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Sermon XII. Enoch’s walk with God.
[The date of this sermon appears to be October 8, 1675.]
“And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.” — Gen. v. 24.
This Enoch here spoken of hath the most considerable circumstances of any one of the patriarchs before the flood, nor was there any more but one afterwards, under the law, equal unto him; for he was a prophet, and foretold, as, no doubt, of other things needful unto the then present state of the church, so in particular of the future judgments of God, and the manner of them, on ungodly sinners, with the causes and reasons of those judgments. This part of his prophecy was revived by the Holy Ghost, and reported unto us by Jude, verses 14, 15. And although therein he seems principally intend the general judgment of the last day, yet he doth it so as include other lesser days of public judgment, when the patience of God being as it were wearied with the preventions of men, he hath testified his wrath from heaven against them in calamitous desolations. Such were the flood, the conflagration of Sodom, the destruction of Jerusalem; which, with other things of an alike nature, he foretold.
And herein he was also, as his great-grandchild Noah, a “preacher of righteousness” unto that generation; for the application of his prophecies 502was to deter men from profaneness, and to call them to repentance.
The state of things at this time in the world was very evil and corrupt, as being far engaged into that condition which, not long after, came unto a universal apostasy, Gen. vi. 5, 11–13. In the days of Enos there had been some reformation attempted, as the children of God by profession had separated themselves from the profane and wicked posterity of Cain, Gen. iv. 26: but at this time the degenerate offspring of Seth, the generality of visible professors, began to mix themselves in society, have communication and practice wickedness with the profane, scoffing, apostate world; an account whereof is given, Gen. vi. 1–4. And as those days were full of sin, so were they full of danger, persecution, and oppression, unto all that feared God. This Enoch in his prophecy expresseth a sense of the “hard speeches,” — that is, revilings and reproaches, — that were cast upon God; that is, on his servants and his ways: and we do know that such things in a multitude of ungodly men, accompanied with power, do not use to go alone. And, besides, the whole earth was then filled with violence and oppression; wherein those who feared God had no doubt the greatest share in suffering.
In this state and condition of things, both in the world and the church, we yet see in this instance of Enoch, — 1. That, under the most universal and deplorable apostasy of professors, God will maintain some to bear witness unto his truth, ways, and worship, against the profane wickedness of the children of men, until he comes unto the bounds and limits appointed in his wisdom unto his patience, whereon the universal destruction of apostates shall ensue; and, 2. That no difficulties, discouragements, dangers, reproaches, persecutions, violences, oppositions, shall, can, or ought, to hinder any in, or terrify them from, the duty of bearing witness unto God and his cause in their generation, which they are called unto.
Again; we may observe of this Enoch, that his continuance in this world was but short in comparison of the rest of mankind, — scarce half the days of any one whose years are numbered before the flood, his father and his son being the longest livers that ever were in the world; for it is not long life, but public service for God, that we are to esteem a blessing in this world. A little time filled up with service and duty is inexpressibly to be preferred before a multitude of days spent in unprofitableness and vanity.
But yet while he was such an eminent prophet, a faithful preacher and witness for God, the Holy Ghost, intending to declare that rare privilege whereof he was made partaker above the residue of mankind, makes mention of none of those things whereunto it should have respect but only of his walking with God. And this is twice mentioned, 503as that which God had a peculiar regard unto, in the signal testimony of divine favour which he was made partaker of.
That, therefore, which is ascribed unto him here is, that “he walked with God;” the consequent whereof is, that “he was not;” and the reason of that consequent is, “because God took him.”
