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I have therefore much endeavored in all my writings and especially in this, to draw out the full portraiture of a Christian or godly man indeed, and to describe God's image on the soul of man, in such a manner as tendeth to the just information of the reader's mind, and the filling up of the wants, and rectifying the errors which may be found in his former conceptions of it. And I do purposely inculcate the same things oft, in several writings (as when I preached I did in all my serions) that the reader may find that I bring him not undigested, needless novelties, and that the frequent repetition of them may help to make the deeper and fuller impression : for my work is to subserve the Holy Ghost, in putting God's law into men's hearts, and writing it out truly, clearly, and fully upon their inward parts; that they may be made such themselves, by understanding thoroughly what they must be, and what a solid Christian is : and that thus they may be born again by the incorruptible, immortal seed, the word of God, which will live and abide forever; and may purify their souls in obeying the truth, through the Spirit; 1 Pet. i. 22, 23, 25. He is the the best lawyer, physician, soldier, &c. who hath his doctrine in his brain, and not only in his books, and hath digested his reading into an intellectual system and habit of knowledge. If ministers had a hundred times over repeated the integral portraiture or character of a sound Christian, till it had been as familiar to the minds and memories of their hearers, as is the description of a magistrate, a physician, a schoolmaster, a husbandman, a shepherd, and such things as they are well acquainted with, it would have been a powerful means to make sound Christians. But when men's minds conceive of a Christian, as a man that differeth from heathens and infidels, in nothing but holding the Christian opinions, and using different words and ceremonies of worship, and such like, no wonder if such be but opinionative, lifeless Christians: and if their religion make them no better than a Seneca or Plutarch, I shall never believe that they are any surer to be saved than they. And such a sort of men there are, that suppose Christianity to consist but of these three parts. 1. The Christian doctrine acknowledged (which they call faith.) 2. The orders and ordinances of the Christian church and worship, submitted to, and decently used, (which they call godliness.) And 3.
the heart and life of a Cato, Cicero, or Socrates adjoined; but all that goeth beyond this, (which is the life of Christianity and godliness, a lively faith, and hope, and love; a heavenly and holy mind and lise, from the renewing, indwelling Spirit of God, which is described in this treatise) they are strangers to it, and take it to be but fancy and hypocrisy. These no Christians do much to reduce the church to infidelity; that there may be indeed no Christians in the world. For my part I must confess, if there were no better Christians in the world than these, I think I should be no Christian myself: and if Christ made men no better than the religion of Socrates, Cato, or Seneca, and did no more to the reparation and perfecting of men's hearts and lives, I should think no better of the Christian religion than of theirs; for the means is to be estimated by the end and use : and that is the best physician that hath the remedies which are fittest to work the cure. If God had not acquainted me with a sort of men that have really more holiness, mortification, spirituality, love to God, and to one another, and even to enemies, and more heavenly desires, expectations and delights, than these men before described have, it would have been a very great hindrance to my faith.
The same may I say of those that place godliness and Christianity only in holding strict opinions, and in affected, needless singularities, and in the fluent oratory and length of prayer, and avoiding other men's forms and modes of worship, and in any thing short of a renewed, holy, heavenly heart and life.
And undoubtedly, if a true, full character of godliness had been imprinted in their minds, we should never have seen the professors of it so blotted with sensuality, selfishness, pride, ambition, worldliness, distrust of God, self-conceitedness, heresy, schism, rebellions, unquietness, impatiency, unmercifulness, and cruelty to men's souls and bodies, as we have seen them in this age; and all this justified as consistent with religion.
And I fear, that because this treatise will speak to few that are not some way guilty, every face which hath a spot or blemish will be offended with the glass ; and lest the faulty will say, that I particularly intended to disgrace them : but I must tell the reader, to prevent his misunderstanding, that if he shall imagine that I have my eyes upon particular parties, and, as a discontented person do intend to blame those that differ from myself, or to grieve inferiors, or dishonor and asperse superiors, they will mistake me, and wrong themselves, and me, who professedly intend but the true description of sound Christians, diseased Christians, and seeming Christians.
