Mr. Richard Baxter's Farewell Sermon Preached August 17, 1662Farewell Sermons of the Ejected Puritans
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Baxter’s Farewell Sermon – Preached August 17, 1662
Colossians 2:6, 7, “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him. Rooted and built in him, and established in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.”
Omitting the division, and in part the opening of the words, the observation is; “That those that have received Christ Jesus the Lord, must accordingly be rooted, built up in him, and established in the faith; and walk in him as they have been taught, and abound therein with thanksgiving.”
This receiving of Christ signifies to believe in him. It is not only to receive his doctrine or benefits, but to receive his person, to receive him as related to us, for the uses and end for which he came into the world, and for which lie offers himself to souls, by the preaching of the gospel. Sinners have lost and undone themselves; Christ comes to be the physician of souls. He will not save the unwilling, and despisers of his grace, while they continue in their unwillingness. He will save them by the way of covenant, while he consents and tenders them his grace, he will have them “consent to the terms of his covenant” The consent of the heart expressed by our covenanting with him, is this receiving of Jesus Christ He is willing to be our physician, and when we take him to be so, we receive him. He is willing to save us from the guilt and power of sin, willing to be our Lord, head, intercessor with God, justifier, and all unto us; and if we consent to this, and take him as offered, this is receiving Christ; with whom his benefits are also received, the remission of sins, in-dwelling, renewing, comforting spirit, title to everlasting life, &c. In receiving Christ all this is received.
Receiving of Christ contains these two things, or these two things are essentially contained to make up the nature of saving faith, that is, to believe the doctrine of the gospel concerning Jesus Christ to be true, and to consent that the goodness that is therein revealed and proposed, shall be ours. To believe what Christ is, and what he hath done: so far to believe it, as here we are resolved to venture our souls, (though there may be some weakness through our faith’s imperfection) and believing the gospel to be the certain word of God. Then next, to entertain the Christ that is offered in this gospel to be ours, with all the benefits that accompany, and to all the blessed ends to which he is revealed. Thus the water of life is freely rendered to all that are athirst, and there is no more required, but come and drink.
Then there are two things implied, that are the immediate product of saying faith, and inseparable from it, that is, trusting on him as the Redeemer, and obeying him as a Lord. To rest upon him as a Redeemer, Romans xv. 12. And here as far as the soul feels entertainment and encouragement by Christ, overcoming his doubts that Christ will reject him, &c. so far be hath quietness of soul in Christ, and will trust his soul upon Christ. And then, the obeying of him in order to our full recovery, as a patient must obey his physician in using his remedies, and means he prescribes for killing our sins, restoring our souls to God’s love, and being with him to eternity.
The nature of faith is to receive Christ; the sincerity of it lies in the suitableness of the act to the object; that we receive him as he is. Now, in Christ there is something essential to this act; that he be a Saviour, and our Saviour, &c. and there is something makes unt6 the wellbeing and fuller attaining of the end. The first are “the objects of faith itself,” as it is of absolute necessity to salvation. The second sort are, “the objects of faith as it is strong,” and makes to the well-being of a Christian. All that is essential to Christ as a Saviour, and Redeemer, is to be believed by him that will approve himself a true believer. And thus to receive Christ “as the eternal Son of God, made man, the Redeemer of the world,” ruling us upon the right of redemption, justifying us before God, bringing us to God, and interceding for us. And thus Christ must be received according to his offices, and as those uses for which he is given to the soul do import and imply.
For the application of this point;—
First, Let us begin with those that our business at present doth not mainly lie on. Must men “walk in Christ as they have received him?” What shall we say to those that “have not, will not receive him?” stop us at the door, that we cannot bring in the doctrine of Christ, that “will not receive the principles of Christ?” How can we bring them, and build them up, that will not suffer the foundation to be laid, the seed to be received? Hast thou not received Christ? then thou hast refused Christ, been a despiser of the gospel of Christ, which will prove thy great condemnation. What is it for thee to hear the name, and not to have the spirit of Christ? Do not go upon conjectures; it is one thing to number thyself with those that are Christians, as to outward appearance, and another thing to open thy heart, and deliver up thyself to Christ’s government, and as a lost sinner, to receive him to those ends a Saviour must be received. And remember, this was no small work, God sending Christ into the world, no small thing to fetch thee from hell and Satan, to wash guilty souls from all their sins, and to bring them to everlasting glory. If these great things be rightly understood and believed by thee, if Christ be understood well as Christ, it must be done with a weakened, bumbled, self-resigned heart, making the greatest matter in the world of these things. Hath thy soul been seriously taken up about thy own recovery? And hast thou received Christ as a man that was ready to be damned; as one that had a load on his soul heavier than all the mountains of the earth, to ease and deliver him? as one that was under the frowns of God in a state of enmity, receives reconciliation? Hast thou received Christ as if thou hadst received heaven in him? Believe it, these are great transactions, and will affect thy heart; and it is not a sleepy or jesting matter thus to receive Christ. Consider what it is to receive Christ.
1. If you have received Christ, you have received the great reconciler that binds up the broken-hearted, quiets those that tremble under the threatenings of God, for he should forsake and cast them off for ever.
2. If thou hast received Christ, thou hast received a perfect enmity to all sin, that will never let thee rest in sin, but be persuading thee from it, and conflicting to thee against sin in thy soul. If thou hast received Christy thou hast not received a friend for sin, that will plead for, or give thee leave to commit sin; but one, that though he bear with thee in thy weakness, yet abominates thy sin. If thou hast received a Lord and master to rule, to be consented and subjected to him, and to be ruled by none but in subordination to him, who will break those in pieces that refuse his government, obedience and not verbal profession, is the thing he requires. Hast thou entertained Christ to be the master of thy words, thoughts, and deeds, whose government thou livest under, more than under any in the world?
3. If you have received Christ, you have then receded the beginning of felicity, and full contentment to your souls. Having found none in your sins, you have it discovered to you where it is: therefore with gladness go you on; and so far as you have hopes of attaining it, so for you have great contentment, &c.
