« PreviousContinue »
savingly and sincerely); 1 John ii. 15. He that loveth house or lands better than Christ, cannot be his disciple. I beseech you therefore when God hides his face, search diligently, and search again and again, lest the world should encroach on Christ's interest in your heart. If it should be so, can you wonder if Christ seem to withdraw, when you begin to set so light by him, as to value dung and earth in any comparison with himself? May he not well say to you, • If
f you set so much by the world, take it, and see what it will do for you? If you can spare me better than your wealth, you shall be without me.' Must not the Lord Jesus needs take it exceedingly unkind, that after all his love and bloodshed, and pains with your heart, and seals of his kindness, and discoveries of his amiableness, and the treasures of his kingdom, you should now so much forget and slight him, to set up the world in any comparison with him ? And to give such loving entertainment to his enemy? And look so kindly on a competitor? Is his glory worth no more than so? And hath he deserved no better at your hands? Again, therefore, do I beseech you to be afraid, lest you should be guilty of this sin. Examine whether the thoughts of the world grow not sweeter to you, and the thoughts of God and glory more unwelcome and unpleasing; whether you have not an eagerness after a fuller estate, and too keen an edge upon your desires after riches, or at least after a fuller portion and provision for your children: or after better accommodations and contentments in house, goods, or other worldly things? Do not worldly hopes delight you too much? And much more your worldly possessions ? Are you not too busily contriving how to be richer, forgetting God's words, 1 Tim. vi, 8,9. 17. Doth not the world eat out the life of your duties, that when you should be serious with God, you have left your heart behind you, and drowned your affections in things below? Doth not your soul stick so fast in this mud and clay, that you can scarce stir it Godward in prayer or heavenly meditation? Do not you cut short duties in your family and in secret, if not frequently omit them, that so you may be again at your worldly business? Or do you not customarily hurry them over, because the world will not allow you leisure to be serious, and so you have no time to deal in good earnest with Christ or your soul? Do not your very speeches of Christ
and heaven grow few and strange, because the world must first be served? When you see your brother have need, do you not shut up the bowels of your compassions from him? Doth not the love of the world make you hard to your servants, hard to those you buy and sell with ? And doth it not encroach much on the Lord's own day? Look after this earthly vice in all these discoveries, search for your enemy in each of these corners. And if you find that this is indeed your case, you need not much wonder if Christ and
you be stranger than heretofore. If this earth get between your heart and the sun of life, no wonder if all your comforts are in an eclipse, seeing your light is but as the moon's, a borrowed light. And you must be the more careful in searching after this sin, both because it is certain that all men have too much of it, and because it is of so dangerous a nature, that should it prevail it would destroy ; for covetousness is idolatry, and among all the heinous sins that the godly have fallen into, look into the Scripture, and tell me how many of them you find charged with covetousness. And also, because it is a blinding, befooling sin, not only drawing old men, and those that have no children, and rich men, that have no need to pursue these things as madly as others, but also hiding itself from their eyes, that most that are guilty of it will not know it: though, alas ! if they were but willing, it were very easy to know it. But the power
of the sin doth so set to work their wits to find excuses and fair names and titles for to cloke it, that many delude others by it, and more delude themselves, but none can delude God. The case of some professors of godliness that I have known, is very lamentable on this point, who being generally noted for a dangerous measure of worldliness, by most that know them, could yet never be brought to acknowledge it in themselves. Nay, by the excellency of their outward duties and discourse, and the strength of their wits, (alas ! ill employed,) and by their great ability of speech, to put a fair gloss on the foulest of their actions, they have gone on so smoothly and plausibly in their worldliness, that though most accused them of it behind their backs, yet no man knew how to fasten any thing on them. By which means they were hindered from repentance and recovery.
In this sad case, though it be God's course very often to
let hypocrites and other enemies go on and prosper, because they have their portion in this life, and the reckoning is to come; yet I have oft observed, that for God's own people, or those that he means to make his people by their recovery, God useth to cross them in their worldly desires and designs. Perhaps he may let them thrive awhile, and congratulate the prosperity of their flesh, but at last he breaks in suddenly on their wealth, and scatters it abroad, or addeth some cross to it, that embitters all to them, and then asketh them, Where is now your idol?' And then they begin to see their folly. If you do dote on any thing below, to the neglecting of God, he will make a rod for you of that very thing you dote upon, and by it will he scourge you home to himself.
