Page images


viction and conversion : this life in preaching, strict soever, if you will but act it as a player on praying, discipline, reproof, and conference, is the stage, or do it coldly, slightly, and as if that which galls, goads, and disquiets their con- were but in jest, you may have their approbation. sciences. This they kick and rail against : this But it is this life, seriousness, and worshipping is the thing that will not let them sleep quietly in God in spirit and truth, that convinces them their sin and misery ; but is calling and inciting that they themselves are lifeless, consequently them to awake, and will not let them sin in peace, troubles their deceitful peace, and therefore must but will either convert them, or torment them not have their friendship. If it were the mere before the time. It is the life of religion that bulk of duty that they are weary of, how comes the hypocrite wants; and the life that he is it to pass that a Papist at his psalter, beads, and most against. A painted fire burns not; a dead mass-books, can spend more hours without much lion bites not. The lifeless body of an enemy weariness or opposition, than we can do in seriis not formidable. Let the words of that sermon ous worship? Turn all but into words, beads, that most offends them, be separated from the canonical hours and days, shows, and ceremony, life, and put into a homily, and said or read in and you may be as religious as you will, and be a formal, drowsy, or a school-boy tone, and they righteous overmuch, and few will hate, or recan bear it and commend it. Let the same words proach, or persecute you among them, as too of prayer which now they like not, be said over precise or strict. But living Christians and as a lifeless, customary form, and they can like worship, come among them like fire, that burns it well. I speak not against the use of forms, them, and makes them smart, with a “word that but the abuse of them : not against the body but is quick and powerful, sharper than any twothe shadow. Let forms themselves be used by edged sword, piercing even to the dividing of a spiritual serious man, in a spiritual serious soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and is a dismanner, with the interposition of any quickening cerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.' exhortations, or occasional passages, that tend The enmity of the Cainites may teach the to keep them awake and attentive, make them Christian what he should be, and wherein his feel what you mean and are about, and you shall excellency lies. It is life and seriousness that see they love not such animated forms. It is your enemies hate: and therefore it is life and the living, Christian, lively worship, and serious, seriousness that you must above all maintain ; spiritual religion, which they hate : kill it and though dead-hearted hypocrites never so much they can bear it. Let the picture of my enemy oppose and contradict you. be nearer and comelier than his person was, and They are no trifles, but the greatest things that I can endure it in my bed chamber, better than God hath set before you in his word, and called himself in the meanest dress.

you out to prosecute and possess : your time of It is the living Christians that in all parts of seeking them is short, and therefore you have no the world are chiefly persecuted. Let them be time for trifles, nor any to lose in idleness and once dead, and dead-hearted hypocrites them- sloth. And of all men, preachers should be most selves will honour them, especially at a sufficient sensible of this. If they were not against seridistance: they will destroy the living saints, and ous holiness in others, it is double wickedness keep holidays for the dead ones. • Woe to for such as they, to be against it in themselves. you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites, because ye It is great things that they have to study and build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the to speak of: such as call for the greatest sesepulchres of the righteous, and say, if we had riousness, reverence and gravity in the speaker, been in the days of our fathers, we would not and condemn all trifling in matter or in manner. have been partakers with them in the blood of A man that is sent of Christ to run for an imthe prophets ; wherefore ye be witnesses unto mortal crown, or to direct others in such a race, yourselves, that ye are the children of them to save his own, or other men's souls, from endwhich kill the prophets : fill ye up the measure less misery, should be ashamed to fill up his time of your fathers: ye serpents, ye generation of with trifles, or to be slight and cold about such vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell!' great and weighty things. All the heart, soul, The dog that will not meddle with the dead and might, is little enough for matters of such creature, will pursue the living; and when he unspeakable importance. When I hear preachsees it stir no more, will leave it. Christianity ers or people spend their time in little impertiwithout seriousness is not Christianity, and nent fruitless things, that do but divert them therefore not liable to the hatred of its enemies from the great business of their lives, or to trifle as such. Say any thing, and do any thing how with the greatest matters rather than to use them

