« הקודםהמשך »
PREFACE TO THE READER,
IN sincerity and unfeigned love, both to God and man, were these lines penned. I desire thee to peruse them in the same love, and then, peradventure, thou mayest find some sweetness in them. Expeet not learned phrases, or florid expressions ; for many times heavenly matter is hid in mean sentences, or wrapped up in plain expressions. It sometimes pleases God to reveal the mysteries of his kingdom ( through the grace of his Son our Lord Jesus Christ) to babes and sucklings; and he oftentimes ordains praise out of their mouths ; one of which, reader, I desire thou mayest be.
My intent in writing these sheets, is, that they, through the help of God's grace, and the good spirit of Christ, may stir up true love in thee ; first to God and Christ, and then to man : so thou wilt be fit to be espoused to him, who is altogether lovely, (that is Christ), which is the desire of him, who is thy friend, more in heart than word.
GREAT LOVE UNTO MANKIND,
Having been concerned for the good and welfare of the children of men, in my youthful days, and tasted of the infinite love of God, in, and through his dear Son, the holy Lamb Jesus, who laid down his life for the sins of the world; and, in my tender years, reaped great benefit, through faith in, and obedience unto, him; for, truly, I have found, by sufficient experience, that one without the other, to wit, faith without works, will not answer the end of the great love of Christ Jesus, our Lord, in that he offered himself a sacrifice for all mankind ; not for people to live in sin, but to take away the sin of the world ; in a word, “ Faith without works is dead.” James ii. 20. For my part, I found it so, and so must all true believers in the Son of God.
Christ first loved us, and paid that debt for us, that, of ourselves, we were not able to do. Oh! his infinite love ! it hath oftentimes melted my soul into tenderness.
Methinks it is abundance of pity, that ever the sons of men should requite evil for good, or disobedience for such gracious obedience; I would to God, that all believers in Christ would live in that fear of God, and that love to Christ, that keepeth the heart clean; because nothing unclean can enter the kingdom of heaven. I do not mean a slavish fear; but fear that is wrought by love: for them that love the Lord, the great, everlasting God, will fear to offend him.
This is the matter that chiefly beareth stress on my mind, at this time : the necessity of love to God and
Christ, and one another; “ Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive, the things that God hath prepared for them that love him." i Cor. ii. 9. For my part, I cannot pretend to tell thee, Oh, man! to the full; but only a little to hint at it: it is, “ Joy unspeakable, and full of glory :” but then we must love him, so as to keep his commandments. This is the work that I am very earnest in pressing people to, whether youth or aged: it is not too soon for the young, neither too late for the aged, to begin this work of obedience, through faith, and love to God and Christ, if his spirit is reproving or striving in them. But it is more honourable and acceptable, for å man to give up the strength of his days to serve the Lord, and to remember his Creator in the days of his youth, before sin is too much rooted and grown in him; for then it will be much more labour, to get the root of unrighteousness plucked up. So that in that ability, which God hath given me,
1 would endeavour to stir up all to serve him, and to be in good earnest, and not to put the day of God, even the mighty Jehovah, afar off; but to love the Lord unfeignedly, and with true obedience ; since it is that sacrifice, that is only acceptable to God; that is to say, to love him in deed and in truth, more than in word, and with tongue : for against such a people, the Lord, by his servant, complained, in old time; “ They (saith the Lord), draw nigh to me with their mouths, and with their lips do honour me :” but, Oh! their great misery was, their hearts were far from him ; they did not love him with their whole hearts; that was their great fault: this thing is also a great evil in the sight of the great God, in this our age; and is too frequent in England, the land of my nativity, as also in other islands and places beyond the seas. What lamentation shall be taken up, for such as do so mock the Lord, the great God of love? Surely he will render vengeance, as in Aames of fire, upon all the wicked and ungodly, and those that forget him. It is not by saying, but by doing, that we are justified, through faith in Christ ; not he