Page images
PDF
EPUB

the Use. 1. It is then an error, though it is but

the end is better than the means as such : and here that we must overcome all the temptations perfection better than imperfection.

of the devil, the world, and the flesh, and But the present use of the means may be pre- perform all the duties towards God and man, ferred sometimes before the present possession that must be rewarded : it is here that Christ of the end ; and the use of means for a higher must be believed in with the heart to righteousend, may be preferred before the present posses- ness, and with the mouth, confessed to salvation. sion of a lower end : and every thing hath its It is here that we must suffer with him, that we season. Planting, sowing, and building, are not may reign with him, and be faithful to the death, so good as reaping, and fruit-gathering, and that we may receive the crown of life: here we dwelling: but in their season they must be first must so run that we may obtain. done.

3. Yea, we have greater work here to do than II. Quest. But what is there so desirable in merely securing our own salvation.

We are this life?

members of the world and church, and we must Answer. 1. While it continues it is the fulfil- labour to do good to many ; we are trusted with ling of the will of God, who will have us here : our Master's talents for his service: in our places and that is best which God wills.

to do our best to propagate his truth, and grace, 2. The life to come depends upon this: as and church ; and to bring home souls, honthe life of man in the world upon his generation our his cause, edify his flock, and further the in the womb; or as the reward upon the work ; salvation of as many as we can.

All this is or the runner's or soldier's prize upon his race or to be done on earth, if we will secure the end fighting; or as the merchant's gain upon his of all in heaven. voyage. Heaven is won or lost on earth; the possession is there, but the preparation is here : few I think that are guilty of it, to think that all Christ will judge all men according to their works religion lies in minding only the life to come, on earth : 'well done, good and faithful servant,' and disregarding all things in this present life: must go before enter thou into the joy of thy all true Christians must seriously mind both the Lord:' 'I have fought a good fight, I have end, and the means, or way: if they mind not finished my course' goes before, the crown of believingly the end, they will never be faithful righteousness which God the righteous judge in the use of means : if they mind not and use will give :' all that ever must be done for salva- not diligently the means, they will never obtain tion by us, must here be done. It was on earth the end. None can use earth well that prefer that Christ himself wrought the work of our re- not heaven; and none come to heaven, that are demption, fulfilled all righteousness, became our not prepared by well using earth. Heaven ransom ; and paid the price of our salvation : and must have the deepest esteem, and habituated it is here that our part is to be done.

love, desire, and joy: but earth must have more The bestowing of the reward is God's work, of our daily thoughts for present practice. A who we are sure will never fail: there is no place man that travels to the most desirable home, for the least suspicion or fear of his misdoing or hath a habit of desire to it all the way, but his failing in any of his undertaken work. But the present business is his travel: and horse, comdanger and fear is of our own miscarrying: lest pany, inns, ways, weariness, &c. may take up we be not found capable of receiving what God more of his sensible thoughts, and of his talk will certainly give to all that are disposed re- and action, than his home. ceivers. To distrust God is heinous sin and Use 2. I have often marvelled to find David folly: but to distrust ourselves we have great in the psalms, and other saints before Christ's cause. So that if we will make sure of heaven, coming, to have expressed so great a sense of it must be by giving all diligence to make firm the things of this present life, and to have said our title, our calling, and our election here on so little of another. To have made so great a earth. If we fear hell, we must fear what leads matter of prosperity, dominions, and victories to it.

