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present holiness, then are they regular and become gracious. We are not so straitly limited by God's sovereignty over us, but, while we fix one eye upon our work, we may fix the other on our reward. God is not so strict in his prerogative over us, as to require service from us, from what we have already received from him: he is not as a cruel lord and master to say, " Obey me, though afterwards you perish: see to it, that you love and glorify me, though 1 eternally punish you:" though,considering that infinite distance we stand at from God, we could object nothing against the equity of his proceedings. No, but God hath so graciously twisted his glory and our duty together, that, while we promote the one, we do also promote the other; and, while we work for God, we do but work for ourselves. Now are there any, that need to be persuaded to love themselves? Is it not the great and general sin, that all men love and seek themselves? And do not men, by becoming self-lovers, become self-destroyers? They do: but it is because they seek themselves out of God's way, that they lose themselves for ever. Religion and holiness are not such severe things, as to exclude self-love: nav, right self-love is that, which is no where to be found separate from true grace. Ministers call upon men to exercise self-denial and self-abhorrence; and this the foolish world mistake, as if they exhorted them to divorce themselves from themselves, to lay aside all respect and consideration of self, and to offer violence to the most common principles of self-preservation: no; would to God we all . sought ourselves more earnestly and constantly than we do, and that we all knew wherein our greatest interest and concernment did lie! then should we not leave our great work undone; nor gratify the sloth of our corrupt humours, and the sinful propensions of our carnal part;.nor should we think what we do for sin and Satan we do for ourselves: no; all thrs is to hate ourselves: and wicked men, at the Last Day, shall know, that they have been their own most bitter and most implacable enemies; that they would not be content with anything less, than their own eternal ruin. A true Christian is the only selfish man in the world: all others are not self-lovers, but self-destroyers. What shall I say more than this? The Apostle asks, did ever any man hate his own flesh? did ever any man delight to gash and burn, to rack and torture himself? Truly I may ask the quite contrary: do almost any love their own spirits, their spiritual part, their souls? This, they wound and gash, by many a bloody sin: this, they burn and sear, by hardness and impenitency: this, they go about to torture and torment in hell for ever. Oh, therefore, be persuaded, at length to take pity on yourselves: considering, that you. are but destroying, while you think you are embracing yourselves; and, that that will be found but self-murder at last, which you now call self-love.
(3) A complacential Love to and Delight in your Work, is a great furtherance of it.
A wicked man serves God grudgingly: he murmurs at duties, and looks upon them oniy as tasks and burdens; thinking every thing which he doth for God too much, too heavy and weighty: the commands of God are all of them hard sayings and grievous impositions, that he cannot bear. He could believe Christ sooner in any thing, than when he tells him, My yoke is easy, and my burden is light: Mat. xi. SO: here he cannot believe Christ. "Thus much time," saith the slothful sinner, "must I spend in prayer: and there must I humble myself to God, whom 1 hate; and confess before him those sins, that I love; and beg that grace, that I have slighted. So much time, must I spend in reading the Law, that I never mean to observe; perusing over only the sentence of my condemnation. And, so often, must I fix and dwell upon holy and spiritual thoughts; which never, at any time, darted into or passed intransiently; but they did discompose me, and leave a damp and sadness upon my spirit behind them." And, therefore; because there is not a holy complacency and delight in the service of God, all such men's endeavours are both faint, inconstant, and languishing while they are about them, and seldom do they re-assume them again. But a true Christian works with abundance of delight and cheerfulness in the service of God: in every duty, his soul is filled full of holy affections, by which it soars up to heaven: duties are meat and drink to him, spiritual manna, in which he takes more satisfaction and contentment than wicked men do in their sins; and therefore he performs these duties so earnestly, because he doth it with complacency: all that he repines at, is, that natural necessity, sinful weakness and infirmities and worldly employments, do purloin so much of his time from this great work. Now when once the heart is brought to such a frame and temper as this, thus to delight in obedience and in the work and service of God, then will this working for salvation go on with power. ,
Direction iii. Another Direction is that in the Text: Work
FOR SALVATION WITH FEAR AND TREMBLING.
A trembling hand best performs a Christian's work.
Now this fear is not a fear of distrust or despondency; for that is so contrary to this duty of working for salvation, as that it stupifies and benumbs all endeavours, and is a great enemy to the performance of this duty.
1. It is a Fear of Solicitude and Carefulness; as it stands opposed to carnal security, and that presumption, that is the common and ordinary destruction of most men.
