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wonder (but that such a forsaken soul is a senseless block, and as a lifeless carcass, that thou dost not quake with the fears of hell, which way ever thou goest; and that thou art not still thinking whither thou art going, and how the devils are ready to take thy soul as soon as death hath opened the door and let it out into Eternity ? As carelessly or scornfully as thou sittest here, I wonder that thou dost not tremble to consider, where it is that thou must shortly be, and where thou must abide for It is one of the most notable discoveries of the
powerful craft of Satan, that he is able to keep such a garrison as thy heart in so much peace, and to quiet a poor wretch that is uncertain to be one hour out of hell! that thy sleep is not broken with terrible dreams, and that thou dost not eat thy meat in terrors, and that ever a smile should be seen in thy face ! that thy business, or company, or sports, or pleasures, should once put out of thy mind thy endless misery. While I am speaking, and thou art hearing, hell-fire is burning, and the devils are waiting, and, thy blinded soul is posting on, and, for aught thou knowest, may be there this night. Poor sinner ! for my part, I know thee not! and, therefore, cannot justly be suspected to bear thee any ill will, or to speak these words with a desire of thy hurt. I know this is language that the guilty do not love to hear. But I must tell thee, who reproachest and deridest a serious, holy life, that, except the blasphemers of the Holy Ghost, there are few in the world in more certain misery than thou. Other sinners, though miserable, may have some cloak to hide their misery. Though the drunkard shall not enter into heaven, he may
flatter himself with the remembrance that Noah was once overtaken with that sin. Though the fornicator or adulterer shall not enter into the kingdom of God, (Eph. v. 5,) he may cheat himself awhile with the remembrance of David's guilt. Though the false-hearted, temporizing, self-saving hypocrite shall not be saved, he may deceive himself, by the instance of Peter's denying his master, and his dissimulation, (Gal. ii.,) but what cloak hast thou to hide thy misery? Did ever any true disciple of Christ either hate or reproach his servants and his ways ? What godly man hath made a mock at godliness (unless it were when he was ungodly?) If any should think that an act of drunkenness or fornication might consist with grace, no man that understands himself can think that a scorner at an holy life, hath himself the holiuess which he scorneth! I would not for a world be in the case of that wretch, that speaks well of
holiness in others, while he lives in fornication, luxury, or worldliness himself, though he think that he cuts scores by daily crying to God for mercy. But I would much less for a thousand worlds be in the case of him that neither is godly, nor can speak well of it; that is not only void of the Spirit of Christ, but speaks against it; that is not only void of the holy image of God, but hateth it, and reproacheth it in others. O rather let me have no tongue to speak, no soul to think, than ever I should speak or think thus maliciously of the image, and ways, and servants of the Lord! I had rather be a dog, or a toad, than one of those men that use to mock at serious, diligent serving of the Lord, or that maliciously reproach his servants, and bend their wits and tongues against them; so legibly is the mark of the devil upon them, that I must needs tell you
that are true believers, you are much to be blamed that you look not on them with more compassion, and weep not for them, as for men that are within a step of hell, when you hear them rail at the laws or servants of the Lord. I mean those of whom the Apostle saith, “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you, even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ, (that is, to the self-denying mortified state of Christians, and following him even through sufferings,) whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is their shame, who mind earthly things.” (Phil. iii. 18, 19.) “That not only do wickedly, but teach men so to do;” (Matt. v. 19.) “and have pleasure in them that do it;” (Rom.i.32;) "and think it strange that we run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of us, who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead.” (1 Pet. iv. 4, 5.)
2. Thou bearest most eminently the image of the devil, and most expressly speakest his mind, and art most openly employed in his works. What is the devil but an apostate spirit, filled with enmity against God and his servants, and hating holiness; the malicious accuser of the brethren, slandering and reproaching them, and seeking their destruction ! And shall a malicious, lying sinner live, that imitateth Satan in his enmity to God? O that thou knewest whom thou servest! And that thou knewest whom thou speakest against! Woe be to him that striveth with his Maker. (Isa. xlv. 2.) It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. (Acts ix. 5.) Whoever hardened himself against him, and hath prospered ? (Job ix. 4.) If Satan were to speak with open face, what would he say, but as the tongues of the malicious enemies of holiness; even to speak evil of the ways and servants of the Lord ? Might he appear and speak himself in the assemblies and councils of the great ones of the earth, he would speak against the same men, and to the same purpose, as those that I have described. Your tongues are his instruments. You speak what he secretly suggesteth, as verily as if he had written you your instructions, and you had read it in his words: he hateth holiness, and, therefore, he tempteth you to hate it. He would bring it into hatred in the world, and, therefore, he speaks disgracefully of it by your tongues. His will is your will; and your words are his words; and the pleasantest music that you could make him. O how it pleaseth him to make a reasonable creature reproach the word and ways of the Creator ! How eager was he to have got Job to have spoken evil of God!
