« AnteriorContinuar »
carnal joy in congratulating our flesh's felicity, which may deceive an hypocrite; but not so sensible acknowledgments of God: indeeil, in heaven, when we are fit for sueh a state, it will be far otherwise. The greatest glory and praise that God hath through the world, is for redemption, reconciliation, and salvation by Christ; and was not man's misery the occasion of that? Besides, as variety is part of the beauty of the creation, so it is of Providence also. If all the trees, or herbs, or fowls, or beasts, or fishes, were of one kind, and all the world were but like the sea, all water, or like one plain field, yea, or one sun, it were a diminution of its beauty. And, if God should exercise here but one kind of providence, and bestow but one kind of grace (delight), and receive thanks but for one, it would be a diminution of the beauty of Providence.
2. And it would be no small injury to ourselves, as well as to God, if we had our full contents and rest on earth : and that both now and for ever. 1. At the present it would be much our loss; where God loseth the opportunity of exercising his mercies, man must needs lose the happiness of enjoying them. And where God loseth his praises, man doth certainly his comforts. Oh! the sweet comforts that the saints have had in returns to their prayers; when they have lain long in sorrow, and importunate requests, and God hath lifted them up, and spoken peace to their souls, and granted their desires, and said, as Christ, “Be of good cheer, son, thy sins are forgiven thee;" arise from thy bed of sickness, and walk, and live. How should we know what a tender-hearted Father we have, and how gladly he would meet us, and take us in his arms, if we had not, as the prodigal, been denied the husks of earthly pleasure and profit, which the worldly swine do feed upon? We should never have felt Christ's tender hand, binding up our wounds, and wiping the blood from them, and the tears from our eyes, if we had not fallen into the hands of thieves, and if we had not had tears to be wiped away. We should never have had those sweetest texts in our Bibles, “Come to me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden,” &c. and “To every one that is athirst, come and buy freely,' &c. and “Blessed are the poor in spirit ;” and “ Thus saith the High and Lofty One, I dwell with him that is of an humble and contrite spirit,” &c.; if we had not been weary, and heavy laden, and thirsty, and poor, and humble, and contrite. In a word, we should all lose our redemption-mercies, our sanctification, justification, and adoption-mercies; our sermon, sacrament, and prayer-mercies; our recoveries, deliverances, and thanksgiving-mercies, if we had not our miseries and sorrows to occasion them.
3. And it would be our loss for the future, as well as for the present. It is a delight to a soldier, or a traveller, to look back upon his adventures and escapes when they are over; and for a saint in heaven, to look back upon the state he was in on earth, and remember his sins, his sorrows, his fears, his tears, his enemies and dangers, his wants and calamities, must needs make his joys to be, rationally, more joyful. And, therefore, the blessed in their praising of the Lamb, do mention his redeeming them out of every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and so out of their misery and wants, and sins which redemption doth relate to, and making them kings and priests to God. When they are at the end, they look back upon the way. When the fight is done, and the danger over, and their sorrow gone, yet their rejoicing in the remembrance of it, is not done, nor the praises of their Redeemer yet over. But if we should have had nothing but content, and rest on earth, what room would there have been for these rejoicings and praises hereafter ? So that you see, 1. It would be our loss. 2. And then our incapacity forbids it, as well as our commodity. We are not capable of rest on earth; or we have both a natural incapacity, and a moral.
1. A natural incapacity, both in regard of the subject and the object; that is, both in regard of our personal unfitness, and the defect or absence of what might be our happiness.
1. Ourselves are now incapable subjects of happiness and rest: and that both in respect of soul and body. 1. Can a soul that is so weak in all grace, so prone to sin, so hampered with contradicting principles and desires, and so nearly joined to such a neighbour as this flesh, have full content and rest in such a case? What is rest, but the perfection of our graces in habit, and in act; to love God perfectly, and know him, and rejoice in him? How then can the Spirit be at rest, that finds so little of this knowledge, and love, and joy? What is the rest but our freedom from sin, and imperfections, and enemies ? And can the soul have rest that is pestered with all these, and that continually? What makes the souls of sensible Christians so groan and complain, desiring to be delivered, and to cry out so oft in the language of Paul, “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me?" If they can be contented, and rest in such a state, what makes every Christian to press hard toward the mark, and run that they may obtain, and strive to enter in, if they are capable of rest in their present condition? Doubtless, therefore, doth God perfectly purge every soul at its removal from the body, before he receives it to his glory, not only because iniquity cannot dwell with him in the most holy, but, also, because themselves are incapable of the joy and glory, while they have imperfect, sinful souls. The right qualification of our own spirits, for reception and action, is of absolute necessity to our happiness and rest.
2. And our bodies are incapable as well as our souls. They are not now those sun-like bodies which they shall be, when this corruptible hath put on incorruption, and this mortal immortality. They are our prisons, and our burdens; so full of infirmities, and defects, that we are fain to spend the most of our time in repairing them, and supplying their continual wants, and lenifying their grievances. Is it possible that an immortal soul should have rest, in such a rotten, dirty, diseased, wayward, distempered, noisome habitation; when it must every day cxpect to be turned out, and leave its beloved companion to the worms ? Surely these sickly, weary, loathsome bodies must be refined to a perfection suitable thereto, before they can be capable of enjoying rest.
