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And it is also the character of a good and gracious person, whereby he is distinguished from the ungodly of the world.* A good man lives and dwelleth at the sign of a settled conversation; he is planted by the rivers of water, Ps. i., the wicked are as the chaff that are driven to and fro, not settled, not planted. It is true indeed, that a moral, civil man, may be naturally of a fixed spirit, serious, staid, and settled in his moralities; but though he be settled in what is mocally good, yet he is also settled upon his lees, in what is spiritually evil; settled in prejudice against the saints, and against the power of godliness; settled in his neglect of the sabbath, &c., and though he be of a fixed spirit and temper naturally, yet that fixation doth not arise to any high or great matter. It is an easy thing to cast up the account truly, where the sum is small : morality is a small sum.t When did you hear of a boat cast away in the river, the narrow waters? It is the ship that puts to sea, that doth make the shipwreck: small boats seldom miscarry in the narrow waters. Now the civil, moral man, doth trade in the narrow waters, and he boasts that he doth not miscarry: some make shipwreck of faith, and a good conscience, but as for me, saith he, I walk constantly, evenly, and these many years have made no shipwreck of my profession, as others have done : but, I pray, what is the reason? He never put to sea, he never yet did launch forth into the great ocean of the gospel ; he trades in the narrow waters of his own righteousness, and therein he is exact and constant. But now, take a godly, gracious man, and he doth abound in the work of the Lord, and yet he is established in it; according to that of the apostle, 1 Cor. xv. 58, “ Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord; Why? Forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” Surely therefore it is a great mercy and blessing, to be settled in the truth, and established in the good ways of God; a mercy for a nation, a mercy for
* Ut venti in autumno arbores non tollunt, sed folia secum in auras forunt sic tristia, leves tamen mentes movent fortes et in pietate firmas non evertunt. Origen. Homil. xiii, in Numb.
Maximum malæ mentis indicium fluctuatio.-Sen.
+ Virtus est circa difficile bonum, sed in parvis operibus constantem esse non est difficile.— Aquin.
a church, a mercy for a particular person to be thus established : and therefore,
Secondly, It is worthy of all our prayers; which is the second part of the doctrine: for saith the doctrine, It is a great blessing, and worthy of all our prayers, to be settled, and established in the good ways of God.
It is that mercy, grace, and blessing, which we all need. 66 Man in his best estate," cr according to the Hebrew expression, Man in his most consistent, and settled estate, “is altogether vanity.” Man at the best is a poor, wavering, and unsettled creature: yea, saith the scripture, God saw no stability in his angels; and therefore if we do naturally labour under such instability, we have all need to pray, an to pray much for this grace of establishment.
It is God only who doth give out this grace, it belongs unto him alone to establish nations, churches, and persons. He is able to establish those who do come to him for it: “ Now to him that is of power to establish you," &c. Rom. xvi. 25. He is willing to do it: “ But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you, and keep you from evil,” 2 Thess. iii. 3. He is engaged to do it, for he hath promised to do it, as hath been proved already, and it is his prerogative: “ Now he which establisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God," 2 Cor. i. 21. As for a land or nation, it is the Lord alone that doth settle it : “ He looseth the girdles of princes, and maketh them to wander or stagger like a drunken man,” Job xii. 25. Again, “ He girdeth their loins with a girdle," ver. 18. He speaketh the word, and it standeth fast; who said to Solomon, and so to all the princes of the earth, “ If thou wilt walk before me in integrity of heart, and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded thee, and wilt keep my statutes, and my judgments, then I will establish the throne of thy kingdom upon Israel for ever," i Kings ix. 4, 5. As for a church, it is he alone who doth settle and establish it: “ And of Zion it shall be said, this and that man was born in her, and the Highest himself shall establish her," Psalm lxxxvii. 5. And as for a particular person, it is God alone that doth settle him, both in his outward and spiritual condition. In his outward condition, “ The Lord will destroy the house of the proud, but he will establish the border of the widow,” Prov. xv. 25; and in his spiritual estate and condition, “ Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, comfort your hearts (saith the apostle), and establish you in every good word and work,” 2 Thess. ii. 17. And the psalmist doth address himself unto God for this, saying, “ Establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands, establish thou it," Psalm xc. 17. And if it be so great a blessing to be thus settled and established, if we have so great need of establishing grace, and it belongs unto God alone to work it; then surely it is not only a matter worthy of our prayer, but our duty also, to say and pray with the psalmist, “ Stablish thou, O Lord, the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands, establish thou it.” And thus you have the doctrine cleared in the parts thereof.