and treat of them with a seriousness suitable to lives to their profession and holy rule, their lives their importance; I oft think of the words of would confute the reproaches of their enemies, Seneca, the serious moralist, as shaming the and command a reverend and awful estimation hypocrisy of such trifling preachers and profes- from the observers, and do more to convince sors of the Christian faith : 'You compose copi- the unbelieving world of the truth and dignity ous words, and tie hard knots by curious ques. of the Christian faith, than all the words of the tions; and you say, O these are acute things ! most subtle disputants. Christianity being an What is more acute than the peal of corn ? and affecting practical science, must practically and yet what is it good for? Subtilty itself makes affectionately be declared, according to its nasome things unprofitable and ineffectual. Again, ture : arguments do but paint it out: and pic* Leave these toys or fooleries to poets, whose tures do no more make known its excellency, business is to delight the ear, and to compose a than the picture of meat and drink makes known pleasant fable. But they that mean to heal men's its sweetness. When a doctrine so holy, is understandings, and retain credibility among visibly exemplified, and lives, walks, and works men, and to bring into men's minds the remem- in serious Christians before the world: either brance of their duties, must speak seriously, and this or nothing will convince them, and constrain do their business with all their might.'

them, to glorify our Lord, and say that God Did a Seneca see, by the light of nature, so is among us, or in us of a truth,' but it is unmuch of the necessity of seriousness and dili- christian lives that darkens the glory of the gence about the matters of the soul ; and so Christian faith. When men that profess such much of the madness of spending words and glorious hopes, shall be as sordidly earthly, sentime and trifles ? And yet shall there be found sual, ambitious, impotent, and impatient as other a man among professed Christians, and among men, they seem but dissemblers. the preachers of faith and holiness, that pleads Yet shall there be found such a perfidious for trifling, scorns at seriousness, and accounts wretch under the heavens of God, as a professed them moderate and wise that a heathen brands minister of Christ, that shall subtilly or openly as toyish and distracted ?

labour to make an exact, holy, and heavenly What is it that clouds the glory of Christianity, conversation a matter of reproach and scorn ; and and keeps so great a part of the world in heathen- that, under pretence of reproving the sins of hyism and infidelity, but this, that among Chris- pocrites and schismatics, shall make the exactians there are so few that are Christians indeed ? test conformity to the Christian rule, and faithAnd those few are so obscured by the multitude fullest obedience to the almighty sovereign, to of formal trifling hypocrites, that Christianity is seem to be but hypocrisy or self-conceitedness, or measured and judged of by the lives of those needless trouble, if not the way of sedition, and that are not Christians ? Religion is a thing to public trouble, and turning all things upside be demonstrated, honoured, and commended by down? That cannot reprove sin, without mapractice: words alone are ineffectual to represent licious, insinuating slanders or suspicions against its excellency to so blind a world, that must the holy law, and holy life, that are most conknow by feeling, having lost their sight. In our trary to sin, as life to death, as health to sickprofessed faith we mount unto the heavens, and ness, and as light to darkness ? leave poor unbelievers wallowing in the mire. For any man, especially any professed ChrisO what a transcendant, inconceivable glory, do tian, any where to oppose or scorn at godliness, we profess to expect with God unto eternity, and is a dreadful sign, as well as a heinous sin : but what manner of persons should they be, in all for a preacher of godliness to oppose and scorn holy conversation and godliness, that look for at godliness, and that in the pulpit, while he such a life as this! How basely should they pretends to promote it, and plead for it in the esteem those transitory things, that are the food name of Christ, is a sin that should strike the and felicity of the sensual world! How pa- heart of man with horror to conceive of. tiently should they undergo contempt and scorn, Though I look upon this sort of the enemies and whatsoever man can inflict upon them! How of holiness as those that are as unlikely to be studiously should they devote and refer all their recovered and saved, as almost any people in time, strength, wealth, and interest, to this their the world, except apostates and malicious blasglorious, blessed end ! How seriously should phemers of the Holy Ghost, yet in compassion they speak of, and how industriously should they to the people and themselves, I shall plead the seek sure, near, and endless joys! Did professed cause of God with their consciences, and try Christians more exactly conform their hearts and I what light can do with their understandings,


