Page images
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

I WRITE for myself, and therefore, supposing the sense of the text, shall only observe what is useful to my heart and practice.

It was a happy state into which grace had brought this apostle, who saw so much, not only tolerable, but greatly desirable, both in living and dying. To live, to him, was Christ, that is, Christ's interest, or work. To die would be gain, that is, his own interest and reward. His strait was not whether it would be good to live or good to depart, both were good, but whịch was more desirable was the doubt.

1. Quest. But was there any doubt to be made between Christ's interest and his own? Answ. No, if it had been a full and fixed competition ; but by Christ, or Christ's interest, he meaneth his work for his church's interest in this world; but he knew that Christ also had an interest in his saints above, and that he could raise up more to serve him here; yet, because he was to judge by what appeared, and he saw a defect of such on earth, this did turn the scales in his choice; and for the work of Christ and his church's good, he more inclined to the delay of his reward, by self-denial ; yet knowing that the delay would tend to its increase. It is useful to me here to note,

That, even in this world, short of death, there is some good so much to be regarded, as may justly prevail with believers to prefer it before the present hastening of their reward.

I the rather note this, that no temptation carry me into that extreme, of taking nothing but heaven to be worthy of our minding or regard, and so to cast off the world in a sinful sort, on pretence of mortification, and a heavenly mind, and life.

1. As to the sense, the meaning is not that any thing on earth is better than heaven, or simply, and in itself, to be preferred before it. The end is better than the ineans as such, and perfection better than imperfection.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

But the present use of the means may be preferred sometimes before the present possession of the end, and the use of means for a higher end may be preferred before the present possession of a lower end, and every thing hath its season. Planting, and sowing, and building, are not so good as reaping, and fruitgathering, and dwelling, but in their season, they must be first done.

II. Quest. But what is there so desirable in this life?

Answ. 1. While it continueth, it is the fulfilling of the will of God, who will have us here; and that is best which God willeth,

II. The life to come dependeth upon this, as the life of man in the world upon his generation in the womb; or as the reward upon the work; or the runner's or soldier's prize upon his race or fighting; or as the merchant's gain upon his voyage. Heaven is won or lost on earth. The possession is there, but the preparation is here. Christ will judge all men according to their works on earth. “ Well done, good and faithful servant, must go before “ Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” " I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course," goeth before " the crown of righteousness which God, the righteous Judge, will give." All that ever must be done for salvation by us, must here be done. It was on earth that Christ himself wrought the work of our redemption, fulfilled all righteousness, became our ransom, and paid the price of our salvation, and it is here that our part is to be done.

And the bestowing of the reward is God's work, who, we are sure, will never fail. There is no place for the least suspicion or fear of his misdoing, or failing, in any of his undertaken work. But the danger and fear is of our own miscarrying, lest we be not found capable of receiving what God will certainly give to all that are disposed receivers. To distrust God is heinous sin and folly, but to distrust ourselves we have great cause. So that if we will make sure of heaven, it must be by giving all diligence to make firm our title, our calling, and our election, here on earth. If we fear hell, we must fear being prepared for it.

And it is great and difficult work that must be here done. It is here that we must be cured of all damning sin; that we must be regenerate and new born; that we must be pardoned and justified by faith. It is here that we must be united to Christ, made wise to salvation, renewed by his Spirit, and conformed to his likeness. It is here that we must overcome all the tempt

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

ations of the devil, the world, and the flesh, and perform all the duties towards God and man, that must be rewarded. It is here that Christ must be believed in with the heart to righteousness, and with the mouth confessed to salvation. It is here that we must suffer with him, that we may reign with him, and be faithful to the death, that we may receive the crown of life. Here we must so run that we may obtain,

JII. Yea, we have greater work here to do than mere securing our own salvation. We are members of the world and church, and we must labour to do good to many. We are trusted with our Master's talents for his service, in our places to do our best to propagate his truth, and grace, and church; and to bring home souls, and honour his cause, and edify his flock, and further the salvation of as many as we can.

All this is to be done on earth, if we will secure the end of all in heaven.

Use 1. It is, then, an error (though it is but few, I think, that are guilty of it,) to think that all religion lieth in minding only the life to come, and disregarding all things in this present life, all true Christians must seriously mind both the end and the means, or way. If they mind not, believingly, the end, they will never be faithful in the use of means. If they mind not, and use not diligently, the means, they will never obtain the end. None can use earth well that prefer not heaven, and none come to heaven, at age, that are not prepared by well using earth. Heaven must have the deepest esteem, and habituated love, and desire, and joy; but earth must have more of our daily thoughts for present practice. A man that travelleth to the most desirable home, hath a habit of desire to it all the way, but his present business is his travel; and horse, and company, and inns,

ways, and weariness, &c., may take up more of his sensible thoughts, and of his talk, and action, than his home.

