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SERMON XXII.2525   Preached September 13, 1691.

Romans viii. 24.

We are saved by hope.

I HAVE made some progress in the use, and some instructive inferences I have recommended to you; and more I did intend to add, but I shall now wave them, intending to make all the haste I can to go through what I most principally intended on this subject.

And, that which remains is to direct to the serious and most earnest (in that way which may be the most probable) endeavour of getting this noble principle implanted, cultivated, and improved, amongst us towards this its high and glorious end, our own salvation. And, because (as hath been largely shewn you,) this great principle (Hope) contributes thereunto, both by the influence that it hath in order to the conversion of the unconverted, and by the influence that it hath upon the perseverance of the converted; therefore, the tenour of my discourse herein must be suitable hereunto, and must respect both these sorts of persons; but so as that I do hope each may find their own concern in each part of the following discourse, while yet the several parts may more principally and directly respect the one sort or the other. And,

Direction 1. The direction I shall give you, (and which will certainly concern us all,) is, that we may all more seriously 304and earnestly mind the great business of our own salvation, and more deeply concern ourselves about it. I am sure such hope can never signify any thing with them, in order to salvation, who are not concerned about their salvation, that mind no such matter. I am very little willing to be much in repetition of any thing that hath been said to you formerly; but, if I would repeat any thing, I can do nothing that is more fit to be reconsidered, than what I told you upon the first inference: that, if hope have such a tendency to our salvation; despair must have a like tendency to our destruction. If souls are to be saved by hope, they are in greatest danger to be lost by despair. I say, what I told you upon that head, to wit, that there are two sorts of despair; a silent, calm, stupid despair, and a strong raging despair.

There are a great many that are in despair about their salvation, who never think they are; and in whom it makes no noise; to wit, that are without any real vivid hope concerning their salvation; and the vacancy of hope, right hope, in a subject to which it belongs is to be called by the name of its contrary, despair. According to the known, and most common agreed rules of reasoning, in such matters; those souls that are dead towards God, and their own eternal concernments, have no hope in God, and are really sunk in despair, and are likely to be lost and perish by it, if mercy do not seasonably mend their case.

And, in what I am now pressing you unto, hope, to get it implanted, and improved to its proper purpose; I would be loath to be mistaken, as if, in pressing to hope, I pressed to security. And indeed I would hardly think that any one that hath the understanding of a man, that will use thought, can be guilty of so gross a mistake; for sure there is the widest and broadest difference imaginable between security and hope. The hope of salvation, of eternal life, and eternal well-being! What? is there anything in this like security? Such an hope is a positive thing, a real, and great something; security is but a vacuity of fear and care about a man’s own concernments; and that is a mere nothing. What? I beseech you, is there no difference between something so great, a something and nothing? Such an hope is a most lively, powerful, active principle, wheresoever it is; and mightily stirs in the soul, and makes it mightily bestir itself, in the pursuit of its end: security, as it is nothing, so it doth nothing; it puts the soul upon doing nothing, lets it still be dead, and unconverted: care 305for being saved who will for them, for their parts they do not. There is no likeness between these two things, security, and such an hope.

But now if I do not prevail with you, as to this first direction, the throwing off security, and minding more seriously, and in good earnest, the concerns of your souls; my labour is lost, and your souls are lost; and if I gain not this first point among you, all that is said and designed is to no purpose. But can any, upon sober consideration, think that it is a likely matter that salvation is so common as the neglect of it is? Or, are men in a likely way to be saved, that so generally disregard any such thing, think of no such matter from day to day, and from year to year? Is that imagination agreeable to scripture calls and warnings? Strive to enter in at the strait gate, that leads to life. Work our your own salvation with fear and trembling. What? Are all such words from the mouth of God, and by his inspired servants, only sown to the wind, thrown among men into empty air?

If we would consider things reasonably, and with sober understandings, nothing would be more obvious to us than to bethink ourselves, that contraries have all their place in the same subject, not in divers: and thus in this case so it must be, so it ought to be; this being a matter of moral consideration, that wherever there ought to be hope, there ought to be fear too; the exigency of the case requiring it. And while matters do yet hang dubiously, (as they will do more or less, with all of us in this region of mortality,) we shall never be past all danger, nor all appearances of it; there will be no more perfection of assurance, than perfection of holiness. Doth the scripture say in vain to us, that we are to be saved by hope? And doth the same scripture, the same word of God, say to us, Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling? Sure there is no repugnancy between these things, but a necessary agreement, a most necessary agreement.

