Page images

against you, and delighteth in his creatures misery, it is impossible you should love him. The love of yourselves is so deeply rooted in nature, that we cannot lay it by, nor love any thing that is absolutely and directly against us. We conceive of the devil as an absolute enemy to God and man, and one that seeks our destruction, and therefore we cannot love him. And the great cause why troubled souls do love God no more, is because they represent him to themselves in an ugly, odious shape. To think of God as one that seeks and delighteth in man's ruin, is to make him as the devil. And then what wonder if instead of loving him, and delighting in him, you tremble at the thoughts of him, and fly from him.

As I have observed children, when they have seen the devil painted on the wall, in an ugly shape, they have partly feared, and partly hated it. If you do so by God in your fancy, it is not putting the name of God on him when you have done, that will reconcile' your affections to him as long as you strip him of his divine nature. Remember the Holy Ghost's description of God, 1 Johniv. 16. “God is love." Write these words deep in your understanding.

2. Hereby you will have this advantage also, that your thoughts of God will be more sweet and delightful to you. For as glorious and beautiful sights to your eyes, and melodious sounds to your ears, and sweet smells, tastes, &c. are all delightful : when things deformed, stinking, &c. are all loathsome, and we turn away from one with abhorrency, but for the other, we would often see, taste, &c. and enjoy them. So is it with the objects of our mind ; God hath given no command for duty, but what most perfectly agreeth with the nature of the object. He hath therefore bid us love God and delight in him above all, because he is above all in goodness ; even infinitely and inconceivably good; else we could not love him above all, nor would he ever command us so to do. The object is ever as exactly fitted to its part, as to draw out the love and delight of our hearts, as the precept is on its part, to oblige us to it. And indeed the nature of things is a precept to duty, and it which we call the law of nature.

3. Hereupon will follow this further advantage, that your thoughts will be both more easily drawn toward God, and more frequent and constant on him; for delightful objects draw the heart to them, as the loadstone doth the iron.


How gladly, and freely, and frequently do you think of your dearest friends. And if you did firmly conceive of God, as one that is ten thousand times more gracious, loving, and amiable than any friend that you have in the world, it would make you not only to love him above all friends, but also more freely, delightfully, and unweariedly to think of him.

4. And then you would hence have this further advantage, that you would have less backwardness to any duty, and less weariness in duty; you would find more delight in prayer, meditation, and speech of God, when once God himself were more lovely and delightful in your eyes.

5. All these advantages would produce a further, that is, the growth of all your graces. For it is impossible, but this growth of love, and frequent delightful thoughts of God, and addresses to him, should cause an increase of all the rest.

6. Hereupon your evidences would be more clear and discernible. For grace in strength and action would be easily found ; and would not this resolve all your doubts at once ?

7. Yea, the very exercise of these several graces would be comfortable.

8. And hereupon you would have more humble familiarity and communion with God; for love, delight, and frequent addresses, would overcome strangeness and disacquaintance, which make us fly from God, as a fish, or bird, or wild beast, will from the face of a man, and would give us access with boldness and confidence. And this would banish sadness and terror, as the sun dispelleth darkness and cold.

9. At least you would hence have this advantage, that the fixed apprehension of God's goodness and merciful nature, would cause a fixed apprehension of the probability of your happiness, as long as you are willing to be happy in God's

way. For reason will tell you, that he who is love itself, and whose goodness is equal to his almightiness, and who hath sworn, that he hath no pleasure in the death of a sinner, but rather that he repent and live, will not destroy a poor soul that lieth in submission at his feet, and is so far from resolved rebellion against him, that he grieveth that it is no better, and can please him'no niore.

10. However, these right apprehensions of God would overcome those terrors which are raised only by false apprehensions of him. And doubtless a very great part of men’s causeless troubles, are raised from such misapprehensions of God. For satan knows, that if he can bring you to think of God as a cruel tyrant and blood-thirsty man-hater, then he can drive you from him in terror, and turn all your love and cheerful obedience into hatred and slavish fear. I say therefore again, do not only get, but also fix deep in your understanding, the highest thoughts of God's natural goodness and graciousness that possibly you can raise. For when they are at the highest, they come short ten thousandfold.

Object. “But God's goodness lieth not in mercy to men, as I have read in great divines; he may be perfectly good, though he should for ever torment the most innocent creatures.'

