« PreviousContinue »
everlasting life or death depend on. He is not | 1. He that walks with God, doth begin aright thought so wise ainong men that can write a volume and settles upon a sure foundation : we use to about the orthography or etymology of a word, say, that a work is half finished that is well beor that can guess what wood the Trojan horse was gun: he hath engaged himself to the best and made of, as he that can bring home gold and pearls, wisest teacher: he is a disciple to him that or he that can obtain and manage governments, or knows all things. He hath taken in infallible he that can cure mortal nialadies : for as in lading principles, and taken them in their proper place we distinguish between bulk and value, and take and order : he hath learned those truths which not that for the best commodity which is of great will every one become a teacher to him, and help est quantity or weight, but that which is most him to that which is yet unlearned. Whereas precious and of greatest use : so there is a bulky many that thought they were doctors in Israel, knowledge extended far, to a multitude of words if ever they will be wise and happy, must beand things, which are all of no great use or come fools, that is, such as they have esteemed value ; and therefore the knowledge of them is fools, if ever they will be wise, and must be such as they : there is a precious sort of know-called back with Nicodemus to learn Christ's ledge, which fixes upon the most precious things ; cross, and to be taught that that which is born of which being of greatest use and value, do accord- the flesh is but flesh,' and that which is born of ingly prove the knowledge such. Nothing will the Spirit is Spirit:' and that therefore they prove a man simply and properly wise, but that must be born again, not only of water, but also which will prove or make him happy. He is of the Spirit, if ever they will enter into the wise indeed, that is wise to his own and others' kingdom of heaven.' 0 miserable beginning ! good : and that is indeed his good, which saves and miserable progress ! when men that never his soul, and makes him for ever blessed. Though soundly learned the mysteries of regeneration, we may admire the cunning of those that can faith, love, self-denial, and mortification, promake the most curious engines, or by deceiving ceed to study names and words, and to turn over others, advance themselves, or that can subtilly a multitude of books, to fill their minds with dispute the most curious niceties, or criticize airy notions, and their common places with such upon the words of several languages : yet I will sayings as may be provision and furniture for never call them wise that are all that while the their pride and ostentation, and ornament to devil's slaves, the enemies of God, the refusers their style and language ; and know not yet what of grace, and are making haste to endless misery. they must do to be saved, and indeed know noI think there is not one of those in hell who thing as they ought to know! As every science were once the subtle men on earth, that now take hath its principles, which are supposed in all the themselves to have been truly wise, or glory much consequent verities; so hath religion, as docin the remembrance of such wisdom.
trinal and practical, those truths which must be As the choice proves men wise, so the prac- first received, before any other can be received tice of this holy walking with God doth make as it ought; and those things which must be .them much wiser than they were. As there first done, before any other can be done, so as must be some work of the Spirit to draw to attain their ends. These truths and duties men to believe in Christ, and yet the Spirit is are principally about God himself, and are known promised and given, in a special sort or mea- and done effectually by those, and only those, sure, to them that believe ; so must there be that walk with God, or are devoted to him. It some special wisdom to make men choose to is a lamentable thing to see men immersed in walk with God; but much more is given to them serious studies, even till they grow aged, and to in this holy course. As Solomon was wiser hear them seriously disputing and discoursing than most of the world, before he asked wisdom about the controversies or difficulties in theology, of God, or else he would not have made so wise or inferior sciences, before ever they had any a choice, and preferred wisdom before the riches saving knowledge of God, or of the work of the and honours of the world ; and yet it was a Holy Ghost in the converting and sanctifying of more notable degree of wisdom that was after the soul, or how to escape everlasting misery! wards given him in answer to his prayer; so it 2. He that walks with God hath fixed upon a is in this case.
