|« Prev||SECTION XII. Their fruit is Christian practice.||Next »|
Gracious and holy affections have their exercise and fruit in christian practice.
I mean, they have that influence and power upon him who is the subject of them, that they cause that a practice, which is universally conformed to, and directed by christian rules, should be the practice and business of his life.
This implies three things; 1. That his behaviour or practice in the world, be universally conformed to and directed by christian rules. 2. That he makes a business of such a holy practice above all things; that it be a business which he is chiefly engaged in, and devoted to, and pursues with highest earnestness and diligence; so that he may be said to make this practice of religion eminently his work and business.—And, 3. That he persists in it to the end of life: so that it may be said, not only to be his business at certain seasons, the business of Sabbath-days, or certain extraordinary times, or the business of a month, or a year, or of seven years, or his business under certain circumstances; but the business of his life; it being that business which he perseveres in through all changes, and under all trials, as long as he lives. The necessity of each of these, in all true Christians, is most clearly and fully taught in the word of God.
1. It is necessary that men should be universally obedient: 520520 “He that pretends to godliness, and turns aside to crooked ways, is an hypocrite: for those that are really godly, do live in a way of obedience; Psal. cxix. 1, 2, 3. “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, that walk in the law of the Lord.—They also do iniquity.” Luke i. 6. “They were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments of the Lord blameless.” But such as live in ways of sin, are dissemblers: for all such will be rejected in the day of judgment; Matth. vii. 23. “Depart from me ye that work iniquity”. The like we have Luke xiii. 27. If men live in a way of disobedience, they do not love God; for love will make men keep God’s commandments: 1 John v. 3. “Herein is love, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” If men live in a way of disobedience, they have not a spirit of faith; for faith sanctifies men; Acts xxvi. 18. “Sanctified by faith that is in me.” If men live in a way of disobedience, they are not Christ’s sheep; for his sheep hear his voice; John x. 27. Men that live in a way of disobedience are not born of God; 1 John iii. 9. “He that is born of God, sinneth not” Men that live in a way of disobedience are the servants of sin; John viii. 34. “He that committeth sin, is the servant of sin.”—A course of external sin is an evidence of hypocrisy; whether it be a sin of omission or commission.—If men live in the neglect of known duties, or in the practice of known evils, that will be their condemnation; let the sin be what it will; let it be profaneness, uncleanness, lying, or injustice.—If men allow themselves in malice, envy, wanton thoughts, profane thoughts, that will condemn them; though those corruptions do not break out in any scandalous way. These thoughts are an evidence of a rotten heart; Tit. iii. 3. “We ourselves were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.” If a man allows himself, though he thinks he doth not, in malice and envy, he is an hypocrite: though his conscience disallows it, yet if his heart allows it, he is no saint— Some make pretences to godliness, whereby they do not only deceive others, but (which is a great deal worse) deceive themselves also: but this will condemn them, that they live in a course of sin. and so must go with ungodly men;. Ps. xxv. 5. “As for such as turn aside unto their crooked ways, the Lord will lead them forth with the workers of iniquity.” If there be a great change in a man’s carriage, and he be reformed in several particulars, yet if there be one evil way, the man is an ungodly man; where there is piety there is universal obedience. A man may have great infirmities, yet be a godly man. So it was with Lot, David, and Peter: but if he lives in a way of sin, he does not render his godliness only suspicious, but it is full evidence against him. Men that are godly have respect to all God’s commandments, Psal. cxix. 6. There be a great many commands, and if there be one of them that a man has not respect unto, he will be put to shame another day. If a man lives in one evil way. he is not subject to God’s authority: but then he lives in rebellion; and that will take off all his pleas, and at once cut off all his pretences; and he will be condemned in the day of judgment.—One way of sin is exception enough against the man’s salvation. Though the sin that he lives in be but small: such persons will not be guilty of perjury. stealing, drunkenness, fornication; they look upon them to be heinous things, and they are afraid of them; but they do not much matter it, if they oppress a little in a bargain, if they commend a thing too much when they are about to sell it, if they break a promise, if they spend the Sabbath unprofitably, if they neglect secret prayer, if they talk rudely and reproach others; they think these are but small things, if they can keep clear of great transgressions, they hope that God will not insist upon small things.—But indeed all the commands of God are established by divine authority: a small shot may kill a man, as well as a cannon bullet: a small leak may sink a ship. If a man lives in small sins, that shows he has no love to God, no sincere care to please and honour God. Little sins are of a damning nature, as well as great: if they do not deserve so much punishment as greater. yet they do deserve damnation. There is contempt of God in all sins; Matt. v. 19. “He that, shall break one of the least of these commands, and shall teach men so, shall be called the least in the kingdom of God.” Prov. xix. 16. “He that keepeth the commandment, keepeth his own soul; but he that despiseth his way, shall die.” If a man says, this is a great command, and so lays weight on it and another is a little commandment, and so does not regard it, but will allow himself to break it, he is in a perishing condition.”—Stoddard’s Way to Know Sincerity and Hypocrisy. 1 John iii. 3,. &c. “Every man that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself, even as he is pure.—And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in him, sinneth not: whosoever sinneth, hath not seen him, neither known him.—He that doth righteousness, is righteous, even as he is righteous: he that committeth sin, is of the devil.” 1 John v. 18. Chap. v. 18. “We know that whosoever is born of God, sinneth not, but he that is begotten of God, keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.” John xv. 14. “Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you.” James ii. 10. “Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” 1 Cor. vi. 9. “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, &c. shall inherit the kingdom of God.” Gal. v. 19, 20. “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these, adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things, shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” Which is as much as to say, they that do any sort of wickedness. Job xxxi. 3-7. “Is not destruction to the wicked? and a strange punishment to the workers of iniquity? Doth not he see my ways, and count all my steps? Let me be weighed in an even balance, that God may know mine integrity. If my step hath turned out of the way, and mine heart walked after mine eyes, and if any blot hath cleaved to my hands,” &c. Ezek. xxxiii. 15. “If he walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity, he shall surely live.” “If one member only be corrupt, and we do not cut it off, it will carry the whole body to hell,”. Matt. v. 29, 30. Saul was commanded to slay all God’s enemies, the Amalekites; and he slew all but Agag, and the saving him alive proved his ruin. Caleb and Joshua entered into God’s promised rest, because they wholly followed the Lord, (Numb. xiv. 24. and Num. xxxii. 11, 12. xxxii. 11, 12. Deut. i. 36. Josh. xiv. 6, 8, 9, 14.) Naaman’s hypocrisy appeared in that—however he seemed to be greatly affected with gratitude to God for healing his leprosy, and engaged to serve him, yet—in one thing he desired to be excused. And Herod, though he feared John, observed him, heard him gladly, and did many things; yet was condemned, in that in one thing he would not hearken to him, even in parting with his beloved Herodias. So that it is necessary that men should part with their dearest iniquities, which are as their right hand and right eyes; sins that most easily beset them, and to which they are most exposed by their natural inclinations, evil customs, or particular circumstances, as well as others. As Joseph would not make known himself to his brethren who had sold him, until Benjamin the beloved child of the family was delivered up; no more will Christ reveal his love to us, until we part with our dearest lusts, and until we are brought to comply with the most difficult duties, and those to which we have the greatest aversion.
And it is of importance to observe, that in order to a man’s being universally obedient, his obedience must not only consist in negatives, or in universally avoiding wicked practices; but he must also be universal in the positives of religion. Sins of omission are as much breaches of God’s commands, as sins of commission. Christ, in Matt. xxv. represents those on the left hand, as being condemned and cursed to everlasting fire, for sins of omission, I was an hungred, and ye save me no meat, &c. A man therefore cannot be said to be universally obedient, and of a christian conversation, only because he is no thief, oppressor, fraudulent person, drunkard, tavern-haunter, whore-master, rioter, night-walker, nor unclean, profane in his language, slanderer, liar, furious, malicious, nor reviler. He is falsely said to be of a conversation becoming the gospel, who goes thus far, and no farther; but, in order to this it is necessary that he should also be of a serious, religious, devout, humble, meek, forgiving, peaceful, respectful, condescending, benevolent, merciful, charitable, and beneficent walk and conversation. Without such things as these, he does not obey the laws of Christ, laws that he and his apostles abundantly insist on, as of greatest importance and necessity.
2. In order to men’s being true Christians, it is necessary that they prosecute the business of religion, and the service of God, with great earnestness and diligence, as the work to which they devote themselves, and make the main business of their lives. All Christ’s peculiar people, not only do good works, but are zealous of good works, Tit. ii. 14. No man can do the service of two masters at once. They who are God’s true servants, give up themselves to his service, and make it as it were their whole work, therein employing their whole hearts, and the chief of their strength; Phil. iii. 13. “This one thing I do.” Christians in their effectual calling, are not called to idleness, but to labour in God’s vineyard, and spend their day in doing a great and laborious service. All true Christians comply with this call, (as is implied in its being an effectual call,) and do the work of Christians; which is every where in the New Testament compared to those exercises, wherein men are wont to exert their strength with the greatest earnestness, as running, wrestling, fighting. All true Christians are good and faithful soldiers of Jesus Christ, and fight the good fight of faith: for none but those who do so, ever lay hold on eternal life. Those who fight at those who beat the air, never win the crown of victory. They that run in a race, run all; but one wins the prize: and they that are slack and negligent in their course, do not so run, as that they may obtain. The kingdom of heaven is not to be taken but by violence. Without earnestness there is no getting along in that narrow way that leads to life; and so no arriving at that state of glorious life and happiness to which it leads. Without earnest labour, there is no ascending the steep and high hill of Zion; and so no arriving at the heavenly city on the top of it. Without a constant laboriousness, there is no stemming the swift stream in which we swim, so as ever to come to that fountain of water of life, that is at the head of it. There is need that we should watch and pray always, in order to our escaping those dreadful things that are coming on the ungodly, and our being counted worthy to stand before the Son of man. There is need of our putting on the whole armour of God, and doing all to stand, in order to our avoiding a total overthrow, and being utterly destroyed by the fiery darts of the devil. There is need that we should forget the things that are behind, and be reaching forth to the things that are before, and pressing towards the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God, in Christ Jesus our Lord, in order to our obtaining that prize. Slothful-ness in the service of God, in his professed servants, is as damning as open rebellion: for the slothful servant is a wicked servant, and shall be cast into outer darkness, among God’s open enemies. Matt. xxv. 26, 30. They that are slothful, are not followers of them, who through faith and patience inherit the promises; Heb. vi. 11, 12. “And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence, to the full assurance of hope unto the end: that ye be not slothful, but followers of them, who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” And all they who follow that cloud of witnesses who are gone before to heaven, do lay aside every weight, and the sin that easily besets them, and run with patience the race that is set before them, Heb. xii. 1. That true faith by which persons rely on the righteousness of Christ and the work he hath done for them, and truly feed and live upon him, is evermore accompanied with a spirit of earnestness in the christian work and course. Which was typified of old, by the manner of the children of Israel’s feeding on the paschal lamb; Exod. xii. 11. “And thus shall ye eat it, with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand: and ye shall eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s passover.”
3. Every true Christian perseveres in this way of universal obedience, diligent and earnest service of God, through all the various kinds of trials that he meets with, to the end of life. That all true saints, all who obtain eternal life, do thus persevere in the practice of religion, and the service of God, is a doctrine so abundantly taught in the Scripture, that particularly to rehearse all the texts which imply it would be endless. I shall content myself with referring to some in the margin. 521521 Deut. v. 29. Deut. xxxii. 18, 19, 20. 1 Chron. xxviii. 9. Psal. lxxviii. 7, 8. 10, 11, 35, 36, 37, 41, 42, 56, &c. Psal. cvi. 3, 12-15. Psal. cxxv. 4, 5. Prov. xxvi. 11. Isa. lxiv. 5. Jer. xvii. 13. Ezek. iii. 20. and xviii. 24. and xxxiii. 12, 13. Matt. x. 22. and xiii. 4-8. with verses 19-23. and xxv. 8. and xxiv. 12, 13. Luke ix. 62. and xii. 35. &c. and xxii. 28. and xvii. 32. John viii 30, 31. and xv. 6, 7, 8, 10, 16. Rom. ii. 7. and xi. 22. Col. i. 22, 23. Heb. iii. 6, 12,14. and 11,12. and x 35, &c. James i. 25. Rev. ii. 13, 26. and Rev. 10. 1 Tim. ii. 15. 2 Tim. iv. 4-8.
But that in persevering obedience, which is chiefly insisted on in the Scripture, as a special note of the truth of grace, is the continuance of professors in the practice of their duty, and being stedfast in a holy walk, through the various trials that they meet with.
By trials here I mean, those things which a professor meets with in his course, that especially render his continuance in duty, and faithfulness to God, difficult to nature. These things are called in Scripture by the name of trials, or temptations, which are words of the same signification. These are of various kinds: there are many things that render continuance in the way of duty difficult, by their tendency to cherish and foment, or to stir up and provoke, lusts and corruptions. Many things make it hard to continue in the way of duty, by their being of an alluring nature, and having a tendency to entice persons to sin; or by their tendency to take off restraints, and embolden them in iniquity. Other things are trials of the soundness and stedfastness of professors, by their tendency to make their duty appear terrible to them, and so to drive them from it: such as the sufferings to which their duty will expose them; pain, ill-will, contempt, and reproach, or loss of outward possessions and comforts. If persons, after they have made a profession of religion, live any considerable time in this world, which is so full of changes, and so full of evil, it cannot be otherwise, than that they should meet with many trials of their sincerity and stedfastness. And besides, it is God’s providential manner, to bring trials on his professing friends and servants designedly, that he may manifest them; and may exhibit sufficient matter of conviction of the state in which they are to their own consciences; and oftentimes, to the world. This appears by innumerable scriptures; some are referred to in the margin. 522522 Gen. xxii. 1. Exod. xv. 25. and xvi. 4. Deut viii. 2, 15, 16. and xiii. 3. Jude. ii 22. and iii. 1, 4. Job xxiii. 10. Psal. lxvi. 10. 11. Ezek. iii. 20. Dan. xii. 10. Zech. xiii. 9. Matt. viii. 19, 20. and xviii. 21, 22. Luke i. 35. 1 Cor. xi. 19. 2 Cor. viii. 8. Jam. i. 12. 1 Pet. iv. 12. 1 John ii.19. Heb. xi. 17. Rev. iii. 10.
True saints may be guilty of some kinds and degrees of backsliding, may be foiled by particular temptations, and fell into sin, yea, great sins: but they can never fall away so as to grow weary of religion and the service of God, and habitually to dislike and neglect it, either on its own account, or on account of the difficulties that attend it; as is evident by Gal. vi. 9. Rom. ii. 7. Heb. x. 36. Isa. xliii. 22. Mal. i. 13. They can never backslide so as to continue no longer in a way of universal obedience; or so, that it shall cease to be their manner to observe all the rules of Christianity, and do all duties required, even the most difficult, and in the most difficult circumstances. 523523 “One way of sin is exception enough against men’s salvation, though their temptations be great. Some persons delight in iniquity; they take pleasure in rudeness, and intemperate practices: but there be others, that do not delight in sin; when they can handsomely avoid it, they do not choose it; except they be under some great necessity, they will not do it They are afraid to sin; they think it is dangerous, and have some care to avoid it: but sometimes they force themselves to sin; they are reduced to difficulties, and cannot tell how well to avoid it: it is a dangerous thing not to do it. If Naaman do not bow himself in the house of Rimmon, the king will be in a rage with him, take away his office, it may be take away his life, and so he complies; 2 Kings v. 18.—So Jeroboam forced himself to set up the calves at Dan and Bethel: he thought that if the people went up to Jerusalem to worship, they would return to Rehoboam, and kill him; therefore he must think of some expedient to deliver himself in this strait; 1 Kings xii. 27, 28. He was driven by appearing necessity to take this wicked course.— So the stony-ground hearers were willing to retain the profession of the true religion; but the case was such, that they thought they could not well do it; Matt. xiii. 21. “When tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.” So Achan and Gehazi had singular opportunities to get an estate; if they live twenty years they are not like to have such an advantage; and they force themselves to borrow a point, and break the law of God. They lay a necessity on estate, and liberty, and life, but not upon obedience. If a man be willing to serve God in ordinary cases, but excuse himself when there be great difficulties, he is not godly. It is a small matter to serve God when men have no temptation; but Lot was holy in Sodom, Noah was righteous in the old world. Temptations try men, but they do not force men to sin: and grace will establish the heart in a day of temptation.—They are blessed that do endure temptation, James i. 12. But they are cursed that fall away in a day of temptation.” Stoddard’s Way to know Sincerity and Hypocrisy. This is abundantly manifest by the things observed already. Nor can they ever fall away, so as habitually to be more engaged in other things than in the business of religion: or so that it should become their way and manner to serve something else more than God; or so as statedly to cease to serve God, with such earnestness and diligence, as still to be habitually devoted and given up to the business of religion; unless those words of Christ can fall to the ground, Ye cannot serve two masters; and those of the apostle, He that will be a friend of the world, is the enemy of God; and unless a saint can change his God, and yet be a true saint. Nor can a true saint ever fall away so, that ordinarily there shall be no remarkable difference in his walk and behaviour since his conversion, from what was before. They who are truly converted are new men, new creatures; new, not only within, but without; they are sanctified throughout, in spirit, soul, and body; old things are passed away, all things are become new. They have new hearts, new eyes, new ears, new tongues, new hands, new feet; i. e. a new conversation and practice; they walk in newness of life, and continue to do so to the end of life. And they that (all away, show visibly that they never were risen with Christ. 524524 “Hence we learn what verdict to pass and give in concerning those men that decay and fall off from the Lord. They never had oil in the vessel; never had a dram of grace in their heart. Thus 1 John ii. 19. “If they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us.” It seems they were such men, which were so eminent and excellent, as that there were no brands nor marks upon them, to give notice to the churches, that they were marked out for apostacy; but were only discovered to be unsound, by their apostacy; and this was argument good enough.” Shepard’s Parable. Part I. p. 226. And especially when men’s opinion of their being converted, and so in a safe estate, is the very cause of their failure, it is a most evident sign of their hypocrisy. 525525 “When a man’s rising is the cause of his fall, or seals a man up in his fall, or at least the cause through his corruption. Ex. Gr. Time was, a man lived a loose, careless, carnal life; by the ministry of some word, or reading of some book, or speaking with some friend, he comes to be convinced of his misery and woful condition, and sees no good nor grace in himself; he hath been even hitherto deceived: at last he comes to get some light, some taste, some sorrows, some heart to use the means, some comfort and mercy, and hope of life: and when it is thus with him, now he falls; he grows full and falls; and this rising is the cause of his fall; his light is darkness and death to him; and grows to a form of knowledge; his rising makes him fall to formality, and then to profaneness; and so his tasting satisfies him; his sorrows empty his heart of sorrows for sin; and his sorrows for his falls harden his heart in his falls; and all the means of recovering him harden him.—Look as it is in diseases; if the physic and meat turn to be poison, then there is no hope of recovery; a man is sick to death now. The saint’s little measure makes him forget what is behind.” Shepard’s Parable. Part I. p. 226. And this is the case, whether their falling away be into their former sins, or into some new kind of wickedness, having the corruption of nature only turned into a new channel, instead of its being mortified. As when persons that think themselves converted, though they do not return to former profaneness and lewdness; yet from the high opinion they have of their experiences, graces, and privileges, gradually settle more and more in a self-righteous and spiritually proud temper of mind, and in such a manner of behaviour and conversation, as naturally arises therefrom. When it is thus with men, however far they may seem to be from their former evil practices, this alone is enough to condemn them, and may render their last state far worse than the first. For this seems to be the very case of the Jews of that generation of whom Christ speaks, Matt. xii. 43-45. They had been awakened by John the Baptist’s preaching, and brought to a reformation of their former licentious courses, whereby the unclean spirit was as it were turned out, and the house swept and garnished; yet being empty of God and of grace, full of themselves, and exalted in an exceeding high opinion of their own righteousness and eminent holiness, they became habituated to an answerably self-exalting behaviour. They changed the sins, of publicans and harlots, for those of the Pharisees; and in the issue, had seven devils worse than the first.
Thus I have explained what exercise and fruit I mean, when I say, that gracious affections have their exercise and fruit in christian practice. The reason why gracious affections have such a tendency and effect, appears from many things that have already been observed in the preceding parts of this discourse.
The reason of it appears particularly from this, that gracious affections arise from those operations and influences which are spiritual, and that the inward principle from whence they flow, is something divine, a communication of God, a participation of the divine nature, Christ living in the heart, the Holy Spirit dwelling there, in union with the faculties of the soul, as an internal vital principle, exerting his own proper nature in the exercise of those faculties. This is sufficient to show us why true grace should have such activity, power, and efficacy. No wonder that what is divine, is powerful and effectual; for it has omnipotence on its side. If God dwells in the heart, and be vitally united to it, he will show that he is a God by the efficacy of his operation. Christ is not in the heart of a saint as in a sepulchre, as a dead saviour that does nothing; but as in his temple, one that is alive from the dead. For in the heart where Christ savingly is, there he lives, and exerts himself after the power of that endless life, that he received at his resurrection. Thus every saint who is the subject of the benefit of Christ’s sufferings, is made to know and experience the power, of his resurrection. The Spirit of Christ, which is the immediate spring of grace in the heart, is all life, all power all act; 2 Cor. ii. 4.—“In demonstration of the Spirit, and of power.” 1 Thess. i. 5. “Our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost.”—1 Cor. iv. 20. “The kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.” Hence saving affections, though oftentimes they do not make so great a noise and show as others; yet have in them a secret solidity, life, and strength, whereby they take hold of and carry away the heart, leading it into a kind of captivity, 2 Cor. x. 5. gaining a full and stedfast determination of the will for God and holiness; Psal. cx. 3. “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power.” And thus it is that holy affections have a governing power in the course of a man’s life. A statue may look very much like a real man, and a beautiful man; yea it may have, in its appearance to the eye, the resemblance of a very lively, strong, and active man: but yet an inward principle of life and strength is wanting; and therefore it does nothing, it brings nothing to pass, there is no action or operation to answer the show. False discoveries and affections do not go deep enough, to reach and govern the spring of men’s actions and practice. The seed in the stony ground had not deepness of earth; the root did not go deep enough to bring forth fruit. But gracious affections go to the very bottom of the heart, and take hold of the very inmost springs of life and activity. Herein chiefly appears the power of true godliness, viz. in its being effectual in practice. And the efficacy of godliness in this respect, is what the apostle respects, when he speaks of the power of godliness, 2 Tim. iii. 5. for he there is particularly declaring, how some professors of religion would notoriously fail in the practice of if, and then the 5th verse observes, that in being thus of an unholy practice, they deny the power of godliness, though they have the form of it. Indeed the power of godliness is exerted in the first place within the soul; in the sensible, lively exercise of gracious affections there. Yet the principal evidence of this power is in those exercises of holy affections that are practical; conquering the will, the lusts, and corruptions of men, and carrying them on in the way of holiness, through all temptation, difficulty, and opposition.
Again, the reason why gracious affections have their exercise and effect in christian practice, appears from this, that the first objective ground of gracious affections, is the transcendently excellent and amiable nature of divine things, as they are in themselves, and not any conceived relation they bear to self, or self-interest. This shows why holy affections will cause men to be holy in their practice universally. What makes men partial in religion is, that they seek themselves, and not God, in their religion, and close with religion, not for its own excellent nature, but only to serve a turn. He that closes with religion only to serve a turn, will close with no more of it than he imagines serves that turn: but he that closes with religion for its own excellent and lovely nature, closes with all that has that nature: he that embraces religion for its own sake, embraces the whole of religion. This also shows why gracious affections will cause men to practise religion perseveringly, and at all times. Religion may alter greatly in process of time, as to its consistence with men’s private interest, in many respects; and therefore he that complies with it only from selfish views, is liable, in the changes of time, to forsake it: but the excellent nature of religion, as it is in itself, is invariable; it is always the same, at all times, and through all changes; it never alters in any respect.
The reason why gracious affections issue in holy practice, also further appears from the kind of excellency which is the foundation of all holy affections, viz. their moral excellency, or the beauty of their holiness. No wonder that. a love to holiness, for holiness’ sake, inclines persons to practise holiness, and to practise every thing that is holy. Seeing holiness is the main thing that excites, draws, and governs all gracious affections, no wonder that all such affections tend to holiness. That which men love, they desire to have, to be united to, and possessed of. That beauty which men delight in, they desire to be adorned with. Those acts which men delight in, they necessarily incline to do.
And what has been observed of divine teaching and leading of the Spirit of God, shows the reason of this tendency of gracious affections to an universally holy practice. For as has been observed, the Spirit of God in this his divine teaching and leading, gives the soul a natural relish of the sweetness of that which is holy, and of every thing that is holy, so far as it comes in view, and excites a disrelish and disgust of every thing that is unholy.
The same also appears from what has been observed of the nature of that spiritual knowledge, which is the foundation of all holy affection, as consisting in a sense and view of that excellency in divine things, which in supreme and transcendent. For hereby these things appear above all others, worthy to be chosen and adhered to. By the sight of the transcendent glory of Christ, true Christians see him worthy to be followed; and so are powerfully drawn after him; they see him worthy that they should forsake all for him. By the sight of that superlative amiableness, they are thoroughly disposed to be subject to him, and engaged to labour with earnestness and activity in his service, and made willing to go through all difficulties for his sake. And it is the discovery of this divine excellency of Christ, that makes them constant to him: for it makes so deep an impression upon their minds, that they cannot forget him; they will follow him whithersoever he goes, and it is in vain for any to endeavour to draw them away from him.
The reason of this practical tendency and issue of gracious affections, further appears, from what has been observed of such affections being attended with a thorough conviction of the reality and certainty of divine things. No wonder that they who were never thoroughly convinced that there is any reality in religion, will never be at the labour and trouble of such an earnest, universal, and persevering practice of religion, through all difficulties, self-denials and sufferings, in a dependence on that, of which they are not convinced. But on the other hand, they who are thoroughly convinced of the certain truth of those things, must needs be governed by them in their practice; for the things revealed in the word of God are so great, and so infinitely more important than all others, that it is inconsistent with human nature, that a man should fully believe their truth, and not be influenced by them above all things in his practice.
Again, the reason of this expression and effect of holy affections in the practice, appears from what has been observed of a change of nature, accompanying such affections. Without a change of nature, men’s practice will not be thoroughly changed. Until the tree be made good, the fruit will not be good. Men do not gather grapes of thorns, nor figs of thistles. The swine may be washed, and appear clean for a little while, but yet, without a change of nature, he will still wallow in the mire. Nature is a more powerful principle of action, than any thing that opposes it: though it may be violently restrained for a while, it will finally overcome that which restrains it. It is like the stream of a river, it may be stopped a while with a dam, but if nothing be done to dry the fountain, it will not be slopped always; it will have a course, either in its old channel, or a new one. Nature is a thing more constant and permanent, than any of those things that are the foundation of carnal men’s reformation and righteousness. When a natural man denies his lust, lives a strict, religious life, and seems humble, painful, and earnest in religion; it is not natural, it is all a force against nature; as when a stone is violently thrown upwards. But that force will he gradually spent; nature will remain in its full strength, and so prevails again, and the stone returns downwards. As long as corrupt nature is not mortified, but the principle left whole in a man, it is a vain thing to expect that it should not govern. But if the old nature be indeed mortified, and a new heavenly nature infused; then may it well be expected, that men will walk in newness of life, and continue to do so to the end of their days.
The reason of this practical exercise and effect of holy affections, may also be partly seen, from what has been said of that spirit of humility, which attends them. Humility is that wherein a spirit of obedience much consists. A proud spirit is rebellious, but an humble spirit is a submissive, obediential spirit. We see among men, that the servant who is of a haughty spirit, is not apt in every thing to be submissive and obedient to the will of his master; but it is otherwise with the servant who is of a lowly spirit.
That lamb-like, dove-like spirit, that has been spoken of, which accompanies all gracious affections, fulfils (as the apostle observes, Rom. xiii. 8, 9, 10. and Gal. v. 14.) all the duties of the second table of the law; wherein christian practice very much consists, and the external practice of Christianity.
And the reason why gracious affections are attended with strict, universal, and constant obedience, further appears, from what has been observed of that tenderness of spirit, which accompanies the affections of true saints, causing in them so quick and lively a sense of pain, through the presence of sin, and such a dread of the appearance of evil.
One great reason why the christian practice which flows from gracious affections, is universal, constant, and persevering, appears from what has been observed of those affections themselves from whence this practice flows, being universal and constant, in all kinds of holy exercises, and towards all objects, in all circumstances, and at all seasons, in a beautiful symmetry and proportion.
And much of the reason why holy affections are expressed and manifested in such an earnestness, activity, engagedness, and perseverance in holy practice, appears from what has been observed, of the spiritual appetite and longing after further attainments in religion, which evermore attends true affection, and does not decay, but increases as those affections increase. Thus we see how the tendency of holy affections to such a christian practice as has been explained, appears from each of those characteristics of holy affection, before spoken of.
And this point may be further illustrated and confirmed, if it be considered, that the Holy Scriptures abundantly place sincerity and soundness in religion, in making a full choice of God as our only Lord and portion, forsaking all for him, and in a full determination of the will for God and Christ, on counting the cost; in our hearts closing and complying with the religion of Jesus Christ, with all that belongs to it, embracing it with all its difficulties, as it were hating our dearest earthly enjoyments, and even our own lives, for Christ; giving up ourselves with all that we have, wholly, and for ever unto Christ, without keeping back any thing, or making any reserve. In one word, sincerity consists in the great duty of self-denial for Christ; or in denying, i. e. as it were disowning and renouncing, ourselves for him, making ourselves nothing that he may be all. See the texts to this purpose referred to in the margin. 526526 Matt v. 29, 30. Chap. vi. 24. Chap. viii. 19-22. Chap. iv. 18-22. Chap. x. 37, 38, 39. Chap. xiii. 44. 45. 46. Chap. xvi. 24. 25, 26. Chap. xviii. 8, 9. Chap. xix. 21, 27. 28, 29. Luke v. 27, 28. Chap. x. 42. Chap. xii. 33, 34. Chap. xiv. 16-20, 25-33. Chap. xvi. 13. Acts iv. 34, 35. with Chap. v. 1-11. Rom. vi. 3-8. Gal. ii. 20. Chap. vi. 14. Philip. iii. 7-10. Jam. i. 8. 9.10. Chap. iv. 4. 1 John ii. 15. Rev. xiv. 4. Gen. xii. 1-4. with Heb. xi. 8, 9, 10. Gen. xxii. 12. and Heb. xi. 17. Chap. xi. 24-27. Deut xiii. 6. and Chap. xxxiii. 9. Ruth. i. 6-16. with Psal. xlv. 10, 11. and 2 Sam. xv. 19-22. Psal. lxxxiii. 25. Psal. xvi. 5, 6. Lam. iii. 24. Jer. x. 16. Now surely having a heart to forsake all for Christ, tends to actually forsaking all for him, so far as there is occasion, and we have the trial. Having a heart to deny ourselves for Christ, tends to denying ourselves in deed, when Christ and self-interest stand in competition. A giving up of ourselves, with all that we have, in our hearts, without making any reserve there, tends to our behaving ourselves universally as his, as subject to his will, and devoted to his ends. Our hearts entirely closing with the religion of Jesus, with all that belongs to it, and as attended with all its difficulties, upon a deliberate counting of the cost, tends to an universal closing with the same in act and deed, and actually going through all the difficulties we meet with in the way of religion, and so holding out with patience and perseverance.
The tendency of grace in the heart to holy practice, is very direct, and the connexion most natural, close, and necessary. True grace is not an inactive thing; there is nothing in heaven or earth of a more active nature; for it is life itself, the most active kind, even spiritual and divine life. It is no barren thing; there is nothing in the universe that in its nature has a greater tendency to fruit. Godliness in the heart has as direct a relation to practice, as a fountain has to a stream, or as the luminous nature of the sun has to beams sent forth, or as life has to breathing, or the beating of the pulse, or any other vital act; or as a habit or principle of action has to action: for it is the very nature and notion of grace, that it is a principle of holy action or practice. Regeneration, which is that work of God in which grace is infused, has a direct relation to practice; for it is the very end of it, with a view to which the whole work is wrought. All is calculated and framed, in this mighty and manifold change wrought in the soul, so as directly to tend to this end; Eph. ii. 10. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” Yea it is the very end of the redemption of Christ; Tit. ii. 14. “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” 2 Cor. v. 15. “He died for all, that they which live, should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him who died for them, and rose again.” Heb. ix. 14. “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit, offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” scripture passage=” Col. i. 21, 22. “And you that were sometimes alienated, and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled, in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblamable, and unreprovable in his sight.” 1 Pet. i. 18. “For as much as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation.” Luke i. 74, 75. “That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.” God often speaks of holy practice, as the end of that great typical redemption, the redemption from Egyptian bondage; as Exod. iv. 23. “Let my son go, that he may serve me.” (So chap. iv. 23. and vii. 16. and viii. 1, 20. and ix. 1, 13. and x. 3.) And this is also declared to be the end of election; John xv. 16. “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain.” Eph. i. 4. “According as he hath chosen us in him, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy, and without blame before him in love.” Chap. ii. 10. “Created unto good works, which God hath fore-ordained that we should walk in them.” Holy practice is as much the end of all that God does about his saints, as fruit is the end of all the husbandman does about the growth of his field or vineyard: as the matter is often represented in Scripture; (Matt. iii. 10. chap. xiii. 8, 23-30, 38. chap. xxi. 19, 33, 34. Luke xiii. 6. John xv. 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 8. 1 Cor. iii. 9. Heb. vi. 7, 8. Isa. v. 1-8. Cant. viii. 11, 12. Isa. xxvii. 2, 3.) 527527 “To profess to know much is easy; but to bring your affections into subjection, to wrestle with lusts, to cross your wills and yourselves, upon every occasion, this is hard. The Lord looketh that in our lives we should be serviceable to him, and useful to men. That which is within, the Lord and our brethren are never the better for it: but the outward obedience, flowing thence, glorifieth God, and does good to men. The Lord will have this done. What else is the end of our planting and watering, but that the trees may be filled with sap? And what is the end of that sap, but that the trees may bring forth fruit? What careth the husbandman for leaves and barren trees?”—Dr. Preston of the Church’s Carriage. And therefore every thing in a true Christian is calculated to reach this end. This fruit of holy practice, is that to which every grace, every discovery, and every individual thing which belongs to christian experience, has a direct tendency. 528528 “What is the end of every grace, but to mollify the heart, and make it pliable to some command or other? Look, how many commandments, so many graces there are in virtue and efficacy, although not so many several names are given them. The end of every such grace is to make us obedient; as the end of temperance is chastity, to bow the heart to these commands. Be ye sober, &c. not in chambering and wantonness, &c. When the Lord commandeth us not to be angry with our brother, the end of meekness, and why the Lord infuseth it, is to keep us from unadvised rash anger. So faith, the end of it is to take Jesus Christ, to make us obedient to the command of the gospel, which commands us to believe in him. So as all graces do join together, but to frame and fashion the soul to obedience; then so much obedience as is in your lives, so much grace in your hearts, and no more. Therefore ask your hearts, how subject you are to the Lord in your lives? It was the counsel that Francis Spira gave to them about him, saith he, Learn all of me to take heed of severing faith and obedience: I taught justification by faith, but neglected obedience; and therefore is this befallen me. I have known some godly men, whose comfort on their death-beds hath been not from the inward acts of their minds, which apart considered, might be subject to misapprehensions, but from the course of obedience in their lives, issuing thence. Let Christians look to it, that in all their conversation, as they stand in every relation, as scholars, tradesmen, husbands, wives, look to this, that when they come to die, they have been subject in all things. This will yield comfort.” Dr. Preston’s Church’s Carriage.
The constant and indissoluble connexion there is between a christian principle and profession in the true saints, and the fruit of holy practice in their lives, was typified of old in the frame of the golden candlestick in the temple. It is beyond doubt that the golden candlestick, with its seven branches and seven lamps, was a type of the church of Christ. The Holy Ghost himself has been pleased to put that matter out of doubt, by representing his church by such a golden candlestick with seven lamps, in the fourth chapter of Zechariah, and representing the seven churches of Asia by seven golden candlesticks, in the first chapter of the Revelation. That golden candlestick in the temple was every where, throughout its whole frame, made with knops and flowers, Exod. xxv. 31., to the end, and chap. xxxvii. 17-24. The word translated knop, in the original signifies apple or pomegranate. There was a knop and a flower, a knop and a flower; wherever there was a flower, there was an apple or pomegranate with it; the flower and the fruit were constantly connected, without fail. The flower contained the principles of the fruit, and a beautiful promising appearance of it; and it never was a deceitful appearance; the principle or show of fruit, had evermore real fruit attending it, or succeeding it. So it is in the church of Christ: there is the gracious principle of fruit in the heart; and there is an amiable profession, signified by the open flowers of the candlestick; and there is answerable fruit, in holy practice, constantly attending this principle and profession. Every branch of the golden candlestick, thus composed of golden apples and flowers, was crowned with a burning, shining lamp on the top of it. For it is by this means that the saints shine as lights in the world, by making a fair and good profession of religion, and having their profession evermore joined with answerable fruit in practice: agreeable to that of our Saviour, Matt. v. 15, 16. “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” A fair and beautiful profession, and golden fruits accompanying one another, are the amiable ornaments of the true church of Christ. Therefore we find that apples and flowers were not only the ornaments of the candlestick in the temple, but of the temple itself, which is a type of the church; which the apostle tells us, is the temple of the living God. See 1 Kings vi. 18. “And the cedar of the house within was carved with knops, and open flowers.” The ornaments and crown of the pillars, at the entrance of the temple, were of the same sort: they were lilies and pomegranates, or flowers and fruits, mixed together, 1 Kings vii. 18, 19. So it is with all those that are as pillars in the temple of God, who shall go no more out, or never be ejected as intruders; as it is with all true saints; Rev. iii. 12. “Him that overcometh, will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out.”
Much the same thing seems to be signified by the ornaments on the skirt of the ephod, the garment of Aaron the high priest; which were golden bells and pomegranates. That these skirts of Aaron’s garment represent the church, or the saints, (that are as it were the garment of Christ,) is manifest; for they are evidently so spoken of, Psal. cxxxiii. 1, 2. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is, for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard, that went down to the skirts of his garments.” That ephod of Aaron signified the same with the seamless coat of Christ our great High Priest. As Christ’s coat had no seam, but was woven from the top throughout, so was the ephod, Exod. xxxix. 22. As God took care in his providence, that Christ’s coat should not be rent; so God took special care that the ephod should not be rent; (Exod. xxviii. 32. and chap. xxxix. 23.) The golden bells on this ephod, by their precious matter and pleasant sound, well represent the good profession that the saints make; and the pomegranates, the fruit they bring forth. And as in the hem of the ephod, bells and pomegranates were constantly connected, as is once and again observed, there was “a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate,” (Exod. xxviii. 34. and chap. xxxix 26.) so it is in the true saints; their good profession and their good fruit, constantly accompany one another: the fruit they bring forth in life, evermore answers the pleasant sound of their profession.
Again, the very same thing is represented by Christ, in his description of his spouse, Cant. vii. 2. “Thy belly is like an heap of wheat, set about with lilies.” Here again are beautiful flowers, and good fruit, accompanying one another. The lilies were fair and beautiful flowers, and the wheat was good fruit.
As this fruit of christian practice is evermore found in true saints, according as they have opportunity and trial, so it is found in them only; none but true Christians do live such an obedient life, so universally devoted to their duty, and given up to the business of a Christian, as has been explained. All unsanctified men are workers of iniquity: they are of their father the devil, and the lusts of their father they will do.—There is no hypocrite that will go through with the business of religion, will both begin and finish the tour. They will not endure the trials God is wont to bring on the professors of religion, but will turn aside to their crooked ways; they will not be thoroughly faithful to Christ in their practice, and follow him whithersoever he goes. Whatever lengths they may go in religion in some instances, though they may appear exceeding strict, and mightily engaged in the service of God for a season; yet they are servants to sin; the chains of their old task-masters are not broken. Their lusts yet have a reigning power in their hearts; and therefore to these masters they will bow down again. 529529 “No unregenerate man, though he go never so far, let him do never so much, but he lives in some one sin or other, secret or open, little or great Judas went far, but he was covetous: Herod went far, but he loved his Herodias. Every dog hath his kennel; every swine hath his swill; and every wicked man his lust.” Shepard’s Sincere Convert, 1st edition, p. 96. “There is never an unsound heart in the world, but as they say of witches, they have some familiar that sucks them, so they have some lust that is beloved of them, some beloved there is they have given a promise to never to forsake.” Shepard’s Parable, Part I. p. 15. “No man that is married to the law, but his fig-leaves cover some nakedness. All his duties ever brood some lust. There is some one sin or other the man lives in; which either the Lord discovers, and he will not part with, as the young; man; or else is so spiritual, he cannot see all his life-time. Read through the strictest of all, and see this, Matt xxiii. Painted sepulchres. Paul that was blameless, yet (Eph. ii. 3. Tit. iii. 3.) served divers lusts and pleasures. And the reason is, the law is not the ministration of the Spirit, 2 Cor. iii. 8. 9. which breaks off from every sin. There is no law that can give life. Gal. iii. 21. and hence many men have strong resolutions, and break all again. Hence men sin and sorrow, and pray again, and then go with more ease in their sin. Examine thyself; is there any living lust with thy righteousness? It is sure, it is a righteousness thou art married to, and never wert yet matched to Christ.” Shepard’s Parable, Part I. p. 19, 20. “No hypocrite, though he closeth with Christ, and for a time grow up in knowledge of and communion with Christ, but he hath at that time hidden lusts and thorns that overgrow his growings, and choke all at last, and in conclusion meditates a league between Christ and his lusts, and seeks to reconcile them together.” Shepard’s Parable, Part I. p. 109. ”— Their faith is in such a party, as never was yet thoroughly rent from sin. And here is the great wound of the most cunning hypocrites living. Let a man be cast down as low as hell with sorrow, and lie under chains, quaking; in apprehension of terror to come; let a man then be raised up to heaven in joy, not able to live: let a man reform and shine like an earthly angel: yet if not rent from lust, that either you did never see it, or if so, you have not followed the Lord to remove it, but proud, dogged, worldly, sluggish still, false in your dealings, cunning in your tradings, devils in your families, images in your churches; you are objects of pity now, and shall be of terror at the great day. For where sin remains in power, it will bring faith, and Christ, and joy into bondage and service of itself.” Shepard’s Parable, Part I. p. 125. “Methinks it is with the best hypocrites, as it is with divers old merchants: they prize and desire the gain of merchandise; but to be at the trouble to prepare the ship, to put themselves upon the hazard and dangers of the ship, to go and fetch the treasure that they prize, this they will never do. So many prize and desire earnestly the treasures of heaven; but to be at the trouble of a heaven-voyage to fetch this treasure, to pass through the valley of Baca, tears, temptations, the powers of darkness, the breaches. opposition, and contradictions of a sinful unbelieving heart, good and evil report, to pass from one depth and wave to another, this the best hypocrite fails in; and hence loses all at last. And this I conceive to be one of the great differences between the strong desires and esteems of hypocrites and saints.— Look, as it is with men that have two trades, or two shops; one is as much as ever they can follow or tend: they are forced at last to put off one, and they must neglect one; so here. That spirit of sloth and slumber, which the Lord ever leaves the best hypocrite to, so mightily oppresseth all their senses, that they cannot use effectually all means to accomplish their ends. And hence a man desires the end, but has it not; Prov. xiii. 4.“ Shepard’s Parable, Part I. p. 150, 151. “Read through all the Scripture; constantly, never any hypocrites but they had this brand. Matt vii. 23. you workers of iniquity. Shepard’s Parable, Part I. p. 195. “A carnal man may hit upon some good duty that God commands, and refrain from some sin that God forbids; but to go through, he cannot: to take up reproach and disgrace, to lose his credit, to forsake his friends, to lose honour, and riches, and pleasures; this he will not do, until he be humbled.” Dr. Preston on Paul’s Conversion. “So it is with men, because they want humiliation. Therefore their profession and they do not continue, but part willingly one from another. They will do some things, but not all things: and they will forego some things, but not all things.—And therefore our Saviour saith, Luke xiv. “He that will not forsake all for my sake, is not worthy of me.” He is not worth the saying, that prizes not me above all things whatsoever. And a man will not prize Christ, nor forsake all things for Christ, until he be humbled.” Ibid. Dan. xii. 10. “Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried: but the wicked will do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand.” Isa. xxvi. 10. “Let favour be showed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness: in the land of uprightness will he deal unjustly.” Isa. xxxv. 8. “And an high-way shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it.” Hos. xiv. 9. “The ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fell therein.” Job xxvii. 8, 9, 10. “What is the hope of the hypocrite?—Will he delight himself in the Almighty? will he always call upon God?” An unsanctified man may hide his sin, and may in many things and for a season refrain from sin; but he will not be brought finally to renounce, and give it a bill of divorce: sin is too dear to him, for him to be willing for that; “Wickedness is sweet in his mouth: and therefore he hides it under his tongue; he spares it, and forsakes it not; but keeps it still within his mouth,”. Job xx. 12, 13. Herein chiefly consists the straitness of the gate, and the narrowness of the way that leads to life; on account of which, carnal men will not go in thereat, viz. that it is a way of utterly denying and finally renouncing all ungodliness, and so a way of self-denial or self-renunciation.
Many natural men, under the means used, and God’s strivings with them, do by their sins as Pharaoh did by his pride and covetousness; these he gratified by their keeping the children of Israel in bondage, when God strove with him to let the people go. When God’s hand pressed Pharaoh sore, and he was exercised with fears of God’s future wrath, he entertained some thoughts of letting the people go, and promised he would do it: but from time to time he broke his promises, when he saw there was respite. When God filled Egypt with thunder and lightning, and the fire ran along the ground, then Pharaoh is brought to confess his sin with seeming humility, and to have a great resolution to let the people go, Exod. ix. 27, 28. “And Pharaoh sent, and called for Moses and Aaron, and said unto them, I have sinned this time: the Lord is righteous, and I and my people are wicked: entreat the Lord (for it is enough) that there be no more mighty thunderings and hail; and I will let you go, and ye shall stay no longer.” So sinners are sometimes by thunders and lightnings, and great terrors of the law, brought to a seeming work of humiliation, and to an .appearance of parting with their sins; but are no more thoroughly brought to a disposition to dismiss them, than Pharaoh was to let the people go. Pharaoh in the struggle between his conscience and his lusts, was for contriving that God might be served, and he to enjoy his lusts, that were gratified by the slavery of the people. Moses insisted that Israel’s God should be served: Pharaoh was willing to consent to that; but would have it done without his parting with the people; Go sacrifice to your God in the land,” says he, .Exod. viii. 25“. So, many sinners are for contriving to serve God, and enjoy their lusts too. Moses objected against complying with Pharaoh’s proposal, because serving God, and yet continuing in Egypt under their task-masters, did not agree together, and were inconsistent. After this Pharaoh consented to let the people go, provided they would not go far away: he was not willing to part with them finally, and therefore would have them within reach. So do many hypocrites with respect to their sins. Afterwards Pharaoh consented to let the men go, if they would leave the women and children, Exod. x. 8-10. And then after that, when God’s hand was yet harder upon him, he consented that they should go, even women and children, as well as men, provided they would leave their cattle behind: but he was not willing to let them go, and all that they had, Exod. x. 24. So it oftentimes is with sinners; they are willing to part with some of their sins, but not all; they are brought to part with the more gross acts of sin, but not to part with their lusts, in lesser indulgencies of them. Whereas we must part with all our sins, little and great; and all that belongs to them, men, women, children, and cattle: they must all be let go, with their young, and with their old, with their sons, and with their daughters, with their flocks, and with their herds, there must not be an hoof left behind: as Moses told Pharaoh, with respect to the children of Israel. At last, when it came to extremity, Pharaoh consented to let the people all go, and all that they had; but he was not stedfastly of that mind; he soon repented, and pursued after them again. The reason was, that those lusts of pride and covetousness, which were gratified by Pharaoh’s dominion over the people, and the gains of their service, were never really mortified in him, but only violently restrained. And thus, he being guilty of backsliding, after his seeming compliance with God s commands, was destroyed without remedy. Thus there may be a forcing parting with ways of disobedience to the commands of God, that may seem to be universal, as to what appears for a little season: but because it is a mere force, without the mortification of the inward principle of sin, they will not persevere in it; but will return as the dog to his vomit; and so bring on themselves dreadful and remediless destruction. There were many false disciples in Christ’s time, that followed him for a while; but none of them followed him to the end; some on one occasion, and some on another, went back and walked no more with him. 530530 “The counterfeit and common grace of foolish virgins, after some time of glorious profession, will certainly go out and be quite spent. It consumes in the using, and shining, and burning.—Men that have been most forward, decay; their gifts decay, life decays.—It is so, after some time of profession: for at first, it rather grows than decays and withers: but afterward they have enough of it, it withers and dies.—The Spirit of God comes upon many hypocrites, in abundant and plentiful measure of awakening grace; it comes upon them, as it did upon Balaam, and as it is in overflowing waters, which spread far, and grow very deep, and fill many empty places.—Though it doth come upon them so, yet it doth never rest within, so as to dwell there, to take up an eternal mansion for himself.—Hence it doth decay by little and little; until at last it is quite gone. As ponds filled with rain-water, which comes upon them; not spring water, that riseth up within them: it drys up by little and little, until quite dry.” Shepard’s Parable, Part II. p. 58, 59. “Some men may apprehend Christ, neither out of fear of misery nor only to preserve some sin; but God lets in light and heat of the blessed beams of the glorious gospel of the Son of God: and therefore there is mercy, rich, free, sweet, for damned, great, vile sinners: Good Lord, saith the soul, what a sweet ministry, word, God, and gospel is this! and there rests. This was the frame of the stony-ground; which heard the word, and received it with joy, and for a time believed. And this is the case of thousands, that are much affected with the promise and mercy of Christ, and hang upon free grace for a time: but as it is with sweet smells in a room, they continue not long: or as flowers, they grow old and withered, and then fall. In time of temptation, lust, and world, and sloth, is more sweet than Christ, and all his gospel is.” Shepard’s Parable, Part II. p. 168. “Never any carnal heart, but some root of bitterness did grow up at last in this soil.” Shepard’s Parable, Part I. p. 195. ” We shall see in experience: take the best professors living; though they may come, as they and others judged, to the Lord, and follow the Lord; yet they will in time depart. The Spirit never was given effectually to draw them, nor yet to keep them.” Shepard’s Parable, Part I. p. 205.
From what has been said, it is manifest, that christian practice, or a holy life, is a great and distinguishing sign of true and saving grace. But I may go further, and assert, that it is the chief of all the signs of grace, both as an evidence of the sincerity of professors unto others, and also to their own consciences.
But then it is necessary that this be rightly taken, and that it be well understood and observed, in what sense and manner christian practice is the greatest sign of grace. Therefore, to set this matter in a clear light, I will endeavour particularly and distinctly to prove, that christian practice is the principal sign by which Christians are to judge, both of their own and others’ sincerity of godliness; withal observing some things that are needful to be particularly noted, in order to a right understanding of this matter.
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