Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

same method to convince the consciences of those that pretended friends! ip 10 him, and to show them what they were. This was the method he took with the rich young man, Matt. xix. 16, &c. He seemed to show a great respect to Christ; he came kneeling to him, and called him good Master, and made a great profession of obedience to the commandments; but Christ tried him, by bidding him go and sell all that he had, and give to the poor, and come and take up

his cross and follow him, telling him that then he should have treasure in heaven. So he tried another that we read of, Matt. viii. 20. He made a great profession of respect to Christ : says he, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. Christ immediately puts his friendship to the proof, by telling him, that the foxes had holes, and the birds of the air had nests, but that the Son of Man had not where to lay his head. And thus Christ is wont still to try professed disciples in general, in his providence. So the seed sown, in every kind of ground, stony ground, thorny ground, and good ground, which, in all appears alike, when it first springs up; yet is tried, and the difference made to appear, by the burning heat of the sun.

Seeing therefore, that these are the things that God makes use of to try us, it is undoubtedly the surest way for us to pass a right judgment on ourselves, to try ourselves by the same things. These trials of his are not for his information,

but for ours; therefore we ought to receive our information from thence. The f surest way to know our gold, is to look upon it and examine it in God's furnace,

where he tries it for that end, that we may see what it is. If we have a mind to know whether a building stands strong or no, we must look upon it when the wind blows. If we would know whether that which appears in the form of wheat, has the real substance of wheat, or be only chaff, we must observe it when it is winnowed. If we would know whether a staff be strong, or a rotten broken reed, we must observe it when it is leaned on, and weight is borne upon it. If we would weigh ourselves justly, we must weigh ourselves in God's scales that he makes use of to weigh us.* These trials, in the course of our practice, are as it were the balances in which our hearts are weighed, or in which Christ and the world, or Christ and his competitors, as to the esteem and regard they have in our hearts are weighed, or are put into opposite scales, by which there is opportunity to see which preponderates. When a man is brought to the dividing of paths, the one of which leads to Christ, and the other to the object of his lusts, to see which way he will go, or is brought, and as it were set between Christ and the world, Christ on the right hand, and the world on the left, so that, if he goes to one, he must leave the other, to see which his heart inclines most to, or which preponderates in his heart; this is just the same thing as laying Christ and the world in two opposite scales; and his going to the one, and leaving the other, is just the same thing as the sinking of one scale, and rising of the other. A man's practice, therefore, under the trials of God's provi. dence, is as much the proper evidence of the superior inclination of his heart as the motion of the balance, with different weights, in opposite scales, is the proper experiment of the superior weight.

ARGUMENT III.-Another argument, that holy practice, in the sense which has been explained, is the highest kind of evidence of the truth of grace to the consciences of Christians, is, that in practice, grace, in Scripture style, is said to be made perfect, or to be finished. So the Apostle James says, James ii. 22,

* Dr. Sibbs, in his Bruised Reed, says, "When Christ's will cometh in competition with any worldiy loss or gain, yet, is then, in that particular case, the heart will stoop to Christ, it is a true sig. For the truest trial of the power of grace, is in such particular cases as touch us the nearest; for there our corruption maketh the greatest head.' When Christ came home to the young man in the gospel, he lost a disciple of him.”

“Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect” (or finished, as the word in the original properly signifies)?” So the love of God is said to be made perfect, or finished, in keeping his commandments. 1 John ii. 4, 5, “ He that saith, 1 know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him: but, whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected.” The commandment of Christ, which the apostle has especially respect to, when he here speaks of our keeping his commandments, is (ar I observed before that great commandment of his, which respects deeds of love to our brethren, as appears by the following verses. Again, the love of God is said to be perfected in the same sense, chapter iv. 12: “ If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.” Here, doubtless, the apostle has still respect to loving one another, in the same manner that he had explained in the preceding chapter, speaking of loving one another, as a sign of the love of God, verses 17, 18: " Whoso hath this world's goods, and shutteth up his bowels, &c., how dwelleth the love of God in him ? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed (or in work) and in truth.” By thus loving in work, the apostle says, “ The love of God is perfected in us." Grace is said to be perfected or finished in holy practice, as therein it is brought to its proper effect, and to that exercise which is the end of the principle; the tendency and design of grace herein is reached, and its operation completed and crowned. As the tree is made perfect in the fruit; it is not perfected in the seed's being planted . in the ground; it is not perfected in the first quickening of the seed, and in its putting forth root and sprout; nor is it perfected when it comes up out of the ground; nor is it perfected in bringing forth leaves; nor yet in putting forth blossoins : but, when it has brought forth good ripe fruit, when it is perfected, therein it reaches its end, the design of the tree is finished : all that belongs to the tree is completed and brought to its proper effect in the fruit. So is grace in its pratical exercises. Grace is said to be made perfect or finished in its work or fruit, in the same manner as it is said of sin, James i. 15, “ When lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." Here are three steps ; first, sin in its principle or habit, in the being of lust in the heart; and nextly, here is its conceiving, consisting in the immanent exercises of it in the mind; and lastly, here is the fruit that was conceived, actually brought forth in the wicked work and practice. And this the apostle calls the finishing or perfecting of sin: for the word, in the original, is the same that is translated perfected in those forementioned places.

Now certainly, if it be so, if grace be in this manner made perfect in its fruit, if these practical exercises of grace are those exercises wherein grace is brought to its proper effect and end, and the exercises wherein whatsoever belongs to its design, tendency and operation, is completed and crowned ; then these exercises must be the highest evidences of grace, above all other exercises. Certainly the proper nature and tendency of every principle must appear best and most fully in its most perfect exercises, or in those exercises wherein its nature is most completely exerted, and in its tendency most fully answered and crowned, in its proper effect and end. If we would see the proper nature of any thing whatsoever, and see it in its full distinction from other things; let us look upon it in the finishing of it. The Apostle James says, by works is faith made perfect; and introduces this as an argument to prove, that works are the chief evidence of faith, whereby the sincerity of the professors of faith is justified, James ii

. And the Apostle Jolin, after he had once and again told us that love was made perfect in keeping Christ's command:nents, observes, 1 John iv.

18. That perfect love casteth out fear; meaning (at least in part) love made perfect in this sense; agreeable to what he had said in the foregoing chapter, that, by loving in deed, or work, we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts, verses 18, 19.

ARGUMENT IV.-Another thing which makes it evident, that holy practice is the principal evidence that we ought to make use of in judging both of our own and others' sincerity, is, that this evidence is above all others insisted on in Scripture. A common acquaintance with the Scripture, together with a little attention and observation, will be sufficient to show to any one that this is ten times more insisted on as a note of true piety, throughout the Scripture, from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelations, than any thing else. And, in the New Testament, where Christ and his apostles do expressly, and of declared purpose, lay down signs of true godliness, this is almost wholly insisted on. It may be observed, that Christ, and his apostles, do not only often say those things, in their discoursing on the great doctrines of religion, which do show what the nature of true godliness must be, or from whence the nature and signs of it may be inferred by just consequence, and often occasionally mention many things which do appertain to godliness; but they do also often, of set purpose, give signs and marks for the trial of professors, putting them upon trying themselves by the signs they give, introducing what they say, with such like expressions as these : * By this you shall know, that you know God: by this are manifest the children of God, and the children of the devil: he that hath this, builds on a good foundation; he that hath it not, builds on the sand: hereby we shall assure our hearts : he is the man that loveth Christ," &c. But I can find no place, where either Christ or his apostles do, in this manner, give signs of godliness (though the places are many), but where Christian practice is almost the only thing insisted on. Indeed in many of these places, love to the brethren is spoken of as a sign of godliness; and, as I have observed before, there is no one virtuous affection, or disposition, so often expressly spoken of as a sign of true grace, as our having love one to another: but then the Scriptures explain themselves to intend chietly this love as exercised and expressed in practice, or in deeds of love. So does the Apostle John, who, above all others, insists on love to the brethren as a sign of godliness, most expressly explain himself, in that 1 John iii. 14, &c, " We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren : he that loveth not his brother, abideth in death. Whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion froin him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us love, not in word, neither in tongue, but in deed (i. e., in deeds of love) and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.” So that when the Scripture so much insists on our loving one another, as a great sign of godliness, we are not thereby to understand the immanent workings of affection which men feel one to another, so much as the soul's practising all the duties of the second table of the law; all which the New Testament tells us again and again, a true love one to another comprehends, Rom. xiji. 8 and 10, Gal. v. 14, Matt. xxii. 39, 40. So that, really, there is no place in the New Testament where the declared design is to give signs of godliness, but that holy practice, and keeping Christ's commandments, is the mark chosen out from all others to be insisted on. Which is an invincible argument, that it is the chief of all the evidences of godliness: unless we suppose that when Christ and his apostles, on design, set themselves about this business of giving signs, by which profess ing Christians, in all ages, might determine their state; thev did not know how

[ocr errors]

to choose signs so well as we could have chosen for them. But, it we make the word of Christ our rule, then undoubtedly those marks which Christ and his apostles did chiefly lay down, and give to us, that we might try ourselves by them, those same marks we ought especially to receive, and chiefly to make use of, in the trial of ourselves.* And surely those things, which Christ and his apostles chiefly insisted on, in the rules they gave, ministers ought chiefly to insist on in the rules they give. To insist much on those things that the Scripture insists little on, and to insist very little on those things on which the Scripture insists much, is a dangerous thing; because it is going out of God's way, and is to judge ourselves, and guide others, in an unscriptural manner. God knew which way of leading and guiding souls was safest and best for them : he insisted so much on some things, because he knew it to be needful that they should be insisted on; and let other things more alone as a wise God, because he knew it was not best for us, so much to lay the weight of the trial there. As the Sabbath was made for man, so the Scriptures were made for man; and they are, by infinite wisdom, fitted for our use and benefit. We should, therefore, make them our guide in all things, in our thoughts of religion, and of ourselves. And for us to make that great which the Scripture makes little, and that little which the Scripture makes great, tends to give us a monstrous idea of religion; and (at least indirectly and gradually) to lead us wholly away from the right rule, and from a right opinion of ourselves, and to establish delusion and hypocrisy.

ARGUMENT V.-Christian practice is plainly spoken of in the word of God, as the main evidence of the truth of grace, not only to others, but to men's own consciences. It is not only more spoken of and insisted on than other signs, but in many places where it is spoken of, it is represented as the chief of all evidences. This is plain in the manner of expression from time to time. If God were now to speak from heaven to resolve our doubts concerning signs of godliness, and should give some particular sign, that by it all might know whether they were sincerely godly or not, with such emphatical expressions as these, the man that has such a qualification or inark," that is the man that is a true saint, that is the very man, by this you may know, this is the thing by which it is manifest who are saints and who are sinners, such men as these are saints indeed;" should not we look upon it as a thing beyond doubt, that this was given, as a special, and eminently distinguishing note of true godliness? But this is the very case with respect to the sign of grace I am speaking of; God has again and again uttered himself in his word in this very manner, concerning Christian practice, as John xiv.," he that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me." Thus Christ in this place gives to the disciples, not so much to guide them in judging of others, as to apply to themselves for their own comfort after his departure, as appears by every word of the context. And by the way I would observe, that not only the emphasis with which Christ utters himself is remarkable, but also his so much insisting on, and repeating the matter, as he does in the context : verse 15, “ If ye love me, keep my commandments.” Verse 23," If a man love me, he will keep my words." And verse 24, “He that loveth me not, keepeth not my sayings." And in the next chapter over and over : verse 2, Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh away; and every branch that beareth fruit; he purgeth it.” Verse 8, “ Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye

be

my disciples.” Verse 14,“ Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.

."

" It is a sure rule, says Dr. Preston, that, what the Scriptures bestow much words on, we should tare much thoughts on : and what the Holy Ghost urgeth most, we should prize most.” Church's Carriage.

3

We have this mark laid down with the same emphasis again, John vii. 31: “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed.” And again, 1 John ii. 3, “ Hereby do we know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.” And verse 5, “ Whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected; hereby know we, that we are in him.” And chapter iii. 18, 19, “ Let us love in deed, and in truth; hereby we know that we are of the truth.” What is translated hereby would have been a little more emphatical, if it had been rendered more literally from the original, by this we do know.And how evidently is holy practice spoken of as the grand note of distinction between the children of God and the children of the devil, in verse 10, of the same chapter? “In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil.” Speaking of a holy, and a wicked practice, as may be seen in all the context; as verse 3, “Every man that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself, even as he is pure." Verses 6—10, “ Whosoever abideth in him, sinneth not; whosoever sinneth, hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you; he that doeth righteousness, is righteous, even as he is righteous : he that committeth sin is of the devil.—Whosoever is born of God, sinneth not.—Whosoever doeth not righteousness, is not of God.” So we have the like emphasis, 2 John 6: “ This is love, that we walk after his commandments;” that is (as we must understand it), this is the proper evidence of love. So 1 John v. 3, “ This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.” So the Apostle James, speaking of the proper evidences of true and pure religion, says, James i. 27, " Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father, is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." We have the like emphatical expressions used about the same thing in the Old Testament, Job xxviii. 28: “And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding.” Jer. xxii. 15, 16, “Did not thy father eat and drink, and do judgment and justice ? He judged the cause of the poor and needy: was not this to know me? saith the Lord.” Psal. xxxiv. 11, &c., “ Come, ye children, unto me, and I will teach you the fear of the Lord.—Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile; depart from evil, and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”

and pursue it.” Psal. xv., at the beginning, “ Who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly,” &c. Psal. xxiv. 3, 4, “ Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord ? And who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart,” &c. Psal. cxix. 1, “ Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord.” Verse 6, “ Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect to all thy commandments.” Prov. viii. 13, “ The fear of the Lord is to hate evil.”

So the Scripture never uses such emphatical expressions concerning any other signs of hypocrisy, and unsoundness of heart, as concerning an unholy practice. So Gal. vi. 7, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” 1 Cor. vi. 9, 10, " Be not deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, &c., shall inherit the kingdom of God.” Eph. v. 5, 6," For this ye know, that no whoremonger nor unclean verson, &c., hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ, and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words.” 1 John iii. 7,8,“ Little children, let no man deceive you ; he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous; he that committeth sin, is of the devil.” Chap. u. 4, “ He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” And chap. i. 6, “ If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk

!

« FöregåendeFortsätt »