And, as contraries do always exist only in the same subject, so in lower degrees they do always co-exist in it, exist in it together: and therefore, where there is hope, there ought to be fear, in reference and respect to the concernments of our salvation; for we are not to think, that the one of these scriptures doth exantlate the other, and make it lose its force and signify nothing; this being a word given to men in mortal flesh, this divine word that we have in this book, we must know that it concerns men, and is to be 306applied to them in accommodation to the state in which they are; and in reference whereunto it is written. And, therefore, the state of none is so desperate as theirs, who, in reference to the affairs of their salvation, have neither hope nor fear; as they that mind it not, have neither the one, nor the other.

And, because of the weight and mighty importance of this thing, I shall insist upon it; and press this a little, before I go further, by some considerations. As,

1. That to be unconcerned about the affairs of our salvation, is continually to stifle a most natural principle; we have no principle, no notion, that is more natural to us, than that we have something about us that cannot die, that is made for eternity, and for another state after this. I cannot now stand to prove to you the mortality of the soul; my subject doth not lead me to it: but it is that we all profess to believe, and which we pretend to believe of ourselves, unless we could disprove it and plainly evince the contrary; and, I would fain know how any man would go about to disprove that he is a creature made for another state after this. How will he prove himself to be nothing but a mortal creature? How will he prove, that let him be never so like a beast, he shall die like a beast too? How will he prove that? And that the ultimate end, which man was made for, is attainable in this earthly state? How will any man go about to prove this? If he would prove himself a beast, the evidence of things will repugn, and fly in his face. It is only not thinking that makes men adventurous in a matter of this import. Oh! how dismal a thing is it, when, instead of the hope of salvation, all that a man hath to relieve himself is, the hope of annihilation, a hope of his running into nothing; that instead of blessedness, ne hath no other hope, but only of no being?

But consider (I say) that by this, here is a continual stifling of a most deeply natural principle; for there is no man mat would fain abolish the thoughts of that immortal nature he hath about him; but still they will recoil upon him. This spirit that God put into man by his own inspiration, carries with it a secret consciousness of its own immortality; and there can be no disbelief hereof, or opinion of the contrary, that is not conjoined with a great formido opposite, a certain misgiving and fear that it will at last prove otherwise; but, in the meantime to own such a principle as that, (as among us it is generally owned,) and yet to have the habitual temper of a man’s soul be directly opposite 307thereunto; to wit, in an unconcernment what shall, and may become of him, in an everlasting state; this is the most intolerable thing that we can suppose the human nature liable to. A most unsufferable absurdity, that I should have such a fixed apprehension and sentiment about me that I know not how to get rid of, and yet the habitual frame of my mind, and the whole course of my practice, run directly contrary to it. And then,

2. As unconcernedness about our salvation doth oppose this principle in the very nature of man, (than which none is more deeply fundamental;) so it doth reproach the dignity of the human nature, as well as oppose the light of it. It reproacheth the dignity and honour of the human nature. They are continually throwing contempt upon their own nature, that live unconcernedly about their future state and eternal salvation. If we would but consider this matter seriously, who is there that would not be ashamed to have this written in his forehead, I do not care what becomes of my soul to all eternity? Who would not be ashamed to carry that character visible to every man? To proclaim himself one that thinks he is of no greater or nobler allay in the creation of God, than a brute creature? Whence is there a regret to avow and own such a principle, but only that we think it to be ignominious? If there be not these explicit thoughts, there is such a secret sense, that it would be an ignominious thing, a reproachful thing.

But how unaccountable is this, that a man should not be ashamed of the thing, and yet he is ashamed of the profession of it? Men are not ashamed of the thing; to wit, to be careless of, and unconcerned about, their own souls, and their eternal salvation; they go from day to day without any suitable regret within themselves for their own carelessness and negligence, and yet they would be ashamed to avow an unconcernedness to all the world. There is no rational account to be given, why men should be ashamed of the profession of such a thing, and yet not be ashamed of the thing itself. To go every day from morning to night, without any care, thought, or concern, what shall become of my soul, as to eternal salvation here after; never to have the soul smite them about this thing, from day to day, and from week to week; and be ashamed, to feel a loathness in their own minds, to avow infidelity, and profess mere brutality, that I am nothing but a mere brute animal; how unaccountable is this?

Indeed, the great iniquity in this matter is this: that 308men do not more allow themselves to study and contemplate themselves; that they do not labour to have more reverential thoughts even of the very nature of man; I mean the primitive nature of man. There is nothing indeed more-despicable and hateful than corrupt and vicious nature. That precept of that noted heathen, that we reverence ourselves and our own nature, it needs inculcation. And, as to this very particular thing of hope towards God, (with which unconcernedness about our salvation and future felicity it is plain cannot consist,) there have been higher and more raised thoughts about it, and about the nature of man, in reference hereunto, with some from whom, one would little expect it, than is usual among Christians themselves. I cannot but reflect again and again upon that of Philo the Jew, who tells us, that hope towards God is that which doth most properly belong to the nature of man: so, that (as he speaks,) (the euelpist,) he that hath this hope easiest and most familiar to him, is only to be counted a man; but the (dyselpist,) he that finds an aversion in him to such actings of hope towards God, is scarcely to be counted a man; hardly to be looked upon as one that is partaker of a rational nature; so high was the notion of human nature laid with some such in those days. But now, where there is nothing else but a daily stupid unconcernedness in men about the affairs of their souls, and their everlasting state, there is even among such (though they bear the name of Christians) such a contempt of themselves and such an in dignity done to the nature of man, as many that have not been Christians would have been ashamed of. And,

3. Such an unconcernedness about our salvation, it is a continual disobedience to a most natural divine law. We ought to account, that where no other law than that of our own natures is, that yet such do live properly under the obligation of a law; for I beseech you consider, do you think that God is not governor of the rest of the world, as well as he is of Christendom? And how doth he govern reasonable creatures without a law? “They that have not a written law, are a law to themselves,” Rom. ii. 14, 15. And Heathens tell us of a nata and a scripta lex, and where there as not a scripta there is a nata: a law that is born with us, a law written in our hearts, are expressions common to Cicero, and to the Apostle Paul; and therefore light about this matter in some degree hath been common to men. There is no more deeply natural law upon men, than that of self-preservation; and if the soul of man be 309the man, or the chief of man, the principal thing in man, do you think it doth not lie under the obligation of a law to preserve itself, to endeavour to save itself, to keep itself, as far as it can, from being lost and miserable to eternity, since it is capable of eternity? And, therefore consider,

4. That God cannot but be highly provoked, when the authority of this law, of which he hath impressed on the very soul of man and wrought into his nature, is continually violated. Consider it, for he cannot but be highly provoked with it; “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven, against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;” where the apostle’s discourse is about natural truth, about those dictates of truth that lie naturally and universally in the minds of men; as the notions concerning God do, that he instanceth in, in what immediately followeth; and concerning right and wrong, even unto men; with which is contempered the obligations that lie upon every man in reference to himself; because the duty we owe to other men is measured by that which we owe to ourselves, the whole law being comprehended in love. And that comprehensive principle being thus given by our Lord himself, to wit, “We are to love the Lord our God, with all our hearts, souls, minds, and might; and to love our neighbours as ourselves:” which therefore involves, firstly, and in the highest place, this care for ourselves. And since in the common acknowledgment of all, our souls are our most principal and chief selves, a love to our souls, and care for them, must needs be one of the great principles of natural truth; for the violation whereof the wrath of God is revealed; to wit, against the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold this truth in unrighteousness. To have such truths as these, always lying in my mind and soul, and continually to run counter to them, how provoking is it?