3 s

and the terrors of the Lord with their hardened thy might, which thou endeavourest closely and hearts.

cunningly to disgrace! And wilt thou be a 1. A preacher of the gospel should much ex- traitor to Christ in the name of a messenger and cel the people in understanding: and therefore preacher of the gospel? Wilt thou engage thythis sin is greater in them than other men: what self to promote his interest, and to use all thy means, what light do they sin against? Either skill and power to build men up in holiness and thou knowest the necessity of striving for salva- obedience; and when thou hast done this, wilt tion with the greatest diligence, or thou dost not. thou disgrace and hinder it? Dost thou take on If not, what a sin and shame is it to undertake thee to go on the message of Christ, and then the sacred office of the ministry, while thou speak against him? We do not find that Judas knowest not the things that are necessary to sal- dealt thus with him : when he sent him as he did vation, and that which every infant in the faith other preachers, we read not that he preached doth know? But if thou dost know it, how against him. O let not my soul be numbered dost thou make shift maliciously to oppose it, with such men in the day of the Lord! It will without feeling the beginnings of hell upon thy be easier for Sodom and Gomorrah, than for the conscience ? When it is thy work to read the refusers of the word and grace of Christ. What Scriptures, and meditate on them, dost thou not then will be the doom of the opposers? And read thy doom, and meditate terror? How above all of those treacherous opposers, that canst thou choose but perceive that the scope of pretend themselves to propagate and promote the word of God is contrary to the bent of thy them? affections and suggestions? Yea, what is more If the wit and malice of Satan's instruments evident by the light of nature, than that God were sharpened against the ways and servants and our salvation cannot be regarded with too of the Lord, it belongs to you to plead Christ's much holy seriousness, exactness and industry ? cause, shame these absurd unreasonable gainShould not the best things be best loved; and sayers, and stop the mouth of impious contrathe greatest inatters have our greatest care? Is diction. Will you join with gainsayers, and sethere any thing to be compared with God and cretly or openly say as they? Who should conour eternal state? O what overwhelming sub- found the deriders of a holy life but you ? Who jects are these to sober and considerate mind! should lay open the excellencies of Christ, the what toys are all things in comparison of them : glory of heaven, the terrors of the Lord, and yet dost thou make light of them, and also teach all other obligations to the most serious, but you men so to do? As if there were something else that have undertaken it as your calling and emthat better deserved men's greatest care and dili- ployment? If any man in the parish were so gence than they. What! a preacher, and not a atheistical and brutish, as to think God unworthy believer; or a believer, and yet not see enough of our dearest love, our most exact obedience, in the matters of eternity to engage all our and most laborious service, who should display powers of soul and body against all the world this atheist's folly, but you that are doubly, as that should stand in competition?

Christians and ministers, obliged to defend the 2. Is it not sinful and terrible enough, to be honour of your Lord? If any of the people thyself in a carnal, unrenewed state: and to be should fall into such a dream or dotage, as to without the Spirit and life of Christ, but thou question the necessity of our utmost diligence must be so cruel as to make others miserable in our preparations for eternal life, who should also ? • But to the wicked, saith God, What awake them by lifting up their voices as a trumhast thou to do to declare my statutes; or that pet, and help to recover their understandings, but thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth, you that are the watchmen, and know their blood seeing thou hatest instruction and castest my will be required at your hands, if you give them words behind thee ?-Whosoever shall break not loud and timely warning? If any subtle, one of these least commandments, and shall malicious servant of the devil should plead teach men so, he shall be called the least in the against the necessity of holiness, and dissuade kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and the people from serving God with all their might, teach the same, shall be called great in the king- who should be ready to confirm the weak, and dom of heaven.'