Answ. These are ignorant, presumptuous intrusions into that which is unsearchable. Where doth Scripture say as you say? Judge of God as he revealeth himself, or you will but delude yourself, and abuse him. All his works represent him merciful; for “his mercy is over all his works,” and legible in them all. His word saith, “He is good, and doth good ;" Psal. cxix. 68. cxlv. 9. How himself doth proclaim his own name (Exod. xxxiv. 6, 7.) I told you before. The most merciful men are his liveliest image; and therefore he plants mercy in them in their conversion, as a principal part of their new nature. And commands of mercifulness are a great part of his law; and he bids us“ Be merciful, as our heavenly Father is merciful,” Luke vi. 36. Now if this were none of his nature, how could he be the pattern of our new nature herein ? And if he were not infinitely merciful himself, how could we be required to be merciful, as he is? Who dare say, 'I am more merciful than God ?

Object. ' But God is just as well as merciful; and for all his merciful nature, he will damn most of the world for ever in hell.'

Answ. 1. But James saith, “Mercy rejoiceth against judgment;" James ii. 13. 2. God is necessarily the Governor of the world (while there is a world), and therefore must govern it in justice, and so must not suffer his mercy


[ocr errors]


to be perpetually abused by wicked, wilful, contemptuous sinners. But then consider two things: 1. That he destroyeth not humble souls that ļie at his feet, and are willing to have mercy on his easy terms, but only the stubborn despisers of his mercy. He damneth none but those that will not be saved in his way; that is, that will not accept of Christ and salvation freely given them. (I speak of those that hear the Gospel; for others, their case is more unknown to us.) And is it any diminution to his infinite mercy, that he will not save those that will not be entreated to accept of salvation? 2. And consider how long he useth to wait on sinners, and even beseech them to be reconciled to him, before he destroyeth them; and that he heapeth multitudes of mercies on them, even in their rebellion, to draw them to repentance, and so to life. And is it unmercifulness yet if such men perish ?

Object. But if God were so infinite in mercy, as you say, why doth he not make all these men willing, that so they may be saved ?

Answ. God having created the world, and all things it, at first, did make them in a certain nature and order, and so establish them as by a fixed law; and he thereupon is their Governor, to govern every thing according to his nature. Now man's nature was to be principled with an inclination to his own happiness, and to be led to it by objects in a moral way, and in the choice of means to be a free agent, and the guider of himself under God. As Governor of the rational creature, God doth continue that same course of ruling them by laws, and drawing them by ends and objects as their natures do require. And in this way he is not wanting to them; his laws are now laws of grace, and universal in the tenor of the free gift and promise, for he hath there given life in Christ to all that will have it; and the objects propounded are sufficient in their kind, to work even the most wonderful effects of men's souls, for they are God himself, and Christ, and glory. Besides, God giveth men natural faculties, that they may have the use of reason; and there is nothing more unreasonable than to refuse this offered mercy. He giveth inducing arguments in the written word, and sermons, and addeth such mercies and afflictions, that one should think should bow the hardest heart. Besides, the strivings and motions of his Spirit within, are more than



we can give an account of. Now is not this as much as belongs to God as Governor of the creature according to its nature ? And for the giving of a new nature, and creating new hearts in men, after all their rebellious rejecting of grace, this is a certain miracle of mercy, and belongs to God in another relation (even as the free chooser of his elect) and not directly as the Governor of the universe. This is from his special providence, and the former from his general. Now special providences are not to be as common as the general, nor to subvert God's ordinary, established course of government. If God please to stop Jordan, and dry up the Red Sea for the passage of the Israelites, and to cause the sun to stand still for Joshua, must he do so still for every man in the world, or else be accounted unmerciful? The sense of this objection is plainly this. God is not so rich in mercy, except he will new make all the world, or govern it above its nature. Suppose a king know his subjects to be so wicked, that they have every one a full design to famish or kill themselves, or poison themselves with something which is enticing by its sweetness, the king not only makes a law, strictly charging them all to forbear to touch that poison, but he sendeth special messengers to entreat them to it, and tell them the danger. If these men will not hear him, but wilfully poison themselves, is he therefore unmerciful? But suppose that he hath three or four of his sons that are infected with the same wickedness, and he will not only command and entreat them, but he will lock them up, or keep the poison from them, or will feed them by violence with better food, is he unmerciful unless he will do so by all the rest of his kingdom?

Lastly. If all this will not satisfy you; consider, 1. That it is most certain God is love, and infinite in mercy, and hath no pleasure in the death of sinners. 2. But it is utterly uncertain to us how God worketh on man's will inwardly by his Spirit. 3. Or yet what intolerable inconvenience there may be if God should work in other ways ; therefore we must not upon such uncertainties deny certainties, nor from some unreasonable scruples about the manner of God's working grace, deny the blessed nature of God which himself háth most evidently proclaimed to the world

I have said the more of this, because I find satan har so much on this string with many troubled souls, especiall


[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »