صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

heaven, and are all for force and cruelty in religion; for vexing, imprisoning, banishing, burning, hanging, or otherwise doing as they would not be done by, proportionably in their own case. He tells his two disciples, in such a case, “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of." (Luke ix. 55.) As if he should say, 'You think you purely seek my honour in the revenge of this contempt and opposition of unbelievers, and you think it would much redound to the propagation of the faith: and therefore you think that all this zeal is purely from my Spirit: but you little know how much of a proud, carnal, selfish spirit is in these desires! You would fain have me and yourselves with me to be openly vindicated by fire from heaven, and be so owned by God that all men may admire you, and you may exercise a dominion in the world; and you stick not at the sufferings and ruin of these sinners, so you may attain your end: But I tell you this selfish, cruel spirit, is unlike my Spirit, which inclineth to patience, forbearance and compassion.'

"Him that is weak in the faith, receive ye- who art thou that judgest another man's servant? Why dost thou judge thy brother, and why dost thou set at nought thy brother? We shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. Every one of us shall give account of himself to God- We then that are strong, ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification." (Rom. xiv. 1, 2, &c.; xv. 1, 2.) "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such a one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ." (Gal. vi. 1, 2.)

So also men are foully and frequently mistaken, when they are zealously contending against their faithful pastors and their brethren, and vilifying others, and quenching love, and troubling the church, upon pretence of greater knowledge or integrity in themselves, which is notably discovered, and vehemently pressed by the apostle, James iii. 1, &c., where you may see how greatly the judgment of the Spirit of God, concerning our hearts, doth differ from men's judgment of themselves. They that had a masterly, contentious, envious zeal, did think they were of the wiser sort of Chris

tians, and of the highest form in the school of Christ; when yet the Holy Ghost telleth them that their wisdom descended not from above, but was earthly, sensual and devilish, and that their envy and strife doth bring confusion, and every evil work; and that the wisdom from above is neither unholy nor contentious, but "first pure, and then peaceable, gentle and easy to be entreated.” (James iii. 17.)

You see then how often and dangerously we are deceived by unacquaintedness with ourselves; and how selfish, carnal principles, ends and motives, are often mixed in the actions which we think are the most excellent for wisdom, zeal and piety, that ever we did perform. O therefore, what cause have we to study, and search, and watch such hearts, and not too boldly or carelessly to trust them!

And it is not only hypocrites that are subject to these deceitful sins, who have them in dominion, but true believers, that have a remnant of this carnal, selfish principle continually offering to insinuate and corrupt their most excellent works, and even all that they do.

9. The strong eruption of those passions that seemed to be quite mortified, doth shew that there is more evil lurking in the heart than ordinarily doth appear. How calmly do we converse together! How mildly do we speak, till some provoking word or wrong do blow the coals, and then the dove appeareth to partake of a fierce nature; and we can perceive that in the flame, which we perceive not in the spark. When a provocation can bring forth censorious, reviling, scornful words, it shews what before was latent in the heart.

10. We are very apt to think those affections to be purely spiritual, which in the issue appear to be mixed with carnality. Our very love to the assemblies and ordinances of worship, and to ministers, and other servants of the Lord; to books, and knowledge, are ordinarily mixed; and good and bad are strangely complicate, and twisted together in the same affections and works. And the love that beginneth in the Spirit, is apt to degenerate into carnal love, and to have too much respect to riches, or honour, or personage, or birth, or particular concernments of our own, and so it is corrupted, as wine that turneth into vinegar, before we are aware. And though still there be uprightness of heart, yet

too much hypocrisy is joined with it, when it is little perceived or suspected.

And thus in ten instances I have shewed you how much the servants of Christ themselves may be mistaken or unae-` quainted with their hearts; and how the work of mortification is hindered by this covering of so many secret, unobserved sins.

But I must here desire you to take heed of running into their extreme, who hereupon conclude that their hearts being so dark and so deceitful, are not at all to be understood; and therefore they are still so suspicious of the worst, as that they will not be persuaded of the grace that plainly worketh in them, and will condemn themselves for that which they are not guilty of, upon suspicion that they may be guilty and not know it, and think that all the sin that they forbear, is but for want of a temptation; and that if they had the same temptations, they should be as bad as any others.

I would entreat these persons to consider of these truths, for their better information:

1. Temptations do not only shew the evil that is in the heart, but breed much more, and turn a spark into a flame, as the striking of the steel upon the flint, doth by the collision and tinder make fire where was none. Adam was

made a sinner by temptation.

