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of his laws and dispensations? Do we not shamefully forget our ignorance and our distance?
2. But if you must have a reason, let this suffice you. It is fit that the government of God be suited to the nature of the reasonable subject. And reason is made to apprehend more than we see, and by reaching beyond sense, to carry us to seek things higher and better than sense can reach. If you would have a man understand no more than he sees, you would almost equalize a wise man and a fool, and make a man too like a beast. Even in worldly matters, you will venture upon the greatest cost and pains for the things that you see not, nor ever saw. He that hath a journey to go to a place that he never saw, will not think that a sufficient reason to stay at home. The merchant will sail a thousand miles to a land, and for a coramodity, that he never saw. Must the husbandman see the harvest before he plough his land, and sow his seed? Must the sick man feel that he hath health before he use the means to get it? Must the soldier see that he hath the victory before he fight? You would take such conceits in worldly matters to be the symptoms of distraction. And will you cherish them where they are most pernicious? Hath God made man for any end, or for none? If none, he is made in vain: if for any, no reason can expect that he should see his end, before he use the means, and see his home before he begin to travel towards it. When children first go to school, they do not see or enjoy the learning and wisdom which by time and labour they must attain. You will provide for the children which you are like to have before you see them. To look that sight, which is our fruition itself, should go before a holy life, is to expect the end before we will use the necessary means. You see here in the government of the world, that it is things unseen that are the instruments of rule, and motives of obedience. Shall no man be restrained from felony or murders, but he that seeth the assizes or the gallows? It is enough that he foreseeth them, as being made known by the laws.
It would be no discrimination of the good and bad, the wise and foolish, if the reward and punishment must be seen. What thief so mad as to steal at the gallows, or before the judge? The basest habits would be restrained from
acting, if the reward and punishment were in sight. The most beastly drunkard would not be drunk; the filthy fornicator would forbear his lust; the malicious enemy of godliness would forbear their calumnies and persecutions, if heaven and hell were open to their sight. No man will play the adulterer in the face of the assembly: the chaste and unchaste seem there alike: and so they would do if they saw the face of the most dreadful God. No thanks to any of you all to be godly if heaven were to be presently seen! Or to forbear your sin, if you saw hell-fire; God will have a meeter way of trial. You shall believe his promises, if ever you will have the benefit; and believe his threatenings, if ever you will escape the threatened evil.
Use 1. THIS being the nature and use of Faith, to apprehend things absent as if they were present, and things unseen, as if they were visible before our eyes; you may hence understand the nature of Christianity, and what it is to be a true believer. Verily it is another matter than the dreaming, self-deceiving world imagineth. Hypocrites think that they are Christians indeed, because they have entertained a superficial opinion that there is a Christ, an immortality of souls, a resurrection, a heaven and a hell; though their lives bear witness, that this is not a living and effectual faith ; but it is their sensitive faculties and interest that are predominant, and are the bias of their hearts. Alas! a little observation may tell them, that notwithstanding their most confident pretensions to Christianity, they are utterly unacquainted with the Christian life. Would they live as they do, in worldly cares, and pampering of the flesh, and neglect of God and the life to come, if they saw the things which they say they do believe? Could they be sensual, ungodly and secure, if they had a faith that served instead of sight.
Would you know who it is that is the Christian indeed? 1. He is one that liveth (in some measure) as if he saw the Lord; believing in that God that dwelleth in the inaccessi
ble light, that cannot be seen by mortal eyes, he liveth as before his face. He speaks, he prays, he thinks, he deals with men, as if he saw the Lord stand by. No wonder therefore if he do it with reverence and holy fear. No wonder if
he make lighter of the smiles or frowns of mortal man, than others do that see none higher; and if he observe not the lustre of worldly dignity, or fleshly beauty, wisdom or vainglory, before the transcendent, incomprehensible Light, to which the sun itself is darkness. When "he awaketh he is still with God; Psal. cxxxix. 18. "He sets the Lord always before him, because he is at his right hand, he is not moved; Psal. xvi. 8. And therefore the life of believers is oft called a walking with God, and a walking before God, as Gen. v. 22. 24. vi. 9. xvii. 1. in the case of Enoch, Noah and Abraham. "All the day doth he wait on God;" Psal. xxv, 5. Imagine yourselves what manner of person he must be that sees the Lord; and conclude that such (in his measure) is the true believer. For by "faith he seeth him that is invisible" (to the eye of sense), and therefore can forsake the glory and pleasures of the world, and feareth not the wrath of princes, as it is said of Moses; Heb. xi. 27.