When I consider the law of nature as God’s law, and that by which he governs that part of the world which hath no other law, and that the obligation thereof is perpetual and eternal, and can cease no where; to be guilty of continual violations of this, is to tear the foundations of the divine government. And therefore it is not strange that wrath should be revealed from heaven against men, upon such an account; that they hold such truths in unrighteousness, and stifle and counteract it, through the whole of their course, from day to day. And to bring this down to our 310own particular cases and concernments: to wit, if a man arise in the morning, and all his care for the following day is, what shall I eat, and what shall I drink, and what snail I put on, and how shall I make a gainful bargain for this world, to advance my estate, and the like f and no proportionable care or concernment is taken for his soul, or its salvation, all the day. This (I say) is to live in a continual violation of one of the most deeply fundamental laws of his own nature, for which the wrath of God is provoked and revealed against men, for such ungodliness. There doth not need a gospel to bring such men under a doom, but it doth bring them under a heavier doom, being superadded. That gospel wherein life and immortality are brought to light, to wit, into a closer and brighter light; that is, whereas the light of the Pagan Gentile world is but a twilight, a dubious light, in comparison of that which we have in the gospel, concerning the future eternal states of men; therefore this superaddition must heightens men’s doom. And then again,

5. This is to be considered too, That in such an unconcernedness about our salvation, we do not only offend against the authority of the divine law; but against the goodness and kindness of it, which is an unspeakably higher and more aggravated offence. Oh! that this might but enter into our souls to consider how much there is of good will towards men in laying upon them the obligation of such a law, which as it was first written in our own nature, so it is over and over, and more expressly written again in his word! “Strive to enter in at the strait gate.” “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” A law in various forms and expressions so often repeated. Oh! that it might be considered, how much there is of kindness and benignity in it towards them, whom it doth so much concern! How much there is of good will and favourable propensions expressed, when the primary design of the divine law is to bring us to be happy creatures; that we should have laws laid upon us to be happy. This is the purport of the whole, as if the merciful lawgiver should but speak this sense, (as indeed he hath spoken in his word; often and often, over and over, most fully,) Oh! be kind to yourselves! do not give up yourselves to perish. You have intelligent, immortal spirits about you, that are capable of the same felicity with angels, those glorious creatures above. Do not abandon these spirits of yours unto 311remediless ruin, in a total neglect and unconcernedness about the salvation of your souls! do not plunge and sink them into an endless, and incurable misery!

We are taught to account, that the very patience that God doth exercise towards men hath this kind design with it, that they might be saved. See his expostulations with sinners about this: “Despiseth thou the riches of his goodness, and forbearance, and long suffering? not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance: but, after thy hardness and impenitent heart, treasurest up to thyself wrath, against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his works?” Rom. ii. 4, 5. The patience of God is intimated to have generally that aptitude in itself to induce men to consider and take up thoughts of returning; and most expressly, when the gospel commenteth upon it, and tells men of its design. Why was not thy care less soul, that heard the gospel the last Lord’s day, cut off before this Lord’s day? Why? the patience of God is leading it to repentance: so we are directly instructed to interpret. “My brethren, (saith that other Apostle,) count the long suffering of God salvation.” 2 Peter iii. 15. Do you put that construction and sense upon it? Make that interpretation to yourselves, Why am I spared? I have been careless of God and my own soul so long, year after year, why am I spared? The Apostle doth teach you to reckon, and make an estimate, why it is, what you are to count it is for; “Count that the long suffering of the Lord is salvation;” 2 Peter iii. 15. to wit, that he is designing your salvation in all this indulgence, and sparing mercy, that he exerciseth towards you. And it is highly aggravated guilt, when there is not only a continual resistance of the authority, but an offending constantly against the kindness of a divine constitution. And,

6. You ought to consider, You are nor your own. And though every one is obliged to intend, with the greatest earnestness, the salvation of his own soul, yet he is not to do it principally and supremely as his own; for God’s interest is higher, and more principal in us, than ours can be in ourselves. And therefore, whereas we have a trust incumbent upon us from God, about ourselves, and the affairs of our own souls, he hath required us (though he be our supreme keeper) to keep ourselves, to keep our own hearts with all diligence. Though our Lord Jesus Christ be our supreme Saviour, our great Saviour by office, yet we are 312required to save ourselves. Though God in Christ is our supreme Ruler, yet we are told too, that “he that hath not rule over his own spirit, is as a city broken down, and without walls.” We have, by divine charge and command, a care incumbent upon us about our own selves, about our own souls; but he is our owner, we are not our own owners.

