The Excellency of a Gracious SpiritJeremiah Burroughs (1599-1646) - A Popular Independent Puritan Preacher and a Member of the Westminster Assembly.
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“The holiness of God is the height of God’s excellency.”
The Excellency of a Gracious Spirit
The excellency of a gracious spirit Deliuered in a treatise upon the 14. of Numbers, verse 24. By Ier. Burroughes minister of Gods Word.
Burroughs, Jeremiah, 1599-1646.
THE EXCELLENCY OF A Gracious Spirit.
DELIVERED IN A TREATISE upon the 14. of Numbers, Verse 24.
By IER. BURROUGHES Minister of Gods Word.
PROV. 17. 27.
A man of understanding is of an excellent spirit.
LONDON, Printed by M. F. for R. Dawlman, and L. Fawne, at the Brazen Serpent in Pauls Church-yard. 1639.
TO THE RIGHT HONORABLE EDVVARD, Viscount MANDEVILLE.
There is a common slander that hath been raised, and vile aspertion that hath been, and still is cast upon the wayes of godlinesse; That they dis-ennoble mens spirits, (which Salvian complained of eleven hundred * yeares agoe, Si quis ex nobilitate converti ad Deum coeperit, statim honorem nobilitatis amittit; o quantus in Christiano populo honor Christi est, ubi Religio ignobilem facit!) That they make men rigid, melancholy, sowre, uncivill; That they dull their parts; That they take them off from the delights of the things in the world; That if men take up the power and strictnesse of them, they must resolve never, to keep any correspondence with their friends who are of rank and quality in the world; and therefore although those who have little of the world, and little to doe in the world, may live strict lives; yet it is not for such who are borne to great things, whose fortunes are raised higher than other mens, who have references to many of quality & place; it cannot be expected that they should bee so strict; this must needs hinder them in their outward accomplishments; if they begin to take such a course, it is impossible they should be compleate every way, as beseemes such as they are: and thus many are compelled to be evill, lest they should be esteemed vile, as Salvian complaines of his time; Mali coguntur esse ne viles habeātur: a notable speech of his, fully sutable to our times. The first observance (that I remember) I had of this place in Salvian, was from your Lordships ownhands, shewing it to me in him, as an expression that your Lordship was much affected with. But these men do not consider how much they speak against themselves; were this true, it were a snare, a judgement to be raised in outward excellencies above others. No; it is not honour, they are not riches, parts, dignities that hinder godlinesse; it is the basenesse and corruption of mens spirits, in the enjoyment of these that hinders; godlinesse raiseth the excellencies of them, it drawes out the chiefe good in them, and puts a higher beauty and glory upon them. God hath raised up your Honor, to convince the world of the falsenesse, malice, impiety there is in this evill report that is brought up, upon the good and blessed wayes of godlinesse. Malice it self cannot but acknowledge, that godlinesse in the strictnesse of it, & naturall excellencies in the eminency of them, have a blessed conjunction in your Honour; Godlinesse as the enameling of Pearls in those golden naturall endowments with which God hath mercifully & plentifully enriched you: and were it but for this service only to God and his Church, in convincing the world of the vilenesse of this slander; I may speake without suspition of flattery, happy that ever you were borne; and I know, that those who know your Lordship, will justifie me in that I say. In this God hath honored your Lordshipe exceedingly; were there no other end for which you still live in such a generation, as you doe, but onely this; yet in this you have great cause to blesse your selfe in God, and in this great honour he hath put upon you, to make you so publike and worthy an instrument of his. Who is it that lookes upon you, and sees your wayes, but must needs confesse, Now I see that strictnesse and power of Religion, may stand with a most noble, generous, sweet, amiable, courteous demeanour; I see it raiseth and ennobleth parts; and though it banisheth base and sordid pleasures, which are beneath the dignity of a man, much more of ture Nobility and generousnesse; yet it knowes how to make use of the delights that God affords in this world, and orders and guides them so, as by it they are injoyed with a double sweetnesse, farre above that which others finde.
And yet further, there are two more blessed conjuctures which adde much honour to you; the one is a facile yeeldablenes of spirit to any (though much inferiour) in anything, where good may bee done; and yet a strong, unmoveable, sledfast, resolute spirit against that which is evill. It was the high commendation that Nazianzen gave of Athanasius, that hee was Magnes, &*Adamas, A Loadstone in his sweet, gentle, drawing nature; and yet an Adamant in his resolute slout carriage against those who were evill.
The other is this (which makes all beautifull and lovely indeed) though God hath raised you high in birth, in abilities, in the esteeme of men both good and bad; yet the lustre of the humilitie of your spirit shines beautifully thorow all, manifesting it selfe in much gentlenesse and meeknesse; and this is the height of all true excellency. A man of understanding is of an excellent spirit, saith Salomon, Prov. 17. 27. the word in the Originall, is, A coole spirit. In also posito non altum sapere difficile est, & omnino inusitatum; sed quanto inusitatius, tanto gloriosius, saith Bernard, ep. 42. The Lord carry on your truely noble and generous spirit, that you may long hold forth the power, beauty and excellency of his grace. Let the height of all your designes be, to list up the Name of the great God. 2 Cor. 5. 9. We labour, saith the Apostle, whether present orabsent to bee accepted of him: the word translated, Labour, loseth the elegancy of it, it is 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉; we love the honour of it; it is such a labour as we account it our honour and glory: We are ambitious; to have high designes for God is a holy and a blessed ambition; whereas the ambition of other men is low, & base: Infoelix prorsus ambitio, quae ambire magna non novit, saith Bernard. Account your selfe blessed * when your God is blessed. It was the blessing of Shem, Gen. 9. 26. Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; the chiefe of Shems blessing was, that his Lord God was blessed. That which I seeke, is to ingage your Lordship for God, and to stirr you up to answer fully the esteeme, the expectations that men have of you, whose eyes are upon you as a publike blessing, & an ornament to the prosession of the truth. And yet this I desire your Lordship would consider, (as I know you doe) that Religion is a greater honour, and ornament to you, than you are to it; it doth and will more honour you, than you ever did, or can honor its Your birth made you honourable, but oh how honourable have you beene, since you have beene pretious in Gods eyes! Esay 43. 4. Your parts were alwayes hopefull, but how apparently have they beene raised since grace hath sanctified them? Although God takes it well at the hands of those whom hee hath raised in the things of the world higher than others, when hee seeth them forward in setting out his praise; yet he would not have them thinke that he is beholding to them, as if the honour of God depended so upon them, as it would faile, did not they put to their helpe. No, God can raise his honour by other meanes, he can glorifie himselfe, and get himselfe a great name, by low, meane, and contemptible things: It is not because God hath need of honour from you, but because he delights to honour you, that he is pleased to use you in his service; It is an advancement to whatsoever greatnesse you have in the world, to bee imployed for God, were it but in the meanest service he hath to doe. Where the heart is right, even in that, it gloryeth more than in all the dignity that earth can put upon it; But yet the greater Instruments the Lord raiseth up for his glory, the greater services he cals them unto, the greater things may wee hope he intends for his Church.
When S. John saw the Elders casting downe their crownes before the Throne, saying; Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, and honour, and power, Apoc. 4. 10. soone after S. John heard every creature in heaven, and on earth, and sea, saying, Blessing, honour, glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the Throne, and unto the Lambe for evermore, cha. 5. 13. And soone after that, hee saw Christ with his Crowne upon him, going forth conquering, and to conquer Chap. 6. 2. What great mercies might we expect, did we see God raysing up truely noble and generous spirits, more generally in the great ones of the earth? did we see the Elders and Nobles, casting downe their Crownes before the Throne of the Lambe, willing to deny all their glory, and excellencies, and estates, for the raising up the glory of Iesus Christ?
Certainly, God hath great things to doe in this latter age of the world, and hee is a God with whom there is as great abundance of spirit as ever, when his time comes, how soone will such a thing bee, as the raising mens spirits to higher and more noble designes, than now we can imagine?
The observing the frame and work of your most pretious noble spirit (Right Honourable) put mee upon the thought of this Argument; The chiefest book that I made use of, for the inlarging 〈◊〉 Meditations in it (next the Scripture was that which I joyfully beheld in you〈…〉 selfe, and your Noble and much honorred Lady; highly honoured and lov〈…〉 and that deservedly, in the esteeme, and hearts of all who know her and the truth, John Ep. 2. ver. 1.
Such gracious principles appeared in your spirits, such divine rules by which yee were guided, those high and noble employments in which yee delighted, those blessed qualifications, which as so many Diamonds in their lustre, and beauty, sparkled that light, that freenesse, that strength, that publikenesse, that holinesse, &c. Those comsorts of a higher nature than the common drossie comforts of the world, that yee chose to your selves, to satisfie your spirits in, and found content¦ment in the enjoyment of; that caused the dilating of my thoughts about these things, and now making knowne themselves publikely, they crave patronage from your Lordship, who have beene the originall from whence they came.
And here I humbly present them to your Honour, and to your vertuous and noble Lady, as a glasse wherein your selves and others may see the frame and workings of your spirits; I dare say, that all who know you, and know that I had the happinesse to bee so neare unto you, and to have
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excited to look about thee, if false. Art thou indued with such a spirit as here thou maist find? nothing in the world, in hell, or in thy flesh, shall be able to conquer thee; as Christ himself, thou shalt indure such crosses and contradiction of sinners, as these times are big with; thou shalt despise the shame, and be able to resist to bloud, if God should call thee to that honour. What excellency of spirit was in S. Paul, when * he took it ill that they diswaded him from going up to Jerusalem, where he was to meet with sharp afflictions; What mean you to weepe and break my heart, saith he, for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the Name of the Lord Jesus. Moses refuses to be called the son of Pharaohs daughter; though himselfe, or some of his posterity might happily have come to the Kingdome by it, and chuses afflictions rather with the people of God, &c. He would not become an Egyptian, though of * the Royall Stem; but abide an Hebrew, who were abomination to the Egyptians: He knew, that the reproach of the Members did redound to the Head, and would bee well recompenced by him; and therefore he will suffer afflictions, and esteeme the reproaches of Christ above all the treasures of Egypt, a greater patrimony, saith Ambrose. So base are many spirits in this age, that they had rather censure than trace his practice. Scaliger tels of a Tree, to which when * a man cometh, Ramos constringit; but when he departs, ramos p•dit: Too many are like this tree; when any Ministers or Christians, that have the reproach of Christ upon them, come neare them, and have to deale with them; let relations, promises, ingagemēts be what they wil, they shrink up themselves, are troubled, sadded, and perplexed, thinking it disgrace unto thē to have to do with such; but when they are gone, then their hearts dilate again, & their faces grow pleasant: such an adulterous generation there is, that are ashamed, of Christ in any of his poore, reproached, despised Members; & not only ashamed, but like that Plant called the Tartarean Lamb, which in shape and proportion answers the Lambe, but grazeth and eateth up the grasse round about it, suffering no green thing to be neare: and these men are Lambes in shape, but eating up every green thing that is neare unto them. Psa. 14. 4. They eate up my people as bread; they are the food their malice feeds upon.
It is observed, the Pope was so busie and hot against Luther, that he neglected to look to all Christendome against the Turk; such basenesse was in a Popes brest, that he could easier have digested Mahumetisme; than Lutherdnisme; & may we not think the Alcoran would be welcome to those Confessors, who have enjoyned their burthened in conscience to burne their Bibles for Pennance; this, some living know to be a truth. There is much basenesse in the spirits of men, and upon little occasion it vents it selfe: *Doeg haead 〈◊〉 malicious murderous spirit in him, & spared not those that ware the Linnen Ephod. The rich man, Luk. 12. 19. was all for earth, & nothing for heaven. A great man finding his sicknesse encreasing, caused his bed to be made between, or upon his Coffers, where he had much gold; a Lord came to him, and wished him to go to his Chamber, and not lie there; his answer was, I am well where I am, so long as I can tarry, for I am neare unto my friends, meaning his Coffers and his gold. What drossie corporall soules have such men? The Gadarens drove Christ out of their Country; they esteemed their Swine above a Saviour: Demas embraceth the present world; Ananias and Saphyra reserve a portion for themselves: such spirits ever have been, and will be in the world. Spirits they are as much beneath common reason, as those mentioned in this work are above it. It is choyce, not common spirits, that will honour God in stormy times. Had not a choyce and excellent spirit been in Nehemiah, the plots and practices of enemies would have daunted * him; but take a view of his spirit; Should such a man as I am flee? and who is there, that being as I am, would go into the Temple to save his life? I will not go in. He had a good cause, a good conscience, * a good God, which advanced his spirit to such resolvednesse, that hee would not take Sanctuary, and disparage either of them by his feare or faint-heartednesse; whē he saw the Sabbath prophaned, he hid not his eyes from it, but contended with the Nobles about it. What Divine spirits were in the three Children? Could Nebuchanezars greatnesse, mandates, threats of * the fiery Fornace, force their spirits to false worship? Be it known unto thee, O King, that we will not serve thy gods. Here they did obediently disobey, * knowing that nothing pleases God, but what hee hath commanded in his Word: they would not deliberate in this case, Wee are not carefull to answer thee, say they. When any enticements come to draw us from the pure worship of God, wee should stop our eares, charme the Charmers never so wisely.
Charles the Emperour, and two great persons in this Kingdome, solliciting King Edward the sixt to allow his sister the Lady Mary to have ••asse, would not listen, but bade them be conce••t, for he would spend his life, and all he had, rather than agree, and grant to that hee * knew certainly to be against the truth; the suit being yet pressed, he brust out into bitter weeping, and sobbing, desiring them to desist. The motioners seeing his zeale, and constancy, wept as fast as he, and told one, he had more Divinity in his little finger, than they had in all their bodies. What a choyce spirit was in that young Lord Harrington, who was a man of prayer: he prayed twice a day in secret; twice with his servants in his chamber, and joyned at appointed times with the family in prayer: he would never be idle, but alwaies well, if not religiously imployed; he meditated on 4. or 5. Sermons every day, retaining five or six in his memory alwayes; he kept an exact account of his life every day, very conscientious of honouring God to purpose, in publike and private; on the Lords day he would repeat both the Sermons with his servants before supper, and write them down in his night booke before hee slept, and on the morning of that day, he would as he made him ready, repeat those Sermons hee had heard the Lords day before; and for the Sacrament, he received it very frequently, and alwayes fasted the Saturday before, spending the whole day in * examination; prayer and humbling himselfe, that so he might be fitted to feast with Christ: he gave away the tenth of his estate unto the poore, & pious uses, besides his occasionall charity when he was abroad: Here was a choyce spirit, beautified with variety of graces, not unfit for great & mean to propound for their pattern.
Daniel in Babylon would not defile himselfe with the portion of the Kings meat, nor with the wine which he dranke; hee had rather eat pulse than defile his conscience. When the writing was signed, the Lions den threatned, did he mussle up his Religion, and shrink up his spirit? he would not shut up his window, nor diminish his prayers, but thrice a day prayed, and gave thankes unto his God, as he did afore time; here was a spirit for God and his wayes, and not for the times.
Happily some temporizing politician will charge Daniel of indiscretion: no, it was the excellency of his spirit, that in case of danger, and that of life, he would not separate external profession from inward faith, when God should lose by it: And what, dost thou charge him with indiscretion, whom the Scripture commends for his wisdome? It was a proverbiall speech, Wiser than Daniel, Ezek. 32. 3. and his heart did not accuse him for that indiscretion, when he was in the Lions den; for he saith, Innocency was found in him; he was not ashamed of his godlinesse; that had raised him and hee would maintaine the honour of it. Such spirits have true excellency in them, & are not shie of the wayes or servants of God, when the flouds of iniquity overflow, & threaten to beare down all. Fearefulnesse to appeare in Gods cause is a part of the old man, & when God puts into his, another, a new spirit, that wasts thy fearefulnes; the more thou hast of Gods Spirit, the more thy old timorous cowardly spirit is abated. Mat. 9. 16. That is put in to fill up, takes from the garment; and when grace fils up a man, it takes away from the old man, the old basenesse, feare, and dastardlinesse in the cause of God, and a holy undaunted resolution is begottē in thee to justifie wisdom, although thou dānifie thy self. *
According to the fulnesse of mens spirits are their carriages, with more or lesse confidence in their undertakings; If Satan have filled the heart, men will boldly serve him, Acts 5. 3. Why hath Satan filled thy heart to lie unto the Holy Ghost? Satan had filled his heart, and therefore he feared not to lie unto God himselfe. Dieu saith upon the place, Implere cor alterius est audacem eum reddere, & he cites that place, Hest. 7. 5. Quis hic est, qui implevit cor suum ad faciendum sic? Who is he that hath filled his heart; in our Translations, That durst presume in his heart to doe so? Hamans heart was filled with malice, and that made him bold to attempt the destruction of all the Jewes: And where godlinesse fils the heart, there will be as venturous & bold attempts for God. Paul being filled with the Holy Ghost set his eyes on Elymas, and so * thundred and lightned against him, that presently his proud malitious spirit was blasted.
When the heart of a man is filled with divine truths, it is not the presence of men in highest place can daunt it. Elisha had a double portion of the spirit of Elijah; and did the greatnesse, or wickednesse of Iehoram daunt him? There appeared a Deity in his very speech and spirit, 2 Kings 3. 14. As the Lord of Hosts liveth before whom I stand, surely were it not that I regard the presence of Iehosaphat, the King of Iudah, I would not looke towards thee, nor see thee. Hee had a fulnesse of Gods Spirit in him, that could speake thus to one of the gods on earth. When a mans heart is filled with divine influence, he feares not the enemies of goodnes, neither is ashamed of ought accompanies godlinesse, 2 Tim. 1. 7, 8. God hath given us the spirit of power, of love, and of a sound mind; be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony, &c. When the power of God is in a mans spirit, he will not bee ashamed of the Crosse, nor refuse to share in the afflictions of the Gospel. It is the honour of Religion, to have such Disciples as will own her, and stand for her at all times, and that with an undaunted courage, Acts 4. 8, 9, 10, 11, 12. Peter was filled with the Holy Ghost, and said; Bee it knowne unto you all, and all the people of Israel, that by the Name of Iesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man here stand before you whole; this is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, &c. And after when he and Iohn were commanded silence; what said they? Whether it be right in the sight of God, to hearken unto you more than God, judge yee; for we cannot but speake the things we have seene and heard. It is a brand upon Nicodemus that he came to Christ by night; and so of the chiefe Rulers that beleeved on him, but because of the Pharisees did not confesse him, lest they should be put out of the Synagogues: but it was Nicodemus praise, for that he had got boldnesse to speak for Christ, when vilified, though himselfe suffered reproach for it: this shewed some excellency and growth in his spirit, that he could both speake and suffer for Christ. So Ioseph of Arimathea was timerous at Ioh. 19. 38. but being filled with grace, He went in boldly to Pilate and craved the body of Iesus, Mark. 15. 43. With what holy boldnesse did those men march through reproaches, afflictions, and persecutions for the truths sake.
Reader, swallow thou this Booke (as Ezekiel did his rowle) and thou shalt be inabled to doe as much. Principle and fill thy spirit with the pretious truths contained in this little Treatise, and thou shalt find thy drooping spirit to receive, a heavenly warmth to come upon thee, and a holy boldnesse thrusting thee forward for God and godlinesse. Wickednesse is too bold, and godlinesse too shamefast; it hath lost and suffered much through mens cowardlinesse. Reade, meditate, and feast thy spirit with what thou herein findest, and thou mayst walke bold as a Lion through the midst of a crooked and perverse generation; thou shalt daunt wickednesse it selfe, and make Religion truely beautifull, and honourable.
If thou shouldest say, This book might have been kept in, there are too many already; I answer thee, There be many, but few to purpose. The Sea is full of water, yet God addes daily to it by rivers, and showers. Many would read little, if new bookes were not set forth daily Bookes do quicken up a drowsie age to the best purpose. New bookes are like new fashions, taken up at first with affection. Notwithstanding all the Munition of the Kingdome, there is new made daily. Books are more needfull than Armes, the one defends the body, the other the soule. If thy spirit be choice and right, thou wilt acknowledge this worke, solid, spirituall, and such as hitherto thou hast not met with many like it. If trees be knowne by their fruit; what other sentence may bee passed upon the Composer of it, but that hee hath profited in the Schoole of Christ above thousands; hath had a large operation of Gods Spirit in his own soule, attained to a choicenesse and excellency of spirit himselfe, & that he hath clearly differenced betweene pretious and base spirits. I shall appeale to thy selfe, Christian Reader, when thou hast perused this Booke, whether thou wouldest have had it buried in the dark. If he deserves a curse that withholds corne, Prov. 11. 26. thou wilt blesse God for this corne the Authour hath sent to market. God made him a fountaine not to bee sealed up, but to slow for common good. Veritatem celare est aurum sepelire. In a fountaine sealed, and treasures hid, * the Authour knew was little profit. Hee hath let out himselfe to advantage thee, taken this off from his owne spirit, to put upon thine. Doe thine endeavour to better thy selfe by it, and if thou gettest any good, give unto God glory; if none, suspect thy spirit, and spare thy censures: The Authours spirit is above them, and counts it a very small thing to bee judged of mans judgement. My prayers are, that thou mayest profit much, attaine true excellency of spirit, and follow God fully all thy dayes, that so thy end may bee comfortable, and glorious.
Thy Christian friend, W. Gr.
A GRACIOVS * SPIRIT, A CHOYCE and a pretious SPIRIT.
Numb. 14. 24.
But my servant Caleb, because he had an other spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land, wherein he went; and his seed shall pos¦sesse it.
What that other spirit is, which a godly man hath differing from the world.
IN these words we have Gods approbation of Caleb, accepting his faithfull service in the testimony hee gave of the good Land; encouraging the hearts of his people to goe into it: As for the other that were sent, God determines against them, they shall never see that good Land; But my servant Caleb, &c.
- First, Gods commendation of Caleb.
- Secondly, his blessing upon him. *
For the first hee sayes three things of him.
- 1 He is my servant.
- 2 He hath another spirit.
- 3 He hath followed me fully.
He is my servant:] It is a great honor to bee the servant of the blessed God, and to bee acknowledged so by God himselfe: We should not looke at our services to God only as duties injoyned, but as high priviledges, as dignities put upon us; wee should glory in his service. It was a great part of that glorious reward of those who came out of great tribulation, who washed their Robes, and made them white in the bloud of the Lambe, that they should bee before the Lord, and serve him night and day. Apoc. 7. 14, 15. [My servant] He hath shewed himselfe to bee my servant indeed; I will for ever owne him; what ever others did, hee continued faithfull with me. To bee a servant unto the Lord, is an honour; but to bee acknowledged faithfull, that higher: I have obtained mercy to be faithfull, saith Saint Paul. To be faithfull in service, is, not only a meanes of obtaining * mercy, but it is a great obtained mercy.
[My servant Caleb:] Caleb is only mentioned here, and so in the former Chap. verse 31.
Why is not Ioshua mentioned likewise, * for surely hee followed the Lord fully, as well as Caleb?
1 Some thinke that Ioshuah at the first * did conceale himselfe, although after hee did declare himselfe fully; but certainly this had been a very great sinne of his, to conceale himselfe in such a Cause of God, to have stood as Neuter, for the saving himselfe; hee would not have passed without some signification of Gods displeasure against him for this: But Verse 30. God promises Ioshua, that hee shall enter into the Land together with Caleb. Others therefore thinke, that at the first Caleb was the more forward of the two in speaking, because hee was of the more honourable Tribe, one of the chiefe of the Tribe of Iudah; and Ioshua was of Ephraim: And besides; Ioshua being Moses Minister to attend on him, it might bee the more suspected that he might speake to gratifie Moses, against whom the people now murmured, because of the straits they were brought into by him. And besides, others thinke, that Moses here * relates this by Ioshua, That Ioshua was used in the penning of this relation, and therefore the lesse is said concerning Ioshua.
Another spirit: The spirits of the rest were base and cowardly, poore, dead, unworthy spirits; but hee had another spirit, went not that way. There is a strange conceit some of the Jewish Interpreters have of this other spirit; that is, say they, Caleb and Ioshua,* when they were in the Land, and in their journey; they said as the rest of the Spies did, and concealed their purpose of declaring any other opinion they had of the Land, than the others had, and this they did for feare of their lives; but when they came before Moses, and the children of Israel, then they had another spirit, and spake plainly what they thought. Many such chaffy interpretations of Scriptute wee finde amongst them, God having given them over to the spirit of blindnesse. Hee sollowed me fully.
The words are, Hee fufilled to follow*mee: Nothing could take him off from mee, what ever therefore becomes of the rest, hee shall possesse the Land, and his seed with him. I intend only to handle the two latter commendations of Caleb.
- First, that hee was a man of another*spirit.
- Secondly, that hee followed God fully.* And herein, first, severally; secondly, in the reference of the one to the other.
For the first, the Point is; It is the excellency of godly men to be men of other spirits, of choice spirits, differing from the common spirits of the world, 1 Cor. 2. 12. We have not received the spirit of the world, sayes the Apostle, but the spirit which is of God: There is a great deale of difference betweene our spirits and the common spirits of the world. There is a vile spirit ruling in the world; As, Eph. 2. 2. A spirit that workes strongly and actively in the children of*disohedience. But of the godly it may be said, as it was of Daniel, Chap. 6. 3. An excellent spirit was found in him; so surely an excellent spirit is found in them.
Herein, first, what this other spirit is.
Secondly, wherein the excellency of it lies.
Thirdly, apply it.
For the first; it is, first, a spirit that hath other principles, a better principled * spirit than the spirit of the world. The spirits of worldly men have base corrupt principles, by which they judge of things, by which they are led, according to which they favour & rellish whatsoever is propounded to them. The vilenesse and power of these, appeares in the wayes of the world; but the spirits of the godly are acted by Divine, heavenly, holy principles, that carry them to God, to divine and heavenly things; they carry them by a kind of naturall instinct; the frame of their spirits is so principled, that by as it were a naturall instinct, (naturall, I mean the new nature) they savour of spirituall and heavenly things; their hearts worke after them, cloze with them, unite themselves to them, finde much sweet and contentment in them, are fastned and setled unto them. What is the reason the same truths propounded, set before divers spirits, whose naturall parts are equall; one sees much excellency in them, receives them, rellishes them; the other looks on them as mean and foolish things, wonders what men see and finde in them, they are unsavory to them, their hearts turne away from them? This is from their divers principles. Where the spirit is well principled, it is carryed on sweetly and strongly in Gods wayes; though the naturall parts bee weake, though obiections against them many, pretences for evill wayes fayre; yet these divine principles are as a pondus, a waight upon these spirits, that carries on the soule still towards God: when all is said that can bee against Gods wayes, and for sinnefull wayes, it will, it cannot but, hold the conclusion, Surely Gods wayes are good. As that blessed Martyr said, I cannot dispute for the truth, but I can dye for the truth. These principles cause, if * not a disputative knowledge, yet a savory knowledge.
Perswade a man by most subtill arguments, eloquent orations, that what he tasts sweet, is bitter, perhaps he cannot answer all you say; but yet hee knowes the thing is sweet: So the Spirit principled right with grace, having the savour of the knowledge, as the Apostle speakes: though many subtill wiles of Satan, and cloquent perswasions from the wisdome of the flesh be brought to perswade to the contrary, yet still it sayes, It is good to walke in the wayes of godlinesse.
Every life hath principles according to the nature of it, receiving to it selfe things sutable, or turning from things disagreeable to it; the vegetative life according to the nature of it, so the sensitive, and the rationall life, and the life of grace according to it. Most mens spirits are led by the principles of a sensitive life, few live so high as rationall principles reach to. There is a death of the soule in this respect; onely God puts in by a common worke of his Spirit, some common notions, which appeare in some, which give but a glimmering light, and are very weake; but where the life of grace is in any soule, there are principles of an higher nature, full of light and beauty, carrying the soule to high, spirituall, supernaturall things, for the attaining to, and injoyment of the highest good. Other creatures under the rationall, are made for the enjoyment of no higher good, than is within the cōpasse of their owne natures; & therfore their principles are onely to receive in such good things as are sutable to those natures, and in them they rest satisfied; for they are capable of enjoyment of no higher; I say, they cannot enjoy any higher: indeed they are of use to, and were made for that end, that they might be serviceable to some higher good than themselves; but this they enjoy not. The destruction of their natures, is the highest use that creatures which are above them, have of them. But the rationall creature was made for a higher good than is within the compasse of its own nature, and was to enjoy this; and the fuller it doth enjoy it, the more perfected it is. Now then, there are required principles of life accordingly to carry these creatures higher than their owne natures, to have the fruitiō of that good they were made for, and to bee blessed in the enjoyment of it. Now these are the principles of Grace, with which this other spirit is indued, higher above the principles of reason, than the principles of reason are above the principles of sense; and thus it is another spirit.
Secondly, it works by another rule: every thing is guided to its end by some rule, which is a beame of Gods wisedome; no creature under the reasonable, knowes either its end or rule, but is acted by God to that it was made for: but the reasonable creature is of such a nature, as is capable of the knowledge of both, and therefore cannot bee happy without the knowledge of both, and working accordingly. Now it is a great mercy not to mistake in the rule that leades to eternall life, to see it, and act by it; most of the world mistake here, their spirits are led by false rules, they goe according to sense, according to their own carnall apprehēsion of things, accordings to their owne wils, would have the rule of their actions from their own spirits, or else according to the common course of the world, as Eph. 2. 2. That which men blesse themselves in, that they goe according to the common course, is one of the most apparent arguments that is, that yet they are strangers from the way of life; but the godly they make the Word their rule, they looke up to the minde of God, to see the beame of Divine wisdome let down from heaven, to guide them in their way; they looke to it for direction, give up themselves to it, dare venture their comforts, estates, safeties, soules upon it: Thou shalt guide mee by thy counsell, sayes David, and so bring mee*to thy glory, Psalm. 73. 24. A godly man thinkes it a most dishonorable thing to make the examples of men his rules; it is for beasts to follow the Herd: Examples of men cannot satisfie his conscience. A godly man workes for eternity: and therefore is carefull to worke by rule; as a man when hee workes in a worke that concernes his life, erects a frame that must be for continuance; he makes sure of his rule, layes often his rule to his worke. When God erected the frame of the world, which was to last but for a sew yeares, hee made all by waight and measure: The frame of mans actions here, must be for eternity; and therefore a godly man dares venture upon no other rule but that which is divine; hee lookes at the Word, not only at the notions of it, and that excellency and beauty he sees in it, shining a great way off; but as a light to his feet, a Lanterne to his steps; holds it close to his feet, to guide him in his going; knowing, that every step he goes, is either to hell or to heaven; and this doing, he may look up with comfort for that blessing of God upon his servants: 1 Sam. 2. 9. He keeps the feet of his Saints: His way is like the way of the Mariner, guided by the heavens. *
- Thirdly, another spirit. that is, imployed about other things; it is not for meane, base services; but set on worke about high and honourable employments. As men of place and dignity have, or ought to have other spirits differing from ordinary spirits; they cannot endure to be employed in mean and dishonorable workes: no, those fit for meane, base spirits. While other mens spirits are busied about low, poore things, and are content in these, minding nothing higher; they are busied about great affaires of State, the high things of the Kingdome, consultations about, and transactions of the great businesses of the Common-wealth. It was the basenesse, and dishonor of Domitians spirit, who though a great Emperor, yet busied himselfe and spent great part of his time in catching of flies; and so of Artaxerxes his spirit, who spent a great deale of time in making hafts of knives of Boxe.
Thus godly men account it too mean a thing, for their spirits to bee busied about low base employments; while the spirits of other men are busied about meat, drink, clothes, play, money, lust, and are taken up in these poore things; the spirits of the godly are taken up in contemplation of the glory of the blessed God, the beauty and high excellency of Jesus Christ, the great Counsels of God, in the greatest worke that ever he did, the worke of mans Redemption, the great mysteries of the Gospell, the glorious things of the Kingdome of Jesus Christ, the great things of eternity, the interest they have in all the good in God, Christ, Heaven, about the setting out the glory of the blessed God in the World, lifting up his Name, working together with God in glorifying himselfe, observing Gods wayes in his glorious workes of Creation, and Providence, preparing and fitting themselves for the glorious appearing of the great God; joyning with those blessed creatures, the Angels and Saints in heaven, magnifying, praising, worshipping, and adoring the Lord of all; these are things fit for the spirits of the godly, they are not suteable to the spirits of the world, as Psal. 92. 6. A brutish man knowes not, neither doth a foole understand this.
A godly man sometimes may be busied in meane low things, but his spirit not contented, not taken up, not satisfied in those things, as adequate objects for him, as the spirits of the world are, they are objects adequate to any principles they have: A man sometimes that is understanding, may condescend to sport with children in low things, but these take not up his spirit, as adequate objects to what hee hath in him; if indeed hee should take content and satisfaction in such things, it would argue a childish spirit in him; So here.
Fourthly, this spirit is carried to other * ends; the spirit of the world looks at ease, pleasure, honour, gaine, and Selfe in all; it is a low spirit in an ill sense, subjecteth not only ordinary actions, but the best things it doth, even the duties of Gods worship to base, low, unworthy ends: At the highest, the most excellent of the Heathen, who had the most brave spirits the World had in their time, aimed no higher than to work according to reason, to satisfie the dictates of rationall principles, and a naturall conscience; knew not what it was to honour God; to aime at God in all they did: but the spirit of the godly is a raised spirit, looks at God and eternity in all it doth, carries things up to the highest good, restlesse till it gets through all creatures, and closes with God; it accounts the excellency of what it is, and what it hath, to be in order to God, and directs what it doth to him, and in this comes as neere the working of God himselfe, workes as like him, as may be; it is the glory of God to bee the first cause, and last end; and to worke from himselfe, and for himselfe; No creature can worke from it selfe, but as it hath his principle from God, so it workes for him, giving him the glory, as the first cause, and last end: and this is the great worship that God hath from his creature, both in this world and eternally in heaven.
We speake much of honouring God, and serving God, and worshipping of him; wee doe nothing except wee doe this; God made the world that hee might have some creatures to worke thus, to make him the highest and last end of all; many who have excellent naturall parts, are often busied about deeper things then other men, but their spirits being corrupt, not carried to God in that they doe, they dive deepe, but all comes to nothing; are like children diving deepe in the water, and bring up nothing but shels and gravell.
Now where the spirit is carried to * God as the last end, there first, the beauty, excellency, glory of what ever it hath or doth, is iudged according to the reference it hath to God; Its true, I have these mercies, I do such and such things; but is God honoured by all? al things are as dead to this spirit, where it sees not Gods Name lifted up: and so the excellency and beauty of what others have or do, if God is not honoured by them, it lookes on them as dead things. Secondly, all it hath, is, or doth, lies in an absolute subiection under God, to bee at his dispose; all things are absolutely subject to the last end. Thirdly, where God is aimed at, as the highest end, there Gods glory is willed infinitely; no limits, no bounds set to the desires, or endeavours of the soule after it.
Fiftly, thjs spirit hath other qualifications; the spirits of the godly are * glorious within: As, 1. it is an enlightned * spirit; the light of the glory of God, in the face of Iesus Christ, hath shined into it, and transformed it into the same image. Dan. 5. 11. They * said he was a man in whom the spirit of the holy Gods was, because light, and understanding, and wisdome was found in him; surely, the spirit of the living God is here; for light, understanding, wisdome is found here; this is the true light, the light of life, that hath a quickning power, and influence of life in it. There is a great difference between the light of the Sunne shining in a garden, and the light of torches; there is the influence of an inlivening power in the one, not in the other; such difference there is between the light in the spirits of wicked men, and the light in the spirits of the godly: it is the knowledge of the holy, that is true understanding, Prov. 9. 10. And a man of such understanding, is of an excellent spirit indeed, Prov. 17. 27. This is that which the Holy Ghost calls Spirituall understanding, Col. 1. 9. to distinguish it from that understanding there is in naturall men; they see into Spirituall things after another manner than other men; they see the reality, beauty, excellency, glory of them, which are hidden from drossie vile spirits: the Gospell is said to bee a mystery, revealed to the Saints, Col. 1. 26. The Law and Testimonies are sealed and bound up amongst the disciples, Esay 2. 16. The Lord delights to reveale himselfe, to men of excellent spirits, who are onely fit to close with divine and spirituall truths. As none can teach so as God teacheth, Iob 30. 22. so none knowes the things of God so as the godly doe; they behold them as with open face, they walke on in the light of the face of God, Psal. 89. 15. their spirits elevated by such a light as is sutable to that light there is in God himselfe, and that lustre of his Image, that shines in the face of Iesus Christ: but the spirit of the world, is a spirit of darknesse; even that light which is in them is darknesse.
Secondly, it is a free spirit, Psa. 51. 12. Establish me with thy free Spirit, and this freedome makes it indeed, a true, royall princely spirit; for so the word signifies that is translated in that place, a free spirit. The words are, Establish mee with thy royall princely spirit.
- A free disingaged spirit, not entangled, nor insnared with base, earthly engagements like the spirits of the world; but a spirit that is at liberty, Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty, 2 Cor. 3. 17. How doe the engagements of worldly spirits miserably enthrall them, that notwithstanding convictions of conscience, notwithstanding much unquietnesse of their hearts in their way, many checks, secret wounds of spirit, sinking damps, and feares, yet they cannot get off their hearts from those engagements they are so miserably, so dangerously entangled in; this is a woefull bondage. Those who are godly can remember a time, since their hearts were thus insnared; but it was the blessed worke of the Lord to set them at liberty, and now they have ease, now sweer quiet, and rest to their spirits.
- Free from the bondage of sinne, not under the power and command of it; it hath command over it selfe, over its owne passions; not in a base slavery to Satan, not in servile subjection to men, not brought under the power of any creature. It was a notable free expression of two blessed Martyrs, Surgius and Bacchus, who were two great Courtiers, being accused for Christians, and commanded to offer unto the Idols, they refused to goe to the Temple, and gave this answer unto the Emperour; Wee, o Emperour, are bound * unto you, onely in an earthly warfare; you have no right over our soules; God onely is the Lord of them. It will not be forced to any thing that is base; God leaves the body and estates of his servants to the power of men oft times but their spirits are free: It is to base a disposition of a servant of GOD, to plead necessity of sinning; no creature can compell another to sinne. Tertullia• hath an excellent expression to this purpose; * The state of faith doth not admit, the alledging a necessity of sinning in those, to whom the onely necessity is not to offend.
- It’s free in regard of slavish feare it’s able to looke upon the face of God with ioy, Iob 22. 6. Thou shalt have delight in the Almighty, and shalt li〈…〉 up thy face to God. The Scripture speaks of a spirit of feare, and a spirit of bondage from both which, this spirit is set a liberty; it can looke upon the power soveraignty, justice, holinesse of God, and rejoyce in them; glad that God is so holy and just, and that it hath to deale with such a God; It hath accesse to his presence with boldnesse and liberty of speech, Ephes. 3. 12. as the word signifies there. It hath sweet and blessed * freedome in the performance of holy duties, is not forced and haled to them, doth not take them up as tiresome burdens; Gods Commandements are not grievous, they are not as fetters of iron, but as chaines of gold, for beauty and ornament; there is a readinesse of spirit to what ever is good; they are vessels of honour, ready prepared to every good worke, 2. Tim. 2. 21. It is written in the volume of thy booke, I should doe thy will, and •o I come, psalm. 40. 7, 8. There is a sutablenesse betweene the law and the spirit; the law is written in it; never so in it’s element, as when it is in the wayes of obedience; there is not that straitnesse of spirit as in others; but here the heart sweetly enlarges it selfe, as the flowre that opens it selfe to the shining of the Sunne.
Thirdly, a sublime spirit, raised high, by spirituall, heavenly influences, not * swelling by pride; a spirit that hath all earthly things under feet, as the Holy Ghost sets out the Church, Revel. 12. 1. Things received with admiration by other spirits, it looks on with contempt, as things infinitely inferiour to it; a godly mans feet are where other mens heads; their heads, that is, the pitch and height of all their aimes, is upon things that are on the earth; but the Saints have these things under their feet. When Valence sent to offer Basil great preferments, to tell him what a great man he might be; Basil answers, Offer these things to children, not to Christians. When some bade, stoppe Luthers mouth with preferment, one of his adversaries answered, It is in vaine, * he cares not for gold; his spirit was too noble and high, to bee tempted with gold; base, low spirits would have beene taken with such things; such a spirit as Demas, who forsooke Paul to imbrace this present world, but a spirit raised by God is above them.
How was S. Pauls spirit above mony? when he speaks of lucre, he cals it, silthy lucre, 1 Tim. 3. 3. A godly mans spirit is sutable to the high dignities put upon it, and priviledges it hath. Saul when made a King, had another spirit put upon him, contemning former things, highly esteemed of: a man raised on high, lookes on things below, and they appeare small things to him; so here, Reason may raise * the spirits of men above the common sort: a rationall man lookes at many sinnes as too mean and base for him, scornes to staine his excellency with them, as the sinnes of sensuality, and * filthy lusts. Tully thinkes him not worthy the name of a man, that spends a whole day in the pleasures of the flesh; and Socrates had such a vile esteeme of sinne, as he thinkes, it shall be one of the greatest torments of men in another life, to be tied and bound to the sinnes they most delighted in here. Seneca hath a notable expression to this purpose; I am too great, and borne to greater things, thē that I should be a slave to my body: But if Reason raises the spirit so high, how high then doth Grace raise it? This spirit cannot be satisfied with small low things; as it is reported of Luther, when great gifts were sent to him, hee refused them, with this most brave and excellent speech; I did earnestly protest, that God should not put mee off * with these things; meaning that hee would not be satisfied with anything that was here below. All the things in the world are farre from being able to satisfie this spirit; it accounts all, yea, if they were a thousand times more than they are, but a poore pittance for the portion of an immortal soule; If God should make more worlds for it, yet if he give not himselfe to it, it would not be satisfied; nothing but a God, an infinite, universall, eternall Good, can fill up the desires of this spirit. Thou hast * made us, O Lord, for thy selfe, saies Saint Austin, and our hearts are unquiet till they come unto thee. It is the worke of a base drossy spirit, to thinke, If I had but so much, or so much yearely, I should have enough: how base the spirit of that rich man, blessing himselfe in his goods! Soule*take thine ease, thou hast goods laid up for many yeares; what were all those to his soule, to the happinesse of his soule? These are spirits that have higher designes thē so, their designes no lesse than a Kingdome, yea, than God himselfe, Rom. 2. 7. They seeke for glory, honour, immortality, eternall life: Though they can bee content with little of the world for their use. yet they cannot bee content without that Good & Happinesse that is infinitely higher, and better than all the world, for their portion. As Abraham said concerning his child, when God promised him a great reward, Gen. 15. 2. Lord what will thou give me, so long as I goe childlesse? Lord what is all the reward I can have, except I have this mercy, except I have a child? because the Messias was to come out of his Ioines; So the soule here, if God should promise it never such great things, yet Lord what are all these things to me, if I have not thy selfe? All the gifts that God can give to this spirit, will not satisfie it, except he gives himself to it. As God is not pleased with what wee tender to him, except we give our selves to him: So a godly heart is not contented with all that God gives to it, except hee gives himselfe to it. Thus Bernard exceeding sweetly, As what*I have, if offered to thee, pleaseth not thee, O Lord, without my selfe; so thy good things we have from thee, though they may refresh us, yet they satisfie us not without thy selfe.
