [Page 232]1. By shewing you the Wickedness,
  • 2. The Absurdity, and
  • 3. The Danger of it.

1. I shall shew you the Wickedness of it, and that in these following particulars:

  • 1. 'Tis a prophane mockery of God's Pa­tience.
  • 2. 'Tis an ungrateful Undervaluing of his Service.
  • 3. 'Tis an open Contempt to his Autho­rity.
  • 4. 'Tis an impious Presumption on his Goodness.
  • 5. 'Tis an arrogant defiance of his Dis­pleasure.

1. To defer and put off our Repentance when God gives us space to repent is a pro­phane Mockery of his Patience. That he did not strike us dead upon our first sin, and consign us immediatly to the chains of Dark­ness, was purely the Effect of his Goodness; 'twas this that obliged him to try us a lit­tle longer in hope that at last we might be prevailed with to consider our danger, and correct our folly before it had determined us to an irreversible Ruin. Whilst therefore we linger out the space of our Repentance in Delays, we sport and dally with the Pa­tience of God; we promise fair, and give it hope that it shall at last obtain its Ends up­on us; but when we come to performance, [Page 233] we baffle and disappoint it, and render all its past attendance ineffectual. For when the Date of our former Promise is expired, and God expects our Performance, instead of that, we only give him new Promises, and pay him with Words instead of Things; as if by our Promises we only intended to raise in him an expectation of our Repentance, that so we might have an opportunity to vex him with a Disappointment. We pro­mise we will repent hereafter only to get leave to sin for the present, and so when that hereafter comes we promise again, and only repeat the old Delusion; as if we meant to tantalize his Patience by profering the golden Fruit of our Repentance, and snatching it away again before he can lay hold of it. Now what a fearful wickedness is this for Men to put such Tricks upon the Al­mighty, still to defer the payment of a Debt that hath been so long due, and so often de­manded, and still to pay his Demands with Promises, and only feed his Expectations with Air! as tho' we thought him bound to attend our Leisure, and to give us Credit to run deeper on score upon the security of our Promise of future Payment which we have already forfeited over and over.

2. Thus to put off and delay our Repent­ance, is a most base and ungrateful Underva­luing of his Service: For the Reason why we [Page 234] delay our Repentance, is, because we think it will be time enough to return to our Du­ty hereafter, when the Opportunities of Sin are gone, and the Pleasure of it is out of season. For into what other sense can God construe our Delays but only this, that it is our Design to shift off him and his Service, till we have served our Lusts as long as we are able, and never to begin our Repentance till we are able to be wicked no longer. Now I beseech you, could you without Horror and Trembling make such an Address to God as this, O God, I know it is my Duty, and the very End of my Life to serve thee; but I beseech thee, be not angry, if while I live I serve my Lusts, and imploy the Powers thou hast given me in Rebellion against thee: And if thou wilt but indulge me this, I will be thy humble Servant when I am good for nothing, neither to serve, nor disobey thee: Do but have Patience till I am Bed-rid, and can enjoy the World and my Lusts no longer, and then I will return to thee, and be sorry for my Sins, and wish that I had never of­fended thee. I would now devote the Service of my Youth and Strength to thee, but that I am sensible it is too good for thee; and therefore come what will, I will feed my Lusts with the Marrow of my Days, and if the dull insipid Bone will con­tent thee, it is at thy Service. This, though it be horrible Language, is yet the natural Sense of our Delays. We would repent im­mediately, [Page 235] but that we think it is a Thou­sand Pities such fair Opportunities of sin­ning should be lost, and so many precious Minutes should be so ill bestowed: So that the reason of our Delay is this, that at pre­sent we apprehend we can spend our time more pleasantly in sinning on, than in the Exercise of a severe Repentance, and conse­quently, while we can still sin on with Plea­sure, we shall still have the same reason to delay, and never think it reasonable to begin our Repentance till we are old, decrepid, or dying, and can sin with Pleasure no longer. Now what a profane Reflection is it upon God and his Service, to think our selves too good to serve him till we are good for no­thing; that the Dregs and Lees of our Life are good enough for him, and that he ought to be satisfied with the leavings of our Lusts, and to take it as a Favour that we will re­pent of our sins when we are no longer capable of sinning with Pleasure? With what Patience can he endure to be thus slight­ed and contemned by us, to be thus rudely put off with the Refuse of our Lusts, thus unmannerly treated with the Scraps of the Devil's Table?

3. To defer our Repentance when God gives us space to repent, is an open con­tempt of his Authority; for by the Laws of Religion we are bound either always to con­tinue [Page 236] innocent, or when we have contracted any Guilt, to expiate it by immediate Repen­tance; for so long as we continue under a­ny guilty Impenitence, we are in a state of actual Rebellion against God, and are not only accountable for the Guilt of the first Sin, but also for that of not having re­pented of it. And though we do not re­peat the first Sin any more, yet our very con­tinuing impenitent under the Guilt of it, brings a distinct Guilt upon us, and renders us doubly criminal in the sight of God; for unless our sinning against God doth cancel the Obligation of his Laws, they must ne­cessarily oblige us to repent, that is, to re­voke our wicked purpose, and return to our Obedience as soon as ever we have broken and transgressed it. 'Tis true indeed as for particular affirmative Precepts, they being always relative to Time, and Place, and Per­sons, are to be practised only in special Times, and pertinent Occasions, because they being but Parts of a good Life, must give way by turns for other Parts and Instances of it, which are of the like particular and limited Nature with themselves; but yet we are al­ways obliged to the Purpose and Disposition of Practising these, whensoever Occasion doth require it. A man is not always bound to be doing Iustice, by giving Alms, or say­ing his Prayers; but to the Devotion of Pray­er, [Page 237] the Disposition of Justice, and the Chari­ty of Alms he is continually obliged: These being Works of the inward Man cannot be limited to Times and Opportunities, nor receive any accidental Determinations from without, but are always possible, and al­ways good, and always necessary; for the performance of them depends only on the Grace of God, and the Will of Man, and that never fails, if this doth not; and there­fore is always possible, unless we will not, but it is always necessary whether we will or no: So that when we have broken our purpose of obeying God by any actual Sin, it is another distinct Sin, not to renew it by immediate Repentance, and when by this actual Sin, we have lost our disposition to obey God, and contracted the contrary, there is in this a proper Guilt, and Venom distinct from that actual Sin that introduced it. But then there are general Precepts, of Religion, such as to love God, and to Repent from dead Works; the first of which includes the whole Religion of a Man, the second, the whole Religion of a Sinner; and consequent­ly we being both, must needs be universally obliged to both these Duties in all Acci­dents, Times, and Cases. For when once we have apostatized from our Duty, all our after-obedience is an Act of Repentance; and therefore though the Command of it be af­firmative, [Page 238] yet because it is universal, inclu­ding all those Duties, which by binding at several Times, do fill up all our Time; there can be no Time in which we are not bound to repent. This I have the longer insisted on, because it is a great Question among the Roman Casuists, whether a Man be always bound to this Duty, and some of them have been so wicked, as to determin that a Man is not bound to repent till he comes to die; others, that it is sufficient if he repent once a Year; others thrice upon the Three great Holidays of Christmas, Easter, and Whitsun­day; as if there were any time wherein it was not our Duty to return to our Duty; or the Laws of our Religion did only oblige us at certain seasons, and in the Intervals gave us a free Dispensation to live as wick­edly as we pleased. Since therefore as soon as we have sinned, we are bound immediately to repent, it necessarily follows, that he who sins, and then delays his Repentance, sins Twice; his very Delay being a far­ther Provocation. For how can we imagine that he who persists in Rebellion against God Twenty Years together, doth not much more offend him, than he who submits within Twenty Months, or Twenty Days, or Twenty Hours; and if the longer we per­sist, the more we do offend him, then every delay of our Repentance must needs be a fur­ther [Page 239] Provocation. The Sum of all therefore is this, that every Day God calls us to Repentance, and that every Call of his ought to be regarded, and consequently, that every regardless Delay of it, adds to the heap of our Guilt, and helps to fill up the Measure of our Iniquities. And what a rude Contempt is it of Gods Authority, when he commands us to repent to Day, to cry well we will repent tomorrow? Lord, we be­seech thee be not so hasty with us, suffer us to of­fend thee yet a little longer; for whether thou wilt or no, we are resolved to do it. We will re­pent, but will not be prescribed when, as for that, leave it to us, for say what thou wilt, we are fully resolved to take leave to do it when we please. This in effect is the impious meaning of every Delay of our Repentance, and when God commands us to repent, we might as modestly tell him that we will not repent at all, as when he commands us to repent now, tell him, that we will repent hereafter.

4. To defer our Repentance when God giveth us space to repent, is an impious Pre­sumption on his Goodness. The reason why God forbears us when we sin, is to give us second Thoughts, and to see our Danger, and to run away from it; that so he may not surprize us into ruine: for the end of his long-suffering, is to lead us to Repent­ance; but when upon this Consideration we [Page 240] take encouragement to delay, we do not on­ly defeat his Goodness, but so far as in us lies, render it injurious to him. For we war against him under the Protection of his kind­ness to us, and fortifie our selves in our Re­bellion, in that very Goodness, and Long-suffer­ing, with which he seeks to conquer and sub­due us. O barbarous Ingratitude! that we should fetch Arguments from his mercy to offend him, and maintain Enmity against him out of the Revenue of his own Indul­gence! would you not look on that Male­factor as a Monster, that should rob his Iudge meerly because he reprieved him, and use him with all the Despite and Ignominy, be­cause he knew him to be a merciful Man, and will be loath to hang him the next Sessi­ons? and is it not altogether as monstrous for us to abuse God, because he is kind to us, and to take Encouragement to rob him of our Duty, because we know he is unwilling to ruine us? but tho' every Man hath not Im­pudence enough to assign this Reason, yet it is plain, this lies at the bottom of all their Delays. Because Sentence against an evil Work is not executed speedily, faith the Wise Man, therefore the Heart of the Sons of Men is fully set in 'em to do Evil, Eccles. 8. 11. But what horrid Baseness is this, to urge his Goodness against himself, and fetch Motives from his Mercy to affront his Authority? it seems, if [Page 241] he were worse to us, we would be better to him; if he were less kind, we would be more dutiful. O Wretches that we are! I had al­most said, 'tis even pity that we have a God to deal with, that we are not under the Go­vernment of some Fury that would watch for our halting, and catch at all Opportuni­ties to plague and punish us; and we were best have a care we do not presume too much upon God, for tho' he bears long, he will not bear always; and there is nothing can sooner provoke him, than to see us con­duct our Rebellions against him under the Banners of his own Goodness. This is such an intolerable Provocation as is sufficient to inrage a Soul of Patience, and turn the most boundless Mercy into Fury: and if once his Wrath be kindled against us, he will make us rue for ever in our Abuses of his Good­ness.

5. And lastly, To defer our Repentance when God gives us space for it, is an arro­gant Defiance of his Displeasure, for God hath sufficiently declared to us the Displea­sure he takes in the Delays of our Repen­tance. Thus in his holy Word he hath given us fair warning of it; thus Rom. 2. 4. despisest thou the Riches of his Goodness, and Forbearance, and Long-suffering, not knowing that the Good­ness of God leadeth thee to Repentance? From whence I argue 1. that the Goodness of [Page 242] God is a Motive to Repentance. 2. That not to be persuaded by it, is to despise his Goodness. 3. That this despising his Good­ness by delaying our Repentance, is treasuring up Wrath against the Day of Wrath. So also Rev. 2. 5. remember from whence thou art faln, and repent, and do thy first Works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy Can­dlestick out of its place except thou repent. Where he plainly declares, that if our Re­pentance be not very quickly, his Judg­ments will be too quick for us; by which he plainly signifies how much he is displeased with our Delays, how importunately they urge and provoke him to overwhelm us with a speedy Destruction And accordingly we see by Experience, how he takes some away in their early sins, and gives them no respite; and he who hath made it Damna­tion to some for not repenting instantly, hath made it damnable to all. The Earth doth not open, and swallow up all Rebels in the Day of their Mutiny; but it did so once, and thereby God hath sufficiently signified to all Ages his Displeasure against Rebellion; And so it is in deferring Repentance; for that some have smarted for it eternally is a sufficient Manifestation that God is displea­sed with every one that defers it. Whilst therefore we delay our Repentance from time to time, we sit down quietly under the [Page 243] divine Displeasure, as if it were altogether indifferent whether the Almighty be pleased or displeased with us; we do as good as say, Lord, we know well enough thou wouldst have us repent immediately, and that if we do not, thou wilt be angry with us; but be thou never so an­gry, we will not repent us yet, we must enjoy our Lusts a little longer, and if thou wilt be displea­sed, we will run the venture. We had rather endure thy Frowns a while, than part with our sins for ever, and think it much more tolerable to be hated by the Fountain of all Love and Good­ness, than abandoned of all our sinful Pleasures. This is such Language perhaps as the bold­est Sinner would hardly be able to pro­nounce without trembling, but yet such as it is, it is the natural Sense of every Mans Actions, who delays and puts off his Re­pentance: he knows that God is displeased with him, but regards it not, and as if he were ambitious of being a Heroe in Wick­edness, he defies Heaven, and dallies with its Thunder-bolts, and runs into the Mouth of its Canon whilst they are spitting Fire, and roaring out Destruction upon him.

And thus you see the monstrous Wicked­ness of Mens delaying their Repentance, which is such, as had we not seared our Con­sciences, and stifled our natural Sense of God, we could never be able to reflect on without Horror and Agonies. And so I pass to the [Page 244] Second Head of Discourse, the great Absur­dity of delaying our Repentance; which I shall endeavour to demonstrate in these fol­lowing particulars.

1. It is putting off a Work that must be done to the most unfitting Season of doing it.

2. It is putting it off upon no other Rea­son, but what will hereafter be more prevalent than now.

3. It deprives us of the Satisfaction of having done what we must do at last, and prolongs the Pain and Trouble of doing it.

4. It defers the doing it upon no other Presumption, but that it shall one Day dearly repent of its own Neglect.

1. To delay our Repentance, is to put off a Work that must be done to the most unfitting Season of doing it. That Repen­tance is indispensibly necessary to the Reco­very and Happiness of a Sinner, is a Princi­ple wherein all the reasonable World are a­greed; and since it must be done, it is high­ly reasonable we should take the best Op­portunity of doing it, and for a Man to say, I must do such a thing, and am resolved to do it, but however, I will take the most impro­per Season to do it in, is the most absurd and ridiculous Thing in the World. But for a Man to repent in, there is no Season can be [Page 245] so convenient as the present; for it will ne­ver be so easy for us to repent as now; the difficulty of it will daily grow upon our hands, and if we do not engage in it imme­diately, it will be harder to morrow than it is to day. When Men begin to sin, their Na­ture starts and boggles at it, from an innate Sense of God, and of their Duty, and this natural shiness must be tamed and broken e'er they can be through-pac'd in Wickedness; but when they have inured themselves to it by frequent Acts, they grow by degrees fami­liar with it, and then every Act breeds De­light in it, and every Delight begets a Desire of repeating it, and that Desire brings forth a new Act. And when a Man hath walked the Rounds a while in this Circle, at last he centers in Custom and Habit of sinning, and then every new Act will confirm the Habit, and root it deeper in our Natures, and so as we sin on, it will grow stronger and stron­ger, 'till at last it becomes almost fatal and necessary, and then the Lord have mercy up­on us; for without a Miracle of Grace we shall never be able to retrieve our selves. Thus every step we take in our sinful Pro­gress, leads us further out of our way, and renders our return more hard and difficult, so that by going on in a sinful Course, we do what in us lies to block up the way of our Return, and do as it were build a Wall be­hind [Page 246] us, to disable our selves from making any Retreat. What a ridiculous Thing there­fore is it for Men to pretend that they will repent, but not yet; when it is so apparent, that if they repent not now, it will never be so easie again as long as they live? To Morrow it will be more difficult than now, and every Day it is delayed will drive it nearer to an Impossibility: So that by our foolish Delays, we do but make Work for our selves, and heap up Difficulties on our own Heads; we resolve that we will repent, but withal, that we will not go about it, till we have render'd it more difficult, and our selves less able to do it. Our Soul is wounded, and must die without the sovereign Balsom of Repentance, which we therefore resolve to apply and make use of; but first her Wound shall fester into a Gangrene, not to be cured, but by the most painful Lancings, and Corrosives. And can there be any Thing more ridiculous for a Man to resolve to do a Thing, and at the same time resolve to make it more difficult before he doth it? For certainly, if our Repentance after so ma­ny Delays, should at last commence, which is very questionable, it will in all probabi­lity be accompanied with so many sad Cir­cumstances, so many Tumults of Passion, and Uproars of Conscience, so many piercing Sor­rows, and bitter Agonies, that we shall [Page 247] dearly repent we did not repent sooner.

2. To delay our Repentance, is to re­solve to defer this Work to hereafter, upon a Reason which will then be much more pre­valent than now; and for a Man to defer a Thing to hereafter which he resolves to do upon such a Reason as will be much more prevalent hereafter than now, is doubtless the absurdest Thing in the World. Now the main Reason why Men are now unwil­ling to repent is, because they love their sins, and are unwilling to part with them, and in all likelihood, hereafter they will be much more unwilling; so that this Reason will every Day improve upon their hands, and have so much the more strength, by how much the longer they defer their Repent­ance: So that we can have no Reason in the World against fixing on the present Time, but only because it is present; but when hereafter comes to be present, the Reason will be just the same. But as for our Unwil­lingness to leave our sins, if that be the Rea­son of our Delay, that will every Day in­crease and grow more prevalent upon us; for Sin gains, upon the Will by Practice, the Delight of it recommends it to the De­sire, and renders us more fond of its Embra­ces; so that if we defer our Repentance till hereafter, because we are unwilling to leave our Sins, when that hereafter is present, we [Page 248] shall have much more reason to defer than now; and so the plain Sense of our deferring our Repentance upon this reason, is this, I cannot yet forsake my Sins, because I love them, and am highly pleased with them, but hereafter I am resolved I will; but first I will act them a lit­tle longer, and grow more in love with them, and then when I love them more, and am more inslaved to them, I will be sure to hate and for­sake them for ever. Whilst therefore we de­lay our Repentance, because our Sins do please us, we shall have the same reason to delay it for ever. For the longer we live in Sin, in all probability, the more it will please us; and so Twenty Years hence, the reason of our Delay will be far more pre­valent than now; and if we forsake not our sin till it ceases to please us, we shall never forsake it as long as we live: So that to re­solve not to repent now, because our sins do please us, is the same thing in effect as to resolve not to repent at all; and indeed this generally lies at the bottom of all such Re­solutions, when mens Consciences like im­portunate Creditors begin to dun and clamour upon them, they are forc'd many times to give good Words, and appoint some future Day of Payment, else they will put them to a great deal of Trouble, and ever and anon arrest them with Horrors and Affrightments; but still they purpose to run further in Debt, [Page 249] and to put off the Day of payment from time to time, till they are utterly insolvent. So that by these promises of repenting here­after, Men only delude themselves, and un­der a specious Pretence of future Repentance put tricks upon their Consciences to blind and bribe them that may not disturb them whilst they are sinning themselves into Ruin.

3. By delaying our Repentance we deprive our selves of the satisfaction of having done what we must do at last, and prolong the pain and trouble of doing it. To have accomplish'd a necessary Work, especially if it be difficult and important, is a great satisfaction to the Mind; and whereas, whilst it is yet to do, the prospect of the Pain and Labour we must undergo in doing it creates in us a great deal of Trouble and Anxiety; when once it is done, the very Reflection on the Pains and Labours we have past, sweetens our present repose, and crowns it with greater Joy and Triumph. And so it is with Repentance, which we all acknowledge to be a most ne­cessary Work, and of the vastest Moment and Importance to us; and tho' it be never so painful and difficult, yet we must undergo it, or that which is much more intolerable; so that if once it were done, it could not but give a great satisfaction to our Minds, and fill us with unspeakable Joy. When a Man shall thus reflect with himself, Blessed [Page 250] be God, I have done that work, which had it been yet to do I must have done, or been undone for ever. I charged thro' all those pains and difficulties that were wont to startle and affright me, and by the grace of Heaven am come off vi­ctoriously. O happy Atchievement! how well am I rewarded for all my labour! now I am past it, and settled in the quiet possession of my conquest! When, I say, a Man can thus re­flect with himself, it must needs be unspeak­able Pleasure to him: whereas he who defers his Repentance and hath it yet to do, is in perpetual pain and anxiety; whilst he thus considers with himself, alas, to repent is a very sad and painful work! but yet at last I must undergo it, or suffer that which is a thou­sand times more painful. I must lament and weep for my folly, watch and pray against it, struggle with and overcome it, or rue for it to all Eternity. O that it were done! but O how loth am I to go about it! O that my pain were over! but O how afraid am I to indure it! Thus the poor Wretch for fear of Pain ex­poses himself to a lingering Torment, and whilst by one brave Attempt he might ease himself, and set his soul at rest for ever, he languishes away his Life in misery, and is sick with the fear of his Remedy: just like some Men under the torments of the Stone, they know they must be cut or die, but the frightful apprehensions they have of their [Page 251] Remedy makes them delay it from time to time. They will indure it, they say, ra­ther than lose their Lives, but when they come to the tryal their heart fails and they must needs have a little longer respite; and all the while they are full of pain and un­easiness, and full of sad Apprehensions of those severer pains they must indure in order to their recovery, and yet these at last they must indure too or that which is much more terrible to them; whereas had they but in­dured them at first, they might have saved themselves all those Torments, and all those Fears of farther Torments which they in­dured in the time of their delay. And is not this extreamly absurd and ridiculous? And yet just thus it is with those who put off their Repentance. Had they repented on their first Lapse, their hearts might have been at ease a great while ago, and they might have saved themselves all those gripes and twinges of Conscience which they have been forced to indure. But Repentance they thought was a sad remedy, and the fear of that too augmented the torment of their disease. But be it never so sad, they know well enough they must at last apply it, or perish for ever. Well; but they will ap­ply it, that they resolve on; but fain they would have a little longer respite. Ah foolish Souls! will it hereafter be more easy [Page 252] than now to you? Will your Delay do you think mollify the pain and anguish of it? Alas no, it will rather render it more dolor­ous. So that all the while you delay, and think of it only but do not do it, you do but anticipate the Torment, and prolong the misery of it; and whereas if once it were done you would be at rest, and all the pain of your past Guilt, and the fear of your future Repentance would be over; whilst you only think of it but do it not, is is a continued Disease to you, and the very Apprehensions you have of it are many times more dolorous than the per­formance.

4. And lastly, to delay our Repentance is to do a thing upon no other presumption, but that we shall one Day repent of our own Action. And can there be any thing more ridiculous than for a Man to do an Action in hope that he shall live to repent of it? for either the Action is reasonable, or not, if it be, why should he hope to re­pent of it? if it be not, why should he be so extravagant to do it? so that for a Man to do a Thing upon Presumption that he shall repent of it, is to proclaim himself a Fool; and yet this is the Case of him that de­lays his Repentance. For that this very De­lay is a Sin superadded to those criminal Acti­ons of which he ought to repent, I have al­ready [Page 253] demonstrated; from whence it neces­sarily follows, that this must be repented of as well as those. So that for Men to encou­rage themselves not to repent at present, in hope that they shall repent hereafter, is to act professedly contrary to the reasons of Things. For if the Nature of our Delay is such as that we have reason to hope we shall one day repent of it, this is so far from be­ing a proper Encouragement to it, that it is one of the strongest Reasons that can be ur­ged against it; and for a Man to rob in hope to be hang'd for it, or to drink deadly Poi­son in hope to be convulsed and tormented with it, is every whit as wise and rational, as to delay our Repentance in hope to repent of it. For who but a Mad-man, or one that is resolved to act counter to all Rules of Reason, would ever practise on this extra­vagant Conclusion; I will do this or that Action at present, in hope that hereafter I shall be sorry for, and extreamly ashamed of it, and wish a Thousand times that I had never done it. I know it is a great Evil, and do plainly per­ceive, that one time or other I shall find it so; but come what will, I will venture upon it, in hope that hereafter I shall be ashamed with the horror of it, and tormented for it upon the Rack of a self-condemning Conscience. And now, I beseech you, is this a reasonable Hope, or proper Encouragement for a wise Man to act [Page 254] upon? or rather, is it not one of the most ab­surd and foolish that ever any Fool or Mad-man proceeded on? and yet this is plainly the Meaning of our Pretension, when we delay our Repentance in hope to repent of it here­after.

And thus you see how extravagantly ab­surd it is for Men to defer and put off their Repentance; so that methinks had we any Reverence for our selves, any Respect for those reasonable Natures by which we are consti­tuted Men, we should be ashamed to act so inconsistently with all the Rules of Reason and Sobriety: and so I pass on to

3. The Third and last Head, under which I proposed to demonstrate the mighty Evil of delaying our Repentance, and that is the Danger of it; which I shall endeavour to make appear in these following particu­lars.

  • 1. Every Delay of our Repentance, is a nearer Approach towards final Impeni­tence.
  • 2. 'Tis a desperate Venture of our Oppor­tunity of Repentance.
  • 3. It indangers the forfeiting that Grace without the Assistance whereof we can­not repent.
  • 4. It drives us nearer to the last Extre­mity.

[Page 255] 1. Every Delay of our Repentance is a nearer Approach towards final Impenitence. For a sinful State is like a shelving Pool, in which the farther a man wades, the deeper it is; and so deeper and deeper till he come to the bottom of it; and when we are there, we are sunk beyond all hope of Recovery; so that at every step forward, we are in Dan­ger of going beyond our Depth, and plung­ing into an irreversible Ruine. For final Im­penitence, which is the Consummation and Perfection of all Sin, is nothing but a perse­vering Neglect, or Refusal to repent. And as a Man is always dying, and that which we call Death is only the last and finishing Act of it; so final Impenitence is not the Sin of one Day or Moment, unless it be by acci­dent, but it is a state of Sin, begun as soon as ever the Sin is acted, and carried on through each repeated Action, and in fine is nothing but the same Sin so many times told over. But if it should happen, that he who sinned Yesterday should die to Day, it would be final Impenitance in him to defer his Re­pentance that one Day. So that our first Delay of Repentance, is the beginning of our final Impenitence, which in all its Peri­ods differs from the Delay only by Chance and Accident; it is materially the same Sin, and if Death chance to strike the next Mo­ment, it will also have the same Formality. [Page 256] For as he that dies young, dies as really as he that dies after Fourscore Years, so he that dies in the midst of a short Delay of his Re­pentance is as well finally Impenitent, as he that is snatch'd away to die for ever after Fourscore Years Impenitence; for though the Evil be hot so great, nor the Judgment consequent to it so heavy, yet is it as fatal, and as irreversible as the Decree of Damna­tion on the fallen Angels. So that all the Time we delay, and put off our Repentance, we are bordering on the worst of Evils, we are just upon the Confines of an irreversible Mischief, and the next step for all we know may carry us beyond Recovery. For if Death should intervene between us and to morrow, this Days delay will be fatal, and ir­reparable. And can we stand upon the brinks of this Precipice, and feel how the ground sinks underneath us, and yet sleep on se­curely, without ever thinking whether we are falling, or being in the least concerned at this amazing Prospect of our Danger? Methinks if we had any concern for our own safety, we should think it high time now to start up, and run away from our neighbour­ing Ruin, and not presume any longer to swim within the Circumference of this fatal Whirl-Pool that is every Moment sucking us in, and for all we know the next Moment may swallow us up irrecoverably.

[Page 257] 2. Every Delay of our Repentance is a desperate Venture of the Opportunity we have to repent in, and that is this present Life, which is the Day in which we are to do our Work, the Time of Tryal in which we are to pass our Probation, and perform our Exercise for Eternity; and therefore con­sidering how uncertain this Life is, and to how many Events and Casualties it is expo­sed, it must needs be a most desperate Ven­ture for a Man to delay his Repentance. For who can tell but while we talk of repent­ing hereafter, there may be some latent Dis­ease undermining the Fort of Life, and rea­dy to seize the Garrison of our Souls; So that perhaps before this Day is at an end, we may be surprised in the midst of our De­lay, and lose all our hopes of to morrow? For what is vain Man that he should talk of repenting hereafter, when perhaps, whilst the Word is in his Mouth, there may be an Imposthume in his Head or Breast, or a ripe harden'd Stone in his Kidney ready to drop down into his Bladder the next Mo­ment; when he may be inflamed with a Fe­ver by what he drinks to Night, or drown­ed in a Surfeit with what he eats to Mor­row; when he may expire his Soul with the next Breath, or suck in Poison with the next Air, and so many unlook'd for Accidents may put an end to his talk of repenting here­after, [Page 258] and render it impossible for ever. And suppose we should be thus surprized, as many others have been before us, that while we are merry and jolly in our Sins, that all on a suddain we should be hurried away out of the Company of our jovial Associ­ates, into that of howling and tormented Spi­rits, and from our Songs and Laughter into weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of Teeth; how should we be blanked and amazed, and with what Horror and Astonishment should we reflect upon the woful Change, and upon our own desperate Folly that was the Cause of it? How dare we then talk of repenting hereafter, who cannot command one Mo­ment of future Time, nor promise our selves one Day longer? when for all we know the hope of Eternity that is now in our hands may be lost for ever, and drop through our fingers before to Morrow Morning; and we that lie down this Night, and sleep secure­ly in our Sins, may before the next Twi­light awake with Horror and Amazement in Hell? Blessed God! that ever any reaso­nable Creatures should be so stupified, to venture a Soul and an everlasting Interest on so great an Uncertainty, and rather than begin his Repentance to day, run the hazard of being eternally miserable to morrow Morn­ing! that he who will not trust his Gold one hour in the Possession of a Thief, nor [Page 259] his Life one minute within the reach of a Lions Paw, should abandon his Soul whole Months and Years together, to the Mercy of a Danger great enough to distract all the Wits of Mankind, did they but fully un­derstand it! Let us therefore consider that the present Time only is in our Power, and that as for the future, it is wholly in God's; so that while we defer our Repentance to the future, we do as it were cast Lots for our Souls, and venture our everlasting Hopes up­on a Contingency that is not in our Power to dispose of. For all we know, this may be the Evening of our Day of Tryal; and if it be, our Life and Eternity depends upon what we are now doing. Wherefore it high­ly concerns us, as we regard our own Safe­ty, wisely to manage this last Stake, the winning or losing whereof, may prove our making or undoing.

3. Every Delay of our Repentance en­dangers the forfeiture of that Grace, with­out the Assistance whereof, we can never repent to purpose. For we can no more re­pent without God's Grace, than we can live without our Food. No man can come to me, saith our Saviour, except the Father which hath sent me draw him. Joh. 6. 44. But since God hath promised, that if we draw near to him, he will draw near unto us. Jam. 4. 8. that if we work out our own salvation, he will work [Page 260] in us to will, and to do. Philip. 2. 12. and that he will give the holy Spirit unto every one that asks him. Luke 11. 13. Since I say, God hath thus intailed his Grace upon our Endeavours, Repentance is within our Pow­er, so long as that Grace is so; by which, if we do our Endeavour, we shall be ena­bled to it. He who can repent by the Grace of God, is able to repent so long as he is a­ble to obtain his Grace to assist and concur with his Endeavours; but if he once with­draw his Grace, and give us over to our own Hearts Lusts, then are we no more a­ble to repent by our own natural Strength and Power, than a Clod of Earth is to mount up to Heaven, and fix it self a glorious Star in the Firmament: But all the time we do delay our Repentance, we are wearying out the Grace of God, which whilst we are run­ning away from God and our Duty, follows us with Importunities to return; but instead of complying with it, we still defer to listen to its Sollicitations, and put it off from time to time with false and empty Promises, what can be expected but that after so many de­feats and disappointments it should at last abandon, us to our selves, and leave us to the miserable Fate of our own Folly and Mad­ness: and if once it doth so, farewel to all the Hopes of our Recovery. Consider there­fore, O thou vain Man, that sayst thou wilt [Page 261] repent hereafter; must thou command God to wait thy leisure, or fasten his Grace with such adamantine Chains as that it should ne­ver be able to get loose from thee? art thou sure it will be always at thy Beck, or that notwithstanding thy long Provocations, it will be ready to come in to thy aid whenso­ever thou callest for its Assistance? for by promising to repent hereafter, thou dost not only promise for thy self, but for the Grace of God too, whose Assistance is as necessary to thy Repentance, as thy own Endeavour; and methinks 'tis a strange piece of Confi­dence in thee, to promise for that which thou hast so much disobliged, and which upon that account thou hast so little reason to trust to. 'Tis true God hath promised you his Grace, but I beseech you, where hath he promised that you shall have it when you please? or that after all his Tenders, and your scornful Refusal of it, it shall be still at your Choice whether you will at last accept of, or again refuse it? for unless you can produce some such Promise as this, you can have no reason to expect that God will still continue his Grace to you, how long soever you refuse and reject it: And if he should at last deal by you, as you have dealt by him, this will be the final Issue, because when he hath called, you have re­fused, when he hath stretched out his hand, [Page 262] you have not regarded, but have set all his Counsels at naught, and would not hearken to his Importunities; therefore when you call, he will not answer, when you seek, he will not be found; but will even laugh at your Necessity, and mock when your last Extremity comes upon you. And should things be reduc'd once to this sad Issue, woe be to us that ever we were born.

