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our souls must be adorned withal, before ever they can come to heaven, though it be easy to talk of them, it is not so to act them. I shall instance only in some few; as to love God above all things, and other things only for God's sake; to hope on nothing but God's promises, and to fear nothing but his displeasure; to love other men's persons so as to hate their vices, and so to hate their vices as still to love their persons; not to covet riches when we have them not, nor trust on them when we have them; to deny ourselves that we may please God, and to take up our cross that we may follow Christ; to live above the world whilst we are in it, and to despise it whilst we use it; to be always upon our watch and guard, strictly observing not only the outward actions of our life, but the inward motions of our hearts; to hate those very sins which we used to love, and to love those very duties which we used to hate; to choose the greatest affliction before the least sin, and to neglect the getting of the greatest gain, rather than the performing of the smallest duty; to believe truths which we cannot comprehend, merely upon the testimony of one whom we never saw; to submit our own wills to God's, and to delight ourselves in obeying him; to be patient under sufferings, and thankful for all the troubles we meet with here below; to be ready and willing to do and suffer any thing we can for him who hath done and suffered so much for us; to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, relieve the indigent, and rescue the oppressed to the utmost of our power: in a word, to be every way as pious towards God, as obedient to Christ, as loyal to our prince, as faithful to our friends, as loving to our enemies, as charitable to the poor, as
just in our dealings, as eminent in all true graces and virtues, as if we were to be saved by it, and yet by no confidence in it, but still look upon ourselves as unprofitable servants, and depend upon Christ, and Christ alone, for pardon and salvation.
I suppose I need not tell any one that it is hard and difficult to perform such duties, and to act such graces as these are; but this, let me tell the reader, that how hard, how difficult soever it is, it must be done, if ever we design to come to heaven, and by consequence it is no easy matter to come thither. Seeing therefore the way that leads to heaven is thus narrow, and hard, it is no wonder that there are few that walk in it, or indeed that find it out, as our Saviour himself assures us; for people generally love to swim with the stream, to run with the multitude, though it be into the gulf of sin and misery. It is very rare to find one walking in the narrow way, and keeping himself within those bounds and limits wherewith it is inclosed; and this seems to have been the occasion of these words in the Gospel of St. Luke, where one said unto Christ, Lord, are there few that be saved?' And our Saviour answered in these words, 'Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.'1 Intimating, not only that there are few that shall be saved, but likewise that many of those who seek to be saved shall not attain it; not as if any of those who really and cordially make it their business to look after heaven, can ever miss of it; but, that many of those who presuming upon their seem
1 Luke, xiii. 23, 24.
ing obedience and good works shall think and seek that way to enter into the kingdom of God, 'shall not be able. For many will say unto me at that day,' saith he, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works? and then I will profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." And if many of those who are great professors of religion, and make a plausible show of piety in the world, shall notwithstanding come short of eternal happiness, and if out of those many which are called there are but few chosen,' we may well conclude there are but few indeed that walk in the narrow path that leads to life, in comparison of those innumerable multitudes that continually flock together in the broad way that leads to ruin and destruction. One great reason whereof is, because men generally, though they desire to go to heaven, yet will not believe it to be so hard a thing as it really is, to get thither; and therefore, setting aside the superficial performance of some few external duties, they give themselves no trouble, nor take any pains about it; as if heaven was so contemptible a thing, that it is not worth their while to look after it; or howsoever, as if it was so easy a thing to attain it, that they cannot miss it whether they look after it or no. Whereas questionless, as heaven is the greatest happiness that we are capable of, so it is the hardest matter in the world for any of us to attain it.
I say not this to discourage any one, but rather to excite and encourage all to a greater care and
diligence in the prosecution of eternal happiness, than ordinarily men seem to have. It is my hearty desire and prayer that every soul among us may live and be happy for ever; but that we can never be, unless we be serious, earnest and constant in looking after it, more than after all things in the world besides. And therefore it is that I have endeavoured to convince men that it is not so easy a thing as they make it, to go to heaven, the path being so exceeding narrow that leads unto it; which I hope by this time we are all persuaded of, so as to be resolved within ourselves to play no longer with religion, but to set upon it in good earnest, so as to make it not only our great, but our only business and design in this world to prepare for another, and to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, and by consequence to walk in that narrow way of true piety and virtue that leads to heaven, without going aside into the vices on either hand; or howsoever to use the utmost of our endeavour to observe the rules which Christ hath prescribed us, in order to our living with him for ever. And, oh! that I knew what words to take unto myself, and what arguments to use, whereby to prevail with every soul of us to make it our business to get to heaven; and by consequence to walk directly in the narrow way, and through the strait gate that leads unto it. What influence or effect they may have upon the readers, I know not; howsoever I shall endeavour to present them with such considerations, as I hope, by the blessing of God, and the assistance of his grace may be so forcible and prevalent upon them, if seriously weighed, that they should not, methinks, be able to resist them.
Let us consider therefore, in the first place, that though it be never so hard to get to heaven, yet it is possible; and though there be but few that come thither, yet there are some; and why may not you and I be in the number of those few as well as others? There are many perfect and glorious saints in heaven at this moment, which once were sinful creatures upon earth as we now are; but it seems the way thither was not so narrow but they could walk in it, nor the gate so strait but they could pass through it; and why may not we as well as they? We have the same natures whereby we are capable of happiness as they had; we have the same Scriptures to direct us to it as they had; we have the same promises of assistance as they had; we have the same Saviour as they had, and why then may we not get to the same place where they are? Is the way more narrow, and the gate more strait to us than it was to them? No, surely, it is every way the same. Why then should we despair of ever attaining everlasting glory, seeing we are as capable of it as any one who hath yet attained it? It is true, if no mortal men had ever got to heaven, or God had said none ever can get thither, then indeed it would be in vain in us to expect it, or to use any means to attain it but seeing many of our brethren are already there, and many more will follow after them, and we are as capable of coming to them as any other, the straitness of the gate, the narrowness of the way, or the difficulty of getting thither, should never discourage us from endeavouring after it, no more than it did them, but rather make us more diligent in the prosecution of it: especially considering, in the next place, that we are not only as yet in a capa