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God's people have subjected all their creature-enjoyments to religion, fo appofitely, O my soul, thou hast subjected religion to thy worldly interest and designs. Instead of eating and drinking to serve God, i have served God that I might eat and drink; yea, I have not only acted below religion, but below reafon also ; for reason dichtes plai 1ly, that the means must never be more excellent than the end. Wretch that I ain, to make religion a slave to my luit, à Itirrup to advancement, an artifice to carry on my carnal designs; verile Lisave my reward; and this is all the good I am ever like to get by it.
And no less thould the worldling tremble, to consider how he hath cast off the duties of religion, made them stand
na The worldling's
til afide, and give place to the world. Instead of de- . firing so much only as might make him serviceable que non. to God, he thrusts aside the service of God to get as much of the world as he can, who is so far from making godliness the end of his creature-comforts, that he rather looks upon it as an obftacle and hindrance to them. May not the very heathens make me blush ? Could Aristotle deliver this as a true rule to posterity, to make religion our first, and chief care ? Could Ariftippus say, He would rather neglect his means than his mind! his farm than bis soul? Will the very Mahometans, how urgent soever their business be, lay it all aside five times in the day to pray? Yea, is it common to a proverb among the very Papists, that mass and meat hinder no man; and yet I, that profess myself a Christian, thrust out duty for every trifle! O wretched foul ! how hath the god of this world blinded mine eyes? Can the world indeed do that for me that Christ can do: Hath it ever proved true to them that trusted it, and doated on it? Hath it not at last turned them off, as men'turn off a sumpter-horse at night, that hath been a drudge to carry their gold and filver for them all day, and at last is turned out with an empty belly, and a galled back? O how righteous will that sentence of God be! Go cry to the gods whom thou haft served. And may not many gracious bearts turn in upon themselves with
1orrow, to conlider how uniatished they The gracious soul's have been in that condition, that others have preferred and esteemed as the greatest of all outward “g mercies? I have indeed been fed with food convenient, but not contented ? how hath mine heart been tortured from day to day with anxious thoughts, what I shall eat and drink, and wherewith I and mine shall be clothed ? I pretend indeed that I care but for a competency of the world, but sure I am, my cares about it have been incompetent. Come my distrustful, earthly heart, let me propound a few questions to thee about this matter, and answer truly to what I fhall demand of thee.
Queft. 1. Haft thou here a continuing city ? Art thou at home, or upon thy journey, that thou art fo folicitous about the world ? Thy profession indeed speaks thee a stranger upon earth, but thy conversation a home-dweller. Erasmus said he desired honours and riches no more than a weary horse doth a 'heavy cloak-back. Would it thou nct account him a fool that would victual his ship as much to cross the channel to France, as if she were bound for the East Indies ? Alas! it will be but a little while, and then there will be no more need of any of these things. It is sad, that a soul which stands at the door of eternity, should be perplexing itself about food and raiment.
2!eft. 2. Which of all the saints hast thou known to be the better for much of the world ? It hath been fome men's utter ruin. Seldom doth God suffer men to be their own carvers, but they cut their own fingers. “To give riches and pleasure to an evil man (faith Aristotle) « is but to give wine to one that hath a fever.' Where there is no want, there is usually much wantonness. What a sad story is that of Pius Quintus. When I was in a low condition, said he, I had some comfortable hopes of my salvation ; but when I came to be a cardinal, I greatly doubted of it : But since I came to the Popedom, I have no hope at all. Though this poor, undone wretch, spake it out, and others keep it in ; yet, doubtless, he hath many thousand fellows in the world that might say as much, would they but speak the truth.
And even God's own people, though the world bath not excluded them out of heaven, yet it bath sorely clogged them in the way thi. ther. Many that have been very bumble, holy, and heavenly in a low condition, have suffered a fad ebb in a full condition. What a cold blast have they felt coming from the cares and delights of this life, to chill both their graces, and comforts ! It had been well for some of God's people, if they had never known what prosperity meant.
Quaeft. 3. Is not this a sad symptom of a declining state of foul, to be so hot, eager, and anxious about the superfiuous trifles of this life? Thinkest thou, O my soul! that one who walks in the views of that glory above, and maintains a conversation in heaven, can be much taken with these vanities? Do not the visions of God veil the tempting Splendour of the creature! It was the opinion of some of the School men, that the reaton why Adam in paradise was not sensible of his nakedness, was because he was wholly taken up in conversing with God. But this is certain, lively and sweet communion with God, blunts and dulls the edge of the affections to earthly things; and canft. thou be fatished, my foul, with such gains as are attended with such fpiritual loffes?
Quest. 4. To conclude, is it not dishonourable to God, and a juftification of the way of the world for me, that profess myself a Chriftian, to be as eager after riches as other men ? « After all these things " do the nations seek,” Matth. vi. 32. If I had no Father in hea. ven, nor promise in the world, it were another matter ; but since my heavenly Father knows what I have need of, and hath charged me to be careful in nothing, but only to tell him my wants, Phil. iv. 6. how
unbecoming a thing is it in me to live and act as I have done! Let me benceforth learn to measure and estimate my condition, rather by its usefulness to God, than its content and ease to my felh.
