« AnteriorContinuar »
resolution of holy Paul, who 'determined to know nothing, among his hearers, (that is, comparatively to value and make ostentation of no other wisdom) but (the knowledge of) a crucified Christ: to know God in Christ, is life eternal. As the stock of the tree affordeth timber to build houses and cities, when the small, though higher, multifarious branches are but to make a crow's nest or a blaze ; so the knowledge of God, and of Jesus Christ, of heaven and holiness, doth build up the soul to endless blessedness, and affordeth it solid peace and comfort; when a multitude of school-niceties serve but for vain janglings and hurtful diversions and contentions: and yet, I would not dissuade my reader from the perusal of Aquinas, Scotus, Ockam, Arminiensis, Durandus, or any such writer; for much good may be gotten from them: but I would persuade him to study and live upon the essential doctrines of Christianity and godliness, incomparably above them all. · And, that he may know that my testimony is somewhat regardable, I presume to say, that, in this, I as much gainsay my natural inclination to subtilty and accurateness in knowing, as he is like to do by his, if he obey my counsel. And I think, if he lived among infidels and enemies of Christ, he would find, that, to make good the doctrine of faith, and of life eternal, were not only his noblest and most useful study, but also that which would require the height of all his parts, and the utmost of his diligence, to manage it skilfully to the satisfaction of himself and others.
In my younger years, my trouble for sin was most about my actual failings in thought, word, or action, (except hardness of heart, of which more anon). But now I am much more troubled for inward defects, and omission or want of the vital duties or graces in the soul. My daily trouble is so much for my ignorance of God, and weakness of belief, and want of greater love to God, and strangeness to him, and to the life to come, and for want of a greater willingness to die, and longing to be with God in heaven, as that I take not some immoralities, though very great, to be in themselves so great and odious sins, if they could be found as separate from these. Had I all the riches of the world, how gladly should I give them, for a fuller knowledge, belief, and love of God and everlasting glory! These wants are the greatest burden of my life, which oft maketh my life itself a burden. And I cannot find any hope of reaching so high in these, while I am in the flesh, as I once hoped, before this time, to have attained: which maketh me the wearier of this sinful world, which is honoured with so little of the knowledge of God.
Heretofore I placed much of my religion in tenderness of heart, and grieving for sin, and penitential tears; and less of it, in the love of God, and studying his love and goodness, and in his joyful praises, than now I do. Then I was little sensible of the greatness and excellency of love and praise; though I coldly spake the same words in its commendations, as now I do: and now I am less troubled for want of grief and
tears (though I more value humility, and refuse not needful humiliation); but my conscience now looketh at love and delight in God, and praising him, as the top of all my religious duties, for which it is that I value and use the rest.
I was once wont to meditate most on my own heart, and to dwell all at home, and look little higher: I was still poring either on my sins or wants, or examining my sincerity: but now, though I am greatly convinced of the need of heart-acquaintance and employment, yet I see more need of a higher work; and that I should look oftener upon Christ, and God, and Heaven, than upon my own heart. At home, I can find distempers to trouble me, and some evidences of my peace : but it is above that I must find matter of delight and joy, and love and peace itself. Therefore I would have one thought at home upon myself and sins, and many thoughts above upon the high and amiable and beautifying objects.
I am much more apprehensive than long ago of the odiousness and danger of the sin of pride: scarce any sin appeareth more odious to me. Having daily more acquaintance with the lamentable naughtiness and frailty of man, and of the mischiefs of that sin, and especially in matters spiritual and ecclesiastical, I think, so far as any man is proud, he is kin to the devil, and utterly a stranger to God and to himself. It is a wonder that it should be a possible sin, to men that still carry about with them, in soul and body, such humbling matter of remedy as we all do.
I am more solicitous than I have been about my duty to God, and less solicitous about his dealings with me: as being assured that he will do all things well; and as acknowledging the goodness of all the declarations of his holiness, even in the punishment of man; and as knowing that there is no rest, but in the will and goodness of God..
I am much more sensible of the evil of schism and of the separating humour, and of gathering parties and making several sects in the Church, than I was heretofore. For the effects have showed' us more of the mischiefs.
I am much more sensible how prone many young professors are to spiritual pride and self-conceitedness, and unruliness and division; and so to prove the grief of their teachers, and firebrands in the Church : and how much of a Minister's work lieth in preventing this, and humbling and confirming such young inexperienced professors, and keeping them in order, in their progress in religion.
I am much more sensible than heretofore, of the breadth, and length, and depth of the radical, universal, odious sin of selfishness, and therefore have written so much against it; and of the excellency and necessity of self-denial, and of a public mind, and of loving our neighbour as ourselves.
I am farther than ever from expecting great matters of unity, splendor, or prosperity to the Church on earth ; or that saints should dream of a kingdom of this world, or flatter themselves with the hopes of a golden age, or reigning over the ungodly (till there be a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness). And, on the contrary, I am more apprehensive that sufferings must be the Church's most ordinary lot, and Christians indeed must be selfdenying cross-bearers, even where there are none but formal nominal Christians to be the cross-makers : and though, ordinarily, God would have vicissitudes of summer and winter, day and night, that the Church may grow extensively in the summer of prosperity, and intensively and radically in the winter of adversity; yet, usually, their night is longer than their day, and that day itself hath its storms and tempests. For the prognostics are evident, in their causes :- 1. The Church will be still imperfect and sinful, and will have those diseases which need this bitter remedy. 2. Rich men will be the rulers of the world: and rich men will be generally so far from true godliness, that they must come to heaven as by human impossibilities; as a camel through a needle's eye. 3. The ungodly will ever have an enmity against the image of God; and he that is born of the flesh will persecute him that was born after the Spirit; and brotherhood will not keep a Cain from killing an Abel, who offereth a more acceptable sacrifice than himself: and the guilty will still hate the light, and make a prey to their pride and malice of a conscionable reprover. 4. The pastors will be still troubling the Church, with their pride, and avarice, and contentions; and the worst will be seeking to be the greatest, and they