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3. It consisteth not in mere fears, or purposes, that you are frightened into against your wills. 4. Nor doth it consist in the common gifts of grace or nature. 5. Nor yet in running into groundless singularities, and unusual strains. But, in a word, it consisteth in holy love, kindled by effectual faith. When a firmly believing soul is fullest of love to God, and Christ, and holiness, this is the most confirmed state of the soul; and in this your chiefest growth consisteth.
My next advice to all young Christians for their confirmation, and growth in grace, is this.
Grow downwards in humility; be low and small in your own eyes; and affect not to be high or great in the eyes of others; and still keep a deep apprehension of the greatness and danger of the sin of pride ; but specially of that called spiritual pride.
It is the tree that hath the shallowest, weakest rooting that most shaketh, and is soonest overthrown. The deeper roots, the higher growth, for the most part. The building that hath not a deep foundation, is soonest shaken and overthrown. Christ is our foundation; and humiliation digs deep into the heart. Pride is commonly thought to be the devil's first or chiefest sin; sure I am it is the proud that fall into his condemnation. The pride of our first parents affecting to be as gods in knowledge, was the inlet of all our sin and misery; and the tempter still followeth the way that he hath found to be so successful. It is pride, that like a storm or tempest, doth set all the world in the rage and contention, and differences, and confusion, that we see them in. It is pride that hath filled the church with divisions; and it is pride that causeth the apostasy of most that fall away. And, the more men have of it, the less do they usually discern it in themselves: I am sure the less do they hate it and lament it. And though one would think that young beginners and weak Christians, that have little to be proud of, should be out of the danger of this temptation; yet experience tells us that it is they that fall by it, more than the wiser and stronger Christians that have more to glory in. For, the more men increase in wisdom, the more do they know their own unworthiness, their emptiness, and ignorance, and manifold sins : and the more do they know of the holiness and jealousy of God; and the more do they know of the evil of sin, and see what abundance of knowledge and grace they yet want: so that the more holy wisdom and experience, the less pride. But folly is the parent and nurse of pride. Children will be proud of toys and things of no value. There are two or three things that make young Christians in greater danger than others. 1. Because they come so lately out of darkness, and so great a change is made upon their souls, that it makes them the more sensible of it; and therefore, the readier to have high thoughts of themselves. Though one would think that the remembrance of former folly, and late dejectedness, should keep them low; yet, with too many, that is quickly gone, and they know not how to receive a comforting message, but they make it an occasion of lifting up. 2. The ignorance of these novices or young Christians, is such, that they little know what abundance of things they are yet ignorant of. Little do they know what knowledge they yet want. They think there is little more to be reached to than is in their sight; and therefore, suppose themselves somebody in the school of Christ, because they have learned the first lesson.
3. And by reason of this ignorance, they know not how to value the higher attainments and understandings of others; but look on the wisest as little wiser than themselves, because they are unacquainted with the matter of their wisdom, and, therefore, overlook it as if it were none, and consequently think too highly of themselves. 4. And withal, they have not that experience of their own hearts that should make them jealous of them as ancient Christians have.
The humble soul is still in an empty craving temper: he hungereth and thirsteth after righteousness, and therefore shall be satisfied. No man setteth so high a price on Christ and grace, and all the means of grace. Even the crumbs are welcome to him which the proud despise :-* The full soul loathes the honey-comb, but to the hungry every bitter thing is sweet.' Therefore such beggars are welcomest to God ;-he hath respect to the humble contrite soul;— the hungry he filleth with good,
but the rich he sendeth empty away; - He giveth more grace to the humble, when the proud are abhorred by him.' The church of Laodicea, that said, 'I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing,' was ' miserable, and poor, , and blind, and naked.' As many, that are proud of their honour and birth, run out of all by living above their estates, when meaner persons grow rich, because they are still gathering, and make much of every little,--so proud professors of religion are in a consumption of the grace they have, while the humble increase by making much of every little help, which is slighted and neglected by the proud; and by shunning all those spending courses which the proud are plunged in. Be sure to keep mean thoughts of yourselves, of your knowledge, and parts, and grace, and duties; and be content to be mean in the esteem of others, if you would not be worse than mean in the esteem of God.
Exercise yourselves daily in a life of faith upon Jesus Christ as your Saviour, your Teacher, your Mediator, and your King; as your Example, your Wisdom, your Righteousness, and your Hope.
All other studies and knowledge must be merely subservient to the study and knowledge of Christ. That vain kind of philosophy which St. Paul so much cautioneth Christians against, is so far yet from being accounted vain, that by many, called
Christians, it is preferred before Christianity itself; and to shew that it is vain while they overvalue it, they can shew no solid worth or virtue which they have got by it; but only a tumefied mind, and an idle tongue like a tinkling cymbal. We are' complete in Christ, in whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.' No study in the world will so much lead you up to God, and acquaint you with him, especially in his love and goodness, as the study of Christ, his person, his office, his doctrine, his example, his kingdom, and his benefits. As the Deity is your ultimate end, to which all things else are but helps and means; so Christ is that great and principal means by whom all other means are animated.
Remember that you are in continual need of him, for direction, intercession, pardon, sanctification, for support and comfort, and for peace with God. Let no thoughts therefore be so sweet and frequent in your hearts, nor any discourse so ready in your mouths, (next to the excellencies of the eternal Godhead,) as this of the design of man's redemption. Let Christ be to your souls as the air, the earth, the sun, and your food, are to your bodies, without which your life would presently fail. As
had never come home to the Father but by him, so without him you cannot a moment continue in the Father's love, nor be accepted in one duty, nor be protected from one danger, nor be supplied in any want:~' for it pleased the Father, that in him should all fulness dwell;'-—' and by him,' it is, that, being justified by faith, we have peace with God, and have access by faith unto this