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« It is but for a while, that thou hast to live ; and, when thou art
gone, all the world is gone with thee : Improve thy life to the best contentment: Take thy pleasure, while thou mayest :” Re
pelled. Even this was the very note of thine old Epicurean clients : Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we shall die ; 1 Cor. xv. 32. I acknowledge the same dart, and the same hand that Alings it: a dart, dipped in that deadly poison, that causeth the man to die laughing; a dart, that pierceth as deeply into the sensual heart, as it is easily retorted by the regenerate.
These wild inferences of sensuality are for those, that know no heaven, no hell : but, to me, that know this world to be nothing but a thoroughfare to eternity either way, they abhor, not from grace only, but from reason itself. In the intuition of this immoriality, what wise man would not rather say, “My life is short : therefore, it must be holy? I shall not live long : let me live well. So let me live for a while, that I may live for ever?”
These have been still the thoughts of gracious hearts. Moses, the man of God, after he hath computed the short periods of our age,
and confined it to fourscore years, (so soon is it cut of, and we fly away) infers, with the same breath, So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom ; Ps. xc. 10, 12:' as implying, that this holy arithmetic should be an introduction to Divinity; that the search of heavenly wisdom should be the true use of our short life. And the Sweet Singer of Israel, after he hath said, Behold, thou hast made iny days as a span long : mine age is nothing to thee ; finds cause to look up from earth to heaven: And now, Lord, what wait 1 for ? surely mny kope is even in thee ; Ps. xxxix. 5, 7. He, that desired to know the measure of his life, finds it but a span; and recompenses the shortness of his continuance, with hopes everlasting. As the tender mercy of our God pities our frailty, remembering that we are but flesh, a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again ; Ps. Ixxviii. 39: so our frailty supports itself with the meditation of his blessed eternity ; My days, saith the Psalmist, are like a shadow, that declineth, and I am withered like grass : But thou, O Lord, shalt endure for ever, and thy remembrance to all generations; Ps. cii, 11, 12.
As, therefore, every man walketh in a vain shadow, in respect of his transitoriness ; so the good man, in respect of his holy conversation, can say, I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living; Ps. cxvi. 9 : and knows himself made for better ends, than vain pleasure : I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord; Ps. cxviii. 17. It is for them, who have their portion in this life, who have made their belly their God, and the world their heaven, Ps. xvii. 14. to place their felicity in these carnal delights : God's secret ones enjoy their higher contentments: Thy loving-kindness is better than life, saith the Prophet; Ps. Ixii. 3.' Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than (they had) in the time that their corn and their wine encreased ; Ps. iv. 7.
Miserable worldlings, who walk in the vanity of their minds; Being alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their hearts : Who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness ; Eph. iv. 17, 18, 19. What wonder is it, . if, as their life is merely brutish, so the happiness that they affect is no other than bestial ? and if they snatch at those vanishing shadows of pleasure, which a poor momentary life can afford them?
According to the improvement of our best faculties, so is our felicity. The best faculty of brute creatures is their sense : they, therefore, seek their happiness, in the delectation of their senses. Man's best faculty is reason : he places his happiness, therefore, in the delights of the mind; in the perfection of knowledge, and height of speculation. The Christian's best faculty is faith: his felicity, therefore, consists in those things, which are not perceptible by sense; not fathomable by reason, but apprehensible by his faith, which is the evidence of things not seen (Heb. xi. 1.) either
of sense or reason. And, as his felicity, so is his life, spiritual : To me to live is Christ, saith he, that was rapt into the third heaven; Phil. i. 21. I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; Gal. ii. 20. Our life is hid with Christ in God; and, when Christ, which is our life, shall appear, then shall we also appear with him in glory; Col. iii. 3, t.
Lo, then, when the worldling dies, his life dies with him; and, to him, the world is gone, with both : but, when I die to nature, I have a life, that lives still; a life, that cannot die ; a life, that both is and makes me glorious.
