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works righteousness, that remembers him in his thee if he once say as in Hos. ii. 2. she is not ways.' Say not, I have played abroad so long my wife, neither am I her husband.' that I dare not now go home: I have sinned Nay, more than this, if you are Christians, you so greatly, that I dare not speak to him, or look are 'members of the body of Christ.' Therefore him in the face. Come yet but with a penitent, how can you withdraw yourselves from him, and returning heart, and thou mayest be accepted not feel the pain and torment of so sore a wound through the Prince of peace : prudigals find bet- or dislocation? You cannot live without a conter entertainment than they did expect, when stant dependence on him, and communication once they do but resolve for home. If he allow from him, ' I am the true vine, and my father is us to begin with our Father which art in hea- the husbandman : abide in me, and I in you. I ven,' we may boldly proceed to ask 'forgiveness am the vine, ye are the branches : he that abides of our trespasses,' and whatever else is truly in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much good for us. But, alas, as our iniquities seduce fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If ye us away from God, so the guilt of them affrights abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye some froin returning to him, and the love of them shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto corrupts the hearts of others, and makes them too you.' indifferent as to their communion with him ; so So near are you to Christ, that he delights to that too many of his children live as if they acquaint you with his secrets : 0 how many did not know their Father, or had forgotten him: mysteries doth he reveal to those that walk with we may say, but we are all as an unclean thing, him, which carnal strangers never know! Mysand all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags, and teries of wisdom! Mysteries of love and saving we all do fade as a leaf, and our iniquities like grace! Mysteries of scripture, and mysteries of the wind have taken us away: and there is none providence! Mysteries felt by inward experience, that calls upon thy name, that stirs up himself and mysteries revealed, foreseen by faith! Nct to take hold of thee; for thou hast hid thy face only the strangers that pass by the doors, but from us, and hast consumed us because of our even the common servants of the family, are uniniquities ; but now, O Lord, thou art our Father; acquainted with the secret operations of the we are the clay, and thou our potter, and we are Spirit, and entertainments of grace, and joy in all the work of thy hand. Be not wroth very believing, which those that walk with God either sore, O Lord, neither remember iniquity for do or may possess. Therefore Christ calls you ever: behold, see we beseech thee, we are all thy friends, as being more than servants. people.' O do not provoke your Father to disown my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. you, or to withdraw his help, or hide his face, Henceforth I call you not servants ; for the seror to send the rod to call you home! for if you vant knows not what his Lord doth : but I have do, you will wish you had known the privileges called you friends ; for all things that I have of his presence, and had kept nearer to him! heard of my Father, I have made known unto Be not so unnatural, so unthankful, so unkind, you.' It is true for all this, that every true as to be weary of your Father's presence, and Christian hath reason to complain of his darkness such a father too, and to take more delight in and distance from God. Alas, they know so any other.
