« AnteriorContinuar »
castaways; or to recover us to repentance, when we have fallen; or to fortify us against compliance in the hour of temptation. Thus we collect that faith is the principle of a christian under all events, and in every condition of humane life; bleffed are they that have not seen, and yet believe. Wherefore
It is ordained to govern all our thoughts, words, and actions, with a regard to another world ; and by a firm perfwafion of absent and invisible things ; as the belief of a God, and his providence, his invisible grace, especially when in all our ways we have a regard to the promises of everlasting life, and the threa-nings of eternal misery; as the apostle has largely proved by many examples, in the with chapter to the Hebrews. Yet,
As to the objects of faith, they are fitted to work For what * rearons upon our minds on the account of their certainty
and importance. We have all the assurance of the truth of them that we are capable of in this life, from the dictates of reason, and the general consent of mankind; befides that, to assure us these reasonings are true, we have a most credible revelation of these things in the gospel of our Saviour ; who gave a sensible proof of his divine mission in
As to the improm the dead." And his divine mission in
As to the importance of them, every one must own, that the highest hopes and the greatest fears, are sufficient springs of humane actions; for what can concern us more than eternal happinels and eternal milery? And, Of hope.
VI. Thus we may observe, that faith in God open through Jesus Christ, includes our obedience to. his laws, and produceth in the heart of a sincere and true believer, an humble hope in his promises, which may be improved into a strong reliance and dependence upon the truth and goodness of the Lord, for his performance of those things promised on his part, which is a condition of our acceptance with him. So that an humble hope, the effect of faith, is a proper homage to God upon the foot of his infallible truth, that he neither can be mistaken himself, nor is under any temptation to deceive us. Whatever he says, must be true, and accordingly claims our firm hope and dependence, tho" we can have no other evidence for it besides his testimony :
tho’ we may not be able to account for the manner of it, or to solve every difficulty that may arise in the mind against it.
We should indeed be very careful, that we have the testimony of God to support our hope, that we have used the the best means in our power, both natu-,
both natu Where
grounded. ral and appointed, to understand God's meaning: when we have done this, it is an essential branch of true godliness to believe and hope upon the sole authority of God, which are the only means to guard us a- 10
y It's use. gainst those two pernicious extreams, presumption and despair, which interrupt or destroy this duty. Therefore tho' the apostle has taught in general to hope all things, we must watch our own corruption, and not suffer it to rely too much upon our own strength. For, *VII. We are guilty of great presumption, when we neglect those means of grace, which are established in order to enable us to perform our duty: When"
When Presumption. we rafhly run ourselves into temptations, presuming upon our own ability to encounter them; and, even in those trials that the providence of God brings upon us, when we trust more to our own resolution than to his divine assistance, and consequently remit that watchfulness and prayer, which are so necessary to secure us: When we do not avoid those occasions, which by woful experience, we have found fatal to our vistue: When we are not jealous over our own hearts, and do not suspect that weakness and corruption, which makes us fo prone to be overcome when we are tempted.
This self-confident temper often betrays us to undertake what we have neither capacity nor ability to perform. It makes us neglect those previous mea
Dangerous. sures which are necessary to accomplish what we design. It teaches us by dear bought experience the frailties and infirmities of our nature. It frequently makes shipwreck of a good conscience, and provokes God to withdraw his grace; which we lay so little stress upon, in order to our preservation. And therefore,
To cure this sort of presumption, we should consider the weakness and frailty of human nature, and the Iris remedy. frequent instances of it in our own conduct, and“,
how unable we are of ourselves to do any thing that is good. To reflect upon those eminent examples that have been fatally betrayed by too great a confidence in themselves; and which are set up, as so many marks for us to avoid those nad rocks
upon which they split. That the praying not to be led into temptation, supposes not only an obligation in us to avoid dangerous occasions, but also a proneness in our nature to be overcome, when we are attacked. That the of God's assistance imply, we cannot work out our salvation by our own strength; and that the means of
which are so necessary to secure us, Thew that our sufficiency is of God; such a one hath this hope in him, that he purifieth himself even as he is pure. But he who hopeth for pardon of sins and eternal life, without that repentance and obedience, to which alone they are promised, is a presumptuous hy- nelle pocrite whose hope shall perish.
simhi VIII. Yet we are not to be so borne down Of despair. with our sins and mistrust the
mercy of God, as to fall into the contrary fault, which is despair. For, tho’ it be true that sin is the saddest slavery in the world; yet it must not break and fink mens spirits, and make them fo base and servile, as to deprive them of that courage necessary to rescue themselves. And, as long custom and continuance in fin deprives us of our strength, so it discourageth our hopes, both of God's grace and assistance, and of his mercy and forgiveness. The despair then we speak of, is a disorder which consists in a settled rooted perswasion, that we shall never obtain mercy, let us do whatever we can; for it is no temper or state of mind worthy of blame, to despair of we continue in fin. Therefore, It's remedy.