I shall not discourse any thing about the manner of this taking of Enoch, which our apostle calls “translation;” only we may observe that it is here doubly expressed:— 1. By his ceasing to be in the world: “He was not” 2. By God’s receiving of him into another state out of this world: “For God took him.” And the first is expressed with respect unto his state in the world. His life, no doubt, was like unto that of Elijah, his only associate in this favour from the foundation of the world, — full of labour, sorrow, persecution, danger, and trouble. His deliverance from this state and condition is that which is expressed in that word, “And he was not” He was no more exposed to the reproaches, and hard speeches, and violences of ungodly men. And although this was a peculiar way of deliverance, yet in general a deliverance it was, and that in and from as woful and calamitous a time as ever was since the foundation of the world. And that which I shall observe from hence is, — That walking with God is the only way to preserve and deliver any from the calamities of general apostasies, in wickedness, violence, and destruction. Many other ways men may contrive for this end, but this alone will be effectual. Some, scoff, 2 Pet. iii. 3, 4; some at such a season live in security, as did then the generality of the world until the flood came, Matt. xxiv. 38, 39; some have hopes that either all things will grow better, or that they will not be so bad as some fear and imagine, 1 Thess. v. 8; some expect sudden changes of all things into a better condition, — whereunto, as unto desire, I could say with the prophet Jeremiah, Amen, but profess withal that I believe it not [possible] on such easy terms as are imagined, Mal. ii. 2, Amos v. 18; some have many contrivances for their own personal safety, let what will fall out: but it will appear at last that it is this walking with God alone that will give us assured deliverance, so as that, when we are not, God will take us.
Enoch was a great prophet, and a great preacher, and a great patriarch; yet in his deliverance and translation there is no respect had unto these things, but only unto his walking with God. And this is that wherein you, who are neither prophets, nor preachers, nor of any great signification in the world, may be like unto him; and without which no other privileges whatever will avail us. Wherefore here is a common rule and duty expressed unto all, as the means and condition of a safe deliverance one way or other, which the meanest, the poorest, may have as good an interest in as the greatest and wisest in the world.
504Two things, therefore, I design to do:— 1. To show you what it is to walk with God, or wherein this walking with God doth consist, or what is required thereunto. 2. How this walking with God will be the means of our deliverance from the calamities of a general apostasy drawing towards destruction.
It is the first of these which I shall principally insist upon; wherein I shall endeavour to declare the true nature of a Christian’s daily walk with God, and what is required thereunto.
The great, comprehensive duty of walking with God, which expresseth the whole obedience of the new covenant, hath been treated of and spoken unto by many, whoso labours have been of great use in and profit unto the church of God; yet am I not discouraged from casting my mite also into the same treasury; and that partly because I have apparently observed some useful gleanings yet to be made after their vintage, and partly because I more particularly understand the state and condition of them unto whom I speak than any other can do, whence many directions may be taken for the directions which I shall give; for it is not so much walking with God absolutely and in general, as your walking with God in particular, which I design to guide and promote.
Two things herein I shall carefully avoid:— 1. Such a prolixity in handling of particulars, or the introduction of less necessary considerations or of such as may more properly be handled on other heads and occasions, as should weary or divert you, or turn you aside from being always in the consideration of what is offered, intent on this one thing of walking with God. Diversions and digressions may be useful and profitable on their proper occasions, where they be to the confirmation of doctrinal points, or the “confirmation of truth in controversy, or the full declaration of the nature of particular duties; but when a man’s only business is to attend unto his way and walk therein, it is not expedient to attend unto them. It is no part of his duty who undertakes to show and guide another in his way, for to speed his course, to lead him out of it, that he may See this or that pleasant town or place, though desirable, and though he brings him into his way again; but it is so to attend continually unto the way wherein he is. I shall therefore only insist on such things as belong directly, immediately, and necessarily, unto our duty, as it is formally walking with God, and not on anything that may be reduced thereunto. 2. Such brevity must be avoided as would occasion an omission of any important duty necessarily belonging hereunto, and that either absolutely or in the especial relation or circumstances wherein we may stand; yet I shall reduce all into as narrow a compass as I am able.
505Now, unto the directions which I have to give unto this purpose some few things must be premised; as, —
1. They are professed believers alone whom we consider in this matter, — those, I mean, who pass for and are esteemed as true believers in the church of God, upon the profession they make of faith and obedience. It may he some, it may be many, such there are who are not truly and savingly interested in that condition. But these directions, though not intended for them, yet may be of use unto them; for when they shall see what is the indispensable duty of all believers herein, finding themselves to come every way short thereof, it may be a means of discovering unto them their own self-deceiving, and so of a delivery from their ruinous condition. But hence it is that I shall give no directions about our first general repentance, conversion to God, regeneration, and the like; all which are supposed here, as also I have handled them at large elsewhere.412412 In the author’s treatise on the Holy Spirit, vol. iii. of his works. — Ed.
2. Whereas this walking with God respects the acting of our faith and obedience, we do suppose the nature of faith, obedience, and holiness in general, with their necessity and arguments for it, to be already received or admitted; and this part also of their great duty, wherein the foundations of it do lie, hath been elsewhere discoursed and declared. The principles whereby and the duties wherein we do or ought actually so to walk do alone now fall under consideration; and those we shall handle, both as unto the constant frame of our spirits and the daily acts of obedience that are required of us.
3. I shall not need to insist upon the explication of the metaphor of “walking with God,” or walking before him, which is commonly spoken unto and generally understood by all who concern themselves in these things. The Scripture doth variously express it unto us. It is “the life of God,” which wicked men are “alienated from,” Eph. iv. 18; that life which is from God, and Whereby we live unto God: “Not living unto ourselves, but unto him that died for us,” 2 Cor. v. 15. To “walk with God,” is to live to him in an especial manner, in and through Jesus Christ, who died for us, that we might have grace, power, and wisdom, so to do. It is instantly to serve God day and night,” Acts xxvi. 7; that is, to serve and obey him in the continual, intent performance of all the duties which he requireth of us. It is the “ordering of our conversation aright,” so as that we may “see the salvation of God,” Ps. l. 23; wherein we have “our conversation in heaven,” Phil. iii. 20; or it is so to walk as “to please God” in all things, 1 Thess. iv. 1.
Concerning this walking with God, I shall give these rules, which may both declare wherein it doth consist and also, give directions how we may be always found in the path thereof; as, —
506First, Be sure that the general, prevailing design of our whole souls be to live unto God. It is not enough that we perform the duties which are required of us, but our whole course is to be managed with design and purpose of heart. Every agent that doth any thing according to reason hath some scope and design in what he doth, which both influences and guides him therein. To live unto the satisfaction of present desires, appetites, lusts, pleasures, and to subordinate various contrivances unto them, is the life of brutes, and brutish, unreasonable men only. And if no man can lead this natural, or a civil life as becometh a rational creature, but he must guide it by design, much less can any one otherwise live unto God in a due manner.
So Barnabas exhorted the first Christians, that “with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord,” Acts xi. 23. To “cleave unto the Lord” is to “walk with him” or “before him” in faith and obedience. So Moses expresseth it, Deut. iv. 4, “Ye that did cleave unto the Lord your God are alive;’ that is, who by faith in his promises yielded obedience unto his commands, and so “walked with God.” Now, this is to be done “with purpose of heart;” that is, with the full design and resolution of our souls. David carries it up unto the highest solemnity of expression, Ps. cxix. 106, “I have sworn.” He respecteth his solemn covenant-engagement that he had made to God for universal obedience, with his resolution for its performance. This is that which I intend by this design, an express engagement of heart and soul constantly to pursue such an end. And this is that which God looketh on as such an eminent duty, Jer. xxx. 21, “Who is this that hath engaged his heart to approach unto me?’ It is not merely approaching unto God, but the engagement of the heart to do so in all instances of duty, that is so acceptable unto God.
The Lord severely threatens those persons that “walk contrary unto him,” and that with a multiplication of plagues upon them, Lev. xxvi. 21. The word is, and so is the meaning of the place, that “walk at all adventures with him.” They will walk with him in the performance of duties, it may be of all known duties, public and private; but they will do it “at all adventures,” — without design, or scope, or end, — without that reverent consideration that becometh those who walk with God; so that every occasion will either turn them out of the way or put a stop and end unto their walk. As two men may be walking together in the field, and they may both go the same way and at the same pace: but one of them hath a journey to go, a designed place that he would be at and must come to, or he utterly fails in his purpose; the other only walks for his health, or recreation, or diversion, or good company, without any certain design of an especial end, — that is, “at all adventures.” If a storm arise, if 507the rain fall, if weariness come on, the latter person either immediately turns out of the way for shelter, or returns quite back unto his own habitation; but the former, knowing that he hath a journey to go, an end proposed, which he must pursue, or it may be he shall be undone, the difficulties and oppositions which he meets with do but occasion him to fortify his resolution, and to stir up all his strength for its accomplishment. So it is with him that “walketh with God at all adventures,” — difficulties, temptations, occasions of life, do easily turn him out of the way, or put a stop unto his progress; but he that hath a fixed design, that “cleaveth unto the Lord with purpose of heart,” is prepared to conflict with all difficulties, not to faint on any discouragements, but still to press forward towards his course and end, the mark of the high calling set before him.
Secondly, It ought to be inquired what it is to live unto God, which we are thus to design.
I answer briefly, three things are required thereunto:— 1. That we make him our end; 2. That we make his will our only rule; 3. That we expect our strength and reward from him alone.
1. If we live to God, we make him our universal end. This can be but one in any one man at the same time, or in the same state and condition. A man may have various general ends in various conditions; as the same person, whilst he is unconverted to God hath one general end, and when he is converted another: but in the same state he can have but one end. Every man may have, every man hath, many particular ends, and these are every way consistent with each other. Every particular action hath its particular end, and every especial course of life hath its especial end, if it be ordered aright; — in civil things, men pursue their trades, to increase their wealth thereby, like those in James iv. 13, and to provide for their families, or the like; and every thing they do in that course hath its especial end also. And these may be multiplied, according unto men’s occasions. So also in duties of religion, men may have particular ends. As he that giveth an alms to the poor, his next, particular end is to relieve their necessity. And although these particular ends are good, and the things done with respect unto them are honest and good in their own nature, yet do they not absolutely render them good unto them by whom they are performed, seeing there is an universal end over all these particular ends, whereon depends the formal nature of all that we do with respect unto God. These particular ends, therefore, may be many and various, coordinate or subordinate one to another, yea, sometimes contrary and stirring up a fierce conflict in the minds of men, — as it is with persons under the power of strong convictions, as also with them that serve divers lusts and pleasures.
But as for universal ends, they are but two, and those so absolutely 508inconsistent that no man can make them both to be his ends at the same time; and these are God and self. No man can make both these to be his general and principal end. He whose end is God may do too many things for self, and he whose end is self may do many things for God, — and our duty it is to inquire whether is predominant in us, — but both of these cannot be our chief and universal end at the same time. This our Saviour fully instructs us in, in one great instance wherein self prevails, Matt. vi. 24. Our general end is our absolute master; we give up ourselves unto it without limitation or condition. And although in such a sense we may sometimes do this or that work for another on particular occasions, yet we cannot entertain ourselves for an hour in the service of another. He that maketh self his end and master may do many things for God, but he can in nothing make God his chief end, but comparatively he will love self, and hold to self, and God shall be despised; and so also on the contrary. How we may know what is our principal end, or what end the prevailing design of our souls is for, shall immediately be inquired into.
How, then, is God thus the chief end of them who design to live unto him, or wherein do they make him so to be?
In answer, Our living unto God as our chief end consists in two things:— (1.) Our doing of all things unto his glory; and, (2.) Our aiming in and above all things at the enjoyment of him.
(1.) He is so when we do all things unto his glory; which the Scripture expressly requireth of us. In actions natural and civil, and in things sacred or religious, “whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God,” 1 Cor. x. 31. This is in all things our principal end, if we live to God and not to self. That we may rightly understand it, we may observe, —
[1.] That, as we granted before, there are sundry particular ends that we may have in and unto all that we do. It is not so required of us to do all to the glory of God as not to have any lawful end of our own that may be subordinate thereunto. A sinful end, as the satisfaction of our lusts or self in any thing, we may not have; it is inconsistent with the general end proposed. So far as we attend unto it, we cross our principal end, if God be so. But such ends as are good in themselves are also allowed unto us. A man may eat and drink for the refreshment and sustentation of his nature, and may make that his end; so he may industriously labour in his particular calling, thereby to provide for himself and his family, and may make that his immediate end; yea, a man may use diversions and recreations for the relief and refreshment of his wearied nature, and make that his end. And so it may be in all instances, natural, civil, and religious; for all these ends may be as well subordinated unto the 509general end of living unto God as any of those actions may whose ends they are.