4. And lastly, Every Delay of our Re­pentance drives us nearer to the last Extre­mity, which is that of a Death-bed Repent­ance; and how great a one that is, I have already shewed you at large, and given you evident Proof, that tho' it be not absolutely desperate, yet it is most fearfully hazardous and comfortless; and yet this is the com­mon Center to which all our Delays do na­turally tend. We venture to sin on, because we know that if we do repent, God will have Mercy upon us, and so we do resolve upon both; that is to sin now, and to repent hereafter. And by this Train the Devil touls us on through all the Stages of Sin and Life, till we come to our Death-bed, and then when our Time and Strength is spent, we shall have all the Business of our Life to do, and being reduc'd to this Extremity, what a woful Condition shall we be in? when we shall feel our selves departing into a long Eternity of Weal or Woe, and have nothing [Page 263] to bear us company thither, but our Sins and Guilts, which, if they be not cancelled in an instant, will consign us immediately to endless Misery; and whether we look either within, without, or above us, shall be able to see nothing but a black and dismal Cloud hanging over us, and Causes of Fear sur­rounding us on every side; how will our Heart sink within us, and our Soul quiver on our Lips to think how naked and har­bourless she is left, having no other Refuge to fly to, now the Avengers of Blood are at her heels, but only that wronged and af­fronted Mercy which all her Life time she spurned and trampled on? When we shall consider what a vast Work we have to do, how little Time we have to do it in, how our own Strength is spent, and what little Reason we have to expect that God should strengthen us by a Miracle; in what a Tu­mult will our Souls be? how shall we quake and tremble to think whither we are going? and what will become of us for ever? Sure­ly if we die in our Wits, and are not Athe­ists or Sots, it will be impossible for us to reflect on our selves and the fearful Risque we are running, without extream Horror and Amazement. For we must be strangely stupified, if when we perceive our selves up­on the Confines of Eternity, within a very few Moments of being Happy or Miserable for [Page 264] ever, we do not awake from our Security; and if we do, the vastness of the Work that lies upon our Hands, the number of the Guilts that will stare us in the Face, and the little Time and Power we have to perform the one and expiate the other, must needs put our guilty Consciences into a fearful A­gony, and unchain, and let loose all its Ter­rors upon us: And then how miserable will our Condition be, when we shall look about for Comfort, and see nothing but God's everlasting Threats ready to be fired and discharged upon us, and not one Promise opening a Door of Hope, nor any Arm of Mercy held forth to catch us now we are leaping down into Eternity; but Hell gaping for us as wide as our Grave, and both rea­dy to receive a part of us, and our selves ready to divide our selves into those Two sad Habitations. O then shall we sigh and lament our Folly, and curse our lingring De­lays, and wish a Thousand and a Thousand Times we had begun our Repentance soon­er. This is the sad Extremity whereunto we are driving in every Delay of our Repent­ance; and considering all these Things, me­thinks these mighty Dangers whereunto our Delays expose us, should be enough to fright­en the most resolute Sinner into present pur­poses of Amendment. And O would to God, that this might be the happy Effect [Page 265] of it! that Men at last would be but so wise as to consider these things, how monstrously Wicked, how shamefully Absurd, how fear­fully Dangerous it is for them to put off their Repentance; and that considering this they would be so kind to themselves as now at last to betake themselves to the Disci­pline of a severe Repentance. This I know is a Word that Men are extreamly frighted at, they think if once they betake them­selves to Repentance, they must encounter with vast Difficulties, and enter into a very dolorous and unpleasant Course of Life, which while they can live merrily in their Sins, they are very loath to do. And indeed I cannot deny, but after an habitual Course of Sin, our Entrance into a penitent Life, will in all probability, be attended with a great deal of Sorrow and Disquiet, but who can help this? it is you that have brought this Inconvenience on your selves by defer­ring your Repentance so long; and assure your selves, the longer you defer it, the more difficult it will be whenever you begin. But for God's sake consider Sirs, which do you think will be more uneasie, to undergo the Severities of Repentance for a Time, or Hell Fire for ever; to weep for your Sins whilst you have Hope of Mercy, to contest against them whilst you have a Prospect of Victory; or sigh and groan for them to all [Page 266] Eternity, without any hope of Ease or Re­demption; for whether you will or no, you must endure Repentance or Hell; and there­fore since there is no other remedy, at least be persuaded to choose that which is most tolerable, and if you do so, I am sure you must conclude, that 'tis infinitely easier to repent, than to be damned. But yet it is plain, that Men do commonly fancy Re­pentance to be much more grievous than it is; for could they once persuade them­selves to resolve upon the Work, and seri­ously to engage in it, they would find the greatest part of the Trouble were over; for the main Difficulty of Repentance, lies in forming our first Resolution; this in­deed will exact great Consideration, and vi­gorous Struggling with the wicked Habits and Inclinations of our own Natures; but when we have so far overcome our selves, as to obtain a full and clear Consent and Resolution, we have past the main brunt of our spiritual Warfare, and if we have but the Courage to keep our Ground, shall soon be crowned with the Joys of Victory, and that which seem'd at first so frightful, and terrible to us, will presently grow tole­rable, and soon after easie, and after that by degrees so pleasant and delightful, that we shall prefer it before all the Pleasures of Sense, and feel our selves infinitely more [Page 267] blessed and happy in it, than ever we were in the midst of the highest Ravishments of our sinful Delights. Come then, my Bre­thren, let us stand no longer amusing our selves with the Difficulties, but let us seri­ously consider the indispensible necessity of it, the great Assistance God hath promised us if we will speedily undertake it, and the immense Rewards he proffers to encourage us to it, and let us never leave pressing our selves with these Considerations, till we have obtained of our selves a full and free con­sent to it, and wrought our Wills into a serious and hearty Resolution. And when we have prevailed thus far, we have gotten over the greatest Difficulty that lies between us and Heaven, and if we do but vigorously pursue our Resolution, our Work will eve­ry day grow easier and easier, and so at last it will be our Recreation, and we shall reap from it so much Peace of Conscience, so much Ioy in the Holy Ghost, such a calm and sweet Enjoyment of our selves, and such a glorious Hope of a future blessed Immortali­ty, as will carry us with unspeakable Vi­gour through all the weary Stages of our Duty, till we are arrived to our Journeys end, where all the Sorrows of our Repent­ance shall be swallowed up in everlasting Joys and Triumphs.

LUKE XXII. 42.‘Nevertheless, not my Will, but thine be done.’

THESE Words are a Part of our Saviour's Prayer in his Agony; in which his Soul being at present under a mighty Contest with the Powers of Darkness, and under a vigorous Apprehension of his approaching Passion on the Cross, expresses an earnest, but yet natu­ral and innocent Desire of Deliverance; Fa­ther, if thou be willing, saith he, remove this Cup from me. For his Humanity being now in a great measure deprived of the Supports and comfortable Influence of his Divinity, and left alone to grapple by its own single Strength, with the powerful Malice of Men and Devils, and being under a piercing Sense of those mighty Evils they intended against him, began to recoil and shrink, out of a na­tural desire to preserve it self; but yet this natural desire being perfectly under the Go­vernment of his Reason, and that as per­fectly under the Government of God, He does to this Effect address himself to God, Fa­ther, if it be thy Will, remove this Cup away from me. I do not desire in the least to con­troul or cross thy blessed Will in any thing, no, rather than thou shouldst suffer the least Disap­pointment [Page 269] in thy blessed Intentions, I am ready to undergo the utmost that the Malice of Men and Devils can inflict upon me; but alas! the Evils that I feel and fear are so exceeding grie­vous unto Flesh and Blood, that if it might be without Contradiction to thy Will, or Preju­dice to thy gracious Intentions to a sinful World, I cannot but earnestly desire that they might be removed from me. But if there be any the least Competition between thy Designs and my Desires, so that they do not fairly agree, and perfectly consist with one another, whatsoever I endure, not my Will, but thine be done.

Behold here a most perfect Pattern of Sub­mission to the Will of God, and that under the most dismal and difficult Circumstances. When he plainly saw it was the Will of his Father to expose him to the utmost Extremi­ty of humane Misery, to object his naked Breast to the utmost Malice of Men and Devils; when, by the Force of a most powerful In­stinct, his Nature recoiled at the Apprehen­sion of it, and would fain have been excu­sed; then did he supplicate on his bended Knees, that his Father would not listen to the innocent Language of his natural Fears and Desires, but that he would fully execute his own severe and terrible Will upon him; not my Will, O Father, i. e. not the Will of my natural Fear and Desire of Self-preser­vation, but thy Will be done; though it be to in­flict [Page 270] on me the utmost Misery that a poor Inno­cent, as I am, can be exposed to. The Words being thus explained, do naturally resolve themselves into this Proposition,

That God's Choices for us, are much better than our own, and consequently, that if it were in our Power to deter­mine which of the Two should take Ef­fect, it would be very unreasonable not to choose what God hath chose for us.

The Truth of which will evidently ap­pear if we consider these Two Things:

  • 1. That God doth as really and heartily will what is Good for us, as we do for our selves.
  • 2. That he knows much better what is Good for us than we.

1. That God doth as really and heartily will what is Good for us, as we do for our selves; i. e. So long as we are proper Ob­jects of his good Will, and have not sinned our selves into an utter Incapacity of being beloved by him; for then the Case quite alters, and that good Will which he former­ly bore us, converts into a severe Resolution of making us dreadful Examples to others, that so when through our own Obstinacy and Incorrigibleness he can do no more good upon us, he may do good to others by us, and warn them not to imitate our Actions by the fearful Example of our Sufferings. [Page 271] But so long as there is any Hope of doing good upon us, he declares himself as hear­tily inclined to do good to us, as ever any Man was to do good to himself; for what mighty Designs hath he set on foot? what expensive Methods hath he used to save us? in what passionate Strains hath he expressed his good Will towards us, and with what restless Importunity doth he court us to be happy? He swears by his own Life, that he desires not our Ruine, but rather that we should return and live, and solemnly pro­fesses, that he would have all men to be saved, and to come to the Knowledge of the Truth. And when with all his Courtships and Addresses he cannot prevail upon our Obstinacy, to disswade us from ruining our selves, he puts on the Passions of a mournful Friend, and with yearning Bowels laments our fatal Folly; by all which tender Expressions he plainly declares, that he doth as heartily will our Welfare as we can do our own. But because a firm Belief of this Principle is indispensi­bly necessary to a free Submission to his hea­venly Will, I shall endeavour briefly to de­monstrate the Truth of it from these Four Considerations.

1. That his Interest in us is much greater than ours in our selves.

2. That his own Self-love doth as strong­ly [Page 272] incline him to will our Good, as ours doth to will our own.

3. That in concerning himself about us, he can have no other End to serve, than what we have in being concern'd for our selves.

4. That even that good Will that we bear to our selves, is only a Derivation from, and Participation of that infinite good Will which he bears us.

1. That his Interest in us is much greater than ours in our selves. If we believe him to be the Author of our Beings, we must ac­knowledge him to have a most absolute and unalienable Propriety in us; that what we are, as well as what we have, we hold from him who is the Head-Landlord and Supream Proprietor of all those Beings that are derived from him, even as Brooks and Rivulets owe all their Streams to the Fountain from whence they flow. And can we imagin him not to be greatly concern'd for what he hath so great an Interest in? or that he who hath so much greater Propriety in us, should have less Regard for us than we have for our selves? Can it be thought that the great Fa­ther of Beings, should be forgetful of his own Off-spring? that he who hath imprint­ed on all other Parents such a tender Kind­ness toward their natural Issue, should be so regardless of his own, as to expose them to a [Page 273] wide Wilderness, and leave them there to shift for themselves? no, doubtless the migh­ty Interest he hath in us cannot but indear his Affections to us, and render him migh­tily concern'd for our welfare. Can the Mo­ther forget her sucking Child, that she should not have Compassion on the Son of her Womb? yea, they may forget, but I will not forget thee saith the Lord. Isai. 49. 14. For since every thing is naturally inclined to love its own, we cannot but conclude that the God of Na­ture, from whom all natural Inclinations spring, hath in himself a most tender Regard for all that Family of Beings, of which he is the Parent; especially considering

2. That his own Self-love doth as strong­ly incline him to will our Good, as ours doth to will our own. For if he love him­self as he cannot but do, being infinitely lovely; he must necessarily love what is like him, and affect to propagate his own Resem­blance. But no miserable Thing can be like himself, who is infinitely happy; and there­fore he cannot love to make others misera­ble, since in so doing, he must affect to pro­duce what is contrary to himself, which im­plies a plain Contradiction. For unless he love our Misery, he cannot be supposed to desire it, because as I shall shew you by and by, himself can never be the better for it, and therefore if he desire it, it must be for [Page 274] its own sake. But how is it possible that the same Being should love Contraries at the same time; that he should at once take De­light in himself, and in what is most unlike him, or, which is the same thing, that he should be pleased with his own Happiness and with our Misery together. So that if he love himself who is infinitely happy, his own Self-love must necessarily incline him to will the Happiness of others; and unless our Happiness might be supposed to be prejudi­cial to his, which is impossible, it would be an Expression of Hatred to himself to wish ill to his Creatures. In his willing Misery in us, he would manifest himself to be displea­sed with his own Happiness, and openly de­clare that Misery was much more grateful to him; for how can he love Misery for it self, as he must needs do, if he take Pleasure in ours, and at the same time love himself who is so infinitely happy? This therefore we may build upon, with as much Confidence, as up­on any first Principle in Philosophy, that God hath the same Reason to will our Happiness, as we have to will our own; that as we would be happy, because we love our selves; so because he loves himself, he would have us be so. He loves that others should be like him, even as every other Being doth that loves; for what he loves in himself, he must love in another, and that which he [Page 275] loves in another where it is, he must love to propagate to another where it is not; and con­sequently, as he must love our Happiness, because he loves his own, even so for the same Reason he must love to make us happy▪

3. That in concerning himself about us, he can have no other End to serve, but what we have in being concern'd for our selves▪ He is so infinitely happy in himself, that he can neither conceive nor desire any Good for himself, beyond what is contain'd within the Immensity of his own Being and Perfecti­ons; so that now he can have no Self-ends to serve, because he doth already enjoy all pos­sible Degrees of Perfection and Happiness; and so can desire nothing without himself as an Addition to his own Beatitude, which is so infinite already that it will admit of no Increase. From hence therefore we may be assured that he can have no other Reason to concern himself about us, but only to do us Good, for to do us Mischief cannot be his End, because he can do himself no Good by it, his Happiness being already so compleat, that it cannot possibly need our Misery either to in­crease, or to serve as a Foil to it. 'Tis only Want and Indigence that make one Being de­sire the Misery of another. If I desire to rob another of his Happiness, 'tis to increase or to secure my own; if I desire to make an­other miserable, 'tis either to preserve my [Page 276] self from being so, or to procure my self that ill-natur'd Comfort of having a Compa­nion in Misery. But God by the boundless Happiness of his Nature, is infinitely raised above all such mean Considerations, and therefore cannot have any Temptation in his Nature to do any Thing but Good to his Creatures But doth not the Scripture tell us, that he doth all things for his own Glory, and that he obtains this End as well by punishing as by rewarding his Creatures? Ve­ry true, but then it is to be considered, that the Glory he aims at, consists not in receiving of any Good from us, but in doing and com­municating of all Good to us: For infinite Goodness can no otherwise be glorified than by its own Overflowings, and free Commu­nications, and it can no otherwise be glori­fied in the Punishment of its Creatures, but only as it doth Good by it; for should it punish without good Reason, it would re­proach and vilifie it self; but if it doth it for good Reason, it must be because it is good either for it self or others: for it self it can­not be; for how can an infinitely happy Be­ing reap any Good from anothers Misery? and therefore it must be for the good of others, either to reduce those who are punished, or to warn others by their Example from run­ning away from their Duty and Happiness. So that to do Good, is the End of God's [Page 277] Punishment, and because it is so, he is glo­rified by it; and considering that he is so infinitely happy, that he can no ways serve himself by our Miseries, it is impossible he should have any other End in concerning himself about us, but only that great and God-like one of doing us good, and making us happy. For the very Notion of an End includes Good; and therefore since the End of God's Concern about us, cannot be his own Good, it must necessarily be ours.

4. And lastly, That even that good Will that we bear to our selves, is only a Deriva­tion from, and Participation of that infinite good Will which God bears us. For it is plain, that our natural Instincts, and Pro­pensions, must be derived from the same Fountain with our Natures, and consequent­ly that God is the Author of both; and if so, then that unquenchable Self love, and Thirst after Happiness, which is implanted in our Natures, must needs be derived from him, and owe its Original to some overflowing Spring of Love and Benevolence in his Bo­som. For what should move him so to con­trive the Frame of our Natures, as that we cannot but love our selves and breath after our own Happiness, but only his own good Will to us, and tender Care of our Happi­ness? What other End could he propose to himself, in stamping this vehement Propen­sion [Page 278] in our Natures, only to excite us by it to be careful of our selves, and to pursue our own Interests? Doubtless if he had not loved us more than we love our selves, he would never have caused us to love our selves as we do, since he could have no other aim in causing us to do so, but only to oblige us to befriend our selves, and con­tribute all we are able to our own Welfare. And since it was out of mere Love to us that he made us to love our selves, and our own self-love is nothing else but a Ray and Participation of his Benevolence towards us, we may be sure it is purer in the Fountain than it can be in the Channel, that it is much more intense and vigorous in his Bo­som than in our own. For as the natural Love of all Parents towards their Off-spring is a plain Instance of the indulgent Care which the great Father of Beings hath for all his Children, that he hath committed them in their Infancy to such tender Nurses as will be sure to take care of them when they cannot provide for themselves; that he hath not intrusted them to the Compassi­on and good Nature of other Beings, to be maintained by the Alms and Benevolence of their fellow Creatures, but hath taken secu­rity for their liberal Nature and Education from the inmost Bowels of their Parents; so that vehement Propension of Self-love which [Page 279] God hath implanted in us is a most genuine Signature and Impression of his Benevolence towards us, and shews how careful he was of us thus to take security of our selves for our own Welfare, and to oblige us to be happy by the most tender and vigorous Passi­on in our Natures. By all these considera­tions I think it is as clear as the Sun that God doth heartily loves us, and hath as un­feigned a good-Will for us, as we can have for our selves; so that unless we can sup­pose that we are better able to chuse for our selves than he, we have at least as much Reason to acquiesce in his Choices for us as in our own. It is plain he is as much our Friend as our selves, and therefore tho' what he wills and chooses for us may in some particulars appear very harsh and severe, yet that his Intention is good, and that he means as well towards us as we can towards our selves; and therefore if in the Event it prove not as well for us as our own contrary Will and Choice would have done, we may be sure that it was not want of good Will to us, but for want of Skill to choose what was best for us. But if it appear that he doth not only wish as well to us as we do to our selves, but also that he knows how to choose for us a great deal better than we, then we have all the Reason in the world to acquiesce in his Choices how grievous soever [Page 280] they may appear to us, and to joyn heartily with our Saviour in this excellent Petition, not our wills, O Father, but thy Will be done. Which brings me to

2. The second general Head of discourse, that as God hath as good a Will to us as we have to our selves, so he knows much bet­ter what is Good for us than we. And to prove the Truth of this it is sufficient that God infinitely exceeds us in Knowledge and Understanding, he being Omniscient, and having all Things before him in one intire View and Prospect, whereas we see but in part, and know but in part, and are extremely shallow and superficial in our Conceptions of those Things that lye before us, which must necessarily render us infinitely less capable of judging what is Good for our selves than he. And this will more plainly appear by par­ticular Instances, of which I shall only pro­duce these five:

1. That we many times know only what is Good for our selves singly, but God knows what is Good for us as we are Parts of the Whole, and in Conjuncti­on with it.

2. We many times know only what is Good for us with respect to such a par­ticular End, but God knows what is Good for us in the main.

[Page 281] 3. We many times know only this or that to be Good for us singly and apart by it self, but God knows whether it be Good for us in Conjunction with those Concomitants and Consequents that are necessary to it.

4. We many times know only what is Good for us in respect to our present Tem­per and Disposition, but God knows what is Good for us in Reference to our constant and most abiding Disposi­tion.

5. We many times know what is Good for us with respect to this present State of Things, but God knows what is Good for us in Reference to our eternal Condition. In all which Instances I doubt not to make it appear that God is much fitter to choose for us, than we for our selves.

1. That we many times know only what is Good for our selves singly, but God knows what is good for us as we are Parts of the Whole, and in Conjunction with it. Man is naturally a sociable Creature, and as such can never be happy alone. His Musick is always best in Consort; when it consists of numerous Voices, every one bears a Part with every one. And since our Nature is such, as that we are not comparably so well pleased with solitary as with sociable Fruiti­ons, [Page 282] it is every single Mans Interest that his own private Good should not be seperated from the Good of the Whole; that it should not grow like a Wen by ingrossing the Nourishment that is due to all the other Parts, but rise and increase in such just Pro­portions as is consistent with the Happiness of all the Rest: and there is no man what­soever that hath the least Spark of Generosi­ty in him, but to contribute to a Publick Good would joyfully submit to a great many private Inconveniences, and would reckon his own personal Dammage fairly compen­sated by the Advantage that the Publick re­ceives by it. But so narrow and confined is our Prospect of things, that in our private Choices we many times ignorantly seperate our own Interest from the Publick's, and choose that for our selves, which, should we obtain, would prove very injurious to the Whole. We would fain change our present Condition for some other which we have Reason to believe would be much more ad­vantagious to us; but should we obtain our Desire, it may be the Publick would be much more injured by it, than our selves could be benefited. Perhaps we are fittest to do Good in our present Station, or, should we remove, some unworthy Person may get in in our Room, or some Person that is more worthy than our selves may be displaced by [Page 283] us; and by a thousand other ways which we are not able to comprehend, our shifting of Places may so puzzle and disorder the well-laid scene of Affairs, that had we foreseen it at first we should much rather have chosen to keep where we are. Again, we lye un­der the sense or Apprehension of some great Calamity, and doubtless if we might choose for our selves we would immediately be de­livered from it; but did we always foresee how much Good others may reap from our Sufferings, how much our private Infelicity may conduce to the Weal of the Publick, I hope we should not be such narrow-spirited Persons as for the sake of our present Ease to neglect so fair an Opportunity of being publick Benefactors to the World. But now God hath such an intire Prospect of all Things before him, that he plainly sees all the little Clashings and Interferings of Mens private with the Publick Good. And as he knows that we cannot be happy alone, so he re­solves that we shall not; for he never wishes any Mans private Good separately from that of the Publick, but in one steady Drift he car­ries on the Interest of each single Part in Conjunction with the Interest of the Whole. And hence in the Prosecution of single Ends we see he is not always wont to proceed in the most direct and compendious Way, but often times winds about in a large Circuit, [Page 284] in which he infolds and takes in a thousand concurrent and subordinate Designs; and drives them all at once before him in the Course and Series of his Providence. And tho' in this general Drift of Things, the Con­cerns of particular Men are sometimes set forwards, and sometimes backwards, in Pur­suance of the main Design; yet all at last conspires in the publick Good, whereof each Particular hath a share. And therefore tho' for a publick Good we some times suffer a pre­sent Inconvenience, yet since we cannot be happy but in Society, it is much better for us that we should be dammaged than the Publick; because the Happiness of each par­ticular Member redounds from the Welfare of the whole Society, and is necessarily in­volved in it: And did we but rightly un­derstand our own Interest, we should never esteem any Thing Good for our selves that is a Nuisance to the Publick, because whatso­ever this suffers, I and every Man suffer; and unless I could be happy alone, that can never be for my Interest in particular that is against my Interest in common. Since there­fore the Happiness of every Part is included in that of the Whole, and consequently what­soever promotes the Publick Good is benefi­cial to each particular Member; it hence necessarily follows that God can choose much better for us than we. For whereas [Page 285] generally our Foresight is limited within the narrow Horizon of our own particular Concerns, by reason whereof we cannot many times avoid choosing against the com­mon Interest, God hath the whole series of Things before him, and so must necessarily see even from the Beginning to the End what is for the publick Interest and what not; and therefore since he who is sole Admini­strator of the publick Bank of humane Inte­rest knows how to make the best Improve­ment of it, it is doubtless much more advan­tagious for us that he should manage all our particular Shares of it, then that we should reassume them into our own Hands, and manage them separately by themselves: And tho under his Conduct and Manage­ment we suffer some present Inconveniences, yet so long as we are sure of this, that the Publick Good requires it and is promoted by it, we have all the Reason in the world to be satisfied. And this was the Case in the Text; the Inconvenience which our blessed Lord did here so earnestly deprecate was in­dispensibly necessary for the Commonweal of Men, in which himself had a large Share, being a Member of the Corporation of Man­kind; so that had God granted his Desire, and excused him that bitter Cup he drank, not only Mankind in general but himself in particular, as he was a Man, would have been very much damnified by it; for he [Page 286] would have been deprived of those Felici­ties which he now injoys in common with us as he is the Head of a glorious Church, whom he redeemed and purchased with his Blood. He would have fallen short of that Mediate­rial Dignity to which he is now advanced, and lost the Satisfaction of being the Au­thor of our Happiness, and seeing the bles­sed Fruits of the Travail of his Soul; by all which he hath been aboundantly com­pensated for those momentary Sufferings he indured. So that in the Issue we see it was well for him as well as for us that the Will of God took place, his own personal Share in the common Happiness of Men being enough to recompense him a thousand Fold for whatsoever he suffered to procure it. Upon this Account therefore it is best that God should choose for us, because he always chooses what is Good for us in conjunction with the Publick, in the Prosperity whereof all our particular Welfare is involved.

2. We many times only know what is Good for us with respect to such a particular End, but God knows what is good for us in the main. The Generality of Men we see are so rash and precipitant in the Pursuit of their particular Ends, that they commonly overlook those Things that are of more general and Catholick Concern to them, and run themselves upon a thousand Inconveniences for the sake of such particu­lar [Page 287] Goods as can never make them any rea­sonable Amends. Thus in our worldly Af­fairs, how often do we indanger our main Interest by snatching too greedily at some present Good? We think if we had it, it would serve such a Purpose and conduce to such a desired End; but when we have it, it proves a Mischief to us, and disappoints us of other Ends and Purposes which are of much greater Weight and Moment to us: And I believe there is no Man that hath been but a diligent Observer of his own Affairs, but hath found by Experience, that many of those Things which for such or such Pur­poses he hath earnestly coveted, have proved in the main extremely prejudicial to him; that either his Health or his Estate, his Peace or his Reputation, which are the main Ingre­dients of our temporal Welfare, hath been very much impaired by the Acquisition of some of those Goods which he hath most im­patiently longed for. And how often have we seen Men impoverished by those Pleasures, disquieted by those Profits, made infamous by those Honours, and unhealthful by that Ease which they have doated on, and pursued with the greatest Impatience? So fond are we generally of our little particular Ends, that in the prosecution of them we seldom consult our main Interest! we consider only that this or that Good will serve this or that [Page 288] Purpose, and so we immediately let fly our Desires and Endeavours after that, without ever inquiring whether it will not be more prejudicial to us in general, than it can be be­neficial in this or that particular; in which Case if we had but our own Wills, we should many times ruin our selves for Trifles, and sacrifice all the Happiness of our Lives to the present gratification of some fond and unreasonable Desire. But now God in the Conduct and Management of our Affairs considers our whole Case, and hath all our Circumstances together in his View, and so cannot but know whether this or that par­ticular Good be consistent with our Welfare in the general; and whereas we, like Men in a Fever, do for our present Ease and Re­freshment oftentimes long most impatiently for what is most hurtful and injurious to us, God, like a wise Physitian, consults our future Health more than our present Ease, and having an infallible Prospect of our whole Case and Circumstances, suits all his Prescriptions to the Necessities of our Con­dition, and not to the blind Impatiencies of our Appetites and Longings. He many times plainly sees that what we desire would be our Bane; and therefore out of tender Mercy chooses rather to deny us than to de­stroy us. That Patient would be accounted very unreasonable that should fall out with [Page 289] his Physitian for disturbing his sleep when he is inclining to a Lethargy, or denying him Drink in a Fever or a Dropsy; because tho' what he desires is good for those particular Ends of his present Ease and Refreshment, yet it is apparently destructive to him in the main. Thus doubtless it would have been very well for Ioseph, as to many particular Ends, not to have been sold by his Brethren, or imprisoned in Egypt, and doubtless had it been left to his own Option, he would much rather have chosen to continue at Home under the Care and Patronage of an indulgent Father; but had he seen, as God did, from the first Link of the Chain of his Fate to the last, and how inseparably his After-advancement was connected to his pre­sent sufferings, in the Course and Series of Things; he would doubtless have willingly chosen as God did for him, since tho' the contrary had been well for him in some par­ticulars, yet this was much better in the general.

3. We many times know only this or that to be good for us singly and apart by it self, but God knows whether it be good for us in Conjunction with those Concomitants and Consequents that in the Course of Things are necessary to it. For the divine Providence, which runs thro' all Things, hath disposed and connected them into such a Series and [Page 290] Order, that there is no single Event or Acci­dent, (but what is purely miraculous) that de­pends not on the Whole, and hath innumer­able Causes antecedent to it, innumerable Con­currences going hand in hand with it, and innumerable Consequents attending it. But so narrow and confined is our Prospect of Things, that we only see that part of their Series and Order that is at pre­sent before us; and there are innumerable Things both concomitant and conse­quent to every Event that are out of the sphere of our Cognizance; by Reason of which it is impossible for us to make any in­fallible judgment either of the good or evil of almost any Event that befals us; because. tho' we may be secure that such an Event singly and apart by it self may be good or evil for us, yet for all we know, in the whole series of Things there be such conco­mitant or consequent Events inseparable to it, as may quite alter its Nature, and render that Evil which considered singly may be Good for us; or that good, which consider­ed singly may be evil. So that in our Choice of Events we are necessitated for the most part to choose in the dark, because we see so little of the whole Series of Things, and of the Circumstances wherewith Events are accompanied and attended, that it is not in our Power to determine which is good or which bad for us. We many times [Page 291] look on such an Event as highly good for us and extremely desirable, and believe that if we could compass it we should be extremely happy; but poor, short-sighted Creatures that we are! we see neither the Company, nor the Train of it. If this Event doth befal us, according to the Series of Things, a thousand others must, and what they will prove we are not able to prognosticate, and for all we know the Mischief of them may abundantly outweigh the Benefit of this: and did we but foresee all that goes along with and all that must follow it, we should be many times most afraid of what we most eagerly desire. This therefore being our Case, how extremely unfit are we to make Choices for our selves, since it is almost an equal Lay whether what we choose will prove our Food or our Poison. But God being the supreme Orderer and Disposer of Things, must needs have them altogether intirely in his View; and having the first Link of the whole Chain of Causes in his own Hands cannot but plainly see all the intermediate ones from the Beginning to the End. And since his Power is the Cause not only of all actual Events but even of the Possibility of those that shall never be actual, he must needs discern the utmost Issues of every pos­sible as well as actual Event, and see the re­motest Effects and Consequents that are in the Wombs of all actual and possible Causes [Page 292] and Principles; and having all Things that are, or that may be in his View, he doth not only see what is good or hurtful to us, but what would be so if it were actual and existing. So that He needs not try Experi­ments upon us to know what is beneficial or injurious to us, because the Operation and Consequence of every possible Event is as ob­vious to his all-comprehending Knowledge be­fore as after it is befallen us. And hence it is impossible for him to be mistaken in his Choices; because he knows as well before hand what Things would be if they were, as what they are when they actually exist. And tho' we may sometimes pervert the Natures of Things by our Abuse of them, and make that Evil to us which is really Good; yet God cannot be mistaken so as to prescribe us for Physick what is in its own Nature Poison; and consequently if he love us but as well as we love our selves, as I have demonstrated he doth, he must needs choose better for us than we; because he sees the utmost Consequents of all that doth or can befal us, and so cannot be imposed on by shews and false Appearances as we often times are. And of this I shall only give you one Instance, which is that of good old Iacob when he lost his Son Io­seph, which we plainly see by the Sorrow he expressed at it was an Accident that hap­pened sore against his Will, and which he [Page 293] would have gladly prevented had he been but aware of it. But it is plain the good Man saw but a little Way into the Series of Things; he saw his Loss, but he saw not the Issues of it, for doubtless had he beheld that Train of happy Consequents that was chained and annexed to it, how it tended not only to Iosephs Advancement but to the Preserva­tion of himself and his Family from the en­suing Famin, he would doubtless have been more a Friend to himself and a Father to his Family than to have countervoted God in his Choice and Election for him. But it was well for Iacob that God saw farther into the Consequents of Things than he; for if he had not, not only Ioseph had missed of his Preferment, but himself and all his Family had been in a great deal of Danger of pe­rishing in the Famin. So that when all is done, you see the wisest Course we can take is to resign up our selves into the Hands of God, who seeing the utmost Issues and Con­sequents of Things can never be mistaken in choosing what is best for us.

4. We many times know only what is Good for us with respect to our present Tem­per and Disposition, but God knows what is good for us in Reference to our constant and most abiding Condition. We are a Sort of Creatures that are extremely fickle and immutable, our Humours change upon every new Occasion, and our Desires, like [Page 294] the Weather-cocks look contrary Ways upon every contrary Wind; now we are of one Mind, and by and by of another: this seems to us now, and anon the quite contrary, and often times in the same Hour we are se­veral Sorts of Men. But still we choose ac­cording to our present Temper, and so still as this alters, our later Choices thwart and run a Tilt at our former. So that should e­very Thing happen to us that we desire and wish for, we should be the most miserable Creatures in the World, since what we choose in this Hour we should reject in the next, and what we longed for to Day we should be sick of to Morrow. And since no Man cer­tainly knows now what mind he shall be of anon, for all that he can tell, that which is most agreeable to him now may be most dis­agreeable to him then, and if he should change his present Mind, as it is very likely he may, he will immediately unwish what he now wishes for, and dearly repent of what he most heartily chooses. How then is it pos­sible that we should choose well and wisely for our selves, all whose Choices do depend on a Temper that is so everlastingly fickle and variable? But now God, who foresees what our most constant, lasting, and durable Tem­per will be, is much better able to adapt E­vents to it, and to contrive all our Circum­stances into a fair Accommodation with it; and tho' it is impossible but he must some­times [Page 295] cross us, because our Humours do so vary, and we do so often cross and contradict our selves; yet knowing best what our stand­ing and permanent Temper will be, he must needs know best also what will be most con­stantly convenient for us and agreeable to us. For if he be cordially our Friend, as it is ap­parent he is, he will not so much consult the Gratification of our peevish, fickle, and unconstant Humours, as of our most perma­nent Temper and Disposition; and if he know much better than we what our most permanent Temper and Disposition will be, as it is apparent he doth, he must needs be much abler to suit and accommodate it with convenient Events and Circumstances. Of this you have a remarkable Instance in the Method of Gods conducting Israel out of Egypt into Canaan. Doubtless had They had their own Choice, they would have been immediately translated from their miserable Bondage into that happy Land; but God knew their standing Temper better than they did their own; he saw they were a stupid, stubborn, and untractable People, and as yet wholly uncapable of such a propitious Change, and that if he had conducted them into Ca­naan directly and in a Moment, they would have presently forgot their Benefactor, and let loose themselves to all Licentiousness and Wickedness; which must have naturally shortned their Prosperity and hastned it in­to [Page 296] an untimely Ruin: And therefore God saw it necessary to continue them some time longer in Egypt, that so by his mighty Works there he might awaken their stupid Minds into an awful Sense of his Majesty and Power. And when by his outstretched Arm he had brought them out of Egypt, he made them wander about Forty Years in the Wil­derness; whereas had he led them directly on, a very few Days Marches would have brought them into Canaan. But he consider­ed their stubborn Temper which was not yet capable to bear a prosperous Condition, till it was throughly disciplined for it in the School of Affliction; till it was broken, and tamed, and civilized, and rendered more tractable and obsequious. And tho' in thus Dealing with them, he acted quite contrary to their present Humour and Desires, yet did he act most advantageously for them, considering their standing Genius and Tem­per; for had he transmitted them into Ca­naan with all those barbarous Conditions that they brought out of Egypt, their Prosperity would have only heightned their Insolence and hastned their Ruin: And accordingly Deuter. 8. Moses tells them at large, that all Gods Severities to them in the Wilderness were to dispose them for the happy conditi­on of Canaan; to prove and polish them, to break and humble their untractable Spirits, and do them good in the latter End; as you may [Page 297] see verse 2, 3, 5, 16. And if God choose to do what is best for us with respect to our standing Temper and Disposition, we have no reason to complain that he sometimes crosses our more fickle and variable Humours and Fancies.