It is a most horrid thing, when men will not be brought to know their owner. “The ox knoweth his owner.” Isa. i. 3. And what? Will not man know his owner? Will not these reasonable intelligent souls of ours know their owner, to whom they belong, who he is that styles himself the God of spirits, even of the spirits of all flesh? So that our having spirits in flesh, embodied spirits, is no diminution to his interest in us, and detracts nothing of it. When these spirits of ours are sunk into flesh, yet he is the God of the spirits of all flesh: they are his, he is the God of them. Then are we to consider besides, that inferior, secondary, subordinate interest that we have in ourselves, and our own souls; we are (I say) to consider God’s superior interest in them, whose creatures we are. Then they who live in a total neglect and unconcernedness about the salvation of their souls, what answer will they be able to make to the most high God, when he comes to demand of them; “What have you done with my creature that I put under your care, in so great a measure? I trusted thee with the keeping and care of a soul, an immortal soul, an intelligent spiritual being, stamped with my own natural image. I gave thee a soul capable of loving me, capable of being finally happy in me, capable of being, throughout an eternity, employed in the adoration and love of the eternal God. I gave thee such a soul, what hast thou done with it? What! Hast thou made that soul all the time it dwelt in that body, only a drudge to vanity, only to serve as a slave to sensual and brutish inclination?”

God was to have eternal honour from those souls of ours, by our eternal love and adoration and praises of him, and joining with the glorious assembly, the innumerable company of angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect in these exercises. And when the wretched creature comes to give an account to God, as he must do; “Why hast thou robbed me of the eternal honour, glory, and praise that is due to me from this creature of mine? Why, instead of taking that way, by which it might be associated with the glorious inhabitants in heaven, hast thou taken that 313way by which it must come to herd itself with devils, and go to be employed an eternity, in cursing and blaspheming its Maker? Why hast thou thus used a soul which I gave thee, who am the Father of spirits f Was that soul of thine, while it dwelt in a body of flesh, capable of nothing but gratifying and pleasing brutish desires? capable of no higher thoughts than what are suitable to the body, to eat and drink, and be clothed with? Was it capable of no thoughts of God? No thought of a future felicity? Why hath that soul been so injuriously, so abusively treated? I must have an account of my own creature, that should have honoured me, by the eternal love and fruition of me.”

Sure these considerations should awaken us a little to that which I first recommended to you by way of direction, that we may, through the grace of God, agree in a resolution, more to mind the concernments of our salvation, than we hitherto have. It may be, a great many will think themselves very innocent as to this matter, and not apprehend that there needs so much care about their souls, and eternal concerns; but is not that to make our own imaginations superior to the determinations of God’s express word? Doth that look as if he thought such a matter could be overcome, when he bids us, (as you have heard,) “Strive (the word signifies, be in agonies) to enter in at the strait gate.” When any in that but now mentioned scripture, have it made as the distinguishing character between them that shall finally be saved, and them that perish; that the one sort do, by patient continuance in well doing, “seek for glory, honour, and immortality,” till they actually have eternal life: and the other sort “do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness,” are contentious against the truth; and therefore are to expect nothing but “indignation, and wrath, tribulation, and anguish,” for ever.

And is it not a very strange thing, that about inferior ends, men should think themselves concerned, and obliged to use very great diligence; and every man is praised and commended among his neighbours, as he bears the character of a diligent man, an industrious man in his business? But that in reference to our last end, the universal end, the end of ends, that men should allow themselves in an universal carelessness and neglect, when every thing is greater as it approacheth nearer to the last end. There is a subordination of ends, but as any end comes nearer to the last, so it is greater, and the last, greatest of all. Now that men 314should think it very reasonable to be very careful to get estates, to preserve their lives, and live well in the world, and yet think it reasonable to be negligent how they shall live for ever; what inconsistencies are these! There wants nothing but communing with ourselves, to make us apprehend, and understand this, and to make ourselves uneasy to ourselves, till we find a redress. And this word would be an everlasting witness against us, if we should not depart now with a resolution (in dependance on the grace of God) more to mind the concernments of our salvation than ever we have done.

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