« PreviousContinue »
Thus the fiercest element is repressed by the feebleft things: thou feest also how full of wrath and fury wicked men are, how they rage like the troubled fea, and threaten to overwhelm thee, and all the Lord's inheritance : and then the floods of ungodly men make thee afraid ; yet are they restrained by an invisible, gracious hand, that they cannot execute their purpole, nor perform their enterprize. How full of devils and devilized men is this lower world? Yet, in the midst of them all, hast thou hitherto been preserved. O! my soul, admire and adore that glorious power of God, by which thou art kept unto salvation. Is not the preservation of a saint in the midst of such hofts of enemies as great a miracle, though not so sensible as the preservation of those three noble Jews in the midst of the fiery furnace, or Daniel in the den of lions? For there is as strong a propension in Satan and wicked men, to destroy the faints, as in the fire to burn, or a lion to devour. O! then, let me cheerfully address myself to the faithful discharge of my duty, and stand no longer in a slavish fear of creatures, who can have no power against me but what is given them from above, John xix. 11. And no more shall be given than shall turn to the glory of God, Pfal. lxxvi. 10. and the advantage of my soul, Rom. viii. 28.
Bears, wolves, and lions, range and seek their prey;
care, whose eyes do never close.
OBSERVATION. F how great use and necessity is the compass to seamen! though
they can coast a little way by the shore, yet they dare not ven
ture far into the ocean without it : it is their guide, and directs and fapes their course for them: and if by the violence of wind and weather they are driven beside their due course, yet by the help of this they are reduced, and brought to rights again. It is wonderful to confider, how, by the help of this guide, they can run in a direct line many hundred leagues, and at lait fall right with the smalleft island; which is in the ocean comparatively, but as the head of a Imall pin upon a table.,
APPLICATION. What the compass and all other mathematical inftruments are to the navigator, that and much more is the word of God to us in our course to heaven. This is our compass to iteer our course by, and it is truly touched; he that orders his conversation by it shall fafely arrive in heaven at last. Gal. vi. 16. “ As many as walk according to this « rule, peace be on them and mercy.”
This word is as neceffary to us in our way to glory, as a lamp or lanthorn is in a dark night, Pfal. cxix. 105. that is a light shining in a dark place, till the day dawn, and the day-star arise in our hearts, 2 Pet i. 19. If any that profefs to know it and own it as a rule, miss heaven at laft, let them not blame the word for milguiding them, but their own negligent and deceitful hearts, that thufte in and out, and shape not their course and conversation according to its prefcriptions.
What blame can you lay upon the compass, if you steer not exactly by it? How many are there, that neglecting this rule, will coaft it to heaven by their own reason? No wonder such fall short, and perih in the way. This is a faithful guide, and brings all that follow it to a blefled end ; “ Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and after“ wards receive me to glory.” Pfal. Ixxiii. 24. The whole hundred and nineteenth psalm is fpent in commendation of its tranfcendent excellency and usefulness. Luther profetied that he prized it fo highly, that he would not take the whole world in exchange for one leaf of it. Lay but this rule before you, and walk accurately by it, and you cannot be out of your way to heaven, Pfalm cxix. 30. “ I « have chofen the way of truth (or the true way ;) thy judgment “ have I laid before me.” Some indeed have opened their detracting blafphemous mouilis against it; as Julian, that vile apostate, who feared not to say, there was as good matter in Phocillides as in Solomon, in Pindarus's odes, as in David's pralms.
And the papists generally flight it, making it a lame, imperfect rule; yea, making their own traditions the touchstone of doctrines, and foundation of faith. Montanus tells us, that although the apostle would have fermons and service celebrated in a known tongue, yet the church, for very good cause, hath otherwise ordered it. Gilford called it the mother of herefies. Bonner's chaplain judged it worthy to be burnt as a strange doctrine. They set up their inventions above it, and frequently come in with a non objlante against Christ's inftitu.
tions. And thus do they make it void, or, as the word axupurali, fignifies, Matth. xv. 6. unlord it, and take away its authority as a rule. But those that have thus slighted it, and followed the by-paths unto which their corrupt hearts have led them, they take not hold of the paths of life, and are now in the depths of hell. All other lights to which men pretend, in the neglect of this, are but falfe fires that will lead men into the pits and bogs of destruction at last.
REFLECTION. And is thy word a compass, to direct my course to glory? O where am I then like to arrive at laft, that in all my course have neglected it, and steered according to the counsel of my own heart ! Lord, I have not made thy word the man of my council, but consulted with flesh and blood; I have not enquired at this oracle, nor studied it, and made it the guide of iny way, but walked after the fight of my eyes, and the lust of my heart. Whither, Lord ! can I come at last, but to hell, after this way of reckoning? Some have flighted thy word professedly, and I have flighted it practically. I have a poor soul embarked for eternity, it is now floating on a dangerous ocean, rocks and sands on every fide, and I go-a-drift before every wind of temptation, and know not where I am. Ah, Lord ! convince me of the danger of this condition. O convince me of my ignorance in thy word, and the fatal consequence and issue thereof. Lord, let me now resolve to study, prize, and obey it; hide it in my heart, that I may not fin against it. Open my understanding, that I may understand the scriptures; open my heart to entertain it in love. Ó thou that haft been fo gracious to give a perfect rule, give me also a perfect heart to walk by that rule to glory!