little of him, and of the mysteries of his love and Moreover, you are related to God in Christ as kingdom, that sometimes they are apt to think a wife unto a husband, as to covenant union, and that they are indeed but utter strangers to him : nearness and dearness of affection, and as to his but this is, because there is infinitely more still tender care of
for your good : is it seemly, unknown to them than they know. What! can is it wisely or gratefully done of you, to desire the silly shallow creature comprehend his infinite rather the company of others, and delight in Creator ? Or shall we know all that is to be creatures more than him ? How affectionately known in heaven, before we enjoy all that is to doth thy Maker call himself the husband of his be enjoyed in heaven? It is no more wonder people? Can thy heart commit adultery, and to hear a believer pant and mourn after a fuller forsake him :"my covenant they brake, though knowledge of God, and nearer access to him, I was an husband to them, saith the Lord. Othan to seek after heaven, where this will be his put not God to exercise his jealousy. It is one happiness. But yet, though his knowledge of of his terrible attributes, to be a jealous God. God be small, compared with his ignorance, that Can he be otherwise to thee, when thou lovest little knowledge of God which he hath attained, not his converse or company, and carest not how is more mysterious, sublime and excellent, than long thou art from him in the world? Woe to all the learning of the greatest unsanctified
scholars in the world. Walk with him according yourself entirely and absolutely so God. Nay, to the nearness of your relations to him, and you did it not cost you the smart of some afflictions, shall have this excellent knowledge of his mys
would be made so wise ? Did it not teries, which no books or teachers alone can cost you many a gripe of conscience, and many give. You shall be effectually touched at the a terrible thought of hell, and of the wrath of heart with the truths which others do ineffect- God, before you would be heartily engaged to ually hear: you shall be powerfully moved, when him, in his covenant ? Will you now live as they are but ineffectually exhorted. When they strangely and neglectfully towards him, as if only hear the voice without them, you shall hear those days were quite forgotten ; and as if you had the voice within you, and as it were behind you, never felt such things; and as if you had never saying, This is the way, walk in it. O that you been so convinced or resolved † O Christians, could duly value such a friend, to watch over take heed of forgetting your former case ! your you, and for you, and dwell in you, and tell you former thoughts, your former convictions, comfaithfully of every danger, and of every duty, plaints, and covenants ! God did not work all and teach you to know good and evil, and what that upon your hearts to be forgotten : he iutendto choose, and what to refuse; how closely and ed not only your present change, but your after delightfully would you converse with such a remembrance of it, for your close adhering to blessed friend, if you rightly valued him. him while you live ; and for your quickening and
2. Moreover, you that are the servants of God, constant perseverance to the end. The forgethave by your covenant and profession, renounced ting of their former miseries, and the workings and forsaken all things else, as they stand in any of God upon their hearts in their conversion, opposition to him, or competition with him, and is a great cause of mutability and revolting, have resigned yourselves wholly unto him alone: and of unspeakable hurt to many a soul. therefore with him must you converse, and be Nay, may you not remember also what sorrow einployed, unless you will forsake your covenant. you had in the day of your repentance, for your You knew first that it was your interest to forsake forsaking and neglecting God so long? Will the world and turn to God: you knew the world you grow again negligent of him? Was it then would not be instead of God to you, either in so heinous a sin in your eyes ; and is it now life, or at death: upon this knowledge it was grown less ? Could you then aggravate it so many that you changed your master, changed your ways, and now do you justify or extenuate it? minds, and changed your way, your work, your Were you then ready to sink under the burden hopes : do you dream now that you were mis- of it; and were so hardly persuaded that it taken? Do you begin to think that the world is would be forgiven you: and now do you make fitter to be your God or happiness? If not, you so small a matter of it? Did
then so much must still confess that both your interest and wonder at your folly, that could so long let out your covenant oblige you to turn your hearts your thoughts and affections upon the creature, and minds from the things which you have re- while you neglected God and heaven; and do nounced, and to walk with him that you have you begin to look that way again ? Do you now taken for your God, and to obey him whom you grow familiar with a life so like to that which have taken for your king and judge, and to keep was once your state of death ; and bear that close to him with purest love, whom you have easily that once was the breaking of your heart? taken for your everlasting portion. Mark what o Christians, turn not away from that God again, you are minding all the day, while you are who once brought you home, with so much smart neglecting God: is it not something that you and so much grace; with such love and fatherly have renounced ? Did you not renounce it upon severity! Methinks when you remember how sufficient cause ? Was it not a work of your you were once awakened, you should not easily most serious deliberation ; and of as great wis- fall asleep again. When you remember the dom, as any that ever you performed ; if it were, thoughts which then were in your hearts, and turn not back in your hearts again from God the tears that were in your eyes, and the earnest unto the renounced creature. You have had prayers which you then put up, that God would many a lightning from heaven in to your under- receive, and take you for bis own, you should standings, to bring you to see the difference be- not now forget him, and live as if you could live tween them : you have had many a teaching, and without him. Remember that so far as you withmany a warning, and many a striving of the draw your hearts from God, and let them follow Spirit, before you were prevailed with to renounce inferior things, so far you contradict his works the world, the flesh and the devil, and to give up upon your hearts ; so far you violate your covenant with him, or sin against it; so far you I am sure that your own experience will bear are revolters, and go against the principal part witness, that since that time, in all your lives, it of your professed religion : yea, so far you are never was so well with you as when you walked ungodly, as you thus withdraw your hearts from most faithfully with God. If you have received God. Cleave to him, and prosecute your cove- any falls and hurts, it hath been when you have nant, if you will have the saving benefits of his strayed from him : if ever you had safety, peace, love and covenant.