5. And lastly, We many times know only what is Good for us with respect to this pre­sent State of Things, but God knows what is Good for us in reference to our eternal Con­dition. For we being a Sort of Creatures that are born to live for ever in eternal Weal or Woe, it is really a Matter of very small Moment to us whether we are happy or miserable here; 'tis no more than a short Nights Dream of Pain or Pleasure to a Man that hath fourscore or a hundred years to con­sume in Delights or Torments: and when we awake in Eternity all that is past will seem a Dream to us in the Presence of those never ending Ages of Ioy or Misery before us. But yet so fond are we generally of the present, that we most commonly choose without any Regard to the future. In our Choice of Objects we seldom project be­yond our present Pleasure; if the Thing will but please us now, we rarely trouble our Heads to inquire what Influence it may have on our eternal Pleasure or Pain; yea, and many times if we should, it would be to no purpose; because in most of those [Page 298] Goods we choose and covet there are a thousand Snares we cannot discern, as well as a thousand Advantages which we are not aware of. In those Evils and Calamities which we run away from, we are not able to foresee how many Ways our souls may be in­dangered by those outward Goods we covet, nor yet how many spiritual Blessings those outward Evils may be pregnant with at which we are so startled and affrighted: so that in most of our Choices we can look no farther than our present Convenience, but what Effect they may have upon our ever­lasting Fate we can never certainly know till the Event hath determined it. Thus in this great Lottery of Goods and Evils we short-sighted Creatures are fain to choose at a Venture, and till the Event hath deter­mined what our Choices are, we know not whether they are Blanks or Prizes. So that if we always had what we choose, God only knows the Mischief that would follow upon it; for to be sure every Man would choose to be prosperous, and if every Man were so, how many Thousands would perish for ever for want of the saving Remedy of Affliction, which is as indespensibly necessary to the reclaiming of some Persons and put­ting them into a Capacity of Happiness, as Food is to satisfy our Hunger, or Nourish­ment to sustain our Lives. Lord! what [Page 299] miserable Creatures then should we be, shouldst thou be so regardless of us as to al­low us our Wills, who having so small a Prospect beyond this State of Things should many times for the sake of a present Con­venience choose what might occasion our eternal Woe? But God being our best Friend must needs be supposed to intend our main Interest, which being lodged in our eternal State, he must needs be much more con­cerned about than about our Happiness and Conveniencies in this present Condition; nor indeed would he be our Friend should he advance our present Interests to the Pre­judice of our Souls and immortal Concerns. So that if he love us, as we are most sure he doth, the main Drift and Design of his Pro­vidence over us must be to secure our Hap­piness in the World to come; and when this cannot be secured but by the Damage of our earthly Enjoyments, it is Mercy and Kind­ness to us to fling that Lumber over-board to save our precious and immortal Fraight. But he having a most perfect Intuition of the inmost Nature and utmost Consequents of Things, cannot but discern all those Stops and Turnings where our temporal and eter­nal Interests do clash and interfere with one another; and having a perfect Insight of all their Competitions, where the one cannot be advanced without the Depression of the [Page 300] other, he must needs know infinitely better than we how to prefer our main Interest, and to choose what is best for us. For he know­ing best what our Temper is, and what the Consequents of things are cannot be igno­rant of what is best for us and most con­ducive to our eternal Interest; whether Pro­sperity or Adversity be safest for our Souls, and most for the Security of our Vertue and Innocence; and knowing this he can so ac­comodate all Events to our spiritual Neces­sities, as that they shall all work together for our eternal Good. And if at any time he sees it necessary for our spiritual Good to instruct us by Rods, or to discipline us by Affliction, it is infinite Mercy in him to cross our blind Wills by interrupting our beloved Ease and Prosperity. And if we saw but what he sees when he corrects and chastises us, and knew the Reasons of his Actions; we should doubtless beseech him to do as he doth, and whilst we were smarting under his Lashes, we should be adoring his Good­ness for making such wise Provision for our Welfare. Thus when David was hunted like a Partridge on the Mountains by those successive Afflictions which God let fly at him, he doubtless concluded himself to be very severely dealt with, and would God but have allowed him to choose his own Fate, he would much rather have chosen to have lived [Page 301] in an uninterrupted Calm of Prosperity, than to be exposed, as he was, to the incessant Storms of an adverse Fortune. But when Experience had better instructed him what were the Reasons of God's Actions, how ne­cessary they were to correct his Follies, and curb the Extravagancies of his Nature; he was then plainly convinced that God had dealt much better by him, than he would have dealt by himself, and was forced to ac­knowledge that it was well for him that he was afflicted; for before I was afflicted, saith he, I went astray; But now I have kept thy Commandments. Psal. 119. 67.

So that by all these Instances you plainly see that God can choose much better for us than we for our selves, and therefore if to this you add what hath been so largely pro­ved, that he is as heartily our Friend as we can be our own, it will from hence necessari­ly follow that it is much better for us, that his Will concerning us should take Effect, than any contrary Will or Desire of our own.

What then remains, but that with all Chearfulness and Alacrity we resign up our selves into the Hands of God, and submit all our Choices and Desires to his heavenly Will; who having as unfeigned an Affection for us, as we can have for our selves, and a much better Prospect of our Affairs than we, must needs manage our Concerns to much [Page 302] greater Advantage than it is possible for us to do. Why then should we murmure and repine at any thing that befalls us? are we wiser than God? no; or can we pretend to be more careful of our Interest than he is? neither. In the Name of Goodness, what would we be at then? Would we have him resign up our Concerns to ourselves, and not intermeddle any farther in our Affairs? God forbid, that either he should have so little Regard of us, or that we should be such Traytors to our own Interest. For on this side Hell I know nothing more formidable than for God to let us alone, and give us up to our own Wills and Desires. And if I should hear him thus bespeaking me from the Battlements of Heaven, O foolish Creature, since what I do will not please thee, and thou art so dissatisfied with my Conduct and Manage­ment, from henceforth I will cross thy Desires no more, but let the Event prove good or bad, I will comply with thy Choices, and order all things to happen to thee according to thy own Will: I think I should look on my self as the most forlorn and abandoned Wretch on this side Hell, as one utterly excluded from the greatest Blessing that belongs to a Crea­ture; and if I had any Hope of his Reac­ceptance, I would on my bended Knees re­sign back my self, and all that concerns me into his Hands again. I would beseech him [Page 303] above all things not to leave me to my self, not to throw me from his Care, or discharge me from his Conduct; and if I could pre­vail with him to take me again into his Care and Protection. I would promise never to repine against him more, but chearfully submit to his heavenly Will how severely so­ever he should think good to deal with me. And this not only I, but every Man else would do, that truly loves himself, and un­derstands his own Interest, for where can our Concerns be better or safer lodged, than in the Hands of that infinite Wisdom that knows what is best for us, and that infinite Goodness that wills what it knows best, and of that infinite Power that doth what it wills? Why then should any Man be displea­sed that his Affairs are not managed his own way, when we are so sure of this, that they are managed by One that hath much more Skill to manage them than we; and One that having the same Love for us that we have for our selves, will be sure to manage them to the best Advantage? And since there is the same Benevolence towards us in God's Will, that there is in ours towards our selves, how much better is it for us that his should take Effect that is guided by such an infalli­ble Wisdom, than ours that hath nothing to conduct and stear it but a blind Sense, or at best, a short-sighted Reason. Wherefore tho' [Page 304] our Affairs go never so contrary to our Wills in this present state of Things, yet this we may build upon, that it is best that Things should be as God will have them. And as when we are grown up to the Age of Men, we thank our Parents for those loving Seve­rities they Exercised towards us when we were Children, and not able to govern our selves; because then we see, that if they had let us have our Childish Wills, and gi­ven the Reins to our wild Passions and Appe­tites, we should in all Probability have un­done our selves: so when we come to our full Stature in Christ, and are grown up into a State of Perfection, then we shall see Rea­son to admire and praise the Goodness of God for those merciful Denials and kind Se­verities, upon the Account of which we now murmure and repine against him; and be fully convinced that it was happy for us, that we were not suffer'd to be our own Carvers, but had all our Allowances carved out to us by the wise and gracious Providence of our heavenly Father. Whensoever therefore we are crossed by his Providence in any of our Desires, let us but consider how unfeignedly he loves us, and how much more fit he is to chuse for us than we, and then we shall see infinite Reason to acquiesce in his Providence, and to joyn with our Saviour in this excellent Prayer, Father, not our Wills, but thy Will be done.

MATTHEW XVI. 24.‘Then said Iesus unto his Disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his Cross and fol­low me.’

IN the 21. Verse our Saviour declares to his Disciples, that it was necessary for him to go up to Ierusalem, and there to suffer many things, and to be killed, and be raised again the third Day. Upon which St. Peter rebukes him v. 22. saying, be it far from thee, or as it may be render'd, be pro­pitious to thy self; this shall not be unto thee. But Jesus considering that this was the Work he came into the World for, tartly rebukes him, get thee behind me, Satan, thou art an Offence unto me; for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of Men. i. e. thou talk'st as if thou didst not yet un­derstand what God hath foretold of me, viz. that I shall be advanced to my Kingdom by my Sufferings, and as if thou wer'st meerly guided by Rules of humane Policy; according to which, to expose ones self to Calamities and Death, is a very odd way to Glory and Empire. But I tell thee, Peter, that it is not only certain that I must suffer [Page 306] in order to my Advancement, but that those also that will come after me, must deny them­selves, and take up their Cross and follow me. In the management of which Words, I shall endeavour these Three Things;

  • 1. To shew you what is here meant by denying our selves.
  • 2. What abundant Cause and Reason there is for it.
  • 3. How absolutely necessary it is to our eternal Happiness.

1. What is here meant by denying our selves. In general, by our selves here we are not to understand our Nature, considered as it is the Creature and Workmanship of God; for God hath endowed us with ratio­nal Faculties, and stamp'd immutable Princi­ples of Reason upon our Minds; which Prin­ciples we are so far from being obliged to re­nounce, that they are the fundamental Laws of our Nature, by which we ought to re­gulate all our Motions and Actions. By our selves therefore we are to understand our sinful selves, or our corrupt Nature as it is un­der the Power and Dominion of wicked Principles and Inclinations; for so our selves doth in Scripture many times denote our sinful and corrupt selves. And so 2 Tim. 3. 2. 'tis made a Character of bad Men, that they should be lovers of their own selves; whereas in strictness to love our selves is so far from be­ing [Page 307] a Fault, that it is a necessary Instinct of Nature, and the Root and Principle of our Virtue. By loving our own selves, therefore must be here meant, being indulgent to the vicious Inclinations of our Nature, as he ex­plains himself in the following Words, be­ing Covetous, Boasters, Proud, Blasphemers, &c. And accordingly Christ is said to have died for all, that they which live, should not hence­forth live unto themselves; i. e. to their cor­rupt Principles and Inclinations; but unto him which died for them 2 Cor. 5. 15. By our selves therefore here we are to understand every thing in us that is opposite to God, every Motion and Inclination of our Na­ture that stands in Competition with his Will, and doth any way contend with his Authority. For the Soul of Man is a Throne to which God and its corrupt Nature are Ri­vals; God claims it by a natural and essential Right, as he is the Soveraign of Beings, and the Lord of the Creation; Corrupt Nature claims it without any Pretence of Right, but like a bare-fac'd Usurper derives its Propriety from its Possession, and will rule, because it will, and because it hath got Strength and Interest enough to support its Dominion. So that to deny our selves, is to renounce our corrupt Nature, and to refuse to be go­verned by it, and wholly to resign up our selves to the Government of God; to aban­don [Page 308] those euil Inclinations which are God's Competitors in us, and would countermand his Will, and usurp his Dominion. In a Word, to deny our selves, is to give away our selves from our selves to God; to put all our Powers of Action out of our own Dispo­sal into God's, and not to suffer any Desire or Inclination of our own to take Place of his Will, or prevail against his Authority. And therefore as they are said to deny God who re­ject his Authority in Compliance with the corrupt Inclinations of their Nature, Tit. 1. 16. so they may be truly said to deny themselves, who refuse to gratifie those their vicious In­clinations in Compliance with the Will of God. In short therefore, to deny our selves, is to prefer God's Will before our own, to sa­crifice our Inclinations to our Duty. and in all Competitions between him and our Carnal Interests and Affections to take his Part, and follow his Command and Directions.

2. I proceed to the Second Thing propo­sed, which is to shew you what abundant Reason there is for this Duty; and this will evidently appear if we consider seriously how much more advantagious it is in all respects, for Men to be [...] by God, than by themselves; to [...] his Will, and com­ply with his Pleasure, rather than give up our selves to the Government of his Rival, viz. the Appetites and Inclinations of our [Page 309] own corrupt Nature: which will evidently appear in these following Particulars.

1. By thus denying our own Will in Com­plyance with the Will of God, we shall choose and act with much more Ease and Freedom.

2. We shall choose and act with much more Evenness and Consistency.

3. We shall choose and act with much more Peace and Satisfaction.

4. We shall choose and act with much more Prudence and Conduct.

5. We shall choose and act with much more Security of the Event.

1. By denying our own Will to comply with God's, we shall choose and act with much more Ease and Freedom. He that makes his own Will his Law, is upon every new Occasion put upon new Deliberations, and upon every Change of Circumstances is fain to change his Will, and to consult new Choices and Resolutions; in debating of which, he is commonly so maz'd and be­wilder'd with cross Thoughts, and opposite Counsels and Deliberations, that he hardly knows which way to determin himself, and is more at a loss what to resolve upon, than how to execute his Resolution. And being thus clogg'd and incumber'd in the whole Course of his Motion, how is it possible he should act with any Ease and Freedom? But [Page 310] now when once a Man hath renounced his own Will, and intirely submitted himself to the Direction of God's, he is free from this Toil and Incumbrance. For the Will of God as to all the material Parts of our Du­ty is so plainly revealed, that an honest Mind with little Enquiry may be soon informed, and satisfied about it; and when once it is so, all its Choices are already determined, so far as they are concern'd in the Matter of its Duty; for God's Will being his, he no sooner knows that, but he rests in it imme­diately with a free Assent, and uncontrouled Approbation, and whatsoever the Event be, he is fixed to one steady Course of Motion, being resolved once for all, what ever hap­pens, to do as God would have him. So that when once a Man hath intirely denied himself, and put himself out of his own Di­sposal into God's, God chuses for him, and thereby frees him from all the Trouble of doubting, and deliberating, and disputing pro and con, of being distracted between con­trary Reasons, and bandied to and fro by cross and opposite Importunities. For now his Soul acquiescing in God, as in its proper Place and Element, doth no more dispute, no longer waver between Two Load-stones, but being unison with God, resounds and eccho's to his Will, and freely follows him without deliberation.

[Page 311] 2. By denying our own Will to comply with God's, we shall choose and act with more E­venness and Consistency. For so long as Men live in Subjection to the Principles and Inclinations of their corrupt Nature, 'tis im­possible they should act evenly and consist­ently with themselves; for our corrupt Na­ture is wholly governed by the Goods and E­vils that are without us, and without our Power and Disposal; by Gain and Loss, by Ease and Pain, by Applause and Disgrace; and therefore all its Pleasures and Displeasures must be as Casual and Contingent as the Goods and Evils are from whence they do arise. And whilst we are governed by such casual Things as these, we are not our own Men, but do live in Subjection to a foraign Pow­er, and must be what these Things that go­vern us will have us; we must turn as the Wind blows, and like Water take our Form from the Vessels we are poured into. And while the Passions and Appetites that over­rule us are thus over-ruled by the Chances and Contingencies without us, we must of necessity be as various, as fickle, and as mul­tiform as they; we must put on as many Hu­mors as Fortune doth Countenances, and shift our Pleasures and Displeasures upon every Turn of her Wheel; in a Word, we must be as various, inconsistent, and contradi­ctory to our selves, as the Chances and Acci­dents [Page 312] are that do befall us. Now what a wretched State is this, for a Man to be never the same, but be continually wreathing and distorting his Humour into all the antick Figures of his outward Condition, which change and vary almost every Moment? Doubtless that Man will find enough to do, that shall undertake to make Faces after an Ape, but he will find a great deal more that will needs be aping an inconstant Fortune through all its Grimaces and Changes of Countenance.

But now he that hath throughly learned to deny himself, and to submit intirely to the Government of God, is all of a Piece, and throughout even and constant with him­self. He is for the main, the same Man when he loses as when he gains, when he is reproached, as when he is applauded; and the reason is, because he governs himself not by the uncertain Contingencies that are without him, but by the immutable Will that is above him; and while he doth so, he knows that his Happiness is as much above the reach of the impotent Malice of Fortune and Men, as the Moon is above the Noise of those im­pertinent Curs that sit yelping and barking at her from below. And being under the Command of one Rule, which is the Will of God, and one End which is the Enjoyment of God, he goes evenly on in a calm and [Page 313] composed Current of Action through all the Changes and Vicissitudes without him; and all his Motions and Designs, Choices and Prosecutions continue as uniform and con­sistent with themselves in the midst of the various Contingencies of this World as the Sovereign Will is that commands and deter­mins them.

3. By denying our own Will to comply with Gods, we shall choose and act with much more Peace and Satisfaction. So long as a Man governs himself by the Appetites and Incli­nations of his corrupt Nature, 'tis impossible he should ever be satisfied with himself; for besides that his own Reason will reproach and upbraid him with the natural Filthiness and Turpitude of his Actions, and repre­sent them to himself as shameful and inglori­ous; besides which, I say his own Consci­ence will be ever and anon vexing and plaguing him with anxious and unquiet Thoughts and Reflections. For God hath imprinted a Dread of his own Power and Ma­jesty so deep upon our Natures, that with all our Arts we are not able to deface and obli­terate it; and tho' for some time perhaps we may suppress and stupifie it, yet in despight of our selves, it will first or last return again upon us, and avenge the Affronts and Vio­lences we have offered it. Whilst therefore a Man sides with his corrupt Nature against [Page 314] God, it is impossible he should be throughly satisfied with himself; for either his Reason will be upbraiding him with the filthiness of his Actions, or his Conscience will be alarm­ing him with the Vengeance that is due to them.

But when once a Man hath throughly de­nied his own Will and Affections, and in­tirely resign'd up himself to the Government of God, he will be able to produce God's own Will and Command for the Warrant of his Choices and Actions; and this will effectu­ally discharge him at the Tribunals of his Reason and Conscience. For why should our Reason shame, or our Conscience terrifie us, so long as we choose and act in Subordinati­on to God? for so long as we do thus, our Will and Actions are his, and being cloath'd in the Livery of his Authority, are thereby sufficiently protected both from Shame and Fear. For why should I be ashamed to do as God wills me, whom I know to be the Stan­dard of all Perfection? or why should I be afraid to do as God wills me, whose Will is so intirely righteous and good, that I am sure it can never be displeasing to his Na­ture? Whilst therefore I choose and act in Submission to God, what should hinder me from being as couragious as Truth, and as confident as Innocence it self? for so long my Conscience must not only acquit me, but [Page 315] reverence me. So that now my Soul which heretofore lived in Thunders, and Lightnings, and Storms, will dwell above in a serene Ae­ther, and there breath nothing but calm and gentle Thoughts; and instead of those unea­sie Reflections that were wont to disturb my pleasant Scenes of Mirth, I shall be continu­ally entertained with the silent Melodies of a clear Conscience, and crowned with the Applauses of my own Mind.

4. By denying our own Will to comply with God's, we shall choose and act with much more Prudence and Conduct. Did we un­derstand either God or our selves, we could not but be sensible that it is much more for our Interest to be governed by his Will, than by our own; for tho' there is no doubt, but we wish well to our selves, and would not wilfully prejudice our own Interest: yet it is to be considered, that there is the same Bene­volence towards us in God's Will; besides which, God's Will hath an infinite Wisdom to stear by, which sees through all the In­treigues of our Interest, and hath an intire Prospect of whatsoever can hinder or advance it. Whereas our Wills are generally guided either by a blind Sense, or by a short-sighted Reason that many times mistakes our Inte­rest, and directs us to Rocks instead of Har­bors. And when the Disadvantage on this side is so great and apparent, how can we [Page 316] imagine our selves so safe under the Govern­ment of our own Wills, as we are under the Government of God's? He would have us do this? and we would do the quite con­trary; and yet we acknowledge his Will is as kind and benign to us, as ours is to our selves. Why then, which of the Two Wills do we think is the Wisest? God's sure we will all acknowledge. Will then, is it not much safer for us to take the Sun for our Guide, than to grope by the twinkling Light of a Glow-worm? While we follow our own Will, every Step, for all we know, may plunge us into Bogs and Quagmires; but while we follow God's, we choose as wisely for our selves, as an infinite Wisdom can direct us. So that what our Will chooses may be good for us, but what his Will choo­ses must be so; and therefore to be sure when ever we choose contrary to him, we choose against our own Interest. I am as confident of this, as of any Principle in Na­ture and Religion, that whatsoever God commands me to do, he must certainly know that it is for my Good, and that is the Reason why he commands it; and if it be, then this I am equally sure of, that whenso­ever I act contrary to his Command, I run from a certain Benefit, to a certain Mischief. But while I submit my Will to God's, I am guided by God's Wisdom, and in every [Page 317] genuine Act of Obedience, I am as infallible as Omniscience it self. Whilst therefore I am in the Exercise of my Duty, I am sure I am safe; because I am under the Direction of a Will that can never be misled, and so can ne­ver mislead me. And had any Thing he com­mands been hurtful to me, I know he is so good that he would never have enjoyned it; yea, had any Thing been but indifferent to me, I know he is so wise that he would never have concern'd himself or me about it. And if he hath commanded me nothing that is either hurtful or indifferent to me, it is doubt­less richly worth my while to obey him even in the smallest and most inconsiderable Instan­ces.

What a mighty Advantage therefore have those happy Persons who have intirely re­nounced their own Wills, and submitted themselves to Gods? for whilst others, poor Wretches! do grope about under the Conduct of their own blind Wills, and do they know not what, and go they know not whither themselves, but live by Chance and act at Random; They are conducted in all their Choices and Actions by an all-wise Will that never fails to measure their Actions by the best Rules, and point them to the best Ends. So that while they move by the Directions of that heavenly Guide, they are sure of their Ends, and do know infallibly before hand, [Page 318] that all their Choices and Actions shall fi­nally conspire in their own Happiness.

5. And lastly, By denying our own Wills, to comply with God's, we shall choose and act with much more security of the Event. One of the great Causes why Mens Minds are so unquiet and anxious, is, that they are not a­ble to discover the Events of their own De­signs and Actions, and it is this that makes them so doubtful and tremulous in their Mo­tions, and Causes them to act with so much Caution and Anxiety; because they are not able to pry into those hidden Events that lurk in the Womb of their Designs. Now while Men give up themselves to follow the Incli­nations of their own corrupt Nature, they cannot but be fearfull of ill Consequents, especially when they consider, that the Con­sequents of their Actions are in the hands of God, against whom they are in Rebelli­on. For our Understanding being our leading Faculty, and the Eye that is to direct our Pra­ctice, it is impossible that whilst that doth ei­ther disapprove or doubt of our Actions, we should ever be able to act with Steadiness, and Assurance. For while a Man acts with a misgiving Mind, and that which should be the Guide of his Actions is dissatisfied with his Way, he walks like a benighted Tra­veller in a dangerous Road, and is fain to feel out his Steps, and tread cautiously, lest [Page 319] he should stumble into a Bog, or a Preci­pice. Whilst therefore a Man knows that his Actions are displeasing to God, and con­siders that the Events of them are in God's hands, he must be very unreasonable if he ex­pect to be blessed, and prospered in them; he must either conclude, that God's Displea­sure is nothing but a dead and ineffectual Pas­sion, or that his way of expressing it, is by Smiles and Endearments. So that whilst we take part with our corrupt Nature against God, we can never have any rational Secu­rity of the Events of our Actions, but must see abundant Cause, if we do not wilfully shut our Eyes, to be afraid of every Thing that happens to us; because nothing can happen to us, but by his Disposal whom we daily incense and provoke by our Acti­ons.

But now he who hath sincerely resigned up himself to God, knows enough of the Events of his own Actions to set his Heart at Rest, and keep his Mind in a quiet En­joyment of it self; for he acts with the full Consent and Approbation of his Mind, and hath no by-ways from the Road of his Rea­son and Conscience; but keeping straight forwards, as he doth in the plain Tracts of eternal Goodness, he treads firmly and bold­ly, being secure of the Ground he goes upon, and is neither ashamed nor afraid of his own [Page 320] Actions; which being such as his best and purest Reason approves, have the chearful Euges and Applauses of his Conscience con­tinually ecchoing and resounding after them. And when a Man is well satisfied that his Ways are pleasing to God, he may chear­fully expect, that the End and Events of them will be blessed and prosperous; he may build upon it, that God will first or last ex­press the Pleasure he takes in his Actions, by crowning them with a happy Success, and that how grievous soever any present Event of his righteous Actions may be, yet there is a great deal of Righteousness in it; because it proceeds from the righteous Lord who loveth Righteousness; and that in the winding up of the Bottom, that which now seems most grie­vous, will be found most beneficial to him. For suppose I had an infallible Physitian, whom I know to be my Friend, constantly attending on me, and ordering my Diet, my Physick, and my Exercise; how securely should I live, and how chearfully should I follow all his Rules and Prescriptions! should he order me a course or a distastful Diet, I should thus conclude with my self; well, I am sure this is for my Health, and how nau­seous soever it be at present, I know I shall be the better for it as long as I live; and this would render it very grateful and palatable. Should he prescribe a strong and painful Pur­gative; [Page 321] I should thus conclude, well, this is to remove or prevent a Disease that will be much more painful than all the present Gripes and Twinges it gives me, and I am sure it will have its Effect, and set me perfectly at Ease within a very few Moments: and this Consideration would turn my Pain into Plea­sure. In a Word, should he impose upon me a toilsom and laborious Exercise, I should re­solve thus with my self; well, tho' I stretch and sweat for it now, I shall certainly be the better for it anon, and reap many Years Health and Vigour from my present Toil and Wea­riness; and this Reflection would convert a Drudgery into a Recreation. And yet this is the real Case of those Men, who have intirely denied their own Wills, to choose and act in subordination to God: For he is an infallible Physician, and they have made him their Friend by submitting themselves to him, and putting their Lives and Interests in his Hands; and therefore since as he is God, and their Friend, he cannot but know and design what is good for them, they have all the Security in the World, that every thing he orders them, shall conduce to their good, so long as they follow his Prescriptions, and that he will order them nothing, but what they would order for themselves, if they were but as infallible as he is, and did fully comprehend all his Reasons; and in a Word, [Page 322] that tho' this or that Event may be for the present very troublesom in its Operation, yet if they do not hinder the Effect of it by their own Irregularity, it shall certainly conduce to their everlasting Health and Happiness. And under this Perswasion, how chearfully may a Man bear up under all Events, and welcome the worst that can happen to him; for being secure of the infallibility of God's Skill, and of the sincerity of his Kindness to him, he hath abundant Reason to conclude, that since all Events are under God's Dispo­sal, he will take effectual Care, that nothing shall happen to him but what is for his good. For while his Will is subject to God's, his Condition is a Thousand Times more safe and secure than if God's Will were subject to his; because tho' there be the same Benevo­lence to him in both, yet his Will might mislead God's, but God's Will cannot mis­lead his.

And thus I have endeavoured to repre­sent to you the abundant Advantages that do arise from Self-denyal, i. e. from renouncing our own corrupt Will and Inclination, and intirely submitting our selves to the Will of God; which are such as, one would think, should prevail with any Man that doth but love himself, and sincerely respect his own Interest. For this is as certain a Truth, and as much confirmed by Experience, as any [Page 323] Maxim in Philosophy, that there is no state of humane Life in which a Man can be hap­py, whilst his own corrupt Will is his Law; nor none in which he can be miserable, whilst he is intirely resigned and devoted to the Will of God.

3. I now proceed to the third and last Thing proposed, which was to shew you how absolutely necessary it is to our eternal Happiness, that in Obedience to God, we should deny our own Will and corrupt incli­nations; and this will evidently appear if we consider

  • 1. That the Disposal of our Happiness is not in our own Will but God's.
  • 2. That the Standard of our Perfection is not our own Will but God's
  • 3. That the Conformity of our Nature to our Happiness consists not in what we will, but in what God wills
  • 4. That the essential Acts and Ingredients of our Happiness, are not what we will but what God wills.

1. That the Disposal of our Happiness is not in our own Will, but in Gods. If we would be everlastingly Happy, we must com­ply with that blessed Will upon which our everlasting Happiness depends; and the A­postle assures us, that eternal Life is the Gift of God. If it were in our Power to support and defend our selves in a blisful Existence [Page 324] to all Eternity, we might with some Confi­dence set up for independent Free-willers, and live as we list; and after we have followed the Swing of our own corrupt Inclinations in this World, promise to our selves an Eterni­ty of Happiness in the other: But alas, we are a sort of poor precarious Beings, that are beholding to God for every Breath we draw, and for every Moment of our Existence and Duration; and if he should withdraw from us the vital Influence of his Providence but for the Twinkling of an Eye, we should be so far from continuing happy, that we should vanish into nothing. And therefore if we intend to be happy for ever, it is necessary we should submit our selves to his Will, upon whom every Moment of our Being depends. For when meerly by withdrawing his Arm from us, he can let us drop into nothing when he pleases, how can we hope, when we will not be ruled by him, to be upheld by him in a happy Being for ever? can we think that the wise and holy Governour of the World will be so regardless of his own Authority, as to sustain and uphold his Sub­jects in their Rebellions against him; unless it be with a design to reduce them, or to make them everlasting Monuments of his Vengeance? No, no; since our Being and Well-being doth for ever depend upon him; we may build upon it, that either he will [Page 325] be obey'd by us, or that he will not so uphold us, as to encourage us in our Rebellion; and consequently, that if he doth uphold us for­ever, as he hath declared he will, it will be with a dreadful Purpose, viz. to continue us in an everlasting ill Being, and hang us up in Chains for publick Spectacles of his Ven­geance, that all his Creation may take warning by us. Wherefore if we are resol­ved to adhere to our own Will in Opposition to God's, it is in vain for us to aspire after a happy Being hereafter, unless we can find some way to deprive God of the Disposal of it, and secure it in our own Power. For so long as God remains the sole Arbitrator of our Fate, we must make his Will ours, or renounce all our Hopes of Happiness.

2. It is to be considered that the Standard of our Perfection is not our own Wills, but Gods. For the Faculties of every Nature being the Senses by which it perceives and enjoys its own Happiness, it is impossible we should ever enjoy a perfect Happiness so long as the Faculties by which we are to enjoy it are imperfect. Ours therefore being a ratio­nal Nature, all whose Motions are under the Direction of an understanding, and the Com­mand of a free Will, is framed and designed for a rational Happiness; which it is as im­possible for us perfectly to enjoy whilst our rational Faculties are out of Order, as it is [Page 326] to perceive the Pleasures of delicious Meats, and Sounds, and Odours whilst the Senso­ries of our Tast, and Smell, and Hearing are discomposed and obstructed by any bo­dily Disorder. But now while we follow our own Will in Contradistinction to Gods, our rational Nature is all over out of Tune; for whereas according to the true Order and Constitution of our Nature, our Understand­ing is to guide our Will, and our Will to command all our Passions and Appetites; so far forth as our Will swerves and deflects from Gods, it goes quite counter to the Prin­ciples of its own Reason and Understanding, and subjects it self to the Dominion of those Passions and Appetites which it ought to command; it chooses and refuses by the In­clination of its Affections, and not by the Directions of its Reason and Conscience; which is the reason of that Civil War there is between the Law in its Mind and the Law in its Members, that is between its Reason and Conscience, and its corrupt Lusts and Incli­nations: because while its Will takes Part against God, it sides with its Lusts against its Reason, and whilst it doth so, it will be so far from being happy, that it will be continually at War with its self, and its Will and its Con­science will be perpetually clashing with one another. For so long as a Man goes against his Reason, his Reason must necessarily go against him, and be continually reproaching [Page 327] and upbraiding him, and vexing his Mind with severe and angry Reflections. And how can a Man enjoy himself, whilst he is thus divided; or how can he enjoy the Happi­ness of a rational Nature, whilst he is thus divided from his Reason, and lives in perpe­tual Variance with it? A Body may as soon be at Ease whilst its Bones are out of Joint, as a Soul whilst its Faculties are thus broken and divided. If ever we would be happy with our Reason about us, we must be all of a piece with our Reason; that is, our Will must be rational, our Affections must be rational, and our Actions must be rational; if they are not, our Reason will be as much against them as they are against it, and so there will be an everlasting Broil and Mutiny within us. Till therefore we are throughout perfectly rational, that is, till all our Faculties are intirely compliant with our Reason, it is impossible we can ever be perfectly happy; and tho' we had Power e­nough to defend our selves from all hurtful Impressions from without, and to ward off the Blows not only of Devils and Men, but even of God himself; yet so long as our Rea­son and our Will are at Variance, our Will will be a spightful Devil to us, and our Rea­son an angry God. So that while we are imperfect, you see, we cannot be happy, and while we follow our own Will against God, we cannot be perfect. For to follow God [Page 328] and Right Reason, saith the Philosopher, is the same thing; and to present our selves, saith a far greater Author, a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, is our reasonable ser­vice, Rom. 12. 1. For the Will of God be­ing invariably determined in all its Choices and Refusals, by the infinite Wisdom and Goodness of his Nature, must be the most perfectly rational Will in the World, and as such, the Standard and Pattern of all other Wills; and therefore so far forth as our Will doth deflect from his, it must necessarily be imperfect and irrational: But while I govern my Will by his, and do choose and refuse by his Commands and Prohibitions, I follow the Pattern of my Perfection; and while I follow his Will which is a most perfect Tran­script of his Nature, I transcribe his Perfe­ctions into my own. For while I am copying his Will I am imitating his Nature, and while I am imitating his Nature I am grow­ing into his Likeness and Resemblance: And when once my Will is all god-like, and its Affections and Inclinations are perfectly conformable to God's, then I am perfectly rational, and shall be perfectly happy. For now as I resemble God in his Perfe­ctions, I shall resemble him in his self-enjoy­ment; my Reason will be perfectly satisfied with my Will, even as God's Reason is with his; and my Nature will be a fair and beau­tiful Prospect to my Understanding, even [Page 329] as God's Nature is to his. I shall contem­plate my own Graces with a transcendent Plea­sure and Delight, and while I alternately turn my Eyes upon God and my self, and compare Grace with Grace, and Beauty with Beauty, I shall feel, as he doth, a Heaven of Content and Joy springing up in my Bosom. Thus by denying our own Will, you see, and submitting to God's, which is the Standard of our Perfection, we naturally grow up in­to Blessedness; whereas by following our own Wills in Opposition to God's, we fatally sink our selves into Wretchedness and Misery.

