If thou answer this designation, and art really a partaker of the unction, which is the high import of that blessed and glorious name called upon thee, thine eye must affect thy heart, and a soul swelled with godly sorrow must at last burst and bleed forth at a weeping eye, while thou looks upon most of this licentious and loathsome generation, arrived at that height of prodigious profanity as to glory in their shame, and boast of bearing the badge and black mark of damnation. But, besides this swarm who savage it to hell, and make such haste hither, as they foam themselves into everlasting flames, carrying, under the shape and visage of men, as devils in disguise; the face of the church is covered with a scum of such, who are so immersed in the concerns of this life, and are so intense in the pursuit of the pleasures, gain, and honours thereof, as their way doth manifestly witness them to be sunk into the deep oblivion of God, and desperate inconsideration of their precious and immortal souls. But in the third place, besides these who are hurried into such a distraction with the cares of this life, that they, as natural brute beasts made to be destroyed, are never at leisure to consider either the nature and necessity of their noble souls, or to converse with the notion of a Deity. Thou may perceive a company of self-deceiving speculatists, who make broad the phylacteries of their garments, and boast of some high attainments in religion; yea, would have others look upon them as arrived at the very porch of heaven, and advanced to a high pitch of proficiency in the ways of God, because they can discourse a little of the mysteries of salvation, and without ever diving farther into the depth and true nature of religion, dream themselves into a consideration of being saints, and conclude themselves candidates for glory.
This is that heart-moving object which presents itself to thy eye and observation this day. This is that deplorable posture, wherein thou mayest perceive most men at the very point of perishing eternally, who are within the pale of the visible church, some dancing themselves headlong in all haste into the lake of fire and brimstone, some so much concerned in things which have no connexion with their happiness, as to drop unconcernedly into the pit, out of which there is no redemption; and others dreaming themselves into endless perdition: and all of them unite in a deriding at, or despising the means used, and essays made, in order to their recovery.
But if his servants, in following their work closely, seem to have gained a little ground upon men, and almost persuaded them to be Christians, Satan, to the end he may make all miscarry, and counterwork these workers together with God, and poison poor souls by a perversion of the gospel, beyond the power of an antidote, hath raised up, instigated and set on work a race of proud rationalists, for they are wiser than to class themselves amongst those poor fools, those base things, those nothings, to whom Christ is made all things, to whom Christ is made wisdom that he may be righteousness, sanctification, and redemption to them; nay, they must be wise men after the flesh, wise above what is written. A crucified Christ is really unto them foolishness and weakness, though the power of God and the wisdom of God: they will needs go to work another way; they will needs glory in his presence, and have a heaven of their own band-wind. O my soul, enter not into their secrets! and, O sweet Jesus, let thy name be to me, The Lord my righteousness; thou hast won it, -- wear it; and gather not my soul with such who make mention of any other righteousness but of thine only! to bring in another gospel amongst us than the gospel of the grace of God. As they determine to know some other thing than Christ and him crucified; so with the enticing words of man's wisdom they bewitch men into a disobedience to the truth, setting somewhat else before them than a crucified Christ; and this they do, that they may remove men from those who call them into the grace of Christ, unto another gospel. A Christ, it is true; they speak of; but it is not the Christ of God, for all they drive at (O cursed and truly antichristian design!) is, that he may profit them nothing, while they model all religion according to this novel project of their magnified morality. This is that which gives both life and lustre to that image which they adore, to the Dagon after whom they would have the world wonder and worship.
That there is such a moralizing or muddizing, if I may be for once admitted to coin a new word to give these men their due, of Christianity now introduced and coming in fashion, many of the late pieces in request do evince. Now that Christianity should moralize men above all things, I both give and grant; for he who is partaker of the divine nature, and hath obtained precious faith, must add virtue to his faith. But that it should be only conceived and conceited as an elevation of nature to a more clear light, in the matter of morality, wherein our Lord is only respected as an heavenly teacher and perfect pattern proposed for imitation, is but a proud, pleasing fancy of self-conceited, darkened, and deluded dreamers, robbing God of the glory of his mercy and goodness; our Lord Jesus Christ of the glory of his grace and merit. The spirit of the efficacy of his glorious and mighty operations; and themselves and their pilgrimages, who give them the hand as guides, of the comfort and fruit of all.
