« AnteriorContinuar »
138 · Practical Inferences from the preciousness of Gracc. Itians challenge the first place among all the mourners in the world. .
Infcr. 4. Is grace so iovaluably precious ? How precious then ought the ordinances of God to be to our souls, by which grace is first communicated, and afterwards improved in our fouls! " The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thou“ fands of gold and filver," Psal. cxix. 72. and good reason, whilft it imparts aod improves that to which gold and lilver are bur dross and dung. • None but there that value pot grace, will ever flight the means, or despise and injure the costruments thereof. It is a sad sign of a graceless world, when thefe precious things fall under contempts and Nights. · Infer. 5. If grace be fo precious, how watchful should all gracious perfoo's be in the days of temptation! The design of temptation is to rob you of your treasure: When cut-purses get into the croud, we use to say, Friends, look to your purles. How many brave Christians have we read and heard of, that have rather chosen to part with their lives, than with their graces, who have a refilted unto blood, Ariving against fio ?" Heb. xii. 4." ;
o, Christians ! you live in a cheating age; many seeming Christian's have lost all, and many real Christians have loft much; fomuch, that they are like to see but little comfort in this world; who are like to go mourning to the grave with that lameniktion, Job xxix. 2, 3. “ Othat it were with me as in times 6. past !"
Infer. 6. To conclude: Is there such precious worth in fav. ing grace? Then blejs God for, and diligently use all means ta increase and improve it in your fouls. It is gold for precioufness, and for usefuloefs, and must not be laid up in a Dapkin: That is a sin condemned by the very fcope of that parable, Matth. XXV. 14, 15.
All Christians indeed have not the fame advantages of improvement; but all must improve it according to the advantages they have, in order to an account. Referved Christians, who live too abstracted from the society and communion of others, and disperse not their streams abroad to the benefit of others, Dor improve the graces of others for their own benefit, are wapting both to their own duty and comfort. See you a man rich in grace, O trade with him if you can, to improve your. felves by him; and the rather, because you know not how soon death may snatch him from you, and with him all his stock of grace is gonc from you too, except what you made your own
whilft you conversed with him : But, alas ! alas ! instead of holy, profitable, foul-improviog communion, fome are fullenly reserved ; some are negligent and lazy; some are litigious and wrangling; more apt to draw forth the dross, than the gold; I mean the corruptions, than graces of others. And how few there be that drive a profitable trade for increase of grace, is fad to coolder,
And as grace is not improved by communion with men, so I doubt most Christians thrive but little in their communion with God: We are too seldom in our clolets, too little upon our kpees; and when we are there, we gaia but little ; "We come not off such gainers by duty as we might. O Christians ! thiok when you are hearing and praying, I am now tradiog with heaven for that which is infioitely better than gold. God is rich to all that call upon him : What a treasure may I get this hour, it the fault be not in mine owo heart? And thus of the second observation.
CH A P. IV. Wherein the third doftrine, being the main subject of this treae' E'tise, is opened, and the method of the whole discourse stated.
DOCT. 1. That only is to be accounted true grace, which is able to endure
all those trials appointed or permitted for the discovery of it. in
:. SECT I. ' H E most wife God hath seen it fit to set all his people L in a state of trial in this world. First, he tries, and then he crowns them; James i. 12. “ Blesed is the man that “ eodureth temptation, Welpozorov, i. e. [probation or trial]; 66 for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life,” &c.
No man cáo say what he is; whether his graces be true or false, till they be tried and examined by thole thiogs which are to them as fire is to gold. These self-deceivers in the text thought theỹ had grace; yea, they thought they had been rich ia grace; but it proved no better than dross : And therefore Christ here counsels them to buy of him gold tried in the fire ; 2. e. true grace indeed, which appears to be so upon the various proofs and examinations of its fincerity, which are to be made
in this world, as well as in the great folema trial it muft conc to in the world to come. The scripture 1pcaks of a twofold trial, viz.
(Opioions, A trial of meds 3 and
(Graces. 1. First, The opinions and judgments of men are tried as by fire ; in which teose we are to understand that place, i Cor. iii, 12, 13. “ Now if any mao build upon this foundation, gold, “ filver, precious stones, wood, hay, Aubble, cvery man's " work shall be made manifeft; for the day shall declare it, “ because it shall be revealed by fire, and the fire shall try eve. " ry man's work, of what sort it is."
This text speaks of such persons as hold the foundation of Christianity, bot yet superstructed such doctrines and practices, as were no more able to endure the trial, thao hay, wood, or stubble, cao endure the fire *. Such a person hereby briogs himself to danger ; aod though the apostle will not deny the poffibility, yet he asserts the difficulty of his falvation ; *.He “ shall be saved, yet so as by fire t;" i, e. as a man is faved by Jeaping out of his house at midnight, when it is all on fire a. bout his ears; for so that phrase imports, Amos iv, 11. apd Jude 23. Glad to escape naked, and with the loss of his goods; blessing God he hath his life for a prey: As little regard shall such have to their erroneous notions and vascriptural opinions at last. · 2. Secondly, The graces of men are brought to the test, as well as their opinions. Trial will be made of their hearts, as well as their heads; and upon this trial the everlasting fafety and happiness of the person depends. If a man's opioions be some of them found hay or stubble, yet so long as he holds the head, and is right in the foundation, he may be faved; but if a man's supposed graces be found so, all the world cannot save him: There is no way of escape, if he finally deceive himself herein. Aod of this trial of graces my text speaks : Sincere grace is gold tried by fire.
