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Commending ourselves to every man’s conscience.
OUR business must be at this time (as you foreknow) the application of two of those observations together, which have been gathered from these words, (two doctrines applied together;) to wit, the second, that the great business of the ministry lies in an immediate transaction with men’s consciences; and the third, That this transaction with the conscience of men is to be managed in the sight of God. These two have been opened, and are now to be applied together; and there are many things which it is very obvious to infer from the one or the other of them. As,
1. That therefore, in carrying on the ministerial work, such things are mostly to be insisted on, as are most accommodate to conscience, and are apt to take hold of it; and about which we may, with the greatest confidence and clearness, appeal to the consciences of men: when once it is understood what principle in men we are to apply ourselves to in the ministerial work, it is then very obvious to collect what sort of things we are principally, to insist upon in the managing of it. And you see what that principle is; it is not that we are wont to call wit, or fancy, or honour, or even the speculative understanding, or a disposition to religious disputes, about little, and doubtful, and less necessary matters; much less is it carnal appetite and inclination, that is to be concerned, so as to be pleased, or (at least) not to be displeased, not to be crossed, not to be vexed, not contended against; and, therefore, the things we have to say to men, in carrying on of our ministerial work, they must be quite of another nature from what would accommodate such principles as these in them. And you may easily apprehend how instructive this inference may be to all of you; and I hope you do apprehend it, though in the direct aspect of it, it doth only respect gospel ministers. And you might very well think it strange, 86and very little worth the while, that so many hundreds of persons should come together, only to hear ministers preach to one another; but yet, when you do understand what is fit for us to preach, you will also understand what is fit for you to hear, and what is necessary for you to receive, and to expect, and covet to hear most of all, and before other things; and so you cannot but see of how universal concernment, what I now infer, must be to us all; that is, that you are not to expect from us, (if we will faithfully pursue that which is our proper work, of applying ourselves directly and closely to the consciences of men;) you are not to expect (I say) fine and quaint sentences, elegant and well-formed orations; you are not to expect curious airy notions, and speculations; and much less are you to expect, that we should only prophesy to you smooth and pleasant things, that we may be sure will not offend, that will not bear hard upon any man’s inclinations, how ill or irregular soever they may be; you cannot think any thing of this to be our business, when we have conscience to deal with in this matter, and are to apply ourselves immediately and directly thither, and in the sight of God, and under his eye: nor are you to expect that we should entertain you much with perplexed disputes about little and disputable matters; and which, commonly, by how much the more disputable they are, are so much the less necessary, God having so mercifully provided, that those things that should be most necessary, should be always plain, and so should need the least dispute. I know some have wondered, that when divers have very much concerned themselves in this juncture of time, both from the pulpit, and by the press, to propagate disputes about lesser differences, in matters of religion there should be so great a silence about these things among us; and we must really and freely declare to you, we have no leisure to mind those lesser things, we are taken up about greater, and we think we are Hound to be taken up about unspeakably greater things. I do consider again and again, that saying of the apostle, “Study to be quiet, and do your own business.” (Thess. iv. 11.) And for my part, I think this to be our business,—to deal with the consciences of men in the plainest and most important things, such as are most apt to fasten upon and take hold of conscience, for as to those lesser things, there is much that is very disputable about them; some indeed do think those things to be indifferent, which others think to be unlawful in the worship of God; yet 87this is plain then, by consent on both sides, that they may be safely enough let alone, as to what they carry in themselves; and, therefore, we content ourselves to let them alone. This is plain, they may be well let alone: and when the apostle doth here speak of this thing, “by manifestation of the truth, commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God,” you see what, and about what things it was, by what follows:—“If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost;” why then, by the manifestation of such truth as is necessary to prevent men being lost; that is, as is necessary in itself to their salvation, that they may not be lost; it was by such things by which they sought to commend themselves