Of ships are under fail. Here you shall meet
O let me understand, and be so wise,
CH A P. XVII.
Look as the fea, by turns, doth ebb and flow,
flowings; no sooner is it high water, but it begins to ebb again, and leave the shore naked and dry, which but a little before it covered and overflowed. And as its tides, fo also its waves are the emblem of inconstancy, still rolling and tumbling, this way and that, never fixed and quiet. Inftabilis unda : as fickle as a wave, is common, to a proverb, See Jam. i. 6. “ He that wavereth is like a wave of the sea « driven with the wind, and toffed.” So Ifà. lvii. 20. “ It cannot « rest.”
APPLICATION. Thus mutable and inconftant are all outward things, there is no depending on them : nothing of any substance, or any folid confiftence in them, 1 Cor. vii. 3i. “ The fashion of this world paffeth “ away.” It is an high point of folly to depend upon such vanities : Prov, xxiii. 5. “Why wilt thou set (or, as it is in the Hebrew, cause) “ thine eyes to fly upon that which is not ? For riches certainly « make themselves wings, and fly away, as an eagle towards hea“ ven." In flying to us (faith Augustine) they have, alas vix quidem passerinas, scarce a sparrow's wings; but in flying from us, wings as an eagle. And those wings they are said to make to themselves; i.e. the cause of its transitoriness is in itself; the creature is subjected to vanity by fin; they are fweet flowers, but withered presently, James i. 10. “ As the flower of the grass, so fhall the rich man fade « away." The man is like the stalk or grass, his riches are the flower of the grass; his glory and outward beauty, the stalk, is soon withered, but the flower much sooner. This is either withered upon, or blown off from it, while the stalk abides. Many a man outlives bis estate and honour, and stands in the world as a bare dry stalk in the field, whose flower, beauty, and bravery are gone : one puff of wind blows it away, one churlish easterly blast shrivels it up, 1 Pet. iv. 24.
How mad a thing is it, then, for any man to be lifted up in pride, upon such a vanity as this is ! to build so lofty and over-jetting a roof upon fuch a feeble, tottering foundation ! We have seen meadows full of such curious flowers, mown down and withered ; men of great ef. tates impoverished suddenly; and when, like a meadow that is mown, they have begun to recover themselves again, (as the phrase is) the Lord hath fent“ grafhoppers in the beginning of the shooting up of “ the latter growth,” Amos vii. 2. Just as the grafhoppers and other creatures, devour the second tender herbage as foon as the field begins to recover its verdure ; fo men, after they have been denuded and blasted by Providence, they begin after a while to flourith again ; but then comes fome new affliction and blasts all. None have more frequent experience of this than you that are merchants and seamen, whose estates are floating; and yet such as have had the highest security in the eye of reason, have, notwithstanding, experienced the vanity of these things. Henry IV. a potent prince was reduced to such a low ebb, that he petitioned for a prebend's place in the church of Spire. Gallimer, king of the Vandals, was brought fo low, that he sent to his friends for a spunge, a loaf of bread, and an barp: a spunge to dry up his tears, a loaf of bread to maintain his life, and an harp to folace bin in his misery. The story of Bellisarius is very affecting : he was a man famous in his time, general of an army, yet having his eyes put out, and stripped of all earthly comforts, was led about crying, Date obolum Bellifario. Give one penny to poor Bellifarius. Initances in hiftory of this kind are infinite. Men of the greatest estates and honours have nevertheless become the very ludibria fortuna, as one speaks, the very fcorn of fortune.
Yea, and not only wicked men that have gotten their estates by rapine and oppression, have lived to see them thus scattered by Providence : but sometimes godly men have had their estates, how juftly foever acquired, thus scattered by providence also. Whoever had an eftate, better gotten, better bottomed, or better managed, than Job ? yet all was overthrown and swept away in a moment; though in mercy to him, as the issue demonstrated.
Oh then! what a vanity is it to set the heart, and let out the affections on them ! you can never depend too much 'upon God, nor too little upon the creature, 1 Tim. vi. 17. “Charge them that are rich “ in this world, that they be not high-minded and trust in uncertain " riches."
REFLECTION. Are all earthly things thus transitory and vain? Then what a reproach and shame is it to me, that the men of this world should be more industrious and eager in the prosecution of such vanities, than Vol. V. No. 42.