or joy, it hath been when you have been near3. Moreover, the servants of God are doubly est to him: your wounds, grief, and death, obliged to walk with him, because they have had have been the fruit of your own ways, and of that experience of the goodness, the safety and your forsaking him: your recovery, health, and the sweetness of it, which strangers have not. life have been the fruit of his ways, and of your Do you uot remember how glad you were, when adhering to him : many a time you have conyou first believed that he pardoned and accepted fessed this, and have said, It is good for me to you? How much you rejoiced in his love and draw near to God. He hath helped you when entertainments ? How much better you found none else could help you : and comforted you your Father's house, than ever you had found when none else could comfort you. How far your sinful state? How much sweeter his ser- are you above the worldling's happiness, when vice was, than you did before believe? It is you are nigh to God? One lively thought of likely you can remember soinething like that his greatness, and excellency, and of his love to which is described in the words of Luke: you in Jesus Christ, will make the name of ‘And he arose, and came to his father : but when wealth, honour, favour, preferment, and sensual he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, pleasure, to seem to you as words of no signifiand had compassion, and ran and fell on his cation : how indifferent will you be, as to your neck and kissed him: and the son said unto prosperity in the world, when you feel what it is him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and to walk with God? If you are lively experiin thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called mental Christians, you have found this to be thy son: but the father said to his servants, true: have you not found that it is the very bring forth the best robe and put it on him, and health, ease, and proper employment of your put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet, souls to walk with God, and keep close to him ? and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it, and that all goes well with you while you can do let us eat and be merry: for this my son was thus, however the world doth esteem or use you ? dead, and is alive again, he was lost, and is found.' that when you grow strange or disobedient to What would you have thought or said of this God, and forgetful of his goodness, his presence, prodigal, if after all this, he should have been and his authority, you are like the stomach that weary of his father's house and company, and is sick, and like a bone that is out of joint, that have taken more pleasure in his former company? can have no ease till it be healed, and restored Would you not have said, he was a forgetful to its proper place ? No meats or drinks, no and unthankful man, and worthy never more to company nor recreation, no wealth or greatness be received ? I do not speak to you now as to will serve to make a sick man well, or ease the apostates, that are turned ungodly, and have dislocated bones. Nothing will serve a faithful quite forsaken God and holiness : but I beseech holy soul but God; this is the cause of the soryou consider, what it is, after such experiences row of his heart, of the secret groans and comand obligations as these, so much as to abate plainings of his life, because in this life of disyour love, and grow remiss, unmindful, and in- tance and imperfection, he finds himself so far different, as if you were weary of God, and were from God; and when he hath done all that he inclined to neglect him, and look again to the can, he is still so dark, and strange, and cold world for your hope, satisfaction, and delight? in his affections! When persecution drives him As you love your souls, and as you would avoid from the ordinances and public worship, or the sorrows which are greater than any that ever when sin hath set him at a greater distance from you felt, take heed of slighting the love that hath his God, he bemoans his soul, as David in his done such wonders for you, and of dealing so banishment from the tabernacle, “ as the heart unthankfully with the everlasting God, and of panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul turning thus away from him that hath received after thee, O God: my soul thirsteth for God, for you! Remember whilst you live, the love of your the living God: when shall I come and appear espousals : was God so good to you at the first, before God ? My tears have been my meat day and holiness so desirable ? and is it not so still ? and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God?' It is no wonder if with his back, or stop him in his course. The world and greatest joy, he be yet clouded with these sor- the Aesh are the things behind us: we turned rows, because he yet wants more of God than he our backs upon them at our conversion, when enjoys : his enjoying graces-love and joy—a we turned to God: it is these that would now yet imperfect. But when he hath attained his call back our thoughts, and corrupt our affecnearest approach to God, he will have fulness of tions, when we should run on, and reach forward delight in fulness of fruition.
