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Chapter IV, OF THE HEART'S HAPPINESS, OR
Section 1, No rest for the soul till it come to God.
Neo. Sir, be pleased to give me leave to tell you some part of my mind, and then I will cease to trouble you any more at this time. The truth is, I have, ever since I could remember, felt a kind of restless discontentedness in my spirit, and for many years together, I fed myself with hopes of finding rest and content in persons and things here below, scarce thinking of the state and condition of my soul, or of any condition beyond this life, until, as I told you before, the Lord was pleased to visit me with a fit of sickness; and then I began to bethink myself of death, judgment, hell, and heaven, and to take care and seek rest for my soul, as well as for my body; but, alas! I could never find rest for it before this day; because,, indeed, I sought it not by faith, but, as it were, by the works of the law; or, in plain terms, because I sought it not in Christ but in myself. But now, I bless God, I see that Christ is all in all; and therefore, by the grace of God, I am resolved no longer to seek rest and content, neither in any earthly thing, nor in mine own righteousness, but only in the free love and favour of God, as he is in his Son Jesus Christ; and, God willing, there shall be my soul's rest. And I beseech you, sir, pray for me, that it may be so; and I have done.
Evan. This point, concerning the heart's happiness, or soul's rest, is a point very needful for us to know; and indeed, it is a point that I have formerly thought upon; and therefore, though my occasions do now begin to call me away from you, yet, nevertheless, since you have begun to speak of it, I shall, if you please, proceed on, if you shall, or any of you, give occasion, and as the Lord shall enable me.
Ant. With a very good will, sir; for indeed it is a point that I much desire to hear of.
Evan. First, then, I would entreat you to consider with me, that when God at first gave man an elementish body, 354354That is an elementary body, made up, as it were, of the four elements, as they are called, namely, fire, air, earth, and water. he did also infuse into him an immortal soul of a spiritual substance; and though he gave his soul a local being in his body, yet he gave it a spiritual well-being in himself; so that the soul was in the body by location and at rest in God by union and communication; and this being of the soul in God at first was man's true being, and his true happiness. Now man falling from God, God in his justice left man, so that the actual union and communion that the soul of man had with God at first is broken off; God and man's soul are parted; and it is in a restless condition. Howbeit, the Lord having seated in man's soul a certain character of himself, the soul is thereby made to re-aspire towards that summum bonum, that chief good, even God himself, and can find rest no where, till it come to him. 355355The soul of man has a natural desire of happiness: nothing can make it happy but what is commensurable to its desires, or capable of affording it a full satisfaction. Nothing less than an infinite good is such: and God himself only is an infinite good, in the enjoyment of which the soul can rest, as fully satisfied, desiring no more. Now, since by reason of the vast capacity of the soul, nothing but God himself can indeed satisfy this its desire of happiness, the which is so woven into the very nature of the soul, that nothing but the destruction of the very being of the soul can remove it; it is evident, that it is impossible the soul of man can ever find true rest, until it return to God, and take up its rest with him; but must still be in quest of, or desiring its chief good and happiness, wherein it may rest, and this in reality is God himself only; though the practical understanding being blinded, knows not that, and the perverse will and affections carry away the soul from him, seeking the desired good and happiness in other things. This is what the author calls the soul's re-aspiring towards the chief good, even God himself; and it is so consistent with the total depravation of man's nature, that it will remain for ever in the damned in hell; a chief part of whose misery will lie in that this desire shall ever be rampant in them, but never in the least satisfied; they shall never be freed from this scorching thirst there, nor yet get a drop of water to cool the tongue.
Nom. But stay, sir, I pray you; how can it be said that man's soul doth re-aspire towards God the Creator, when it is evident that every man's soul naturally is bent towards the creature, to seek a rest there?