If it be so great a mercy and blessing, to be settled, fixed, and established in the truth, and good ways of God; then what cause have all those that are now established, to praise the Lord, and say, I was a poor, unsettled person, but through grace I am now settled. The more unsettled the times are, and men in the times, the greater is the mercy to be truly fixed and established. Hath the Lord, therefore, settled your
heart in these unsettled times ? Oh, then give thanks unto the Lord, and say, “ My heart is fixed; O God, my heart is fixed; I will sing and give praise.”
Oh, but I cannot find this fixation of spirit in my soul, nor that stedfastness in my life, as I desire, and therefore I cannot praise the Lord as I should.
It may be so. Yet know that there is much difference between variety of grace and instability of spirit. The exercise of various graces, is a great blessing; instability of spirit is a great evil. Ye
did not exercise before, and you may perform one gracious work which you did not before ; yet this no instability of spirit. You must know also, that there is a kind of shaking which is consistent with this true settledness and establishment of heart. Ye see how it is with the ships in the harbour, and with those ships which lie at anchor, though they be not driven, and tossed up and down with the waves of the sea, yet in the time of a storm, they do move and are shaken. So it may be with thy soul : though thou hast cast anchor within the rail, and art come unto thy harbour, yet thou
mayest be somewhat moved and shaken; but though you be in some measure shaken, yet you are not tossed
and down as those that are not at anchor; and therefore, oh, what cause
' have you in these unsettled times, for to praise the Lord.
If establishment be so great a blessing, what a sad condition are those in, that are not established, not settled, not fixed, either in their judgments, or lives? Not a mountebank come to town, but they must run to him for some of his salves; not a wandering star appear, but they must go to him for some of his light. These are those unlearned and unstable souls; these are those that are laid out for a prey, unto Satan's instruments : as Satan goes up and down, seeking whom he may devour, so do his instruments; and there are a people that through the just judgment of God, shall be a prey unto them: and who are those, but these unlearned
a and unstable souls? Some again are unsettled in their lives and practises ; sometimes they are for God, and sometimes against him ; sometimes for his service, and sometimes against it: these are those that are contrary to all men, and to themselves : these are those that are like to Ephraim, whose righteousness is like the morning dew, fading and vanishing: and both these are as the picture or map in the frame, which you may carry from one room to another; hang it in this room, and it suits well with it; carry it into another room, hang it up there, and it suits well with that; and whatever room you hang it in, it can comply therewith : whereas, if it be in no frame, only glued or plastered to the wall, ye cannot remove it without tearing of it. So in this case; take a good, and gracious, fixed soul, and you may sooner tear him than remove him from the truth, or the good
of Christ : but an unsettled person, is for every room, and for every company; carry him into one company, and he can comply with it; carry him into a second, third, or fourth, he can comply with all; why? but because his heart is unfixed, not established. But woe unto him, for he is upon the road to apostacy; instability is the highway to apostacy. Oh, the sad condition of those that are not established.
What shall we do then, that we may be established ? It is a mercy and great blessing for a nation, church, and parti
cular person to be settled ; what shall we do, that in all these
! respects we may be established ?
As for a nation or christian state. It must first settle religion : such a nation can never be settled, till religion be settled ; for religion is the main mast, and if that be not strengthened, all the tackling will be loose, Isa. xxxiii. 23, “The tacklings are loosed,” saith the prophet; "they could not well strengthen their mast, they could not spread their sail :" and Deut. xxviii. 9, it is said, “ The Lord shall command the blessing upon thee in thy store-houses, and in all that thou settest thine hand unto, and he shall bless thee in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee,” verse 8, yea, “ The Lord shall establish thee, &c., if thou shalt keep the commandments of the Lord thy God, and walk in his ways,” verse 9. “And all the people of the earth shall be afraid of thee,” verse 10. And if ye look into the Books of the Kings, and Chronicles, ye shall observe that in the latter days of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, before their captivity, these kingdoms were unsettled, only upon this account, because religion was not settled; as religion was settled, so the land was settled ; and as religion was unsettled, so was the land unsettled. Men think that the settlement of religion is to be an after work : First, say they, let us look to our being, the settlement of the land ; and then look to our well-being, the settlement of religion : But if we consult with God in the Scriptures, we shall find that a professing nation, shall never be settled, till religion be settled ; and as that wavers, so shall the state waver also. Would you therefore have a land settled? pray for the settlement of religion in the first place.
Then must there be care taken for a succession of godly magistrates : a good magistrate, is a good steersman: but if one steer one way, and his successor steer another way,
how can the state be settled ? While the children of Israel had a good judge, the people served the Lord; but when Joshua was dead, “ And the elders who had seen all the great works of the Lord, they forsook the Lord, and the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel, and he delivered them into the hand of their enemies," Judges ii. 7, 11-15. “ Then God raised up other judges, and the Lord was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their ene