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in their way to him, and pursuit of him. The spirit of regeneration in good men spreads itself upon the understanding, and sweetly diffuses itself through the will and affections; which makes true religion to be a consistent and thriving principle in the soul, as not being acted upon the stage of imagination, but upon the highest powers of the soul itself, and it may be discerned by the evenness of its motions, and the immortality of its nature; for a good man, though indeed he cannot go on always with like speed and cheerfulness in his way, yet is not willing at any time to be quite out of it.
By this same nature of true religion, you may examine all those spurious and counterfeit religions, that spring from a natural belief of a Deity, from convictions, observations, fleshly and low apprehensions of heaven, book-learning, and the precepts of men, as the prophet calls them, and the rest, which are seated in the fancy, and swim in the brain; whose effect is but to gild the outward man, or, at best, but to move the soul by an external force, in an unnatural, inconstant, and transient manner. In a word, all these pretenders to religion may seem to have water, but they have no well; as there are others, deep men, principled indeed with learning, policy, ingenuity, &c. but not with true goodness, whom the apostle calls wells, but without water, 2 Pet. ii. 17. But the truly godly, and godlike soul hath in itself a principle of pure religion. The water
that I shall give him, shall be a well of water springing up into eternal life.”
Containing the first property of true religion, namely, the
freeness and unconstrainedness of it! as discovered in several outward acts of morality and worship, also in the more inward acts of the soul.
I PROCEED now,
from the nature of religion, to speak of the properties of it, as many of them as are couched under this phrase, “springing up into everlasting life.” Not to force the phrase any further than it will naturally afford discourse, I shall only take notice of these three properties of true religion, contained in the word, “ springing up," namely, the freeness, activity, and permanency, or perseverance of it.
The first property of it, couched under this phrase, is, that it is free and unconstrained. Religion is a principle, and it flows and acts freely in the soul, after the manner of a fountain; and, in the day of its mighty power, makes the people a willing people, Psal. cx. 3; and the soul, in whom it is truly seated, to become a free-will offering unto God. Alexander the Great subdued the world with force of arms, and made men rather his tributaries and servants, than his lovers and friends; but the great God, the King of souls, obtains an amicable conquest over the hearts of his elect, and overpowers them in such a manner that they love to be his servants, and do willingly and readily obey him, without dissimulation orconstraint, without mercenariness or moroseness: in which they are unlike to the subjects of the kingdoms of this world, who are kept in their duties by fear and force, not from a pure kindness and benevolence of mind, to whom - the present yoke is always grievous." Hence it is that the increase of this people is called their flowing unto the Lord, Isa. ii. 2. 6. The mountain of the Lord's house shall be established, and all nations shall flow unto it;" and again, Jer. xxxi. 12, “ They shall flow together to the goodness of the Lord.” And the disposition of this people is described to be a hearty and willing frame, Eph. vi. 6, 7, and elsewhere often to the same purpose. Now, this willingness or freeness of godly souls might be explained and confirmed by the consideration both of their outward and inward acts.
1. As to the outward acts of service which the true Christian doth perform, he is freely carried out towards them, without any constraint or force. If he keep himself from the evils of the place, and age, and company, wherein he lives and converses, it is not by a restraint which is upon him merely from without him, but by a principle of holy temperance planted in his soul: it is the seed of God abiding in him, that preserves him from the commission of sin, 1 John iii. 9. He is not kept back from sin as a horse by a bridle, but by an inward and spiritual change made in his nature. On the other hand, if he employ himself in any external acts of moral or instituted duty, he does it freely, not as of necessity, or by constraint. If you speak of acts of charity, the godly man gives from a principle of love to God, and kindness to his brother, and so cheerfully, not grudgingly, or of necessity, 2 Cor. ix. 7. An alms may be wrung out of a miser, but it proceeds from the liberal soul as a stream from its fountain; therefore he is called a deviser of liberal things, and one that standeth upon liberalities, as those last words of Isa. xxxii. 8, are rendered by the Dutch translators. If you speak of righteousness or temperance, he is not overruled by power, or compelled by laws, but indeed actuated by the power of that law which is written and engraven upon his mind. If you speak of acts of worship, whether moral or instituted, in all these he is also free, as to any constraint. Prayer is not his task, or a piece of penance, but it is the natural cry of the new-born soul; neither does he take it up as a piece of policy, to bribe God's justice, or engage men's charity, to purchase favour with God or man, or his own clamorous conscience: but he prays, because he wants, and loves, and believes; he wants the fuller presence of that God whom he loves; he loves the presence which he wants: he believes that he that loves him will not suffer him to want any good thing that he prays for. And therefore he does not bind up himself severely, and limit himself penuriously to a morning and evening sacrifice and solemnity, as unto certain rent-seasons, wherein to pay a homage of dry devotion; but his loving and longing soul, disdaining to be confined within canonical hours, is frequently soaring in some heavenly raptures, and sallying forth in some holy ejaculations; he is not content with some weak essays towards heaven, in set and formal prayer, once or twice a-day, but labours also to be all the day long sucking in those divine influences, and streams of grace, by the mouth of faith, which he begged in the morning by the tongue of prayer; which hath made me sometimes to think it a proper speech to say, the faith of prayer, as well as the prayer of faith; for believing, and hanging upon divine grace, doth really
drink in what prayer opens its mouth for, and is, in effect, a powerful kind of praying in silence; by believing we pray, as well as in praying we believe.
A truly godly man hath not his hands tied up merely by the force of a national law, no, nor yet by the authority of the fourth commandment, to keep one in seven a day of rest; as he is not content with mere resting upon the Sabbath, (knowing that neither working, nor ceasing from work, doth of itself commend a soul to God,) but doth press