to the conscience of every man, in the sight of God. I know, indeed, there is a necessity, commonly alleged by some for these lesser things; that is, that though they are not necessary in themselves, they may become necessary as being enjoined. It is very true, indeed, if that were agreed on both sides, that they were indifferent,—we could readily say so with them; but they themselves very well know that that is not the state of the case between them and us; while on the one side such things are indifferent, on the other side, it is said, in the worship of God it is unlawful. And though it be true, indeed, that we are bound to obey every injunction of man, for the Lord’s sake; yet we are bound to obey none of them against him; therefore, that is plain, about things in dispute, the safest way is to be unconcerned, in matters of which, there is some doubt. And every good man must concur with us in this principle, though the particular application of it to this or that case, the peculiarity and difference of their own judgment, obligeth them to disagree; but we shall certainly agree with all good and serious men, that differ from us about these lesser matters, in insisting principally and chiefly upon such matters as are necessary to save souls from being lost; for it is plain, that good and serious men do so too. And let those matters alone for the most part, and have as little mind to concern themselves about them, as we have; and no doubt, but that when we shall more generally agree to pursue such things most, as tend to promote and propagate the power of godliness, and keep it alive, and prevent (as much as in us is) all from acquiescing and taking up their rest, in any form whatsoever without it; when we shall all agree to make it our common business, to press the things that 88do belong to living, real substantial godliness; and mutually to seek one another’s common welfare, as we would do our own: when we agree to press and insist on these two great capital things, upon which hang all the law and the prophets; that is, loving the Lord our God, with all our hearts, and with all our souls, and with all our might, and with all our mind, and loving our neighbour as ourselves; I doubt not, but as to all these lesser differences, or differences about lesser matters, either we shall come to an agreement about them too, in time; or our disagreement will be upon the matter, equal to an agreement;—that is, we shall disagree without displeasure, without being angry at one another for our disagreement; or, because that such and such will not make our consciences the measure and standard of their’s,—a poor matter of quarrel, and certainly a most unrighteous one, that I should be offended at any man, because he will not make my conscience the measure of his; and it is upon the matter, all one in this our present state, whether there be a full and throughout agreement in every little thing, in judgment or practice; or, whether we can, very contentedly, bear with one another’s differences. If we can do so, if we can disagree with one another modestly, and without expecting that another should resign and surrender the judgment of his conscience to the government of mine: If we can disagree with an humble sense of our common, yet remaining ignorance, and how little do all of us know, and how much yet needs to be added to our knowledge, even about the most important things; truly, disagreement upon such terms, so placid, so charitable, so calm, so unapt to offend, and which doth so little offend, will be a good step,—the next step to a perfect throughout agreement. It may be, that will never be in this world, or while our earthly state continues. But if our disagreement be thus managed, it will be less material; whether it be or no unto our peace, it can never be necessary unto them that are of a peaceable temper and disposition of themselves aforehand; but they who are not so, that have an unpeaceable temper and disposition in them, will always find one matter of quarrel, and another; and if such things were once composed and taken up, would be sure to find out others; but this we may always reckon upon, that such as will be faithful in the ministerial work, we must expect to hear from them such things (as you have heard) that may carry in them a recommendableness to the consciences of men: in which, 89when conscience is urged with matter of duty upon them, it will apprehend a bonum: my conscience tells me I shall be the better for it if I take this course, if I walk in such away as the great things which concern the substance of religion direct unto, whereas those lesser matters, when you come to seek in them for a bonum, search into them for what they have of real good in them; you think to grasp at them for somewhat, and you grasp at nothing; you go to embrace them, and you embrace only a shadow, and hug an empty cloud and no more. They are things which conscience cannot feel to have any real and substantial goodness in them;—that then is the first thing hence inferred. Are we, in our ministerial work, to apply and commend ourselves to the consciences of men, and even in the sight of God? We then must deal with them about such things; that are most apt and accommodate to this purpose, to take hold of men’s consciences.