3. The third great heart-sin which I would have you jealous of, is sensuality or voluptuousness, or pleasing the senses inordinately. The two former are in this the more mortal sins, in that they carry more of the understanding and will with them, and make reason itself to be serviceable to them in their workings ; whereas sensuality is more in the flesh and passion, and hath ofttimes less assistance of reason or consent of the will. Yet is the will tainted with sensual inclinations, and both reason and will are at the best guilty of connivance, and not exercising their authority over the sensual part. But in this sensuality is the more dangerous vice, in that it hath so strong and inseparable a seat as our sensual appetite ; and in that it acteth so violently and ragingly as it doth; so that it beareth down a weak opposition of reason and will, and carrieth us on blindfold, and transformeth us into brutes. I will not here put the question concerning the gross acting of this sin (of that anon), but I would have you very jealous of a sensual disposition. When a man cannot deny his appetite what it would have; or at least, covetousness can do more in restraining it than conscience; when a man cannot make a covenant with his eyes, but must gaze on every alluring object; when the flesh draws to forbidden pleasures, in meats, drinks, apparel, recreations, lasciviousness, and all the considerations of reason cannot restrain it; this is a sad case, and God may well give over such to sadness of heart. If we walk so pleasingly to the flesh, God will walk more disa pleasingly to us.
And as you should be jealous of these great heart transgressions, so should you be of particular, actual sins. Examine whether the jealous eye of God see not something that much offendeth him, and causeth your heaviness. I will not enlarge so far as to mind you of the particular sins that you should look after, seeing it must be all, and dience must be universal. Only one I will give you a hint of. I have observed God sometimes shew himself most displeased and angry to those Christians, who have the least tenderness and compassion towards the infirmities of others. He that hath made the forgiving others a necessary condition of God's forgiving us, will surely withdraw the sense of our forgiveness, when we withdraw our forgiveness and compassion to men. He that casts the unmerciful servant into hell, who takes his fellow servant by the throat, will threaten us, and frown upon us, if we come but near it. “ Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
He shall have judgment without mercy that sheweth no mercy;" James ii. 13. Study well, Rom. xiv. xv. Gal. vi., which the proud, censorious, self-esteeming professors of this age have studied so little, and will not understand. When we deal sourly and churlishly with our weak brethren, and instead of winning an offender by love, we will vilify him, and disdain him, and say, 'How can such a man have any grace? And will think and speak hardly of those that do but cherish any hopes that he may be gracious, or speak of him with tenderness and compassion; no wonder if God
1 force the consciences of such persons to deal as churlishly and sourly with them, and to clamour against them, and say,
How canst thou have any true grace, who hast such sins as these?' When our Lord himself dealt away so tenderly with sinners, that it gave occasion to the slanderous Pharisees to say, he was a friend of Publicans and sinners ;" (and so he was, even their greatest friend). And his command to us is, “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves : let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification: for even Christ pleased not himself;" Rom. xv. 1-3. And Gal. vi. 1, 2. Brethren, if a man be overtaken with a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”
When people can bear with almost no infirmity in a neighbour, in a servant, or in their nearest friends, but will make the worst of every fault, no wonder if God makė such feel their dealings with others, by his dealings with them. Had such that love to their poorest brethren, which thinketh no evil, and speaketh not evil, which “suffereth long and is kind, envieth not, vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, behaveth not itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things ;" 1 Cor. xiii. 4,5.7. Had we more of this love, which covereth a multitude of infirmities, God would cover our infirmities the more, and tell us of them, and trouble us for them the less.
To this sin I may add another, which is scarcely another, but partly the same with this, and partly its immediate ef
and that is, unpeaceableness and unquietness with those about us; this commonly occasioneth God to make us as unpeaceable and unquiet in ourselves. When people are so froward, and peevish, and troublesome, that few can live in peace with them, either in family or neighbourhood, except those that have little to do with them, or those that can humour them in all things, and have an extraordinary skill in smooth speaking, flattering or man-pleasing, so that neighbours, servants, children, and sometimes their own yoke-fellows, must be gone from them, and may not abide near them, as a man gets out of the way from a wild beast or a mad dog, or avoideth the flames of a raging fire ; is it any wonder if God give these people as little peace in their own spirits, as they give to others? When people are so hard to be pleased, that nobody about them or near them can tell how to fit their humours; neighbours cannot please them, servants cannot please them, husband or wife cannot please each other; every word is spoke amiss, and every thing done amiss to them ; what wonder if God seem hard to be pleased, and as frequently offended with them? Especially if their unpeaceableness trouble the church, and in their turbulency and self-conceitedness, they break the peace thereof.
Thus I have told you what sins you must look after when you find your peace broken, and your conscience disquieted; search carefully lest some iniquity lie at the root. Some I know will think that it is an unseasonable discourse to a troubled conscience, to mind them so much of their sins,