4. In a word, if you have received Christ, you have fallen out with sin, subjected pleasures, profits, and honours to him; and you have received his Spirit, and this hath made you new, and maintains the way within you against the flesh, &c. If this be not thy case, Oh that thou knewest what a case thou art in! For then,
1. What the better art thou for ail his blood shed as yet, if thou wert this day to die? What would Christ’s blood do to the cleansing and saving of thy soul?
2. How canst thou 4ook thy sins in the face, and think on what thou hast done, and art? How canst thou look inward into thy defiled heart, and not tremble, when thou hast no more shelter from the wrath of God?
3. How canst thou look God in the face, who is a hater of sin? How canst thou read his attributes, think on his threatenings?
4. How canst thou think to have any duty accepted, and prayer heard, or rewarded, &c.?
5. How canst thou think on the day of judgment, on the time when thou must receive thy final sentence, if thou hast not received Christ? Oh what a thing is a Christless, heart!
Question. What shall I do that I may receive Christ?
Answer. 1. Till Christ be thine, and hath brought peace from heaven to thy soul, let no peace be there to keep him out. I do not say, overwhelm thyself with sorrow, but let sorrow dwell these, and let holy cares and solicitousness about thy spiritual state be there, till Christ, come, and quiet, and reconcile thee to God.
2. Read and believe the gospel. See there what Christ is, and thy necessity of him. Believing will open the door to entertain him; assent will procure thy consent.
3. Keep up no idol in thy heart against him. Turn out that that keeps out Christ, how dear soever it seems now, at last thou wilt see it more necessary to detest than keep it.
I come now to exhort all poor weak Christians, that they would make after confirmation, and grow to a greater measure in grace, as they have received Christ. It is not enough to be conceited that you have been converted; and it will not be enough to the assurance of your conversation, or safety of your souls, that you think you are converted, and you sit down there. He that is content with the opinion he hath grace; therefore desires to have no more, because the promise of salvation is made to the truth of grace, it is a sign he never had grace. Strength in grace is your own felicity, it is part of your happiness. Your eternal happiness will partly consist in your personal perfection; and without personal perfection, all heavenly glory will not be a perfect felicity. If you have fixed your anchor in God’s promises, this engages you to look up, make after, and proceed, &c,
Take these motives.
1. Consider, there is the same reason to move thee to grow, and proceed, as there was to move thee to thy first believing. Why do you become Christians, but because of the necessity of the riches and excellencies of Christ, and that there were better things in Christ, than in the world? And are they not so still? Is the case changed? If Christianity was reasonable then, it is reasonable now. If it was necessary to begin, it is necessary to hold on, and proceed in your race till you have obtained the crown.
2. Your receiving Christ essentially, contains in it an obligation to proceed and go farther; actually to trust and obey him, whom you have taken for your Lord and Saviour, from the very offices and relations of Christ received.
If I be a father, where is my fear? If I be a master, where is my honour? If I be a saviour, where is your confidence in me, submission to my saving work, obedience to my healing precepts? If I be your lord and master, why do you not learn of me your master, &c.?
Your first covenant engages you to proceed in fulfilling the things promised in your covenant, &c. Better not have promised to be his people, than to promise and break this promise. The very mercies also, you have received from him, pardoning your former sin, entertainment in his church, and all the blessings there found, are as so many obligations to proceed.
3. Ever since we came home to Christ, we have had an addition of reasons, besides the first reasons we had to believe. Every day brings in new, &c. Certainly if a little were desirable, more were more desirable. If the people that stood afar off, and never tried what Christ and grace is, were bid to come in, those that have tried and tasted are bound to proceed much more. You have the spirit of God, experiences of his love, tasted the bitterness of sin, have had some trial of the truth of such things of which we speak, when others have eyes and see not, &c., and will you turn back that have tasted, &c.?
4. Consider how much hath been lost upon many a soul for want of care to take rooting, and to proceed; how much labour of the ministry, mercies of God, pains and care of their own? I speak of those that have seemed sincere, not indeed so; that have many times comforted the hearts of their ministers and friends, and have had some kind of comfort to themselves in that taste they have had of the good word of God. How many times hath the preacher been gladded to see such a one come to him, seemingly with a broken heart, seeming to set themselves in the way of life! Yet the flesh prevailed for want of confirmation. How many years have some spent in duty, in hearing, prayer, gracious society, profession of religion! Yet afterwards the world hath drowned all. What cause have you to see you lose not the thing you have wrought.
5. Consider how much of the works of your own salvation when you are converted, is yet undone. Though you are sure your conversion is true, how many temptations to resist, enemies to conquer, duties to perform, and heaven to be taken upon all those terms, as the tenor of your Christianity! Therefore you had need to stand fast, and having done all, to stand, you have need not only to believe, but to wait and be patient in believing, and to proceed in the way you have chosen.
6. The want of strength and building up, makes the lives of many full of lamentable languishing weakness, scandals unto others, pain, calamity, and trouble to themselves. How long in healing? And how much smart and pain, while the fruit of their Own folly is cured? How little, and how frequently do temptations prevail? And hence as in a wilderness, they are going one step forward, another backward; no evident keeping in God, and all through the fruit of their own languishing weakness. The fruits of the sins of professors have been such that it should make you do all you can possible to escape the troubles at home, and reproaches abroad
7. A life of spiritual weakness, is usually a burden into him that hath it, it doth not only occasion his falling into sin, and so renews the wounds of this soul, but is a constant burden to him. Not that any measure of grace is troublesome, but that which consists with so great a measure of remaining corruption: this is the burden sickness is burdensome, though there be life. Me thinks you should not then be reconciled to your fears; you should, methinks, see so great difference between the sick and the well, that for your own peace sake, you should seek after confirmation. Every duty they d£ n their pain, which is another’s pleasure, prayer, &c. their burden; sometimes tired, wearied, dull, &c. presently overwhelmed with temptation: every duty is a grievance to them through the weakness of their grace and their corruption.
8. Christians that are weak and not confirmed, l6se abundance of the fruit of God’s ordinances that are improved by others. How many a truth that taste exceeding sweet to others, have no great relish to them, nor growth by it? A healthy man hath more relish in ordinary fare, than a sick person in varieties, the full stomach loathes the honey-comb.