Evan. For answer hereunto I pray you consider, that naturally
man's understanding is dark and blind; and therefore is ignorant what
his own soul does desire and strongly aspire unto. It knoweth, indeed, that there
is a want in the soul; but till it be enlightened, it knoweth not what it is
which the soul wanteth. For, indeed, the case standeth with the soul as with a child new
born, which child, by natural instinct, doth gape and cry for nutriment; yea, for
such nutriment as may agree with its tender condition; and if the nurse, through
negligence or ignorance, either give it no meat at all, or else such as it is
not capable of receiving, the child refuses it, and still cries, in strength of
desire, after the breast; yet does not the child, in this estate, know by any intellectual
power and understanding what itself desires. Even so man's poor soul doth
cry to God as for its proper nourishment; 356356Man's poor soul, before it is enlightened, naturally cries to God, as the "young ravens cry to him," (Job 38:41), not knowing to whom: and it cries for him as its proper nourishment, as the new born infant for the breast, not knowing
for what. Only it feels a want, desires supply proper for filling it up, and can never get kindly rest till it be supplied
accordingly, that is, till it come to the enjoyment of God: then it rests, as the infant set to the full breast. (Isa 66:11), "That ye may suck, and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolations."
but his understanding, like a blind,
ignorant nurse, not knowing what it cries for, offers to the heart a creature
instead of a Creator; thus, by reason of the blindness of the understanding, together with
the corruption of the will, and disorder of the affections, man's soul is kept by
violence 357357Namely, violence done to its natural make and constitution [if I may so express it] by the blindness, corruption, and disorder,
that have seized its faculties.
from its proper centre, even God himself.
Chapter IV, Section 2
How the soul is kept from rest in God.
Oh, how many souls are there in the world that are hindered, if not quite kept, from rest in God, by reason that their blind understanding presents unto their sensual appetites varieties of sensual objects!
Is there not many a luxurious person's soul hindered, if not quite kept, from true rest in God, by that beauty which nature hath placed in feminine faces,358358That is, women's faces. especially when Satan secretly suggests into such feminine hearts a desire of an artificial dressing, from the head to the foot; yea, and sometimes painting the face, like their mother Jezebel?
And is there not many a voluptuous epicure's soul hindered, if not quite kept, from rest in God, by beholding the colour, and tasting the sweetness of dainty delicate dishes, his wine red in the cup and his beer of amber colour in the glass? In the Scripture we read of a "certain man that fared deliciously every day," as if there had been no more than one so ill disposed; but in our times, there are certain hundreds, both of men and women, that do not only fare deliciously, but voluptuously, twice every day, if not more.
And is there not many a proud person's soul hindered, if not quite kept, from rest in God, by the harmonious sound of popular praise which, like a loadstone, draws the vain-glorious heart to hunt so much the more eagerly, to augment the echo of such vain windy reputation?
And is there not many a covetous person's soul hindered, if not quite kept, from rest in God, by the cry of great abundance, the words of wealth, and the glory of gain?
And is there not many a musical mind hindered, if not quite kept, from sweet comfort in God, by the harmony of artificial concord upon musical instruments?
And how many perfumed fools are there in the world, who, by smelling their sweet apparel, and their sweet nosegays, are kept from soul sweetness in Christ? And thus does Satan, like a cunning fisher, bait his hook with a sensual object, to catch men with: and having gotten it into their jaws, he draws them up and down in sensual contentments, till he has so drowned them therein, that the peace and rest of their souls in God is almost forgotten. And hence it is that the greatest part of man's life, and in many their whole life, is spent in seeking satisfaction to the sensual appetite.
Nom. Indeed, sir, this which you have said, we may see truly verified in many men, who spend their days about these vanities, and will afford no time for religious exercises; no, not upon the Lord's day, by their good will.
Evan. You say the truth; and yet let me tell you withal, that a man by the power of natural conscience, may be forced to confess that his hopes of happiness are in God alone, and not in these things; yea, and to forsake profits and pleasures, and all sensual objects, as unable to give his soul any true contentment, and fall to the performance of religious exercises, and yet rest there, and never come to God for rest. And if we consider it, either in the rude multitude of sensual livers, or in the more seemingly religious, we shall perceive that the religious exercises of men do strongly deceive, and strangely delude many men of their heart's happiness in God.
