« AnteriorContinuar »
to suppose a man may give his body to be burnt, and yet not have charity, 1 Cor. xiii. 3. And it may be as possible, some may suffer in a vicious humour for a good cause, as others pertinaciously in a bad cause; the thorny-ground hearers passed the brunt of persecution, but were not right, Matt. xiii. 20, 22. And the apostle Paul supposes the Galatians to “have suffered many things in vain,” Gal. iii. 4. Many things make up a Christian sufferer. Men may bear the cross, and not follow Christ.
16 Plea. But I give liberally to the poor of my substance, and am much in the exercise of charity to persons in necessity.
Answ. The apostle supposeth still, that a man may bestow all his goods to feed the poor, and yet not have charity, 1 Cor. xiii. 3. You will say, this is a strange paradox; what is charity, but a free distribution ? but the apostle distinguisheth betwixt a hand-charity, and a heart-charity; the poor widow with half a farthing, and a free heart, gave more than all the other rich men's large distributions; some give for ostentation, others of necessity, yea, out of covetousness; you give nothing, unless you give yourselves first to God. *
17 Plea. I am forward for reformation in my place, appearing against profaneness, and sabbath breaking, and am of a public spirit.
Answ. It is well done, but see you mistake not. How oft did the Jews find fault with our Lord for healing on the sabbath day, and his disciples, for plucking ears of corn? Take care that blind zeal transport you not; but suppose it be against sin, see whether self bear not sway, as it did in Jehu, who was partial in his reformation; or at least that it be not temporary
Matt. vi. 1, 2. Mark xii. 41–44. 2 Cor. ix. 5, 7. 2 Cor. viii. 5.
zeal, like that of Joash, who was very zealous for reform whilst his good uncle Jehoiada lived. *
18 Plea. I thank God, I have good gifts in conversation and in prayer, and can edify others, who are disposed to commend me.
Answ. Gifts are one thing, grace another; all gifted men are not gracious men; who more eminent than Judas the traitor, yet an apostle? and some will say at the last day, “ Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name ?” Matt. vii. 22, 23; to whom he will say, “ I never knew you, depart from me.” The devil hath finer gifts than any of you all ; yet he is a damned fiend in hell. Gifts come upon another errand than grace, 1 Cor. xii. 7. Gifts are given to profit others, grace for a man's own soul.
19 Plea. I am verily persuaded I am sound at heart, my conscience flies not in my face, yea, I have great peace, joy, and comfort within.
Answ. God knows whether your peace be of the right stamp or not; I have told you there is a peace of the devil's making, and that may arise from conscience's sleep security. I now tell you of a joy arising from the common workings of the Spirit, the “stony ground hearers anon with joy received the word,” Matt. xiii. 20; “but had no root,” Luke viii. 13. It is not to tell what joy and triumph some may have upon a mistake; some “taste of the good word, yea, of the heavenly gift;" yet fall away totally and finally. Look to yourselves, thousands deceive themselves in this weighty affair. +
20 Plea. You are seeking to drive us to despair, but that you shall never do, I will hope well still, say what you choose. .
* Matt. xii. 1, 2. 2 Kings x. 28, 29. 2 Chron. xxiv. 2-18. + Gal. vi. 3. James i. 22. Heb. vi. 4-6.
Answ. There is a double despair, (1.) Good and necessary ; a despair of ever being saved in the state of nature wherein we are born, and this God brings the sinner to, in order to the implantation of sound hope, and sincere faith in the soul. (2.) There is an evil, sinful despair of obtaining mercy at God's hands through Christ; God forbid we should drive sinners to this despair: no, no, it is the former at which we aim. Such as Paul felt, Rom. vii. 9, “ I was alive without the law once, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died;" that is, I saw myself in a lost state, having no hopes of salvation, while I continued in a state of nature: we are sure that till souls see themselves condemned, they will never look after a pardon; it is this to which we would drive men. -There is also a twofold hope : (1.) A bad, a false, vain hope, which is built upon men's fancy and imagination. This will be “ swept away like a spider's web, will be as the giving up of the ghost; what hath the hypocrite gained by his hope, when God taketh away his soul?”* It is the best office we can do the sinner, to break the heart of this groundless hope, that we may bring in a better hope: hence, (2.) There is a good “hope through grace;” a hope “ that will not make ashamed;” a hope that rests upon the promises of grace in the gospel ; it is this that will do men good at the last : but men must be sure to observe and comply with the terms of the promise, else it is groundless presumption. A prince hath as much reason to be offended with him that keeps not close to his commission, as with another that acts without a commission. The Israelites of old, saith one, durst make God and his promise a leaningstock for their foul elbows to rest on. “ They call themselves the holy city, and stay themselves upon the
* Job viii. 14. xi. 20. xxvii. 8.
God of Israel." * See Micah iii. 11. Nothing more common, yet nothing more dangerous, for such are more bold than welcome: for though a prince may be so condescending as to let a poor, sick, or wounded man, especially in his service, fainting and unable to go alone, upon his humble request, make use of his arm rather than perish in the street, yet he would reject a reeling drunkard, if he desired to lean on him. Thus a poor, bleeding, humble penitent is entertained, when a presumptuous rebel is discarded with infinite abhorrence: we must encourage the former, and convince the latter, that their hope may be extinguished, and another hope, (“ a lively hope,” that teacheth persons to cleanse themselves) be planted in the soul : for “ the wicked is driven away in his wickedness, but the righteous hath hope in his death.” †
CORRECTION OF MISTAKES ON THIS SUBJECT AT
TEMPTED, AND THEIR DANGER DESCRIBED.
My third use is após travópfwow, for correction, or castigation of what is amiss, in order to a restitution of the souls of sinners to their pristine rectitude, for that is the notion of the Greek term; since it signifies not only correction of manners, but rectifying of inward faculties, as critics observe. I must confess, the work is arduous, and it is impossible for a finite creature to effect this new creation : the best ministers are
* 2 Thess. ii. 17. Rom. v. 5. Isa. xlviii. 2.
but instruments; and what can the axe do without the hand to move it, or the sword without the hand to wield it? “ Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed ?" 1 Cor. iii. 5. “I am,” said worthy Mr. Baxter,“ but a pen for God to write with.” Well, then, shall we do nothing, because we cannot do all ? He that set us a work, is able to second our work with his benediction: the world hath been formed anew by this blessed word of truth.
I shall therefore make one experiment more, to see what the great God will do for a new creation upon the souls of men ; humbly imploring the blessing of heaven upon my poor endeavours. In prosecuting my intention, I shall employ some persuasive arguments to prevail with poor sinners, to look after it in due time; and then answer what objections they can make against it, and so come to the last thing mentioned by the apostle,–instruction in righteousness.
For motives and arguments, I shall not repeat any thing drawn from the advantages thereof detailed in the doctrinal part, as-rectifying the soul's facultiesevidencing divine love-consecrating the soul to God -fitting it for communion with him—entitling to Christ-producing true joy-entailing all things profitable-putting persons into a safe state-rendering them useful-fitting them for gospel privileges--preparing them for death and heaven-being even heaven begun. All these might be improved as strong arguments to persuade sinners to press after a change.
But I shall at present bring some arguments from the danger sinners are in, till they become new crea-. tures.
1. If you are not new creatures, you are not true Christians; "For if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature," 2 Cor. v. 17, that is, whoever is worthy