Imatges de pàgina

of those fatal rocks, Presumption or Despair. He is neither discouraged by the misconceived severity of bis Lord, nor does he “despise the riches of his goodness.” He neither apprehends the difficulties of the race set before him, to be greater than he has strength to conquer, nor expects them to be so little as to yield in the conquest, till he bas put forth all his strength. The experience he already has in the Christian warfare, as it assures him, his “ labour is not in vain," if “ whatever his hand find to do, he do it with his might;" so it forbids his entertaining so vain a thought, as that he can otherwise gain any advantage, as that any virtue can be shewn, any praise attained, by faint hearts and feeble hands: or indecd by any but those who pursue the same course with the great Apostle of the Gentiles, “I (says he,) so run, not as uncertainly, so fight 'I, not as one that beateth the air. But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection ; lest by any means when I have preached to others, I myself should be a cast-away.”

10. By the same discipline is every good soldier of Christ, to inure himself to “endure hardships.” Confirmed and strengthened by this, he will be able, not only to renounce the works of darkness, but every appetite too, and every affection, which is not subject to the law of God. For “every one,” (saith St. John,)“who hath this hope, purifieth himself even as he is pure.” It is his daily care, by the grace of God in Christ, and through the blood of the Covenant, to purge the inmost recesses of his soul, from the lusts that before possessed and defiled it; from uncleanness, and envy, and malice, and wrath ; from every passion and temper, that is after the flesh, that either springs from, or cherishes his native corruption : as well knowing, that he whose very body is the temple of God, ought to admit into it nothing common or unclean; and that holiness becometh that house for ever, where the Spirit of boliness vouchsafes to dwell.

11. Yet lackest thou one thing, whosoever thou art, that to a deep humility, and a steadfast faith, hast joined a lively hope, and thereby in a good measure cleansed thy heart

from its inbred pollution. If thou wilt be perfect, add to all these, Charity; add Love, and thou hast the circumcision of the heart. “ Love is the fulfilling of the law, the end of the commandment." Very excellent things are spoken of love; it is the essence, the spirit, the life of all virtue. It is not only the first and great command, but it is all the commandments in one. Whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are amiable or bonourable; if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, they are all comprised in this one word, Love. In this is perfection, and glory, and happiness : The royal law of heaven and earth is this, “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.

12. Not that this forbids us to love any thing besides God: it implies, that we “love our brother also." Nor yet does it forbid us (as some have strangely imagined) to take pleasure in any thing but God. To suppose this, is to suppose the Fountain of holiness, is directly the Author of sin : since he has inseparably annexed pleasure to the use of those creatures, which are necessary to sustain the life he bas given us. This therefore can never be the meaning of his command. What the real sense of it is, both our blessed Lord and his Apostles tell us too frequently and too plainly to be misunderstood. They all with one mouth bear witness, that the true meaning of those several declarations, “ The Lord thy God is one Lord;" “ Thou shalt have no other gods but me;" “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy strength ;” “ Thou shalt cleave unto him;" “ The desire of thy soul shall be to his Name:" is no other than this. The one, perfect Good, shall be your one ultimate end. One thing shall ye desire for its own sake. The fruition of Him that is All in all. One happiness shall ye propose to your souls, even an union with him that made them : the baving “ fellowship with the Father and the Son:" the being joined to the Lord in one spirit.” One design you are to pursue to the end of time. The enjoy. ment of God in time and in eternity. Desire other things, so far as they tend to this. Love the creature

as it leads to the Creator. But in every step you take, be this the glorious point that terminates your view. Let every affection, and thought, and word, and work, be subordinate to this. Whatever ye desire or fear, whatever ye seek or shun, whatever ye think, speak, or do, be it in order to your happiness in God, the sole End as well as Source of your being.

13. Have no end, no ultimate end but God. Thus our Lord, “One thing is needful.” And if thine eye be singly fixed on this one thing, “thy whole body shall be full of light.” Thus St. Paul, “ This one thing I dos I press toward the mark, for the prize of my high calling in Christ Jesus.” Thus St. James, “Cleanse your hands, ye sinners, and purify your hearts, ye double-minded.” Thus St. John, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” The seeking happiness in what gratifies either the desire of the flesh, by agreeably striking upon the outward senses ; the desire of the eye, of the imagination, by its novelty, greatness, or beauty; or the pride of life, whether by pomp, grandeur, power, or the usual consequence of them, applause and admiration; " is not of the Father,” cometh not from, neither is approved by the Father of spirits ; “but of the world ;” it is the distinguishing mark of those, who will not have bim to reign over them.