9. The weak and unconfirmed Christian is unprofitable comparatively unto others. Not that the church would wish the weakest member out, but comparatively unconfirmed Christians are very unprofitable unto others; like little children in the family that must be looked to make work for a great many more about them. What doth a sick person? but the work of others is to feed, support, and be a help to him. The church of God hath need of strong Christians that can pray in faith fervently for others, and you scarcely pray for yourselves. Consider when the church needs a great deal of help, will you sit down with low attainments, and little things, when so many hundreds about you need so great assistance?
10. Weak persons are many times the troublers, and very dangers of the church. Many calamities have been occasioned by them. The sins of professors have occasioned the displeasure of God on the church: their errors hindered truth, and made divisions. When Christians have not so much strength as to know truth from error that hearken to everyone that speaks with likeness, what have these Christians done in the church? what mercies have been driven away, so far, that I think the church of God, from the apostles’ days till now, have suffered more by the sins of professors, than the malice of their enemies! And how canst thou expect God will save thy soul, when thou hast set the church on fire, and been so great hindrance to others that many should perish occasionally by thy example? &c. The greatest sufferings of the church have come from the miscarriage of the church.
11. Such have been the great dishonours of Christ; but the graces of ancient Christians, the glory of their professions, their charity, self-denial, heavenly-mindedness, patience, &c. have preached the gospel to the world more effectually than ever their words could do. God expects your lives should be a considerable means for the conversion of wicked men. The same God that hath, commanded ministers to teach others by their doctrine, hath commanded you should live for the conversion of the world; that your zeal, humility, patience, charity, self-denial, should win souls to God; and if it be a sin to give over preaching when we may, surely so to give over living, &c. If “woe unto me if 1 preach not the gospel,” then woe unto you if you by your lives preach not the gospel, How many sinners have you about you? and how do you wrong and rob the ungodly of that ordinance God hath appointed for their; conversion and salvation? You fire the persons that take the bread out of their mouths, the means that should save them out of their hands while you deny them one of the commanded means of salvation, that is, the eminent example of your lives. And if it be so great a bin to stop preachers’ mouths, how great a sin to neglect this ordinance? Nay, are you not a dishonour and disgrace to the church? Is it not because of professors’ ill lives, that the profane deride religion, while they see not the glory in it that should overpower an unbelieving and denying soul, and should indeed effectually manifest its excellency? Are these the professors, that are proud, stubborn, passionate, censorious, self-conceited, contemptuous, and envious as any others? 1 know the world is apt enough to slander, and the servants of God to bear a world of unjust reproaches, but oh! that there were not this occasion, &c.
12. Those that are not confirmed and established in grace, the devil, when he hath prevailed by a temptations on themselves, can easily make them his instruments to draw and tempt others from their duty, to discourage them in their religion, and to do that mischief in the world he hath done by temptation of their own soul. It is ordinary for Satan to make use of lapsed, distempered Christians, to be the instruments of his temptation to those that are better, &c. An honest Christian will not so easily hearken to a drunkard, swearer, as to a professor he had good thoughts of, Gal. ii. 28.
13. For want of strength and establishment, in grace poor weak Christians are a very great encouragement to the carnal hopes of wicked men. I think scarce anything in the world hinders our preaching more than this; when the wicked see those that make the greatest profession no better than themselves, and in some things worse, this makes him think against all the convictions that can be brought against him. Tell him he cannot be saved without conversion, he looks upon professors, sees them contentious, worldly, peevish, passionate, &c. sees some sin or other, this makes him think he is as well as they. Must there be so much ado to bring men to this state? It this the difference, &c.
14. Methinks it should be some trouble to an honest heart, that yet we must be so like to the children of the wicked ones; and the weakest Christians are the likest to the wicked; I do not mean weakness in gifts or knowledge, &c. but a weakness in practical saving knowledge, love of God, self-denial, mortification, heavenly mindedness, &c. They that are in these in the weakest Christians, are the next and likest to the wicked: and doth not this grieve thee, that though thou art not a child of the devil, thou art so like one? We should not be conformed to the world, nor like to them in any thing, no not in out-ward vanities. But to imitate the fashion of the world,
8 to outward corruptions, to go in their garb, when a palpable vanity, to have so much of their pride, peevish ness, malice, worldliness: Oh look upon thy heart with humiliation.
15. Consider what a dangerous and lamentable standing those have that be not established, &c. You stand, but it is as unrooted plants or trees that stand shaking in the wind; beholders are always looking when they fall. You stand, but it is as a sick man, wavering, reeling, like Lot’s wife, looking back, and always upon every occasion ready to repent. You have been believers; little things perplex and trouble you; little tribulations and afflictions discompose and disturb you, little temptations make you question the scripture, the providence of God, his love and care of his people, and the great foundations of religion. Foundation seems to shake, because you are shaking and tottering, &c. And what is like to become of such a soul? If thou standest shaking under small temptations for want of confirmation, what wilt thou do when a papist or quaker, &c. shall so speak concerning religion which thou art not able to answer? and so the surest foundation seems nothing when thou hast so weak hold. Our greatest afflictions next to the misery of the ungodly, is to think of our weak ones, what will become of them: and verily we do expect a considerable part of our congregation should be carried away, those that are “Christians, and know not why,” yet have not humility enough to make use of others, and to keep close to those that should assist them. Remember when you see such times, when seducers are able to say the worst, shall make the strongest assaults on the weak ones, how many will be like to fall? Again, sickness, death, dying times will come, when you shall find a little grace will not easily do your work; and though you perish not, yet you may faint, and to your sorrow find the want of confirmation. You cannot but know how the strongest are put to it in trying hours, or at death. Will slack unsettled hopes of another life, such distempered hearts fight and encounter with such trials? Never think of dying comfortably, if you follow not after confirming grace.
16. It should humble you the more, that you have been so long, so many years in the school of Christ, and love God, &c. no better. Should not you in this apprenticeship have learned better your religion, and been teachers of others, when perhaps if in the principles you are assaulted, you will shew your weakness as soon as any? May not Christ say, “Have I been so long time with you,” and yet have you “known, lived, &c.” no better? reached no higher, attained no further? weaklings still? Nay consider in this time what advantage you have had for growth. A tree planted on a barren wilderness may not grow so much as in a fruitful place, but you have had the plenty and power of the ordinances of God, the choicest of the means and helps of salvation.