[2.] It is not, therefore, necessary that, in every particular action of our lives, of what sort soever it be, natural, civil, or religious, we should actually make the glory of God, or the glorifying of God, to be the immediate especial end of it. It may suffice, in many instances, that their particular ends be not inconsistent therewithal, but such as may be subordinated thereunto. Nevertheless, in greater duties, and such as the glory of God may have an immediate concernment in, such as are all acts of religious worship, there is an actual, especial intention of glorifying him, or of giving glory unto him; for that is the immediate end of all divine worship, which if it fail, the whole is lost. He, therefore, that lives to God, designs the immediate glorifying of him in all acts of his worship, and that by faith and the obedience thereof. And the like may be said of sundry actions, ways, and courses, which are of importance in our conversation in this world. Wherefore, —
[3.] There are these five things required in all who design so to live to God as to make his glory, or the glorifying of him, their principal end:—
1st. They are bound to prefer, esteem, and value, the glory of God above all other things whatever. This Moses testifieth himself to have done on that great occasion wherein the lives of so many thousands and the being of a whole nation were concerned, Num. xiv. 11–19. And so did Joshua on the like occasion, chap. vii. 8, 9. The glory of God carries it, in the minds of those that walk with him, against all competition. Sometimes the contest may be seen; as when the glory of God is apparently engaged one way, and all our temporal interests another. And much work there will be to bring the soul into an acquiescency, by the preference of the glory of God unto all lawful self-interest and natural affection. David failed here in the case of Absalom; and a due discharge of this duty was that which the tribe of Levi was so renowned for, Deut. xxxiii. 9. It hath respect unto their action in slaying their idolatrous relations, Exod. xxxii. 25–29. They were scattered for their progenitor preferring self-revenge by the sword before the glory of God, Gen. xlix. 7; and they are now consecrated to God by the sword, in preferring the glory of God above all natural affection and self-interest whatever. This is always to be done.
2dly. To order the general course of our lives in such a way as, considering our circumstances, may most conduce and tend unto the glory of God. I fear there is nothing among the most more neglected. Most men, indeed, are engaged into a course of life before they know how to choose for themselves with respect unto this great end; 510but supposing the way wherein they are so engaged to be in general according to the mind of God, as to that industrious use and improvement of our time which he requires of us, no small part of our wisdom and duty consists in ordering things so as that God may he glorified by us in the course of our conversation in our callings. This we ought to aim at, how we ought in them to walk so as to please God, and how to set forth his praise in all that we do. How this may he done will fall under many directions that shall be spoken unto afterwards.
3dly. To admit of nothing, to comply with nothing, that is contrary unto, or would in the least impeach, his glory. There is no man who makes God his end but he hath, in general, a careful circumspection in this matter. Possible it is that he may he surprised into particular actions that are derogatory unto the glory of God; but they are thereon his burden and his sorrow, as they were to David and to Peter, and will he so unto all true believers in instances of a much inferior nature, yea, in all that are any way contrary unto that regard which they owe to God’s glory. And it must be said, that he who hath not a watchful care influencing him continually herein, that nothing he admitted or complied withal, in his person or any of his relations or circumstances, so far as in him lies, which doth any way in the least interfere with God’s glory, doth not so live to God as to make him his chief good. And into how many considerations this doth branch itself will afterwards appear.
4thly. Constant prayer for the exaltation of God’s glory in the world, the church, and ourselves, answering a valuation of it in our hearts, is also required to this purpose. The Scripture is full of examples herein; and in that summary of prayer which is given us by our Saviour, the first and principal petition of it concerns singly this exaltation of the glory of God. Most men, indeed, do bring it into their prayers, — they are taught so to do; but if those prayers are not principled and animated by an inward, real, abiding esteem and love for the glory of God, they are of no value, nor any way accepted with God. But when we find our hearts so really affected with the concernments of God’s glory in the world as that we cannot hut he pouring them out unto God about them, it is an evidence that we make him our principal end.
5thly. Readiness to do many things on the sole account of God’s glory is also required hereunto. I have showed that there are particular and general ends of our moral actions, and how they differ. Now, our particular end cannot be made a general end, but our general end may be made a particular; that is, the immediate end of what we do, without the interposition of any other. So ought we to make the glory of God the particular end of much of what we 511do in the world, especially of what we suffer. Discarding all other considerations and motives, the concern of the glory of God is that which alone should influence us, and is itself the thing alone that we should aim at.
(2.) We live unto God as our Lord, when our principal aim is to enjoy him as our chief good. This is our utmost end and blessedness, the excellency and pre-eminence of our nature Consisting in its capacity for such a happiness. And there is a double enjoyment of God whereof we are capable; — the one present, in his love and favour; the other future, in the presence of his glory: and they are both intended in this rule.
