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overcome them. And this grace is offered in the gospel to all that sincerely desire it, so that it is a vain wretched pretence that religion binds to hard service.
To the other part of the objection, that sometimes religion exposes the professors of it to heavy sufferings, I answer; indeed the gospel is plain and peremptory in this, if we will “ reign with Christ, we must suffer with him," when we are called forth to give a noble testimony to his truth. It is no extraordinary elevation, no point of perfection, but the duty of every christian to be always ready in the disposition and resolution of his mind, to sacrifice his life when the honour of Christ requires it. But it is no hard condition to suffer transient afflictions for the obtaining a happy immortality, to be conformable to the image of our suffering Redeemer, that we may be crowned with his glory. How many christians esteemed themselves honoured in the disgrace, and blessed in the injuries they suffered for Christ, and with an invincible patience, and astonishing joy, endured the most cruel persecutions, though yet the human nature in them was as tender, and sensible of pains as in others ? But the natural aversion and repugnance to suffering was overruled by the determination of the rational will, upon the account of their duty, and the reward attending it. They gave a most convincing sensible testimony how much more valuable heaven is, than this present world, willingly exposing themselves to all evil here," and rejoicing in hope” of a glorious issue.
In short; the reward of obedience is a triumphal crown; and where there is no victory, there can be no triumph ; and where no combat, no victory; and where no enemy, no combat. Therefore we are commanded to fight against our internal enemies, our corrupt affections, to kill the lusts of the flesh, and to encounter and overcome, by humility and meek submission, the cruelty of malicious enemies without us, in order to obtain the crown of life. And a believer that has heaven in taste and expectation, will easily renounce the most pleasant, and willingly endure the sharpest temptations, for the blessed reward of his obedience.
Lastly, Fervent and constant prayer is requisite for the grace of God, that we may fix our aims aright upon eternal happiness, and use those sure means that with divine advantage are proposed in the scriptures, that can make us wise to salvation. Such is the depravation of man since his fall, the mind is diverted by vain thoughts, and the heart prepossessed with sensual desires, that till " the spirit of his mind be renewed,” and his original affections to the supreme good be revived and restored by divine grace, he is regardless of it, and only applies himself to what is pleasing to sense. There may be some transient glances, and volatile wishes of heaven in carnal men, but they are miserably weak, and ineffectual. Therefore a most necessary duty incumbent upon us, is by humble and fervent prayer to address ourselves to God for his spirit, to enlighten our minds, that we may believe the reality and greatness of the eternal reward ; and to reform our wills, that we may feel its attractive force. Both these acts of the Spirit are requisite, that the love of God, as our chief felicity, may be the regent principle of our hearts and lives.
1. For this end the Holy Spirit convinces men thoroughly of the reality and greatness of an invisible and future happiness. In the light of the gospel, how many of eminent intellectual faculties are stupid as to their great interest, and spend themselves about trifles, and are equally tractable to eternal ruin, as the ox to the slaughter? He that is destitute of the illuminating grace of the Spirit, “is blind, and cannot see afar off.” Now by the analogy between the corporeal and intellectual faculties, we may understand in some measure how the mind is illuminated by the Spirit of God. For as to the act of seeing, two things are requisite; 1. External light in the air, without which the colours, figures and beauties of objects are not visible to the sharpest eye, but lie obscured under impenetrable darkness. 2. Internal light in the eye, in which the visive power consists : if this be extinguished, the clearest light of heaven is of no use for the discovery of things. Thus the understanding is enabled to see spiritual, things. 1. By the revelation of the object : in this respect “life and immortality are brought to light by the gospel.” Till that bright discovery was made of eternal blessedness, it was above the desires and hopes of sinful man. Cælum, homo nec optare poterat ex ignorantia, nec sperare ex propriæ miserie conscientia. 2. By the inward enlightening “from the Spirit of wisdom," that removes the ignorance, prejudice, and inadvertency of the mind, which as scales darkened its sight, and disposes it to perceive the verity and excellency of spiritual and future things, though not with comprehensive evidence, yet with that
assurance, that no doubtfulness or suspence remains concerning them. It is observable that faith is expressed in scripture, by “prudence, wisdom, and knowledge,” whereby a man knows the grounds and motives of his judgment and actions. And sin is called folly. For as when the understanding faculty, either from the indisposedness of the organs, as in idiots, or from the disorder of fancy, by inflammation of the humours, as in distracted persons, cannot weigh and compare, and therefore makes a perverse judgment of things; so the carnal mind, by not due measuring and pondering, judges falsely of spiritual things. If something no bigger than the hand were put before the eye, it would intercept the sight of the heavens; and he that not considering the properties of things near and distant, should conclude that piece to be bigger than the heavens, were justly reputed a fool. And the folly of carnal men is more gross, who prefer things present to sense, before what is future and of everlasting consequence to the soul. But there are some actions, which if done by a natural, would be counted folly; yet being done by those who in the reputation of the world are wise, are esteemed prudent, but they are the most deplorable folly. Now as the restoring the Lesum principium, the broken mind to its sound state, whereby it is able to consider, discern and conclude of things according to their nature, such is the action of God's Spirit upon the corrupt mind, clarifying and enlightening it, so that it receives full conviction by the clearest marks of divine authority shining in the gospel, of the truth of all the great and precious promises therein contained, and causing it, by a steady application of the thoughts, to see the vast difference between what is temporal, and eternal; how despicably light all the vanities of this world are found, when put in the balance against the infinite inestimable happiness of the next. In short, the renewed mind knows spirtual things according to their nature and qualities, believes, esteems, and determines that they are of eternal moment, and absolutely necessary for the happiness of man. And as when the natural faculty of seeing is perished, it is irreparable by human skill, and without a miracle can never be restored; so the intellectual faculty, when darkened by sinful lusts, without the renewing power of the Spirit, “ can never know spiritual things as they ought to be known.” Therefore as the blind men in the gospel, who despaired of help from the physicians, hearing of the miraculous power of Christ, importunately begged his healing mercy; so let
us pray to the Light and Saviour of the world, but in a more noble and higher sense, “ Lord, that we may receive our sight.” Let us with the most zealous affections call upon “ the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, that he would give unto us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, the eves of our understanding being enlightened, that we may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.
(2.) The efficacious influence of the Holy Spirit is requisite to change the will, that with a free and full consent it may desire and prosecute the spiritual eternal good. Without this, the conviction of the mind is not powerful enough to convert the soul from the love of the world, to choose heaven. There may be an enlightened conscience without a renewed heart. Though the judgment assents that God is the supreme good, “yet till the heart be circumcised," the sensuality of the affections taken away, divine love that directs the life to God as our blessed end, can never possess it. Suppose that men had a sensible and strong assurance of the eternal state hereafter, if all those who lived godly in a visible manner ascended with Elias to heaven, and if all who continued in their sins visibly descended into hell, as Corah and his company were swallowed up alive by the earth before the Israelites; if men could hear the joyful exultations of the saints above, their high praises of God, and hear the desperate cries and deep complaints of the damned: if one according to the desire of the rich man, were sent from hell, and with his fiery tongue relate what he had seen and suffered, and exhibit a sensible demonstration in himself of those torments, yet this alone were not sufficient to draw off their hearts from the deceitful happiness of this world, and fasten them on the perfect and eternal happiness in the text. Indeed they could not then indulge their lusts so securely, but they “would be strangers to the life of God," such an inveterate alienation of heart is in men from real holiness. Till the sanctifying Spirit by a directive persuasive light, that represents the truth and goodness of spiritual things, transforms the soul, and makes it spiritual in its valuations and affections, it is inwardly averse from grace and glory, « The Lord direct our hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ, when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believe.