It cannot escape thy observation, how busy Satan is this day, upon the one hand, to keep men, under the call of the gospel to give all diligence to make their calling and election sure, idle all the day, so that no persuasion can induce them to engage seriously to fall about a working out their own salvation in fear and trembling; and, on the other, equally diligent and industrious to divert men from trusting in the name of the Lord, and staying upon their God; setting them on work to go and gather fuel, and kindle a fire, and compass themselves about with sparks, that they may walk in the light of their own fire, and in the sparks that they have kindled, knowing well that they shall this way most certainly lose their toil and travel, and have no other reward at his hand of all their labour, but to lie down in everlasting sorrow, while the stout-hearted and far from righteousness and salvation, shall get their soul for a prey, and be made to rejoice in his salvation, and bless him who hath made them meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.
I am neither the fit person for so great an undertaking, nor do these limits, within which I must bound myself, permit me to expatiate in many notions about the nature of this excellent and precious thing, true gospel holiness. Oh! if, in the entry, I could on my own behalf and others, sob out my alas! from the bottom of my soul, because, be what it will, it is some other thing than men take it to be. Few habituate themselves to a thinking upon it, in its high nature, and soul enriching advantages, till their hearts receive suitable impressions of it, and their lives be the very transumpt of the law of God written in their heart; the thing, alas! is lost in a noise of words, and heap of notions about it; neither is it a wonder that men fall into mistakes about it, since it is only the heart possessed of it that is capable to understand and perceive its true excellency. But if it be asked what it is; we say, it may be shortly taken up, as the elevation and raising up of a poor mortal unto a conformity with God. As a participation of the divine nature, or as the very image of God stamped on the soul, impressed on the thoughts and affections, and expressed in the life and conversation; so that the man in whom Christ is formed, and in whom he dwells, lives, and walks, hath while upon the earth, a conversation in heaven; not only in opposition to those many, whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things; but also to those pretenders unto and personaters of religion, who have confidence in the flesh, and worship God with their own spirit, which in the matters of God is flesh and not spirit, and have somewhat else to rejoice in than in Christ Jesus, and a being found in him, not having their own righteousness.
True gospel holiness, then, consists in some similitude and likeness to God, and fellowship with him founded upon that likeness. There is such an impression of God, his glorious attributes, his infinite power, majesty, mercy, justice, wisdom, holiness, and grace, &c., as sets him up all alone in the soul without any competition, and produceth those real apprehensions of him, that he is alone excellent and matchless. O how preferable doth be appear, when indeed seen, to all things! And how doth this light of his infinite gloriousness, shining into the soul, darken and obscure to an invisibleness all other excellencies, even as the rising of the sun makes all the lesser lights to disappear. Alas! how is God unknown in his glorious being and attributes! When once the Lord enters the soul, and shines into the heart, it is like the rising of the sun at midnight: all these things which formerly pretended to some loveliness, and did dazzle with their lustre, are eternally darkened. Now, all natural perfections, and moral virtues, in their flower and perfections, are at best looked upon as aliquid nihil. What things were formerly accounted gain and godliness, are now counted loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus the Lord, and the soul cannot only suffer the loss of them all without a sob, but be satisfied to throw them away as dung, that it may win him, and be found in him. Now, the wonder of a Deity, in his greatness, power, and grace, swallows up the soul in sweet admiration. O how doth it love to lose itself in finding here what it cannot fathom? And then it begins truly to see the greatness and evil of sin; then it is looked upon without the covering of pleasure or profit, and loathed as the leprosy of hell. Now the man is truly like God in the knowledge of good and evil, in the knowledge of that one infinite good, God; and in the knowledge of that one almost infinite evil, sin. This is the first point of likeness to him, to be conformed to him in our understanding, that as he knows himself to be the only self-being and fountain-good, and all created things in their flower and perfection, with all their real or fancied conveniences being compared with him, but as the drop of a bucket, or nothing; yea, less than nothing, vanity (which is nothing blown up, by the force or forgery of a vainly working imagination, to the consistence of an appearance), so for a soul to know indeed and believe in the heart, that there is nothing deserves the name of good besides God, to have the same superlative and transcendent thoughts of that great and glorious self-being God, and the same diminishing and debasing thoughts of all things and beings besides him. And that as the Lord seeth no evil in the creation but sin, and hates that with a perfect hatred, as contrary to his holy will; so for a soul to aggravate sin in its own sight to an infiniteness of evil, at least till it see it only short of infiniteness in this respect, that it can be swallowed up of infinite mercy. But whence hath the soul all this light? It owes all this, and owns itself as debtor for it to him, who opens the eyes of the blind. It is he who commands the light to shine out of darkness, who hath made these blessed discoveries, and hath given the poor benighted soul, the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ. These irradiations are from the Spirit's illumination; 'tis the Spirit of wisdom and revelation that hath made day-light in the darkened soul. The man who had the heart of a beast, as to any saving or solid knowledge of God or himself, hath now got an understanding to know him that is true. Now is Christ become the poor man's wisdom, he is now renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him; he might well babble of spiritual things, but till now he understood nothing of the beauty and excellency of God and his ways; nay, he knew not what he knew, he was ignorant as a beast of the life and lustre of those things which he knew in the letter; nothing seemed more despicable to him in the world, than true godliness; but now he judgeth otherwise, because he hath the mind of Christ. The things which in his darkness he did undervalue as trifles to be mocked at, he now can only mind and admire, since he became a child of light; now being delivered from that blindness and brutishness of spirit, which possesseth the world, (and possessed himself till he was transformed by the renewing of his mind) who esteem basely of spiritual things, and set them at nought, he prizeth as alone precious. The world wonders what pleasure or content can be in the service of God, because they see not by tasting how good he is; to be prying into and poring upon invisible things, is to them visible madness, but to the enlightened mind, the things that are not seen are only worth seeing, and while they appear not to be, they only are; whereas the things that are seen appear but to be, and are not. Though the surpassing sweetness of spiritual things should be spoke of to them, who cannot favour the things of God, in such a manner as the glorious light of them did surround men; yet they can perceive no such thing; all is to them cunningly devised fables; let be spoke what will, they see no form, no comeliness, no beauty in this glorious object -- God in Christ reconciling sinners to himself. Alas! the mind is blinded; the dungeon is within; and till Christ open the eyes, as well as reveal his light, the soul abides in its blindness, and is buried in midnight darkness; but when the Spirit of God opens the man's eyes, and he is translated by an act of omnipotency out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of his dear Son, which is a kingdom of marvellous light, O what matchless beauty doth he now see in these things, which appeared despicable and dark nothings to him, till he got the unction, the eye-salve, which teacheth all things. Now he sees (what none without the Spirit can see) the things which God hath prepared for them that love him, and are freely given them of God; and these, though seen at a distance, reflect such rays of beauty into his soul, that he beholds and is ravished, he sees and is swallowed up in wonder.
But then, in the next place, this is not a spiritless inefficacious speculation about these things, to know no evil but sin and separation from God, and no blessedness but in the fruition of him; it is not such a knowledge of them as doth not principle motion to pursue after them. This I grant is part of the image of God, when the Sun of Righteousness, by arising upon the man, hath made day-light in his soul, and by these divine discoveries hath taught him to make the true parallel betwixt things that differ, and to put a just value upon them according to their intrinsic worth. But this divine illumination doth not consist in a mere notion of such things in the head, nor doth it subsist in enlightening the mind; but in such an impression of God upon the soul, as transforms and changes the heart into his likeness by love.' Knowledge is but one line, one draught or lineament of the soul's likeness to him; that alone doth not make up the image, but knowledge rooted in the heart, and engraven on the soul, hining and shewing itself forth in a gospel-adorning conversation, that makes a comely proportion; when the same hand that touched the eye, and turned the man from darkness to light, and gave an heart to know him, that he is the Lord, that doth also circumcise the man's heart to love the Lord his God, with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his mind; and this love manifesting its liveliness, in its constraining power to live to him and for him. Light without, heat is but wild fire; but light in the mind, begetting heat in the heart, making it burn Godward, Christward, and heavenward; light in the understanding, setting on fire and inflaming the affections, and these shining out in a heavenly conversation, makes up the lively image of God, both in feature and stature, both in proportion and colour. Faith begins this image, and draws the lineaments; and love bringing forth obedience finishes, and gives it the lively lustre. The burnings of love in obedience to God is that which illuminates the whole, and makes a man look indeed like him, to whose image he is predestinate to be conform, and then makes him, who is ravished with the charms of that beauty, say, as in a manner overcome thereby, |how fair is thy love, my sister, my spouse? How much better is thy love than wine, and the smell of thine ointments than all spices?