strengthen and encourage them that are thus 3. What an aggravation is it of thy impiety assaulted, and help to keep up their zeal and and soul-murder, that thou art bound by office forwardness, but you that are leaders in the to teach men that life of holiness which thou army of the Lord ? Is it not a holy God that opposest: and to persuade them to that with all you are engaged to serve; and a holy church in which you have your station; and a communion condemnation. For the nurse to poison them: of saints in which you have undertaken to ad- for the parents to cut the children's throats, is minister the holy things of God ? Have you worse than for an enemy to do it. If the devil, not read what was done to Nadab and Abihu, our professed enemy, should himself appear to us when Moses told Aaron, « This is it that the and say, Prepare not so seriously for death : be Lord spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them not so strict, so diligent, and holy; it were not, that come nigh me, and before the people I will in many respects, so bad as for you to do it, be glorified.' Is it not a holy law and gospel that should help to save us from his snares. You which you publish? You have undertaken to that profess yourselves their fathers ; that should warn the slothful, the sensual, the worldly, and travail in birth till Christ be formed in your peothe profane, that they strive to enter in at the ple's hearts ; that should love your people as strait gate, and seek first the kingdom of God your own bowels, foster the weak, pity the and his righteousness. To give diligence to wicked, and stick at no labour, suffering, or cost, make sure their calling and election. To give that might advance their holiness, and further all diligence in adding virtue to their faith. their salvation ; for you to tempt men into a

- With all diligence to keep their hearts. And careless life, and turn them out of the holy way, are you the men that would quench their zeal, is an aggravated cruelty. It is worse for the and destroy the holy diligence which you should shepherd to destroy us than the wolf. preach?

The Lord touch your hearts, and 6. Are you not ashamed thus to contradict recover you in time, or how woeful will it yourselves ; what can you find to preach from be with such hardened hypocrites, that in the the word of God, that tends not to this holy light, in his fainily and livery, and under his diligence which you are against; how can you standard and colours, dare prove traitors and make shift to preach an hour, and not acquaint enemies to the Lord.

men with the duty and necessity of seeking God 4. And what an addition is it to your guilt, with all their might ? Do you not tell them, that that you speak against God in his own name ? Except they be converted and be born again, By office, you are to deliver his message, and they shall not enter into the kingdom of God.' speak to the people in his name and in his stead. And that without holiness none shall see the Dare you, before the sun, and under the hea- Lord.—That if they live after the flesh, they vens of God, and in his hearing, persuade men shall die. That except their righteousness exthat the most holy God is against holiness ; ceed the righteousness of the scribes and phaand the King of saints is an adversary to sanc- risees, they shall in no case enter into the kingtity; and that he that made his holy law, is dom of heaven.' And will you, in your applicaagainst the most exact obeying of it? Dare tion or private discourses, unsay all this again you prefix a • Thus saith the Lord,' to so impious and give God and yourselves the lie ; letting a speech as • It is in vain to serve the Lord?' people see that the pulpit is to you but as a stage, What needs there so much ado for your salva- and that you believe not what you speak ? tion ? Dare you go to men as from the Lord, 7. Consider, that your place and calling make and say, “You are too careful and diligent in his you the most successful servants of the devil, and service; less ado may serve the turn ; what need so the most bloody murderers of souls, while you of this fervour and redeeming of time; this is but give your judgment against a strict and heavenly puritanism or preciseness! It is better to do as life. For a drunkard in an alehouse to mock the most, and venture your souls without so the minister, and rail at serious religion, is less much ado.' Who could at last hold up his face, regarded by sober men, and of small injury to or stand before the dreadful tribunal, that should his master's cause; nay, the wickedness of his be found in the guilt of such a crime? What, life is so great a shame to his judgment, that it to put God into the similitude of Satan, and de- inclines many to think well of those that he scribe the most holy as the enemy of holiness! speaks against. But when a man that pretends To make him plead against himself, disgrace to learning and understanding, to be himself a his own image, and dissuade men from that pastor of the church, and preacher of the mystewhich he himself hath made of necessity to their ries of Christ, shall make them odious that are salvation ! What viler blasphemy can be utter- most careful of their souls, most exact in pleasing ed ?