on one hand, and of enemies, success, and perIt is great and difficult work that must be here secution on the other. But I consider that it done: it is here that we must be cured of all was not for mere personal, carnal interest, but damping sin ; that we must be regenerated and for the church of God, and for his honour, new born ; that we must be pardoned and justi- word, and worship: and they knew that if fied by faith. It is here that we must be united things go well with us on earth they will to Christ, made wise to salvation, renewed by be sure to go well in heaven : if the militant his Spirit, and conformed to his likeness : it is church prosper in holiness, there is no doubt but it will triumph in glory : God will be If bodily mercies were not of great use to the sure to do his part in receiving souls, if they soul, Christ would not so much buve showed his be here prepared for his kingdom. Satan doth saving love, by healing all manner of diseases much of his damning work by men: if we es- as he did. Nor would God promise us a resurcape their temptations we escape much of our rection of the body, if a congruous body did not danger. Ifidolators prospered, Israel was tempted further the welfare of the soul. to idolatry: the Greek church is almost swal. I am obliged to great thankfulness to God for lowed up by Turkish prosperity and dominion. the mercies of this life which he hath showed to Most follow the powerful and prosperous side. my friends ; that which furthers their joy should Therefore for God's cause, and for heavenly, increase mine : I ought to rejoice with them everlasting interest, our own state, but much that rejoice : nature and grace teach us to be more the church's, must be greatly regarded here glad when our friends are well and prosper : on earth.

though all in order to better things than bodily Indeed if earth be desired only for earth, and warfare. prosperity loved but for the present welfare of Such mercies of this life to the land of our the flesh, it is the certain mark of an earthly habitation, must not be undervalued. The want mind. But to desire peace, and prosperity, and of them are parts of God's threatened curse; and power to be in the hands of wise and faithful godliness hath the promise of this life, and of men, for the sake of souls, and the increase of that which is to come ; and so is profitable to all the church, and the honour of God, that his name things. When God sends on a land the plagues may be hallowed, his kingdom come, and his of famine, pestilence, war, persecution, especially will done on earth, as it is in heaven: this is to a famine of the word of God, it is a great sin be the chief of our prayers to God.

to be insensible of it:

any
shall
say,

While Use 3. Be not unthankful then, O my soul, heaven is sure we have no cause to accuse God, for the mercies of this present life, for those to or to cast away comfort, hope, or duty, they thy body, to thy friends, to the land of thy na- say well : but if they say, Because heaven is all, tivity, and specially to the church of God. we must make light of all that befalls us on

This body is so nearly united to thee, that earth, they say amiss. it must needs be a great help or hinderance : had Good princes, magistrates, and public-spirited it been more afflicted, it might have been a dis- men that promote the safety, peace, and true couraging clog; like a tired horse in a journey, or prosperity of the commonwealth, do thereby very an ill tool to a workman, or an untuned instrument much befriend religion, and men's salvation; in music: a sick or bad servant in a house is a and are greatly to be loved and honoured by all. great trouble: a bad wife much more. But thy If the civil state, called the commonwealth, body is nearer thee than either, and will be more miscarry, or fall into ruins and calamity, the of thy concern.

church will fare the worse for it, as the soul doth Yet if it had been more strong and healthful, by the ruins of the body. The Turkish, Muscosense and appetite would have been strong; and vite, and such other empires, tell us, how the lust would have been strong; and therefore dan-church consumes and dwindles away into conger would have been greater, and victory and tempt; or withered ceremony and formality, salvation much more difficult. Even weak senses where tyranny brings slavery, beggary, or long and temptations have too often prevailed. How persecution on the subjects. Doubtless divers knowest thou then what stronger ones might have passages in the Revelations contain the church's done : when I see a thirsty man in a fever or glorifying of God for their power and prosperdropsy; and specially when I see strong and ity on earth, when emperors became Christians: healthful youths, bred in fulness, and among What else can be meant well by Rev. ix. 10. temptations, how mad they are in sin, and how Hath made us kings and priests to God, and we violently they are carried to it, bearing down shall reign on the earth;' but that Christians shall God's rebukes, conscience, parents, and friends, be brought from under heathen persecution, and all regard to their salvation, it tells me how and have rule and sacred honour in the world, great a mercy I had even in a body not liable to some of them being princes, some honoured

church guides, and all a peculiar honoured peoMany a bodily deliverance hath been of great ple. Had not Satan found out that cursed way use to my soul, renewing my time, opportunity, of getting wicked men that hate true godliness and strength for service, and bringing frequent and peace, into the sacred places of princes and and fresh reports of the love of God.

| pastors, to do his work against Christ, as in

up

their case.

