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Re A D E R,
TH E great business of man's life is, to answer the end for which he lives; and that is, to glorify God, and save his own foul: this is the decree of heaven, as old as the world. But so it is, that man mindeth .nothing less than what he should most mind; and despiseth to enquire into his own being, its original duty and end; chusing rather to dedicate his days (the steps he should make to blessedness) to gratify the pride, avarice, and luxury of his heart; as if he had been born for himself, or rather given himself being, and so not subject, to the reckoning and judgment of a superior power. To this wild and lamentable pass, hath poor man brought himself, by his disobedience to the law of God in his heart, by doing that which he knows he should not do, and leaving undone what he knows he should do. And as long as this disease continueth upon man, he will make his God his enemy, and himself uncapable of the love and salvation that he hath manifested by his son, Jesus Christ, to the world.
If, Reader, thou art such an one, my counsel to thee is, to retire into thyself, and take a view of the condition of thy soul; for Christ hath given thee light with which to do it: search carefully and thoroughly; thy life is upon it; thy soul is at stake. It is but once tq be done; if thou abusest thyself in it, the loss is irreparable -, the world is not price enough to ransom thee; wilt thou then, for such a world, belate thyself, overstay the time of thy salvation, and lose thy soul ? Thou hast to do (I grant thee) with great pauence; but that also must have an end: therefore provoke not that God that made thee, to reject thee. Dost tiiou know what it is? It is Tophet, it is hell, the eternal anguish of the damned. Oh! Reader, as one knowing the terrors
A 2 of os the lord, I persuade thee to be serious, diligent, and fervent about thy salvation! aye, and as one knowing the comfort, peace, joy and pleasure of the ways of righteousness too, I exhort and invite thee, to embrace the reprooss and convictions of Christ's light and spirit in thine own conscience, and bear the judgment, who hast wrought the sin. The fire burns but the stubble; the wind blows but the chafF: yield up thy body, foul and spirit, to him that makethall things new; new heavens and new earth, new love, new joy, new peace, new works, a new life and conversation. Men are grown corrupt and drossy by sin, and they must be saved through fire, which purgeth it away; therefore the word of God is compared to a fire, and the day of salvation to an oven; and Christ himself to a refiner of gold, and purifier of silver.
Come, Reader, hearken to me a while; I seek thy salvation; that is my plot; thou wilt forgive me. A refiner is come near thee, his grace hath appeared to thee: it shews thee the world's lusts, and teacheth thee to deny them. Receive his leaven, and it will change thee; his medicine, and it will cure thee: he is as infallible as free; without money, and with certainty. A touch of his garment did it of old; it will do it still: his virtue is the fame, it cannot be exhausted; for in him the fulness dwells: blessed be God for his sufficiency. He laid help upon him, that he might be mighty to save all that come to God through him: do thou so, and he will change thee: aye, thy vile body like unto his glorious body. He is the great philosopher indeed, the wisdom of God, that turns lead into gold, vile things into things precious: for he maketh saints out of sinners, and almost gods of men. What rests to us then, that we must do, to be thus witnesses of his power and love? This is the Crown: but where is the Cross? Where is the bitter cup and bloody baptism? Come, Reader, be like him; for this transcendent joy, lift up thy head above the world; then thy salvation will draw nigh indeed.
Christ's Cross, is Christ's way to Christ's Crown. This is the subject of the following discourse; first writ during my confinement in the Tower of London, in the year 1668, now reprinted with great enlargements of matter and testimonies, that thou, Reader, mayest be won to Christ; and if won already, brought nearer to him. It is a path, God in his everlasting kindness guided my feet into, in the flower of my youth, when about two and twenty years of age: then he took me by the hand, and led me out of the pleasures, vanities, and hopes of the world. I have tasted of Christ's judgments, and of his mercies, and of the world's frowns and reproaches: I rejoice in my experience, and dedicate it to thy service in Christ. It is a debt 1 have long owed, and has been long expected: I have now paid it, and delivered my soul. To my country, and to the world of christians I leave it: may God, if he please, make it effectual to them all, and turn their hearts from that envy, hatred and bitterness, they have one against another, about worldly things $ (sacrificing humanity and charity to ambition and covetousness, for which they fill the earth with trouble and oppression) that receiving the spirit of Christ into their hearts, (the fruits of which are love, peace, joy, temperance and patience, brotherly kindness and charity) they may in body, soul and spirit, make a triple league against the world, the flesh and the devil, the only common enemies of mankind; and having conquered them through a life of self-denial, by the power of the Cross of Jesus, they may at last attain to the eternal rest and kingdom of God.
So desireth, so prayeth,
thy fervent christian friend,
§. i. Of the necessity of the cross of Christ in general; yet the little regard christians have to it. §. 2. The degeneracy of Christendom from purity to lust, and moderation to excess. §. 3. That worldly lusts and pleasures are become the care and study of christians, so that they have advanced upon the impiety of infidels. §. 4. This defection a second part to the Jewish tragedy, and worse than the first: the scorn christians have cast on their Saviour. §. 5. Sin is of one nature all the world over; sinners are of the fame church, the devil's children: profession of religion in wicked men, makes them but the worse. §. 6. A wolf is not a lamb, a sinner cannot be (whilst such) a faint. §.7. The wicked will persecute the good; this false christians have done to the true, for non-compliance with their superstitions: the strange carnal measures false christians have taken of Christianity; the danger of that self-seduction. §. 8. The sense of that has obliged me to this discourse, for a dissuasive against the world's lusts, and an invitation to take up the daily cross of Christ, as the way left us by him to blessedness. §. 9. Of the self-condemnation of the wicked ; that religion and worship are comprised in doing the will of God. The advantage good men have upon bad men in the last judgment. §. 10. A supplication for Christendom, that she may not be rejected in that great assize of the world. She is exhorted to consider, what relation she bears to Christ; if her Saviour, how saved, and for what: what her experience is of that great work. That Christ came to save from sin, and wrath by consequence; not save men in sin, but from it, and so the wages of it.
§. I. rpHOUGH the knowledge and obedience of
J[ the doctrine of the cross of Christ, be of
infinite moment to the fouls of men; for that is the only
A 4 door