3. It is also to be considered that the Con­formity of our Nature to our Happiness consists not in what we will, but in what God wills. To make us blessed it is not only necessary that there should be blisful Objects for us to enjoy, but that our Minds should agree with and be contempered to them; for unless we are affected suitably to the Worth and Excellency of them, all the Objects of Heaven cannot make us happy. For as Deli­cacies are grateful only to delicate Palats, and Musick to musical Ears; so the glorious En­tertainments of the World to come are a Hea­ven only to heavenly Minds: For to dwell with a God whom I do not love, and to be confined to a Society of Spirits whose Tem­pers I am averse to; to be put upon Exercises against which I have an Antipathy, would be a tedious Constraint instead of a free Enjoy­ment; [Page 330] so that before ever Heaven can be a Heaven to me, my Mind must be tuned and adapted to its Joys and Beatitudes. And this is not to be effected by following our own Will but God's; for our Will as it stands in Opposition to God's is either a sensual or a devilish one, or both; and 'tis either Co­vetousness or Luxury which are the Lusts of the Flesh, or Pride or Malice which are the Lusts of the Spirit, that sway and determine it in all its Choices and Refusals; both which are as repugnant to the heavenly Enjoyments as Light is to Darkness, or one Contrary to to another. For between a spiritual Heaven and a carnal Mind, a divine Heaven and a devilish Mind, there is an irreconcilable Di­stance; and for such a Mind to live hap­pily upon such a Heaven is as impossible in the nature of the Thing as it is for a hun­gry Wolf to fill his Belly with Syllogisms, or to satisfy its Appetite upon a Lecture of Phi­losophy. Whilst therefore we give way to our corrupt Will and Inclination we do con­tract an Antipathy to Heaven, and do what in us lies to prepossess our own Minds with an implacable Aversion to all its Joys and Beatitudes. We take an effectual Course to antidote our Souls against true Happiness, and to secure our Minds from being ever touch'd and affected with the divine and spi­ritual Pleasures of the World to come. So [Page 331] that if we are still resolved to take part with our own wicked Will against God, we were best take our Pleasure while we may have it, while we live among these sensitive Enjoy­ments that suit with our brutish Appetites and Affections; for when we go hence into the Spiritual World, that will be like a barren Wilderness to us, where we shall find no­thing to live upon, but be forced to pine a­way a long Eternity under a desperate Hun­ger and Dissatisfaction. But if we heartily resign up our selves to God, and prostrate our Wills to his, we shall thereby quickly acquire a heavenly Frame and Disposition. For the proper Business of all those Duties he requires at our hands is to dress and prepare our Souls for Heaven, and make us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the Saints in light. 'Tis by these that he carves and pol­lishes our Natures, cuts off the Roughnesses and Unevennesses of our Temper, and squares us into fit Materials for the heavenly Building. For this is the will of God, saith the Apostle, even our sanctification, 1 Thess. 4. 3. That is the purging our Nature from all its Aversion and Repugnancy to the Blessed­ness of Heaven, and the inlaying it with all those divine Dispositions wherein our Con­formity with Heaven consists; for so our Saviour explains it, Io. 12. 50; I know that his commandment is life everlasting; that is, [Page 332] that what he commands, is the Seed and Principle of everlasting Blessedness: That it is the Charity and Humility, the Righteous­ness and Temperance, and Self-resignation which he commands, which do attemper our Minds to the heavenly State, and by which we are to relish the Joys and Pleasures of it for ever. For it is these Virtues that do re­concile our Appetites to Heaven, and with­out these, our Souls can no more relish the Joys of it, than our Palate can Sweet-meats while is is over-flowed with Gall. Unless therefore we will deny our corrupt Will and Affections, and submit our selves to God, it is Nonsense for us to talk of going to Hea­ven; for Heaven it self without a heavenly Disposition to relish it, is a tastless and insi­pid Thing, and it is as possible to please a blind Man with the Beauty of Colours, and a deaf Man with a Consort of Musick, as to gratifie a vicious Mind with its divine and spiritual Enjoyments.

4. And lastly, It is to be considered, that the essential Acts and Ingredients of our Happiness are not what we will, but what God wills. It is a great mistake, to imagine that the Happiness of Man consists in exter­nal Possessions, or in being seized of a great Plenty of outward Goods of any kind what­soever; whether they be earthly or heavenly. It is not the possessing the outward Goods of [Page 333] this World, but the enjoying them that makes any Man happy; and if I had all the World in my Possession, no more of it could go in­to my Happiness than just what I enjoy; all the rest would be like the Possession of a great Mountain of Sand which I could nei­ther eat, nor drink, nor apply to any of my Needs or Conveniencies: So that the Pos­session of outward Goods is good only as it is in Order to the Enjoyment of them, abstract­ed from which, it is altogether indifferent whether I am possessed of them or no. But now 'tis by our own Actions that we do en­joy the Goods we are possessed of, by apply­ing them to the Needs and Conveniencies of our Nature, and by the Content and Satisfa­ction we take in the Application. So that in short, our Happiness is not in the Goods that are without us, but in the Enjoyment of them that is within us; that is, in those Acts of Fruition, by which we feel, and perceive them. And thus if we were possessed of all those outward Goods that Heaven abounds with, they could signifie nothing to our Happiness, unless we had an inward Enjoy­ment of them, and by proper Acts of Frui­tion did taste and perceive their Beauty and Delightfulness. So that all the Happiness, you see, that Heaven or Earth can afford us, is immediately lodged in our own Acts of Enjoyment, without which, neither the Pos­session [Page 334] of Wealth and Honour upon Earth, nor of the Presence of God, and Saints, and Angels in Heaven can make us in the least degree happy. Since therefore our Happi­ness is so immediately lodg'd in our own Acts, it will hence necessarily follow, that those Acts by which the Goods of Heaven are to be enjoyed are the Acts of our future Happiness. Now the chiefest Goods of Heaven, being God, and Saints, and Angels, and our Selves, the chiefest Happiness of Heaven must consist in those Acts by which God, and Saints, and Angels, and our Selves are enjoyed; and by what Acts can these be enjoyed, but by God­ly, Saintly, and Angelical Ones? 'Tis by Worship and Contemplation, by Love and Imi­tation, by Dependance and Subjection that God is to be enjoyed by us; 'tis by Charity and Righteousness, by Modesty and Peaceableness, by Submission and Condescention that Saints and Angels are to be enjoyed by us; 'tis by Pru­dence and Moderation, by Fortitude, Tempe­rance, and Humility, that we our selves are to be enjoyed by us: And therefore, if when we go into Eternity, we carry with us a Mind and Will habituated to these beatifick Actions, these Acts are the Sum and Sub­stance of God's Will and Law. Whilst therefore we take Part with our own Will against God's, we act quite counter to our own Happiness, and go contrary to all the [Page 335] Acts of our heavenly Fruition and Enjoyment. For that which God designs in all his Com­mands, is to educate and train up our Nature for Heaven, to discipline and exercise it in the beatifical Acts of the heavenly Life; that so when it is advanced from this School of Probation, to the University of Happiness, it may be instructed in the Language, and na­turalized to the Exercise of it; that it may be predisposed and habituated to Love and De­pendance, to Charity and Righteousness, and all those beatifical Acts by which Heaven is en­joyed. So that while we follow his Will, we are learning to enjoy Heaven, and per­fecting our selves in the Acts of our everlast­ing Fruition; that so when we go from hence to take Possession of the Goods above, we may be perfectly vers'd in the Enjoyment of them, and have the Skill and Ability to make a happy Use of them for ever. Whereas on the contrary, while we follow our own cor­rupt Will and Inclinations, we do not only not learn these blessed Acts of Fruition, but we learn the quite contraries. Instead of learning to enjoy God by Love and Adoration, we learn how to divide our selves eternally from him, by contracting Enmity to him, and a profane Contempt of his Majesty. In­stead of learning to enjoy Saints and Angels by Charity and Righteousness, we learn how to banish our selves from their Society, by [Page 336] contracting malicious and dishonest Inclinati­ons; in a Word, instead of learning to en­joy our selves by Humility and Temperance, we learn how to be our own Devils and Tor­mentors, by contracting Pride and an unli­mited Propension to bodily Pleasures; by which means we shall at last render our Na­ture not only impotent, but also irreconcila­ble to all those blessed Acts of our future Hap­piness, and so utterly disable our selves from enjoying Heaven, that it would be a real Grievance to us to be forc'd to endure it. For when by thus following my own wicked Will, I have contracted a deep and inveterate Aver­sion to all those beatifical Acts by which Heaven is enjoyed, I have an Antipathy a­gainst Heaven in my Nature, and so long as this continues, Heaven must be a Tor­ment to me instead of a Fruition; and if when I go from hence into Eternity, I should be admitted into Heaven, with this prevail­ing Aversion to the beatifical Acts of it; I should be so far from enjoying it, that I should loath it, and rather choose to banish my self from it for ever, than to be confined to a Condition so unsuitable to my Nature. Whilst therefore I am running from God af­ter my own Will, I am running from Heaven; and if I do not stop the sooner, shall run my self to a Distance from it, as immense and [Page 337] irreconcilable as that which separated Dives from Abraham's Bosom.

And thus you see how indispensibly ne­cessary upon all these Accounts Self-denyal is, in order to our future Happiness. Hence then, let us all be perswaded to renounce our corrupt Will and Affections, and resign up our selves to the Government of God: And further to move you hereunto, I beseech you briefly to consider with me these Four Things.

  • 1. That in its self, this is the most just and equitable Thing you can do.
  • 2. That in this consists the Life and Sub­stance of all your Religion.
  • 3. That this is the great Hinge upon which your Safety and Security de­pends.
  • 4. That in this you do the most effectual­ly consult your own Interest.

1. That to deny your own Wills, and re­sign up your selves to the Government of God, is in it self the most just and equitable Thing you can do. For all your Powers and Facul­ties are Gods by an unalienable Right and Property; your Understanding is his, and your Will is his, and all your Powers of Action are the Births and Products of his fruitful Will, and Almighty Goodness. And if it be thus, we must necessarily be obliged to subject our selves to him, and prostrate our [Page 338] Wills, and all our Powers of Action at his feet. If then we are his, as we must be if we are made by him, what have we to do to dispose of our selves contrary to his Will and Pleasure? with what Colour of Iustice can I choose what He commands me to refuse, when my Power of choosing is his, and he hath a far more undoubted Right to it than I have to the Cloaths on my Back? when he is the supream Proprietor of that Will wherewith I choose, with what Conscience can I vote with it against him, or give away any of my Choices and Elections from him? What is this but to embezzle my Masters Goods, and alienate his Property from his Use and Service? Remember, O Man! in every wicked Choice that thou makest, thou givest away thy self from thy right Owner, and dost sacrilegiously rob God of the Fruits of his own Creation, and must one Day expect to render a dreadful Account to him for every Choice thou hast given away from him, and for every Thought, and Word, and Action which thou hast presumed to dispose of contrary to his Orders: For thou hast no more Right to give away thy self, or any of thy Choices and Actions from God, and canst no more justifie thy self for so doing, than thou hast to sell away thy Landlords Fee­simple, or to entail his Inheritance on thy Children. And before you make too bold [Page 339] with God's Property, or presume to dispose of his Goods at your Pleasure, you were best consider seriously whom you have to deal with; that you have not to do with a Being that is to be hector'd out of his Rights, or born down with Might and Violence; but with a God that is sufficiently sensible of your unjust Usurpations, and abundantly able to revenge them; that is jealous of his own Rights and Properties, has a deep Resent­ment of all your injurious Invasions of them, and an Almighty Arm to assert and vindi­cate them. And when you have considered this, then alienate your Choices from him if you dare; but in the mean Time, as you will answer the Injustice of it at the Tribunal of God, have a Care how you dispose of your selves contrary to his Orders, lest as a just Retribution he should one Day dispose of you contrary to your Wills to everlasting Misery and Despair.

2. Consider that in this denying and re­signing our selves to God, consists the Life and Substance of all our Religion. For what is Religion, but a [...] a Tying or Bind­ing fast Mens Minds and [...] to God? It is the Bond of our Allegiance to the Throne of Heaven, by which we oblige our selves to be God's Subjects, and do resign up our Wills, and all our Powers of Action to his Government; and in this, as I shew'd you, [Page 340] consists Self-denyal. For when once we have master'd our own Self-Will, and conquer'd its Obstinacy, and persuaded it to yield up it self to the Will of God, then is his glori­ous Empire set up in our Souls, then he is crowned our Soveraign Lord, his Kingdom is come into us, and we may cry Hallelujah, for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth. But till once our Religion hath tied our Souls to God, and obliged our Will to renounce all other Lords, and submit to his Empire, it is only a Name, an empty Shew and For­mality of Religion; 'tis a Religion without a Religion, or a Bond without a Tye; that is, 'tis down right Nonsense, and a Contra­diction to it self. And what Shews or Pro­fessions soever we may make of Religion, how zealous or forward soever we may be in the external Acts of it, it will all signifie nothing to us, unless there be a prostrate Will, and a resigned Heart at the bottom. For this is the Alpha and Omega, the Corner and the Top-Stone of Religion, and to pre­tend Religion without this, is to pretend Loyalty in open Acts of Rebellion. And in­deed could Religion consist with a rebelli­ous Will, the Devil himself might very fair­ly pretend to it; for that which makes him a Devil, is nothing but his own boisterous Self-Will that is continually struggling and lifting up it self against God. And hence [Page 341] Belial is the Devil's Name, which signifies without Yoak; and accordingly the Chil­dren of Belial are described to be such, as do altogether break the Yoak, and burst the Bonds of the Lord. Jer. 5. 5. and called Chil­dren of Disobedience. Eph. 2. 2. because like their Father Belial they are impatient of Re­straint, and will hearken to no Law but that of their own boundless Self-will. So far are those Men from being truly Religious, whose Wills are divided from God's, that they are in Belial's Predicament, unyoak'd from the Divine Government, and their Wills are in a strict Confederacy with the Devil. And hence the Prophet Samuel speak­ing of Saul's Rebellion against God, tells him, that Rebellion is as the Sin of Witchcraft, 1 Sam. 15. 23. that is, Rebellion against God, is an implicite Confederacy with the Devil, even as Witchcraft is an explicite one. For the Devil being the Prince and Ring­leader of the Rebel-Creation, whoever sets up his Will against God, does thereby renounce his Allegiance to Heaven, and like a false Re­creant joyns hands with the Devil in Rebel­lion against his Maker. And whilst a Man's Soul doth thus clasp Wills with the Devil, and conspires with him in his Rebellion a­gainst Heaven; what impudent Hypocrisie is it for him to pretend to Religion? Where­fore, either let us be so modest for the future [Page 342] as not to pretend to Religion, or any of those blessed Hopes it sets before us; or let us re­solve to be so honest to our Pretensions as to deny our selves, and resign up our Wills to God. For while our Will and God's are divided and separated, and do in any Instance tread Antipodes to each other, all our Pretence of Religion is a shameless Cheat, which when it comes to be examined at the Tribunal of God, will be found a meer Paint, and artificial Complection dawb'd upon a black and de­vilish Nature.

3. Consider that upon our denying our selves and resigning our Wills to God, de­pends all our Safety and Security. For if God be against us, all the Powers of Heaven and Earth can't secure us; because his Will hath an infinite Power conjoyned with it, that like an irresistible Torrent bears down all Oppositions, and sweeps every Thing be­fore it that stands in its way. To what pur­pose then should such impotent Things as we, set up our Wills against his, Can you ever hope to prevail against him, or to force his Almighty Will into a Compliance with yours? Gird up your selves like Men, and I will demand of you in the Name of God; have you an Arm like God, or can you thun­der with a Voice like him? are ye able to withstand the Whirlwind of his Power, or to shelter your Heads against the Storms of his [Page 343] Vengeance? alas! no; a Feather in the Air may sooner stop a Thunder-bolt that comes roaring down from the Clouds, than you can the Course of that Almighty Will which doth whatever it pleases both in Heaven and Earth: And if so, with what safety can you oppose your impotent Will to it, or how can you expect to prosper in such an unequal Contention? Since therefore God doth so infinitely out-match you, and 'tis infallibly certain, that first or last he will be too hard for you; all that is left to your Choice is, whether you will do his Will or suffer it; whether you will obey his Commands, or en­dure his Inflictions: for one of these you must do, but which of the Two, is left to your own Election. If you think it more eligible to obey what God hath enjoyned, than to endure what he will inflict, you may by choosing the former, eternally secure your selves from the latter; For, besides, that such is the ge­nerous Goodness of God's Nature, as it will not permit him to trample upon the Pro­strate, nor to deny fair Quarter to such as lay down their Arms, and freely surrender themselves to his Will and Disposal, besides this, I say, upon the Satisfaction which his own Son hath made for the Sins of the World, he hath obliged himself by a pub­lick Grant and Promise of Mercy to receive us into his Favour and Protection upon our [Page 344] unfaigned Submission to him, and to treat us graciously notwithstanding all our past Re­bellions, as if we had been for ever perfect­ly loyal to him, and had neither in Thought, nor Word, nor Deed offended him. So that if now if we will heartily submit our Wills to him, he cannot let loose his Power on us without forfeiting his Truth, and doing Vi­olence to the Perfections of his own Nature. But notwithstanding all the Goodness of his own Nature, and all the Vertue of that Pro­pitiation that he hath made for our Sins, this is a Law which he will never dispense with; I will see that my Creatures shall obey me, or feel me, that they shall conform to my Will, or sink under my Vengeance; and if they will be so despe­rate as to refuse the former, all the Powers of Heaven and Earth shall not secure them from the latter. If therefore you are so abandoned of all Reason, as to think it more eligible to suffer the Will of God than to obey it, you must e'en take what follows; for as sure as God is in Heaven, and you upon Earth, you shall one Day feel the Weight of his Arm, if you do not freely surrender your selves to his Will and Disposal. But before you do so, for your Souls sake consider once more what a terrible Election you are making, that 'tis the unquenchable Wrath of the ever­living God that you are throwing your selves upon, a Wrath that will imprint it self upon [Page 345] every Faculty of your Nature, and be drop­ping like burning Sulphur upon your Souls for ever. And if after you have considered this, you will still adhere to your desperate Option, the Lord have Mercy upon your Souls.

4. And lastly, Consider that if there were no Obligation to this Duty, or no Danger in the contrary, yet in thus denying our selves, and resigning our Wills to God, we do the most effectually consult our own Interest. For God, being infinitely happy in his own Perfections, and deriving all possible Satis­faction from his own Self-Sufficiency, can­not be supposed to desire any Thing for him­self without himself; and being perfectly ex­empted from all Want and Indigence by the infinite Fulness of his Being, he can have nothing of Envy or Malice in his Nature, which are weak and impotent Passions that do always spring out of a sense of Need and Insufficiency, and are utterly inconsistent with a State of perfect Fulness and Beati­tude. Since therefore in his outward Admi­nistrations he can have no Self-Ends to serve upon his Creatures, and since he can have no Principle of Envy or Malice towards them in his Nature, it hence necessarily follows that in ruling and governing them he can have no other Design upon them but to do them good, and make them like himself, i. e. per­fectly good and perfectly happy. So that [Page 346] God's End and ours is always the same; we would be happy and God would have us so too, and we our selves cannot aim at our Happiness more heartily and sincerely than he does; all the Difference therefore between him and us is about the Means and Way to our Happiness: We are for one Way, and he is for another; we think the Way to our Happiness is to live in all Ungodliness and worldly Lusts, and he thinks the Way to it is to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present World. So that the whole Dispute between God and us, so far as Reason is con­cerned in it, depends upon this, whether God be in the right, or our selves; whether we are not deceived in chusing this Way, or God be not deceived in prescribing the con­trary. If we have any Reason to think that we are wiser than God, or do better under­stand the Way to our own Happiness; then it must be acknowledged that in refusing God's Way and chusing our own, we do advisedly consult our own Interest; but this is such a Supposal, as, I believe, never entered into any Man's sober Thoughts. And if we have all the Reason in the world to conclude not only that God is wiser than we, but that whereas we are extremely short-sighted and apt to be imposed upon with glistering Shews and Appearances, he hath such a full Com­prehension of all Things as that he cannot [Page 347] be deceived; then we may be sure that when we forsake our own Way and follow God's we cannot be misled, but at every step must be tending directly to our own Happi­ness. For if God cannot be deceived, and we may, it is certain that whenever our Way to Happiness lies contrary to his, he is in the right and we are in the wrong; and conse­quently that when we forsake his Way to follow our own, we go from Happiness to Misery. Is it likely that we should know what belongs to humane Nature, and the or­dering and regulating its Affections and Acti­ons? That we should understand the just Bounds and Measures where it is to be re­strained and where to be indulged better than the God that formed and composed it. And if it be not, as doubtless it is not, were we not much better resign our Wills to his Go­vernment than to live at our own Disposal? For he desires to govern us for no other Rea­son but because he knows he can govern us much better than our selves. He sees that we are a sort of blind and precipitant Creatures, that must unavoidably stumble into eternal Ruine if we follow our own Wills; and there­fore he would fain retrieve us our of our own Hands, that so having the sole Disposal of us himself, he may conduct us safely to Happiness. And when He intends as kindly to us as we can to our selves, were we not [Page 348] better follow his Wisdom than our own Fol­ly? He knows that our Self-love will in the Effect prove Self-hatred to us, if it be not moderated and directed by a better and a wiser Love; and therefore he would have it under the direction of his, which is the best and wisest Love in the World. He desires to have the Government of our Will upon no other Account but only that he might de­termine all its Choices to our Happiness, and requires our Hearts of us meerly for this End, that he might fill them with Peace and Rest. He knows that our Perfection and Happiness lies in Compliance with our Du­ty, in Piety and Iustice, Mercy and Humi­lity, and that out of the free and constant, sprightly and vivacious Exercise of these Vir­tues arises all our Heaven both here and here­after; and knowing this, that tender Love he bears us, that mighty Concern he hath for our Welfare makes him thus urgent and importunate with us in his Demands of our Duty; for he regards our Duty no farther than it tends to our Good, and values each Act of our Obedience by what it contributes to our Happiness. He affects not to bur­then us with unnecessary Impositions; all that he requires of us is what our Interest requires, which is so dear and precious to him that he will dispense with nothing that is necessary to promote and secure it; and 'tis [Page 349] therefore he will not dispense with us, be­cause he cannot, without releasing us from our Obligation to be happy. Why then should we desire, O foolish Creatures that we are, to be released from the Yoak of his Government? Or how can we count it Liberty to be loosed from an infinite Good­ness that is conducted by infinite Wisdom and Power? For whatsoever my blind Lusts and Passions may dictate, my Reason assures me that the greatest Priviledge that belongs to a Creature is to be under the Govern­ment of God, and that if he should release me from my Subjection to his Will by a Dispensation under the Broad-Seal of Hea­ven, and give me an unlimited Licence to live as I list, promising never to be displeased with me more, or to take any farther Cog­nizance of my Actions; the best and wisest Thing I could do for my self would be to resign back my self to his Government, and surrender up my blind and precipitant Will to his most wise and gracious Disposal! And if he should refuse to re-admit me to his Go­vernment, and abandon me for ever to my own Self-Will, I should be the most forlorn Soul on this side Hell; I should not know what to do, nor which Way to turn my self; but be forced to wander in a dark Wil­derness without being ever able to discover any certain path-way to my Happiness. But [Page 350] so long as I am under the Government of God, I am sure I am safe; and while I fol­low his All-wise and most gracious Will, I know that I am going to a happy End; and that how rough soever my Way is, it will bring me to Canaan. What then re­mains but that from henceforth we utterly deny our selves, renounce our corrupt Wills and Inclinations, and chearfully resign our selves to the Will of God; which hath no other Design upon us but to do us Good, to raise and advance our degenerate Natures, and conduct us through the Kingdom of Grace into the Kingdom of Glory.

1 JOHN III. 7.‘Little Children, let no man deceive you: He that doth righteousness, is righteous, even as he is righteous.’

THese Words are a short and plain Resolution of that Grand Case, viz. how a Man may know whe­ther he be in a state of Grace and Favour with God; or, which is all one, whe­ther he be a good Man and a good Christian. The Gnosticks, against whom St. Iohn parti­cularly directs this Epistle, placed all Righte­ousness and Goodness in certain pretended Illu­minations, which had nothing in them but certain swelling Words of Vanity, and like gilded Bubbles were blown up with wind, and filled with mystical Nonsence. And tho' in their Lives and Manners they were a Reproach and Scandal not only to Religion, but even to humane Nature; yet merely up­on the account of these their own Wild Dreams, they vaunted themselves to be the only Elect, and Favourites of God, and imagined themselves advanced to that de­gree of Perfection, as that they were above all Law, and freely dispensed with under the Broad-Seal of Heaven to live as they list, [Page 352] and to wallow in Riot and Voluptuousness. Against these wild Men the Apostle here seems to forewarn his little Children; suffer not these vile Deceivers to impose upon your Faith this their damnable Error, viz. that by receiving their high-flown Mysteries and pre­tended Revelations, you shall without any more ado be constituted perfect and righteous Men in the sight of God; for from God him­self I do assure you that he, and he only, that doth Righteousness, is righteous even as he is righteous; i. e. as Christ is righteous, of whom I just before discoursed.

In the Prosecution of which Argument I shall endeavour these two Things; First, to shew you, what it is to do Righteousness in general; Secondly, what that righteous Doing is which in the sense of Christianity constitutes us Righteous Men.

1. What it is to do Righteousness in general. I answer, it is to give to every one his Due, or to perform to God, our selves, and to all the World whatsoever is owing from the State of our Nature, and the Relations and Circumstances wherein we are placed. And in this Latitude to do Righteousness is the sum of Religion, and the Whole Duty of man. The righteous Man therefore, or the Man that doth Righteousness is, in the sense of the Text, one, that demeans himself so, as in the Judgment of Right Reason he ought [Page 353] to do towards God, himself, and all the World; that looking upon himself under the Relation of God's Creature and Pensioner, doth freely render him all that Homage, and Reverence, and Love, and Gratitude, and Trust, and Adorotion that are owing to so great a Creator, and so liberal a Benefactor; One that considering the Frame of his own Nature, how he is compounded of contrary Principles, viz. Spirit and Flesh, Reason and Sense, exercises himself in all those humane Virtues, which consist in the Dominion of his superior Principle of Reason over his sen­sitive Passions and Appetites; such as Pati­ence and Equanimity, Courage and Meekness, Temperance and Chastity; all which are pro­per to us as Beings made up of contrary Prin­ciples, from whence spring those contrary Appetites and Inclinations in us; in the good or bad Government whereof, the Essence of humane Virtue and Vice consists. In a Word, the righteous Man is one, who, considering his State, and Circumstances, and Relations in the World, behaves himself in them all as right Reason directs and obliges him; that as he is a Member of humane Society, bears an hearty Good-Will to the whole Corporation of Mankind; that is courteous and affable, peaceable and condescending, long-suffering and ready to forgive; that is grateful to those from whom he hath received Good, and so [Page 354] far as he hath Opportunity, is ready to do Good to others; that is faithful to his Promi­ses, sincere in his Professions, just and honest in his Dealings; that heartily wishes every Man were good, and without manifest Reason to the contrary, believes every one to be so; that when he sees a Fault is ready to excuse it, and where he cannot, silently bewails and laments it; that as a Subject is loyal and obe­dient to his Superiors, and as a Superior is careful of the Publick Good, and just and be­nign towards all his Inferiours; that as a Father loves his Children, piously and wisely educates them, and is provident for their Happiness both here and hereafter; that as a Child reverences his Parents, and is ready to comfort and assist them in their Needs, and in all lawful Things to render them a chear­ful Obedience; that as a Husband is kind to his Wife, compassionate to her Infirmities, and easie to be entreated by her; that as a Wife is modest in her Behaviour, careful and vigi­lant in her Family, and soft and tractable to the Will of her Husband; that as a Master is just and benevolent to his Servants, and stu­dious of their Welfare both temporal and eternal; that as a Servant is industrious in his Business, and faithful to his Trust, and obedient to his Master; that in Adversity is resigned and contented, honestly industrious to live, and grateful to those that relieve [Page 355] him; that in Prosperity is humble and modest, and full of good Works; and to name no more, He is a cordial Friend, a good Neigh­bour, a faithful Correspondent, and a zea­lous Lover of his Country: These are the main Ingredients that compound a righteous Man; and accordingly we find that where­ever he is mentioned in Scripture, he is al­ways described by such like Characters as these: thus in the 15th Psalm, where the Psalmist sets himself on purpose to describe the righteous Man that should dwell in the Tabernacle of God, he is represented as one that walketh uprightly, and worketh Righteous­ness; that speaketh Truth, and is tender of his Neighbour's Reputation; that freely lends to those that are in Need, and will not be bribed against the Innocent. So also Ezek. 18. 14, 15, 16, 17. he is described to be one that is no Idolater, no Adulterer, no Oppressor; that doth not defraud his Neigh­bour of his Right, but is just and Liberal to the Poor, and freely lends to those that are in need. And Micah 6. 7. the Prophet tells us what it is that renders us just and ac­ceptable in the sight of God, viz. doing Iustice, loving Mercy, and walking Humbly with God. So also in the New Testament we are taught, that pure and undefiled Religion consists in visiting the Fatherless and Widows in their af­fliction, and keeping our selves unspotted from [Page 356] the World. James 1. 27. and Gal. 5. 22. St. Paul tells us that the fruits of the Spirit which render us righteous in the sight of God, are such as these, Love, Ioy, Peace, Long-suffering, Gentleness, Goodness, Faith, Meekness, Temperance; and to name no more, the same Apostle Tit. 2. 11. saith that the Righteousness which the Gospel, or Grace of God designs to propagate in the World, is this, that denying ungodliness and worldly-lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present World; which Three, are the Sum of all those Virtues which constitute a Righ­teous Man.

Having thus shewed what it is in gene­ral to do Righteousness, I now proceed in the second Place to shew what that Righteous Do­ing is, which in the Sense of Christianity doth constitute us Righteous Men: In order to which it will be necessary to premise these Three Things.

1. That Christianity supposes many Im­perfections and Infirmities in those whom it yet allows to be Righteous Men; and indeed if it did not, it could admit no Man in the World to be righteous. For it hath seemed good to the Divine Wisdom to introduce us into the World in an imperfect State, that so by the good Use of our own free Wills and rational Faculties, assisted by his Grace, we might by Degrees advance to a more sublime [Page 357] and perfect Condition, till through our gra­dual Progress from this rude and imperfect State, we at length arrive to the Perfection of Happiness for which we were made: And such is the Condition of our Nature, as that it is as necessary for us to begin imperfectly, as to be born Infants; nor can a Babe in Christ any more have the Perfections of a grown and experienced Christian, than can an Infant of a Span long have the Strength and Wisdom of a Man. In this State of Things therefore, if God will not allow the lowest Degree of our Perfection to be good, neither can he the highest; for our Improvement being gradual, there must of necessity be a first Degree, before there can be a second; and therefore if God allows not the first, he must for the same Reason disallow the second of the same kind, and so on from the third to the highest Degree of all. Seeing there­fore Christianity is a Religion for Men, it must be supposed to be fitted to their low and imperfect Condition, which it could not be if it did not abate for our Defects, and admit us to be righteous in the main, even while we are imperfectly so; and that it doth so, is apparent by the distinction it fre­quently makes between the less and the more Perfect, still allowing both to be Righteous. Thus it distinguishes between Babes and Men, allowing both to be in Christ; between [Page 358] the Weak, and the Strong, and Confirmed, allowing both to be in the Faith: And our Saviour himself speaking of some, who upon receiving the Seed of the Gospel brought forth Thirty, of others who brought forth Sixty, and others a Hundred-fold, doth yet allow them all to be good Ground. Matth. 13. and Luke 19. 14. He as well allows him to be a good and faithful Servant who had im­proved his Tallent into Five, as he who had improved his into Ten. From all which it is evident, that the Gospel doth not judge of our main State by the Degrees, but by the Reality of our Righteousness.

2. It is to be premised, that that which constitutes us Righteous Men in the Judgment of the Gospel, is some internal vital Principle of Righteousness. For as all other Things receive their Denomination from their Forms, so it is from some internal Form of Righteousness that righteous Men receive their Denomination. It is not the simple doing righteous Actions that constitutes a Man righteous; for he may be a very bad Man, not only while he doth that which is Righteous, but also in the very doing of it. Thus a Man may fast and pray, only to gloss his Oppressions; he may do an ho­nest Action, to disguise a knavish Design, in which Case he sins in the doing of it, be­cause in the doing it, he prophanes Religion [Page 359] by making it a Cloak for his Wickedness; a plain Evidence, that Actions which in themselves are materially good, do partake of the Principles from whence they do pro­ceed, and receive their Form and Denomina­tion from them; seeing even good Actions may be infected by a bad Principle, and de­rive into themselves the Malignity and Base­ness of the Fountains from whence they flow. And if without a righteous Principle our Actions cannot be righteous, to be sure nei­ther can we; b cause we are as our Actions are. Hence you may observe in the New Testament, that good Men are generally de­nominated from some internal Form of Good­ness; they are said to be born of God, and to have the seed of God remaining in them. 1. Joh. 3. 9. and to be renewed in the Spirit of their Mind, Eph. 4. 23. to be spiritually minded, Rom. 8. 6. and to be transformed by the re­newing of their Mind, Rom. 12. 2. and to be partakers of the Divine Nature, 2 Pet. 1. 4. all which, do plainly denote, that to constitute us righteous. Men in the Sense of the Gospel, there is necessarily required some internal Form and Principle of Righteousness.