Christ's name, surely no good Christians would not be a stranger to the life and power of that have grudged at the power of rulers of state or saving truth which I have done so much to comchurch : sure I am that many called fifth monar- municate to others. O let not my own words chy men seem to make this their great hope, and writings condemn me as void of that divine that rule shall be in the hands of righteous men: and heavenly nature and life, which I have said and I think most religious parties would rejoice so much for to the world. if those had very great power whom they take Use V. Stir up then, O my soul, thy sincere to be the best and trustiest men : which shows desires and all thy faculties, to do the remnant that it is not the greatness of power in most of the work of Christ appointed thee on earth, princes, or sound bishops, that they dislike, but and then joyfully wait for the heavenly perfection the badness, real or supposed, of those whose in God's own time. power they dislike. Who will blame power to do Thou canst truly say,' to live, to me is Christ:' good ?

it is his work for which thou livest: thou hast Surely the three first and great petitions of the no other business in the world : but thou dost Lord's prayer include some temporal welfare of his work with the mixture of many oversights the world and church, without which the spiritual and imperfections, and too much troublest thy rarely prospers extensively, (though intensively thoughts distrustfully about God's part, who never in a few it may) since miracles ceased.

fails if thy work be done. Be thankful for what 4. Be thankful therefore for all the church's is past, and that thou art come so near the port mercies here on earth : for all the protection of of rest : if God will add any more to thy days, magistracy, the plenty of preachers, the preser- serve him with double alacrity, now thou art so vation from enemies, the restraint of persecution, near the end : the prize is almost within sight; the concord of Christians, and increase of godli- time is swift and short: thou hast told others ness, which in this land it hath had in our ages, that there is no working in the grave, and that notwithstanding all Satan's malignant rage, and it must be now or never though the conceit all the bloody wars that have interrupted our of meriting of commutative justice be no better tranquillity. How many psalms of joyful thanks- than madness, dream not that God will save the giving be there for Israel's deliverances, and the wicked ; no, nor equally reward the slothful and preservation of Zion, and God's worship in his the diligent, because Christ's righteousness was sanctuary : pray for the peace of Jerusalem : perfect. Paternal justice makes difference acthey shall prosper that love it:' especially, that cording to that worthiness which is so denomthe gospel is continued, while so many rage inated by the law of grace: and as sin is its own against it, is a mercy not to be made light of. punishment, holiness and obedience is much of its

Use IV. Be specially thankful, O my soul, own reward; whatever God appoints thee to do, that God hath made any use of thee for the ser- see that thou do it sincerely, and with all thy vice of his church on earth. My God, my soul might: if sin dispose men to be angry because it for this doth magnify thee, and my spirit rejoices is detected, disgraced and resisted, if God be in the review of thy great undeserved mercy ! pleased, their wrath should be patiently borne, O what am whom thou tookest up from the who will shortly be far more angry with themdunghill, or low obscurity, that I should live selves. If slander and obloquy survive, so will myself in the constant relish of thy sweet and the better effects on those that are converted : sacred truth, and with such encouraging success and there is no comparison between these. I communicate it to others ? That I must say shall not be hurt, when I am with Christ, by the now my public work seems ended, that these calumnies of men on earth : but the saving benefit forty-three or forty-four years I have no reason will, by converted sinners, be enjoyed for ever. to think that ever I laboured in vain! O with Words and actions are transient things, and being what gratitude must I look upon all places where once past are nothing : but the effect of them on I lived and laboured, but above all, that place an immortal soul may be endless. All the ser. that had my strength. I bless thee for the great mons that I have preached are nothing numbers gone to heaven, and for the continu- the grace of God on sanctified souls is the beance of piety, humility, concord and peace among ginning of eternal life. It is unspeakable mercy them.

to be sincerely thus employed with success, thereFor all that by my writings have received any fore I had reason all this while to be in Paul's saving light and grace. O my God, let not my strait