17. Consider, the nature of true grace tends to this; will you cross the nature of it? shall we be such weaklings in religion, which cross so the nature of grace? for grace the more it is exercised, the more it increases.
18. Heaven itself is perfection, and the work of a Christian is to press towards heaven, and therefore it is to press towards perfection. You should make towards the end in a manner and way that is suitable to the end. Persons that enjoy so much already, and hope for so much greater, should not put off God with such little things.
19. Little grace shall have but little glory. You know not how great a difference there is between the least, and highest in the kingdom of God. Nay, it is not only for a Christian to desire to be glorified, but to enjoy the highest degree in glory: to serve God with the best, and improve his talent to the utmost, that his heavenly reward may be according. A Christian should not slight it when it is tendered to him, and in his eye.
Question. But how shall I know I have attained this confirming grace?
Answer. These signs following, shew a Christian confirmed and strong in grace, which I will name that you may know what to aim at, and what to desire. There is not so great a difference between a king and a beggar, between the greatest health and sickliest man, as between a strong useful christen, and a poor languishing soul, &c.
1. A confirmed Christian is one, “that can resist many subtle and strong temptations,” not only a single temptation, but when Satan assaults on every side, with errors on both extremes, with importunities of several parties, with temptations of prosperity offered, of adversity felt or feared; strong temptations that seem to lay a necessity of yielding on a weakling, that makes him say, I mast do it to save my liberty, family, life, &c. A strong Christian can say, there is no necessity; be can make light of those temptations that seem to be a necessity to other persons: be can confute a subtle sophister, and deal with a cunning adversary Satan cannot so easily go beyond and outwit him.
2. He can do great, excellent, and-useful work, is serviceable to God, if he have opportunity in business of greatest consequence. He doth not serve God only in some little and inconsiderable thing, but in his place sets himself to the work of God, doth the great work of his majesty faithfully. The service of God to him is more easy and delightful as to go ten miles is more easy to the healthful, than one to a sickly person, he can go through God’s service with pleasure, ease, and delight, without tiring, fainting, sitting down, or giving over.
3. He can digest the hard truths and providences of God, that are ready to puzzle, perplex and overset the stomach of a weak Christian. He hath laid his foundation, to which fee reduces all things of difficulty, and by the help of those great truths be hath Deceived, be can easily see through the difficulties that we yet before him. He can tell how to reconcile those things in scripture that seem contradictions. Where he meets with a difficulty, he can easily discern the cause is in himself and that there is an undoubted way of reconciling them, though be hath not attained to it. He can easily quiet his soul under the most difficult providences, and interpret them so as is consistent with the truths of God, which must expound them. He reconciles providence with providence and providence with scripture, whereof a weak Christian is ready to say, “A hard saying, who can believe this and that?” And it is the difficulty of these kind of truths that makes so many turn their religion, because not able to digest the hardest truths of God. Cross providences make them question God’s love, &c.
4. He is one that can exercise various graces without setting one against another, destroying or contradicting one another: he can do many works, believe many truths, perform many duties at once. He can rejoice and sorrow at once, and make his sorrow a help to his joy, and his joy a help to his sorrow, and so exercise hath in that nature as will not directly hinder or weaken one another. He can tell how in such a time as we are in to rejoice, yet to be humble, to be cast down at God’s feet, in the sense of the sins we have committed, and of God’s displeasure, &c. yet to rejoice in the mercies we have and do expect to possess. He doth not look all upon sin, all upon affliction, or all upon mercy, but can eye every thing, and give every thing its parts, can exercise graces methodically, give truths and providences their proper place in his meditations and afflictions. And this makes life orderly, beautiful, regular, and useful; whereas weak Christian, let him set himself against one temptation, he is taken up another; if he humble himself in soul, be can do nothing but humble, weep, grieve, fear, and be ready to cast away all comfort, all sense of the love of God: if he set himself to the consideration of the grace of Christ, he is apt to forget humiliation, and to be puffed up with spiritual pride, &c. Thus he hath not skill, strength, and ability to carry on all the whole work of grace together.
5. A strong Christian sinks not under those burthens that would press down and overwhelm a weak Christian; he can bear heavy burthens, and more easily away with them, making it a recreation to bear some things that otherwise he would sink under, and cannot bear. It is thy weakness that makes thee make such a stir, when God lays on thee personal, family, public afflictions, that make thee shrink under them. Strength of grace would enable thee to see God and glory in the midst of them, and to say “All shall work for my good:” it would enable thee to get advantage, and be bettered by them. Hadst thou strength enough to improve them, thou wouldst take comfort from them, and support thyself under them; but when thou hadst not strength enough to understand God’s meaning, to see the duty then called for, to improve all for God, to do that service to God thou shouldst do in such a condition: no wonder if thou have not grace to support and comfort thee in that condition. Whereas the confirmed Christian by strong faith, love, and patience, can carry great burthens, &c.
6. Is helpful to many, and troublesome unto few. They are the useful persons in the family and place where they live. It is they can counsel others in their doubts, help them in their straits; that can bear up the weak when ready to sink; that can hold others by the arm when not able to go upright; that tend Gods little ones; and if it were not for these what would God’s little ones do? They are so furnished with patience, which God hath given them for the use of the weak ones in his family, and though they are troublesome, or do that which might be a disturbance to them, they will not thrust them out. It is they that comfort the feeble, support, provide for, strengthen and confirm the rest. And were it not for these, what backsliding hearts should we have? &c. And they are comparatively troublesome to few (though while corruption cleaves to them, they shall sometimes:) It is not they that are censuring their brethren, that are stirring up divisions, and make all that feud that is in the church. If they might be hearkened unto, and regarded, there would be quietness and composure, (for if ever there be peace, it will be by the strong ones:) but weak ones in grace are the burthens and troublers of the family. You may know they are the weak ones in God’s house, in that they are those that are always crying, complaining, making firework in the family, back-biting, censuring their brethren, quarrelling with one or other, &c. These peevish troublesome souls, are the weak ones, &c.
7. The strongest in grace are the best able to stand, work, and suffer alone. Though in duty they should not be alone when they can have society, and though the rest are most humble, therefore are sensible they have need of others, and will not throw away any of their helps; yet if all forsake them, they will stand to it still. They go not to heaven merely for company sake; they be not Christians merely because such and such are Christians; if all the world forsake Christ, they will stick to him, unless Christ leave them to their own weakness. But the weak Christian hath a great deal more need of comfort and support, and lives a more dependent life: they cannot stand, work, suffer alone; if their minister fall, they fall: if their relations change, they change: if there be not somebody at hand to confute an adversary, they yield; if there be not somebody to keep life and warmth, they grow cold in every duty; in affliction they can step on no longer than led by the hand, &c. Have Christians to support, and to quiet, and to moderate their passions, and to teach them the doctrine of patience: they can hold up no longer than they are refreshed with cordials. What would become of you, should God let you stand by yourselves, &c.?
8. The strong Christian is one that can best live without creatures upon God alone (and a weak Christian is one that hath most need of the creature, and can least live upon God alone) under the censures of the godly, frowns of the wicked, without riches, honours, pleasures, can have the-quietness and contentment in God, whether he have anything or nothing wherever he is, &c. The more necessity thou art in of having something besides God for thy consolation, the more weak thou art, there must be supply: I know not how to be poor, disgraced, &c. This impatient soul is the feeble soul; impatience is nothing but the fruit of weakness. The strong Christian can lite upon God alone: therefore if men make as if they were undone, if lost in their estates, it is a certain sign of a lamentable weakness of a sick soul.
9. That is the best and strongest Christian, and most confirmed in grace, who is most employed and abides in the love of God, in love to God: that hath the fear of God, but goes beyond fear, and loves most, and abides most in the love of God: that makes it his great business to feed upon, and study the love of God to him, and to return love to him again. The more God’s love is on thy heart, and the more thou lovest in the fruit of that love, the stronger Christian. But he that lives most by a kind of constraining fear, though he may be sincere, be is but weak. Where there is nothing but fear and no love, there is no sincerity; but where there is some little measure of love, fear is such a tyrant, that it will many times cloud it, so that almost all his life seems to be moved and managed by fear: and in this there is much loathness and Unwillingness, and they bad rather do otherwise than they do. According to the measure of love is the strength of grace.
10. He is the strongest Christian that hath most pure and most universal love to others, that can love all men, even an enemy, with true unfeigned love, even with such love as belongs to a Christian: that can love every Christian, and not a party only, with the pure and fervent love which belongs to believers: that can love every child of God, and not those only that are of his opinion, or have done him good, but all, because they are children of God, with a sincere and special hearty love. That is the weak Christian that picks and chooses, that is staggering when he comes to loving an enemy; that takes in those that agree with him in judgment, and makes those almost only the object of his love; that would confine his affections to some narrow society, some little sect, party, or parcel of believers, and cannot love Christians as Christians: and hence it is, division is the effect of enmity, or weakness in grace, for want of the universality of love. I would make no question to prognostic the healing of all divisions within this nation, could I but advance all that are concerned in it to the right temper of Christian love. It is the weak children in Christ’s family that fall out, when we have not enough love to reach to all, and to love a Christian as a Christian, &c.
Question. What must be done by those that are converted, to keep them where they are, to help them unto growth, to make them better, to further their confirmation, to secure their salvation, that they may after all attain the crown?
Answer. I shall leave with you twenty directions; and as many as there are, there are not more than you must practice: and take them as if they were the last directions I shall give you; and take them as practicals, not as notionals, that you must live upon as long as you live.
1. See that the foundation he surely laid in your head and heart, in matters of your religion. In your head, that is, that you well understand what religion is, what the Christian religion is: what God is, what it is for God to be yours, in his attributes and relations unto you: what he is, and will be unto you: what you are, and must be unto him: what sin is, how odious, wherein its evil consists: What is sin, and what not: what sin hath done in the world, and what estate it hath brought transgressors into: what Christ is, what he hath done for man’s recovery and redemption: what he hath wrought, gives and offers to the world: the end and design of God in the work of man’s redemption: the tender of the gospel covenant of grace, freeness, largeness, and excellency of the grace of this covenant; the end of our religion, the everlasting glory that is revealed in the gospel, what it is, how sure, and how great. When you understand these things, get a sound and dedicated belief concerning the truths of the holy scripture, revealing all these things: and think it not enough that the scripture is true, or that you are resolved so to believe, but get the best grounds for your belief: be well established on those grounds: read the scripture much, till you are acquainted with, and relish the matter and language, and feel the power, and till all be delightful to your souls in reading, and be not ashamed to understand the fundamentals; look to your catechism: the fundamentals of religion you must understand and receive. And when you have got them into your head, be sure you get them into your heart, and never think any truth received as it ought, till it hath done some special work on your heart; till you believe that God is almighty, just, holy, &c. and all the attributes of God have made their holy impressions on your heart: that the sanctifying knowledge of God hath warmed your affections, captivated your souls, that God be enthroned in your hearts by the belief and knowledge of your minds: know yourselves so as to be humble: know Christ so as he may be sweet unto you, and exalted by you: set up Christ iii your souls nearest to your hearts; know sin so as to hate ,it, &c. It is the entertainment of the good things of the gospel by the will, that is the principal part of your religion. It is a matter of lamentable consequence in all your lives, when there is not a sound work at the heart? how little life will there be from any truth in reading or hearing? The fundamentals of religion must be so received, as not only to have an old heart mended, but a new heart made. Thus understand, believe, and give up thy heart to that thou believest and understandest.
2. Know and remember the work of your salvation must be as long as your lives, and that you have never done, till you have done living. I give this direction, because I find something in Christianity, the remains of carnality is apt to hinder, &c. And some professors, when converted, they are reconciled to God, and safe, &c. but there is a great deal to be done after, &c.