For the first sort,359359Namely, sensual livers, who yet perform religious exercises. though they be such as make their belly their best god, and do no sacrifice but to Bacchus, Apollo, or Venus;360360That is, give up themselves to drunkenness, music, and lasciviousness. though their conscience do accuse them that these things are naught, yet in that they have the name of Christians put upon them in their baptism, and forasmuch as they do often repeat the Lord's prayer, the apostles' creed, and the ten commandments, and in that, it may be, they have lately accustomed themselves to go to church, to hear divine service, and a preaching now and then, and in that they have divers times received the sacrament; they will not be persuaded but that God is well pleased with them; and a man may as well persuade them that they are not men and women, as that they are not in a good condition.
And for the second sort,361361Namely, the more seemingly religious. that ordinarily have more human wisdom and human learning than the former sort, and seem to be more holy and devout than the former sort of sensual ignorant people; yet how many are there of this sort, that never pass further than the outward court of bodily performances: feeding and feasting themselves, as men in a dream; supposing themselves to have all things, and yet indeed have nothing but only a bladder-full, or rather a brain-full, of wind and worldly conceptions?
Are there not some who give themselves to more special searching and seeking out for knowledge in Scripture learnedness and clerk-like skill, in this art, and that language, till they come to be able to repeat all the historical places in the Bible; yea, and all those texts of Scripture that they conceive do make for some private opinion of theirs concerning ceremonies, church-government, or other such circumstantial points of religion, touching which points they are very able to reason and dispute, and to put forth such curious questions as are not easily answered?
Are not some of these men362362Namely, of those spoken of in the paragraph immediately preceding, whom he begins to distribute here into three classes or sorts; all belonging to the second sort, viz: the more seemingly religious. called sect-makers, and begetters or devisers of new opinions in religion; especially in the matter of worshipping God, as they use to call it, wherein they find a beginning, but hardly an end? For this religious knowledge is so variable, through the multiplicity of curious wits and contentious spirits, that the life of man may seem too short to take a full view of this variety; for though all sects say they will be guided by the word of truth, and all seem to bring Scripture, which, indeed, is but one, as God is but one; yet, by reason of their several constructions and interpretations of Scripture, and conceits of their own human wisdom, they are many.
And are there not others of this sort of men that are ready to embrace any new way of worship, especially if it come under the cloak of Scripture learning, and have a show of truth, founded upon the letter of the bible, and seem to be more zealous and devout than the former way? especially if the teacher of that new way can but frame a sad and demure countenance, and with a grace lift up his head and his eyes towards heaven, with some strong groan, in declaring of his newly conceived opinion; and that he frequently use this phrase of—the glory of God! Oh, then, these men are, by-and-by, of another opinion! supposing to themselves that God has made known some further truth to them; for by reason of the blindness of their understanding, they are not able to reach any supernatural truth, although they do, by literal learning, and clerk-like cunning, dive ever so deep into the Scriptures; and therefore they are ready to entertain any form of religious exercises, as shall be suggested unto them.
And are there not a third sort, much like to these men, that are excessive and mutable in the performance of religious exercises? Surely St. Paul perceived that this was the very God of some men in his time, and therefore he willeth Timothy to instruct others, that "bodily exercise profiteth little," or, as some read it, "nothing at all"; and doth oppose thereunto "godliness," as being another thing than "bodily exercise," and says that it "is profitable," &c.
