« AnteriorContinuar »
that they honour not the days and relics of the dead, so much as they: to shew us that the things that have been shall be, and that wickedness is the same in all generations. "Woe unto you scribes and pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hellh?" I know that neither did the pharisees, nor do the Papists, believe that those whom they murdered were saints, but deceivers and heretics, and the troublers of the world: but if charity be the grace most necessary to salvation, then sure it will not keep any man from damnation, that he had malice and uncharitableness sufficient to persuade him, that the members of Christ were children of the devil. But thus God will force even the persecutors and haters of his saints to honour them. And if he constrain his enemies to it, his servants should not be backward to do it according to his will.
Direct, iv. 'Only such honour must be given to departed saints, as subserveth the honour of God; and nothing must be ascribed to them that is his prerogative.' All that of God which was communicated to them and appeared in them, must be acknowledged: but so that God must still be acknowledged the spring of all; and no honour given ultimately to them; but it is God in them that we must behold and love, admire and honour.
Direct, v. 'The honour of the saints departed must be only such as tendeth to the promoting of holiness among the living.' It is a most horrid aggravation of those men's sins, who make their honouring of the saints departed a cover for their hating and persecuting their followers; or that make it an engine for the carrying on of some base design. Some make it a device for the advancing of their parties and peculiar opinions. The Papists make it a very great means for the maintaining the usurped power of the pope, giving him the power of canonizing saints, and assurh Matt, xxiii. 39—33.
ing the world what souls are in heaven. A pope that by the testimony of a General Council (as Joh. 23. Eugenius, &c.) is a heretic, and a wicked wretch, and never like to come to heaven himself, can assure the world of a very large catalogue of persons that are there. And he that by the Papists is confessed fallible in matters of fact, pretendeth to know so certainly who were saints, as to appoint them holidays, and command the church to pray to them. And he that teacheth men that they cannot be certain themselves of their salvation, pretendeth when they are dead that he is certain that they are saved. To pretend the veneration of saints for such carnal, ambitious designs, and cheats, and cruelties, is a sin unfit for any that mentioneth a saint. So is it when men pretend that saints are some rare, extraordinary persons among the living members of the church: to make men believe that honouring them will serve instead of imitating them; and that all are not saints that go to heaven. 'God forbid,' say they,' that none but holy persons should be saved: we confess it is good to be saints, and they are the chief in heaven; but we hope those that are no saints may be saved for all that.' But God saith, that without holiness none shall see him'." Heaven is the inheritance of none but saintsk. He that extolleth saints to make men believe that those that are no saints may be saved, doth serve the devil by honouring the saints. The same I may say of those that give them Divine honour, ascribing to each a power to hear and help all throughout the world that put up prayers to them.
Direct, vi. ' Look up to the blessedness of departed souls, as members of the same body, rejoicing with them, and praising God that hath so exalted them.' This is the benefit of holy love and Christian unity, that it maketh our brethren's happiness to be unto us, in a manner as if it were our own. "That there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care one for another—that if one member be honoured all the members rejoice with it'." So far as selfishness is overcome, and turned into the uniting love of saints, so far are all the joys of the blessed souls in heaven become the joys of all that truly love them upon earth. How happy then is the state of all true believers, that have so many to rejoice with! Deny not God that thanks for the saving of so many souls, which you would not deny him, if he saved but your friends, estates, or lives. Especially when afflictions or temptations would deprive you of the joy which you should have in God's mercies to yourselves, then comfort yourselves with the remembrance of your brethren's joy. What an incongruous, indecent thing is it for that man to pine away in sorrows upon earth, who hath so many thousand friends in heaven, in joy and blessedness, whose joys should all be to him as his own!
'Heb. xii.14. k Acts xxvi. 18. Col.i. 1SS. '1 Cor. xii.25, 16.
Direct, vii. ' When you feel a cooling of your love to God, or of your zeal, or reverence, or other graces, think then of the temper of those holy souls, that see his glory!' 0 think, with what fervour do they love their God! with what transporting sweetness do they delight in him! with what reverence do they all behold him! And am not I his servant, and a member of his family as well as they? shall 1 be like the strangers of this frozen world, when I should be like my fellow citizens above? As it will dispose a man to weep to see the tears and grief of others; and as it will dispose a man to mirth and joy to see the mirth and joy of others; so is it a potent help to raise the soul to the love of God, and delight in his service, to think believingly of the love and delight of such a world of blessed spirits. Direct, vm. 'When you draw near to God in his holy worship, remember that you are part of the same society with those blessed spirits that are praising him in perfection.' Remember that you are members of the same choir, and your part must go to make up the melody; and therefore you should be as little discordant from them as possibly you can. The quality of those that we join within God's service, is apt either to dull or quicken us, to depress or elevate us; and we move heavenward most easily and swiftly in that company which is going thither on the swiftest pace. A believing thought that we are worshipping God in concert with the heavenly choir, and of the high and holy raptures of those spirits, in the continual praise of their great Creator, is an excellent means to warm and quicken us, and raise us as near their holy frame, as here on earth may be expected.
Direct, ix. 'When you would possess your hearts with a lively sense of the odiousness of sin, and would resist all temptations which would draw you to it, think then how the blessed souls with God do judge of sin, and how they would entertain such a temptation, if the motion were made to them!' What think they of covetousness, pride, or lust? What think they of malice, cruelty, or lying? How would they entertain it, if lands and lordships, pleasure or preferment were offered them to entice their hearts from God? Would they venture upon damnation for a whore, or for their games, or to please their appetites? Do they set as light by God and their salvation as the ungodly world doth? O with what scorn and holy indignation would they refuse a world, if it were offered them instead of God! with what detestation would they reject the motion to any sin!
Direct, x. 'When you would revive in your minds a right apprehension and estimation of all earthly things, as riches, and honours, and greatness, and command, and full provisions for the flesh, bethink you then how the blessed souls with Christ esteem them.' How little do they set by all those things, that worldlings make so great astir for, and for which they sell their God and their salvation! How contemptible are crowns and kingdoms in their eyes! Their judgment is more like to God's than ours is. "That which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God." All the world would not hire a saint in heaven to tell one lie, or take the name of God in vain, or to forget God, or be estranged from him for one hour.
Direct, xi. 'When you see the godly under the contempt of sinners here, accounted as the filth of the world, and the offscouring of all things, defamed, reviled, hated and persecuted, look up then to the saints with Christ, and think how they are esteemed and used.' And when you would truly know what a believer is, think not how they are esteemed and used by men, but how they are esteemed and used by Christ. Judge not of them by their short afflictions, nor by their meanness in the flesh, but by their endless happiness and their glory above. Look up to the home and world of saints, if you would know what saints are, and not to the few, scattered, imperfect passengers in this world, that are not worthy of them.
Direct, xii. 'When you are tempted to think meanly of the kingdom of Christ, as if his flock were so small, and poor, and sinful as to be inconsiderable, look up to the world of blessed souls which dwell above.' And there you shall see no such paucity, or imperfections, or blemishes, as are here below. The subjects there are such as dishonour not their king. Christ's kingdom is not of this worldn. If you would know it in its glory, look up to the world where it is glorious. If when you hear men contemn the kingdom of the saints of Christ, and at the same time did but see, (as Stephen did,) a glimpse into that kingdom, and all the glory of the blessed there, what thoughts would you have of the words which did dishonour it?
Direct, xiu. 'When you hear sinners boast of the wisdom or numbers of their party, and appealing to the learned or great ones of the world, look up to the blessed souls with Christ, and ask whether they are not more wise and numerous than all the sinners upon earth.' The greatest doctors are ignorant and unlearned in comparison of the meanest soul with Christ: the greatest monarchs are but worms in comparison of the glorified spirits with God. If they say to you, Are you wiser than so many and so wise and learned men? ask them, Are you, or all the ungodly, wiser than all the blessed souls with Christ? Let the wiser party carry it.
Direct, xiv. 'When you are tempted to be weary of a holy life, or to think all your labour is vain, look up to the blessed souls with Christ, and there you will see the end of holiness.' There you will see that of all the labour of your lives, there is none that you are sure to gain by; and that in "due time you shall reap, if you faint not; and if you sow to the Spirit, of the Spirit you shall reap everlasting life°;'' and that when you have "done the will of God," if you "have but patience, you shall inherit the promisep." Ask yourselves, whether any of those blessed souls repent now of the holiness of their lives on earth? or their mortifying the flesh, and denying themselves the delights of sin?
Direct, xv. 'When you are tempted to turn back in the day of trial, and to forsake Christ or his cause when persecution ariseth, then look to the blessed souls above, and see what is the end of suffering for the sake of Christ and
"Jolm xviii. 36. "Ciil.vi.K, 9. p Hcl>. x.3tf.