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Ist, A godly soul does not find the whole of his business lying without him. Religion does not consist in external reformations, though ever SO many and specious. A false and overly religion may serve to tie men's hands, and reduce their outward actions to a fair seemliness in the eyes of men : but true religion's main dominion and power is over the soul, and its business lies mostly in reforming and purging the heart, with all the affections and motions thereof. It is not a battering-ram coming from without, and serving to beat down the outworks of open and visible enormities of life; but enters with a secret and sweet power into the soul itself, and reduces it from its rebellious temper, and persuades it willingly to surrender itself, and all that is in it. Sin may be beaten out of the outward conversation, and yet retire and hide itself in the secret places of the soul, and there bear rule as perfectly by wicked loves and lusts, as ever it did by profane and notorious practices. A man's hands may be tied by some external cords cast upon them, from visible revenge, and yet murderers may lodge in the temple of his heart, as murderers lodged in the temple of old; men's tongues may be tied up from the foul sin of giving fair words concerning themselves; very shame may chastise them out of proud boastings, and self-exaltings, when, in the mean time, they swell in self-conceit, and are not afraid to bear an unchaste and sinful love towards their own perfections, and adore an image of self set up in their hearts. What a fair outside the Pharisee had, himself will best describe; for indeed it is one of his properties to describe himself, Luke xviii.
"God, I thank thee, that I am not," &c. But, if you will have a draught of his inside, you may best take it from our Saviour, Matth. xxiii. Neither doth religion consist in external performances, though ever so many, and seemingly spiritual. Many professors of Christianity, I doubt, sink all their religion into a constant course of duties, and a model of performances, being mere strangers to the life, and strength, and sweetness of true religion. Those things are needful, and useful, and helpful, yea, and honourable, because they have a relation and some tendency to God; but they are apt to become snares and idols to superstitious minds, who conceive that God is some way gratified by these; and so they take up their rest in them. That religion, that only varnishes and beautifies the outside, tunes the tongue to prayer and conference, instructs and extends the hands to diligence and alms-deeds, that awes the conversation into some external righteousness or devotion, is here excluded, as also by the Apostle, 1 Cor. xiii. Much less can that pass for religion, that spends itself about forms, and opinions, and parties, and many disputable points, which we have seen so much of in our own generation. The religion that runs upon modes, and turns upon interests, as a door turns upon its hinges, is a poor, narrow, scanty thing, and may easily view itself at once, altogether from first to last. Men may be as far from the kingdom of heaven in their more spiritual forms, and orthodox opinions, as they were in their more carnal and erroneous ones, if they take up their rest in them; neither is it the pursuing of any interest that will denominate them religious, but the grand interest of their souls.
2d, A godly soul, in his more inward and spiritual acts, hath not his motive without him: for a man may be somewhat inward in his motions, and yet as outward in his motives as the former. Religious acts, and gracious motions, are not originally and primarily caused by some weights hung upon the soul, either by God or men, neither by the worldly blessings which God gives, nor the heavy afflictions which he sends. The wings, by which the godly soul flies out towards God, are not waxed to him, as the poets feign Icarus's to have been ; but they grow out of himself, as the wings of an eagle that flies swiftly towards heaven: on the other hand, a soul may be pressed down into humiliation, under the heavy weight of God's judgments, that has no mind to stoop, no self-denying or self-debasing disposition in it. Thus you may see Jehu flying upon the wings of ambition and revenge, borne up by successes in his government; and his predecessor Ahab bowing down mournfully under a heavy sentence. The laws, and penalties, and encouragements, and observations of men, do sometimes put a weight upon the soul too, but they beget a more sluggish, uneven, and unkindly motion in it. You may expect, that under this head I should speak something of heaven and hell; and truly so I may pertinently, for I think they do belong to this place. If you take heaven, properly, for a full and glorious union to God, and fruition of him, and hell for an eternal separation and straggling from the divinity; and suppose that the love of God, and the fear of living without him, be well drunk into the soul, then, verily, these are pure and religious principles:
but if we view them as things merely without us, and reserved for us, and under those common, carnal notions of delectableness and dreadfulness, they are no higher nor better motives to us, than the carnal Jews had in the wilderness, when they turned their back upon Egypt, where they had been in bondage, and set their faces towards Canaan, where they hoped to find milk and honey, peace, plenty, and liberty. A soul is not carried to heaven, as a body is carried to the grave, upon men's shoulders; it is not borne up by props, whether human or divine; nor carried to God in a chariot, as a man is carried to see his friend; the holy fire of ardent love, wherein the soul of Elijah had been long carried up towards God, was something more excellent, and indeed more desirable, than the fiery chariot by which his body and soul were translated together. Religion is a spring of motion which God hath put into the soul itself.
And as all things that are external, whether actions or motives, are excluded in this examination, which we make of religion; so neither,
(2.) Must we allow of every thing that is internal, to be religion. And, therefore,
First. It is not a fit, a start, a sudden passion of the mind, caused by the power and strength of some present conviction in the soul, which, in a hot mood, will needs go out after God in all haste. This may fitly be compared to the rash and rude motion of the host of Israel, who, being chidden for their slothfulness over night, rose up early in the morning, and gat them up into the top of the mountain, saying, "Lo, we be here, and will go up unto the place
which the Lord hath promised: for we have sinned." And, indeed, it fares with these men oftentimes as it did with those, both as to the undertaking, and as to the success; their motion is as sinful as their station; and their success is answerable, they are driven back and discomfited in their enterprise. Nay, though this passion might arise so high, as to be called an ecstacy or a rapture, yet it deserves not the name of religion: "For religion is," as one speaks elegantly, "like the natural heat that is radicated in the hearts of living creatures, which hath the dominion of the whole body, and sends forth warm blood and spirits, and vital nourishment into every part and member; it regulates and orders the motions of it in a due and even manner." But these ecstatical souls, though they may blaze like a comet, and swell like a torrent or land-flood for a time, and shoot forth fresh and high for a little season, are soon extinguished, emptied, and dried up, because they have not a principle, a stock to spend upon, or, as our Saviour speaks, no root in themselves. These men's motions and actions bear no more proportion to religion, than a land-flood, that swells high and runs swiftly, but it is only during the rain; or, in the Scripture phrase, no more than a morning dew, that soon passes away, is like a well or fountain of water.
Second, If religion be a principle, a new nature in the soul, then it is not a mere mechanism, a piece of Art imitates nature; nothing more ordinary, I fear, than for religion itself, that new nature, to go into an art. I need not tell you how all the external acts and shootings forth of religion, may be dissembled and imitated by art, and be acted over by