| But consider, that as these beams, which irradiate the soul, are from the Spirit of Christ, so that spiritual heat and warmth come out of the same airth, and proceed from the same author, for our fire burns as he blows, our lamp shines as he snuffs and furnisheth oil. Men therefore should not indulge themselves in this delusion, to think, that that which will pass for pure religion and undefiled before God, consists either in an outward blameless conversation, or in putting on and wearing an external garb of profession. No, as the top of it reacheth higher, so the root of it lies deeper; it is rooted in the heart, this seed being sown in an honest heart (or making the heart honest in which it is sown) takes root downward, and brings forth fruit upward, as trees that grow as far under ground as above, so these trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord that he may be glorified, grow as far and as fast under ground as above; godliness grows as far downwards in self-emptying, self-denial, and self-abasing, in hungering and thirsting after more of righteousness, in the secret engagements of the heart to God in Christ, in these burstings of heart and bleeding of soul, to which God alone is witness, because of shortcoming in holiness, because of a body of death within, and because of that law in the members warring against the law of the mind, and bringing often into captivity to the law of sin, as it grows upward in a profession. And this is that pure religion and undefiled before God, which is both most pleasant to him, and profitable to the soul.
But to make the difference betwixt dead morality, in its best dress, and true godliness, more clear and obvious, that loveliness of the one may engage men into a loathing of the other, this dead carion and stinking carcase of rotten morality, which still stinks in the nostrils of God, even when embalmed with the most costly ointments of its miserably misled patrons, we say, that true godliness, which in quality and kind differs from this much pleaded for and applauded morality, a black heathen by a mongrel kind of Christians baptised of late with the name of Christianity, and brought into the temple of the Lord, concerning which he hath commanded that it should never in that shape, and for that end it is introduced, enter into his congregation; and the bringers for their pains are like to seclude themselves for ever from his presence. It respects Jesus Christ, 1st, as its principle; 2d, as its pattern; 3d, as its altar; and, 4th, as its end.
1. I say, true holiness, in its being and operation, respects Jesus Christ as its principle; |I live,| said that shining saint, |yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.| As that which gives religion its first being, is the religation of the soul to God; so that which gives it motion, and draws forth that life into action, is the same God's working all their works in them and for them, so that in all they do, they are workers together with God; every act of holiness is an act of the soul made alive unto God through Jesus Christ, and quickened to each action by the supervenience of new life and influence; therefore, says Christ, without me ye can do nothing; it is not, being out of me ye can do nothing, for he spoke it to those who were in him, but, if ye leave me out in doing, all ye do will be nothing. 'Tis Jesus Christ who gives life and legs, so that our runnings are according to his drawings. |My soul followeth hard after thee,| said that holy man; but whence is all this life and vigour? |Thy right hand upholdeth me,| Oh! it is the upholdings and helpings of this right hand, enlarging the man's heart, that makes a running in the ways of his commandments; it is he who, while the saints work out the work of their own salvation, worketh in them both to will and to do. It is he who giveth power to the faint, and who, to them that have no might, encreaseth strength, so that the poor lifeless, languishing lie-by is made to mount up with eagles' wings, and surmount all these difficulties, with a holy facility, which were simply insuperable, and pure impossibilities. Now the man runs and doth not weary, because Christ draws; and he walks and doth not faint, because Christ, in whom dwells the fulness of the Godhead bodily, dwells in him, and walks in him, and dwells in him for that very end, that he may have a completeness and competency of strength for duty. All grace is made to abound unto him, that he always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound unto every good work. He is able of himself to do nothing, no, not to think any thing as he ought, but he hath a sufficiency of God, whereby he is thoroughly furnished unto every good work; so that he may say, I am able for all things: it is more than |I am able to do all things,| as we read it; its just import is, |I am able to do all things, and to endure all things;| and that which keeps it from vain boasting, is what is added, |through Christ which strengthened me,| or putting power in me, or rather impowering me, which is by a supervenient act drawing forth life into a liveliness of exercise, according to the present exigent. There is a power in a saint, because Christ is in him, that overpowers all the powers of darkness without, and all the power of indwelling corruption within, so that when the poor weak creature is ready to despond; within sight of his duty, and say, because of difficulty, what is my strength that I should hope? Christ saith, despond not, my grace is sufficient for thee, and my power shall rest upon thee, to a reviving thee, and raising thee up, and putting thee in case to say, when I am weak, then I am strong; his strength, who impowers me, is made perfect in my weakness, so that I will glory in my infirmities, and be glad in being grace's debtor. But what power is that, which raiseth the dead sinner, and carries the soul in its actings so far without the line, and above the sphere of all natural activity, when stretched to its utmost? O, it is an exceeding great power which is to them-ward who believe, that must make all things, how difficult soever, easy, when he works in them to will and to do, according to the working of his mighty power, (or as it is upon the margin, and more emphatic, of the might of his power,) which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand, &c.; he that raised up the Lord Jesus from the dead, raiseth up believers also by Jesus; and being raised and revived by him, to walk in newness of life, the life of Jesus, in its communications of strength, is manifest in their mortal flesh, according to that of the same apostle; |the life that I live in the flesh,| saith he, |I live by the faith of the Son of God.| Faith brings in Christ in my soul, and Christ being my life, carries out my soul in all the acts of obedience, wherein, though I be the formal agent, yet the efficiency and the power, by which I operate, is from him; so that I can give no better account of it than this, -- I -- not I. But who then, if not you? The grace of God, saith he, which was with me. But this mystery to our bold, because blind moralists, of an indwelling Christ working mightily in the soul, is plain madness and melancholy; however we understand his knowledge in the mystery of Christ, who said, |The life I live in the flesh,| &c.; and from what we understand of his knowledge in that mystery, which he had by revelation, we understand our moralists to be men of corrupt minds, who concerning the faith hath made shipwreck; but what is that, |The life I live in the flesh,| &c. The import of it seems to be this, if not more, -- while I have in me a soul animating my body, as the principle of all my vital and natural actions, I have Jesus Christ animating my soul, and by the impulse and communicate virtue and strength of an indwelling Christ, I am made to run the ways of his commandments, wherein I take so great delight, that I am found of no duty as of my enemy.
2. The gospel holiness respects Jesus Christ as its pattern. It proposeth no lower pattern for imitation than to be conform to his image, (he that is begotten again into a lively hope, by the resurrection of Christ from the dead, girds up the loins of his mind, which are the affections of his soul, lest by falling flat upon the earth, he be hindered in running the race set before him, as looking to the forerunner his pattern,) in this girdle of hope, that he may be |holy in all manner of conversation,| keeping his eye upon the precept and pattern, that his practice may be conform. It is written, saith he, |be ye holy, for I am holy;| the hope of seeing God, and being ever with him, imposeth a necessity upon him who hath it, to look no lower than at him, who is glorious in holiness; and therefore he is said to purify himself even as he is pure; and knowing that this is the end of their being quickened together with Christ, that they may walk even as he walked, they in their working and walking aim at no less than to be like him; and therefore never sit down upon any attained measure, as if they were already perfect. The spotless purity of God expressed in his laws, is that whereto they study assimilation; therefore they are still in motion towards this mark, and are changed from one of glorious grace into another, into the same image, even as by the Spirit of the Lord, who never gives over his putting them to cleanse from all filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit, till that be true in the truest sense, |Thou art all fair, my love, there is no spot in thee.| And knowing that perfect fruition of him cannot be without the perfect conformity to him, herein do they exercise themselves to grow in grace, and to be still advancing towards some more likeness to his image, forgetting all their attainments, as things that are behind, and by their Teachings forth unto that which is before, make it evident that they make every begun degree of grace and conformity to God, a prevenient capacity for a new degree which yet they have not attained. I know our moralists look upon themselves as matchless, in talking of following his steps as he hath left us an example; in this they make a flourishing with flanting effrontery, but for all their boasting of wisdom, such a poor simple man as I, am made to wonder at their folly, who proposing, as they say, the purity of Christ as their pattern, are not even thence convinced, that in order to a conformity thereto, there is a simple and absolute necessity of the mighty operations of that Spirit of God, whereby this end can be reached; but while they flout at the Spirit's working as a melancholy fancy, whereby the soul is garnished with the beauty of holiness, and made an habitation for God, I doubt not to say of these great sayers, that they understand neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm; nay, doth not the talking of the one, not only without seeing the necessity of the other, but speaking against it, say in the heart of every one, who hath not the heart of a beast, that they have never yet got a sight of the holiness of that pattern, nor of their own pollutions and impotency; for if they had, they would give themselves up to Jesus Christ to be washed by him, without which they can have no part with him. O there will be a vast difference, at the latter day, betwixt them who have given their black souls to Jesus to bleach, when he shall present them without spot, not only clothed with wrought gold, but all glorious within, and those who have never dipped, yea, who have despised to dip their defiled souls in any other fountain, save in the impure puddle of their own performances. This will make them loathsome in his sight, and cause his soul abhor those who have done this despite unto the Spirit of grace, as to slight that blessed fountain, opened for sin and for uncleanness, let them pretend as high as they will, to look to him as a pattern; while, because the plague-sore is gone up in their eye, they look not to him as a price, nor to the grace of Jesus Christ, as that which can only principle any acceptable performance of duty, he will plunge them in the ditch, and it will cost them their souls, for rejecting the counsel of God against themselves, in not making use of him who came by water as well as by blood.