3. Be it known to thee, thou reviler, that if ever thou be saved thyself, it must be in that way that thou revilest. Thy hope lieth in it. As sure as thou livest, there is no other way to life eternal. Without holiness none shall see God." (Heb. xii, 14.) Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matt. v. 8.) When thou hast done all, thou must come back, and go
that way thyself, or burn for ever. Either thou must be such as those that thou dost speak against, or thou art everlastingly undone. And if thou think to be such a one thyself, and to come to heaven by the very way that now thou dost revile, canst thou yet revile it? And if thou perish in hell for want of holiness, thou shalt then have enough of thy rebellion. Then thou shalt cry out against thy own malicious reproaches a thousand times more than ever thou didst against the servants of the Lord. Though the very distinction between the godly and ungodly be now thy scorn, yet I shall be bold to tell thee, in the words of Enoch, yea of God, (Jud. xiv. 16,)“ Behold the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them, of all their ungodly deeds, which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him. Now you have your day, and judgment must begin at the house of God. And if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God! And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? (1 Pet. iv. 17, 18.).“ Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful! But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” “The ungodly are not so: but like the chaff which the wind driveth away: therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous : for the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish.”
(Psal. i.) This is scripture distinction, which God will make good.
I make no question, but the worst of you will put by all this in your self-deceit, and say, it is not holiness that we speak against, but it is hypocrisy, or schism, or some such accusation that malice shall suggest, will be your mask. But will you answer me these few questions.
Quest. 1. Why then do you not imitate them so far as they do well ? Why are you not as much in works of holiness as they? In reading, and meditating on the word of God, in holy conference, and secret prayer, and instructing your families, &c. And then leave them, and spare not where they do amiss.
Quest. 2. Why do you not hate the sins of the notoriously ungodly, who show them without shame? Nay, why do you make such men your companions ?
Quest. 3. Why go you to the heart, that is unseen, and arrogate the prerogative of God, to censure men of hypocrisy, and such secret sins that are out of your discerning? If you know your heart by outward actions, insist upon your proofs.
Quest. 4. Why speak you not of their good as well as of the supposed evil? Why are you not more in speaking well of what is well, than in speaking ill of what is ill ?
Quest. 5. Why is it that you speak of men that you know not? And of others that are innocent, for the sake of those you imagine to be guilty ? And why do you so greedily snatch at any matter of reproach, and take it by hearsay from the most ignorant, rash, or malicious mouths.
Quest. 6. If it be hypocrisy, or other vice, that you so hate, why do
you not hate them in yourselves ? Why live you so viciously while you profess obedience to the Lord ? And why do you take on you to believe a heaven and hell hereafter, and to give up yourselves in covenant to God, and live so contrary to that professed belief and covenant ?
Quest. 7. Do you not feel that it is partly malice, and partly the recrimination of a guilty galled conscience, that fain would steal a little peace by thinking others to be as bad as you?
I shall dismiss this unhappy sort of men with these two requests : 1. You are the men that of all others have the most notable advantage from your conviction, of the misery of your present state : and therefore, I beseech you, take that advantage. One would think it should be the easiest matter in the world, for such as you to know that you are ungodly, that hate godliness and oppose it. You have no plausible pretence for self-flattery or self-deceit. And therefore confess your misery, and look out to Christ, for help and pardon, while there is hope and time.
2. For the time to come, will you but try a serious, holy life before you speak against it any more? For shame, speak not evil of the things you know not, as those brutes described,
And holiness was never well known but by experiO that
you would be entreated but to yield to this most equal motion ! Away with your worldly, fleshly lives; and live in faith and holiness, a just, a spiritual, and a heavenly life, but one year, or one quarter, or one month, and then if, by experience, you find just cause for it, reproach a holy life, and spare not.
II. To the second sort, (that speak evil of men upon differences of opinion, especially while they profess the same religion, in all the essential, necessary parts,) I shall propose these aggravations of their sin, for their humiliation.
1. Consider, can you think it agreeable to the law of Christ, to reproach men behind their backs, and unheard, for that which you never soberly and christianly told them to their faces? Did you lovingly first admonish them, and impartially hear what they can say for themselves? What is your end in speaking against your brother? Is it to do him hurt, or good? If hurt, be sure you do him justice; and backbiting is not the way of justice. If good, you cross your own intention. For what good can it do him, that another hears him evil spoken of ?
2. If you are Christ's disciples, it must be known to all men by your special love to one another. (John xiii. 25.) And is reproach and evil speaking the fruit or evidence of such love? Can
you talk so of the friends that are most dear to you, or that you
love indeed? How do our hearts rise against that man, that speaks reproachfully of our dearest friends! Love would scarce suffer you to endure such abuse of Christians in another, without a serious reprehension : much less to be the abuser of them yourselves.