« AnteriorContinua »
part with a just and regular reproof. If hereupon they come not up to amendment, their guilt is increased by the occasional excitation of the light of conscience to give it an especial charge. And there is an additional sin in the contempt of the reproof itself. But that which principally should make men careful, and even tremble in this case is, that they are put on a trial, whether ever they will forsake the evil of their ways and doings, or no. For he who is orderly reproved for any fault, and neglects, or despiseth the rebuke, can have no assurance that he shall ever be delivered from the evil rebuked; but hath just cause to fear, that he is entering into a course of hardness and impenitency.
4. It is useful unto the same end, immediately to compare the reproof with the word of truth. This is the measure, standard, and directory of all duties, whereunto in all dubious cases we should immediately retreat for advice and counsel. And whereas there are two things considerable in a reproof; first, the matter of it, that it be true, and a just cause, or reason of a rebuke; and, secondly, the right which the reprover hath unto this duty, with the rule which he walked by therein; if both these for the substance of them prove to be justified by the Scripture, then have we in such a case no more to do with the reprover, nor any of his circumstances, but immediately and directly with God himself: for where he gives express warranty and direction for a duty in his word, his own authority is as directly exerted thereby, as if he spoke unto us from heaven. Hereby will the mind be prevented from many wanderings, and vain reliefs, which foolish imagination will suggest, and be bound up unto its present duty. Let our unwillingness to be reproved be what it will, as also our prejudices against our reprover; if we are not at least free to bring the consideration and examination of the one and the other unto the word of truth, it is because our deeds are evil, and therefore we love darkness more than light. No milder, nor more gentle censure can be passed on any, who is not free to bring any reproof, that may be given him, unto an impartial trial by the word, whether it be according to the mind of God, or no. If this be done, and conviction of its truth and necessity do then appear; then let The soul know it hath to do with God himself, and wisely
consider what answer he will return, what account he will give unto him. Wherefore,
5. The best way to keep our souls in a readiness rightly to receive, and duly to improve such reproofs, as may regularly be given us by any, is to keep and preserve our souls and spirits in a constant awe and reverence of the reproofs of God, which are recorded in his word. The neglect, or contempt of these reproofs, is that which the generality of mankind do split themselves upon, and perish eternally. This is so fully and graphically expressed, Prov. i. that nothing can be added thereunto. And the great means whereby much hardness comes upon others, through the deceitfulness of sin, is want of keeping up a due sense or reverence of divine reproofs and threatenings on their souls. When this is done, when our hearts are kept up unto an awful regard of them, exercised with a continual meditation on them, made tender, careful, watchful by them, any just reproof from any, that falls in compliance with them, will be conscientiously observed, and carefully improved.
6. We shall fail in this duty unless we are always accompanied with a deep sense of our frailty, weakness, readiness to halt, or miscarry, and thereon a necessity of all the ordinances and visitations of God, which are designed to preserve our souls. Unless we have due apprehensions of our own state and condition here, we shall never kindly receive warnings beforehand to avoid approaching dangers; nor duly improve rebukes for being overtaken with them. It is the humble soul that feareth always, and that from a sense of its own weakness, yea, the treacheries and deceitfulness of its heart, with the power of those temptations, whereunto it is continually exposed, that is ever like to make work of the duty here directed unto.
CHAMBER OF IMAGERY
CHURCH OF ROME LAID OPEN:
AN ANTIDOTE AGAINST POPERY.
If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.-1 Pet. ii. 3. WHEN false worship had prevailed in the church of old, unto its ruin, God shewed and represented it unto his prophet, under the name and appearance of a chamber of imagery;' Ezek. viii. 11, 12. For therein were pourtrayed all the abominations wherewith the worship of God was defiled, and religion corrupted. Things relating unto divine truth and worship, have had again the same event in the world, especially in the church of Rome. And my present design is to take a view of the chambers of their imagery, and to shew what was the occasion, and what were the means of their erection; and in them we shall see all the abomination wherewith the divine worship of the gospel hath been corrupted, and Christian religion ruined. Unto this end it will be necessary to lay down some such principles of sacred truths, as will demonstrate and evince the grounds and causes of that transformation of the substance and power of religion into a lifeless image, which shall be proved to have fallen out amongst them. And because I intend their benefit principally who resolve all their persuasion in religion into the word of God, I shall deduce these principles from that passage of it in 1 Pet. ii. 1-3.
* This sermon was preached at the Morning Exercise at Cripplegate, 1682. In answer to this question, How is the practical love of truth the best preservative against Popery?
Ver. 1. contains an exhortation unto, or an injunction of, universal holiness, by the laying aside, or casting out whatever is contrary thereunto; Wherefore lay aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisy, and envy, and all evil speaking;' the rule whereof extends unto all other vicious habits of mind whatever.
And in ver. 2. there is a profession of the means whereby this end may be attained, namely, how any one may be so strengthened in grace, as to cast out all such sinful inclinations and practices as are contrary unto the holiness required of us, which is the divine word; compared therefore unto food, which is the means of preserving natural life, and of increasing its strength; As new born babes desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.'
Hereon the apostle proceeds in ver. 3. to declare the condition whereon our profiting, growing, and thriving by the word doth depend; and this is an experience of its power, as it is the instrument of God, whereby he conveys his grace unto us; 'If so be that ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.' See 1 Thess. i. 5. Therein lies the first and chief principle of our ensuing demonstration, and it is this:
Principle I. All the benefit and advantage which any men do or may receive by the word, or the truths of the gospel, depend on an experience of its power and efficacy, in communicating the grace of God unto their souls.
This principle is evident in itself, and not to be questioned by any, but such as never had the least real sense of religion on their own minds. Besides, it is evidently contained in the testimony of the apostle before laid down.
Hereunto three other principles of equal evidence with itself are supposed and virtually contained in it.
Principle II. There is a power and efficacy in the word, and the preaching of it; Rom. i. 16. I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation.'
It hath a divine power; the power of God accompanying it, and put forth in it, unto its proper ends; For the word
of God is quick and powerful;' Heb. iv. 12.
Principle III. The power that is in the word of God, consists in its efficacy to communicate the grace of God unto the souls of men.
In and by it they taste that the Lord is gracious;' that is, its efficacy unto its proper ends. These are salvation, with all things requisite thereunto; such as the illumination of our minds, and the renovation of our natures, the justification of our persons, the life of God in holy worship and obedience, all leading unto our eternal enjoyment of him. These are the ends whereunto the gospel is designed in the wisdom of God, whereunto its efficacy is confined.
Principle IV. There is an experience to be obtained of the power and efficacy of the word.
In that place of the apostle it is expressed by tasting.' But there is something antecedent unto their tasting, specially so called, and something consequent unto it, both inseparable from it, and therefore belonging unto the experience whereof we speak. Wherefore,
1. The first thing required hereunto is light; that is, a spiritual supernatural light, enabling us to discern the wisdom, will, and mind of God in the word, in a spiritual manner, without which we can have no experience of its power. Hence the gospel is hid unto them that perish,' though it be outwardly declared unto them; 2 Cor. iii. 4. This is the only means which lets into the mind and conscience a sense of this efficacy. This, in the increases of it, the apostle prays for on the behalf of believers, that they may have this experience, Eph. i. 16—19. iii. 16-19. and declares the nature of it, 2 Cor. iv. 6.
2. The taste intended follows hereon; wherein consists the life and substance of the experience pleaded for. And this taste is a spiritual sense of the goodness, power, and efficacy of the word, and the things contained in it, in the conveyance of the grace of God unto our souls, in the instances mentioned, and others of a like nature; for in a taste, there is a sweetness unto the palate, and a satisfaction unto the appetite. By the one, in this taste our minds are refreshed; and by the other our souls are nourished; of both believers have an experience. And this is let into the mind by spiritual light, without which nothing of it is attainable. God, who commanded light to shine out of darkness, shine, into your hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of his glory in the face of Jesus Christ;' 2 Cor. iv. 6.
3. To complete the experience intended, there follows