Yea further, the enjoyment of God is not enough, except they may have a full enjoyment of him; they are not satisfied, except they bee filled with the fulnesse, yea, with all the fulnesse of God, Ephes. 3. 19. See a notable example of this in Moses, Exod. 33. 12. and so on: The Lord had done great things for Moses many wayes; but besides all hee had done for him, hee told him that hee knew him by name, and that he had sound favour in his sight; one would have thought this might have satisfied him: No, Moses must have more, Verse 13. I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, shew me thy way, that 〈◊〉 know thee, and that I may finde grace in thy sight. God grants him this, and rels him, Verse 14. that his presence shall goe with him, and hee will give him rest; surely, this will satisfie him: No, Verse 16, Moses must have yet more, hee must have such a presence; as the world may know, that God doth goe with him, and that hee and his people are a separated people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth: and Verse 17. The Lord saith to him, I will give thee this thing also that thou hast spoken. Surely this will satisfie him: No, Moses is not satisfied yet: Verse 18. I beseech thee shew mee thy glory. Hee must have more of God yet; God grants him this also, Verse 19. I will make all my goodnes passe before thee: And so the Lord passes by him, and proclaimes his great and glorious Name before him: Hee shewes him so much of his glory, as he was able to behold. Surely Moses hath enough now: No, not yet, Chap. 34. 9. God must pardon the sinne of his people too, and take him and them for his inheritance: Hee must have this fruit of Gods favour, as a higher than all the rest. See how, as wee may so say with holy reverence, he incroaches as it were, upon God, as one that could never have enough; and yet this, God liked exceeding well. Here’s a spirit indeed, that is not satisfied with meane, and ordinary things. In a spirituall sense the godly doe seeke great things for themselves, and it is their glory so to doe. God delights to have the spirits of his children thus raised; he would not have them to bee of such sordid spirits, as to minde no higher things than the base drudges of the world * doe; as a Prince or Noble-man delights to see the spirit of his childe raised to higher designes, than the ordinary sort of men.
Fourthly, a firme strong spirit: *Esay 11. 2. The spirit of Christ is a spirit of might.
- First, strong to resist strong temptations.
- Secondly, strong to overcome strong corruptions.
- Thirdly, strong to beare strong afflictions.
For the first, it is not every temptation that can prevaile with these; little things will draw weak childish spirits; but such temptations as others know not how to resist, these can stand before them, and go on in their way, without any alteration of spirit by them; though they live in the middest of temptations, yet they are able to keep thēselves unspotted; like the three Children, who walked in the fire, and yet the smell of the fire came not upon them, nor their garments; or like the children of Israel, walking on the dry land safely, and the seas on each side of them: they are ashamed to complaine of temptations to excuse themselves by their temptations; for wherefore hath the worke of God beene so mighty upon their spirits, but to strengthē them against temptations? many temptations which others thinke to bee strong, they scarce take notice of; so farre are their spirts above them.
Luther was so farre above the sin of covetousnesse, as he saith of himself, he found no temptations to that sinne, though his spirit was much pestred with temptations in other kindes. The Devill will not set upon such with ordinary temptations, hee knowes it is in vaine; when he comes upon them, it is with temptations of a higher nature, of stronger efficacy; as some mens bodies are of such strong constitutions, as that which will work mightily upon others, will not stirre them: So it is with mens spirits, the devill need not trouble himself much about many; the poorest, sleightest temptatiōs are enough to draw them to what hee would have: yea, and such who account themselves to be of brave, of more than ordinary spirits too, who can stand out strongly against GOD, and his truth, against the strongest arguments; the drawing motives, the powerfull perswasions of the Word, they move them not at all; but every poore temptation of the Devill drawes them any way; they have no power to resist, but are led as the Oxe to the slaughter, and as the foole to the stocks. The godly man is strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might, Ephes. 6. 10. Other men are strong in their lusts, and in the power of them against the Lord and his truth.
Secondly, they can overcome strong corruptions: temptations from without have not such power, as corruptions that are within; yet when these rise up like a flood, This spirit of the Lord in them, sets up a standard against them, Esay 59. 19. Yea, by a contrary streame opposeth and overcomes them. The more sutable any corruption is to the naturall disposition, the more powerfully it hath heretofore prevailed, the more strongly it would now put forth it selfe, the more doth this spirit keepe it under above all others. Every ordinary spirit can oppose, and be able to resist some meane, contemptible sinne, which brings little pleasure, or profit with it: when sin is, as it were, weakned and benummned by afflictions; then they can cast it off: when the strength of it is abated for want of fewell, for want of opportunities of acting, for want of bodily strength to put it forth; then they can leave their sinne: as Simeon and Levi came upon the Sichemites when they were sore, and overcame them; so they can come upon their sinne, in times of affliction, and overcome it; & this they thinke to be repentance, which is a mistake. But this spirit can oppose sinne, when it is in the vigour and strength, and activity of it, and overcome it then. Let God put this Spirit into one who is yong & strong, whose bones are full of marrow who hath the world smile on him, and may have opportunities to the full to enjoy his lust; yet now he shall be able to overcome his corruption, & prevaile against the strongest lust. As it is said of Moses, Hebr. 11. 25. When he was of full years, he then could deny himself, and refnse the pleasures of the flesh. The word in the Originall, When he was great, when * he was growne up to ripenesse, when he might have injoyed his pleasure to the full; yet now he was able to overcome himself, & the world; and this requires strength of spirit indeed.
Thirdly, it is strong to bear strong afflictions, as a strong bodyed man * can indure cold and hard weather, which others dare scarce put out their heads into; such difference is there in the spirits of men, in regard of their bearings of afflictions; some are alwayes complaining, murmuring, * whyning at every little affliction; their hearts fret, vexe and rage under it; like some mens flesh, if their skin be but razed with a pin, it presently festers and rankles: Iob 23. 2. He saith, that his stroke was heavier than his groaning, but these mens groanings are heavier then their strokes: like rotten boughs of trees, if a little waight be hung on them, they presently break. A little thing will break the spirits of these men, a little thing will cause them to sinke and pine away, and in a desperate sullennesse to make away themselves. If thou faintest in adversity, thy strength is small, saith Solomon, Prov. 24. 10. What poore things are they, that many mens spirits are not able to beare? Not a frowne from a great man, not a conceit of the least disparagement that they suffer in any thing, that is but a toy and trifle, which a man of an excellent spirit would scorne to bestow a thought about; the losse of a little money: as I have read of one who hung himselfe, onely upon a dreame that hee had, that hee had lost his money. Others, if they meet but with a little disturbance in their family, from husbands or wives; if their parents doe but crosse them, if their hopes bee frustrated in things of no great moment, they cannot beare it, but they sinke downe in such desperate discouragements, as their lives are bitter unto them, they are weary of them, and they seeke to ease themselves by putting an end to them. Impatient sinking desperatnesse, ever proceeds from base weaknesse of spirit. Despaire is a sinne exceeding vile and contemptible. Gulielmus Parisiensis* speaking of despaire, hath this expression; I despaire! Oh word of eternall reproach and confusion, of dishonour never to be blotted out! it publisheth the Devill to be the Conqueror: and would thou didst see the devil crowned as a Conquerour, to whom thou dost so shamefully lie under. These sinking sullen-spirited people may please themselves in the froward, sullen distempers of their hearts, and conceit as if they were fruits of humility: but let them know that the devill is the most sullen spirit that is, and yet the most proud. Though in thy frowardnesse thou flyest from God, and lettest thy spirit sinke down, even as low as the bottome of the Sea, yet even there the wrath of God will follow thee. As, Amos 9. 3. Though they hide themselves in the bottome of the sea, I will command the Serpent to bite them.
Thus those, whose spirits are sunk into the bottome of the sea of desperation, they shall have no ease there, even there the Lord will cōmand the Serpent to bite them; the devill shall vexe and torment them there. Many while in their prosperity, while the world smiles on them, they seeme to bee of brave and stout spirits; to bee sure, they are scornefull, proud, and high enough; they are all for mirth and jollity, they are so afraid of sadnesse, as they banish all seriousnesse: But when affliction comes upon these, when God toucheth them with sicknes, what poor spirited men are they then? how doe their hearts sinke like lead? how disconsolate? how dejected are they then? none more.
Manasseh was of a bold presumptuous spirit, and exceeding scornfull in time of his prosperity; he went on with a high hand against God, as if he meant to contest with heaven it selfe: but marke in the 2 Chron. 33. 11. when he was brought into trouble, what a poore, base spirit he had: he runnes amongst the thornes, he hides himselfe in the bushes, and from thence he is taken, and bound in Fetters. As it was said of Alexander, it was nothing for him to carry himselfe bravely, because he alwayes conquered; but for Caesar to behave himselfe wisely, and to uphold his spirit when he was conquered, and others fainted; this was an high praise unto him. You talke of merry hearts and joyfull spirits, but can you be joyfull in affliction? will your spirits hold out in tribulation? Can you rejoyce in the greatest troubles? Will your comforts hold out in sore and grievous distresses? this were a signe of strength of spirit indeed. The spirit of a man can sustaine his infirmity, saith Salomon. This is the strength of a mans spirit, to be able to carry it selfe bravely, undauntedly in the middest of greatest afflictions; your spirits can beare nothing, they are childish, poore weake spirits, not to be accounted the spirits of men. Lactantius boasts of the bravenesse * of the spirits of the Martyrs in his time, in this respect; Our children and women (not to speake of men) doe in silence overcome their tormentors and the fire cannot fetch so much as a sigh from them.
Fiftly, they are generous spirits: as, *
1 They are not mercenary, they * will not indent with God for what they doe; so much as they may get by their service, so much service, and no more: No, they goe on in their worke, and leave themselves to God: let the benefit of that they doe, be what it will, they lose not their end if they be imployed for God; men doe very ill for themselves, in indenting with God for any service; for their strait spirits cannot imagine, or desire that latitude of good, that the infinite bounty of God would give, if they left themselves wholly to it.
Seneca reproves the opinion of such, who said a man should choose a friend that he might have one, who might relieve him in his want, who might visit him in his sicknesse, &c. No, saith he, this is mercenary; but I will choose a friend, that I may have one, to shew love unto, to visit if hee bee sick, to help if hee bee in want: So for men to choose a God unto themselves, that they may be helped out of troubles, that they may have their estates blessed, that they may get such and such things by, to make this the highest end is mercenary, and too low for a true, gracious, generous spirit; but to choose a God, to be my God, that I may honour, love, fear, worship him for ever, this is true Christian generousnesse.
2 A true generous spirit, cannot endure basely to subject it selfe to any; that is, to flatter, and fawne, and to be serviceable to mens lusts, and base humours for advantage sake. It knowes how to lie under the feet of any to doe them good, where God may have honour: but to be serviceable to any mans lusts whatsoever, it cannot endure: As we reade of Dionysius his flatterers, who were so grosse in their flatteries, that when he did spit, they licked up his spittle, and said, it was sweeter than Nectar and Ambrosia. It is reported likewise of Cambyses, who falling in * love with his sister, he asked the Iudges whether it were lawfull for him to marry her? they answered, That they had no such law, but they had another, that the King might do whatsoever liked him; whereupon he married her. Such base-spiritednesse, cannot stand with Christian generousnesse.
3 A true generous spirit is not ready to take advantages against those that are under it; Men of these spirits, love to pity and relieve those whom they have at advantage, as Elisha, 2 King. 6. 22. when hee had the Syrians in the midst of Samaria, and the king of Israel askt him, Shall*I smite them? shall I smite them? He answered, Thou shalt not smite them; set bread and water before them that they may eate, and drink, and goe to their Master: and he prepared great provision for them, and when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away. As is reported of the Lyon, it spares those things that fall down and submit to it; but the Wolfe, Beare, Dog, rend and teare what they get hold of. To bee able to doe one hurt and not to doe it, that is truely noble. It is the glory of a King, yea of God himselfe to passe by an offence. To shew mercy, saith S. Chrysostome, is a more * glorious thing than to raise from the dead, and a greater worke than to build most magnificent Temples. Many base-spirited men, who will crouch low enough to those who are above them, yet they are imperious, cruell, hard-hearted, rugged, fierce towards those that are under them, & they thinke it the bravenesse & greatnes of their spirits that they can insult over them, and revenge themselves upon them, but there is * nothing great in these men but pride, and selfe love: this is the greatest basenesse of spirit that can be, and the more these men formerly did discover their basenesse, in their sordid crouchings unto others that were above them, the more doe they now discover the vilenesse of their spirits, in their cruell insultings over those that are under them; And this they thinke a goodly and brave thing that they can trample upon others, whereas the kindnesse of a man is the goodlinesse, and beauty, and excellency of a mans spirit. That word in Esay. 40. 6. that is translated, The * goodlinesse of the flower, is the same word which signifies Kindnesse. Wee reade Revel. 9. The Locusts that came out of the smoaking pit, They had faces as the faces of men, and they had haire, as the haire of women; They had faire countenances, they could looke smiling, and flattering upon men, for their owne ends, but their teeth were the teeth of Lions, and they had tailes like Scorpions, to tear and sting those that they had at an advantage. An insulting spirit over those that we have at advantage, is farre from true generousnesse, howsoever men may blesse themselves in it.
Rehoboam was a man of an exceeding imperious, insulting disposition; My little finger, saith he, shall be thicker than my fathers loynes; My father put a heavy yoke upon you, but I will put more to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with Scorpions: O, what a spirit was here! Surely he, and those who put him on, rejoyced in this as a brave commanding spirit indeed; But the holy Ghost saith of Rehoboam, that he was a poore, weak, childish-spirited man; yea, he calls him a child, though hee was above forty yeeres old, 2 Chron. 13. 7. hee was young, the word is a childe, and tender-hearted, that is, of a poore, soft, effeminate spirit. True generousnesse and cruelty are exceeding opposite, one destroys the other. When Davids spirit was distempered, when he had lost much of his generousnesse, by that sinne of uncleannesse, as appeares in the 51. Psalme, where hee prayes to God for his free spirit, which word signifies, a royall Princely spirit, as you heard before, much of the royall princelinesse of his spirit, was lost by that sinne, and David was never so rigid as hee was at this time, which appeares out of the 2 Sam. 12. 30, 31. where he commanded the people whom hee had overcome, to bee brought forth, and put them under sawes; and under harrowes of iron, and made them passe thorow the brick-kilne, and thus did he unto all the Cities of the children of Ammon. This was exceeding harsh and rigid; wee never reade of him, that ever he dealt thus with any before; now this is observable, that this act of his, was at that time, wherein he lay in his sinne: for Ioab had besieged that City before David saw Bathsheba, and it was at that siege, that Vriah was slaine: And although this fact be related after Nathans comming to him, and after Solomons birth, yet it is probable it was before, even while hee lay in his sinne, for two reasons;
- Because it is not probable that the siege continued; not onely till the child conceived in adultery was borne, but after the birth of Solomon too, as it here stands in the story.
- Neither is it like, that David newly receiving such mercy from God, as he did in the pardon of his sinne, and when his heart was so broken as it was, that hee should then shew such rigid severity, onely for the abuse of his Messengers. The reason why this is set after, is, because in the time of the siege David committed the adultery; and so the whole story concerning David and Bathsheba is first related, and then he comes to the story of the warre againe.
- A generous spirit is studious, and diligent to returne good, as well as desirous to receive good, as David, Psal. 116. 12. What shall I render unto the Lord? saith he: he speaks, as a man pressed in his spirit, troubled untill he did returne something; he accounts favours received, as great obligations, as any debts in the world. It is infinite basenesse in spirit to be so for ones selfe, as if ones owne turne be served, then neither God nor man is regarded. How many men will crouch, and yeeld to any thing, till they have got their owne turnes served; but then they grow proud, and regardlesse of those, yea, oftentimes spightfull against those, to whom (when time was) they crouched for favours, and from whom they received many, by which they are come to that which now they are. A notable example of this, we have in Benhaded, 1 King. 20. 32. compared with Chap. 22. 31. In the former place, he caused his servants to gird themselves with sackcloth on their loynes, and put ropes on their heads, and to come to the King of Israel and say, Thy servant▪ Benhadad saith, I pray thee let me live, and hee was content to yeeld to any termes, when the King of Israel had him at advantage, as verse 34. The Cities which my father tooke from thy father, I will restore, and thou shalt make streets for thee in Damascus: but after that he was got out of his hands; Ahab was faine to go to war with him to get those Cities, Cap. 22. 3. And observe the basenesse of the spirit of Benhadad, hee, who before had so crouched to Ahab for his life, hee now commands his Captaines, to fight neither with small nor great, save only with the King of Israel: see with what malice he seekes the life of him, who before had saved his.
5 A generous spirit loves to be * abundant in service; it is not satisfied in doing mean and ordinary things, as before they were sublime in that receiving of ordinary things from God would not satisfie them, but they must have great things from him; so now it is their generousnesse, that they will not be quieted in doing ordinary things for God, but they must doe great things for him: they prize their service as well as their wages, as Ioh. 17. 4. Christ saith He hath finished the work that his Father gave him to doe; he accounts his worke a gift. Thus those who have the Spirit of Christ, account their services to be gifts from God: to live unserviceable they would account to be the greatest burden in the world to them; they had rather have lesse comforts and more service, than * more comforts and lesse service; they had rather be straitned in comforts than in duties. To what purpose doe we live, if we be of no use? It is the basenesse of mens spirits (which a truly godly man abhorres) who desire to receive great things, but are content in doing little; they put off God with ordinary, flight services; but the spirits of the Saints are more generous than so, if it were possible they would bee infinite in service to God, they never thinke they have done enough for him: I will yet praise thee more and more, saith David, Psal. 71. 14. I will adde to thy praise, so the words are in the Originall; as if he should say, God hath had some praise in the world already, I would faine adde something for my part, I would come in withmy share, that he might have some more praise for mee, and this not an ordinary praise, but endeavoures to have the high praises of God in heart and mouth, Psal. 149. 6. desires to make the praise of God glorious, Psal. 66. 2. he would faine be eminent in good workes, Tit. 3. 14. Let ours also learne to maintaine good*workes, the words are, let them learn to be eminent in good works above others; there is a holy ambition in them; to get above others in godlines; this is, indeed, to walk circumspectly, that the Apostle exhorts to in the 5. Eph. 15. the word there translated * Circūspectly, signifies To get up to the top of godlines, to perfect holinesse in the fear of God, & therefore he sets the highest pitch of the rule before him, would not have the rule come down to him, but indeavours to get up to the rule, sets before him the highest examples he can; he is not willing to offer that to God which cost him nothing, but if any thing more choice, more excellent, better then others, it shall be for God; he loves to bee abundant in duty, hee would not scant God, to give onely that which he must of necessity, but loves to bee fruitfull in all good works. The reasonings of many mens spirits, shewes much basenesse in them; Why are wee bound to doe this? is it absolutely necessary? cannot a man bee saved except hee doe thus? may not such a thing be lawfully done? If thou hadst a raised, generous spirit for God, it were enough to thee, that such a thing is good, is commendable, it may bee, serviceable; * God may have glory by it, I may do good by it; and such a thing hath no excellency in it, God shall have no glory by it: This were enough to cause the soul greedily and delightfully to embrace the one, and freely and strongly to reject the other.
A generous spirit strives to be abundant in doing good, and leaves it selfe with God, let God doe with him what seemes good in his eyes; it doth not maintain jealous, suspicious thoughts of God, as if it were best to provide for it selfe, and not dare to venture upon God: Base unworthy spirits discover themselves much in this; they will part with nothing, but first will see what they shall have; they must have present pay, bee sure of it in the hand; they are jealous and suspicious of every one, they are conscious to themselves of basenesse this way, and therefore look upon all others, as if there were onely for themselves too: but a generous spirit findes in it selfe a disposition ready to doe good to others, though they can doe little for him; yet if they need, and he able, he finds hee can freely, and readily doe it; and this makes him to venture upon others, that they will likewise out of freedome and generousnesse, bee helpfull to him, if occasion, if need serve, though they should not receive recompence from him: and therefore he is not ready to entertaine jealous & suspicious thoughts, as other baser spirits doe. Thus in respect of God, hee knowes God is infinitely good, and blessed in himselfe; and that he out of his own infinite goodnesse is ready to doe good, and helpe those in want, who are able to doe little againe in way of requitall; but that he for his Names sake, shewes mercy and loving-kindnesse to his poore creatures, because Mercy pleases him; and therfore he can venture himselfe upon God.
Base spirits, as they are very jealous in regard of trust, so they are very suspicious of love; and thinke, because themselves are conscious to themselves of unworthinesse, and that they themselves love onely for their own ends, therefore they think they cannot be truly beloved of others, but so farre as they are usefull to them. But one of a generous spirit knowes in himselfe, that he can love others, not onely because he receives good from them, but that he may do good to them; and therfore sees this to be infinitely more in God, and therefore can relie upon Gods love in sense of his owne unworthinesse. Though the Lord can receive no good from me, yet he can doe good unto me; and this I beleeve is the glorious excellency of the Lord, and therefore my spirit shall not give way to suspicious thoughts of his love: As David, 2 Sam. 23. 5. Although (sayes he) my house bee not so with God, yet he hath made with me an everlasting Covenant ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although hee maketh not to grow. And this is observable, that it is said of him in Vers. 1. that when he spake this, hee was a man who was raised up on high. It is true even in this sense, that that expression of his in Verse 5. was an argument of a man whose spirit was truely raised on high; and the rather doth a generous spirit abandon base, jealous, suspicious thoughts of Gods faithfulnesse and his love, because it knowes in it self that it hath not such a vile disposition, as to abuse this gracious & blessed nature that it apprehends of God, so as to bee the more secure and loose; to give liberty to it selfe in any evill, because of this: Oh no, God forbid; this, farre from a true generous spirit; this, the spirit of basenesse; this, a sordid disposition indeed, that it loathes, it abhorres the thought of it; it findes in it selfe, that the sight of this grace of God, this blessed nature of God drawes it most sweetly to him, to close with him, to delight in him: it is the strongest Motive to draw it up to holinesse; yea, To perfect holinesse in the fear of God, 2 Cor. 7. 1. And therefore it casts out jealous & suspicious thoughts of the goodnesse, and love of the blessed God, as fruits of basenesse of spirit.
Sixthly, though sublime & raised * as before, yet withal it is an humble, broken, and contrite spirit, one who is poor in spirit; this, a blessed cōjunction indeed; though it thinks it self too good for any lust, yet not too good to be subject to the least Commandemēt; though will not be under the power of any creature, yet will lie flat and trembling under the least word of the Lord, Esa. 66. 2. Though not satisfied with meane things, yet accounts it self lesse than the least of all Gods Mercies. How sublime was Pauls spirit, when hee accounted all things dung, yet himselfe could bee contented to bee accounted an off-scouring for Christ? the sublimity of his spirit was not a greater glory to him in the one, than the humility of it was in the other. Though a godly man minds high things above others, yet can be well contented to be used in the meanest services for the good of others; though he be raised above the world, yet judges himselfe lesse than the least of the Saints: Though he aimes at the highest pitch of godlinesse, yet blesse God for, and makes much of the least breathings of his Spirit; and such a heart is pretious indeed in Gods eies: this, O Lord, thou canst not despise, Psa. 51. 17. so the words are. God can despise Kings and Emperours, God can despise the glory and lustre of the world; but a humble broken spirit, the Lord cannot despise. There is no object that God accounts worth the looking at in the world, but such a one: Esa. 66. 2. To him will I looke, sayes God. The highest heavens, and the lowest heart, are the two places of Gods most glorious residence.
Seventhly, it is a publike spirit, enlarged for publike good; not a narrow, * base, straightned spirit. Godlinesse doth mightily enlarge the heart of a man: The Lord perswade Iaphet to dwell in the Tents of Shem; the words signifie, The Lord enlarge the heart of Iaphet. When a man is converted, his heart is enlarged; and it must needs bee so, for now the spirit makes after the enjoyment of God, an infinite universall good: now it opens it selfe to receive and imbrace a God, in whom it expects all good; before it followed after some poore drops of good in the creature; but now findes all is to bee enjoyed in God himselfe; and being thus enlarged to receive an universal good, it desires to enlarge it selfe, as much as it can, to be an universall good, but that is proper to God: yet a publike good it may be, and therefore spreads it selfe as farre as it can. Now it loves good as good, not upon particular private grounds; and therefore the more good, the more beloved. It mindes good, as in reference to God; and therefore where God may bee most honoured, there the heart most sollicitous, most industrious: it is willing therefore to empty it self of it’s private good, that the publike may bee furthered. If Nature will venture it’s own particular good, for the generall, (as heavy things will ascend contrary to their natures, to keep out vacuity, and so to preserve the Universe) much more then will Grace. Every godly man, one way or other, according to the abilities he hath, is a publike blessing to the place where hee lives. The Saints of God are compared to a cloud, Heb. 12. 1. the comparision is true in this respect; a Cloud waters the earth as a common blessing, so are they; not as water-pots, that water but a few spots of ground in a garden. And this publikenesse of spirit is then right, and truely gracious;
First, when it is content to doe publike good, where it selfe shall be taken little notice of; as, many times the Engine that doth all in great workes, is (inward, hidden) not taken notice of.
Secondly, when he can bee glad, that any publike good worke goes on, and prospers, though others bee used in it, and not himselfe, to the eclipsing of his light.
Thirdly, when he is willing to be used in any service, though but to prepare worke for others, which they, not hee, shall have the glory of after he is gone. As Luther, writing to Melancthon, encouraging him against the strong opposition that they met with in the cause of God; *God (sayes hee) is able to preserve his owne cause falling, and to raise it fallen; if we be not worthy, let it be done by others. Such a publike spirit as this is, is an excellent spirit indeed.
Eighthly, it is a sanctified spirit: 1 Thess. 4. 8, He hath made us partakers of his holy spirit: Chap. 5, 23. I pray God sanctisie you throughout, your whole spirit and soule. Sanctified, that is,
1 Not such a mixt spirit, as the * common spirit of the world, hath not that mixture of filth and drosse in it, but is pure; purity consists in freedome from mixture with that which is of a baser nature, if mixt with that which is of a superiour nature, that doth not make the thing impure; as when silver is mixed with gold, but when it is mixed with lead or drosse. The spirits of the godly are mixed with grace, but that makes them more excellent and pure; such mixture of spirituall excellency that is above the excellency of the soule, their spirits close with: but if there come any mixture with that which is base, beneath the excellency of the spirit, this defiles, and this their spirits cannot close with, but are sensible of the evill of it, and never leave working till they have purged it out from them.
2 Sanctified, that is, God hath * set them apart for himselfe; as Psal. 4. 3. Know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himselfe, and they have devoted, dedicated, and consecrated themselves, to and for God; they are spirits resigned, given up to the Lord.
3 All the parts, abilities, common gifts of this Spirit are sanctified, * a higher excellency is put upon thē than they have in the spirits of other men; weake, naturall parts in these, are more excellent than the strongest not sanctisied: As the consecration of Wood, and Leather, and meane things, put greater excellency upon them, than Gold and Silver had, that were not so consecrated; yet the larger the naturall parts are of a sanctified spirit, the more excellent it is.
4 It is able to make a sanctified use of what it meddles withall, of * what it hath to deale in; of all the workes and wayes of God, it makes all to be holy to the Lord.
Ninthly, It is a true heroicall spirit; none have such brave heroicall spirits as Gods servants have; it is not discouraged by difficulties, it wil set upon things a sluggish spirit thinks impossible; it will goe through that wch such a one thinks can never be; it breaks through armies of difficulties, that it might goe on in its way, and accomplish its worke, not discouraged as the sluggish spirit, who cries out, there is a Lyon in the way. * It is not the difficulty of the worke, but the basenesse of our spirits, that ordinarily hinders us in our way; some difficulties that others count great hinderances, it slights and contemns; * as reproach and scorne in the wayes of God; it can contemn contemners, and vilifie those who account the wayes of God as vile; this, the true spirit of Iesus Christ, of whom it is said, Hebr. 12. 2. He endured the Crosse, and despised the shame, the shame whereby others despised him, was despised of him, not accounting it a thing worthy for his spirit to be troubled at; no more is a true godly spirit hindered in his way by this, than one riding on with strength in his journey, hindred by the barking of whappets at his horse heeles, hee rides on and minds them not; and as for railings, and revilings at the wayes of God, by which many are discouraged, the spirit of a godly man can shake them off, as St. Paul the Viper that hung upon his hand, and feele no hurt; it beares off many hardships, that are like to bee very grievous to flesh and bloud, that it is like to meet with, which discourages the hearts of many, both from beginning to enter upon Gods ways, and from continuance in them after some entrance made; as the other Spies that were sent with Caleb and Ioshua, their hearts fainted, they tell of great difficulties are like to bee met with; The land indeed is good, but there are children of Anak there, and walls that reach up to Heaven; but this was the brave heroicall spirit of Caleb and Ioshua, their spirits were undaunted, they would goe up and possesse the Land, let what ever could bee stand in their way. Thus many have convictiōs of conscience that the wayes of God indeed are good, but the great hardships that they are like to suffer in those ways, keep them off; But a true godly spirit, is willing to embrace Religion, with all the hard terms annex’d unto it; it is a poore, meane spirit that must indent with God a forehand: If I were sure to hold out, to have at last that which I desire, then I would venture upon the wayes of godlines; but I am afraid it will never be: and so sinks, and hath no mind to set upon the work. But this spirit will set upon the worke with all the hazards, as Ester, If I perish, I perish; this was a brave spirit indeed. If she had had such a base cowardly spirit as many, to think, Alas what good shall I do? I may hazard my selfe, and bring my selfe into trouble, but no likelihood of any good will come of it: she is content to venture all, upon a meere possibility of good; To breake thorow armies of difficulties, as Davids Worthies shewed the excellency of their spirits, in breaking thorow an Hoste to gratifie their Lord. If the Worthies of God in former times, had stood upon every difficulty, what had been done in Gods cause? No, this spirit sets upon that which God cals it to, doth what it can, and leaves it self, and the issue of its work to God, as Ioab 2 Sam. 10. 12. Let us play the men for our people, and for the Cities of our God, and the Lord do that which seemeth him good: It was a brave speech of him, that shewed an excellent brave spirit in him.
A poor low spirit, thinks every difficulty an impossibility; but this spirit will not easily entertain thoughts of impossibility in services that are noble and worthy of choice spirits; it will rather thinke with it selfe; Was there never any such thing done before? or was there never any thing that had as much difficulty as this in it? that was as unlikely as this, to come to a good issue and yet was at last accomplished? why may not this then be done? and so sets about it, without any more objectings against it, with this resolution; Quic quid sieri potuit, potest; That which hath been done, may be done. Such a spirit as this is ashamed to see and heare, & reade what great things have beene done by others, and what poor things it hath all this while been imployed in. Suetonius reports of Iulius Caesar, that seeing Alexanders Statue, he fetched a deepe sigh, because he at that age had done so little. Yea, so farre is a true heroicall spirit from being discouraged by difficulties, as its raised by difficulties; thus its said of a true godly man, that hee stirres up himselfe against the hypocrite, that hee holdes on his way, and growes stronger and stronger, Iob 17. 8, 9. When a difficulty, when any opposition, or danger comes in Gods wayes, now it sees an opportunity offered of shewing so much the more love to Iesus Christ, so much the more sincerity, and power of grace, to bring so much the more honour to God and his cause, and in this it rejoyces; this was the reason why the Apostles and Martyrs, rejoyced so much in their sufferings for Christ.
When Ignatius felt his flesh and bones begin to bee ground betwixt the teeth of wilde beasts, now sayes he, I begin to be a Christian. When Alexander saw an apparant great danger neare him, his spirit workes * on this manner; Now sayes he, here’s a danger fit for the minde of Alexander to encounter withall. When David at first heard of being the Kings sonne in law, he was troubled at it. 1 Sam. 18. 22. But when he knew, what a difficult and hazardable service hee was to undertake for it, then saies the Text in the 26, Verse It pleased David well to be the Kings sonne in law: that which would have discouraged others, who would gladly have had the preferment, that raised the spirit of David, and made him like the offer the better; and surely this was not an ordinary, common spirit; it was the true magnanimity of the spirit of David.
Tenthly, A solid, serious spirit; * other spirits are sleight, empty, vaine, frothy, rash spirits, which are exceeding great evils in the spirits of men; sleightnesse of spirit, makes men almost uncapable of any good; what ever judge ment the Lord laies upon mee in this world, yet the Lord deliver me from a vain, sleight, frothy spirit: how doe the blessed glorious truths of God, which are of infinite consequence, passe by such, and are never minded; nothing sticks by them, nothing abides with them that may be usefull for their everlasting good: but this spirit is put into a serious, solid frame; it examines the ground of actions, compares one thing with another, looks much at the issue of things; & this must needs bee, because the feare of the great God, and the feare of eternity is fallen upon it, Esay 11. 2. These are joyned together, the spirit of knowledge, wisedome, the spirit of counsell and the fear of the Lord; it converses so much with serious things of high and infinite consequence, that it must needs be put in a serious frame.
Eleventhy, It is an active, lively * spirit, serious but not sullen, not heavy, dull; solid but not stupid, 1 Pet. 2. 5. The godly are called lively stones; stones, because of their solidnesse; lively, because of their activenesse; God is himselfe a pure act, and these spirits have some likenesse to him, and nearenesse with him; the higher things are, the more active; water more than earth, aire more than water, fire more than all; these spirits are raised to the highest excellencies of any creature in this world. They are of quick understanding, as Esay 11. 3. And ready prepared to every good work, as 2 Tim. 2. 21. The most noble, excellent activenesse is from life, and the more noble & excellent the life, the more noble and excellent activenesse; as sense more than the plants, and the rationall life more than the sense, and grace more than that, and glory more than all; the more spirituall, the more active; the more power the forme hath over the matter, the more active the thing is; and the more the forme is sunk, as it were into the matter, there the lesse activenesse, as in the earth, and all heavy bodies; now where life is, there the forme hath most power, and the higher the life, the greater the power; Godly spirits therefore are not melancholy, for melancholy makes dul, but they are active and lively, though they may bee heavy and sad, if put to some imployment not sutable to their spirits; but put them upon spirituall imployments, and then you shall find them lively and active; when they have to deale with God, when drawing neare unto him in spirituall exercises, then they are full of life, they are fervent in spirit, serving the Lord, as Rom. 12. 11. Boyling in spirit, (so the word signifies) when serving the Lord. The effectuall fervent prayer of the righteous availes much, saith S. Iames 5. Chapter 16. verse; The working prayer, so the word signifies, and such a working, * that notes the most liveliest activity that can bee. Birds, whose motion is on high, fly swiftly when they are got up, but slutter when they are below; so the spirits of the godly, when they are got up on high to God, in spirituall exercises, then they move lively: but when they are busied in inferiour things, they are oft-times dull and heavy.
Twelfthly, the spirits of the godly * are faithfull spirits, faithfull to God and men, such as will certainly stick to, and will bee true to their principles; you may know where to finde them, if you know their principles, which are sound & good, as before. The righteous is as an everlasting foundation, Prov. 10. 25. you may build upon him; there is an evennesse in all his wayes, a constancy, an universality of truth and faithfulnesse; for it proceeds from the holinesse of their spirits; as the faithfulnesse of God proceeds from his holinesse: and therfore those mercies that are called the sure mercies of David, Esay 55. 3. they are called the * holy sure things of David, Acts 13. 34. Gods holinesse makes them sure, being once promised.
There may bee a particular faithfulnesse in some things, betweene man and man, where but some common gifts, and the spirit not this choice spirit, but that faithfulnesse comes not from a holy frame; and therefore there is not an universality in it.
These are the speciall qualifications of this other spirit, these are the bright glistering Pearles, with which a godly soule, the Kings daughter, the Spouse of Iesus Christ, is beautifull within, and enlightned, free, royall, sublime, humble, sanctified, publike, heroicall, serious, active, faithfull spirit; this is another spirit indeed, not the common ordinary spirit.
Sixtly, another spirit, it feeds upon * other comforts, differing from those that common spirits feed upon: Every life draws to it things sutable to the nature of it, and findes some kinde of content and comfort in the enjoyment of such things. We account life no life, except it hath the fillings of it, with things sutable, from whence it may have comfort, according to the variety of severall principles, whereby every creature that hath life, lives; such is the variety of comforts in the world: So the life of this spirit must have comforts sutable to it, and because it differs from the life of other spirits, therefore the comforts of it are different, it lives upon other comforts. The life of a Dog is maintained by carrion, of a Swine by swill, of a Toade by poyson; but what doth a man care for these? though Carrion lie in the ditch, though Swill bee in the kennell, though poyson cast upon the dunghill, he cares not for them; for his life is maintained by, and hee feeds upon other comforts. Thus though the men of the world living by sense and lust, have no other comforts to feed upon, but such as are sutable to them; but the godly having a life that hath higher and more noble principles, they feed upon higher and more noble comforts.
While Nebuchadnezzar lived the life of a beast, hee fed on grasse; but after, when he was restored to his Kingdome, and began to live the life of a King, he had other comforts to feed upon, and delight himselfe in. The joy of the spirits of the godly are like the light of the Sunne, fed by heavenly influence; but the joyes of other men, are as the light of a Candle, fed by base and stinking matter: for so Solomon, makes the comparison, Prov. 4. 18. The righteous is as the Sunne, that shines more and more unto the perfect day; and the joyes of the wicked he compares to a Candle, Prov. 24. 20. The Candle of the wicked shall be put out. The men of the world have seduced spirits, they seed upon ashes, Esa. 44. 20. The curse of the Serpent is upon them, upon their bellies they goe, dust they eate, while they feed upon their Swill and Huskes: the spirits of the Saints finde bread in their fathers house; their comforts are inward: A good man is satisfied from himselfe, Prov. 13. 14. hee hath a spring within in his own brest, he need not shark abroad: Godlinesse with contentment is great gaine, saith the Apostle, 1 Tim. 6. 6. * Godlinesse with selfe-sufficiency, so the word signifies.
When Oecolampadius lay sick, his friends askt him, whether the light * did not offend him? hee clapt his hand on his brest, and said, Hic sat lucis, Here is light enough; this is soirituall comfort, that which arises from a right frame of spirit. Hence the word in Saint Iames chap. 5. 13, translated merry, is 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the rectitude of the minde; noting that all true mirth must come from the right frame of the minde. As for other mirth, I have said of laughter, it is mad, and of mirth, What dost thou? As when the humours of the body are all in a right temper, there is a sweet sensitive delight in the body; much more in the spirit, when the faculties and the frame of it are in a right temper. Spirituall comforts are such as are above the soule, and therefore put an excellency upon it; the comforts that are in things beneath the faculty, cannot but bee meane, and doe debase it. How much beneath the excellency of the spirit of a man, is the flesh of beasts, the juyce of the Grape, or any vaine sports, or whatsoever may give content to the sensitive part? but there are comforts that are above the soule, spirituall, heavenly, divine things, and these this spirit feeds upon; they are comforts that the spirit rejoyces in before the Lord: That a sweet and blessed joy indeed, that is enjoyed before the Lord; and when the Lord most present, most enjoyed. Other vaine sensuall spirits have joy, but not before the Lord; the apprehension of the presence of the Lord damps all: and therefore they desire not to have mention made of the Name of the Lord, Amos 6. 10. So to rejoyce, as to be able to blesse God for our joy; so to rejoyce, as to make the presence of God the chief matter of 〈…〉 joy indeed, this, 〈…〉, for the spirit to feed upon such comforts, is a choyce blessing indeed. They are spirituall comforts, for they are administred to the soule by a speciall worke of the Holy Ghost: it is the office that the Holy Ghost is designed to, by the Father and the Sonne, to bee the Comforter, to bring in sutable comforts to the spirits of his setvants; and surely the holy Ghost will not be failing in this worke of his, as the Father and the Sonne have been full and glorious in all their workes, so is the Holy Ghost in his; and therefore such must be the comforts of the spirits of Gods servants, as must manifest a glorious worke of the Holy Ghost, in the discharge of that he is sent to doe by the Father and the Sonne. No marvaile then though the Apostle called this joy, unspeakeable and glorious. Consider what a difference must there needes be betweene the comfort that a little meat and drinke, and vaine sports afford, and the comforts of the Holy Ghost, which hee conveyes into the soules of the godly, by the appointment of the Father and the Sonne? Surely these must needs be soule-satisfying, soule-ravishing consolations: God is the God of all consolation, & therefore here are all consolations. There is surely infinite good & sweetnesse, treasures of all excellency in God, and what are they all for, but to bee comforts for the spirits of his servants to rejoyce in? these are not for common ordinary spirits, they have meate the world knowes not of; a stranger shall not intermeddle in these joyes: men of ranke & quality, as they are in higher condition than others, so their comforts and delights are much different from the delights of ordinary people. As God hath raised the condition of his people higher than other men, so he hath raised their comforts; Childrens bread from the Lords owne table, is provided for them, while husks and swill serves worldly spirits. Their comforts such, as are the delights of God himselfe, & of Iesus Christ; they partake with them in their joyes: and surely, such joyes as they come and joyne with them in, must needs be sweet and glorious indeed. I and my Father (sayes Christ) will come and sup with them, and they shall sup with mee. They have dainties which their spirits feed upon, that are savoury even to the Father and the Lord Iesus Christ. Surely, the world mistakes, who thinks the life of godlinesse not to be a comfortable life; as if the most excellent and highest life should have the worst and lowest condition: surely, it is a grosse mistake, to think that the spirits of the Saints should bee the most sad and melancholy spirits: Gods Spirit witnesses of them, that they are the children * of the Light, yea, that they are light. If they be sad, it is because they meddle too much with things below; it is when their spirits are down; when they get up their spirits to heavenly things, then they can rejoyce and sweetly delight themselves; their hearts are inlarged, their soules are filled with joy. The Birds doe not use to sing when they are on the ground, but when got up into the ayre, when on the top of trees, then they sing sweetly. If they be sad and melancholy, it is because they differ no more from the world than they doe, because they retaine so much likenesse to your spirits, stil in them; were they freed altogether from the likenesse there remaines in them to your spirits, they would never be sad more, but their spirits would be filled with everlasting joy: For the present they joy in things sutable to them, and sutablenes is the thing that causes comfort in any creature. If the Swine could expresse it self, it would tell you, that no such comfort as in Swill and Dung, and wonders that any other creature can take comfort in any other thing like to this, because this is the most sutable to their natures: Thus worldly brutish spirits, because these low vile things are so sutable to them, they thinke there can bee no such comfort in any other thing; these things they rejoyce in, for they know no better: but if their natures were changed, their greatest comfort would be in the despising and vilifying such comforts. S. Augustine before his conversion, * could not tell how hee should want those delights hee found so much contentment in; but after, when his nature was changed, when hee had another spirit put into him, then he sayes, O how sweet is it to bee without those former sweet delights! You thinke we have no comforts, or at least not like yours; know, we can taste naturall comforts as well as you, if the poyson of sinne bee not mixed with them; and God gives us leave to reioyce in them: God hath made these outward comforts for his setvants. Surely God hath not made the flowers for Spiders and Frogges, but rather for the Bee to suck honey out of them: wee can taste another manner of sweetnesse in them, than you can; for we can taste the love of God through them; we can taste them as the comforts that flow from that God, in whom all comfort is; we can taste them as fore-runners of eternall comforts. A Bee can sucke her honey out of a flower, that a Flie cannot doe.
