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didst pass under here, will not give thee admission into the church triumphant above.
Your many duties and religious performances will not excuse you. Your light may be great here, and your darkness so too hereafter ; you may be advanced now in privileges and at last thrust down to hell for the non-improvement of them. We read of some who will say, “ Lord, Lord, open to us, have we not eaten and drunk in thy presence, prophesied in thy name," &c. They seem very confident, they seem almost to demand
Open to us;" we have done so and so; yes, as if our Lord should say, you have waited on me as you plead, yet depart, for you“ are workers of iniquity.” They never dreamed of meeting with such a repulse; what! we shụt out that have attended on thee so long in ordinances ! we, that have taken so much pains, and gone so many miles to sermons on Sabbath days and lecture days, and sometimes with much hazard! what! we shut out after all this ! We have opened our doors to thine, and wilt not thou open heaven's door to us? We that have been so near thee, must we depart from thee? Yes, I am not mistaken, notwithstanding all your pretences, I know you well enough' who you are: I was never yet entertained in your hearts for all your fair show, and whatsoever you might make others believe. My ministers, it is true, took you into their communion, they admitted you into their societies, for they could but judge according to outward appearance, and the direction of charity; you seemed saints, and they were bound to think you such; but for all that, you cannot deceive me, “ I search the heart and try the reins," and can tell how you have harboured your lusts, mine enemies, whilst I have been shut out; therefore begone, “depart, ye workers of iniquity, I know you not :” a cutting sentence from the great Judge. It will not do to plead that you sat under such a one's ministry, that you were a member of such a society ; no, were you so, it is so much worse, it aggravates your case, that you were false-hearted and hypocritical under such great privileges.
Objection. But it may be, some are ready to say, you would persuade us that the way of holiness is safe, and that it is dangerous to miss it: but we do not see the way so clear. Doth not scripture say, that “judgment begins at the house of God," and they “ that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution,” and “through much tribulation we must enter into the kingdom of God ?” This is the language of scripture, and it hath the language of experience to back it. Have we not seen how such have suffered, and been deprived of their comfortable enjoyments ? some have parted with their lives, being burnt at
stakes, some “ stoned,” some sawn asunder,” some
66 slain with the sword,” and what ! would you persuade us out of our senses ? For any thing we see, such as you call saints and believers, who make such a stir about religion, fare worse than any others.
Solution. This was in part answered before : but now we shall return a few things more directly, to blunt the edge of this frightful objection, and that briefly in some particulars.
1. By way of concession. We own it hath been so, and it is possible it may be so again, and these things are somewhat starting to sense ; yet this doth not hinder but that it is a way of safety : temporal, if the Lord see it good for us, if not, however, eternal safety. Some indeed have met with hard usage
in the world from Satan's instruments, and it need not be thought strange, for the seed of the serpent will be warring against the seed of the woman ; it hath been so, since enmity hath been put between them, and it will be so still.
2. Instances are not far to seek, which let us see how the righteous have been preserved in time of danger, by keeping close to God in a way of duty. Though they have been set at on every side, the attempts of the enemy have been altogether unsuccessful; they have watched to apprehend them, and the Lord hath watched too, for their preservation ; we might easily prove it by sundry examples. Many times when the servants of God have been in danger, and they knew it not, they have had some secret intimations one way or other, some more than ordinary impression upon their spirits, or something hath fallen out providentially, which hath occasioned their removal from such a place, which before they did not design, and it hath afterwards appeared, that if they had staid but till the next day, their lives had been in danger. God hath sometimes delivered his people, before they knew that there was any evil intended against them; he hath signally and seasonably stept in and preserved them from the mischievous designs of malicious men. Sometimes the wicked have been cut off for their sin, and in their sin, which is dismal indeed; and the righteous have been made to dwell in safety. Some in the commission of their wickedness have been struck down dead upon the place, some in their return home, as might be shewn both from sacred and profane history. It is much more sad for sinners to be cut off, for they pass straight to hell. If saints were only in danger, and not the wicked, then there might seem to be ground for the objection, but seeing it is not so, it seems to have no
3. As for the loss of the world, thou art ready to allege. This
will be the ready way to undo myself. It may be thou mayest not suffer much this way, nor part with much of thy estate, all do not; but suppose the worst; what if it should be so ? Is it more necessary to be rich in gold than in grace? Are the things of the world so indispensably necessary, that it is impos sible for thee to be happy without them? Surely, thou canst not say so; and we can say, that holiness is so necessary, that thou canst never arrive at happiness without it: so that the case lies here, the one is necessary, and the other is not; then surely it may be determined without much ado, what is most eligible: that which is of greatest necessity should be first looked after and secured. Heaven is worth having, though thou shouldst go poorly and meanly to it; and a dear bargain doubtless do they make, who turn their backs upon the way of God, to secure a little of the world, which they must shortly part with, at the furthest.