And for the manner of this writing, I am conscious it hath but little to commend it. The matter is that for which it is published. The Lord Verulam, in his essays, truly saith, that “ much reading makes one full, much discourse doth make one ready, and much writing doth make a man exact." Though I have had my part of all these means, yet being parted five years from my books, and three years from my preaching, the effects may decay; and you must expect neither quotations or oratory testimonies, or ornaments of style : but having not yet wholly ceased from writing, I may own so much of the exactness, as will allow me to entreat the reader, not to use me as many have done, who by overlooking some one word, have made the sense another thing, and have made it a crime to be exact in writing, because they cannot or will not be exact in reading, or charitable or humane in interpreting.
SOUND, CONFIRMED CHRISTIAN, &c.
In the explication of the text, which I made the ground of the foregoing discourse,* I have shewed you that there is a degree of grace to be expected and sought after by all true Christians, which putteth the soul into a sound, confirmed, radicated state, in comparison of that weak, diseased, tottering condition, which most Christians now continue in. And I have shewed you how desirable a state that is, and what calamities follow the languishing, unhealthful state, even of such as may be saved. And indeed did we but rightly understand how deeply the errors and sins of many well-meaning Christians have wounded the interest of religion in this age, and how heinously they have dishonored God, and caused the enemies of holiness to blaspheme, and hardened thousands in popery and ungodliness, in probability to their perdition : had we well observed when God's judgments have begun and understood what sins have caused our wars, and plagues, and flames, and worse than all these, our great heart-divisions, and church-distractions and convulsions; we should ere this have given over the flattering of ourselves and one another, in such a heaven-provoking state; and the ostentation of that little goodness, which hath been eclipsed by such lamentable evils. And instead of these, we should have betaken ourselves to the exercise of such a serious, deep repentance as the quality of our sins, and the greatness of God's chastisements do require. It is a doleful case, to see how light many make of all the rest of their distempers, when once they think that they have so much grace and mortification, as is absolutely necessary to save their souls; and expect that preachers should
say little to weak Christians, but words of comfort, setting forth their
This work was originally published in connection with another entitled “ Directions to the converted for their establishment."-Ed.
happiness. And yet if one of them, when he hath the gout, or stone,
, or cholic, or dropsy, doth send for a physician, he would think himself derided or abused, if his physician, instead of curing his disease, should only comfort him, by telling bim, that he is not dead. What excellent disputations have Cicero and Seneca, the Platonists and Stoics, to prove that virtue is of itself sufficient to make man happy. And yet many Christians live as if holiness were but the way
and means to their felicity, or at best but a small part of their felicity itself; or as if felicity itself grew burdensome, or were not desirable in this life; or a small degree of it were as good as a greater.
And too many mistake the will of God, and the nature of sanctification, and place their religion in the hot prosecution of those mistakes. They make a composition of error and passion, and an unyielding stiffness in them, and siding with the church or party which maintaineth them, and an uncharitable censuring those that are against them, and an unpeaceable contending for them; and this composition they mistake for godliness, especially if there be but a few drachms of godliness and truth in the composition, though corrupted and overpowered by the rest.
For these miscarriages of many well-meaning, zealous persons, the land mourneth, the churches groan; kingdoms are disturbed by them; families are disquieted by them; godliness is hindered, and much dishonored by them; the wicked are hardened by them, and encouraged to hate, and blaspheme, and oppose religion; the glory of the Christian faith is obscured by them; and the infidel, Mahometan, and heathen world, are kept from faith in Jesus Christ, and many millions of souls destroyed by them. I mean by the miscarriages of the weaker sort of Christians, and by the wicked lives of those carnal hypocrites, who for custom or worldly interest, do profess that Christianity which was never received by their hearts.
And all this is much promoted by their indiscretion, who are so intent upon the consolatory opening of the safety and happiness of believers, that they omit the due explication of their description, their dangers, and their duties.
One part of this too much neglected work I have endeavored to perform in the foregoing treatise : another I shall attempt in this