Page images

yond our power, being proper to God the universal good, whose mercy is over all his works. But our goodness must be communicative, if we will be like God, and it must be extended and diffused as far as we can. The apostles charge is plain, and we must obey it if we will have any peace; “While you have time, do good to all men, but especially to them of the household of faith ;" Gal. vi. 10. "Cease to do evil, learn to do well, seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord, though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow, though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool;" Isa. i. 16, 17. "To do good, and to communicate, forget not; for with such sacrifices God is well pleased;" Heb. xiii. 16. "Charge them that be rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy: that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate, laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life;" 1 Tim. vi. 17-19. See Luke vi. 33–35. Mark xiv. 7. Matt. v. 44. 1 Pet. iii. 11. James iv. 17. Psalm xxxiv. 14. XXxvii. 27. xxxvi.3. xxxvii.3. “Trust in the Lord, and do good.” “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? But if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door;" Gen. iv. 7. Cornelius, thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God. In every nation he that feareth God, and worketh righteousness, is accepted of him;" Acts x. 3, 4. 34, 35. “Know you not that

3 to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey, whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? Yield yourselves unto God as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God;" Rom. vi. 13. 16. Matt. v. 16. Acts ix. 36. Eph. ii. 10. “We are created in Christ Jesus to good works, which God hath ordained that we should walk in them.” 1 Tim. ii. 10. v. 10. 25. 2 Tim. iii. 17. Tit. ii. 7. iii. 8. 14. ii. 14. “He redeemed us from all iniquity, that he might purify to himself a peculiar people zealous of good works.” 1 Pet. ii. 12. Heb. x. 24. “Let us consider one another, to provoke unto

love, and to good works.” What a multitude of such passages may you find in Scripture.

You see then how great a part of your calling and religion consisteth in doing good. Now it is not enough to make this your care now and then, or do good when it falls in your way; but you must study it, or it will not be done well. You must study which are good works, and which are they that you are called to ; and which are the best works, and to be preferred, that you choose not a less instead of a greater. God looks to be served with the best. You must study for opportunities of doing good, and of the means of succeeding and accomplishing it; and for the removing of impediments; and for the overcoming of dissuasives, and withdrawing temptations. You must know what talents God hath entrusted you with, and those you must study to do good with : whether it be time, or interest in men, or opportunity, or riches, or credit, or authority, or gifts of mind, or of body: if you have not one, you have another, and some have all.

This therefore is the thing that I would persuade you to : take yourself for God's steward; remember the time when it will be said to you, “Give account of thy stewardship; thou shalt be no longer steward.” Let it be your every day's contrivance, how to lay out your gifts, time, strength, riches or interest, to your

Master's use.

Think which way you may do most, first to promote the Gospel and the public good of the church ; and then, which way you may help towards the saving of particular men's souls; and then, which way you may better the commonwealth, and how you may do good to men's bodies, beginning with your own and those of your family, but extending your help as much further as you are able, Ask yourself every morning, Which

“ way may I this day most further my Master's business, and the good of men ? Ask yourself every night, What good '

" have I done to-day?' And labour as much as may be, to be instruments of some great and standing good, and of some public and universal good, that you may look behind you at the year's end, and at your lives' end, and see the good that you have done. A piece of bread is soon eaten, and a penny or a shilling is soon spent; but if you could win a

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

soul to God from sin, that would be a visible, everlasting good. If you could be instruments of setting up a godly minister in a congregation that want, the everlasting good of many souls might, in part, be ascribed to you. If

you could help to heal and unite a divided church, you might more rejoice to look back on the fruits of your labour, than any physician might rejoice to see his poor patient recovered to health. I have told rich men in another book, what opportunities they have to do good, if they had hearts. How easy were it with them to refresh men's bodies, and to do very much for the saving souls; to relieve the poor; to set their children to trades; to ease the oppressed. How easy to maintain two or three poor scholars at the Universities, for the service of the church. But I hear but a few that do ever the more in it, except three or four of my friends in these parts. Let me further tell you, God doth not leave it to them as an indifferent thing ; Matt. xxv. They must feed Christ in the poor, or else starve in hell themselves: they must clothe naked Christ in the poor, or be laid naked in his fiery indignation for ever. How much more diligently then must they help men's souls, and the church of Christ, as the need is greater, and the work better! Oh the blinding power of riches! Oh the easiness of man's heart to be deluded! Do rich men never think to lie rotting in the dust? Do they never' think that they must be accountable for all their riches, and for all their time, and power, and interests? Do they not know that it will comfort them at death and judgment, to hear in their reckoning, Item, so much given to such and such poor; so much to promote the Gospel ; so much to maintain poor scholars, while they study to prepare themselves for the ministry? &c. Than to hear, So much in such a feast; to entertain such gallants ; to please such noble friends ; so much at dice, at cards, at horse-races, at cock-fights; so much in excess of apparel ; and the rest to leave my posterity in the like pomp? Do they not know that it will comfort them more to hear then of their time spent in reading Scripture, secret and open prayer, instructing and examining their children and servants ; going to their poor neighbours' houses to see what they want, and to persuade them to godliness; and in being examples of eminent holiness to all; and in suppressing vice, and doing justice, than to hear of so much time