And do not you think that there are some men at this day that know none other good than bodily exercise, and can hardly distinguish betwixt it and godliness? Now these bodily exercises are mutable and variable, according to their conceits and opinions; for all sects have their several services, as they call them yet all bodily, and for the most part, only bodily; the which they perform to establish a rest to their souls, because they want rest in God. And hence it is that their peace and rest are up and down, according to their working better or worse. So many chapters must be read, and so many sermons must be heard, and so many times they must pray in one day, and so many days in the week, or in the year, they must fast, &c., or else their souls can have no rest. But mistake me not, I pray, in imagining that I speak against the doing of these things, for I do them all myself, but against resting in the doing of them, the which I desire not to do.
And thus you see that men's blind understanding doth not only present unto the sensual appetite sensual objects, but also to the rational appetite rational objects; so that man's poor soul is not only kept from rest in God by means of sensuality, but also by means of formality. If Satan cannot keep us from rest in God by feeding our senses with our mother Eve's apple, then he attempts to do it by blinding our eyes, and so hindering us from seeing the paths of the gospel. If he cannot keep us in Egypt by the flesh-pots of sensuality, then will he make us wander in the wilderness of religious and rational formality: so that if he cannot hinder us more grossly, then he attempts to do it more closely.
Nom. But sir, I am persuaded that there be many men that are so religiously exercised, and do perform such duties as you have mentioned, and yet rest not in them but in God.
Evan. Questionless there be some Christians that look upon such exercises as means ordained of God both to beget and increase faith, and all other graces of his Spirit, in the hearts of his people; and therefore, to the intent that their faith, and love, and other graces, may increase, they are careful to wait upon God, in taking all convenient opportunities to exercise themselves therein, and yet have their soul's rest in God, and not in such exercises.
But, alas! I fear the number of such men is very few, in comparison of them that do otherwise. For do not the most part of men that are so religiously exercised, rather conceive, that as they have offended and displeased God by their former disobedience, so they must pacify and appease him by their future obedience? And therefore they are careful to exercise themselves in this way of duty, and that way of worship, and all to that end; yea, and they conceiving that they have corrupted and defiled, and polluted themselves, by their falling into sin, they must also purge, cleanse, and purify themselves, by rising out of sin, and walking in new obedience:363363Neglecting to wash, by faith, in the blood of Christ, the "Fountain opened for sin, and for uncleanness," (Zech 13:1).—"The blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin," (1 John 1:17).—"How much more shall the blood of Christ purge your conscience from dead works?" (Heb 9:14).—"Purifying their hearts by faith," (Acts 15:9). and so all the good they do, and all the evil they eschew, is to pacify God, and appease their own consciences. And if they seek rest to their souls this way, why, it is the way of the covenant of works, where they shall never be able to reach God; nay, it is the way to come to God out of Christ, where they shall never be able to come near him, he being a "consuming fire."
Nom. But, sir, I pray you, would you not have our senses to be any longer exercised about any of their objects? would you have us no longer to take comfort in the good things of this life?
Evan. I pray you, do not mistake me; I do not speak as though I would have you stoically to refuse the lawful use of any of the Lord's good creatures, which he shall be pleased to afford you, neither do I prohibit you from all comfort therein; but this is it which I do desire, namely, that you would endeavour to attain to such a peace, rest, and content in God, as he is in Christ, that the violent cry of your heart may be restrained, and that your appetites may not be so forcible, nor so unruly as they are naturally, but that the unruliness thereof may be brought into a very comely decorum and order: so that your sensual appetites may, with much more easiness and contentedness, be denied the objects of their desires, yea, and contented [if occasion be] with that which is most repugnant to them, as with hunger, cold, nakedness, yea, and with death itself. For such is the wonderful working of the heart's quiet and rest in God, that although a man's senses be still exercised in and upon their proper objects, yet may it be truly said, that such a man's life is not sensual. For indeed his heart taketh little contentment in any such exercises, it being for the most part exercised in a more transcendent communion with God, as he is in Christ. So that indeed the man that has this peace and rest in God may be truly said to "use this world as though he used it not," in that he receives no cordial contentment from any sensual exercise whatsoever, and that because his heart is withdrawn from them. Which withdrawing of the heart is not unaptly pointed at, in the speech of the spouse, (Cant 5:2), "I sleep," says she, "but my heart waketh." Even so may it be said, that such a man is sleeping, looking, hearing, tasting, smelling, eating, drinking, feasting, &c., but his heart is withdrawn from the creature, and rejoicing in God his Saviour, and his soul is magnifying his Lord; so that in the midst of all sensual delights, his heart secretly says, Aye, but my happiness is not here.