3. And lastly, We must premise, that Christianity being the Law or Rule of our Religion, the internal Principle, which in the Sense of this Law constitutes us Righteous, must be strictly Religious; that is, it must [Page 360] be such as doth immediately respect God, who is the great Object of all Religion. For Religion in the strictest Sense, is the Rule of Divine Worship, and under this Notion of Divine Worship, or Homage, and Obedi­ence to God, Christianity exacts every Duty of us; for it requires us to do all as unto God, and to do all to the Glory of God; i. e. in Obe­dience to him, and out of a sincere Acknow­ledgment of his Authority over us, and im­mutable Right to rule and command us: And even those moral Virtues which do immedi­ately respect our Neighbours and our selves, are enjoyned as Duties unto God, and bound upon us with religious Obligations. So that now all the Acts and Functions of a good Life are adopted into the Rubrick of Christan Worship, and required of us as Acts of Obe­dience to God; from whence it follows, that the Spring and Principle of those Acts must be strictly Religious, immediately respect­ing God and his Authority over us; it being impossible those Acts should be truly religi­ous, which do not proceed from a religious Principle.

These Things being premised, I come now to lay down what that Principle is, which in the Sense of Christian Religion con­stitutes us righteous Men. In general, it is a considerate, universal prevailing Resolution to obey God, proceeding from our Belief of [Page 361] the Christian Religion: For the better under­standing of which, I shall briefly explain the particular Terms of it.

  • 1. I say it is a Resolution.
  • 2. It is a Resolution of obeying God.
  • 3. It is a considerate Resolution.
  • 4. An universal, and
  • 5. A prevalent one.
  • 6. A Resolution of obeying God, spring­ing out of our Belief of the Christian Religion.

1. It is a Resolution; by which I ex­clude the Habit of Obedience from being the prime and constitutive Principle of Chri­stian Righteousness. For Christianity, as was shewn before, supposing great Imper­fections and Infirmities even in those whom it allows to be righteous in the main; if we would judge rightly of our own State by the Christian Rule, we must take measure of our selves from that which is the lowest and most imperfect Principle of Righteousness, and not conclude our selves to be unrighte­ous, because we are not righteous to such a Degree; but as for the habit of Obedi­ence which consists in an inherent Prompt­ness, Facility and Easiness to obey, it is so perfect a Principle, as is not attainable but under a long Progress in Religion. For when after a vicious Course of Life we begin to re­form, we are so far from being habituated to [Page 362] obey God, that we obey him with Difficulty, and strong Reluctancy, and are fain to row against the Stream of our own Inclinations; in which state we are far from having at­tained to an Habit or Promptness of obey­ing. So that by making this the constitu­tive Principle of Christian Righteousness, we exclude from the State of Righteousness all Beginners in Religion, and do allow none to be faithful Servants, but those who have conquer'd the difficulties of obeying. The true Form or Principle therefore, from which we receive the Denomination of righ­teous Men is that Point or Term, from which we begin to be righteous, and that is a righ­teous Resolution. For Choice and Resoluti­on is the Spring of all voluntary Actions, and consequently from thence we begin to act righteously, and in the pursuit of that, we grow and improve into an habit of Righte­ousness. Our first step, is to resolve well; our next, to do well; the uninterrupted Re­petition of which, will at length improve into an habit of well-doing. I will arise, says the Prodigal, and go to my Father; that was the first step of his Return, and the vital Principle whence all his After-motions did proceed.

2. It is a Resolution to obey God; by which I exclude those good Resolutions from being the Christian Principle of Righteous­ness [Page 363] which have no respect at all to God, but either to the gratifying our natural Temper only, or to the securing our Health, or Re­putation, or secular Interest; which, tho' they may be productive of very good Morals in our Conversation, are far from being the inward Form and Principle of Righteousness which Christianity requires; for that, as was before premised, must be strictly religious, and consequently, must be a Resolution to obey God. For that we should obey God, is the fundamental Law of Religion, whence all its particular Laws derive their Force and Obligation; and therefore to resolve to obey God must be the fundamental Principle of Religion from whence all the particular Acts of it proceed. So that the internal Princi­ple which constitutes us religiously good, must answer to that external Principle which obliges us to be so; and it is only our Re­solution to obey God, which answers to that external Principle that makes it our Duty to obey him. In this Resolution, and in this only, consists the Submission of our Wills to God, the Homage and Fealty of our Souls; without which, all external shews of Piety and Virtue, are but a dead Formality. Not that an actual explicite Resolution of obey­ing God is necessary to every good Action, for this is impossible: our Occasions of do­ing good being so infinite, and so often oc­curring [Page 364] in our secular Affairs, and our Minds so incapable of attending many Things at once, that it is not in our Power to form an actual Resolution of Obedience, as often as we are called upon to do good Actions. It is sufficient therefore, that in general we have such a Resolution fixt in our Minds; and this, tho' we do not exert it in every particular Action, will constitute every Acti­on good, and render it acceptable to God.

3. It must be a considerate, well-weighed Resolution; by which I exclude from being the Principle of Christian Righteousness, all those rash and unsettled Purposes Men make in Heats of Passion. For there can never be any holding good Resolution, but what is founded upon Reason and Iudgment; for Reason is the same Thing in all Circumstan­ces; it is a stiff and inflexible Thing, that will not ply and bend to the Alterations of our Humours and Interests; whereas Passi­on is a fickle and inconstant Thing that is generally governed by outward Accidents, and is as various and mutable as they. He therefore that founds his good Resolutions upon Heats of Passion, sets his Soul upon a Weather-cock, which every contrary Blast of Humour or Interest, blows into a contrary Position. Till such time therefore as a Man hath a new Judgment of Things, it will be in vain for him to make any new Resoluti­ons; [Page 365] because it is morally impossible that any Resolution should be lasting, that is not founded upon Reason and Iudgment. But when a Man hath steared the past Course of his Life by an old, inveterate, false Judgment of Things, it will require a great deal of serious Consideration to form and settle a new one; and if before this is done, men enter upon new Resolutions, they must re­solve without considering either the Matters they resolve on, or the Motives which should support their Resolution; insomuch that when they come to practise what they thus hastily resolved, either they find more Difficulty in the Matter than they were a­ware of, or want sufficient Motives to carry them through it; by reason of which their Resolution flaggs in the Execution, and ma­ny times yields to the next Temptation that encounters them. To the forming there­fore of a holding Resolution, such as will prove a living Principle of Righteousness, great Care must be taken to found it on a through Consideration both of the Particu­lars we resolve upon, together with their appendent Difficulties; and of the Motives and Arguments with which Christianity backs and inforces it. First we must set be­fore our Eyes the Sins we must part with, and the Duties we must submit to, and fair­ly represent to our selves the many Difficul­ties [Page 366] and Temptations that are like to attend us in both; and having thus placed our selves in the midst of the Difficulties of a religious Life, and so far as in us lies, ren­dred them actual and present to us; we must never cease pressing our stubborn Wills with the Arguments and Motives of Religion, till we have obtained of them an explicite Consent to every Duty that calls for our Resolution. And when we have thus weighed all Parti­culars over and over in the Ballance of an impartial Consideration, and implored the Divine Assistance, (without which our stron­gest Resolutions will certainly fail, and which is never wanting to any but those who are wanting to themselves) let us then resolve, and seal our Resolution with solemn Vows and Promises to God: For thus our blessed Saviour, when he saw the Multitude forward to follow him, fairly proposes to their Consideration the Difficulties they must engage in, if they would be his Disciples; that so their resolving in too much haste, might not give them Occasion to repent at leisure; as you may see at large Luke 14. 26—34. And elsewhere he compares rash and inconsiderate Resolvers, to a Man that goes about to build a Tower, without ever considering what it will cost, or whether he hath Money sufficient to finish it; and so when he hath laid the Foundation gives it [Page 367] over, and renders himself ridiculous; and the same he compares also to a King that goes to war without ever considering whe­ther he hath Force enough to encounter his Enemy, and so rushing headlong into the Battle, is either forced to retreat, or yield to the Mercy of the Conqueror. And in the Parable of the Prodigal Luke 15. where­in he purposely describes the whole Progress of the Soul towards God; the first Thing the Prodigal did after he came to himself, was to consider what an happy Change he should make in his Condition by returning to his Father; how many hired Servants of my Fathers have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! and having well consi­dered this, he at length resolves, I will arise and go to my Father. Thus also the Prophet David introduces his Resolution of Amend­ment, through a deep and serious Considera­tion of his ways, I thought on my ways, and turned my Feet unto thy Testimonies. Psal. 119. 59.

4. It must be an universal Resolution of obeying God, such as indifferently extends to all the Instances of our Duty, otherwise it can be no intire Principle of Righteous­ness; because tho' it may reform us in some Instances, it must leave us unreformed in others, and so can only render us less wicked, but never intirely good. For seeing the Chri­stion [Page 368] Law exacts of us universal Obedience, and doth not oblige us in one Instance, and dispense with us in another; it is impossible that any Resolution should be the Principle of that Righteousness it requires, but that which respects the whole. If we keep the whole Law, saith St. James, and yet offend in one point, we are guilty of all; for which he subjoyns this Reason, he that hath said, do not commit adultery; said also, do not kill, James 2. 10, 11. i. e. it is the same Autho­rity that forbids the one as well as the other; and therefore, tho' thou dost not the one, yet if thou dost the other, thou sinnest a­gainst the Authority of both. Seeing there­fore we are not accounted universally righte­ous by the Law of Christ, unless we do uni­versally obey it, a partial Resolution to obey can never constitute us Righteous; because such a Resolution will never make us univer­sally obedient. Then shall I not be ashamed, saith David, when I have respect unto all thy Commandments. Psal. 119. 6. So that to make our Resolution a Christian Principle of Righ­teousness, it is necessary that it should be universal, i. e. of equal extent with that Law which is the Measure of our Righteousness; that like a fruitful Womb it should be preg­nant with every good Work, and vertually contain in it every Particular that our Reli­gion hath made our Duty.

[Page 369] 5. It must be a prevailing Resolution; a Resolution of such Force as doth engage us to do what we resolve, and actually pre­vails over all Temptations to the contrary. For all the Vertue of a good Resolution con­sists in its Relation to Action, because if that we resolve to do, be not necessary, it is indifferent whether we resolve to do it or no; but if it be, it must be done, otherwise we had been as good never to have resolved to do it. The goodness of our Resolution therefore consists in this, that it is an En­gagement to practise what we resolve; and consequently if our Resolution to obey God, be not prevalent enough to engage us to obey him, it is so far from being a true Principle of Christian Righteousness, that it is a meer insignificant Cypher. For as that can be no Cause which produces no Effect; so that can be no Principle of Righteousness, which is not productive of it; and if to make it a Principle of Righteousness, it is necessary, that it should be a prevalent En­gagement to a righteous Life, then it follows that when it ceases to be prevalent, it cea­ses to be a Principle of Righteousness; and consequently that whenever we do commit any Sin that is inconsistent with a prevail­ing Resolution to obey God, we do for that Time cease to be righteous Men. But there are no Sins inconsistent with a prevailing Re­solution [Page 370] to obey God, but such as do prevail against it, and actually over-power it; and therefore as for those Weaknesses, Surreptions, and Surprizes, which, for Distinction-sake, we call Sins of Infirmity; either we do not consent to them, and consequently they are so far from over-powering our good Resolu­tion, that they do not at all contest with it; or if we do consent to them, it is unawares, before we can oppose our Resolution against them. So that tho' upon Surprize they do win our Consent, yet they do not win it from our good Resolution, which in this suddain Hurry of Thoughts had not time to canvas for it; but had Power enough to have obtained it, had it had but Opportu­nity to prefer its Claim; and therefore as for such Sins as these, they may fairly com­port with a prevailing Resolution of Obedi­ence. But then there are Sins of Wilfulness which proceed either from wilful Habits, or from deliberate Choice, and these are no more consistent with such a Resolution, than one Contrary is with another in the same Degree. For he who sins wilfully is preva­lently resolved to sin; and to be so, and at the same time prevalently resolved to obey God is a Contradiction in Terms. Whilst therefore Sin hath the Prevalence in us, we are so long Servants of Sin, and do so long cease to be Servants of Righteousness. 'Tis [Page 371] true, there are Degrees of Wickedness, and the longer a Man continues wicked, the worse he will be; but still he is a wicked Man, who is more prevalently resolved to sin than to obey God; and he who is so, tho' but for an Hour or a Day, is so long wicked, as well as he who continues so for a Month or a Year: He is not wicked indeed to so high a Degree, and so may far more easily recover; but from the Time that we deliberately consent to any known Sin, to the Time that we repent of it, we are wilful Sinners. If we repent immedi­ately, we immediately recover into that good Estate from whence we were fallen, and so our Wound is cured almost as soon as it is made. For the proper Repentance of single Acts of wilful Sin, is either to resolve not to repeat them, or, where it can be done, to undo them again by Restitution. But when our baffled Resolution to obey God is thus recover'd into a prevalent Engagement to obey him, it revives into a living Princi­ple of Righteousness; but yet before we can reasonably conclude it is such, we must make some Tryal of it; for as it is certain, that until it be Prevalent, it is not a true Principle of Righteousness; so it is certain, that till for some time it hath actually pre­vailed, we cannot be secure that it is preva­lent. That is not to be called a prevalent [Page 372] Resolution, that for a Day or a Week puts us into a Fit of Religion, and so expires; such flashy Purposes are so far from being thorough Cures, that they are only so many Inter­missions of our Disease, that always leave us as bad or worse than they found us. But if upon sufficient Tryal we find that our Reso­lution doth hold against all Temptations, and actually engage us to our Duty in de­spite of all Sollicitations to the contrary, we may then safely conclude, that it is that ve­ry vital Principle, which in the Judgment of our holy Religion, doth constitute us Righ­teous Men. And accordingly Matth. 21. 28, 29, 30. our Saviour compares those who might, but did not enter into the King­dom of Heaven, to a Son that first resolved to go whither his Father commanded him, but afterwards cooled and did not obey; implying, that the great Fault, which spoil­ed his Resolution, and rendred it insignifi­cant was this, that it was not firm and pre­valent; which had it been, it had actually entered him in the Kingdom of Heaven.

6. And lastly, It must be a Resolution to obey God, springing out of our Belief of the Christian Religion; and this it is which ren­ders it strictly and properly, a Christian Prin­ciple of Righteousness. 'Tis true indeed, if either we never heard of Christianity, or it had never been proposed to us, with suf­ficient [Page 373] Motives of Credibility, our Infidelity would have been only our Misery, but not our Crime; and if upon a through Conside­ration of the Arguments of natural Religion, and of the Good and Evil which naturally springs out of good and evil Actions, we were effectually resolved to study the Will of God, and, so far as we understood it, to obey it; it had been no criminal Defect in our Resolution not to be founded upon our Belief of Christianity; because to believe without sufficient Reason, is so far from be­ing our Duty, that it is our Defect, and an Argument of our Weakness, and foolish Cre­dulity. But now that Christianity hath been made known, and sufficiently proposed to us, we cannot be good Men, unless we do believe it, and if we do believe it, we can­not be good Christians if we do not thereup­on effectually resolve to obey it. In short therefore, they who have not the Gospel, are obliged to obey God upon the Motives of natural Religion, which is all that can reaso­nably be expected from them; but as for us who have the Gospel, wherein, together with the Arguments of Nature, God hath fairly proposed to us the higher Motives of Christi­anity, we are bound to believe these as well as those; and upon this Belief to proceed to a firm Resolution of Obedience; which if we do, our Resolution is strictly Christian [Page 374] in Contra-distinction to theirs who have not the Gospel, and so resolve only upon Principles of Natural Reason; not but that their Resolution is for substance the same with ours, only ours is founded upon greater and more prevalent Motives. The Duties of Chri­stianity are the same with those of Natural Religion, and excepting those three positive Precepts, of Baptism and the Lords Supper, and of worshipping God in and through Christ, there is no Command in the Gospel distinct from the Eternal Rules of Morality which the Gospel doth improve upon new Principles, and strengthen with more power­ful Obligations.

And thus I have explained to you what is that Vital Form and Principle which, in the Sense of the Law of Christ, doth con­stitute us Righteous Men. In short, he is a Righteous Man in the true Christian Sense, who upon a through Consideration of the Arguments and Motives of Christianity is universally and prevalently resolved to obey its Laws. To conclude all therefore, from hence I infer

1. What is the true safe Way for a Man to resolve his own Conscience concerning the main State of his Soul, whether in the Gospel-sense he be Righteous, or no. I know it is a common Doctrine with some Men, that the Resolution of this great Case de­pends [Page 375] upon an inward Whisper, Suggestion, or Testimony of the Spirit of God, which I fear hath fatally deluded too many Men in­to a groundless Confidence and Assurance. For when all of a sudden they feel them­selves surprized with joyous and comfortable Thoughts, they presently conclude it to be an inward Whisper and Testimony of the Spi­rit of God, when many times there is no­thing in it but an unaccountable Frisque of melancholy Vapors heated and fermented by a feverish Humour; and many of these sud­den Joys and Dejections, which these Men interpret to be the Incomes and With-draw­ings of the Spirit of God, do apparently proceed from no other Cause than the Shi­verings and Burnings of an Ague; upon which account Hysterical Fits are frequent­ly mistaken for spiritual Exercises. And when Men have most confidently believed themselves overshadowed by the Holy Ghost, their Fancies have been only hagg'd and rid­den by the Enthusiastick Vapors of their own Spleen. And some times I make no doubt, but this sudden Flush of joyous Thoughts proceeds from a worse Principle, even from the suggestion of the Devil; who, tho' he hath no immediate Access to the Minds of Men, can doubtless act up­on their Spirits and Humours, and thereby figure their Fancies with sprightly Ideas, [Page 376] and tickle their Hearts into a Rapture; and this Power of his we may reasonably sup­pose he is ready enough to exert upon any mischievous Occasion, when ever he finds a Man willing to be deceived, and to rely up­on ungrounded Presumptions. The true and only safe May therefore for a Man to re­solve himself is impartially to survey him­self, and to consider whether in the main his Intentions and Actions are righteous. If you ask, by what Signs and Tokens shall a Man know this? I answer, there is no­thing can be a true Sign of Righteousness but Righteousness, nothing but what is an Act or Instance of Righteousness. But then we must have a great Care, that we do not ar­gue from particular Acts and Instances that we are Righteous in the main; For you may as well conclude that you are not blind, be­cause you hear well, or that you are not deaf, because you see well, or that you have all your Senses, because you have one or two, as that you are Righteous in the main, because you are so in this or that particular. Well then, how shall we do to resolve our selves in this most material Enquiry? Why do but consider what it is to be Righteous, and then reflect upon your own Motion, and you will quickly feel whether you are Righteous or no; for to be Righteous is for the main to intend righteously, and act ac­cordingly. [Page 377] If you ask again, how you shall know whether you so intend and act; I shall only answer, that it is an unreasonable Question, and that you might as well ask, whether you are hungry or thirsty; because you do as naturally feel the Motions of your Soul, as those of your Body; and for you to ask another Man what your own Intentions are, is to make him a Conjurer instead of a Casuist. Would it not look extremely ridi­culous for a Man to ask his Creditor or Cu­stomer, Good Sir, how shall I know whether I intend to pay my Debts, or am sincerely resolved not to over-reach you? Should any Man ask me such a Question, I should only bid him consult himself, and if then he suspected his own Honesty, truly I should suspect that he had too much Reason for it. For if a Man intends righteously, to be sure he intends it knowingly; and if he know­ingly intends it, he cannot but know he in­tends it; for if he cannot know that he doth it, it is because he cannot know how to do it; and if he cannot know how to do it, he is not a capable Subject of Morality, but must of necessity live and act at ran­dom, and blunder on, like a Traveller in the dark, without being able to distinguish whether he goes right or wrong. Wherefore as you would not be deceived in a Point of the highest Importance in the world, a Point [Page 378] upon which your everlasting Fate depends, viz. whether you are Righteous Men or no; do not measure your selves by any other Rule, but this sure and infallible one in the Text, He that doth Righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.

2. From hence I infer, that seeing Righ­teousness is the good State of our Souls, that the main Thing upon which we ought to value our selves is upon our being truly Righteous. For if we have any such Thing as a rational and immortal Soul about us, it is doubtless by far the noblest Ingredient of our Beings; 'tis that by which we are near allyed to Angels, and do even border upon God himself. He therefore who values him­self by any Thing but his Soul, and that which is its Grace and Perfection, begins at the wrong End of himself, forgets his Iewels, and estimates his Estate by his Lum­ber; in so much that one would think it impossible, did not too many woful Expe­periments daily evince the contrary, that any Creature owning and believing a rati­onal and immortal Spirit to be a Part of its Being, should be so ridiculous as to value it self by such little trifling Advantages as a well-coloured Skin, a Suit of fine Cloaths, a Puff of Popular Applause, a Bag of red or white Earth; and yet, God help us, these are the only Things almost by which we dif­ference [Page 379] our selves from one another. You are a much better Man than your Neigh­bour, who is a very poor contemptible Wretch, a little creeping despicable Animal, not wor­thy to be taken notice of by such a one as you. Why in the name of God, Sir, what's the matter? Where is this mighty Difference between you and him? Hath he not a Soul as well as you, a Soul that is capable to live as long and be as happy as yours. Yes, that is true indeed; but notwithstanding that, you thank God for it, you are another guize Man than he; for you have a much bandsomer Body, your Apparel is finer and more fashionable; you live in a more splendid Equipage, and have a larger Purse to main­tain it; and to your great Comfort, your Name is more in Vogue and makes a far greater Rattle in the World. And is this all the Difference then between your mighty Self, and your poor Neighbour? Alas, a few Days more will put an End to all this; and when your rich Attires are reduced to a Winding-sheet, and all your vast Possessions to six Foot of Earth, what will become of all these little Trifles, by which you value your selves so highly? Where now will be the Beauty, the Wealth, the Port and Garb, of which you are so conceited? Alas, now that lovely Body will look as pale and gastly, that lofty Soul will be left as bare, as poor [Page 380] and naked, as your despised Neighbours; and should you now meet his wandring Ghost in the vast World of Spirits, what will you have left to boast of more than he; now that your Beauty is withered, your Wealth vanished, and all your outward Pomp and Splendor buried in a silent Grave? Now you will have nothing left to distinguish you from the most Contemptible, unless you have wiser and better Souls, which are the only Preheminencies above other Men that will survive our Funerals, and distinguish us from base and abject Souls for ever. If we are now more pious, and humble, and just, and charitable than other Men, this will stick by us when our Heads are laid, and to all Eternity render us glorious and happy. And indeed when once we have thrown off our Body and all our bodily Passions and Neces­sities, the only Goods we shall be capable of enjoying are God, our selves, and the So­ciety of blessed Spirits, and these are no otherwise enjoyable but only by Acts of Pi­ety and Vertue. It is only by our Contem­plation and Worship, our Love and Imitation of God that we can enjoy him; it is only by our Prudence and Moderation, our Tem­perance and Humility that we can enjoy our selves; it is only by our Charity and Iustice, our Modesty, peaceable and mutual Submission and Condescention to one another that we [Page 381] can enjoy the glorious Society of blessed Spi­rits, but if our unbodied Spirits carry with them these divine Graces into the other World, we shall by them be possessed of e­very Thing our utmost Wishes can propose; of a good God, a god-like, joyous and con­tented Mind, a peaceful, kind, and righteous Neighbourhood, and so all above, within, and without us will be a pure and perfect Heaven. So that if when I go from hence to seek my fortune in the World of Spirits, God should thus bespeak me, O man! seeing thou art now leaving all the Enjoyments of sense, consult what will do thee good, and thou shalt have whatever thou wilt ask to carry with thee into the spiritual State: I say should God thus offer me, I am sure the utmost Good I could wisely crave, would be this, Lord give me a Heart inflamed with Love, and winged with Duty to thee, that thereby I may but enjoy thee; give me a sober and a temperate Mind, that thereby I may enjoy my self; give me a kind and peaceable and righteous Temper, that thereby I may enjoy the sweet Society of blessed Spirits: O give me but these blessed Things, and thou hast crowned all my Wishes, and to Eternity I will never ask any other Fa­vour for my self but only this, that I may con­tinue a holy and a righteous Soul for ever; for so long as I continue so, I am sure I shall enjoy all spiritual Goods, and be as happy as Heaven [Page 382] can make me. What a prodigious Piece of Folly therefore is it for Men to value themselves more upon these outward Ad­vantages, of which ere long they must be stript, than upon the Graces and Vertues of their own Minds, on which they must sub­sist for ever? Suppose now that you were a Merchant in a far Country where you were al­lowed for a short uncertain Time the Benefit of free Trade and Commerce in order to your gaining a good Estate to maintain you in your own Native Country, when ever you are forced to return; would you be so in­discreet as to lay out all the Product of your Merchandize in building fine Houses, and purchasing great Farms, when you know not how soon you may be commanded to depart and leave all these immoveable Goods behind you? Or rather would you not think your selves obliged by all the Rules of Interest and Discretion to convert all your Gain into portable Wealth, into Mony or Jewels or other such moveable Commodi­ties, as, when ever you are forced to de­part, you might carry Home along with you, and there maintain your selves with them in many years Ease and Plenty? Do but think then, and think it often, that while you live here you are but Strangers and Foreign Merchants; that you came hi­ther from another, World, to which you [Page 383] know not how soon you may be forced to return; that all the Wealth, the Lands and Houses you gain by your present Commerce are immoveable Goods which you must leave behind you when you go from hence, and that there is nothing portable of all that you can gain in this World but only the Graces and Vertues of your Minds, and that therefore while you have Opportunity it concerns you above all Things to store and treasure up a plentiful Portion of these; that so whenever you are shipt off into the eternal World you may carry such an E­state of them thither with you as may suf­fice to maintain you there in Glory and Hap­piness for ever; which God of his infinite Mercy grant.

1 JOHN III. 9.‘Whosoever is born of God, doth not com­mit sin; for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God.’

FOR the right understanding of these Words, it will be necessary to enquire, first, what is here meant by committing Sin; secondly, what is meant by being born of God; thirdly, in what sense he that is born of God cannot commit sin.

First, what is here meant by committing sin? I answer, that this Phrase in the Wri­tings of this our Apostle hath a special Ener­gy, and doth not denote the simple doing of any sinful Action, tho' it be out of Igno­rance, Incogitance, or Frailty; nor doth it only denote an habitual Course and Custom of sinning wilfully, but primarily the doing of any sinful Action whatsoever deliberately, wilfully, and presumptuously. For as for the first, it is not true that he that is born of God doth commit no sin at all; seeing the best of God's Children are liable to be surpriz'd into evil Actions through their Weakness, Ignorance, or Inadvertency, of all which, [Page 385] there are some Remains even in the most purified Natures. And as for the second, viz. the habit of sinning wilfully, tho' that in the Apostles Sense is not only to commit sin, but to commit it in the most eminent Degree; yet it is plain, that it is the deliberate Acts of Sin that he here primarily intends: for so Verse the 4th he that committeth sin transgres­seth the Law, for Sin is a Transgression of the Law; which is plainly meant of every single Act of wilful Sin. So ver. 8. he that com­mitteth sin is of the Devil, that is, he is therein an Imitator of the Devil, which is true of every deliberate Act; as well as of the Habit of Sin. So here in the Text, he that is born of God doth not commit sin; that is, understanding him still in the same Sense, he doth not commit any wilful and delibe­rate Act of Sin.

2. Our next Enquiry is, what is here meant by being born of God? To which I answer, that to be born of another, denotes in general our receiving the Beginning and Principle of our Life and Motion from him, and consequently to be born of God, is to re­ceive from him through the Operation of his Grace and Spirit, the Beginning and Principle of our spiritual Life and Motion, viz. a considerate, universal, prevailing Reso­lution to obey God, proceeding from our Belief of the Christian Religion. When [Page 386] therefore God by the Influence of his Grace and Spirit hath wrought our Minds into such a Resolution, then are we truly born of him, as having herein received from him the Principle of a new Life and Motion. And this the Apostle expresses by being trans­formed by the renewing of our mind. Rom. 12. 2. i. e. having a new practical Judgment and Resolution of Soul begotten in us; and this he elsewhere calls the renewing of the holy Ghost Tit 3. 5. Upon which account we may very well be said to be born of God; because it is from his blessed Spirit that we derive this Renewing, which is the Principle of our spiritual Life and Motion.

Our last Enquiry is in what Sense this Assertion of the Apostle holds, viz. That he who is thus born of God cannot sin? To which I answer, That this Expression, he cannot, relates to the state he is now in; he cannot, as he is one that is born of God, and while he doth continue so; for so the Phrase is fre­quently used in Scripture. So Rom. 8. 7. The carnal mind cannot be subject to God; not but the Mind which is now carnal, may hereafter be subject unto God, viz. when it is renewed and changed: but it cannot be so while it continues carnal. And in the same Sense he tells us in the next Verse, that it cannot please God. So Matth. 7. 18. a good Tree cannot bring forth evil Fruit, neither can a corrupt Tree [Page 387] bring forth good Fruit; which can import no more than this, that whilst the good Tree continues good, it cannot bring forth evil Fruits, nor the corrupt Tree bring forth good Fruits whilst it continues corrupt; not but that one may hereafter become evil, and bring forth evil Fruits, as well as the other may become a good Tree, and bring forth good Fruits. So that the meaning of he cannot sin, is no more than this, it is so ut­terly inconsistent with the State of one that is born of God, to sin wilfully and delibe­rately, that when ever he doth so, he actu­ally falls from that blessed State, and for the time ceases to be born of God. And hence the Reason assigned why a Man cannot sin wilfully, and be born of God at the same Time, is, for his Seed remaineth in him; that is, because that Principle of new Life and Motion, which the divine Spirit hath pro­duced in him, and which is nothing else but an universal, prevailing Resolution of obeying God, remains within his Breast, and for a Man to be universally and prevalently resolved to obey God, and at the same Time to sin wilfully is a Contradiction in Terms; because whenever he sins wilfully, he is pre­valently resolved to disobey him. And therefore seeing in every wilful Sin we are prevalently resolved to disobey God, while we are so, our Resolution to obey him, [Page 388] which is the Seed and Principle of our divine Life, must necessarily be extinguished; and consequently, till such time as by our Re­pentance we have revived and recovered it, we must cease to be born of God. He there­fore who is born of God, cannot sin wilfully, because while he continues in this State his Seed remains in him; which is no more re­concilable to our sinning wilfully, than con­traries are in the same Degree. And there­fore he adds, he cannot sin, because he is born of God; that is, his State is such as will no more admit him wilfully to disobey God, than to be dead and alive in the same Mo­ment. But in pursuance of this Argument, it will be necessary yet further to enquire what those wilful Sins are which the Apostle here declares to be inconsistent with a good State, or which is the same thing, with our being born of God; the Resolution of which is of absolute necessity to enable Men to make a true Judgment of their own State, whe­ther it be good or bad. And in order hereun­to it will be necessary to premise the fol­lowing Particulars.

1. That by wilful Sin, I mean the Acts as well as the Habits of Sin.

2. That by wilful Habits of Sin, I mean such as are contracted by wilful Acts, and are wilfully retained and indul­ged.

[Page 389] 3. That by wilful Acts of Sin, I do not mean all evil Actions which have any Degree of Will in them, but only such as are deliberately chosen.

4. That the same Actions may be Sins of Weakness, and Sins of Wilfulness in the same, or different Persons under diffe­rent Circumstances.

1. That by wilful Sins, I mean the wilful Acts as well as Habits of Sin. To be sure there is no Sin can be consistent with our being born of God, for which the Gospel binds us over to eternal Condemnation; for while we thus stand bound, we are Children of Wrath, and so cannot be Children of God at the same time. Now the Law of Christ condemns us for all wilful Sins whatsoever, whether they be single Acts or Habits; and every single wilful Act is as much a Trans­gression of the Law, which threatens Con­demnation, as any wilful Habit whatsoever. The Law, which forbids wilful Lying under the Penalty of eternal Death, doth as well forbid the single Act, as the Habit of wilful Lying, and therefore must forbid them both under the same Penalty; and indeed if it did not, there are some of the most heinous sins would escape. For there are some Sins which when Men have once committed, they never have Opportunity to repeat, being prevented either for want of a new Occasion. [Page 390] or by just Sentence of Law; such as Rape, and Theft, and Murther; and others, which can never pass beyond a single Act, such as Parricide and Self-murther; and so can never grow into an Habit: and yet I think there is no Man can doubt but that even the single Acts of these Sins (supposing them wilful) do put a Man into a state of Condemnation. I know it is usually said, that such horrible Sins as these indeed do so, because the Mis­chief of them is so great, and the Malice so heinous that it renders them equivalent to an Habit of any other Sin. To which I an­swer, the Law of Christ condemns these Sins, not as they are greater than others, but as they are Transgressions for which it threat­ens Condemnation. Indeed the greatness of the Sin doth increase the Condemnation; but yet the Law which condemns us for a lesser Sin, doth as certainly condemn us, as that which condemns us for a greater. As for Instance, the Law of Christ as well con­demns us for Drunkenness, Adultery, Lying, and Malice, as for Murther. And as every wilful Act of unjust Killing, is Murther; so every wilful Act of Adultery and Malice, is Adultery and Malice; and therefore the Law of Christ condemns to far greater Pains for the one than for the others; yet still it con­demns us for both: for that Law, which forbids any wilful Sin indifferently under the [Page 391] Penalty of Condemnation, forbids every Act of it under the same Penalty; because every Act of it is the Sin so forbidden; and therefore we may as well say, that the Law of Christ doth not condemn us for Parricide and Self-murther, because these are only single Acts of Murther, as that it doth not condemn us for any other single Act of any other wilful Sin. For every single Act of wil­ful Intemperance and Incontinency, are as truly Sins against the Law, which forbids them under the Penalty of eternal Condem­nation, as those single Acts of Murther are against the Law which forbids Murther un­der the same Penalty; and consequently do as well put us into a State of Condemna­tion; and to be sure, while we are in this state, we cannot pretend to be born of God.

2. I premise that by wilful Habits of sin, are meant such as are contracted by wilful Acts, and are wilfully retained, and indul­ged. For if you take Habits of Sin in the largest Sense, as they signifie a forward Pro­pensity, Promptness, and Readiness to do Evil, there is no doubt but there may be sin­ful Habits in Men, which never were con­tracted by wilful Acts, as on the contrary, there may be sinful Habits contracted by wilful Acts, which tho' not utterly extirpa­ted, may yet cease to be wilful. As for in­stance, a Man may be prompted to unreaso­nable [Page 392] Anger, or excessive Lust, even from the natural Temper and Constitution of his Bo­dy, without the Concurrence of any wilful Acts of his own; and tho' he may be much more disposed to be angry or lustful than another of a cooler Constitution, yet he may be much farther removed from any wilful Habit of Anger and Lust, because the latter perhaps contracted them by his own wilful Acts, and by his repeated Practice of them, doth still cherish and indulge them; where­as the former had no more hand in contract­ing them, than he had in the moulding of of his own Constitution, and is so far from cherishing them by any wilful Acts of his own, that it is the main endeavour of his Life to oppose and vanquish them. And so on the other hand, a Man that by frequent wilful Acts of Sin, hath contracted wilful Ha­bits, may afterwards heartily repent, and take up a prevailing Resolution of Amendment, and yet still the evil Habit, the Promptness, or Propensity to his Sin, may be more or less remaining in him; but this is now so far from being wilful, that the prevailing Bent and Current of his Will is against it; and tho' still his evil Inclinations are ready to take fire upon every Spark of Temptation that falls upon them, and to blaze out into evil Actions; yet by the Strength of his Resolu­tion he so keeps it under, that it cannot [Page 393] break forth but upon a surprize, and even that Surprize will render him more watchful and vigilant to suppress it for the future. But now when evil Habits do not only exist in us, but are also cherished and indulged by us, and do ordinarily influence and go­vern our Practice; they are then not only wilful Sins, but a fixt and settled State of wilful Sin; and are pregnant with a distinct Guilt and Venom from those Acts of wilful Sin, that begot them. And hence in Scri­pture you find them markt with the blackest Characters; they are called, the Root of bit­terness, the evil Heart, the Concupiscence wrought by Sin, the Law in the Members, which those who are carnal and sold under Sin do obey, the carnal Mind, the Flesh in which dwells no good, and enmity to God: by all which they are sufficiently pronounced in­consistent with our being born of God.

3. I must premise that by wilful Acts of Sin I do not mean all wilful Actions which have any Degree of Will in them, but only such as are deliberately chosen and con­sented to. Every sin is so far voluntary, as that when we choose it we are free to refuse it; otherwise it is necessary; and what is ne­cessary, is no Fault, nor can be justly liable to Reward, or Punishment. Those evil Acti­ons therefore, which, for Distinction sake, are called sins of Infirmity, are no farther [Page 394] Sins than as they are chosen, and have some Intermixture of Will in them; for if they have none, they have only the Matter of Sin in them, but not the Form. But we are seldom so surprized with any Temptation to Evil, but that it is possible for us to de­liberate upon it, and thereupon to resolve against it; and many Times by our Care and Watchfulness we do prevent those Evils, which, when we are more remiss, do steal upon us unawares: and we that can pre­vent them this Moment, can prevent them the next too, and so the next, and so for ever. But then considering the Weakness and Imperfection of our Natures, how our Wills are byassed with bad Habits and Inclinati­ons, and our Thoughts dispersed and squan­der'd among the infinite Diversions that sur­round us; it is morally impossible, that is, it is not reasonably to be expected that in these Circumstances we should be always up­on our Guard against every evil Object with­out, and every evil Motion within us, so as never to be surprized, or to act unadvisedly. Whenever therefore we are so surprized in­to an evil Action, as that we could not con­sider if we would, either for Want of Time, or for Want of Order and Distinction in our Thoughts occasioned by some suddain Tu­mult of Passion; this is not our Fault, but our Infelicity; because our Will is no way [Page 395] concerned in it. But when we are so sur­prized, as that notwithstanding we might have considered, had we taken all due Care to recollect our selves and exert our utmost Attention; this is partly our Fault; because there is something of Will in it; but more our Infelicity, because there is more of Weakness and Infirmity than Will in it; and therefore is called a sin of Infirmity, which by the merciful Indulgence of the Gospel is discharged of Course from all eter­nal Penalties. But if when we are tempted, we either designedly omit to consider, or consent upon Consideration; this is pure Malice of Will, which, while we are born of God, can have no Place in us.

4. And lastly, I must premise, that the same Actions may be Sins of Weakness and Sins of Wilfulness in the same, or in different Persons under different Circumstances. For seeing it is the willing of an evil Action that makes it be a sin, it necessarily follows, that it is the willing of it in a greater or a lesser Degree that makes it a greater or a lesser Sin; and it is certain that the same sin may have more or less of Will in it in the same, or different Persons under different Circum­stances. As for Instance; one Man may be excusably ignorant of the Evil of such an Action, which another doth either know to be a Sin, or would have known it had he [Page 396] not been wilfully ignorant; and that Sin, which this Man commits upon Deliberation, another may be hurried into on a suddain surprize, in which Case, tho' both do the same Act, and in some Sense both do it wil­lingly too; yet because the one wills it more intensely than the other, it is a Sin of Wil­fulness in the one, and a Sin of Infirmity in the other. And this holds true also in the same Person, who may do the same Action ignorantly and inconsiderately at one Time, and knowingly and advisedly at another; and if, when he hath fallen into any Sin una­wares, he is wilfully careless and neglective to prevent the Return of it; that which now is a pitiable Weakness, and as such falls under the general Indulgence of the Gospel, will anon be inexcusable Obstinacy. From all which it is apparent, that is not the Kind of the Sin but the Will of the Sinner that makes the Difference between Sins of Weakness and Wilfulness; seeing the same Sins according to the different Degrees of Will that are in them may be Sins of Infir­mity at one time, and Sins of Obstinacy at another. For so by the Law of England the same Act of Killing is distinguished into Chance-medly, Manslaughter, and Murther; the first of which is innocent, because it hath no Will in it; the second pitiable, be­cause but imperfectly willed; the third ca­pital, [Page 397] because freely chosen, and fully con­sented to. And so also by the Christian Law the very same Act under different Circum­stances may be an innocent Error, a sin of Infirmity, and a sin of Wilfulness; for if it be perfectly involuntary, it is an innocent Error; if imperfectly willed, it is a sin of Infirmity; but if fully consented to, a sin of Wilfulness. So long therefore as the Temptations of Men are so infinitely vari­ous, and their Capacities of resisting so un­equal, in different Persons, there will be more or less of Will in the same Actions; and the same Act will be far more excusa­ble where there is a greater Temptation to it, and a less Power of resisting, then it can be, when the Temptation is less, and the Power of resisting it greater. All that can be done therefore in the Case before us is this, to lay down such general Rules of Distinction between Sins of Infir-mity, and Sins of Wilfulness, as that thereby eve­ry Man, that hath the free Use of his own Faculties may, upon a due Consideration of his Particular Circumstances, distinguish whether his Sin be wilful or no. For when all is done every Man must thus far be his own Casuist; it being impossible for another to determine what Degrees of Will there are in his Sin, unless he knew under what Circum­stances he committed it; because different [Page 398] Circumstances do vary the Case, and make the Sin to be more or less voluntary.

These Things premised, I come now par­ticularly to state what those Sins are, upon the Commission of which we cease to be born of God: and these I shall rank under 3 Heads: 1. Sins of wilful Ignorance. 2. Sins of wilful Inconsideration. 3. Sins against Knowledge and Consideration.

1. Sins of wilful Ignorance; I say wil­ful, to exclude all invincible and unaffected Ignorance: By invincible Ignorance I mean such, as we neither do nor can surmount by the utmost Improvement we can make of our Reason. For sure not to understand, what we cannot understand, is not all cri­minal; and if our Ignorance be innocent, whatever is the necessary Effect of it must be so too; all necessary Effects being of a com­mon Nature with their Causes. And certain­ly no Man breathing can be innocent, if he be not so who acts to the best of his Know­ledge, and knows to the best of his Capacity For so our Saviour himself pronounces con­cerning the Pharisees; If ye were blind ye should have no sin, but now you say that you see, therefore your sin remains, John 9. 4.

By unffected Ignorance I mean such as is vincible, but by Reason of some innocent Hindrances, such as the Obscurity of the Object, or the Weakness of the Capacity, or [Page 399] the innocent Prejudice and Prepossession of the Understanding, is not to be removed without extreme Difficulty; which tho' it be so far sinful, as it is within the Reach of our Power to be better informed; yet is by no Means to be accounted a wilful Sin. For if it be wilful Sin not to know and do the Will of God to the utmost of our Power, there is no Sin in the World but what is wilful; because it is no Sin at all not to do more than our utmost. But then there is a wilful and affected Ignorance, which proceeds ei­ther from our prophane Contempt and Re­gardlessness of God, by which we have so far extinguished our natural Sense of Religi­on, as not to think it worth the while to concern our selves about it, and so rudely stop our Ears against all the Means of In­struction; or else this wilful Ignorance arises from some sinful Prejudice against the Know­ledge of the Truth begotten in us by some darling Lust, which, that we may quietly enjoy without any Remorse of Conscience, we industriously shun all the Means of Con­viction; and either exclude all Thoughts of Religion from our Minds lest they should discover to us the Evil and Dan­ger of our Sin, (which is the way of those who are openly prophane, and irreligious;) or indeavour to wheadle our own Under­standings to such false Opinions as are soft [Page 400] and easy and indulgent to our Lusts, (which is the way of Hypocrites and false Pretenders to Religion.) Now as for this Sort of Ig­norance, it springs from a wicked Will. and is not so much to be imputed to the Weak­ness of our Understandings, as to the De­pravedness of our Affections; they are the impure Vapours from below that cloud the Sky above, and overcast the intellectual Re­gion with Darkness and Confusion. And if we are ignorant of our Duty, because we will not be informed; our Ignorance is so far from excusing our Neglect of it, that it self is inexcusable. If I commit a Sin, be­cause I am wilfully ignorant, the Wilfulness of my Ignorance makes my Sin to be wil­ful. Here the Effect always partakes of the Nature of the Cause, and derives into its self all its Venom and Malignity; and there­fore if my Ignorance be a wilful Sin, what­ever Sins it betrays me into, they must be all wilful as well as that. And hence our Saviour tells us, that this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light, John 3. 19.

2. Another Sort of wilful Sins are Sins of wilful Inconsideration. I say wilful, because there are sundry Evils whereinto we are perfectly surprized; as when Temptations start out so suddainly upon us, as that either for Want of Time, or the great Hurry and [Page 401] Tumult it puts our Thoughts into, it is not in our Power to consider and deliberate; in which Case we are not capable Subjects of Law and Morality. For that which makes us capable Subjects is first, that we are ra­tional Agents, and so can deliberate what is best to choose. 2. That we are free Agents, and so can choose what is best upon Deliberation; without which Mad­men and natural Fools are as capable Sub­jects of Law as we. Whenever therefore our Circumstances are such that we can­not deliberate, and choose upon Delibera­tion, tho' the Actions we do are materially Evils, yet are they not formally Sins; because while we do them we are not capable Sub­jects of the Law that forbids them, nor con­sequently accountable to it. As for Instance; it is doubtless a great Sin and deserves a great Punishment, for a Man to wound his Friend, or abuse his Benefactor; but yet in a Madman it is no Sin at all, because when he doth it, he is incapable of being govern­ed by the Law that forbids it. And this I judge is the Case of Men under perfect sur­prizes, when they are violently hurried in­to evil Actions in a suddain Distraction and Confusion of Thoughts; which doubtless may sometimes be the Case of very good Men, especially under great Pains, or the suddain Appearance of frightful Dangers, which [Page 402] for the present at least may distract and scare them out of all Capacity and Deliberation; and at other Times, while their Thoughts are innocently wandring among the vast Va­riety of outward Objects, a Temptation may suddainly break in, and prevail upon them before they have Time to recollect them­selves. For we find by Experience, that the Mind hath not that absolute Dominion over the Will as to make it choose or refuse at its beck upon the bare Proposal of good or evil Objects; but many Times before it can pre­vail is fain to dispute it out with our Pas­sions and Appetites, and to oppose their Importunities with more prevalent Motives to the contrary; and therefore if it should so fall out that in that Moment when the Temptation comes, the Mind should be ve­ry much diverted by other Imployments, it is in many Cases morally impossible, but Passion and Appetite should prevail, and ob­tain our. Consent before the Mind is aware of it; because that being at present other­wise imployed; and always unable to at­tend many Things at once, it cannot be ready in the present Exigence immediately to urge the Arguments on its own side, and to de­tect the Fallacies on the other. Tho' this I confess, will hardly hold in any gross Acts of Sin, because in these there is generally some Pause and Interval between the Tem­ptation [Page 340] and the Action, wherein the Mind may easily be advised with, which if it be a good Mind cannot fail to suggest sufficient Arguments against it: But if the Tempta­tion doth so hurry the Man, as that he can­not deliberate, he is so far innocent; and if as soon as he considers he retracts the evil Consent into which his Will was surprized, before it passes into Action; or if having acted it, before he was aware, he becomes more wary and watchful for the future, it is not so much his Fault as his Misery. 'Tis true, there are surprizes of Temptation which are not innocent; but then the Rea­son is, because they are not pure surprizes, but such as do not incapacitate us to delibe­rate; and if when it is in our Power we ei­ther do not deliberate at all, or not enough, but make a rash and foolish Choice, when, if we had used our utmost Care, we might have chosen more advisedly; our Choice is culpable, and so is the Action thence pro­ceeding. But seeing ours is the Religion of Men and not of Angels, and it cannot rea­sonably be expected, considering our Cir­cumstances, that we should always do as well as possibly we can, it is to be supposed that this Religion of ours, which is purposely accommodated to our imperfect State, admits us to be good in the Main, tho' we are not so to Perfection, or which is the same Thing, [Page 404] to the utmost of our Possibility. For while our Soul is fain to minister to a Body, and hath so quick a sense of its Necessities, and while we are incompassed with so vast a Variety of tempting Objects, and our Thoughts are so dispersed and squandred a­mong them; it is morally impossible, but that many of our Actions should be unad­vised, and pass our Watch without a severe Examination: nor can it reasonably be ex­pected, that we should in all Cases, where it is in our Power, so precisely weigh every minute Circumstance of our Actions, as to determine exactly on which side our duty lies: and therefore should our Religion ex­act this of us without any Mitigation or A­batement, I doubt that even the best of Men would never be able to abide the Test of it. But then besides this Kind of Inconsidera­tion, which is either purely involuntary, and by consequence innocent, or but partly vo­luntary, and so excusable; there is another Sort of it, which is absolutely and inex­cusably wilful. And This is twofold, viz. actual and habitual. Actual is either when, notwithstanding we have been sufficiently forewarned by precedent Surprizes, we are wilfully neglective of our selves, and take no Care to fortify our Minds by Considera­tion against them in Case they should re­turn again upon us; or when upon the [Page 405] Appearance of a prevailing Temptation we either quench the good Motions of our own Consciences, and refuse to consider the Evil and Danger of the Sin we are tempted to, lest we should be deterred from committing it; or purposely contrive to baffle our own Consideration, and to render it ineffectual by opposing against it either some ungrounded Hope of Impunity, or some fallacious Promise of future Amendment. In all which Cases our Inconsideration is appa­rently wilful, and so consequently must the Sins be, which follow upon it; and he who pleads his own wilful Inconsideration as an Excuse for his Sin, doth only Apologize for one Fault by another, which instead of ex­tenuating inflames and aggravates it. And then as for habitual Inconsideration it is the Effect of our frequent stifling the Convi­ctions of our own Consciences, whereby we fear them into a deep Insensibility of Good and Evil, so as that at last we Sin on with­out Remorse, and return to our Lusts with a perfect Indifferency without ever consi­dering what we do, or reflecting upon what we have done. Now as it is no Excuse for our Sin if it proceeds from a sinful Habit contracted by frequent Acts of wilful Sin, so neither will it excuse our Sin that it pro­ceeds from an habitual Inconsideration con­tracted by often refusing to consider. And [Page 406] as vicious Habits have a proper Evil and Guiltiness in them distinct from those vici­ous Acts that produced them, so habitual In­consideration hath in it a peculiar Venom of its own beyond what was in those wilful Acts of Inconsideration whereby it was con­tracted. And accordingly in Scripture it is described as the most desperate State of Sin­ners: it is to be past feeling, which was the Condition of the leudest and most irreclaim­able Gentiles, Eph. 4. 19. it is to have a sear­ed conscience, the Character of Sinners under the last Apostacy, 1 Tim. 4. 2. it is to have a reprobate mind, which was the Cause and Effect of the foulest Gentile Impieties, 1 Rom. 28, 29. In a word it is to have a hard, and unrelenting Heart, by which Men are said to treasure up wrath against the day of wrath, Rom. 2. 5.

3. And lastly, another Sort of wilful Sins are such as are wilfully committed against Knowledge and Consideration. I say again wilfully, to exclude those known Evils, which either we do not all consent to, or very im­perfectly. For it is a known Evil for a Man to rove in his Devotions, or to think blas­phemous Thoughts of God, or to be drowsy and liftless in our Addresses to him; and yet many times these are the necessary Effects even of innecent Causes, such as Melancholy, or Weariness, or antecedent Thoughtfulness; [Page 407] and therefore tho' they are evil in the Mat­ter, yet because they necessarily proceed from such Causes as are not evil, we are no more accountable for them than for the Re­turns of our Appetite, or the Palpitation of our Heart: and if we do not indulge our Drowsiness, nor harbour and entertain our evil Thoughts, but throw them out of our Minds as soon as we observe them, and keep a more careful Watch to prevent their Return, our Will is innocent, and so long we may be sure God will not condemn us for our Weakness. Again, it is a known Evil for a Man to be angry without a Cause, or to have an unchast Desire, or to love, or hate, or hope, or fear, or rejoyce, or grieve un­reasonably; yet these Evils are such as no Care can wholly prevent, and against which no Warchfulness is a sufficient Guard. And tho' in many of these Instances there be ma­ny times so much of our Will intermingled as to render us culpable, yet this is not suf­ficient to extinguish the Principle of our Regeneration, or to degrade us into a State of Wickedness. But when a Man knows that such an Action is evil, and either actu­ally considers that it is so, or neglects to consider it through habitual Inconsideration, and thereupon actually consents to it; he doth hereby openly defy God, and malici­ously trample upon his Authority, being [Page 408] desperately resolved to pursue his sinful De­sire let God and his Conscience say what they can to the contrary; which is such an Height of wilful Malice as no Apology can extenu­ate. Hence our Saviour pronounces that the servant that knows his Masters will, and doth it not shall be beaten with many stripes, Luke 12. 47. And accordingly St. Iames tells us, that he that knows to do good, and doth it not, to him it is sin; that is, 'tis a very great and inexcusable Sin, Iames 4. 17. and St. Paul assures us that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness, and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; that is, who know the Truth, and yet wilfully sin against their Knowledge, Rom. 1. 18. and to name no more Heb. 10. 26. we are told, that if we sin wilfully after we have received the know­ledge of the truth, there remains no more sa­crifice for sin; which Words are to be un­derstood according to the general Analogy of the Gospel [if we sin wilfully] i. e. if we are deliberately guilty of any known Sin [after we have received the knowledge of the truth] i. e. have been chatechized and ba­ptized in the Christian Faith [there re­mains no mere sacrifice for sin] i. e. unless we recover our selves by Repentance, and Amendment of the Fact. And seeing that where we sin wilfully the Vertue of the [Page 409] great Sacrifice for Sin hath no Place without a special and particular Repentance, and conse­quently there is no other Remedy left for us in the Gospel, all that remains is what fol­lows in the next verse, viz. a certain fearful looking for of Iudgment, and fiery indignati­on to devour the adversary. From whence it follows that upon our sinning knowingly and wilfully in any particular Instance, we fall into a State of Wrath and Condemnation, and consequently fall from the happy State of our Regeneration, or being born of God.

And now to conclude this Argument, from the whole I infer the horrible Evil of consent­ing to any known Sin, after we have entered into good Resolutions to the contrary; which will plainly appear upon the following Con­siderations.

1. Consider the shameful Weakness and Impotency of it. For such Resolutions, if they are well formed, are grounded on the strongest and most momentous Reasons in the world; and for a Man to Cancel a Resolu­tion inforced with such powerful Motives for a meer Vanity, or to gratify some foolish and importunate Lust, the Pleasure of which dyes away in the Enjoyment, argues him to have a base and prostitute Mind, that hath no Strength of Thought, or stedfastness of Will in it, but is whiffled up and down like a Feather in the Air by every little Counter­blast of Wind.

[Page 410] 2. Consider the prodigious Hazard to which we expose our selves by it. For by every wilful Sin after such a Resolution we throw our selves headlong from the best in­to the worst Estate in the world, from a State of Love into a State of Wrath, from being born of God to being a Son of perdition; and if we thence be snatched away, before we have recovered our Relapse, (as who knows but we may,) we shall dye for ever, and by one desperate Act of Folly fall from Hea­ven into Hell. But suppose we should sur­vive our Sin, and be allowed a space of Re­pentance; yet is it a mighty Hazard whe­ther ever we make a good Use of it. For when by one wilful Sin we have made a Breach into our good Resolution, in all pro­bability that will open a Gap for another to follow, and that for another, till hereby our evil Habits at last recover their full Power, and then our Will and Practice will be laid open again into a common Thorough­fare of Iniquity. For when we consented to the first Sin it was with a Promise of re­penting immediately, and upon the same Promise in all probability upon the next Temptation we shall consent to a second, and so to a third; and by this Train the Devil will tole us on through a long Course of Sin, till at length our Will is depraved again, and our Conscience seared, and then [Page 411] we shall lay aside all Thoughts of Repen­tance.

3. Consider the great Sorrow and Re­morse that must follow upon our Sin, in Case we should repent of it. For to be sure before we can heartily repent of it, our Mind must be stung with many severe Re­flections upon our own wretched Weakness and Impotence, and our Falseness and Per­fidiousness to our own Ingagements and Re­solutions, upon the Affront we have given to our good God, and the vile Contempt we have offer'd to his most righteous Authority, and our ungrateful grieving his holy Spirit, whereby, before we committed this Wicked­ness, we were sealed unto the day of Redem­ption: all which if we have any thing of good Nature and Ingenuity, and much more if we have any the least Foot-step or Re­mains of that divine Seed, by which we were born of God, must necessarily create in us a most pungent Sorrow and Remorse, when­ever we reflect upon it; a Sorrow that will be much more than equivalent to the highest Pleasure we can hope for from any wilful Sin: and for a Man to commit such a Sin upon a Presumption that he shall repent of it, when he cannot but foresee, if he be in his Wits, that his Repentance will cost him far more sorrow than his sin will yield him Plea­sure, is all Folly and Madness.

[Page 412] 4. Consider how much of that Ground we lose back by every wilful Sin which by hitherto keeping true to our good Resolution we had gotten against our evil Inclinations. Our Religion can never be easy to us till in some good Measure we have mortified and extinguished our depraved Inclinations; for till then in the whole Course of our Reli­gious Practice we shall row against the Stream, and be continually warring against and doing Violence to our selves. But if when a Man hath once entered into a good Resolution he takes care to pursue it, he will find by degrees his bad Inclinations decay and wear off; and proportionably, as they de­cay, Piety and Vertue will grow more and more natural and easy to him. But when a Man hath for some time faithfully pursued his good Resolution, and hath thereby got a great deal of Ground of his bad Inclinati­ons, if then he unravels it by any one wil­ful Act of Sin, his bad Inclinations will thereby recover all those Degrees of Strength and Vigour which they lost in the past Course of his Piety and Vertue; so that now he must be forced to begin the whole Work of his Religion again, and to struggle through all those Difficulties, which he had before surmounted. Now he must fight over again all the Victories he had gotten, before he can regain that Command [Page 413] and Empire of himself, to which he was ar­rived before he revolted from his good Reso­lution; and thus for a Moments Satisfaction he foolishly creates himself a long and tedi­ous Labour.

5. And lastly consider how by every wil­ful Sin you will weaken and impair those comfortable Hopes you had arrived to by persevering in your good Resolution. While you persevere in Well-doing, your Minds will be all a long entertained and refreshed with the growing Hopes of your Reconci­liation with God at present, and of a glori­ous Immortality to succeed; and those bles­sed Hopes will every Day improve upon your Hands, till at length they are ripened into a full Assurance; the Comfort of which will mightily spirit and inliven all your Religious Endeavours, and carry you on with indefatigable Vigour through all the weary Stages of your Duty. But now by committing of any wilful Sin, thereby you throw your selves out of the Arms of God's Favour, and give up all your Preten­sions to eternal Happiness; and tho' by your serious Repentance you should afterwards re­cover to the blessed Condition from whence you are fallen, yet in all Probability it will be a great while before you will be able to recover those blessed Hopes from whence you are fallen. For the Sense of your past [Page 414] Lapse, if you have any Modesty in you, will make you very anxious and doubtful of your selves and render you extremely fear­ful and suspicious, lest you should fall a­gain; and so only sin and repent, and re­pent and sin on, 'till at length you have sin­ned your selves beyond all Repentance; and these very just Fears and Jealousies will very much hinder the Growth of your Hopes, and cause them to spring by slow and insen­sible Degrees.

JOHN XIV. 27.

Peace I leave with you, my Peace I give unto you: not as the World giveth, give I unto you: Let not your Heart be trou­bled, neither let it be afraid.

THese Words are a Part of our Savi­our's farewell Discourse to his Dis­ciples, in which after he had gi­ven them some necessary Instructi­ons for the Information of their Faith, and Conduct of their Manners, in which after he had comforted them with the Assurance that e'er long he would return again to them by his holy Spirit, and assist them in their Work, and support them under their Troubles, he takes a solemn leave of them, Peace I leave with you Which among the Hebrews was the usual Form of Salutation when they met or parted, Shalom Lacha, Peace be unto you; where, by Peace, they meant all manner of Blessings; so that it was equivalent to all those Three Salutations a­mong the Greeks [...], in which they wished to each other Sa­tisfaction of Mind, Health of Body, and Suc­cess of Affairs. So that in this Salutation Peace I leave with you, our Soviour wishes all [Page 416] Good to his Disciples, of which, Peace strict­ly taken, is one of the principal Instances. Nor, saith he, do I only wish Peace to you in general, but I give you my Peace, or the Wish and Salutation of my Peace; which is a much better Peace than that which Men have hitherto enjoyed, an inward Peace of Mind and Soul founded upon much surer Grounds and better Principles than those which natu­ral Reason and Philosophy pretend to. And this new kind of Péace which is properly mine, because founded upon my Principles, I give unto you: not as the World giveth, give I unto you. The Men of the World give the Salutation of Peace to each other many times out of meer Complement, without any real Wish, or hearty meaning, and when they mean what they say, it is commonly nothing but an empty impotent Wish that conduces nothing, or at least, not enough to the Peace and Satisfaction of those whom they salute. But as for my part, as I give you the Salutation of Peace, so I heartily mean and wish that you may enjoy it; nor do I only wish you Peace, but I have also taken Care to furnish you with such abun­dant Means, and effectual Principles of Peace, as that if you are not extreamly wanting to your selves, you cannot long be without it. The Words thus Explained, the Sense of them may be resolved into this Proposition.

[Page 417] That our blessed Lord as he heartily wishes Peace and Quiet of Mind to all his Disciples and Followers, so he hath taken Care to furnish them with the most suffi­cient and effectual Means to obtain it: the Truth of which, evidently appears upon a full Consideration of these Two Parti­culars: First, that he hath taken the most effectual Care to remove from us all the Causes of Trouble and Disquiet of Mind. Secondly, that he hath taken Care to sup­ply us with the most effectual Principles of Peace and Satisfaction of Mind.

1. I begin with the first of these, viz. that our blessed Lord hath taken the most effectual Care to remove from us all the Causes of Trouble and Disquiet of Mind; and they are principally these Five.

  • 1. The Sense of Guilt.
  • 2. False and extravagant Estimations of the good Things of the World.
  • 3. Our taking up wrong Measures and Opinions of the Evils of the World.
  • 4. An effeminate Softness and Delicacy of Temper.
  • 5. Misplacing of our Happiness in Things that are out of our own Power.

1. One Cause of disquiet of Mind, is the Sense of Guilt. For God hath imprinted such an awful Apprehension of his own invi­sible Power and Majesty on our Minds, that [Page 418] whenever we reflect upon the manifold Pro­vocations we have given him, to arm his Omnipotent Vengeance against us, it must naturally suggest very anxious and direful Thoughts to our Minds, and fill us with black and horrible Apprehensions of the fatal Consequents of his Wrath and Displeasure against us. So that till such time as Men have stupified their natural Sense of God by a long Custom, and inveterate Habit of sin­ning, it will be as impossible for them to be at Peace under the Apprehension of his Dis­pleasure, as it is to sleep with an Alarm in their Ears. But till such time as our Savi­our had procured for us the new Covenant, by which God hath solemnly obliged himself to pardon us upon our Repentance; sinful Men, tho' true Penitents, could never have arrived at that Degree of Security, that God was reconciled to them, as is necessary to set their Minds at Rest, and free them from all Anxiety. For tho' to repent is the best thing a Sinner can do, yet this doth not at all alter the Nature of the Sin he repents of, so as to render it less evil, or less deser­ving of Punishment; and so long as the Desert of Punishment remains, God hath a natural Right to execute it, and so long we can never be certain whether he will exact it or no. Some wavering Hopes a poor Peni­tent might have arrived to, upon the Con­sideration [Page 419] of the infinite Benignity of the divine Nature, but the utmost Comfort he could have given himself, was that of the penitent King of Nineveh; who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? Jonah 3. 9. But alas! when a Man's Mind is hagg'd and ridden with his Guilts, who can tell? is such a poor Relief as must necessarily leave it ex­treamly anxious and disponding. But now upon our Saviour's procuring for us the new Covenant, you and I, and every one of us can tell, and that with as much certainty as that God is true, that if we do repent, and turn from our evil Ways, God will turn, and repent of his Anger, and Displeasure a­gainst us. So that now all we have to do is to reflect upon our selves, and examin whe­ther we are true Penitents or no, whether we have submitted our Will to Gods, with a full Purpose and Resolution to fly whatever he forbids, and follow whatever he com­mands us; and if we have, we may upon the Terms of the New Covenant, from thence as certainly conclude that he is reconciled to us, and that his high Displeasure against us, is all converted into the dearest Kindness and Complacency, as we can that he is God, or which is all one, that he is true and faith­ful; which doubtless is one of the most solid Foundations of Peace and Satisfaction in the [Page 420] World. For what can disturb me while I feel my self lodged in his Arms and Embra­ces whose Wisdom, I am sure, no Craft can out-wit, and with whose Power no Force is able to contend. Here I dwell as in an im­pregnable Fortress, where nothing can come at me, but what is for my good; how then can any thing prove adverse to me, while he is my Friend, in whose Hands and Dispo­sal every thing that concerns me is placed?

2. Another Cause of Disquiet of Mind, is our false and extravagant Estimations of the good Things of this World. The main Spring of those Troubles which perplex our Minds, is the Goods and Evils that are with­out us, and without our Power and Dispo­sal, in which we commonly fancy far more Good and Evil than really there is. We look upon the good Things of this World as un­skilful Spectators do on Landskips, in which while they stand at a Distance, they fancy they behold here a smiling Meadow, there a delightful Grove, and there a lofty Mountain; but upon a nearer Approach, and more con­siderate View, find all this goodly Prospect to be nothing but a course Canvas artificially painted with Colours and Shadows. Thus while we behold the Riches, the Pleasures, and the Honours of this World at a Distance, to our wild Imaginations there appear vast Mountains of Happiness in them, fruitful [Page 421] Fields of Pleasure, delightful Groves of Con­tent and Satisfaction, which while we are in the pursuit of them, fills our Minds full of Cares, and anxious and solicitous Thoughts about them; but then as we approach near­er to them, and come to survey them more closely, the Mountains presently dwindle in­to Mole-hills, the Fields and the Groves into empty Shadows; and after all our Labour and Care to possess our selves of them, our Enjoyment of them amounts not to the Tithe of our Hope, and so we are still rest­less and unsatisfied, both while we are in the Quest, and while we are in the Pos­session of them. While we are in the Pur­suit of them, we are wild and imaginative; we swell with fantastick Joys, and juggle our selves into Expectations as great and eager as our own Desires; but as soon as we are possessed of them, we presently find their Vanity and Emptiness, and perceiving how little they are able to perform of those vast Things they promised us, our abused Fancy that had raised it self with such high and swelling Expectations, falls flat underneath the Disappointments of Fruition, and so while we are following, we are restless, and when we have overtaken them, we are dis­satisfied; all which arises from those extra­vagant Estimations we make of them. Whereas did we but value them as they are, [Page 422] and according to the true Rules of Reason and Religion, we should pursue them with far more Indifference, and enjoy them with far more Content. While we are in pursuit of them, we should look upon them as Things without which we may be happy, and con­sequently as Things that have not worth enough in them to deserve of us any mighty Care or Solicitude, and so we should follow them with a calm and sedate Mind; and enter­ing into the Possession of them with a moderate Expectation, we should find every Thing in them, that we hoped for; for all the Good that they promised, they would be sure to perform, and so we should have no disappointed Hope to vex & disturb us, but our Expectation would be intirely satisfied in our Enjoyment. Thus would we take care to fix in our Minds a true Estimation of the good Things of this World, and to prize them at those Rates that our Religion sets upon them, they would never be able to give us half the Distur­bance they now do; for then we should look upon them as Things that are extrinsick to our Happiness, as Things that we may want without Damage, or enjoy without Advantage to our main Interest; and esteem­ing them as such, we should pursue them with much less Concern, and enjoy them with much more Satisfaction; We should not be vexed with such an impatient Desire [Page 423] of gaining them, nor alarmed with so many tormenting Fears of losing them; but with S. Paul we should know both how to want them, and how to abound in them, and to undergo both Fortunes with a calm, and chearful Mind.

