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Wherein the third doBrine, being the main subject of this treatise, it opened, and the method of the whole discourse Jlated*
'That only is to be accounted true grace, which is able to endure all those trials appointed or permitted for iSe discovery of it.
THE most wise God hath seen itffoto set all his people in a state bTlrlal in this world First, he tries, and then he crowns I thetn^ Jamesj. 12. "Blefled is the man that endureth temptation, * "wKj«rjLco», i.e. probation or trial;] for when he is tried, he (halt * "recejve^e^crown^nife^' &c.
No man can fay what he is; whether his graces be true or false, i tilHEejJ^tnecTand examined by tholfTthTngs which are to them as fire is to gold. These self-deceivers ]n the text, thought they had grace; yea, they thought they had been rich in gracej bin jt^proyed rio"~pctter than dross: And therefore Christ here counsels them to ... buy of him gold tried in the_firejj; e. true grace indeed, which appears to~be^o ^upon TKevarkms^ proofs anjile xaminaliojis_oX itsjGncerity_, which are to be made in this worldr as well as in the great solemn trial it must come to in the world_to_cQme.
~ The scripture speaks of a twofold trial, viz.
C Opinions, A trial of mens -i and £ Graces. 1. First, The opinions and judgments of men are tried as by fire; in which sense we are to understand that place, 1 Cor. iii. 12, 13. "Now if any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, pre« cious stones, wood, hay, stubble, every man's work shall be made "manifest j for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed «« by fire, and the fire shall try every man's work, of what fort it is."' This text Jpeaks of such persons as held the foundation of Chris- 1 tianity, but yet fuperstrufted such doctrines and practices, as were no more able to endure the trial, than hay, wood, or stubble, can
endure the fire." Such a person hereby brings himself to danger:
and though the apostle will not deny the possibility, yet he asserts the
'difficulty of his salvation; "He shall be loved, yet so as by fire f ;*'
i, i. e. as a man is saved by leaping out of his house at midnight, when
it is all on fire about his ears; for so that phrase imports, Amos iv.
/ 11. and Jude 23. Glad to escape naked, and with the loss of his
goods; blessing God he hath his life for a prey: As little regard
shall such have to their erroneous notions and unferipturai opinions
2. Secondly, The graces of men are brought to the test, as well as
their opinions. Trial will be made of their hearts, as well as of their
heads: and upon this trial the everlasting safety and happiness of the
person depends. If a man's opinions be some of them found hay or
stubble, yet so long as he holds the head, and is right in the foundation,
he may be saved ■, but if. a man's supposed graces be found so, all the
j vorld cannot save him: There is no way of escape, if he finally de
'ceive himself herein. And of this trial of graces my text speaks:
1 Sincere grace is gold tried by fire.
tS There is a twofold trial of grace; active and passive.
First, An active trial of it, in which we try it ourselves, 2 Cor. xiii. 5. "Examine yourselves; prove yourselves;" i. e. measure your hearts, duties and graces, by the rule of the word; see how they anlwer to that rule: Bring your hearts and the word together by 1 solemn self-examination; confer with your reins, and commune with your own hearts.
Secondly, A passive trial of it: whether we try it or no, God will i try it, he will bring our gold to the touchstone, and to the fire. J> «« Thou, O Lord, knowest me; thou hail seen me, and tried mine J « heart towards thee," faith the prophet Jer. xii. 3.
Sometimes be tries the strength and ability of his servants graces; and thus he tried Abraham, Heb. xi. 17. And sometimes he tries the soundness and sincerity of our graces , so the Ephefian angel was tried, and found drols, Rev. ii. 2. And so Job was tried, and found true gold, Job xxiii. 10. These trials are not made by God for his own information; for he knows what is in man; his eyes pierce the 5 heart and reins; but for our information; which is the true sense of Deut. viii. 2. "Thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord «' thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble « thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thy heart;" i. c. to make thee know it, by giving thee such experiments and trials of it in those wilderness straits and difficulties.
And these are the trials of grace I am here to speak of, not excluding the active trials made by ourselves; no, no, all these trials
• Upon a thorough trial they vanish into smoke.
■}• From which judgment he wall escape just alone does naked, or only with hU life, out of the midst of flames. Cbrjftfit*.
made by God upon us, are designed to put us upon the trial of our- I selves: When God tries, we should try too.?
Now the method into which I (hall cast this discourse, shall be to shew you,
1. Firjit What those things are which try the sincerity of our graces, as fire tries gold.
2. Secondly, For what ends doth God put the graces of his people -gjf^ upon such trials in this world.
3. Thirdly, That such grace only is sincere as can endure these trials.
4. Fourthly, and lastly, To apply the whole, in the main uses of it.
I. Firsti JTf HAT those things are which try the sincerity of grace, at . y* fire tries gold.
Before I enter into particulars, it will be needful to acquaintyou, that the subject before me is full of difficulties. There is need, as one speaks, of much cautious respect to the various sizes and degrees of growth among Christians, and the vicissitudes of their inward cafes; else we,may darken and perplex the way, instead of clearing it.
The'portraiture of a Christian is such as none can draw to one model, but with respect to the infancy of some, as well as the age and , strength of others. r, '' ..
Great heed ought also to be had in the application of marks and Designs ; we should first try them, before we try ourselves or others by them. Marks and signs are by some distinguished into exclusive, inclusive, and positive: Exclusive marks serve to'shut out bold pretenders, by' showing them how far they, come short of a saving work of '-" grace; and they are commonly taken from some necessary common duty, as hearing, praying &c. He that hath not these things, can- r not have any work of grace in him; and yet if he do them, he can- ,' not from thence conclude his estate to be gracious: He that so con- J eludes, he deceives himself.
Inclusive marks rather discover the degrees than the truth of grace, / and are rather intended for comfort than for conviction: If we find' them in ourselves, we do not only find sincerity, but eminency of grace; They being taken from some raised degree and eminent acts' of grace in confirmed and grown Christians.
Betwixt the two former there is a middle sort of marks, which are called positive marks, and they are such as are always, and only found, -> • in regenerate souls: The hypocrite hath them not; the grown ^ >'■>-* • Christian hath them, and that in an eminent degree: The poorest Christian hath them in a lower, but saving degree: Great care must / I be taken in the application of them. And it is past doubt, that many c ^ we ik and injudicious Christians have been greatly prejudiced by finding the experiences of eminent Christians proposed as rules to mea
sure their sincerity by. Alas! these no more fit their souls, than Saul's armour did David's body.
These things being premised, and a due care carried along with us through this discourse, I shall next come to the particulars, and shew you what those things are which discover the state and tempers of our souls. And though it be true, that there is no condition we are in, no providence that befals us, but it takes some proof, and makes some discovery of our hearts; yet, to limit this discourse, and fall into particulars as soon as we can, I shall shew what trials are made of pure graces in this world, by our prosperity, and our adversity; by our corruptions, and our duties, and, lastly, by our sufferings upon the score and account of religion.
t l."IIRST, prosperity, success, and the increase of outward enjoy
', • , JJ ments, are to grace what fire is to gold. Riches and honours
make trial what we are j and by these things many a false heart hath
been detected, as well as the sincerity and eminency of others graces
; discovered. We may fancy the fire of prosperity to be rather for
comfort, than trial; to refresh us rather than to prove us; but yon
:V will find prosperity to be a great discovery, and that scarce any tiling proves the truth and strength of men's graces and corruptions more than that doth; Rara virtus est humilitas bomrata, faith Bernard; to find humility with honour, is to find a Phœnix. Let an obscure person be lifted up to honour, and how steady and well composed soever
-* he was before, it is a thousand to one but his eyes will dazzle, and his head run round when he is upon the lofty pinacle of praise and honour*; Prov. xxvii. 21. " As the fining-pot for silver, and the furnace for gold, so is a man to his .praise :" Put the best gold into the sining-pot of praise, and it is a great wonder isa great deal of dross do not appear, Isa. xxxix. 2. the vain-glory of good Hezekiah rose like froth or scum upon the pot, when heated by prosperity. It was such a fining-pot to Herod, as discovered him to be dross itself, Aih xii. 23. How did that poor worm sweM under that trial into theconceit of his being a god, and was justly destroyed by worms, because he for- gat himself to be one? We little think what a strange alteration an
N exalted state will make upon our spirits. When the prophet would abate the vain confidence of Hazael, who would not believe that ever he would be turned into such a savage beast as the prophet had foretold; he only tells him, "The Lord hath shewed me, that thou « shalt be king over Syria," 2 Kings viii. 13. The meaning is, Do not be too confident Hazael, that thy temper and disposition can never alter to that degree; thou never yet fattest on a throne: When men see the crown upon thy head, then they will better see the true temper of thy heart. »
* Magifiratm iiuticat vimm: i. c. Preferment proves a man.
How humble was Israel in the wilderness, tame and tractable in a lean pasture; but bring them once into Canaan, and the world is strangely altered; then " we are lords, (fay they) we will come no "more unto thee," Jer. ii. 2, 7, 31. Prosperity is a crisis both to grace and corruption. Thence is that caution to Israel, Deut. ar. I r, I 12. " When thou hast eaten, and art full, then beware lest thou ^f '« forget the Lord thy God." Then beware, that is the critical time; surely that man must be acknowledged rich, very rich in grace, whose grace suffers 110 diminution or eclipse by his riches; and that man deserves double honour, whose pride the honours of this world cannot provoke and inflame.'
It was 1 fad truth from the lips of a pious divine in Germany upon his death-bed; being somewhat disconsolate by reflecting upon the barrenness or his life, some friends took thence an occasion to commend him, and mind him of his painful ministry and fruitful life among them; but he cried out, Auferte ignem, adhuc enim paleas habeo; Withdraw the fire, for I have chaff in me j meaning, that he felt his ambition like chaff catching fire from the sparks of their praises. Like unto which was the saying of another, Ht that praises me, wounds me.
But to descend into the particular discoveries that prosperity and horiour made of the want of grace in some, and of the weakness of grace in others; I will (how you'what symptoms of hypocrisy appear upon some men under the trial of prosperity, and what signs of grace appear in others under the fame trial.
PROSPERITY discovers many fad symptoms of a naughty hearts and, among others, these are ordinarily most conspicuous. 1. First, It casts the hearts of some men into a deep oblivion of God, and makes them lay aside all care of duty; R.aro fumaniftelici~ tf bia ara; the altars of rich men seldom smoke, Deut. xxxii. 13, 14, 15. Jeshurun sucked honey out of the rock, eat the fat of lambs, and' kidneys of wheat; But what was the effect of this; he kicked and forsook God who made him, and lightly esteemed the rock of his salvation. Instead of lifting up their hearts in an humble thankful ac- \ knowledgment of God's bounty, they lifted up the heel in a wanton 1 abuse of his mercy: In the fattest earth we find the most slippery footing.
He that is truly gracious may, in prosperity, remit some degrees; but a carnal heart there loseth all that which in a low condition he seemed to save. Augur's deprecation, as to himself, no doubt, was built upon bis frequent observation how it was with others; Prov. xxx. 8i 9. "Lest I be full, and deny God.'-'
It is said Kccles. v. r2. « That the abundance of the rich will not « suffer him to sleep;" and I wish that were the worst injury it did
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