« PreviousContinue »
remains but five of thirty which profess the Christian religion at large ; and the far greater part of these remaining five are invelopped and drowned in popish darkness; so that you see the reformed Proteftant religion is confined to a small spot of ground indeed. Now, if from these we substract all the grofly ignorant, openly profane, merely civil, and secretly hypocritical, judge then in yourfelves, how small a scantling of the world falls to Christ's share.
Well might Christ say, Matth. vii. 14. “ Narrow is the way, « and strait is the gate that leadeth 'unto life; and few there “ be that find it." And again, Luke xii. 32. “ Fear not, little « flock.” The large piece goes to the devil; a little remnant is Chrift's, Rom. ix. 27. Saints in fcripture are called jewels, Mal. iii. 17. Precious pearls and diamonds, which the Latins call Uniones. Quia nulli duo fimul reperiuntur, (faith Pliny) be. cause nature gives them not bý pairs, but one by one : how many pebbles to one pearl! Suitable to this notion, is that complaint of the prophet, Mic. vii. 1, 2. “Wo is me! for I am as « when they have gathered the summer-fruits, as the grape. “ gleanings of the vintage ; there is no cluster to eat; my soul « defired the first ripe fruits; the good man is perished out of « the earth, and there is none, (i. e. none comparatively) up“ right among men.” The prophet alludes to a poor hungry man, that, after the gathering time is past, comes into an orchard defiring some choice fruit to eat; but, alas ! he finds none; there is no cluster ; poffibly here and there one after the shaking time. True faints are the world's rarities.
1. What then will be my lot, when A reflection for one that follows the ex
that great shaking time thall come, who
have followed the multitude, and gone ample of the multi
with the tide of the world? How, even tude.
when I have been pressed to strictness and singular diligence in the matters of salvation, and told what a narrow way
way of life is, have I put it off with this? If it be so, then wo to thoufands! Ah, foolish heart! Thousands, and ten thousands shall be woful and miserable, indeed, to all eternity ! Will it be any mitigation of my misery, that I shall have thousands of miserable companions with me in hell ? Or, will it be admitted for a good plea at the judgment-leat, Lord; I did as the generality of my neighbours in the world did; except it were here and there a more precise person, I saw none but lived as I lived. Ah, foolish finner! is it not better to go to heaven alone, than to hell with company? The worst courses
have always the most imitators; and the road to destruction is thronged with passengers.
2. And how little better is my condition, who have often fathered the wicked- A refleétion for an ness of my own heart, upon the encourage. abujer of mercy. ment of mercy ? Thus hath my heart pleaded against strictnefs and duty; God is a merciful God, and will not be so severe with the world, to damn so many thou. fands as are in my condition. Deluded soul ! if God had damn. ed the whole race of Adam, he had done them no more wrong: yea, there is more mercy in saving but one man, than there is of severity and rigour in damning all. How many drunkards and adulterers have lived and died with thy plea in their mouths, “ God is a merciful God?" But yet his word'exprefsly faith, “ Be not deceived; such shall not inherit the kinga i dom of God," I Cor. vi. 9. God, indeed, is a God of infnite mercy; but he will never exercise his mercy to the prejudice of his truth.
3. Oht what rich grace is here, That in a general fhipwreck mercy should cast forth a A refle&tion for line or plank to save me! That when milli- an elect foul. Ons perish, I with a few more should escape that perdition! Was it the Father's good pleasure to bestow the kingdom upon a little flock, and to make me one of that numa ber? What fingular obligations hath mercy put upon my foul! The fewer are saved, the more caufe have they that are, to admire their falvation. If but one of a thoufand had been damna ed, yet '
my salvation would have been an act of infinite grace, but when scarce one of a thousand are saved, what shall I call that grace, that cast my lot among them !
The PO E M.
The heaps of fruit which fall from thaken trees,
This little handful's left, to shadow forth
CH A P. IV.
Upon the Cutting down of dead Trees.