Answ. 2. As we are unfit for rest on earth ourselves, so we want those objects that might afford us content and rest. For, First, Those we do enjoy are insufficient; and, Secondly, That which is sufficient is absent from us. 1. We enjoy the world and its labours, and what fruit they can afford; and, alas ! what is in all this to give us rest? They that have the most of it, have the greatest burden, and the least rest of any others. They that set most by it, and rejoice most in it, do all cry out at last of its vanity and vexation. A contentation with our present estate, indeed, we must have; that is, a competent provision in our journey; but not as our portion, happiness, or rest. Men cry out upon one another in these times, for not understanding providences, which are but commentaries on Scripture, and not the text. But if men were not blind, they might easily see that the first lecture that God readeth to us in all our late changes, and which providence doth still most inculcate and insist on, is the very same that is the first and greatest lesson in the Scripture ; that is, that “There is no rest nor happiness for the soul, but in God. Men's expectations are high raised upon every change, and inexperienced fools do promise theme
selves presently a heaven upon earth; but when they come to enjoy it, it flieth from them, and when they have run themselves out of breath in following this shadow, it is no nearer them than at the first setting out, and would have been as near them if they had sat still : as Solomon's dreamer, they feast in their sleep, but awake hungry. He that hath any regard to the works of the Lord, may easily see that the very end of them is to take down our idols, to weary us in the world, and force us to seek our rest in him. Where doth he cross us most, but where we promise ourselves most content? If you have one child that you dote upon, it becomes your sorrow. If you have one friend that you trust in, and judge him unchangeable, and think yourself happy in, he is estranged from you, or becomes your scourge. Oh, what a number of these experiences have I had! Oh, what sweet idolising thoughts of our future estate had we in the time of wars! And even now where is the rest that I promised iny soul ? Even that is my greatest grief, from which I expected most content.
And for this, the greatest shame that ever befell our religion, and the greatest sorrow to every understanding Christian, God hath the solemn thanks of men, as if they begged that he would do so still; and they rejoice in it, and are heinously offended with those that dare not do so too, and run to God on all their errands. Instead of pure ordinances, we have a puddle of errors, and the ordinances themselves cried down and derided. Instead of the power and plenty of the Gospel, we have everywhere plenty of violent gainsayers and seducers. We have pulpits and pamphlets filled with the most hellish reproachings of the servants and messengers of the most high God; provoking the people to hate their teachers, slandering them with that venom and impudent falsehood, as if the devil in them were bidding defiance to Christ, and were now entered upon his last and greatest battle with the Lamb; as if they would justiy Rabshakeh, and have Lucian and Julian sainted for the modesty of their reproaches. If a conscionable minister be but in doubt (as knowing himself incapable of understanding state mysteries, and not called to judge of them), and so dare not go whine before God hypocritically in pretended humiliation, nor rejoice and give thanks when men command him, and read their scriptures ; that is, their orders, which ministers were to read on pain of deposition or ejection, as knowing that men are fallible; and if a man should upon mistake incur the guilt of so heinous inex
pressible sin, it were a fearful thing :i and, therefore, that to go to God doubtingly, or ignorantly, in an extraordinary duty, in a cause of such weight, is a desperate venture, far beyond venturing upon ceremonies, or popish transubstantiation, to say Christ is really present in the bread, for refusing of which the martyrs suffered in the flames; I say, if he dare not do these, he must part from his dear people, whose souls are more precious to him than his life. Oh! how many congregations in England have been again forced to part with their teachers in sorrow, not to speak of the ejection of such numbers in our universities ! And for our so-much-desired discipline and holy order, was there ever a people under heaven, who called themselves reformers, that opposed it more desperately, and that vilified it, and railed against it more scurrilously, as if it were but the device of ambitious presbyters, that traitorously sought domination over their superiors, and not the law and order established by Christ? as if these men had never read the Scriptures, (Heb. xiii. 7, 17; 1 Thess. v. 10–12; Acts xx. 28; 1 Cor. iv. 1 ; Matt. xxiv. 25—27; Tit. i. 7; 1 Tim. iii. 1, 4–6, iv. 11, v. 17-20,) or will tread in the dirt the laws of Christ, which must judge them. And for railing at the ministers of the Gospel, the pretenders of religion have so far outstripped the former profane ones, that it even woundeth my soul to think of their condition. Oh, where are the tender-hearted mourners that shall weep over England's sins and reproaches! Is this a place or state of rest ? Hath not God met with our idolatrous setting up of creatures, and taught us that all are not saints that can talk of religion? much less are these pillars of our confidence, or the instruments to prepare us a rest upon earth. O that all this could warn us to set less by creatures, and at last to fetch our comforts and contentınents from our God!
2. And as what we enjoy here is insufficient to be our rest, so God, who is sufficient, is little here enjoyed. It is not here that he hath prepared the presence-chamber of his glory; he hath drawn the curtain between us and him; we are far from him as creatures, and farther as frail mortals, and farthest as sinners. We hear now and then a word of comfort from him, and receive his love-tokens, to keep up our hearts and hopes; but, alas! this is not our full enjoyment. While we are present
This was written when the usurpers made a war on Scotland, and made orders to sequester all ministers that would not keep days of humiliation and thankegiving for those wars.