This holy fear is the best preservative of true grace. The Apostle therefore tells Usj Thou standest by faith: be not highminded, but fear: implying, that they would not stand long, though they stood by faith, unless they were upheld with godly fear: and the reason is, because it is the property of fear to foresee and forecast dangers, and to put the soul in a posture of defence and security before they approach. For, as the Wise Man tells us, the prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth hint' self: but the simple pass on, and are punished: Prov. xxii. 3. they are rash and confident in their undertakings, and so they pass on and are punished. Fear makes a Christian circumspect and considerative with himself, how he may keep from miscarriages in the performance of his great work. "If God call me to such a duty, how shall I perform it? If, to bear such a cross and affliction, how shall I glorify him under it? If, to conflict with such temptations, how shall I resist and overcome them? Yea, how shall I do to break through all difficulties, duties, and oppositions, that I, who am but a weak and feeble Christian, may meet withal? and how shall I do to bear up?" And, thus pondering what may be his duty, and forecasting what duties God may call him unto, he is enabled to do what is his duty at present, and what also may by providence hereafter become his duty. Nothing overtakes such a man, unexpected; nor doth any thing surprise him, unprovided for it. And thuu a careful fear enables him in the performance of his great work.
2. A Fear of Humility and Holy JReverence of God, conduceth much to the working out of our salvation: and that, in Three particulars.
(I) It much helps us in our great work, to fear God as our Lord and Master, that sees and overlooks all our works; observing both what we do, and how we do it also.
That servant must be desperately bold, that will dare to be 'die, or slight and perfunctory m his work, while his master's. eye is upon him. Christians should consider God's eye is always upon them; in praying, in hearing, and in every duty that they perform; yea, in every action of their whole lives. And, if the eye of a master, that is but a fellow-creature, nay but a fellowservant, can have such awe and influence upon his servant as to make him careful how he works and what he works, and to make him diligent in his work; should not the consideration of God's eye being upon us, who stands at an infinite distance from us, much more cause a holy fear and diligence in us, in doing what our Lord and Master commands us?
(2) Fear God also, as Him, from whom you have all your Power and Ability to work.
Fear him, lest, at any time, through any neglect or miscarriage of yours, He should be provoked to suspend his influence and withdraw his grace from you, and to leave yori to your own weakness and impotency, upon whose influence all your obedience doth depend. This is the Apostle's argument in the text: Work....with fear.....for God workcth in you, both to will and to do. Holy diligence in obedience cannot be more strongly enforced on an ingenuous spirit, than by considering that all that strength and ability, which we have to work, is received from God; and therefore should be improved for God, lest, for our sloth, he deprive us of that which We make no use of.
(3) In working, fear God also, as him, that will be the Judge and Rewarder of your works for ever.
You perform them unto Him, who is to pass sentence upon them, and upon you for them: and will you then dare to do them slothfully and negligently? God will try every man's work with fire, and will call every action to a severe and strict account. Every man's work shall be seen through and through: and then it shall be known, who hath wrought the works of God, and who hath fulfilled the will of Satan; and the final doom and irreversible sentence shall then be pronounced according to men's works. God will, says the Apostle, render to every man according to his works: To them, who, by patient continuance in well doing, seek for glory....and immortality, to them he will render eternal life: But unto them, that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, he will render unto them indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul...that doeth evil: Rom. ii. 6, 1, 8, 9. Would you but thus fear God as an upright and impartial judge, that will render unto every one according to his works, how would this prevail with you, so to work, that, at last, you might be found of God in well doing, and receive the blessed reward and sentence of the diligent and faithful servant, to enter into your Master's joy!
Direction iv. If you would work for salvation successfully, then Work Speedily, Without Delay; And Constantly, WithOut Cessation.
1. Work Speedily, without delay.
Delays, in all affairs, are dangerous; but, in soul affairs,usually they are damnable.
(1) The longer you procrastinate and delay, the greater and more difficult will your work be at last.
Corruption will be grown more tough: ill humours will be grown more stubborn: your heart will be more hardened: your affections, being more habituated, will be more firmly engaged to sin: the Devil will plead right to you, by prescription; and it is hard keeping an enemy out, that hath had long possession.
(2) Consider what a desperate folly it is, to put off your work till to-morrow: you are not sure that you shall live to see another day.
And oh! what hazards do those men run, whose hopes of heaven depend upon no better a bottom, than their hopes of life; and whose eternal salvation is subject to as many casualties and accidents, as their present beings in this world are subject to! Man's breath is in his nostrils: and, yet, how do men suffer their souls and their everlasting happiness to depend upon nothing surer than their breath; that breath that every moment goes forth from them, and they know not whether ever it shall return to them again?
But, suppose your life and days should continue; and you , should reach unto that time, whereof you have boasted, and wherein you have promised to mind the concernments of your soul's eternal happiness; yet, consider,
(3) The grace of God is not at your disposal. And then, either,
[l] The Outward Call may cease, or it may grow more faint and low. You may not be so daily importuned and solicited for heaven, as now you are. Ordinances and opportunities may cease; or you, for your contempt may, be given over to a contempt and neglect of them.
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