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action springing from such an unclean heart, thereby becomes filthy; even as Moses hand, put into his bosom, became leprous; or rather as one that is unclean by a dead body, defileth all that he toucheth, Hag. ii. 13.
Now, religion is the cleansing of this unclean spirit and conversation; so that, though the soul were formerly as filthy and odious as Augeas' stable, when once those living waters flow into it, and through it, from the pure fountain of grace and holiness, the Spirit of our God, one may say of it, as the Apostle of his Corinthians, "Such were some of you; but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified," &c. The soul that before was white as leprosy, is now white as wool, Isa. i. 18. The soul that before was like Moses' hand, leprous as snow, is now like David's heart, white as snow; yea, and whiter too. O what a beauty and glory is upon that godly soul, that shines with the image and brightness of God upon it! Solomon, in all his glory, was not beautiful like such a soul: nay, I dare say, the splendour of the sun, in its greatest strength and altitude, is a miserable glimmering, if it be compared with the day-star of religion, that even in this life arises in the heart; or, if you will, in the prophet's style, the Sun of Righteousness, which ariseth with healing in his wings, upon them that fear the name of God. To speak without a metaphor, the godly soul, having entertained in itself the pure effluxes of divine light and love, breathes after nothing more than to see more familiarly, and to love more ardently: its inclinations are pure and holy; its motions spiritual and powerful; its delights high and heavenly; it
may be said to rest in its love; and yet it may be said, that love will not suffer it to rest, but is still carrying it out into a more intimate union with its beloved object. What is said of the ointment of Christ's name, is true of the water of his Spirit; it is poured forth, "therefore do the virgins love him:" religion begets a chaste and virgin love in the soul towards that blessed God that begot it; it bathes itself in the fountain that produced it; and suns itself perpetually in the warm beams that first hatched it. Religion issues from God himself, and is ever issuing out towards God alone, passionately breathing with the holy Psalmist, "Whom have I in heaven but thee? In earth there is none that I desire beside thee!" The soul that formerly may be said to have lain among the pots, by reason of its filthiness, is now as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold: the soul that formerly may be said to have sitten down by the flesh-pots of Egypt, in regard of its sensual and earthly loves, being redeemed by the almighty grace of God, is upon its way to the holy land, hastening to a country, not earthly but heavenly. This pure principle being put into the soul, puts it upon holy studies, indites holy meditations, directs it to high and noble ends, and makes all its embraces to be pure and chaste, labouring to compass God himself, which before were adulterous and idolatrous, only free for sin, and self, and the world, to lodge and lie down in. In a word, this offspring of heaven, this King's daughter, the godly soul," is all glorious within:" yea, and outwardly too, she is clothed with wrought gold. Her faith within is more precious
than gold, and her conversation curiously made up of an embroidery of good works, some of piety, some of charity, some of sobriety, but all of purity, shineth with more noble and excellent splendour, than the high priest's garments and breast-plate spangled with such variety of precious stones. This precious ointment, this holy unction, as the Apostle calls it, is as diffusive of itself, and ten thousand times more fragrant, than that of Aaron, so much commended in Psal. cxxxiii. that ran down from his head upon his beard, and from thence upon the skirts of his garment. "Not my feet only, but my hands and my head, Lord," said Peter, not well knowing what he said ; but the soul that is truly sensible of the excellent purity which is caused by divine washings, longs to have the whole man, the whole life also, made partaker of it, and cries, Lord, not my head only, not my heart only, but my hands and my feet also, make me wholly pure, as God is pure. In a word, then, true religion is the cleansing of the soul, and all the powers of it; so that, whereas murderers sometimes lodged in it, now righteousness; the den of thieves, thievish lusts and loves, and interests, and ends, which formerly stole away the soul from God, its right owner, is now become a temple fit for the great King to dwell, and live, and reign in and the whole conversation is turned from its wonted vanity, worldliness, and iniquity, and is continually employed about things that are "true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report."
(2.) By the phrase water, the quenching nature of religion is commended to us. God hath endued the immortal soul with a restless appetite, and raging
thirst after some chief good, which the heart of every man is continually groping after, and catching at, though indeed few find it, because they seek it where it is not to be found. If we speak properly, it is not gold, or silver, or popular applause, which the covetous or ambitious mind doth ultimately aim at, but some chief good, happiness, sufficiency, and satisfaction in these things; wherein they are more guilty of blasphemy than atheism: for it is clear that they do not deny a supreme good; for that which men chiefly and ultimately aim at, is their god, be it what it will; but they do verily blaspheme the true God, when they place their happiness there where it is not to be found, and attribute that fulness and sufficiency to something else besides the living God. Sin hath not destroyed the nature and capacity of the rational soul, but hath diverted the mind from its adequate object, and hath sunk it into the creature, where it wanders hither and thither, like a banished man, from one den and cave to another, but is secure no where. A wicked man, who is loosed from his centre by sin, and departed from the fountain of his life, flies low in his affections, and flutters perpetually about the earth, and earthly objects, but can find no more rest for the foot of his soul, than Noah's dove could find for the sole of her foot. Now, religion is the hand that pulls this wandering bird into her own ark from whence she was departed; it settles the soul upon its proper centre, and quenches its burning thirst after happiness. And for this reason it is called 'water' in
Scripture. "The Lord shall satisfy thy soul in drought;" and "I will pour water upon him that is
thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground;" compared with John vii. 37. "Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.” Religion is a taste of infinite goodness, which quenches the soul's thirst after all other created and finite good; even as that taste which honest Nathanael had of Christ's divinity, took him off from the expectation of any Messiah to come, and made him cry out presently, " Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel." And every religious soul hath such a taste of God, even in this life, which, though it do not perfectly fill him, yet doth perfectly assure him where all fulness dwells. But of this I shall have occasion to discourse more largely, when I come to treat of the consequents of true religion.
2. I proceed, therefore, to the second phrase, whereby our Saviour describes the nature of true religion; it is a well, a fountain in the soul, Shall
be in him a well of water." From which phrase, to waive niceties, I shall only observe,
"That religion is a principle in the souls of
The water that Christ pours into the soul is not like the water he pours upon our streets, that washes them, and runs away; but it becomes a cleansing principle within the soul itself; every drop from God becomes a fountain in man; not as a man had a kind of autolan in himself, or were the first spring of his own motions towards God: I find not any will in the natural man so divinely free. God hath indeed given this to his natural Son, his only begotten Son, to have life in himself," but not to any of his