« AnteriorContinuar »
myself, having then no authors by me, I wish you would read Grotius, and the Lord Du Plessis “Of the Verity of Christian Religion,” (especially chap. 25, 26, and last,) both which are translated into English. The third part I last added; the four first chapters, for the use of secure and sensual sinners, if any of them should happen to read this book : the three last, for the godly, to direct and comfort them in afflictions, and especially to persuade them to the great duty of helping to save their brethren's souls; the seven middle chapters, for the use both of the godly and the ungodly, as being of unspeakable concernment to all. So that all parts of this book are not fitted to the same persons.
Some, I hear, blame me for being so tedious, and say, All this might have been in a lesser room : such I would inform, that in thus doing, I have more crossed myself than them, having naturally such a style as, because of brevity, is accused of obscurity; and had much ado to bring myself to this which they blame ; and did obey my reason in it, against my disposition. For, as I thought my views of this glory should not be short, nor my speeches too contracted, so I considered that I speak to plain, unlearned men, that cannot find our meaning in too narrow a room, and that use to overlook the fulness of significant words. As they must be long in thinking, so we must be long in speaking : or else our words fall short of the mark, and die before they can produce the desired effect, so great is the distance between these men's ears and their brains. Besides, I know I am to speak to men's affections, which yet lie deep, and far more remote. How guilty I am myself, let others judge; but surely I approve not tautologies, or a tedious style, or the heaping up of useless niatter or words; nor can I choose but judge those Tostatuses impudently proud, who think the world should read nobody's works but theirs. Yet if the length of my discourse do but occasion the reader's longer thoughts on this so sweet and needful a subject, I shall scarcely repent of my reprehended tediousness. And I confess I never loved affectation, or too much industry about words, nor like the temper of them that do. May I speak pertinently, plainly, piercingly, and somewhat properly, I have enough. I judge, as judicious Dr. Stoughton, out of Seneca, that, “ He is the best preacher that feels what
* And since I have written a supplement, called “The Unreasonableness of Infidelity:
he speaks, and then speaks what he feels.” I confess, also, that I had made the first and fourth parts of this book much longer ; but that upon my return home, (to my books,) I found in Mr. Burrough’s Moses's Choice,' and others, the same things already abroad which I intended. And had I been at home, when I begun this, or read so much on the like subjects as I have since done, I think I should have left out all or most that I have written; yet do I not repent it; for God, that compelled me to it, knows how to make use of it. If this apology satisfy not, I offer the plaintiff these three motions to take his choice : 1. Either let it alone, and then it will do you no harm : 2. Or if you will needs read it, blame the author, and spare him not, so you will but entertain the truth, and obey what you are convinced to be your duty: 3. Or set on the work and do it better, that God's church may yet have more help in so needful a business. But no more of this. Were not the success of my labour more desirable to me than the maintenance of my esteem, I should think three lines long enough for apology.
But the chief thing which I intend, in this premonition, is, to acquaint each reader with the main design of this book, and to beseech him, for his soul's sake, that he will use it accordingly. Though the right comforting of the soul is a matter of great moment in life and at death, and worth much more labour then I have here bestowed, yet the ends which I intended are of far greater weight. Though I have heard many pious men say, “Let us study how to come to heaven, and let others study how great the joys are, yet have I found, by reason and experience, as well as Scripture, that it is not our comfort only, but our stability, our liveliness in all duties, our enduring tribulation, our honouring of God, the vigour of our love, thankfulness, and all our graces; yea, the very being of our religion, and Christianity itself, dependeth on the believing, serious thoughts of our rest. The end directeth to, and in, the means. It is the first thing intended, to which all the actions of our lives must aim :b mistake in this, and you are lost for ever, except you rectify your mistake in time. To know what is indeed your end and happiness, and heartily to take it so to be, is the very first stone in the foundation of religion : most souls that perish in the christian world, do perish for want of being sincere in this point. Men have learned in books, that God is
Gibeouf saith that nothing is desired properly at all, but the ultimate end.
the chief Good, and only the enjoyment of him in heaven will make us happy; but their hearts do not unfeignedly take him to be so. Most men take the present contentments of the flesh, consisting in pleasures, profits, and honours, to be their happiness indeed. This hath their very hearts, while God hath the tongue and knee; this is seriously sought after, while God is hypocritically complimented with; heaven is heartlessly commended, while the world is eagerly pursued; Christ is called Master, while this flesh bears all the sway : only because they cannot choose but know that the world will shortly leave them in the grave, and this flesh, which is so cherished, must lie rotting in the dust ; therefore, they will allow God the leavings of the world, and Christ shall have all that the flesh can spare; so far they will be religious and godly, lest they should be thrust into hell; and they look for heaven as a reserve, when they can keep their worldly happiness no longer. This is the self-deluding religion of thousands.