3. Another Cause of Disquiet of Mind, is our taking up wrong Measures and Opini­ons of the Evils of the World. As for those Evils which are only the Objects of our Faith and Reason, and such are the eternal Evils of the other World, we are always apt to lessen and diminish them, and flatter our selves with soft and easie Apprehensions of them; but as for those that strike upon our Sense, we are ever prone to swell and mag­nifie them; which is the reason that the for­mer disquiet us too little, and the latter too much, tho' our Disquiet for the one is neces­sary to prevent them, whereas our Trouble for the other doth only serve to render them more grievous and oppressive. For the greatest Power these outward sensible Evils have to hurt and damnifie us, they derive from our own Imagination, which oftentimes disguises them in grim and frightful Vi­zards, and makes them appear to us a Thou­sand Times more terrible than they are, insomuch that the Prospect and Apprehensi­on is generally more grievous to us, than the Sense and Experience of them, and what we imagin in them, is far more than what [Page 424] we feel. And thus we turn each Whip into a Scorpion, and swell our Mole-hill into a Mountain of Misery; so that the greatest part of what we suffer, is generally of our own creating, because we suffer not only the real Evils which are in the Things them­selves, but which are commonly more, the fantastick too which our own Imagination forms and affixes to them. So that would we but take Care to strip Realities from Fan­tastry, it would be impossible for those Evils which we feel or fear to give us half the Dis­turbance that they do; and the only way for us to do this, is to take our Measures of these outward Evils from Religion, which will soon satisfie us that they are nothing near so formidable in themselves, as we ima­gin them. For as for Instance, what mighty Matter is there in the loss of these outward Goods which are all so extrinsick to our Hap­piness, which cannot help us in our greatest Needs, nor make us easie in their fullest En­joyment, and which Thousands enjoy not, and yet are a Thousand Times more happy than those who possess them in the greatest Abundance? Again, what great Evil is it for a Man to be contemned, and reproach­ed, and vilified? for as for these Things they are Good or Evil as we please to fancy them, and there is scarce any other Venom in them, than what our own Imagination [Page 425] doth infuse. If we think them great Evils, they will be sure to vex and discompose us, which is the greatest Injury they can do us; but if we scorn and despise them, they are impotent Things, which like Wild-fire, do on­ly crack and vanish into Air, but leave no formidable Effects behind them. To name no more, what mighty Hurt is there in be­ing persecuted for Righteousness sake? Suppose I were banished from my Friends and native Country, do I not see Men every Day un­dertake a voluntary Exile, and banish them­selves into the remotest Parts of the World, only to get an Estate, or to learn Experi­ence, or satisfie a Curiosity? for all the difference between one and t'other, is only this, that the one is forced, and the other voluntary, and why the one should be worse than the other, there can be no other Reason assigned, but only this, that we imagin it so. Could we but cure our erroneous Fan­cy, such Banishment would be only a more advantageous Travel, since doubtless, he who travels to save his Conscience and Innocence, and secure his Hopes of everlasting Bliss, makes the best Voyage in the World. Sup­pose I should suffer a close Imprisonment, and be secluded from human Conversation; is it such a deplorable Thing for a Man to be kept within Doors, to be snatch'd out of the Crowd and Hurry of the World, and [Page 426] be forced to retire within himself, and con­verse with God, and Heaven, and his own Thoughts? Are not these Company enough to entertain our Solitudes, and to supply the Want of the Noise of the World, in which there is commonly so much of Dis­cord and Impertinence? But then suppose the worst that you can suppose; that you should suffer a tormenting Death, and be chased out of the World with the severest In­struments of human Cruelty. It is certain that e'er long you must have died whether you had suffer'd Martyrdom or no; only now you die a little sooner, and so anticipate your eternal Happiness. And if you had died a natural Death, perhaps the Torment might have been much greater; you might have languished much longer under the Gout, or Stone, or Strangury, than under the Hands of the Executioner, and endured the same Degree of Torment, without the Com­fort of dying in a brave Cause, and being as­sured of an immortal Recompence. Thus Religion sets the Evils of this World in a true Light, and represents them to us in their own natural Forms and Colours, without a­ny of that terrible Pomp in which our Ima­gination is so apt to dress and disguise them; it assures us that they are all design'd for our good, and are convertible into it, and if we take Care to make a wise and pious Use [Page 427] of them, we shall be the better for them for ever; it certifies us that they can de­prive us of no Good, but what e'er long will be insignificant to us; and that they can do us no Hurt, but what e'er long we shall be insensible of for ever; and by thus exposing these Evils naked to us, it shews us their Nakedness, and Impotence, and thereby deprives them of the Power they borrow of our Fancies to disturb our Tranquility and Peace.

4. Another Cause of Disquiet of Mind, is an effeminate Softness, and Delicacy of Temper, arising from our Neglect of exer­cising those Vertues which naturally tend to confirm and fortifie the Mind against troublesome and disquieting Accidents; such as Faith, Patience, and Self-denial, Submissi­on and Resignation to God, which when like so many Guardian Angels they pitch their Tents about the Soul, are an invincible De­fence to her against the Strokes and Im­pressions of Misfortune, and without which, she is left altogether naked and unguarded amidst all the disquieting Accidents that surround her. For in the Absence of these heavenly Graces, a Man hath nothing where­withal to resist any Evil that befalls him, but only the insensible Stupidity, and brutal Sturdiness of his Temper, which can never hold out long under any pressing Calamity; [Page 428] and when once these are broke by the re­peated Strokes and Impressions of unfortunate Accidents, the Man presently dissolves into Softness and Effeminacy; for now the natu­ral Brawniness of Temper being worn away like a Stone with the continual Droppings of Rain, his Mind will become so tender, and sore, and uneasie, that every little Touch of Misfortune will pain and disturb him; in which Case he can derive no Relief from his Reason, having all along disused himself to advise and consult with it; and so every Alarm of Danger from without, presently raises a Tumult within, and puts his whole Soul into an uproar, in which his Mind is left naked of all Relief, and utterly aban­doned of those wise and brave Thoughts which should guard and defend it. But now had he taken Care but to educate his Mind in the School of Christianity, that by instruct­ing him in all those manly Vertues of Pati­ence and Temperance, Constancy and Resigna­tion to the Will of God, would have inspir'd him by Degrees with such an invincible Stayedness and Firmness of Spirit, as would have rendred his Peace and Tranquility im­pregnable against all the Assaults of Misfor­tune. And when all is done, these Vertues are the best Protection we have against the Power of those calamitous Accidents that surround us. For when by Temperance a [Page 429] Man hath weaned himself from the Plea­sures of the Body, when by Patience he hath hardned himself against the Pains and Dis­pleasures of it, when by Constancy to him­self, he hath acquired a continual Presence of Mind, and ready Use of his Reason and Consideration, when by frequent Acts of Resignation to God he hath reduced himself to an Habit of embracing every Accident as a Token of Love, and bidding every Thing welcome that befals him; when, I say, these happy Effects are produced in him, he is as safe and secure from the disquiet­ing Power of these evil Accidents below, as if he lived in the uppermost Regions of the Air, where he enjoys a perpetual Calm and Serenity, where he tramples upon Clouds, and is above all Storms, and with a chearful and composed Mind can sit securely, smiling at the rolling Thunder below, whilst it grum­bles and bursts underneath his Feet. Thus will the constant Practice of these excellent Graces, so steel and harden our tender Minds, that those Evils will be able to make no Impression on us, which now do wound us to the Heart. For as the Light of the Sun, and Freshness of the Air which are apt to offend the Sickly and Tender, are not only tolerable but delightful to Men of hail and vigorous Constitutions; so many of the lit­tle Hardships which trouble and incommode [Page 430] the Tender and Delicate, are so far from disturbing patient and temperate Minds, that they rather refresh and divert them

5. And lastly, Another Cause of Disquiet of Mind, is our misplacing of our Happiness in Things that are out of our own Power. For Happiness is the great Load-stone that attracts and governs all our Motions, the Mark of all our Aims and Intentions, and the End of all our deliberate Actions. Whilst therefore we place our Happiness in Things that are out of our Power, we must be go­verned by Things that are out of our Pow­er, and while we are so, we can never be quiet. For the Things that are out of our Power, being all of them casual and contin­gent, such as Honour, and Greatness, and Carnal-Pleasures; we can never be secure of the Comfort and Happiness we place in them, and consequently, our Happiness and Misery must be as casual and contingent as the Goods and Evils are from whence they do arise. And whilst we are governed by such casual Things as these, we can never be our own Men, but must live in Subjection to a forraign Power, and be what the Things that govern us will have us; and so long as the Passions and Appetites that over-rule us, are over-ruled by the Chances and Contin­gencies without us, we must be as various, as sickle, and as multiform as they. Whilst [Page 431] therefore we place our Happiness in these uncertain Enjoyments, it is impossible our Mind should ever be at rest, but like a Ship in a tempestuous Sea, must be perpetually tossed and driven to and fro by the furious Gusts of our own Passions, which can ne­ver be calm and sedate, till we fix upon a Happiness that is certain and Stable: For as our Desires can never be satisfied till we are compleatly happy, so our Fears can never be composed till such time as we are secure of our Happiness. But so empty and fickle is all worldly Good, that we can never be either happy in it, or secure of it; for when we have what we did first desire, that only inflames our Thirst, and makes us gasp for more; and then the Tenure of all is so in­secure, that the Accession of more doth only increase our Fear of losing what we have. So that our Mind must be perpetually ground between these Two restless Mill­stones, the Desire of getting more, and the Fear of losing what we enjoy; and therefore seeing it is impossible for us to alter the Nature of these outward Goods, or to ren­der them either more secure, or more sa­tisfying, the only way for us to be truly happy, is to alter the Temper of our own Minds, to wean them from this World, and determin them to an Happiness that is more Solid and Substantial, and within our own [Page 432] Disposal; and such a Happiness is that which Christianity proposes to us, an Hap­piness that depends upon our own free Acts, and grows out of the Graces and Vertues of our own Mind. For so that everlasting Hea­ven which the Gospel proposes to us is inse­parably annexed to the right and good Use of our natural Liberty, and consequently is as much within our Power, as our own Re­solutions, and voluntary Motions. Whilst therefore we are under the Government of this Christian Happiness, we are Masters of our own Fortunes, and do live independent­ly on Chance and the Wills of Men, and it is within our own Power to be happy with­out asking leave of any but God and our selves. Now we are no longer Tenants at Will to the little Casualties and Accidents of the World, no longer liable to be turned out of our Happiness by Storms, or Fires, or Invasions, by the Contingencies of Provi­dence, or the Knaveries and Cruelties of Men; no more exposed like miserable Va­grants to beg our Happiness from Door to Door, to creep, and cringe, and fawn to the Humours of an inconstant World, to court its Smiles, or tremble at its Frowns. For if Heaven be the Happiness we depend on, there is nothing can deprive us of it, but our own free Acts, and it is as much in our Power not to be miserable, as not to be [Page 433] wicked; and our Happiness being all imbark­ed in the same bottom with our Piety and Vertüe, they must both of them run the same Fate, and eitherswim or sink together. If therefore we would be at Peace within our selves, we must put our selves under the Government of the Happiness of Christians, which is the only one that we can be sure of, there being no other within our own Pow­er and Disposal; for till this is done, we are like Men in a Crowd, encompassed about with so many cross rancountring Accidents as will never let us be at rest, but be perpetu­ally shoving, and jostling us to and fro, and still as we get free from one, another will be pressing upon us, and that which thrusts on this, will still be thrust on by another with­out any Pause or Intermission; and so our miserable Minds will be always hurried a­bout, and never want Causes of Disquiet: But when once we have fix'd upon that Happiness above, we shall be so much above these little Accidents below, and their Force will be so broken, before they can reach us, that we shall scarce be sensible of their saint Impressions, and so we shall pass on as qui­etly and undisturbedly through them, as we do now through those Crowds of Motes that are always dancing in the Air about us.

And so I have dispatched the first Thing [...] proposed, which was to shew that our blessed [Page 434] Lord in order to his giving us his Peace, hath removed from us all Causes of Disquiet.

2. I now proceed to the Second, which is to shew, that he hath also taken Care to supply us with the most effectual Principles of Peace, and Satisfaction of Mind; and they are these following:

1. That by the Sacrifice of himself, he hath purged away our Guilts, and thereby given us the most certain Ground of Peace of Conscience.

2. That as he sacrificed himself for us, while he was upon Earth, so now he is in Heaven, he hath the Ordering and Disposal of every Thing that concerns or befals us.

3. That he hath procured for us a Futu­rity, sufficiently happy to make us in­finite amends for the worst Evils that can befal us here.

4. That he hath established this happy Fu­turity upon such Terms and Conditi­ons, as are within the reach of our own Power.

5. That he hath taken Care in his Ab­sence to provide for us such Supports as are proportionable to every Burthen he will lay upon us.

1. One Principle of Peace and Satisfacti­on of Mind wherewith our Saviour hath sup­plied us is this, that by the Sacrifice of him­self, [Page 335] he hath fully purged away our Guilts, and thereby given us the most certain Ground of Peace of Conscience: For he de­clared that he died in our Persons and stead, and that all those miserable Things he en­dured upon the Cross, were in lieu of that Punishment that was due to God for our sins; that the Blood he spilt there, was de­signed by him for the Price of our Re­demption, and that the Life he laid down there, was in exchange for the forfeited Lives of our Souls. And to manifest God's Ac­ceptance of it, as an Equivalent for our Punishment, he rose from the dead, and was actually discharged from the Prison of the Grave; by which he gave us an Ac­quittance under God's own Hand, purport­ing, that he had graciously accepted his Son's Death in lieu of our Punishment, and that if now we would heartily repent and amend all our past Guilts and Obligations to Punishment should, in Consideration thereof, be for ever dissolved. Who then can lay any thing to the Charge of God's Elect, seeing it is Christ that hath died, and there­by tendred a full Ransom for us to God; yea, rather, that is risen again, and thereby cer­tified us, that the Father of Mercies hath graciously accepted and allowed of it? So that if now we repent, we are as certain of our Pardon, as we are of the Death and Re­surrection [Page 436] of our Saviour; which are such Facts, of which we have as plain Demon­stration as the Nature of Things will bear. And having so certain a Ground of Peace of Conscience before us, what can be more conducive to the Ease and Satisfaction of our Minds? For a quiet Conscience is a Paradise within a Wilderness, whereinto a Man may retire when he can find nothing else to live upon, and live chearfully and merrily in despite of all Misfortunes, which, like Show­ers of Hail falling upon the Tiles of a Mu­sick-House, are not able with all their Clat­tering and Noise, to disturb the grateful Har­mony within. As therefore when all is smooth and prosperous without, a Man may shel­ter himself there from the Persecutions of his Conscience, so when all is calm and serene within, he may shelter himself there from the Persecutions of the World; but when both are bestormed, he hath no Refuge to fly to. And therefore that we may never be left utterly forsaken and abandoned, our blessed Saviour by washing away our Guilt in his own Blood, hath opened to us a safe Re­treat within our own Breasts, viz. that of a quiet and serene Conscience, whereinto we may easily retire, and house our selves when we are persecuted with Storms and Tem­pests from without.

[Page 437] 2. Another Principle of Peace and Satis­faction of Mind wherewith our Saviour hath furnished us, is this, that as he sacrificed himself for us when he was upon Earth, so now he is in Heaven, he hath the Ordering and Disposal of every Thing that concerns or befalls us. For now he is in Heaven, he intercedes for us in Vertue of that Sacrifice which he offered on Earth; and in the Ver­tue of this his meritorious Intercession, all Power is given him in Heaven and Earth. And indeed herein consists the Royalty of his Priesthood, viz. that by interceding for us as a Priest, and continuing so to do, he first obtained, and still continues vested with a kingly Power and Authority to bestow up­on us all those heavenly Blessings he inter­cedes for. And hence all the Graces and Favours of God are in Scripture said to be derived to us in, or by, or through Iesus Christ; implying, that as it is from God the Father originally, that all our Mercies flow, so it is through God the Son immediately, that they are handed and derived to us; and that interceding for us as he doth, and always hath done, in Vertue of the power­ful Oratory of his Sacrifice, he was first constituted, and is still continued the royal Distributer of all his Father's Graces and Favours to Man-kind. So that now we are assured, there is nothing can happen to us [Page 438] good or bad, but by his merciful Disposal; and can we think any thing bad that comes from his hand, who hath evidenced himself so much our Friend as to die for us? He who loved us to such a stupendous Degree, as to come down from Heaven, and assume our Natures, and therewith, all our innocent Infirmities and Miseries, and at last to suffer for us the most grievous and infamous Death; can he be unkind to us now he is our King, and hath the ordering and disposal of all our Affairs? Whenever therefore any calamitous Accident befals us, and we begin to grieve or repine at it; let us remember that it is through his Permission or Appointment, who was so much our Friend while he was upon Earth, that he tendred our Welfare far beyond his own Life; and if this doth not set our Hearts at rest, and reconcile us to the worst of Things that can happen to us, we are beyond the Reach and Influence of Reason and Discourse. For how can we suspect any thing to be hurtful to us, that is sent us down from our merciful Redeemer in Heaven, who when he was upon Earth ne­ver thought any thing, no not his own Life and Blood too much, or too dear for us. How grievous soever therefore any present Acci­dent may appear to us, the Hand it came from, speaks and declares it to be a Token of Love, since to be sure nothing but Love [Page 439] can proceed from that Hand whose Heart alway loved us far above its own Ease, and Joy, and Life.

3. Another Principle of Peace and Satis­faction of Mind wherewith our Saviour hath supplyed us is this, that he hath procured for us a Futurity sufficient to make us infi­nite Amends for the worst of Evils that can befal us here; for he hath not only pur­chased for us Life and Immortality at the Price of his Blood, but hath also clearly discovered and brought it to light by his Gospel, the joyous Prospect of which is a­bundantly sufficient to support our Spirits under the most direful Accidents. For now when any melancholy Apprehensions begin to invade my Mind, this blessed Theme fur­nishes me with such a mighty Force of joy­ous Considerations as are abundantly suffi­cient to dispel and scatter them, and cause them to fly away like the Morning Mists before the rising Sun. Hold out, O my Faith and Patience, it is but a very little while that I have to suffer: This woful Dream that now lies hovering over my Ima­gination will vanish as soon as I awake in Eternity, and be as if it had never been at all. There all these sad Remembrances shall in one Moment be for ever lost, and swallowed up in one continued everlasting Joy; there I shall unload my self at once [Page 440] of all my present Sighs and Griefs, and in their room take up eternal Songs of Praise and Hallelujahs; there I shall be placed far above all these Clouds and Storms in a calm and quiet Region, where there is nothing but Light and Harmony, nothing but Peace, and Ioy, and Love; from thence I shall e'er long look down upon this dark unquiet At­mosphere, and remember with Joy all the foul tempestuous Weather I here endured, and have now surmounted, and the glad Remembrance of what is past will then serve only as a Foil or Shadow to set off that blessed State of Things, and render it more charming and illustrious. Why then art thou cast down, O my Soul, under the Sense of these short-liv'd transitory Evils of which within these very few Moments thou shalt be sure to take leave for ever? Tho' this Night be dark it is but short, and then will follow an everlasting Day. Tho' thy Voyage be foul, it is not long; 'tis only a short days Sail to a blessed Eternity, from whose happy Shores thou wilt a little while hence be looking back upon this boisterous Sea, and blessing those angry Storms and Waves that drove and hastned thee to that happy Port; where every Moments Injoy­ment will be sufficient to recompense thee a thousand-fold for all the Hardships under which thou art now suffering and complain­ing. [Page 441] Such Thoughts as these that blessed Futurity our Saviour hath purchased for us do naturally suggest to our Minds, which mingling with the utmost Griefs and Anxie­ties that any Evil from without can raise within us are abundantly sufficient to com­pose and calm them, and to create a happy Serenity in our own Breasts, while all with­out us is stormy and tempestuous. For what outward Evil is there weighty enough to sink a Mind, that hath the hope of an everlasting Heaven to support it?

4. Another Principle of Peace and Satis­faction of Mind wherewith our Saviour hath supplyed us is this, that he hath established this happy Futurity upon such Terms and Conditions as are within the Reach of our own Power; that is, upon Faith in Christ, and Repentance from dead Works; which tho' in this degenerate State of our Nature it be not immediately in our Power to perform, yet mediately it is by those Helps and Assi­stances which God hath promised to us, and inseparably annexed to our making a good Use of our own natural Power. For since God by his own free Promise hath entailed the Assistances of his Grace upon our honest Endeavour, his Grace is as much at our de­votion as our own Faculties, and it is as much in our Power to perform what we can­not without his Grace, as it is to perform [Page 442] what we can; and therefore seeing by his Assistance we can perform the Conditions of eternal Life, it is in our Power to perform them, because it is no less within our Power to oblige him to assist us than it is to oblige our selves to exert our own Power and En­deavours; the Conditions of our Happi­ness being through the Grace of God within our own Power, our Happiness is so too; which if duly considered is a mighty Sup­port under all Afflictions from without. For why should we grieve that it is in the Power of Men and a thousand adverse Ac­cidents to rob us of our Ease and our Wealth, our Liberty and Reputation? God be praised our main Happiness consists not in these Things, but in Heaven; there lies the Treasure of our Hearts, and the Hope of our Lives, of which there is none but our selves can disappoint us. If we will be hap­py in the eternal Possession of that inex­haustable Mine of Bliss, we may, and all the Hardships and Inconveniencies we may endure on the Way to it are neither able to obstruct our Passage, nor hinder our safe Arrival; unless by a base Surrender to them we betray our selves. So that now we may give a bold Defyance to all the combining Malice of Men and Devils, and tell them that we will be happy, eternally happy in de­spite of the worst they can do to us, see­ing [Page 443] the matter wholly depends upon our own Courage and Resolution backt and as­sisted by the never-failing Grace of God. There is nothing that Men or Misfortune can deprive me of but I can live without, and maintain my self in a happy and glorious Post for ever. Why then should I grieve to see my Drugs flung over-board, which within a few Moments hence will be of no Use or Value to me, so long as it is in my Power to save all my precious and immortal Fraight; and thereby to secure my self of a most happy and prosperous Voyage? When­ever therefore we are threatned with sad Contingencies, or with the Power or Ma­lice of Men, we have this Answer ready to return to them; God be praised, our main Happiness depends not upon you; we can, if we will, go to Heaven in despight of you, and when once we are there we shall be far beyond your Reach, and then these light Afflictions which you now lay upon us, and which are but for a moment, will be found unworthy to be compared with that eternal Glory which shall be revealed to us. Which Consideration closely applied, and deeply imprinted on our Minds, is of suffi­cient Vertue to ease and relieve us un­der the most calamitous Circumstances; for while our main Chance and Interest is safe, all is well with us, and then we [Page 444] are secure none can prejudice us but our selves.

5. And lastly, another Principle of Peace and Satisfaction of Mind wherewith our Saviour hath supplyed us is this, that he hath taken Care, during his Absence from us, to provide for us such Supports as are proportionable to every Burthen he will lay upon us. For so he tells his Disciples, when he was departing from them, that it was expedient for them that he should go away, because until he went, according to the di­vine, Oeconomy, the Comforter was not to come; but when I depart, saith he, I will send him unto you, Jo. 16. 7. And accord­ingly when he departed he sent down his holy Spirit to represent himself and act as his Vicegerent in his heavenly Kingdom, and to do all that for us which he himself would have done had he continued personally pre­sent with us. So that tho' now he is a great way off from us in Person, yet by his Spi­rit he is still present with us; present with all that tender Affection, and with all those yerning Bowels of Compassion that he ex­press'd towards us while he was upon Earth. And whereas had he continued a­mong us in Person he could have been pre­sent with us only at such determinate Places and Distances, he is now present with us where-ever we are, in every Place, and at [Page 445] every Distance by his immense Spirit, which like an Omnipresent Soul being diffused through all his Mystical Body gives Life and Motion to every Part and Particle of it. And having thus taken Care to supply his personal Absence from us with this divine Pre­sence, which is every way co-extended to the utmost Diffusion of his Church, we may depend upon it that where-ever or in what Circumstances soever we are, he is by us, and with us, beholding all our Needs with a compassionate Heart, and ready to extend to us whatever Aids and Supports we stand in need of. How then can we droop in his blessed Presence? How can our Hearts sink while he stands by us? What Evil is there can scare or distract our Minds, whilst we consider that the Almighty Spirit of the blessed Iesus our Friend is always and every where with us, ready bent to stretch forth his helping Hand to support us under every Oppression? Alas! I am afraid this Bur­then will at length grow too heavy for me, that my Strength and Courage will at last be forced to yield, and sink underneath it. Well, tho' you fear your own Strength, yet sure you cannot doubt the Strength and Power of the Spirit of God, and his Strength is yours to all necessary Purposes as much as it is his own; and therefore unless you appre­hend your Burthen to be too heavy for his [Page 446] Power as well as yours, you have no Rea­son to dread that you shall sink underneath the Weight of it. You are afraid lest you should be called forth to suffer for Righteous­ness sake, and lest under the Rage and Vio­lence of Persecution your Faith and Con­stancy should shrink and yield. Why con­sider with your selves, are there not Thou­sands of Christians that have suffered be­fore you, suffered as terrible Things as you can possibly dread, and this not only with Patience and Constancy, but with Ioy and Triumph? Why then should you suspect that blessed Spirit which supported them, to be less able or willing to bear up you? He who hath so often enabled so many tender Vir­gins, delicate Matrons, infirm and aged Bi­shops to sing in the midst of Flames, to smile upon Racks, to triumph upon Wheels and Catasta's; and in short, to endure such long and dolorous Martyrdoms, as many times they did, when their Tormentors took their Turns from Morning to Night, and plyed them with all Kinds of Cruelties till many times they were forced to give over, and confess that they had not Heart enough to inflict the Tortures which those poor Suffe­rers had Courage enough to endure: He, I say, who hath thus far enabled them, can he not as well enable you? Is his Arm short­ned that he cannot save, or his Ear grown [Page 447] heavy that he cannot hear you as well as them? Consider then, you have the same Right that they had by the same never­failing Promise to this his enabling Power, which by so many glorious Instances hath demonstrated it self sufficient to support you under the heaviest Oppressions; and therefore you have all the reason in the world to expect the same Aids and Supports from it if ever you should be reduced to the same Extremities. Our great Care there­fore ought to be that we do not desert our Saviour, either by wilful Apostacy from his Faith, or Disobedience to his Laws; for so long as we continue faithful to him he can­not leave and desert us; our main Concern ought to be that we do our Part, and not that he doth his; for he cannot fail, tho' we may. If we prove true to him we may assuredly depend upon it that he will prove true to us, and not leave us destitute of any Help or Support that in any Condition is necessary for us. If therefore to serve the wise and holy Ends of his Providence he should at any time think it meet to call us to suf­fer, we may set our Hearts at rest upon this Assurance, that so long as we take Care to maintain our Integrity he must take Care to maintain our Strength, and not permit us to sink under any Burthen he lays upon us for want of any degree of Comfort and [Page 448] Support that our State and Condition re­quires. Which Consideration duely apply­ed cannot fail of giving a great deal of Ease to our anxious and desponding Minds.

Having thus shewn at large what abundant Provision our Saviour hath made for the Peace and Satisfaction of our Minds, I shall conclude all in a very few Words. Our blessed Saviour hath long since told us that in this World we shall have Trouble, but that in him we shall have Peace; which, tho' it were more eminently true in those early Days of Suffering and Persecution, doth yet hold most certainly true not only in Times of Peace, but even in the most prosperous Circumstances of humane Life. For we cannot but know that we are depen­dent upon Chance; we cannot but know that it is in the Power of ten thousand Con­tingencies to disturb us, and this in despite of us will create a great many anxious Thoughts, and vex us with melancholy Ap­prehensions of our Futurity: And tho' at present we may hush them with Jolity and Mirth, upon the next Reflection they will be sure to awake again, and to revenge them­selves upon us for those Moments of Ease we ravished from them; and then when any evil Accident threatens or approaches us we can give our selves no certain Assurance of escaping it. For when we have done all [Page 449] that lies within the Compass of our Wisdom and Power, there may a thousand Crosses a­rise in our way which it is impossible for us either to foresee or prevent, and turn our most promising Designs upon our selves, and hasten the Evil upon us by those very Means which we chuse to prevent it; the Sense of which must necessarily cause many a stinging Thought to swarm about our Minds, and to vex and disturb us in our deepest Security. Thus in our best Estate we are poor and in­digent Creatures, fain to seek abroad, and to go a begging for our Happiness from Door to Door; to depend upon Chance, and live insecure of every thing we either possess, or desire, or hope for. And consi­dering how prone we are to be alarmed with the Prospect of a sad Futurity, and to magnify distant Evils in our own Apprehen­sions, and to aggravate present ones by our Impatience and Despair; and in a word, to pall our best Enjoyments by expecting more from them than their Nature will afford; considering these Things, I say, it is the greatest Nonsense in the World for Men to expect Peace and Satisfaction of Mind from any thing here below. And if we are thus liable to Disturbance in our best Estate, alas, what are we in our worst! When Calami­ties come rolling upon us like the Waves of the Sea upon the back of one another, and [Page 450] we have no Harbour in View to put in at. In this vast Tumult of things therefore whi­ther shall we betake our selves for Tranqui­lity and Peace? If we go into the World, every thing in it tells us it is not in me. If we go out of the World into Desarts and Solitudes, the Stings we shall either find there or carry thither with us will soon con­vince us that it is not in them. Where then can we hope to find Peace, but only in Ie­sus the Prince of Peace? To him therefore let us go with an humble Faith and obedient Will, with a resolved Mind to adhere to his Truth, and submit to his Laws, and wholly to resign our selves to his Conduct and Go­vernment. And if in him you do not find all that Peace and Satisfaction you have hi­therto sought in vain, never give Credit to anything that is sacred more. I am sure it is to be found in him if we wisely, and ho­nesty, and industriously seek it: Thousands have found it in him, who could find it no where else; and having found it have en­joyed themselves all their Days after in sweet Content and Peace, and at length have breathed out their Souls to him in Praises for the happy Discovery. And therefore if it be not our own fault we may soon add our selves to this blessed Number, by devoting our selves to him as they did, and sur­rendring our Lives and Interests to his Go­verment [Page 451] and Disposal. And when once we have performed this with a sincere and reso­lute Intention, we shall by degrees perceive these Tempests within us quieted and abated, and our stormy Minds clearing up into an happy Serenity; and still as we more and more subdue our Wills and Affections to him we shall feel and experience our selves more and more at Ease, until at length we shall arrive to such a settled Peace and Tran­quility of Soul as that it will be beyond the Power of any outward Concern to disturb us. And now our Mind will be a Paradise to it self, a Paradise wherein it will be a­ble to live contented and happy, and to breath calm and gentle Thoughts how tempestuous soever its Condition is without. And find­ing all composed and quiet within, we shall lead a Life far more easy, and even, and consistent than ever; for now we shall no longer reserve our selves to follow Fortune and the Turns of outward Affairs, to com­ply with all the Mutabilities of the Wind, and still to transform our selves into new Shapes as we are running through the still­changing Fashions of the World. Now we shall no longer perplex and intangle our selves by Knavish Tricks and sordid Com­plyances, by being forced still to study how to act a new Part, and to put on a new Garb of Humour and Conversation upon every [Page 452] new Alteration of Affairs; but our Way will ly even, easy, and direct before us, and whatsoever happens to us from without, whether it rains or shines, proves calm or tempestuous, the inward Peace and Satisfacti­on we shall find in following Iesus by our firm Adherence to his Truth, and Obedi­ence to his Laws, will carry us safely thro' all Events, and render us far more happy e­ven in our persecuted sincerity than we can reasonably suppose to be in the most prosper­ous Hypocrisie. Wherefore if ever you in­tend to be at Rest within, and to enjoy your selves in Peace and Tranquility; go to Ie­sus the Prince and Author of Peace; Take with you Words and say, O blessed Iesus, hi­therto we confess other Lords have had Domi­nion over us, such as Pride and Ambition, Lust and Avarice; and these have all proved unmer­ciful Tyrants to us, they have continually har­rased and oppressed our Minds; they have laid waste all our Peace, stripp'd and plundered us of our Self-enjoyment, and almost worn out our Lives in perpetual Troubles and Anxieties. Wherefore now at last we return unto thee weary and heavy laden, not only with Guilts but Vexations, resolving for the future that thee alone we will serve. O do not reject us thy oppressed and miserable Creatures, who are dri­ven unto thee for Refuge from those cruel Task­masters that have hitherto raigned over us; [Page 453] but permit us to spend the Remainder of our Days under thy happy Government. We know thy yoak is easy, and thy Burthen light; and therefore suffer us now at last, we beseech thee, to come unto thee that in thee we may find rest for our Souls, who have sought it in vain in everyThing but thee. And having thus surren­dred up our selves to him, let us by our con­stant Perseverance in Well-doing endeavour to subdue our selves more and more to his Will in this full Assurance that from our hearty and punctual Conformity thereunto, we shall reap not only Peace and Tranquility here, but also immortal Glory and Happi­ness hereafter: Which we beseech thee to grant us all of thy infinite Mercy, O blessed Iesu; to whom with thy great Father and eternal Spirit be ascribed of us and all the World all Honour and Glory and Praise from this time forth and for evermore.

Amen.

JAMES I. 8.‘A double minded Man is unstable in all his Ways.’

BY a double-minded Man here we are to understand (as is plain from the Context) an insincere Man, one who pretends to Religion, and hath a good Inclination towards it, but is not ar­rived to a firm and prevailing Resolution of adhering to it, maugre all Temptations to the contrary; that bears some faint and in­effectual Regard to the Rules of his Duty, and the Dictates of his Conscience, but not such as hath the Superiority over him, and doth command and govern his Life and Conversation; not such as hath that pre­vailing Influence upon him, as to hinder him from being ordinarily counter-swayed by his Appetites, or Passions, or secular In­terests to the Commission of unlawful and ir­regular Actions. So that the single-minded Man is one who hath no other Mind, no other prevailing Purpose and Resolution, but to adhere to God in the Profession and Pra­ctise of true Religion, and upon every Emer­gency, is ready fix'd to perform what God demands of him by the Voice of Revela­tion and right Reason; and in a Word, that [Page 455] lives under no other commanding Principle but this, I will always do what God will have me: and so on the contrary, the double-mind­ed Man is one that fluctuates between Two Minds and Wills, a Will for God, and a Will for the World; and is governed sometimes by one, and sometimes by another, but is ne­ver true or constant to either. In short, he is one who being yet unsubdued to the commanding Power and Influence of Religi­on, hath no fix'd no determined Mind or Resolution; but is not only of several Minds upon several Occasions, but also of contrary Minds upon contrary Occasions. For his Heart is so divided between his God and his Interest, his Duty and his Lust, that like a Needle between Two Load-stones he is always wavering too and again, and point­ing alternately to both, but is never fix'd to either. And of this Man the Apostle tells us, That he is unstable in all his Ways. Where by Ways according to the Hebrew Phraseology, he means Actions; he is unsta­ble in all his Actions, that is, he always acts with an anxious, doubtful, and misgiving Mind; he knows not where to find him­self, nor many times which way to turn himself; he leads a very uncertain, insecure, and unquiet Life, being all along perplexed and intangled in the whole Course of his [Page 456] Actions. The Words thus explained may be resolved into this Proposition;

That whilst Mens Minds are divided between God and their Lusts, and are not intirely subdued to his Will; they must necessarily lead very anxious, insecure, un­stable Lives: That till such time as we Act from an intire Submission of our Souls to God, we can never act steadily and securely, but must be always fluctu­ating in great Anxiety and Uncertain­ty.