Nom. But, sir, I pray you, why do you call rational and religious exercises a wilderness?
Evan. For two reasons; first, Because that as the children of Israel, when they were got out of Egypt, did yet wander many years in the wilderness, before they came into the land of Canaan; even so do many men wander long in rational and religious exercises, after they have left a sensual life, before they come to rest in God, whereof the land of Canaan was a type.364364Such a wanderer our author himself had been for a dozen of years. See his Preface, and compare that heavy word, (Eccl 10:15), "The labour of the foolish wearieth every one of them, because he knoweth not how to go to the city." Secondly, Because, as in a wilderness men often lose themselves, and can find no way out, but supposing, after long travel, that they are nearer the place whither they would go, are in truth, farther off; even so fareth it with many, yea, with all such as walk in the way of reason;365365Namely, of reason, as the judge and rule in religion. The holy Scripture is the rule, and the Spirit of God therein speaking is the judge; it is the business of our reason to discern what they teach, and to submit thereto without reserve. they lose themselves in the woods and bushes of their works and doings; so that the longer they travel, the farther they are from God, and true rest in him.
Nom. But, sir, you know that the Lord hath endowed us with reasonable souls; would you not then have us to make use of our reason?
Evan. I pray you, do not mistake me: I do not contemn nor
despise the use of reason; only I would not have you to establish it to366366That is, for, or to be.
good; but I would have you to keep it under; so that, if with Hagar, it attempt to
bear rule, and lord it over your faith, then would I have you, in the wisdom of God,
like Sarah, to cast it out from having dominion. In few words, I would have you
more strong in desire than curious in speculation, and to long more to feel
communion with God than to be able to dispute of the genus or species of any
question, either human or divine; and press hard to know God by powerful experience. And
though your knowledge be great, and your obedience surpassing many, yet
would I have you to be truly nullified, annihilated, and made nothing and become
fools in all fleshly wisdom; and glory in nothing, but only in the Lord.367367(2 Cor 12:11), "Though I be nothing."—(1 Cor 3:18), "Let him become a fool, that he may be wise."—(1:31), "He that glorieth, let him glory
in the Lord."
would have you, with the eye of faith, sweetly to behold all things extracted
out of one thing; and in one to see all.368368According to that saying of our Lord, (Matt 19:17), "There is none good but one, that is God."
In a word, I would have in you a most
profound silence, contemning all curious questions and discourses; and to ponder
much in your heart, but prate little with your tongue. "Be swift to hear,"
but "slow to speak," and "slow to wrath," as the apostle James advises you, (James
1:19); and by this means will your reason be subdued, and become one with your
faith, for then is reason one with faith, when it is subjugated unto faith; and
then will reason keep its true lists and limits, and you will become ten times more
reasonable than you were before. So that I hope you now see that the heart's
farewell from the sensual and rational life is not to be considered absolutely, but
respectively; it does not consist in a going out of either, but in a right use of
Chapter IV, Section 3
God in Christ the only true rest for the soul.
Nom. Then, sir, it seems to me, that God in Christ, apprehended by faith, is the only true rest for man's soul.
