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(4.) Far be it from us, to think this union of the hearts of God's Saints upon earth can be idle and ineffectual : but, wherever it is, it puts forth itself in a like-affectedness of disposition, into an improvement of gifts, into a communication of outward blessings, to the benefit of that happy consociation.
We cannot be single in our affections, if we be limbs of a Christian community. What member of the body can complain, so as the rest shall not feel it ? even the head and heart are in pain, when a joint of the least toe suffers. No Christian can be afflicted alone. It is not St. Paul's case only ; Who is weak, and I am not wcak? Who is offended, and I burn not ? 2 Cor. xi. 29. Our shoulders are not our own: we must bear one anothers' burdens ; Gal. vi. 2. There is a better kind of spiritual good-fellowship in all the Saints of God: they hate a propriety of passions : Rejoice with them, that rejoice ; and weep with them, that weep; Rom. xij. 15.
Their affections are not more communicative, than their gifts and graces. Those, as they are bestowed with an intuition of the cominon good, so they are improvided. Wherefore hath this man quickness of wit; that man, depth of judgment : this, heat of zeal; that, power of elocution : this, skill; that, experience: this, authority ; that, strength : but that all should be laid together, for the raising of the common stock ? How rich, therefore, is every Christian soul, that is not only furnished with its own graces, but hath a special interest in all the excellent gifts of all the most eminent servants of God through the whole world ! Surely, he cannot be poor, while there is any spiritual wealth in the Church of God upon earth.
Neither are or can these gifts be in the danger of concealment : they are still put forth for the public advantage. As, therefore, no true Christian is his own man; so he freely lays out himself by Example, by Admonition, by Exhortation, by Consolation, by Prayer, for the universal benefit of all his fellow-members.
By Example: which is not a little winning and prevalent: Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works ; and glorify your Father, which is in heaven, saith our Saviour, in his Sermon upon the Mount; Matt. v. 16: and his great Apostle seconds his charge to his Philippians ; That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life; Phil. ii. 15, 16. Lo, the world sits in darkness; and, either stirs not, or moves with danger: good example is a light to their feet; which directs them to walk in the ways of God, without erring, without stumbling; so as the good man's actions are so many copies for novices to take out, no less instructive than the wisest men's precepts.
By Admonition: The sinner is in danger of drowning : seasonable admonition is a band reached out, that lays hold on him now sinking, and draw's him up to the shore. The sipner is already in the fire: seasonable admonition snatches him out from the ever
PRACTICAL WORKS. lasting burnings; Jude 23. The charitable Christian may not forbear this (ofttimes thankless, but) always necessary and profitable duty: Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart : thou shalt, in any wise, rebuke thy neighbour; and not suffer sin upon him ; Lev. xix. 17.
By Exhortation: The fire of God's Spirit within us is subject to many damps, and dangers of quenching: seasonable exhortation blows it up; and quickens those sparks of good motions, to a perfect fame. Even the best of us lies open to a certain deadness and obduredness of heart : seasonable exhortation shakes off this peril; and keeps the heart in a holy tenderness, and whether awful or cheerful disposition : Exhort one another daily, while it is called to-day ; lest any of you be hardened, through the deceitfulness of sin ; Heb. iii. 13.
By Consolation : We are all naturally subject to droop under the pressure of afflictions: seasonable comforts lift and stay us upIt is a sad complaint, that the Church makes in the Lamentations; They have heard that I sigh: there is none to comfort me ; Lam. i. 21: and David sets the same mournful ditty upon his Shoshannim; Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness : and I looked for some to take pity, and there was none ; and for comforters, but I found none, Ps. Ixix. 20. Wherefore hath God given to men the tongue of the learned, but that they might know to speak a word in season to him that is weary? Is. I. 4. That they may strengthen the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees; and say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not? Is. xxxv. 3, 4. 'The charge, that our Saviour gives to Peter, holds universally : Thou, when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren; Luke xxii. 32.
By Prayer: so as each member of Christ's Church sues for all; neither can any one be shut out, from partaking the benefit of the derotions of all God's Saints upon earth. There is a certain spiritual traflic of piety, betwixt all God's children; wherein they exchange prayers with each other : not regarding number, so much as weight. Am I weak in spirit, and faint in my supplications ? I have no less share in the most fervent prayers of the holiest
suppliants, than in my own: all the vigour, that is in the most ardent hearts, supplies my defects: while there is life in their faithful devotions, I cannot go away unblessed.
Lastly, where there is a communion of inward graces and spiritual services, there must needs be much more a communication of outward and temporal good things, as just occasion requireth. Away with those dotages of Platonical or Anabaptistical Commuvities. Let proprieties be, as they ought, constantly fixed, where the laws and civil right have placed them; but, let the use of these outward blessings be managed and commanded, by the necessities of our brethren: Withhold not thy goods from the owners thereof; when it is in the power of thy hand to do it: Say not unto thy neighbour, Go, and come again to-morrow, and I will give it; when thou hast' it by thee; Prov. iii. 27, 28. These temporal things were
given us, not to engross, and hoard up superfluously ; but to disfribute and dispense: As we, therefore, have opportunity, let us do good unto all men ; especially them, who are of the household of faith ; Gal. vi. 10.