to the heavenly prize : it is God and heaven, O Christians! Do I need to tell you, that after and the remaining duties of a holy life, that are all the trials you have made in the world, you the things before us! And shall we now look have never found any state of life, that was wor- back ; what, we that are running and striving thy your desires, nor that gave you any true con- for a crown of endless glory! we, that if we lose tentment, but only this living upon God ? If you it, do lose our souls and hopes for ever! we have not found such comfort here as others have that have loitered in the morning of our lives, done, yet at least you have seen it afar off, and lost so much precious time as we have done ; within your reach : as men that in the Indies, in we, that have gone so far in our way, and held the discovery of plantations, expect gold mines, out through so many difficulties and assaults ; when they find those golden sands that promise shall we now grow weary of walking with God, it. You have found a life which is certainly de- and begin to look to the things behind us? Did sirable, and leads to joy in the midst of sorrow : he not tell us at the first, that father and mother, it is no small joy to have a certain promise and house, lands, life, and all things must be forsaken prospect of everlasting joy. It is therefore more for Christ, if we will be his disciples ? These excusable in those that never tasted any better are the things behind us, which we turned our than the pleasures of the flesh, to neglect this back on when we consented to the covenant: sweeter heavenly life, than it is in you, that have and are they now grown better ; or is God grown been convinced by our own experience, that worse, that we turn our hearts from him to them; there is no life to be compared with it.
when we first begun our Christian race, it was 4. Your walking with God is the necessary upon supposition that it was for that immortal prosecution of your choice and hopes of life crown, which all the world is not to be compared eternal. It is your necessary preparation to to. your enjoying him in heaven. Have you fixed Have we not still the same consideration be. on those hopes with so great reason and delibera- fore us, to move us to hold on till we attain it? tion, and will you now draw back and be slack Hold on, Christians, it is for heaven : is there in the prosecution of them ? Have you gone not enough in that word to drive back all the so far in the way to heaven, and do you now be cares and pleasures, that importune your minds gin to look behind you, as if you were about to to forget your God? Is there not enough in change your mind ? Paul sets you a better ex- that word to quicken you up in your greatest ample: yea, doubtless, I count all things but dullness; and to call you home, when you are loss for the excellency of the knowledge of wandering from God: and to make you again Christ Jesus
my for whom I have suffered fall out with all that would reduce you, or dithe loss of all things, and do count them but vert you, and call it vanity and vexation of dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in spirit? Methinks the fore-thought of that life him, if by any means I might attain to the re- and work which you hope to have with God for surrection of the dead : not as though I had al- ever, should make you earnestly desire to have ready attained, either were already perfect : but as much of the life on earth, as is here to be I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for attained ! If it will be your heaven and happiwhich also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus : ness then, it must needs be desirable now. It is brethren, I count not myself to have apprehend- not beseeming a man that saith he is seeking for ed, but this one thing I do, forgetting those perfect communion with God in heaven, and that things which are behind, and reaching forth unto above all things, -as every Christian doth-to those things which are before, I press toward live in a daily neglect or forgetfulness of God the mark for the prize of the high calling of on earth. Delightfully to draw near hiin, and God in Christ Jesus. He compares himself to exercise all our faculties upon him, or for him a runner in a race, that till he apprehend the sometime in prayer and contemplation on himprize or mark; doth still make forward with all self, and always in works of obedience to him ; his might, and will not so much as mind or look this is the life that beseems those that profess to at any thing behind him, that would turn him seek eternal life. O therefore let us make it
our daily work, to keep our God and glory in our disappointing providences; even to leave you no eye, and to spur on our dull affections, and in comfortable entertainment or converse but with the diligent attendance and following the Captain himself, and with his servants, and with those of our salvation, to prosecute our expected end. means that lead you to himself. If you begin to