2. The believer is one that liveth on a Christ whom he never saw, and trusteth in him, adhereth to him, acknowledgeth his benefits, loveth him, and rejoiceth in him, as if he had seen him with his eyes. This is the faith which Peter calls "more precious than perishing gold;" that maketh us "love him whom we have not seen, and in whom though now we see him not, yet believing we rejoice, with unspeakable and glorious joy ;" 1 Pet. i. 8. "Christ dwelleth in his heart by faith;" not only by his Spirit, but objectively, as our dearest absent friend doth dwell in our estimation and affection; Ephes. iii. 17. O that the miserable infidels of the world, had the eyes, the hearts, the experiences of the true believer! Then they that with Thomas tell those that have seen him, "Except I may see and feel, I will not believe," will be forced to cry out," My Lord and my God;" John xx. 25, &c.
3. A believer is one that judgeth of the man by his invisible inside, and not by outward appearances with a fleshly, worldly judgment. He seeth by faith a greater ugliness in sin, than in any the most deformed monster. When the unbeliever saith, what harm is it to please my
flesh in ease, or pride, or meat and drink, or lustful wantonness? the believer takes it as the question of a fool, that should ask, What harm is it to take a dram of mercury or arsenic?' He seeth the vicious evil, and foreseeth the consequent penal evil by the eye of faith. And therefore it is that he pitieth the ungodly, when they pity not themselves, and speaks to them oft with a tender heart in compassion of their misery, and perhaps weeps over them (as Paul, Phil. iii. 18, 19.) when he cannot prevail; when they weep not for themselves, but hate his love, and scorn his pity, and bid him keep his lamentations for himself; because they see not what he sees.
He seeth also the inward beauty of the saints, (as it shineth forth in the holiness of their lives) and through all their sordid poverty and contempt beholdeth the image of God upon them. For he judgeth not of sin or holiness as they now appear to the distracted world; but as they will be judged of at the day which he foreseeth, when sin will be the shame, and holiness the honoured and desired state.
He can see Christ in his poor, despised members, and love God in those that are made as the scorn and offscouring of all things by the malignant, unbelieving world. He admireth the excellency and happiness of those that are made the laughingstock of the ungodly; and accounteth the saints the most excellent on earth; (Psal. xvi. 2.) and had rather be one of their communion in rags, than sit with princes that are naked within, and void of the true and durable glory. He judgeth of men as he perceiveth them to have more or less of Christ. The worth of a man is not obvious
to the sense. You see his stature, complexion, and his clothes; but as you see not his learning or skill in any art whatsoever, so you see not his grace and heavenly mind. As the soul itself, so the sinful deformity, and the holy beauty of it, are to us invisible, and perceived only by their fruits, and by the eye of faith, which seeth things as God reveals them and therefore in the eyes of a true believer, "a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth those that fear the Lord;" Psal. xv. 4.
4. A true believer doth seek a happiness which he never saw, and that with greater estimation and resolution, than he seeks the most excellent things that he hath seen. In all his prayers, his labours and his sufferings, it is an un
seen glory that he seeks. He seeth not the glory of God, nor the glorified Redeemer, nor the world of angels and perfected spirits of the just; but he knoweth by faith, that such a God, such a glory, such a world as this there is, as certain as if his eyes had seen it; and therefore he provides, he lives, he hopes, he waits for this unseen state of spiritual bliss, contemning all the wealth and glory that sight can reach in comparison thereof. He believes what he shall see; and therefore strives that he may see it. It is something above the sun, and all that mortal eyes can see, which is the end, the hope, the portion of a believer, without which all is nothing to him, and for which he trades and travels here, as worldlings do for worldly things; Matt. vi. 20, 21. Col. iii. 1. Phil. iii. 20.
5. A true believer doth all his life prepare for a day that is yet to come, and for an account of all the passages of his life, though he hath nothing but the word of God to assure him of it; and therefore he lives as one that is hastening to the presence of his Judge; and he contriveth his affairs, and disposeth of his worldly riches, as one that looks to hear of it again, and as one that remembereth the "Judge is at the door;" James v. 9. He rather asketh What life, what words, what actions, what way of using my estate and interest, will be sweetest to me in the review, and will be best at last, when I must accordingly receive my doom?' than 'What is most pleasant to my flesh, and what will ingratiate me most with men? and what will accommodate me best at present, and set me highest in the world?' And therefore it is that he pitieth the ungodly even in the height of their prosperity; and is so earnest (though it offend them) to procure their recovery, as knowing that how secure soever they are now, they "must give an account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead;" 1 Pet. iv. 5. and that then the case will be altered with the presumptuous world.
6. Lastly, a true believer is careful to prevent a threatened misery which he never felt; and is awakened by holy fear to fly from the wrath to come, and is industrious to escape that place of torment which he never saw, as if he had seen it with his eyes. When he heareth but the "sound of the trumpet, he takes warning that he may save his soul;" Ezek. xxxiii. 4. The evils that are here felt and seen, are not so dreadful to him, as those he never saw or felt. He is