« הקודםהמשך »
6. And lastly, It may proceed to an indignation against ourselves, and to the taking a severe revenge of ourselves; yea, more than God would have men take; as Judas did by self-destroying. This desperation of self-execution, are no parts of the preparatory humiliation; but the excess and error of it, and the entrance upon hell.
See that you close with the Lord Jesus Christ understandingly, heartily, and entirely, as he is revealed and offered to you in the gospel. In this your Christianity doth consist; upon this your justification and salvation lie. This is the sum of your conversion, and the very heart of your new creature. The rest is all but the preparatives to this, or the fruits of this. Christ is the end and the fulfilling of the law; the substance of the gospel; the way to the Father; the life, the help, the hope, of the believer. If you know not him, you know nothing; if you possess not him, you have nothing; and if you are out of him, you can do nothing that hath a promise of salvation.
I beseech you therefore remember what it is to be truly converted : It is to be called from things common and unclean, and separated to God; it is to be brought nigh to him, as the children of his household, that are themselves, and all that they have, in his hands; it is to be taken off yourselves, and your own, and to lose yourselves, and all you have, in God, by the most gainful loss; lest indeed you lose yourselves, and all the while you persuade yourselves you save or gain. It is a taking God in Christ for your all, and so being content to have nothing but him, and for him. It is a changing of your old master, self, for God, a better master; and your old work, which was self-seeking and self-pleasing, to self-denial, and to the seeking and pleasing of God. See now that this be done, and that your treacherous hearts hide nothing for themselves, as Rachel, under pretence of necessity, hid her idols; but say, Here I am, to be thine, O Lord, and to do thy will.
My next advice, that the work of conversion may
not miscarry, is this: Take heed, lest you mistake a mere change of your opinions, and outward profession and behaviour, for a true saving change.
Wicked opinions must be changed, and so must evil professions and outward practices: but if no more be changed, you are wicked still. I have great cause to fear that this is the most common damning deceit that befalleth professors of godliness, and that it is the case of most hypocrites in the church. A man may be brought to hold any truth in scripture as an opinion, and so far be sound and orthodox; and yet never be indeed a sound believer, nor have his heart possessed with the life and power of those sacred truths. It is one thing to have a man's opinion changed, and another thing to have his heart renewed by the change of his practical estimation, resolutions, and dispositions. It is one thing to turn from loose profane opnions, to strict opinions; and think the godly are indeed in the right, and that their case and way is safest and best; and it is another thing to be made one of them in newness and spirituality of heart and life. A lively faith differs much from opinion; and that which is in unholy men, which we call faith and is a kind of faith indeed, is but a mere opinionative faith. I call it an opinionative faith, because it differs from saving faith, much like as opinion doth from knowledge. Merely speculative it is not; for some intention of practice there is: But the practical intention of such persons differs from the predominant intention of the sanctified, even as their opinionative faith differs froin the saving faith.
O what abundance of poor neighbours would go to heaven, that are now in the way to hell, if an oplnion that godliness is the wisest course would serve the turn! If instead of conversion, God would take up with an opinion that they ought to turn; and if instead of a holy heavenly life, God would accept of an op:nion, that such are the happiest men that live such a life; and if instead of temperance, and meekness, and selfdenial, and forgiving wrongs, God would accept of an
opinion and confesson, that they should bé temperatë and meek, and self-denying, and should forbear others, and forgive them; then O what abundance would be saved, that are now in little hope of salvation! If instead of a diligent life of holiness, and good works, it would serve the turn to lie still, and be of a good opinion, that men should strive and labour for salvation, and lay out all they have for God; how happy then were our towns and countries, in comparison of what they are ! • I am afraid this deceit will be the undoing of many, that they take a change of their opinions for a true conversion. Have not some of you been formerly of the mind; that the best way is to eat and drink, and be merry, and venture your sộüls, and follow your worldly business, ând never trouble yourselves with any deep and searching thoughts about your spiritual state, or your salvation? Have you not thought that this diligefit gödlitess iš büt a needless strictness and preciseness? And have you not since been cötivinced of your error, and perceived that this is the wisest course, which you before thought to be needless, and thereupon have betaken you to the company of the godly, and set upon à course of outward duties? And now you think that you are made new creatures, and that this is regeneration, and the work is done. -I fear lest this be all the conversion that many forward professors are acquainted with: bat woe to them that have no more!
And because the face of our present times doth plainly show the commontiess and the prevalency of this disease, and because it is a natter of so great concernment to you, I shall herè give you (but as briefly as I well can) some signs by which a true conversion may be known, from this mere opinionative change
1. The true convert is brought to an unfeigned hatred of the whole body of sin; and especially of those secret or beloved sins, that did most powerfully captiváté him before. But the opinionative convert
conceratiese and becauonness and the
is still carnal and unfructified, and inwardly, at the heart, the interest of the flesh is habitually predominant. He is not brought to an irreconcileable hatred to the great master-sips that ruled him, and lay deepest; but only hath eased the top of his stomach, and cropt off some of the branches of the tree of death. The thorns of worldly desires and cares, are still rooted in his art; and therefore no wonder if they choke the seed of wholesome truth, and there be a greater harvest for the devil than for God.
2. Another sign that follows upon this, is, that the sound convert doth carry on the course of his obedience in a way of self-denial, as living in a continual conflict with his own flesh, and expecting his comfort and salvation to come in upon the conquest; and therefore he can suffer for Christ, as well as be found in cheaper obedience, and he dare not ordinarily refuse the most costly service. For the spoils of his fleshly desires are his prey, and crown of glorying in the Lord.
But the opinionative convert still liveth in his carnal self; and therefore secretly, at least, seeks himself, and layeth hold on present things, as a true convert layeth hold on eternal life. The truths of God being received but into his opinion, do not go deep enough to conquer self, and to take down his great idol, nor make him go through fire and water, and to serve God with the best, and honour him with his substance, much less with his sufferings and death.
3. The sound convert hath taken God for his portion, and heaven for that sure and full felicity, which he is resolved to venture upon; that is it that he hath set his heart and hopes upon, and thither tends the drift of his life.
But he that is changed only in his opinions, had never such sure apprehensions of the life to come, nor so full a confidence in the promises of God, as to set his heart unfeignedly upon God, and make him truly heavenly-minded. He may have a heavenly tongue, but he hath an earthly heart. A bare opinion, be it ever so true, will not raise men's hearts so high, as to make their affections, and the very design and business of their lives, to be heavenly. sino 14. The sound convert hath seen the vileness of himself, in the sinfulness of his heart and life, and the misery thereby deserved; and so is a sincerely humbled self-accusing man. . But the opinionist is commonly unhumbled, and well conceited of himself, and a self-justifying pharisee; unless it be that self-accusing will cost him no disgrace, and he take it up as a custom, or that which may bring him into the repute of being humbled and sincere. For his opinion will not search and pierce his heart, nor batter down his self'exalting thoughts, por root up the master-sin of pride. These are too great works for an opinion to perform. And therefore you shall hear him more in the excusing of his sin, the magnifying of himself, or the stiff maintaining of his own conceits, than an unfeigned self-abasing. . .: . .. . . . - 5. The sound convert is so acquainted with the defects, and sins, and necessities, of his own soul, that he is much taken up at home, in his studies, and cares, and censures, and his daily work: the acting and strengthening of grace, the subduing of corruption, and his daily walking with God, are much of his employment: Above all keeping, he keeps his heart, as knowing that from thence are the issues of life. He cannot have time to spy out the faults of others, or meddle with their affairs, where duty bids him not, as others can do; because he hath so much to do at home. • But the opinionist is most employed abroad, and about mere notions and opinions; but he is little employed in such heart-searching or heart-observing work. His light.doth not pierce so deep, as to show him his heart, and the work that is there to be necessarily done. As the change is little upon his heart, so his employment is little there. He is little in bewailing his secret defects and corruptions, and little in keeping his soul's accounts, and little in secret striving with his heart, to work it into communion with God,