But besides these, there are other conveyances of comforts, through which our spirits finde comforts to feed on; namely, the Ordinances, where the Lord lets out himself in a blessed sweet manner, to the soules of his servants; and yet besides, God communicates many comforts immediately, 2 Thess. 2. 16. Now our Lord Iesus Christ himselfe, and GOD even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation. Doe you thinke we have no comforts? What, did Iesus Christ come into the world, suffer so many sorrowes and miseries, die such a painfull death, and all to bring us to a more sorrowfull estate than we had before? Let us alone with our comforts, wee envy not yours. As Tertullian sayes, in his Apologie against the Gentiles, Wherein doe we offend you? If we beleeve there are other pleasures,*if wee will not delight in our selves, it is our own wrong; wee reject those things that please you, and you are not delighted with ours.
Wherein the excellencie of this gracious spirit appeares.
THus they are men of another spirit, and this is their excellencie: A spirit thus differenced from the world, where all this is found, is an excellent spirit indeed. Here is true worth, all the bravery and glory of the world not worthy to be mentioned with this. The soule is the excellencie of a man, and this is the excellencie of the soule: a mans selfe is his soule. Hence, whereas in Matth. 16. 26. it is said, What shall it profit a man if hee gaine the whole world, and lose his soule? it is said in another Evangelist, Luke 9. 25. What shall it prosit a man if hee gain the world, and lose himselfe? Surely, spirituall excellencies are the highest excellencies; as,
First, these spirituall excellencies have this propriety in them, they * make a man a better man, wheresoever they are, which bodily excellencies doe not, nor all the riches nor honours in the world: A man is not the better man because he hath money, cloaths, honours, better dyet than others; these are but outward things added to him, no intrinsecall excellencies.
Secondly, these spirituall excellencies are the beginnings of eternall * lise, the same life we shall have in heaven: and hence the work of Gods Spirit in the soule, is called, The Earnest of the Spirit; not a pawne, but an Earnest: for a pawne is to be returned againe, but an Earnest is part of the whole summe that is to follow. That which we have of Gods Spirit, is part of the same glory we shall have fully in heaven; it is not onely an evidence unto us that there is glory comming, but it is a beginning of the glory, the fulnesse whereof is to come afterward. Such a spirit as hath this life, lives a life farre above the common life of the world, even the life of heaven, the same life that Angels and Saints do live in heaven, the life of those blessed spirirs there. Wee mistake if wee thinke eternall life is only in heaven; eternall life is in this world, in the excellent frame of the spirits of Gods servants, 1 Iohn 3. 15. Life is the chiefe excellency communicated to the Creature, and the highest life, the highest excellency. There is more distance between the excellency of the meanest, weakest godly man in the world, and the most eminent man for parts & common gifts onely, than betweene the meanest and weakest godly soule, and the most eminent glorified Saint in the highest heavens; the weakest godly man excels him that is most eminent in common gifts, more than the most eminent Saint in heaven excells him: for the glorified Saint is onely higher in some degrees in the same excellency, which in the principles, yea, and in some lustre, the meanest Saint on earth hath; hee hath that which will at last grow up to heavens glory: but the distance betweene him, and the man who onely hath the excellencies of parts, learning, common gifts, it is essentiall: All parts and common gifts in the world can never grow up to this.
Thirdly, yea, this is not onely the life of Angels, the life of heaven, but * the life of God himselfe; for so it is called by God himselfe, Ephes. 4. 11. *Seneca sayes of Reason, that it is part of the Divine Spirit in mans body, it is much more true of Grace, it enables the soul in some resemblance to come the nearest that can be, to live as God lives, to work as God works; it represents God in his highest glory, and therefore it is called, The lynage of God: This shewes more to the world what God is, than all the frame of Gods creation besides. It is not as an Image, which hath only the dead lineaments drawne, though there be some beauty in this; but as the Image in a glasse, which presents the motion as wel as the lineaments: yea, and not only so, but as the sonne that beares the Image of the father; and this represents the life: or as if a glasse had life in it, and so could enjoy the sweetnesse, the good of that Image it represents unto it self. This Spirit is such a living glasse of the blessed God, that it enjoys the good and sweetnesse of that Image of God it hath in it: Yea, one degree higher, it is called the very Divine Nature, 2 Pet. 1. 4. as if it were nothing else but a sparkle of the Deity it selfe. Seneca has a strong speech concerning mans soule, What can we call the soule* (sayes he) but God abiding in an humane bodie? If a soule that hath only naturall excellencies, comes so neare God, how neare then comes it to him, when raised by those spirituall and supernaturall excellencies we have spoke of. Yea, yet there is an higher degree than this; It is called the glory of the Lord, Rom.〈◊〉. 3. yea, a higher degree than all the former; the excellencie of this spirit is such, as it is one spirit with God himselfe, 2 Cor. 6. 17. He that is joyned to the Lord, is one spirit. It was the excellencie of Ioshua, that hee had the spirit of Moses upon him; of Elisha, that hee had the spirit of Eliah; what is it then to have the Spirit of God himselfe? yea to be one spirit with him. Put all these then together, godlinesse by which this other spirit is raised higher than common spirits, it is the life of God, the Image of God, the divine Nature, the glory of God, yea one spirit with God; and is not here an high and glorious excellencie?
Fourthly, this makes him, wheresoever * it is, fit to glorifie God in the world, and so the soule thus endued, is not onely a glasse to represent, a living glasse to enjoy the comfort of what it doth represent; but as a glasse to reflect upō the face of God himself, the glory of his own Image, and that by a principle within it self. Other glasses can reflect upon the thing whose image it hath, if acted by a hand externally; but this by an inward living principle, and so gives God his glory actively, which no other creature can doe, but Angels, and mens soules, who have these spirituall excellencies in them. Were it not for a few of these spirits, what glory would God have in the world? how little would he be minded, or regarded? But these are they who have high thoughts of God, who have trembling frames before him, who do reverence, feare, adore, love, cleave to, trust in, magnifie the Name of the great God in the world; these sanctifie his Name in his worship, they worship him as a God, they worship him in spirit and truth, and such worshippers God seeks, Ioh. 4. 23. as these he highly esteemes of, and much rejoyces in; these take notice of him in all his creatures, in the wayes of his providence, and use the creatures for him, from whom they are; the glory of God is deare and pretious to these; this is the excellencie of their spirits, they are not sunke in the dregs of the world, but being kept in some measure in their purity, they worke up to God, doe as it were naturally flow to God, as to their Center.
Fiftly, these are such as are fit to stand before the Lord, to have converse, * and enjoy communion with him. Dan. 1. 4. we reade, that those that were judged fit to stand in the Kings pallace, before King Nebuchadaezzar, they must have no blemish, they must bee well-favoured, and skilfull in all wisdome, and cunning in knowledge, & understanding science, and taught the learning, and the tongue of the Caldeans.
Every spirit is not fit to stand before the King of heaven, to have converse with him; none but the reasonable creature is capable of any such thing as communion with God, and it must bee the reasonable creature thus raised, they must bee men of other spirits. A man of an excellent spirit, cannot endure converse with base sordid spirits; much lesse can God, who is that blessed holy Spirit. No creature can have communion with another, but such as live the same life; hence the beast cannot have communion, with man, because mans proper life is rationall; these are the spirits who being partakers of the life of God, are fitted for converse and communion with him: Likenesse is the ground of all liking in communion, it is the likenesse they have to God, that makes God to delight in communion with them; God loves to dwell with these, and that in a speciall manner. 2 Corin. 6. 16. As God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walke in them, I will bee their God, and they shall be my people; the words are very significant in the Originall; I will in-dwell in them, so the words * are. There are two ins in the Originall, as if God could never have near enough communion with them, Psal. 4 1. 12. Hee sets them before his face for ever, as loving to look upon them. Now how great, how inconceiveable a dignity is this, for the poor creature to have this neare communion with God? Cursed bee that man, saies that noble Marquesse, Marcus Galeaceus, that prizes all the gold and silver in the world, worth one dayes enjoyment of communion with Iesus Christ; he was a man of another spirit, who spake from his owne experience, of that sweet he had found of communion with Christ, who had parted with much honour and riches for him. Enoch and Noah, who were men of other spirits in their generations, are said to walke with God: God tooke them up even in this world to walke with him; many a sweet turne have these spirits with their God; God delights to have them neare him, that he might reveale and cōmunicate himselfe to them; these know much of Gods minde; the secrets of the Lord are with these, and to them he reveales his Covenant, God doth not love to hide his face from these. That hidden wisdome which the Princes of the World knew not, which eye hath not seene, eare heard, neither hath entred into the hearts of men to conceive, yet hath the Lord revealed them to us by his Spirit, saith the Apostle, 1 Corin. 2. 10. even by that Spirit, that searches the deepe things of God, and by vertue of this communion, these can prevaile much with God; As it is said of Iacob, Gen. 32. 28. as a Prince hee had power with God and prevailed. Hence S. Bernard in his meditatiös, giving divers rules of strictnesse, of purging the heart, of being humble & * holy, and when thou art thus, saith he, then remember me; as knowing the prayers of such a one would much prevaile with God for blessing.
Sixtly, this spirit is fit for any service, any employment God cals it * to; it is a vessell of mercy, sitted for the Masters use; Many honourable services God hath to be done in the world; men of ordinary common spirits, are not sit for them; if they should be set about them, they would spoile the work, and dishonour God in it. If a man have a choice peece of work, he will not employ one that hath not abilitie to reach to it; hee knowes the work would faile, and it would be his disgrace. When God would imploy some about building his Tabernacle, hee fils them first with his Spirit, so he saith of Bezaliel, and Aholiab. If a man bee employed in government, hee had need be a man in whom the Spirit of God is, as Pharaoh said concerning Ioseph, Gen. 4 1. 3 8. When God chose Saul for government, hee gave him another spirit, so that hee was another man: When God had a peece of work to doe of high esteeme, beyond Sauls reach, hee lookes out for another, who had a more excellent spirit than Saul, and saith, I have found a man according to mine owne heart, who shall fulfill all my will. The excellency of a thing is in the use of it: What can it do? The excellency of the Angels is, in that they are ministring spirits; and the excellency of man is to be serviceable; his excellency is not, that he can eat, and drinke, and sport, and goe fine, but that he is of use, fitted for what service God hath to doe in the world, that he can further Gods ends in his workes, that God may say of him, I have found a man according to mine owne heart, that is prepared to fulfill all my will. When Esay Chap. 6. had his spirit purged, signified by that signe of one of the Cherubims, touching his tongue with a coale from the Altar, he presently shewes the excellency of his spirit in this, that when God had a choice piece of worke to doe, and askes whom he shall send, The Prophet readily and cheerfully answers, Lord here am I, send me: doe but set the truth of God before these, it is enough; their spirits being gracious close with it, yeeld to it, obey it, set about the work it shewes they should doe; but when mens spirits are corrupt and unsavory, there is such a stirre to convince them of Gods mind, in that which is not agreeable to them; so much a doe to prevaile with them to the practice, though convinced, that it would grieve a man to have to deale with them.
The excellency of the spirits of Gods people, is set out to us very sweetly in that expression of the Psalmist, Psalm. 18. 44, As soone as they heare, they shall obey me. There is a wilingnesse of spirit to their worke, what God would have, what ever it be; if they apprehend it above their reach, they cast not off their worke but seeke to God for supply of ability, knowing that there is spirit enough in God, that God hath wayes enough to enable the spirits of his servants unto, and carry them on in any worke he sets them about; they know that God will never put any man, upon any services, but by one meanes or other, he will fit his spirit for them: for it is the great delight of God, to have men in service, to be of spirits fitted for service. When the Devill himselfe hath any worke to doe, he chooseth men who have spirits fitted for his worke, and in them he delights; If the worke requires boldnesse and impudence, he hath men of daring spirits, who will set upon it, and goe thorow with it; If it requires subtilty, hee chooseth men of more moderate spirits, who can keepe in their passions, and secretly, and insensibly worke their owne ends. Wee reade, Revel. 12. the Devill there opposeth Gods Saints in fiery and open violence, as a Dragon; but afterward, Chap. 13. he gives his power to the Beast who had seven heads, who would worke with more subtilty, to draw the world after him; and as wee reade, Hos. 7. 4, 6, 7, verses, those who laboured to set up the Calves in Dan, and Bethel, were as hot as an Oven in their purposes, intentions, and desires; but because they saw the best way to have the worke succeed, was not to carry it on at first by open violence, therefore they were content to stay; As the Baker ceaseth from * raising after he hath kneaded the dough untill it be leavened, and when it is once leavened, then hee puts it into the Oven; so they were content to forbeare a while, untill they had sent fit instruments abroad amongst the people to leaven them, to prepare them, by perswading them, that if such a thing were done, it were no great matter; they should still worship the true God; the difference was but the circumstance of the place; and thus when they were leavened, then they were fit for the Oven; that is, for the purposes and intentions, of those who desired to set up the Calves, which were as hot as an Oven. According to any service the Devill hath for men, he hath devices to raise their spirits to that height of wickednesse, as shall fit them for it. We have a notable relation of Hospinian cōcerning this. When the Jesuits have made choice of an Instrument, for that King-killing service, that they intend to set * him about, they doe not put him upon it untill they have first raised, and sitted his spirit for the service by these meanes.
- They bring him to a very private place, in a Chappell or Oratory, where the knife lies wrapt up in a cloth, with an Ivory sheath, with divers characters, and Agnus Dei upon it; they draw the knife, and bedew it with holy water, and hang on the haft of it some Beads consecrated with this Indulgence, That so many blowes, as he gives in the killing the King, so many soules hee shall save out of Purgatory: then they give the knife to him, commending it to him in these words; O thou chosen son of God, take to thee the sword of Iephte, Sampson, David, Gideon, Iudith, of Machaheus, of julius the second, who defended himself from the Princes by his sword: goe and bee wisely couragious, and GOD strengthen thy hand; then they all fal upon their knees with this praier; Be present, O ye Cherubins and Seraphins; bee present yee Thrones, Powers, holy Angels, fill this holy vessell with glory, give him the crowne of all the holy Martyrs; he is no longer ours but your companion; and thou, O God, strengthen his arme, that he may doe thy will; give him thyhelmet and wings, to flie from his enemies; give him thy comforting beames, which may joy him in the midst of all his sorrows; Then they bring him to the Altar, where the picture of Iacobus Clemens is, who killed Henry the third of France, the Angels protecting of him, and then they shew him a crown of glory, and say, Lord respect this thy arme, and executioner of thy justice; then foure Iesuits are appointed privately to speak with him; they tell him that they see a divine lustre in his face, which moves them to fall downe and kisse his feet, and now he is no more a mortall man; they envy his happinesse, every one sighing and saying, Would to God I were in your roome, that I might escape Purgatory, and go immediatly into Paradise; but if they perceive him to shrink and be troubled after all this, they will sometimes affright him with terrible apparitions in the night, and sometimes have the Virgin Mary, and the Angels appear before him, &c. Thus you see, how the Devill will have mens spirits fit for their worke, and when they are fit, then he uses them, and not before; much more will God looke to have the spirits of his servants fit for their employments, and then onely he delights to use them, and those are the spirits who are higly accounted of, who are exceedingly honourable in the sight of God, who are fitted for his owne service.
Seventhly, this puts a lustre of Majesty and beautic upon a man. Wisedome * (much more all the excellencies of this Spirit) makes a mans face to shine; as the light of a Lanterne puts a lustre upon the Lanterne, so the brightnesse of these spirits puts a lustre upon the men in whom they are. Men of such spirits as these are, have a daunting presence in the eyes of those who behold them. It is reported of Basil, that such was the Majesty & lustre of hisspirit, appearing * in his very countenance, that when the Emperor Valens came unto him, while he was in holy exercises, that it struck such a terror into him, that hee reeled, and had sallen, had he not been upheld by those that were with him. When the Officers came to take Christ, he did but say, I am hee, and let out a beam of the Majesty of his Deity, it strucke such a feare in them, as made them all fall backward: This Spirit hath a beame of this Majesty, and somewhat of the daunting power of it: how unable are wicked men to converse with men of such spirits? They often goe from their company convinced, self-condemned; their consciencestroubled, and their hearts daunted in them.
Eighthly, this spirit makes men fit for any condition that God shall put * them into; they know how to yeeld to God, to sinde out Gods meaning, to carry themselves in every condition, so as to worke out that which God would have by it; which men of ordinary spirits cannot doe. S. Paul was a man of a most admirable sweet spirit, and he shewes it much in this; I know (sayes he) how to want and how to abound; how to be full, and how to be empty. Hee could goe through good report and evill report, and keep his way still, and carry his work before him. It is the weaknesse and vanity of our spirits that makes us thinke, that if wee were in such and such a condition, then we could doe thus or thus; this is a temptation to hinder us from the duties of the present condition, by putting our thoughts upon another. It is the excellency of ones spirit, if the present condition bee not sutable to the minde, to make the minde sutable to the condition, that the present which God calls to, may goe on.
When a joynt in the body is set right, it enables not onely to move one way without paine, but to move any way according to the use of the member; so where ones spirit is set right, it doth not onely enable to go on with some comfort in one condition, but in any condition that God calls unto, to carry on the work of that condition with joy: and hence the recovering of the spirit from a distempered condition to a right frame, is compared to the setting of a member in joynt: As, Gal. 6. 1. If a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spirituall, restore such a one in the spirit of meeknesse: the word signifies, Put him into joynt againe. And here you have had the discovery, as of * what this other spirit is, so wherein the excellencie of this other spirit lies; now then let us make Applicaon of all.
CAP. III. *
A discovery to the men of the world, whereby they may see that their spirits are not like the spirits of godly men.
HEnce let the men of the world see, there is a great difference between their spirits, & the spirits of the godly. There are men indeed of excellent spirits, God hath such in the world, in whom he delights, with whom he converses, whom he employes in high and excellent services: but you are of base, sordid, uncleane spirits; the spirit of whoredome, of lying, stubbornnesse, vanity, folly is in you; your spirits drossie, sensuall, froward, malicious, profane, sleight, empty, unsavory, unfaithfull, perverse: What delight can the Lord, who is an infinite, holy, glorious Spirit, take in such? How farre are these from any communion with God? No marvell though nothing of God, or any spirituall thing bee savory to them. Oh the corrupt principles that mens spirits are possessed with, the corrupt rules they goe by, and corrupt ends they have in what they doe! the base imployments they put their spirits to, the noisome distempers of them, and base comforts they feed upon! The heart of the wicked is little worth, sayes the Scripture, Pro. 10. 20. Perhaps your Lands, your houses may be something worth, but what are your hearts worth? they are worth nothing, full of chaffe and drosse; like childrens pockets, full of stones and dirt, while the spirits of the godly are Store-houses of most choice and pretious treasures.
When Grace is gone from the soule, the excellency is departed from it; as it was said of Ruben, his excellency was departed, in respect of that sinne of his. How many a man or woman, who have faire comely bodies, good complexion, beautifully dressed up; but within, spirits most ugly and horrid; spirits full of filth, full of venome & loathsome distempers; spirits full of wounds and putrified sores, breeding filthinesse continually; nothing else but filth and corruption issuing out from them: Men of corrupt mindes, as the Apostle speakes? How unsavory to any who have the least of God in them? If the Lord should give men but a view of the horrid deformednesse, and filthinesse of their spirits, it would amaze them, and sinke their hearts in wofull horrour; they could not but abhorre themselves, as loathsome creatures, fit to be cast out from the Lord, as an everlasting curse: especially, if together with the filth of their owne spirits, they had a sight of the infinite brightnesse, and glory of the holines of God, who is an infinite, pure, glorious Spirit. God abhorrs not any other filthinesse, but the filth of spirits. The Devills are abhorred of God, because they are uncleane spirits. There is no other object of Gods hatred, but the corruption of spirits. God made mans soule at first, a most excellent creature, the very glasse of his owne infinite wisedome and holinesse; but now, what an ugly, base, loathsome creature is it, where it is not renewed? If mens bodies were deformed, and ranne with loathsome issues, and putrified sores, how dejected would they be in their owne thoughts? But certainly this spirit-defilement is incomparably worse. If mens bodies were so putrisied, that they bred vermine continually (as it is reported of Maximinus) how grievous would it be to them? Their spirits have these loathsome diseases upon them, by which they are infinitely more miserable. If they had such a distemper of body, as their excrements came from them, when they knew not of it; this would be accounted a grievous evill: but their spirits so corrupt, that much filth comes from them, and they know not of it. Many are so deeply putrified in their spirits, that they usually sweare and speak filthily, and know not of it; and think this a sufficient excuse, that they did not thinke of it.
It is a rule in nature, that the corruption of the best thing, is alwayes the worst; as a stain in fine Cambrick worse than in a courser cloth: So by how much the spirit of a man is more excellent naturally, than the body which is the brutish part; by so much the corruption of the spirit is a greater evill than any the body is capable of. The reason why the Devils are so vile and miserable now, is because sinne seized upon natures which by Creation were most excellent. When diseases seize on the naturall spirits in the body, they are the most dangerous & deadly. Souldiseases, of al diseases are the greatest evils, and usually prove deadly; yea, the least spirit-corruption would most certainly prove deadly, were it not for the application of that blood that is more pretious than ten thousand worlds. Spirit-defilement is such a defilement as defiles every thing you meddle with; as, Tit. 1. 15. To the impure all things are impure. Of what use are men whose spirits are so vile? many make no other use of their spirits, but to be, as the Philosopher said of the sensitive soul of the Swine, it served for no other use, but to be as salt to keepe the flesh from stinking. How are many mens spirits employed about nothing else but to make provision for the flesh, and the filthy lusts of it? O that an immortall spirit capable of eternall communion with the blessed God, and to be employed in such high and heavenly exercises, as for which it was made, should now come to be so farre degenerated and debased! Especially, how vile is this, that men who in regard of estates and place, are raised above others, and be trusted with large and blessed opportunities of worthy services for God and the Church; but they minde nothing but satisfying their lusts, to have their sports; let the cause of God, Church, or Common-wealth lie bleeding, they regard not. What a lamentable thing is it, to have the weight of great businesses of consequence, to depend upon such weak-spirited men, who minde nothing but vanity and basenesse? they have no worthy enterprize in their thoughts, their spirits so effeminated, that they will do or suffer any thing for the satisfying of their lusts? Others there are, who have remaining in them many excellent parts, pretious naturall endowments; but of what use are they, but to enlarge their spirits to be capable of more wickednesse than the spirits of other men are, wise to doe evill, the fittest instruments for Sathans depths? Who such enemies to Christ; as the Scribes and Pharises, men of the strongest parts? Who such enemies to S. Paul when hee came to Athens, as the Philosophers there? and no Church was founded at Athens, which was the place of the greatest learning in the world. And thus it hath beene in other succeeding Ages.
CAP. IV. *
The Reason why the men of the world, and the Godly can never agree.
HEnce wee see the Reason why the men of the world, and the godly can never agree; they are men of another spirit. Where there is difference of spirits, there can be no agreement. Water and oile cannot mingle; no agreement betweene light and darknesse: they looke at them, as men, whose lives are after another fashion. That Apocryphall Authour in that book of Wisdome, hath an excellent expression to this purpose, Chap. 2. 12. he brings in wicked men saying of the godly, He is cleane contrary to our doings, he is grievous unto us to behold; his life is not like other mens, his wayes are of another fashion; wee are esteemed of him, as counterfeits; he abstaineth from our wayes, as from filthinesse; he commendeth greatly the latter end of the just, Verse 19. Let us examine him with rebukes and torments, &c. Let the relation, and the ingagements be what they will, yet so long as of different spirits, they cannot close. What a differēt spirit was there betweene Iacob and Esau, who lay in the same wombe at the same time 〈◊〉 There may be outward peace fo〈…〉 while betweene Gods people, and some wicked men; but inward closing of spirit there can never bee: The spirit that is in you, the world cannot receive, sayes our Saviour, Iohn 14. 17. Antipathies are irreconcileable; no arguments, no meanes ever used can cause an accord, except there be a change in nature. Nothing in the world puts mens spirits in such a distance, as Grace when that comes; and therefore where the most eminent grace, there the greatest disagreement betweene them and wicked men. How many wicked men cannot but be convinced of some godly who live with them, that they are better than themselves, that they are conscientious men, whose Principles * are truly godly, and that they walke close to them? they are not able to charge them with any ill carriage towards them; they seeke to doe them all the good they can, and yet their spirits cannot close: but as they were wont to say in former times, Caius Seius was a good man, but hee was a Christian; so now, such are * good men, but they are too strict, & this enough to keepe a perpetuall breach betweene them.
Learne to have a right esteeme of such pretious spirited men.
IF the godly be of such excellent spirits, learne wee then hence to have a right esteeme of them; they surely are worthy of pretious account, of most honorable esteem, who are men of such excellent spirits: Let them bee what they will, in regard of their outward condition, though never so meane and poore. No matter what the Ring bee, if the Pearle in it be pretious. Many most pretious spirits have very mean outsides. The Tabernacle was beaten Gold within, but the out side covered with Badgers skines. If the treasure be rich, what though the vessell be earthen? Surely, these are the excellency of the earth, the very light and beauty of the world, the glory of Gods Creation; they give a lustre to the places where they live, to the families in which they are; especially if they walke close and faithfully with God indeed, manifesting the excellency of their spirits in their wayes; so that when they are taken away, the very places where they lived, are darkened. This other spirit of the godly makes a Iob scraping his soares on the dung-hill, and a Ieremy sticking in the myrie dungeon, more glorious than Kings and Princes sitting crowned upon their Thrones: these are glorious within. God is a Spirit, and he looks on men, to see what they are in their spirits; and he esteems accordingly of them; and so should we. What doth brave cloathing, what doth money, what doe titles of honour raise the dignity? what? are these to the excellency of mans nature? No certainly; the excellency of man must bee that which mustmake the most excellent and noble part truly excellent, which is the spirit of a man. If a man would know the excellency of any thing, as of a sword, or of any other instrument, he judges it not by the Hilt, or the inferour part; but by what excellency the principle part hath. There is a spirit in man, and the inspiration is from the Almighty; a spirit inspired by the Almighty, and beautified with his heavenly graces; this innobles a man indeed; it is the ornament of the hidden man of the heart, the glorious cloathing of that which makes truely beautifull and glorious. How did many of the Heathen highly prize those, in whom they saw any naturall excellency of spirit, differing from other men? Those amongst the Romanes, who were called the Curii, and •abritii, they lived very poorly and meanly, yet being perceived to have more excellent spirits than other men, they were taken from their dinner of Turnips and Watercresses, to lead the Romane Armie: How much more should we honour men in whom we may see Divine spirits, the lustre of heavenly graces shining in them? But to shew more particularly that godly men are to be highly prized in regard of this other spirit; as they have received a spirit differing from other men, so they are to have esteem and honour differing from other men; not to bee looked at as common men for,
First, this difference of their spirits from other men, is a certaine * signe of the eternall love of God unto them; it comes from the treasure of Gods everlasting love, of that choyce speciall love of God, from the bowels of Gods deepest mercies: it is a most infallible argument, that God hath set his heart upon them for good; as for other favours, a man may have them more than other men, yet they are no such but may stand with Gods hatred, and with his eternall wrath: and this is a great difference betweene spirituall mercies and outward mercies, which sets an exceeding high prize upon spirituall mercies aboue all others: these are the distinguishing mercies, which others are not. But,
Secondly, the spirit receiving * these spirituall excellencies from Gods choyce everlasting love, receives likewise all other mercies from the same fountaine; though in their owne nature they bee common mercies, yet where this other spirit is, there they are received from another Fountaine than other men receive them, which addes much sweetnesse and excellencie to the mercies we have; they come as fruits of the common bounty and generall goodnesse of God to ordinary men; but to men thus differenced from others, they come out the spring of the rich treasures of Gods grace, tending to the furtherance of eternall mercies.
Thirdly, The Lord hath an especiall eye upon and delight to dwell * with these, who are of choice and excellent spirits; Hee will dwell with the contrite heart, to revive the spirit of the humble, Esay 57-15. Hee hath a speciall care of these spirits, that they doe not faile before him; hee puts under his hand, to support, comfort, revive them. When wee beate ordinary spices, we heed not so much every dust, but some flies out and falls on the ground; But if Bezarstone, or some speciall choice costly spice bee beaten, then there is care had of every dust, that the least bee not lost; So though God may afflict the choicest spirits of his servants, yet hee is very carefull that their spirits faile not before him; as for other common ordinary spirits, hee cares not much to let them faile, and sinke in their affliction, but this is the mercifull care of God over those spirits, whom he highly esteems of.
Fourthly, The excellencies of this spirit, are eternall excellencies, * they shall abide for ever, not vanish, not be taken away as common gifts and other mercies shall, as, Ezech. 46. 17. If a Prince give of his inheritance to one of his servants, it is to bee his but for a time, and to returne unto the Prince againe; but his inheritance shall be to his sonnes, for them for ever: So when God gives any thing to common men, who are but his servants at best, it must returne againe; GOD will call for all his mercies from them againe; but these soule-mercies of his children, shall be their inheritance for ever. Hence God calls his Church, an eternall Excellency, Esay 60. 15.
But fifthly, and principally, these other spirits are most honourable * creatures indeed, because they are reserved for other mercies; GOD gives common mercies to common spirits, but hee reserves his choice mercies for choice spirits. With the pure, thou wilt shew thy selfe pure, saith David, in the 2 Sam. 22. 27. The words are, with the choice thou * wilt shew thy selfe choice. Abraham gave Ishmael and Hagar a bottle of water and a few raisins, and sent them away; but the inheritance was reserved for Isaac. So God gives to other men a few ordinary mercies, but his glorious mercies hee reserves for these peculiar ones: and, as it is said of Iehosaphat, 2 Chron. 21. 3. he gave his other sonnes great gifts of silver, gold, precious things, fenced Cities, but the Kingdome he gave to Iehoram, because he was the first borne: So God gives these outward mercies to other men, but the mercies of his Kingdome, are reserved for these men of choice spirits, who are the first borne, the chiefe and most excellent of all Gods creatures in this world. Now we are the sonnes of God, saith S. Iohn, but it appeares not what wee shall bee; there is more to come hereafter, they have not spirits that will be satisfied with the things of this world, and therefore are not as ordinary men, who have their portion in the things of this world. God delights to fill the capacities of all his creatures with sutable good; now these other spirits, by that choice excellency of them, are made capable of farre higher mercies than the world can afford; they must be the good things of another world that can fill them, and those are reserved for them. The bodies of the Saints, because they are joyned to such pretious soules, shall be like the glory of the Sunne, yea, excell in glory. How glorious then shall their souls be, for whose sake their bodies shall bee thus glorious? Wee look upon great heires, who have great inheritances to come, with high esteeme, though they have little for the present: These are the great heires of heaven, Coheires with Iesus Christ himselfe; these they are, who are delivered from the wrath to come and to be made partakers of the glory that is to be revealed. The Lord gives them no great matters in comparison now, because hee hath reserved so much for them afterwards. As nature is not very exquisite in her worke in inferiour things, where she intends some higher excellency; So the God of Nature, intending such high and glorious things hereafter for his Saints, doth no so much regard to give them these inferiour things for the present.
But what are those reserved mercies you speake of, that God hath for these?
Not entending a Treatise of that glory, that God hath for his choice ones, onely take these five generals.
First, These mercies are prepared mercies, prepared before the foundations * of the world were laid, and againe prepared by Iesus Christ, who is gone before to heaven to that end, as hee tels us himselfe, To prepare Mansions for us, Iohn 14. 1. Now this is spoken after the manner of men, who do not use to make long and great preparations but for some great worke in hand: Surely, these mercies must needs be great, which the wisedome, power, and mercy of God, hath been from all eternity preparing.
Secondly, They are other mercies, than Adam, than Man-kinde * should have had, than they could have attained unto, if he had stood in his innocencie. Man indeed should then have beene for ever happy, but not according to that height of happinesse, and glory that now is provided for those, who are the beloved of the Lord.
Thirdly, These reserved mercies, are such as must set out Gods Magnanimity, * that God may shew to Angels, and all his creatures what his infinite wisdome, power, and goodnesse can do for poore creatures, to raise their conditions to a height of glory; surely that glory must needs be high, that is raised for that end. If a King should doe any thing of purpose to shew his magnificence, it must needs be some great thing; it is not a common ordinary thing, that can set forth the Magnificence of a King; much lesse that can set forth the Magnificence of the great God. When Ahasbuerus would make a feast, and Nebuchadnezzar would build a Pallace, to shew to their people their greatnesse, they were great things; so surely here, that which must shew the greatnesse of the great God, must needs be great indeed.
Fourthly, These mercies must be such, as may shew to Angels and all * the world, how infinitly well pleased God the Father is with the obedience of his Sonne, in giving himself up to death, for the purchase of, mercy: Surely that mercy thus purchased must needs be great. If there had beene no higher good for man, but to eat and drink, and to have pleasure to the flesh, certainly Christ would never have died, to have purchased this; but there were higher things then these wch Christ look’d at, these are but poore things for God to shew by them how infinitely he is well pleased with the obedience of his sonne to the death; that which must demonstrate this, cannot but bee very great what ever it bee, and that, yea the fulnesse of that, is the mercy reserved for these choice ones.
Fiftly, Other mercies (in some respect higher) than the very blessed * Angels themselves have;
For, 1 Mans nature is more highly advanced than theirs, being hypostatically united to the Divine Nature.
2 The righteousnesse whereby the Saints come to glory, is a higher righteousnesse, a more excellent righteousnesse than that of the Angels; though theirs be perfect in its kinde, theirs is the righteousnesse but of meere creatures, but the righteousnesse of the Saints, is the righteousnesse of that Person, which is both God and man.
3 The sonneship of the Saints, is founded in a higher right, then that of the Angels, namely in the Sonneship of the second Person in Trinity.
4 They are the members of Jesus Christ, and so in a nearer union with him then any other creature.
5 They are the Spouse of the Lambe, whereas the Angels are but ministring spirits, as the servants of the Bridegroome, but the Saints are the Bride.
Surely then, the mercies reserved for these choice spirits, are choice and glorious, not onely other mercies then others have, or they themselves have now, but other mercies then they are able to imagine; these therefore wee are to looke upon, as most blessed and honourable creatures.
CAP. VI. *
A Rebuke to this vile world, who have vile conceits of this spirit, and abusemen of such excellent spirits.
IF the spirits of godly men bee thus pretious, how vile then is this base world, which hath such irrationall absurd conceits of this spirit? and which so scornes and abuses men of such excellent spirits? There are two branches of this use: In the first, the vile conceits that men of this world have of this spirit, are rebuked;
For, 1 they thinke godlinesse befooles men.
2 They thinke it makes them cowards, to bee men of no metall and valour, poore spirited men.
3 They thinke this spirit to bee a turbulent spirit, as Ahab said of Elijah, Art thou hee that troubles Irael? Luther was called the trumpet * of rebellion.
4 And lastly, They thinke them to be factious spirits.
For the first of these; What more ordinary, than to cast this aspersion upon Godlinesse, that it makes men to be dull, heavie, stupid fooles, not sit for the great and high things of the world, and therefore they labour to stifle any beginnings of godlinesse in their children, or in any neare to them, for feare it should •inder their parts, and take away the quicknesse of their wits, and bravenesse of their spirits; Except you think that to be the only bravenesse of spirit, to venture upon any thing that may further your owne ends, not to feare sinne, nor the displeasure of an infinite God, to let out your hearts to the utmost, to the satisfying your owne desires, to examine nothing by rule, but to doe whatsoever is good in your owne eyes, to rejoyce in the wayes of sin, and to blesse your selfe in the proud swellings of your owne heart, to be able to scorne at conscience, humiliation for sinne, strictnesse in Gods wayes, as too meane a thing for men of such qualitie, of such birth as you are, of such estates, hopes, preferments, and designes as you have, things fitter for poor snakes, meaner people, contemptible silly soules to looke after; If this be the excellency of your spirits, then, godlinesse debases them indeed, yea, it debases them as low as hell it selfe; it casts shame in the faces of, and breaks in pieces such haughty, swoln spirits as these are, it brings them down to lie at Gods feet, as poore contemptible creatures in their own eyes, loathing and abhorring themselves, as there is infinite cause they should, and judging themselves worthy to bee destroyed; but as for any true naturall excellency of spirit, godlinesse doth not quench it, but raises it, and beautifies it, and perfects it; It is either grosse ignorance, or desperate malice, that causes these conceits of the worke of godlinesse in the spirits of men, yea, there is much blasphemy in them. What? shall the worke of Gods grace, wherein the glory of God consists, which is the life of God, the Image of God, the Divine Nature, as hath been shewne; shall it be the debasing, the besotting, the befooling of mens spirits? What? doth holinesse, that makes God glorious, make man contemptible and vile? doth that which makes God so honourable in the eies of the blessed Angels and Saints, make man a sott, and a foole in the eyes of men? Oh! that ever there should bee such malice in the hearts of men, against the grace of God, ever to have such vile conceits of it; pray, if it be possible, that this thought of thy hart may be forgiven thee. Did not malice blind men, they might see that the Lord hath had, and still hath, some of his Saints as eminēt in any outward true excellency, as any in the world; as great Schollers, as brave Courtiers as any living; as deepe in policie, as profound in learning, as compleat every way as any whosoever. Who more eminent in learning than Moses, who was learned in all the learning of the Aegyptians? who ever had a higher straine of eloquence than Esay? who ever more profound than S. Paul? And in later times, yea, even in our dayes, the Church hath not wanted worthy and glorious lights, who have beene exceedingly eminent in all, that naturall excellency could make them, even their enemies being Judges. What braver Courtiers ever lived, than Ioseph, Nehemiah, and Daniel? Could godlinesse in the power and life of it, in the strictnesse of it, stand with bravenesse of spirit, & naturall excellencies, then? and can it not do so now? Though God choseth oft-times the poore in the world, to bee rich in faith; the foolish things in the world, to confound the wise; and weake things of the world to confound the strong; and base things, and things despised, &c. 1 Cor. 1. 26, 27. Yet when men are godly, their parts are not by their godlines debased, but raised; many poore weake men, who before were of mean naturall abilities, yet put them now upon spirituall things, and what strength of parts doe they shew, in prayer, in conference about the mysteries of God, in discerning the subtilities and wiles of Satan, in finding out the corruptions of their owne hearts, in wisely ordering their affaires for God, and the furtherance of their owne eternall good? Wise in the right choice of the highest end, and prudent in the right disposing of the best meanes tending thereunto; These things are not the works of fooles, of poore silly, simple men; they require quicknesse of understanding, depth of judgement. There are five reasons why godlines must needs raise a mans parts:
1 Because it purges from many lusts, that darken and besot men in their parts.
2 It imployes men in conversing with high, spirituall, and heavenly things.
3 It makes men serious, and so strengthens their judgements, in the apprehension of things.
4 It makes men make conscience to improve their time, in the use of all meanes and helps they can, to enable and fit themselves for service.
Fifthly, it causeth to imploy their parts faithfully, and so they come to have the blessing of God upon them, for the encrease of them, according to his promise, To him that hath, it shall bee given. Againe, Godlinesse * doth not make men cowards, surely, it hinders not spirituall valour; who ever were greater souldiers, more eminent in true valour and fortitude, then Ioshua, David, Gideon, Barak, & others, who through faith subdued Kingdomes? Hebr. 11. 32, 33. That is basenesse of spirit, and want of valour that makes a man a slave to sin, and the Devill; so a slave, as he hath no heart to any worthy service, to free himselfe from it; but lies down under it, and carries the fetters and yoake of his bondage about with him, withersoever he goes. That is cowardly basenesse that brings conscience into a servile subjection, that cowardly basenesse that will suffer the cause of God to be betrayed, rather than venture any thing for it; what greater argument that men want true spirit, than this? Godlinesse puts a spirit of fortitude into men, that will not suffer them to bee thus debased: and where appeares the like courage in any, as in these, when they are called to stand for the truth? Though all the Tiles of the houses in the City of Wormes, were Devils, yet thither would I goe to testifie to the truth, saith Luther.
Againe, it is not a turbulent spirit; * for turbulency of spirit makes men cruell and malicious; this spirit causes men to love their enemies, to do all the good they can to them: turbulent spirits seeke onely their own ends, they care not what becomes of others; so it bee that they may but warme themselves, they care not what house bee on fire: They are boysterous in things that concerne themselves. But the Saints of God, in whom this other spirit rules, they are meeke and gentle, and yeeldable in their owne cause, ready to put up wrong in all quietnesse: take them in things that onely concerne themselves, and you shall find none so readily, so freely, so chearfully denying themselves, as they. And againe, turbulent spirits doe not love to examine things by rule, to call things to account, but follow their owne fiery humour, and set upon their own will with violence: but godlinesse takes off men from this ruggednesse and turbulency of spirit, & makes them gentle and peaceable: let them bee never so active, never so forward, never so zealous in any thing, yet if you wil call them to examine things by rule, they will meekly and patiently heare you; yea, a childe shall leade them, Esay 11. 6. And yet further; turbulēt they are not, for none more obedient to authoritie than they; none see that Majestie of God in Autority, as they doe; none obey Authority out of conscience so as they doe. If the will of men in authority, rather than authority, shall require any thing that the authority of Heaven forbids, that they do not; because they cannot obey, for conscience sake: And so sacred do they account Authority, that they would have no obedience performed to it, but obedience for conscience sake. Blind obediēce the Church of God hath long agoe exploded, as too servile for Christian spirits: this were more servile than selling mens bodies in the Market for slaves, which Christianity abhors. It were too uncharitable a conceit of Christian Magistrates, to thinke that they should require of, or expect from any, other obedience, than in, and for the Lord; and in this obedience, those who are godly, are so forward, as they are judged turbulent, for being over-forward to maintaine the honor of Authority, as some think; when according to their places they promote the execution of laws made by authority, and that of those lawes which are of the highest consequence for the furtherance of Piety and Peace.
Againe, factious spirits they are not, because they seeke above all * things to keep to the maintenance of, & obedience to the Primitive truth; that is faction that sides against that. Tertullian hath a notable expression in his Apology for the Christians against the Gentiles, to cleare Gods people from being men of factious spirits: it seemes that aspersion was cast upon them then, which was about * 1400 yeares agoe, his expression was this, When good men, when honest men meet together, when godly men are gathered together, it is not to bee called a faction, but a Court; and on the contrary, the name of faction, sayes hee, is to bee applyed to them, who conspire to the hatred of good and honest men.