God, and shall make all serious diligence for 5. It aggravates your sin, that your relation heaven to seem but intemperate zeal and selfobliges you to the most tender affections to your conceitedness: and shall describe a saint as if people: and yet that you should seduce them to the formal, lifeless hypocrite, that gives God but the leavings of the world, and never sets his heart | were wiser and better than we: of whom should on heaven, were indeed the man: what a snare we learn but of our teachers ?! Wo to the teachis here for the perdition of the ignorant! They ers that ever they were born, that must be then that are naturally averse from holiness, and are found guilty of this crime. easily persuaded to think that to be unnecessary If Adam's excuse was Eve's accusation; the or bad, which seems so much above them and woman which thou gavest to be with me, she against them, will be much confirmed in their gave me of the tree, and I did eat,' and the mistakes and misery, when they hear their teach- woman's excuse did charge the serpent, “the serers speak without them, the same that Satan by pent beguiled me and I did eat,' though it freed his suggestions doth within them. This turns a not the excusers, how will it load you, when your trembling sinner into a hardened scorner : he people shall say, “the teachers that we thought that before went under the daily correction of thou gavest us, did teach us and go before us in his conscience, for neglecting God, and omitting setting against this holy diligence, and we did holy duties, and living to the flesh, grows bold but learn of them, and follow them! and fearless when he hears the preacher disgrace 8. Are not the people backward enough to the stricter, purer way. By that time he hath the serving of God with all their might, unless heard a while the fear of God derided as pre- you hinder them? Is not the corrupted heart of ciseness, and tender conscience reproached as a lapsed man averse enough to the matters of salscrupulous foolish thing, his conscience grows vation, but you must make them worse ? If you more pliable to his lusts, and hath little more to had to do with the best and holiest person in the say against them. When God's own professed world that walks with God in the most heavenly ministers, who should be wiser and better than conversation, he would tell you that his dull and the people, are against this zeal and industry for backward heart hath no need of clogs, and heaven, the people will soon think, that at least discouragements, but of all the help that can be it is tolerable in them: and they will sooner afforded him, to quicken him up to greater learn to deride a saint from a sermon or dis- diligence. The most zealous lament that they are course of a preacher or a learned man, than from so cold: the most heavenly lament that they are the scorns or talk of hundreds of the ignorant. so earthly and so strange to heaven: the most Wilt thou teach them to hate godliness, who laborious lament that they are so slothful, and hast undertaken, before the righteous God, to the most fruitful believers, that they are so unteach them to practise it? He that despises it, profitable ; those that are most watchful of their though under the names, and represents it as words and deeds, that they are so careless ; those odious, though masked with the title of some that most diligently redeem their time, lament odious vice, doth indeed endeavour to make men it, that they lose so much ; and those that walk hate it. And what a terrible account wilt thou most accurately and exactly, that they are so have to make, when the seduction and trans- loose, and keep no closer to the rule. Yet darest gression of all these sinners shall be charged thou increase the backwardness of the ungodly! upon thee; when Christ shall say to the haters, will not their carnal interest and lusts serve to deriders, and opposers of his holy ways and ser- keep them from a holy life? Is not Satan strong vants, “in as much as you did it to one of the enough of himself? Will not the common disleast of these my brethren, you did it unto me? I taste of godliness in the world, sufficiently preHow durst you scorn the image of your Maker ; judice and avert them without thy help? Do hate the saints whose communion you pro. you see your people so forward to do too much fessed to believe; and deride, or oppose that for heaven, that you must pull them back? Canserious holiness, without which you had no hope not souls be condemned without your furtherof being saved ? If then the sinners become ance; or is it a desirable work; and will it pay your accusers, and say, 'Lord, we thought it had for your cost and labour ? The way is up-hill; been but unnecessary preciseness, and that se- the best of us are weak, and frequently ready to rious Christians had been but self-conceited, fac- sit down. A thousand impediments are cast tious hypocrites, and that lip-service with a com- before us by Satan and the world, to make us mon worldly life, might have served the turn; linger till the time be past ; and many a charm we heard our preachers represent such strict and of pleasure and diversion, to make us sleep till zealous men as turbulent, seditious, and refrac. the door be shut. Ministers are sent to keep tory, as odious and not as imitable : their appli- us walking, and take us by the hand, to lead cation was against them: their discourse derided us on, and remove impediments : and shall them : of them we learnt it: we thought they they set in with the enemy, and be our chiet

« PreviousContinue »