Evan. There is the true rest indeed; there is the rest which David invites his soul unto, when he says, "Return unto thy rest, O my soul! for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee," (Psa 116:7).—"For we which have believed," says the author to the Hebrews, "have entered into his rest,"369369"Do enter into rest," or that rest, viz: "his rest." He means, that we even now enter into that rest by faith. Compare verse 10. (Heb 4:3).—And "Come unto me," says Christ, "all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,"370370This is one of the most solemn gospel offfers to be found in all the New Testament; and our author seems here to point at what I conceive to be the true and genuine sense of it. The words "labour and heavy laden," do not restrict the invitation and offer to such as are sensible of their sins, and longing to be rid of them, though indeed none but such will really accept; but they denote the restlessness of the sinful soul of man; a qualification [if it is so called] to be found in all that are out of Christ, whether they have, or have not, any notable law work on their consciences. I say notable, to distinguish it from that which is common to all men, even to heathens, (Rom 11:15). Our father Adam led his whole family away out of their rest in God; and so left them with a conscience full of guilt, and a heart full of unsatisfied desires. Hence his children soon find themselves like the horse-leech, having "two daughters, crying, Give, give"; namely, a restless conscience, and a restless heart; and to each of these the poor soul must needs say, as Naomi said to Ruth, "My daughter, shall I not seek rest for thee?" so the blinded soul falls a labouring for rest to them. And it labours in the barren region of the fiery law for a rest to the conscience, and in the empty creation, for a rest to the heart: but, after all, the conscience is still heavy laden with guilt, whether it has any lively feeling thereof, or not; and the heart is still under a load of unsatisfied desires; so neither the one nor the other can find rest indeed. This is the natural case of all men. And to souls thus labouring, and laden, Jesus Christ here calls, that they may "come to him, and he will give them rest"; namely, a rest for their consciences, under the covert of his blood; and a rest to their hearts, in the enjoyment of God through him. This is most agreeable to the Scripture phraseology, (Eccl 10:15), "The labour of the foolish wearieth every one of them, because he knows not how to go to the city."—(Hab 2:13), "The people shall labour in the very fire, and the people shall weary themselves for very vanity."—(Isa 55:2), "Wherefore do ye spend your labour for that which satisfieth not?" The prophet laments over a people more insensible than the ox or the ass, saying, "Ah, sinful nation! a people laden with iniquity," (Isa 1:3,4). And the apostle speaks of "silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth," (2 Tim 3:6,7). (Matt 11:28). And truly, my neighbours and friends, believe it, we shall never find a heart's happiness, and true soul's rest, until we find it here. For howsoever a man may think, if he had this man's wit, and that man's wealth, this man's honour and that man's pleasure, this wife, or that husband, such children, and such servants, his heart would be satisfied, and his soul would be contented; yet which of us hath not, by our own experience, found the contrary? For, not long after that we have obtained the thing we did so much desire, and wherein we promised ourselves so much happiness, rest, and content, we have found nothing but vanity and emptiness in it. Let a man but deal plainly with his own heart, and he shall find, that, notwithstanding he hath many things, yet there is ever one thing wanting: for indeed man's soul cannot be satisfied with any creature, no, not with a world of creatures. And the reason is, because the desires of man's soul are infinite, according to that infinite goodness which it once lost in losing God. Yea, and man's soul is a spirit; and therefore cannot communicate with any corporal thing; so that all creatures, not being that infinite and spiritual fullness which our hearts have lost, and towards the which they do still re-aspire; they cannot give it full contentment.
Nay, let me say more; howsoever a man may, in the midst of his sensual fullness, be convinced in his conscience that he is at enmity with God, and therefore in danger of his wrath and eternal damnation; and be thereupon moved to reform his life and amend his ways, and endeavour to seek peace and rest to his soul; yet this being in the way of works, it is impossible that he should find it; for his conscience will ever be accusing him, that this good duty he ought to have done, and has not done it; and this evil he ought to have forborne, and yet he has done it; and in the performance of this duty he was remiss, and in that duty very defective; and many such ways will his soul be disquieted.