And thus much of the first branch of the Vse, which was the reprehension of the vile cōceits that men had of this other spirit; Now the second followes, which is the rebuking of the men of the world, for the ill use they give to men who are of such excellent spirits. The excellencies of the spirits of the godly, do challenge all the good use that can bee, but it is little they meet withall; they are for the most part abused by the men of this vile world, as if they were the vilest scurfe and filth of the earth: yea, so indeed they account them; so saith S. Paul. 1. Cor. 4. 13. We are*made as the filth of the world, and are the off-scouring of all things unto this day. Why? what was S. Paul, and what were those that were with him, who was so accounted of, were they not men of most excellent and admirable spirits? S. Paul was one of the most excellent spirited men that ever lived upon the earth, and did as much service for God, as ever any meere man did since the beginning of the world; and yet how vilie was he thought of? how contemptibly was hee used? put into stocks, and whipped; wanted cloathes and victuals? And for the others that were with S. Paul, they were men of whom the Holy Ghost gives this witnesse, that they were the very glory of Jesus Christ, 2 Cor. 8. 23. Oh unworthy world, that ever they should have such men live amongst them! Those who are the delight of Angels, yea, of God himselfe, how are they abused in this wicked world, as if they were dogges, or the basest scumme and filth of the earth? What scorne and contempt is cast upon them? the most abject of men think themselves good enough to reproach and abuse them. Were it not a grievous sight to see some base drudge to have power over the body of some noble Prince, to abuse it by stripes, or any other contumelious sordid manner? but a more grievous thing it is to see the vile and base spirits of the world, who are nothing but sinks of filth themselves, to abuse men of such noble and excellent spirits, as if they were more vile than dirt? It was the bitter complaint of Ieremy Lament. 4. 2. that the pretious sonnes of Sion, comparable to fine gold, were esteemed as earthen pitchers. Such as blessed spirits would honour, if they had them with them, yet here they are cast out as filth. What griefe sufficent to lament the seeing of such filthy swine to trample under their feet such pretious pearles? in all ages thus it hath beene. Those who were indeed the true honourable upon the earth, such pretious and excellent spirited men, as of whom the world was not worthy; and yet they have beene most vilely abused, and are so still by this wretched world, who know not wherein true worth and excellency consists. Matth. 5. 12. Christ telling his Disciples how ill the world would use them, he tels them, they have as good use from it, as the Prophets had before them. How was Micaiah (a man of a very sweet and excellent spirit) contumeliously used? hee was strucke on the mouth, shut up in prison to be fed with water & bread; yea, with the water and bread of affliction, while 430 false Prophets, most base spirited men, were fed delicately at Iesabels table. How was Ieremiah used? hee was thrown into the dungeon, stuck up almost to the eares in the myre; the Word of the Lord was made a reproach unto him daily. David before them, (a man in whom Gods soule delighted, yet he) complaines of himselfe, that he was a reproach of men, and despised of the people: all that saw him, laughed him to scorne; they shot out the lip, and shook their head at him, Psal. 22. 6, 7. and Iob before him, he was made a by-word of the people, and as a Tabret unto them; as he sayes of himselfe, Chap. 17. 6. The same use had the blessed Apostles, who were filled with the Spirit of God; none more scorned, persecuted, cōtemned, than they. The most worthy and famous men in the Primitive times, found no better use than these. It were infinite to instance in particulars. Ignatius, Polycarpus, Athanasius, Chrysostome,*Basil, and the rest, reproached, banished from their people; persecuted, and exceedingly contumeliously used. In later times, the more excellent the spirits of men were, the worse use did they ever finde from the world: Wee might instance in Wickliffe, Hus, Luther, Zwinglius, Musculus, &c. I cannot passe by that sad example of Musculus, who was a * man of as brave a spirit, as any lived in his time, and a very learned and godly man; yet after he had much laboured in the work of the Lord, in his publike Ministery, was so ill used of the world, that he was faine to get into a Weavers house, and learne to weave, that by it he might get himselfe and his family bread, and within a while he was accounted unworthy of that preferment, and was thrust out of the house by his Master the Weaver, and then was forced to goe to the common ditch of the Town, and worke with his spade; to get his living. Whose heart bleeds not to heare of these former examples, and divers others, men of most pretious spirits thus ill used by this unworthy world, even such in whom Christ rejoyces that ever he shed his blood for them? Esay 53. 11. such as hee will glory in, before his Father, and the blessed Angels; yet thus are they abused by this wicked world: The more eminently the spirit of Christ appeares in any, the more is the rage of evill men against them. As it is reported of Tygers, that they rage when they smell the fragrancy of Spices; the fragrancy of the Graces of Gods spirit in his people, which are delightfull to God & his Saints, puts wicked men into a rage; when as base spirited men have the world smile on them according to their hearts desire. Oh the providence of God, who suffers such indignities to bee offered to his most pretious and choice servants! but by this meanes the excellency of their spirits appears in greater brightnes, their graces shine in the more cleare lustre. All Gods servants have his spirit in them, but when any of them suffer reproach and ill use of the world, then the Spirit of God, and glory rests on them, then the glorious Spirit of God is upon thē, according to the promise of God unto them, 1 Pèt. 4. 14. and they may in part perceive, even while they are using them ill, that they are men not of common, not of ordinary spirits, who are thus ill used by them: they may see in that meeknesse, that patience, that humility, selfe-denyall, faith, holy carriage, requiting good for evill, praying for, doing all the good they can to those who use them worst; that constancy, spirituall chearfulnesse, sweet contentednesse; that holy boldnesse, humble courage, heavenly magnanimity, that it is a wonder their conscience should not misgive them, even while they are abusing of them; that their conscience doth not tell them, Surely these men we doe mistake in, they are led by other principles than we know of; they have something within that doth support them, wee understand not. It is a wonder men are not afraid to abuse them as they doe. As Num. 1. 2. 8. The Lord said to Miriam and Aaron, concerning Moses, when they spoke against him, Were you not afraid to speake against my servant Moses? The words are very emphaticall in the Hebrew, they are thus, Were yee not afraid to speak against my servant, against Moses? Were hee onely my servant, though he were not Moses, were you not afraid? but when my servant, and Moses, that is such an eminent servant of mine, in whom so much of my Spirit appeared, were you not afraid to speak against him? Certainly, the Lord will not alwayes suffer pretious choice-spirited men to be trampled under feet; he lookes upō them in their lowest estate as his Jewels, even while they are in the dirt; but time wil come when he will make up his Jewels; as, Malac. 3. 17. and then there shall be seene a difference between the righteous and the wicked; betweene him that serveth God, and him that serveth him not, verse 18. God will owne the excellency of the spirits of his servants, to be the Image of himselfe; and what confusion will this be to the ungodly of the world, when the Lord before men and Angels shall own that, for the lustre and beauty of his owne excellency, which they, when time was, made matter of their scorn, objects of their hatred? when God shall come to them, as Gideon to Zeba and Zalmana, Iudges 8. 18. What manner of men were they, sayes Gideon to them, whom ye slew at Tabor? They answered, As thou art, so were they; each one resembled the Children of a King. Then hee said, They were my brethren, the sonnes of my mother: as the Lord liveth, if you had saved them alive, I would not have slaine you; but now he sayes to Iether his first borne, Vp and slay them. So shall God hereafter say to the men of the world, What were those men, and what did they, whom yee so hated and abused? what? were they some vile-spirited men? how did they carry themselves? Your consciences shall be forced then to answer; O Lord, we must confesse, They were those who kept themselves from the common pollutions of the world, they lived strictly in their wayes, they walked unblameable in their course; they were very forward in the duties of the worship and service of God. The Lord shall then answer; What? these men they were my Saints, this was my holinesse, my image, my glory; these were not common ordinary men, these were my choice ones; men pretious in my eyes, separated from the common sort of the world for my praise: If you had loved them, prized them, and honoured them as the choice of the earth; if if you had followed their example, I had not slain you; but now you shall perish everlastingly.
CAP: VII. *
No dishonor to be singular Seven notes to discover that godly mens differing from other men proceeds not from proud humourous singularity, but from the choicenesse and excellencie of their spirits.
IF godly men be men of another spirit, and this be their commendation; why then should any account it to be a dishonour to be singular from the world? Singularity is cast upon Gods servants as their disgrace, but certainly it is their glory; they are singular, and their wayes are singular, it is true, and they avouch it, they rejoyce in it, and blesse God for it; it is impossible but that it should be so, for they are of another spirit, a peculiar people, separated from the world, set apart for God, their separation is a wonderfull separation, Exod. 33. 16. So shall we bee separated, sayes Moses, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth; the word is in the Originall, We shall be wonderfully separated; No marvell then, though their singularity bee such, as the world, who knowes not their principles, wonder at it. Their wayes are different from other men; I, that is true indeed, who can thinke otherwise? Their principles, their estates, their dignites, their hopes are raised higher then other mens. Would Saul have been offended, if his former acquaintance had complained; Oh, now, Saul, hee mindes other things, goes on in other waies, lives after another fashion then we doe; I, that is true indeed, for his condition is altered, his estate is raised higher then yours, he hath an other spirit: To complaine of Gods servants, that they are singular from others, is all one, as if you should complaine of Pearles, that they are more glistering than dirt and gravell. Their way, their lives are singular; Why? how would you have them live? would you have them live according to the common course of the world? they cannot, for they have not received the spirit of the world, but another spirit.
When the Spirit of God would set out, the greatest misery of men, when they are the children of wrath, without God in the world, without hope, it is, that they lived according to the common course of the world, Ephes. 2. 2. And those two are joyned together, living according to the common couse of the world, and according to that spirit, that rules in the children of disobedience: So long as they were acted by that spirit they did live so, but now there is another spirit, that they are acted by, and would you have them live so still as they did before? Certainly it cannot be; You cry out of dissimulation, and that justly; But what is dissimulation, if this be not? where there is not a sutablenesse between the inward principles, the inward frame, and disposition of the spirit, and the outward actions: Now if Gods people should not live singular lives, certainly their outward actions would not be agreeable to the inward principles, frames, and dispositions of their spirits, for they are singular, differing from other mens. As there may be dissembling, for a man to seeme better than he is; so there may be dissembling, to seeme worse than we are; Is there not as much evill in a life differing from the spirit, as in a spirit differing from the life? If a man seemes to be godly, and is not, it is an argument the man is vile, who will thus play the hypocrite; but it is a commendation to godlinesse, that men will account the very seeming of it to be honourable; but if a man hath godlinesse in his heart, and yet his life be no other than other mens, this would argue that a man were ashamed of godlinesse it selfe; here godlinesse it selfe would suffer; as if it were such a dishonourable thing, as would bring shame to a man, if it did appeare; as if though indeed it must be reserved in the heart, for necessity sake, yet it must be kept downe, not suffered to appeare in the life, for feare it be a disgrace to men. Is not here then as great an evill, in this way of dissimulation as in the other? Better all the men of the world had shame cast upon them, than that godlinesse should have the least staine. Surely then, where the spirits of men be other spirits, singular choice spirits, their lives ought, and must needs be other lives, singular from other men. Their conscience witnesse to them, that their spirits are changed, that they are other from that they were; yea, and witnesses for them, that their lives are other lives, singular from other men; and in this witnesse their soules rejoyce.
But is there not a proud phantasticall singularity? may not pride, sullennesse, and fancie, carry men on in singular wayes, differing from other men, conceiting themselves to be wiser than others, loving to satisfie some odde humours of their own? If it were any choicenesse, or excellency of their spirits, it were another matter, we would not speake against them; but it is this proud, hypocriticall, humorous singularity, we speake against.
To this I answer; If you indeed should do as they doe, if you should live after a different manner from the common course of the world, having no other principles than those you have, it would certainly bee singularity, pride, hypocrisie, and humour in you; and thus your consciences would tell you, and that because you had not principles to carry you out in this way, you have not spirits sutable to it; and you judging of others, by that you seele in your selves, this makes you to thinke, the different wayes of Gods servants, is onely from pride, and humourous singularity; yea, and they themselves know, that there was a time indeede, where in if they should have done, as now they doe, it would have beene no other in them, then that you now accuse them of namely, when their spirits were, as other mens spirits are; but now they know, they have other principles, other qualifications of spirit then formerly they had. But surely, you doe not thinke indeed, that their different lives doe come from proud, and humourous singularitie; for if you did, why doe your consciences so well approve of them, when you lie on your sicke beds? when you apprehend your selves going before the great God, then you could wish it were with you as it is with them.
But what say you? if you thought it were not from this pride, and conceitednesse you speake of, then you would thinke it were well; then you would joyne in justifying of them, if you were sure it were from a choyce, excellent spirit in them.
Well then, let Gods servants rejoyce in this, that they know it is not from pride, that it is not from humour, that they run not into excesse of riot as others doe, but from the worke of God upon their spirits, and this witnesse they have for themselves, this they have to encourage themselves in, that if the men of the world did but know their principles from whence they worke, as they know them themselves, even they would justifie both them and their wayes. But further, wee must know there is a way of God that is reall, that tends to life; what ever way it be, this is certaine, it must be different from the common course of the world; and if this be not it, in which Gods people doe walke, tell us what is that way, and wee will walke in it. The Scripture tells us, the way to life is narrow, and that few walke in it; and the other way is broad that tends to death; we cannot therefore but feare, when we see the marke of a way that leads to death. Christs flocke is but a little flocke, Luke 12. 32. Feare not little flocke: there are two diminutives in the Originall, the word translated, flocke, signifies a little flocke; but * that the exceeding littlenesse of it might appeare, Christ addes another word, so the words are, Feare not little flock. And S. Iohn 1 Epist. 5. 19. saith, the whole world lies in wickednesse, but wee know that wee are of God. What a singularity was this in S. Iohn? how doth he difference a few odde contemptible people from the whole world? We are of God, and yet the whole world lies in wickednesse, and the world surely is not growne better since. But that you may see, that the way of the godly is not from singularity, or humour, take these Evidences, and judge according as conscience shall tell you is truth.
First, Where humour and conceited * singularity prevailes with men, there is no evennesse, no constancy in their wayes, no porportion of one thing with another in their course; they are singular and humourous in some odde foolish things; but in other things where they have as much reason to bee singular, they doe as others doe; But in Gods people you shal see an evennesse, constancie, and proportion in the course of their lives; that which makes them singular in one thing, makes them so in all other of the same nature; They are not as humourous people who have their fits, and take them out of their fits, they are other men, they are as different from themselves, as they are from other men; But where the Spirit of God guides, though there be more difference from other men, yet there is lesse difference from themselves.
Secondly, Those who doe things * out of singularitie, they care lesse for such things they doe out of that principle, when they come to bee common, then they did before; But it is not so here in the wayes of godlinesse; the more common they grow, the better they are, the more doth Gods people rejoyce and blesse themselves in them, they are the more lovely, and amiable in their eyes.
Thirdly, Humourous singular men differ exceedingly one from * another, one will bee singular in one thing, and another in another; but Gods people goe all the same way, they have the same course with such as they never saw; Observe the spirits and wayes of godly men in all places of the world, though their education, their constitution, their employments, their former principles be exceeding different, yet now for the maine, they are the same, they favour and rellish the same things, they delight in the same way of holinesse, which evidently shews, they are led, acted, by one and the same spirit; though they may differ in some things of lesser moment one from another, yet they differ very little amongst themselves, in things wherein their difference from the world principally lyes; in those things for which the world dislikes them and their wayes, there is a generall agreement in the spirits of all godly men in such things; As in searing of the least sinne, as a greater evill then any outward misery; in loving the strictest waies of holines; in labouring to keepe themselves pure, as much as they can, from the sinnes of the times, and places where they live. &c. In these and such like things, which are most proper to godlinesse, and for which they are judged singular, there is a generall agreement of all the spirits of the godly throughout the world.
Fourthly, proud, conceited singularity acts it self especially in things * that are taken notice of by others; if others looke not after them, and will not vouchsafe to take notice of them, they quikly grow weary of that they doe, and this is the best way to deale with such people, to neglect them; Let them perceive no body thinks them worthy of regarding, of once minding them, and this makes them sooner weary then all the opposing of them that can bee: The end of singularity is, that it might bee observed; this is the humour of these people, they would faine bee taken notice of for something, let it be what it will bee; observance is the thing that feeds this humour; where this is not, it soone growes weary of it selfe; and hence when these people are alone, when none can observe them, they doe but as other men doe. But now the speciall worke of godlinesse, wherein Gods people differ from other men, in which their soules most delight, and are most fully exercised in, it is in secret things, not subject to the view of the world, The Kings daughter is all glorious within; If there bee a little godlinesse outwardly, there is much more inward, as where there is a little wickednesse without, there is abundance in the heart; Godly men are most eminently godly in inward things; The countenance and voice of the Church, is most sweet and comely in secret places, Cant. 2. 14. My Dove that art in the holes of the rocke, in the secret places of the staires, shew me thy sight, let me heare thy voyce, for thy voyce is sweet, and thy sight is comely: Godly men dare not indeed, but be godly before men, for so Christ commands them, Let your light shine before men, that others may see your good works; but it is one thing to do that which may be seen, and another, to do it to that end that it may be seene, and to make that the highest end. If they make their end, that the light may be seene, and not that themselves may be seene; and that their Father in heaven may be glorified, and not themselves glorified, it is no other than Christ would have. But betweene God and their owne soules, there is the chiefe work of godlinesse; there the soules of Gods servants doe most expatiate themselves, there they are most themselves, there is their most proper Element; wherefore surely it is not a humour of singularity.
Fiftly, If it were humourous singularity, it would not bring them so * much sweet peace, and heavenly joy when they are upon their sick beds, and death-beds, and when they have to deale with God in a speciall manner; when they are to appeare before the great God, to receive the sentence of their eternall doome, when they are to enter upon eternity; how many then blesse God that ever he put it into their hearts to go another way, not according to the common course of the world? Though humour and conceitednesse may please, and give content for a while, yet it can never bring such peace, and joy in sicknesse, and death, and when the soule sees it hath to deale with such an infinite, holy God, such a dreadfull Majesty; none apprehend the glory and Majesty of God, so as the godly doe; none understand what eternity means so as they doe; the sight of these things would shake men out of an humour: it is not humour that can stand before God, and the eternall misery, or happinesse of the creature rightly apprehended; it is time now to lay aside humours, and conceits; and yet then when these things are most clearely, most powerfully apprehended by Gods servants, even then they are most for the wayes of God, in which they differed from the world, than ever they were before; it is now their greatest griefe, that they have no more differed from them than they have, and if they were to begin againe, they would differ farre more than ever they did.
Sixtly, Surely it is not humourous conceited singularity, because most men who have enlightned consciences, when they are most serious in their best moods, are of this mind. If you will needs go by multitudes, we dare venture upon this, yea we dare challenge upon this argument, onely with these two Cautions;
1 That the men you bring in, be men of inlightned consciences, for what have we to doe with others, * who are blind and ignorant? though there were never so many thousands of them, they can adde nothing at all to the cause.
2 Let the judgements of men be taken when they are most serious, when they are best able to judge, doe not take them when they are in passion, when their lusts are up, but when their spirits are calmed, and in the best temper, when conscience hath the most liberty to speake indeed what it thinkes; and of such men, in such times, we shall have the most on our side; and therefore surely it is not a humour of singularity, that acts the in the way of godlinesse.
Seventhly, It is not singularity, for we have the Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, Saints of God before us, cloudes of witnesses, thousand thousands of them, and every one of them worth ten thousands of others, as S. Chrysostome hath an expression in one * of his Sermons, to the people of Antioch, It is better to have one pretious stone, than to have many halfpenies; so one godly man is better than multitudes of others. And S. Cyprian hath the like expression in one of his Epistles; Doe not attend to the number of them, sayes he; for one that feares God, is better than a * thousand wicked. It is safe to follow the way of good men, according to that in the Proverbs, 2. 20. Walke thou in the wayes of good men, and keep the wayes of the righteous.
Now then, let neither the wayes of godlinesse, or godly men ever be blamed for their singularity; other spirits must needs lead into other wayes. It was laid to Luthers charge, that he was an Apostate; he confesses * himselfe to be one, but a blessed and a holy Apostate, one that had fallen off from the devill. So wee confesse, this is singularitie, but a blessed, and a holy singularity, which differences Gods servants from this vile wicked world in which they live, whereby they live as men of another world, as indeed they are.
CAP. VIII. *
Blesse God for making this difference betweene your spirit, and the vile spirits of the men of the world.
SEeing this other spirit is so excellent and blessed, then doe you, to whom God hath given other spirits, learne to blesse GOD for them; the mercies of GOD to mens spirits are the greatest mercies; though your conditions be meaner than others, in other respects, yet if your spirits be raised to an higher excellency than others, you have infinite cause to blesse the Lord, as S. Paul, Ephes. 1. 3. Blessed be the Lord, which hath blessed us with all spirituall blessings in heavenly things, in Christ. What though God hath not abounded to you in outward honours, estates, delights, yet if he hath abounded to you in wisdome, holinesse, faith, humility, &c. you have no cause to complaine: Where God gives his Spirit, in the gifts and graces of it, there hee gives all good things; hence whereas S. Matthew sayes, Chap. 7. 11. How much more shall your Father in heaven, give good things to them that aske him? S. Luke 11. 13. bringing in Christ speaking upon the same occasion, sayes, How much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Ghost to them that aske him? as if all one to give his Spirit, and to give all good things: Spirituall blessings make all outward crosses light and easie, as Prov. 18. 14. The spirit of a man will sustaine his infirmities. Spirituall blessings have this excellency in them, they cause a man to feele no need of many outward things, which others know not how to want; and it is as good to bee in such an estate, to have no need of a thing, as to enjoy it when we want it. And further, it is the excellency of spirituall blessings, to keep downe the body, and to carry the spirit above the body. It was the excellencie and glory of the Martyrs, that their spirits were so satisfied with mercies they had, that they so little regarded their bodies, when they suffered grievous torments, as if they had not been their own; Thus Zozomen reports of them. Spirituall blessings are such, as inable men to improve all other blessings they enjoy: without these, the greatest of other blessings would prove to bee the greatest curses to us; and yet further: These blessings upon our spirits, cost God infinitely more, than other blessings doe. Other blessings God can give at a lower rate, but these cost the dearest heart blood of his owne Sonne, and therefore above all let God have the praise of these. Outward bodily mercies we are unworthy of, but when we consider of these, let us say as David, Psal. 66. 14. Come and hearken all ye that feare God, I will tell you what he hath done to my soule: There God hath magnified his mercies toward me indeed. You may remember how base your spirits once were, how blinde, foolish, drossie, sensuall, and it may bee, malicious. This S. Paul cals to minde, to stirre up himselfe and others, to praise God for that blessed change he had wrought in his, and in their spirits: Tit. 3. 3. For we our selves also were in times past (saith hee) unwise, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts, living in maliciousnesse and envie; hatefull, and hating one another: but when the bountifulnesse and love of God our Saviour appeared, &c. But if your spirits have not beene so vile as some others, if they have been faire and ingenuous, if you have beene of sweet natures, and tractable dispositions, you have cause to blesse God in some respects so much the more, for the change hee hath wrought in them, for his mercie towards you, that you did not rest in those naturall excellencies, and mistake them for saving graces, as many doe with much danger to their soules: and when you see the base corrupt spirits of other men, as those who have any thing to doe in the world, shall meet with exceeding vile corrupt spirits; * not onely in the worst sort of men, but in those who seeme to be faire, in whom a man would never have thought to have met with such base workings of spirit, that would make a man wonder. Oh Lord, what are the spirits of men? Then, I say, when you see this, blesse the Lord, let your spirits, and all that is within them, blesse his name, who hath put such difference betweene your spirits and theirs; as you cannot but acknowledge, except you should be exceedingly injurious to the grace of God in you.
Communion and converse with men of such excellent spirits, is a most blessed thing.
IF the godly be of such excellent spirits, then converse and communion with them is a most blessed thing; no greater heaven upon earth than this; for here you may see the beauty and lustre of Gods graces shining, the brightnesse of which darkens all the beauty and glory of the world to a spirituall eye. Seneca saw so much excellency, that Moralitie put upon a man, that hee sayes, that the very looke of a good man*delights one: The very sight of such servants of God, who walke close with God, who are carefull to keep their spirits clear and shining; truly, it is very delightfull, it hath much quickening in it; the uprightnesse, holines, spirituall enlightnings, that their soules have, will guide them to advise for God in safe and good wayes. The advise of godly men, in things concerning God, is much to be prized. It was a good speech of Shechaniah to Ezra, Chap. 10. 3. Now therefore let us make a Covenant with our God, &c. according to the counsell of the Lord, and of those that feare the Commandement of our GOD. It was good to follow their counsell. The spirits of these are favory in their discourse, in their duties, in all their carriage; their example exceeding powerfull and profitable. The blessing of Abigail upon David, was, The Lord binde up his soule in the bundle of life. Enjoyment of communion with Gods people, is the binding up of our soules in the bundle of life, for every one of them hath life in him. Doctor Taylor the Martyr, rejoyced that ever he came into prison, because he came there to have acquaintance with that Angel of God Iohn Bradford, as he cals him. If the society of one sweet heavenly spirited man, bee enough to make a prison chearfull, what a blessing then is the enjoyment of cōmunion with many? All my delight (saith David) is in the Saints, in them that excell in the earth. It is the blessing of the Gospell, to come to the spirits of just men made perfect, Heb. 12. 23. when we are amongst them, we may in the beholding the worke of their spirits, come to see many failings in our own, that we saw not before; and so be humbled for them, and be put on to seeke helpe: We may see the same graces shining in them, that we feele in our owne hearts, and so be strengthened and encouraged in them, and stirred up to blesse God for them; and the sutablenesse betweene their spirits and ours, if ours be right, will cause such a closing and mingling, as from thence there will arise an unspeakable delight, and incomparable sweetnesse: No society under heaven hath that pleasantnesse & sweetnesse in it, as the society of the Saints; no mens spirits close so fully one with another, as theirs; no mens spirits bound so firmly by such indissoluble bonds together, as theirs; they know the excellency of one anothers spirits, so as they can freely open themselves, * unbosome their hearts one to another, and venture their lives one upon another: and it is the most honourable society in the world; for it is the association of the most excellent and glorious creatures; God himself delights to joyne himselfe with them, to be amongst them: as; 2 Cor. 6. 16. I will dwell among them (saith the Lord) and walke there, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. But the words are more significant in the Originall, they expresse * Gods delight, not onely to dwell among them, and walke with them, but to dwell in them, and walke in them. And hence that expression of Tertullian, that wee made use of before in another case is very pertinent for our purpose here likewise; When good men meet, (sayes hee) when godly men are gathered together, this is not to bee called a faction, but a Court. What place is accounted so honourable, and excels in more delights than the Courts of Princes? The society of Gods Saints, communion with Gods people, hath more honour, is filled with more delights than any Court in the world, where this is wanting: the society of the wicked, that is unsavory and tedious, because their spirits are so vile and corrupt, like the slime and filth there is congealed, when many Toades and venomous filthy creatures doe joyne together; How abominable is their breathings together to a gracious spirit? how loathsome is the mixture of their spirits? Zach. 13. 2. we have a promise, that God will in his due time take away the uncleane spirit out of the Land, and oh what a blessed time will that bee! How happy would Gods servants thinke themselves, if they might bee delivered from the noysomnes of corrupt unclean spirits? Let us keep our selves what we can now, from mingling with them; wee shall within a while be for ever delivered from them.
CAP. X. *
That all those whose spirits God hath thus differenced, should improve this Mercy, by walking not as other men.
IF God hath beene mercifull to you, in giving you another spirit, improve this mercy; shew in all your wayes that you are acted by another spirit: let the renewed spirit guide you, let the beauty and excellency of it appeare: If wee live in the spirit, let us walke in the spirit, sayes the Apostle, Gal. 5. 25. The works of the flesh are manifest, Gal. 5. 19. Why should not the works of the spirit be so too? God hath beautified your spirits with his owne Image, in this hee hath honoured you, that you might honour him, in holding forth the beauty and excellency of his Image; he hath made you a peculiar people, to that end that you might shew forth the vertues of him, who hath called you out of darknes into his marvellous light, 1 Pet. 2. 9. It is a dishonor to a parent, or any special friend, to hang his picture in some dark hole, in some obscure contemptible place; it is expected we should make it conspicuous, that we should hang it in some eminent place, so as to manifest that wee rejoyce in it, as an ornament to us. It is a great evill to obscure the Graces of Gods Spirit, to keepe in the work of God upon our spirits, in which hee hath set out the glory of his owne Image, to that end, that he might be glorified in us before men & Angels. Every man delights in the expression of that, wherin he esteems his excellency to consist, be it Eloquence, Wisdom, or any Art, wherin he hath attained any eminency; yea, if he accounts his excellency to consist in his riches, in his honor, in his beautie, he loves to make them appear before others; as the Prophet in another case, Esa. 60. 1. Arise and shine, for the light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. If God hath shined upon your spirits by his grace, let your lights shine before men, that the world may see, there are men of other spirits, who can doe such things as they cannot. Oh what beautifull, convincing cōversations would men live, if they were onely acted by this renewed spirit! As it was said of Steven, they could not resist the Spirit by which he spake; so it would be true here, men could not resist that spirit by which you live. What doe you more than other men? sayes Christ to his Disciples, Matt. 5. 47. Men of other spirits must manifest in their lives, that they can do more than other men. Let me in the name of the Lord plead with you for more honour and service for the Lord, than he hath from others.
First, your birth is from him, you are borne of God in another manner * than others are, and therefore it must not be with you as it is with others. Men of high birth will not live as other men doe. Hence we read of a custome amongst the Heathen, they were wont to derive the pedigree of their valiant men from their gods; to this end, though the thing were not true, yet they beleeving themselves to be a Divine off-spring, they might upon confidence there of, undertake higher attempts than others, with the more boldnesse: Much higher things should those endeavour after, who are indeed borne of God.
Secondly, God hath put forth an other manner of power out upon * your spirits, than upon other men; other men have but a generall common influence of Gods power let into their spirits: but he hath manifested the exceeding greatnesse of his power in you; as, Eph. 1. 19. observe the gradation there; the Apostle speaking of the power of God, put forth upon those that doe beleeve, expresses it in a sixfold gradation.
1 It is his power; onely the power of a God could doe it.
2 It is the greatnes of his power.
3 It is the exceeding greatnesse of his power.
4 It is the working of his power.
5 It is the working of his mighty power.
6 It is the same power by which he raised Christ from the dead, and set him at his right hand in the Heavens, farre above all Principality, and Power, and might. Now God doth not use to put forth great power, but for great purposes; he uses not his extraordinary power, for ordinary things: when supernaturall power is put forth, it is, that it might raise to supernaturall operations.
3 Againe, God doth put other abilities * into you, that others have not: that grace with which hee hath endued your spirits, is a sparke of his owne divine nature; as you have heard, it hath a divine power with it, and a divine activity in it; that is expected from you, that none can doe by an inferiour power, as by the strength of parts, education, morall principles: if your lives bee not beyond the highest of those who have none other principles than * such to raise them; you dishonour God, and his grace, and your holy profession.
Fourthly, your spirits have beene made acquainted with more truths; God hath revealed to you the secrets of his Counsels, of his Kingdome; * he hath showne you himselfe, his Glory, his Majesty, Soveraingty, Holinesse; he hath showne you the reality, beauty, excellency, equity of his blessed wayes: Hee hath made known to you the certainty, the infinite consequence of the things of eternitie; the vilenesse, pollution, poyson, danger of sin: he hath given you experiences of the things of heaven, the sweetnesse of his wayes, the distresse of conscience for sinne.
Fifthly, he hath separated you for himself, he hath takē you into a near * communion unto himselfe; though God is to be feared by all, yet more especially in a higher degree, hee is to bee feared in the assembly of his Saints, and to be had in reverence of them that are about him, Psa. 89. 7.
Sixthly, God hath put other dignities * upon you, that hee hath not put upon other men; he hath made you Citizens of the new Ierusalem, favorites of heaven, heires, co-heires with the Lord Jesus Christ. God hath raised you above the condition of men; and therefore you must not walk as men. The Apostle, 1 Cor. 3. 3. blamed the Corinthians that they did walke as men: Hee hath redeemed you from the earth, Revel• 4. 3. Therefore you must not walke as the men of the earth: God hath not dealt thus with other people, they know not what these things meane. Therefore well may the Lord expect from you other manner of service and honour, than he hath from other men.
Seventhly, more depēds upon you, * than upon others; the waight of many services depends all upon you, which are no wayes expected to bee performed by others: What shall become of Gods Name, his Glory, the fulfilling his will in the world, if men whose spirits are fitted for his service, should not live in a higher way of holinesse, and doe more for him, than others? God expects great things from you, Esay 63. 8. I said, surely they will not lie: When others are base, unfaithfull and vile in their wayes, yet God rejoyceth in this, that hee hath a generation in the world; a choyce company of other spirits, pretious & excellent spirits, and hee shall have other dealings from them.
Eighthly, your sinnes goe nearer to the heart of God than others: Other * men may provoke God to anger, but you grieve his Holy Spirit. God tooke it very ill at Salomons hand, that hee dealt ill with him after hee had appeared twice to him, 1 King. 11. 9. How often hath God appeared to your soules? What gracious visitatiōs have your spirits had from him? It is a shamefull thing indeed for you to fall as other men doe: It was an aggravation of the fall of Saul, 2 Sam. 1, 21. That the shield of the mighty was cast downe, the shield of Saul, as though he had not beene anoynted with oyle; for you to fall, as though you had not beene anoynted, as others which have no such oyntment powred upon them; this is a great and sore evill.
Ninthly, the eyes of many are * upon you; the Name of God, the cause of God is engaged in you.
Tenthly, you are appointed by God to be the Judges of other men; * 1 Cor. 6. 2. Doe you not know that the Saints shall judge the world? yea, Verse 3. Know you not that wee shall judge the Angels? God will bring your lives and wayes before all the world to judge the world by, and therefore they had need to bee very exact, and to have something in them more than ordinary. It is a shamefull way of reasoning, for any man to reason for sinne, by examples; as it like a theese, he would faine scape in the crowd; but much more shamefull is it, that any godly man should bee found to argue for sinne this way, for this is an aggravation of sinne, not a lessening of it, as if I should say, God hath dishonour by such and such, and therefore why may he not have some more by me? Sinne is a striking at God, and every sinner strikes at him, and thou commest running for thy stroake too. What? wilt thou have thy blow also at him? and, what thou? for whom the Lord hath done such great things? as Caesar said to Brutus, when * in the Senate-house, tho Senators had wounded him, with many sore wounds, and Brutus hee comes also for his stroake, whereupon Caesar lookes on him, and sayes to him; What? and thou my sonne Brutus too? Conceive as if thou sawest the Lord looking on thee, and saying thus to thee, when thou ventrest upon any sinfull way upon the example of others.
But in what particulars should we manifest this choicenes of our spirits, in wayes differing from others?
Answ. In these especially:
1 In selfe deniall: shew that you can deny your opiniōs, your desires, your wills, though you have a strong mind to a thing, though you have fit opportunities to enjoy your desires, yet if you see God may have more honor any other way, you can freely & readily without disturbance, without vexing yeeld; and doe not deceive your selves in this, be easily convinced in particulars, which are for God against your selves; the excellency of a mans spirit is much seen in this. Many conceit an excellency of spirit to bee in selfe-willednesse, in being passionate, froward, and boisterous; Certainly this comes from weaknes of spirit, no excellency is required for this, every foole can bee thus; but that is excellency, to bee able to ovērcome, to rule ones spirit, to have command of ones spirit, to subdue and bring in order passions, and violent stirrings of spirits; this is pretious and honourable in the eyes of God and man: this is a well tempered spirit indeed, that can be strong, zealous, full of courage, unyeeldable in the cause of God and the Church; but meeke, quiet, yeeldable, selfedeniable in its own cause: those who usually are the most boisterous, and passionate for themselves, are the poorest spirited men, and the most basely yeelding, when it comes to the cause of God.
2 Shew the excellency of your spirits enabling you to doe that which others cannot doe, by loving your enemies, praying for them; doing them all the good you can; this is the speciall thing our Saviour commands to his Disciples in that 5. Mat. when he would have them doe more than others doe.
3 Feare the least sinne, more than the greatest suffering; Morality raises the spirit highest next to Grace, and yet a meere morall man, accounts it foolishnes, to be so nice as not to yeeld in little things, for the avoyding of great sufferings; but a gracious spirit thinks the least truth of God worthy to bee witnessed to, by the losse of his dearest comforts, * and suffering the greatest evils; yea, he accounts suffering for small things the most honourable sufferings of all, as testifying the greatest love; as Davids Worthies shewed their dearest love to him, in ventring their lives to get him a little water.
4 Prize opportunities of service more than al outward contentments in the world; a gracious heart thinks it honor enough, that Gods imploies it; he is not onely willing to goe on in his worke, though outward contentments come not in, but increase of service for God, hee esteemes so great a good, as hee accounts the want of outward things made up in it; Though I get not so much by that I doe as others, yet I blesse God, I can goe on in my worke as chearefully as others, for contentment is made up to mee in this, that God will imploy mee in his service more than others.
5 Make conscience of time; this felv doe; few regard the fillings up of their time, their spirits having no excellencie in them, they cannot make use of their time in any worthy employments for God, to themselves, or others; but a man of an excellent spirit knows how to employ himself in things that are excellent, and therfore prizes the time he hath to worke in, and is conscientious in the spending of it.
6 Make conscience of thoughts, and secret workings of heart, of secret sinnes to avoid them, and secret duties to performe them; a man that hath a pretious spirit, doth not like to have it runne wast in extravagant thoughts, and affections; the thoughts of his minde are pretious, the affections of his heart are pretious, as his spirit is pretious: Wee let water runne wast, because wee put no price upon it; we think it little worth, and therefore we let it run to no use; but if it were some pretious liquor, some pretious oyle, compounded of deare ingredients, wee would not doe so, but would be carefull to save every drop; this is a pretious spirited man indeed, who knowes how to lay out his thoughts, and his affections at the best advantage, and will not lavish them our to no purpose.
7 Make conscience of the manner * of performing holy duties, as well as of the doing of them, and looke after them, what becomes of them when they are done; this is not according to the common spirits of the world, who thinke to put off God with flat, poore, and dead services; A gracious spirit hath much of the excellency of his spirit acting in holy duties, and therefore hee doth much mind them, and lookes much after them; but others have little of their spirits acting in them, and therfore they are little regarded, little looked after by them.
8 Rejoyce in the good of others, * though it eclipses thy light, though it makes thy parts, thy abilities, thy excellencies dimmer in the eyes of others; were it not for the eminency of some above thee, thy parts perhaps would shine bright, and bee of high esteeme; yet to rejoyce in this from the heart, from the soule to blesse God, for his gifts and graces in others, that his Name may be glorified more by others, than I can glorifie it my selfe, to bee able truly to say, Though I can do little, yet blessed be God, there are some who can doe more for God than I, and in this I doe, and will rejoyce; this is indeed to be able to doe much more than others, this shewes a great eminencie of spirit: All the parts, gifts, abilities, that any man in the world hath, where this is not, come farre short of this excellencie; to be able to doe this, is more than to bee able to •xcell others in any excellencie whatsoever, if this bee wanting: If God hath given thee this, hee hath given thee that which is a thousand times more worth than strong parts, and abilities, in which thou might’st have been farre more eminent, than thou now art, or than others are.
9 If thou wilt shew the excellency * of this spirit in some choyce thing, then labour to keep the heart low in prosperitie, and man heavenly cheerefulnesse in adversitie; not only contented, but joyfull, in a quiet, sweet, delightfull frame: In the greatest difficulties and straits, when you are put upon hard things, go on in your way with what strength you can, without vexing, distracting thoughts, let your spirits bee stayed on God quietly, & meekly committing your selves and cause to him, as the people of God in the 26. Esay 8. They professe their willingnes in all quietnesse to wait upon God, in the wayes of his judgements; and they give the reason, because the desire of their soule is to his Name, and to the remembrance of him. If in the times of our troubles, the desires of our soules were to Gods Name, and to the remembrance of him, and not unto our own names, and to the remembrance of our selves, we should not have such sinking, discouraged, disquiet, vexing spirits as we have. The spirits of most men, if any difficult thing befall them, they are presently in a hurry, so disquiet and tumultuous, that all the peace and sweetnesse of them is lost, and they hinder themselves exceedingly, both in the businesse they are about, adding much to the difficulty of it, and in all other businesses that concerne them. This notes much distemper of spirit, like distempered flesh of a mans body, if it be but toucht with the finger, or the least aire come to it, it presently festers and ranekies.
10 Be more carefull to know the * fountain from whence all your mercies come, & to have a sanctified use of them when you enjoy them, than to have the possession of them, or delight in them: An ordinary spirit lookes at nothing, but only to have the thing it desires, is not solicitous about the fountaine from whence they spring, nor carefull to attaine any sanctified end, to which they tend, looks not at them as from God, neither uses them for GOD; but where all these are, here is the work of a choice pretious spirit indeed, the peculiar work of it; this is to do more than others, and thus Gods servants must doe, or else they can never live convincing lives. While Pharaoh and his Magicians saw, that Moses did no more than they could doe, they were not convinced; but when Moses did that which they could not doo; then they acknowledged the finger of God: So it is here, while wicked men see those that are religious, doe onely such things as they could doe if they would, as going to Sermons, speaking of good things, they are never convinced by them; but when they fee them do some thing, which their consciences tell them they cannot do, then they are forced to acknowledge, that there is a reall excellencie in godlinesse which they have not, as Christ said once, If I had not done those things that no man did, they had not had sinne, Ioh. 15. 24. It aggravated the sinne of the Jewes, that they did not beleeve in Christ, notwithstanding he did those works amongst them that no man ever did. So, if godly men did manifest the choicenesse of their spirits amongst the men of the world, in doing such as none other can doe, this if it did not convert them, and bring them in love with Gods wayes, it would certainly much aggravate their sinne, and increase their condemnation. It is therfore a most shamefull thing, that those who make a great shew and profession of godlinesse, should in their lives be no more than equall unto, yea be lower than others, who are meerly Morall; lower than a Socrates, than a Fabritius, than others of the Heathen. How many civill morall men go• beyond them who would be taken for godly? they are more meeke, and patient, more courteous, more faithfull and trusty, more liberall and helpfull, more ingenuous and candid. Many servants who would seeme godly, are not so obedient, so diligent, so humble, and submissive, so conscionable in their worke, as others, whom they judge meerly carnall: So, many wives, not behaving themselves with that quietnesse, respectivenesse, love, and obedience to their husbands, as others, whom they themselves judge to be onely civill: In like manner, many husbands, and masters of families, who professe godlinesse, yet in their houses are more froward, more dogged, more churlish, cruell, and bitter to wife and servants, than others, whom they esteeme onely carnall: So, many children more stout to their parents, and parents more negligent in the care they ought to have of their children, than others.
What a shame is it, saies S. Hierom, that faith should not be able to doe * that, that infidelity hath done? What? not better fruit in the garden, in the vineyard of the Lord, then in the wildernesse? What? not better fruit grow upon the tree of life, than upon the root of nature? * Where lies the power of godlinesse? If it carries, not men beyond these, what is it to live godly in Christ Jesus? in the vertue, in the power, and life of Christ Jesus, if it doth not enable to go beyond others? There needs no such vertue, power, life of Christ Jesus, to enable one to dof that, which others can doe. What? is godlinesse but a notion, but a conceit, that it will not carry men beyond the light of nature?
An Exhortation to labour to get this excellent spirit.