2. If the work of the ministry do lie so much about men’s consciences, we must reckon that the work of the Holy Ghost (who is to animate this ministry, and make it prosperous) must lie first and most immediately about the consciences of men too; not that it takes up there, but it is through conscience that it must touch men’s hearts. “We commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God; but if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost, in whom the God of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not. But God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined into our hearts, to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ.” If you view the series of the discourse, you will find that that speaks (as well as the matter speaks) itself, that God’s way is to shine into hearts through convinced consciences: and this ministration, in all the foregoing chapter that the apostle refers to, is called the manifestation of the Spirit, and by it we are “changed into the same image from glory to glory, beholding, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord; to wit, as by the Spirit of the Lord.” “Therefore,” (saith the apostle) in the following words, “having received this ministry, we faint not;” a ministry, managed by the Holy Ghost. Now, if the immediate first subject of this ministry hath to do with the consciences of men, then the consciences of men must be that which the Holy Ghost must have to do with too; for the supreme Agent, and the subordinate, are both to operate upon the same subject,90—as you now that are writing, your hand and pen write upon the same paper, and not your hand upon one, and your pen upon another. It is conscience that is the seat of conviction, and thither the Holy Ghost, by the gospel ministry, doth apply itself for this purpose; “When he is come, he shall convince the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” (John xvi. 8.) The Comforter, (so we read it,) when he is come, shall do so and so, but sure we do much misread it when we read it so. Paracletos is the word, the paraclete, the proper signification is the advocate or pleader, a pleader as at law. The disciples were here overwhelmed with sorrow, to think what would become of them when their Lord was gone, of which he had been immediately foretelling them; “Because I have told you that I must be gone from you, sorrow hath filled your heart;” that is, they did recount with themselves, since he had told them, in the close of the foregoing chapter, that they should be witnesses for him, because they had been with him from the beginning; then, think they, the whole weight and stress of the Christian cause in this world lies upon our shoulders, and we shall surely sink under it; Who are we that we should think to set up a new religion in the world,—a religion, against which all sorts, both Jews and Gentiles have so rooted and natural a prejudice? What, are we for this? Why, saith our Lord Christ, never trouble yourselves, when I go, the advocate shall come,—that pleader, that mighty pleader; and he shall make strange work in the world when once he comes; he shall take up my cause; whereas I have been traduced and charged as a seducer, and a deceiver, he shall convince the world of sin, because they believe not in me, and of my righteousness and the equity of my righteous cause; and, thereupon, of the very completing and perfection of that righteousness, which is to be had by me, which depends thereupon; and of judgment, when I shall be known to be enthroned, and to have all government, and principality, and power, put under me, or into my hands, and so the Christian cause shall live, and spread, and triumph, when I am gone, and so much the more for my being so, for if I be not gone, that great pleader will not come, and when he comes, this shall be his great business, conviction,—he shall fasten such conviction upon the consciences of men, they shall not be able to withstand and baffle. Oh, when that mighty Spirit comes among us, then will no man be able to persist in a carnal 91course and habit of heart and life; but this Spirit will make them weary of it, they will never be able to endure the weight and pressure of his convictions, when through the gospel ministry he comes to fasten and take hold of consciences, and to implead them upon such an account. What? Is this christianity? Is this like a living union with the Son of God, the Lord from heaven? To live continually like worms of this earth, grovelling in the dust, always minding and savouring no higher, and no greater thing? But, again,
3. Is the ministerial work to be managed in the very sight of God, with the consciences of men? Then (this having a very ill look upon the kingdom and interest of the wicked one) it is obvious further to infer, that the devil’s work must lie very much too about the consciences of men; that is to blind conscience, to cheat conscience, to deceive conscience, to disguise and misrepresent things to the consciences of men; so you see it allows, if our gospel be hid,—if it doth not reach home with convictive and energetical light to the very consciences of men, it is because “the god of this world hath blinded their minds;” it doth reach home with such light, except to them that are lost, in whom the god of this world hath blinded their minds. If men cannot see what is their way and duty in very plain and evident things; as that a man, who was a sinner even by nature, and under wrath, can never be acceptable to God, but for the sake of a Redeemer; and never for his sake, if he have not living union with him, if he be not in him, and so in him as to be a new creature,—old things being done away, and all things being become new. If men cannot see truth in so plain matters as these, that speak themselves to every man’s conscience, it is, because the God of this world hath blinded their eyes. If the work of the Gospel, and of the Spirit that breathes in it, be with the consciences of men, the devil’s work must lie there too; if it be possible to blind conscience and disguise things to conscience; that is, to corrupt men’s judgments of things, and to make them to apprehend things otherwise than they are. And so it was that he did apply himself to our first parents, only by putting false glosses upon those plain preceptive and minatory words that should have obliged and awed conscience. Oh, never think God meaneth such severity to you, ye shall not die if you eat of this fruit; never think he intended you should die; no, this is that will 92make you wise and knowing, far beyond what you arc, you will be as gods, knowing good and evil. His business was to put a false gloss and colour upon things, to deceive their judgments and consciences, and to lead them into transgression, and this his design is still to keep men in that state of apostacy into which he had drawn them from returning to God, only by imposing upon and cheating their consciences. Notwithstanding this loose and careless course you hold, never trouble yourselves, all will be well enough, a formal religion will serve the turn, and be less painful and laborious to you than that real one, and that living one that is from time to time so much pressed upon you. It will serve your turn to go to church, or go to a meeting, and hear a sermon on the Lord’s day, and live as you list all the week long, you never need concern yourselves further. All the devil’s care is to keep conscience from doing its duty and its proper office, that if it be applied and appealed to by us, in the ministry of the gospel, you may not attend it; it may not be at leisure to hear what we say, that it may be kept asleep, or diverted some way or other, or that it may otherwise attend things than according to the truth,
4. We may further infer, hence, that since the business of the ministry is to transact with conscience, from time to time, in the very sight of God: they that live under such a ministry, if conscience ever come to be awakened into exercise, they must live a very weary life, if they live in a course of sin and estrangement from God. They that will, (I say,) under such a ministry, sin on still, and wander from God, still they will lead a very weary life; it must needs be a very uneasy course that such must hold in the world; for if conscience be awakened and do attend, they will be continually hearing things that tend to disturb and disquiet them, and make them apprehend danger, and see themselves like to be ruined, and undone, and lost, in the course that they hold: and therefore, certainly, the case is very deplorable of such persons, who, under such a minis try, do still live in sin, whether they live in a course of very gross wickedness, or whether they keep in a course of vain formal religion, and no more. They must be very uneasy if conscience be awake; and if conscience be not awake, it is worse, and their case more deplorable. And really it is dismal to think of it, that such persons should hear so much, from day to day, that hath a tendency in it 93to make them to fear and suspect their present way, and present state, with so little effect; for on they go, only because (though that be uneasy to them) they apprehend to get that sin subdued and mortified, that hath governed in them and had the throne, will be more uneasy; and since it comes to pass, that, things being brought to this pass, either sin must be mortified, or conscience must be mortified, they betake themselves to the latter. If they cannot be patient of it, that, sin must die, and undergo mortification, then, of consequence, they must betake themselves to this, that conscience must undergo this dying and mortification; and so, really, they have a very uneasy task of it, that they must, for their own peace sake, be continually fighting against conscience, from one Lord’s day to another, and endeavouring that it may let them alone in their old security, in their old carnality, in their old neglect of God. Here is their business with their consciences. Oh, conscience, let me live in neglect of Christ, and be quiet! Let me live fearless of God in this life, and be quiet! Let me live a prayerless life, and be quiet! But conscience cannot very easily submit to let such be quiet, because there are such courses taken, from time to time, while they live under such a ministry, whereby we must be applying ourselves to their consciences, in the sight of God. This awakens conscience afresh, and then it must be laid asleep again; so toilsome and uneasy a way of it have some to perdition; they are fain to fight their way to hell, even through so many and so great difficulties. And,