It is not for me, therefore, to hunt after these unsatisfying and momentary pleasures, which perish in their use, and shut up in repentance: but to lay up those sure comforts, which shall never have an end; but, after this transitory life, shall accompany me to eternity.
Tell not me, therefore, of taking my full scope to the pleasures of sin. I know there is a hell; and I look for a heaven. Upon this short moment of my life, depends everlastingness.
Let me, therefore, be careful so to bestow this short life, as that I may be sure to avoid eternity of torments, and to lay up for eternity of blessedness.
“ It is for common wits, to walk in the plain road of opinions. If
thou wouldest be eminent amongst men, leave the beaten track, and tread in new paths of thine own: neither let it content thee to guide thy steps by the dim lanterns of the Ancient : he is nobody, that hath noi new lights, either to hold out or follow :"
Repelled. Wicked Tempter! I know thou wouldest have me go any ways, save good. Were those new ways right, thou wouldest never persuade me to walk in them. Now, I have just reason to misdoubt and shun those paths, which thou invitest me unto; both as private, and as new.
It is enough, that they are my own: for, canst thou think to bring me to believe myself wiser than the whole Church of God? Who am I, that I should over-know, not the present world of men only, but the eminent Saints and learned Doctors of all former ages? Why should I not rather suspect my own judgment, than oppose theirs ? When the Church, in that heavenly marriage-song, enquires of the Great Shepherd of our Souls; Tell me, o thon whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flocks to rest at noon ; for why should I be as one, that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions ? Cant. i. 7: she receives answer ; if thou know not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherds’ tents ; v. 8. Lo, the tracks of the flock and the tents of the shepherds are my direction to find my Saviour : if I turn aside, I miss him, and lose myself.
It is more than enough, that those ways are new; for truth is eternal; and that is, therefore, most true that comes nearest to eternity : as, contrarily, novelty is a brand of falsehood and error: Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see; and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls ; Jer. vi. 16. Far be it from me then, that I should be guilty of that contempt, whereof the Prophet, with the same breath, accuseth his Jews: But they said, We will not walk therein. It is a fearful word, that I hear from the mouth of the same Prophet ; Because my people have forgotten me, and have caused them to stumble in their ways from the ancient paths, in a way not cast up, I will scatter them, as with an east-wind, before the enemy: I will shew them the back, and not the face, in the day of their calamity; Jer. xviii. 15, 17.
Woe is me, for these heavy times! wherein it is not the least part of our sin, nor the least cause of our miseries, that we have stumbled from the ancient paths, into the untrodden ways of schism and error; and find not the face, but the back of our God turned
to us, in this day of our calamity. O God, thou art just : we cannot complain, that have made ourselves miserable.
It is true, where our forefathers have manifestly started aside like a broken bow, and having corrupted their ways, Gen. vi. 12. have burnt incense to vanity, Jer. xviii. 15. we must be so far from making their precedent a warrant for our imitation, as that we bear God say. to us, Be ye not like unto your fathers ; 2 Chron. xxx. 7: Ilalk not in the statutes of your forefathers, neither obserie their judgments; Ezek. xx. 18: For those, that turn aside to crooked ways, the Lord shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquiry ; Ps. cxxv. 5. But, where we see them walk with a right foot, Gal. ii. 14. in the holy ways of God, and continue stedfastly in the faith which was once delivered to the saints, Jude 3. we have reason to be followers of them, who, through faith and patience, inherit the promises ; Heb. vi. 12: that, walking in their ways, we may attain to their end, the salvation of our souls.
Let me see those steps, wherein the holy Prophets have trod; those, wherein the blessed Apostles bave traced the prophets; those, wherein the Primitive Fathers and Martyrs have followed the apostles; those, wherein the godly and learned Doctors of the succeeding ages hare followed those primitive fathers : and, if I follow not them, let me wander and perish. It is for true men, to walk in the king's highway: thieves and suspected persons cross over, through by-paths; and make way, where they find vone.