IT is an use of Exhortation; let us labour to get this other spirit; Every one desires to be eminent, to be above others in estate, in esteeme, in naturall excellencies; if we would faine be eminent, let us labour to be eminent in spirituall blessings, in getting our souls endued with higher spirituall excellencies than others have. It is cōmendable to strive to be as eminent here as we can, especially you whom God hath raised higher than your brethren in other things; in the Nobility of your births, the eminency of your places, the greatnesse of your estates: Doe you labour to be as high above others in the excellencies of your spirits; that as your birth is other, your places other, your estate other than cōmon mens, so your spirits may be other spirits? What an excellent thing is it, to have a spirit sutable to ones condition? A great * mind becomes a great fortune, sayes Seneca. He means greatnes of minde in the exercise of vertue, which only gives a true greatnesse to the mind. I know this is a powerfull argument with you, to make grace lovely & desirable in your eies, to tell you that it will raise your spirits, that it will put beauty and glory upon them, that it will adde greatnesse and excellency to them. The world is much for brave and Noble spirits; we desire your spirits may be so: onely mistake not the true Noblenesse, the true excellencie of spirit; certainly it is inthat which may bring you nearest to God, the highest excellencie: You can no way be so honourable, as by the raising of your spirits by grace: Wisdome with an inheritance is good, wisedome with birth and eminency of place is a great blessing indeed; to be rich in goods, and rich in goodnesse, is a happy connexion. You would account it a great disgrace not to have education somewhat sutable to your birth and qualitie; what can be said more dishonourable of a man than this, He hath left him indeed a great estate, and is of a great house, but he hath no breeding? What? is a competent measure of knowledge, in tongues, and * Arts, and other things sutable to your births and estates, accounted a beauty and ornament to them, and is not grace and godlinesse much more? Doe these adde an excellencie to your quality, and put an honour upon your dignities, and will not godlinesse much more? Shall Sea and Land be travelled over with much hazard, soule-hazard, and bodilyhazard, with great expence of estate, to get knowledge of fashions, and a Gentile behaviour, because you thinke they will be Ornaments to your great estates you are borne to; and shall no labour be undertaken to get godlinesse, to get your spirits raised by grace, as an ornament to the greatnesse of your birth, and eminencie of your estate? How is this, to sleight the very glory of God himselfe, and to contemne the highest dignity men or Angels are capable of? Are any places so fit for wisedome, as the high places of the City? Prov. 9. 1, 3. Wisdome hath builded her house, shee hath hewen out her seven Pillars, she cryeth upon the highest places of the City. How honourable doth godlinesse make those, whose birth, whose place is honorable in the eyes of God, his Saints, blessed Angels, and in the consciences of all? How well doth grace suite with the highest dignity, as a bright shining Diamond in a golden Ring? as the world is drawn more conspicuous and full in a large Mappe, than in a small; so the beauty and excellency of grace and godlinesse, appeares more conspicuous and glorious in great men and honourable, than in those who are of a meaner ranke.
First, you had need of other spirits; more need than others for the improvement of those great mercies that you have above others. As some fowle that have great wings, yet can flie but little; so many men have great estates, but not having spirits to improve them, they are of little use. Know, that your estates are either mercies or miseries, blessings or cursings to you, according as you have hearts to improve them: if they be improved for God, as advantages to honour God by, to doe good withall; they are then great blessings indeed: and that is as great an argument of the truth of grace, as any, to be as earnest with God for an heart to improve an estate, or a place of dignitie for God, as to rejoyce that * you have such an estate for your selves, or that you are in such an eminent place, whereby you may get honour to your selves. Where God gives not a more excellent spirit than others, as well as an higher condition than others; there an eminent estate is made but as fewell for a nourisher and maintainer of all manner of evill, to afford opportunities for acting of sinne; and is not this the excellencie that many account to be in their estates, in that it is higher than others, in that they can have their wils, and satisfie their lusts more than others?
Secondly, you had need of other spirits, for the improving of the large * opportunities of service for God and his Church, that you have more than others; these are as great blessings, as your estates, or any dignities you have above others. God betrusts you with much, in giving you such large opportunities of service, for the honour of his great Name. If your birth be high, your estates high, and your spirits indued with excellencie from on high, how fit then are you to be used by God in high and honourable services? Hence the conversion of a great man is of exceeding great consequence; whereupon Saint Paul was so loath to lose the Conversion of the Deputy Sergius Paulus, who began to listen to his preaching; of whom we reade Acts 13. verse 7. and so on: Therefore when Elymas withstood him in this work, seeking to turne away the Deputie from the Faith, the spirit of S. Paul rose against him with much indignation; and being filled with the Holy Ghost, hee set his eyes on him, and said, O full of all subtilty and all mischiefe, thou childe of the devill thou enemy of righteousnesse, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right wayes of the Lord? And now behold the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt bee blind. As if S. Paul should have said, What? will you hinder me in such a great work as this, wherein God may have so much honour in the conversion of this Noble-man, this man of publike and eminent place? this indeed is to be full of all mischiefe, to bee an enemie of all righteousnesse. Thus you see how his spirit was stirred when he was put in feare of being hindred in such a notable prize as this: As a man when likely to have a great draught, there comes in one and disturbs him, and is like to hinder him of it. Surely, S. Paul saw that it was a wonderfull great blessing to the Church, to have great men to be brought in, to the obedience of the faith, and to be added to it.
And further it is observed, that God going along with S. Paul, and finishing the work of the conversion of this great man; that upon this Saint Paul had his name Paul given him, being changed from Saul, and called Paulus, from that notable worke of the conversion of this Paulus Sergius. As many great Captains amongst the Heathen were wont to have their names changed upon their successe in some noble enterprize, and great victories; as Scipio Africanus, hee was called Africanus from his Conquest of Africa.
3 You who are in high and eminent * dignities, you are the earnest prayers of Gods servants in all places, that God would raise you up with truely noble, excellent, and gracious spirits, that you may bee instruments of his glory: How blessed you, if God fulfils the prayers of his servants upon you! What great pity is it, that such blessed opportunities of service, of honouring God, themselves, and families, as you have, should be lost for want of spirits? Were it not more honorable to you, and your houses, to be imployed as publique blessings to Church and Common-wealth, to have thousands of soules blesse you, and blesse God for you, than for you to go siner than others, to have your tables better furnished than others, to sport and game more than others, to spend more than others?
4 Againe, you had need of other * spirits, for your example is looked at more than others, either in good or evill; as Christ said of himselfe in another case, If I bee lifted up, I will draw all men after me: so I may say, If godlinesse be lifted up in the examples of great ones, it will draw all men after it. What ever evill is seene in you, is not onely followed by others, but used as a plea to maintaine and encourage that which is evill in many others. Charles the fifth was wont to say, that as the Ecclipse of the Sun is a foretoken of great commotions; so the errours and oversights of great men, bring with them great perturbations to the places where they live.
5 Their sinne is worse than others, * for it doth more hurt, and therefore their punishment will bee greater than others; as their actions are exemplary, so will their punishments. Hence that place, Mich. 6. 5. O my people, remember from Shittim unto •ilgal; at Shittim the Lord destroyed the Heads of the people, Num. 25. 4. The destruction of great ones is to be for ever remembred.
6 And yet further, you have need of other spirits, because you have temptations greater and stronger than others; therefore if you have not the more excellent spirits, you are in greater danger than others. The high estate of great outward dignitie, is a very dangerous estate, if God gives not an extraordinary spirit. There is a notable story of Pius Quintus, that Pope, who excommunicated Queene Elizabeth; my Author of the story is a Jesuite, Cornelius à Lapide; one highly esteemed amongst the Papists, and therefore the truth of it is to bee the lesse suspected: the story is this; he sayes, that this Pope Pius Quintus was wont to say of himselfe, that When I was first in religious Orders (that is, without any further Ecclesiasticall dignity) I had a very good hope of the salvation of my soule;*but being made a Cardinall, I began to be much afraid; but now bein Pope, I do even despaire. So, sayes Cornelius, did Clement the eight, that followed after him, thinke of himselfe. Thus by this example wee see what a dangerous thing it is, to bee raised in outward honour, and yet still the spirit to continue base and vile.
7 Above all, you who are honourable and great in the world, you had need labour to bee gracious, because sin is more unsutable to your condition, than to others. It was the complaint of the Church, Lam. 4. 5. that those who were brought up in Scarlet, did embrace the dung: How unsutable was this, to have the highest places, and the lowest spirits? Bernard writing to a noble Virgin, who was godly, he sayes, that others were cloathed with purple and silke, but their consciences were poore & beggerly; they glistered with their Iewels, but were base in their manners; but you (sayes he) without, are meanly clad, but within shine exceeding beautifull, not to*humane, but to Divine eyes. How unsutable was the one, but how comely and sutable the other? It is reported of Scipio Asricanus, that when he took new Carthage, he took a young Gentlewoman prisoner who was so faire that she ravished all mens eyes; this Scipio then said, If I were but a common souldier, I would enjoy this Damsell, but being Commander of an Armie, I will not meddle with her: and so preserving her entire, restored her to her friends. Thus he, though a Heathen, thought wickednesse too meane for, and unsutable to greatnesse. Sinne is uncomely any where, much more uncomely amongst great ones; and grace is comely where ever it is, much more to the great ones of the earth. As Aeneas Sylvius was wont to say concerning learning, I may say the same concerning godlinesse; Popular men should esteeme learning as silver, Noble men should account it like Gold, and Princes should prize it like Pearles. Thus if godlinesse be as silver to ordinary men, it is to be accounted as gold and pearls to you. The Scripture compares beauty in a woman without wisdom, to a Pearl-in a Swines snour, Pro. 11. 22. as a thing unsutable: Thus are all outward excellencies where there is not grace.
8 And would it not be a grievous thing to you, to see poore, inferiour, meane men and women to be lifted up to glory, & your selves cast out, an eternall curse? have not many of them most excellent pretious spirits? doe they not doe God farre more service than you? doe they not bring more honor to his Name, than ever you did? Think then with your selves, Why should God put those who are of such choice pretious spirits, into such a low condition, and raise me to such an high? Is it not because he intends to give me my portion in this life, but reserves better mercies for them afterwards? It would bee very grievous indeed if it should prove so.
9 The hopes we have of the continuance of our peace in the happy enjoyment of those pretious liberties of the Gospel, that in so great mercy have been continued unto us, depends much upon the worke of Gods grace upon your souls: If God takes off your spirits from common vanities, the pleasures of the flesh, from the poore low things of the world, from your own private ends, and causes the feare of his great Name to fall upon them, and raiseth them to the love of, and delight in the great things of godlinesse, to be given up wholy to him, to lift up his great Name; we shall then look upon you as the joyfull hopes of our souls, that God still doth & will delight in the blessing, peace & prosperity of his people: But if we see darknesse upon your spirits, then a dismall night of darknes is upon us. As when we see it wax dark in the valleys, we say, it is towards night; if it begins to be dark upon the hills, it is nigh night; but if it be dark in the skie, it is night indeed: So where we see the workes of darknesse amongst the people, it is a signe that a night is comming; but where we see them in those of a higher ranke, in the Gentry, it makes us feare that the night is nearer; but if in the Nobility, and the great men, then it is a dismall night indeed.
Wherefore be you exhorted in the Name of the Lord, to labour much that you may have more gracious and holy spirits than others, together with your dignities, whereby you are lifted up above others. Wee envie not your honours, we desire that they may be raised higher by grace. Grace may well stand with the enjoyment of all your dignities, yea, grace is the only thing that blesseth them, and advanceth them.
And you whose spirits God hath raised above others, in the excellencies of your parts, and many excellent endowments of learning you have, who are men of larger understandings, of higher apprehensions than others, and can looke upon ordinary men as low and meane in respect of the difference between your parts and theirs: Do you labour yet to raise your spirits higher by grace and godlinesse, that as you differ from them in naturall excellencies, so you may differ from them much more in spirituall and divine? How eminent would you be in grace, if those parts and abilities of learning you have, were sanctified for God? What blessed instruments might you be of glory to God, of comfort and encouragement to his people? but otherwise your parts and gifts are poisoned; a sinfull wicked heart will poison all. It may be said of many, as it was of Pope Eugenius the second, he was a man of great Learning, and great Eloquence, with a mixture of great hypocrisie: If it may bee thus said of any, He is a man indeed of excellent parts, very learned, of strong abilities, but he hath a corrupt spirit; he is a man of a corrupt minde; surely these parts are all poisoned; no marvell then, though such men swell so much by reason of them. Parts unsanctified doe exceedingly enlarge mens spirits, to be so much the more capable of spirituall wickednesse, more than others of meaner and lower parts can be; your parts will aggravate all your sinnes, and increase your damnation: It is a lamentable thing that such excellent parts and abilities as many have, which might be of so great use, for God and his Church, yet that they should vanish into froth.
It was the great complaint of one Robertus Gallus, a famous man, an opposer of the corruptions of those times in which he lived, which was in the 13. Century: He compared the Schoole-Doctors to one having bread and good wine hanging on both his sides; yet notwithstanding, he was gnawing hungerly on a flintstone. Thus they, leaving the wholesome food in the Scriptures, busied themselves with subtile questions, wherein there was no edification, or comfort to the soule; thus their excellent parts did all vanish into nothing. Now if it be so grievous a thing, for parts and learning to be imployed about meane and unworthy things, how much more grievous is it, when they are employed against God? Oh, what great cause have we then to pray for these men, whose spirits are raised by naturall parts? and how great cause have they themselves to seeke God, and to use all meanes, that their spirits might bee likewise raised by grace, that, that great blessing of parts, and learning might be blessed to them, by Gods bestowing upon them this other spirit? Oh consider, what an opprobrious thing it is to you, that God should have more feare, honour, service, from men of lower, farre meaner, weaker abilities; That their hearts should close more with the wayes of godlinesse; That their hearts should be more enlarged towards God than yours; That they should enjoy more heavenly, spirituall communion with God than you, * yea, such communion with God, as you are altogether unacquainted withall; And that at length their soules should be saved, and for ever blessed, when yours shall be cast out as filth, and an everlasting abhorring from the presence of the Lord: What a grievous thing will it be to you, when it shall appeare, that your parts shall serve for no other and than to enlarge your soules to be more capable of the wrath of God, than other men? for be you assured, that none are so filled with Gods wrath as knowing men.
It was the grievous complaint of S. Austin in his time; The unlearned,* sayes he, rise up, and take heaven by force, and we with all our learning, are thrust down into hell. It is a speech well knowne to Scholers; of how great use might it be, if God did settle it upon their hearts? And S. Bernard hath a speech somewhat to the like purpose; Let the wise of the world, sayes he, who minde high things, and yet feeding upon the earth, let them*with their wisdome goe downe into hell. And Luther hath a notable story, which may be very usefull for this purpose. It is in his writings upon the fourth Commandement, which he makes the third; It is to shew, how the holinesse of the spirits of meane and unlearned men, shall confound great understanding learned men, where there is not the like godlinesse.
In the time of the Councel of Constance, he tells us, There were two Cardinalls riding to the Councell, and in their journey they saw a shepherd in the field weeping; one of them pitying him, sayes, that he could not passe by, but he must needs go to yonder man and comfort him; and comming neare to him, hee asked him, why he wept? he was loath to tell him at first; but being urged, he told him, saying; I looking upon this Toad, considered that I had never praised God as I ought, for making mee such an excellent creature as a man, comely and reasonable; I have not blessed him, that hee made not me such a deformed Toad as this. When the Cardinall heard this, hee was struck with it, considering that hee had received greater mercies than this poore man; and he was so struck, as hee fell downe presently dead from his Mule; his servants lifting him up, and bringing him to the Citie, hee came to life againe, and then cried out; Oh Saint Austine, how truely didst thou say; The unlearned rise, and they take heaven, and we with all our learning, wallow in flesh and bloud!
You therefore, whom God hath honoured with excellent parts, that you may not be thus confounded another day, before the Lord and his blessed Angels, and Saints, bee you restlesse in your spirits, till you finde God hath added a further beautie to them, even the beautie of holinesse, the sanctifying graces of his Holy Spirit, that may make you lovely in his eyes, truely honourable before him, and for ever blessed of him. Take heed you rest not either in gifts of learning, or in gifts of moralitie; the gifts of moralitie are yet a further ornament to mens spirits, but yet they come short of those divine excellencies of spirit, that will make it blessed for ever.
Wee reade of many, who were very eminent in morall excellencies, and yet altogether strangers from the life of grace. As for example, Iosephus lib. 15. c. 8. reports of Herod the King, that which would make one thinke, hee was raised to very high morall excellencies: once making a speech to his Army, amongst other passages he hath this; Perhaps some men will say, that right and equitie is on our side, but that the greater number of men, and meanes are with the other; but this their speech is unworthy of my followers: for with those with whom justice is, with those also God is, and where God is, there neither wants multitude, nor fortitude. And Cap. 12. he reports of him, that in the time of a famine, he caused all his vessels of gold and silver to bee melted, to buy corne withall for the reliefe of the poore. That Herod likewise which S. Luke speakes of in the 12. Acts 23. who was smote by the Angel, and eaten of wormes, yet even this man had many excellent morall gifts: Iosephus reports of him, That hee was a man of a most milde * disposition, readie to helpe those which were in adversitie, free from outward grosse defilements, and that there was no day past him, in which he did not offer Sacrifice; and for a testimony of his mild & gentle temper, he tels a notable story of him, that when one Simon a Lawyer, in his absence, had scandalized him with many grievous accusations before the people; As that hee was a profane man, and that upon just cause he was forbidden to enter the Temple: when Herod was certified of these things, and came to the Theatre, he commanded that this Simon should be brought to him, and would have him sit downe next to him, and in peaceable and kinde manner hee spake thus to him, Tell me, I prethee, what thing thou seest fault-worthy, or contrary to the Law in me? This Simon not having any thing to answer, besought him to pardon him; the King grew friends with him, and dismissed him, bestowing gifts on him. What a shame is this example to many Christians? and yet wee would all be loath to bee in this mans condition. It is reported likewise of Titus, whom God made a grievous scourge to the Jewes, yet hee was so meeke, so liberall, so mercifull, of so milde and sweet a nature, that he was usually called, The love and delights of * mankind: If hee had done no good in any day, hee would use to say, I have lost this day. Suetonius tels of him, that hee was wont to use this speech, That none should goe away sad from speaking with a Prince. Excellent things are likewise reported of Trajan, he was accounted a patterne of upright dealing, in as much as when a new Emperour was afterwards elected, the people were wont to wish him The good successe of Augustus, and the uprightnesse of Trajanus: and yet the persecution of Christians under him was very grievous. It is likewise said of Antoninus Philosophus, that he was of such a sweet temper, that hee was never much puft up in prosperity, nor cast downe in adversitie.
Thus we see, men may have excellent gifts of morality, and yet all these but as the flowers that grow on brambles, far different from those graces of this other spirit that wee speake of, which only growes upon the tree of life: As many a faire flower may grow out of a stinking root, so many sweet dispositions, and faire actions may bee, where there is onely the corrupt root of nature. It is true, learning and moralitie are lovely, they are pearles highly to be esteemed, they are great blessings of God; but there is a pearle of price that is beyond them all, which the true wise Merchant will labour to get, and will be content to sell all to obtaine, as Matth. 13. 45, 46. And this pearle of price is that, by which this other spirit comes to be so excellent above all that learning and morality, or any common gifts can make it. It is said in that place of S. Matthew, That the wise merchant sought other goodly pearles: common gifts are to bee sought after, as things that have much excellency in their kind; but it was that one pearle of great price that hee sold all for: It is that grace of God in Christ, that raises the spirit above all other excellencies, and is to bee prized and sought after above all things whatsoever. And that you may know, that there is a great deale of difference betweene naturall endowments, morall vertues, and true spirituall excellencies; that this other spirit is farre beyond the excellencies of these, take these notes of difference.
1 This other spirit is a renew•d spirit; A new spirit will I give ya,* saith the Lord, in 11. Ezek: 19. It doth not arise out of principles bid up with us; the Lord makes the spirit sensible of its natural corruption and weakenesse, and of the Almighty worke of his grace upon it. It 〈◊〉 made another spirit, by a high and supernaturall worke of God upon the soule, working a mighty change in it, creating new principles, new habits. Examine what change have you found in your spirits; if they be no other then ever have beene, yea; if the change be onely graduall, not essentiall, if it be onely the raising of some naturall principles, so as to enable you to live in somewhat a fairer way then you did; if it bee not the worke of God breaking your spirits in pieces, and making of them anew, if it bee not a new creation in you; surely then, yet, your spirits are void of that true blessed excellency, that this other spirit hath.
2 This other spirit workes from * God, and for God; it is sensible of the need it hath of continuall influence from heaven, & it drawes vertue and efficacy from God, conveying his grace to the soule, through that blessed covenant that hee hath made with the children of men in Jesus Christ; & receiving thus grace from on high, it is acted up to God himselfe, it lookes at God in what it doth, it is carried out of love to him, with unfained desires to lift up his great Name. Morall vertues are wrought by that reasonablenesse the soule sees in such vertuous actions, and the highest pitch they reach to is, the love to that equity which appeares in them to a mans reason; and therefore the spirit of a man, that is raised no higher then these, blesseth it selfe rather then God in the exercise of them; It is farre from drawing any vertue from God, in a way of covenant of grace, or from denying it selfe, and returning all the praise, and honour to God.
Seneca was a man of as brave a spirit for Morality, almost as ever lived, and yet see how farre hee was from working from God, and for God; observe a strange expression of his in one of his Epistles: The cause*and foundation of a blessed life, is to trust ones selfe, to bee confident in ones selfe; it is a shamefull thing to weary God, saith hee, in prayer for it. What needs prayer? Make thy selfe happy. Its a foolish thing to desire a good mind, when thou mayest have it from thy self: right reason is enough to fill up the happynesse of a man.
3 Where true spirituall excellency is, there is a connexion of all spirituall * excellencies, of all graces, Ephes. 5. 9. The fruit of the spirit is in all goodnesse, and righteousnesse, and truth, and the reason is, because all are united in one root, namely in love to God, and holinesse: The beauty and comelinesse, that God puts upon the spirit in the worke of grace, is a perfect beauty and comlinesse, Ezech. 16. 14. There is no grace wanting, there is all true spirituall blessings, Ephes. 1. 3. Blessed bee God, who hath blessed us with all spirituall blessings; so the words are in your bookes, but in the Originall, blessings is in the singular number, with all spirituall blessing; there is all, and yet but one blessing; to note, that spirituall blessings are so knit together, that they all make up but one blessing: and therefore where there is one truely, there none can be wanting; there is such grace as in the growth of it, it springs up to eternall life: There is such a perfection as wants onely the ripening, and it would bee the same with the life in heaven; but where there wants any essentiall part, though it bee ripened never so much, let it grow up never so fast, it will never come to be perfect. Thus if there be any worke of grace wanting, if there be any defect in the principle, though that, that be there, grow up never so fast, yet it would never attain unto eternall life; Therefore in the work of sanctification, where it is true, though it bee never so weake, yet there is this perfection, that there are all graces in it; but where there is onely a sweet nature, where there is onely some morall worke upon the spirit, there are onely some particular excellencies; The most Morall man that ever lived, hath had some way of evill, that his spirit hath run out unto.
4 Where there are true spirituall * excellencies, there is an impulse of heart, a strong bent of spirit, in following after the Lord; there is such a powerfull impression of divine truths upon the soule, as presses it on with strength in Gods wayes, so that it cannot easily bee hindered, as the Propher saith, Esay 8 11. That the Lord spake to him with a strong hand, that he should not walke in the way of the people; such a spirit hath not onely some desires, and some wishes, to that which is good; but goes on bound in the spirit, as S. Paul sayes of himselfe; The love of Christ constraines him; there is a power of godlinesse where it is true. When Eliah had cast his Mantle upon Elisha, the spirit of Elisha was prest to follow him, 1 King. 19. 19, 20. so that when Elisha desired leave of him to goe to his father and mother to take his leave of them, and said, that then he would follow him, Eliah answershim, What have I done to thee? Eliah indeed did nothing in outward appearance, to draw him after him; for what was the casting of his Mantle upon him, to worke such an effect in him? but together with the casting of his Mantle, there went a spirit into Eliah, that hee could not but follow him: Such a powerfull worke is there in the sanctifying graces of Gods Spirit, as with strength to cause the soule to follow him; there is a law of the minde that hath power and command in it, as before there was a law of sinne.
But where there are onely sweet natures, there men are easily drawne one way, and as easily drawn the other way; they joyne with those that are good in good actions, but their hearts are not so set on that they doe, but that they may bee easily taken off, and carried another way.
Fifthly, where there are onely * moral principles, there the soule sees not into, is not sensible of, turnes not from the evill of sinne, as the greatest evill; it sees not such evill in it, as to make it subscribe to the righteousnesse of God in all those dreadfull things that are threatned against it, but thinkes they are too hard; Surely, God is not so severe a God; God forbid things should bee so as those wee read of in the Gospell. When Christ spake that Parable concerning those who smote the servants of the Lord of the Vineyard, Luke 20. 16. and told them, that the Lord should come & destroy those Husbandmen, and give his Vineyard to others: It is said, When they heard that, they said, God forbid: So many when they heare the dreadfull wrath of God denounced against sinne, they say, God forbid; they thinke indeed, that sinne ought not to bee committed; but they doe not thinke it so great an evill, as to procure so great miseries; but if their spirits were right, they would apprehend sinne, as opposite to an infinite good, and so having a kind of infinitenesse of evill in it; they would not onely yeeld to the Justice of God revealed, but acknowledge, that there are greater and more fearefull miseries due to it than can be conceived: yea, they would see cause, that if God should bring those evils upon them for their sinne, that there is infinite equitie that they should lay their hands upon their mouthes, and take shame to themselves, and acknowledge the Lord to bee righteous for ever.
Sixthly, where there are onely naturall and morall excellencies, they * do not raise the soule to a love of the strictest wayes of God; they thinke of accuratenesse and exactnesse in Gods wayes to be but nicenesse and too much precisenesse; luke-warmenesse is the onely temper sutable to them; they thinke wisedome consists in the remission of godlines, not in the improvement of it; & what is beyond their temper, they judge as weaknes and folly; and it must needs bee that morall men must have such thoughts of the strictnesse of the wayes of God, because that good they have is such as arises from the principles of naturall reason, and makes a naturall good its end; and therefore all their vertue and goodnes must be such as must not stretch nature, but must be subserviet to that naturall good they frame to themselves. Now the observing of some Rules and Duties of Religion, will suite well with this; and so farre they approve and like well of Religion: and here they sticke, and thinke any thing that is further than this, is folly, and more than needs. The worke of godlinesse in the power of it, must needs be distastefull to them, because it seekes to empty a man of himself, to cause him to deny himselfe; to fetch all from principles beyond himselfe, & to be for a higher good than himselfe is, which is an infinite good: and therefore, if it were possible, it would work infinitely towards it, but howsoever, it will set no limits to it selfe.
Seventhly, where there is onely nature or morality, there is no sense * of the breathings of Gods Spirit in his Ordinances; the Ordinances are dead and flat things to them: a meere morall man can like well enough of presenting himselfe in the Ordinances, but he feeles no vertue in them, no impression that they worke upon him, that abides on his spirit after the Ordinances are done; he knowes not what it is to enjoy God in them, he knowes not what it is to stirre up himselfe to take hold on God in the exercise of them; those excellencies that hee hath, are not drawne out, maintained or increased by spirituall objects and duties; but it is otherwise where true spiritual excellencies are; such a one goes to Ordinances and holy duties with expectation to meet with the Lord there: Hee can discerne and feele the gracious presence of the Lord; he findes the Spirit of the Lord breathing graciously upon his spirit, and rofreshing his soule with much quickening, and life and sweetnesse; hee findes his spirit drawne out by them, his heart much inlarged, his graces much increased in the use of them; or if at some times he wants this, then hee is sensible of the want of it, of that difference that now hee feeles betweene that which sometimes hee hath had, and that which now hee wants; but the other is sensible of no such want, all times are alike with him.
Thus you see how you may examine your spirits, whether the excellencies of them be naturall, whether they be onely morall, or truely spirituall. By these Notes you may see, that to bee true of your selves, that our Saviour said to his Disciples in another case; You know not of what spirit you are. Though God hath given you many excellent blessings, beautified your spirits with many excellents endowments, which are in themselves lovely & desirable; yet he hath not raised your spirits to that true spirituall excellency that he useth to raise the spirits of his people unto, even in this world. There are yet other higher excellencies to be attained to, to be sought after, without which all the other you have will vanish, and never bring up your soules to the enjoyment of God as yours in Christ.
But what should be done that we * may get another spirit?
Worke what you can upon your * hearts what ever truth may further * convince you, of the difference of spirits; that you may bee throughly convinced, that there is indeed a vast essentiall difference, and that you may see into the evill of your spirits, and bee sensible of the want of this true spirituall excellency, and lie downe before God dejected, and humbled in the sight thereof.
Secondly, bee much in the company * of the godly. When Saul was among the Prophets, the Spirit of God came upon him, & he began to prophesie too. Elijah told Elisha, that if he were with him when he was taken up, then hee should have his spirit come upon him; wherefore Elisha kept close to him, & would by no meanes leave his company. By being much in the company of the godly, you will come to see some beams of the excellency of their spirits shine out to you, whereby you will see that your spirits are not like theirs; that they are in a happier condition than you; that they are men in a nearer reference to God than you; you will soone discerne, that surely the world is mistaken in these men.
Thirdly, frequent the Ordinances * of God, where the Spirit uses to breath; set your soules before the worke of Gods Spirit: The Spirit breaths where it listeth, therefore it must bee attended upon in those wayes which it self chuseth. Though your spirits bee never so dead, and polluted, who knowes but that at length in the attending upon God in his way, the Spirit of God may breath upon you, may breath in you the breath of life? it hath breath’d upon as dead, polluted spirits as yours, and it hath cleansed them, sanctified them, it hath filled them full of spirituall and glorious excellencies.
Fourthly, nourish and make good use of those common workes of * Gods Spirit you have already; they have much excellency in them; & if they be not rested in, but improved, they may be very serviceable for the worke of Gods grace; but as Christ sayes of the riches of the world, If you bee not faithfull in them, who will trust you with the true riches; so if you be not carefull to make use of the common works of Gods Spirit, how can it be expected that the Lord should blesse you with further mercy this way? Bee sure you doe not wilfully go against the rules of right reason you are convinced of; do not darken that light of reason that God hath set up in you; do not extinguish those sparkes in naturall conscience that God hath kindled there; do not dead those principles you have received in your education; use that strength of reason, resolution, and naturall conscience you have, to keepe in your spirits, that they bee not let out to feed upon sinfull delights. With what face can you complaine of weaknesse, and yet feed your distempers? There is little hope of such as have extinguished the light of their common principles, which once they had in an eminent māner; their light of reason once was at least as a faire Candle-light, but now it is like the snuffe in a socket, almost drowned & quenched with their filthy lusts. How just with God were it, that these men should be left to die and perish for ever in their filth?
Fifthly, seek earnestly from God to renew, to sanctifie your spirits; it is * he that is the Father of spirits, and the spirit of man is under no other power, but the power of God himselfe; and he hath the command of all, and with him there is abundance of spirit, and he is willing; yea, hee hath promised to give his Spirit to them that aske it, Luke 11. 13.
But you will say, how can I pray * without the Spirit?
I answer, put thy selfe upon prayer, and who knowes but assistance and * blessing may come? present thy selfe before the Lord, tell him what thou apprehendest of the vilenesse, of the filthinesse of thy spirit; what convictions thou hast of the necessitie of the renewing of it, of the excellencie thou seest in the spirits of his servants; tell him of those desires thou hast to be blessed with such a spirit: O Lord, thou hast given me many bodily blessings, great blessings of my estate more than others, many excellent gifts; but Lord there are other mercies my soule wants; Oh that thou wouldest give me another spirit! As this Caleb, Ioshua 15. 19. gave his daughter Aohsah a blessing, namely, the upper springs, and the neither spring, so doe thou seeke of God, that as he hath given thee the blessing of the nether springs, so hee may give thee the blessing of the upper; namely, that he may blesse thy soule with true spirituall blessings.
Sixtly, be sure thou lookest up to * God in Christ, to seek this mercy in him; look on him as annoynted by the Father with the fulnesse of the Spirit; look to him in whom all the fulnesse of the God-head dwels bodily, that out of this fulnesse, spirituall blessings may bee conveyed to thee; for otherwise whatsoever thou seekest for of God, and not in this way, thou seekest but in a naturall way.
Seventhly, be carefull to observe * the beginnings of those speciall stirrings of Gods Spirit in thee, those gales that sometimes thou mayest feele, and then put on what possibly thou canst; then sollow the work of Gods grace, make much of such beginnings, give up thy selfe to the power of them; turne the motions of Gods Spirit into purposes, and those purposes into endevours, and those endevours into performances, and seeke that those performances may bee established. Wee doe not know what we lose, when at any time we lose the stirrings of Gods Spirit in our hearts. Who knowes but that thy eternall estate may depend upon those sparkes that hee is now kindling in theé? It is a great wickednes to stifle the child in the wombe, when it is new conceived; and is it not a great wickednes to stifle those blessed motions that are conceived by the worke of the Holy Ghost? And for a conclusion of this point, let thy spirit be for ever restlesse untill thou feelest God graciously comming in unto thee; let no mercie satisfie thee, till God gives thee soule-mercies, and blesses thee with his choice spirituall blessings, such as are peculiar to those who are good in his eyes.
A GRACIOVS * SPIRIT FOLLOWS GOD FVLLY. The second Part.
Numb. 14. 24.
And hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land, wherein he went; and his seed shall possesse it.
〈…〉t is for a man to follow God fully.
THe second Doctrine follows, which is this; It * is the high praise of servants that they follow God fully: This is their co•mendation, that they have their hearts come fully off in the wayes of obedience, to fulfill the good will of the Lord; this is that perfect heart which God so often calls for in Scripture, and for which so many of Gods servants are commended in the Word; as, Gen. 17. 1. Walke before me, saith God to Abraham, and be thou perfect. Deut. 18. 13. Thou shalt be perfect with the Lord thy God. This Noah is commended for, Gen. 6. 9. He was a just man, and perfect in his generations: so Iob, Chap. 1. 1. He was perfect and upright. The want of this was the staine and blot upon Salomon, 1 King. 11. 6. the Text there sayes, he went not fully after the Lord, as did David his father: This likewise was the staine of the Church of Sardis, Revel. 3. 2. I have not found thy wayes perfect; the wo•ds are, I have not found thy wayes 〈…〉 thou hast not filled up thy 〈…〉* following me; somthing ind〈…〉ou hast done, but thou hast not followed me fully. To have a heart ful of goodnesse, as S. Paul testifies of the Romanes, Chap. 15. vers. 14. and to have a life full of good workes, as, Acts 9. 33. is witnessed of Tabitha. This is the excellencie of a godly man, this is the true declaration of the excellencie of that spirit, wherein this glory doth consist.
In this Argument we shall first shew, what it is to follow God fully, * or what the frame of the spirit is in the following the Lord fully.
Secondly, wherein the true excellencie * of this lies.
Thirdly, apply it.
For the first, take this Caution premised; * When we speak of a fulnesse in following the Lord, wee doe not mean a legall fulnesse, such a fulnesse wherein there is no want or imperfection: not to sinne, is here onely our law, in heaven it shall be our reward. Bu••here is a true following of the 〈…〉, that is even in this life to b••••a•ned unto, an Evangelicall fulnesse, and that is the fulnesse that we are to speake of. The Gospel requires perfection as well as the Law, though in a different manner: and this is,
First, a fulnesse of all graces; though not the degree of all graces, yet the truth of every grace: There is no grace wanting, where this Evangelicall fulnesse is.
Secondly, there is no want, no not of any degree, wherein the soule rests; there is such a perfection as the soule takes no liberty to it selfe to faile in any thing.
Thirdly, there are sincere aymes, as in the sight of God, to attain to the highest perfection, the full measure of holinesse; and,
Fourthly, there is that uprightnesse of the soule, as it doth not onely desire and endeavoure to attaine, but doth indeed attaine to the truth of that I shall deliver.
First, the heart is fully set and resolved for God, there is fuln〈…〉 of * resolution; so the Septuag〈…〉slates that place in Ioshuah 14. vers. 8 where Caleb speakes of his following of God fully; they turne it thus, I decreed, I determined to follow him: The heart is fully taken off from shiftings, from hankerings after other * things, from the ingagements that before it had; from disputings reasonings for the wayes of the flesh: it doth not hang betweene two, as unsetled, irresolved, wavering; but is truly and fully taken off, and the resolutions are fully set upon, and for the wayes of God. Many have some cōvictions, some stirrings, some makings towards the wayes of God, some approbation of them; thinking with themselves, it were well, if wee could doe thus: Surely, they are the best men who can doe thus; but still some ingagement holds them fast; they have thoughts flitting up and downe; they would and they would not; they could like well, were it not for this thing and that thing; this inco〈…〉ience and the other trouble w〈…〉 follow; and so they delay and put off, and think, it may be they may hereafter doe better; their good desires and inclinations they hope, may serve turne for the present. And thus they stand baffling with God and their owne soules: they are, as Seneca speakes of some, alwayes about * to live: But this soule who fully followes God, is fully broken off from former wayes, the thoughts of it are come to a determinate issue; it is resolved against them whatsoever becomes of it; resolved to listen no more after the reasonings of flesh and blood, as S. Paul sayes of himselfe, Gal. 1. 15, 16. that after it pleased God to call him by his grace, and to reveale his Son in him, immediately he conferred not with flesh and blood. Many are a great while before they be thus fully taken off; they are as Agrippa, Acts 26. 28. almost perswaded to become Christians; the truths of God doe move them, * but not throughly perswade them; they strive with them, but d• not throughly vanquish them. The •pirit of God leaves some in the very birth, that there is never strength to bring forth; but it is a most blessed thing, when the heart comes off kindly and fully; now it is not so ready to raise objections against the wayes of God, nor to hearken to objections raised by others, as it was before: When the fire is fully kindled; there is little smoke, at the first the smoke rises thicke, that we can see no fire: The reason of so many arguings, and objections of the flesh, is because the heart is not fully taken off. Tertullian hath a notable expression to this purpose: How wise an*Arguer, sayes he, doth the pride of man seeme to it selfe, when it is afraid to lose some of worldly joyes! It is the engagement of mans heart to his lust, that makes him thinke there is any strength in those objections and reasonings, that he hath in his heart against Gods wayes; when the heart is taken off, they vanish of themsel〈…〉▪
2 There is a fulnesse of all the faculties of the soule working after * God; full apprehensions, full affections; the soul is filled with the will of God, as Col. 4. 12. That yee may stand perfect, and full in all the will of God, as the sailes silled with the winde; My soule and all that is within me praise the Lord, saith David. As it is in giving men full possession of a house; they give up the keyes of every roome; so here the soule gives up every faculty to God; the whole soule opens it selfe, to receive the Lord and his truth. There is a loving the Lord with all the mind, with all the heart, and with all the soule; there is a spirituall life, quickning every faculty; there is a sanctification throughout every faculty, though no faculty be throughly sanctified.
3 The soule followes God fully, in regard of the true indeavours of * it, to put forth what strength it hath in following the Lord; all the faculties worke, and it is not satisfied, that they should worke remissely, 〈…〉it would have them worke ferv〈…〉y, and powerfully, as David, Psal. 63. 8 My soule followes hard after thee: there is a panting of the heart, a gasping of the spirit after the Lord; As the Hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soule after thee, O God, saith David, Ps. 42. 1. My heart breaketh for the longing it hath unto thy judgements, Psal. 119. 20. The spirit boils in fervor while it is serving the Lord, Rom. 12. 11. Fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. Esay 26. 9. With my soule, saith the Prophet, I have desired thee, and with my spirit within me will I seek thee. This soule doth not only love God, with all the mind, and with all the heart, but with all the strength too; there is no strength reserved for any thing else, but the Lord.
4 The soule that fully followes * the Lord, followes him without delay, in the use of all meanes, and in all the wayes of his Commandements; the delaying and putting off, is an argument of remissenesse. Davids▪ soule followed hard after the Lord, as you heard before in the 63. Psalme: and this made him seeke the Lord early, Verse 1. O God, thou art my God, early will I seeke thee, saith lie; the present time is the sulnesse of time with such a soule. We reade of Haman, Ester 3. 5. that he was full of wrath, and hence he procures, that the Posts should bee hastened about his worke in destroying the Jewes, Verse 15. And it sets upon all means, what way soever it may be brought neare to God, either by ordinary meanes, or else by extraordinary; useth all ordinances conscionably in their season, will abstaine from all occasions of evill, avoids all hinderances, in that which is good; if he knowes any thing may further him in the bringing of his heart nearer to God, he readily and thankfully embraces it, and makes use of it; hee useth all meanes, and yet resteth not in any meanes.
5 Againe, a soule that followes * God fully, followes him in all the wayes of his Commandments is the Lord saith of David, Act. 13. 22. That hee had found a man 〈◊〉 would sul•ll 〈◊〉 has will; in the Originall, the word is in the plurall number; That would fulfill all his wils. There are many reasons that many give, * why David was called, A man after Gods owne heart: Some thinke, because hee was so broken a hearted man: Others, because he had such a thankfull heart; but this Scripture resolves us, for God sayes, That hee had found a man after his owne heart, and gives that reason of it, because hee would fulfill all his wills. This soule desires to fulfill all righteousnesse, as Christ saith of himselfe, It became him to fulfill all righteousnesse. It desires to yeeld obedience to God, and to be holy in all manner of conversation, as the Apostle speakes, in 1 Pet. 1. 15. Then shal not I be ashamed, saith David, when I have respect unto all thy Commandements, Psal. 119. 6. Wee have a notable place for this universalitie of obedience in the 1. Coloss. 9, 10, 11. We pray, saith the Apostle, that yee might be fulfilled in all knowledge of his will, in all wisedome, that yee might walke worthy of the Lord, and please him in all things, being fruitfull in all good works, strengthened with all might, through his glorious power, to all patience: there are six alls together in this Scripture. A heart that is fully for God, is for all Gods wayes, in all things; it is not willing to baulke any way of God. Zachariah and Elizabeth were two choyce spirits indeed, and this was their honour, that they walked with God in all the Commandements, and Ordinances of the Lord blamelesse, Luke 1. vers. 6.
1 It is willing to follow the Lord * in difficult duties, when it must put the flesh to it, in duties that require paines, much labour, that cannot be done without some hard things attending on them. God hath some hard peeces of services to put his people upon, to try the uprightnesse of their hearts, the sinceritie and power of their loves to him in; and God takes it exceeding well when they will follow him in such duties; As that hard peece of service he put Abraham upon, in offering his sonne, when Abraham was willing to follow him in that, Now, saith hee, I know thou lovest mee: It is nothing to follow God in such duties, as will so suit with us, wherein we need put our selves to no trouble; many are well content with such duties, and seeme to yeeld to God in them; but goe beyond those, and put them upon further, and they stirre not; but as the rustie hand of a Diall, if you come at that time of the day, wherein the houre falls out the same, at which the hand stands, it seemes to goe right, but if you passe that time, the hand stands yet still, it goes no further than it did, and so shewes the Diall not to be good: So here, when it fals out so, that a duty is enjoyned, which is sutable to a mans mind, and ends, he will readily yeeld to it, and seeme as if hee made conscience of obedience to God in it; but if you put him on further, in duties that are not so sutable to him, there he stirres not, because of the difficulty which he sees in them, and in this he shewes the falsenesse of his heart, that hee doth not follow God fully.
2 Againe, one that followes God * fully, will follow him in discountenanced duties. Some duties are liked well enough of in the world, for reason tels every man, God must have some service; and some generall way of serving of God, all rationall men approve of; and if God would require a man to follow him, in no other duties but these, it were fine; but there are some others that will make him to be observed; some, in which if he followes the Lord, hee shall be reckoned amongst such kind of men, of whose number hee doth not like to bee accounted one; hee knowes they are discountenanced, and despised, and this hee cannot beare, and therefore those are duties hee hath no minde unto, and then thinketh with himselfe, Why may not my obedience in other things serve the turne?
3 And yet further, one that is willing * to follow God fully in all duties, hee will follow him in those where he sees no reason, but the •are command of God; it is enough to him, that they are commanded of God; it is not for the Lord to give account of his wayes, to his creatures; * it is enough for us, that hee bids us follow him; absolute obedience is that which is our dutie; there is alwayes reason enough in Gods will; but whether we see it, or see it not, if we can but see the Commandement, it is enough for us; we take too much upon us, to dispute about the reason of things with God, wee must not be Judges of the Law, but doers of it. Saul could see no reason, why he might not spare the best of the cattle, especially when he did it to keep them for sacrifice, but it cost him his Kingdome; God rejected him for it, and told him, Obedience was better than sacrifice. Luther* saith, He had rather obey than work miracles. And Cassianus reports of one Iohannes Abbas, who when hee was young, was willing for a whole * yeare together, to fetch water every day neare two miles, to water a drie sticke, because hee was commanded so to doe; hee thought it reason enough to doe things unreasonable, to shew his obedience unto man, whose will is many times unreasonable; how much more reason is there then that we should shew our obedience to God, in duties, where through our weaknesse we cannot see the reason, when we may be sure that there is alwayes reason enough, if we were able to see it?
Fourthly, and yet further, the soule that is willing to follow God * in all duties, wil follow him in Commandements that are accounted little Commandements: God expects faithfulnesse in little things; God prizes every tittle of his Law more worth than heaven and earth, howsoever wee may sleight many things in it, and think them too small to put any great bond upon us. Christ saith, that, Heaven and earth shall passe away, but not one jot or tittle of his Word. As if he should say, If Heaven and earth were in one ballance, and any jot or tittle of my Word in another, and if one of them must needs perish, I had rather that Heaven and earth should perish, than that one jot or tittle of my Word should faile: The Authority of Heaven puts weight on things, that are never so little in themselves. If mans authority doe this, how much more Divine? Man cannot beare disobedience in little things; though the things be very small in themselves, yet if commanded by Authority, it is justly expected that they should be much regarded. Shall mans authority make small things to be accounted great, and shall Gods Authority doe nothing? Obedience in small things is due to Magistrates, much more to God: Give to Caesar the things that are Caesars, and to God the things that are Gods, Matth, 22. 21. It is observable in that place, the Article is twice repeated in the Greeke Text, when hee speaks of God, more than when he speakes of Caesar: shewing, that our especiall * care should be to give God his due.
Fiftly and lastly, not to instance in more particulars, the soule that followes God fully in all duties, is willing * to follow him in duties wherein it must go alone; it is willing to follow God in folitary paths. Many men, were it that they might have company in the way, in following the Lord, they would be content; but to go all alone in such solitary wayes, wherein they can see none goe before them, wherein they can have none along with them, few or none are like to follow after them; this is tedious. But a childe of God thinkes he hath enough, in that he hath God with him, that he walkes along with God; this is company enough, let the way be what it will be: As David, Psal. 23. 4. Though I walke through the valley of the shadow of death, yet thou art with me. God promises that he will goe before his people; that is enough, though there be none else. It is true, company in Gods wayes is delightfull, and it is a sad thing, that there is so little a tract in Gods paths. It was the complaint of Gods people, Lam. 1. 4. that the wayes of Sion did mourne, because none came in them. But if company cannot be had, it is enough we have the Lord. 2 Tim. 4. 16. At my first answer, saith S. Paul, no man stood with me, but all men forsook me, notwithstanding the Lord stood with me. Elijah thought he was left alone, he could see no man goe that way hee did; yet he continues in his fervour and zeale, following the Lord. Indeed we should the rather follow the Lord, because we see so few follow him: What? shall he have none to follow him? as Christ said to his Disciples, when many forsook him, Will you also forsake me?
Thus you see by these severall instances in difficult duties, in discountenanced duties, in duties wherein we can see no reason, but a bare command, in duties that seeme to be small and little, and in duties, wherein if we follow God we must follow him alone; that the soule that followes God fully, will follow him in these, and so by the same reason in all other duties that God shall require, to follow him in: And this is that pretious choice spirit we spake of before, which shewes it in this, that it is thus willing to follow God fully. You know it is requir’d of us to be perfect, as God himself is perfect, to bee holy as God is holy; yea, this the Gospell requires of us; but how can that be? Yes, thus; Gods perfection and holinesse is made known to us in his will, in his Commandements; now look how large they are set forth to us in these, so large must our obedience be: though we cannot attaine to the degree, yet our hearts must inlarge thēselves to the things, to what ever part of Gods will, God makes knowne his perfection and holinesse by. Thy Commandement is very broad, saith David, yet godlinesse inlargeth the heart to every duty it cals for: there is a grace within the soule sutable to every duty the law requires.
It may be this is indeed, may some thinke, in those who are eminent in grace, upon whom God hath bestowed a great measure of his Spirit; but is this in every one that hath any truth? Wherefore for answer let us know, there is this perfection, or else there is no truth at all; onely remember, I doe not speake now of the perfection of degrees; in this cōsists the right straightnes of a mans heart. A straight line wil touch with another straight line in every point, but a crooked line wil not, it toucheth but only here & there in some: so straight hearts will joyne with Gods law in every part, but crooked and perverse hearts, onely in some, onely so farre as may serve their owne turnes. In this consists the true plainnesse of a mans spirit: you know, plaine things will joyne likewise in every point one with another, but round and rugged things will not: so proud, sowlne hearts, and rugged spirits will not close fully with Gods truths; but where there is plainnesse of spirit, there is a full closing, a thorow union. There is a great dangerous mistake about this point, which yet is a generall mistake; multitudes of people miscarry everlastingly upon this mistake; they think because we cannot in this life attain to the perfection of holinesse in the degrees, therefore there is no perfection at all necessary, but that they may be saved without it: they think therfore that if they do some good things, if they obey some Commandements, it is sufficient, though they take liberty to themselves in other things; they finde they can yeeld in something; yet other things of Gods will are exceedingly unsutable unto thē. Be convinced of your mistake herein: a godly man indeed is weak, and cannot attain to the performance of every part of Gods will, but the frame of his heart is to every part; every part is sutable to his spirit: He esteemes all the Precepts of God concerning all things to be right, and he hates every false way. He findes the Law of God in the latitude of it, * written in his heart; there is no command of God that is not dearer to him than all the world. Marke that place in Iob, Chap. 8. verse 20. God will not cast away the perfect man, neither will he helpe the evill doers: The perfect man is opposed to the evill doers, who shall be cast away. If you be not perfect in this sense that hath been spoken of, then you are an evill doer, who must be cast away, how glorious soever many of your actions may seeme to be. That place in Ezechiel, Chap. 18. verse 21. that is usually taken for the place of the greatest mercy in all the Scripture, & by many is exceedingly abused; yet see what that requires of men in their repentance: the words are usually taken up thus, At what time soever a sinner repents him of his sin, I will blot out all his iniquities, saith the Lord. There are not those very words in any place of Scripture, but there are to the like effect, which are in this place of Ezechiel: And in no other place is Gods mercy to a sinner, more fully revealed: There is no Text in Scripture comes nearer to that which men ordinarily take up, than that verse and the 27. 28. verses in the same Chapter: and see what of Gods mind wee have made knowne there; the words of the Scripture are thus, If the wicked will turne from all his sinnes that he hath committed, and keepe all mystatutes, and doe that which is lawfull and right, he shall surely live: and againe, Verse 28. Because he considereth, and turnes from all his transgressions. Thus you see, that God in the largest promises of his mercy to those who have the least measure of grace, he requires the turning from all sinnes, and the keeping of all his Statutes: and this God brings to shew the infinite equity of his wayes towards sinners. As if he should say, Except this be, no mans conscience in the world but must acknowledge it to bee infinitely just and equall, that he should perish everlastingly; if there bee any way of wickednesse reserved, if any statute of mine bee neglected, if he thinks to have mercy without an universall turning from his sin, without an universall obedience; his conscience will tell him, that it is an unequall and unreasonable thing, that hee should ever expect it. And yet further, because you think that this universalitie of obedience should be expected only from some who are eminent in grace, who have attained to a great measure of godlinesse; consider what is required of poore widdowes, 1 Tim. 5. 10. They must diligently follow every good work.
- First, they must not onely have good desires, but good works.
- Secondly, they must follow good works.
- Thirdly, they must diligently follow them.
- Fourthly, they must diligently follow every good work.
And fifthly, they must so follow, as they must be well reported of for it.
Yea, sixthly, they must doe all this, or els they must not be received into the Church. Surely, then it is a shame for any man, especially of parts and abilities, to plead weaknesse, when so much is required of poore women; certainly it is not weaknes, but falsenesse of heart, that is contrary to universalitie of obedience, to the following of the Lord fully in this respect. The Vessell of honour is distinguished from the vessel of dishonour, 2 Tim. 2. 21. by this Character, that it is one that is sanctified and prepared for every good worke. You know what S. Iames saith, Chap. 1. verse 26. If any man seeme to be religious, and bridle not his tongue, but deceives his owne heart, this mans religion is in vaine. It is an heavie censure, that all a mans religion is in vain for one fault, and that but for a fault in the tongue; and yet this is the censure of the Holy Ghost. No question, such men who were guilty herein, would reason thus with themselves, We cannot be perfect in this life, we doe performe many duties of religion; & therefore we hope though we faile in this one thing, that yet we shall doe well enough, God will accept of us. No, saith S. Iames, hee deceives his owne heart; such a one shall never be accepted. To the like effect is that of our Saviour, Iohn 5. 44. How can you beleeve on me, which receive honour one of another? This was enough to keep thē off for ever from Christ; and yet this was but an inward sin, no outward grosse crying sin in the esteem of the world. Let a man be never so glorious in never so many duties of Religion, yet certainly the giving liberty to himselfe in any one lust, is enough to keepe him off for ever from God, from partaking of good in him. As if a wife be never so officious to her husband, yeelding to him in never so many things, seeking to give him content in his desires never so many wayes, yet if she entertaines any other lover besides himselfe, it is enough to alienate his spirit from her for ever.
That which God sayes to Salomon, 1 King. 9. 4. is very observable to our purpose: After Salomon had finished that glorious Temple, for the honour of the Lord, after he had assembled all the Elders of Israel, all the heads of the Tribes, the chiefe of the Fathers of the children of Israel, to bring up the Arke of the Lord with all solemnitie, to that Temple he had made for it, after hee had made such an excellent prayer before all the people; and when that was done, that hee might shew his further respect unto the Lord, he offered to the Lord two and twentie thousand Oxen, and one hundred and twenty thousand sheepe, and in his rejoycing in this great worke, hee made a great feast to the people seven dayes, and to them he added seven dayes more, and sent away the people with joyfull and glad hearts: Here were great things done in honour to God, yet all this would not serve Salomons turne, but Chap. 9. 4. After all this, God sayes to him, If thou wil• walke before mee, as David thy father walked, in integrity of heart and uprightnesse, to doe according to all that I have commanded thee, then I will establish the Throne of thy Kingdome: As if hee should have said, Doe not thinke to put me off with any thing thou hast done; though the things be great things, yet I expect walking according to all that I have commanded thee, or else all is nothing; And therefore, as before you heard, he was charged by God, Chap. 11. 6. that hee did not goe fully after the Lord: One would have thought those glorious actions that he did, had been enough to have got him the commendation of going fully after God; but we see it would not be: there must bee besides these, a walking according to all that God commands, a keeping his Statutes, and his judgements, yea, and that is observable that wee have in the 6. verse of this 9. Chapter, where God sayes after all this, That if you shall at all turne from following me, you, or your children, &c. then will I cut off Israel. Wee must take heed of the least failing in our following the Lord. God threatens Salomon, after he had done so much, that if hee did at all turne from following him, hee would cut him off. It is not our forwardnesse in some good things, it is not our serviceablenes in some publike and worthy employments, that will serve our turnes, if we make not conscience of every duty, of secret duties, and that constantly. God hath so connexed the duties of his Law one to another, that if so be there be not a conscionable care to walke according to all, it is accounted as the breach of all, according to that of S. Iames, Chap. 2. 10. Whosoever shall keepe the whole Law, and yet offend in one point, is guilty of all; The bond of all is broken, the authority of all is slighted; and that evill disposition that causeth a man to venture upon the breach of one, might the breach of others serve for his own ends as well as that, it would make him venture upon the breach of any.
To draw to a conclusion of this Argument, let us know, that if the heart be right, it is willing to be cast into the mould of the Word, to receive whatsoever print the Word will put upon it, to be in whatsoever forme the Word will have it: as Metals that are cast into a mould, they receive the print of the mould, print for print in every part; and this is the heart that doth indeed follow God fully. This is S. Pauls expression, Rom. 6. 17. You have obeyed from the heart, that forme of doctrine unto which you were delivered; so the words are in the Originall: The * forme of doctrin is compared to the Mould, & the sincere obeyers from the heart, are compared to the Metal delivered into this Mould, which takes impression from it, in one part as well as in another. No sincere obedience from the heart, no true following of God fully without this. I have beene the larger in this particular, because the mistake is so generall and dangerous.
5 Then doth the heart fully follow * after the Lord, when it is indeed willing to search fully into every truth, that yet it doth not fully know, with a readinesse to lie under the power of it: Such a man is not afraid of any truth of God, lest it should put him upon that he hath no mind to, as Ahab was afraid to enquire of Michaiah what the mind of God was, because hee was never wont to prophecie good unto him; but that man who followes the Lord fully, doth alwayes account the word of the Lord to be good to him, as Mic. 2. 7. Doe not my words doe good to him that walkes uprightly? Hee saith to the Lord as Elihu, Iob 34. 32. That which I see not, teach thou mee: if I have done iniquitiy, I will doe no more. Lord, that which I know not, doe thou teach me; and wherein I have failed, I shall conscionably endeavour to reforme. Oh! let the Word of God bee glorified for ever, whatsoever becomes of mee; let it come in the full latitude of it, my soule shall yeeld to it; my heart is prepared to submit to whatsoever truth God shall make knowne to me.
I remember, I have read in one of the Epistles written to Oecolampadius, of a notable expression, of one Baldassar a Minister in Germany writing to him; Let the word of the Lord*come, let it come, saith he, and wee will submit to it, if wee had many hundred neckes to put under: This is a degree further then the other; for there are many who dare not goe against knowne truths, for then conscience would fly in their faces; but there are some truths which they are afraid to know, which they are secretly willing to put off, lest they should come to know them, which is an argumēt that their hearts are not fully after the Lord: when men are not convinced of many truths, not because there is not light enough to convince them, but because they are not willing to bee convinced, they strive to keepe out the power of the truth from their hearts; they are not willing, that such truths that are not for their turnes, should come into their judgements; they seeke to shift them off: when the truth stands and pleads for entrance, they seeke one shift or other to put it off withall, Heb. 12. 25. See that ye refuse not him that speaketh: The words are, See that yee shift not him off that speaketh. In the propriety of that word as it is in the Originall, we have thus much signified to us: Christ in his truths * comes to aske entrance, and we must •ake heed that wee doe not put him off. And if the truth have got into our judgement, wee must take heed, we doe not strive to get conscience off from it; and if conscience hath closed with it, take heed wee strive nor to get it out of conscience again, and then think it a sufficient plea, to satisfie our selves and others in the actions we doe, that now our judgements are better informed; whereas the truth indeed is, our lusts are more satisfied, the corruptions of our hearts are more increased. Oh take heed for ever of labouring to blinde our understandings, of withholding the truth in unrighteousnesse, of imprisoning it, to keep it from working with power upon our hearts. This distemper of heart, is exceedingly opposite to the following of the Lord fully.
6 To follow God fully, is to follow him so, as to bee willing to venture * the losse of all for him, willing to decline from & cast off whatsoever comes in the way, though never so deare unto us; to follow him close whatsoever comes in competition with him; when wee cannot follow him without parting with much for him, when our following him will cost us the losse of our formerly most deare comforts and contentments; to follow the Lambe wheresoever he goes, thorow all afflictions, thorow all straits, knowing that his way though it bee a way of blood, yet it leades to the throne; To follow Christ to mount Calvery where hee is to suffer, as well as to that Mount that wee reade of Esay 25. 6. where the Lord makes to his people, A feast of fat things, a feast of wines, a feast of fat things full of marrow. It is nothing to follow him, when our comforts, peace, ease, honour goes along together with him; it cannot then be knowne whether wee follow him or no, or whether it be our owne ends that we follow: As when a Serving-man followes two Gentlemen, we know not which of these two he followes till they part, but then you shall see which was his Master: So here, when Christ and our own ends part one from another, then is the triall which was followed before. Wee must love the truth, not onely when wee can live upon it, when wee can get advantage by it; but then also, when it must live upon us, when it must have our estates, our peace, our names, our liberties, our lives to live upon, and to bee maintained by: wee must follow him when wee must deny our selves, and take up our crosse, when we must throughly deny our selves; for the word in the Originall is a compound, noting more than a single, more than an ordinary * selfe deniall; when wee must take up our Crosse, not chuse what Crosse wee are willing to meet with; to think, if it were such an affliction that such a man hath, I could beare it, but I know not how to beare this: but it must bee our Crosse, and willingly tooke up, and that daily too; We must be willing to follow him thorow the wildernesse. Cant. 8. 5. Who is this that commeth from the wildernesse, leaning on her beloved? The wildernesse is the troubles and afflictions of the Church, she comes thorow them with her Beloved, resting * her selfe upon her Beloved. If the Lord will lead us thorow the fire, and thorow the water, yet wee must follow him there; if he will lead us where fiery Serpents and Scorpions are; yet wee must follow him there. Deut. 18. 15. Iosephus writing of the times of Christ, sayes, There was one Jesus a wise man in those * times, if it bee lawfull to call him a man, for hee did divers admirable works, yet he was condemned to the crosse; but notwithstāding this, those who followed him from the beginning, did not forbear to love him, because of the ignominie of his death, but followed him still. To follow a crucified Christ, a cōtemned Christ, to sollow him in the bloody paths of his sufferings, this is to follow him fully indeed. When one came and told Christ that hee would follow him wheresoever he wēt, Mat. 8. 19 Jesus saith unto him, The Foxes have holes, and the birds of the ayre have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. As if he should have said, You must not expect great matter in following mee, but you must bee content to suffer hard things. Christ •els the yong man that came running to him to know what hee should doe for eternall life, that if he would be perfect, he must sell all; and then come and follow him; if hee would follow him fully, he must bee content to part with all for Christ; to sell all, as the wise Merchant sold all for the Pearle. If there bee any thing in the world that you are not willing to part withall, if any thing that you are not willing to suffer, you cannot follow mee fully. In this consists the uprightnesse of heart, to goe in a right line to God; what soever comes betweene God and us, yet not to fetch a compasse, but to goe thorow it; for if we fetch a compasse, the line is not right: we must therefore strike thorow all troubles and hazards we meet withall, still keepe our way, not break the hedge of any Commandement to avoid any peece of foule way. Many thinke they desire to follow God, but when they meet with some trouble in their way, then they would fetch compasse to baulke that, and yet hope to come to God well enough at last; they would bee loath not to bee accounted followers of God: But let such know that this fetching compasse, which they thinke to bee their wisedome, it is the declining from uprightnesse. Many follow God, as the Dog followes his Master, till he comes by a Carrion, and then he lets his Master goe, and turnes aside to it. Thus many seem to be forward in profession of Religion, till they meet with some opportunity of satisfying their lusts, then they leave off, and turne aside to the enjoyment of them: But the heart that fully followes God, is not onely willing to part with any lust for Christ, but it gives up it selfe to the dispose of God, to become of his estate, credit, liberty, comforts, life, what God pleases; it is not sollicitous about these things; the businesse that it hath to do, is to follow the Lord; it knowes that it is the work of the Lord to take care for it about these things, while it is in following of him.
It is said of Amaziah, 2 Chron. 25. 2. That he did that indeed which was right in the sight of the Lord, but not with a perfect heart; he did many good things, but he had not a heart to follow God fully: and this was one Argument of it, which wee have, Verse 9. that he was so sollicitous about his money; for when the Man of God came to him, and told him the minde of God, that hee must not have the Army of Israel go with him, because hee had hyred the Army with an hundred Talents; hee was very sollicitous what he should doe for his money; for so he saith, But what shall wee doe for the hundred Talents which I have given to the Army of Israel? Whereas if his heart had been right and full in following God, as it should have beene, it had beene enough for him to have knowne the command of God, let become of the hundred Talents what they will.
Seventhly, to follow God fully, is * to follow him onely, so as to be willing to dedicate, to devote whatsoever God lets us still to enjoy, to God alone: If wee have any gifts, any estate, any esteeme in the world, all shall bee imployed for God alone, all shall be laid out for him. As we must be willing to lose all things for him, when he cals for them, (of which before) so wee must endeavour to use all things for him, while we doe enjoy them. To sollow God fully, is to follow him as the highest good, as the onely good, as the All-sufficient good, as the Fountaine of all good, as the Rule of all good; to follow him so, as to follow nothing else but God; not onely to follow God chiefly, that is more than to follow any thing else, but to follow him only. But how is that? I meane thus; we must follow God in our following any thing else, wee must follow all for God, in reference to God, in subordination under God, and then we cannot be said to follow the creature, but it is God that is followed in it. As when God is followed in reference and subordination to any good in the creature, it is not then God, but the creature that wee sollow; so when the creature is followed in subordination to God, it is God, and not the creature that is followed. As thus; when David was in the dry Wildernesse, no question, he desired water; yet, Psalm. 63. 1. I thirst after thee, O Lord, in a drie and barren Wildernesse, where no water is: Hee doth not say, I thirst after water, but after thee; be cause hee sought all in reference to God; and so it was God alone that he thirsted for. When we desire nothing, when we seeke after nothing, when wee lett out our hearts to nothing,, use, enjoy nothing, but in order to God; when all the good, comfort, sweetnesse, desireablenesse in any creature is in the reference it hath to God, so farre as God is in it, as God is honoured, or enjoyed by it; when God alone is lifted up in the heart, in the use of every creature, this is to follow God fully. Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him onely shalt thou serve; thou shalt follow the Lord thy God, and him onely shalt thou follow. Christ chargeth the Jewes, in Iohn 5. 44. that they did not seeke the honour that came from God onely; and this was that which kept them off from beleeving: this is enough to keep us off from God for ever. If wee would have our hearts come up fully to God, it is not enough to seeke the honor that comes from God, but we must seeke the honour that comes from God onely: and this is the true singlenes of heart which the Scripture speakes of, when it singles out this object, and eyes it alone.
The doublenesse of a mans heart consists not so much in that it is otherwise within, than that it appears outward, but in that it is divided to divers objects; it doth not fixe upon God as the onely object: and as double-minded men have double objects, so they have double motions: as the Planets that are carryed in their motion one way by the Heavens, but have besides a private motion of their owne; so, many are carried to God by some externall, yea, it may bee, internall Motives; but yet they have a private motion of their owne another way to other things; God alone is not the Center of their hearts.
Eighthly, the soule then followes * God fully, when it carries thorow the worke it undertakes, against all discouragements and hinderances: As a Ship comming with full sayle, bears all downe before it. It doth not only worke, but workes thoroughly, workes out that it doth. As Phil. 2. 12. Worke out your salvation; worke till you get the worke thorow: This * soule workes after God in his wayes, and that with power; though it findes no good comes in by them for the present, though it hath wrought a long time, and yet sees nothing comming in; yet it murmurs not, it repines not, it repents not of any thing it hath done for God; it complaines not with those Hypocrites, Esay 58. 3. Wherefore have wee fasted, and thou seest not, and wherefore have we afflicted our soules, and thou regardest not? Nor with those in Malach. 1. 13. who say, What a wearinesse is this? and, Chap. 3. 14. who say, It is in vaine to serve the Lord, and what profit is there that we have kept his Ordinances, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of Hosts? But this soule that followes God fully, makes no such complaints, but goes on still in the way of God; though the flesh be weary and tyred, it goes on still. As Gideon and those three hundred men that were with him, Iudges 8. 4. though they were faint, yet they went on pursuing; so here, though there may bee much faintnesse and weaknesse, yet the soule doth not thinke of turning backe againe, but goes on still, pursuing in that way it hath begun; it is glad it hath done any thing for God, and it resolves still to doe more, how ever God pleases to deale with it. Though he may be weary in his following the Lord, yet hee is is not weary of following the Lord. Many follow the Lord, as a beggar followes a man, onely in expectation of Almes, he followes him a furlong or two, begging; but if he sees the man goes still from him, hee leaves off, and lets him goe: so many will pray, and heare, and seeke after God for a while; but if they feele not that come in, which they did expect, they grow weary, and leave off. Duties that bring present comfort with them, many can be content to be exercised in, but if they finde nothing comming in by them, then their hearts sinke in discouragement, they have no heart to doe anything. As it is said of Ephraim, Hos. 10. 11. Ephraim is as an Heifer, that loves to tread out the Corne: Ephraim loved to tread out the Corne, but not to Plow: The Heifer while it was treading out the Corne, did feed upon the Corne, and so had present delight in that work it did; but the Heifer that plowed, did labour, and spend its strength, but had no refreshment till after the worke was done: Thus it is with many; that worke, that hath present joy, that hath present refreshment in it, while they are about it, they can take content in it; but if they must worke and tire the flesh, and yet have no present refreshing, but must continue working a great while, and stay till the accomplishment of the worke, before any benefit comes by it, this they like not: But one that followes the Lord fully, resolves to follow him, though hee hides himselfe; as David, Psal. 101. 2. I will behave my selfe wisely, in a perfect way; oh when wilt thou come unto mee? I will walke within my house with a perfect heart. As if David should have said, I am resolved to walke before thee in a perfect way, and yet I have not thy gracious presence with mee; oh when wilt thou come unto mee? but still whatsoever becomes of mee, I am determined to continue walking within my house with a perfect heart. The like place we have, Psal. 119. 8. I will keepe thy statutes, oh forsake me not utterly. As if he should have said, O Lord, thou hast in some degree forsaken mee, thou seemest as if thou wouldest forsake mee; yet Lord, I am determined that I will keep thy Statutes. Thus the upright heart resolves, Though I should perish * everlastingly, yet I will perish following the Lord; and if I cannot follow him, I will cry after him; and if I cannot cry after him, I will look towards him; yea, though he appears to bee angry, yet will I follow him: as •ob, Though hee kils me, yet will I trust in him. Though there be much guiltinesse upon the spirit, so that the devill, and an unbeleeving sullen heart would much discourage from following after the Lord; yet still it will not leave off, but it labours to encourage it selfe, as Samuel did the people, 1 Sam. 12. 20, 21. Samuel said unto the people, Feare not; ye have done all this wickednesse, yet turne not aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart, and turne you not aside: for then should you goe after vaine things, which cannot prosit nor deliver, for they are vain. Thus the soule that followes the Lord, reasons with it selfe; Though it is true I have sinned, mine iniquities are great, God may justly be provoked, and for ever reject me, yet I will not turne aside from following him: I know there is no good to be got els-where: though I be unworthy of mercy, yet God is worthy of honour, and therefore what ever I can doe, I will, that God may have honour, though I perish; yea this soule though it receives many a repulse, yet still it will follow. As the woman of Canaan, though Christ called her Dogge, yet she leaves not off; she acknowledgeth her selfe to be a Dog, yet still she seekes. Yea, though God seems to go crosse wayes, quite contrary to that the soule expected, yet still this soul will follow him even in those wayes. As when the Lord called Abraham to follow him into a Land that should flow with milke and honey, Gen. 12. 1. Abraham was content to leave his owne countrey, his fathers house, his kindred, and all his friends; and notwithstanding as soone as he came into that Land, he found there was a famine in the land, Verse 10. so that he was forced to get into Egypt, and that with the perill of his life, or else he must have starved. Flesh and blood would have murmured much at this, and have said, What? is this that Land that God said hee would shew me? is this that fruitfull Land for which I must leave my Country and all my friends? and now as soone as I come into it, I am ready to starve in it: and yet Abraham followed God still in all the wayes he was pleased to lead him in. Againe, when God promised to multiply his Seed as the Starres of heaven; yet for twenty yeares after this, Sarah was barren; God seemed to neglect his promise: and after when he had a childe, in whom all the Nations of the earth were to be blessed; yet this Child Abraham must kill: And here God seemes to goe crosse to his Promise, yet Abraham followes God still. One who followes God fully indeed, lookes up to the goodnesse of God in himselfe, and in his Promise; not to it as it appeares to sense: hee sees more good in the Promise, then in all the things in the world; though hee sees nothing, though hee seeles nothing in himselfe, nor in any creature for the present; and what worke hee followes the Lord in, hee will not leave imperfect; he will not give over, till hee sees something come of it: if he followes God for a broken heart, he will pray and meditate, and pray and meditate again, and again, if it were a thousand times, and a thousand times over again, till the worke comes to some effect: And so for power over a corruption, and strength in any grace; where there is truth of grace, there will bee working, like fire that never leaves working till it breakes forth, and gets the victory. Hence that place of our Saviour Matth. 12. 20. where hee sayes, hee will not quench the smoaking flaxe, nor breake the bruised Reed, till hee send forth Judgement into victory. If wee observe the place of the Prophet from whence this is taken, which is Esay 42. 3, the words are, He shall bring forth judgement unto truth: noting that wheresoever there is truth, there will bee victory: Christ will nourish the smoaking flaxe, that is, the least worke of grace, till Judgement, that is, this worke of sanctification bee brought into victory, and overcome what opposeth it. If hee brings any beginnings of grace to truth, the victory is already gotten. It is reported of Master Bradford, that he would never leave off when hee was in holy duties, till hee found something comming in; as in confession of sinne, till hee found his heart melt and breake for sinne; in seeking pardon, till hee found some quieting of his spirit, in some intimation from God of his love; and so for grace, till hee found his heart warmed and quickned. It is an excellent thing indeed, to resolve to follow the Lord in duty howsoever, though nothing should come in by it to our selves: but yet the heart that is right, will never be satisfied in the performance of a duty, till it finde some manifestation of Gods presence in it; some worke of God put forth upon it, by it; it will not rest in duty performed; it is not satisfied in good inclinations, in good desires it hath, nor in gifts it receives, nor in comforts it findes in the creature, nor in enlargements and more inward joyes, but it must have grace, and God; it must have some impression of God upon it, to carry with it as a Seale of that presence of God it did enjoy in the dutie: it so strives with the Lord, as it resolves not to let him goe, till it hath got a blessing.
It is a very full expression that S. Bernard hath to this purpose, in two or three words; Oh what a mercy were it, continually to enjoy that * which he saith! Oh Lord, saith he, I never goe away from thee without thee: he meanes, he never leaves off duty, till hee gets the presence of God, and so carries the Lord along with him. Oh how often doe we goe from God without God! we thinke it enough that we have beene before him in holy duties, though indeed we still abide strangers to him & he to us. How often doth God send us empty away from his presence, which we should account a sore and grievous affliction? But here’s the misery, we are not sensible of this; if wee have our desires in the creature, we are quieted and satisfied: whereas if our hearts were fully after the Lord as they ought, when wee are before him, wee should crie to him, as Moses in another case, Exod. 33. Except thy presence goe with mee, Lord send mee not hence.
9 One that followes. God fully, is willing to engage and binde himselfe * to God, by the most full, and strong bonds, and engagements that can be; his spirit is at the greatest liberty, when hee is most strongly bound to the Lord. That place in the 2 Chron. 15. 12, is very observable for this; Asa and his people enter into a Covenant to seek the Lord God of their fathers, with all their heart, and with all their soule; yea so, as whosoever would not seeke the Lord God, should bee put to death, whether small or great, man or woman, and they sware unto the Lord with shoutings, and with trumpets, and with cornets: But were they not afterwards troubled, that they had so tied and bound themselves? would they not have thought it better to have been at more liberty? No surely, for Verse 15. the Text sayes, that all Iudah rejoyced at the oath; and this reason is given, Because they had sworne with all their heart, and sought him with their whole soule. When any seek God with their whole heart, with their whole soule, they are not only willing to engage themselves to God, but they rejoyce in their engagements: Thus Nehemiah whose heart was fully set for God, did himselfe, and got the Princes, the Priests, Levites, and People to make a sure covenant, to write it, to seale it, Chap. 9. 38. And as if this were not engagement enough, they further enter into a curse, and into an oath, to walke in Gods Law, to observe and doe all the Commandements of the Lord, and his Judgements, and his Statutes. Thus David discovers the fulnesse of his spirit in following after the Lord, in that he not onely promises, but sweares hee will keep the righteous Judgements of the Lord, Psal. 119. 106. It is a signe that mens hearts are not fully taken off from their sinne, when they doe not fully come off in the Covenant of the Lord.
No, may some say, it is because wee often covenant with God, and finde wee are overcome againe, and doe breake covenant with him, and therefore we are afraid to enter into covenant any more. Is it not better not to covenant, than not to performe?
I answer, It is true, if men covenant and wilfully neglect, they were better not covenant at all; but if when wee enter into covenant, wee have the testimony of our consciences, that we labour as in the sight of God, to fulfill our covenants wee make, and it is the burthen of our soules that we saile in them, then I say, that wee are still to goe on, and engage our selves further; our covenants doe not aggravate our sinne, but in time they will help us against our sinne; this is one way that God hath appointed to strengthen us; and therefore, wee must not complaine of weaknesse, and yet neglect any way appointed by GOD, to get strength by.
10 To follow God fully, is to abide * in all these constant to the end of our dayes; That is, we must be constant in Gods wayes, not thinke it enough to enter into them by fits and starts, but the wayes of God must be our ordinary track, Prov. 16. 17. The high way of the upright is to depart from evil; It is his common road, and constant course: and wee must continue faithfull before the Lord unto the death. It is the commendation of Hezechiah 2 King. 8. 6. He clave unto the Lord and departed not. And David, Psal. 119. 112. he saith, Hee hath enclined his heart to performe Gods statutes alway; but as if that expression were not enough to signifie his continuance, he addes, even unto the end. Iob 17. 9. The righteous holds on his way. A heart that hath given up it selfe fully to God, doth never forsake him. There is no Apostate in the world, but if we could trace him along in his wayes, to his very beginning, we might find, that in the entrance of his profession, there was not a full giving up himself to God, there was not an absolute surrender made, of all that he was, and had, unto the Lord. It may bee said of him as it was of Amaziah, That though he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, yet he did it not with a perfect heart.
There are three Reasons why it must needs be, that, that man which followes God fully, must needs follow him constantly and for ever.
First, because where ever the Lord * brings any to follow him fully, hee causeth such a perfect breach betweene sinne and that soule, as there is no possibility that ever there should be a reconciliation made, that the breach should bee made up againe. An unsound heart so falls out with his sinne, as there is a possibility of reconcilement, and therefore when such a one findes trouble in Gods service, hee is willing to enter into parly againe, upon termes of agreement with his sinne; but it is not so with a truly godly heart; there is such a breach made, as there is no hope of reconciliation. It was Achitophels policie to get Absolon to stick to him, so as never to leave him. To take away the feare that there might be, lest Absolon in time might bee reconciled to his father, and so leave him, therefore he sought to make such a breach betweene him and his father, as there should never be any hope of reconciliation, and so hee might bee the surer to keepe constant to him, and the people that joyned with him, and therefore hee advised, that Absolon should goe in to his fathers Concubines upon the house top, in the sight of all the people, 2 Sam. 16. 21, 22. It is the wisedome of God, that he may have followers never to leave him; to make such breaches betweene sinne and their soules at first, so as there may never bee hope of peace betweene them againe. As the Devill when he would draw one to be his for ever, hee seekes to make great breaches betweene God and him, that if hee should have ever any thoughts of returning, he may discourage and sinke his spirit with thoughts of despaire, telling him there is no hope of good in returning that way, and therefore it were better for him to continue as he is, as Ier. 2. 25. Thou saidst, there is no hope; No, for I have loved strangers, and after them will I goe. When the Devill gets one who hath beene forward in the profession of religion to Apostatize, hee labours to make such a breach betweene him and his former course, as not onely to fall off from it, but to hate it, and to persecure it, and to turne deadly enemie to it, and then both the devill and wicked men think, they are sure of him for ever: and indeed it is very seldome that ever such a one returns. Bishop Latimer in a Sermon before King Edward, tells of one who fell away from the knowne truth, and after fell to mocking and scorning it, and yet was after touched in conscience for it; beware of this sin, sayes Latimer; for I have knowne no more but this one man, that ever fell from the truth, and afterwards repented; I have known many fall, but never any but this repent. Now the breach betweene sinne and the soule in conversion, is as great as betweene God and the soule in Apostacy; yea, greater; for there is a possibility of reconciliation in the one, but never in the other: and therefore as the one, because of this great breach betweene God and his soule, doth follow the Devill, and his destruction for ever; so the other, because of the breach betweene sinne and the soule, doth follow the Lord, and his salvation for ever: as in the one, the gifts of Gods Spirit are so cast out as usually they never returne againe; so in the other, the uncleane spirit is so cast out, as it never comes back againe.
2 A second Reason, why that man * that followes the Lord fully, must needs follow him for ever, is, because at the first giving up himself to God, hee was content to let goe all other holds, and all other hopes in all creature-comforts whatsoever, and so to venture himselfe upon God, is to be content to be miserable for ever, if he finde not enough in God to make him happie: he hath so let all other things goe, as if he should faile here, hee hath nowhither to retire, hee hath reserved no way, no meanes for to helpe himselfe by, if hee should miscarry here; hee hath laid all the waight of all his comforts, of all his hopes, of all his happinesse upon the Lord; he hath no other prop that he doth or can expect any support by: there is a blessed necessity upon him to follow the Lord for ever, and this necessity the soule is glad of: and this is the reason why God in his first bringing a soule home to himselfe, useth so much meanes to take it off from all other things; namely, that it might follow him for ever. As it is reported of William the Conqueror, when hee came to invade England, and had landed his Souldiers, he sent backe his ships, that so they might have no hope of retreating back again, and so they were put upon a necessity of fighting it out to the utmost. Thus the Lord takes off the soul from all its former hopes and props, that it may have no lingrings after any thing but himselfe, but thorowly sight the good fight of faith, & with resolution hold on its course to the end. But it is otherwise with a false, unfound heart; though such a one may follow God in many glorious performances, yet it secretly reserves something in case of failing here; when it enters upon Gods wayes, it is enlightned so farre, as it thinkes some good may be had here: yea, it hath a taste, it may be, of much sweetnesse in these wayes, but dares not venture all upon them; he would bee glad to have some thing to retire to, in case he should faile here; hee reserves a back doore, that he might turne another way, if this way should prove troublesome and dangerous; hee enters upon Gods wayes, not without some suspitions and jealousies, that possibly hee may meet with such inconveniences as may make him to wish he had been more wise, and not put himselfe in too farre; he sees many others, who being deeply ingaged, and gone on so farre in those wayes, wherein they meet with much trouble, many sore and heavy afflictions; and he thinkes they doe, or at least may repent themselves, and wish they had not ventured themselves so farre, as that now they know not how to goe backe againe; and if they were to begin againe, he thinks they would bee wiser, and hearken to grave advise for more moderation.
The King of Navarre told Beza,* he would launch no further into the Sea, than he might be sure to return safe unto the Haven; though hee shewed some countenance to Religion, yet he would be sure to save himselfe. Many thinke it wisedome not to venture all in one bottome. It was once the speech of a deep politician, that it was good to follow the truth, but not to follow it too neare at the heeles, lest it dasht out his braines. Ananias and Saphira would bee Christians, they would joyne with the Apostles, they saw great things were done by them; their possessions must be sold, and the money laid at the Apostles feet; but something must be reserved, in case they should want afterwards, and then repent them they had gone so farre, when it should be too late; and this is the very roote of Apostasie. But it is otherwise with a sincere heart that followes God fully; in such a one there is a holy kind of desperatnesse, so to cast it selfe upon God, and his wayes, as never to expect any comfort, any good, but there; and therefore this is that it must rest to for ever, and follow after for ever.
3 The soule that followes God fully, will follow him for ever, because * in the full following of the Lord, it findes so much ease, peace, joy, satisfaction, as it is for ever setled and confirmed in this way; there is never •ase, sweetnesse, and full contentment in Gods wayes, untill the heart comes off fully; till then it is distracted with jealousies, feares, doubts, lingrings after some other way, many temprations pestering the spirit continually: but when it is fully come off, then it goes on with ease; it is satisfied, and blesseth it selfe in the way wherein it is; temptations * vanish, the soule is freed from much distraction and trouble: As the ship that is part in the mud and part in the water, is battered up and downe, and beats up and downe, so as in a little time it beates it selfe all in peeces; but if it bee taken off from the mud, and bee put into the full streame, it goes with ease and safety. Thus it is with a mans heart, while it stickes partly in the mud of the World, or filth of any lust, and conviction of conscience strives to raise it, but it is not fully taken off, there is nothing but vexation and trouble in that soule: but when it is taken off, and gives up it selfe fully to God in his blessed and holy wayes; Oh that sweet and blessed ease that now it findes! When a man halts, the way is tedious to him, hee is soone weary, and gives over; but when hee is sound, the way is easie, he holds on his way to the end: so when there is falsenesse in mens hearts, they do but halt in the ways of God, they quickly * find them tedious; but others who are of sound spirits, they find them delightfull, and go on with strength, and hold on to the end. The reason that Philosophers give why the heavens are incorruptible, is, because the forme of them is so excellent, as it wholly fils up the utmost capacity of the matter; so the reason of the holding on of the upright heart, is, the full satisfaction of it, the filling up the full capacity of it, with contentment and delight in Gods ways. Thus you have heard what it is to follow God fully.
The excellency of this frame of spirit, in foure things.
THe second thing propounded in the point, was, to * shew wherein the excellency of such a kind of frame of spirit lies, take it in these foure things.
First this is truly to honour God * as a God; except God be honoured as infinite, hee is not honoured as God; now it is the full following him that onely honours him as infinite; where God is followed and not thus, hee is followed no otherwise than a creature may bee followed; this is not therefore to honour him as a God, but rather it is a dishonor to that infinite excellency & blessednesse of his, whereby he is infinitely above all that creatures are, or that they are any way capable of. The great thing that God aimed at in the creating of the heavens and earth, was, that he might by Angels, and men, bee honoured as a GOD, and therefore that which gives him this, hath true and much excellency in it.
Secondly, this full following of God, doth much honour the work of * Grace, and the profession of godlinesse; it shewes a realitie; power, excellency and beauty in it; it shewes that it proceeds out of the fulnesse of Jesus Christ, such as hath high and heavenly principles; when there is power, proportion, and constancy in a mans wayes, there must needs bee much beauty in them; there is a forcing of conviction from the consciences of evill men by them: this takes away all pretences from men that they know not how to speak evill of the wayes of godlinesse; they know not how to oppose and persecute them; when they can see no flaw, when, though they watch what they can, yet they can see nothing unsutable to their principles. The principles of godlinesse for the most part are acknowledged by the consciences of the worst, who have any light in them; & therefore when all a mans wayes are sutable to these, it puts wicked mē to a stand; they know not what to say against such men, nor against their way; but their owne thoughts tell them, that surely there is something in these men, that hath realitie, and power, and divine excellency in it, that is from none other but from God himselfe.
Thirdly, this hath such excellency in it, as that God himselfe boasts * of such as these are; as they glory in the Lord, and blesse themselves in the Lord; so the Lord seemes to glory in them, and to account his name blessed by them; as you may see how God rejoyces in, and makes his boast of Iob, Chap. 1. vers. 8. Hast thou considered my servant Iob, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect, and an upright man? And so of David, I have found a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfill all my will: So of those wee read of in Revel. 14. These are they which were not defiled; and againe, These are they which follow the Lambe whithersoever he goeth; and again in the same verse, These were redeemed from among men, being the first fruits unto God, and to the Lambe, and in their mouth was found no guile.