3. Understand well wherein it is your confirmation, stability, rootedness, and growth in religion, doth consist. The chief part of your growth ‘in grace is not to know more things than you knew before; but to grow in knowledge, belief, entertainment, and improvement of the same truths, that at first you did receive; (not that you may not, or should not know more, for the clear knowledge of the fundamentals guide you unavoidably to the sight of many other truths, which a darker knowledge of those fundamentals will not discover to you.) It is not additional to your former knowledge, but the clearer known, sounder believing, heartier entertaining and improving of the truths you know at first; as the health of a man consists not in having everyday variety of food, but in the parting and digesting of the same food, that is fittest for him. Get but a more perfect conviction, or concoction of what you knew before, and this is your growth. You may grow in the knowledge of God’s attributes by knowing them more clearly, orderly, distinctly, satisfactorily, and believingly, than before. There is a world of difference in the manner of knowledge, between a dark and clear knowing things: grow in greater love to them, and greater skill in entertainment, improvement, and practice of them.
4. Grow downward in humility, and inward in the knowledge of yourselves; and above all, maintain a constant abhorrence and jealousy of the sin of pride; grow in humility, and fly from man; keep a constant apprehension of your unworthiness and weakness, of the odiousness and danger of sin, of spiritual pride (so called because exercised about spiritual things;) of being puffed up with pride of anything in yourselves; of being too confident in yourselves; below in your own, and expect not, nor desire other’s good thoughts of you. Humility lies not in humility of opinion, of speech, garb, or carriage; but in opposition to high thoughts of our own parts—gifts, godliness, when we think of these above their worth. Still remember Psal. xxv. Prov. xxvi. 19. Isa. lvii. 15. John xx. 29. As ever you would grow in grace and be confirmed Christians, keep a low esteem of yourselves, be mean in your own eyes, be content to be mean in others, and hearken not to secret flatterers that would puff you up. Take heed of any thing that would puff you up, &c.
5. You must understand that you are disciples Christ’s school, where ministers are his teachers, and guides, the ordinances, his means for his people’s food, and the scripture, the book you must learn; therefore keep in this order, keep under these guides, commit your souls to those that are faithful, and fit for some to be entrusted with; and when you have dene, with humble submissiveness to their teaching, keep in this school under those officers in their discipline, and dwell in the catholic church and communion of saints, and understand the duty of pastors and people, Heb. 13:17-18, 1 Thess. v. 12, “Obey them that have the rule over you.” If God had sent the poor Christians sufficient to support themselves, he would never have made it the duty of all to be marshalled and ranked in several schools, ranks, orders, and all to walk in this order to heaven. If you withdraw from under Christ’s officers and ordinances, you are in danger of being snatched up as stragglers
Question. What shall we do? Who shall we take for our guides, if God take them away? &c.
Answer. It is not the denial of public liberty that that relation between a pastor and his flock, nor any word from man should cause a poor soul to trust itself for guidance of salvation to one that is not able. A man’s soul is not to be hazarded upon damnation by being deprived of the officers and ordinances of Christ, and cast upon the conduct of a blind guide merely for the pleasuring of
a mere man.
6. Be sure you understand the nature of church-union, and necessity of maintaining it, and abhor all ways that are truly schismatical, that would rent and divide the church of Christ. As you must not, under pretense of avoiding schism, cast your soul upon apparent hazard of damnation, so you must maintain the necessity of church-union and communion. When Christ’s members walk in communion with Christ’s members, supposing that which is singular to the generality of judicious men, take heed of anything that would withdraw you from the communion of the generality of those that are found in the faith. Take heed of withdrawing from the main body of believers. Christ is the head of his church, he will never condemn his church. Walk in those substantial Christ’s church hath walked in. Division among Christians is a sin God hath described as odious and tending to the ruin of Christians. Be very suspicious of any that would draw you from the main body of believers, and keep communion with the universal church of Christ, with the generality of the godly in love and affection, &c.
7. Be sure your own hearts and ways be the matter of your daily study; and when hypocrites have their work abroad, let yours be much at home; while they make it their business to censure this and that man, let the main of your business be in pressing the inward of your own hearts, in keeping all right between God and you. Observe your heart’s inclinations. If any inordinate inclination after any thing, set a special guard; mark which way your thoughts go, that you may know your inclinations by your thoughts. In an especial manner preserve tenderness of conscience, fear of sin, slothfulness to displease God. Let truth have the mastery; maintain such a conscience that dares not sin to save your lives. Be sure you sin not wilfully. Obey the light.
8. Be sure to keep up continually a lively apprehension of the state and place of your everlasting happiness, to live by faith upon the unseen world. Know where your happiness lies, and what it is, that you grow not to carnal apprehensions of your happiness, live upon heaven, and let that be it that shall animate your faith to duty, and all that you may still be weary of vexation, and sensible of the vanities here below. Let your conversation be above. Be confirmed in your apprehensions of the certainty and excellency of eternal blessedness; grow more in heavenly mindedness, and in satisfaction of soul, in the hopes you have of these things.
9. Understand the nature, method, and power of temptations, how to resist them, and live in watchfulness. Be not a stranger to Satan and his methods of tempting, what you have to watch against, and oppose, where you must be armed. Understand the nature of Christian watchfulness; keep up a constant resolution and courage in resisting, especially the temptations you carry about with you, of your calling, constitution, company, and of the times. Set them down, remember them, keep a special observation of them all; and say, this and this it is I am in danger of; and it is my integrity and salvation that is in danger, and here place special guard, and make it your business to resist. The principal cause of Christians’ negligence in this, is the security of their consciences, and love of their sins; did you know your danger, you would better look after your safety, 2 Cor. ii. 11.
10. Especially understand how much the flesh and carnal self is an enemy to God and your souls, and how much you are engaged by the Christian covenant to live in a warfare against yourselves, and against your flesh. You must not think the life of life-pleasing is consistent with religion. Understand how you are bound to take the flesh for your enemy, to watch against it, and to live in a continual combat with it, Col. iii. 5. The flesh is your chiefest enemy: the very senses themselves are all grown inordinate, and the work of faith is very much seen in its exercise this way. If you get an opinion, that you may eat, and drink, and clothe, &c. and do all things to gratify yourselves, &c. then no wonder if you find but little increase in spirituals, while you grow so carnal. Understand and practice the duty of self-denial, self is the very heart of sin, I read it not under pretense of liberty in religion.
11. Give not way to a formal, heartless, seeming religiousness, customariness without the life: but keep your souls in a continual seriousness and awakedness about God, immortality, and your great concernment. If duty be dead, take heed lest that incline you to a deadness in another, and so grow a customary deadness. Take heed of spiritual slothfulness, that makes you keep your hands in your bosom, when you should be doing for your soul; stir up to, and in duty, when you have but little time for life eternal: do not pray as if you prayed not, nor hear as though you heard not; but when upon duty, doing God’s service, do it with all the seriousness and vigour you can. To grow lazy and negligent is the declining way: use such considerations as may stir you up, Rom. xii. 11. Tit. ii. 14.
12. Remember always the worth of time, and greatness of your work, and, therefore, so value time, as not negligently or slothfully to lose a moment; it will quickly be gone, and when you are at the last, you will better know its worth. Hearken to no temptation that will draw you to any trifling, abusing, wasting of your precious time. If thou hast no argument against thy sports, trifling pleasures, &c. but this, it loses my time, take it for a greater argument than if it lose thee thy money, friends, or any thing in the world, your youth, your morning hours, especially the Lord’s day. Lose not any part of it, but improve it with yourselves and families; lose not a moment of the Lord’s day, nor any of thy precious time thou canst spare and redeem. If thou hast lost any, be humbled for it, and be careful to redeem the rest: look back; do you approve of the time that is past? could you not have spent it better? remember what you have, let that quicken you; look before you, remember what is to be done, and do the first which must be done, and then leave trifles to that time you have to spare. It is ignorance and idleness, and not want of work, that makes any think they have time to spare, Eph. v. 16. Col. iv. 6.
13. Make a careful choice of your company. You cannot travel well to heaven alone, especially when you may have company, thrust not yourselves into every company, Eph. v. 7. Converse as much as you can with them that will help you, that are warm when you are cold, knowing when you are ignorant, believing when you are doubtful, &c. especially for your constant companions, five with those that will be a frequent help to you. Masters, choose the best servants, that fear God; servants choose to live with those that will help you in the fear of God; for husbands and wives make choice of those that will intend upon religion. Take heed of being unequally yoked, and of thinking to get well to heaven, where you presume to unite yourselves with those that with great advantage will hinder, not help, your salvation.
14. Keep a constant guard upon the tongue, especially take heed of those common sins that disgrace hath not driven out of the world, but have got some kind of credit amongst some professors; namely idle talk; that wastes precious time, makes us unfruitful to one another, backbiting especially, can they put but a religious pretense upon it, or if they back-bite those that differ in opinion. Remember that terrible passage, Prov. xviii. 28. James i. 26. Psal. xxxix and xxxv. 8. Avoid idle talk, back-biting &c. watch over your tongues; and if they are by nature addicted to a laxity of tongue, and multitude of words, there lies a double obligation on you in point of danger and necessity above all others to keep a careful watch over your tongues. You should rather speak fewer words than others: and if you find yourselves inclined to speak against and behind his back, reprehend yourselves and avoid it.
15. Learn the holy skill of improving every condition that God shall cast you into; learn how to live to God in every condition. If you have skill and heart, there » advantage to be got by all. That prosperity may strengthen you in God, encourage you in his service, that adversity may wean you from the world, help you to repentance, raise you to God, and give you more than it took away, know the danger and duty of every condition, study them before they come upon you, that they do not surprise you; learn to know what is the danger, duty, and particular temptation of every condition, and in that condition you are most likely to expect a fall into: prepare for affliction as the common lot of the saints, take it as no strange thing when it overtakes you; know how to abound and how to want. A great deal of a Christian’s safety and comfort lies in this, to study the temptations and duty of every condition before it come, that so you may have your remedy at hand, and fall to your work, and commit yourselves to God.
16. Be as conscionable and strict in the duties of your relations, and dealings with men, proportionably as in the duties of holiness, more directly to be performed to God. Make as much conscience, care, study, diligence, about being just, that you wrong no man in buying or selling, as you do in duties of holiness, hearing, praying, receiving. In your trading make conscience of justice and faithfulness, as well as in the worship of God, and in your own personal behaviour; in your calling be diligent, not slothful in business, &c. And so in the duties of your relations. O that parents knew what a charge lies on them concerning the soul of their children, &c. So masters, look to your servants, and be as conscionable in doing your duty for their soul’s good, and being faithful to them, and compassionate over them, as in your duty to God. Keep up family duties with life, seriousness, diligence, and vigour: the life of religion in the world must be kept up very much in families.
17. Make it your study and care to do all the good you can in the world. Let doing good be the principal part of your business. Think that the safest and happiest life in which you can do greatest good. Suffer not opportunities to slip out of your hands: take them where you have them, and seek where you may have them; look not only where you may get a good, but where you may have opportunity to do good to others. Every talent must be answered for, your knowledge, health, &c. use it as you will answer for it, and know, it is one of the greatest mercies in the world, for God to give you hearts m doing good with that be hath given, Heb. xiii. 16. not for applause, but be good husbands for God, and consider which way you may attain your ends best, by what you give or do. Thus be rich in good works.
18. Live still before the living God, approve your hearts to him, as knowing you stand or fall unto his judgment. Avoid carefully all offences unto men, for the Lord’s sake, and their conscience sake, take heed of scandal, and receive all the good from others you can, but stick not too much on man’s approbation: disregard not suspicions, or reproofs of godly men, but make not man’s praise to be any part of your reward; it is a small thing for me to be judged of men. Be not much troubled at it if you cannot please all: the bawlings of the malicious should not disturb a soul that is quietly housed with God: that soul is not well established in faith, that can be so disturbed and distempered by the wrath or words of malicious men. Remember, God himself pleases not all: the most of the world are enemies to their Maker, upon the account of his holiness, justice, &c. and canst thou think to please all? Withdraw from the world and yourselves unto God, for the consolation of his approbation, and for your felicity: this will save you from hypocrisy, and keep you from the temptations and vexations of the censorious world.