, and make no haste in my desires to depart. own heart be barren while I labour in thy hus- The crown will come in its due time: eternity is bandry, to bring others unto holy fruit. Let me long enough to enjoy it, how long soever it be de

now; but

layed: but if I will do that which must obtain | I have done : yet he gloried in such infirmities, it for myself and others, it must be quickly done and rejoiced in his tribulations, and was in a before my declining sun be set.

strait between living and dying, yea, rather chose O that I had no worse causes of my unwilling to live yet longer. ness yet to die, than my desire to do the work Alas, it is another kind of strait that most of of life for my own and other men's salvation, the world are in : the strait of most is between and to finish my course with joy, and the min- the desire of life for fleshly interest, and the fear istry committed to me by the Lord.'

of death as ending their felicity: the strait of Use VI. As it is on earth that I must do good many is between a tiring world and body which to others, so it must be in a manner suited to makes them weary of living, and the dreadful their state on earth. Souls are here closely prospect of future danger which makes them united to bodies, by which they must receive afraid of dying: if they live, it is in misery; if much good or hurt : do good to men's bodies, they must die, they are afraid of greater misery : if thou wouldst do good to their souls: say not, which way ever they look, behind or before them, things corporeal are worthless trifles, for which to this world or the next, fear and trouble is the receivers will be never the better : they are their lot; yea, many an upright Christian, through things that nature is easily sensible of, and sense the weakness of their trust in God, doth live in is the passage to the mind and will. Dost not thou this perplexed strait ; weary of living, and afraid find what a help it is to thyself, to have at any of dying ; between grief and fear, they are pressed time any ease and alacrity of body : what a bur- continually: but Paul's strait was between two den and hinderance, pains and cares are ? Labour joys, which of them he should desire most: if then to free others from such burdens and temp- that be my case, what should much interrupt tations, and be not regardless of them. If thou my peace or pleasure. If I live, it is for Christ ; must rejoice with them that rejoice, and mourn for his work, and for his church, for preparation, with them that mourn, further thy own joy in for my own and others' everlasting felicity. furthering theirs ; and avoid thy. own sorrows, in Should any suffering which makes me not unavoiding or curing theirs.

serviceable, make me iinpatient with such a But, alas ! What power hath selfishness in work, and such a life? If I die presently, it is most? How easily do we bear our brethren's my gain : God, who appointeth me my work, pains, reproaches, wants and afflictions, in com- doth limit my time, and surely his glorious reward parison of our own : how few thoughts, and how can never be unseasonable, or come too soon, if little cost or labour, do we use for their supply, it be the time that he appoints. When I first in comparison of what we do for ourselves. engaged myself to preach the gospel, I reckoned, Nature indeed teaches us to be most sensible of as probable, but upon one or two years: God our own case : but grace tells us that we should hath continued me yet above forty-four, with not make so great a difference as we do, but such interruptions as others in these times have should love our neighbours as ourselves. had. What reason have I now to be unwilling

Use VII. Now, O my soul, consider how mer- either to live or die? God's service hath been cifully God hath dealt with thee, that thy strait so sweet to me, that it hath overcome the troushould be between two conditions so desirable ? ble of constant pains or weakness of the flesh, I.ßball either die speedily, or stay yet longer and all that men have said or done against me. upon earth : which ever it be, it will be a mer- But the following crown exceeds this pleaciful and comfortable state. That it is desirable sure, more than I am here capable to conceive. to depart and be with Christ, I must not doubt, There is some trouble in all this pleasant work, and shall afterwards more copiously consider, from which the soul and flesh would rest : 'blessAnd if my abode on earth yet longer be so ed are the dead that die in the Lord: even so great a mercy as to be put in the balance against saith the Spirit; for they rest from their labours, my present possession of heaven, surely it must and their works follow them.' be a state which obliges me to great thankful- But, O my soul, what needest thou be trouness to God, and comfortable acknowledgment. bled in this kind of strait? It is not left to Surely it is not my pain, or sickness, or my suffer- thee to choose whether or when thou wilt live ing from malicious men, that should make this or die. It is God that will determine it, life on earth unacceptable, while God will con- who is infinitely fitter to choose than thou: tinue it. Paul had his thorn in the flesh, the leave therefore his own work to himself, and messenger of Satan, to buffet him,' and suffered mind that which is thine ; whilst thou livest, live more from men (though less in his health,) than to Christ, and when thou diest, thou shalt die to

THE TREATISE.