The Wise Man tells us, that, He that walk­eth uprightly, walketh surely Prov. 10. 9. He goes on in a direct, secure, and even Course of Action, wherein there is no Perplexity, or Intanglement; whereas the Life of a double-minded Hypocrite whose Heart is di­vided between God and the World, is a per­petual Maze and Labarinth, wherein the farther he goes, the more he is lost and con­founded. And this will evidently appear upon the following Considerations.

  • 1. That he acts upon no fixed or certain Principles.
  • 2. That the Way and Course of his Acti­ons is all obscure and intricate.
  • 3. That he is always fain to live in a Dis­guise, and is therein insecure of Con­cealment.
  • [Page 457] 4. That he is always at odds with him­self, and in perpetual Variance with his own Reason.
  • 5. That he is at a miserable Uncertainty as to the present Events and Issues of his own Actions.
  • 6 That he hath a most dismal Prospect before him of the final Issue, and Event of all.

1. The double-minded Man acts upon no fixed or certain Principles. For the Principles he proceeds upon are such as have no Foun­dation in the Nature of Things, but, like Castles in the Air, are built upon meer Dreams and Delusions, which whenever his Reason awakes, will sink and disappear. For either he lives upon no Principles at all, but acts like the Beasts that Perish, upon blind In­stincts, and the unaccountable Impulses of his brutal Sense; or upon such Principles as these, that there is no such Being in the World as an eternal, and invisible, almighty Power; or that if there be, he lives retired from us, and takes no Notice of what we do; or that if he doth, 'tis as an unconcern'd Spectator to whom it is purely indifferent whether we do Good or Evil; or that if he be at all pleased with our good Deeds, and displea­sed with our bad, yet it is not to any such Degree, as to intail any future Rewards up­on [Page 458] the one, or Punishments on the other; or that if there be any such Rewards and Punishments prepared by him, they are so slight and inconsiderable, that the Loss of the one, and Sufferance of the other, are abun­dantly compensated by the present Pleasure of a sinful Life; or in fine, that if neither the one nor the other prove true, yet we may securely enjoy these Pleasures while we are able, and by repenting at last when we are old or dying, and are able to enjoy them no longer, may intitle our selves to those Rewards, whatsoever they are, and secure our selves from those Punishments. This is the Cham of Principles, upon which bad Men live and act, if they act upon any at all, and which are all of them grounded upon such doubtful Presumptions, such thin Pretences, and unsatisfactory Reasonings, as no Man in his Wits can ever be throughly secure of. For besides that they contradict the best and wisest Part of the World, the current Sense of humane Nature, and the common Consent of all Mankind, which are such Prejudices against them, as must ne­cessarily render them very doubtful at least; besides all this, I say, they have so strong a Current of Evidence against them, and are over-powered with such a Force of Argu­ments from all the Quarters of Reason and [Page 459] Religion, and the contrary Principles are so much more agreeable to all the Appearan­ces of Things, to the sacred Oracles, to hu­man Society, and to the very Frame of hu­man Nature; and in a Word, have every way so vast an Over-weight of Reason on their side, that it is impossible for any Man in a cold Mind to be confident that they are true, how much soever it may be his Inte­rest to wish them so. So that whereas the sincere and upright Man living, as he doth, upon well-tried Principles that for their Truth have been always found most agreable to Reason, and for their Usefulness always ap­proved by constant Experience, treads firm­ly and boldly, being secure of the Ground he goes upon; the double-minded Hypocrite, being all along uncertain of the Grounds of his Action, walks like a benighted Tra­veller in a dangerous Road, where he is fain to feel out his way, and to tread tenderly, and cautiously, lest his next step should be into a Bogg or a Precipice. And so long as he is insecure of the Principles upon which he acts, he can never be secure that he acts safely. He knows that if the Prin­ciples he goes upon prove false, he is undone, and whether they will prove so or no, he is at best uncertain; and so through the whole Course of his Sin and Life, he walks with [Page 460] an anxious and misgiving Mind, and goes trembling on between Hope and Fear to the final Issue and Event, which for all he knows may prove such as will put an end to all his Hopes for ever. For maugre all his Confidence, he cannot be sure but that when he dies, he may find all the Princi­ples he acts on, baffled by a woful Experi­ence; he may then feel that there is a God to whom Vengeance belongs, and an eter­ternal Life of Rewards and Punishments; and if he should, how will it blank and a­maze him, to find himself, instead of being reduced to an insensible Substance, landed on a strange inhospitable Shore, inhabited with ghastly Furies, and miserable Ghosts, and shut up with them by a vast surrounding Gulph in everlasting Horror and Despair: and therefore seeing he can have no Security, but that such may be the fatal Close of his sinful Life, he must, when ever he cooly re­flects, be miserably anxious, and uneasie, and expect the mighty Event with Dread, and dire Abodings.

2. The Way and Course of a double-mind­ed Man's Actions is all obscure and intricate. For whereas the Course of an honest, upright Man is for the main of it chalked out to his hands, both by divine Revelation, and the natural and eternal Reasons of Things, [Page 461] and that so plainly, and clearly, that as soon as he opens his Eyes, he may easily discern it without any great Reach of Wit, or Depth of Judgment; the Rule of his Actions being open and direct, without any dark Subtilties, or intricate Windings and Turnings; the false pretending Hypocrite lives in a Maze, wherein having no certain Rule to go by, he is very often at a loss which way to direct himself. For having forsaken the plain Paths which God hath described to him, he is put upon inventing a Way for himself, of studying his own Steps, and groping to his End through a Labyrinth of popular Errors and Mistakes; in which he is oftentimes so lost and bewildered, that he knows neither where he is, nor whither to go next; and sometimes the Way that he takes lies quite cross to his Ends, and some­times leads him about in such a wide Com­pass, that by that time he arrives at them, they are not worth his Travel; and even when he thinks himself most in the right, and goes on with the fullest Assurance, Time and Chance many times cast up so many Difficulties and perplexing Intercurrencies in his Way, as do puzzle all his Wit and Con­trivance how to break through them. Thus when men leave God's Way which is a plain, a sure, and infallible one, and commit them­selves [Page 462] to the Conduct of their own blind Wills and short-sighted Reason; they forsake the Light of the Sun to follow a Night-fire, which instead of conducting them in the plain and direct Way, carries them at ran­dom about in the Dark, leads them hither and thither, backwards and forwards, over Hedges and Ditches, through Breaks and Bogs, till they are lost and maz'd in their own Wandrings. While they walk in God's Way, they have God's Wisdom for their Guide, which cannot mislead them; there they have nothing to do, but to follow the easie Directions of an infallible Mind, to re­ceive his Commands, and to obey them; there they are free from all the Trouble of forming new Resolutions, and inventing new Measures of Action upon new Emergencies; there they see their way plainly described to them, and are resolved once for all to pur­sue it through all Events, without any fur­ther Pause or Deliberation, being fully sa­tisfied in themselves, that it is much safer for them to follow God's Will, which acts from infinite Goodness, by infinite Wisdom, with infinite Power, than to follow their own which they know by woful Experience is so liable to be imposed upon by false Shews and Appearances; and to mistake Poyson for Physick, and Evil for Good. Thus [Page 463] while they are in God's Way, they find all things direct, and plain, and easie to them, but when they divert into their own, there they have nothing to guide them bat a vain foolish Mind that is easily trick'd and impo­sed upon, and a blind Appetite that is con­ducted by a roaving Imagination; there they are fain to live by their Wits, upon extem­porary Shifts and Evasions, and still to in­vent new Ways upon new Occasions, and to wander about in a mysterious Labyrinth of little Tricks and Contrivances, which in­stead of extricating them out of the Diffi­culties of Life, do commonly but more and more perplex and intangle them. And hence, as the Path of the Iust is in Scripture described to be as the shining Light Prov. 4. 18. to have nothing froward or perverse in them, and to be plain to him that understand­eth Prov. 8. 8, 9. and to be an even Place, where none of his Steps shall slide. Psal. 26. 12. compar'd with 37. 31. So on the other side the Paths of the Wicked are said to be dark and crooked, Prov. 2. 13. 15. and to be un­even and slippery Jer. 23. 12. And in such a way as this, how is it possible for a Man to walk firmly and stably?

3. The double-minded Man is always fain to live in a Disguise, and is therein very in­secure, of Concealment; and this also ren­ders [Page 464] him unstable in all his ways: Tho' con­sidering what a false and ill-natur'd World we live in, it is many times an honest and ne­cessary Prudence for a Man to reserve his Mind, and not proclaim even his fairest In­tentions in every ones Ear with whom he converses. But for a Man to live in a con­tinual Disguise, and always look one Way, and row another, to counterfeit and dissem­ble, and mask his real Intentions with con­trary Appearances, is a very uneasie Way of living; for there is twice the Difficulty in every Thing that he aims and drives at, as there is in an honest and above-board, Proce­dure. Here honest Ends are pursued by di­rect Means, without need of any Colour or Artifice; whereas, there commonly more Art is required to justifie the Means, than to manage them; and to dissemble the Ends, than to obtain them, For whilst the Ends a Man proposes be foul and dishonest, he must in his own Defence pretend quite contrary to his own Intentions; and to form and ma­nage his Pretensions so artificially, as to conceal his bad Intentions under them, till they are executed, is commonly the great­est Difficulty in the Execution of them. For tho' Men may be foolish enough, yet they are not good-natur'd enough to be always imposed upon by fair Pretences; their very [Page 465] ill Nature makes them jealous and suspici­ous, and their Jealousie and Suspicion makes them prying and inquisitive. And what a deal of Art must it require for a Man to conceal himself, and carry on his ill Aims with any plausible Colour, when he hath so may jealous and inquisitive Eyes upon him? And then for a Man to dissemble, is an outrage to himself, 'tis to act against the Grain of his own Nature by making an out­ward Shew and Appearance of that which he inwardly hates. For while a Man pre­tends to be that which he is not, he must seem in his Actions to be that which he is most averse to, and all the while he doth so, he thwarts himself, and acts directly contrary to his own Inclinations. If his wicked Aims did not force him to hide him­self, while he is making a formal Shew of Mortification, he would much rather be sa­tiating his hungry Lusts; while he is hang­ing down his Head like a Bul-rush to dis­guise his Pride and Ambition, he would much rather be strutting, insulting, and domineer­ing; while he is giving his Alms to be seen of Men, he would much rather be grinding and oppressing the Poor; and whilst in order to his devouring Widows houses he is making long Prayers, he would much rather be glut­ting his Avarice with the Spoil. So that all [Page 466] the while he pretends to be the contrary to what he is, he must practise the contrary to what he is inclined, and while he doth so, he offers a perpetual Force and Violence to himself. Now what an uneasie Way of li­ving must this be, for a Man to be always studying how to conceal himself, and to be forced to live in a Disguise that he hates? and yet this is the Life of the double-minded Man that trains between God and the World. And then that which adds to his Uneasiness is, that after all he can never be secure of his Disguise; he knows that if he should be discovered through it, it would quite spoil his Game, and instead of setting a Gloss up­on his foul Intentions, it would only render them more ugly and odious; there being no­thing can render Wickedness more ugly than it is, but the Discovery and Appearance of it through the Vail of Sanctity. So that if ever his wicked Intentions should happen to be discovered, they will be sure to fare the worse for their being disguised, and 'tis a Thousand to One, but first or last some Ac­cident or other detects and unmasks them; and then they are for ever baffled and disap­pointed. So that this double-minded Hypo­crite walks like a Malefactor in a Vizard, afraid of every one that looks wishly upon him, jealous of being betray'd even by his [Page 467] own Voice, or Shape, or Deportment, full of anxious Thoughts, lest by some Accident or other his Vizard should drop off and discover him; being conscious to himself, that if ever the Mystery of his Iniquity should be unfolded, and what he hath acted behind the Curtain should be brought to Light, he shall not only lose all the Credit and Ad­vantage of the Part he hath hitherto so ar­tificially acted, but also be hiss'd off the Stage with Scorn and Infamy. And how then is it possible for a Man to walk steadily under such slippery Circumstances, when he dances upon a Rope as it were, where if he trips he falls, and if he falls is ruined.

4. He is always at odds with himself, and in perpetual Variance with his own Reason. There is a Sense in Mens Souls that doth as naturally distinguish between Good and Evil, as their Tast doth between bitter and sweet, and is equally pleased or offended by them. Whilst therefore this Sense remains alive within us, and in any Degree quick and perceptive, every Touch and Impression of Evil will more or less pain and aggrieve it, and till with the customary Impressions of Evil a Man hath sear'd and stupifi'd his Sense of it, he will never be able to sin in quiet for it, but upon every cold Reflection on his own ill Courses, will feel a sensible [Page 468] Remorse and Compunction. And this is inevitable to the double minded Man, who divides himself between God and his Lusts; for he retains so much of God, as will al­ways keep his Sense of Good and Evil alive, and together with it, he retains so much of his Lusts, as will always disturb and offend it: so that at once he takes effectual Care both to preserve his Sense of Evil quick and vigorous, and to be perpetually vexing it with the painful Impressions of Evil, and so treats himself, as heretofore the Tormentors did the suffering Martyrs, who gave them Cordials to keep them alive, only to enable them to sustain more Torments. If he would wholly abandon God he might thereby ex­tinguish his Sense of Evil, or if he would wholly abandon his Lusts, he might there­by prevent his sensation of Evil; but while he retains both, he retains both Sense for his Torment, and Torment for his Sense, and at once cherishes the Evil that afflicts his Sense, and preserves his Sense alive to endure the Affliction. There are no Two Things in the World can less endure one another in the same Breast than a sensible Con­science and a wicked Will, which like Fire and Water will be continually struggling till either the one is quenched, or the other evaporated. The Will will not let the Con­science [Page 469] be quiet, nor the Conscience the Will; and so those Two Commanding Powers of our Souls will live in perpetual Variance, and admit of no other Intercourse but mu­tual Violences and Outrages, till either the one is extinguished, or the other subdued. Whilst therefore a Man's Mind is double and divided, his Soul is in a State of War, there being Two irreconcilable Parties perpe­tually struggling within his Breast; a Law in his Mind fighting against the Law in his Members, his Reason against his Appetite, his Conscience against his Will; so that he can take neither Part without doing Violence to himself. If he sides with his Conscience, he outrages his Will, if he sides with his Will he forces his Conscience; If he take part with his Appetite, he makes War with his Reason; if he complies with his Reason, he bids defiance to his Appetite Thus which way soever he determins himself, he is sure to determine against one Part of him­self; and it can never be otherwise till one of these adverse Parts of himself are subdued, and his double Mind is reduced to a single one. When he hath but one Mind, whether it be a good or a bad one, he will be at Peace and Unity with himself; but before he can have one good Mind, he must form a good Re­solution, and follow it till he hath intirely [Page 470] subdued his Will and Appetite to his Rea­son and Conscience, and then the intestine War will conclude in a happy Peace; and so on the contrary, before he can have one bad Mind, he must abandon himself to all Ungodliness and worldly Lusts, and continu­ally drink in Iniquity as the Horse drinks in Water, till he hath intoxicated his Rea­son with it, and stupified his Conscience; and then the intestine Struggle will conclude in a lethargick Quiet and Insensibility: But to arrive at this, is far more difficult than it is to acquire the former; for while a Man contends with his Reason and Conscience, he contends with his original Nature, and to vanquish that, is far more difficult than to subdue his wicked Will, and inordinate Ap­petite, which are but his acquired Nature, and consequently doth not so inseparably adhere to him, nor is so inveterate. But till his Conscience and his Reason are intire­ly vanquished, they will be struggling and contending; and whilst they do so, he will be continually at Odds and Variance with himself. He must act all along with a Self­condemning Mind, and be content to endure the Reproaches of his Reason, and the Cla­mours of his Conscience; and while he doth so, he can never act steadily and securely. For whilst his Reason, which is to be his [Page 471] Guide, is dissatisfied with his Way, it is impossible for him to walk on without Dissi­dence and Anxiety; at every Step he must tread with Distrust, and proceed with a trembling Heart, lest the Ground should sink under him; and while he thus walks with a misgiving Conscience, and an ill-a­boding Mind, it is impossible but he must be unstable in all his ways.

5. He is at a miserable Uncertainty as to the present Event and Issue of his Actions. He knows, or at least he shrewdly suspects, that there is a wise and all-seeing, a just and Almighty Providence that over-rules all Causes, and disposes of all Events, and without which there is nothing can succeed how wisely soever it is designed and pro­jected. He knows that in this superintend­ing Power and Providence there is an essen­tial Goodness and rectitude of Nature, which invariably inclines it to love and bless Good­ness and Righteousness, and to hate and curse their contraries in whomsoever it finds them; and being thus persuaded he cannot but conclude himself insecure whilst he ei­ther aims at unjust Ends, or uses unjust Means to obtain them, both the one and the other being infinitely odious to that over­ruling Power upon which his Success de­pends. For he must either imagine that the [Page 472] most probable Way to▪ oblige this Power to succeed him is to brave and hector it into a fawning Complyance with his Wishes, than which there is nothing more absurd and un­reasonable; or be at least infinitely jealous and suspitious that the wicked Courses he takes will, instead of obliging it to prosper them, arm its Vengeance against them, and provoke it to determine them in some dire Event. For if God hath the disposal of all Events whether good or evil, it is certainly every whit as reasonable a Project for a Man to drink deadly Poyson to obtain his Health, or to commit high Treason to e­scape hanging, as to endeavour to obtain any Good, or to escape any Evil by such Courses as God hates and abhors. For if the Way to obtain his Favour is to please him, and the Way to please him is to do what is pleasing to him, as most certainly it is; then it is as evident as any Proposition in the Mathematicks, that he who endea­vours by such Courses as he knows are dis­pleasing to him to obtain any Good or avoid any Evil with God's disposal, uses the most contrary Means to effect his Ends, and only spends his Pains to thwart and countermine himself. The double-minded Man therefore being conscious to himself that he hath ren­dred God his Enemy can never be reason­ably [Page 473] secure in his own Mind of obtaining any Good, or escaping any Evil that is in God's disposal. For tho' to serve the wise Ends of his Providence God many times gratifies bad Men, and gives them their own Hearts desire, yet for them to expect any Good at his hands, whilst the whole Course of their Actions is a continued Pro­vocation of him, is the most unreasonable Presumption in the World; 'tis to suppose him not only insensible of Affronts and In­juries, but also fond of them, pleased and delighted with them to that Degree as to own himself obliged to crown and reward them with his Favours; For unless it be this, there is nothing they can fancy in the Nature of God that can incline him to be kind to them. While therefore they are in Pursuit of any Good, or in Flight from any Evil, if any wise Thought arise in their Mind concerning the Event, it must be ve­ry anxious and desponding. There is such a Good in my View which I would fain enjoy, and am resolved to use my utmost Endea­vour to compass; but alas it is in the Dis­posal of God who is the Soveraign Arbitra­tor of my Fate, and unless he will be so kind as to award it to me, my utmost Skill and Conduct in the prosecution of it will prove insignificant; But how can I hope that [Page 474] he will succeed my Design, who hath so many Reasons to be my mortal Enemy; and if he will not, he hath ten Thousand Acci­dents under his Command by any one of which he can baffle and defeat me; and if he should gratify my Desire, I have no rea­son to believe that it is out of Kindness; and if it be not, instead of a Blessing it will prove a Curse to me. There is such an Evil hangs over me that I would fain escape, and am resolved to imploy my utmost Care and Industry to prevent it; but when I have done all, it is in the hand of God whose Vengeance I have armed against me by a Thousand Provocations; and if he will bring it upon me (which I have too much cause to fear) he can do it by those very Means whereby I am endeavouring to pre­vent it. And if he should succeed my En­deavours, I have just Ground to suspect that it will be in Displeasure to me; and then it will prove but the Removal of a less E­vil to make way for a greater. Thus if he truly reason with himself concerning the E­vents of his own Actions, it must create in him infinite Despondence and Anxiety. And whilst a Man thus lives in Fear of the Event it will be impossible for him to act with any Steadiness or security. This therefore is the Case of the double-minded Man, who being [Page 475] conscious to himself that all Events are in God's Disposal, whom he hath so many ways provoked to be his Enemy, must necessarily act with a dubious and trembling Mind, be­ing so uncertain within himself whether that which he is doing will issue in his Benefit or Bane.

6. And lastly, He hath a most dismal Pro­spect before him of the final Issue and E­vent of all. Whenever he casts his Eyes be­yond this present Scene of Things, wherein his Mind is tossed to and fro in such infinite Uncertainties; there he sees nothing but dismal Horror and Tragedy, nothing but Darkness, Wretchedness and Despair; nothing but Famine to his Appetites, Anguish to his Mind, and Torment to his Conscience; no­thing to accompany him but Devils and damned Ghosts, nothing to entertain him but horrible Thoughts and dire Reflections; which woful Prospect; if he hath not out sinned all Sense, must necessarily alarm all his Fears, and strike his very Soul into an Agony. And when a Man thus feels his present State bad, and foresees that the fu­ture will be ten Thousand Times worse, he must be a perfect Sot or a miserable Wretch. Whilst he is walking through this short In­closure of Time here, at every Step he feels himself prick'd and torn by his own Cares, [Page 476] and Fears, and Anxieties, which like Bryars and Thorns grow up round about him; and when he looks over the Pale into the vast Field of Eternity, there he sees nothing but dire and horrid Spectacles, nothing but burn­ing Wrath and Vengeance attending to per­secute him to eternal Ages. So that whether he looks backwards or forwards, or but just before him, his Eyes can find nothing but uncomfortable Objects. That which is past is all tastless and insipid; that which is pre­sent is mostly nauseous and unpalatable; but that which is to come is all dire and intol­lerable; and this is the sting of his Misery. Were his past or present Circumstances far worse than they are, they were easy to be born in the Prospect of a more comfortable Futurity; but when this is worse, ten thou­sand times worse than the worst of what is either past or present, for a Man to pass through all these sad Things together with any Patience or Content requires the Hardi­ness and Insensibility of a Stone. It is sad enough, God knows, to walk through the Cares, and Fears, and Disquietudes which naturally attend a false and double Mind; but to walk through all these within full view of Hell, and at every Step to perceive ones self approaching nearer and nearer to it; is to pass through a most dismal Expectati­on [Page 477] to a more dismal Experience, which is doubtless the most woful Condition that hu­mane Life can be exposed to. And yet this is the Condition of the double-minded Man; who acts his Sin with an Expectation of suffering eternally for it, and robs within sight of the Place of Execution. And when with that Persian Judge he is thus con­demned to sit out all his Days with the Sword of eternal Vengeance hanging over him by a frail Thread of Life, which is e­very moment in danger of breaking; how is it possible he should enjoy himself in any tolerable Degree of Peace and Security of Mind. Doubtless if he hath any sense of danger, the Foresight of so great a one as this of being miserable for ever, must ne­cessarily create in him a proportionable Fear and Anxiety, and consequently render him very unstable in all his Ways.

What then remains but that seeing the State of Hypocrites and double-minded Men is so wretched, and miserable, and insecure, we all of us from henceforth resolve, as we tender our own Ease and Quiet, to lay aside all Hypocrisy and Double-dealing, and act through the remaining Part of our Lives with Plainness, Integrity, and Simplicity of Mind. Of which way of living if you would once be persuaded to make a through [Page 478] Experiment, I dare engage you would find it abundantly more secure, and easy, and comfortable than that which you have hither­to pursued. And to convince you of the Truth of this, I will crave leave in a few Words to represent to you the Reverse of the double-minded Man's Life, and to shew you the opposite Advantages of living ho­nestly and uprightly.

1. He who lives uprightly goes upon firm and stanch Principles, such as these, that there is a God that governs the World, that inspects all the Thoughts and Actions of Men, and will reward or punish them with eternal Happiness or Misery; which being founded upon as full Evidence as the Na­ture of the Thing will bear, and attested by the inmost sense of humane Nature, by the Consent of wise Men of all Ages, Nati­ons, and Religions, and in short by the unanimous Vote of Mankind, are such as will endure the Test of our severest Reason, and give ample Satisfaction of their Truth to the most inquisitive Minds. The upright Man therefore proceeding upon such Prin­ciples as these treads upon firm ground, which he is secure will never sink under him, and which is more, if it should will in the End leave him in as good Condition as those who proceed upon the contrary [Page 479] Principles. For whereas if their Principles prove false, their acting upon them will prove their eternal Ruin, if his should prove so, he will live more at Ease for them, more suitably to his Nature, and more sa­tisfied with himself; and when he dies, he will only be left in the same Condition with them, in a State of eternal Sleep and Insensibility. So that if his Principles should prove false, he can never be the worse for acting upon them; but if they should prove true, he will be infinitely the better. And 'tis a vast security to the Mind to proceed upon such Principles as, if they prove false, will leave us safe and at rest, and if they prove true will leave us eternally happy.

2. The upright Man walks in a plain, easy, and direct Way. Those eternal Tracts of Righteousness and Goodness wherein he walks are so plainly characterized upon his Heart and Conscience by the Finger of God, and described and inculcated in the divine Oracles with so bright a Sun-beam, that if he honestly enquire he cannot miss them, and when he hath found them he cannot ea­sily swerve from them. For whereas Wick­edness is a boundless Wilderness whose Paths do all thwart and cross one another, all Vices [Page 480] consisting in Extremes which are direct Con­traries, and being either the Defects or Ex­cesses of some Virtue; so that there are not only two Vices to every one Vertue, but both are Extremes running counter to one another: the Paths of Virtue lye straight forward between these vicious Extremes, and like parallel Lines never interfere. So that here a Man may walk on safely without any great Reach of Wit, or laborious Dili­gence of Enquiry, and needs do no more than follow Solomons Direction; Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eye-lids look straight before thee. Turn not to the right hand, nor to the left. Prov. 4. 24. 27. Here, according to the Prophet, is an high-way, called the way of holiness; the way-faring men, tho' fools, shall not err therein, Isaiah 35. 8. And having so plain and direct a way before him he needs neither tire himself in the search of it, nor rack his Brains with any anxious Deliberations in the Choice of it, nor grate his Mind with Scruples and gal­ling Regrets in the Pursuit of it; but may always find it with Ease, and follow it with Security.

3. The upright Man acts openly and with­out fear of Discovery; for being conscious to himself both that his Intentions are clear, and his Prosecutions of them fair and [Page 481] honest, he could be well enough content that he had a Window into his Breast that all the world might see through him. He knows that his Thoughts and Actions are such as will endure sounding, and bear sift­ing to the Bottom; and therefore takes no care to disguise himself in false shews and Appearances. For he who can reflect upon himself with Satisfaction and Complacency may look all the World in the face with Confidence and Assurance; as knowing that the more curiously he is watch'd, and the more exactly he is scanned, the more high­ly he shall be approved by all that are wise and good. And tho' his Reputation may for a while be clouded by Malice or Mi­stake, yet he is fully satisfied that one time or other the very Light of Things will scat­ter these Mists, and clear these Misprisions, and that then he shall shine the brighter for being over-cast. And being thus satisfied he walks openly through the World with a bare Face, and in the sight of the Sun, having no Occasion to Skulk into Coverts and Re­tirements.

4. The upright Man lives in Peace with himself, and in an amicable Accord with his own Reason and Conscience. For he who follows his Reason, and makes his Consci­ence his Guide (as every upright Man doth) [Page 482] can neither be reproached by the one, nor condemned by the other; And having to all his Aims and Actions the full Approbation of his Reason and Conscience in reiterated Ecchos resounding after him, he hath al­ways good Weather within and a clear Sky above him, wherein his Mind breaths none [...] and wholsome Thoughts, and hath a [...] Confidence, and a chearful Satis­faction in every Thing he doth, as being agreeable to his own Reason, conformable to his Duty, and worthy of himself. And be­ing thus crowned with the Applauses of his own Conscience, he goes on through all the Difficulties of Life with Alacrity and Courage, having nothing from within to countermand or controul him, no Sting of Remorse for what he hath done, nor Check or Strugling against what he is doing; nothing to pull him back from his way, or to cause him to halt in it, or any way to disturb and distract him in his Motion. And when at any time he is balk'd and defeated in any of his honest Designs and Prosecutions, he goes on with an exact Mind under the Disappoint­ment, triumphing in the Integrity of his Heart and the Innocence of his Procedure, having a Paradise within him where he lives at Ease, and enjoys himself in Serenity and Peace; let Things be never so stormy and tempestuous without.

[Page 483] 5. The upright Man is secure of the good Issues and Events of his honest Aims and Prosecutions. Not that he is confident that Things shall always succeed according to his present Aims and Desires; but this he is sure of, that they shall always succeed as God would have them, who is wiser than he, and loves him better than he loves himself. He is satisfied with this, that God will ne­ver cross him but for very good Reasons; such Reasons, as if he himself did fully com­prehend, would make him heartily wish that God in his tender Mercy would cross and disappoint him; and living under this Persuasion, he is secure in his own Mind that he shall either have what he desires, or something better in Exchange. He builds upon this, that if what he is projecting be good for him, it shall certainly succeed ac­cording to his Wishes; but that whether it be good for him or no, God knows better than he, and therefore if it doth not suc­ceed, it is well for him that it doth not; because God certainly knew that it was not good for him that it should: And to be dis­appointed of those Hopes which he fancies are good for him, is a Thousand Times more for his Interest than to be gratified, which God knows will be hurtful to him; because he is certain, both that he may be [Page 484] mistaken, and that God cannot. Where­fore let the worst that can arrive, (or that which through his Blindness and Folly he esteems the worst;) this he depends upon, that matters being rightly stated, he shall in the Issue of Things come off very well, so as to be a Gainer in the foot of the Account; and being thus persuaded, his Mind is not harrased like other Mens, with anxious Thoughts concerning the Event, but let what will happen, he goes on with a calm and satisfied Mind, and embraces his For­tune with Satisfaction and Complacency.

6. And lastly, He hath a fair and glorious Prospect before him of the Issue and Events of all. The Sense of his own Integrity and Uprightness hath raised him to a glori­ous Hope, whereon he stands, like Moses on the Top of Pisgah, surveying the heavenly Canaan, whose fruitful Soil abounds with every Good, and flows with everlasting Plea­sure: From whence with joyful Eyes he sees the happy Period of his tedious March through this barren Wilderness of Life: He sees the blisful Mansions and Abodes, that the God of Love hath prepared to receive him; he sees them most richly furnished with all the Delights that his vast hungry Desires can crave or swallow to eternal Ages. He sees that there is nothing but a short momentary [Page 485] Death, that like the River Iordan, separates this Wilderness from that heavenly Land, and that as soon as ever he hath past and forded this, his Travel will conclude in endless Rest and Pleasure, in the Accomplishment of all his Hopes, and the full Satisfaction of all his Wishes. With the Prospective of his Faith and Hope he beholds the illustrious Or­ders of Angels, the glorious Company of A­postles, the goodly Fellowship of Prophets, the noble Army of Martyrs, with Crowns of Glo­ry and Blessedness on their Heads, beckon­ing to him from the farther Shore, to make haste thither, and come into the joyous Par­ticipation of their Society and Happiness. The sight of all which glorious Things, in­spires his Heart with such an Addition of new Life and Vigour, as carries him on with Chearfulness and Alacrity through all the weary Stages of his Life; for he who walks with Heaven in his Eye, is a Thousand Times happier in his Expectation, than if he had all the Goods this World affords in his Possession. The upright Man therefore having this blessed Expectation before him, he goes on with a bold and secure Mind, and in his Course is steadfast and immovable, al­ways abounding in the Work of the Lord; for as much as he knows that his Labour shall not be in vain in the Lord. Seeing therefore the [Page 486] vast Advantages Integrity and Uprightness hath of Double-dealing, as we tender our own Ease and Security, let us all study for the Future, to lead the Remainder of our Lives in exact Sincerity, and Simplicity of Heart; which will not only extricate us from the greatest Difficulties and Perplexi­ties of this present Life, but also crown us with immortal Ease and Happiness in the Life to come: Which God of his infinite Mercy grant, to whom be Honour, and Glo­ry, and Praise, from this time forth and for ever.

Amen.

FINIS.

Books Printed for Walt. Kettilby at the Bishop's-head in St. Paul's Church-yard.

DR. Scott's Christian Life; 4 Vol. 8o Mysteries in Religion vindicated, or the Filiation, Deity, and Satisfaction of our Saviour asserted against Socinians and others, with occa­sional Reflections on several late Pamphlets; by Luke Milburn a Presbyter of the Church of Engl.

Allen's Works; 4 Vol. 8o

Of Trust in God, or a Discourse concerning casting our Care upon God in all our Difficulties; together with an Exhortation to patient suffer­ing for Righteousness; in a Sermon on 1 Pet. 3. 14, 15. by Nath Spinks M. A. a Presbyter of the Church of England.

A Discourse concerning Lent, in Two Parts; the first, an Historical Account of its Observa­tion; the second, an Essay concerning its Origi­nal: this subdivided into Two Repartitions; 1 st Preparatory, and shews that most of our Christian Ordinances are derived from the Jews; the 2d conjectures that Lent is of the same Ori­ginal; by George Hooper D. D. Dean of Canter­bury, and Chaplain in Ordinary to His Majesty 8o.

An Essay to revive the antient Charity and Piety; wherein God's Rights in our Estates, and our Obligation to maintain his Service, Religion, and Charity, is demonstrated and defended against the Pretences of Covetousness and Appropriation, in Two Discourses; written to a Person of Ho­nour and Virtue: by George Burghope Rector of Little Gaddesden in the County of Hertford, and Chaplain to the Right Honorable Iohn Earl of Bridgewater. 8.

This keyboarded and encoded edition of the work described above is co-owned by the institutions providing financial support to the Text Creation Partnership. This Phase I text is available for reuse, according to the terms of Creative Commons 0 1.0 Universal. The text can be copied, modified, distributed and performed, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission.