Yea, but by what meanes shall a Christian attaine this fire, and maintaine it when he hath gotten it.
Say not in thine heart, What Prometheus shall ascend into heaven and fetch it thence; thou mayest fetch it thence by thine owne prayer: as did Elias and the Apostles, men of infirmities as well as thy selfe; pray continually, and instantly: the Lord that breathed first thy soule into thee, will also breath on thy soule: I speake not of miraculous (which was but a type) but of ordinarie inspiration. Prayer and zeale are as water and ice: mutually producing each other; when it is once come downe upon thine altar; though no water can quench it, yet must it bee preserved fresh, by ordinarie fuell; especially the Priests lipps must keepe it alive.
Sermons are bellowes ordained for this purpose. The word read is of divine use, but doth not with that motion stirre these coales.
Experience sheweth, the best oration will not so much moove as the meanest Orator.
After the sparkles once by these meanes kindled, cherish and feede them by reading the word: Let it dwell richly in thine heart, excite thy dulnesse by spirituall Hymnes. Love-songs enflame not lust, more, then the Song of Songs doth zeale: Reade or sing the 119. Psalme; and if thou beest not zealous, every verse will checke thee in thy throat: Meditation is another helpe, approoved by Isaacks and Davids practice: An Art lately so taught, as I shall neede onely to poynt at the choyce theames, suiting and furthering this argument. I need not goe far to fetch this fire: I may strike it out of every word of this Epistle to Laodicea. Behold the Lord God, especially thy Lord Christ in his glorious titles and Majesty; for so hee beginnes his visions to John; and his Epistles to the Churches, exciting their dull hearts. By such apparitions did hee set on fire the heart of Moses in the burning bush; and enflamed Stephan, his first Martyr: answerable and proportionable to which, are our serious contemplations. Behold him as one that seeth thee, and knoweth thy workes; the rouzing preface of all these Letters. Casars eye made his souldiers prodigall of their blood. The Atheist thinks God takes as much notice of him and his prayers, as hee doth of the humming of Flyes and Bees; and therefore, no marvell if his service bee formall and fashionable. The faithfull Christian by faiths prospective sees him at home, and heares him saying, Well done thou good servant; which maketh him to worke out his heart. Behold him as the beginning of creatures, especially of the new creature. Oh! what love hath hee shewed thee in thy redemption? out of what misery, into what happinesse, by what a price, to what end; but that thou shouldest bee zealous of good workes? Behold him as the faithfull witnesse, that witnessed himselfe for thee a good witnesse, and heere faithfully counsels thee to follow his patterne. Behold him as a speedie and royall rewarder of his followers. Take thy selfe into paradise, represent to thy selfe thy crowne, thy throne, thy white robes; looke not on the things that are seene, but on the farre most excellent wait of glory; looke upon these, and faint if thou canst. Behold also hee is a consuming fire, a zealous God, hating lukewarmnesse not onely destroying Sodome with fire and brimstone, and providing Tophet for his enemies; but awaking also his drowzie servants, by judgements (as Absolon Joab by firing his corne) his Israelites by fiery serpents: whom hee loveth, hee chasteneth, and keepeth them in the fornace of fiery trialls, till they come to their right temper. Hee standeth and knocketh: if nothing will arouze us, a time will come, when heaven and earth shall burne with fire, and Christ shall come in flaming fire, to render vengeance with fire unquenchable. Wee therefore that know the terrour of that day, What manner of persons ought we to bee?
From God turne thine eyes unto man: set before thee the pillar, and clowde of fiery examples, that have led us the way into Canaan. Hee is but a dull lade that will not follow: The stories of the Scriptures, the lives of the Fathers, the acts and monuments of the Church, have a speciall vertue for this effect. The very pictures of the fires, and Martyrs, cannot but warme thee. If thou canst meete with any living examples, follow them, as they follow Christ, frequent their company: even Saul amongst the Prophets, will prophesie. No bangling hawke, but with a high flyer will mend her pitch: the poorest good companion, will doe thee some good; when Silas came, Paul burnt in the spirit: a lesser sticke may fire a billet; If thou findest none, let the coldnesse of the times heat thee, as frosts doe the fire; Let every indignation make thee zealous, as the dunstery of the Monkes, made Erasmus studious: one way to bee rich in times of dearth, is to engrosse a rare commodity, such as zeale is: now, if ever, they have destroyed thy Law; It is now high time to be zealous.
Consider and emulate the children of this generation, to see how eager every Demas is for worldly promotion. How did that worthy Bishop disdaine to see an harlot, more curiously to adorne her body unto sinne and death, then hee could his soule unto life everlasting. It angred Demosthenes to see a Smith earlier at his anvile, then he was at his deske.
When thou hast thus heat thy selfe, take heede of catching colde againe, as many have done, and brought their zeale to deaths doore.
[Sidenote: Zeales extinguishers.]
This fire may goe out divers wayes: first by subtraction of fewell; if a man forbeare his accustomed meales, will not his naturall heat decay? The Levites that kept Gods watch in the Temple, were charged expressely, morning & evening, if not oftner, to looke to the lights and the fire. Hee that shall forget (at the least) with the Curfeau-bell in the evening to rake uppe his zeale by prayer, and with the day-bell in the morning to stirre up & kindle the same, if not oftner with Daniel; I cannot conceive how hee can possibly keepe fire in his heart. Will God blesse such, as bid him not so much as good-morrow and good-even?
Hee that shall despise or neglect prophesie, must hee not needes quench the spirit? have I not marked glorious professors, who for some farme sake, or other commodities, have flitted from Jerusalem to Jericho; where the situation was good, but the waters nought; and their zeale hath perished, because vision hath failed?
Such as reade the Bible by fits upon rainy dayes, not eating the booke with John, but tasting onely with the tippe of the tongue: Such as meditate by snatches, never chewing the cud and digesting their meat, they may happily get a smackering, for discourse and table-talke; but not enough to keepe soule & life together, much lesse for strength and vigour. Such as forsake the best fellowship, and wax strange to holy assemblies, (as now the manner of many is) how can they but take colde? Can one coale alone keepe it selfe glowing?
Though it goe not out for want of matter, yet may it bee put out by sundry accidents; when it is newly kindled, it may be put out with scoffes and reproaches, if Peter take not heede, and fence himselfe well against them; but if once throughly growne, such breath will but spred and encrease it.
It is possible fire may bee oppressed with too much wood, and heat suffocated with too much nourishment: over-much prayer, reading, and study, may bee a wearinesse both to flesh and spirit: but it so rarely happeneth, that I neede not mention it; and yet the soule hath its satiety. There be some such perchance over-nice men in this sense also, who have not learned that God will have them mercifull to themselves: It is often smoothered for want of vent and exercise. Let such as use not and expresse not their zeale, bragge of their good hearts; surely they have none such, or not like to have them such. If Nicodemus had not buried Christ by day, we might have feared his zeale had gone out, for all his comming by night.
Yet this is not so ordinary, as to extinguish it by the quench-coale of sinne; grosse sinne every man knowes will waste the conscience, and make shipwracke of zeale: but I say, the least known evill unrepented of, is as a theefe in the candle, or an obstruction in the liver. I feare, David served God but reasonably, till hee published his repentance; hee that steales his meat, though poverty tempt him, yet giveth thankes but coldly: zeale and sinne, will soone expell the one or the other out of their subject; Can you imagine in the same roofe, God and Beliall, the Arke and Dagon? Lastly, and most commonly, forraine heat will extract the inward, and adventicious heat consume the naturall.
The Sunne will put out the fire; and so will the love of the world, the love of the Father, they cannot stand together in intense degrees, one cannot serve both these matters with such affection as both would have. Seldome seest thou a man make haste to bee rich, and thrive in religion. Christs message to John holds true; The poore are most forward in receiving and following the Gospell: as thou lovest thy zeale, beware of resolving to bee rich, lest gain proove thy godlinesse; take heede of ambitious aspiring, lest Courts and great places, proove ill aires for zeale, whither it is as easie to go zealous, as to returne wise: Peter whiles hee warmed his hands, cooled his heart; Not that greatnesse and zeale cannot agree; but for that our weaknes many times severs them. If thou beest willing to die poore in estate, thou mayest the more easily live rich in grace. Smyrna, the poorest of the seven Candle-stickes, hath the richest price upon it.
The diligent practise of these courses will make easie the practise of this counsell, Be zealous, &c.