right end, and is renewing his estimation and There are many undeniable evidences to prove, intention of it, and daily prosecuting it: this is that walking with God doth do more to make the first and greatest part of practical wisdom. men truly wise, than all other learning or policy When a man once knows bis end aright, he may in the world
| better judge of the aptitude and seasonableness of all the means. When we know once that teries of nature, though he were studying or disheaven contains the only felicity of man, it will cussing the notions of theology, though he were direct us to heavenly thoughts, and to such spi- admired for his learning and wisdom by the ritual means as are fitted to that end : if we have world, and cried up as the oracle of the earth, the right mark in our eye, we are more likely to he is all the while but playing the fool, and level at it, than if we mistake our mark. He is going a cleanlier way to hell than the grosser sin. the wise man, and only he, who hath steadily ners of the world! For is he wise that knows fixed his eye upon that blessedness which he not whether heaven or earth be better? Wbewas created and redeemed for, and makes straight ther God or his flesh should be obeyed? Whether towards it, and bends the powers of soul and everlasting joys, or the transitory pleasures of body, by faithful, constant diligence, to obtain it. sin, should be preferred? Or that seems to be He who hath rightly and resolvedly determined convinced of the truth in these and such like of his end, hath virtually resolved a thousand cases, and yet hath not the wisdom to make his controversies that others are unsatisfied and er choice, and bend his life according to his convicroneous in ; he that is resolved that his end is tion ? He cannot be wise that practically misto please and glorify God, and to enjoy him for takes his end. ever, is easily resolved whether a holy life, or a 3. He that walks with God knows those sensual and worldly, be the way: whether the things with a deep, effectual, heart-changing way is to be godly, or to make a mock at godli- knowledge, which other men know but superfiness : whether covetousness and riches, ambition cially, by halves, and as in a dream. True wisand preferment, voluptuousness and fleshly plea- dom consists in the intensiveness of the knowsures, be the means to attain his end : whether ledge subjectively, as much as in the extensiveit will be attained rather by the studying of the ness of it objectively. To see a few things in a word of God, and meditating on it day and narrow room perspicuously and clearly, doth night, and by holy conference, fervent prayer, show a better eye-sight than in the open air to and an obedient life; or by negligence, or world see many things obscurely, so as scarcely to liness, or drunkenness, or gluttony, or cards and discern any of them aright: like him that saw dice, or beastly filthiness, or injustice and deceit. men walk like trees. The clearness and depth Know once, but whither it is that we are going, of knowledge, which makes it effectual to its and it is easy to know whether the saint or the proper use, is the greatness and excellency of swaggerer, be in the way.
it: therefore it is that unlearned men, who love But a man that mistakes his end, is out of and fear the Lord, may well be said to be incomhis way at the first step ; and the further he parably more wise and knowing men than the goes, the further he is from true felicity; and the most learned that are ungodly. As he hath more more he errs, and the further he hath to go back riches who hath a little gold or jewels, than he again, if ever he return. Every thing that a man who hath many load of stones : so he who hath doth in the world, which is not for the right end, a deep effectual knowledge of God the Father, the heavenly felicity, is an act of foolishness and and the Redeemer, and of the life to come, is error, how splendid soever the matter or the wiser and more knowing than he who hath only name may make it appear to ignorant men. a notional knowledge of the same things, and of Every word that an ungodly person speaks, a thousand more. A wicked man hath so much being not for a right end, is in him but sin and knowledge, as teaches him to speak the same folly, however materially it may be an excellent words of God, Christ, and heaven, which a true and useful truth. While a miserable soul hath believer speaks ; but not so much as to work in his back upon God, and his face upon the world, him the same affections and choice, nor so much every step he goes is an act of folly, as tending as to cause him to do the same work. As it is