3. This gospel holiness respects Christ as the altar. It is in him, and for him, that his soul is well pleased with our performance -- this is the altar upon which thou must lay thy gift, and leave it, without which thy labour is lost, and whatsoever thou dost is loathed, as a corrupt thing. As believers draw all their strength from him, so they expect acceptance only through him, and for him. They do not look for it, but in the Beloved; they dare not draw near to God in duty, but by him. This is the new and living way which is consecrate for them; and if such, who offer to come to God, do not enter in hereat, instead of being admitted to a familiar converse with God, they shall find him a consuming fire. When the saints have greatest liberty in prayer, and so of all other performances, when their hearts are most lifted up in the ways of the Lord, they abhor at thinking their prayer can any otherways be set forth before him as incense, or the lifting up of their hands as the evening sacrifice, but as presented by the great intercessor, and perfumed by the merit of his oblation. If they could weep out the marrow of their bones, and the moisture of their body, in mourning over sin; yet they durst not think of having what comes from so impure a spring, and runs through so polluted a channel, presented to God, but by Jesus Christ, in order to acceptation; for, as they look to the exalted Saviour, to get their repentance from him, so when by the pourings out upon them of the spirit of grace and supplication, he hath made them pour out their hearts before him, and hath melted them into true tenderness, so that their mourning is a great mourning, they carry back these tears to be washen and bathed in his blood, as knowing without this of how little worth and value with God their salt water is; but when they are thus washed he puts them in his bottle, and then pours them out again to them in the wine of strong consolation. Thus are they made glad in his house of prayer, and their sighs and groans come up with acceptance upon his altar. O blessed altar, that sanctifies the gold! this is that altar, whereto the mocking moralist hath no right. It is by him that the poor believer offers up his sacrifice to God continually; whatever he doth in word or deed, he desires to do all in the name of the Lord Jesus. As he knows, he lives to make intercession, and to appear in the presence of God for his poor people, both to procure influences for duty, and plead for acceptation: so he depends upon him for both, as knowing he can never otherways hear nor have it said unto him, |well done thou good and faithful servant.| It may be he can do little, he hath but a mite to offer; but he puts it in the Mediator's hand to be presented to God. He hath not gold, nor silver, nor purple to bring; he can do no great things; he hath but goats' hair or rams' skins, but he gives them the right tincture, he makes them red in the blood of Christ, and so they are a beautiful incarnation.
But let us, on the other hand, take a short view of what our moralists substitute in its place, as in their account, both more beautiful in the eye, and more beneficial to the souls of men, wherein I intend to be brief. I might comprehend the account to be given shortly, and give it most exactly, yet truly in these few words. As the most undoubted deviation from, and perfect opposition unto the whole contrivance of salvation, and the conveyance of it into the souls of men, as revealed in this gospel which brings life and immortality to light, that fighters against the grace of God in its value and virtue can forge, stretching their blind reason to the overthrow of true religion, and ruin of the souls of men. For to this height these masters of reason have, in their blind rage, risen up against the Lord and against his anointed; this is the dreadful period of that path, wherein we are persuaded to walk, yea hectored, if we would not forfeit the repute of men by these grand sophies, who arrogate to themselves the name and thing of knowledge, as if wisdom were to die with them. The deep mysteries of salvation, which angels desire to look into, and only satisfy themselves with admiration at, must appear as respondents at their bar; and if they decline the judge and court, as incompetent, they flee out and flout at subjecting this blind mole, man's reason, to the revelation of faith in a mystery. The manifold wisdom of God, and the manifold grace of God, must either condescend to their unfoldings, and be content to speak in their dialect, or else these wits, these Athenian dictators, will give the deep things of God, because beyond their divings, the same entertainment which that great gospel preacher, Paul, met with from men of the same mould, kidney, and complexion, because he preached unto them Jesus, What would the babbler say, said they. The Spirit of wisdom and revelation they know not, they have not, they acknowledge not; nay, they despise him in his saving and soul-ascertaining illuminations; and the workings of that mighty power to them-ward who believe, is to the men of this new mould (because they have not found it) an insufferable fancy, to be exploded with a disdain and indignation, which discovers what spirit actuates them in this opposition.
But I would recommend to you, who can neither purchase nor peruse what is more voluminous (how worthy soever) the serious perusal, as of the whole of that savoury and grace-breathing peace, the fulfilling of the Scriptures; so therein that short but sweet digression, against black-mouthed Parker, wherein the gracious author takes out his own soul, and sets before thine eye, the image of God impressed thereon; for while he deals with that desperado by clear and convincing reason, flowing natively from the pure fountain of divine revelation, he hath the advantage of most men, and writers too, in silencing that proud blasphemer of the good ways of God, with arguments taken from what he hath found acted upon his own soul. And likewise I would recommend, as a sovereign antidote against this poison, the diligent perusing and pondering of what is shortly hinted against the hellish belchings of the same unhallowed author (in the Preface to that piece of great Mr. Durham, upon the Commands) by a disciple, who, besides his natural acuteness and sub-actness of judgment in the depth of the gospel mysteries, is known, by all who know him (and for myself, I know none now alive his equal) to have most frequent access to lean his head on his Master's bosom, and so in best case to tell his fellow-disciples and brethren, what is breathed into his own soul, while he lives in these embraces, and under the sheddings abroad of that love of God in his soul, which drew and did dictate these lines, against that flouter at all such fruitions. Nor can I here omit to observe, how, when the devil raised up Parker, that monster, to bark and blaspheme, the Lord raised up a Merveil to fight him at his own weapon, who did so cudgel and quell that boasting bravo, as I know not if he be dead of his wound, but for any thing I know, he hath laid his speech.
It was not the author's design in this piece, (levelled only at this mark, to teach thee how to make use of the strength and grace that is in Christ Jesus, and find the promised ease in performance of duties; in handling of which argument, he hath been remarkably assisted, and thou canst not read with attention, but thou must bear him witness, and bless the Lord on his behalf, that he hath hit the mark at which he aimed) to engage in a formal debate with these audacious moralists, who would boast and bogle us out of the good old way, wherein, if men walk, they must find rest to their souls. Yet if by the doctrine he hath here explained and pressed, as the only way of life, they do not find what a mortal wound he hath given their morality, all the lovers of the truth will see it; and it may be, the Lord sparing life, and continuing the same gracious and great assistance, he hath had in engaging with many and great adversaries to the truth at home and abroad, they may see somewhat from his pen, which may make the lovers of our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, and of the operations of his Spirit, sing over these successors to Sisera, who with their jumping chariots and rattling wheels, assault the truth, at his feet they bowed, they fell, they lay down at his feet, they bowed, they fell where they bowed, there they fell down dead; so let all the enemies of thy truth perish, O Lord! How to make the whole more useful for thee, for whose advantage 'tis mainly intended, I leave to the author's own direction; only this I must say, his method and mould, wherein he casts his sweet matter, and his way of handling this so seasonable a subject, is so accommodate to each case, and brought home to the conscience, and down to the capacity of the meanest Christian, which was his aim, that the feeble, in this day, might be as David; that howbeit many worthy men have not only hinted, but enlarged upon the same matter, yet thou canst not but see some heart-endearing singularity in his way of improving and handling this great gospel truth. Next, I must tell thee, that as I myself read it with much satisfaction (though, alas! I dare not say, I have by reading reaped the designed advantage), so that thou mayest be blushed into a perusal thereof, and profiting thereby, I must likewise tell thee, I say, it hath been turned into Dutch, and that it hath not only met with great acceptation amongst all the serious and godly in these parts, who have seen it, but is much sought after; and they profess themselves singularly thereby edified, and set a-going after God, by its efficacious persuasiveness, with a singing alacrity; and if it have not the same effect upon thee and me, they and it will arise up against us in judgment.
Up, therefore, Christians, and be doing: Listen to such a teacher, who, lest thou tire in thy race, or turn back, teacheth thee a certain and sweet way of singular proficiency and progress in the ways of God. It may be, it is not thy work, nor mine, to write both against these soul-murdering, however magnified, methods of taking men off Jesus Christ; but our penury of parts for that, should first put us to seek plenty of tears, that we may weep, to see our master so wounded by the piercing pens of those who, to patronise their mock religion, wrest the Scriptures, and with wicked hands wring the word of the Lord, till it weep blood: this, I say, should provoke thee and me to weep upon him, till he appear, and beat the pens of such deceivers out of their hand by a blow of his; 2d, It should provoke us to know the truth, that we may contend earnestly for the faith delivered to the saints, and to have these contradicted truths so impressed in their life upon our souls, that the pen of the most subtle pleader for this perversion of the gospel may neither delete these, nor be able to stagger us, but we may, from the efficacious working of these, have the witness in ourselves, and know the men who teach otherways not to be of God; 3d, It should be our ambition, when the all of religion is cried down, and a painted shadow, a putrid, however perfumed, nothing put in its place, to make it appear, by our practice, that religion is an elevation of the soul above the sphere and activity of dead morality; and that it is no less or lower principle that acts us, than Christ dwelling in us, and walking in us. How can the love of God, and of Christ, and of the Spirit be in us, if these perverse praters against the power of godliness, provoke us not to emit a practical declaration to the world, and extort a testimony to his grace by our way, from the enemies thereof? Improve, therefore, this his special help to that purpose, which in a most seasonable time is brought to thy hand.
But to sum up all shortly, there are but three things which make religion an heavy burden; 1st, The blindness of the mind; and here thou art taught to make use of that eye-salve, whereby the eyes of the blind see out of obscurity, and out of darkness; he who formerly erred in spirit, by the light held forth in these lines, may see a surpassing beauty in the ways of God; 2d, That aversion and unwillingness which is in the mind, whereby the sweet and easy yoke of his commands is spurned at as heavy; in order to the removing thereof, and that thou mayest be among his willing people, here thou hast Christ held forth in his conquering beauty, displaying his banner of love over souls, so that thou canst not look upon him as held forth, but faith will bow thy neck to take on his yoke, because it sees it is lined with the love of Christ, and then this love that lines the yoke, shed abroad in the heart, will constrain to a bearing of it; but, 3d, When the spirit is willing, there remains yet much weakness; love kindled in the heart conquers the mind into a compliance with his will, and a complacency in his commands, but its greatest strength is often to weep over a withered hand. Now that thy hands which fall down may be made strong for labour, and thou mayest be girded with strength, and have grace for grace, yea, all grace to make thee abound unto every good word and work, the author leads thee up unto the full fountain of all gospel furniture, and strength; and teacheth thee how to make use of Christ, as thy sufficiency, for working all thy works in thee and for thee. I say, therefore, again unto thee, take heart, let not thine hands fall down, essay nothing thou would have well done or easily done, in thine own strength; but yet how difficult soever the duty be, approach it as having no confidence in the flesh, but with an eye to thy stock, that rich store-house of all furniture, and it shall be with thee as it was with the priests, before whom Jordan recoiled, so soon as their foot entered within the brink; God shall make thy difficulties evanish; and by the illapses of the Spirit of power and might from Jesus Christ depended upon, shall so strengthen thee, that thy duty is made easy to admiration, and becomes the delight of thy soul. Pray for the continuance of the life of the author, who, by his assiduous working for Christ, hath been often near unto death, not regarding his own life, to supply the lack of other men's service, to the interest and Church of God; and let him be comforted for this piece of travel undertaken for thy soul's interest, by hearing thou dost improve it to thy advantage, for which it is so exactly calculate: And with all I beg thy fervent and earnest intercessions for grace, and more grace, to him who is thy poor, yet soul's well-wisher and servant, for Christ's sake,
R. M. W.