But when a man once comes to believe, that all his sins both past, present, and to come, are freely and fully pardoned,371371Namely, in respect of the guilt of eternal wrath. and God in Christ graciously reconciled unto him, the Lord doth thereupon so reveal his fatherly face unto him in Christ, and so make known that incredible union betwixt him and the believing soul, that his heart becomes quietly contented in God, who is the proper element of its being; for hereupon there comes into the soul such peace, flowing from the God of peace, that it fills the emptiness of his soul with true fullness, in the fullness of God, so that now the heart ceases to molest the understanding and reason, in seeking either variety of objects, or augmentation of degrees, in any comprehensible thing; and that because the restless longing of the mind which did before cause unquietness and disorder, both in the variety of mental projects, and also in the sensual and beastly exercises of the corporal and external members, is satisfied and truly quieted. For when a man's heart is at peace in God, and is become truly full in that peace and joy passing understanding, then the devil hath not that hope to prevail against his soul as he had before; he knows right well that it is in vain to bait his hook with profits, pleasures, honour, or any other such like seeming good, to catch such a soul that is thus at quiet in God; for he hath all fullness in God, and what can be added to fullness but it runneth over? Indeed, empty hearts, like empty hogsheads, are fit to receive any matter which shall be put into them; but the heart of the believer being filled with joy and peace in believing, doth abhor all such base allurements; for that it hath no room in itself to receive any such seeming contentments. So that, to speak as the truth is, there is nothing that doth truly and unfeignedly root wickedness out of the heart of man, but only the true tranquility of the mind, or the rest of the soul in God. And, to say as the thing is, this is such a peace, and such a rest to the creature in the Creator, that, according to the measure of its establishment by faith, no created comprehensible thing can either add to it, or detract from it; the increase of a kingdom cannot augment it, the greatest losses and crosses in worldly things cannot diminish it; a believer's good works do all flow from it, and ought not to return to it;372372Namely, to be any part of the fountain of it, for the time to come: as the rivers return unto the sea, whence they came, making a part of the store for their own fresh supply; nay, it is the Lord alone that gives and maintains it, as our author afterwards expresses it. neither ought human frailties to molest it.373373For these we are never free from in this life. And true repentance, and gospel mourning for sin, are so consistent with it, that they flow from it, according to the measure thereof. (Psa 65:3), "Iniquities prevail against me; as for our transgression, thou shalt purge them away."—(Zech 12:10), "They shall look upon me, whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn." However, this is most certain, neither sin nor Satan, law nor conscience, hell nor grave, can quite extinguish it; for it is the Lord alone that gives and maintains it. "Whom have I in heaven but thee?" says David, "and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee." (Psa 73:25) It is the pleasant face of God in Christ that puts gladness into his heart, (Psa 4:7). And when that face is hid, then he is troubled, (Psa 30:7). But, to speak more plainly, though the peace and joy of true believers may be extenuated or diminished, yet doth the testimony of their being in nature374374That is, the evidence, that they [viz: the peace and joy of believers] are still in being [in rerum natura] and not quite extinct. remain so strong, that they could skill to say, yea, even when they have felt God to be withdrawing himself from them,—"My God! my God! why hast thou forsaken me?" (Psa 22:1); yea, and in the night of God's absence to remain confident, that though sorrow be over night, yet joy will come in the morning, (Psa 30:5); nay, though the Lord should seem to kill them with unkindness, "yet they will put their trust in him," (Job 13:15); knowing that for all this "their Redeemer liveth," (Job 19:25); so strong is "the joy of their Lord," (Neh 8:10). These are the people that are kept in perfect peace, because their minds are stayed in the Lord, (Isa 26:3).
Wherefore, my dear friends and loving neighbours, I beseech you to take heed of deeming any estate happy, until you come to find this true peace and rest to your souls in God. Oh, beware, lest any of you do content yourselves with a peace rather of speculation than of power! Oh, be not satisfied with such a peace as consists either in the act of oblivion or neglect of examination! nor yet in any brain- sick supposition of knowledge, theological or divine; and so frame rational conclusions, to protract time and still the cries of an accusing conscience. But let your hearts take their last farewell of false felicities, wherewith they have been, all of them, more or less, detained and kept from their true rest. Oh, be strong in resolution! and bid them all farewell; for what have your souls to do any longer among these gross, thick, and bodily things here below, that you should set your love upon them, or see happiness in them? your souls are of a higher and purer nature; and therefore their well-being must be sought in something that is higher and purer than they, even in God himself.