TF fruit and service be indeed the end
Or if thou say, thy servant shall have none,
Spent barren lend you can rejlore, and nourish:
UITHERE land is spent out by tillage, or for want of manuring,
V the careful buihandman hath many ways to recover and bring it in heart again. He lets it lie fallow, to give it rest, and time to recover itiölf: carries out to bis land, lime, and compost, to refresh and quicken it again ; and in pasture and meadow ground, will wash it, (it poflible) with a current of water, or the float of the ways after a fall of rain, which is to the earth as a foring of new blood to a confumptive body. He cuts down and kills the weeds that suck it out, and causes them to make reftitution of what they have purloined from it, by rotting upon the place where they grew. As careful are they to recover it, when it is spent, as an honest phyfician is of his patient in a languishing condition ; for he knows his field will be as grateful to him, and fully requite his care and cost.
APPLICATION. A S man's, so God's husbandry is sonetimes out of cafe, not by A yielding too many crops, but too few. The mystical husbandman hath some fields, (I mean particular focieties and persons, who were once fragrant and fruitful like a field) which God had blessed, but are now decayed and grown barren ; whose gleanings formerly were more than their vintage now; the things that are in them are ready to die, Rev. iii. 3. It is poflible, yea, too common for gracious souls to be reduced to a very low ebb, both of graces and comforts; how low I will not say. Our British divines tell us, that grace indeed cannot be totally intermitted, nor finally loft; but there may be an omission of the act, though not an omillion of the habit :
The act may be perverted, though the faith cannot be subverted; it may be Daken in, though not thaken out ; Its fruits may fall, but its fap lies hid in the root. They demerit the loss of the kingdom, but lose it not effectively; the eficét of justification may be fufpended, but the state of the jullified cannot be diffolved*.
Certain it is, one that, like Paul, Kath been wrapped up with joy, even to the third heavens, and cried, “I am more than a conqueror,
• Gratia ree tutaliter intermittitur nec finaliter amittitur. Allus omittitur, babitus nox amittitur. Hélio pervertitur, fides non fubvertitur. Concutitur, non excutitor. Defuit fruco tus, latet fuccus. Jus ad reguum amittunt demeritorie, non effeciive. Effectus justificationis fufpenditur, at fluius juftificati non difolvitur.
« who shall separate me from the love of Christ ?” may, at another time lie mourning, as at the gates of death, crying, “O wretched " man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this « death ?" One that hath walked in sweet communion with God, sunning himself in the light of his countenance, may afterwards « walk in Jarkness, and see no light,” Isa. 1. 10. He that hath cast anchor within the veil, and rode securely in the peaceful harbour of allurance, may seem to feel his anchor of hope come home to him, and go a-drift into the stormy ocean again, crying with the church, Lam. ii. 18. “ My hope is perished from the Lord.” His calm and clear air may be overcait and clouded, yea, filled with storms and tempefts, lightnings and thunders; his graces, like under-ground flowers in the winter, may all disappear and hide their beautiful heads.
To God he may fay, I am cast out of thy fight. I know thou canit do much, but wilt thou shew wonders to the dead ?
To the promises he may say, you are sweet things indeed, but what have I to do with you? I could once, indeed, rejoice in you, as my portion; but now I doubt I grasped a shadow, a fancy, instead of you.
To faints he may say, turn away from me, labour not to comfort me, O do not spill your precious ointment of consolation upon my head; for what have I to do with comfort ? To former experiences, he may say in his baíte, you are all lyars. To the light of God's countenance, he may fay, farewel sweet light, I shall behold thee no more. To Satan he may fay, O mine enemy, thou hast at lait prevailed against me, thou art stronger than I, and hast overcome. To duties and ordinances, he may fay, Where is the sweetness I once found in you? You were once sweeter to me than the honey-comb; but now as tasteless as the white of an egg. O fad relapse! deplorable change! quantum mutatus ab illo ?
But will God leave his poot creatures helpless, in such a case as this ? Shall their leaf fall, their branches wither, their joy, their life, their hearts depart? Will he fee their graces fainting, their hopes gafping, the new creature panting, the things that are in them ready to die, and will he not regard it? Yes; “there is hope of a “ tree if it be cut down, and the root thereof wax old in the earth, " yet by the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a “ plant, Job xiv. 8, 9 This poor declined soul, as fad as it fits at the gates of hell, may rouze up itself at last, and say to Satan, that stands triumphing over him, “ Rejoice not over me, O mine enemy, “ for though I fall, yet I shall arife; though I lit in darkness, the “ Lord fhall be a light unto me,” Micah vii. 8. He may raise up himself upon the bed of languithing for all this, and say to God, “ Though thou hast chaftened me fore, yet hast thou not given me “ over unto death.” He may turn about to the saints that have mourned for him, and with a lightlome countenance fay, “I inall