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Some waveringly agree to him, and hold faintly by his skirt; and when they feel the cold water, or are near the deep, or are weary of holding, they lose him; either turning back, or perishing suddenly in the gulf. The children are of the same mind with the rest; but he is resolved to lose none of them, and therefore he chargeth them to come with him, and tells them fully what a welcome they shall have with their father; and ceaseth not his importunity till he persuade them to consent. Some of them say, 'How shall we ever get over the river ? we shall be drowned by the way.' He tells them, ‘I will carry you safe over, so you will but hold fast by me. Never fear, I warrant you.' They all lay hold on him, and venture in with him. When they are in the midst some are afraid, and cry out, 'We shall be drowned.' These he encourageth, and bids them trust him; hold fast, and fear not. Others, when they hear these words, that they need not fear, they grow so bold and utterly secure, as to lose their hold. To these he speaketh in other language, and chargeth them to hold fast by him ; for if they lose their hold, they will fall into the bottom, and if they stick not to him they will be drowned. Some of them upon this warning hold fast; others are so boldly confident of his skill, and good will, and promise, that they forget or value not his warning and threatening, but lose their hold. Some through laziness and weariness do the like. Whereupon he lets them sink till they are almost drowned, and cry out for help, “Save us or we perish,” and think they are all lost; and then he layeth hold of them and fetcheth them up again, and chideth them for their bold folly, and biddeth them look better to themselves, and hold faster by him hereafter, if they love themselves. Some at last, through mere weariness and weakness, before they can reach the bank, cry out,
O I am tired, I faint, I shall never hold fast till I reach the shore, I shall be drowned.' These he comforteth, and gives them cordials, and holdeth them by the hand, and bids them Despair not. Do your best. Hold fast, and I will
Ꭰ help you. And so he brings them all safe to the haven. This king is God; heaven is his habitation; the sub
: jects are all men; the sons, who are part of the subjects, are the elect; the rest are the non-elect; the river or sea is the passage of this life. The further side is all men's natural, sinful distance and separation from God and happiness
the ice that bears them, is this frail life of pleasures, profits, and honours, which delight the flesh; the depth unfrozen is hell; he that enticeth them thither is the devil. The eldest son that is sent to bring them over, is Jesus Christ; his commission and undertaking is, to help all over that refuse not his help ; and to see that the elect be infallibly recovered and saved. Do I need to go over the other particulars ? I know you see my meaning in them all : especially that which I aim at is this ; that as Paul had a promise of the life of all that were with him in the ship, and yet when some would have gone out, he told them, “ Except these abide in the ship ye cannot be saved,” Acts xxvii. 31. (so that he makes their apprehension of danger in a possibility of being drowned, to be the means of detaining them in the ship till they came all safe to land) so Jesus Christ who will infallibly save all his elect (they being given him by his Father to be infallibly saved) will do it by causing them to hold fast by him, through all the troubles, and labours, and temptations of this tumultuous, tempestuous world, and that till they come to land ; and the apprehension of their dangers shall be his means to make them hold fast; yet is not their safety principally in themselves, but in him : nor is it their holding fast by him that is the chief cause of their difference from those that perish, but that is his love and resolution to save them. And therefore when they do let go their hold, he will not so lose them, but will fetch them up again; only he will not bring them through this sea of danger as you would draw a block through the water ; but as men that must hold fast, and be commanded and threatened to that end ; and therefore when they lose their hold, it is the fear of drowning which they felt themselves near, which shall cause them to hold faster the next time ; and this must needs be the fear of a possible danger. And for those that perish, they have none to blame but themselves. They perish not for want of a Saviour, but because they would not lay hold on him, and follow him through the tempests and waves of trial. Nor can they quarrel at him because he did more for others, and did not as much for them as long as he offered them so sufficient help, that only their own wilful refusal was their ruin, and their perdition was of themselves.
I conclude therefore, that seeing our salvation is laid by
God, upon our faithful holding fast to Christ through all trials and difficulties, and our holy fear is the means of our holding fast (Christ being still the principal cause of our safety), therefore never look for such a certainty of salvation, as shall put you above such fears and moderated apprehensions of danger; for then it is ten to one you will lose your hold. You read in Scripture very many warnings to take heed lest we fall, and threatenings to those that do fall away and draw back. What are all these for, but to excite in us those moderate fears, and cares, and holy diligence, which may prevent our falling away? And remember this, that there can be no such holy fears, and cares, and diligence, where there is no danger or possibility of falling away; for there can be no act without its proper object; and the object of fear is a possible hurt, at least in the apprehension of him that feareth it. No man can fear the evil which he knoweth to be impossible.