5. We may further infer, that if the gospel ministry is principally to be taken up in dealing with the consciences of men in the sight of God, it can be no shame to any man to be in this way conquered and subdued, and brought under to the foot of God in Christ; it can be no shame to any body to be thus conquered: for to be conquered by conscience, is, upon the matter, to be conquered by himself. You have no reason to be ashamed to be conquered by yourself; you yield to yourself in the case; you yield to your own light, that which God hath made your own; you yield to your convinced judgment; you have no cause to be ashamed of that. It is a shame for a man to be cheated, to be imposed upon, to be made to appear a fool, as every sinner is that goes on in the way of his own heart, “disobedient, and deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures.” Titus iii. 3. But it is no shame for a man to be undeceived; it is no shame for a man to be brought to exercise 94a right judgment, once certified and set aright in him. This is a glory, to be thus conquered; you are indeed conquered; you alter your course; you cease to be what you were: but it is brought to that pass, you do but yield to yourself, yield to your own light, yield to your own judgment, and to the power of that conviction you see is no longer to be withstood. And upon the same account,
6. They that do conquer conscience and gospel-light in such a sense, have no reason to boast of their victory; they have very little reason to brag; they that can say and tell their companions, I have heard such and such a sermon, and it put me into a deadly qualm; I knew not what to do; my heart almost failed me, and began to misgive me; and I began to think within myself, I must alter my course, must become a Christian in good earnest: I had such thoughts as these, and such inclinations, but I have over come them; I have conquered conscience; I have got the victory over them. Alas! these men have little reason to boast of this, of having conquered their reason, judgment, conscience, and light, and made these to give place to lust and sensual inclinations; when a man hath been summoned and called into the presence of God, and hath had so mighty a load laid upon his spirit, as to have such a thing contested with him in the sight of God, and under the divine eye, yet he hath conquered it, got the victory; this, certainly, he hath no cause to boast or brag of. A dismal victory! a few such victories as these. will undo him quite. If God should let you carry the cause, carry the victory, from day to day, this victory will end in a total and endless ruin. Again,
7. We may further infer, that, since this ministerial work is to be managed with the very consciences of men in the sight of God, it is one of the most weighty solemn things that a man can possibly go about, to hear a sermon where he is likely to be dealt with at this rate; that is, generally to go to hear a gospel sermon, according to the true import of the gospel, and the true design of the gospel ministry, it is one of the awfullest solemnest things that a man can go about in the world; for he ought to reckon in this case, I am now going to such a place, and for what? Why, it is to hear a sermon, in which I expect my conscience is to be appealed to all along; and it is to be appealed unto in the sight of God; and the minister will summon me into the presence of God: and if I do not yield,—but my heart hesitates, and stands off,—I expect to hear 95this from him; Come, let you and I debate this matter in the sight of God, before the throne of God, and see if you know how to baffle conscience, and reject its convictions, in the sight of God, and while God looks on and audits the business between you and me, and between you and your own consciences. It is a great thing to go to hear a sermon upon such terms: many little think what they do, when they run to a sermon as they would to a play, or to such a meeting as they would to a bear-baiting: but if they would but consider what the gospel ministry is, and wherein it lies, in a transaction with men’s consciences, and that transaction to be managed in the sight of God, they would find it an awful thing to go to hear a sermon upon these terms.
2d Use. And, therefore, now for a conclusion to be added to these inferences, as somewhat of further use, pray let this put you, in the next place, upon reflection, upon considering; you have lived long under the gospel, under the ministry of it; the very business whereof was to transact with your consciences in the sight of God. Pray do but inquire,
1. Have you been wont to engage your consciences in. this transaction? And,
2. Have you been wont to do it as in the sight of God, yea or nay? for hitherto you have been called, to this you have been called; your consciences have been applied and appealed to: have you heard their voice answering thus; Why, I am called to a transaction, to my part in a transaction I agree readily, my conscience shall be appealed to? And, further, have you agreed the transaction shall be in the sight of God, answering thus; “I am willing to be judged by the impartial supreme Judge, and if I cannot approve myself in his sight, I will condemn and abase myself in his sight?” I pray, hath it been wont to be so with you in that long tract of time wherein you have sat under the gospel? Have you engaged conscience in such a transaction as this? And have you done it in the sight of God, from time to time? If you have not, hence is your not profiting; hence is your sitting under the gospel, from year to year, to no purpose. Conscience hath been spoken to, and would never answer; you have been careful to keep it asleep, to keep it undisturbed; you have declined the divine presence; you would not come and present yourselves before the judicature of God; you have laboured to stifle all such thoughts as much as in you was; your case is, 96then, as our Saviour represents it with the Jews: “Whereto shall I liken this generation; they are like children sitting in the market place, and calling their fellows, and saying, we have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented.” Matt. xi. 16. Even so it is with this generation. And is it not so with our generation, too? We speak to the consciences of men, and they do not echo back; they give no correspondent answer: when we would transact with them, they are dead, or asleep. And hence, no good is done; conscience is not engaged; it will not advert to the business in hand; it minds it not: and thereupon the kingdom of God doth not suffer violence, (Matt. xi. 12.) as in that same context; “For until now (saith our Saviour) the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” But now there is a dead calm, a dead flat, and we pipe to men, and they do not dance; we mourn to them, and they do not lament; there is no echo, no correspondent voice. This is now (saith he) the case of this generation. But I might here be a little more particular in my inquiry. And,
1. You know you have been often urged and pressed, as to a thing wherein the very substance of all religion doth inchoatively consist and He, all serious and living religion; that is, a solemn surrender of yourselves to God in Christ. “Yield yourselves to God.” Rom. vi. 13. “Present yourselves to him a living sacrifice.” Rom. xii. 1. As it is said of those Christians, “They gave themselves to the Lord.” 2; Cor. viii. 5. Hath not this been a thing plain to your consciences, that you ought to have done so? And have none of you lived in the neglect of it to this day? You could never find a leisure time wherein solemnly to apply yourselves to God in Christ, and say, Lord, I now come to surrender to thee thine own; I have brought thee back a stray, a wandering creature, myself, my own self: accept a poor wandering soul, that now desires to give up itself to thee, and take thee, in Christ, for mine. A plain thing as anything can be to any conscience of man: conscience hath been frequently applied to in this case, as in the sight of God, and yet, from year to year, no such thing as this hath ever been done. Again,
2. To consider how often you have been spoken to about solemn preparation for such a day’s work as this; to come with prepared hearts, in some measure, at least to design to come prepared to the holy solemnities of such a day. 97God knows how often you have been applied to, and conscience hath been spoken to in this matter; but with what effect, you in great part know, that still are wont to rush upon the sacred solemnities of such a day without considering—It is for my life, for my soul; it is in order to eternity, that I am approaching into the presence of God; and that it is that God that made me, I have to do with; him I am going to serve, him I am going to seek.
3. How often hath conscience been appealed to about prayer? A course of prayer? Of secret closet prayer, and family prayer? God knows with what effect. A dismal thing, if any of you have suffered a conviction of conscience about this years ago, and yet still live in the neglect of this, against conscience, to this very day. And,
4. About the great business of watchfulness, concerning which we have heard so much of late. Conscience hath been there applied to, as in the sight of God. Pray consider, are any of us become more watchful for it over our spirits, and over our way and course? It will be of great concernment to us, to urge ourselves, faithfully, and impartially, with such questions and inquiries as these.
