Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

because they have so easy and cheap a remedy at hand. And therefore I wonder not that among infidels (who, after baptism, apostatize to deny the holy scriptures, and the immortality of the soul, and the life to come,) and among common swearers, and cursers, and whoremongers, and drunkards, the papists find their labours most successful, and that no fish will so easily take their bait : nor do I wonder that it is a point of the popish faith that none but the children of the devil, that are void of the love of God, and are unjustified, can possibly turn papists. (For they tell us that all are such till they are papists; saving that they are many of them for the salvation of heathens.) A poor wretch that is captivated to his odious lusts, and goes under a galled accusing conscience, will be content to take a popish cure, and quiet his soul with a few compliments, and formalities. But to bring one of these men to a thorough conversion, to a true humiliation, to a deep hatred of all sin, and a love of holiness, to close with Christ as his only refuge from the wrath of God, and to give up himself without any reservation, and all that he hath to the will and service of the Lord, to love God as his portion, and the infinite transcendent good; to take all the honour and riches of the world as loss and dung, and use all in due subserviency to everlasting happiness; to crucify the flesh, and mortify all his earthly inclinations, and live a life of self-denial, and to walk with God, and serve him as a Spirit, in spirit and in truth, and to keep a watch over thoughts, affections, words, and deeds, to live by faith upon a world and happiness that is to us unseen; and to live in preparation for their death, and wait in hope to live with Christ; this is Christianity and true religion; and this is it that they will not so easily be brought to. It is easier to make an hundred papists than one true regenerate Christian. Children can make them a baby of clouts; and the statuary can make a man of alabaster or stone: but none can give life, which is essential to a man indeed, but God. There needeth the Spirit of the living God, by a supernatural operation, and a kind of new creation to make a man a real holy christian. But to bring a man to make such a congée, or wear such a vesture, or say such and such words, and make to himself a mimical religion, this may be done, without any such supernatural work. O therefore take heed of cheating your souls by hypocritical formalities, instead of the life and power of religion.

Use 2. And now, O that the Lord of life would help you so

to apply this truth, and help you so to apply it to yourselves, that it might be as a light set up in the assembly and in all your consciences, to undeceive the miserable self-deceivers, and to bring poor hypocrites into some better acquaintance with themselves, and to turn their seeming, vain religion into that which is real, serious, and saving !

And now I am to search and convince the hypocrite, I could almost wish that all the upright, tender souls that are causelessly in doubt of their own sincerity, were out of the congregation, lest they should misapply the hypocrite's portion to themselves, and think it is their case that I am describing : as it is usual with ignorant patients, especially if they be a little melancholy, when they hear or read the description of many dangerous diseases, to think that all or some of them are theirs, because they have some symptoms very like to some of those which they hear or read of. Or lest their fearful souls should be too much terrified, by hearing of the misery of the hypocrite; as a fearful child, that is innocent, will cry when he sees another whipped that is faulty. But if thou wilt stay and hear the hypocrite's examination, I charge thee, poor humbled, drooping soul, that thou do not misunderstand me, nor think that I am speaking those things to thee, that are meant to the false-hearted enemies of the Lord ! and do not imagine that thou art condemned in his condemnation ; nor put thyself under the strokes that are given him; but rejoice that thou art saved from this state of self-deceit and misery. And that thou mayest have some shelter for thy conscience against the storm that must fall on others, look back on the foregoing description of the hypocrite, and thou mayest find that thou hast the saving graces, which thou discovered him to want. Let these at present be before thine eyes, and tell thee, thou art not the

person

that I 1. Thou art humbled to a loathing of thyself for thy transgressions.

2. Thou art willing to give up thyself to Christ, without reserve, that, as thy Saviour, he may cure thy miserable soul, upon his own terms.

3. The favour of God is dearer to thee than the favour of the world, or the pleasures and prosperity of sinners : and thou longest more to love him better, and to feel his love, than for any

of the honours and advancements that flesh and blood desire. 4. It is the life to come that thou takest for thy portion, and preferrest before the matters of this transitory life.

mean.

5. Thy religion employeth thee about thy heart, as much as about the outside and appearing part; it is heart sins that thou observest and lamentest, and a better heart that thou daily longest, and prayest, and labourest for.

6. Thou livest not in any gross and deadly sin; and thou hast no infirmity but what thou longest and labourest to be rid of; and goest on in the use of Christ's holy means and remedies for a cure.

7. Thou dislikest not the highest degree of holiness, but lovest it and longest after it, and hadst rather be more holy than be more honourable or more rich.

8. Thou unfeignedly lovest the image of Christ on the souls of all his servants where thou canst discern it; and seest a special excellency in a poor, humble, heavenly Christian, though never so low or despicable in the world, above all the pomp and splendour of the earth; and thou lovest them with a special love; and the holier they are, the better dost thou love them.

9. Thou lovest the most convincing, searching sermons, and wouldest fain have help to know the worst that is in thy heart; and comest unto the light that thy heart and deeds may be made manifest.

- 10: All this is the bent and bias of thy soul ; thy habitu. áted, ordinary case : though there be not alway the same opportunity for the acts, nor the same degree of life in acting. It is not only a good mood that thou art frightened into by some affliction, and then returnest to thy carnal course of life again ; but thou heartily continuest thy consent to the covenant which thou hast made with Christ, and wouldest not turn back to a worldly, carnal, or formal life, nor change thy Master, nor forsake the holy course which thou art engaged in for all the world.

This is the truth of thy case, poor, doubting, troubled Christian ! thou canst not deny it without much injury to thyself and God. And therefore be not now troubled at that which I shall say to the self-deceivers.

And now I am to speak to the self-deceiver, I perceive my task to be exceeding difficult: to get within him that is so guarded ; and to pierce his heart that is so armed; and to open his eyes that is willing to be blind; and to undeceive him that hath so long deceived, and that studieth to deceive himself, and is engaged in that unhappy work, by such subtle enemies that further his deceit, and by so many allurements, and such strong corruptions, and by a seeming necessity for the quieting of his conscience; all this is not an easy work. But we must attempt it, and leave the success to grace. And, first, let me solemnly profess before you all, (for the removing of your prejudice, and the calming of your resisting hearts,) that it is none of my desire, by the discovery of your hypocrisy, to shame you before others, or to make you seem more miserable than you are, or to disturb and grieve you any more than is necessary to the escaping of your exceeding danger, and than your own salvation and comforts do require. But when we know that religion is your business in the world, and that an endless world shall presently receive you; and that Christ is coming; and your souls are ready to quit their residence, and take their leave of your flesh till the resurrection; and when we know that hypocrisy and self-deceit is the thing that you are most in danger of, and that you must be saved from it, or be in hell for ever; and that the enemies of your souls will do all they can to keep their possession in peace, and to continue your deceit till you are past remedy ; what would you have us do in such a case ? would you

wish us to be silent, and betray your souls, and damn our own for fear of disquieting and displeasing you? How hard are your hearts, if you would wish us to do thus !

Be awakened, therefore, O all ye self-deceivers and know that hypocrisy, as the harlot's paint, is but a base and borrowed beauty; that will vanish away when you draw near the fire; and that self-deceit will quiet you so short a time, that it is as good let go your delusory peace, and comfortable dream to day as to-morrow; and it is better now to begin and examine yourselves, than stay till the dreadful judge examine you, who is even at the door! The discovery of your case is the one half of your cure: and as you have been your own deceivers, let us in justice find you so equitable to yourselves, as to be willing of the light that must undeceive you; and to go along with us into your consciences, and help us in the search, and impartially pass a preventing judgment, that Christ may not pass a condemning judgment.

And in order to your conviction and recovery, I shall first acquaint you with your misery, that so it may awaken you to look about you, while there is time and hope. If it were God's way to work by ocular demonstrations, and the christian life were a life of sense, and you had heaven and hell this hour open to your sight, how little need should I have to plead

this cause with

you any
further?

you

would then see and hear that vengeance that would awake you; and make you presently fly into your hearts, and charge conscience to deal impartially with you, lest self-deceit should bring you to those Aames. But it is a life of faith that we are to call you to, and a word of faith that we have to preach; but of things that are as sure as if you saw them.

And 1. If thy religion be vain, thy hopes and comforts, that are built upon it, are all but vain. How vain is that hope that will vanish when the enjoyment is expected, and will end in endless desperation! What though thou sit here with so great hopes and confidence of salvation as maketh thee even scorn the man that questions it, art thou ever the better when death awakeneth thee, and thy confident dream is at an end? When thou art dying wilt thou hope? Perhaps thou mayest: but when thou art burning wilt thou hope? When thou art tormented wilt thou hope ? Desperation will then be essential to thy misery. The devils that now, feed thy hope by their deceits, will then as readily keep awake thy conscience, and exasperate thy despairing soul. If now thou wilt hope under the threatenings of God (that thou mayest be saved in thy present state) wilt thou then hope under his execution ? Thy flatterers and prosperity may cherish thy deceitful hopes for a time, but who will maintain them, when God commandeth desperation to torment thee? (Job xxvii. 8, 9.) “ For what is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul? Will God hear his cry when trouble cometh upon him?" As Sands turneth it :

What hope hath the prevailing hypocrite,
When God shall chase his soul to endless night?
Will God relieve him in his agonies ?

Or from the depth of sorrows hear his cries ? His worldly glory will then desert him, and leave him to the fruit of his deserts : his fruition will perish with his hopes. (Job xxvii. 22, 23.) “For God shall cast upon him and not spare : he would fain flee out of his hand.

Men shall clap their hands at him, and shall hiss him out of his place.” Or Sands turneth it :

God shall transfix him with his winged dart;
Though he avoid him like a flying hart.
Men shall pursue with merited disgrace ;

Hiss, clap their hands, and from his country chase. Hopes that are built by self-deceit have no foundation but sand and water, and in trial they will fall, and their fall will be

as

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »