THE IMPROVEMENT OF TIME; OR, THE RIGHT VSE OF TIMES SHORTNESSE. SERMON XI.
1 COR. 7. 29. 30.
But this I say, brethren, the time is short; It remaineth, that both they that have wives, be as though they had none: and they that weepe, as though they wept not: and they that rejoyce, as if they rejoyced not: and they that buy, as though they possessed not: and they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.
THat I may briefly come to open * to you the summe of that that I have to deliver out of this Scripture: I desire you (beloved in the Lord) in few words, to take notice of the drift and scope of the holy Apostle in this place: and that is this.
The Corinths (as it seemeth in the beginning of this chapter) had writ∣ten a Letter to Saint Paul, wherein they did propound to him divers Cases of conscience: and did intreate him, that he would send his judgement, concerning those points. Some five or six we may gather they did write to him about.
One was this; whether he thought it either a lawfull, or a fit∣ting thing for a man to marrie.
The second was; Whether if a man were married, his wife and he might not separate themselves one from another.
Page 214 The third was; If they did live together, whether it were lawfull, for the one to denie to the other matrimonall benevo∣lence.
The fourth; Whether if one of them being a beleever, and the other an Infidell, it were lawfull, or convenient for the beleever to remaine a yoke-fellow to the Infidell. These and divers o∣ther cases of conscience, they intreated Saint Paul to resolve them in.
Now the Apostle in the beginning of this Chapter writeth an Answer to every one of these Questions they propounded. To some of them he answered thus; Indeed I cannot give an absolute determination what is to be done, but I suppose, this and this is best. And to another, I advise such a thing: I cannot directly determine the will of God, but I have received mercie of God to bee accounted faithfull, and if you would know my opinion it is this. And so he hee giveth divers doubtfull answers to their Questions: only he telleth them, this is fittest for the oportunitie.
When he hath done all, he commeth to this I have read. But this I say brethren, &c. As if he should say; The Questions I have given you an Answer to, I thinke you know not what to resolve upon, because I say only this is my counsell, or this is my opini∣on. But this I am peremptory in, that is, That they that have wives bee as if they had none: they that weepe, as if they wept not: and they that rejoyce, as if they rejoyced not, This, I doe not come to say I sup∣pose: and I thinke it fit, or I give my advise, or for the present occasion it is fit to beethas. But brethren, herein I am confidenr, and resolute. that you should bee as if not in all things: in this I am bold. This is the drift of the Apostle, that hee would bring in one thing wherein he is confident, after the resolution of of divers Questi∣ons, wherein he could not be so confident.
So then, the words I have read, containe two generall things. *
First, the Apostles Preface to his Exhortation.
Secondly, the Exhortation it selfe.
The Preface in these words, But this I say brethren.
The Exhortation in the rest of the words, The time is short, &c.
In the Exhortation there are likewise three things that I would * note unto you.
First, the ground of the Exhortation in these words; The time is short.
Secondly the Exhortation it selfe, in these words: It remaineth*that they that have wives, bee as though they had none: and they that weepe, as if they wept not: and they that rejoyce, as if they rejoyced not: and they that buy, as if they possessed not: and they that use the world as not abusing it. Here is the Exhortation.
The first generall thing in the words, is the Apostles Preface, *But this I say brethren. And in this I would note but two things: I will but name them (because I would not be straitned in two prin∣cipall points that I would gladly open.)
First here I would note: How confident, and earnest and resolute a*faithfull minister will be, when hee commeth to a point that mainly con∣cernes his people. In all other things the Apostle giveth them his Answer, so as it might seeme, hee had not fully resolved them. I give my advise (saith hee) and againe, I suppose this. But now when he commeth unto the right use of the world, that it bee not abused: and the thought of heaven, that they might set them∣selves about it. Here he commeth without ifs and ands, he setteth it downe resolutely and positively. Brethren, this I say, or this you must doe. This is one thing that I might note.
Secondly I might note; The compellation, or terme that hee giveth*them: Brethren. In which, note who they are, to whom Saint Paul giveth the Exhortation. And it seemeth to mee, as if the A∣postle should say; I am putting you now upon a duty, that if I could not give you the terme, brethren, I should hope to prevaile little with you. To come and tell a young gallant that is in the middest of his ruffe, and his jollitie, and all pleasures: the fashion of this world passeth away, and I would have you use these things, as if you used them not: I know he would not receive it. Or to come to an old soaked worldling, whose Mammon and pennie is his god, whose thoughts runne altogether upon his wealth: and to tell him, that hee should use the world, as if hee used it not. Or to come to another that is newly married, and it may be hath made a God∣desse of his yoake-fellow for a while, and tell him that he must bee as if he were not married: I should have little hope to prevaile with these. But you are brethren: and because brethren you know the good things of God, you are acquainted with things concerning eternall happinesse: therefore as long as I can call you brethren, I am bold to put you upon the dutie.
So (brethren) this is my Preface to you. I shall anon speake to a point that I shall have little hope to prevaile with many in the Congregation: when I come to speake of the immoderate use of the world, and all the blessings in it, it may bee both your eares will be so stopped against it. But as many of you as are brethren, that have given up your selves to God, and have taken him for your portion, and his Word for your guide in all things: I hope you will bring willing and yeelding hearts, to resolve that what is delivered out of the word of God, to embrace it, and to en∣deavour it, concerning the course of your lives. And so, this shall Page 216 suffice for the Preface, because (as I said) I would not bee strait∣ned.
Now I come to the Exhortation. It remaineth that they that have wives, be as if they had none, &c. First I will in briefe open the * words, and then come to some matter of instruction.
I begin first with the ground of the Exhortation. The time is*short. The word translated short, signifieth in the originall, Time cut off. And so the Apostle aludeth (as the best Expositors agree) * to Seafayring-men: that have almost done their voyage, and be∣gin to strike sayle, and to fold them up together, and are even put∣ting into the Harbour, and are going to unlade their goods. So saith the Apostle, the time is short: as if he should say: if a company, that are going out a long voyage, should strive who should be Ma∣ster, & who be masters-Mate, and who should have this or that of∣fice in the Ship, I could not greatly blame them. But when they are almost at home, when they are within a flight-shot of the shoare, when they begin to strike sayle, to take in all, and to goe them∣selves out of the ship: then if they should fall a quarrelling for places, and contend, and use all the friends and meanes they could make, it were a ridiculous thing, and folly. So it is with us. Time was when the world was in beginning, and then when a man came into the world, hee might say, by the course of nature, I have a matter of six, or seven, or eight, or nine hundred yeares, to goe on in my pilgrimage, before I shall end my voyage: and then if a man should bestow a little time to thinke with himselfe; Well, if I can live but to see my selfe the father of a thousand children, and might come to people almost a whole Countrey, &c. then I say, if a man should greet the world, he might bee excused. But brethren, God hath cast out the time of our age so, that assoone as wee begin our voyage, wee are ready to strike sayle presently. Wee have but a little time to continue, and much worke to bee done for another life: therefore for us to stand striving about wives and children, and courtesies: to cry out of afflictions, when we are ready to strike sayle, and even to goe out of the ship into the harbour, it is a meere folly. These things are not worth the while, heaven is the thing we should looke after, therefore let us be moderate in all these things. This is the meaning.
So that the ground of the Exhortation, affordeth two things. The one I will but name; The other I will stand upon.
First; The time of our life in this world is very short. Wee have a * very little time to continue in this world. This is a very fruitfull and profitable point, but because I would not bee straitned, and because the Apostle intends it not as the maine thing, I doe but only name it.
The second thing (and that which Saint Paul mainly intends) *Page 217 is that because wee have but a little time, wee are even ready to strike sayle, and to goe to the Harbour presently, therefore hee that had a wife should bee as if hee had none, and hee that used the world, as if hee used it not, &c. And there the Lesson that I note is this;
That the serious meditation of the little and short time that we * have to remaine in here below, should bee a great meanes, to cut us off from the world, and to put us upon thoughts and actions concerning heaven.
I shall not need to give you a better ground of the point then is in the Text. The time is short (saith he) the time is contracted, you are ready to strike sayle: therefore doe this.
I might give you a world of Scripture to prove this. But I will satisfie my selfe in laying you downe two or three grounds of it.
First, wee know, that all things that ever a man can enjoy in * this world, they all die, assoone as ever his time is gone. Marke it: All things here below, let a man dote never so much upon them: let him have wife, and children, and beauty, and credit, and plea∣sures, and learning, or whatsoever it is, if his glasse be out, if his time be gone, there is an end of all these to him. Now, the soule of man careth not for that happinesse, that hath no continuance at all in it; Yea, the rarest thing that mortall men seeke after, if they should know before hand that they should enjoy them but a little time, the soule careth not for pitching upon it. If a man were offered the goodliest woman for his wife, that ever lived in this world: if God should send him this message; there take her, I bestow her freely upon thee, but to morrow thou shalt die: who would care for marrying? To bee a King, we know, is sim∣ply the greatest thing that men seeke after in this world: yet a∣mong the Grecian Cities (as that of Sparta) because one was but to have the kingdome but for a yeare, and then to lay downe his Crowne, and become a private man: all the wisest men of the Ci∣tie, strove as much not to be King, as we to get great places. Why? because they knew that that honour was but for a yeare; and that would be gone presently, therefore they cared not for it. So the Apostle teacheth in this place. Though thou shouldest have a wife that thou shouldest love mightily: though thou shouldest have pleasures, that thou takest full content in: Why doest thou so? Wee are ready to strike sayle; wee have but a little time to continue. So that because all the blessings of this life, let them be never so many, never so great, yet they all die with us, when our time is ended: hee that could but seriously thinke, that hee hath Page 218 but a little time to continue below, hee will never let his heart be set violently upon them: that is the first Argument.
The second, and principall Reason, why the meditation of the * shortnesse of our time should bee such a marvellous meanes to take us off, from all the things of the world is this. Because wee shall find worke enough in this short time, for things that more concerne us. Now the very nature of our soule that God hath put into us, is this, that a man cannot intend earnestly and violently, two things at the same time. Let a man for a certaine houre whol∣ly bee tooke up with some businesse, though there were a great many other things, that he could find in his heart to thinke upon: yet the soule intends that one mainly, and can find no time for the other. Thus is our case. Wee have but a little time: but in that little time, admirable is the worke wee have to doe, before this time be spent, if wee would give a comfortable account.
What have we to doe?
I tell you in a word. The maine and needfull thing of all that * wee have to doe in this little time here allotted us is; How to shoote the gulph of hell: how to make our peace with God: how to get his favour in Christ; how to have the corruptions of our soule cured and healed; how to grow up in grace, and to get sure evidence against that day, when all shall stand naked before him, that then we may be found in Christ. Have I ever heard that I have a great worke to doe, and that I have but a little time to doe it in? Surely then if I seriously thinke of it, I cannot find in my heart, to let my soule pitch earnestly upon the things below. Beloved, our time here, is the only time we have to make heaven sure. It is the most precious thing that ever we have in the world. Now if a man have such a precious thing, and but a little of it, will hee goe and spend it for toyes and baubles.
It is a thing that the Emperour Caligula is laughed at for, in all Stories. There was a mighty Navie provided, admirable and strange, and all trimmed: and every one expected, that with it, the whole countrey of Greece should be conquered: and so it might have beene. But hee imploped his souldiers to gather a company of Cockleshells, and pibles, and so sayled home. Had not every one cause to lavgh at the folly of this Emperour? Ve∣rely, such a foole is every man, and so wee would acknowledge, if wee would but weigh this: God hath given thee but thus much time, it may be twenty yeares, it may be but a day or two more: in this time he hath furnished thee with that, which may bee a meanes to conquer heaven it selfe: now if thou lay out this little, about wife, or children, or to purchase a little wealth, or these things here below: is it not the greatest folly that may bee?
Page 219 Suppose that a servant hath a great deale of worke to doe, and knowes that he must give an account to his Master thereof, and that if all be not done, that should bee done, he can never ap∣peare with comfort before his Master; and hee sees also that the Sunne drawes low, and the day hastneth to an end, doe you thinke that this servant can find time to play? If a man have much to write, and but a little paper to write in, he must write small and thicke, and close as ever hee can. So it is with every one of us: I warrant you there is not any soule of us, but wee shall find so many thousand things to repent of, so many graces to obtaine, that wee stand in need of: so many evidences for heaven to get, that yet we have not got sealed, so many particulars concerning a better life, that a man may wonder that ever any one should find one halfe day to intend any thing else.
Thus you see the reasons, why the serious meditation of the little time we have to continue below, should bee a marvellous meanes to take us off from the world, and to put us upon the stu∣die, and thought of better things.
Well now, let me briefly apply this unto you; that so I may come to that I principally intend.
Oh that we had learned this excellent lesson, that the Apostle * teacheth the Corinths here, what wondrous happy people should wee be?
You shall find ever-more in the Scripture, the Spirit of God putting the neglect that is amongst men, and carelesnesse of hea∣ven, * and all the wickednesse of their lives upon this, the not se∣rious meditation of that small time they have to continue below.
If a man come to those that are not brethren, as Saint Paul be∣speakes the Corinths in the Text: they will say; It is true, it is a good point to be prest upon a man that is in a consumption, on one whom the Doctours have given over: to tell him that hee cannot continue a weeke, that his time is short, But for our parts wee are but in the beginning of our voyage: it may be, wee are but twen∣ty yeares old: we began but the other day to be furnished with a stocke: wee we are but newly entred: and doe you thinke that we are striking sayle? Or another that hath lived fortie or fiftie yeares, in the middest of a full trade, that beginneth to get some∣thing in the world: doe you thinke that he is striking sayle? Thus people put it off. Alas! what is thy time? What is all thy life? Let God decide it: doth not he say, it is a vapour, a dreame, a tale that is told, like a Ship that sayleth by, and is gone, and that in the turning of a hand almost? If thou have no more time of life here, but only while a little sand is running out of a glasse, while a Ship is sayling out of sight, while a short tale is told (God saith it is Page 220 no more) wilt thou account that thy voyage is yet scarsly begun?
I beseech you (beloved) all goe home, and often thinke of this point. Say within yourselves: How long Lord, am I like to con∣tinue below? and what is there for me to doe before I goe out of this world?
But the truth is, men dare not thinke of this: and the divell la∣boureth * for nothing more in the world then this, to make men put off the serious consideration of the brevitie of their lives, and that they have longertime to continue here, then they have: be∣cause hee knowes the truth of this, that I have spoken, that the meditation thereof will stirre them up, to make cleare all recko∣nings with God, before they goe hence, and bee seene no more. You may find this to be true in your owne experience, how loath men are to entertaine thoughts of their latter end: Goe to one that lies sicke of a Consumption, and hee will tell you: the Do∣ctors say, that I may live, and I doubt not but I shall get up a∣gaine: such a one hath beene brought as low as I, and hee is recovered, and why may not I. I once knew one that when the Phisitians came and told him, that hee must die: Good Lord (said hee) what a deale of worke have I to doe: I have all my seed to sow: all my evidences to seale that my soule should bee saved, &c. Such thoughts should enter into us now: pitch on them seriously: buckle to them soundly.
Wee may learne this point of wisedome of the divell him∣selfe; Hee, because hee knoweth his time is short, hee is so much the fuller of rage and malice; and plies his worke with so much the more eagernesse. Woe bee to the Inhabitants of the earth, and the Sea (Revelat. 12. 12.) for the divell is gone out amongst men, having great wrath, because hee knoweth that hee hath but a short time. So should wee doe. Thinke with thy selfe: the se∣venth Angel will come ere long, and sweare by him that liveth for ever and ever, that there shall bee no more time: but GOD will have an account for the time past. What if the Angel should come now and sweare (as tenne to one but there is some man or wo∣man in this Congregation, concerning whom GOD hath de∣termined, that they shall have no more time before a weeke bee at an end) Put the case it should bee any ones case, thine or mine, that God should say, Goe fetch such a man, I will give him no more time; It is true, I gave him some, but now his voyage is at an end, his sayle is strucke: and then we shouldhave all to seeke, no Christ, no true faith, no evidence for Heaven; when wee must come and give an account to God. What have you done with all your time? will God say? I must have a reckoning of it.
Page 221 And then commeth in, Imprimis, so much time in drinking, so much in revelling, so much in dressing my selfe every day. And then God shall say; Were these the things I gave you time for? Did I bestow time on you, for to bee spent about such things as these? No, it was for Heaven. Beloved, how could we answer to these things?
It is good and profitable, seriously to consider of this betimes: say to thy selfe, I have not long to live, after a while I must goe hence, and be no more: I must give an account, and a reckoning unto God, of all that I have done, whether it bee good or evill.
But this is not the principall point I have to speake of, therefore I passe it briefly. I come to the Exhortation it * selfe. It remaineth that both they that have wives, bee as though they had none; and they that weepe, as if they wept not; and they that rejoyce, as though they rejoyced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that use the world, as not abusing it, &c.
In a word: I take the summe of the Exhortation to be, as if the * Apostle S. Paul had said thus;
Brethren; you are ready to cast anchor: trouble not your selves: bee stedfast; gird up the loynes of your mindes: let your care bee greatest for heaven: as for these things that are here below, if you have wives, bee as if you had none; thinke, assoone as you are ashoare, you shall have none: if you bee sicke, or under any crosse, or affliction, bee as though you wept not: sup∣pose you bee as a fellow that is faine to plie the pumpe all the day, assoone as hee is ashoare, hee is free: if you re∣joyce, if you be in prosperity, if you be as the Master of the Ship that hath great preferment, bee as if you rejoyced not: Why? you are almost come ashoare; therefore bee, as if not, in all these.
I will briefly open the meaning of all these particulars, and then put all into one point of instruction, and so come further to applie it unto you, as God shall enable me.
What therefore is the meaning? first, Let them that have wives, bee as though they had none.
To that I answer; A man that hath a Wife, hath two things * that another hath not, that hath no wife.
The first is, He hath a great deale of joy and comfort: he hath a second selfe, a loving yoak-fellow; one in whose Bosome hee can poure his heart at any time: one that he can make partaker of Page 222 all his contentments: one that is willing to helpe him to carry all his crosses: so in a Wife (supposing her to be a good Wife) hee hath that comfort that another knowes not of.
Secondly, he that hath a Wife, hath a great many cares that another hath not: hee hath a great deale of feare lest hee should leave her in distresse: a great deale of care how shee, and the children that are begotten by him of her, should be provided for, when he is gone: so that as Saint Paul saith, hee cannot but care for the things of the world, how he may give content to his wife. These two things a man hath, that hath a Wife.
Now, What is it to bee in this, as if hee had no wife?
That is this; In all contentments that come by a wife to use them as if hee had none at all: that is, to be moderate, not to glu•… himselfe, and to thinke, now I am a happy man, I need no more, God hath given me such a yoake-fellow, and I have abundant joy in it. But to moderate his heart in this.
And for the other thing, for care, and thought how to provide for her and her children: to goe on, as if he had no wife and chil∣dren to provide for: to leave all to God: to goe on in his calling in obedience to God, and let God doe what hee will. And for matter of providing food and rayment, when hee is gone, let him even carry himselfe, as if all the world were gone, when hee is gone. This is to have a wife, as if hee had none: to be as moderate in the enjoying of the contentments that come by his wife: to be as moderate in cares required for a Wife, so moderate in them, as if he had no wife at all to joy in, or to take care for.
For the second; They that weepe, as if they wept not. That is, for * matter of Affliction. One man commeth out, and he exceedingly glorieth in his happinesse that he hath a wife. Another complai∣net: no man is so full of crosses as I: every day one crosse after another: no man hath such children: such a husband: such an e∣state, so poore, so afflicted, so weake: ever groaning and com∣plaining, Now, saith Saint Paul: bee as if not, in weeping. That is, let the thoughts of the neerenesse of the shoare make you so contented, as if there were no crosse at all lying upon you. For (I still follow the Metaphor the Spirit of God useth) hee that is the poorest man in the Ship, hee that doth nothing but dresse the sayles, and (as I said before) plie the pumpe, and it may be is bea∣ten withall: yet in the middest of all these, he thinketh, I shall by and by cast Anchor, and though I worke hard, yet one houre more will make me free. So it should be with us, in all afflicti∣ons, as if not: that is, Thinke, Death will come and end all, I am sicke in body, I am crost in my good name, in my yoake-fellow: Well, Death will end all these, I have but a little while to •…arry in this world, and short things must not be tedious.
Page 223 On the other side; Hee that rejoyceth, as though hee rejoyced not.* That is, in all the contentments of the world: in all the joy a man hath in the things below: as suppose a man have an estate here, and credit given him, or any thing that makes the world account a man happy, Remember, all these things will be gone assoone as I die: as (still to use the comparison) let it bee the Master of the Ship, he may thinke with himselfe: all these are under me, I can command them, and punish them if they disobey: yet assoone as I am out of the Ship, they are as good as my selfe. I am now neere the shoare, and shall bee soone out of the place I am in, let me therefore moderate my selfe. So let us in all worldly content∣ments be so moderate, as if wee should take our leaves of them, and they of us.
And so for a man, to bee as though hee possest not. That is, for a * man not to inlarge his heart, as the world is enlarged. But if I have now so many pounds, and therewith buy such a purchase, and such a purchase: let me live, and carry my selfe in my thoughts, as if I had nothing but food and rayment.
And then lastly commeth in the maine of all the rest: They*that use the world, as not abusing it. By world hee meanes, all the good things of the world, all that I named before, and all that you can else thinke of, Wife, and children, prosperity, and ad∣versity, every thing on the right hand, and on the left, all com∣meth within the compasse of the World: use all these things so. But especially hee aymeth at worldly businesses, the things wee are exercised about: doe them as not abusing them, as not letting your hearts bee set too much upon them: but bee temperate and moderate in all, that we may ever be fit for that great service that God hath to imploy us in.
Now, out of all these put together: the mayne Lesson that I would speake of, is this;
That the true servants of God, true beleevers: all the blessings and * erosses they meet with in this world, they must have them, as if they had them not.
This is the point I would open to you. That in wife, children, prosperity, crosses, thinke what you can, a beleever must bee in them, as if not: as if hee were not in that condition.
To give you for the proofe of this any other Scripture then my Text, I suppose I need not: the Apostle Saint Paul (you see) layes it downe in so many words. Yet, for the better confirmation of the point, I will adde to that, two or three other plaine places. Only first, I would a little explaine to you, what it is for a man to use all these things, as if not.
To instance in a few duties that I will but name. Suppose it be * the duty of prayer. Bring me out a true beleever, and a world∣ling, let them both be put upon this duty of prayer. The true be∣leever, his heart, before he goes to prayer, is so full of care, that hee may pray aright: so full of feare, lest his heart should not car∣ry it selfe as it should, when he is in the duty: his heart is so vio∣lently bent to it: it so strugleth and striveth, that hee may doe it, as may please God. When hee hath done, he hath much joy and comfort, if hee have carried it well: and much sorrow and griefe, if hee have carried it ill. Thus a religious heart carrieth it selfe in this duty. Now a worldly man doth the duty too: but how? as if not: that is, hee hath none of this care before hee commeth to it: he hath none of this trouble when he is at it: he hath none of this perplexitie, when he hath done, if he have miscarried in it. If hee be able to come off, it is well enough, though it be performed in never so ill a manner: Why? his mind is after other things, hee intends greater matters, as hee thinkes. The Minister hath taught him to pray, and he can say his prayers, and so hee doth the duty, but still, as if not.
Oragaine, suppose a man whose heart is set upon Mammon, put this man to recreation; hee may perhaps find time to play at Bowles, or Cards, or Tables with a friend: but how? hee cares not whether hee winnes or loses: hee whiles away the time, but this is not the thing his heart is set upon, that giveth him content∣ment: but that which his mind is on, is his commodities, his trade, his merchandize, his businesse in the world.
Iust thus (beloved) it must be with every true beleever in the using of all the things of this life, that is, without care, without feare, without perplexitie, without distraction, and if they come on, so: if they goe, so: he must be pleased if hee have them, and content if hee want them: and howsoever, his thoughts must bee carried higher and better. To thinke thus. I am the servant of God, I have a Calling here, I will follow it in obedience to God: I have a Wife, I will use her as a wife should be used: I have chil∣dred, I will have a care of their education. But I must not come to be distracted, about my calling, about my wife, and children, and servants, and good name, or any thing that is here below. I am here to day, it may please God, I may bee gone to morrow: my hearts desire must be, to be content, with this that God is my all-sufficient portion: if I bee in prosperity, to be, as if not: if in affliction, to carry my selfe so, that in the middest of sorrow and Page 225 trouble, to bee as if God have freed me from all, remembring still that my portion is in another life.
Thus you have seene both the lesson arising from the Text, and what that is, that in it is required of every true beleever.
And this point I am now to prove, and still I must use the compellation of the Apostle, Brethren, for as for others I have lit∣tle hope of.
I will (as I promised) make it plaine out of the Scripture, That a true beleever, that would have comfort of it, that hee is a true beleever,*must be, as if not in all the things of this world. There is one eminent place for this purpose, viz. 1. Iohn 4. 10. Saith the Apostle there, Love not the world, nor the things of the worid: if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. Hence I argue thus; Hee * that must so use wife, children, credit, friends, good name, pros∣peritie, without loving of them, it is likely he useth them as if not: for love is the great wheele that setteth all the faculties aworke: Now the Spirit of God doth directly forbid all Christians to love the world, or the things of the world (as they doe) the Scripture absolutely injoyneth that we should not love them, that is, that our hearts must not be fixed on them.
Another place you have likewise in Colloss. 3. 1. Set not your af∣fections on things below. Now (as I said before) if any man doe * any thing, that his affections are not upon, that he doth not love, and joy, and delight in, that hee doth not take care for, and the like, certainly that man useth it as if not: but so must every true beleever, use the things of the world so, as that he must not set his affections upon them.
Other Scriptures I might give you to make good, this point, but I am somewhat afraid to bee straytned. Two or three argu∣ments I will adde to make it plaine, Why every true beleever must be, as if not, in all these things.
First, because all the things in this world (which are contained * in the Text) they are all but emptie poore things to a beleever. To another man who makes them his God (in his conceit) they are full, but to a true beleever these things are well knowne to bee but emptie things. I need give you no better proofe to make this evident, then that which followeth in the Text: For the fashion of this world passeth away. The fashion of the world, What is that? That is, a thing that is a shew without a substance. Nay, the word sig∣nifieth, such a fashion, as is in a Comedie, or stage-play, where all things are but for a while to please the eye: A man it may bee acts the part of a King, that is no better then a begger or a varlet: so all things in the world are no better then shadowes and empty, like a piece of a stage-play: and no marvell if beleevers that know this use them, as not.
Page 226 Secondly, another argument why Beleevers must in all these * things use them as if not, is, because they are none of a beleevers, and being none of his, it is a meere folly for him, to set his heart upon them. How are they none of his, you will say? First, for the truth of it, these things below, they belong to the men of this life: but the treasure and estate of a Beleever is laid up in another life; hee is but as a stranger and pilgrim here below, and therefore they are none of his. And then likewise they are none of his, because he hath resigned them all up to God, in the day when he made the bargaine for Christ. For when we come to be Christs, wee must sell all to buy that Pearle, and in selling all, * wee sell not only our corruptions and lusts, but wives and chil∣dren, and pleasures, and credit, and all: wee have them not now to have and to hold, to doe what wee will with them: but now that wee have Christ, wee returne all to him, and have them as Coppy-hold, to bee tenants at will to that great Land-lord: wee have only a little time in them. And if it be so, that every belee∣ver hath no more to doe in this world but thus: that he is meere∣ly at the pleasure of God, and can properly call nothing his owne, but God and Christ, then certainly, hee must use all these things as if not. Conceive it thus. A Traveller, goeth a long * journey, hee commeth at night to his Inne, when hee is there, hee is wondrous glad, of his table, of his bed, of his fire, of his meat and drinke, and every thing, and hee is wondrous welcome: but hee doth not so delight in them, as the host of the house, who is living there, and is right owner, and hath the whole estate: No, hee only resteth there for a night after his weary journey, but on the morrow, God be with you, then hee is gone. So, a worldly man, he may say here is my estate, here is my stocke, all that I have is layed up here. But a Beleever saith, I am now in my journey, I am here, no other, then a pilgrim, my home is in Heaven, and while I am passing through this pilgrimage; If I have a piece of meat in my hunger, and a cup of drinke in my thirst, and clothes in my nakednesse, there is all that I care for.
Thirdly, the last and the maine Argument to proue that every * true beleever must bee, as if not, in all the things of this world is, because if he be any otherwise in them, hee will be so intangled, that hee shall not be fit for the service of God. And this third Argument will be of the greatest force to a true beleever. For the other two, you will say, if they be none of mine, why doe I meddle with them? and if they be empty, why likewise doe I meddle with them? But now thirdly, if I meddle with them, they will make me directly that I shall not bee a Christian, they will hinder me from the service of my God; this will make a be∣leever of all things, to looke about him. The Apostle saith Page 227 directly, that none that warreth intangleth himselfe: that is thus: Suppose a man have received presse-money to goe a souldier, will he be so madde as to lay out his money upon a Farme in the Countrey, when upon the command of his Captaine, upon paine * of death, he must follow presently. Beloved, he that intangleth himselfe with the things of the world, and of the flesh, if his wife, his pleasures, his credit, or any thing have taken up his heart: or if sorrowes and afflictions drinke up his spirits, and eate up his very soule; when God calls this man now to come to prayer, to come to the Church, to heare his Word, to fight against his lusts, or to doe any duty, alas! his head, his heart, and all, are eaten up, with his Farme, with his oxen, with his wife, with his crosses and afflictions: so that he is altogether unfit for any service that God hath called him to. Therefore (saith Saint Iohn) he that intang∣leth himselfe with these things below, hee cannot possibly have the love of the Father dwelling in him.
This shall suffice for the clearing of the point, I have spent the more time in it, because I would faine lay as good a foundation as I might, that the Application may take the deeper impression in your hearts.
Wee that live in the Countrey, when we come up by occasion * into the Citie, and here see all men so full of trouble, every man so toyled in his worke, so full of businesse, and so little time ta∣ken for any thing else, me thinkes that such a point as this to Bre∣thren, to beleevers should be of speciall use. Now (beloved) this is the summe of that I have to say; Bee in all these things, as if not.
Shall wee all resolve, as obedient children to carry this point home, and examine in deed, and in truth, whether wee be in these things, as if not. But alas what shall I say? I remember a story * of one Thomas Lennot, a learned English man, who reading once in the fifth, sixth, and seventh Chapters of S. Mathews Gospel, how our Saviour Christ saith; You have heard how it hath beene said of old, you must doe thus and thus, but I say unto you, you must love your enemies, pray for them that curse you, doe good to them that hate you, and persecute you; and so hee goeth on in injoyning such strange duties to flesh and bloud. Hee breakes out; Oh Iesus, either this is not thy Gospel, or wee are not Christians. Truly (beloved) I would to God a Minister might not have just cause to say so in this point, that when hee commeth, and reades this of the Apostle; It re∣maines (brethren) that hee that hath a wife, bee as if hee had none; hee that useth the world, as not abusing it: and hee that buyeth, as if hee pos∣sessed not, &c. And must it be thus, if wee meane to be Christians?. I would to God (I say) a man might not breake out, and say; Oh Paul, either thou art not the writer of this, or wee are no Christians.
Wee talke and professe it in words, that we purpose to doe it: Page 228 but if wee come to the deed, and the truth, it is cleane contrary, wee are not at all moderate in the use of these things. In matters of Heaven, and in things that concerne our everlasting welfare, where God would have us take the kingdome of heaven with vio∣lence: Where wee should cry out as the Horse-leach his daughter; Give, give, and never say it is enough: Wee are even like children that goe to schoole, that care not how little they have for their money. In hearing, if the Sermon bee but halfe an houre, wee thinke it enough: and in prayer, and in conference, a little will serve the turne. Like the Jesuit, that when he thought he had a re∣velation, he cryed out, Satis Domine, Enough Lord; I have revela∣tion enough: So wee, in matters of religion, Enough Lord. But turne us to wives, to children, to clothes, to honours, to prefer∣ments, to riches, to ease, to pleasures, and the like; there wee are as the barren wombe, that never saith it is enough. Brethren, is it not thus?
But me thinkes I should bring you some particular instances to * convince you that it is thus: and I would to the Lord I could throughly convince you of it, that thus it is with you. But to in∣stance a little. Suppose now, a man comes and meets with a Citi∣zen in his businesse, and say to him; How have you spent this day? Truly (he will say) I am so full of businesse, that I have not time so much as to eat my meat. But I hope, you have beene at prayer in your family, have you not? Alas (will hee say) I can∣not get so much as a quarter of an houres time. Doe you call this as if not, brethren? Come to another, that hath a wife: all his care is for her: oh my wife and children, if I should die, and leave them poore, what should I doe? when I sleepe, I dreame of them; when I awake in the morning, my thoughts are of them. Is this to be as if you had no wife and children? Another, hee is ever a complaining and mourning, oh, I have such crosses, I am so full of afflictions; I have lost such, and such friends; and such, and such an estate: and though I goe to Church and heare, such and such comfortable doctrines, one after another, and all telling me, of the all-sufficiency of God, of the comforts and joyes of the Spirit, of the good things that are layed up in Heaven: yet like Rachel, they will never bee comforted for their brother, for their sister, for their children, &c. What shall we say to these things? Doe you thinke the Lord speakes not as he meaneth? or that the Apostle, when he saith here absolutely and determinatly, that thus and thus you must doe if you be Christians, if you be brethren? Shall wee doe the contrary to all this, and yet thinke that all will bee well?
I know you may put it off (many of you) and alledge many things: wee have callings. and wee must follow our Callings: if Page 229 God brings me in imployment, blame me not if I follow it: And I know not how to live, if I doe not doe thus and thus.
But be not deceived, God is not mocked. In a word therefore, * to put you on the tryall. If thou findest in the middest of thy trading, and merchandizing, or whatsoever calling thou art of, thy heart daily gathering towards heaven: that thou canst say, blessed be God for this, and other commodities, but Christ is my darling: this is good. And then, in these things, if thou hast a care to use them aright, as well as to get them, and to thanke God for them, and that thy project is, how thou shalt doe good with that thou hast, that thou art alwayes saying with thy selfe, Lord how shall I doe good with so much as I have got by such a bargaine. God forbid I should say against thee, though thou bee full of bu∣sinesse from morning to evening. But alas, there are many good people and godly, that give hope that they serve God, yet if they goe home and examine themselves throughly, their owne con∣sciences will tell them, that in the things of this world, they are not, as if not, but rather, that they have beene over-carefull, and too full of distractions in businesses.
And so for matter of joy: if a man have a little pleasure, or preferment given him; his heart is so up, that hee knowes not where he is, hee is so transported, that he hath cleane forgot him∣selfe. This cannot stand, this is not to be, as if not: and therefore I beseech you in the feare of God thinke of it.
Now if a man would know, how hee should come to have his * heart in a good temper, to bee in these things, as if not. In one word, let me tell you that rule of Saint Paul. In all things bee filled with the Spirit, and then thou wilt not take thought much for other things: if once you let your soules bee filled with the things of a better life: then wife, and children, and wealth, and pleasures, or any thing else, will not draw away your heart.
Get a good hand-fast of Jesus Christ: worke out your salva∣tion, that you may know that you are beleevers upon good grounds, and that you have the graces of the Spirit of God in you, in deed, and in truth, that you are new creatures.
And then often thinke of the rare things that are provided for you in another life. What; to have God to bee your Father, and Angels your keepers, to be children, to bee the companions of Angels. Weigh these things daily, and then you will be, as if not, in all these outward and worldly things. And untill thou dost this: and thinkest withall of that I have formerly said, that thou art ready to strike sayle, I will never beleeve that thou wilt bee, as if not. This is the second thing.
A word or two of the Third, and so I have done. And that is the Spurre that the Apostle Saint Paul useth. And it is necessary Page 230 hee should use such a spurre, for it is a very hard lesson.
If you would be, as if you were not, consider this; The fashion of the world passeth away. That is, it signifieth (I touched it before) such a fashion as is on a stage: All these things below, they are but as the Acting of a Comedie, as a Scaene, it may bee it is done in halfe an houre, and though it make a fine shew, yet in truth there is no substance in it.
There is one, it is a fashion: besides, it passeth away. So then in this spurre, there are two things. I will but name the heads. *
First, That the things of this world (all, that I named before) are but a shew without a substance; Even as a Scaene or Comedie, things that have a glorious glittering shew to the eye, but if you looke in deed and in truth upon them, there is no such matter. That is one thing that I note, that our life is but as the acting of a part in a Comedie: and so by consequence, in all these outward things, thy contentment in wife, or children, or credit, or pleasures, thou dost but act a glorious part, it may be thou hast a goodly outside, fine clothes, rich apparell, an outward representation of comfort, but looke thorow them, and there is no such matter.
But the second thing which I rather would presse, is, that it is*suddenly gone; it passeth away, saith the Apostle. As a man hath but a little time to tarry in the world, so all the things hee en∣joyeth in the world, are wondrous inconstant. That looke as it is in a Play, hee that now acts the part of a King, it may be next, he may act the part of a Begger: or as it is with some of your deli∣cate fashions, that while you are speaking of them, the fashion is spoyled. Even so, the fashion of this world it will not continue.
That is the summe of that I desire you to take notice of: that if you will not be perswaded by me, or by the Spirit of God in his unworthy minister, to use the things of this world moderately, and to carry your selves as you ought in crosses and afflictions: yet know this, that the fashion of these things will shortly be spoy∣led. And if they be all so unconstant, what a foole art thou to set thy heart upon them?
Wee may learne this wisedome from the foolery of our Eng∣lish Nation, esteemed now the idlest people of the world for changing their fashion. They will never make clothes twice of one fashion, but one gowne of this fashion, and another of that, and though he bee never so good a Taylour that makes it, yet hee must make no more of the same fashion, but the next Terme, they will cometo another. Learne, I say, this wisedome from that foolery: Now, the Lord giveth thee comfort in thy wife, set not thy heart too much upon her, the next Terme the fashion may change: Now, thou art rich, let not thy heart dote upon thy ri∣ches, it is but a fashion, a shew, it passeth away, to morrow Page 231 thou maist bee a begger: to day a man, to morrow none.
But if thou wouldest keepe the fashion, get the fashion of grace, get a right to heaven, an interest in God, and be content (in Gods name) to follow his fashion. If the fashion that God will have thee be in, be to be an humble dejected man, be content with that fashion: if anon he will have thee on the toppe of the wheele of prosperitie, thanke God for it, take heed of abusing the things thou enjoyest. Remember the things of this life are inconstant things; as a flower, as a nosegay, that seemeth as a dainty fine thing, but while we are smelling at it, and praising it, it withereth away: so is it with all these things.
I would I could tell how to speake home to your soules: and yet I know that little I have spoken, if it be entertained with faith, if you beleeve this to be the truth of God, not as the speech that a man makes to you, but as the speech of Saint Paul, an Apostle of Christ, that sets it downe by the direction of God, that it is thus: I say, if you lay downe this as a truth that comes from God, and seriously thinke with your selves; I have but a little time to tarry here below, and when I am out of the world, I shall live for ever in heaven or in hell: while I doe enjoy the things of this world, God will have me to be, as if not, in them: and there is good rea∣son why, they are shewes, and not substances: Grace and the fa∣vour * of God is only that which is substantiall, whatsoever you looke upon that is under these, are but shewes: riches, and ho∣nours, and worldly contentments they are but shadowes, like one in a play, that is but a Peasant under the coat of a King, these have but only outsides, under them there is no such matter. This I say which I have spoken, being seriously considered, and faithfully received, may (through the blessing of GOD, and your owne prayers to God to teach you this) be a meanes to moderate you in the use of all those things that are here below.