to his further misery. It can be no act of a far more excellent kind of knowledge, which a wisdom, which tends to a man's damnation. man hath of any country by travel and habitation When such a person begins to inquire and be there, than that which comes but by reading or think him where he is, and whither he is going, report, or which a man hath of meat, of fruits, and whither he should go, and to think of turn- of wines, by eating and drinking, than that ing back to God, then, and never till then, he is which another hath by hearsay ; so is the inward beginning to come to himself, and to be wise. heart-affecting knowledge of a true believer, more Till God and glory be the end that he aims at, excellent than the flashy notions of the ungodly. and seriously bends bis study, heart, and life to Truth, simply as truth, is not the highest and seek, though a man were searching into the mys- | most excellent object of the mind : but good, as
good, must be apprehended by the understanding, such a teacher. Those that follow the flesh and and commended to the will, which entertains it the world, do follow the devil : they that will bewith complacency, adheres to it with choice and lieve what their fleshly interests and lusts perresolution, prosecutes it with desire and endea- suade them to believe, do believe what the devil vour, and enjoys it with delight. Though it be persuades them to believe ; for he persuades the understanding which apprehends it, yet it is them by these, and for these. What marvel the heart or will that relishes it, and tastes the then, if there be found men in the world, that greatest sweetness in it, working upon it with can believe that holiness is hypocrisy, or a needsome mixture of internal sense, which hath made less thing ;-that those are the worst men that some ascribe a knowledge of good, as such, unto are most careful to please God; that the world the will. It is the will's intention that causes is more worthy of their care and labour, than the understanding to be denominated practical : their salvation is ;-that the pleasures of sin therefore I may well say, that it is wisdom in- for a season are more desirable, than the everdeed when it reaches to the heart. No man lasting happiness of the saints ; that cards, dice, knows the truth of God so well as he that most mirth, lust, wealth, and honour, are matters more firmly believes him: no man knows the goodness delectable than prayer, and meditating on the of God so well as he that loves him most: no word of God, and loving him, and obeying him, man knows his power and mercy so well as he and waiting in the hope of life eternal ; that that doth most confidently trust him: no man gluttons, and drunkards, and whoremongers, and knows his justice and judgment so well as he covetous persons, may enter into the kingdom of that fears him: no man knows or believes the God, &c. What wonder, if a thousand such glory of heaven so well as he that most esteems, lies are believed by the disciples of the father desires, and seeks it, and hath the most heaven- of lies! What wonder, if there are so many ly heart and conversation : no man believes in haters of God in the world, as to fill the earth Jesus Christ so well, as he that gives up himself with persecutions and cruelties, or make a scoru unto him, with the greatest love and thankful of that which God most highly values ; and all ness, trust, and obedience. As James saith this under pretence of order, or unity, or justice, 'show me thy faith by thy works,' so say I, or something that is good, and therefore fit to Let me know the measure and value of my know. palliate their sin! Is there any thing so false, ledge by my heart and hfe. That is wisdom in or foul, or wicked, that Satan will not teach his deed, which conforms a man to God, and saves followers ? Is he grown modest, or moderate, his soul: this only will be owned as wisdom to or holy, or just ? Is he reconciled to Christ, to eternity, when dreaming notions will prove but scripture, to godliness, or to the godly ? Or is folly.
his kingdom of darkness at an end ? And hath 4. He that walks with God hath an infallible he lost the earth? Or are men therefore none rule, and takes the right course to have the best of the servants of the devil, because they were acquaintance with it, and skill to use it. The baptized, as Simon Magus was, and call and doctrine that informs him is divine; it is from think themselves the servants of Christ ? As if heaven, and not of men : therefore if God be still it were not the art by which he gets and wiser than man, he is able to make his disciples keeps disciples, to suffer them to wear the livery wisest; and teaching will more certainly and of Christ, and to use his name, that he may thus powerfully illuminate. Many among men have keep possession of them in peace, who else pretended to infallibility, that never could jus- would be frighted from him, and fly to Christ! tify their pretensions, but have confuted them by He will give them leave to study arts and their own mistakes and crimes : but none can sciences, and to understand things excellent of deny the infallibility of God. He never yet was inferior use, so be it they will be deceived by deceived, or did deceive ; he errs not, nor teaches him in the matters of God and their salvation. error: Nicodemus knew Christ was to be be- He can allow them to be learned