Reader, I pray God bring this close to thy heart, that it may awake thee to a godly jealousy, to see that thy heart deceive thee not in this one point. O, how many professors of zeal in religion,
of much knowledge, and excellent tongues, and blameless conver· sations in other things, do yet so eagerly mind the world and the
flesh, and subtlely evade every danger, and distinguish themselves out of every duty that is very dear, or inconsistent with their worldly happiness, that it is most evident they never cordially took God for their portion and happiness! When men lay not this foundation in sincerity, they may build all their lives to little purpose, and the fall will be great when this sand deceives them. When they take this first principle, but as a notion into the brain, and never lay it deep and close to the heart, all their lives after are spent in hypocrisy, and all their duties increase their delusion, except God call them back again to review their souls, and lay that foundation which before they had neglected. Therefore, is it said, that to be carnally minded is death, and if ye mind or live after the flesh, ye shall die; and that the carnal mind is enmity to God; and if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him ; c and it is so hard for rich men to enter heaven; and you can scarce find any saint in Scripture charged with covetousness, because it is as possible the devils should be saved, as the man that finally takes up his chief rest and happiness in any thing below God. And what is the cause of all this mischief, but that men do not seriously and frequently think, first, of the certain truth, and then, of the sweet, inconceivable excellencies that wait for them, if they will renounce the vanities of the world, and cleave heartily to God in Jesus Christ? Besides, if men do not apprehend the excellency of this ‘Rest,' they cannot value Christ, or his blood that purchased it, and therefore they cannot indeed be Christians; nor is it once knowing what heaven is that will serve the turn : if we have not a continual or frequent taste of it in our souls, we shall live in continual danger of being overcome. When temptations take you up into the mountain, and show you the kingdoms and glory of the world, and say, 'All this will I give thee ;' if, then, you have not a greater and surer glory in your view, what danger are you in! O that the nefarious miscarriages of professors of piety in this age, did not witness it to our sorrow, and the shame of our profession! Not a day but the devil will be casting thee a bait; either sports, or mirtli, or filthy lusts, or the pleasing of thy appetite in meats and drinks, or reputation, or rising in the world, or fears of men, or some such thing; and if thou have been newly in the consideration of thy rest with God, it will make thee trample upon them all; but if that be forgotten or undervalued, all is gone. Besides, what life and vigour will it maintain in all our duties? How earnestly will that man pray, that believingly and seriously apprehends what he prayeth for? How, also, will it fill the soul with love, when men do every day view the face of love itself, and warm their hearts in these heavenly contemplations ? And if it were but to make our religion delightful to us, it would have greater use than the mere pleasure of that delight, as I have showed in the conclusion of the book : how cheerfully would men go on through labour and suffering, if once they had that delight in God which a heavenly life would afford. When life and joy, seriousness and sweetness, go together, it will make men profitable, victorious, and persevering Christians. In a word, you can neither live safely, profitably, piously, conscionably, or comfortably; nor die so, without believing serious considerations of your rest.
c Rom. viii. 5–8, 13; 1 John ii. 15. Vide excellent · Epist. Colombani Herbin. de præsentis vitæ vanitate, miseria,' &c. in Usser. Armach. Veterum Epist. Hibern. Syllog.' pp. 7, :
And now, reader, whatever thou art, young or old, rich or poor, I entreat thee, and charge thee, in the name of thy Lord, who will shortly call thee to a reckoning, and judge thee to thine everlasting, unchangeable state, that thou give not these
things the reading only, and so dismiss them with a bare approval; but that thou set upon this work, and take God in Christ for thy only rest, and set thy heart upon him above all. Jest not with God: do not only talk of heaven, but mind it, and seek it with all thy might; what greater business hast thou to do? Dally no longer, when thy salvation lies at the stake. O turn off the world before it turn thee off; forsake thy fleshly pleasures before they forsake thee; and thou find that God also hath forsaken thee. Wink at these withering beauties; and shut thy mouth against these pleasant poisons. Remember what they will all be to thee, when thy friends are weeping over thee, and looking for thy winding sheet; nay, when God shall say, Give account of thy stewardship, thou shalt be no longer steward: thou fool, this night shall they require thy soul ;, whose then shall these things be? Lord, how do men think so carelessly of that day, which they cannot choose but know is near, and will make so great a change with them! Surely (saith noble Du Plessis),d if all the world were made for man, then man was made for more than the world. Hearken, all you worldlings and flesh-pleasers, the God of heaven chargeth you, upon your allegiance, to change your pleasures. He offereth you delights beseeming men; yea, the joys of angels; and commandeth you to renounce the pleasures of sin, and delights that only beseem a beast. Will you not take his offer? Take it now, lest he never offer it you more. He commandeth you, as ever you will see his face in glory to your comfort, that now you turn your thoughts seriously to him, and to that glory: dare you deny, or neglect to obey? If you will not part with your merriments and vanities for that which is infinitely better, be it now known to you, you shall shortly part with them for nothing ; yea, for hell fire ; and you shall leave them with groans and horror ere long, if you will not leave them for God and glory now. Spit out these venomous, fleshly pleasures, man; come near, and taste of the heavenly delights. What say you? will you resolve; will you covenant with God this day, and do it? Do I speak to a post, that cannot feel; or to a beast, that is incapable of heaven? Will you pass over my words, as if they concerned you not? The great God that put this doctrine into your bibles, and put this message into my mouth, and bid me speak it to thee in his name, will one day
d Epist. before the “Verity of Christian Religion.'