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"nor of the will of man, but of God," John i. 13. In this respect they differ from gifts, as the heavenly manna which was rained down from heaven differs from common bread, which, by pains and industry, the earth produces in a natural way.
2. The best natural gifts afford not that sweetness and solid comfort to the soul that grace doth; they are but a dry stalk that affords no meat for a soul to feed on. A man may have an understanding foil of light, and an heart void of comfort at the fame time; but grace is a fountain of purest living streams of peace and comfort, 1 Pet. i. 8. "Believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: *' light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart." All true pleasures and delights are feminally in grace, Psal. xcvii. II. They are sown for them in these divine and heavenly graces, which are glory in the bud.
3. Gifts adorn the person, but do not secure the soul from wrath.
• ■ x'-t'" .■ ■ A man may be admired for them among men, and 1 p rejected eternally by God. Who can considerately
•\ . read that sixth chapter of the Hebrews, and not
tremble to think in what a forlorn cafe a soul may be, though set off and accomplished with the rarest endowments of this kind! Mat. vii. 22. We read, that many shall fay to Christ in "that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and "in thy name cast out devils," &c. and yet themselves at last cast out as a prey to devils. How divinely and rhetorically did Balaam speak andprophesy, Numb, xxiii. What rare and excellent parts had the Scribes and Pharisees? who upon that account, were l'tiled Principes seeuli, the princes of the world. Cor. ii. 8. What profound and excellent parts had the heathen sages and philosophers? These things are so far from securing the soul from the wrath to come, that they often expose it unto wrath, and are as oil to increase the eternal burnings; but now gracious principles are the T» i^opya o-MTujjaf, as the apostle calls them, Heb. vi. things that accompany and have salvation in them. These are the things on which the promises of salvation run; and these treasures are never found but in elect vessels. Glory is by promise assured and made over to him that possesses them. There is but a little point of time betwixt him and the glorified spirits above. And how inconsiderable a matter is a little time, which contracts and \\ i::ds up apace? For now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. And hence the scripture speaks of them as already saved, Rom. viii. 24: " We are saved by hope," because it is as lure as if we were in heaven. We are made to fit in heavenly places.
4. Gifts may damnify the person that possesses them, and it may be better in respect of a man's own corWilion he had never had them. Knowledge (faith the apostle) puffeth up, 1 Cor. viii. 1. makes the soul proud and flatulent. It is a hard thing to know much, and not to know it too much. The saint's knowledge is better than the scholar's; for he hath his own heart instead of a commentary to help him. Aristotle said, a little knowledge about heavenly things, though conjectural, is better than much of earthly things, though certain. "The world by wisdom kne.v not God," saith the apostle, I Cor. i. 12 ) i. e. Their learning hanged in their light, ,they were too wise to submit to the simplicity of the gospel. The excellent parts of the old heretics did but serve to midwife into the world the monstrous birth of foul-damning heresies. Cubit abs te ornari diabolus, as Austin said to that ingenious young scholar; the devil desires to be adorned by thee. But now grace itself is not subject to such abuses, it cannot be the proper uniweal cause of any evil effect: it cannot puff up the heart, but always humbles it, nor serves the devil's designs, but ever opposes them.
5. Gifts may be given a man for the fake of others, and not out of any love to himself; they are but as an excellent dish of meat which a man sends to a nurse, not for her sake so much as for his child's that fucks her. God, indeed, makes use of them to do his children good, the church is benefited by them, though themselves are but like cooks; they prepare excellent dishes, on which the saints feed, and are nourished, though themselves taste them not. Theyare dona miniftrantia,nonsanclificantm, ministering, but not sanctifying gifts, proceeding not from the good-will of God to him that hath them, but to those he benefits by them And O what a lad consideration will this be one day to such a person, to think I helped such a soul to heaven, while I myself mult lodge in hell?
6. Sin in the reign and power of it, may cohabit with the most excellent natural gifts under the fame roof, I mean in the fame heart. A man may have the tongue of an angel, and the heart of a devil. The wisdom of the philosophers (faith Lictantius) mn excimlit vitiased absandil, doth not root out, but hide their vices. The learned Pharisees were but painted sepulchres. Gifts are but as a fair glove drawn over a foul hand: But now grace is incompatible with fin in dominion, it purifies the heart, Acts xv. 6. cleanses the conscience, Heb. ix. 14. crucifies the affections and lusts of the flesh, Gal. v. 24. is not content with the concealment, but ruin of corruptions.
7. And lastly, Gifts mult leave us at last, "Whether there be "knowledge that shall cease. All flesh is grafs, and the goodliness *• of it as the flower of the grafs; the grafs withereth, the flower "fadeth, but the word of the Lord abideth for ever," Isa. xl. 6, 8. Many times they leave a man before death. One knock, if it hit right, (as one faith) may make a wife man a fool; but, to be sure, they all leave us at death. " Doth not his excellency which is in him go "away ?" Job iv. 21. yea, then all natural excellency departs : Death strips the foul of all those splendid ornaments; then the rhetorical tongue is struck dumb; the nimble wit and curious fancy shall entertain your ears with no more pleasant discourses. Nunquam jocot dahit, as Adrian said to his departing foul; but grace ascends with the ibul into eternity, and there receives its perfection, and accomplishmen*. Gifts take their leave of the foul as Orpah did of Naomi; bat grace faith then, as Ruth, Where thou goest I will go, znd,ivhere thou lodges! I will lodge, and nothing Jballseparate thee and me. Now put all this together, and then judge whether the apostle spoke hyperboles, when he said, "Covet earnestly the best gifts, and yet I (hew unto "you a more excellent way." I Cor. xii. ult. And thus you have the choiceneis of these principles also.