Dead barren trees you for the fire prepare ;
OBSE R V A TI O N.
cover a fruit tree, if the husbandman see it be quite dead, and that there can be no more expectatiou of any fruit from it, he brings his ax, and hews it down by the root; and from the orchard it is carried to the fire, it being then fit for nothing else ; he reckons it imprudent to let fuch a useless tree abide in good ground, where another may be planted in its room, that will better pay for the ground it stands in. I myself once saw a large orchard.of fair but fruitless trees, all rooted up, rived abroad, and ricked up for the fire.
do but cumber his ground, Matth. iii.10. “ And now o alto the ax is laid to the root of the trees; therefore every “ tree that brings not forth good fruit, is hewen down and cast « into the fire." And Luke xiii. 7. “ Then said the dresser :66 of the vineyard, Behold, these three years I came seeking “ fruit on this fig-tree, and find none ; cut it down ; why 5 cumbereth it the ground?” These three years, alluding to -- the time of his ministry, he being at that time entering upon the last half year, as one observes, by harmonizing the evangelists; so long he had waited for the fruit of his mipistry among those dead-hearted Jews, pow his patience is even at an end ; cut them down (faith he) why cumber they the ground ? I will plant others, (viz. the Gentiles) in their room. This hewing down of the barren tree doth, in a lively manner, shadow forth God's judicial proceedings against formal and empty profeffors under the gospel ; and the resemblance clearly holds in these following particulars:
1. The tree that is to be hewn down for the fire, stands in the orchard among other flourishing trees, where it hath enjoyed the benefit of a good foil, a strong fence, and much culture ; but being barren, these privileges secure it not from the fire. A is not our standing in the visible church by a powerless pre
feffion among real faints with whom we have been affociated, and enjoyed the rich and excellent waterings of ordinances, that can secure us from the wrath of God, Matt. üi. 8,9. “Bring “ forth fruits meet for repentance, and think not to say within “ yourselves, we have Abraham to our father.” Neither Abraham, nor Abraham's God, will acknowledge fuchi degeverate children ; if-Abraham's faith be not in your hearts, it will be no advantage that Abraham's blood runs in your veins. It will be a poor plea for Judas, when he shall stand before Christ in judgment, to say, Lord, I was one of thy family, I preached for thee; I did eat and drink in thy prefence. Let these scriptures be confulted, Marth. vii. 22. Matth. XXV. 11, 12. Rom. ii. 17, and 25.
2. The husbandman doth not presently cut down the tree because it puts not forth as soon as other trees do; but waits as long as there is any hope, and then cuts it down. Thas doth God wait upon barren dead-hearted persons, from fabbath-to fabbath, and from year to year; for the Lord is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any dould perish, but that all should come to repentance, 2 Pet. iii. 9. Thus the long fuffering of "God waited in the days of Noah upon those dry trees, who are now smoaking and flaming in hell, 1 Pet. iii. 29. He waits long on finners, but keeps exact accounts of every year and day of his patience, Luke. xiii. 7. “These three years." And Jer. xxv. 3. thefe twenty-three years.
3. When the time is come to cut it down, the dead tree cannot possibly resist the stroke of the ax; but receives the blow, ; and falls before it. No more can the stoutest sinner resist the
fatal stroke by death, by which the Lord hews him down ; Eccl. viii. 8. * There is no man that hath power over the spirit “ to retain the spirit ; neither hath he power in the day of « death; and there is no discharge in that war." When the pale horse comes, away you' mult into the land of darkness. Though thou cry, with Adrian, O my poor soul! whither art thou going? Die thou must, thou barren profeffor , though it were better for thee to do any thing else than to die. What a dreadful fhriek will thy conscience give, when it fées the ax at thy root, and say to thee, as it is Ezek. vii. 6. “An end is
come, the end is come ; it watcheth for thee; behold it is “come." Oh ! faith Henry Beauford, (that rich and wretched cardinal, bishop of Winchester, and chancellor of England, when he perceived whereto he must), wherefore must I die? If the whole reaim would save my life, I am able either by policy to get it, or by riches to buy it. Eie (quoth he) will not death