« PreviousContinue »
died, I went to him, and earnestly desired him to give me in writing his apprehensions concerning justification and sanctification by Christ; of which he would willingly have excused himself, by declaring his intention of not writing any more; adding, that if he did write, it should not exceed above a sheet or two. He, coming to town some time after, was pleased to give me a visit at my house, where I failed not to challenge the benefit of the promise he had made me. replied, that he had not writ, and yet he could not charge himself with any breach of promise; for (said he) I did begin to write; but when I came to write of sanctification, that is, of the new creature, which God formeth by his Spirit in every soul that he doth truly regenerate, I found so little of it wrought in myself, that I could speak of it only as parrots, by rote, and without the knowledge and understanding of what I might have expressed, and therefore I durst not presume to proceed any further upon it:' and when I seemed to be amazed to hear such a humble confession from so great and experienced a Christian, he added: 'I must tell you, we do not well understand what sanctification and the new creature are-it is no less than for a man to be brought into an entire resignation of his will to the will of God, and to live in the offering up of his soul continually in the flames of divine love, as a whole burnt offering to Christ: and how little (says he) are many of those who profess Christianity, experimentally acquainted with this work on their soul! By this discourse I conceived he had very excellently and clearly discovered to me that part of sanctification of which he was unwilling to write."
GOD PRUNETH THE VINE OF OUR AFFECTIONS.—A vine, which is one of the most fruitful of trees, (made use of by God to compare the Christian unto,) if it be left to its natural growth, unregarded and unpruned, shoots forth into many superfluous branches and stems, and spendeth its most generous strength that way, and so becometh weak and fruitless.- -If God should leave the best Christian to the vicious exorbitancies of his own heart and affections, and not curb and prune them, and retrench the extravagancy of his desires, his strength would be spent on that which profiteth not, and he would soon grow barren and useless. There is need that, both by his returning grace he reduce and limit our desires; and that, by the sharp knife of affliction, he cut short and check their excrescences.When mine heart doth irregularly run after vanity, let the smart of thine hand correct my wanderings, and tame the wildness of my affections. It is better I should bleed by thy pruning-hook, than be cut down by the axe as withered and fruitless, and cast into the burning!-Spiritual Bee, (supposed by PENN.)
How often do we find such whom God hath beleaguered with an affliction, or planted his battery against by a disease, whom he seemed to have marked out for death, make covenants and promises for a future reformation, and of putting away their sin: whom yet, when he withdraws his terrors, and puts up his arrows, those ties do no more bind than the withes did Samson; but they arise, and go out, and do as at other times. While their backs smart under the rod, and they sit on the brink of the grave, their spirits stoop, their passions are broken, and the heat of them
assuaged; their thoughts are humbled to sobriety. Then, to be liberal of promises is an easy bounty; but when the storm is over, and they return to their former freedom and delight, in sensible converses, then are they restrained in performance, and rescind former engagements. The sighs of their sick bed, which they turned into penitent groans, are now vanished into air, and forgotten the sad reflections on their former vanities, the serious recollection of their ways which they were reduced to, when the flesh sat uneasy upon them, and dwelt in sorrow, are now as little thought upon as the dolorous accents of their grief. When they are newly come out of the furnace, while the smell of fire is yet on them, they are scrupulous and tender. But it is as those who come out of a hot stove, that shrink from cold air at first, but by degrees are brought to their former hardiness of temper. If the soul be not changed, though there may for a while some religious colour appear in the man's face, he will at last return to his former habit.-IBID.
Never was a heart harder than Pharaoh's; and yet, upon the repetition of every plague, how couchant is the lion-how doth he frown and crouch to the power which his stubbornness increased! At length he suddenly gives the Israelites a dismission, and, as it were, thrusts them forth,-" Arise up, get you forth from among us." Yet no sooner were they gone, but the storm of his passion had a reflux, being only diverted by that judgment; and he makes after them, with the whole power of his country, to fetch them back again.
Lord, let never my holy resolutions go away with my afflictions, nor my health dispense with the vows of my
sickness! Let immunity from evil never render me such a stranger to what I was in distress, that I should recoil from my promises and disown them.—IBID.
SOLID WORTH CONTRASTED WITH SPECIOUS PIETY.I have sometimes seen a blazing comet, much outshining other stars, and attracting the eyes of men to behold it with wonder; which yet, by its decay (of light) and vanishing awhile after, hath appeared to have no true place among the stars, but in the lower regions. How many, in our days, have been seen and gazed on with admiration, who have shined with gloriour beams, who yet, by their fall, have at length discovered themselves to have been exhalations only, gilded with rays and counterfeiting stars, by an exceeding splendour! for often doth the hypocrite outgo the saint in appearance, as much as he comes short of him in reality. Many have had a shining zeal in those exercises of religion that lie open to the view, and so have gotten and kept up a high esteem and credit; but not trading on a solid stock, but taking up their saintships all upon trust, no wonder they prove bankrupts at last. The foolish virgins made a great blaze with their lamps; which yet, by their going out, appeared to want oil.-IBID.
PRAYER. Let us contemplate prayer in its journey between earth and heaven, as Jacob did the angels ascending and descending. It ascendeth, then lightly, mounted on the wings of faith; but it comes ever laden down again upon our heads. It goeth up, it may be, in a shower of tears, and descendeth in a shower of blessings. It is wafted into heaven with groans; (for
these have a force to open heaven's gates; and that prayer flies swiftly that is carried on the wings of a groan;) but those sighs return laden with comforts, like the southern winds in Egypt, whose wings are charged with the sweet odours of spices. They go out weeping, but never come weeping back; but where the spring and seed-time is wet, the harvest is clear and joyful. They that sow in tears reap in joy.-IBID.
TO REPROVE WITH DISCRETION.-An indiscreet reproof hath usually a double ill effect: first, in that, by the fault of the manager, (as a good story may be quite spoiled in the relating,) the action in itself good, is rendered for the present irksome and tedious: and next, in that it leaveth a prejudice behind, which is very disadvantageous at the like future occasion. A good stock of prudence and caution is in no duty more requisite than in this, of Christian reproof: which requires an exact observation of circumstances, time, manner, and persons, in order to a wise management of it. As I desire never to act that tacit part as a flatterer, with silence, seemingly to soothe and cherish him that deserves reproof, and by a friendly cruelty to betray him into security; so I think it both more safe and more wise to tarry on the shore, rather than launch forth, when I know the wind will be contrary, and beat me back again. IBID
Whene'er you would an erring friend reprove,