[1.] Whoever lives to God as his chief end, prefers the present enjoyment of God, in his love and favour in Christ, before all other things in the world. So doth the psalmist, Ps. iv. 6, 7, Ps. lxiii. 3. Indeed, he walks not with God, nor glorifies him as God whose principal aim and endeavour in this world is not to enjoy his favour in Christ, and to be made partaker of the pledges of his love and grace. And we may observe concerning it, — 1st. That he who doth So will not have his endeavours after it, nor his care about it, nor his love to it, abated, in the greatest confluence of earthly mercies. Nor, 2dly. will he despond of finding rest and satisfaction in God under the greatest pressures imaginable. 3dly. It may be observed, also, that our aim and design at the present enjoyment of God in the tokens of his love is the true measure of what our real desires are to enjoy God in glory when we shall be here no more. For take that alone by itself, and it is a matter wherein men are very apt to deceive themselves. Every one would “die the death of the righteous,” and would, out of a natural desire of happiness, with traditional notions, wherein that must consist, come to the enjoyment of God. But all these things may be false and deceiving. We have, indeed, no more desire to come to the future immediate enjoyment of God than we have desire to enjoy him here in his love and favour by Christ at present. [But,]
[2.] The future enjoyment of God in glory is the great design of all that walk with God, and belongs in an especial manner unto our living unto him as our chief and utmost end. This is spoken out plainly in the nature of the thing itself; for if God be our chief good, ultimate end, and eternal reward, it cannot be but that our principal design must be to attain the enjoyment of him. And that this may be regular, two things are required:—
1st. That we look for it by the way that he hath appointed. Now, this is only by faith in Christ Jesus; for none can come to God but by him. God despiseth all attempts for the enjoyment of him by any other way or by any other means, as knowing that those who use them seek not him, but themselves. And therefore those natural desires 512which all men have, to go to God when they die, are no evidence that they either live to God or walk with him. They only are accepted in this duty who make Jesus Christ, with faith and obedience in him, the way of attaining their end.
2dly. That we aim at the enjoyment of God as a spiritual good, and at a holy, spiritual satisfaction in him. God is herein to be eyed as infinite holiness, infinite goodness, infinite power, all in an infinite, eternal being. Wherefore our blessedness in the enjoyment of God consists in our eternal contemplation of these things, and assimilation unto them, according unto our capacity and measure. This is that which is to be the object of our desires. For men to have carnal notions of God and glory, or those which will give satisfaction unto their natural appetites and affections, is but to dream away their souls into disappointment and misery.
And this is the first thing in them who design to live unto God, — namely, that in all things they make him their chief end.
2. Where the prevailing design of our souls is to live unto God, his revealed will is the rule and measure of all we do, either in religion or in our course in this world. God doth as much require that his will be our rule as that his glory be our end; and it is equally necessary that it should be so, from his nature and ours. If we make our own reason or our own desires to be our rule, we cast off our dependence on the rule of God, and make ourselves to be in the stead of God unto ourselves. But it is a principal part of the design insisted on to do what God would have us to do, and to be what God would have us to be; without which we can never either please God or have peace in our own souls. Now, that we may thus make the will of God in all things to be our rule and measure, to give bounds unto our affections and desires, and order unto our actions, it is necessary, —
(1.) To know it, and that we make it no small part of our endeavours so to do. All light, wisdom, knowledge, and direction, are laid up in the word of God. See Ps. xix. 7, 8, cxix. 98–100; 2 Tim. iii. 16, 17. But yet we must consider two things:— [1.] That many great and principal parts of this wisdom and these directions are laid deep and hidden, as in a treasury or a mine: hence there must be great diligence used to search after them, and, as it Were, to dig them out, Prov. ii. 3–5. God may teach men and instruct them, in his sovereign grace, as he pleaseth, but assuredly the common, way of cursorily reading the Scriptures, which most men satisfy themselves withal, is not ordinarily sufficient unto the investigation of the truth according unto what our own duty requires [2.] Where general rules are laid plain in the word, yet unless a man abound in the Scripture, he will be at a loss about their particular application. Were it not so, we should not so often miss it as we do in plain duties. Wherefore, unto the end that we may know the mind of God, as the universal 513rule of our obedience, all those instructions that are usually given about prayer, meditation, diligent use of all means, public and private, to the end we may come to a right understanding of the mind of God in the Scriptures, are necessarily to be attended unto. They are commonly spoken of. I will add one only, — which is indeed the principal in this case, and ought to influence all the rest, — and this is, That we should always read, and hear, and teach the word, and meditate upon it, with this end and design, that in our whole souls and lives, in all that we are and do, within and without, we may be conformable thereunto. Want of this design constantly kept up in our minds renders all other means fruitless. We take God’s name in vain, and aggravate our own guilt, when we converse with the Scripture without this design. I need not produce particular instances; the whole word of God proclaims that, with respect unto ourselves, it is to be learned and studied with no other design.
