« PreviousContinue »
fhould every Morning and Evening at least, recommend our felves to God, and befeech him to defend us against all thofe Terrors and Allurements which either the Devil or our own Lufts fhall propofe to withdraw us from our good Refolution. And if upon all these preparatory Exercises of our Faith, Confideration, &c. it was at first neceffary for us to enter into a folemn Refolution, it will be no less necessary that with the fame continued Preparations we should frequently iterate and renew it; efpecially at first, till the Strength of our bad Inclinations is in fome meafure broken and abated. Now we fhould take care to go every day out of our Chambers fresh armed, as men that expect an Enemy at the Threshold; and not to trust our weak Souls among the Temptations of the World till we have firft chained up our Inclinations with new Vows of fidelity. So that you fee the Duties of our Entrance into the Chriftian Warfare are not fo peculiar to that State, but that they are alfo to be practifed in the Courfe and Progreß
But then befides thefe, there are fundry others that are neceffary to our fuccefsful Progress therein. All which I fhall reduce to thefe following Heads:
1. That we take care to arm our felves with Patience and Courage to undergo and encounter the Trouble and Difficulty of it.
2. That we propose to our felves the most excellent Examples.
3. That we apply our felves to our Spiritual Guides for Direction.
4. That we be very curious of our Aims and Intentions.
5. That we should poffefs our minds with a lively Senfe and awful Apprehenfion of Gods Prefence with, and Inspection over us.
6. That we frequently examine and review our own Actions.
7. That we be very watchful and circumspect in the Conduct and Management of our felves.
8. That we should betake our felves to fome honeft Calling, and behave our felves diligently and industriously therein.
9. That we fhould endeavour after a chearful Frame of Spirit.
10. That we should maintain in our minds a conftant Senfe and Expectation of Heaven.
11. That we fhould live in the conftant use of the external Ordinances and Inftitutions of our Religion.
I. To the Courfe and Progreß of our Christian Warfare, it is neceffary that we arm our felves with Patience and Courage to undergo and encounter the Troubles and Difficulties of it. For fo we are commanded to be strong in the Lord, Ephef. vi. 10. and to be strong in the grace which is in Chrift Jefus, 2 Tim. ii. 1. that is, to fortifie our felves with the Grace of God and the Motives of Religion against all thofe Hardships and Oppofitions which may rife up against us in our March to Heaven; for we are affured before-hand that we have need of patience that after we have done the will of God we may receive the Promife,Heb.x.36.and therefore we are bid to strengthen our felves with all patience and long-fuffering with joyfulneß, Col. i. 11.
and to run with patience the race that is fet before us,
Heb. xii. 1.
For though it is certain that when we have well and wifely refolved, the greatest Difficulty of our fpiritual Warfare is over, yet it cannot be diffembled that even when this is performed, and we proceed from hence to Execution, there will, at firft efpecially, arife fuch Difficulties and Oppofitions in our way as will fufficiently try our Courage and Patience. And though if when we were forming our Refolution we confidered the whole matter, we could not but forefee great Difficulties in the Execution of it, and be very fenfible what ftrong Inclinations from within and Temptations from without we were to ftruggle and contend with; yet alas the Difficulties of all Undertakings are ufually much lefs in our Forefight, than in our Senfe and Experience of them. For while they are in our Forefight we have only the Notions and Ideas of them to encounter, and thefe being not fo ftubborn as the things themselves are much more easily conquered by us. So that when instead of our own eafie and compliant Notions we come to contend with the Difficulties themselves, we very often find the Face of things quite changed, and thofe Difficulties which did fo easily fubmit to our Apprehenfions, do many times make an obftinate Refiftance to our Endeavours. And thus many times it is in the matter in hand. So that when we are fore-casting the Difficulties of Religion in our Minds, we must always allow for the Distance of them which ufually leffens their Appearance, and conclude with our felves that when we are actually ingaged with them we find them
much more ftiff and incompliant to our Endeavours than they are now to our Thoughts; and accordingly prepare and arm our felves against them. For when from confidering we proceed to encounter them, we must expect to find that to discourse and execute are things of a widely different nature; and that thofe Difficulties which we fo eafily vanquished in our thoughts and Difcourfes, will when we are actually contending with them put us to a much harder Trial of our Valour and Conftancy than we were aware of.
For if we fhould have nothing but our own bad Inclinations and the Ordinary Temptations of the World to struggle with, yet even these we shall find fufficient to exercise our utmost Patience and Conftancy. For we must not expect that our bad Inclinations, efpecially after they have been pampered and improved by a long and frequent Repetition of forbidden Enjoyments, will be prefently fubdued and mortified, when there are fo many Temptations all around us continually exciting and provoking them. No, you may be affured they will Struggle for their lives before they give up the Gholt, and if they are deeply radicated, will not be torn from their Roots without a great deal of Time and Labour. So that unless you have a great ftock of Patience and Courage to endure and outftand their tedious Refiftances to your pious Endeavours, and to deny them thofe vicious fatisfactions which they feed and live upon, till you have starved them out; you will quickly be weary of contending with them, and rather chufe to yield them their Defires, than be plagued with their reftlefs Importunities.
But then befides thefe ordinary Difficulties of denying your finful Defires and Inclinations, it may be your Lot to take up the Croß too, and to follow your Saviour through a dark Lane of Sufferings and Perfecutions; and then you will need a world of Patience and Courage to undergo all that Shame and Reproach, Loß and Pain, Fear and Suffering, through which you must fight your way to Heaven if ever you come there. Since therefore this may happen to ye, and is not altogether unlikely, it concerns ye, as ye hope for Heaven, to fore-arm and prepare your felves against it. So that our Chriftian Warfare expofing us, as it doth, to fo many certain and probable Difficulties, it is not without reafon that the Apostle exhorts us to be fredfaft and immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forafmuch as we know that our labour shall not be in vain in the Lord.
II. To the Courfe and Progress of our Chriftian Warfare it is neceffary that we propofe to our felves 'the most excellent Examples. For experience tells us, that good Example hath a stronger Influence upon men than good Precepts or Connfels, and the reafon is plain, because he that only gives others good Advices or Inftructions doth not give them. that Security that he believes himself, as he that feconds his Counsel with his own Example. For they who are inftructed, do in a great measure depend upon the Judgment and Authority of their Teachers, and therefore must have a reasonable Security that their Teachers do believe themfelves before they will be induced to believe and comply with what they are taught; and fuch a Security