Christ, even into his blessed hands; so live, that Part II. That so to be with Christ is far better thou mayest say It is Christ liveth in me, and for them than to be here in the body. the life that I live in the flesh, I live by the faith Concerning the first, my thoughts shall keep of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave this order: himself for me :' and then as thou hast lived in 1st. I shall consider the necessity of believ. the comfort of hope, thou shalt die unto the ing it. 2d. Whether it be best believing it, comfort of vision and fruition : and when thou without consideration of the proofs or difficanst say, he is the 'God whose I am, and whom culties. 3d. The certainty of it manifested for I serve,' thou mayst boldly add, and whom I the exercise of faith. trust, and to whom I commend my departing Whether the words signify that we shall be soul : and I know whom I have trusted. in the same place with Christ, which Grotius

groundlessly denies, or only in his hand, care, CHAP. I.

and love, I will not stay to dispute : many other

texts concurring do assure us that we shall be EXPOSITION OF THE TEXT, AND BASIS OF with him where he is.' At least, with him' can

mean no less than a state of communion, and a

participation of felicity. To believe such a state “For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a of happiness for departed souls, is of manifold

desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which necessity or use. is far better;" or, for this is much rather to If this be not soundly believed, a man must be preferred, or better. PHIL. I. 23.

live without or below the end of life: he must

have a false end, or be uncertain what should •Man that is born of a woman, is of few days, be his end. and full of trouble: he cometh forth like a flower, I know it may be objected, that if I make it and is cut down : he fleeth also as a shadow, and my end to please God, by obeying him, and continueth not ; and dost thou open thine eyes doing all the good I can, and trust him with my upon such a one, and bringest me into judgment soul and future estate, as one that is utterly unwith thee ?' saith Job. As a watch when it is certain what he will do with me, I have an end wound up, or as a candle newly lighted; so man intended, which will make me godly, charitable, newly conceived or born, begins a motion which just, and happy, so far as I am made for happiincessantly hastens to its appointed period. An ness : for the pleasing of God is the right end action, and its time, that is past, is nothing : so of all. vain a thing would man be, and so vain his life, Must I desire to please him no better than were it not for the hopes of a more durable life, I do in this imperfect state, in which I have, which this refers to. But those hopes, and the and do, so much which is displeasing to him? means, do not only distinguish a believer from He that must desire to please him, must desire an infidel, but a man from a beast. When Solo-to please him perfectly: and the desire of our mon describes the difference in respect to the ultimate end must have no bounds or check. time and things of this life only, he truly tells us Am I capable of pleasing God no better, than that one end here befalling both shows that both by such a sinful life as this? God hath made the are here but vanity, but man's vexation is greater desire of our own felicity so necessary to the than the beasts'. And Paul truly saith of Chris- soul of man, that it cannot be expected that our tians, that, if our hope were only in this life,' desire to please him, should be separated from that is, in the time and things of this life and this. Therefore both in respect of God as the world, we were of all men most miserable.' end, and of our felicity as our second end, we Though even in this life, as related to a better, must believe that he is the rewarder of them and as we are exercised about things of a higher that diligently seek him.' nature than the concerns of temporal life, we If we make such an ill description of God, are far happier than any worldlings.

as that he will turn our pleasing him to our Being to speak of myself, I shall pass by all loss, or will not turn it to our gain and welfare, the rest of the matter of this text, and suppose or that we know not whether he will do so or its due explication, and spread before my soul not, it will hinder our love, trust, and joy in only the doctrine and uses of these two parts him, by which we must please him, and consecontained in it.

quently hinder the alacrity, soundness, and conPart I. That the souls of believers, when de- stancy of our obedience. parted hence, shall be with Christ.

It will much dismiss that self-love which

« PreviousContinue »