(2.) That we use diligence to keep ourselves universally dose to the rule, so far as we have attained an acquaintance with it. Our walk in this world, if we intend to please God and discharge our duty, is to be according unto rule, and that attended unto with circumspection. Loose, way-side walkers are like way-side hearers; both will fail of what they seem to aim at. Every thing within us that is of ourselves, and every thing about us that is of the world and occasions of life, do either incline or solicit us unto a negligence of the rule; and if we walk not diligently, we shall frequently be turned aside. Hence is that loose, crooked, uneven walking that is among professors. He only is upon his guard in a due manner who always considers what his rule is, and what God in all things requireth of him. Let it not be said that this attendance unto the rule in all things is the way to make men scrupulous, fearful, and at length useless: for the word of God giveth light and liberty, and bringeth none into bondage who attends regularly unto it. Yet to prevent that careless boldness in walking and conversation which hath overrun the generality of professors, we must remember that “blessed is the man who feareth always;” and that it is our wisdom to “spend the time of our sojourning here in fear;” — which is the counsel given us by him who had learned this before from his own sad experience.
(3.) That we take heed of false rules and measures in our walking, both in things religious, moral, and of civil conversation. There are five false rules in religion, to some or all of which the generality of mankind do give up the conduct of themselves:— [1.] Tradition; [2.] Multitude; [3.] Outward order and splendour; [4.] Human authority; [5.] Self-imagination It were easy to show how one or other, or all of these, are the rule and measure unto the generality of men in all their religious concerns. The whole church of Rome builds itself on the traditions received from the fathers; and what a long-derived 514tradition doth with them, the custom of a few ages doth among us. Men will do as those that went before them, and no otherwise; yea, some think there is no other fault in religion but the not doing of what others have done before, without more ado. And multitude prevails with many. It is thought safe doing what is done by the most; and, however, [at least,] few think it is particularly incumbent on them to examine whether almost all the world, especially the rulers, with the scribes and Pharisees, are out of the way or no. The other things mentioned are made rules to some, inasmuch as of late it is avowed, owned, pleaded for, that the civil laws of magistrates, or human authority, is the proper rule of all external religious worship. And many there are who leave the word and follow their own imaginations, Which they call their “light,” and take for their guide. But whoever attends unto any of these rules, he neither doth nor can walk with God, Isa. viii. 19, 20.
There are also five false rules whereby men may deceive themselves in their moral and civil conversation:— [1.] The example of the best of men, taking in their infirmities. The examples of good men, being considered as they exemplify Scripture rules, are forcible encouragements unto duty. The example of Christ is an original rule; the example of others is to be looked on as such a transcript as wherein there may be mistakes. They are all, therefore, to be reduced unto the rule; and when they appear conformable unto it, they adorn it, illustrate it, and render it beautiful. Hence may we take encouragement unto imitation. But, for the most part, we are ready to consider good men, so as to countenance ourselves by their infirmities, ‘So and so do they; so do they talk, discourse, converse; unto such places and companies do they resort: and why may not we do so too?’ But I do believe that he who will be content with the worst of a good man hath no part of his best. [2.] The fashions of the world in things not directly sinful. [3.] Custom in trading, received by tradition. Men may, if they are not aware, learn in their apprenticeship to be dishonest all their lives; they have yet the trade of it. [4.] Satisfaction as to reputation in the world and the church. [5.] Quiet and satisfaction in our own minds.413413 The third division of this discourse has not been preserved. See p. 575. — Ed.
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