Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

without secret prayer. It is true, there is not always an equal freedom and delight, a like enlargement and comfort in thote retirements; but yet he cannot be without them; he finds the want of his secret, in his public duties : If he and his God have not met in secret, and had some communion in the morning, he fenfibly finds it in the deadness and unprofitableness of his heart and life all the day after.

4. Fourthly, The spirituality of our duties tries the fincerity of our graces : An unregenerate heart is carnal, whilft engaged in duties that are spiritual. Some men deceive themfelves in thinking they are spiritual men, because their employments and calling is about fpiritual things, Hofea ix. 7. This indeed gives them the denomination, but not the frame of spiritual men; and others judge themfelves fpiritual persons, becaufe they frequently perform and attend upon spiritual duties : But, alas, the heart and state may be carnal notwithstanding all this. O, my friends, it is not enough that the object of your duties is spiritual, that they respect an holy God; nor that the matter be fpiritual, that you be converfant about holy things; but the frame of your heart must be spiritual; an heavenly temper of soul is neceffary, and what are the most heavenly duties without it?

The end and design you aim at must be spiritual, the enjoy. ment of God, and a growing conformity to him in holiness ; elfe multiply duties as the fand on the sea-fhore, and they all will not amount to one evidence of

your

sincerity. « God is “ my witness, whom I ferve with my fpirit,” faith the apostle, Rom. i. 9. He seems to'appeal to God in this matter. I ferve God in my spirit, and God knows that I do so; I dare appeal to him that it is fo; he knows that my heart is with him, or would be with him in my duties: The arms of my

faiih do 'either fenfibly grasp, or are stretched out towards him in my duties. O how little favour do gracious hearts find in the most excellent duties, if God and their fouls do not fenfibly meet in them!

Certainly, reader, there is a time when God comes nigh to men in duty, when he deals familiarly with men, and fenfibly fills their souls with unusual powers and delights. The near approaches of God to their souls are felt by them, (for fouls have their senses as well as bodies) and now are their minds abftraded and marvellously refined from all that is material and earthly, and swallowed up in fpiritual excellencies and glories.

These are the real prelibations, or foretastes of glory, which

no man can by words, make another to understand, as he himself doth that feels them.

These feasons, I confess, do but rarely occur to the best of Christians, nor continue long when they do * : Alas! this wine is too strong for such weak bottles as we are.

• Hold, Lord, (an holy man said once,) it is enough thy poor creature is a clay i vessel, and can hold no more: This is that joy unspeakable, and full of glory, which is mentioned, 1 Pet. i. 7, 8. Some-: thing that words cannot describe. These seasons are the golden Ipots of our lives, when we are admitted to these near and ineffable views and tastes of God : Possibly some poor Christians can say but little to these things; their sorrows are exercised in duties more than their joys; they are endeavouring to mount, but the stone hangs at the heel; they essay, but cannot rise to that height that others do, who are got up by theiț labouring faith into the upper region, and there display their wings, and sing in the sun-beams : But though they cannot reach this height, yet have they no satisfaction in duties wherein there is no intercourse betwixt God and their fouls.

That which contents another, will not content a Christian. If the king be absent, men will bow to the empty chair ; but if God be ablent, an empty duty gives no satisfaction to a gracious fpirit. The poorest Christian is found panting after God by fincere desires, and labouring to get up that dead and vain heart to God in duty, (though, alas! it is many times but the rolling of the returning stone against the hill) yet he never expects advantage by that duty wherein the Spirit of God is not ; nor doth he expect the Spirit of God should be where his own spirit is not.

5. Fifthly, Assiduity and constancy in the duties of religion make a notable difcovery of the foundness or rottennels of mens hearts. The hypocrite may few fome zeal and forwardness in duties for a time, but he will jade and give out at length ; Job xxvii. 10.“ Will he delight himself in the Al“ mighty? Will he always call upon God?" No, he will not. If his motions in religion were natural, they would be constant; but they are artificial, and he is moved by external inducements, and so must needs be off and on; he prays him

Z 2

* It is a sweet hour, and it is but an hour, (a thing of thort contipuance :) The relish of it is exceeding sweet, but it is not often that Chriltians taste it. Bernard,

[ocr errors]

felf weary of praying, and hears himself weary of hearing His heart is not delighted in his duties, and therefore his duties must needs grow ftale and dry to him after a while. There he three seasons in which the zeal of an hypocrite may be inflamed in duties,

Firsi, When some imminent danger threatens him ; some smart rod of God is shaken over him ; « When he flew them, “ then they fought him, and returned and enquired early af

ter. God," Psalm lxxviii. 34. O the goodly words they give, the fair promises they make! and yet all the while " they do but flatter him with their lips, and lie unto him “ with their tongnes,” ver. 36, 37. for let but that danger pafs over, and the heavens clear up again, and he will reftrain prayer, and return to his old course again.

Secondly, When the times countenance and favour religion, and the wind is in his back, () what zeal will he have for God! So in the stony ground, Matth. xiii. 5, the feed sprung up and flourished vntil the sun of persecution arose, and then it faded away, for it had no depth of earth, no deep solid inward work or principle of grace to maintain it.

Thirdly, When felf-ends and designs are accommodated and promoted by these things. This was the case of Jehu, 2 Kings x. 16. « Come, fee my Zeal;" for what? For a base feil. interest, not for God. How fervently will fome men pray, preach, and profess, whilst they fenfibly feel the incomes and profits of these duties to their fiefh; whilft they are admired and applauded!

These external incentives will put an hypocrite into an hot fit of zeal ; but then, as it is with a man, whose colours are raised by the heat of the fire, and not by the healthfulness of a good conftitution, it soon fades and falls again.

But, blessed be God, it is not so with all : The man whole heart is upright with his God, will ~ keep judgment, and do “ righteousness at all times,” Pfal. cvi. 3. Whether dangers threaten or no; whether the times favour religion or no; whether his earthly interest be promoted by it or no, he will be holy still, he will not part with his duties when they are stript naked of those external advantages; as the addition of these things to religion did not at first engage him, so the fubstraction of them cannot disengage him.

If his duty become his reproach, yet Moses will not forsake it, Heb. xi. 26. If he lofe his company, and be left alone, yet Paul will not flinch from his duty, 2 Tim. iv. 16. } hazard surround duty on every side, yet Daniel will not quit it, Dan. vi. 10. for they considered these things at first, and counted the cost; they still find religion is rich enough to pay the cost of all that they can lofe, or suffer for its fake; yea, and that with an hundred-fold reward now in this life. They never had any other design in engaging in religious duties, but to help them to heaven; and if they recover heaven at last, whether the way to it prove better or worse, they have their design and ends; and therefore they will be stedfart, “ always « abounding in the work of the Lord, as knowing their labour * is not in vain in the Lord," 1 Cor. xv. ult.

6. Sixthly, The humility and self-denial of our hearts in duties, will try what they are for their integrity and sincerity towards God. Doth a man boast in his own excellencies in prayer, as the Pharisee did, Luke xviii. 10, 11. “ God, I thank .. thee, I am not as other men;" Which he speaks not in an humble acknowledgment of the grace of God which differences man from man, but in a proud oftentation of his own excellencies. Doth a man make his duties his faviours, and trust to them in a vain confidence of their worth and dignity ? Luke xviii. 9. Surely, “ his heart, which is thus lifted up within “ him, is not upright," Hab. ii. 4. But if the heart be upright indeed, it will express its humility, as in all other things, fè especially in its duties wherein it approaches the great and ho:

First, It will manifest its humility in those awful and reverential apprehensions it hath of God, as Abraham sid, Gen. xviii. 27. “And now, I that am but duft and ashes, (faith he) * have taken upon me to speak unto God.” The humllity of Abraham's spirit is, in some measure, to be found in all Abraham's children.

Secondly, In those low and vile thoughts they have of them. felves and their religious perforinances : Thus that poor peni. tent, Luke vii. 38. stood behind Christ weeping : “ Yet the dogs « eat the crumbs,” faith another, Mark vii. 28. “ I am more " brutish than any man,” saith a third, Prov. xxx. 7. “I abhor “ myself in dust and ashes,” saith a fourth, Job xlii. 6. and as little esteem they have for their performances, Ifa. lxiv. 6. “ All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.". I deny not but there is pride and vanity in the most upright ones; but what place soever it finds in their converses with men, it finds litile room in their converses with God, or if it doth, they loath it, and themselves for it.

Thirdly, But especially their humility in duty is discovered in renouncing all their duties in point of dependence, and re

ly God.

lying entirely upon Christ for righteousness and acceptance : They have special regard to duties in point of obedience, but none at all in point of reliance.

7. Seventhly, The communion and intercourse which is betwixt God and men in duties, notably discovers what their persons and graces are. And it must needs do so, because what communion foever the hypocrite hath with duties, or with saints in duties, to be sure he hath none with God.

None can come nigh to God in duty, but those that are made nigh by reconciliation : All special communion with Christ is founded in real union with Christ; but “ the wicked “ are estranged from the womb,” Psalm lviii. 3.

But now there is real communion betwixt God and his people in duties. Truly our fellowship, rouvævic, our communion is with the Father and Son, 1 John i. 3. God pours forth of his Spirit upon them, and they pour forth their hearts to God. It is sensibly manifested to them when the Lord comes nigh to their souls in duty, and as sensible they are of his retreats and withdrawments from their souls, Cant. iii, 1, 4. They find their hearts, like the heliotrope, open and shut according to the accesses and recesses of the divine presence. They that never felt any thing of this nature, may call it a fancy, but the Lord's people are abundantly satisfied of the reality thereof.

Their very countenance is altered by it, 1 Sam. i. 18. the sad and cloudy countenance of Hannah cleared up, there was fair weather in her very face, as fuon as she knew she had audience and acceptance with her God. I know all communion with God doth not consist in joys and comforts; there is as real communion with God in the mortifying and humbling influences of his Spirit upon men, as in the cheering and refreshing influences thereof. I know also there is a

great

diverfity in the degrees and measures thereof: It is not alike in all Christians, nor with the same Christian at all times. But that real Christians have true and real comununion with God in their duties, is a truth as manifest in spiritual sense and experience of the saints,' as their communion is one with another.

8. Eightly, Growth and improvement of grace in duties, notably differences the found and the unfound heart. All the duties in the world will never make an hypocrite more holy, huinble, or heavenly than he is; but will, as the watering of a dry stick, sooner rot it, than make it flourishing and fruitful.' What was Judas the better for all those heavenly fer;

« AnteriorContinuar »