4. You hear of the sufferings of the saints, but you know not what inward and invisible supports they experience from above; indeed, if they had nothing but what others see, their case would be unpleasant and undesirable: but their heavenly Father gives them many a friendly, refreshing visit that few or none know of. Though the servants of God be sometimes low in the world, yet they have such converse and communion with him, such tastes of his love, as great ones that are wicked are strangers to, and such as they would not part with for their abundance ; and so, though they have not such affluence and confluence of creature enjoyments as some have, yet the Lord makes it up in another and a better way. You see their crosses sometimes, but you do not see their comforts, which will abundantly compensate; you hear of their outward temporal losses, but you are not acquainted with their inward spiritual gain ; you hear of their sufferings, but not of their supports; you hear of their harsher fare, and this affrights you, but you know not their sweetmeats, and delicate, exhilarating dainties ; you hear of their sorrows, but not of their exalted joys in divine embraces, when the Lord Jesus doth clasp them in the arms of love: they have bread to eat that others know not of; joys such as strangers intermeddle not with; these make up abundantly the scarcity of outward things, especially if we look upon them as pledges and earnests of more and better.
5. To consider the issue of the saints' troubles and afflictions, and to compare it with that of the wicked's, would afford much support in this case. The prosperity of the wicked, hath a been puzzling point to God's own children for a long time. It was so with the Psalmist once; when he saw the ungodly pros
per, he was ready to say, he had “ cleansed his heart in vain ;" but when he went into the sanctuary of God, he understood their end; he saw they were set in slippery places, and cast down into destruction, Psal. lxxiii. 12-20. Those that are in the way of impiety, may please themselves for a time with their vain, sensual delights; it may be, joy displays its colours in their faces, matters go as they would have them; they have little to disturb and disquiet them, but alas ! it is as the crackling of thorns under a pot, it is soon over and gone, and then it leaves a sting behind. Now the saints have not only inward comforts, under outward troubles, but after them too; their afflictions end well, their trials have a comfortable conclusion, they oftentimes reap a great deal of benefit; even in this life, and by them they are fitted for the next. “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;" 2. Cor. iv. 17. It is but light affliction, and yet there is a weight of glory, it is but for a moment, and yet worketh an eternal weight of glory, which in the original is very emphatical, and we scarce know how to express it in English.
6. Suppose saints should be taken off by a violent death, which is the worst that can be thought of, and most frightful to nature; yet for them to die is gain : and if thou wilt be a disciple of Christ, thou must either lay down thy life for him actually, or in purpose and design, if called to it: Christ will own none that prefer their lives before him. If the enemies of God's people did but know what a good turn they do them by taking them off, it is highly probable they would spare them to be afflicted and punished a little longer
. By suffering martyrdom, the saints have a pearl added to their crown, and are sooner possessed of it too. Thou art thinking, it may be, that thou couldst never lay down thy life to suffer for Christ, thou couldst not go through the fire to him ; but thou canst not tell, for if the Lord call thee to it, he would vouchsafe suitable help. Some, that before were very timorous and dejected, have been enabled to bear up with christian courage and undaunted magnanimity, not being afraid to look the king of terrors in the face. O with what cheerfulness have some gone to the stake, saying,
Come, it is but a quarter of an hour, and then we shall be in heaven;" with many more expressions, evidencing the like exultation of spirit. Others have gone off the stage of the world with triumph, being about to enter into their master's joy ; let us gird up the loins of our minds and say, let us go after as fast as we can ; resolving, through grace, that nothing shall be
able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
7. The objection was partly raised from those words: “ Judg. ment must begin at the house of God," and thence was inferred that saints suffer first, therefore they are in most danger; but read the verse through, and then the case is fully determined, that holiness is the safer path ; it is 1 Pet. iv. 17, “ If it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them, that obey not the gospel of God?” He argues thence, to shew the doleful condition of impenitent sinners : if it be so with us, what will be their lot? surely that must needs be amazingly dreadful! If the righteous suffer something, what then will become of the wicked ? Here is an argument to make us quit the way of impiety, and not to plead for it. It is true, saints may suffer; but this is for their good ; God may correct his children, and doth so, but it is to drive folly out of them, not to hurt them. Judgment may hegin at the house of God, but it is to make way for mercy; those judgments prepare for deliverances here, and glory hereafter ; and though they are not secured from affliction, yet they are from hell.
Secondly, To saints. Which is the second branch of the exhortation.
Be you perfecting holiness in the fear of God; be ye holy in all manner of conversation, yea, be holy as God is holy. The Lord hath been pleased to deal with your hearts, bless him for it, and shew it forth in your lives ; let holiness appear in all
you maintain the power of it; start not back for fear of men ; be resolved upon a holy course, come what will.
1. Maintain a high and reverend esteem for the public appointments of Christ, and manifest it by a constant and devout attendance on them.
Beware of having slight thoughts of your spiritual food, (if they be really the truths of God that are delivered to you,) lest the Lord take it away. The gospel is a moveable commodity ; Christ stands at the door and knocks; standing is the next posture to going, and it may well be expected that he will take his leave, if he be not welcome; he is not beholden to us for our religion.
Let us manifest that we have such an esteem, by our constant attendance on these ordinances. We should be waiting daily at the posts of wisdom's gates. Where can you expect to meet with God, but where he hath said he will be found? You may find him where he is wont to take his walks, and that is in his ordinances ; for “ the king is held in the galleries;" thither do