Thou tellest me of new lights : -I ask whence they rise. I know who it was, that said, I am the light of the world : he, that followeth me, shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life; John viii. 12: xij. 46. and I know that light was the true light, (John i. 8, 9.) of whom holy David spake long before, Thou art my lamp, O Lord: and the Lord will lighten my darkness ; 2 Sam. xxii. 29: and in thy light shall we see light ; Ps. xxxvi. 9. Those, that do truly hold forth this light, shall be my guides; and I shall follow them with all confidence ; and sball find the path of the just, as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day; Prov. iv. 18. As for any new light, that should now break forth and shine upon our ways; Job xxii
. 28 : certainly, it is but darkness; Luke xi. 35 : such a light, as Bildad prophesied of, long ago; The light of the wicked shall be put out, and the spark of his fire shall not shine: The light shall be darkness in his tabernacle ; and his candle shall be put out with him ; Job xviii. 5, 6 : so as the seduced fol Jowers of these new lights may have just cause to take up that complaint of the Prophet, We wait for light, but behold obscurity ; for brightness, but we walk in darkness : We grope for the wall, like the blind : we stumble, at noon day, as in the night; Is. lix. 9, 10, Shortly, then, that light, which the Father of Lights hath held forth in his will revealed in his word, as it hath been interpreted by his holy Church in all ages, shall be my guide, till I shall see as L'am seen : as for any other lights, they are but as those wandering fires, that appear in damp marshes, which lead the traveller into a ditch.
« Pretend religion, and do any thing : what face is so foul, as that mask will not cleanly cover? Seem holy, and be what thou wilt :”
Repelled. Yea, there thou wouldest have me. This is that deadly dart, wherewith thou hast slain millions of souls. Hence it is, that the Mahometan Saints may commit public filthiness, with thanks : hence, that corrupt Christians bury such abominable crimes in their cowls : hence, that false professors shroud so much villainy under the shelter of piety: hence, that the world abounds with so many sheep without, wolves within ; Matt. vii
. 15; fair tombs, full of inward rottenness; Matt. xxiii. 27; filthy dunghills, covered over with snow; rich hearse-clothes, hiding ill-scented carcasses ; broken potsherds, covered with silver dross ; Prov. xxvi. 23: hence, that the adversaries of Judah offer to Zerubbabel their aid in building the Temple; Ezra iv. 2; the harlot hath her peace-offerings; Prov. vii. .14; Absalom hath his vow to pay; 2 Sam. xv. 7, 8; Herod will worship the infant; Matt. ii. 8; Judas hath a kiss for his Master; Matt. xxvi. 49; Simon Magus will be a convert ; Acts viii. 13; Ananias and Sapphira will part with all; Acts v. 1, 2; the Angel of the Church of Sardis will pretend to live ; Rev. iii. 1; the beast hath horus like a lamb, but speaks like a dragon; Rev. xiii. 11; in a word, the wickedest of men will counterfeit Saints, and false saints are very Devils.
For, so much more eminent as the virtue is which they would seem to put on, so much the more odious is the simulation both to God and man: now the most eminent of all virtues is holiness, whereby we both come nearest unto God, and most resemble him; 1 Pet. i. 16. Lev. xi. 44. xix. 2.
Of all creatures, therefore, out of hell, there is none so loathsome to God as the hypocrites: and that, upon a double provocation; both for doing of evil, and for doing evil under a colour of good. The face, that the wicked man sets upon his sin, is worse than the sin itself: Bring no more vain oblations, saith the Lord : incense is an abomination to me : the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with : it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth : they are a trouble to me; I am weary to bear them ; Isa. i. 13, 14.
How fain wouldest thou, therefore, draw me into a double condemnation, both for being evil and seeming good; both which are an abomination to the Lord ! Do I not hear him say, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me: Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work amongst this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder ; for the