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God doth not fall into any gross and scandalous sin, or if at any time God doth suffer him to fall foully, yet it costs him dear; it may be broken bones, as it did David ; and God can heal his backslidings, and make him more humble after. However there is a vast difference betwixt a sheep stepping into the mire, and a swine wallowing in the mire. Some are, and some are not “the spots of God's children,” Deut. xxxii. 5. You have more need to judge yourselves, than censure others for being hypocrites. Hear what the Reverend Mr. Hildersham saith in this case:* “Let none say of professors, these gadders after sermons, these holy brethren, that stand so much upon sincerity, can abide nothing that savours of Popery; these precise fools must be singular, forsooth; they dare not swear-they are no better than hypocrites.” And he adds, “ though these things be found in some hypocrites, yet they are no signs to know a hypocrite by, nor are they hypocrites that do thus; thou that scornest a man for this, bewrayest the profaneness of thy own heart, and openest thy mouth against heaven," Psal. lxxiii. 9.
6 Obj. You told us this work is a creation. Can a man create himself? You said sinners are dead ; surely it is not in the power of a dead man to make himself alive? You said this is the work of omnipotency, God must do all. Alas, what can man do of himself?
Answ. (1.) You are not naturally dead; though spiritually dead, yet you are alive; God hath given you rational souls, faculties capable of knowing, loving, and enjoying himself. You are not senseless stocks or stones, nor mere brutes; there is in you a remote aptitude, if not a present promptness, to receive grace : you have the noble faculty of a self-reflecting con# Hild. on Psal. li.
science, that is "the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the belly,” Prov. xx. 27. It can discover moral good and evil, yea, “it can excuse or accuse in what you do,” right or wrong, Rom. ii. 14, 15. You inight be much better if you minded this light within you, the light of natural conscience. How can you expect more, till you improve what you have? Nature can do little towards grace, yet moral principles cherished and improved, may be some fence against vicious inclinations, and prevent a custom in sinful practices; however, it is dangerous to imprison the common notices of a Deity, Rom. i. 18, or moral duty: this is the road to obliterate them, this shuts the door against grace, and opens the sluices of vice. Nourish what is good in thee : who can tell what it may come to at last?
(2.) God commands the use of means; and though he hath not bound himself, yet he hath bound every man to the utmost of his power to be tending towards God. Divines say, That though no exercise of common grace can merit special grace, yet God is not wanting in his further grace, to those that have made a due improvement of common grace, and done what in them lay towards their own salvation. Your business is to "work out your own salvation,” Phil. ii. 12; for it is “God that worketh in you the will and the deed.”
It is an old saying of St. Augustine, “He that made thee without thyself, will not save thee without thyself.” God loves to second man's endeavours; he is never wanting to the diligent. The precept commands, the gospel promise will assist.* God hath not lost his right to command, though we have no might to obey ; his authority must sway with us, though we have not ability to do his requirement :f he bids us to be
* Lex jubet, gratia juvat. + Præcipit Deus quod ipse præstat. up and doing, and he will take us by the hand and help us. Try, man, in so necessary a work as thy soul's eternal happiness; thou hast lost much labour in other cases, thou mayest not lose it in this: there is a may be in it, and that is warrant enough for such a venture. Be laborious, and thou mayest possess grace.
7 Obj. But I may as well sit still, as rise up to fall; I shall never hold out, I see so many temptations of a subtle devil, oppositions of a furious world, and strong corruptions of a treacherous heart, that I do foresee I shall not be able to stand; I had better not begin at all, than begin in the spirit and end in the flesh, and so sink my apostate soul deeper.
Answ. (1.) Art thou in good earnest, when thou makest this objection? or dost thou compliment God, and make it an excuse and evasion? If the latter, and this be but to save thee the labour of being serious in religion, thy case is lamentable; thou hast yet but slight thoughts of God, thy soul, or of heaven, that makest such frivolous excuses, to incur a certain damnation, But if thou be in good earnest, it will put thee upon the search of thy heart, whether thou be sincere, that thou mayest not build upon a sandy foundation; and if indeed thou art jealous of thyself, and afraid of apostacy, this very fear is the best security against falling away: “I will,” saith God, “put my fear in their hearts, and they shall not depart from me; blessed is he that feareth always.” This godly fear will make you avoid sin and all its occasions, improve talents, time, and means of grace, and put you upon all methods to grow in grace and gain assurance. A caution is necessary to the best. * But be sure yours is a godly jealousy, arising from a sense of the evil of sin, and your own weakness, and not a mere conception of your hypocritical hearts.
* Jer. xxxii. 40. Prov. xxviii. 14. Heb. iii. 12, 13. iv. 1.
(2.) If once this new creature be truly formed in thy heart, it will be permanent and abiding; not but that it is a creature, and so loseable of itself, but by virtue of God's covenant and promise, it is "an incorruptible seed, a well of living waters, springing up to everlasting life.” If once this work be savingly wrought, though it be but a spark, an embryo of grace, the God of heaven will look after his own creature, you shall “ be kept by the power of God through faith to salvation.” None shall pluck you out of the Father's hands.* Nothing can separate; the gates of hell shall not prevail against you. Fear not, you have the Father's care, the Son's prayer, the Holy Ghost abiding in you for ever.f Hypocrites will be apostates; a rotten core will spread to the skin. It is very rare to see a hypocrite undiscovered till death; though the foolish virgins held out long, yet it appeared at last they had no oil in their vessels. “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us,” 1 John ii. 19. Take thou care of thy sincerity, and God will take care of thy perseverance: God will not renounce his own image: Christ will not forsake his members. If thy state and standing were in thy own hands, thou wouldst as surely lose thy integrity, as Adam his innocency; but “we are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation,” 1 Pet. i. 5.
There is one thing I fear more than all the rest, and that is a lazy, slothful, indifferent spirit, that will not take any pains in God's work, nor in the concerns of the soul, but think grace must drop into their gaping mouths ; this sloth hath killed thousands of sinners. Oh, it will cost a man trouble, care, and pains, and this he cannot brook. And do men think to grow rich without labouring, careful endeavours, and travelling to markets? And can they think to go to heaven, or get grace without taking pains ? It is true, it is not merely pains that will do it, but sloth will lose it; and without pains-taking, nothing that is excellent will be obtained ; for the more choice things are, the more hardly are they attained. * I am sure Christians of old “ laboured hard, that they might be accepted of God,” 2 Cor. v. 9. And the apostle tells the Hebrews, that “God doth not forget their work and labour of love :” and urges them “ to shew the same diligence, and not be slothful, but followers of them, who through faith and patience inherit the promises,” Heb. vi. 10_12.
* 1 Pet. i. 23. John iv. 14. 1 Pet. i. 5. John x. 28, 29. † Matt. xvi. 18. Rom. viii. 39. Phil. i. 6. 1 John ii. 1. q. 27.
Let the slothful person ask himself these questions: Whether the pains of hell be not more intolerable, than the pains God requires to be taken to escape it?-Or, whether heaven will not requite all his pains to obtain it ?-Or, whether he také not more pains to scrape together a necessary supply of wants, or some thick clay usually called wealth ?-Or, whether thousands take not more pains to get to hell, than God requireth of him to travel to heaven? And let the unhappy sluggard know, that by the time he hath been an hour in the intolerable torments of a future state, he would be glad to be turned into the world again, though upon the hardest terms of obedience, mortification, and doing all things within the range of human capacity. But alas, men in the present state are made up so much of sense, and understand so little of invisible realities, that they choose rather to perish eternally, than to endeavour
* Difficilia quæ pulchra.