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I am resolved, that as I am not able to think or do any thing that is good, without the influence of the divine grace; so I will not pretend to merit any favour from God, upon account of any thing I do for his glory and service.
AND indeed, I may very well put this resolution amongst the rest; for should I resolve to perform my resolutions by mine own strength, I might as well resolve never to perform them at all: for truth itself, and mine own woeful experience, hath convinced me, that I am not able of myself so much as to think a good thought and how then shall I be able of myself to resolve upon rules of holiness, according to the word of God, or to order my conversation according to these resolutions, without the concurrence of the divine grace? Alas! should the great God be pleased to leave me to myself, to resolve upon what is agreeable to my corrupt nature, what strange kind of resolution should I make? What should I resolve upon? Certainly, only nothing but to gratify my carnal appetite with sensual and sinful pleasures, to indulge myself in riot and excess, to spend my time, and ravel out my parts and talents, in the revels of sin and vanity. But now to live holily, righteously, and godlily in this present world, to deny my own, that I may fulfil the will of God; alas! such resolutions as these would never so much as come into my thoughts, much less would they discover themselves in my outward conversation.
But, suppose I should be able to make good resolutions, and fulfil them exactly in my life and actions; yet, what should I do more than my duty? And what should I be esteemed of for doing that? Alas! this is so far from puffing me up, that I am verily persuaded, should I spend all my time, my parts, my strength, my gifts, for God, and all my estate upon the poor; should
I water my couch continually with my tears, and fast my body into a skeleton; should I employ each moment of my life in the immediate worship of my glorious Creator, so that all my actions, from my birth to my death, should be but one continued act of holiness and obedience; in a word, should I live like an angel in heaven, and die like a saint on earth, yet I know no truer, nor should I desire any better epitaph to be engraven upon my tomb than this, Here lies an unprofitable servant. No, no; it is Christ, and Christ alone, that my soul must support itself upon. It is holiness, indeed, that is the way to heaven; but there is none, none but Christ can lead me to it. As the worst of my sins are pardonable by Christ, so are the best of my duties damnable without him.
But if so, then whither tend my resolutions? Why so strict, so circumspect a conversation? Why, it is to justify that faith before others, and mine own conscience, which, I hope, through Christ, shall justify my soul before God. And I believe farther, that the holier I live here, the happier I shall live hereafter; for though I shall not be saved for my works, yet I believe I shall be saved according to them. And thus, as I dare not expect to be saved by the performance of my resolutions, without Christ's merit, so neither do I ever expect to be enabled to perform my resolutions, without his Spirit assisting me therein.
No; it is thyself, my God and my guide, that I wholly and solely depend upon! Oh! for thine own name's sake, for thy Son's sake, and for thy promise sake, do thou both make me to know what thou wouldest have me to do, and then help me to do what thou wouldest have me to know! Teach me first what to resolve upon, and then enable me to perform my resolutions; that I may walk with thee in the ways of holiness here, and rest with thee in the joys of happiness hereafter!
CONCERNING MY CONVERSATION IN
HAVING thus far determined in general to form resolutions for the better regulating of my life, I must now descend to particulars, and settle some rules with myself, to resolve my future life and conversation wholly into holiness and religion. I know this is a hard task to do; but I am sure it is no more than what my God and my Father has set me: why, therefore, should I think much to do it? Shall I grudge to spend my life for him, who did not grudge to spend his own blood for me? Shall not I so live, that he may be glorified on earth, who died, that I might be glorified in heaven? Especially considering, that if my whole life could be sublimated into holiness, and moulded into an exact conformity unto the will of the Most High, I should be happy beyond expression? Oh! what a heaven should I then live on earth! what ravishments of love and joy would my soul be continually possessed with! Well; I am resolved, by the grace of God, to try; and to that end do, this morning, wholly sequester and set myself apart for God, resolving, by the assistance of his grace, to make all and every thought, word, and action, to pay their tribute unto him. Let this man mind his profit, a second his pleasures, a third his honours, a fourth himself, and all their sins; I am resolved to mind and serve my God, so as to make him the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last of my whole life. And, that I may always have an exact copy before me, to write and frame every letter of this my life by,
I am resolved, by the grace of God, to make Christ the pattern of my life here, that so Christ may be the portion of my soul hereafter.
LET the whole world go whither it will, I am resolved to walk in the steps that my Saviour went in before me: I shall endeavour, in all places I come into, in all companies I converse with, in all the duties I undertake, in all the miseries I undergo, still to behave myself as my Saviour would do, was he in my place. So that wheresoever I am, or whatsoever I am about, I shall still put this question to myself, Would my Saviour go hither? Would he do this or that? And, every morning, consider with myself, Suppose my Saviour was in my stead, had my business to do, how would he demean himself this day? How meek and lowly would he be in his carriage and deportment? How circumspect in his walking? How savoury in his discourse? How heavenly in all, even his earthly employments? Well; and I am resolved, by strength from himself, to follow him as near as possible. I know, I can never hope perfectly to transcribe his copy, but I must endeavour to imitate it in the best manner I can, that so by doing as he did in time, I may be where he is to all eternity. But, alas! his life was spiritual, and I am carnal, sold under sin; and every petty object that doth but please my senses, will be apt to divert and draw away my soul from following his steps. In order, therefore, to prevent this,
I am resolved, by the grace of God, to walk by faith, and not by sight, on earth, that so I may live by sight, and not by faith, in heaven.
AND truly, this resolution is so necessary to the performance of all the rest, that without it I can do nothing,
with it I can do every thing that is required. The reason why I am so much taken with the garnish and seeming beauty of this world's vanities, so as to step out of the road of holiness to catch at, or delight myself in them, is only because I look upon them with an eye of sense. For could I behold every thing with the eye of faith, I should judge of them not as they seem to me, but as they are in themselves, vanity and vexation of spirit. For faith has a quick and piercing eye, that can look through the outward superficies, into the inward essence of things. It can look through the pleasing bait to the hidden hook, view the sting, as well as the honey, the everlasting punishment, as well as the temporal contentment there is in sin. It is, as the Apostle very well defines it, the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen, Heb. xi. 1. It is the substance of whatsoever is promised by God to me, or expected by me from him: so that, by faith, whatsoever I hope for in heaven, I may have the substance of upon earth: and it is the evidence of things not seen, the presence of what is absent, the clear demonstration of what would otherwise seem impossible; so that I can clearly discern, as through a prospective, hidden things, and things afar off, as if they were open, and just at hand. I can look into the deepest mysteries, as fully revealed, and see heaven and eternity as just ready to receive me.
And, oh! could I but always look through this glass, and be constantly upon the mount, taking a view of the land of Canaan, what dreams and shadows would all things here below appear to be? Well; by the grace of God, I am resolved no longer to tie myself to sense and sight, the sordid and trifling affairs of this life, but always to walk as one of the other world, to behave myself in all places, and at all times, as one already possessed of my inheritance, and an inhabitant of the new Jerusalem: by faith assuring myself, I have but a few more days to live below, a little more work to do, and then I