« PreviousContinue »
also, by the way, take notice of the miserable condition of unholy souls. We need not call for fire and brimstone to paint out the wretched state of sinful souls. Sin itself is hell and death, and misery to the soul, as being a departure from goodness and holiness itself; I mean from God, in conjunction with whom the happiness, and blessedness, and heaven of a soul doth consist. Avoid it, therefore, as you would avoid being miserable.
True religion described by water : 1. By reason of the cleansing virtue of it. 2. By reason of the quenching virtue of it. The nature of religion described by a well of water: That it is a principle in the souls of men. An examination of religion by this test. A godly man hath neither the whole of his business, nor his motives, lying without him. In the same examination, many things internal found not to be religion.
I COME now to speak of the nature of true reli-gion, which is here described by our blessed Lord, by a "well of water:" 1. By water. 2. By a well of water. I shall speak something of both these, but more briefly of the former.
1. Pure religion, or gospel-grace, is described by water. This is a comparison very familiar in the Holy Scriptures, both of the Old Testament and the New. By this similitude, gospel-grace was typified in the ceremonial law, wherein both persons and things, ceremonially unclean, were commanded to be washed in water, as is abundantly to be seen in that administration. Under this notion the same grace is prayed for by the Psalmist, when he had defiled himself in the bed of a stranger: "Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." He had drunk water out of a strange cistern, as his son Solomon describes that unclean act, Prov. v. 15. and now he calls out for water from the fountain of grace, to undefile him he now cries out for water from the fountain of grace, the blessed Messiah, that sprung
up into the world at Bethlehem, and that with more earnestness than formerly; we read that he wished for the water of the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate, 2 Sam. xxiii. In the same phrase the same grace is promised by the ministry of the prophets, who prophesied of the grace that should come Thus we read of the fair and flourishing state of the church, "Thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not ;" and of the fruitful state of the gospel proselytes, "All the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters, and a fountain shall come forth of the house of the Lord, and shall water the valley of Shittim." Which promises are understood of the grace of sanctification, as the prophet Ezekiel showeth plainly, "I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols will I cleanse you:" for ordinary elementary water cannot cleanse men from idols. The prophet Isaiah also puts it out of doubt, whose prophecy, together with the interpretation of it, we find both in one verse, "I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring." By the same ceremony, the gospel dispensation shadows out the same mystery in the sacrament of baptism; and, by the same phrase, our Saviour offers and promises the same grace, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink :" and his Apostles after him, who, in allusion to water, call this grace the "washing of regeneration." To which I might add, 1 Pet. iii. 21. and many other texts, if it needed.
Now, as the grace of God is compared to fire, because of its refining nature, and consuming the dross and refuse of lust in the soul; and to other things for other reasons: so it is compared to water, especially for those two properties, namely, cleansing and quenching for observe this, by the way, that it is a very injurious thing to the Holy Ghost, to press the metaphors which he useth in Scripture, further than they naturally and freely serve. Neither are we to adhere to the letter of the metaphor, but to attend to the scope of it. If we tenaciously adhere to the phrase, wanton wits will be ready to quarrel with absurdities, and so unawares run into strange blasphemies: they will cry out presently, How can fire wash? when they read that of the prophet, “The Lord will wash away the filth of the daughter of Zion, by the spirit of burning." But who art thou, O man! that wilt teach him to speak, who formed the tongue? The Spirit of God intends the virtue and property of things, when he names them; and that we must mainly attend to.
(1.) Therefore, by the phrase water, is the cleansing nature of religion commended to us: it is the undefiling of the soul, which sin and wickedness hath polluted: sin is often described in Scripture by filthiness, loathsomeness, abomination, uncleanness, a spot, a blemish, a stain, a pollution; which indeed is a most proper description of it. The spots of leprosy, and the scurf of the foulest scurvy, are beauty-spots in comparison of it. Job upon the dunghill, furnished cap-a-pee with scabs and boils, was not half so loathsome as goodly Absalom, in whose body "there was no blemish from the sole of
his foot to the crown of his head ;" but his soul was stained with the sanguine spots of malice and revenge, and festered with the loathsome carbuncle and tumour of ambition. Lazarus, lying at the gates full of raw and running sores, was a far more lovely object in the pure eyes of God, than dame Jezebel, looking out at the window, adorned with spots and paints. If the best of a godly man that he hath of his own, even his righteousness, be as a filthy rag, whence shall we borrow a phrase foul enough to describe the worst of a wicked man, even his wickedness? I need say no more of it, I can say no worse of it, than to tell you, it is something contrary to God, who is the eternal Father of light, who is beauty, and brightness, and glory itself; or, to give it you in the Apostle's phrase, “A falling short of the glory of God." Which hath made me many times to wonder, and almost ready to cry out with the prophet, "Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this," when I have seen poor, ignorant, wicked, and profane wretches, passing by a person, or a family, visited with some loathsome disease, in a mixture of fear and disdain, stopping their noses and hastening away; when their own souls have been more vile than the dung upon the earth, spotted with ignorance and atheism, swollen with the risings of pride and self-will, and contempt of God and his holy image. This might well be a matter of wonder to any man, till he consider with himself, that one part of these men's uncleanness, is that very blindness which keeps them from discerning it: I speak principally of the defilement of the soul; though indeed the same do pollute the whole conversation: every