« PreviousContinue »
second is either properly and simply good, or analogical. The former is the creature's conformity to the will of God, or its pleasingness to his will : the latter is, 1. The greater, which is the welfare or perfection of the universe. 2. The lesser, which is the several parts of the universe, either, 1. In the nobler respect, as they are parts contributing to the perfection of the whole; or, 2. In the lower respect, as they are perfect or happy in themselves, or, 3. In the lowest respect of all, as they are good to their fellow-creatures which are below themselves.
Sect. 4. Accordingly, it is far better to be with Christ, I. Properly and simply, as it is the fulfilling of God's will. II. Analogically, as it tendeth to the perfection of the universe and the church. III. And as it will be our own good or felicity. IV. And as it will be good to our inferior fellow-creatures; though this last be most questionable, and seemeth not included in the meaning of this text. Somewhat of these in order.
Sect. 5. I. It is an odious effect of idolatrous selfishness, to acknowledge no goodness above our own felicity, and, accordingly, to make the goodness of God to be but formally his usefulness, benevolence, and beneficence, to his creatures, which is by making the creature the ultimate end, and God but the means; to make the creature to be God, and deny God, indeed, while we honour his name: as also it is to acknowledge no higher goodness formally in the creature, than in its own felicity as such : as if neither the pleasing of God's will, nor the perfection of the church and world, were better than we are: we are not of ourselves, and therefore we are not chiefly for ourselves; and, therefore, we have a higher good to love.
That is simply best which God willeth. Therefore, to live here is best whilst I do live here; and to depart is best when the time of my departure cometh : that is best which is, for it is the work of God : the world cannot be better at this in stant than it is, nor any thing better, which is of God, because it is as he willeth it to be : but when God hath changed them, it will then be best that they are changed. Were there no other good in my departure hence, but this simple good, the fulfilling of God's will, my reason telleth me that I should be fully satisfied in it: but there is also a subordinate sort of good.
Sect. 6. II. For my change will tend to the perfection of the universe ; even that material good or perfection, which is its aptitude for the use to which God hath created, and doth preserve it : as all the parts, the modes, the situation, the motions, of a clock, a watch, or other engine, do to the ends of the artificer. Though God hath not told me particularly, why every thing, and mode, and motion, is as it is, I know it is all done in perfect wisdom, and suited to its proper use and end : if the hen or bird knoweth how to make her nest, to lay her eggs secretly together, when and how to sit on them till they are hatched, and how to feed them and preserve them, and when to forsake them, as sufficient for themselves without her help, &c. If the bee knoweth when, and whence, and how, to gather her honey and wax, and how to form the repository combs, and how to lay it up, and all the rest of her marvellous economy, shall I think that God doth he knoweth not what, or what is not absolutely the best? Doth he want either skill, or will, or power?
And should the stone grudge to be hewed, the brick to be burnt, the trees to be cut down, and sawed and framed, the lead and iron to be melted, &c., when it is but to form an useful edifice, and to adapt and compose every part to the perfecting of the whole ?
Shall the waters grudge that they must glide away, and the plants that they must die, and half die every winter, and the fruits and flowers that they must fall, or the moon that it must have its changing motions, or the sun that it must rise and set so oft, &c., when all is but the action and order which maketh up that liarmony and perfection which was designed by the Creator, and is pleasing to his will?
Sect. 7. III. But lawful self-love is yet further herein gratified: the goodness expressed in the text is that analogical, subordinate good, which is mihi bonum, my own felicity, and that which tendeth thereunto: it is most reason ble to love God best, and that next which is likest him (if known), and why should it not be the easiest and the sweetest? But experience findeth it so easy to love ourselves, that certainly, if I firmly believe that it is best for me, I shall desire to depart, and to be with Christ. And have I not reason to believe it?
Sect. 8. The reasons of it I will consider in this order : I. The general reason from the efficients and the means. II. The final
III. The constitutive reasons from the state of my intellect, and its action and fruition there. IV. The constitutive reasons from the state of my will. V. The constitutive
reasons from my practice there, leaving out those which the resurrection will give me, because I am speaking but of my present departure unto Christ.
Sect. 9. And, 1. That is best for me, which love itself, my. heavenly Father designeth, and chooseth, for my good. I hope I shall never dare to think, or say, that he is mistaken, or that he wanted skill or love, or that I could have chosen better for myself than he doth, if he had left all to my choice. Many a time the wise and good will of God hath crossed my foolish, rebellious will on earth; and afterward I have still perceived that it was best; usually for myself, but always for a higher good than mine. It is not an enemy, nor a tyrant, that made me, that hath preserved me, and that calls me hence. He hath not used me as an enemy
the more I have tried him, the better I have found him: had I better obeyed his ruling will, how happy had I been! And is not his disposing and rewarding will as good ? Man's work is like man, and evil corrupteth it; but God's work is like God, and uncorrupted : if I should not die till my dearest friend would have it, much more till I myself would choose it, (not constrained by misery,) I should rejoice, and think my life were safe! O foolish, sinful soul! if I take it not to be far better to be at God's choice, than at my own, or any man's ! and if I had not rather that he choose the time than I.