Direct. XXI. The next advice which I must give you, is this, ' Be thankful if you can but reach to a settled peace, and composure of your mind, and lay not too much on the high raptures and feelings of comfort which some do possess : and if ever you enjoy such feeling joys, expect not that they should be either long or often.'
It is the cause of miserable languishing to many a poor soul, to have such importunate expectations of such passionate joys, that they think without these they have no true comfort at all ; no witness of the Spirit, no spirit of adoption, no joy in the Holy Ghost. Some think that others have much of this, though they have not, and therefore they torment themselves because it is not with them as with others; when, alas, they little know how it goes with others. Some taste of such raptures sometimes themselves have had, and therefore when they are gone, they think they are forsaken, and that all grace, or peace at least is gone with them. Take heed of these expectations. And to satisfy you, let me tell you these two or three things: 1. A settled calm and peace of soul is a great mercy, and not to be undervalued as nothing. 2. The highest raptures and passionate feeling joys, are usually of most doubtful sincerity. Not that I would have any suspect the sincerity of them without cause ; but such passions are not so certain signs of grace, as the settled frame of the understanding and will ; nor can we so easily know that they are of the Spirit, and they are liable to more questioning, and have in them a greater possibility of deceit. Doubtless it is very much that fancy and melancholy, and especially a natural weakness and moveable temper will do in such cases.
Mark whether it be not mostly these three sorts of people that have or pretend to have such extraordinary raptures and feelings of joy. 1. Women and others that are most passionate. 2. Melancholy people. 3. Men that by erroneous opinions have lost almost all their understandings in their fancies, and live like men in a continual dream. Yet I doubt not but solid men have oft high joys; and more we might all have, if we did our duty. And I would have no Christian content himself with a dull quietness of spirit, but by all means possible to be much in labouring to rejoice in God and raising their souls to heavenly delights. O what lives do we lose, which we might enjoy! But my meaning is this : look at these joys and delights as duties and as mercies, but look not at them as marks of trial, so as to place more necessity in them than God hath done, or to think them to be ordinary things. If you do but feel such a high estimation of Christ and heaven, that you would not leave him for all the world, take this for your surest sign. And if you have but so much probability or hope of your interest in him, that you can think of God as one that loveth you, and can be thankful to Christ for redeeming you, and are more glad in these hopes of your interest in Christ and glory, than if you were owner of all the world ; take this for a happy.mercy, and a high consolation. Yet I mean not that your joy in Christ will be always so sensible, as for worldly things; but it will be more rational, solid and deeper at the heart. And that you may know by this, you would not for all the pleasures, honours or profits in the world, be in the same case as once you were (supposing that you were converted since you had the use of reason and memory), or at least as you see the ungodly world still lie in.
3. And let me add this: commonly those that have the highest passionate joys, have the saddest lives; for they have withal, the most passionate fears and sorrows.
Mark it, whether you find not this prove true. And it is partly from God's will in his dispensations; partly from their own necessities, who after their exaltations do usually need a prick in the flesh, and a minister of satan to buffet them, lest
they be exalted above measure; and partly, and most commonly it is from the temperature of their bodies. Weak, passionate women, of moveable spirits and strong affections, when they love, they love violently, and when they rejoice, especially in such cases, they have most sensible joys, and when any fears arise, they have most terrible sorrows. I know it is not so with all of that sex; but mark the same people that usually have the highest joys, and see whether at other times they have not the greatest troubles. This week they are as at the gates of heaven, and the next as at the doors of hell: I am sure, with many it is so.
Yet it need not be so, if Christians would but look at these high joys as duties to be endeavoured, and mercies to be valued ; but when they will needs judge of their state by them, and think that God is gone from them or forsaken them, when they have not such joys, then it leaves them in terror and amazement. Like men after a flash of lightning, that are left more sensible of the darkness. For no wise man can expect that such joys should be a Christian's ordinary state; or God should so diet us with a continual feasta It would neither suit with our health, nor the condition of this pilgrimage. Live therefore on your peace of conscience as your ordinary diet; when this is wanting, know that God appointeth you a fast for your health ; and when you have a feast of high joys, feed on it and be thankful; but when they are taken from you, gape not after them as the disciples did after Christ at his ascension ; but return thankfully to your ordinary diet of peace. And remember that these joys, which are now taken from you, may so return again. However, there is a place preparing for you, where your joys shall be full.
Direct. XXII. My next Direction is this, 'Spend more of your time and care about your duty than about your comforts; and for the exercise and increase of your graces, than
; for the discovery of them : and when you have done all that you can for assurance and comfort, you shall find that it will very much depend on your actual obedience.'
This Direction is of as great importance as any that I have yet given you; but I shall say but little of it, because I have spoke of it so fully already in my Book of Rest, Part ii: Chap. 8~11. My reasons for what I here assert are these: 1. Duty goeth in order of nature and time, before