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government, give the most intolerable scandal and dishonour to the institution; and it had been impossible, that Christianity should have prevailed over the wisdom and power of the Greeks and Romans, if it had not been humble to superiors, patient of injuries, charitable to the needy, a great exacter of obedience to kings, even to heathens, that they might be won and convinced; and to persecutors that they might be sweetened in their anger, or upbraided for their cruel injustice ; for so doth the humble ivy creep at the foot of the oak, and leans upon its lowest base, and begs shade and protection, and leave to grow under its branches, and to give and take mutual refreshment, and pay a friendly influence for a mighty patronage ; and they grow and dwell together, and are the most remarkable of friends and married pairs of all the leafy nation. Religion of itself is soft, easy, and defenceless, and God hath made it grow up with empires, and lean upon the arms of kings, and it cannot well grow alone; and if it shall, like the ivy, suck the heart of the oak, upon whose body it grew and was supported, it will be pulled down from its usurped eminence, and fire and shame shall be its portion.
SAFETY OF THE RIGHTEOUS.
The righteous is safe, but by intermedial difficulties; he is safe in the midst of his persecutions; they may disturb his rest, and discompose his fancy, but they are like the fiery chariot of Elias; he is encircled with fire, and rare circumstances, and strange usages, but is carried up to heaven in a robe of flames. And so was Noah safe when the flood came, and was the great type, and instance too, of the verification of this proposition ; he was και δίκαιος and δικαιοσύνης κήρυξ; he was put into a strange condition, perpetually wandering, shut up in a prison of wood, living upon faith, having never had the experience of being safe in floods.
And so have I often seen young and unskilful persons sitting in a little boat, when every little wave, sporting about the sides of the vessel, and every motion and dancing of the barge, seemed a danger, and made them cling fast upon their fellows; and yet all the while they were as safe, as if they sate under a tree, while a gentle wind shaked the leaves into a refreshment and a cooling shade; and the unskilful, unexperienced Christian shrieks out whenever his vessel shakes, thinking it always in danger, that the watery pavement is not stable and resident like a rock; and yet all his danger is in himself, none at all from without; for he is indeed moving upon the waters, but fastened to a rock; faith is his foundation, and hope is his anchor, and death is his harbour, and Christ is his pilot, and heaven is his country; and all the evils of his poverty, or affronts of tribunals, and evil judges, of fears and sudden apprehensions, are but like the loud wind blowing from the right point, they make a noise, and drive faster to the harbour; and if we do not leave the ship, and leap into the sea ; quit the interest of religion, and run to the securities of the world ; cut our cables, and dissolve our hopes; grow impatient, and hug a wave, and dip in its embraces ; we are as safe at sea, safer in the storm, which God sends us, than in a calm when we are befriended with the world.
GROWTH IN GRACE.
A man cannot, after a state of sin, be instantly a saint; the work of heaven is not done in a flash of lightning, or a dash of affectionate rain, or a few tears of a relenting pity; God and his church have appointed holy intervals, and have taken portions of our time for religion, that we may be called off from the world, and remember the end of our creation, and do honour to God, and think of heaven with hearty purposes, and peremptory designs to get thither.
Remember that God sent you into the world for religion ; we are but to pass through our pleasant fields or our hard labours, but to lodge a little while in our fair palaces or our meaner cottages, but to bait in the way at our full tables or with our spare diet; but then only man does his proper employments, when he prays, and does charity, and mortifies his unruly appetites, and restrains his violent passions, and becomes like to God, and imitates his holy Son, and writes after the copies of Apostles and saints,
It was observed by a Spanish confessor, who was also a famous preacher, that in persons not very religious, the confessions which they made upon their death bed were the coldest, the most imperfect, and with less contrition, than all that he had observed them to make in many years before. For so the canes of Egypt, when they newly arise from their bed of mud and slime of Nilus, start up into an equal and continual length, and are interrupted but with few knots, and are strong and beauteous, with great distances and intervals; but when they are grown to their full length, they lessen into the point of a pyramis, and multiply their knots and joints, interrupting the fineness and sinoothness of its body. So are the steps and declensions of him, that does not grow in grace; at first, when he springs up from his impurity by the waters of baptism and repentance, he grows straight and strong, and suffers but few interruptions of piety, and his constant courses of religion are but rarely intermitted, till they ascend up to a full age, or towards the ends of their life; then they are weak, and their devotions often intermitted, and their breaches are frequent, and they seek excuses, and labour for dispensations, and love God and religion less and less, till their old age, instead of a crown of their virtue and perseverance, ends in levity and unprofitable courses. Light and useless are the tufted feathers upon the cane, every wind can play with it and abuse it, but no man can make it useful.
When, therefore, our piety interrupts its greater and more solemn expressions, and upon the return of the greater offices and bigger solemnities, we find them to come upon our spirits like the wave of a tide, which retired only because it was natural so to do, and yet came farther upon the strand at the next rolling ; when every new confession, every succeeding communion, every time of separation for more solemn and intense prayer, is better spent and more affectionate, leaving a greater relish upon the spirit, and possessing greater portions of our affections, our reason, and our choice; then we may give God thanks, who hath given us more grace to use that grace, and a blessing to endeavour our duty, and a blessing upon our endeavour.
GROWTH IN SIN.
He that means to be temperate, and avoid the crime and dishonour of being å drunkard, must not love to partake of the songs, or to bear a part in the foolish scenes of laughter, which distract wisdom, and fright her from the company.
I have seen the little purls of a spring sweat through the bottom of a bank, and intinerate a stubborn pavement, till it hath made it fit for the impression of a child's foot; and it was despised, like the descending pearls of a misty morning, till it had opened its way and made a stream large enough to carry away the ruins of the undermined strand, and to invade the