Fourthly, this following of the Lord fully, doth ever attaine its end; * it prospers in that it workes for: in * whatsoever thing any soule followes the Lord fully, it shall be sure to accomplish that it aymes at, and to be satisfied in that it would have: As Hos. 6. 3. Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord: Thus David, in Psal. 63. where his soule thirsted after God, his flesh longed for him, his soule followed hard after him; he saith himselfe in the same Psalme, that Gods right hand did now uphold him, and that his soule should be satisfied, as with marrow and fatnesse; and his mouth should praise the Lord with joyfull lips; and the King shall rejoyce in God.
Rebuke to divers sorts, whose spirits are not full in following after the Lord.
IF thus to follow the Lord fully, bee so excellent, if this fulnesse of spirit bee such an honour unto Gods people, then justly are those rebuked, whose spirits are not full in following the Lord, who acknowledge the Lord worthy to be followed, but their spirits are slight and vaine, their hearts are straitned in the wayes of the Lord; they doe not fill up this blessed work of following after the Lord; their hearts doe most basely fall, and most miserably vanish in it.
As first, some are convinced, their judgements and consciences are for * God, but their lusts carry them violently another way: Oh the miserable torment of these mens spirits, while their consciences draw one way, and their lusts another! it is not so great an evill to have wilde Horses tyed to the members of ones body, tearing of them by drawing contrary wayes.
Secondly, others rest in their good inclinations, their good desires; * they say they would faine doe better, and they hope God will accept the will for the deed; they like of Gods wayes, and speake well of good men, and therefore they thinke their hearts are for God: but these desires and good motions, are but as little buds and sprigs that come out of the roots of trees, or from the middle of their body, which come to nothing, they never grow up to beare any fruit; these are yet farre from following the Lord fully and savingly; for,
1 Their judgements are not yet inlightned, not throughly convinced * of the poyson and infinite evill there is in sinne; of that absolute infinite necessitie there is in the holy wayes of God; they see not the dreadfull Authority of God in every truth; they think it were well if things were amended, it were good if more were done than this; God helpe us, we have all our infirmities: and though they doe not as others doe, yet they hope their hearts are good towards God; were it not for some inconveniences they are like to meet withall, they could be content to doe more than they doe. But what is this, to that mighty work of God upon this spirit, convincing of the infinite necessity, equity, beauty of his blessed wayes? What is this to that sight of Gods infinite, dreadfull authority? Those whose hearts the Lord takes off from other things, to work fully after himselfe, he begins thus with them, in the powerfull enlightning, and convincing of their judgements.
2 These never were made sensible * of their inabilitie to have holy desires after God, so as to see any need of any speciall worke of the Holy Ghost, to raise such desires in their hearts. Those who are not sensible of their inability to holy desires, though they may have many flashes like unto holy desires, yet they are wholly strangers to those desires after God, which are truly holy.
3 These prize not the meanes of grace, they long not after them, they * will not labour, they will not bee at charge, they will not endure hardship to attain them, they are not conscionable in the use of them in any power; they use not all meanes; if one way will not bring their desires to effect, they try not other wayes; they are not solicitous about the suc¦cesse of meanes, they look not much after them, but rest themselves in the bare use of them, not examining, not searching their hearts, to see what is in them that hinders the blessing, not bemoaning their unprofitablenesse under meanes.
4 Their desires are not strong, * unsatiable; other contentments quiet their hearts; Time weares away the strēgth of their desires, though they bee as farre from the enjoyment of the things that were desired, as they were at the first.
5 Their endeavours are not powerfull, they are not working constant * endeavours; they doe not dedicate, devote, give up themselves, whatever they are, or have, to the seeking after the Lord; their consciences cannot but tel them, that the strength of their hearts, and endeavours, is after other things: David in the 119. Psalm. 48. vers. saith, That hee would lift up his hands unto Gods Commandements, which hee had loved; and hee would meditate in his Statutes: Hee did not thinke it enough to have a love to, to have some wishes and desires, to keepe Gods Commandements, but he would lift up his hands to them, hee would set himselfe on worke in labouring to obey them; hee would meditate, set his minde and thoughts, to plot and contrive, how he might best come to the fulfilling of them, Psal. 27. 4. One thing have I desired, and that will I seeke after. Certainly those slight, vaine * desires, and wishes that there are in many peoples hearts, are not the following this blessed God fully; they are but the dallyings, and triflings with God and their owne soules; they are so farre from bringing them unto God, as they prove to be their destruction; The desire of the slothfull killeth him, for his hands refuse to labour, Prov. 21. 15.
Thirdly, others have good resolutions * now and then in some good moods; the truths of God come darting in with some power, as they cannot but yeeld to them, and then they are resolved that they will doe better, that it shall not be with them as it hath beene; they will set upon a new course of life, things shall bee reformed, and their lives shall bee changed; but yet these vanish too, they follow not God fully; They are as those in the 5. Deut. 27. who seemed to have strong resolutions to walke in Gods wayes; Goe thou neare, say they to Moses, and heare all that the Lord our God shall say, and speake thou unto us all that the Lord our God shall speake unto thee, and we will heare it, and doe it: But as the Lord said there, concerning them, Verse 29. So I may say of these, Oh that there were such a heart in them; How farre are they from having yet a heart to follow God fully?
For, 1 Their resolutions are not fruits of their deepe humiliation, for their former neglect of God, and the former sinfulnesse of their wayes; They are only to procure peace unto themselves for the present, their hearts being stirred by the power of the truth darted in.
2 They arise not from changed principles, from a renewed nature, from out of love to the Lord, & his blessed wayes; hence they vanish, and they never bring them up unto the Lord.
Fourthly, others have strong, sudden affections, they feele sometimes * some meltings, in sorrow for sinne, in hearing the blessed truths of God revealed to them; they feele some sweetnesse in the working of truths upon their hearts, they are sensible of some joyes in good things, they have a taste of the powers of the world to come: When they heare Christ preached, or see his body broken, or his blood shed in the Sacrament, they think with themselves; Oh that Jesus Christ, should come from heaven, to save such poore wretches as we are, that hee should shed his pretious blood, that hee should die for such vile sinners! yet these are a great way off from following the Lord fully:
For, 1 these affections are sudden, * and flashing; the truths of God passe by them, leaving a little glimmering behinde them, or as water passeth thorow a Conduit, & leaves a dew; but they soake not into the heart, as the water soakes into the earth to make it fruitfull.
2 These are stirred with the pardoning, * comforting, saving mercies of God, but not with the humbling, renewing, sanctifying mercies: when the word puts them upon any hard thing to flesh and blood, it is unsavoury to them, their hearts turne from it; If the word urgeth to strict examination of themselves, if it puts them upon the finding out of the deceits of their spirits, their secret corruptions, and would straine them to higher duties than their prin¦ciples reach unto, then their spirits fly off; they seeke to blesse themselves in that they have already, and think that these things trouble people more than needs & if God should not bee mercifull to such who finde such affections, such stirrings of heart as wee doe, then Lord, what shall become of us?
3 These flashy affections doe not arise from spirituall judgement, apprehēding the spirituall excellencies of godlinesse, after a spirituall manner; their apprehensions of spirituall and heavenly things, are too too carnall and sensitive: Hence afterwards when they come to finde the good things of the wayes of God to be spirituall, and heavenly, not sutable to those apprehensions they had of them, their hearts are then taken off, as those wee reade of in the 6. of Iohn 34. verse; When Christ told them, That the bread of God is hee which commeth downe from heaven, and giveth life unto the world, Oh say they, Lord ever give us this bread; their hearts were up & exceedingly stirred; Well, as if Christ should have said, You shall have it, I am the bread of life; hee that commeth to mee shall never hunger, hee that beleeveth in me shall never thirst; as if he should have said; This must bee done by faith, you must feed upon my flesh by faith, and drinke of my blood by faith. But now they having apprehended a strange kind of bread from heaven before, and afterwards hearing of no other, but comming to Christ, and beleeving in Christ, they were deceived of their expectations, and so were offended, and now their affections fall; for verse 41. they begin to murmur at him, and verse 60. they said, It was an hard saying, who could heare it? and ver. 66. From that time many of them went backe, and walked no more with him. The like example wee finde in the Galathians, at the first they would have pluckt out their eyes for S. Paul, their affections were so stirred by his Ministery, they apprehended some great matters in the message of the Gospel that S. Paul brought, but afterwards, finding that those great and excellent things that the Gospel spake of, were onely spirituall, which their carnall hearts had little skill of, and could not relish, their affections were soon cooled, & they fell off from S. Paul. Take heed therefore of resting to these flashy affections, for if you do, when these are gone, your hearts will bee left in darkenesse. Many examples are knowne of such, who have proved to bee most vile Apostates; yet time was, wherein they have had many meltings, much sudden strong joy, so as they have professed that the joy they have found hath beene so great, that if it had continued but a while, they could not have lived, but their spirits would haue expired. A solid worke of the soule proceeding from an humble broken heart, casting it selfe upon the faithfulnesse, and freenesse of the grace of God in the promise, for pardoning, and sanctifying mercy, and there resting, so as willing to venture it selfe there for ever, though it hath no present sense of joy, yet it is farre more to be prized than the strongest of these sudden flashes of affection. These flashy affections which have not principles to maintain them, are like to Cōduits in the City, running with wine at the Coronatiō of Princes, or some other great triumph, but it will not hold: they are like Landfloods, which seeme to bee a great sea, but come to nothing in a day or two; As there may be flashes of terrour, and yet no true feare of God. The Israelites were terrified when the Law was given, and yet God saith, Deut. 5. 29. Oh that there were a heart that they would feare me: So there may bee flashes of joy, desire, sorrow, and yet no true sanctified joy, desire, or sorrow at all. There is much deceit in mens affections; Affections not well principled, not well grounded, soone vanish; time will weare them away. The people of Israel at the giving of the Law, had their affections much stirred, so that one would have thought, they had been engaged unto the Lord for ever; and yet within fourty dayes, their hearts were so taken off from God, and his Law, as if God had never made himselfe knowne unto them; they call to Aaron to make them gods to goe before them, and say to the Molten Calfe, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt. Another notable example wee have of people whose affections are strong for the present, and yet worne away in a little time, in the 13. of Hosea 1. When Ephraim spake, trembling, hee exalted himselfe in Israel; but when he offended in Baal, hee died: When Ephraim spake, that is, when Ieroboam who * was of the Tribe of Ephraim, declared his purpose to alter the worship of God, the people at the first were exceedingly affected with it, & they stood all trembling at such a strange thing as that was; the very thought of it made their hearts to shake, because they knew how jealous a God the Lord was; But Ieroboam exalted himselfe in Israel, hee went on resolutely in his way, and would bring his purpose to effect; then the people in a little time, were brought to offend in Baal, and then they died, and they became a dead, sottish, heartlesse people, fit to receive, or do any thing though never so vile.
Fifthly, others follow the Lord, * but they follow him in a dull, heavy manner; there is no spirit, no heat, no life in their following of him, & therefore they doe not follow him fully: They rest themselves in a middle temper, in a lukewarme course; they like well of Religion, and profession, but what need men goe so farre, what need they doe so much? As Pharaoh said to the Israelites, Exod. 8. 28. I will let you goe, onely you shall not goe farre away. The judgement of these men is for a middle way; they are mixed spirited men, like Ephraim, Hosea 7. 8. mixed with the people, as a cake not turned, halfe baked and halfe dough; they goe on in an ordinary track of performing the duties of Religion without any growth, or any sensiblenesse of the want of growth; they set upon some faire way of Religion, which they perswade themselves is enough, and that they meane to hold to; they are content to make use of Christ, and the profession of Religion, so farre as may serve their owne turnes; but to entertaine Christ, and his truth, as an absolute Lord to rule them, that their spirits cannot beare; in their converse there is no ribauldry, no filthinesse; so there is no warmth, no heat to refresh and quicken any gratious spirit, that hath to deale with them; in all the Duties of Religion that they perform, they take no paines with their hearts, to work them to God. Luther cals such kind * of men, Cainists, that is, such as Cain, who offered to God the work done, but do not offer themselves to God; they content thēselues with generall hopes of Gods mercy upon weake, and unexamined grounds; they never trouble themselves in calling things into question, about their conditions and their eternall estates; they never lay to heart the miseries of Gods Church; and the publike cause of God is not deare unto them; they have not heat enough to cause a mel¦ting spirit, for the dishonor that God hath by themselves; much more is that heat wanting, that should keepe their hearts melting for that dishonour which God hath from others.
Now this temper is so farre from following the Lord fully, as it is loathsome and abominable to the Lord; so loathsome, as he threatens to spue such out of his mouth. It is * observable, that of all the seven Churches we read of in the Revelation, there is some good said, every one is cōmended for somthing; onely this Church of Laodicea excepted which was a luke-warme Church; and of this there is no good at all said; and yet none of the Churches had that high esteeme of it selfe as this had; none of them conceited themselves * to be rich, and encreased with goods, and to have need of nothing, as this did. No people doth so blesse themselves in their way, as luke-warme people doe; and yet no people more abominable to God than they. What a dishonour is this luke-warme temper to God, as if God were such a God, as such flat, sleight, dead-hearted formall services, as are performed by them, were sufficient to honour his holy, great, dreadfull and infinite Majestie? God pronouneeth a curse in Malac. 1. verse 14. against those who doe not offer the best that possibly they can, in sacrifice to him; and gives this Reason of it, Because my Name is dreadfull, and I am a great King, saith the Lord: As if he should say, Therefore onely the most high and excellent things that can bee performed by the creature, are fit for to be tendred up to mee. This luke-warme temper wrongs Iesus Christ exceedingly, as if there were no other life and vertue in Iesus Christ, than to inable a man to doe as they doe. What? hath Christ laid down his life, & shed his pretious blood for the renewing of Gods Image in man, and is it nothing but this? if Christ had never come into the world, men might have done as much as this comes to. It is a wrong to the Holy Spirit likewise, for it is the special office of the Holy Ghost, for to bee a Sanctifier, to frame the heart to God, to quicke the soul with the life of grace, and holinesse; and is this all it doth? this were a poore worke, if there were no other but this. It dishonours holinesse, which is the most glorious thing in the world; the life of God, the Divine Nature; this makes it as if it were nothing but a morall, livelesse, dead-hearted, empty thing; this puts holinesse in subjection to humane reason, to carnall wisedome; it must bow to their discretion, to the opinions and wayes of men; and in truth, to their base lusts, though it be in a more cleanly way, than in others. Be convinced then, that this is not that following the Lord fully, wch is the honour of Gods people in his eyes.
Sixthly, some go beyond this dull luke-warme temper, they are very * forward in some things, but in other things their hearts sticke; they come not off fully in them. Agrippa saith of himselfe, that Paul had almost perswaded him; the words are, Thou perswadest mee a little. The hearts of these men are divided, as it is said of * those in Hosea 10. 2. they will not let goe their profession, but will keepe their corruption too. As Camden reports of Redwald King of the East Saxons, the first Prince of his Nation that was baptized, yet in the same Church had one Altar for Christian Religion, and another for Sacrifices unto Devills: Thus these men joyne Religion and their lust together. If they let out their hearts inordinately to any contentment, and take liberty sometimes in satisfying some lusts, they thinke to make up all againe by some forwardnesse and earnest devotion in some other thing; as many who get surfets think they can sweat and purge them out again.
This division of heart the Lord cannot endure, and therefore it followes in that place of Hosea, They shall be found faulty; or as the words are read by some, Now shall they bee made desolate: for in the Hebrew, the word signifies both to bee guilty, and to bee desolate. It is too much boldnesse and presumptuousnesse in men, to venture to take liberty to themselves, to chuse wherein they will yeeld to God in some things; but in others presume to satisfie themselves; this is not to cast downe our soules before the Lord, as poore, condemned, vile creatures, to lie at his mercy in an humble, faithfull resignation of our selves up to him, in all wee are, or have, which is that honour that God expects from us, and is infinitely due unto him. While our hearts are thus divided betweene God and other things; God doth not account himselfe obeyed, or honoured at all in any thing; all that we seeme to doe, in truth, is nothing at all. Hence in Ierem. 32. 23. the Prophet chargeth the people with this, that they neither walked in Gods Law, and that they had done nothing of all that God had commanded them to doe; and Ver. 30. he saith, they had only done evill: and in 2 Kings 17. the people are said to feare the Lord, and serve their owne gods, Verse 33. and yet in Verse 34. the Text sayes, that they feared not the Lord: shewing unto us, that where the heart is divided betweene God and other things, there God hath not the heart at all, God is not feared, he is not honoured at all. If wee joyne the counsels of the flesh with the spirit, we frustrate all.
Seventhly, there are others who cannot bee so easily convinced in * what particulars they forsake God in any of his wayes; they seeme to have a generall forwardnesse in that which is good, but the truth is, they follow themselves, and not God in all; they rise no higher than Selfe in all they doe; which their owne consciences, upon search made, will tell them; the Commandement of God may be made the pretence, but Selse is the chiefe Engine, Selse is the great mover in all. As Physitians putting in many operative ingredients into their Physick, and they are the things that worke; but besides, they put in something to give a colour, or a little taste, which neither doth good nor hurt, that hath no operation at all: Thus it is in many mens Religion; selfe-ends are the operative ingredients in that they doe, and the shew of obedience to God, is but that which gives the colour, that that which they doe may have the better apperance. It is impossible, that a man which seekes himselfe, should come up to this fulnesse of spirit that is required in this following of the Lord. Hos. 10. 1. it is said, That Israel is an empty Vine; Why so? he bringeth forth fruit unto himselfe; hee brings forth fruit, but yet is empty, because hee bringeth it forth unto himselfe. Where selfe-ends are the chiefe movers, * there is no further latitude or degree of godlinesse minded, but such as may be serviceable unto them: Now they cannot but bee low, strait, narrow, in comparison of those who lift up God in all they do; and therefore their profession must needs bee empty and scant; not full and powerfull, as it is in the other. A selfe-seeking heart is alwayes an empty heart, but a gracious heart is fruitfull in all manner of pleasant fruits, new and old: And what is the reason? I have laid them up for thee, O my beloved Cant. 7. v. last. Observe the difference, Israel is an empty Vine, hee brings forth fruit to himselfe; but the Church here brings forth all manner of pleasant fruit; for shee layes them up for her Beloved; shee brings them not forth for her selfe, as Israel did.
Eightly, others follow the Lord * earnestly a while, but afterwards they forsake him, they turne Apostates, they doe not fill up their worke they have begun, but undoe all againe; of whom it may be said, as Lament. 4. 8. They were whiter than Milke, they were as Rubies and polished Saphires in regard of their glorious profession; but now they are blacker than a Coale. God may justly complaine of them, as he did of his people, Micah 2. 8. They who were my people yesterday, are now risen up against me, as an enemy: it was far otherwise with them very lately, than now it is. Many are very hopefull at the first, yet they prove exceeding vile afterwards; yea, the more forward in good at first, the more vile after: As water that hath once been heat, and growes cold againe, is colder than ever it was.
It is reported of Nero, who proved the very Monster of men for wickednesse, yet in the first five yeares of his reigne, he behaved himselfe exceeding well, so that it was used as a Proverbe to expresse the good beginnings of men, Neroes five first*yeares: So Caligula, who proved afterwards exceedingly wicked, yet Iosephus reports of him, that when he * was young he travelled very diligently in good disciplines, hee was of a sweet conversation, and modest, and he governed the Empire the first two yeares of his raigne, with most noble directions, behaving himselfe graciously towards all men: yea, Iulian himselfe, who proved such a cursed Apostate, yet when hee was young, was very forward and hopefull; he was a publick Reader of holy Scriptures in the Church; he seemed to glory in nothing more than in Religion; he was of a very temperate dyer, content with meane food, without much preparation; hee used * to lie hard in meane bedding, to watch much a nights, spend his time in study; hee was very chaste, cleare from the least suspition of lust; those Officers that were about him, that served for nothing but to maintaine * delicacy and luxury, hee banished from him; hee tooke no delight in publike shewes, when hee came to them, hee came rather of necessity, than for any pleasure hee tooke in them: hee saith of himselfe, that when he was on the Theater, he was more like a derester of their Playes, than a spectator of them, and was present at them with trouble and disdaine, and was joyfull when hee went from them: hee loved learning exceeding much; hearing of a Philosopher that came to him out of Asia, he leaps out of the doore, and goes to meet him, and kisses him, and entertains him with much honour. In an Epist. of his to one Eodicius a Governour of Egypt, he hath this notable expression; Some (saith he) delight in horses, others in birds, others in beasts,*but I from my very childhood, have burnt with desire after books. He had an honorable esteeme of mans soule, looking upon the body as vile in comparison of it. There is this notable expression reported of him, concerning this; It is a shamefull thing for any wise man, seeing he hath a soule,*to seeke for praises from any thing that belongs to his body. Hee seemed to have much uprightnesse in the course of Justice; he would not condemne upon accusations without proofe; there is this expression of his concerning this reported of him; when one Delphidius accused one before him, of a crime, of which he could not bring sufficient proofe; the party accused denyed the fact; this Delphidius answers, If it be sufficient to deny that which is laid to ones charge, who shall be found guilty? Then Iulian answers, And if it be sufficient to be accused, who can be innocent? * Many other notable things are reported of him; but these I have related more fully, because in this example we may see how farre a man may goe in much seeming good; what hopefull beginnings he may have, and yet what a vile cursed Monster he may prove, if he lookes not to it. Let none then rest themselves in their good beginnings; but as they have made entrance upon this work, in following the Lord, so let them labour to fill it up: & as for those who heretofore have seemed to be forward and hopefull, while they lived in good families, and under the care and watchfull eye of able and godly men, and yet have now forsaken the Lord, and his wayes; let such (I say) know, that it is an evill, and a bitter thing, to forsake the blessed God; to turne from him to follow after vanities that cannot profit; so great an evill is it, that God himselfe cals the heavens to be astonished at this, Ier. 2. 12, 13. Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the Lord: For my people have committed two evils, they have forsaken me the Fountaine of living waters, and hewed them out Cisternes, broken Cisternes, that can hold no water. The evill of this forsaking the Lord, were great, if this were all.
First, that all your labour in Religion, that all that you have done, is * lost: In Hosea 8. 2. Israel shall cry to me, My God we know thee; but verse 3. Israel hath cast off the thing that is good; therfore, verse 7. it is said that They have sown the wind, and shall reape the whirlewind: It is but a sowing to the wind, to follow God in some things, and not to hold on in our way. In the 2 Epist. of St. Iohn and the 8. verse, Look to your selves, saith S. Iohn. that wee lose not those things that wee have wrought: It is an evill thing, to lose all that wee have wrought for; but this is not all.
Secondly, if you leave off from following the Lord, all the good that ever you have done, and made profession of, shall serve only to aggravate your sinne, and encrease your torment.
Thirdly, this leaving off from following * the Lord, is a great dishonor to God and his ways; an upbraiding of them, as if they were not good enough to draw the heart constantly after them; as if there were not that in them, that they make shew for. Hence the Lord pleads with his people, Ierem. 2. 5. who had forsaken him, What iniquity have your Fathers found in me, that they are gone farre from mee, and have walked after vanity? As if he should have said, The world may thinke my ways are unequall, men may thinke that I have not shewne my selfe a God, ready to doe good, and to reward those who follow me. The forsaking of the truth, the profession whereof wee have once taken up, it is to put Christ to open shame, Heb. 6. 6.
Fourthly, such men as these, doe much mischiefe in the world; they are grievous scandals; they make the good wayes of God to be evill spoken of; they harden mens hearts against them, and the profession of them; many in hell curse them, as the cause of their ruin: if a man were borne to doe mischiefe, he could not doe greater any way, than this. So much hurt is done by them, they cause such blemishes, such sports to be upon the profession of godlinesse, as we should be glad if we could wash them off with our dearest heartblood, and account it well bestowed: but woe be to them by whom these offences come. The greatest part of all the scorne, contempt of, and opposition against the wayes of God, and godly men, shall be charged upon these men, as the causers of it; for were it not for such as these, wicked men could not tell what to say for themselves, in their opposition of those wayes of godlinesse, which in themselves are so equall, and good, and blessed; woe be to them, by whom such offences come.
Fifthly, These men shall have their spirits filled with horrour; they did * not fill up their work in following the Lord; but God and conscience shall follow them, with anguish, and horrour, and fill up their spirits with them. It may be, once they had some flashy comforts in the performance of some duties; but they shall be all taken from them, and dismall horror, and hideous amazement of spirit shall possesse them, Pro. 14. 14. The backslider in heart shall bee filled with his owne wayes; Much more than, the backslider in heart and life too, hee shall bee filled, he shall have enough of them. Conscience one day will upbraid, fly in the face, and teare the heart. Oh wretched creature what hast thou done? whom hast thou forsaken? is it not the God of life, and peace, and comfort, and all good, that thou hast forsaken? are they not the blessed wayes of holinesse, the wayes of eternall rest and peace that thou hast left? God hath likewise forsaken thee, and all good and comfort begins to withdraw it selfe from thee; thou art like to bee left in horrid dismall darknesse; Just it is that thou shouldst be left as a forsaken, forlorne, miserable wretch, who hast thus wretchedly and vilely forsaken God, and his truth, for the enjoyment of such poore, base things as thy heart is turned aside unto. How wilt thou be able to looke upon the faces of those, with whom thou hast formerly joyned in holy duties, and hast had communion with? But how canst thou looke upon the face of the blessed God, when hee shall appeare in his glory unto thee? What anguish will it bee to thee when thou shalt see others, who have continued in their way following the Lord, to be for ever blessed in that God, whom their soules have followed, and cleaved constantly unto? but thy selfe, because thy base unbeleeving heart dared not venture all upon him, now thou art cast out for ever, as an eternall curse: Oh what rack of conscience will it bee, when thou shalt see in what a faire way once thou wert, but for want of comming off fully, and constantly in such and such particulars, thou art now for ever lost?
Lastly, these men are hatefull both to God and Men; they are * hatefull to Men, because they goe so farre; and to God, because they goe no further, as Hebr. 10. 38. If any man draw back, my soule shall have no pleasure in him. Oh what a happy thing were it, if God would trouble the wayes of these poore creatures, if hee would make them bitter and grievous to them, if hee would magnifie his mercy, and his power in turning their hearts againe towards him, if hee would deale with them as hee did with his people, Hosea 2. 6. 7. Hedge up their wayes with thornes, make a wall that they should not find their paths, that so they might at length, come to that blessed resolution wee find there; I will goe and returne to my Husband, for then it was better with me than now; So I will goe and returne to my former wayes, and follow after the Lord againe, from whom I have wretchedly departed, for then it was better with me then it is now; then I had more comfort, more peace, more safety, more blessing than I have now; And let such know, that though it were just with God, for ever to reject them who have forsaken him; just to say, that vanity should bee their portion, who have turned after lying vanities; and many of the Ancients have made the case * of such exceeding doubtfull, especially if after conviction they have forsaken God againe and againe; as Clemens Alexandrinus thought, that God might give such the first and second * repentance, but if they fell oftner, there was no renewing them by repentance. And Origen seemed likewise to bee of the same minde, in his 5. Homily upon Leviticus, Chap. 25. So Tertullian in his Book of repentance: God grants (saith hee) a second repentance, but no further. Thus we see the strictnesse of these Ancient times. But though these leave these men exceeding comfortlesse, yet let them know, that the Lord cals them to returne again unto himselfe: For though it be (saith the Lord) that if a wife have played the harlot, and shee be put away, and become another mans, her husband will not receive her again; yet saith the Lord, Ier. 3. 1. Thou hast played the harlot with many lovers, but yet returne to mee: and verse 22. Returne yee back-sliding children, and I will heale your back-slidings: Oh that your hearts would answer, as theirs there did; Oh that this gracious offer of the Lord, might have the same effect upon your hearts as it had upon theirs: Behold, say they, wee come unto thee, for thou art the Lord our God; truely in vaine is salvation hoped for from the hils, &c. Wee see, wee see, wee have beene utterly deceived; the wayes that wee have chosen, have not beene good; shame hath devoured our labour, wee have bestowed our labour in shamefull things, we lie downe in our shame, and our confusion covereth us, for wee have sinned against the Lord our God. As when a man goeth from the Sunne, yet the Sunne-beames follow him, shine on him, warme him; so though thou hast departed from the Lord, yet the beames of Gods mercy this day follow thee, they shine on thee; Oh that they might so warme thy heart, as to cause thee to returne. *
Comfort, and encouragement to those who follow the Lord fully.
IF this following of the Lord fully, be the honour of the Saints before the Lord; then here is comfort, and encouragement to those whose conscience doth witnesse, that their hearts, and wayes are fully after the Lord. What ever others do, yet there are a generation of men in the world, who doe fully follow the Lord; Blessed are you of the Lord, you are honourable in the eyes of God and man, you make up in part that hurt that is done to Religion by others; you bind up the wounds of Jesus Christ, and do in part heale his scarres: If you bee content to give up all to God, to betrust God with all, know that there are many blessed promises, full of mercy, and encouragement for you, that God will make good to the full unto you; yea, they shall come to you fuller of goodnesse, and blessing than you can imagine. Caleb challenged this promise of God to him made in this place, upon this ground, Ioshuah 14. 8. five and forty yeares after it was made; for hee was but forty yeares old when hee went to spie out the Land, and when hee challenged this promise in this place, bee saith verse 10. I am this day fourescore and five yeares old. Though God may seeme to deferre a while the fulfilling of his promise; yet bee encouraged to follow him still, for the eye of God is upon you, to make good his word unto you, and the longer it stayes, the more full with good and blessing it will come. God seemed to deferre a long time that promise he made to Abraham, That hee would make his seed as the starres of heaven; for two hundred and fifteene yeares after this promise was made, there were but seventy soules that came out of Abrahams loynes, namely, when Iacob went down into Egypt; which if we compute the time, wee shall find to bee just two hundred and fifteene yeares: for Abraham was seventy and five yeares old when the promise was made; hee was an hundred yeares old when Isaac was borne; Isaac was forty yeares old before he married, and hee continued twenty yeares without a child; and Iacob was one hundred and thirty yeares old when he went into Egypt; so that the time fals to bee just two hundred and fifteene yeares, which was just halfe the time, from the promise till the people of Israels comming out of Egypt, which S. Paul saith, Gal. 3. 17. was foure hundred and thirty years. Now observe, that whereas God halfe this time did but little for Abraham, in the fulfilling of this his promise, yet because Abraham followed him fully, ventured himselfe wholly upon the faithfulnesse of the Lord, see how fully God came in with his mercy at the last; for, in the second two hundred and fifteen yeares, hee so encreased his seed, that from seventy soules, they were growne up to bee sixe hundred thousand, and three thousand, and five hundred and fifty, Num. 1. 45, 46. and these onely from twenty yeares old and upward, such men as were able to goe to warre; there was thus many of these, besides all children and women, which it is like were far the greater number; yea, and the Tribe of Levy was not numbered amongst this number; there were two and twenty thousand and upwards of them besides. Thus you see, how fully God comes in at the last in his mercy, and making good his word of promise to such who follow him fully. Be you as full as you can in following the Lord, the Lord will bee as full towards you, in doing good unto you; Gods mercy shall be every as full, as your obedience can bee, 2 Sam. 22. 26. with the upright thou wilt shew thy selfe uprigh: The words are in the Originall, With the strong and perfect, thou wilt shew thy selfe strong and perfect. God will goe on strongly to his perfection of mercy towards them, who doe goe on strongly in their perfection of obedience towards him. Psal. 11. 7. The Lord loveth righteousnesse, and his countenance doth behold the upright: The words translated word for word are thus, The Lord loveth righteousnesses, and his faces shall behold the upright. Righteousnesses, that is, when all the duties of righteousnesse are together. And his faces shall behold; that is, all the severall kindes, and manners of the blessed comfortable manifestations of his love the upright shall have. The great difficulties thou meetest with in Gods wayes, (if thou beest not discouraged, but goest thorow them) they shall turne to thy greatest comforts: As Caleb, who was not discouraged by the Anakims those great Gyants, and the strong places they lived in, which so much discouraged the rest; Therefore Hebron, the place of the Gyants, was given unto him for a possession, Iosuah 14. 12, 13, 14, and 15, verses.
God certainly will remember the kindnesse of those who are willing to follow him through the wildernesse of difficulties and discouragements, Ierem. 2. 2. You who doe thus, shall die without staine, without any blur, which few doe; your memories shall be sweet, and blessed, when you are dead and gone: You shall have an entrance ministred unto you abundantly, into the everlasting Kingdome of our Lord and Saviour Iesus Christ, 2 Pet. 1. 11. This is promised, not onely to those that are godly, but abound in it, as verse 8. They shall be as a ship comming gloriously into the Haven with full saile: Thus S. Paul, 2 Tim. 4. 7, 8. with much confidence and full assurance concludes, That seeing hee had fought the good fight, and finished his course, and kept the faith, henceforth there was laid up for him, a crowne of righteousnesse, which the righteous Iudge should give him at that day: hee challengeth it upon the righteousnesse of God. When the soules of these who have followed God fully, are to enter into heaven, the everlasting doores shall stand wide open for them; as when great men come to a house, the great gates are set open for their entrance; and in Heaven, oh how full a reward shall there be there for them, as 2 Ep. Ioh. 8. vers. There is fulnesse of joy at Gods right hand, Psalme 16. ult. So full as * shall bee more than can enter into them; they must enter into it, because it cannot enter into them; there they shall not taste of joy and happinesse, but shall bee filled up with them. This, Christ encouraged his Disciples withall, Luke 22. 28, 29. Yee are they which have continued with mee in my temptations, and I appoint unto you a Kingdome, as my Father hath appointed unto mee. With this, S. Paul encouraged himselfe, in all his afflictions hee met withall, while hee was following the Lord, 2 Cor. 4. ver. 17. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a farre more exceeding eternall waight of glory.
First, it is glory, and this word alone implies that there is exceeding * much in it; but further, it is a waight of glory, yea, an eternall waight of glory; and more than that, an exceeding eternall waight of glory; as if yet it were not exprest fully enough, hee addes further, a farte more exceeding eternall waight of glory; and what expression can bee fuller than this? This was that likewise that incouraged Moses in his full following the Lord, forsaking the pleasures, the riches, the treasures of Egypt, that hee migh follow the Lord fully; For hee had, saith the Text, a respect unto the recompence of reward, Hebrewes, 11. 26. And you whose hearts and wayes are fully after the Lord, have the more cause to rejoyce in this your blessednesse, because it it is the blessednesse but of a few. Iniquity shall abound, saith Christ, and the love of many shall waxe cold, but hee that endures to the end, shall bee saved: It is but a hee, in the singular number, that endures to the end. Let these encouragements then fill your hearts with joy, and your spirits with renewed resolutions and vigour, to fill up your course; let them fill your sailes, that you may goe on with strength, and prosper, and be for ever blessed in your way. I conclude this Vse with that of the Apostle, 2 Cor. 7. 1. Seeing we have these promises, (these incouragements) let us labour to perfect our holinesse in the feare of God. And thus I passe to the last Vse, which is of Exhortation.
CAP. V. *
An Exhortation to follow the Lord fully.
NOw the Lord carry our hearts fully after himselfe: As the two blinde men, Matth. 20. vers. last, as soone as their eyes were opened, they followed Christ; so were our eyes opened, wee would certainly follow after the Lord; were they fully opened, our hearts would follow fully. Many of you have some convictions, some inclinations, stirrings of affections, good resolutions; you begin to have good thoughts of Gods wayes, you are almost perswaded: Oh that the work were throughly done! it is pity but that these beginnings should be improved. When Christ saw the good inclinations of the young man, when he came unto him, the Text saith, He looked upon him, and loved him: those beginnings are lovely; but how lovely then would the full worke be, if these beginnings were brought to perfection?
In this Vse we shall shew, first, the Motives which may draw our hearts to the following of the Lord fully.
2 What it is that hinders the soule in this worke, that it may bee prevented.
3 What it is that would bring off the heart fully indeed.
For the first; there is infinite reason, * that our hearts should bee fully after the Lord: for,
1 There is a fulnesse of all good in God; hee is worthy; Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, honour, and power, Revel. 4. 11. Thou art worthy to receive the highest honour that any of thy creatures can by any meanes give unto thee. The Heathen gods were honoured, as those who were onely Authors of some particular good things; and therefore there were such a multiplicity of them: one was honoured as the Author of one good thing, and another as the author of another; and therefore particular honour was sufficient for them. There was no reason that that any of them should have the whole soule, working in the fulnesse of the operations of it after them; but our God is not so; he is an universall good, in whom there is all good, and from whom all good flowes, and by whom all good is preserved in the being it hath; and therfore it is a most absolute, universall honor and service that is due to him; if wee had thousands of soules, and if they were all of ten thousand times larger extent than they are; yet infinite reason there would bee, that they should all in the full latitude, extent, & strength of them, work after this our God, to honour and magnifie, and worship this God for ever. As that blessed Martyr once said, What, have I but * one life to lay downe for Christ? If I had as many lives, as there are haires upon my head, they should all goe for Jesus Christ: He saw Christ worthy of all hee had, yea, of more than he had. This was Gods own Argument to Abraham, Walk before me, and be upright; bee perfect, for I am God al-sufficient, I have all perfection in me, and therefore be thou perfect before me.
Secondly, consider God might * have had full glory in your destruction; let him not bee a loser in his shewing mercy to you. How much better is it for you, that hee should have the fulnesse of his glory, in his mercy to you, than the fulnesse of it in his judgements upon you? This he might have had long agoe: yea, and the fulnesse of his glory hee will have; if you give it not to him, hee will force it from you.
Thirdly, Christ hath fully gone * thorow the great work of Redemption; he would never leave it till he had fully accomplished all, and said, It is finished. This was a mighty work, for the accomplishment whereof, he passed thorow more difficulties, than ever thou art like to do, in the fullest measure of following the Lord, that possibly can be.
Fourthly, yea, Gods mercies for * the present, are very full towards you; his pardoning mercies, and his supplying mercies, with all things needfull; when hee receives thee to mercy, he fully pardons all thy sins, hee leaves nothing upon the score; he remits all thy punishments. This was Davids Argument, Psal. 103. 1, 2, 3 Blesse the Lord, O my soule, and all that is within mee, blesse his Holy Name: and blesse the Lord, O my soule, again; as if he should say, O let God be fully blessed by me: why? what was that, that raised and inlarged Davids heart? It followes, Who forgiveth all thine iniquities, and heales all thy diseases; and vers. 4. He crownes thee with loving kindnesses; and vers. 5. He satisfies thy mouth with good things. God gives his servants a fulnesse in all they doe enjoy; his grace exceedingly abounds towards them in every thing. That place in 2 Corinth. 9. 8. is very remarkable for the setting out of the abounding of Gods grace towards his people; And God is able (saith the Text) to make all grace abound towards you, that ye alwayes having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work. What ever God is able to doe for us, by faith wee make it as if it were done. And this power of God is set forth to the Corinthians, as a Motive to perswade them to full obedience, that they might abound to every good work; which if they did, they should have this power of God active, fully working for them, according to these large expressions wee have of it in this Scripture. And observe the severall expressions.
1 It is grace.
2 Then all grace.
3 Then all grace abounding.
4 A sufficiency.
5 An all-sufficiency.
6 An all-sufficiency in all things.
And 7. alwayes an all-sufficiency in all things. And is not here an Argument full enough, to cause them and us, and all Gods people for ever, to abound in every good worke. How often doth God fill our cup with mercy, and make it even runne over; as Psal. 23. 5? If there shall be an All-sufficiency in all things, then there will be an all-sufficiency in our greatest straits, in our greatest afflictions, in our greatest seares: As it is said of the wicked, Iob 20. 22. in the fulnesse of his sufficiency, hee shall bee in straits; the contrary is true concerning Gods people; in the fulnesse of their straits, they shall be in all-sufficiency. God causeth all his Attributes, and all the wayes of his Providence, and all his creatures to work for the good of his people; All that is in God, all that God doth, and all that belongs to God, is for them; therefore infinite reason there is, that all they are, that all they doe, that all they have, should worke for his honour.
First, all there is in God 1 is for * them, Ierem. 32, 41. I will rejoyce over them, to doe them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly, with my whole heart, and with my whole soule: God cals for no more from thee than he is willing to give unto thee; hee would have thy whole heart, & thy whole soule for his honour, and hee promiseth to give thee his whole heart, and his whole soule, for thy good. Againe, all that God doth, is for thee; Psal. 25. 10. All the pathes of the Lord are mercy and truth, unto such as keepe his Covenant and his testimonies: The pathes of the Lord, are the wayes of God, in the passages of his Providence; not onely some particular acts, but the track of God in his wayes, his pathes: Now all these pathes of God, that is, all the workings of God in the waies of his Providence, they are mercy unto such, they work mercifully for their good. And further observe, they are not onely mercy, but mercy in truth: God hath ingaged his truth, that they should thus worke for them; God hath tyed this mercy to them by his truth. See here the difference between Gods mercy to his people, and his mercy to other men.
First, some of Gods pathes may be mercy to other men, but not all; or some particular acts of God, rather than his pathes: God doth not ordinarily goe on in a track and course of his mercies with them, as hee doth with his people: As their obedience is onely in some particular acts, and no continued course; so Gods mercy to them, which comes from his generall bounty, is manifested onely in some particular acts of his, and not in any constant course. But it is otherwise in his dealings towards his people; they goe on in a constant course of obediēce; they make Gods Commandements their pathes, and therefore God goes on in a constant course of loving kindnesse towards them, hee makes his mercy to them the ordinary pathes wherein hee walkes: As, Psalm. 36. 10. O continue thy loving kindnesse to them that know thee, and thy righteousnesse to the upright in heart. The word in the Originall, is, Draw out thy loving kindnesse. Gods mercies to his owne, are a continued Series, they are drawne out from a constant Spring, they come forth from a never-failing Fountaine; there is a connexion betweene one mercy and another; but as for others, God now and then onely casts his favours on them.
And observe a second difference; all Gods paths are mercy to his people, not some few; there are none of Gods dealings, but ayme at good towards them; if God should cause one favour to follow another towards some wicked man, out of the fulnesse of his bounty; yet it cannot be said of any wicked man in the world, that all the pathes of God are mercy towards him. God hath his pathes of wrath and judgement, wherein he is comming towards him, though hee bee little aware of it: But this blessing of all the pathes of God being mercy, is a peculiar blessing to such as follow the Lord fully, in the uprightnesse of their hearts, in all the pathes of service and obedience.
And thirdly, observe yet a greater * difference than the former: All the pathes of God are not onely mercy, but mercy and truth to his people: though God may shew mercy to others, yet he hath not tyed his mercy to them by his truth; they cannot challenge mercy from him by vertue of his truth; if they have mercy, it is more than they could have expected; they cannot be sure of the continuance of it one houre; they have nothing to shew for their mercy; they doe not hold their mercy upon that Tenor of Gods truth which his people doe. Nay, when God comes to make good his truth, to give his truth the glory of it, then there is an end put to their mercy; it is cut off from them; but there is a blessed connexion between Mercy & Truth in the good which Gods people doe enjoy; according to the like expression in the forenamed 36. Psa. 10. the loving kindnesse and the righteousnesse of God are put both together, as the portion of an upright heart. And hence the mercies they have, are no other than such as they may expect, as they may build upon, before they come; such as are made over to them by the truth of God; and when they are come they may bee sure to hold them, because they hold them upon such a blessed Tenure as GODS owne truth. And hence the Scripture calls them sure mercies. See how confident David was of holding Gods mercies, Psalm. 23. 6. Surely goodnesse and mercy shall follow mee all the dayes of my life.