[ocr errors]


spent in vain recreations, visits, luxuries, and idleness? O deep unbelief and hardness of heart, that makes gentlemen that they tremble not to think of this reckoning! Well, let me tell both them and all men, that if they knew but either their indispensable duty of doing good, that lieth on them, or how necessary and sure a way (in subordination to Christ) this act of doing good is for the soul's peace and consolation, they would study it better, and practise it more faithfully than now they do : they would then be glad of an opportunity to do good, for their own gain, as well as for God's honour, and for the love of good itself. They would know, that lending to the Lord is the only thriving usury ; and that no part of all their time, riches, interest in men, power, or honours, will be then comfortable to them, but that which was laid out for God; and they will one day find, that God will not take up with the scraps of their time and riches, which their flesh can spare; but he will be first served, even before all comers, and that with the best, or he will take them for no servants of his. This is true, and you will find it so, whether


believe it or no. And because it is possible these lines may fall into the hands of some of the rulers of this commonwealth, let me here mind them of two weighty things:

1. What opportunities of doing very great good hath been long in their hands, and how great an account of it they have to make. It hath been long in their power to have done much to the reconciling of our differences, and healing our divisions, by setting divines a work of different judgments, to find out a temperament for accommodation. It hath long been in their power to have done much towards the supply of all the dark congregations in England and Wales, with competently able, sound and faithful teachers. We have many congregatious that do contain three thousand, five thousand, or ten thousand souls, that have but one or two ministers that cannot possibly do the tenth part of the ministerial work of private oversight, and so poor souls must be neglected, let ministers be never so able or painful. We have divers godly, private Christians, of so much understanding, as to be capable of helping us, as officers in our churches; but they are all so poor, that they are not able to spare one hour in a day or two from their labour, much less to give up themselves to the work. How


many a congregation is in the same case? Nothing almost is wanting to us, to have set our congregations in the order of Christ, and done this great work of reformation which there is so much talking of, so much as want of maintenance for a compentent number of ministers or elders to attend the work. I am sure, in great congregations this is the case, and a sore that no other means will remedy. Was it never in the

power of our rulers to have helped us here? Was nothing sold for other uses, that was once devoted and dedicated to God, and might have helped us in this our miserable distress? Were our churches able to maintain their own officers, our case were more tolerable; but when a congregation that wants six, or seven, or ten, is not able to maintain one it is hard.

2. The second thing that I would mind our rulers of, is, what mortal enemies those men are to their souls, that would persuade them that they must not, as rulers, do good to the souls of men, and to the church as such; nor further the reformation, nor propagate the Gospel, nor establish Christ's order in the churches of their country, any otherwise than by a common maintaining the peace and liberties of all. What doctrine could more desperately undo you, if entertained? If you be once persuaded that it belongs not to you to do good, and the greatest good, to which all your successes have made way, then all the comfort, the blessing and reward is lost; and consequently all the glorious preparative successes, as to you, are lost. If once you take yourselves to have nothing to do as rulers for Christ, you cannot promise yourselves that Christ will have any thing to do for you, as rulers, in a way of mercy. This, Mr. Owen hath lately told you in his sermon, October 13, “ The God of heaven forbid, that ever all the devils in hell, the Jesuits at Rome, or the seduced souls in England, should be able to persuade the rulers of this land, who are so deeply bound to God by vows, mercies, professions, and high expenses of treasure and blood, to reform his church, and propagate his Gospel; that now after all this, it belongeth not to them, but they must, as rulers, be no more for Christ than for Mahomet. But if ever it should prove the sad case of England to have such rulers, (which I strongly hope will never be,) if my prognostics fail not, this will be their fate: the Lord Jesus will forsake them, as they have forsaken him, and the

« PreviousContinue »