The hope we have in God through Christ Je
fus is a remedy against this sin: for as by despair the devil would perswade a sinner that he can never obtain mercy; so God does give a certain hope of eternal glory to all that will seek for mercy by sincere repentance, and obedience through Jesus Christ. So that though by sin we are at enmity with God, and thereby forfeit our present right; yet hope assures us, that our right to the enjoyments of heaven may be regained, if we will forsake the evil of our ways,
and in earnest seek for salvation through the merits of the crucified Jesus. How then can a rational creature give up
his reason, so far as to give himself up for lost, when the God that made him, and is to reward or punish him, doth promise his mercy to as many as will change their evil course of life? Yet,
IX. Though faith and hope on the plainest evidence are reasonable and necessary duties to God; we may not, we must not stop here; for, we must love Love of God sincerely and affectionately: because all the reasons for the loving any object or thing in this world, do more forcibly recommend to us the love of God. This supposes an apprehension of God as most amiable and good; for we love any thing under that notion : and God deserves our highest love, as being supremely good. He is in himself most excellent, fit to be our chief happiness, and hath actually shewn himself our best friend ; upon all which accounts our best love is due to him. There should be the highest esteem and veneration for God, as he is in Upon what
founded. himself possessed of all possible excellencies. We feel ourselves ready to esteem real worth, when we see it, even though we are not ourselves, direct gainers by it: we secretly value a man of steady virtue, a publick benefactor, a wife and a good prince, though we are not like to be the better for him ourselves, and have no knowledge of him, but by fame or history. And,
If we love and esteem a worthy man, shall we not have the highest veneration for that blessed being, who is light, and in whom there is no darkness at all ? in whom all excellencies meet together, without any mixture or alloy, and without a possibility of losing them. His goodness and excellency tarnishes all the beauty and excellence of creatures ; there is none good, but one, that is God: because he is good in such a sense, as none can be acknowledged good besides. He alone is perfectly, originally, necessarily, and unchangeably good; he has every excellence in the highest degree ; almighty power, unerring wisdom, infinite goodness, unblemilhed truth, spotless holiness ; every thing fit to raise the wonder, and engage the delight of men and
. His gloty shines out in the works of creation and providence, and so
is laid open to every eye: and in the work of our redemption it is further manifested to us so, as eye hath not seen before, nor ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man. And,
Tho' several of the divine attributes are awful, yet goodness only is amiable; and without it nothing else is fo. Power and wisdom may command dread and admiration, yet nothing but goodness can challenge our love and affection. Goodness is amiable for itself, though no benefit and advantage
should from thence redound to us: but when we find the comfortable effects of it, when the riches of God's goodness, and long-suffering, and forbearance are laid out
upon us, when we live upon that goodness, and are indebted to it, for all that we have and hope ; this is a much greater endearment to us of that excellency and perfection, which was amiable for itself. We cannot but love him, who is good, and does us good; whose goodness extends to all his creatures, and is exercised in so peculiar a manner towards the sons of men, that it is called Love; and if God vouchsafes to love us, well may this be the first and great commandment, thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy strength. Moreover,
If we love him entirely, nothing that he com
mands will be grievous to us ; nay, so far from that, that the greatest pleasure we are capable of, will be to please him. Nothing is difficult to love. It will make a man deny himself, and cross his own inclinations, to pleafure them whom he loves. It is a passion of a strange power, where it reigns, and will cause a man to submit to those things with delight, which in other circumstances would seem grievous to him. Jacob served for Rachel seven years, and after that seven years more; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her. Did but the love of God rule in our hearts, and had we as much real affection for him as some men have for their friends, there are no such difficulties in religion but what such a love would conquer, and the severest parts of it would become easy, when they were once undertaken by a willing mind. God's goodness is a powerful motive and argument to the love of God, and this is the most