5. Lastly, consider that God doth purposely desire to lodge abroad in strange habitations, he provide you hard entertainment in the world, and will uncover those houses, and will not leave causes every creature to deny you the pleasure and you a rooin that is dry to put your head in; or satisfaction which you desire, that so you may he will throw open the doors, and leave all open have none to walk with but himself, with any to the lust of ravenous beasts and robbers. He heart-settling comfort and content. If you see will have thy heart, and he will have thy comnot enough in him to allure you to himself, you pany, because thou art his child, and because he shall feel enough in the world to drive you to loves thee. He will allow thee neither thy carnal him : if his love and goodness will not serve delights nor hopes. you alone to make him your pleasure, and hold If he perceive thee either taking that pleasure you to him in the best, and most excellent, way in thy prosperity, which thou shouldst take in of love, at least the storms and troubles that are him alone, or hoping at least that the world may abroad shall show you the necessity of keeping hereafter prove more amiable and delightful to close to God; and the love of yourselves shall thee; the more he loves thee, the more his prohelp you to do that which was not done by the at- vidence shall conspire with his grace, to change traction of his love alone. If you will put him thy mind by depriving thee of thy unwholesome, to it, to send out his command to every crea- dangerous delights, and of all thy hopes of such ture to cross and vex you, and disappoint all hereafter. Use the world as a traveller, for the expectations from it, that so he may force you ends to which it was ordained, to the service of to remember your Father and your home, deny God, and the furtherance of thy salvation, and not then but it is because of yourselves that you then thou shalt find that God will furnish thee were not saved in an easier way. Would
with all that is necessary to these necessary wish God to make that condition pleasant to ends : but if the world must have your love and you, which he sees you take too much plea- care, and must be your chief business and desure in already, or seek and desire it, at least ; light, and your excuse for not attending upon when as it is the pleasantness of the creature God, murmur not, nor marvel not, if he dispose that is your danger, and which detains your of it and you accordingly. If you are yet too thoughts and affections from himself? If you healthful to think with seriousness of your etercould but learn to walk with him, and to take nal state: if you are too rich to part with all for up your pleasure in his love appearing to you in Christ, or openly to own his cause: if you are his creatures, and to make their sweetness the too much esteemed in the world to own a scorned, means to your apprehension of the sweetness of slandered religion : if you are so busy for earth his favour, and of the everlasting joys, then you that you cannot have time to think of heaven ; might say the creature doth you good ; and then if you have so much delight in house or land, it is likely you might be permitted to possess and or in your employments, or recreations, or use it for such pleasure. The jealous God will friends, that God and godliness can have little watch your hearts, though you watch them not ; or none of your delight : marvel not then if God and he will make you know that he sees which shake your health, or waste your riches, or way they run out from him, and what creature turn your honour into contempt, and suffer men it is that is minded and delighted in, while he is to slander and reproach you, and spit in your neglected, as if he were unsuitable, and scarcely face, and make you of no reputation: marvel not desirable. You must never look that he should if he turn you out of all, or turn all to your grief long permit you those prohibited delights, or let and trouble, and make the world a desert to you, you alone in those idolatrous inclinations: if he and the inhabitants as wolves and bears. The love you, he will cure that carnal love, and re- great lesson that Christ hath undertaken to teach cover your love to himself that hath deserved it. you, is the difference betwixt the Creator and If he intended not your salvation, he may let you the creature, and the difference betwixt heaven go, and try again whether the creature will prove and earth. The great work that Christ hath unbetter to you than himself: but you cannot think dertaken to do upon you, is to recover your that he will thus let go his children that must live hearts from the world to God: this lesson he will with him for ever. Have you not perceived that teach you, and this work he will do upon you, this is the design and meaning of his afflicting and whatever it cost you: for it must be done.