The gracious sotiTs The lines are fallen to me in a pleasant place, rejLcJiou. may the gracious foul fay: How defective so
ever I am in gifts, yet blessed be the Lord who hath sown the feeds of true grace in my heart. What though I am not famed and honoured among men, let it suffice me that I am precious in the eyes of the Lord. Though he hath not abounded to me in gifts of nature, "Yet blessed be the God and Father of my Lord "Jesus Christ, who hath abounded to me in all spiritual blessings, in "heavenly places in Christ Jesus," Eph. i. 3. Is not a true jewel, though spurned in the dirt, more precious than a false one, though, set in gold? Why art thou troubled, O my soul, for the want of these things which reprobates may have? and art not rather admiring and bleffing God for those things which none but the darlings and favourites of heaven can have? Is not an ounce of pure gold more valuable than many pounds of gilded brass? What though the dews of Helicon descend not upon my head, if in the mean time the sweet influences of Sion fall upon my heart? O my God! how much soever others are elated by the light of their knowledge, I have cause, with humility to adore thee for the heavenly heat with which thou hast warmed my affections.
Pause a while, my soul, upon this point: With The dtceived foul's what feed is my heart sown, and of what kind are rejkclioit. those things wherein I excel others? Are they in
deed special seeds of grace, or common gifts and natural excellencies? If the latter, little cause have I to pride myself in them, were they ten thousand times more than they are. If these things be indeed the things that accompany salvation, the seed of God, the true and real work of grace, then, (1.) How comes it to pass that I never found my throws, or travailing pangs in the production of them? It is affirmed and generally acknowledged, that the new creature is never brought forth without such pain and compunctions of heart, Acts ii. 37. I have indeed often felt an aching head, whilst I have read and studied to increase my knowledge? But when did I feel an aching heart for fin? O I begin to suspect that it is not right. Yea, (2.) And my suspicion increases while I consider that grace is of an humbling nature, 1 Cor. xv. io. Lord, how have I been elated by my gifts, and valued myself above what was meet ? O how have I delighted in the noise of the Pharisee's trumpet! Mat. vL 2. No music so sweet as that. Say, O my conscience, have I not delighted more in the theatre than the closet? In the praise of men, than the approbation of God? O how many evidences dost thou produce against me? Indeed these are sad symptoms that I have (hewed thee, but there is yet another, which renders thy cafe more suspicious yet, yea, that which thou canst make no rational defence against, even the ineffectualness of all thy gifts and knowledge to mortify any one of all thy lusts. It is beyond all dispute, that gifts may, but grace cannot consist without mortification of sin, Gal. v. 24. Now what lust hath fallen before these excellent parts of mine? Doth not pride, passion, covetousness, and indeed the whole body of sin, live and thrive in me as much as ever? Lord, I yield the cause, I can defend it no longer against my conscience, which casts and condemns me, by full proof, to be but in a wretched, cursed, lamentable state, notwithstanding all my knowledge an J flourishing gifts. O (hew me a more excellent way. Lord! that I had the sincerity of the poorest faint, though I (hould lose the applause of all my parts; with these I feel may go to hell, but without some better thing no hope of heaven.
GREAT difference betwixt that seed is found,
Whose feat is in the heart, not head, or face;
Like solid wheat sown in a fruitful field,
Shall spring, and flourish, and at last will yield
A glorious harvest of eternal reft,
To him that nourish'J them within his breast.
O grace! how orient art thou! how divine!
What is the glory of all gifts to thine!
Disseminate this Seed within my heart,
My God, I pray thee, tho' thou shouldst impart
The less of gifts; then I may truly fay,
That thou haft lhew'd me the more excellent way.
Upon springing-weather after seed-time.
By heavens influence cqrn and plants do spring,
THE earth, after that it is plowed and sowed, must be watered, and warmed with the dews and influences of heaven, or no fruit can be expected. If God do not open to you his good treasure, the heavens to give rain unto the land in its season, and bless all the work of your hands, as it is Dcut. xxviii. 1 2. the earth cannot yield her increase. The order and dependence of natural causes in the production of fruit, is excellently described, Hos i. 21, 22. "I will '■ hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth; and the earth "shall hear the corn, and wine, and oil, and they shall hear Jess- "reel." Jezreel must have corn, and wine, and oil, or they cannot live; they cannot have it unless the earth bring it forth; the earth cannot bring it forth without the heavens; the heavens cannot yield a drop unless God hear them, that is, unlock and open them. * « Nature, and natural causes, are nothing else but the order in « which God works.' This some heathens, by the light of nature, acknowledged, and therefore when they went to plow in the morning, they did lay one hand upon the plow (to speak their own part to be painsulness) and held up the other hand to Ceres, the goddess of corn, to shew that their expectation of plenty was from their supposed deity f. I fear many Christians lay both hands to the plow, and feKioin lift up heart, or. hand to God, when about that work.