lawyers, exlieved, when he knew that he was a teacher come cellent physicians, philosophers, politicians, to from God. Christ knew that the Jews them- be skilful artists, so be it they will follow him in selves durst not deny the truths of John's doc- sin to their ruin, and will overlook the truth that trine, if he could but convince them that it was should set them free. Yea he will permit them * from heaven, and not of men.' It is impos- where there is no remedy, to study the holy scripsible for God to lie :' it is the devil that was a tures, if he may but be the expounder and applier liar from the beginning, and is yet the father of of it: yea, he will permit them notionally to lies. No wonder if they believe lies that follow understand it, if they will not learn by it to be i
converted, to be holy, and to be saved: he can | its office : in this senseless case, though a man suffer them to be eminent divines, so they will both know and consider of the same truths, which not be serious Christians. Thus is the world by in their nature are most powerful to cleanse and the grand deceiver hurried in darkness to perdi- govern and save his soul, yet sluggish ness doth tion, being taken captive by him at his will. But enervate them: he knows them as if he knew the sanctified are all illuminated by the Holy them not, and considers them as if he never Ghost, by whom their eyes are so effectually thought of them : they work little more upon opened, that they are turned from darkness him, than if he believed them not, or had never unto light, and from the power of Satan unto heard of them : even as a dream of the greatest God.'— The Father of glory hath given them matters moves not the sleeper from his pillow: the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, in the know- in this senseless state the devil can do almost ledge of Christ, that the eyes of their understand any thing with a sinner : he can make him sin ing being enlightened, they may know what is against his knowledge: when conscience hath the hope of his calling, and what the riches of frightened him into some kind of penitence, and the glory of his inheritance in the saints. Cer- made him cry out, I have sinned and done fooltainly that illumination of the Holy Ghost, which ishly, and caused him to promise to do so no is so often mentioned in scripture as given to all more ; yet doth the devil prevail with him to go true believers, is not a fancy, nor an insignificant on and to break his promises, as if he had never name: if it signifies any thing, it signifies some- | been convinced of his sins, or confessed them, or what that is much above the teaching of man. seen any reason or necessity to amend : he doth All that walk with God are taught of God. Can but imprison the truth in unrighteousness, and man teach like God? God hath access unto the bury it in a senseless heart: whereas if you could heart, and there he doth transcribe his laws, and but awaken all the powers of his soul, to give put them into our inward parts. They that walk this same truth its due entertainment, and take with him have not only his word to read, but his it deeper into his heart, it would make him even Spirit to help them to understand it: and being scorn the baits of sin, and see that the ungodly with him in his family, yea, he dwells in them, are beside themselves, and make him presently and they in him ; he is ready at hand to resolve resolve and set upon a holy life. Hence it is, their doubts: when he gave them his fear, he that sickness which causes men to receive the gave them the beginning of wisdom. He causes sentence of death, doth usually make men bewail them to incline their ear to wisdom, and to ap- their former sinful lives, and marvel that they ply their hearts unto it, and makes them to know could be before so sottish as to resist such known it in the hidden parts.
and weighty truths: and it makes them purpose It is his law that they have determined to and promise reformation, and wish themselves in make their rule; they live as under his author- the case of those that they were wont before to ity: they are more observant of his will and deride and scorn: because now the truth is government, than of any laws or government of more deeply received and digested, by their man. As they obey man in and for the Lord, awakened souls, and appears in its proper eviso they do it in subordination to him, and there- dence and strength. There is no man but must fore not against him and his laws, which being acknowledge, that the same truth doth at one the standard of justice, and the rule of rulers, | time command his soul, which at another time and of subjects both, they are in the safest way seems of little force: it is a wonder to observe of unerring wisdom, who walk with God accord- how differently the same consideration works with ing to that rule, and refuse to turn aside, though a man when he is awakened, and when he is in commanded by man, or enticed by Satan, the a secure, stupid state. world, or the flesh.