Use 2. I have oft marvelled to find David, in the Psalms, and other saints, before Christ's coming, to have expressed so great a sense of the things of this present life, and to have said so little of another. To have made so great a matter of prosperity, dominions, and victories, on one hand, and of enemies, success, and persecution, on the other. But I consider that it was not for mere personal, carnal interest, but for the church of God, and for his honour, word, and worship. And they knew that if things go well with us on earth, they will be sure to go well in heaven, If the militant church prosper in holiness, there is no doubt hut it will triumph in glory. God will be sure to do his part in

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]


[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

receiving souls, if they be here prepared for his receipt. And Satan doth much of his damning work by men; if we escape their temptations, we escape much of our danger. If idolaters prospered, Israel was tempted to idolatry. The Greek church is almost swallowed up by Turkish prosperity and dominion. Most follow the powerful and prosperous side. And, therefore, for God's cause, and for heavenly, everlasting interest, our own state, but much more the church's, must be greatly regarded here on earth,

Indeed, if earth be desired only for earth, and prosperity loved but for the present welfare of the flesh, it is the certain mark of damning carnality, and an earthly mind. But to desire peace, and prosperity, and power, to be in the hands of wise and faithful men, for the sake of souls, and the increase of the church, and the honour of God, that his name may be hallowed, his kingdom come, and his will done on earth, as it is in heaven. This is to be the chief of our prayers to God.

Use 3. Be not unthankful, then, O my soul, for the mercies of this present life, for those to thy body, to thy friends, to the land of thy nativity, and especially to the church of God.

1. This body is so nearly united to thee, that it must needs : be a great help, or hinderance. Had it been more afflicted, it might have been a discouraging clog; like a tired horse in a journey, or an ill tool to a workman, or an untuned instrument in music. A sick or bad servant in an house is a great trouble, apd a bad wife much more, but thy body is nearer thee than either, and will be more of thy concern.

And yet if it had been more strong and healthful, sense and appetite would have been strong, and lust would have been strong, and therefore danger would have been greater, and victory and salvation much more difficult. Even weak senses and temptations have too oft prevailed. How knowest thou, then, what stronger might have done? When I see a thirsty man in a fever or dropsy, and especially when I see strong and health ful youths, bred up in fulness, and among temptations, how mad they are in sin, and how violently they are carried to it, bearing down God's rebukes, and conscience, and parents, and friends, and all regard to their salvation, it tells me how great a mercy I had, even in a body not liable to their case.

And many a bodily deliverance hath been of great use to my soul, renewing my time, and opportunity, and strength, for service, and bringing frequent and fresh reports of the love of God,

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

If bodily mercies were not of great use to the soul, Christ would not so much have showed his saving love, by healing all manner of diseases, as he did. Nor would God promise us a resurrection of the body, if a congruous body did not further the welfare of the soul.

2. And I am obliged to great thankfulness to God for the mercies of this life which he hath showed to my friends; that which furthers their joy should increase mine. I ought to rejoice with them that rejoice. Nature and grace teach us to be glad when our friends are well, and prosper, though all in order to better things than bodily welfare.

3, And such mercies of this life to the land of our habitation must not be undervalued, The want of them are parts of God's threatened curse; and godliness hath the promise of this life, and of that which is to come, and so is profitable to all things. And when God sends on a land the plagues of famine, pestilence, war, persecution, especially a famine of the word of God, it is a great sin to be insensible of it. If any shall say, while heaven is sure, we have no cause to accuse God, or to cast away comfort, hope, or duty,' they say well; but if they say, ' because heaven is all, we must make light of all that befalleth us on earth,' they say amiss.

Good princes, magistrates, and public-spirited men that promote the safety, peaee, and true prosperity of the common.: wealth, do hereby very much befriend religion, and men's salvation, and are greatly to be loved and honoured by all. If the civil state, called the commonwealth, do miscarry, or fall into ruin and calamity, the church will fare the worse for it, as the sou! doth by the ruins of the body. The Turkish, Muscovite, and such other empires, tell us, how the church consumeth, and dwindles away into contempt, or withered ceremony and formaļity, where tyranny brings slavery, beggary, or long persecution on the subjects. Doubtless, divers passages in the Revelations contain the church's glorifying of God, for their power and prosperity on earth, when emperors became Christians : what else can be meant well by Rev. ix, 10," Hath made us kings and priests to God, and we shall reign on the earth”. But that Christians shall be brought from under heathen persecution, and have rule and sacred honour in the world, some of them being princes ; some honoured church guides; and all a peculiar, honoured people. And had not Satan found out that cursed way of getting wicked men, thai hate true godliness and peace,

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »