Imatges de pÓgina

checks them when neglecting secret prayers, or prayers in the family, or when disposed to swear, drink, lie, defraud, &c.—This appears,

3. In the very different acceptance with God which persons' prayers get. There are some whose duties are very pleasing to God, they have a sweet savour in his nostrils: their words are registered before him, their tears are bottled, their sighs and groans are regarded, their will is accepted for the deed. But there are others whom God abhors, and also their duties. The word is preached to them, but it never reforms them; yet they hold on with their attendance on ordinances, and it may be also with their prayers. What says the Lord of all such ?

" He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, eve his prayer shall be an abomination." “ For all these things hath my hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord; but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word. He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog's neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine's flesh; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations." "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to me? saith the Lord; I am full of the burnt-offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts, and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he-goats," Prov, xxviii. 9; Isa. lxvi. 2, 3, and i. 11.--This appears,

4. From the very different sense and feeling which those have of the advantage of religion, the ordinances and duties thereof. Some are acquainted with the gain of religion, and, from their own experience, can give a solid reason why they follow it: 1 Tim. vi. 6, “ But godliness with contentment is great gain.” They have tasted of communion with God in duties, and of access to him, of the sanctifying influences of the Spirit in ordinances : Mic. ii. 7, “O thou that art named the house of Jacob, is the spirit of the Lord straitened ? are these his doings ? do not my words do good to him that walketh uprightly?" But unto others all these things are in very deed but as empty husks: Prox. xiv. 10,“ The heart knoweth his own bitterDess, and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy.” They abide in the outer court of religion all their days; they see not its intrinsic glory, nor taste of its kernel or marrow. They keep up a form of duties from custom, and an unenlightened conscience; but they feel nothing in them kindly to draw their hearts towards God.

-This appears,

5. In the very different effects of the religion which those profess.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]


[ocr errors]

Grace is of a growing nature, and it will grow, though not visible at all times : Prov. iv. 18, " But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” And the longer that saints have a standing in religion, they will be the more firmly rooted; though perhaps their affections be not always so vigorous, yet solid teuderness will display itself with them: Psalm xcii. 13, 14, “ Those that are planted in the house of the Lord, shall grow up and flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age : they shall be fat and flourishing." And if they fall, they will not lie still, but recover again : Psalm xxxvii. 24,"Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.” But what are the effects which the religion of many has? Some grow up to their false pitch, and there they stand without motion : Prov. xxvi. 14, “ As the door turneth on his hinges, so doth the slothful upon his bed.” They think they are right, and they seek no farther. Some, instead of growing better, grow worse and worse ; the longer they live, they are the more unholy, more untender in the substantials of moral duties; and some throw aside the mask altogether, and, in sight of the world, desert to the devil's camp, by falling into some profane course, apostatising upon some temptation or other, and so, as they were before loathsome before God, they become also loathsome before his people : Rev. iii. 16,“ So, then, because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” This appears,

Lastly, In the very different passage which those have out of time into eternity. True, all must die, that is the point in which we all meet; but as true is it, that it is the point where outside and inside Christians part for ever: Psalm xxxvii. 37, 38, Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright, for the latter end of that man is peace. But the transgressors shall be destroyed together; the end of the wicked shall be cut off.” Though they have lived in the same church together, under the same ordinances, gone to prayers together, to one communion-table, when they come to that step where their ways part, they separate never to meet more.

The one goes to the society of God, angels, and saints; and their unseen reli. gion terminates in a glorious open reward, their grace in glory, their inward beauty in shining as stars in the firmament. The other gets his portion with reprobates, and those who had as little of the shew, as of the reality of religion : Psalm cxxv. 5, “ As for such as turn aside unto their crooked ways, the Lord shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity.”-I shall point out,

II. What are the causes of this difference which obtains betwixt Christians and others.--Among others, there is,

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

1. The very different way that persons come by their religion ; if

; we examine outside and inside Christians, how they came by the religion they severally have, it will be found, that the religion which they have is answerable to the way they came by it.—Thus,

(1.) There is a difference in the weight which their entering on their religion had on their spirits. Some come very lightly by their religion; hence it sits lightly upon them, and often goes as lightly from them. They venture upon building a tower, without deliberately counting the cost. To others it is not so easy, but they are brought to the utmost seriousness in the matter, Luke xiv. 28, 29; hence they go to the bottom of the matter, while others satisfy themselves with superficial work.

(2.) There is a difference in the depth of their conviction and humiliation : Luke ri. 48, 49, “ He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock, and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on a rock. But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that, without a foundation, built an house on the earth, against which the stream beat vehemently, and immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great." The plough of conviction lightly going over the fallow ground of the heart, is sufficient to make an outside Christian : Matth. xiii. 5, 20,“ Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth, and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it.” If he have as much of it as to let him see the evil and danger of a life quite profane, without so much as the form of god. liness, it is sufficient to make him put on the form. But it must be carried deeper, to make an inside Christian, even to the root of the most inward beloved lust, to the sin of one's nature, and to the discovery of Christ for sanctification, as well as justification.

(3.) There is a vast difference in their light and illumination in the knowledge of Christ: John iv. 10, “ Jesus answered, and said anto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith unto thee, Give me to drink, thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.” This is plainly intimated in the wise and foolish builders and virgins; so that an outside Christian has never been right in the head. All their insight into the excellency of Christ and religion, has left them fools, while others have been made really wise, their judgment rectified, their taste purified, so as to be capable to discern things concerning their souls in their native colours. Hence that glory in Christ has been



[ocr errors]

seen by the one, which has darkened all created glory, made them content to part with all for him, while the other has always some lust or other more dear to them than Christ and religion.—There is, (4.) A difference in the issue of their exercises about their soul's

In the one they have issued in the change of their nature, the taking away of the heart of stone, Ezek. xxxvi. 26, the making of them new creatures, putting off the old man, and putting on the

But in the other, whatever stir has been made in the affections, whatever griefs or joys they have had, the stony heart has remained untaken away, Matth. xiii. 5; so, though they have become other men than they were before, yet not new men.—Another cause of difference is,

2. The different ways in which professors follow religion. This, if attended to, cannot fail to make a mighty difference.

(1.) Some make religion their business, their main business, in the world : Gen. v. 24, “ And Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.” Religion is their all. They see nothing they have to do in the world, but it is either their salvation-work or their generation-work, so that they must observe God in all things. And this makes an inside Christian : Psalm cxix. 6, “ Then shall ] not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments.' Others make religion but a bye-work; their main business is o. another kind, how to please themselves, how to advance their temporal interest; and this makes an outside Christian. In regard to the one, all things else about him bow to his religion, he cuts and carves them as may best suit God's honour, and his soul's welfare ; whereas, as to the other, he makes his religion bow to his other designs, takes so much of it, and no more, as may leave him in quiet possession of some lust or other.

(2.) They follow religion from different principles, motives and ends.

[1.] Some follow it from natural principles and motives; that which moves them to it is a natural conscience, in some sort enlightened by the word and providence, which will give them no rest in the utter neglect of religion. Fear of punishment, or hope of reward, are powerful enough to make an outward Christian. But an inside Christian has a gracious principle of love to God and boliness implanted in him, the law is written in his heart, he has a new nature, which inclines him unto universal holiness, and thereby he is kindly drawn to follow religion, upon a view of its inward beauty ; and thus he fills up his character.

[2.] Some aim at approving themselves to men in their religion. They seek a name by it, they desire thus to advance their credit and reputation among the sober part of the world, Matth. vi. 2; and

seeming to be religious will satisfy, because men can judge no farther than the outward appearance. But others study to approve themselves to God : 2 Cor. v. 9, “ Wherefore we labour, that whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him." Now, since God cannot be deceived with outward appearances, this engages them to be careful of the hidden man of the heart, and to value no approbation of any, if the Master approve them not.–From what has been observed, we may learn,

That there is something in religion above nature's reach. O study to attain it! The mystery of godliness is a great mystery. It is no easy thing to be a Christian. The difference betwist the godly and others lies not in externals, but in internals, things removed out of the view of the world, and open to God only. O labour to study internal religion, and to approve yourselves to God who searcheth the hearts !- Try yourselves. Consider to which of the two sorts you belong, whether you be real Christians or not. Never value yourselves on the outward part or letter of religion, for you may have that and be stript of all by apostacy to which you lie oper, and will be turned out with the workers of iniquity at last, though you still keep on the mask. We must all appear before the tribunal of Christ. Study that religion which will be approved by him there.--I now proceed to consider,

III. What is the outside and letter of religion, which only makes an outside Christian, and wliat is the ioside and spirit of it, which makes a Christian ?-Here I observe,

1. That the outside of religion is that part of it which lies open to the view of the world, by which men form their estimate, not God : 1 Sam. xvi. 7, " But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature, because I have refused him ; for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” It comprehends all church privileges, duties, whether of doing or suffering, and attainments lying open to the view of men. Men may come a great length in this, and yet be nought in God's esteem.-I observe

2. That the letter of religion is that part of it which is agreeable to the letter of the law, whether in externals or internals. And it comprehends not only the outside, which is open to man's view, but also internal dispositions, exercises and attainments, as to the matter of them; for example, Judas's sorrow for sin, the stony ground's joy at receiving ihe seed of the word, and the hypocrite's delight in approaching to God, Isa. lviii, which have the matter, but not the form and manner, and so is like a body without the soul.- I observe,

3. That the inside of religion is that part of it which is open to


« AnteriorContinua »