2. There is no Christian so mortified, but hath such remnants of corruption and concupiscence, as would quickly bring forth heinous sins, if temptations beyond strength were let loose upon him. What need you more proof than the sad instances of Noah, Lot, David, Solomon and Peter? It did not prove that any of these were graceless hypocrites before, because they fell so foully by temptations. And yet these objectors think they are graceless, because some strong temptations might make them fall.

3. Is it not God's way of saving men, to give them so much inward grace as no temptation can overcome, but to preserve and bring them safe to heaven, by moral, sapiential conduct, together with internal changes of their hearts. And therefore he keepeth men from sin, by keeping them from temptations that are too strong for them. All human strength is limited and there are none on earth have such

a measure of grace, but a temptation may be imagined so strong as to overcome them. And if God should let Satan do his worst, there must be extraordinary assistances to preserve us, or we should fall. Bless God if he " "lead you not into temptation, but deliver you from the evil," by keeping you far enough from the snare. This is the way of preservation that we are taught to pray and hope for.

4. And therefore it is our own duty to keep as far from temptations as we can; and if we have grace to avoid the sin by avoiding the temptation, we have such grace as God useth for the saving of his own: not that he hath saving grace that would live wickedly, if he were but tempted to it by those ordinary trials that human nature may expect: but the soul that preferreth God and glory before the pleasures of sin for a season, if it so continue, shall be saved, though possibly there might have been a temptation so strong as would have conquered the measure of grace that he had, if it had not been fortified with new supplies. It is therefore mere dotage in those that could find in their hearts to put themselves upon some temptation, to try whether they are sincere by the success. Avoid temptation, that you may avoid the sin and punishment. Make not yourselves worse on pretence of discovering how bad you are. Put not gunpowder or fuel to the sparks of corruption that still remain in you, on pretence of trying whether they will burn. All men are defectible, and capable of every sin, and must be saved from it by that grace which worketh on nature according to that nature, and prevaileth with reason by means agreeable to reason, If we think we are wicked, because we find that we have hearts that could be wicked, were they let alone, and because we are not removed so far from sin as to be incapable of it, we may as well say Adam was wicked in his innocency, much more David, Solomon, and Peter, before their falls. It is not he that can sin that shall be punished: but he that doth sin, or would sin if he could, and had rather have the sin for its pleasure or commodity to the flesh, than be free from it, and be holy, in order to salvation, and the favour and pleasing, and enjoying of God in endless glory.

5. Lastly, Let such persons try themselves by their conquest over the temptations which they have, and not by imaginary conflicts with all that they think may possibly

at any time assault them. You have still the same flesh to deal with, and the same world and devil, that will not let you go to heaven without temptation: If the temptations which you have already, keep you not from preferring the love and fruition of God before the pleasure of the flesh; and a life of faith and holiness, before a life of infidelity and impiety, and sensuality, so that you had rather live the former than the latter, I am sure then your temptations have not kept you from a state of grace. And you may be assured, that for the time to come, if you watch and pray, you may escape the danger of temptation; and that God will increase your strength if he increase your trials: Be not secure, be you never so holy. Think not that you have a na ture that cannot sin, or cannot be tempted to a love of sin: but "let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you, but such as is moderate, or common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it." (1 Cor. x. 12, 13.)

And thus I have shewed you how self-ignorance hindereth the conquest and mortifying of sin, even in the godly, and now shall add some further motives.

2. Not knowing ourselves, and the secret corruptions of our hearts, doth make sin surprise us the more dangerously, and break forth the more shamefully, and wound our consciences the more terribly. The unsuspected sin hath least opposition, and when it breaks out doth like an unobserved fire, go far before we are awakened to quench it. And it confoundeth us with shame, to find ourselves so much worse than we imagined. It overwhelmeth the soul with despairing thoughts to find itself so bad, when it thought it had been better. It breedeth endless suspicions and fears, when we find our former opinions of ourselves confuted, and that contrary to our expectations we are surprised where we thought we had been safe: We are still ready to think what ever we discern that is good within us, that we may as well be mistaken now as we were before. And thus our present self-ignorance, when discovered, may hinder all the comforts of our lives.

3. Lastly, Not knowing ourselves, and our particular sins, and wants, and weaknesses, doth keep us from a parti

« السابقةمتابعة »