Such then is the union of God's children here on earth, both in matter of Judgment and Affection; and the beneficial Improvement of that affection, whether in spiritual gifts, or good offices, or communicating of our earthly substance. Where the heart is one, none of these can be wanting; and, where they all are, there is a happy Communion of Saints,
The union of the Saints on Earth with those in Heaven. As there is a perfect union betwixt the glorious Saints in heaven, and an union, though imperfect, betwixt the Saints on earth; so there is an union, partly perfect and partly imperfect, between THE SAINTS IN HEAVEN and THE SAINTS BELOW UPON EARTH: perfect, in respect of those glorified Saints above; imperfect, in respect of the weak returns we are able to make to them again.
Let no man think, that, because those blessed souls are out of sight far distant in another world, and we are here toiling in a vale of tears, we have therefore lost all mutual regard to each other: no; there is still, and ever will be, a secret but unfailing correspondence between heaven and earth. The present happiness of those heavenly citizens cannot have abated ought of their knowledge and charity ; but must needs have raised them to a higher pitch of both. They, therefore, who are now glorious comprehensors, cannot but, in a generality, retain the notice of the sad condition of us poor travellers here below; panting towards our rest, together with them : and, in common, wish for the happy consummation of this our weary pilgrimage, in the fruition of their glory. That they have any perspective, whereby they can see down into our particular wants, is that, which we find no ground to believe: it is enough, that they have an universal apprehension of the estate of Christ's warfaring Church upon the face of the earth ; Rev. vi. 10; and fellow-members of the same mystical body long for a perfect glorification of the whole.
As for us wretched pilgrims, that are yet left here below to tug with many difficulties, we cannot forget that better half of us, that is now triumphant in glory. Oye blessed Saints above, we honour your memories so far as we ought: we do with
praise recount your virtues : we magnify your victories : we bless God, for your happy exemption from the misery of this world, and for your estating in that blessed immortality : we imitate your holy examples : we long and pray for a happy consociation with you. We dare not raise
temples, dedicate altars, direct prayers to you: we dare not, finally, offer any thing to you, which you are ụnwilling to receive; nor put any thing upon you, which you would disclaim as prejudicial to your Creator and Redeemer. It is abundant comfort to us, that some part of us is in the fruition of that glory, whereto we, the other poor labouring part, desire and strive to aspire ; that our head and shoulders are above water, while the other limbs are yet wading through the stream.
A RECAPITULATION AND SUM OF THE WHOLE TREATISE.
up all : My son, if ever thou look for sound comfort on earth and salvation in heaven, unglue thyself from the world and the vanities of it: put thyself upon thy Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ: leave not, till thou findest thyself firmly united to him; so as thou art become a limb of that body whereof he is head, a spouse of that husband, a branch of that stem, a stone laid upon that foundation. Look not, therefore, for any blessing out of him ; and in, and by, and from him, look for all blessings. Let him bé thy life; and wish not to live longer than thou art quickened by
Find him thy Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification, Redemption; thy Riches, thy Strength, thy Glory.
Apply unto thyself all that thy Saviour is or hath done *. Wouldst thou have the graces of God's Spirit ? fetch them from his anointing. Wouldst thou have power against spiritual enemies? fetch it from his sovereignty. Wouldst thou have redemption ? fetch it from his passion. Wouldst thou have absolution ? fetch it from his perfect innocence: freedom from the curse? fetch it from his cross : satisfaction ? fetch it from his sacrifice: cleansing from sin? fetch it from his blood : mortification? fetch it from his grave: newness of life? fetch it from his resurrection : right to heaven? fetch it from his purchase: audience in all thy suits ? fetch it from his intercession. Wouldst thou have salvation ? fetch it from his session at the right-hand of Majesty. Wouldst thou have all ? fetch it from him who is one Lord, one God and Father of all, who is above all, through all, and in all; Eph. iv. 5, 6.
And, as thy faith shall thus interest thee in Christ, thy Head; so let thy charity unite thee to his body the Church, both in earth and heaven. Hold ever an inviolable communion, with that holy and blessed fraternity. Sever not thyself from it, either in judgment or affection. Make account there is not one of God's Saints upon earth, but hath a propriety in thee; and thou mayest challenge the same in each of them : so as thou canst not but be sensible of their passions; and be freely communicative of all thy graces and all serviceable offices, by example, admonition, exhortation, consolation, prayer, beneficence, for the good of that sacred community.
* Nier. Zanch. Loc. Com. 8. de Symbolo Spost.
And, when thou raisest up thine eyes to heaven, think of that glorious society of blessed Saints who are gone before thee; and are now there triumphing and reigning, in eternal and incomprehensible glory. Bless God for them, and wish thyself with them. Tread in their holy steps; and be ambitious of that crown of glory and immortality, which thou seest shining on their heads.