There is a twofold trial of grace; active and passive.
First, An active trial of it, in which we try it ourselves, ? Cor. xiii. 5. “Examine yourselves; prove yourselves ;" i. e. measure your hearts, duties and graces, by the rule of the word;
himan's fupportable in the formubble, jer
* Upon a thorough trial they rapih into smoke. '
† From which judgment he shall escape juft as one does naked, or with his bare life, out of the midst of flames. Chryfoftome,
fee how they answer to that rule : Bring your hearts and che word together by soleimo self-examioation; confer with your reins, and commune with your own hearts.
Secondly, A paffive trial of it: whether we try it or no, God will try it, he will bring our gold to the touchstone, and to the fire." Thou, O Lord, kpoweft me; thou hast seen “ me, and tried mjae heart towards thee,” faich the prophet, Jer. xii. 3. ..
Sometimes he tries the strength and ability of his servants graces, and thus he tried Abraham, Heb. xi, 17. And some, times he tries the foundaess and liacerity of our graces; so the Epbelian angel was tried, and found dross, Rev. ii. 2. And so Job was tried, and found true gold, Job xxiï. 10. These trials are not made by God for his owa information; for he koows what is in man; his eyes pierce his heart and reins; but for our information ; which is the true sense of Deur, vüi. 2. “ Thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God “ led thec these forty years in the wilderness to humble thee, "s and to prove thec, to koow what was in thy heart;" i. e. to make thee know it, by giving thee such experiments and trials of it in those wilderness straits and difficulties.
Aod these are the trials of grace I am here to speak of, 'pot excladiog the active trials made by ourselves ; no, no, all these trials made by God upon us, are designed to put us upon the trial of ourselves : When God tries, we fhould try too.
Now the method into which I shall cast this discourse, shall be to Mhew you, . i. First, What those things are which try the fincerity of our graces, as fire tries gold.
2. Secondly, For what ends doth God put the graces of his people upon such trials io this world.
3. Thirdly, That such grace only is fiacere as can endure these trials.
4. Fourthly, and lastly, To apply the whole, in the main uses of it,
SECT. II. 7. First, W Hat those things are which try the fincerity of
grace, as fire tries gold. ". Before I enter joto particulars, it will be needful to acquaint
you, that the subject before me is full of difficulties. There is need, as one fpeaks, of much cautious respect to the various fizes and degrees of growth among Chriftians, and the viciffi
fudes of their inward cale; else we may darken and perplex the way, instead of cleariog it.
The portraiture of a Christian is such as none can draw to ane model, but with respect to the infancy of fome, as well as the age and strength of others.
Great hced ought also to be had in the application of marks and signs; we should first try them, before we try ourselves or others by them. Marks and ligos are by some distinguished into exclusive, inclusive, and positive : Exclusive marks serve to fhut out bold pretenders, by thewing them how far they come short of a faving work of grace ; and they are commonly taken from fome decessary common duty, as hearing, praying, &c. He that doth not thele things, cannot have any work of grace in him ; and yet if he do them, he cannot from thence conclude his estate to be gracious: He that so concludes, deceives himself.
Inclusive marks rather discover the degrees than the truth of grace, and are rather intended for comfort than for conviction : if we find them in ourselves, we do not only find sincerity, but eminency of grace: They being taken from fome raised degree and eminent acts of grace ia confirmed and growo Christians.
Betwixt the two former there is a middle fort of marks, which are called positive marks, and they are such as are always, and only found, in regenerate fouls : The hypocrite hath them oot; the grown Chrillian hath them, and that in an eminent degree : The poorest Christian hath them in a lower, but saving degree : Great care must be taken in the application of them. And it is palt. doubt, that many weak and injudicious Christians have been greatly prejudiced by findiog the experiences of eminent Christians proposed as rules to measure their fincerity by. Alas! these no more fit their souls, than Saul's armour did David's body.
These things being premised, and a due care carried along with us through this discourse, I shall next come to the particulars, and Mew you what those things are which discover the state and tempers of our souls. Aod though it be true, that there is no condition, we are in, so providence thar befałs us, but it takes fome proof, and makes fome discovery of our hearts; yet, to limit this discourse, and fall into particulars as soon as we can, I thall Thew what trials are made of our graces in this world, by our prosperity, aod our adversity ; by our corruptions, and our duties; and, lallly, by our sufferings upon the score and account of religion.
tuff, by our ces in this we can