19. Be every day as serious in your preparations for death and judgment, as those that are always certain that it will come, and know not the moment when it will come, Mat. xxiv. 29. Use often to think seriously beforehand, what death is, what thoughts, what trials death will put a man upon: what temptations usually accompany our approaching death: what you shall most need at such a time as that: what thoughts are likeliest to possess you then: what you are likeliest to wish for when you must needs die, about spending your time, expending your estate, conversing with others, &c. Ask yourselves, What will I wish I had done, or been when I come to die? Think what will be most dreadful to a dying man, for thus you have time to escape his judgment. Will it not be to think on a life lost in vanity, drenched in worldliness, unreconciled to God, or at least in utter uncertainty of his love? God hath not fore- shewed what will be a dying man’s terror to torment thee, but to get out of that terror; that which will be most terrible at death, conquer and destroy it presently. “They that were ready went in with the Bridegroom, and the door was shut,” Mat. xxv. 10. Oh happy thou, if while the door is open, thou be found ready to go in; woe, if when the door be shut, thou hast thy preparation to make, thy graces to seek. Bethink what you will, either wish, or fear when you come to die, and when you will say, this should have been done, &c. let it be now done.
20. Rise speedily after every fall by sound repentance, and a fresh recourse to the blood of Christ, covenant of grace, and his intercession. Lie not secure in any sin, into which thou art lapsed; take heed of delaying and trifling, when thy particular repentance should be exercised. Renew thy covenant, and after thy rising deal faithfully with thyself and God; favour not thy sin, nor flesh; go to the quick, leave no corruption at the bottom. If called to make restitution, to shame thyself before men by confession, stick not at it. Take the plainest course, that is the way of God, and let not any thought of shame, dishonour, or loss hinder it; for the more it costs thee to rise from sin, the likelier it is thou art sound in thy conversion, and the more comfort thou wilt have; otherwise the fears and pains of thy disease will be upon thee, when the thorough cure would have prevented it. Quarrel not at any man’s reproof, though they miscarry in it, have mentioned thy faults with passion, &c. Take that which is good, and be thankful. And after every fall sit not down in perpetual distress, but as Christ takes the honour of thy cure, take thou the comfort of thy cure when recovered, See thou art truly risen by repentance, and returned to him whom thou hast dishonoured. Thy care must be to see thou be sincere in thy return, and then walk comfortably. See that Satan make not thee walk so as to rob thee of thy comfort, and God of his honour.
Thus having given you twenty directions, I Shall reduce all to these eight particulars.
1. Do not think strength of grace will be got with ease: you must do that, that in other things is done for the attaining of strength, increase and confirmation. A man cannot attain knowledge in law, physic, or any art without studying, diligence, unwearied labour, and patience, through that time that is necessary to attain it. Set yourselves to the reading of the scripture and other good books: study good truths. Think not to attain mastery in a day. And if ever such a conceit come in your minds that you are strong, confirmed Christians, do not easily entertain it; there must be time, industry, and diligence. Ordinarily suspect the conceit you may have of strength and confirmation; you must grow by degrees. God’s method is to begin like a “grain of mustard-seed.” We are not born men. Labour in the proper means with patience: infused gifts are given according to the manner of acquitting them. God gives as if our acquisition did attain it: never think of having this without patience, labour, and diligence.
2. Grow up in the church of God, and under his officers and ordinance, and among his people. Do not transplant yourselves from the garden and vineyard of the Lord, if you will thrive; no prospering in the commons where weeds will choke, &c. Keep within the church of God, in the communion of his people, among his servants, under the guidance of his ministers, for that is the duty of ministers—to bring up, train up, and help the weak ones, till they grow to be strong. They are to be God’s nurses, and helpers of the weak in the house of God. Do not think to prosper by breaking over the hedge, under pretense of any right of holiness whatsoever following any party that would draw you to separation.
3. Make it, amongst others, the principal study of your lives to “study the love of God in the Redeemer,” the nature of the new covenant, and the infinite goodness revealed in the face of a Mediator. How it was his design to attract the hearts of men to the love of God, by revealing his infinite love in the Redeemer, unto which end Christ came for, even to represent God’s goodness in sinners’ hearts, of their being reconciled to him, and ravishing them with his love. Study the glory and ravishing love of God, and unspeakable goodness in a Redeemer.
4. Live not by sense, or upon worldly hopes, nor in the exercise of it. See that you live a mortified life. Take heed of glutting yourselves with creatures, or letting your hearts out to any creature, or letting any creature be too dear to you. Live not too much on any sensible thing, or upon any worldly hopes or expectations. Shut your eyes to the world, let not your desires run out to the world, and live as much as you can upon the world to come.
5. Let holy self-suspicion always make you fearful of temptation, and keep you out of the Devil’s way. Would you keep your Standing? grow better and strong in grace. Let not the pride of your hearts, or confidence of your strength, make you meet among any unlawful communion, see any enticing spectacle, or thrust yourselves upon temptation. You are never safe if you thrust yourselves upon temptation. Think with yourself, my weakness is great, I must not gaze upon this enticing object, lest my heart take fire; I am not so strong as to be able to stand against such, &c.
6. When you cannot attain to that heat of internal affection you would, “be sure you walk uprightly with God.” Sin not wilfully: keep your garments clean: set his law before your eyes. Sin not wilfully for a world 2 be but found in the way of duty, and God will bless you, and meet you in that way, be as exact in obedience, as if you had that frame of soul you desire.
7. In a special manner keep all your bodily senses and desires in subjection; mortify the flesh, keep under your carnal desires in due subjection to the spirit; let none of your senses take the reins out of your hands; keep a dominion over your senses.
Lastly, all your life long be longing to die. Let the work of your life be to learn to die. Consider what necessity to the safety and comfort of death, to consider frequently, “what assaults wilt be made upon dying men,” that you may every day fortify against it; to consider what graces and duties will be most needful and useful then, that you may be most conversing with, and exercising those graces and duties. He that hath well learnt to die, is no weak Christian. The strength of your grace lies in the exercise of these things; faithfully practice, them, and you will stand when others fall, you will have comfort when others cast away their comfort, you Will die in peace when others die in horror.