Now this is his advantage that walks with 5. He that walks with God is the most con- God: he is much more frequently than others siderate person, and therefore hath great advan- awakened to a serious apprehension of the things tage to be wise. The frequent and serious which he understands : the thoughts of the prethoughts of God, awaken all the powers of sence of the most holy God, will not suffer him the soul, so that drowsiness doth not hinder the to be secure and senseless as others are, or as understanding, and so occasion its deceit: there he is himself, when he turns aside from this heais scarcely a more common and powerful cause venly conversation. He hath in God such exof men's folly, delusion, and perdition, in all the ceeding transcendent excellencies, such greatworld, than that sleepiness and stupidity which ness, such goodness, continually to behold, that hinders reason from the vigorous performance of it keeps his soul in a much more serious, lively
frame, than any other means could keep it in: 1 7. He that walks with God, hath the great so that whenever any truth or duty is presented master-truths upon his heart which are the standto him, all his faculties are awake and ready to ard of the rest, and the stock, as it were, out of observe and improve it. A sermon, or a good which they spring. The great truths about God, book, or godly conference, or a mercy, when a grace, and glory, have a greater power than many man hath been with God in prayer and contem- hundred truths of an inferior nature. Moreover, plation, will relish better with him, and sink much such a one is sure that he shall be wise in the deeper, than at another time. Nay, one serious greatest and most necessary points. He is guilty thought of God himself, will do more to make a of no ignorance or error that shall keep him out man truly and solidly wise, than all the reading of heaven, or hinder his acceptance with his and learning in the world, which shuts him out. God. If he be wise enough to please God and
6. Walking with God doth fix the mind, and to be saved, he is wise indeed, as before was keep it from diversions and vagaries, and con- hinted. sequently much helpeth to make men wise. A 8. Walking with God doth take off the vizor struggling mind is empty and unfurnished. He of deluding things, and keeps us out of the reach that hath no dwelling, for the most part hath no and power of those objects and arguments which wealth. Wandering is the beggar's life. Men are the instruments of deceit. When a man do but bewilder and lose themselves, and not hath been believingly and seriously with God, grow wise, whose thoughts are ranging in the how easily can he see through the sophistry of corners of the earth, and are like masterless the tempting world! How easily can he pracdogs, that run up and down according to their tically confute the reasonings of the flesh! and fancy, and may go any whither, but have busi discern the dotage of the seeming subtleties of ness no where. The creature will not fix the wicked men, that will needs think they have reasoul : but God is the centre of all our thoughts : son for that which is displeasing to their Maker, in him only they may unite, fix, and rest. He and tends to the damning of their souls ! So is the only loadstone that can effectually attract far as a man is conversant with God, so far he and bold it stedfast to himself. Therefore he is sensible that all things are nothing, which can that walks with God is the most constant and be offered as a price to hire him to sin: that the unmorable of men : let prosperity or adversity name of preferment, honour, and wealth, or of come ; let the world be turned upside down, and disgrace, imprisonment, and death, are words the inountains be hurled into the sea, yet he almost of no signification, as to the tempter's changes not : let men allure or threat, let them ends, to draw the soul from God and duty. It scorn or rage, let laws, customs, government, and is men that know not God, and know not what interest change, he is still the same. For he it is to walk with him, that think these words knows that God is still the same, and that his so big and powerful, to whom wealth and honour word changes not. Let that be death one year, do signify more than God and heaven ; and powhich was the way to reputation another, and verty, disgrace and death, do signify more than let the giddy world turn about as the seasons of God's displeasure and everlasting punishment the year, this changes not his mind and life, in hell. As it is easy to cheat a man that is far though in things lawful he is of a yielding temper: from the light, so is it easy to deceive the most for he knows that the interest of his soul doth not learned man that is far from God. change with the humours or interests of men : 9. Walking with God, doth greatly help us he still fears sinning, for he knows that judgment against the deceitful and erroneous disposition
whatsoever : he is still set upon the pleasing of power upon the understanding: therefore unthe most holy God, whoever be uppermost among godly, fleshly men will very hardly receive any men ; as knowing that the God whom he serves truth which crosses the carnal interest or disis able to deliver him from man, but man is not position: and will hardly let go any error that able to deliver him from God. He still goes on feeds them: because their corrupted wills are in the holy path, as knowing that heaven is as a bias to their understandings, and make them sure and as desirable as ever it was. “Surely he desperately partial in all their reading and hearshall not be moved for ever: the righteous shall ing, and hypocritical in their prayers and inbe in everlasting remembrance : he shall not be quiries after truth. Interest and corruption afraid of evil tidings : his heart is fixed, trusting lock up their hearts from their own observation. in the Lord : his heart is established, he shall Whereas a man that walks with God, who is jeanot be afraid.'
lous, holy, and just, and a searcher of the beart,