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or delighted with it. Again, do my friends stir me up to pray or hear, or do any other spiritual or civil action, and I therefore only do it, because of their importunity? I may satisfy my friends' desire, but cannot properly be said to obey the commands of God, in such a performance; so that the great and only foundation that I must resolve to build all the actions of my life upon is an uniform obedience to that God, by whom alone I am enabled to perform them.
I am resolved, by the grace of God, to do every thing with prudence and discretion, as well as with zeal and affection.
WHILST I am penned up in this earthly tabernacle, I live almost as in a darksome dungeon, having no light to work by, but a little that springs in at the narrow crevices of my understanding. So that I had need to make use of all that little light and knowledge I have, to regulate the heat and zeal that sometimes sits upon my spirit. For, good passions may sometimes carry me into bad actions; my zeal, when hot in the pursuits of God's glory, may sometimes hurry me beyond his laws; especially, where Christian prudence hath not first chalked out the way, and set the bounds for it: as, in discourse, my zeal may put me upon throwing pearls before swine, or using words, when silence may be more commendable; so, in my actions too, unless wisdom and discretion govern and command my affections, I shall frequently run into such as would be altogether needless and impertinent, and therefore ought to be omitted, and daily neglect several duties, which ought to be performed.
But, my understanding and discretion is chiefly requisite for the ordering of time and place, and other particular circumstances, the irregular management of which may easily spoil the best of actions. For in
stance, that may be a good work at one time and place, which is not at another; and may be very innocent and becoming in one person, though quite contrary in another. It is, therefore, the proper office of my understanding, to point out the fittest time, and place, and person, for the performance of each action I engage in. As for example, in distributing to the poor, my hand of charity must be either guided by the eye of understanding, where, when, how much, and to whom, to give ; or else I may, at the same time, not only offend God, but wrong my neighbour, and myself too. And so for all other actions whatsoever; which I ought, therefore, never to set myself about, though it be of the lowest rank, without consulting the rules of wisdom, modelled by the law of God.
I am resolved, by the grace of God, never to set my hand, my head, or my heart, about any thing, but what I verily believe is good in itself, and will be esteemed so by God.
WITHOUT faith, the Apostle tells me, it is impossible to please God, Heb. xi. 5. For whatsoever is not of faith, is sin, Rom. xiv. 23. Where, by faith, we are not to understand that saving faith, whereby I believe my person is justified through Christ; but that, whereby I believe my works shall be accepted by God: for faith here is opposed to doubting; and that not about Christ's dying for me, or my living in him, but about the particular actions of my life. He that doubteth, saith the apostle, is damned, if he eat; that is, he that eateth that which he doubteth whether he may lawfully eat or no, is damned; because he sins in doing it, and therefore may be damned for it. But why so? Because he eateth not of faith; because he doth that, which he knows not whether he may do or no, not believing it to be really good in itself, or acceptable
unto God. And, though the apostle here instances only in that particular action of eating, yet what he says with relation to that, is properly applicable to all the other actions of life: for, he afterwards subjoins, whatsoever is not of faith, is sin; whatsoever it is, good or bad, if not done by faith, it is sin.
And truly, this particular will be of great use through my whole life, for the avoiding of many sins, and for the doing of much good for many things, which are good in themselves, may, for want of faith, become quite otherwise to me; my heart not believing what I do is good, my hand can never make it so. Or, if I think what I do is bad, though it be not so in itself, yet my very thinking it so, will make it so to me.
And this is that which we call doing any thing with a good conscience, or keeping, as St. Paul did, our conscience void of offence. And to go contrary to the dictates of my conscience in this particular, is to transgress the command of God. For in this, conscience is as God's vicegerent in my soul; what conscience commands, God commands; what conscience forbids, God forbids; that is, I am as really under the power of conscience, as the commands of God, in such a case. So that, if I do not obey the former, it is impossible for me to obey the latter. But how much then doth it behove me to see that my conscience be rightly informed in every thing? For as, if a judge be misinformed, it is impossible he should pass righteous judgment; so, if conscience be misinformed, it is impossible I should do a righteous act. And, what a miserable case shall I then be in? If I do what in itself is sinful, though my conscience tells me it is good, yet I sin, because the act in itself is sinful; and if I do what in itself is good, and my conscience tells me it is bad, I sin, because my conscience tells me it is so: so that as my conscience is, so will my actions be.
For this reason, I resolve, in the presence of my great Creator, never to do any thing, till I have first in
formed my conscience, from the word of God, whether it be lawful for me to do it, or no; or, in case it be not determined there, to make a strict search and enquiry into each circumstance of it, considering with myself what good or evil may issue from it, and so, what good or evil there is in it; and, according as my conscience, upon the hearing of the arguments on both sides, shall decide the matter, I shall do, or not do it; never undertaking any thing upon mere surmises, because it inay be good, but upon a real and thorough persuasion that it is so.
I ma resolved, by the grace of God, to do all things for the glory of God.
AS I was not made by, so neither for myself; for God, says the wise man, made all things for himself, Prov. xvi. 4. And being thus made for God, it follows, on course, that I ought to act for God; otherwise, I shall frustrate the end of my creation. Insomuch that
whatsoever I make my chief aim in what I do, I make that my God. Do I aim at the glory of the allglorious Jehovah? it is him I make my God. Do I aim at riches? then it is Mammon I make my God: and therefore is it, that covetousness is called idolatry, Col. iii. 5. Do I aim at pleasures? it is my senses I make my God, Phil. iii. 19. Do I aim at popular applause, or worldly advancements? or, do I aim at my own health or life? these are my Gods. For what is worshipping, but making all the powers of my soul, and actions of my body, to bow and stoop to them? Hence it is, that the most high God, who hath said, he will not give his glory to another, hath been so express in commanding me to do all things to his glory; whether ye eat or drink, says the apostle, or whatsoever ye do, do all things to the glory of God, 1 Cor. x. 31.
But how can I, poor worm, be said to do any thing to the glory of the eternal God? Why, in the same manner as he is said to do what he doth, for his own glory. And how is that? By manifesting his glory unto others. Thus, if I can but so live and act, as thereby to evidence, that the God I serve is a glorious God, glorious in holiness, glorious in goodness, glorious in wisdom, glorious in power, and the like; this is doing all things to the glory of God. For example, by praying to God, I avouch him to be a God infinite in knowledge, that he is present with me, and hears me pray, wheresoever I am; and I own him to be infinite in mercy, in that he will suffer such a sinful creature as I am to address myself to him, &c. And so there is not the least action I undertake, but I am so to manage it, as to manifest the glory of God by it, making it my end and design so to do; otherwise, let me do what I will, I am sure to sin; for though, I confess, a good end can never make a bad action good, yet a bad end will always make a good action bad: so that, as ever I would do any thing that is good, I must be sure to do it to the glory of God.
I am resolved, by the grace of God, to mingle such recreations with my business, as to further my business by my recreations.
HAVING wholly devoted myself to God, all I have, or am, is still to be improved for him; insomuch that was it not for the necessities of nature, every moment of my life should, and ought to be spent in the immediate worship and service of him. But though nature requires some time from my solemn serving of him, for the recreating of myself; yet grace requireth, that this recreating of myself should still be for the promoting his service: so that my recreations do not only fit me for