II. Thus have I particularly enquired, what that Cir. cumcision of Heart is, which will obtain the praise of God. I am, in the second place, to mention some Reflections, that naturally arise from such an enquiry, as a plain rule whereby every man may judge of himself, whether he be of the world or of God.

1. And, first, it is clear, from what has been said, That no man has a title to the praise of God, unless his heart is circumcised by humility, unless he be little, and base, and vile in his own eyes, unless he be deeply convinced of that

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inbred “ corruption of bis nature, whereby' he is very far gone from original righteousness," being prone to all evil, averse to all good, corrupt and abominable: having a « carnal mind, which is enmity against God, and is not subject to the law of God; nor indeed can be:" unless he continually feel in his inmost soul, that without the Spirit of God resting upon him, he can neither think, nor desire, nor act, any thing good or well-pleasing in his sight.

No man, I say, has a title to the praise of God, 'till he feel his want of God: nor indeed, till be seek that “ honour which cometh of God only:" and neither desire nor pursue that which cometh of man, unless so far only as it tends to this.

2. Another truth, which naturally follows from what has been said, is, that none shall obtain the honour that cometh of God, unless his heart be circumcised by faith; even a $ faith of the operation of God:” unless, refusing to be any longer led by his senses, appetites, or passions, or even by that -blind leader of the blind, so idolized by the world, Natural Reason, he lives and walks by faith, directs every step, as“ seeing Him that is Invisible," " looks not at the things that are seen, which are temporal, but at the things that are not seen, which are eternal,” and governs all bis desires, designs, and thoughts, all his actions and conversations, as one who is entered in within the veil, where Jesus sits at the right-hand of God.

3. It were to be wished, that they were better acquainted with this faith, who employ much of their time and pains in laying another foundation ; in grounding religion on the eternal fitness of things,” on " the intrinsic excellence of virtue," and the beauty of actions flowing from it: on the reasons, as they term them, of good and evil, and the relations of beings to each other. Either these accounts of the grounds of Christian duty, coincide with the scriptural, or not. If they do, why are well-meaning men perplexed, and drawn from the weightier matters of the law, by a cloud of terms, whereby the casiest truths are explained into obscurity. If they are not, then it behoves them to consider, who is the Author of this new doctrine: whether he is likely to be an angel from heaven, who preacheth another gospel than that of Christ Jesus : though, if he were, God, not we, hath pronounced his sentence, “ Let him be accursed.'

4. Our gospel, as it knows no other foundation of good works than faith, or of faith than Christ, so it clearly informs us, we are not his disciples, while we either deny him to be the Author, or his Spirit to be the Inspirer and Perfecter both of our faith and works. " If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” He alone can quicken those who are dead unto God, can breathe into them the breath of Christian life, and so prevent, accompany, and follow them with his grace, as to bring their good desires to good effect. And, “ as many as are thus led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” This is God's short and plain account of true Religion and Virtue; and « other foundation can no man lay.'

5. From what has been said, we may, Thirdly, learn, That none is truly “ led by the Spirit,” unless that “ Spirit bear witness with his spirit, that he is a child of God:” unless he see the prize and the crown before him, and “ rejoice in the hope of the glory of God:” so greatly have they erred who have taught that, in serving God, we ought not to have a view to our own happiness. Nay, but we are often and expressly taught of God, to have “ respect unto the recompence of reward;" to balance the toil with the “ joy set before us,” these “ light afflictions" with that “ exceeding weight of glory.” Yea, we are “ aliens to the covenant of promise, we are without God in the world," until God,“ of his abundant mercy, hath begotten us again, unto a living hope, of the inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away.”

6. But if these things be so, it is high time for those persons to deal faithfully with their own souls, who are so far from finding in themselves this joyful assurance, that they fulfil the terms, and shall obtain the promises of that covenant, as to quarrel with the covenant itself, and blaspheme

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