True it is, that we are all of us, indeed, too unclean to touch God in immediate unity; but yet there is a pure counterpart of our natures,375375Namely, the pure and spotless human nature of Christ. and that pure humanity is immediately knit to the purest Deity; and by that immediate union you may come to a mediate union; for the Deity and that humanity being united, make one Saviour, head, and husband of souls. And so you being married to him, that is, God in him, you come also to be one with God: he one by a personal union, and you one by a mystical. Clear up then your eye, and fix it on him, as on the fairest of men, the perfection of a spiritual beauty, the treasure heavenly joy, the true object of most fervent love. Let your spirits look, and long, and seek after this Lord: let your souls cleave to him, let them hang about him, and never leave him, till he be brought into the chambers of your souls; yea, tell him resolutely, you will not leave him, till you hear his voice in your souls, saying, "My well-beloved is mine, and I am his"; yea, and tell him, you are "sick of love." Let your souls go, as it were, out of your bodies and out of the world, by heavenly contemplations; and treading upon the earth with the bottom of your feet, stretch your souls up, to look over the world, into that upper world, where her treasure is,376376Your soul's. and where her beloved dwelleth.
And when any of your souls shall thus forget her own people, her father's house, Christ her King shall so desire her beauty, (Psa 45:10,11), and be so much in love with her, that, like a loadstone, this love of his shall draw the soul in pure desire to him again; and then, "as the hart panteth after the rivers of waters, so will your soul pant after God," (Psa 42:1).
And then, according to the measure of your faith, your souls shall come to have a real rest in God, and be filled with joy unspeakable and glorious.
Wherefore, I beseech you, set your mouths to this fountain Christ, and so shall your souls be filled with the water of life, with the oil of gladness, and with the new wine of the kingdom of God; from him you shall have weighty joys, sweet embracements, and ravishing consolations. And how can it be otherwise, when your souls shall really communicate with God, and by faith have a true taste, and by the spirit have a sure earnest of all heavenly preferments; having, as it were, one foot in heaven, whilst you live upon earth? Oh then, what an eucharistical love377377A love of thanksgiving, bearing thankfulness in its nature. will arise from your thankful hearts, extending itself first towards God, and then towards man for God's sake! and then, according to the measure of your faith, will be your willing obedience to God, and also to man for God's sake; for obedience being the kindly fruit of love, a loving soul bringeth forth this fruit as kindly as a good tree bringeth forth her fruit; for the soul, having tasted Christ in a heavenly communion, so loves him, that to please him is a pleasure and delight to herself: and the more Christ Jesus comes into the soul by his Spirit, the more spiritual he makes her; and turns her will into his will, making her of one heart, mind, and will, with him.
So that, for a conclusion, this I say, that if the everlasting
love of God in Jesus Christ be truly made known to your souls, according to the
measure thereof, you shall have no need to frame and force yourselves to love and do
good works, for your souls will ever stand bound378378Or constrained by the force of that love.
to love God, and to keep his
commandments, and it will be your meat and drink to do his will. And truly
this love of God will cut down self-love and love of the world, for the sweetness of
Christ's Spirit will turn the sweetness of the flesh into bitterness, and the
sweetness of the world into contempt. And if you can behold Christ with open face, you shall
see and feel things unutterable, and be changed from beauty to beauty, from
glory to glory, by the Spirit of this Lord, and so be happy in this life, in your
union with happiness, and happy hereafter in the full fruition of happiness:379379That is, of God himself in Christ.
whither the Lord Jesus Christ bring us all in his due time. Amen.
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