And then, to close all, pray hereupon let us be persuaded and prevailed upon more to commune with conscience, and to commune with it in the sight of God, seeing we are in the sight of God put upon it. And to comply with conscience, yield to it, comport with it, and if (as was said) we cannot find our case to admit of it, that our consciences should justify us before God, let our consciences condemn us before God, let them judge us before God. If we judge ourselves, we shall not be judged of the Lord: we shall then have the matter thus taken up between him and us; otherwise, we still remain liable to his severe and uncontroulable judgment. And to urge. this, pray do but weigh these few things.
1. That conscience, often baffled, will grow stupid. It is the way to stupify conscience to baffle it often: if you get an habit of that, of running counter to light, and of imposing upon conscience, and bearing it down, it will become so tamely passive, that it will lay no restraint upon you,—you may do what you will; conscience will say no more, but let you take your course.
2. If you do so, the Spirit of God will retire too, and withdraw, and not assist conscience, which (as we are told) it doth in a way of reflex operation; but it doth as much (no doubt) in a way of direct operation, too: it 98works with conscience; and then conscience ceaseth, when there is a cessation of all such exercise with conscience; the Spirit can no more converse with us, than with that which is dead; when that thing is dead, quite dead, mortified into a total utter death, wherewith the Spirit of God should converse with us, then it retires, and is gone, in displeasure, as being grieved, vexed, and quenched. Oh, what a dreadful thing is that! It is a terrible thing when the Spirit is retired and gone, merely upon that resistance that he hath met with in our consciences. His business was to co-operate with them, to work with them, and by them. And we have made it our business to stupify conscience, to stifle and suppress it: and if the Spirit be gone thereupon in displeasure, this is a fearful thing. And consider,
3. That if, through the mercy of God, conscience should ever yet awake, and the Spirit return, by how much the longer it hath been stifled, so much the more terrible it will roar upon you, when it doth return. And if you be saved at length, you will be “saved as by fire,” as I may allude to those words of the apostle. But,
4. If it never awake in this world, by how much the more industriously it hath been kept asleep in you, and by how much the less it hath done the part of an instructor and director, so much the more it will do the work of a tormentor hereafter, an everlasting tormentor. And this is a most dismal thing, for an intelligent immortal spirit to come down into perdition, into the place of torment, with open eyes, and to be asked there, “How earnest thou hither?” and to be forced to answer, “It was by running all my time against my light; it was by contending against my conscience, and the grace of the Spirit of God, to the very last; so I made my way to perdition.” Then that conscience that could never be heard before, will be heard then, and will be felt; the worm that dies not, gnawing eternally, even eternally upon the soul, amidst that fire and those flames that shall never be quenched. But, in the last place,
5. Consider, too, the sweet peace and tranquillity that must ensue upon complying with conscience all along; following its light, obeying its convictions, keeping up a correspondence betwixt your judgments and consciences, and the temper of your spirits, and the course of your walking. This is an heaven upon earth. If our hearts condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God. 99Upon these terms we may look in upon our souls, and be hold all quiet: I have seen my way, and walked in it, as the grace of God hath kept me. “This is my rejoicing, the testimony of a good conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity; not by fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, I have had my conversation in the world;” which is heaven on this side heaven. How pleasant Sabbaths would you keep on these terms, when, looking back upon the last week, you have the testimony of your conscience; I have laboured to my uttermost to exercise a good conscience towards God and towards men, according to the light that I have received from his word, and by that gospel ministry under which I am? With how much peace shall a man upon one Lord’s day look back upon his course through the foregoing week, since the former Lord’s day? This would make Sabbaths pleasant days to you, upon the review of that sweet commerce you have had with him in former times, and in expectation of being thus led on, from Sabbath to Sabbath, to the everlasting Sabbath, at length, that remains for the people of God.
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