And further, all that God hath, is for their good; the heavens, and earth, and all Creatures are theirs, and worke continually for them: Hosea 2. 21. 22. I will heare the heavens, and they shall heare the earth, and the earth shall heare the Corne, and the Wine, and the Oyle, and they shall heare Iezreel: 1 Cor. 3. 22, 23: The world, life, death, things present, things to come, all are yours, and yee are Christs, and Christ is Gods: Rom. 8. 28. And we know that all things worke together for good, to them that love God. This is a mysterie that the world is not acquainted with, but we know it, saith the Apostle. The world may thinke, that things worke against us; yea, all things in the world seeme to work against us; but we know that all things doe work for good, & they work together for good; though some particular things considered apart, may worke for good to other men; yet take all together, and they worke their ruine; but altogether workes for good to us; although the good doth not seeme yet to come forth, yet it is a working for us; stay but till the worke bee done, and it will appeare: Good it will bee, though it may bee not the same good that wee thinke of, yet a good that will bee better for us; a greater good than we imagined or desired. Now then, if all that is Gods bee for thee, and workes thus fully for thee, is there not reason then, that all that is thine should be for God, and worke as fully for him? Thine did I say? the truth is, there is nothing thine; for all is Gods; God hath a greater propriety in, and right to whatsoever thou art, and hast, than thy selfe; but God is pleased to let it bee called thine, that thou maist freely give it to him: and if it bee his owne, why should hee not have it fully? If he thus inlargeth himselfe towards thee, how unequall is it, that thou shouldest be scant in thy service to him, and in thine honouring of him?
Fifthly, wicked men doe fully follow * after that which is evill; an infinite shame & confusion then would it be to us, an infinite dishonour likewise unto God, if wee should not as fully follow the Lord in that which is good? Ecclesiastes 9. 3. The heart of the sonnes of men is full of evill: and Chap. 8. 11. The heart of the sonnes of*men is fully set in them to doe evill: The Seventy translate this, The heart of man hath a Plerophorie to evill; it is set upon it without any doubt, or suspition; there is a plerophorie of boldnesse to sinne in them; why should there not bee a plerophorie, (that is) a full perswasion of faith in Gods servants to that which is good? Micah 7. 3. the Scripture saith, that wicked men doe evill with both hands, earnestly: Esay 57. 5. Idolaters there are said to inflame themselves with their Idols; and Ieremy Chap. 8. 2. they are said, 1. To love their Idols: 2. To serve them: 3. To walke after them: 4 To seek them: 5. To worship them: all these 5. expressions together in one Verse, to set forth the earnestnesse and fulnesse of the spirit of Idolaters towards their Idols. Where have we five such expressions together, to set out the fulnesse of the worke of mens spirits in following after the Lord? It was said of Ahab, that hee sold himselfe to work wickednesse; what a fulnesse of spirit was there in him, in doing wickednesse? Ier. 23. 10. It is said there of the people, that their course was evill, and their force was not right. That vis, that strength, and force that was in their spirits, was not right; it was not after God, but after the wayes of sinne. How many difficulties will men passe thorow for their lusts? what cost will they bee at? how great things will they suffer? nothing is so deare unto them, but they will be content to part with it for, and bestow it upon their Idols. How soon did the people, Exodus 32. break off their golden Earrings from their Eares, to make an Idoll withall? and shall not then our hearts and lives bee more fully after the blessed God? Wee see wicked men sticke close to their wicked principles; they are bold, they will not bee daunted, they will goe thorow with the worke they have begun, what ever come of it; should not wee much more stick to our principles, should not wee much more bee undaunted in our way, and goe thorow with our worke?
I remember I haue read a passage in Saint Cyprian, how he brings in the devil triumphing over Christ in this manner; As for my followers, I never dyed for them, as Christ did for his; I never promised them so great reward, as Christ hath done to his; and yet I have more followers than hee, and they doe more for mee, than his doth for him. O let the thought of our giving the devil occasion thus to triumph over Christ in our slacknesse and negligence in following after him, cause shame and confusion to cover our faces: and yet to put on this Argument a little more close; It may bee you your selves heretofore, have followed sinne fully, your hearts have beene strong after evill, and your lives have beene fruitfull in it; it may bee you have beene forward in putting forth your selves ring-leaders in that which was evill; not onely stout and perverse your selves, but maintainers, encouragers of much evill in others; you gave up yours members, your estates, and what you had, to the service of sin; much time was spent, much sleepe broke, in plotting and contriving wickednesse, much paines taken in the execution of it, and now your hearts and wayes seeme to bee for God; and is a poore, sleight, scant, dead-hearted service sufficient for him? Oh bee ashamed and confounded in thy thoughts, let Conscience judge betweene God and his Creature. Doest thou thus requite the Lord? is this thy kindnesse to him? Is there not infinite reason, that as you have yeelded your members servāts to uncleannes, & to iniquity unto iniquity; even so you now should yeeld your members servants to righteousnesse unto holinesse? Rom. 6. 19. Marke the opposition there; there are three to’s in the expression of the service to sinne, To uncleannesse, To iniquitie, Vnto iniquitie; but in the service of God there are onely two, To righteousnes, Vnto holines. It is true, in this life there will never be that fulnesse of spirit in following after God, as there was in following after sinne; because there was nothing but sinne in the soule before, no other streame to abate it; but now there is somthing else besides grace; a streame of corruption to oppose it: but yet wee should bee ashamed, that there should be such a difference; the thought of it should cause a dejection of heart within us, and we should judge it infinitely equall & reasonable, that we should indeavour to the utmost wee are able, to follow God as fully now, as ever wee followed sinne before. Saint Paul, Acts 26. 11. confesseth, that in his former way he was madd in the persecution of Gods servants; and when God turned the streame, others judged him as mad in the other way; 2 Corinth. 5. 13. For whether we bee besides our selves, it is to God; the love of Christ constraineth us. And hence we may observe, that the same word that signifies to persecute, he useth to set out his earnest pressing towards the Marke; Phil. 3. 14. I presse towards the Marke, for the price of the high calling of God. The word that is there translated, presse towards, it is this same that signifies to persecute, because * the earnestnesse of his spirit, in pressing towards the marke now, is the same that it was in his persecution of those that pressed towards the marke before.
Sixthly, the more fully we follow * God, the more full shall our present peace, and joy, and soule satisfying contentment be. Psal. 119. 130. The entrance of thy words giveth light; the beginning of following God, is sweet and good, but the further wee doe goe on, the more sweet we shall finde, as they who walked toward Sion, Psalm. 84. 7. They went from strength to strength: so they who walke after the Lord, they goe from peace to peace, from joy to joy, frō one degree of comfort unto another; for if the entrance into our way be so good and sweet, what will it bee when wee come into the midst of it? Prov. 8. 20. I lead in the way of righteousnesse, in the midst of the pathes of judgement; marke what followes there, verse 21. That I might cause those that love me, to inherit substance, and I will fill their treasures. Then doth the soule inherit substance indeed, then are the treasures of it filled, when wisedome leades it, not onely in the way of righteousnesse, but in the midst of the paths of judgement. The way of the just is compared to the shining of the light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day, Prov. 4. 18. The further hee goes on his way, the more light hee hath, the more glorious shine is upon him. Psal. 36. 8. They shall be abundantly satisfied, and they shall drinke of the River of pleasures. Who are those that shal be thus abundantly satisfied, and shall have this River of pleasures? they are verse 10. the upright in heart. That soule that walkes on before the Lord in the uprightnesse of it, shall not want satisfaction, shall not want pleasure. Psal. 119. 165. Great peace have they which love thy law. It is more to love Gods law thē to do the thing that is commanded in it. That soule which doth not onely submit to the Law, but loves it, will be abundant in duty, for love is bountifull; & great peace hath such a soule, that thus loves Gods Law. Every good motion in the soule is as the budd of the Lord, and that is beautifull and glorious; but how excellent and glorious is the fruit of it then? the good beginnings which are as the budding of the Pomegranate, and the putting forth of the tender Vine, are delightfull to God and to the soule; but how pleasant then is the fruit when it comes to ripenesse?
The more fully we follow on in Gods wayes, the more full will the testimony of the witnesses both in heaven and earth bee, in witnessing our blessed estate unto us: Those three witnesses in heaven, the Father, Word, and Holy Ghost, and those three on earth, the spirit, water, and the blood, of which S. Iohn in his 1 Epistle 5. 7, 8. they will all come with their full testimony, to that soule which followes God fully. By following the Lord fully, wee keep our evidences cleare; sinne blots and blurs our evidences, that oftentimes wee cannot reade them; but when the heart keeps close to God, and walks fully with him, then all is kept faire. The Kingdome of God consists in righteousnesse, peace, and joy; the more fully wee are brought into his Kingdome, the more fully wee are under his government; as there will bee the more righteousnesse, so the more peace, and joy. Es. 9. 7. Of the encrease of his government, and peace, there shall bee no end, saith the Text. The more encrease there is of Christs government in the soule, the more full it is, the more peace will be there.
Seventhly, there is great reason that wee should walke fully after the * Lord, because the way that God cals us to walke in, is a most blessed and holy way: In the 21. Revelation, 21. verse; The streets of Ierusalem, (that is, the wayes of Gods people in his Church, wherein they are to walke) they are said to bee of pure gold, and as it were transparent glasse; they are golden wayes, they are bright shining wayes. Prov. 3. 17. The wayes of wisdome are the wayes of pleasantnesse; and all her paths are peace. There is not any one Command of God, wherein hee would have us to follow him, but it is very lovely, there is much good in it: God requires nothing of us, but that which is most just and holy: as God is holy in all his workes, so he is holy in all his Commands; they are no other, but that which if our hearts were as they ought, wee would choose to our selves. A righteous man is a law to himselfe, he sees that good, that beauty, that equity in all Gods Lawes, as hee would choose them to himselfe were hee left at his owne liberty. What one thing is there in Gods Law that could bee spared? What is there that thou couldst bee glad to bee exempted from? It may bee in the strength of temptation, when some lust is up working, the flesh would faine have some liberty, but upon due serious thoughts, looking into the bottome of things, a gracious soule closeth with the Law, and loveth it as gold, yea, fine gold, and breakes for the longing it hath, not to the reward of obedience to Gods Statutes, and Judgements, but to the Statutes and Judgements of God themselves, as David saith his soule did. Howsoever our path in following the Lord may seeme rugged and hard to the flesh, in regard of the afflictions and troubles it meets withall in it; yet where there is a spirituall eye, the way of holinesse appeares to it exceeding lovely and beautifull. Though David Psa. 23. supposed the worst that might befall him in his way, as that he might walke through the valley of the shadow of death; yet he cals his way greene pastures, and saith, Godwill leade him by the still waters. It is true, the wayes of God are grievous to the wicked, but very good and delightfull to the Saints, because they are the wayes of holinesse, as Esay 35. 8. And a highway shall be there, and it shall bee called, the way of holinesse; The uncleane shall not passe over it.
Eightly, the consideration of the end of our way, should bee a strong * motive, to draw our hearts fully after the Lord in it; the entrance into it is sweet, the midst of it more, as before we have shewed; but the end of it most sweet of all; there is that comming, that will fully recompence all.
Consider of the sweetnesse of the end of our way;
1 In that period of it that will be at death, and 2, In that glorious reward we shall have in heaven.
That sweet and blessed comfort, that the full following of the Lord brings at death, is enough to recompence all the trouble and hardship, that wee meet withall in our way, while we are following of him: This hath caused many Saints of God to lie triumphing, when they have been upon their death-beds, blessing the Lord that ever they knew his wayes, that euer he drew their hearts to follow after him in them.
When Hezekiah received the message of death, Esay 38. 2, 3, he turned his face to the wall, and said, Remember, O Lord, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth, and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight; and Hezechiah wept sore: O the sweetnesse that possessed the heart of Hezekiah, which did flow from the testimony of his conscience, that hee had fully walked after the Lord with a perfect heart! the verbe there, I have walked,* is in that Mood in the Originall, that addes to the signification of it; It signifies, I have continually without ceasing walked.
Thus Luther, who was a man * whose spirit was exceeding full in his love unto, and walking after the Lord Jesus Christ while hee lived; and when hee came to die, his spirit was as full of comfort, and joy, as before it was full of zeale, and courage; these expressions brake from him; O my heavenly Father, O God the Father of the Lord Iesus Christ, the God of all comfort, I give thee thanks that thou hast revealed thy Sonne Iesus Christ to mee, whom I have beleeved, whom I have professed, whom I have loved, whom I have honoured, whom the Bishop of Rome, and the rest of the rout of wicked men have persecuted, and contemned; and now I beseech thee; O my Lord Iesus Christ, receive my soule, my heavenly Father; although my body is to be laid downe, yet I certainly know that I shall for ever remaine with thee, neither can I by any be pulled out of thy hands. The grace of Gods Spirit oftentimes appeares most in the glory of it, when death approacheth, because grace and glory is then about to meet. That soule that hath followed God fully here, when it comes to depart out of the body, it onely changeth the place, nor the company; which was the speech of a late reverend holy Divine of ours, a little before his death. I shall change my place, saith hee, but not my company: meaning, that as he had conversed with God, and followed after the Lord here in this World, hee was now going to converse with him, and to follow after him more fully in a better World. Death to such a soule, it is but Gods calling of it, from the lower gallery of this World, to the upper gallery of Heaven, to walke with him there. Here the converse that Jesus Christ hath with the soules of his people, is compared to that converse, that friends have one with another, in their walkings together in their galleries, Cant. 7. 5. The King is held in the galleries: hee doth not only walk with his Beloved there, but is as it were bound, he is kept there by the bands of love, and when death comes, then the soule is called up, to the upper roome, to heaven, there to follow the Lamb wheresoever he goeth.
Wee reade of a notable speech, that Hilarion had when hee was to die; Goe out, goe out my soule, why dost*thou feare, why dost thou doubt? almost these seventy yeares hast thou served Christ, and dost thou now feare death? And if the end of our way at death, hath so much good in it, how much good will there be in the end of our way, that we shall enjoy, when we come to heaven?
As the consideration of the full reward in heaven, was made use of before, as an encouragement to those who doe fully follow the Lord; so now wee make use of it, as a strong motive to draw up our hearts to the full following after him. It was S. Pauls motive to the Corinthians, 1 Epistle 15. 58. perswading them to hee stedfast, unmoveable, alwayes abounding in the work of the Lord; forasmuch as they knew that their labour was not in vaine in the Lord. We doe not follow after shadowes, and phancies, in following the Lord, but wee seek for glory, honour, immortality; wee follow after an incorruptible crowne, a glorious kingdome, an eternall inheritance, the glory of heaven; the treasures of the riches of God himselfe are set before us, to draw up our hearts fully to him. It was the argument that S. Paul used to worke upon his owne spirit withall, Phil. 3. 14. I presse toward the marke for the price of the high calling of God in Christ Iesus.
How full is the worke of many mens spirits, in their working after some poore, little, scant good in this world? whereas if they had all the world, they had but an empty husk, in comparison of that glory that is set before us: They pant after the very dust; what cause is there then, that our hearts should pant in the strong workings of them, after those high and glorious things, that are reserved in heaven for us? It was the goodnes of the land of Canaan, that was a strong motive to draw Caleb and Ioshuahs heart fully after the Lord, through many difficulties. Canaan was but a darke Type of the glory of Heaven, which God hath promised to reward the full followers of himselfe withall. It was once a speech of Anselme, If a man should serve God zealously here a thousand yeares, yet should hee not thereby deservedly merit to bee one halfe day in heaven. Let us bee as forward, let our hearts bee as strong and zealous in Gods wayes as possibly they can be; yet I may say as Abigail did to David in that particular case, it shall not repent my Lord when he comes into his Kingdome; so it shal never repent you of any thing that ever you have done for the Lord, when you come into your Kingdome. But if it were possible there could be sorrow in heaven, you would be sorry that you did no more. It was a speech of one Gordius a Martyr, that the threats of his enemies were but as seedes, from which he should reape immortality, and eternal joyes; so all the hardship and troubles that we meet with all in our way here, in following the Lord, are but increasers of that glory that is to be revealed: why then should any thing hinder us, or stop us in our way? And thus I passe to the second thing propounded in this Use, namely, to shew what are the Causes that hinder men from following the Lord fully; and they are five especially; which I shall but name.
First, low apprehensions that men * have of God; they see not God in his glory, in his greatnesse; surely, they know not God, and therefore it is that their hearts work so poorly after him: Ier. 9. 3. They are not valiant for the truth upon the earth: and what is the reason? For they know not me, saith the Lord. As if he should say, Did they know me, certainly they would be valiant for my trruth: They that know thy Name, saith the Psalmist, Psal. 9. 10. they will put their trust in thee; so they that know Gods Name, will love him, will feare him, will be zealous for, will fully follow after him. The knowledge of all truthes, concerning Heaven, and hell,
ven, and hell, or any other thing that can bee knowne, can never raise, can never inlarge the hearts of men so after the Lord, as the knowledge of God himselfe; and therefore where God is little knowne, no marvell though he be so little followed.
Secondly, unsound beginnings in * the profession of Religion, are the cause why men doe not fully follow after the Lord; their hearts are not throughly broken, not deepely humbled, the truths of God not deeply rooted at first, their soules not well principled, the foundation not well laid: If men be not well principled at first, in their entrance into the wayes of God, they are like to prove but shufflers and bunglers in Religion all their dayes. If cloth bee not wrought well at the first, though it shews faire in the Loome, yet it will shrinke when it comes to wetting: the cause why many doe so shrinke in the wetting, when they come to suffer any thing in the wayes of Religion; it is, because their hearts were not well wrought at first.
A third cause is the strength of ingagements; their hearts are so wrapped * in them, so glued to them, as it is exceeding painfull to get them loosened from them, they are so near and deare to a corrupt heart: As it is said of Esau, hee looked on the Pottage, and it was so red; so they looke upon their ingagements, and they are so full of content; it is so grievous to be taken off from them, that they rather suffer their hearts to bee taken off from God himselfe: when engagements have taken possession of the heart, then how hard is it to work any thing upon the judgements of men? it is hard to get the minde to view the truths of God, to get it to search into them, to consider of them; it is ready to close with the least objection against them, to catch hold of the least advantage to cast them off; and if truths bee so cleare as a man cannot but see them, as conscience for the present is over-powred with them, yet if the heart bee not taken off from ingagements, it will fetch about againe, to see if something may not bee gotten against those truths, to breake the strength of them; but where the heart is taken off from ingagements, how easily do the truths prevaile? how soone is the heart brought fully to close with them? 2 Sam. 22. 33. God, saith David, maketh my way perfect: the word is, He frees my way, Solvit, so it is translated by some, Hee frees it from snares; and this is a great mercy. Hence, Psalme 18. 32. Where this thanksgiving of David is againe repeated, there the word is translated Dedit, Hee hath given my way to be perfect; this is a good gift indeed, for God to make a mans wayes free and cleare before him, to take off the temptations that did ingage and insnare his spirit; and then, as Verse 34. of that place in Samuel, He maketh my feet as Hindes feet: O how swiftly and powerfully then may the soule runne in Gods wayes, when it is thus freed! Psalm. 119. 44, 45. I shall keep thy Law continually, for ever and ever, and I will walke at liberty. When the heart is at liberty, then it goes on continually, for ever and ever, in following after the Lord: but if there be any secret ingagement in it, it will be weary, and one time or other will leave off: a man that is fettered, can neither go apace, nor continue long.
A fourth thing that hinders men * in following God fully, it is, going out in the strength of their owne resolutions, not in any strength that they receive out of the fulnesse of Jesus Christ; they trust more to their owne promises, than to Gods. Lu¦ther reports of Staupicius a Germane Divine, that hee acknowledged of himselfe, that before he came to understand aright the free and powerful grace of Jesus Christ, that he vowed & resolved an hundred times against some particular sin, and never could get power over it; at last he saw the reason to be, the trusting to his own resolutions.
A fift cause, is the meeting with * more difficulties in Gods ways than wee made account of: when Christians thinke onely of the good and sweet that they shall meet with in Gods wayes; but they doe not cast in their thoughts, what the troubles are like to bee, that they shall finde in them; like Ioseph, who dreamed of his preferment and honour that hee should have above his brethren, but dreamt not of his selling into Egypt, nor of his imprisonment there: Christians should at the first entrance into Gods wayes, expect the utmost difficulties; they should enter upon those termes, to incounter with great troubles, if they meane to sollow God fully in them. It is a shame for any Christian to account any trouble that he meets withall in Gods wayes, to be as a strange thing unto him. Because the Lord had takē S. Paul as a chosen vessell unto himselfe, and purposed to draw his heart fully after him; observe how God deales with him in his first entrance into his way, Acts 19. 16. I will shew him how great things hee must suffer for my Names sake.
But what then would take off the heart, and carry it fully after the Lord?
These three things will doe it.
First, the reall sight and thorow sense of sinne, as the greatest evill. Whē God leads his people weeping, and with supplications, then hee brings them into a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble, Ier. 31. 9. and againe, Ier. 50. 4, 5. the Lord saith, that his people shall goe weeping, and seeke the Lord their God, they shal aske the way to Zion, with their faces thither-ward, saying, Come let us joyne our selves to the Lord in a perpetuall Covenant, that shall not be forgotten. When they are led weeping in the thorow sense of their sinne, then their faces are set toward Zion, and then they are willing to joyne themselves to God, in a perpetuall Covenant.
The second thing that will take off the heart fully, is the cleare sight of God in these two considerations.
- In relation to our selves, to see how there is all good in him for * us to enjoy fully, though wee have nothing but him alone; what ever wee would have in any creature, in any way so farre as is good for us, it is to bee had in him; when the soule is thorowly convinced of this, it comes off sweetly, and flowes fully after the Lord.
- Consider God in relation to all other good; thus, that nothing * else hath any true goodnesse in it, but in reference and subordination to him.
The third thing that will take off * the heart fully, is the feare of God, and the feare of eternity powerfully falling upon the soule, and deeply taking impression in it: For the feare of God, take that place, 2 Cor. 2. 1. Perfect your holinesse in the feare of God. The feare of God is a great means to bring your holinesse to perfection; and for the second, that place in Phil. 2. 12. Worke out your salvation with feare and trembling. The feare of * the eternall salvation of the soule, of the infinite consequence of it, will cause us to labour to work it out.
That it is the choicenesse of a mans spirit that causes him to follow GOD fully.
FRom the reference that this * following of God fully hath to the excellency of Calebs spirit; The Doctrine that ariseth is this, That it is the choicenesse and excellency of a mans spirit, that causeth him to follow God fully. As Comets that are called blazing stars do soone vanish, because of the basenes of the matter out of which they are; but Starres in the Firmament continue; because they are of an heavenly substance: so there are many blazing Professors of Religion, who rise high for a while, but at last they come to nothing, because their spirits are base and vile; but those who have heavenly and choice spirits, they god on in their way, & finish their course to the honour of God and his truth, Pro. 11. 5. The righteousnesse of the perfect shall direct his way: but the wicked shall fall. Ezec. 36. 26, 27. A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you, &c. And after it followes, And cause you to walke in my Statutes, and yee shall keepe my Iudgements, and doe them. This new spirit will cause a man to walk in Gods Statutes; a man of such a spirit shall certainly keepe his judgements, and do them even to the end. It is not strength of parts that will carry a man thorow, nor strength of Argument, nor strength of conviction, nor strength of naturall conscience, nor strength of resolution, nor strength of common grace; it is onely this choice excellent spirit; that other spirit, of which wee have spoke so much before.
In this point I shall follow these three things.
- 1 Wee shall shew what there is in this spirit that doth carry on a man fully.
- 2 Why onely this can doe it.
- 3 Apply it.
For the first, it is the choicenesse of a mans spirit that causeth a man to goe fully after God: for,
1 By this a man comes to have a more full presence of God with him, * than any other man can have; such a man is nearer unto God than others, hee hath more of the nature of God, than others; is more capable of the presence of God, than others; and God delights to let out himselfe more to him than to others: These are filled with all the fulnesse of God, according to that expression of the Apostle, Ephes. 3. 19. Now this fulnesse of God in their spirits must needs carry them on, because it so satisfies them, as they feele no need of other things. Empty spirits are alwayes sucking and drawing of comfort from the creatures that are about them, & hence it is that their hearts are taken off from God so much. Againe, a spirit that is filled with God, is not so sensible of any evils that are without, so as empty spirits are; as it is in the body when it is filled with good nourishment, with good blood and spirits, it is not sensible of cold, and alteration of weather, as the body is that is empty, and filled onely with winde.
Secondly, the choicenesse of a mans spirit raiseth it to converse with high * things, and so carries it above the rubs, the snares and hindrances that are below; and being above these, it goes on freely and fully in its course, and is not in that danger of miscarrying, as other poore spirits are, who converse so much with the things upon the earth: as Birds that flie high, are not catched by the Fowler, they are not taken by his Lime-twigs, by his Net or Pit fall so as others are, who are much below upon the ground. Broverb. 15. 24. The way of Life is above to the wise, that hee may depart from hell beneath; It is the keeping in his way above, that delivers him from the dangers & snares that are laid for him below. Thunders and Lightnings, tempests and stormes, make no alteration in the highest Region; so the threats and oppositions against the wayes of godlinesse, and all the troubles that the world causeth, make no alterations in heavenly hearts, that keepe above. When the tree growes low, it is subject to bee bitten by the Beasts, but when it is growne up on high, it is out of danger: The lower the heart is, the nearer the earth, the more danger; but when it is got up on high, the danger is past; and now, what should hinder it from the growing up to the full measure of it in Christ.
Thirdly, the choicenesse of a mans * spirit changeth his end, and so carries him on fully after the Lord; for when the end is changed, all is changed; when there are but particular changes it is a certaine argument, that the highest end is not changed; but when that is changed, there must of necessity bee an universall change upon these two grounds.
1 Because the last end is alwayes loved for it selfe, and therefore infinitely loved.
2 It is the rule of all other things that are under it; the good of all things under it is measured by it, and is subordinate to it.
Fourthly, this choicenesse of spirit causeth a suteablenesse, a sympathy * between the frame of the heart, and the wayes of holinesse: Now sympathies first, are alwayes between the generall natures of things, and not individuals, not particulars; as thus, where there is a sympathy betweene one creature and another, it is alwayes betweene the whole kind of those creatures; wheresoever such Natures are found, there will be this agreement. Wee may see it more clearely in that which is contrary; that contrariety of nature which wee call Antipathy, it is not betweene any particulars so much, as betweene the whole natures of things; as between the Wolf & the Sheep, there is such a contrariety: Now the nature of the Wolfe is not contrary so much to any particular sheep, but to the whole nature of sheepe, wheresoever the nature of it is found, and therefore to all sheep; Thus it is in the soule, where there is such a kinde of opposition of it against sinne, it is not against any particular sinne so much, as against the whole nature of sinne, wheresoever it is; so where there is such an agreement, which wee call a sympathie, it is not so much with any particular way of holinesse, or perticular Act, but with the whole nature of holinesse, wheresoever it is found, and therefore such a soule must needs follow God fully. Againe, sympathies doe alwayes worke without labour and paine, and therefore where there is such an agreement betweene the frame of the heart, and the wayes of God, the heart must needs worke fully, because it workes delightfully: and yet further, this agreeablenes of sympathie is deepely rooted in the very principles of the creature, it is founded in the very being of it, and therefore it must needs worke strongly and constantly. Vaine reasonings, carnall objections, subtill arguments, strong oppositions can never prevaile against that soule, where there is this deeprooted agreeablenesse betweene the frame of it, & the wayes of holinesse. But that you may see further what a wonderfull agreeablenesse Grace makes betweene the spirits of the godly, and the Law of God, which is the rule of those wayes wherein God would have the soule to follow him in: observe the severall expressions by which the Scripture sets it out.
- First, it is written in the tables of their hearts.
- Secondly, it is their meditation day and night, Psal. 1.
- Thirdly, it is the joy of their souls, Psal. 119. 14, vers. and 47. verse.
- Fourthly, they love it above gold, above fine gold.
- Fifthly, their hearts breake for the longing it hath after it.
- Sixthly, they lift up their hands to it, Psal. 119. 48.
- Seventhly, their mouthes talke of it, Psal. 119. 13. ver. & 46. ver.
- Eighthly, their feet run in it, Psal. 119. 32.
- Ninthly, their soule keeps it. Psal. 119. 167.
- Tenthly, they will never forget it, Psal. 119. 16.
- Eleventhly, they give up their members as instruments of the righteousnesse of it, Rom. 6. 13.
And lastly, to name no more, (though there be many more expressiōs in Scripture to set this out) they apply their hearts to it, to fulfill it alwaies even to the end, Psal. 119. 103.
Fifthly, This choicenesse of spirit * causeth a man to looke to his duty, and not to regard what may follow. The thing that hinders most in their following the Lord, it is want of this; it is not want of conviction what should be done, but the reasonings of their heart, about the hard and troublesome consequences that will follow, if the things bee done: But a true gracious heart saith onely, Let mee know what is my duty, let the right bee done, though heaven and earth meet together.
Sixthly, The choicenesse of a mans * spirit causeth a man, that if he doth looke at any consequences, that may follow upon his way, he lookes onely at the last issue of all, what his way will prove in his last conclusion; how things will goe with him when he comes to the last triall, what will be the ultimate end of all: Will it then be peace? shall I then be glad of these wayes I now walke in?
Seventhly, The choicenesse of a * mans spirit strengthens it against the impressions that sensitive objects use to leave upon soft and weake spirits. Most men have their spirits formed, and fashioned according to sensitive objects; it is not what they apprehend in abstract notions, that works upon them, let them bee what they will; yet, when they have to deale with sensitive things, the sweetnesse, desireablenesse, glory of them, works the most powerfully; their hearts are altered according to the impression that they leave upon them, and this is great weaknesse, and an effeminate softnesse of spirit: Hence the word translated Effeminate, 1 Cor. 6. 9. signifies * soft-spirited men. This distēper in the spirit, is like that in the flesh, when it is corrupted with the dropsie; the flesh is soft, and if you put your finger to it, the impression of your finger sticks in it, and pits the flesh; so the impression of sensitive objects, sticks in distempered, weake, soft spirits, as it was in the other Spies who were sent with Caleb and Ioshuah; the terrible things they saw in the land, stucke mightily in their hearts, they brought with them the impressiō of them fastened in their spirits: hence Numb. 13. 33. according to the translation of the Greek Translators, it is, They brought the feare of the land with them: But * this choicenesse of spirit that was in Caleb, and is in those who are truely godly, keepeth from this: and there must bee this firmnesse in the spirit of a man, or else it will never cary him after the Lord fully, 2 Sam. 22. 26. With the upright thou wilt shew thy selfe upright; the word translated upright, signifies strong and perfect: There is required strength, and that more than ordinary too, to cary on the soule to perfection.
Thus you see what there is in this choice spirit, that caries it on fully after the Lord: Now there must of necessity be this, or else this full following of the Lord will never be, nothing else will doe it. And that;
1 Because the wayes of God are supernaturall, and therefore there must bee something in the spirit of a man which is supernaturall, that must reach to them; this which is supernaturall in the spirits of godly men, wee see it in the effects, and we know it is above reason, and all naturall principles whatsoever. But what is, is very hard to expresse; and therefore men of parts in the World, are madde to think, that any should imagine, that those who are of weaker parts than themselves, should have any thing in them, to carry them on in other wayes, than they walke in; which they doe not understand, because they doe not know, what that same thing is, which is called supernaturall; they will rather think it a conceit and phansie, than any reall excellency: because they can apprehend other things better than others, they thinke, why should they not apprehend this better than others, if there were any reall excellencie in it.
2 The wayes of God are not only above nature, but contrary to nature, and therefore there must bee needs, some speciall choycenesse of spirit, to carry a man on in them; there must bee a contrary streame, to over-power the streame of nature, and this streame must be fed by some living fountaine, or else there will never bee a holding out. In following after the Lord, all naturall abilities, and common grace will doe no more but stop the streame of corrupt nature; they cannot so overpower it, as to carry the soule another way; but the worke of grace in this choicenesse of spirit will doe it.
3 The streame of times, and examples of men, are exceeding strong, and it is not a little matter that will carry on the soule against them. The dead fish is carried down the streame, though the winde serves to blow it up: all naturall abilities of the soule, will no more helpe a man against the streame of examples, than the winde can carry the dead fish up the stream; but if there were life put into the fish, it were able then to move against the winde and streame too.
4 There are so many strong alluring temptations, where in the wiles, subtilties, depths of Satan, are very powerfull to draw the heart away from God, that except there bee some speciall worke of Gods grace to give wisdome to discerne the deceits of sin, to make the soule spiritually subtill, to find out the cunning devices of Satan, and to discerne the danger of them, the soule most certainly could never hold on in the way of its following after the Lord.
5 There are so many troubles, oppositions, that it meets withall in this way, that most certainly would drive it out, were it not for some choyce Worke of Gods grace in it; but this choycenesse of spirit, will carry a man through all them: It is Gods promise, Esay 59. 19. That when the enemy shall come in like a floud, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him. We made use of this Scripture before, for opposition of strong corruptions; but it is true here now, for the resisting of strong spirituall enemies, of strong oppositions; when they come in like a floud against the soule, to carry it out of Gods wayes, the Spirit of God in it doth lift up a standard against them, & were it not for this, it could not hold: It is this good and sound constitution of the soule that makes it endure those oppositions that it meets withall. An aguish heat may bee greater, than that which ariseth from a good constitution, but it is not able to resist cold: so there may be a naturall violence in a mans spirit for a while, in the profession of Religion, which may seeme to be zeale, but not arising from the good constitution of the soule, when troubles come, it vanishes, giving no strength at all.
6 There are so many scandals and reproaches that rise against the ways of God, so many aspersions that are cast upon them, that if a man hath not more than an ordinary spirit, hee most certainly will be offended: Blessed are they that are not offended in mee, saith Christ. It is a great blessing when there fals out scandals, and when we see grievous aspersions cast upon Gods wayes, yet not to be offended; there needs be some more than ordinary light to discover to a man, the certainty of that good there is in the ways of God; he had need be sure of his principles, and know in whom he hath beleeved.
7 Yea, God many times hides himselfe from his servants, while they are following after him, and this oftentimes proves the sorest temptation of all, and a greater discouragement then all the rest: for as for oppositions, scandals, reproaches, these are things they make account of, and can often lightly passe them over; but when God hides his face, this puts them at a stand, now they are in the dark, and know not what to doe; Christ was not much troubled at the reproaches of men, at the oppositions hee met withall from them; for the Scripture saith, He despised the shame, and endured the Crosse; but when his Father hid his face from him, then he was in an agony, then his spirit began to bee amazed, then his soule was sorowfull to the death, then hee fals groveling upon the ground, then he sweats drops of water and bloud, then hee cries out, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken mee? These spirituall desertions in their degree, Gods servants often meet withall in their way, so as, if they had not choice spirits, some speciall worke of God in their soules, they would certainly fall and sinke in it. Now put all these together, and we see, it is not every ordinary spirit, that is like to goe on fully after the Lord; it must needs bee some thing extraordinary, that preserves a spark in the midst of waves, that preserves a candle light, in the midst of storms and tempests.
Never wonder then, or bee offended, to see so many to fall off from * God; few men have choice spirits; those who are godly expect no other from most professors, and therefore they are not troubled when they see this fall out; They went out from us, because they were not of us, saith the Apostle. Wicked men are offended, because they know not what the worke of grace meanes; and hence, if they see a man make profession of Religion, they make no difference, as though there were as much to be expected from him, as from another; as though the cause of God fell when he fell; no such matter; If you see mens spirits proud, slight, earthly, sensuall, or carried with a greater violence than their principles will beare; I doe not meane, though their affections may sometimes goe beyond their knowledge; but by principles I meane, the rooted graces of God in their hearts, as one may perceive in some, there are not graces rooted sutable to their expressions, & outward wayes; and when you see not an evennesse in the wayes of men, then never expect from them any full following the Lord: and if they fall off, be not troubled, let it be no more than you made account of before-hand would be.
Hence the world is mistaken, who * judge it stoutnesse, and stubbornnesse of spirit in Gods servants, that will go on in the wayes of godlines; they are a kind of inflexible people, there is no perswading of them, there is no dealing with them: No, it is no stubbornnesse; it is the choicenesse of their spirits, that makes them to doe as they doe; you judge it stubbornnesse because you doe not know the principles upō which they goe. I confesse, if I see a man stand constantly in his way, and will not bee moved by the perswasions of others, if I doe not understand the reasons upon which hee goes, I cannot but thinke it stoutnesse, and this is your case; but if you did but know, what are their reasons, what are their powerfull motives, that draw them on in the wayes of God, you would not have such thoughts of them; Their spirits within them constraine them, as Elihu sayes of himselfe in another case, Iob 32. 18.
Take these convincements that it is not stubbornnesse, but choicenesse of spirit, that carries them on so unmoveable in their way.
- In other things they are as yeeldable, as tractable, as easie to bee perswaded as any men; it is only in the matter of the Lord their God they are thus. They can beare burthens upon their shoulders, and cry out, and resist as little as any; if you will compell them to goe a mile, they will be content, if it may do good, to goe two, yea, as far as the shooes of the preparation of the Gospell of peace will carry them; who can beare wrongs and injuries from men better than they? stubborne-spirited men cannot doe thus.
2 Stubbornnesse is joyned with desire of revenge; but in these dispositions, there is all pity and compassion; they pray for those who doe oppose them; when they are reviled, they revile not againe; If sometimes their corruptions should bee stirred, they are ashamed and confounded, in their own thoughts, for that they have done, they mourne and lament in the bitternesse of their spirits for it.
Thirdly, stubborne dispositions are not contracted on a sudden; it is by degrees, and continuance of time that * alters nature; but this disposition of being unmoveable in Gods wayes comes many times even of a sudden, as soone as ever the heart is turned, which is an evidence of a new principle put into it.
Fourthly, stubborne hearts doe * not use to seek God to uphold them, to strengthen them, to blesse them in that way; they doe not blesse God for being with them, helping of them to persist in their way, as Gods servants doe; they go to God to get strength to inable them to bee immoveable; they give God the glory of it, when they have found themselves inabled to withstand temptations.
Fiftly, those who are of stubborn dispositions, doe not use to bee most * stubborne, when the heart is most broken with afflictions; stout hearts, though in their prosperity are unyeeldable, there is no dealing with them then; their hearts are presently up; if you move them to any thing they have no mind to, their words are stout, their answers are sierce; but let afflictions come, then, as Es. 29. 4. Their hearts are brought down, and they speake as one out of the ground, and their speech is low, as one out of the dust; then they are willing to heare what you say; As the young Gallant that Salomon speakes of in Proverbs 5. there was no speaking to him in his prosperity; but when his flesh and body were consumed, then he mournes at the last, and cries out, How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproofe! I have not obeyed the voyce of my Teachers, &c. But now, those that are godly, in their greatest afflictions, when their hearts are most broken, when God humbles them most, even then they are most settled and unmoveable in that way they walked in before, and it is then the greatest griefe of their soules, that they walked no closer with God in it, than they did. Have other thoughts then of Gods people, than you have had; do not accuse that of stubbornnesse, that you doe not understand; thinke with your selves, that there may be something in their spirits, more than you know of.
Let those who have this excellent choice spirit, encourage themselvs in * this, that surely it will inable them to follow God fully; let them know,
First, that though they be weak, if * their spirits bee right, if of the right kind, they shall certainly hold out. That which Christ said for the comfort of the Church of Philadelphia, Revel. 3. 8, they may apply for theirs; Thou hast a little strength, saith Christ, and hast kept my Word, and hast not denyed my Name. A little strength, if it bee right, if it bee the strength of a sound spirit, it will carry on the soule to keepe Gods Word, and inable, not to deny his Name.
Secondly, therefore is Christ filled with all fulnesse of all grace, that out * of his sulnesse thou mayst receive grace for grace; that Spirit by which he is so plentifully annoynted, it is for thee.
But I am afraid my spirit is not this choice spirit, and therfore I shall not * hold out in following the Lord.
Secondly, that which thou dost, though but weakly, is it upon divine * grounds, and hast thou divine ends?
Thirdly, doth the sight of thy weaknesse make thee cling, and cleave unto * Jesus Christ?
Fourthly, when thou losest God in following him, art thou sensible of * the want of his presence, and doest thou never leave crying and seeking till thou enjoyest him again? Certainly this is a true choyce spirit, that will carry on fully in following the Lord, when thousands of glorious Hypocrites shall vanish and come to nothing.
If it be this choicenesse of spirit, * that is the only thing that will fully carry after the Lord, then let us learn to looke to our spirits: Keepe thy heart with all diligence, for out of it come the issues of life: Doe not so much complain of tēptations, oppositions, troubles you meet withal; but look to your spirits, & all is safe and wel. If there be the spirit of love & of a sound mind, there will be the spirit of power; for these are joyned together by the Apostle; there need not be * the spirit of feare; for the spirit of a sound mind, & the spirit of feare, are opposed one to another in the same place. But wherein should we looke * to our spirits? First, take heed to your judgmēts, keep your judgemēts clear for God & his truth; as it is said, Es. 33 * that wisdom and knowledge should * be the stability of those times; so, true wisdome and knowledge preserving the judgments of men right & sound, are the stability of mens hearts. Take heed your judgmēts come not to be altered, to thinke otherwise of Gods wayes, than you did before, to have other opinions of thē. Though there may bee many weaknesses, yet if the judgement be kept right, all may doe well; but if the Leprosie bee got into the head, then the soule is in a dangerous condition: as Lev. 13. 44. when the Priest shall looke upon a Leprous man, and see the plague is got into his head, the Text saith, he shal pronoūce him utterly unclean, for the Plague is in his head. The Priest was to pronoūce none to be utterly unclean, but such who had the plague in their heads.
Secondly, labor to keep conscience * clear, take heed of pollution there, take heed of a breach in thy spirit there, for that will weaken it much: conscience is the strong Tower of thy soule, if the Truth of God be got out there, the strength of the soule is gone.
Thirdly, labour to keepe thy heart low and humble; when the flesh swels, * it cannot beare any hard thing upon it: though a member growes bigger when it swels, yet it growes weaker; so it is with the soule.
Fourthly, labour to keepe the spirit * heavenly; mixture of drosse will weaken it, convince thy soule, that a little of the Creature will serve turne, to carry thee thorow this thy Pilgrimage well enough. One told a Philosopher; If you will be content to please Dionysius, you need not feed upon green hearbs: The Philosopher answers him, And if you will be content to feed upon greene hearbs, you need not please Dionysius. So if men would be content with a little in the World, to be in a low and meane condition, they need not flatter; those things that draw others from following after the Lord, would not move them at all.
Fiftly, labour to keep thy spirit in a * continuall trembling frame, abiding in the feare of the Lord all the day long; the feare of the Lord causeth men to depart from evill; meditate the feare of the Lord continually.
Lastly, keep thy spirit continually working; many things have much power in them while they are in motion, but weake when the motion ceaseth; sinne is very strong while it is in motion, but when affliction stops the motion, the truths of God have more power over it; so grace, while it is acting, it is strong, but if it growes dull, it growes weake, and is soone turned aside. Thus we looking to our spirits, wee shall bee able to follow the Lord fully, and finish our course in peace.