Be of good cheer, then, O my soul ! it is thy Father's voice that calleth thee hence : his voice that called thee into the world, and bid thee live; that called thee out of a state of sin and death, and bid thee live hereafter unto him ; that called thee so oft from the grave, and, forgiving thy sins, renewed thy strength, restored thee to the comforts of his house and service; and that so graciously led thee through this howling wilderness, and brought thee almost to the sight of the promised land. And wilt thou not willingly go, when infinite, fatherly love doth call thee? art thou not desirous of his presence ? art thou afraid to go to him who is the only cure of thy fears ? What was it but this glory to which he did finally elect thee? Where dost thou read that he elected thee to the riches and honours of this world, or to the pleasures of the flesh? But he elected us in Christ to the heavenly inheritance. (Eph. i. 3, 4, &c.) Indeed, he elected thee also to bear the cross, and to manifold sufferings here: but is it that which thou preferrest before the crown? That was but as a means into the kingdom, that thou mightest be
conformed to Christ, and reign with him when thou hast suffered with him. If God choose thee to blessedness, refuse it not thyself, nor behave thyself like a refuser.
Sect. 10. 2. And surely that state is my best which my Saviour purchased and promised me as best : as he bought me not with silver and gold, so neither to silver and gold : did he live and die to make me rich or advanced in the world ? Surely his incarnation, merits, sacrifice, and intercession, had a low design, if that were all! And who hath more of these than they that have least of Christ? But he purchased us to an incorruptible crown; to an inheritance undefiled, that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for us, that are kept, by God's power, through faith unto salvation. (1 Pet. i.) And is it heaven that cost so dear a price for me, and is the end of so wonderful a design of grace, and shall I be unwilling now to receive the gift?
Sect. 11. 3. That sure is best for me, for which God's holy Spirit is preparing me; that for which he is given to believers ; and that which is the end of all his holy operations on my soul, But it is not to love this world that he is persuading me from day to day; but to come off from such love, and to set my heart on the things above. Is it to love this life and fleshly interest, this vanity and vexation, or rather to love the invisible perfection, that this blessed Spirit hath done so much to work
And would I now undo all, or cross and frustrate all his operations? Hath grace been so long preparing me for glory, and shall I be loth to take possession of it? If I am not willing, I am not yet sufficiently prepared.
Sect. 12. 4. If heaven be not better for me than earth, God's word and ordinances have been all in vain ? Surely that is my best which is the gift of the better covenant, and which is secured to me by so many sealed promises, and which I am directed to by so many sacred precepts, doctrines, and examples; and for which I have been called to hear, and read, and meditate, and pray, and watch so long. Was it the interest of the flesh on earth, or a longer life of worldly prosperity, which the gospel covenant secured to me; which the sacraments and Spirit sealed to me; which the bible was written to direct me to ; which ministers preached to me; which my books were written for ; which I prayed for; and for which I served God? Or was it not for his grace on earth, and glory in heaven? And is it not better for me to have the end of all these means, thani
lose them all, and lose my hopes? Why have I used them, if I would not attain their end?
Sect. 13. 5. That is my best state, which all the course of God's fatherly providences tend to : all his sweeter mercies, and all his sharper corrections, are to make me partaker of his holiness, and to lead me to glory in the way that my Saviour and all his saints have gone before me : all things work together for the best to me, by preparing me for that which is best, indeed. Both calms and storms are to bring me to this harbour : if I take them but for themselves, and this present life, I mistake them, and understand them not, but unthankfully vilify them, and lose their end, and life, and sweetness : every word and work of God; every day's mercies, and changes, and usages, do look at heaven, and intend eternity. God leadeth me no other way: if I follow him not, I forsake my hope in forsaking him : if I follow him, shall I be unwilling to be at home, and come to the end of all this way?
Sect. 14. 6. Surely that is best for me which God hath required me principally to value, love, and seek, and that as the business of all my life, referring all things else thereto : that this is my duty, I am fully certain, as is proved elsewhere, and before. 'Is my business in the world only for the things of this world? How vain a creature, then, were man; and how little were the difference between waking and sleeping! Life and death: no wonder if he that believeth that there is no life but this to seek or hope for do live in uncomfortable despair, and only seek to palliate his misery with the brutish pleasures of a wicked life, and if he stick at no villany which his fleshly lusts incline him to; especially tyrants and multitudes who have none but God to fear. It is my certain duty to seek heaven with all the fervour of my soul, and diligence of my life; and is it not best to find it?
Sect. 15. 7. That must needs be best for me, which all other things must be forsaken for: it is folly to forsake the better for the worse : but Scripture, reason, and conscience, tell me, that all this world, when it stands in competition, or opposition, should be forsaken for heaven; yea, for the least hopes of it: a possible, everlasting glory should be preferred before a certainly perishing vanity. I am sure this life will shortly be nothing to me; and therefore it is next to nothing now. And must I forsake all for my everlasting hopes, and yet be unwilling to pass unto the possession of them.