SECT. VII. Of the sanctifying VVork of the Spirit un∣der the Notion of Grace.
Of the Hearts being established with Grace, and in what sense it is so.
HEB. 13. 9.
IN the former part of this Epistle, Paul (for we take him to be the Author of it) doth like a kinde father crack the shell of those Jewish Ceremonies, and give the ker∣nell to believers; he opens the spiritual sense and mean∣ing of all those typical prefigurations, making them sha∣dowes onely of Christ to come; so that as the blos∣some fals when the fruit cometh, thus they vani∣shed, when Christ arose: and because they were one∣ly shadows, he thereupon argueth their insufficiency for any spiritual effect, making Moses in all his administrations, no more then the Prophets servant with his Masters staff, that could not raise the dead man. But in the later part of the Epistle, he enjoyneth many practical and plain Du∣ties; as in this Chapter vers. 7. he exhorteth them to follow the faith of their spiritual Governours and Teachers, which is to be supposed, as Paul in the like case, while they follow Christ. This duty he enforceth from a two-fold Argu∣ment.
1. The joyful and profitable end of their Pastors conversation.
2. That Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. Christ that helped his servants in former times, will still help them. Christ is still the same, Page 310 though we be not those worthies that went before us: an excellent point of com∣fort.
In the next place he dehorts from the contrary sinne. Be not carried about with divers and strange Doctrines; carried about, as light, empty chaff is with every winde; divers, that is, different Doctrines one with another, for all errours disagree among themselves, as well as with the truth; strange Do∣ctrines, because brought in against the sense and meaning of the Scripture: now to make this Dehortation prevalent, he declareth that grace in the heart is farre better then any learning in the head, by the Proposition in the Text, it is good, the positive is for the comparative, it is better to establish, or have the heart established (the word is in the middle voice) by grace, that is, the inward works and gifts of Gods sanctifying Spirit, then with meats, that is, dispute and controversies about the difference of meats: you know how that Question troubled the Church of God in her infancy. Some indeed expound meats of the Legal Sacrifices, for the Jews thought themselves made more holy by eat∣ing thereof. Insomuch that some are brought in pleading this at the day of Judgement, Have we not eat in thy presence? Others relate it to those banquets, and dainty feastings, the Nicolaitans entertained their Disciples with: but the first exposition is to be preferred. By grace also some understand the Do∣ctrine of faith; others the grace of the Gospel, and the sense of it in our hearts. But the phrase, Establish the heart with grace, doth carry it for some gift of God wrought in the soul, confirming and setling it in the truths and commandments of God, by saith and obedience, which we call sanctifying grace; so that as I have handled the work of godlinesse, under the notions of regeneration and a New Creature; so I shall out of this Text speak of it, under that usual and fre∣quent name of grace, the work of grace in a mans heart; but there is one pro∣fitable and necessary Doctrine lieth in the way, before we enter into the bowels of that Point. That whereas the Apostle dehorting from following strange and divers Doctrines, doth urge as a special help and remedy hereunto, to get grace in our hearts, whereas in probability we should have thought, he would have prescribed, to study controversies, to spend our time in Disputes, that so we may finde out the truth, he adviseth not to such a course, but to study the ex∣ercise of grace, and to have our hearts established with practical godlinesse, as if an heart bu••ed and diligent in the practical power of grace, were the best bul∣wark in the world against all false Doctrines. Observe then,
That its far better to have the heart filled with the power of grace, then the head with disputes and controversies in Religion.
Its better to have faith setling thy heart upon Christ, then to dispute whether faith justifie. Its more comfortable to be a Saint, then to argue, Whether Saints only are members of a visible Church.
For opening this, I shal first shew, What it is to have grace establish the heart, and then give the grounds of the Point. Only you must know, that as grace is here said to establish the heart; so in other places this effect is attributed to God, 1 Pet. 5. 10. The Apostle there prayeth that God would stablish, strengthen, settle them: there God doth it, and here Grace; for its usual in Scripture to attribute the same effect to the instrumental and principal cause; Grace doth only establish the 〈◊〉 of a man formally, as the instrument of Gods Spirit; and indeed grace in the heart being also a creature, though of a supernatural excellency, needeth it self a daily strengthning and preservation from God. Hence the Apostle when he exhorteth us to put on the whole armour of Christ; when all this is done, he concludeth, Praying alwayes, Ephes. 6. 18. A Christian in all his spiritual strength must pray as earnestly, and depend as solely upon the power and might of God, as if he had no grace at all. *
This premised, let us consider in what sense inherent grace may be said to sta∣blish and settle the heart: And this it doth several waies:
Page 311 1. By rooting us upon Christ, and building us upon him; by which means the * gates of hell cannot prevail against such an one: Where grace is in the heart, there also Christ dwells, and grace is but the fruit, Christ is the root, Col. 2. 7. Grace is like the navel string, especially faith, whereby the soul is united to Christ, and fetcheth nourishment from him. Our Saviour maketh a difference of two builders in Christianity, both raise up and edifie, have a profession, an outward from of Religion, but one buildeth upon sands, and another upon the rock. Now he buildeth on sands, whosoever taketh up the way of Religion upon any worldly, carnal or corrupt principle: If it be built upon education, custom, formality, this is like a stone not fastned to the corner stone, and so a sudden tempest will hurl it down; therefore Ephes. 3. when the Apostle had prayed, that they might be strengthened in the inward man (the words spoken of in my Text) he addeth, Rooted and grounded in love, in the love of Christ; till therefore thou art homogeneous with Christ, as it were, and dost love him because of holiness and godliness sake, thy heart is loose and uncertain: If the tree had no rooting in the earth, it would be as subject to fall as any leaf it bear∣eth: If the ship be not anchored, its carried with every wind; so unless grace settle thee upon Christ, and thou cleave to him, there is no temptation but will hurry thee this way and that way: Even a reed that is apt to be shaken with every wind, if tyed to a rock, stands unmoveable; so thy heart natural∣ly false, deceitful, inconstant, and full of treachery to God, if fastned to Christ, then as Christ is the same yesterday, and to day, so art thou; As the times did not, nor have not changed Christ, so neither will they thee, when grounded on him; if therefore you see men leaner in the ways of godliness then before, not so much in the practical exercise of Grace, it's because they run as sheep among the brambles and bryers of disputes, and lose their wool, they do not keep close by faith to the live Tree, which would convey sweet fulness: Happy therefore is that Christian, who daily goeth out like that woman to touch Christ, that so he may finde vertue come from him to heal him: If thou hast bottomed thy self upon any thing but Christ, thou art not a pillar in the temple of the Lord, which cannot be removed, as is promised to the godly Revel. 3. 12.
2. Grace establisheth the heart, by fixing it to one object, so that the main stream * and current of his heart runneth that way: Its the great corruption in our na∣tures, that we would serve two Masters, God and the Creature: we are divided between these two, and sometimes God and Religion hath our heart, and some∣times the world and earthly comforts have our hearts: Now grace comes and fixeth the heart upon God; whereas before the scales were even, or rather that to∣wards the world did weigh down, now grace weigheth heaviest: This the Scripture calls halting between two, and the Apostle James〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 a double minded man, Jam. 1. or a man with two souls, he is even sorry he hath not a soul for God, and a soul for the world also: But this is a notable effect of grace, to make the heart cleave to the Lord; as the Scripture often calls it, even as glew makes things to adhere to one another, so that they become one. A man of Disputes and Notions meerly in Religion, is like a ship tossed in the sea, with∣out Pilot or Anchor; whereas a man ballassed with Grace, and anchored on Christ, is not in danger of shipwrack: Oh then let not thy soul be like a Meteor, tossed up and down, but like a fixed Star in its Orb; chuse Christ for thy por∣tion so as to leave the world, take up Davids disposition, My heart is fixed, my heart is fixed: Hence the godly soul is said to be married unto Christ, because it leaveth all other objects, and chuseth him onely.
3. Grace doth establish the heart, because it removeth inconstancy, and enableth the soul to persevere: Its not so much grace, as perseverance in grace that crown∣eth * a man. Adam, though he had all good things bestowed on him, yet because he did not persevere, he lost all his happiness: Now this is a distinct work of Page 312 grace, establishing the soul, from the former, because here the soul doth for a while cleave to God, but then loseth its hold again: The Israelites are a per∣tual instance herein, who humbled themselves, and turned unto the Lord, but their hearts were not stedfast within them, and their righteousness was like a morning dew, which made Moses say, upon their good promises they made, O that there were such an heart within them; thus also the temporary Believer in the parable, who received with joy the word of God, and believed for a while, Matth. 13. presently revolted: The reason why men have a flux and a reflux of their faith and repentance, is because (as they say of the motions of the sea) they follow the moon that is subject to change; they are carried out to good things, not from an induring principle, nor hath grace taken deep root in their souls; Therefore Modo aiunt, modo negant; sometimes they affirm, and some∣times they deny. This inconstancy, is a fruit of the former uncertainty, and want of fixation upon God; as the Apostle Jame's sheweth, A double minded man is inconstant in all his ways; therefore compared to the waves of the sea, that sometimes are mounted up to heaven, and then presently vanish down again towards the earth. Stedfastness and constant evenness in the ways of God, breeds much joy, and is many times accompanied with comfortable as∣surance; whereas an heart sometimes up, and then down, in the ways of grace and duty, is also inconstant in his comforts, so that hereby he doubts of him∣self, and knoweth not what will become of him. If thy righteousness be but a morning dew, so is also thy consolation, it will quickly vanish: Oh then how comfortable is it for grace so to settle thy heart, that thou art not subject to such changes and variations as others are!
4. Grace doth in this respect establish the heart, because it makes the heart sincere*and upright, in all its endeavors and addresses to God. The hypocrite who is moved to duties from false and carnal grounds, he is up and down, and turneth as the wind of his own interest driveth him. Those that make gain godliness, they must winde and turn as gain moveth them. Judas not having a sincere heart, betrayeth Christ and his soul, for worldly advantages: Oh then how much better were it, while thou art thinking of this, and disputing of that, to labor for integrity, uprightness, to see thy soul be carried out to godliness for godli∣ness sake. Hypocrisie will make thee a Camelion, turn into the likeness of eve∣ry object thou comest nigh: And as Aristotle saith, It is fear that makes it sub∣ject to such changes; so in an hypocrite fear of the loss of some worldly com∣forts and contents, makes him become any thing to every body; so that this is the best study and conference, this is the best question, how I may get an unfain∣ed heart, an heart without guil or false and self-seeking ends. If thou hadst the tongue and parts of men and Angels, it would not afford thee so much comfort as a plain, simple and single heart towards God; to be able when thou dyest to say with Hezekiah, Remember how I have walked before thee in a true and faithful heart, 2 King. 20. 3. is of more consequence then those who said, Remember we have prophesied in thy name, and wrought miracles in thy name: It is good then, when the Professors of the Gospel meet together, and consider, How may we be true Israelites in whom there is no guil? we have much a do with our hearts, they are so apt to deceive, to supplant, to make false Syllogisms, as the Apostle saith, that we can never be wary enough: A clear conscience full of sincerity, is dulcis nutricula senectutis; a sweet nurse in old age, like yong Abishag put into old David to keep health and life in him.
5. Grace doth establish the heart, in that it uniteth all the powers and faculties toge∣ther*in the service of God: That as it makes the heart chuse one object onely, so it conjoyneth all the strength of the soul one way, to cleave to it: Thus love is with all the heart, all the soul, all the minde, and all the strength, and David prayeth earnestly for this, Unite my heart to fear thy name, Psal. 86. 11. All distractions and divisions, weaken not onely in a Kingdom, and in the Church, Page 313 but in a mans duties and approaches to God; therefore saith the Apostle, I would have you serve the Lord without distruction; see how divinely the Apostle presseth that point, 1 Cor. 7. 〈◊〉. I would have you 〈…〉 be without dividing cares: The heart must not be like the Levites wise, cut in many pieces; and vers. 35. That you may attend upon the Lord without distruction,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 an ex∣cellent word, it signifieth leaving all things, and seeting our selves onely to this business, and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 not to be distracted and violently taken off from it. The Heathens custom was to say, Hoc age, in their sacrifices; and it is a proverbial speech, Liberet me deus ab homine 〈◊〉 tantum negotii, deliver me 〈◊◊◊〉 that hath but one business in hand, for he is likely to be a desperate enemy: Here∣in then is the admirable power of grace seen, that the heart is 〈◊〉 and united, all his Love, all his Faith, all his joy runs the 〈…〉 he followeth his worldly imployments, but with 〈…〉 them comparatively, as if he did them not. This is the Work 〈…〉 this God hath called them to.
6. Grace doth therefore establish and 〈◊〉 the heart, 〈…〉*forward on〈…〉, and to get up into an higher pitch of 〈…〉•uch remedy against unstedfastness, as to 〈…〉 in grave. 〈…〉 when he bids believers take •eed of falling from their 〈…〉 them to this as a special Antidote, But grow in grace, and 〈…〉 Christ, 2 Pet. 3. 18. Its a necessary thing in Christianity, 〈…〉 with low principles, but to 〈…〉 our selves the 〈…〉 degrees of grace: Thus Paul〈…〉 all behinde, and did 〈…〉 stretch out himself to reach and lay hold upon 〈…〉* Grace is so exact, hath so great a latitude, that there 〈…〉 thyself therein all thy life time, and yet at 〈◊〉 paratively, to the Giant thou shouldst be; why then art art thou 〈…〉 and negligens? Hast thou all the faith thou canst have? All the heavenly minedness thou mayest have? Canst thou go no further in godliness? look up∣on David and Paul in their course of godliness, and thou wilt cry out, Oh draw me, I am but the shadow of a godly man: There is so much perfection in the way of holiness, that I tremble at my imperfections.
7. Grace doth establish and settle the heart, by the joy and heavenly 〈◊〉 which many times flow from it: That as bread is called the staff of a man, it nourish∣eth * and maintaineth him in strength, and wine makes glad the heart of men, all which produce much natural strength; so grace accompanied with the sence of Gods love in the Gospel, and joy therein, doth very much confirm a man. Hence the joy of the Lord is said to be the godlies strength, 〈◊〉 8 10 and where grief and a wounded spirit is, there are weak hands and 〈…〉's a piece of timber while moist and full of sap, is not able to bear up 〈…〉; thus a godly man devoid of comfort and spiritual joy, is like fru•t 〈…〉 many worms, every blow will make it fall to the ground; but 〈…〉 with the comforts attending it, do revive and keep up the spirits of men, 〈…〉 that grace put strength into the Martyrs, and inabled them to conflict with all miseries; and it may justly be thought, that the want of the experience of this solid and unspeakable joy in the Holy Ghost, makes men seek out for comfort in other things, for all life is for some pleasure and joy, and if it hath it not one way, it will try another way: Now thou taketh so much delight in Disputing, in Questions, in Controversies, because, it may be, thou hast not the solid experi∣ence of the best joy, which is, in the spiritual exercise of godliness: So also an∣other he takes no delight but in the encrease of wealth and temporal greatness, because he cannot say with David, Lord, thou hast put more comfort in my heart, then they had when their wine and oyl encreaseth, Psal. 4. Oh then when a Christi∣an can say to every temptation, that would draw him off from minding the sa∣voury things of godliness, Why do ye tempt me to my loss? I cannot be better. Page 314 No exercise can equalize this, then is he excellently settled in Godli∣ness.
8. Grace doth establish and confirm the heart, by preparing and fitting it for eve∣ry*good work: For the same Hebrew word signifieth both to prepare and establish or fasten. Hence the Characteristical difference between the good Kings indeed, and those that appeared so, and were hopeful onely, lay in this, that the one prepared or setled his heart to seek the Lord, and not the other. The Apostle Heb. 13. 21. prayeth, That God would make them perfect to every good work; the Greek word signifieth, to set their joynts together, as it were. That as in a man whose arms or legs have their bones displaced or broken, there is no strength for their proper office, till healed and joynted again: Thus a man destitute of the help of grace, is wholly luxated, all his bones are disjoynted, and grace that repaireth him and confirmeth him, by fitting every part and faculty of the soul, for its proper operation. How much better then were it, in stead of whetting thy wits, and preparing thy self to argue and dispute, thou wer• furbishing thy heart, and making it ready to every gracious performance.
9. Grace doth confirm and settle the soul, in that it is both defensive and offensive.*Defensive, against all that outward strength which combineth against grace in the heart: The Apostle saith, We wrestle not with flesh and blood, but with prin∣cipalities and powers in high places, Ephes. 6. 12. implying, that the greatest strength in hell and earth is imployed against the godly; now grace onely conquers this. Resist, stedsast in the faith, saith the Apostle; and Ephes. 6. you may see how par∣ticular graces, are compared to particular defensive weapons, some to an Helmet, some to a Breast-plate: That as sin is said to make a man naked in the Scripture, Exod. 32. 15, it exposeth him to all judgements, and he hath not so much as one goard to keep him from the scorching heat of the Sun. So there is a 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, an universal Armour to cover all the parts of a man by grace; therefore our graces are called The weapons of Light, Rom. 13. 12. and take we head, lest as Saul in his sleep had his weapons of war taken from him, so thou by careless∣ness and negligence doest not dull and blunt the edge of thy graces. As they are defensive, so they are Offensive also: Hence the Scripture commands us to kill, to mortifie and crucifie sin, which is done by grace within us. The people of God are in a continual combate and conflict, an humble heart with a proud, and a dull heart with a willing quickned heart: Here is fire and water together, Twins strugling in his womb, 1 John 1. 4. Whatsoever is born of God, overcometh the world; Grace therefore being the seed of God in the heart, doth at last conquer all adverse power of sin and Satan; so that Sampsons strength in sub∣duing enemies is not so wonderful, as the gracious strength of a godly man, in conflicting with lusts. Hebr. 11. The people of God are said of weak to become strong; and indeed if you consider the inward temptations from Satan, and the outward persecutions in the world, you would think that they were made of brass and iron, that they can endure so much: O the spiritual fortitude and courage of the Martyrs, transceuding all the humane valour and gallantry of the Romans, that it should not be any longer said, Agere & pati fortia Romanum est, but Christianum.
Lastly, As all grace doth strengthen and confirm the soul, so especially faith, that*is most admirable to this purpose; therefore faith is called the substance or sub∣sistence of things, Heb. 11. and its called resting and rolling thy self upon some prop and stay, when otherwise we would fall to the ground: Thus of Abraham it is said, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉he waxed strong and mighty in faith, and this made him not to consider difficulties, but Gods promise; he considered not his dead body, and Sarahs dead womb, as 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, he did not dwell in his considera∣tions upon it, otherwise he thought of it in his minde, as appeareth Gen. 17. 17. see the word, Heb. 3. 1. Take it in those two acts of assenting to the truth, and applying Christ, or relying on him, how doth it stay and support the soul! Page 315Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose minde is stayed on thee, Isa. 26. 3. therefore the Apostle saith, Above all take the shield of faith; above all graces, nourish and quicken faith. The Scripture saith, unbelief, diffidence and distrust, doth make a man 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, to be carried up and down like a Meteor, to 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 to be like a man, where two ways are and knoweth not what to do, Math. 14. 31. and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉Rom. 4. 20. Now to both these, faith is prescribed as the onely remedy that strengthens the soul; give me a man with sound faith in the Do∣ctrine of Christ, and a strong faith in the promises, and this man will stand like a rock in the sea, when all errors and sins will be dashed in pieces.
Use 1. Is grace the onely setler of the heart? then marvel not if men with∣out grace, be carried up and down as so much thistle-down and chaff when the wind bloweth, that they change according to all occasions, self-interest, par∣ticular profits, that they have as many colours as the Peacocks tails. Alas, here is no foundation laid, he is a man without a bottom, he is a cloud without wa∣ter, he is a Land-flood without a fountain; he is a Cistern, onely having what is outwardly put into him, there do not rivers of living water flow from his belly; onely rooted grace, onely establishing grace will avail a man: This is the oyl: profession, parts and outward duties are but the Lamps. Take the sweetest flowers from the root, it dyeth presently; pull off the fruitfullest branch from the stock, it withers presently; and all thy glorious parts and abilities with∣out this foundation of Grace will quickly dye.
Use 2. To humble the best of Gods children, for how much weakness, dif∣fidence, inconstancy, hypocrisie and pusillanimity is in them? Oh if thy heart were always established and confirmed by grace, then what were able to hurt thee; to discourage a Christian in the power of his grace, is like Noah in his A•k, a Beast in his Den, a Dove in the Rock, sure and safe enough: Oh thou therefore who art so subject to convulsion fits in Christianity, subject to swoons and qualms; think not that riches, honors, greatness, can be a staff sure enough to lie on, it must be onely Christ received and dwelling in our hearts by grace; all sin in thee is thy weakness, thy imbecillity; thou shouldst be ashamed thou hast shewed thy self no more like one that is born of God. The Romans had a Temple dedicated to Fortitude, they made that a Goddess, so that the Hea∣then Historian observed, that was destroyed before Rome was taken (that is his superstitious Idolatry) but we Christians have strength in God; Be strong in the power of his might, which is stronger then all.
Shewing why Grace in the heart, is better then unne∣cessary Disputes in the head; together with Rules how to manage Disputes and Controversies, without prejudice to Grace.
HEBREVVS 13. 9.
THis Text hath already informed us of this necessary truth, in these times especially, wherein men desire to dispute subtilly, more then to live ex∣actly; viz. That it is better to have the heart established with Grace, then the head with unnecessary Disputes in Religion: Having therefore mani∣fested what it is for Grace to establish the heart, let us proceed to give the rea∣sons of this Doctrine. The Corinthians were very zealous of those gifts and abilities, which brought them applause and esteem among others, but negligent about love to God and mens souls, which is an effect of sanctifying Grace; therefore saith the Apostle, I will shew you a more excellent way, 1 Cor. 12. 5. And certainly, though it be laudable to inquire and try all things in the matter of Religion, yet there is a more excellent way, which is to hold fast that which is good, 1 Thess. 5. 21. These and the like insuing particulars, are the grounds and reasons of the Doctrine.
First, Because the proper end and use of all Doctrinal Principles, is to lead and*guide the heart into a practical exercise of Grace: Therefore all the while a man doth imploy his head, and his heart not sanctified, he falls short of the end of all Religious principles; If ye know these things, saith our Savior, happy are ye if ye do them, John 13. 17. Happiness lieth not in the knowing of them, but do∣ing of them. Divinity is practical, even as the art of Medicine; for a man doth not attain health by reading Galen, or knowing Hippocrates his Aphorisms, but by the practical application of them to remove his diseases: Hence you have that notable expression, The acknowledgement of the truth, which is after godliness, Tit. 1. 1, If thou doest not acknowledge God, Christ, and all other matters of Religion after godliness, thou missest the mark: But yet we see this vanity upon men, that they know onely to know, as it is said of one people, that they had money onely to tell it, they made no other use of it. To eat meat, and not to digest it, is like getting knowledge, and not follow it into practice. Know∣ledge is so ordained for, and relating to practice, that all wicked men are said not to know God, because though they have a general knowledge, yet they improve Page 317 it not in a particular application. If then Solomon observed it as a great vanity in the world, that God gave some men riches, and yet they had no power to use them, Eccles. 5. 19. how much more is it to have great intellectual abilities, and continual exercises of the understanding, and in the mean while to have no power to make use of them for the good of their souls: To be often eating of the tree of knowledge, but never to taste of the tree of life. The very Hea∣thens, though they had but some few sparks of a true knowledge about God, having no other Book but that of nature to learn by, yet in how grievous a measure are they punished by God, because they did not live according to their knowledge, neither did they glorifie God as they knew him, Rom. 1. So then, though thou shewest thy self a rational man, and not a beast, in that thou searchest into the grounds and reasons of thy Divine hope, yet it is but labor in vain. if these eyes to see, be not also accompanied with feet to walk in the Commandments of God.
Secondly, It is far better to establish the heart with Grace, then reason with Di∣sputes, because the more quick and apprehensive a mans understanding is, if his heart*be not ballasted with godliness, its the greater enemy and froward adversary unto God. The Apostle calls the wisdom of the flesh, enmity to God, Rom. 8. 7. such as is not or cannot be subject to the will or truths of God: Thus the wise of this world, have the mysteries of Religion hid from them, and they are revealed to babes: A working head, without a working heart and hand in the ways of God, is like a sword in a mad mans hand. The greatest opposition to Christianity, was from Philosophers, which made Tertullian call Philosophers the Patriarchs of Heretiques: Therefore the first thing the Gospel doth, is to captivate the un∣derstanding, and to bring down every high thing that exalts it self against God, 2 Cor. 10. 5. Oh then, thou doest not choose the better part in Religion, when thy intellectuals are continually exercised and whetted, but thy heart and life is barren of all goodness: Its true, nothing revealed in Scripture is contrary to right reason, though it be much above it; but corrupt and carnal reason can no more receive the things of God, then a Dwarf can measure the Pyramides: So all the while thou art increasing knowledge, if Grace be not accompanying, thou art but nourishing an enemy against God; corrupt understandings have prejudiced mens Salvations, as much as loose and dissolute lives; therefore saith John Baptist to the Pharisees, Think not to say in your hearts, &c. Their reason∣ings and disputes within, kept off the power of Gods word upon them; What brought in all that Angel Worship, and desertion of Christ as the head, but that men were puffed up in their filthy mindes? Col. 2. 18.
Thirdly, Therefore its better to get Grace in the heart, then Notions in the head,*because all brain-Knowledge and Disputes may be perverted to an ill and ungodly end; onely Grace in the heart cannot be abused: Its true, the profession of Grace, and the outward appearance of it may be abused to ungodly designs: The name and reputation of piety, may be a colour for iniquity; but real piety it self can never be overruled for any sinful end, because its the nature of Grace to make a man refer all things to God. Jehu had but the outward body of Religion, not the soul, therefore his intentions were carnal and earthly, while his pretenti∣ons were spiritual and heavenly: But where true Grace is, there is not divers seeds sowen together, but his inward and outward man are both alike; but it is not thus with Knowledge, Opinions and Disputes in Religion. This light may be like that of a blazing Star, which is nourished onely by slimy and loath∣some exhalations. Several ways, and to several corrupt ends may all this Disputing be abused; As
First, To gain applause and esteem, to be admired by some followers: Thus the * Pharisees, they did all to be seen of men; this the Apostle calls Puffing up in their filthy mindes: This the Apostle expresseth, when he saith, Knowledge puff∣eth up, but charity edifieth, 1 Cor. 8. 7. Its a very hard thing if God hath given a Page 218 man golden Talents, not to fall down and worship them: If therefore these Opinions and Disputes are fit fewel, to beget pride and vain glory, and to make men look after victory over others, more then the truth; how much better had it been for thee to be exercising thy self in godliness, and to walk humbly with God! The pride of parts and Opinions, is far greater then that of Cloathes or Beauty, or any other earthly thing, because we judge those excellencies of the minde, above any temporal excellency; therefore consider with thy self, what is the issue of all thy inquisitions and debates into Religious truths, is it to make thee more self-conceited, more boasting, and confident in thy self? The igno∣rance of a simple man, will not be so great a damnation, as the pride of a know∣ing man. Labor then for that which will keep thee low, humble and self-de∣based, and this Grace onely in the heart will accomplish: Worms do not sooner breed in ripe and sweet fruit, then Pride and Self-confidence doth in knowledge and intellectual abilities.
Secondly, Another corrupt end of Parts and Disputes in Religion, is to be self-willed,*and stiff-necked, not willing to yield to any; like the Motto upon the Ro∣man god Terminus, Cedo nulli; and this is that which makes a man an Heretique, when a man after several admonitions, doth obstinately and willfully adhere to that opinion which he hath chosen, and will not, as Religion which is from above, would incline, Be pure, peaceable, and easily to be entreated, James 3. 17. The Pharisees they were frequent in Disputes with Christ, and despised the peo∣ple, as those that knew not the Law, when they had nothing to say, and their mouthes were stopped, yet they would adhere to their former way. Its true indeed, constancy and stedfastness in the truths of God is necessary: Herein (saith Luther) we ought to be more Pertinacious then Stoicks; and it was a Proverbial speech in Galen, when men would express a difficulty, You may sooner change a Christian from Christ, they were such holdfast men: But this doth no ways excuse erronious pertinacy, or self-willed obstinacy in false ways, or in doubtful disputations: Its like removing a mountain out of his place, when we would perswade a man against that Tenet or Opinion he is ingaged in.
Thirdly. Those Disputations and Opinions may be carried on, for carnal and temporal advantages, for covetousness and filthy lucre; as we may see it was in the Pharisees: * And the Apostle discovers the ends of the false Apostles, that they thought gain was godliness, 1 Tim. 5. 6. and the love of money made many suffer shipwrack in their faith: How then can that be best, which may be prostituted to the worst and most ignoble respects? It was Pauls comfortable Protestation, That he had not used a cloak of Covetousness, 1 Thess. 2. 5. The reason why the false Apostles vented their vain Opinions was, that they might not suffer persecution for the Gospel of Christ. And thus Austin defined an Heretique, one that took up any false way, Alicujus temporalis commodi gratiâ, for any temporal advantage and profit. How then can the quintessence and safety of Religion be laid in that, which may be subservient to such sinful lusts of the soul.
Fourthly, Its better to get Grace, then to be exercised in these Disputes, because many times head-Disputations are used for to make Parties and Schisms in the Church;* To draw many Disciples after them, and so to stand a divided body from others. The Apostle, how careful was he to prevent schisms and divisions? therefore he daily pressed love, and to think the same thing, and to speak the same thing, com∣manding all things to be done in charity, and nothing through contention and vain glory. It would be a sad story, to tell you what rents the Leaders of any false Opinions have made, which could not be cured in some hundreds of years afterwards; and which is the greater wonder, while the Apostles were alive, who were infallible Judges, and could have determined any doubt of Religion, yet in their days weeds did come up in Christs Garden, and the envious one did sow tares amongst the good wheat.
Fifthly, Therefore it is better to exercise our selves in Grace then in Parts, because*Page 319a man may take a great deal of delight in his Opinions and Notions, and be as in∣ordinately in love with them, as the Adulterer is with his unlawful object. The Scripture many times useth this expression, To go a whoring after the imaginati∣ons of their own hearts: When the false Phophets and seduced people committed any Idolatry, they took a great deal of pleasure and content in their imagina∣tions and carnal reasonings, so that there may be contemplative fornication, as well as real. Men may fall into inordinate love with the conceits of their own brain, as unclean men with a beautiful face; or as Pigmalion, grow inamoured with his own face; so that a man may think he preacheth for God, liveth and dyeth for God, when all the while, its but for the apprehension of his own minde, which is like a Dalilah to him: A fearful thing its thus to be deluded, but its a judgement foretold that shall befall those, who receive not the truth in the love of it, That they shall be delivered up to believe a lye, 2 Thess. 2. 11. *
Fourthly, A fourth general ground, Why its better to minde Godliness then Disputes, is because at the day of Judgement, God will proceed according to our works we have done; not so much the knowledge and parts we have had: It will not be, what hast thou known? chiefly, but how hast thou lived? Thus the Scripture saith, We must be all manifested at the tribunal, to give an account for what hath been done in the flesh, 2 Cor. 5. 11. Oh then, how shouldest thou spend thy time most about that, where in the great question wil be at the day of Judgement: God will then make inquiry how fruitful thy life hath been, of Love, Humili∣ty, Temperance, Sobriety, and other good fruits of the Spirit. Would it not be a vain thing in a servant, who expects his Masters coming daily, that will call him to give an account of his Stewardship, and he should all the while imploy himself in bables, and unnecessary imployments, not at all tending to that work which his Master doth most expect, what stripes may he justly look for? Seeing then the end of thy calling is holiness, and thou art created to a godly life: Oh look to have this Oyl, besides the Lamp of knowledge, lest thou art surprized by horrible confusion, when the Bridegroom comes.
Fifthly, In Knowledge and Parts there is not a true satisfying, and filling of the*heart with spiritual content; but Grace onely brings Christ into the heart, and makes God our portion and inheritance, in having of whom there is onely hap∣piness. He that drinks of me, saith Christ, shall never thirst more. John 4. 14. Eat∣ing and drinking of Christ, is more then to dispute about him, to make controver∣sies in Religion about him: Its by saving Grace to be incorporated into him, and to receive Vivifical influence from him. Solomon doth not onely discover vanity in riches, and temporal advantages, that they give no true content to the soul, but also in knowledge and learning, that hath a greater vexation with it; there∣fore he concludes, Of making Books there is no end: The sum or perfection of all is, Fear God, and keep his Commandments, Eccles. 12. 13. Of Controversies and Disputes there is no end, there comes jars and contentions endless about them, but the sum of all is, to get the fear of God in our hearts, and to keep our selves unspotted from the sins of the world: This hath made even some Papists who have imployed their whole time in Controversal Divinity, to cry out of it as an heavy burthen, thinking they have lost the sweetness of Religion thereby: As Suarez, who wrote so many Tomes of Disputes; yet said, He prized that time which was set apart for the searching and examination of his Conscience, in re∣lation towards God, above all the other time he spent. It was a witty allusion, of Isidorus Pelusiota, As the Israelites, who did gather Manna, were to go out of the Camp where war was, for the Manna did not fall within the Camp; so those that would gather the Manna and Sweetness of Religion, must go out of the Camp, where spiritual war is, by Religious Disputes. As in eating of the Pas∣chal Lambs, they took the flesh, and feasted on that, but threw away the bones; so thou art to take that in Religion, which will feed and nourish thy soul, but cast away hard, unprofitable Controversies.
Page 320 But you will say, Is it unlawful to inquire and Dispute in matters of Religi∣on? Is not this to plead with the Papists for ignorance, and to make that the * Mother of Devotion? Doth not the Apostle bid us Try all things? Are we not to search the Scriptures? Are we not forbid to believe every spirit, but to try it? 1 John 4. 1. Must we not grow in Knowledge as well as Grate? If the Hea∣then make no search, how can he turn Christian? If the Papist do not enquire, how can he become Protestant? Why are Reformations so much magnified, if so be we must lie down in an old ignorance, or take all things upon trust? Is not this to make blinde men lead blinde, and so both to fall into the ditch?
I shall therefore handle this case onely, and so make application: And first, It * cannot be denied, but that its a duty not onely upon Ministers and learned men, but all Christians, men and women, to read and search the Scriptures, and not to take any Doctrine upon the Authority of men, & because the State is of that Re∣ligion, or because our Ancestors & Forefathers did so, and believed so, Qui descrit 〈…〉mpropter authoritatum humanum, inciditin insipientiam bestialem. said Durand: this must be acknowledged, & the ignorance, lesiness and sottishness of most people is to be sharply reproved, who see with other mens eyes, believe with mens faith, and do not rest assured in matters of Religion, because God saith so, the word delivers so, but because men say so. Are not those Bereans said to be more no∣table then others, Acts 17. 11. because they examined the Apostles Doctrine, and looked whether it was consonant to the Scripture or not, and yet this is the ge∣neral ignorance and stupidity of the whole body of Christianity; If they should be required to give an account of their faith, or their Worship of God, they could give no better answer, then that ignorant woman did to Christ, Our fathers worshipped here, and art thou better then they〈◊〉 John 4. Our fathers believed thus, and are we wiser and holier then they: This is not faith, for-faith is a gift of God, wrought by his spirit in our bearts, whereby we believe matters of Religion, for a Divine Motive and Authority, even because God hath revealed it in his word; But wo be to us, because of that supine and damnable ignorance which is in most men: This therefore must be granted, that its our duty to grow more in knowledge, and not to rest as babes in the principles of Religion, as the Apostle presseth, but to grow and be strong men, and to have our sences exercised to discern between good and evil, Heb. 6. but here is the difficulty, and the great wisdom required, how to use our parts in sinding out truth, so as not to prejudice Grace in our hearts; for the Apostle, when he saith in the Text, Its good or better to have the heart establised with Grace, then with Doctrines about meats; he doth not absolutely forbid the Disputes about them, for we know this contro∣versie was much disputed about, and even in the Councel at Jerusalem, after there was much dispute, there was a determination of it for all Churches: There∣fore take these Rules:
First, Labor to know and improve thy parts, but still in reference to Grace; Let all knowledge tend to practice; count all that knowledge and Dispute barren and * unprofitable, which doth not leave thee in a better frame of heart, more godly, more humble, more zealous: When we know truths, as they are in Jesus Christ, then they make us to put off the old man, and so be renewed more and more in our spirits, Ephes. 41. Do not then start questions, as children many times strick 〈◊〉, to see how the sparks fly out, but they make no fire to warm them with: Thou startest questions, but they do not kindle a fire in thy bosome.
2. Begin in a right maner: First possess thy self well, and be rightly instructed in the first principles and fundamental points of Religion. The Apostle to the *Hebrens, though he would not have them stay in the first principles, yet he sup∣poseth they had not fully learned them: This hath made many miscarry in their disputes about truth, they took upon them to teach others, before they were well taught themselves: They never were well catechised and instructed in the fun∣damental points of Religion, and so they build an honfe without a foundation. Page 321 And therefore instruction in the rudiments and first principles of Religion, is ve∣ry necessary for all; do not then affect high and sublime things, before thou hast attained to the main and necessary ones; and its Gods goodness that those points which are absolutely necessary to salvation, be plainly and clearly revealed in the word of God.
3. When thou art gone beyond principles, and endeavorest to improve thy talents,*then study not curious, sublime and impertinent questions, but such as tend to edifi∣cation, of thy self and others. There came a man and propounded this question to Christ, Whether many should be saved; This was a curious question, for what was * that to him? let him look to his own salvation; therefore our Saviour did not directly answer him, nor directly repel him, but said, Strive to enter in at the straight gate, for many shall seek, and not be able to enter. The Souldiers shewed their goodness, when they came to John Baptist, and instead of impeitment questions, asked this, What they should do in their particular calling to be saved; so that instead of many general or sublime questions, be thou inquiring, what thou art to do as a husband, or a wife, or a servant in thy relation to glorifie God.
4. While thou tryest all things, labor to be humble, and meek, and practise so far as*thou hast attained unto. The humble and meek he will teach his way: And he that doth my fathers will, shall know whether the doctrine be of God or not, John. 7. 17. If therefore thou dost not love that truth, which already thou art convinced of, but keepest it as a prisoner, within thy breast, fear least God give thee up to blindeness of minde, and hardness of heart.
5. Do not lean to thy own understanding, but honor and esteem those helps and*guides God hath appointed in his Church: It was Hieroms speech, Nunquam me ipsum habui magistrum, I never taught my own self: And the Rabbins say, He that is a scholar to himself, hath a fool for his master. The Apostle giveth many ex∣hortations to this purpose; and therefore bids them obey those Guides and Pastors God hath appointed in his Church, which he therefore dignifieth with the title of Lights; Although they are not infallible, yet God hath appointed this method for our teaching and instruction, and therefore at the very same time, when he giveth a command To try all things, he saith, Despise not prophesying.
Lastly, Consider thy own strength, If thou art weak in faith, and subject to * mistakes, then do thou of all men take heed of Disputes: Its the Apostles advice, Rom. 14. 1. Him that is weak in faith, do not receive to doubtful disputations. These things deserve a larger handling, but I press to the Use; And
First, Its of caution and admiration; do not thou from hence, because Grace is better then parts, sit down in thy ignorance, and never make inquiry and search into matters of Religion: This is an universal disease; How few are asking about the principles of Religion? seeking for more knowledge, but as bi•de men, swallow flies; so they believe any Doctrine propounded to them: This argues, many Christians have nothing but an Humane faith, for a Divine faith hath knowledge for one main act of it. Oh the ignorance that covers the face of the Christian world, as the waters do the sea! whereas the promise is, that in times of the Gospel knowledge should abound.
Use. 2. If Grace be better then Knowledge, then let this exhort you, not for to rest in your parts, in being a Protestant, and you are able in some measure to de∣fend the truth of it against the Papists, but see above all things, how grace and godliness is in thy life: What if thou canst tell what Sanctification and Regene∣ration is, if thou thy self art not Regenerated? What if thou canst read many Chapters in the Bible, but thou dost not live according to the Commands there∣in? and certainly, if godliness be thus better then knowledge, how much rather is it better then wealth, or outward honor and greatness? O then, seeing Grace is the onely necessary thing, why is it looked upon as the onely superfluous thing? Its according to thy godliness that thou wilt finde death and the day of judgement comfortable to thee. Now thou hast thy hearts desire, takest Page 322 content in worldly comforts, but this will not be always; thou wilt have other thoughts when arraigned at Gods Tribunal.
That there is a Work of God upon a mans heart which is called Grace, and why inward holiness is called Grace.
HEB. 13. 9.
THe former Doctrine being dispatched, we now come to treat upon that which I chiefly intended this Text for: viz. That subject matter which doth establish and confirm the heart: For Grace here is made the ballast, the pondus, the weight that doth establish and settle the soul. Now howsoever the word grace be of divers significations in the Scripture, and it is very necessary to un∣derstand it aright, because mistakes in this, have caused all those dangerous errors in Popery: For wheresoever we read that justification and salvation is by grace, they understand it presently of some good thing in us, and so take us off from looking on Christ, to rest in our selves; but we are justified as some Philosophers say we see, intus recipiendo, non extra mittendo, By receiving from God, not giving any thing to God.
Briefly therefore to inform you, take notice that Grace hath its less principal, and more principal or noble significations; lesse principal, as when it is used for the external glory, comliness, or loveliness of a thing. In which sense it is said, The grace*of the flower perisheth, or for thankfulness and gratitude, 1 Cor. 14. as the Latinists say, Habere gratias, the Alms and Charity also of Believers, is stiled 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Grace. But the more noble significations are for Active Grace, or Passive Grace: active Grace, I call that love, and free mercy of God without us, whereby we are justi∣fied and accepted to salvation: In this sense Grace is said to justifie, and we have remission of sins by grace, i. e. by the favour and love of God onely, not any thing that we have done. This true explication overthroweth the main pillars of Pope∣ry: and in this sense where you read of grace in the New Testament it is most fre∣quently used.
2. There is Passive Grace, and that two fold, either for to be accepted of God, to be in Grace and favour with him, as the phrase is often, to finde grace in a mans eyes. And thus the Virgin Mary is saluted, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Greatly favoured and beloved, not full of inherent Grace, as the popish writers grosly pervert this place. Or secondly and lastly, Grace is used for those holy qualities infused into the soul, and that heavenly help God vouchsafeth to us in our way to heaven. Thus faith is a Grace, repentance is a Grace, zeal is a Grace, &c. The Papist takes the word Grace in this sense altogether; but we say, this is not the most noble use of Page 323 the word; and the Grace of the Gospel so often magnified, is not any thing within us, but Gods favour and love without us: Yet we deny not, but those holy quali∣ties within us are called grace sometimes in the Scripture. Indeed there are Divers too rigid, who contend that the word Grace, when it relates towards a hea∣venly sense, is alwaies taken for the favour of God, and that it never signifieth godlinesse which is in us, or done by us. But there are some places, though not ma∣ny, wherein is clearly demonstrated this use of the word as it beto kens somthing inhering, and abiding in us, as 2 Pet. 2. ult. Grow in grace, and the knowledge of Je∣sus Christ. To grow in grace musts needs be understood of those holy gifts of Gods Spirit in us, which are daily to be improved: so Sing with grace in your hearts, Col. 3. 16. And again, Let your speech administer grace to the hearers, Col. 4. 6. And if it be acknowledged by all, that the common gifts of Gods Spirit, such as pro∣phesying, working of miracles, yea, and offices in the Church, are called 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, why should it be thought hard those sanctifying gifts may be also named Graces? And in this sense Grace is taken in this Text: for that holy work of God upon the heart, whereby he doth establish and confirm it in godly wayes. From this sense we observe,
This point is of admirable use; For without grace here, there can be no glory hereafter. And this grace of God is rarely to be found: there go many counter∣feits for this precious jewel: we are apt to call any moral virtue, any ingenuous and civil conversation, with the excellent Title of Grace. It is therefore a subject worth the treating on, to shew what are the effects and symptomes of this Grace upon a man; for nothing in the whole world is so desirable as Grace: no created excellency comes near to grace. A rich man without grace, is like a dead carkasse with glorious garments upon it. A learned man without grace, is also like a dead corps with sweet flowers strewed over it. It is the absence, or presence of Grace that makes a man happy or miserable: Oh therefore that before this subject be en∣ded, it might turn you all into the likenesse thereof; That as fire turneth every ob∣ject it worketh upon into its own nature, so grace might make every hearer graci∣ous. That the word might be the seal, and your hearts the wax to receive that Divine impression: That so ye may be as Paul saith, An Epistle to be seen and read of all men; that all men may behold and admire the grace of your lives, which is wrought by the word of Grace. To imprint this upon you. I shall discover first the proper Grounds and Reasons why it is called Grace, with the noble effects thereof.
Onely in the first place I must necessarily remove a false ground, or effect attri∣buted to it, and that by all Papist Writers, who say, Therefore this inward holinesse in us is called Grace, because it makes us perfectly accepted, and gracious with God. so that thereby we have a right to eternal happinesse. Hereupon they speak most of Grace as that which doth Gratum facere, Make a man accepted unto God from the inward condignity and worth of it. This is to take away the true child, and to put a dead one in the room: to take away Gospel grace, evangelical grace, and to put something done by us in the room of it. For although it be true, that the god∣ly actions we do are above humane strength, and we are enabled thereunto by the power of God onely; and are therefore called Grace; Yet they are not done so perfectly and purely, as thereby to make us accepted with God. This is good to know, that so we might give all glory to Christ, and be debased in our selves. It is a great piece of wisdome in Christianity not to confound grace justifying, and grace sanctifying: Grace justifying is an action of God, grace sanctifying is a quality wrought in us: Grace justifying is perfect, grace sanctifying hath much imperfection cleaving to it. Now that no grace in any godly man doth make accep∣ted to eternal life, appeareth
First, From the reliques of corruption in every man, though regenerated, as we see*in Paul, whereby he dare not trust in himself, but in Christ onely. He findes evil when Page 324 he would do good; for which reason the best Saints have begged earnestly for pardon, and have been afraid with David, lest God should enter into judge∣ment with them, and so they not be justified, Psal, 143. 2. Nehemiah when he mentioned those high acts of grace which he did, yet prayeth often, Remember me O Lord, and spare me, Neh. 13.
Secondly, Grace within us cannot justifie us, because the Scripture layeth that*wholly on God and Christ. God the Fathers grace, as the efficient cause of it; and God the Sons merits, as the ground of it; and by faith we are to put it on as a gar∣ment: so that we are still in a passive sense said to be justifyed, and not in an active to justifie our selves, unlesse in that ill sense as the Pharisee is said to justifie him∣self. None doth so Divinely, and admirably prove this point by several arguments, as Paul in his Epistles doth, insomuch that one would wonder how any Popish writer can make Commentaries upon his Epistles, and not be convinced of their errour. So that our happinesse, and the ground of all our peace, lyeth not in what we have done, but what we have received, and in what Christ hath done for us. This doctrine is like the hony Sampson found in the dead Lyon, in Christ crucified, which we are to instruct all burthened sinners in. Bellarmine comes off at last with his Tutissimum est, It is most safe to rest wholly upon Christ, not our righteousnesse. I know it is hard to call godlynesse grace, and not to think that it must be all in all; and how prone we are to leave the fountain, Christ, and to run to the Cisterns, our own graces, every mans heart can easily suggest. This stumbling-stone being re∣moved out of the way.
Let us in the next place take a view of the true reasons why it is called Grace, as also the properties of it.
And first, It is called grace, because it comes freely from the grace of God. The * effect is dignified with the Title of the cause; it is called grace, because it comes of grace. It is true, all good things come from God: Every good and perfect gift is from him, the Father of lights; as all light is from the sun mediately, or immedi∣ately: yet we do not call the good things of nature, Grace, as Pelagius did, because they come from God in a general way, as the Author of nature, this in a more spe∣cial and appropriated way, as the Author of Grace: So that if thou hast grace in thy heart and life, the very name of grace should make thee humble, thankful, lowly in thy own eyes. If it be grace, then it is not by thy natural strength and power: If it be Gods gift, it is not thy ability. Oh then admire the goodnesse of God: If thou hast an heart to love God, to believe in a promise, to minde hea∣venly things, say, This is grace. It is not nature, nature hath no power to do thus, nor no will to do thus: No power, for godly actions are wholly a∣bove the sphere of humane power; humane power and humane actions are com∣mensurate, but a humane strength, and Divine actions have no congruity. And as nature hath no power, so also no will, or inclination to it, but rather delights in the clean contrary.
Secondly, Godliness in the heart and life is called grace, not onely because it is be∣stowed freely by God upon us, but because we were unworthy, and deserved the clean*contrary. It is the judgement of Pareus a learned Divine, that the image of God stampt on Adam, though it was the systeme of all Godlinesse, yet it could not be called grace; and therefore reproveth Bellarmine for stiling his book, De gratiâ primi hominis, Of the grace of the first man. It was indeed godlinesse, and holinesse (saith he) but it was not grace; because though it was freely bestowed on Adam, yet he being not in a sinful condition, but that original righteousnesse was a perfe∣ction due to him (as the Orthodox in a sound sense maintain against the Papists,) therefore it could not be called grace. I will not determine this; but to be sure, now since man hath fallen, that work of God sanctifying our natures, healing our corruptions, is grace, because it is vouchsafed unto us, lying in a clean contrary, and opposite condition. Thus not onely grace justifying and evangelical was ad∣mirable to Paul, when he had been the chiefest of many sinners, but grace sancti∣fying Page 325 also. That God should make such a blackmore white, such a noysome weed a pleasant flower, How great was that regenerating grace which made such a change? Lye down then in spiritual shame and confusion, Oh thou godly soul, and say, Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy grace let all glory be given: For what was there in thy former life time, that should merit at Gods hand to make such a change? Wast thou not ignorant as others, it may be, prophane as others, seeking for happinesse in the bowels of the Creatures as others? How often doth Paul minde converted persons, with their former vain conversations, that so the remarkable change made by grace upon their souls might be the more wel∣come?
Thirdly, This work of godlinesse is called grace, because it is arbitrarily bestowed by God upon whom he pleaseth, and when he pleaseth: Whom he will he calleth. Paul* is ravished with the unsearchable depths of Gods wisedom in dispensing his grace, especially God useth not to give his grace, where there might any outward excel∣lency seem to deserve it, for that grace might appear out of measure gracious: He selects those objects, that have the least shew, and that are most contemptible in the eyes of men. Therefore saith the Apostle, He hath not called many noble, many wise, many learned; For if he had taken that method, men would have thought God had been affected with such humane excellencies, and therefore received the rich rather then poor, the learned rather then ignorant; this also is an overwhelming consideration of Gods love. Who art thou that God hath given grace to thee, and not to many thousand others? It may be God hath chosen thee, one out of all the family, all thy kindred, yea all the town where thou livest. Did God lay An∣gels aside, one whereof was able to do more service to God, then millions of men, and take thee? Oh grace! Again, hath God laid many noble men, many great men aside, and given grace to thee a poor mean man? Oh unsearchable riches of grace! Further, hath God laid many men aside, who by their Sexe could have been more active and vigorous for God, and bestowed grace on thee a poor weak wo∣man? Oh admirable grace! The Pharisee thanked God that he was not like o∣ther men; but he did it from a principle of presumption and arrogance: But thou mayest with humble thankfulnesse, and great fear and trembling, acknowledge the mercy of God, that he hath not left thee in thy filthy lusts, as he hath done other men. Christ aggravated Gods providence and care to the widow of Sarepta, that there were many widows in that place besides her, yet the Prophet was sent to her only. But here is a greater aggravation, how many men and widows are there in the place where thou livest, yet grace is vouchsafed to thee rather then others? This should put fire in thy bones and bowels, it should make thee active for God; for thou should est think if God had called others, given grace to others, they would have been busie and fervent men; they would have been zealous for his glory. Oh let me not requite the goodnesse of God after so ill a manner: by giving grace to me, and denying it to another of more learning, parts, boldnesse, and courage, he seemeth to lose by it; others would have improved his Talents better then I have done: Certainly this consideration should be a goad in thy side, thou shouldst say, Lord, it is fit that I should do thee all that service which others would have done, if converted, in my room. It is not fit thou shouldst be a loser by me.
Fourthly, It is called Grace, because it enableth a man to do those things which ex∣ceed*all humane power. In this sense grace and nature are alwaies immediately oppo∣site; for as those common gifts of Gods spirit, working of miracles, speaking with tongues, and prophesying, are called grace, because not procured by humane indu∣stry, but vouchsafed by Gods benevolence; so much more the enabling of us weak and impotent sinners, to do that which is holy and heavenly, may much rather be called grace. This point, if rightly considered, would make men look upon grace as a more rare and admirable thing then men generally account it to be. Alas, thou livest as thou hast been trained up; thou walkest according to thy education, thou comest to holy Duties as the custome and manner is, but never thinkest until a Page 326 man be prepared by grace from above, he can no more do any thing holily then a poysonous serpent can vent hony. Grace therefore is that, which if once infused in∣to a man, so far as that is operative, makes him live not as a man, much lesse as a beast, but upon Divine and heavenly principles; hence it is that the godly are said to be partakers of the divine nature, and Christ is said to live in them, Ephes. 3. Oh the heavenly Metamorphosis and change which is wrought on a man by grace: For how is it possible that a man should love the glory of God, more then his own comforts, wealth, or life it selfe, if a Divine power did not enable him? How could it be that a man should finde more joy in God, then they have had when their wine and oyle encreaseth, did not grace work thus mightily? All civility, morali∣ty, ingenuity, and humane piety, or devotion, is but a ridiculous Ape to true grace.
Fifthly, It is called grace, because it is the most choice and excellent perfection of a man in relation to his ultimate end, which is the enjoyment of God. The glory, beau∣ty, * and excellency of any thing, is called the grace of it: and we in English say, such a thing is the grace of a man: Now nothing may be so well said the grace of a man, as grace or godlinesse. It is not wealth, honour, greatnesse sets out a man, so much as grace: there is scarce any perfection of sense, but the bruit beasts do in some sense or other exceed a man; and as for intellectual abilities, the Divels do far transcend man; onely grace puts a man in an higher degree then these can attain unto: onely there is required a spiritual eye and judgement, to judge grace the most excellent thing. Certainly if solid reason might take place, thou wouldst quickly be convinced that grace is the choycest perfection by this Argument; That is the choysest qualification which disposeth a man to his choyeest end: now wealth, health, and such sensible mercies, they onely prepare for a sensible, and animal good: Parts, learning, and political wisedom, they onely fit for a civil good; but grace and godlynesse, they dispose for a spiritual good, though not perfectly, much lesse meritoriously. If therefore every thing be prized for its instrumental use and service, Why are not all things neglected to obtain grace? And howsoever with Heathens and Pagans this Doctrine may not be acknowledged, yet with you Chri∣stians who receive the word of God, and professe a subjection to it, How can it be denied? Oh then think not thy self better for any outward temporal mercy, but by his grace. Let that be thy first question, Am I godly? You do not judge of an horse by his outward trappings, and goodly ornaments said the Heathen: so nei∣ther may we esteem of a man by the many outward mercies he enjoyeth, but the work of God upon his soul.
Sixthly, Grace in the heart, is nothing but glory begun. Grace is glory begun * here, as glory is grace perfected hereafter, and this doth wonderfully extol the work of grace. Indeed here it is imperfect, and accompanied with many defects; there are worms in the best fruit, and so an unlovelinesse in us, as well as a comeli∣nesse; and therefore though it be present in the hearts of Gods people, yet they dare not appeal unto Gods justice, nor can they endure his tribunal. Now we be∣lieve in part, love in part, and we may say of all our graces, as the Heathen of his knowledge, His knowledge was not so much knowledge, as ignorance; so neither are our graces so much graces as infirmities: but yet in time this imperfection will be abolished, God will make thy love a glorious love, thy godlinesse glorious, when he shall add his ultimate perfection to it. Grace here is like a childe in its infan∣cy, and we speak and know as children, but in Heaven we become like men.
Lastly, The nature of grace inherent in us, lyeth in an irreconcileable opposition with sin; they are contrary one to another, as light and darkness, bitter and * sweet.
A three-fold contrariety we may acknowledge in them.
1. An effective opposition, as between fire and water. Thus the spirit lusteth a∣gainst the flesh; as the spirit of wine and poyson conflict together. Therefore *Page 327 when sin is at quiet in a mans life, and thou art ungodly, prophane, and there is no reluctancy, no opposition; this is an argument of little or no grace in thee. Oh con∣sider this all ye who lye down in sin with security; there is no complaining in thy heart, no trouble in thy conscience, no struglings in thy breast, no stirrings in fer∣vent prayer, Lord help me else I am overcom. Truely as the psalmist saith of some wicked mens death, They have no bonds, they are not in pain as other men, so al∣so in their life time they are not in that shame, grief, and trouble about sin, as the godly sometimes are.
2. There is a formal opposition. They are two immediate forms, (as it were) in * the soul as health and sicknesse, white and black: and howsoever it is a rule, that two contraries cannot be in the same subject, yet that is to be understood in the intense degree, otherwise as there is a crepusculum, when its partly night, and part∣ly day, so there is such a temperament in every godly man, a twilight; some sin and some godlinesse.
Lastly, There is a moral opposition. Where sin doth abound, there it procureth * at Gods hand either the denial, or withdrawing of some measure of grace already bestowed; and thus where grace is improved, there God hath made a promise to subdue sin, to overcome those rebellious Jebusites that yet lurk in our land: so that if grace be in a man, it lieth not idle: This will quickly be discovering it self, by crucifying and mortifying of sin. Therefore the next thing to be done, is to shew the characters of a gracious man: in the mean while make this use: If grace be of this nature, then it plainly discovers those to be gracelesse men that live in the wilfull committing of grosse sins, without repentance or reformation. Oh thou of no grace, How is it that thou art not affraid, and ashamed of thy self? If grace were in thy heart, would it not be in thy tongue, in thy life, in thy conversation? If grace be the chiefest excellency of a man, sets a man above all other creatures; then sin which is the immediate contrary, must needs be the greatest debasement of a man: all wickednesse is a shame, a reproach; it makes a man like a beast, like a divel. Oh then let all sinners tremble, and be confounded at their woful estate; when God comes in glory to judge thee for thy life, What grace shall he finde in thee? Thou hast desired wealth, but not grace; thou hast desired to be great, but not gracious.
Use 2. How vain a thing it is to hope for the grace of God, and his favour without us, if we have not grace within us. You heard godlinesse is called grace, because it comes from Gods grace; it comes from his love: so that when he loveth graciously, he maketh gracious: sin shall not have dominion over you, because you are under grace. In vain therefore do men hope for grace justifying, where they do not finde it sanctifying: In vain do they presume that Gods grace will pardon their sinnes, when it doth not deliver them from the power and dominion of it. Oh then, that men would not wilfully destroy their own souls by damnable presumption. Thou hopest in Gods grace who art an inordinate liver, a prophane swearer, and riotous person: No, shew me the grace that sanctifyeth thee, and then I dare promise thee (the grace that will justifie thee.
Characters and Properties of a Gracious Man.
HEB. 13. 9.
THere is a choice and noble work of God called Grace, as you have heard: The next thing to be insisted upon, is, What are the Characters and Properties of a man who hath grace. For as all causes doe manifest themselves by some effects, so grace in the hearts and lives of men will discover it self quickly by its o∣perations. Think it not therefore too much, if we come twice or thrice in words of instruction, and exhortation, about this subject of grace: for as its not one showr of Rain that is enough to satisfie the parched earth after a great drought, but there must be continuall droppings; so neither is one Sermon sufficient to in∣form and reform you in this matter, but there must be a frequent and vigorous ap∣plication of this truth to your hearts.
The first Character of grace in a man, is, To elevate and lift up his heart, so that*in all his Actions, Religious, Civill or Naturall, he relates to God as his chief and ulti∣mate end. For grace being of a superior, and more exalted nature than humane strength and abilities, it doth thereby lift up a man to an higher end than otherwise he would aime at. Whatsoever ye doe, whether eat or drink saith the Apostle, doe all to the glory of God, 1 Cor. 10. 31. As the superior Orb carryeth all the inferior Orbs away in its own motion, contrary to their particular inclinations; so grace in∣fused into the heart overcometh all those sinful and selfish inclinations which are in us, and makes us more through God, to God. Grace in a man is like fire, which being of an active nature, doth change and assimilate every thing, turning it into fire, or very like it: Therefore even hard and cold Iron put into the fire looks like fire, and seemeth to be made fire: Thus godlinesse in the heart of a man, tor∣neth every thing towards God; Whereas before his Conversion God was not in his thoughts, his intentions, his desires and affections, but he lived wholly of him∣self, and to himself: Now his eyes, his aimes, his resolutions are fixed principally upon God and his glory. Thus Paul testifieth about the work of his Ministery, the discharge whereof might be subject to many corrupt and carnall intentions, that he performed it in godly simplicity, as of God, and to God, 2 Cor. 2. 17. Hence are those expressions, to acquaint our selves with God, in all our ways to aknowledge him: and a godly life is described to be a walking with God; so that as the herb Heliotropium doth turn about and open it self according to the motion of the Sun; thus where Gods commands are, Gods will is manifested, or his glory interested, there a godly man doth apply himself. Oh what a precious temper is this in all re∣ligious actions, not to be carryed by vain-glory, and applause of men, but to eye God solely! Well did the Father call vain-glory, The sweet spoiler of spiritual ex∣cellencies, Page 329 and a pleasant thief, for so indeed it is. The Pharisees were not godly, though in prayers and almes often, because these things were not done to God, but for humane applause: This is the Pirate, that many times robbeth us of our rich Merchandise, our spirituall traffique with God: Insomuch that a man may be serving himself and his corrupt ends, when to the world he seemeth to be serving of God. As in religious actions, so even in humane and civill actions, the glory of God is the aime propounded; what the Apostle would have servants doe, not to eye their Master, but to doe it as unto Christ; the same is required of us in all our civill imployments: Art thou a Magistrate? Are thy imployments in civill consi∣derations? consider not men, regard not merit; but as he which shoots that he may hit the mark, takes a little time to unite his force, and fix his aime; so doe thou gather thy affections together, and set thy self on purpose to remember, that this is for God, and to God. Thou desirest to look further than humane Ar∣guments would suggest; this one Scripture discovers few men have grace: for take them in religious Duties, there Custome, Education, or Pride, are the principles that set them on work, or in their civill imployments, and then self-advantage, earthly greatnesse, temporall preferments are the Fountain to these streams; But a gracious man is filled with a divine Spirit, over-looking those inferiour respects, his end being spirituall, and so raised above all earthly temptations; this being the proper work of grace, to put a man into such a disposition, as that he may have communion with, and enjoyment of God; for as a Beast is no wayes fit for any commerce with a man, till he be made a man; so a man while without grace, hath no disposition, or qualification in him whereby he may draw nigh to God.
Secondly, A gracious man hath an high esteem and prize of the things of*grace. The Gospel is the Gospel of grace, Acts 20. 24. The Word is the Word of grace, Acts 14. 3. God is the God of grace, 1 Pet. 1. 11. The Ordinances are means of Grace, Rom. 3. 24. Justification and Salvation are the effects of Grace, Ephes. 2. 5. Now a man of grace doth mightily desire these things of grace; and it is an evident argument of one without grace, when he hath no dear esteem, no precious delight in these spiritual things. When David makes so many sweet ra∣vishing expressions about God being his Portion, his inheritance, all in heaven and earth to him; when he doth so admire the Ordinances, and the worship of God. What are these but the honey of a sweet Bee, the manifestations of a gracious spirit? So those divine strains of Paul, Ephes. 1. & alibi, admiring the grace of God in spirituall mercies, do tell all, what a gracious heart Paul hath within, that can adore such priviledges. Whereas now come to an unregenerate man, he can no more esteem these things than the Swine doth Pearl, or sweet Flowers. The man in the Parable when he had found this Pearl, he sold all he had to be owner of it: And thus it is with a godly man, when once he hath tasted of the power of grace, he loves his lusts no more, his sins no more: As when a man hath tasted Ho∣ney, all other things seem unsavoury; thus after he is godly, all his former wick∣ed and worldly wayes seem like Garlick and Onions to this heavenly Manna; how devoid then of all grace doe men generally demonstrate themselves? where is their high esteem of God and Ordinances, of all spirituall priviledges? Alas, Preach of these things, and they say, Who will shew us some other good thing? Thus to the distemperate palate of a sinfull man, the sweetest objects give no relish at all.
Thirdly, Its a sure Character of grace to make a man hunger and thirst still af∣ter more degrees of grace. Therefore the godly man is described by seeking, Rom.* 2. 3. by desiring, Neh. 1. 11. by hungring and thirsting, Matth. 5. 6. because his soul is never satisfied in the way of grace, but he hath an holy dropsie on him, the more he drinks of this water the more he thirsteth after it: Objects that are plea∣sing to sense, they glut the Faculty at last; so that an honey-comb is sometimes loa∣thed; but spiritual objects are so farre from burthening the heart, and causing a dis∣dain, Page 330 that the more they are enjoyed, the more they are desired, and longed after. Every Christian is compared to a Merchant, whose scope is to increase and advance his estate; to a Travailer, who considers not so much how many miles he hath gone, as how much of his journey is still behind. Thus Paul he forgets that which is be∣hinde, Phil. 3. and presseth forward to the mark before him; so that it is an evi∣dent sign of a man in grace, when he goeth on to perfection, and thinketh not, I will live as the most doe, I will not be singular, or goe further than the multitude doth: Its a sign thou hast not tasted how good grace and holinesse is, and therefore thou desirest not more of it; and certainly, if grace to such a degree be so good and comfortable, how much more is it to an higher degree! As the dog is slug∣gish until he hath got the sent of his game, and then he pursueth it violently; so it is here: A man that hath not apprehended the powerfull excellency, and sweet∣nesse of grace, he is very remisse and negligent in all endeavours after it; but he that hath once felt this fire in his bosome, desireth to make it seven times hotter. Oh then, if a drop of this grace bee so precious, what is an Ocean of it?
Fourthly, Grace doth especially, and in the first place cleanse away the filthiness of the Spirit, and Heart pollution. Thus the Apostle putteth these two together, *Perfecting holinesse, and cleansing our selves from all filthinesse of the spirit, 2 Cor. 7. 1. For grace (you heard) was the immediate contrary and opposite to sinne, seeing therefore the main strength of sinne lyeth in the heart, and a man is not ac∣cording to his actions, but his heart; so the chief power of grace is in the heart; So that as the Apostle saith, Sing with grace in your heart: Thus pray and hear with grace in your hearts. The Pharisees that were so admirable for externall Re∣ligion, or Superstition, rather wholly neglected the work of grace in their hearts; and therefore contrary to nature, when their Streams seemed clear, the Fountain was all muddy. When the fruit looked like sweet fruit, the root was altogether bitter. The heart of a man is the Fountain, from whence issueth either ••e, or death; Its the souls Privy-Chamber, and the proper Throne for Christ to sit upon. How uncomely were it in an house, to have all the out-rooms and entrance ly• gar∣nished, and ready swept, but the inmost places altogether foul and ruinous: no lesse folly is it, to look to thy externall conversation, that it be clean and unblameable before men, but the inward frame of thy heart to be like a noisome Sepulcher. He therefore that is gracious is afraid of sinne in his heart; If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me, Psal. 66. 18. Though all the world cannot judge him for outward impieties, yet because God seeth the unbelief, pride and un∣save urinesse of his heart, this doth exceedingly afflict him. But oh what strangers are men to their own hearts! who take the Psalmists Counsell, to commune with their hearts, and be still? who embraceth that duty so often commanded, To search and try the heart? Never call that grace in thy life, which is not first rooted in thy heart. Oh say then, O Lord, all the work lyeth within, help against inward lusts, against inward distempers.
Fifthly, Grace doth there especially inable a man to doe those duties, where flesh and bloud would soonest contradict. When we are commanded to deny our selves, and * take up the Crosse to follow him, when commanded to cut off our right hand, and to pull out our right eye; these things are paradoxall to flesh and bloud; they cry out, These are hard speeches, who can bear them? But grace, that is seen especially in curing and healing such weaknesses; for where Nature is stopt, and can go no further, there grace doth properly discover it self; Where nature suggests this to be done as safe and good: Grace adviseth, But this is a sinne, this is against Gods glory. When Joseph was in that inticing temptation, had he attended to the allure∣ments of the flesh, he had been over-whelmed: but grace suggesting the fear of God, and his presence, and how great a sinne it would be against him, that preserved him as admirably as the three Worthies in the fiery Furnace, who were not so much as scorched. We may see an excellent instance of nature and grace in Abra∣hams obedience, and his faith; his obedience, when God commanded him to take Page 331 his onely Son Isaac, and offer him a Sacrifice: Every word was enough to make Nature resist and gain-say; His Son, onely Son, Isaac, whom thou lovest, to offer a Sacrifice. Oh what violence is here to nature! but see how potent grace is, which no doubt checked all the reasonings of nature, as Job did his wife for speaking foo∣lishly. Again, in matter of faith in the promise of God, there its said, He conside∣red not the deadwomb of Sarah, Rom. 4. nor his own body, as good as dead, but rested on the Promise, and therefore had hope against hope, hope in the Promise, against hope in Nature. Thus when as nature hath its fear, grace hath its fear above that; where nature hath its hope, grace hath hope above it: and how prevalent grace is above nature, is apparent in that necessary qualification in every Disciple; He that loveth not Father or Mother more than me, cannot be my Disciple; and there∣upon when one desired to bury his Father, before he followed Christ; which seem∣ed to be a request of Civility, and naturall affection; should he suffer his Father to stink, and rot above ground? is it not against nature to leave him unburied? yet our Saviour rejecteth him with this, Let the dead bury the dead, Matth. 8. 22. So then where grace is in a man, there it conquers naturall inclinations, affections and desires; insomuch that he puts off a man, when he puts on a Christian. Oh then doe not think, that when once made gracious, such humane naturall Obligations will be such snares to thee, as they have been: It will not be graces excuse to say, I have bought a Farm, or married a wife, and so cannot come; but therefore the rather come.
Sixtly, Where grace is, there it doth not despise little sinnes, but is afraid to com∣mit them.* Its farre from saying, as he of Zoar, Is it not a little one? He dares not swear petty Oathes, nor use idle words; for to grace no sinne is little, because its against that great God of heaven, who hath severely punished even little sinnes. Adams first sinne, which hath involved all the world in so much misery, and made the first spark to kindle hell, was but little for the matter of it. Moses his sinne, for which God kept him out of Canaan, seemed very little comparatively: and Elies sinne, was onely in the defect of grace, he did his duty, but not with such Zeal as he should have done; yet for this Gods judgements were so great upon him, and his Family, that it made the eares of those tingle who heard it. And as for Saul, he committed many grievous sinnes, but that for which God took oc∣casion to deprive him of his Kingdome, and to cast him off, was but the not stay∣ing long enough till Samuel came; and therefore setting upon the Sacrifice to sa∣tisfie the people who were impatient. Therefore where grace is, there cannot but be precisenesse, exactnesse, they cannot swallow a Gnat, much lesse a Camell: It makes the heart tender, •like the eye, which the least crum of dust doth greatly of∣fend: As for that Pharisaical hypocrisie, to make conscience about lesse things, and to neglect great, grace doth also abhor; for if a little sinne not regarded, or sligh∣ted by worldly men, be so grievous to it, how much rather that which is of a more bloudy nature? and if sinne cannot compell him to goe on a mile, how shall it doe two or three? Therefore both sinne and nature are rectified by grace.
Seventhly, A gracious man is full of humility, lowlinesse of minde, and thankful∣nesse. Where there is gratia, there is gratitudo; hence you heard the same word sig∣nifieth * both, God resisteth the proud, but he giveth grace to the humble, James 4. 6. so that lowlinesse of spirit is both an evidence of grace, and a means to preserve and encrease grace. The very name grace puts them in mind of their unworthiness, that they did nothing to cause God to doe it for them rather than others; inso∣much as no Doctrines are more contrary to the work of grace in a mans heart, than those of Pelagians and Arminians, who make the efficacy of grace suspended up∣on the co-operation of our will. Oh! how can they dispute against, or write a∣gainst that grace of God which they have sound so omnipotent upon themselves, making them of unwilling willing, and of enemies friends to him? If therefore thou art a man of pride, scorn and vain-glory, know these are surer demonstrati∣ons Page 332 of the Devill reigning in thee, than Christ by grace. Observe Paul, a man in∣duced with much grace, and who so magnifying grace as he? All the streams of his sanctifying grace run back again, and empty themselves into justifying grace, the O∣cean and Fountain whence they flow.
Eightly, Grace, where it is, makes a man diligent, fervent and conscientious in all the*means of grace. God knoweth that grace in our hearts is like smoaking flax quick∣ly put out; he therefore hath appointed severall Ordinances to quicken and in∣flame us thereunto, such as prayer, hearing of the Word, and Sabbaths: now a gra∣cious heart makes much of these, they are food and nourishment of the soul; how doth David long for them? Therefore men that live without the publick Ordinan∣ces, or private and family duties, what argument can they have to conclude for grace in their hearts? for if that were in them and abounded, oh the zeal in all ho∣ly duties that would discover it self, knowing that the heart would grow cold, if these coales of 〈◊〉 were not powred on it. Those Plants would not grow, if there were not continuall watering.
In the next place, consider the excellent, and precious advantages or properties of grace. As, *
First, It is the onely true nobility and perfection of the soul. If the Poet said of Morall virtue, that it was sola & unica nobilitas animi, the sole nobility of the mind: how much more must grace be? for this is indoles divina non humana. We are by it born of God, and so resemble not man but God. The Bereans for searching in∣to matters of Religion are said to be more noble than others: for as sinne makes a man base, unworthy, and therefore like unto the bruit beasts, so grace innobles a man, exalteth him, and makes him like an Angel, yea like God. The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour, saith Solomon, Pro. 12. 26. wherfore the godly are compared to vessels of honor in the house, & the wicked to vessels of dishonor, 2 Tim. 2. 20. Oh then why do men esteem themselves according to their birth, greatnesse, worldly advantages: Alas, its grace that is the glory of a man: wick∣ednesse in great men, honoured men, rich men, is but a noisome dunghill covered with Scarlet.
Secondly, Grace onely hath the promises of this life, and the life to come made to it. So saith the the Apostle, 1 Tim. 4. 8. Heaven and Salvation is promised not to * men of parts, morality; but to men of grace. Look over any promise in the Scrip∣ture for pardon of sinne, for joy and happinesse, this is given onely to those that have grace in them. Now to be a man without a promise, is to be like one in the old world, without an Ark, when the Deluge did over-flow: Let thy sinnes lye like so many mountains upon thee, thou hast no incouragement to call God Father, till this grace hath made thee a child to him. Why is it, that men doe not consider this now? Who can tell thee all the woe and misery that belongs to thee, while God sets a fiery sword to keep thee from every promise, as once he did Adam from the Tree of life? and for the things of this life, they are promised onely to grace by way of mercy. Wicked men they have temporall, worldly mercies, but it is by Gods Providence, not by his promise; and therefore they are not mercies to them, but instruments to draw out and exercise their impieties the more: wicked men, if they have health and strength, they are more imboldened in their wicked∣nesse; if they have riches and large revenues, their lusts are thereby more active; so that to the gracious man onely they become a mercy; so what can more induce thee to get grace than this, To consider that hereby every thing will be a mercy to thee, all comforts, all afflictions, all relations; this grace turneth all waters into wine, this is the true Philosophers stone, that makes every thing gold; so that we are to call things good or bad according to their operations in a way of grace, or sinne. If the great things of this world make thee more vain, sinfull, dissolute, then they are bad things; if the sad and miserable things of this world make thee full of faith, heavenly-mindednesse and zeal, then they are good things; if thou art gracious, God will with-hold no good thing from thee; All things Page 333 are thine, whether life, or death, things present, or things to come.
Thirdly, Grace will inable a man to all conditions, to goe through variety and chan∣ges * of all temptations; for they being gold can indure the sire, when the drosse melteth, they being corn bear the winnowing, when the chaff bloweth away. Thus Paul knoweth how to abound, and how to want, Phil. 4. 12. Grace makes a man of that strong constitution, that he can endure extream colds, and extream heats, as you see in David and others.
Lastly, Grace is the great comfort to a man in time of distresse, dangers, and feare*of death. Not that a man may put trust in it, so he is to worship God onely, but as a testimony of his interest in Gods grace and favour: Thus Paul at his death is comforted from his grace, That he had fought a good fight: So Hezekiah when in those publick straits, and private sentence of death upon him, what bea∣reth him up, but that he had lived a gracious life? and thus did Nehemiah also. Oh beloved, think not to be always merry, jocund; know, one time or other distresses will seize you, howsoever you cannot escape the pangs of death: what then will wealth, friends, carnall pomp and greatnesse avail thee? Oh the testimony of thy heart upon good ground, that thou hast lived graciously, been afraid of sinne, walked according to the Rule, will be more joy to thee then all the world; where∣as on the other side, at the time of death, to have thy heart tell thee, Thou hast lived a Swearer, Drunkard, prophane Person, negligent of all good things, and now art falling into hell, and the hands of the Devill whom thou hast served, and whose work thou hast done all thy life time: What horror and terror must this fill thee with?
Use. Is grace thus excellent? Then oh, that you might be transformed into the likenesse of it! What will other things availe thee without this, if God hath given thee health, but no grace, riches, but no grace? Be no longer like Swine, to refuse the Pearl for mire and filth: Have such thoughts and esteem of Grace, as if thou wert a dying, and presently to give up the ghost. If it be worth the having then, its worth the enjoying now. And woe, again woe to thee, who hast mocked at grace as the greatest folly, and counted the gracious man a mad man, because he would not run into the like excesse as thou dost: Thou wilt at last see him the happy man. These things in generall you will acknowledge; but why do ye not apply them in particular?
Of the counterfeit of inherent Grace, viz. Natu∣ral honesty; and why God hath continued in wick∣ed men the use of Conscience.
ROM. 2. 15.
HAving dispatched the nature, properties, and effects of inherent grace, I come (according to my Method) to detect two counterfeits of this, and they are Natural Honesty, and Moral virtue; for these two make a glo∣rious shew, and seem to be like the two great lights in the world, if humane reason may be judge, and I begin with natural honesty out of this Text.
The Apostle in this Chapter brings in an heavy indictment and charge, both a∣gainst Jew and Gentile, wrapping up all mankind in their winding sheet, as being dead in sin and iniquity; and whereas it might be objected verse 14. That the Gen∣tiles cannot be found sinners, because where no law is, there is no transgression: He answereth this objection, informing us, That though the Gentiles were without a Law in some sense, yet not without it in another: They were without a Law writ∣ten and promulged, as the Jews had, but not without a Law ingraffed in their con∣science, whereby they had common dictates about good and evil: Which Natural honesty was a Law to them in many things; And therefore they not having a Law, are a Law to themselves. This being the summ of the Answer, he illustrates this work of God in mens hearts naturally,
1. By the Title, The work of the Law, i. e. The substance of the ten Command∣ments, which do summarily comprehend all duties to be done, and all sins to be a∣voided.
2. By the manner, It is written in their hearts. Though it be implanted, and in∣graffed, yet the Apostle useth this expression of Writing, because the Moral Law was written on Two Tables; onely you must not take this expression like that of Jeremy, Jer. 31. as Pelagius, and others have done, where God makes a Covenant, To write his Law in their hearts; for that is a gracious writing de novo, whereby God insuseth grace into his Children, enabling them to walk in his Commande∣ments with all propensity and delight, from sanctified principles within. But here he speaks of that natural ingraffing which God hath made upon the consciences of men, whereby they judge good to be imbraced, and evil to be abhorred. It is true, there are learned men, and most of the Ancients go that ways also, who expound this of Gentiles, but believers and converted; for it may seem to attribute too Page 335 much to Nature, to say, That Heathens do by nature the things of the Law: but when you hear in what sense they are said to do it, you will quickly perceive that to be no such great matter, as may put them in a capacity of salvation. I shall not trouble you with the interpretation of Flaccius Illyricus, much toyling about the sense of this place, which makes so directly against his opinion about Originall sinne.
Lastly, This Natural honesty imprinted in mens consciences, is described by an external effect, They shew it, viz. in the actions of their lives, abstaining from whore∣dome, injustice, and murther. 2. By Internal effects, The witness and workings of Conscience, sometimes by accusation upon things ill done, sometimes by excuse and approbation, when well done. Interpreters finde some difficulty about the sense of the greek words 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, In the mean while accusing, or excusing one another. That is, as some expound it, They condemn one and another, by reason of the natural light of conscience left in them about ill doing, or well doing. But others, as it is in the Margent, render it between themselves, in this sense, Every man hath a court within in his own heart, where there are accusations or defences according to the nature of the works we do, Every one hath a judge in his breast, and a Tribunal or terrible Bar in his Conscience within, by which he is condemned or acquicted. This exposition I like best; onely I would render 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, not be∣tween, or the mean while, but Alternatim, By change and vicissitude, as the Greek word is sometimes used: So that the Apostles meaning is, That there is such a Law about good and evil in mens hearts, appeareth, in that all Heathens have had their Consciences one while accusing them, and at another time excusing them; one while they have been terrified, and another time comforted and quieted in their Consciences, according as they have deported themselves. Now to the whole exposition of this Text in the sense declared, may be objected all those places of Scripture which say, We are dead in sin: And Chap. 3. 10, 11, 12. &c. that long description of mans Natural filthiness, where none, no not one is said to understand, or to be righteous; especially that famous place seems directly to thwart this, where it is said, That the imaginations of the thoughts of a mans heart are onely evil, and that continually. But here may be easily an happy ac∣cord found out; for those natural impressions and inclinations, which are a∣bout good and evil, are imperfect and insufficient to enable us to do that which is every way good in every circumstance; and it is onely of some particular no∣torious things, and it is onely for the matter done, not the manner of it. There∣fore though Heathens have done good things, yet they never did them well; and though they have abstained from sins, yet they never did it from pure and right grounds. Thus while they did the works of the Law, and their Con∣sciencies were thus busie and active within them, yet they were corrupted and defiled; And therefore as the Apostle argueth, Their very mindes and Consci∣ences were defiled also, Tit. 1. 15.
This may suffice for explication at this time; more may be added hereafter: for this Text doth contain admirable practical matter, being fruitful, and bearing twins as it were.
1. That there is naturally implanted in mens consciences, such common notions*and apprehensions about God, and that which is good and evil; that thereby their consciences are very active within them; and they forbear some sins, and do some good things in their outward conversation.
2. Though these principles and dictates of conscience within, carry men out to never*so much natural honesty, yet it is not Grace.
I shall begin with the first: And for the understanding of it consider, That we may speak of the work of the Law in a mans conscience, according to a mans three-fold estate.
First, That of Perfection and innocency, wherein God made Adam before his Apo∣stacy:Page 336 And thus the work of the Law was perfectly engraven in Adams heart, both for knowledge to discern, and power to perform. This was a Star sure e∣nough to guide Adam to eternal happinesse: Adams soul was not made like a blank paper, for Virtue or Vice to be written on it, in a meer indifferency; but he was made after the image of God, which was righteousnesse, and true holi∣nesse. It was an Image, the whole and universall resemblance of God, and every Lineament was curiously, and accurately drawn. By reason of this, there was no duty to be done, but Adam knew it, there being no ignorance, imprudence, blindeness, or folly in his minde; and hereby he had a propension, in∣clination, facility, and delight in what God commanded, no commandment being an heavy yoke to him.
But Secondly, If we speak of man turned an Apostate, and become a wretched pro∣digall, losing that stock God set him up with; Then though nothing of that holy image be left in him, yet his understanding and conscience being faculties of his reasonable soul, they abide still, else he could not be a man. And although these are wholly corrupted, as to do any thing that is truely good, yet there re∣mains in man fallen, common notions and principles about religion and honestly, which serve for many special uses hereafter to be mentioned: And although in some these have been defaced, and they have grown past feeling, and their sense of God almost extinct, yet for the general these principles have been active in all men.
And Lastly, We may speak of these Divine reliques in man, as reformed and enlight∣ned by Gods word, and furbished by supernatural directions: And herein they are wonderfully furthering godlinesse; for grace doth not put out those little sparks, but enkindleth them to a flame: So that natural principles elevated and perfected by supernatural, carry a man forward to all real godlinesse. Now my discourse shall be limited to natural light and power, while we are corrupted in our sinfull estate; and in the examination of this, we may see discovered, that though nature hath many things laudable and commendable, yet she is not to sit in the Throne of Grace; but * rather nature is graces foot-stool.
In the next place let us consider why God hath left these notions (as so many sparks of fire raked up in ashes) in our hearts.
And first, That hereby God might be known and acknowledged in all the world: That though men by nature did but grope in the dark, when they enquired what God was, yet it was clear to them there was a God, whom they conceived su∣preme, and then whom nothing could be better. This the Apostle calls, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, That which may be known of God, Rom. 1. 19. Indeed this naturall knowledge of God is so confuse, uncertain, and corrupted through carnall imagi∣nations, that in the Scripture phrase they are said to be ignorant of God, and to be without God, and that God is onely known in his Church: But yet that they at∣tain to some kinde of apprehension of him, is plain by Rom. 1. where they are condemned because they did not glorifie God, as they knew God. This is a sure Axi∣ome. That there is no meer natural Atheist in judgement; there may be an Atheist in affection and desire, wishing there were no God to govern and order all things, punishing men for their wickednesse; in which sense the Psalmist saith, The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God, Psal. 14. 1. But to be perswaded in judge∣ment, there are none so by nature, or very rare: God hath set this Candle in the dark places of the belly, to keep men in aw, and to acknowledge a power above them. Men that have not had the glorious Sunne of the word to walk by, yet they have had this Torch to go by in the night. And truly the improvement of this natu∣ral principle, that there is a God, might make every wicked mans joynts to tremble; for if thou canst not rase it out of thy heart, Why dost thou not glorifie him as God? Why art thou not afraid of him as a God? *
Secondly, Therefore these practicall principles of good and evill abide in us, that Page 337 so we might be the more inexcusable: For when men have not lived according to that which the light of nature would have directed them to, their condemnation will be very just, themselves being Judges, and their own consciences bearing witnesse to it. When therefore men live in such sinnes as Nature condemneth, such are uncleannesse, unjust dealings, lying and forswearing; they do not need Moses his Law, nor Pauls Gospel to condemn them; they have that in their own hearts which will accuse and overthrow them. The Apostle many times provoketh to Duty by this, 1. Cor. 11. 14. Doth not even nature teach thee? Oh how often may even Christians be severely rebuked? Doth not even Nature teach thee, that to Lye, Steal, commit Adultery, are horrid sins? How then canst thou break this strong bond in which Natural light hath tyed thee? To be condemned, because we do not believe in Christ, would not be unlesse Christ had been propounded to us: we need supernaturall revelation to some duties; but the Duties enjoyned by Nature, they oblige us, though no Scripture had been written, no Ministers did inform us; though none should bid us fulfill them. Thou hast a Doctor or Teacher in thy own breast, which condemneth thee for what thou doest, therefore art thou greatly inex∣cusable.
Thirdly, God leaveth these practical impressions upon us, that so what is good*may be honoured and praised, what is evill may be matter of shame and reproach. It is an excellent thing to consider, That the things of piety, and justice, and all goodnesse, have a remarkable reverence in the hearts of all men. Who would not be thought to be pious, to be just, to be righteous? Now how could these come to have such Authority amongst men, if there were not something in Na∣ture to approve it? So wickednesse, that is condemned and censured by all mankinde: Now no man is willing to be thought an ungodly man, an unjust man; and whence is all this, but still from this work of the Law written in mens hearts? Hence are those rules, Omnis peccans est ignorans, and Nemo potest velle malum, quâ malum, Evill is forward to come in Goodnesses clothes, else it could not be embraced by any man. This makes much to justifie the nature of what is good and right; for all men, though never so savage or barbarous, they do adore it in the generall, though in the particular they have greatly mi∣staken.
Fourthly, This Law is written in mens hearts, that so kingdomes and common-wealths,*and all humane societies may be preserved: For if there were not Dictates about God and righteousnesse, Kingdomes would presently be turned into rob∣beries, and horrid confusions. We admire, and that justly, the providence of God in bounding the waters, that they do not overwhelm the earth: but much more admirable is Gods power in preserving humane societies, that men are not Wolves and Tygers, committing all bloody outrages. What is the cause of this? No outward power or strength so much, as an inbred apprehension about a God, and a strong conviction of the conscience, what is righteous and just to be done; And therefore whensoever this hedge is broken down, the very flood∣gates of all wickednesse is presently set open; and blessed be God, that hath put such a bridle in the mouth of Man, who by sinne hath made himself so bruitish.
Fifthly, God hath left these sacred remnants in us, that there might be a ground*of conversion and regeneration: For howsoever we are said to be dead in sinne, and our hearts are compared to stones, and we resembled to bruit beasts; yet that is in respect of any active capacity or ability to do what is good, other∣wise God dealeth with us in a way of reason and argument, answerable to those Natural Dictates within. Thus when Paul preached of Temperance, righteous∣nesse, and the world to come, Felix trembled, because there were some princi∣ples of reason within him assenting to those Truths which Paul preached. Indeed Page 338 the Papists fouly mistake, who make regeneration to be nothing but the actua∣ting and exciting of those inward principles by grace: As if a man should blow up and inflame some little sparks of fire covered under ashes: and by this means they make Nature co-operate with Grace; this contradicts those expressions where God is said to make an heart of flesh, and write his Law in us; for by these Texts it is apparent, That God infuseth the first power into us, and puts in a Di∣vine strength, and doth not excite, or stir up our Natural strength: So that be∣sides this Natural writing, there must be a Gracious writing, else we certainly perish. But yet these natural principles of religion and honesty, are good foun∣dations to work upon; to preach to men and not to beasts. I speak (saith Paul) to wise men, 1 Cor 10. 15. judge what I say. We preach to men that should have Reason, and Natural Conscience working in them: Now if so, How is it that thou art not converted? That thou hast not left thy sins? Set upon a way of strict Godlinesse? for let thy Naturall conscience work; give it leave to argue; hear it say what it can; Doth not that close with the holy Truths we preach to you? Your affections (happily) do not your love and desire do not, but your Natural conscience, that is terrified; that saith, this is religion, this is just; therefore it must be done: That saith, thy ungodlinesse, thy lusts are sins, and therefore to be avoided. Oh hear what that preacher in thy breast preacheth to thee some∣times: And (beloved) this is the great advantage that the Ministers of the Word have while they rebuke sin, exhort to Duties: Though we make men our enemies, yet their consciences are our friends: While your corrupt affections make you rage and sret at what is good, yet your consciences they speak for it, and approve it. That therefore the word of God might have a subject to work upon, something to close with, there are these fiery sparks of light and Truth burning in mens breasts: So that there is no man we preach unto, but if he would let his Natural Conscience be judge, and determine about his leaving sin, and doing good, the Verdict would be on the Ministers side. Here is the controversie, the word of God commands thee to cast away those sins thou livest in, it threatens thee with all the Curses in the Law. Well, thy corrupt heart pleads to the contrary, these lusts are sweet, are profitable, thou art accusto∣med to them; and then thou hast many carnal prejudices; To do so, would be to live strictly, precisely, singularly; and what repute that hath with the multi∣tude, all know: So that it is against their good name and their credit, they con∣ceive, to be so wary about sin; thus thy corrupt affections plead. Well then, put the issue of this debate to the Naturall light of Conscience, hear what that will say, and presently that will conclude, That which is good and righteous, is to be pre∣ferred before what is pleasant and profitable: That will say, God is to be obey∣ed before man: if you will go on, and live thus, and do thus, I must do my du∣ty; I cannot but accuse you, terrifie you, arraign you: I cannot but give you ma∣ny sharp wounds: And howsoever you may for a while through pleasure, and pride, and earthly affections stop my cry, and stifle my voice, yet one day I shall roar so in thy ears, that for horrour thou wilt not be able to endure it. This is the very 〈◊〉 about every wicked man; and therefore think not to bear it out a∣gainst the word; do not go about to stop the mouth of Natural conscience. Thou mayest for a while •rown the noise of it, and study diversions; but Oh wo, and thousand tin; a wo when it shall tear and devour, and none be able to de∣liver.
Sixthly, God hath imprinted these principles in us, That so Men might abound in civil honesty, and Moral virtues; which although they are not true grace, they * are but copper, and not gold, yet hereby men are lesse wicked, and so God is not so much dishonoured, Camillus is better then Verres: Fabricius then Cata∣line: Mens lives are not so much to the reproach of Gods name, and his exceed∣ing great dishonour; for howsoever it be true, That these principles of Nature Page 339 doe not encline us to good truely, and upon a right ground, yet by them we are curbed from acting all the wickednesse our hearts would accomplish; and so are thereby as Wolves and Tygars tyed up in chains. The Apostle supposeth this, when he saith of the Heathens, Rom. 1. That they detain the truth in unrighteous∣nesse; That is, the natural knowledge which they had of God and righteousnesse, would have provoked them to what is holy and good; but they violently de∣tained this Truth; they kept it from being active, and bursting out like fire in their lives. Is not Medeas case, the case of many men, They see better things, and approve them, but they follow the worst. Oh consider thy self, Doest not thou inwardly think there is a better life to be lived then I live; a better course to be taken for Heaven then I take: But still thy sins and corruptions turn thee out of the way. Oh it is to be feared that this is a reigning universal sin; for Men having lived so long under the Gospel, cannot become so bruitish and stupid in their imaginations, but that they know when they sinne, and when they doe well, How then can they endure to live against Con∣science.
The causes of the Senselesnesse, Silence, and Stupidity of the Consciences of most Men.
BUt you will say, If God hath left these principles in us, How comes it a∣bout that in many men they are asleep? Do not all Men almost runne into those sins which the Law of Nature forbids? How is it that Men swear; lye, commit whoredomes, and do injustice, if they have such a School-master within to teach them? Who would not say by the lives of most men, That these are overwhelmed and quite buried? and if it were among Heathens, it were no great wonder; but that it should be amongst Christians, is the great amazement: For they have not onely this Natural light inbred in them, but supernatural light also revealed unto them. So that for men under the Gospell, to become so sottish and senselesse about what is good, and what is sin, is beyond all expression intollerable.
The grounds of this senselesnesse and stupifaction of Conscience may be these.
First, Ill education, and long continued custome in evill, for these things be∣come * a second nature quickly; and the first Nature is obliterated as it were. Men that live constantly by great Noyses, they regard them not; but strangers are much disquieted with them: So what men have been brought up in; they saw nothing but wickednesse and prophannesse in their parents lives, and in the families where they were taught; this takes away the horror of sinne: They see their Ancestours, and learned men, and great men, they have made no matter of Godlinesse, but sinned as they pleased; this roots out all aw of sinne in the Conscience: Some Heathens banished out all Poets, and Comedies, and Tragoedies upon this ground, because their Gods were brought in, doing some wickednesse or other: Now they well argu∣ed, That men would be much more hardened in their impieties, when they had their Gods for a pattern.
And thus it is here, Children, for the most part, and servants, they have no other God then their Parents or Masters; and if they observe them to drink, and swear, and be naught, they immediately conclude, they may do it also: so that if you ask, How is it that so many men live without any sense of a God, or Conscience about sinne, enquire into their Education; ask how they Page 340 have been brought up: Did not their Parents, their Ancestors, did not their Fa∣milies they lived in abound in sin; and then without Gods miraculous grace upon them, they cannot come to be of another judgement: and this is the reason, Why the Scripture doth so often call upon Parents to teach their Children the fear of God, and to bring them up in his knowledge; for if that be neglected, those na∣turall sparks of honesty will quickly be put out. And much like to Education is Cu∣stome, men habituated in evill wayes are past all feeling presently. Those who at first had some checks of Conscience, and akings of heart, when once plunged into sinne, they fear nothing, they feel nothing, they apprehend neither heaven or hell; but as the Salt water of the Sea when it hath over-flowed the Banks, and covered some grounds, leaveth such a saltish, brackish disposition in the ground, that it can never be got out again, or return to its former nature. Thus Custome in any pro∣phane way takes away all sense and feeling, so far, that they never come to that ingenuity and tendernesse of conscience which once they had. How is it that once thou daredst not omit prayer, private, or in family? That once thou couldest not give way to unchast company? Thou couldest not endure the company of ungodly men: But now these things are never any trouble to thee; they are no torment to thee. This is a custome, this is a prophane use upon thy spirit: Oh then put out the sparks of fire before it be kind∣led; stop the leak at first, before the ship be filled with water; resist the principles of sinne: Of all sorts of people we have least hope of doing good unto them, who are setled in a sinfull way; that can sinne without fear, or any regret of Conscience: For these men have not that foundation in them, which we should work upon: For our preaching doth good to those who set Conscience a work, that let Natural light close with what is delivered.
Shewing more Causes of the Senselesness, Silence and Stupidity of the Consciences of most Men.
ROM. 2. 15.
THe last day we delivered one main cause of the silencing, or stupifying those Dictates and Principles of naturall light, which provoke to that which is good, though very imperfectly and detectively. We now proceed to a second ground; and that may be an imprudent and sinfull consideration of the government and administration of things below. That it hath fared ill with those that have done * well; and on the contrary, that those who have been very hainous in wickedness, have yet prospered, and had great abundance; hath been a great tempest to put out that little spark in mens hearts: which consideration made the Poet say, Sol∣licitor nullos, saepe putare Deos, He was tempted to think there was no God, when he looked upon the administration of things below. This sate heavy on the heathens spirits, whereupon they have made Tractates upon this question, Why it sometimes fals ill to a good man, and well to a wicked, as Seneca and Plutarch, wherein they have behaved themselves in some measure well, gravely acquitting Gods providence; and had they enjoyed Scripture-light, they had easily waded through that deep: And it is no wonder that these blasts have made Heathens stagger and reele too and fio, for we have the eminent Cedars in Gods Church almost overturned by it. David, a godly man, greatly exercised in severall condi∣tions, though alwaies finding God turning stone into bread for him, when he was in any wildernesse, yet how pitifully doth he toil and labour under this temptati∣on? Psal. 73. that those who were wicked, they prospered, they had their hearts desire; they had no pangs, nor troubles; and this did so far prevail, that in a sudden passion, he speaks like an Atheist, Verily, I have washed my hands in innocency and have cleansed my heart in vain. On monstrous speech, and dreadfull to come out of a godly mans mouth: to say, it was a vain thing to fear God, a vain thing to walk justly and innocently, if he had done wickedly, he should have pro∣spered better. But this was onely a suddain motion, an imperfect suggestion of the flesh, not a setled deliberate principle; therefore he quickly recovers, calls himself a foolish and ignorant beast, goeth into the Sanctuary of God, and there under∣stands aright; yea, and as a man in a great inward heat and agony, but getting some ease and respite, saith, Truely God is good to israel, even to the clean in heart; so that this generous wine doth at •ast expell that noxious venome in it. In like manner we see Jeremiah, chap. 12 1. staggering under this divine dispensation, though ac∣quitting God: So that we see its a great part of wisedome to behold the marvel∣lous doings of God on the earth, with a wi•e and pure eye; not to turn Atneistical, carelesse, and prophane, concluding it is all one, whether a man be godly, or un∣godly, Page [unnumbered] just, or unjust. The Psalmist saith, The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God, Psalme 14. 1. It's not Jehovah, in the originall, but Elohim, none that judg∣eth, or governeth the world, taking notice of things done here below; and how great an incouragement this is to goe on in wickednesse, appeareth by that of Solo∣mon, Because judgement is not speedily executed upon the wicked, therefore is the heart of a man within him set upon folly, Eccles. 7. 8, 11. Oh then if thou wouldest have these principles of conscience quick and active within thee, then doe thou by Scrip∣ture information, consider of all Gods administrations here below, knowing that even what is most crooked to thy apprehension is yet streight: as the stick in the water, though streight, yet seemeth crooked, because the water is not a fit medi∣um to see by: So thou art astonished at many Providences of God in this world, and thou askest, Where is the Justice, the Wisdome, the Equality of these things? but thou lookest through an unfit medium, and so they seem crooked to thee. Alas, the Scripture doth evidently informe us of just, and wise ends, why God some∣times suffered his enemies to prosper, and godlinesse to be persecuted, and his Saints made Martyrs for his Name sake; so that the Word of God is the truest Glasse to represent the face of all things here below, especially that is satisfactory, that God hath appointed a day of judgement for the whole world, when all shall ap∣pear, and be judged for what is done in the earth; and as here below they do not complain that Malefactors are not executed before the Assizes, but patiently ex∣pect that time: So are we quietly to wait that great day, wherein God will settle all things according to their nature and deserts. Let no man therefore harden him∣self in impiety, thinking I have been thus long a prophane, unjust, ungodly man, and I am well and lusty, nothing aileth, or troubleth me: Let not this caute∣rize thy Conscience, for thou art but as the beast fatted for the Shambles.
A third way to ch•ak this work of nature, is plunging and drowning our selves into earthly things, or voluptuous courses.*
First, Earthly things: There are none scarce have lesse conscience about good and evill, lesse apprehension about God, than those that like Moles are alwayes digging in the earth. Judas from a covetous principle within, betrayeth and selleth innocent bloud. How could he commit such an unnaturall sin, do that which the natural light of Conscience would so condemn? It was Covetousness. Which made the Apostle call the love of mony, the root of all evil, 1 Tim. 6. 10. as that which would put out all divine & humane light in a man. The Pharisees who were covetous derided and scorned Christ; these Terrae filii are never Caeli fil•i, These Children or Sons of the earth, are never capacious of heavenly light. Its the punishment upon many a man which twas on the Serpent, to lick the dust of the earth, and to live upon that; so many men goe to bed, rise and walk wholly with earthly and worldly affections, into these they are even transformed, and made like clods of earth. Now such men have very little apprehension upon sinne, or godlinesse; were it not for the shape of their bodies, you might judge them beasts, for they re∣gard onely the things of sense. Thus as the glorious Sunne is eclipsed by the inter∣position of the Moon; so doe arthy thoughts, and earthy affections obscure that petry light, which shineth in a mans breast; and certainly, if love of the world hath put out the Gospel, and Scripture light that shined in some mens breasts, as the Scripture gives pregnant proofs of it; no wonder if it do wholly extinguish the light of nature. Take heed then of Corah's judgement or a worse, he was bodily swallowed up in the earth, but thou in thy soul and spirit. Is it not with thee as the barren heath, that brings forth nothing but Briars and Thorns fit for burn∣ing; so thy life produceth nothing but damnable matter, and what makes for eter∣nall destruction. Be not therefore in this sense, a worm and no man, one that is wholly bred of the earth, and liveth in it: Though nature and grace preach to such; though the Word of God cry aloud to such, yet they have no eares to hear.
Secondly, men plunged in voluptuous riotous courses, living in beastly lusts,*Page 343 either of uncleannesse, drunkennesse, or such deceitfull pleasures: Th•se muddy streams doe quickly put out that candle in the inward parts: Those that are drunk, are drunk in the night, saith the Apostle; sins of pleasures and inte〈…〉ance they are committed when men have put out all knowledge, that so they may neither be ashamed or afraid of what they have done. As muddy Bogs breed Toads and Frogs; so loose and dissolute lives breed all poysonous and loathsome imaginati∣ons in a man: Therefore saith the Prophet, Wine, and strong drink, and Whore∣dome take away the heart, Hos. 4. 11. How many men by debauched and luxurious courses have made themselves at the same time sots in their bodily parts, and in their naturall conscience; and by their loosnesse have spent their consciences, as well as their estates; and as they have scarce one peny left to maintain themselves or children; so not one good thought left in their consciences, to accuse and con∣demn them for what they have done! Oh therefore who can complain bitterly e∣nough of that bruitishnesse and beastlinesse, many men are plunged in by their loose and intemperate lives, and even under judgements, and not so much awakened as Balaams Asse was, under her Masters blowes. Oh that this sottishnesse were one∣ly in Sodome, not in Jerusalem, in Gomorrah, not in Sion. If then you see many men living without any dictatings of Conscience about God, if you see them commit∣ting all manner of evill, so that they plainly declare they have no love of God writ∣ten in their hearts, but of sinne and the Devill: Marvail not at this, but consider, Are they not men wholly plunged in worldly things? or are they not confirmed in lusts and Pleasures of the flesh; if so; you may as soon expect a Star in a loath∣some dunghill, as any right principles in such corrupt conversations; so that these are scarce to be reckoned in the number of men.
The fourth cause which over-whelmeth these Dictates of nature, is frequent and habituated living against them. Constant Rebellion against the light, at last puts it * out: Men by use are not afraid of it, Econsuetis non fit passio, saith the Philoso∣pher; ordinary things we are accustomed unto, breed no extraordinary passion, or affection in us. As it is with supernaturall light revealed unto us by the Word and the Prophets, a daily living under it made the Jewes despise it; and they did the more vehemently resist it, by how much the more common it was; insomuch that both the Prophet Ezekiel, and our Saviour Christ tells them, that if strangers had enjoyed such means of grace, they would have been wrought upon. As (I say) it is in supernaturall light, thus it fareth with naturall, the continual accusations, and smitings of Conscience, through custome men harden themselves against, and at last contemn them. Take heed therefore how thou dost those things that thy heart condemneth thee for: for after thou art used to such obstinacy, though God should raise Thunder and Lightning in thy breast, it would not at all amaze thee: As those that are Witches and W•zzards, at the first apparition of the Devill to them, may have some trembling and fear; but after they have given up themselves fami∣liarly to him, there is no amazement or horror at all. At first to doe and live a∣gainst the convictions of Conscience, is a dolefull and dreadful thing, but after they have once used to kick against this prick, they come to such a dedolency, that they feel nothing at all. If the Apostle Rom. 14. makes it such a grievous and hai∣nous sinne to eat any meat doubting, or to doe any thing doubting, whether it be a sinne or not; then how grievous a thing is it to doe those things, about which thou hast no doubts, but clear convictions that they are sins: As for example, take the unjust, deceitfull man in his trade, Dost thou doubt whether thou sinnest in lying, cozening, and over-reaching? Dost thou scruple whether it be a sinne? No, but thy Conscience plainly telleth thee, This was not lawfull, this was not just. So in∣stance in any grosse prophanenesse, Do you commit these things, doubting whe∣ther they be sinnes? or dost thou not plainly accuse thy self in what thou dost? Oh then think with your selves, if I did but doubt whether these things were sins, I ought not to doe them; but when I know they are sinnes, when I see as clear as the Sun, that they are iniquities forbidden by the Law of Nature, then how pre∣sumptuously Page 344 wicked must I needs be? Thou therefore who dost constantly walk in ungodly, prophane courses, thou art a shame and reproach to heaven and earth; God from heaven, and God by all the Creatures doth condemn thee here∣in. This stupidity of Conscience the Scriptures calls 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, which is, when men through much labour and manuall exercise have brought such a callousnesse and senselesnesse upon the palmes of their hands, that they feel no pain at all. Thus men by frequent repressions of the beams of this light, doe at last become altoge∣ther stupid; as the Dogs that lie by the Smiths Forge, through custome, fear not those sparks of fire that flye about them.
We may conclude, A fifth cause of the suffocating of these naturall Dictates tobe*a just judgement of God upon men, because of the abuse of Natural light: when men have not lived as they have known, nor walked as they have known, God as a just judge hath delivered them up to their own unnaturall lusts, which hath been more grievous than to be delivered up to Lions and Bears, and to be torn in pieces by them. This is evidently set down, Rom. 1. at large; where the Hea∣thens, not walking according to those implanted principles within them, but breaking the bounds that nature had set them, God gave them up to all manner of •usts, whereby they committed most unnaturall crimes, which the Apostle there reckons up. Marvail not then to see men become like bruit beasts; say not, How can men be thus unnatural? How can they choak that light in their hearts? Think not much at these things, for many men live under Gods spirituall curse upon them; he hath delivered them up to their lusts and sinnes, to doe all manner of wicked∣nesse without fear and trembling: a judgement of all judgements most terrible, yet it is often seen in the world: for were they not given up to such a spirit of slumber and security, they would be like so many Cains and Judas's after their abo∣minable iniquities, so many Magor-missabibs, whom fear would incompas•e round about.
Sixtly, Another cause that will dull, if not extinguish those principles of conscience, is a wilfull turning away our thoughts and considerations from what they speak within*us. Men study diversions, and for fear of such sad melancholy thoughts as they term them, they will goe into merry company, take great imployments upon them, that will busie their heads so much, that they never hear what Conscience speaks within, because of the crowd of imployments without. Thus Cain full of trembling, to shake this off, he travaileth, and buildeth Cities, and all to have a quiet mind. Thus as when the Prophets of God called to mourning and sackcloth, there was gladnesse, and making of all melody: so when Conscience accuseth, condem∣neth, calls for repentance and reformation, they labour to make a greater noise that may drown this. It's true the acts and dictates of Conscience are not sub∣ject to our wills, Quoad specificationem, as they say. A man cannot think that to be good which he desireth, nor that to be evill which he would not; but against and contrary to mens wills and affections they say, This is good, and this evil: but quoad exercitium, in respect of the exercise of it; So they may wilfully turn away their thoughts from considering what is said to them. Thus as the thief hareth the light, because his deeds are discovered thereby; so a wicked man dares not give heed to what conscience saith, he runneth from it as much as he can, because it is wholly against the course of his life; so that if you never minde or consider, what that law of God in thy heart speaks to thee: it's no wonder if thou art never re∣formed: But if thou wouldst commune with thy own heart, and search it, bid all other things stand aloof off, thou and conscience will consider together, thou and conscience will examine together; if this were done, thy sins should not lodge a night longer with thee.
Seventhly, A prephane jollity, and a carnall merriment, this also weakens the voice of naturall Conscience; some men are as afraid of any serious sober thoughts * about God, and the day of judgement, as children are of the dark. This was their disposition, who said, Let us eate and drink, for to morrow we shall dye. Oh pro∣phaness, Page 345 rather let us repent and mourn, and forsake our sins, for to morrow we shall dye; but these swinish Epicures, they made the clean contrary use, We have but a short time to live, we may not hold out till to morrow, there∣fore let us be merry while we may, when we are gone, all is gone; we will take our pleasures while we may have them. This jolly prophaneness, puts out all the eyes of Conscience; now all his care and thought is, but how he may be mer∣ry, how he may be glutting and satisfying his lusts; as for the day of judgement, or those sad Sermons which his conscience may preach to him, he desireth to hear no more of them, he wil make much of one while he may. But Oh! what is this making much? Its making up much wrath, much misery, and much horror for thy self: That which thou saidst is making mirth, is indeed making nothing for thee, its the eternal perdition of thy soul and body.
Eighthly, Neglect to stir up and quicken these natural Dictates, by all those special and supernatural helps which God hath appointed; not that these can ever * be polished or made grace, for that is a new creation, as you heard, and comes into the soul wholly from above; but diligence and attendance upon the means, would make these more tender and vigorous within us: This may be amplified by the parallel of supernatural light; for if when God hath graciously ingraven this heart in his people, so that the Law of God becometh a delight unto them; yet even this work of grace may seem to be quite overwhelmed, so that there do not for the present appear any motions or breathings of Gods spirit in them, no wonder if in natural men, all things lie so hushed and quiet, that nothing of this natural Law is declared. For an instance of the former defection, take David and others; Who could think that ever they should commit such bloody and hideous sins as they did? Where was their grace? Where were the fiery darts of Gods spirit in their hearts inflaming them? Nothing but sin and the flesh appeareth in them, they are like a tree in winter, that discovers no sap or life; like a man in a dead Lethargy, that manifests no breath: Now then, if the supernatural work of grace in a godly man, may be so stupified and over-whelmed, is it any wonder if these dictates of nature be silent? But as in the godly, these things are overtopt by their sluggishness, and careless walking; so in natural men, whatsoever dictate may be to good, it wholly dyeth, as sparks of fire dye, because there is nothing to blow on them, and inkindle them.
Lastly, Therefore may there be no declaring of this Law in mens hearts, because*they do inordinately desire to live without any controll or check: Now these natural principles, they are a School-master to keep men in awe; they are a judge to terrifie and keep men in fear. And as the Malefactor would willingly kill the Judge, if it were in his power, that so the Judge may not condemn him; thus the corrupt lusts and affections of men, make them desirous to stifle conscience, that so conscience may not condemn or accuse them. There is nothing that a wicked man is so afraid of, as to be disquieted in his sins: Our tongues are ours (say those prophane men) who shall control us? Therefore that they may not stand in awe, and so be kept from sin, as the Psalmist speaks, Psal. 4. 4. they labor to muzzle the mouth of conscience, that it bite not: A vain and foolish attempt indeed, for when God makes this roar and rage in a man, all the plea∣sures, sports and pastimes in the world, cannot allay the noise of it; but yet men will attempt these vain things: Fear of natural light, makes men hate it, and the hatred of it, makes men put it out if they can.
Use of Instruction, How inexcusable all men are, who live in the committing of gross sins, such as natural light forbids: Who can plead for thee? What canst * thou say for thy self? Its no excuse to say, I am no scholar, I am not Book-learned: Alas! thou art new born with these principles, that To do unjustly, to live intemperately, are not lawful to be done: Think not to say, I cannot read, I am not able to peruse the Bible, for if there were no Bible, no Ministery, these sins are condemned by a Judge in thy own breast. You would think it Page 346 impossible that even among Heathens any such impiety should be found, but a∣mong Christians to have it, who would not cry out, Be astonished O Heavens, and blush O Sun, that in the Church of God men should lie, forswear, be un∣clean, and walk in the bidden ways of dishonesty. These go against natural and supernatural light, against the Bible the Book of God, and against their con∣science that Vice-Roy God hath placed in their hearts: Think then how speechless thou wilt presently be stricken, when God shall inquire about these things.
Shewing how prevalent Natural Conscience hath been in Heathens, in reference to good Laws, Books, Affections, Lives; And how it should stir up Christians to jealousie.
ROM. 2. 15.
VVE have instanced in many grounds, which may justly be thought to blu•, if not quite race out, that Law of Nature in us. The next thing to be undertaken is, to shew wherein men do demonstrate these * dictates of Conscience, and how far they have been prevalent upon them to that which is good: And the discovery of these things, is an excellent way to raise blushing in the faces of many Christians, and to provoke them to jea∣lousie, when they see that done in Athens or Ethnical Rome, which is scarce done in Jerusalem; especially those who are the people of God, and pretend to an higher and supernatural light, must diligently beware, lest they be outstript in those moral honest things, which the very light of nature teacheth some men. To the work therefore in hand; And
First, This Law of God in mens hearts, is demonstrated by these excellent Tractates and discourses, which many by the help of natural light onely have written; where∣in * although they are as blinde as Bats and Owls, in the Sun-shine of the Gospel, in respect of any true gracious thing, yet they do wonderfully approve that which is good and righteous in the general, condemning and disswading from that which is evil. Thus the Moral discourses of Seneca, Plutarch, Plato, and some of the Stoicks, speak very high things about that which is vertuous, and that which is vicious; insomuch that many mens Divinity in their Sermons, or Contemplations and Devotions, have been nothing but the choice flowers pul∣led out of their garden. This (I confess) is justly to be blamed, and severely re∣proved: Page 347 for Scripture matter, either in things of faith, or things to be done, doth as much excell all those Notions, either in majesty or purity, as the Sun doth an Ignis Fatuus, or any Ignited Meteore: But I know not how it falls out, whether of the witty invention in them, or eloquent expressions, those Hea∣then Authors have delighted some, more then Davids Psalms, or Pauls Epistles; especially many of the Jesuits in their Religious Tractates, stuff their discourses with Seneca's Contemplations, or Moral Inventions. Now although it be true, that it were a great error to take John Baptist, though a great Prophet, for Christ, much more a Seneca or a Plato (though stiled Divine) for a Christ; yet if we speak of the sphaere of nature, how far she hath been able to accuse vice, and plead for vertue, herein they have been wonderful; take Tullies Book De Ossiciis: If men and their publique conversation, did keep to that fidelity in words, righ∣teousness in deeds, and love to the publique against all particular profit, it would make the lives of men very admirable, though not godly: And it is a great honor to those Books of the Heathens, that the Apostle himself doth some∣times alledge verses out of such Authors, and that for morality also; witness that sentence, Evil words corrupt good maners; which is sanctified (saith Ter∣tullian) or made Ecclesiastical, as Hierom, by Paul, it being a verse of the Comedian Menander; and it is true by experience, that evil words and discourses, such as some Corinthians had, which did privately, by some reasonings fetched from Philosophy, endeavor to weaken the Christian faith about the Resurrection, do quickly infect mens lives: and as the Apostles, so ministers may sometimes upon fit occasions, use sentences out of those Authors, so that they do it not too frequently, or with affectation, or thereby disparaging the powerful simplicity and divine Plainness of the Scripture. The many Books therefore and Discourses, which men by the help of natural Conscience have made, to the ordering of mens lives in a vertuous way, are a sure demonstration of this Law written in their hearts.
Secondly, The wise, just and righteous Laws which many of their Law-givers*have made, when they setled a Political Government, do plainly declare also this work of God in them. Its true, that such Law-givers, besides their in∣planted reason, had also acquired much experimental prudence, and haply some of them at least, had by hear-say, the Divine Polity and Government which Moses appointed the people of Israel: But with these, they had also those sparkling notions, of differencing justice from injustice, good from evil, else they could never have made such wholsome Laws; especially the Laws and Manners of the Lacedemonians, are much commended for Sobriety, Moderation, and Abstinence from all intemperate and luxurious courses; insomuch that Erasm•s saith, Diceres Germané Christianos, si pro Lycurgo Christum nacti fuissent legum latorem, one would have thought them true Christians, if they had had Christ a Law-giver for their Lycurgus, though herein Erasmus, as in other places, is too bold: Howsoever, this comes wholly from that Divine impression men have left in their consciences, whereby they punish sin and exorbitancies, but reward vertuous imployments. It is true, in some things their wisest Law-givers have established notorious wickedness, but that doth not hinder the acknow∣ledgement of their many other good Laws. If then Heathens have such thoughts about wicked actions, that they deem them worthy to be punished with all disgrace, contempt and reproach, yea some of them with death it self, and that in the most cruel maner. This doth evidently declare, that they had in∣bred principles about good and evil; and upon this ground it is, that the Apostle speaking of Magistrates, even Paganish, saith, They are the Ministers of God, to thee for good, Rom. 13. That they are a terror to the evil, and not to the good; if thou doest well, be not afraid, but if thou doest ill, fear, because he doth not bear the sword in vain: So that this is a manifest conviction of the Conscience of every wicked man. If thou art a prophane, unjust, intemperate Page 348 man, why art thou afraid the Magistrate should see? Thou fearest his eyes, Is it not because of an implanted principle, That good is to be incouraged, and evil to be avoided? and the very fear of the Magistrates sword, keeps a world of people from that actual wickedness, which otherwise they would be plunged into: So that if you look over all the Societies of men in the world, that have a Government, wherein some command, and some obey, you will conclude, All this proclaimeth to the world, men have thoughts there is a God, and that wicked actions deserve just punishments.
3. This Law is declared by an acknowledgement of a God, and the solemn worship∣ping*of him. Their Polytheism or multitude of gods, though it discovereth hor∣rible blindeness and ignorance upon them, yet withal it argueth, a sense of Deity. The Romans had a 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, a Temple for all gods, thinking themselves herein Religious, that they did not refuse the Religion of any nation: Their Temples, their Altars, their Sacrifices, their Reverence to their Priests, the ex∣cessive charge and cost they were at in keeping up their Religious Worship, though they bespake miserable madness and confusion upon their spirits; yet they also demonstrate innate apprehensions about a God, and that Divine ho∣mage we owe to him. And as for some, who were called Atheists, its thought therefore they had that brand on them, not that they were against a God, but because they derided the multitude, and the superstitious observations of the gods then worshipped. Its plain, Seneca thought the Romans guilty of much ridiculousness in their Divine Worship, and wrote a Book about it, as Austin saith, which is lost; and although he thus was convinced of their vanity, yet he diligently performed that external Worship, Tanquam legibus jussam, non Diis gratam; As a thing commanded by the Laws and Customs of men, not at all acceptable to the gods. As they were frequent thus in Adoration, so they performed it after a grave and solemn maner; witness that cry of the Priests, Hoc age, minde this onely: and certainly the reverence, attention and dili∣gence of Heathens to their Idols, will condemn the sluggishness, dulness and drowsie irreverence, which Christians shew to the true God, in their Worship of him.
4. They declare this Law written in them, by the work of conscience terrifying them upon any evil actions: What fear and horror hath been upon heathens con∣sciences, * though they have had no Scripture to accuse them! Histories declare, upon unjust, unclean and injurious acts, they have not been able to rest or sleep, and eat: Why is all this? but because of their judge within; which hath made even Heathens, so much admire a good conscience, and set out the misery of an evil one. Alas, we would think such things should be spoken of onely among Christians, and where the word that is preached, is the discerner and dis∣coverer of the thoughts and actions of all men; but even among them that never saw this Sun, there are divers sayings, commending and admiring the blessedness of living so, as not being conscious to our selves of any gross sinful ways: Nil conscire sibi, &c. To be conscious unto a mans self of no evil, or un∣just action, is that onely thing which may make a man happy: Hic murus aheneus esto; that is a brazen wall to beat back all darts; As the sweet nurse in old age, as Pindar calls it. Oh that Christians should do so many things, that raise up conscience like a Lyon and Bear, to roar within them; when even Heathens have been afraid to make their conscience their enemy and adversary. If the fire hath so quickly burned the green tree, how will the dry tree indure? Oh think not these phrases of Conscience, and trouble for sin, unquietness and terror in a mans breast, to be fictions and vain scare-Crows: No, men have had them, that have lived onely in a wilderness, that had no other Book to read then that of the Creature; they have feared a terrible just God, ready to be revenged on them whithersoever they went: And doest thou lye, and steal, and commit whoredom, and thinkest not that God beholdeth thee, with a sparkling eye, full of vengeance?
Page 349 Lastly, They declare this Law written, in that they have improved these natural*sparks, and have attained to admirable commendations, for many things done by them: They did not all of them detain the truth in unrighteousness, but did admit of all the Culture and Tillage they could meet with, to perfect those vertuous principles as they thought of. Hence some of them have thrown away all the wealth they had, that they might the better attend to Philosophy; yea, So∣crates would never dispute about the Heavens or Stars, or other Sceptical matter, but wholly manners, how to rectifie them, and to make yong men leave: their vices; especially we might give you instances of their great improvements in these things:
First, Their hearty love to the publique, preferring it above all particular re∣spects and advantages. Tully would not have immortality it self, to hurt the * Commonwealth: Another said, he had rather be poor, so as the Commonwealth were rich, then he rich, and that thereby made more poor. They conclude, Justice and Righteousness, were the onely walls and defence of a Kingdom. Some of them, devoted themselves to present death, as the Decii and Curtii, to pre∣vent judgements to the publique. Oh what a shame may many Heathens, upon record in History, be to those who stile themselves Christians!
Secondly, In Fidelity and Righteousness, both of words and promises, and all * their contracts. Romana fides was a proverb, because they faithfully would do what they had promised; their words were as good as oathes. One prisoner, a captive, had given his word, that if he might go to dispatch his business, and get some way or other to redeem himself, he would faithfully return again, in case he could not; and not being able to effect it, he returneth again to his ene∣mies, though he knew he was to be put to all cruelty. Aristides was called the just, because of his righteousness and faithfulness in all his dealings. But of how many may we say, even that are called Christians, in stead of Such an one the just, such an one the false and unrighteous man.
Thirdly, In all moderation and sobriety, abstaining from those things that were*fit objects for their lusts. Alexander kept himself from Darius his Virgins, when he had conquered him by War: They were temperate in their dyets, avoiding occasions of gluttony and drunkenness. The Lacedemonians would have their children see a drunken man, that beholding his madness and beastliness, they might take heed of it: And as for the passions of anger and malice, how lowly in refraining of them, patiently bearing all contumelies and reproaches! I would, said an Heathen, to one who reviled on him, that this man could rule his tongue, as well as I can my ears. I would beat and punish thee, said another to his servant, but that I am angry. Thus we might go even into the wilderness, and gather many sweet flowers there: We might tell you of wise and sage Apophthegmes, of vertuous and noble actions, and all this while they had no hopes of an Heaven, or Eternal Glory to incourage them. Many of them, after their noble Achievements for the publique, returned home a∣gain without any wealth or advance, but onely glory; yea, and one or two of them contemned that also: But though they have done thus worthily, yet you must take heed of two errors, magnifying these their actions too high.
First, Some have thought, and that both of the ancients and latter sort of * Writers, that many of these Heathens have been saved; that men who in their generation did thus wonderfully, could not be damned. Though these Teachers are divided among themselves; some say, the Law of Nature saved them, as Christ doth Christians, so that they say, they were saved without Christ: Others say, Christ was immediately and extraordinarily revealed to them: but neither of these opinions have any ground in Scripture, which attributes no sal∣vation but unto Christ, and the calling upon his name, which they did not. *
Secondly, The other Error is, that natural men by improving their naturals, are thereby disposed and prepared for supernaturals; that a man by well using Page 350 of this natural light, God will give him supernatural light: But God hath made no such promise in the Scripture, and the falsness of it is declared in this. That we never read yet of any Heathen, who upon the good improvement of those natural abilities, had grace vouchsafed to him. I shall in the next place come to the Use of this point; And
First, Have Heathens without the Scripture, without the knowledge of * Christ and his Word, done many things righteously and soberly? Then what shame and reproach is it to Christians, if any among them be found unjust, un∣godly, and living in all intemperance? Yet is not the greater number of those that profess the Christian Religion, infected with some erroneous and gross vices or other, which the Gentiles have abhorred? As Christ said of the Cen∣turion a stranger, He had not seen such faith in Israel; and truly, we may say, That there is not to be seen such faithfulness in mens words, such temperance in their lives, no not among many Christians, as have been among many Gentiles. Who can plead for such who deal unjustly, speak falsely, over-reach in their contracts? when men without the true knowledge of a true God, have been afraid to do it. You could not among all the Lacedaemonians have seen one drunken man, un∣less it was their slaves, their Helotae, as they called them; and now it is hard to finde a sober, temperate man among many Protestants. Some of the Heathens have been so Religious about an oath, and fearful about swearing, that they never would use it upon any humane or earthly business; yet he is accounted a man now not of any spirit or gallantry, that doth not imbroider his Language with several Oathes. Basil the Ancient, objected to Christians in his time, that accustomed themselves to swearing, the example of one Clinias a Pythagorean, who having a great fine laid upon him, to pay a great sum of money, the which he might have escaped by taking an oath, yet he would not swear, but rather pay that money: Certainly, if God doth sometime send his own people to the very irrational creatures to learn, to the Ox and Ant, no wonder, if they may sometimes be taught by those who have not such means of holiness as they have. Civility and Moral honesty, these are to be found among the Pagans, and sometimes we cannot finde it among Christians; especially the Heathens have condemned a man of a false heart, that will speak one thing with his mouth, and intend another thing: 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, &c. I hate him even to hell, that saith one thing with his mouth, and thinketh another thing in his heart, saith he in Homer: They loved a candid and sincere spirit, as he that wished there was a glass in his breast, that all the world might see what was in his heart: But O the hypocrisie, double tongue, double heart that many baptised persons have. Why do not such leave Christs Sheepfold, and go rather into the Dens and Holes of subtil Foxes? And so for intemperate, dissolute men, Why do not they forsake Christs Fold, and go to the Sty of Swine, wallowing there in all mire and filth? Now consider how many horrid and grievous accusations the committing of such sins is subject unto:
First, There is less excuse and plea to be made for thee: Haply at the day of Judgement, Heathens will plead, Why? they did not believe in Christ; Why? they did not receive the Gospel, that it never sounded in their ears, there was no preaching to them; or if so, the matter was supernatural, such as flesh and blood could not close with, there was no proportion between that glorious object and the faculty: But what can you say? who have and do live in such sins, which the very children of Pagans would condemn: Can you say, Lord we did not know that to speak falsely, do unjustly, live intemperately, were sins? We had none to tell us, that these were unlawful ways? No such thing can be plead∣ed by you; O therefore be at last awakened from this security; remember you are men, and not beasts; remember God hath placed a conscience, to be a Judge in you: Oh do not such things! thus all without thee, and all within thee will condemn.
Page 351 2. As there is less excuse, so they are a greater reproach and scandal to that glorious Gospel which we receive: What? shall not the Gospel of Christ, and the word of God teach us more holiness, then the Turks Alcoran? Shall not the ten Commandments of God, oblige us to more purity, then the twelve Tables of the Romans: O what a sad dishonor is this to the truth and know∣ledge of God, that among his people, shall be found doers of those things, which natural light would abhor. Such are indeed spots and blemishes in our Congregations; such are foul and deformed Monsters: Let every one that nameth Christ, depart from iniquity. What do such weeds among his flowers? such wolfs among his sheep? If thou wilt be drunk, be so in the night among Pagans, not in the day among Christians. The Church of God is not a fit place to vent such unnatural impieties in; With what zeal and holy violence should we per∣swade these things in your hearts? As long as there are any prophane men, any unjust men, any gross impieties committed by you, which nature would for∣bid, we shall not cease to call on heaven and earth to be witnesses against you; nay, every stone in the wall, and the timber in your houses, shall speak against you: Why do such unclean Lepers come near where any holy duty or or∣dinances are to be performed? As they call an Ague, Ludibrium medicorum, the reproach of Physitians, because they know not how to cure it; So let not that obstinate senseless disposition in gross sins, be any more Ludibrium Theologo∣rum, that with all our vehement exhortations we cannot heal thee of.
3. Sins committed against natural conscience, make the more noise and terror in a mans conscience, we do the more difficulty obtain a pardon of them; you see in Cain, upon his murther; in Judas, upon betraying innocent blood; and in David, Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, Psal. 51. These are deep and sore wounds, which will molest a long season, and when healed, will yet leave a scar. O think not that merry pastimes, and jolly company will eat out this dart, when once mortally and deadly shot in thy heart: sins against supernatu∣ral light, such as unbelief, diffidence in the promise, make not such an horrid noise and tumult in thy soul, as these do: None can still the roaring of these waves but God alone.
4. There is more ingratitude and rebellion in thee who doest thus, because God hath vouchsafed greater light, given greater help and support against these sins, then the Nations of the world receive, insomuch that thy condemnation will be far greater, then of those who were brought up in Natures School onely.
Have Pagans and Heathens done admirable things? then what glorious and * commendable things should Christians do, let not them outreach us: As the Apostle reckons up a catalogue of worthy Saints, who by faith wrought great and holy things, Heb. 11. so we may put in a scroul of the names of many Hea∣thens, who without faith, and without the knowledge of God, have done ad∣mirable exploits within the sphear of Nature: Be thou exhorted to wash out those black spots in thy life; Consider that of the Apostle, Phil. 4. 8. Whatsoever things are pure, holy, righteous, of good report: If there be any vertue, any praise, think of these things. We are not now pressing you to be like Angels in heaven, doing Gods will, but that you would not be outstripped by Gentiles, which know not Gods will. If any man among you be found prophane, unjust, in∣temperate, let him cry out, I am unclean, I am unclean, what have I to do, to take Gods word in my mouth, and hate to be reformed?
Demonstratingthat Naturall Piety, Honesty and Sobriety, which is in Heathens or any others, is not Grace.
ROM. 2. 15.
THis Text (as you heard) was fruitfull in bringing forth twins, two pra∣cticall observations. The first, That God hath implanted in mens hearts na∣turally some principles about a God, and the approbation of what is good, and also the rejection of what is evil., hath at large been handled. We come to the second, which is, That all the worth and excellency which men by these naturall prin∣ciples, though improved to the utmost, can attain unto, is not grace. The Scripture re∣quiring Regeneration, and a new Creation, doth still intend a further, excellency than naturall honesty, or naturall devotion can carry us unto; for as we told you, though men are here said by nature to have Gods Law written in their hearts; yet that is far different from that gracious promise in Jeremiah, where God is said to write his Law, and put his fear into their hearts, Jer. 31. For that is a writing of the Law, after the naturall stoninesse is taken away, and a tender fleshly plyable heart given unto them; so that should God write no more graciously in us, than what is at first naturally ingraven in us, it would argue no more that we had grace, than that the Devils and damned in hell have grace; for you must know these Dictates about God, and a Conscience about evill, is so inseparably ingraven in our hearts, that it is not taken out, no not from the damned in hell; but the great cause of all their torment and misery is, because that work of conscience is so quick and sensible in them, that being the gnawing worm which never dyeth: so then how∣soever the last day, you heard the Heathens described in their glory, and many ad∣mirable things done by them; yet now you shall hear their glory stained, their Sun in an Eclipse, many dead flies that doe wholly marre their Box of oyntments. In∣deed as Austin observeth, A man that reads what excellent things they have done, cannot but have a kind of pity of them, and a secret desire that they might be sa∣ved, which (no question) were the grounds that made some positively assert their salvation; but in matters of Religion, not humane pity or affections, but divine Authority must be the star to guide us, and where we are unable to find out the justice, or mercy of God, there yet to adore them, it being as impossible for us to comprehend the wise and deep things of God, as a worm to understand the councells, and wise purposes of men: Come we therefore to prove and illustrate our Doctrine, viz.
That whatsoever goodnesse, devotion or honesty, a man by naturall principles obtai∣neth, it is not Grace.*
Page 353 The work of godlinesse in a man, is of an higher sphere, and there is as great a difference between them, as between true Pearls and counterfeit. Onely I must re∣move one Objection, before I proceed to the point: for you may readily demand, *What is all this Doctrine to us? What doth it concern us, to hear that Heathens may, or have done such righteous things? Are we Pagans, and Gentiles? We are Baptized, and have given up our names to Christ, and therefore doubt not, but that our condition is far better than theirs: we believe in Christ, we •est on him for salvation, we receive the Sacraments. Therefore this discourse about naturall light, and naturall power, seemeth altogether impertinent to us; the least dwarf in Christianity being higher than the tallest Giant in Heathenism: What do you tell us of nature, who live under grace?
To answer this, First, it may be charitably and justly asserted, that there are many*who have the titles of Christians, that yet in knowledge and lives differ nothing at all from Heathens. They know no more than a very Pagan doth, and their lives are far worse than many Gentiles. There are men among us that seldome or never fre∣quent Church-Assemblies, that if they be questioned about God, or Christ, or the Holy Ghost, can give no better account, than if they had lived among the Indians, onely they have heard of a Christ; but what he is, and to what purpose appointed by God, they know not the least iota or tittle of it: Its not any knowledge or faith they have about the Christian Religion, rather than any other in the World, but onely the Kingdome wherein they live, and the Authority under which they are, enjoyneth such things to be received, with the example of other their neighbours, especially the imitation of their parents, and this is all that moveth them to the owning of Christ. Certainly, the faithfull Ministers of God, may, or ought to say, Rivers of water runne down our eyes, because many understand not the very foun∣dation and first principles of Religion. They are but mock-Christians, they have a name and a badge of Christianity upon them, but their ignorance and sottishnesse is so great, that it would make a man to be amazed at it. Do not therefore say, What is this to us? Oh it is too much to too many, who have scarce learned, whe∣ther there be a Christ, or an holy Ghost, or no.
Secondly, This Discourse is pertinent, because though there may be many amongst us, who have the knowledge of Christ, and understand the true Religion; yet they have not powerfull efficacy, or operation upon their hearts or lives. The Word of God doth not direct, correct, or mold their lives, they attend not to that, but what good they doe, or evill they avoid, is wholly from those Reliques and remnants which God hath left in them. This is a chief point in Christianity, to consider, whether it be a naturall principle onely that carryeth thee to what is good, or a supernaturall; whether it be the Law written in us by God the Author of nature, or the Law written in us by God the Author of grace. The Apostle speaketh of the acknowledgement of the truth after Godlinesse, Titus 1. 1. the know∣ing of truths as they are in Christ Jesus, Ephesians 4 and Colossians 1. 6. The knowing of the grace of God in truth. All which is, when men living under the Gospel, are by the power of it so changed and altered, that whatever good they doe, or evill they avoid, they are in all inabled by a supernatural strength vouchsafed unto them. Now it's too apparent, that most mens Religion, Affecti∣ons, Conversations, are wholly built upon a naturall Devotion, and a naturall righteousnesse: they would have been such devout men and so just men, if they had never heard of Christ; if they lived among the Heathens they would have been no better or worse. I entreat you therefore to consider what divine impres∣sions the Christian Religion hath made upon you. Art thou any more in all the du∣ties thou dost, than what thy mother-Piety, (as we say mother-wit) or thy mother-Righteousnesse inableth thee to. Thou worshippest God and Christ with the same humane affections and devotions as the Romans their Jupiter, or the Ephe∣sians their Diana, onely thou hast the true object of worship, and they have not. When our Savior preached, that he was the true bread which came down from hea∣ven, Page 354 presently some hearers cryed out, Lord give us evermore of this bread, John 6. 34. Here were humane affections, and a naturall devotion; they did not under∣stand, or graciously discern, what this bread of life was. It may be justly feared, that the Gospel or Word of God hath little power over mens lives, onely an hu∣mane, or naturall piety leads on men to doe what they doe; For if they were san∣ctified and moulded by the word, then that would carry them to all Gods com∣mandements, they would have a respect to every duty; besides they would in a spi∣rituall and heavenly manner be affected, and in a constant persevering manner: Whereas naturall Piety is seen only in some straits and extraordinary difficulties; as the Heathens, who carried Jonas in their Ship, sought all to their gods, when they were in extream danger by a violent tempest. Therefore neither Sun or Water is so necessary (as they say) as this truth is; for this will only teach thee the true Cha∣racteristical difference between that which is humane and divine in thee. This will discover Sibboleth or Shibboleth.
Thirdly, We have just cause to preach of this even to Christians, because they are out-stripped in many things by the heathens. They observed their Idols and false Gods with more fear and care, than thou dost the true. What a wonderfull speech was that of Antoninus Pius, and Eugenius, who being very clement, and excessive in forgiving those enemies that made warre against him, and being admonished that this clemency of his would undoe him, and imbolden adversaries the more a∣gainst him, we read this Answer, Nos non sic colimus Deos, &c. We doe not so serve or worship the gods, that our enemies should overcome us. Alas, what Christians may truely say so? How many times have the Barbarians, the savage and fierce na∣tions of the world overcome the Church, and destroyed Christians, because they have served God loosly and negligently, Vitis nostris barbari fiunt fortes: Our wickednesse and sinnes made the adversaries strong; so that here is great cause to hear these things with attention, knowing we have too much Heathenism in us, we have little of the Gospel mould in us.
These things laid down, we come to demonstate that no naturall excellency de∣serves to be called grace; and for the more orderly proceeding; as the Apostle di∣videth * the whole work of a man in reference to salvation, into these three parts, Tit. 2. To live righteously, in respect of others; soberly. in regard of our selves; and Godly, in respect of God, I shall first detect the insufficiency of Naturall piety, then Naturall Honesty, and lastly, Naturall Sobriety and temperance: wherein we shall wholly reject that position of some, making a three-fold Piety, Judaica, of the Jewes, Ethnica, of the Heathens, and Christiana, of the Christians; for as Extra Ecclesiam non est salus; so it must needs follow, non est Pietas, without faith, it being impossible to please God, Hebr. 11. For their Piety and Devotion to God.
First, How farre soever it may carry a man, yet it is accompanied with great blindnesse, ignorance, and confusion of mind; that whatsoever reverence, or affections*they have towards God, yet such a darknesse is upon a man, that he can doe nothing ac∣ceptably. The Apostle Paul doth notably confirm this, by that Discourse he had, when at Athens, Acts 17. 22. &c. I found an Altar with this Inscription, To the un∣known God: whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him I declare unto you. They did ignorantly worship God, even those Athenians, that were renowned for learning, and intellectuall abilities; and verse 27. That they should seek after the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him. Its a full expression, to shew that all men naturally are like the Egyptians in a thick darknesse, that are forced to grope and feel with their hands, not knowing what to doe: and thus it is with every man, though a Christian, if he order not his steps according to the supernaturall light of the Word; he doth but grope, and is in great confusion about God, and Christ; not onely upon the Heathens Altars, but upon some Christians solemn worship may be this Inscription, To the unknown God. Thou prayest to an unknown Christ; it is an unknown Holy Ghost unto thee: Regeneration is an unknown pri∣viledge; Page 355 faith is an unknown Grace; so that this naturall light about a God, is so confused, so darkned, that thereby he cannot any wayes expedite himself, or direct his wayes to please God.
Secondly, This naturall piety and devotion, is exceedingly stained and beblurred by carnall and vain imaginations, whereby they have been guilty of horrible and gross * Idolatry; so that their Piety hath been the greatest abomination, and that com∣monly wherein men naturally judge themselves most holy and religious in serving of God, there they have most dishonoured him. Thus the Apostle, Rom. 1. sheweth of the wise Grecians, that they became vain in their imaginations turning the glory of the incorruptible and immortall God into an image of an Ox that eateth hay. The Egyptians, that were most famous for knowledge and learning, were the most abo∣minable in their religious worships; so that all the Idol worship in the world came from that confused darknesse in mens thoughts about a God. And the same corrup∣ted principle in Popery, yea, and in common Christians, is still most vigorous to have images and some corporall resemblances of him we do worship. Thus we judge of God like a man, like our selves, and therefore attribute that to him, which we see is pleasing to our fancies. Therefore know thou, that all that desire which is in thee after a carnall and sensible worship of God by images and such repre∣sentations, is but Heathenism in thee: Such kind of worship was brought in at first from the custome of the Heathens; and the best pretence the introducers had for it, was, that thereby they might win the Gentiles the more easily to them. Oh then think not, this Sermon belongs to those who live in the remote places of the world, who worship the Sunne and Moon and Stars. No, it is very proper for many a∣mong us still, who delight in, and love all outward pompous and sensible Ceremo∣nies, whereby the Heathens were wont to worship their gods.
Thirdly, This light and devotion men had in them by nature, was so farre from be∣ing*gracious, that none were so bitter and malicious against the pure and spirituall Worshippers of God and Christ, as they were. Thus there are certain devout Jews, so called, yet they stirred up persecution against Paul, Acts 13. 50. 17. 17. They were exceedingly affectionate and devout in their traditionall worship they had of God; and so none greater enemies to spirituall worship than they: So true is that of the Apostle; The wisdome of the flesh is enmity to God; and it is not, nor can be subject to him, Rom. 8. 7. No greater adversary in the world to the pure worship of God, than a mans natural reason, and carnal apprehensions, destitute of Scripture-directi∣ons; all the false & superstitious worship which ever came into the Church (and she was scarce ever free) did flow from this Fountain, a carnal and humane judgment, what was fit and orderly, what was pleasing to God, and what was displeasing. Austin observed this long agoe; and certainly, the simplicity, and pure spirituall worship of God is very offensive and troublesome to carnal apprehensions. When therefore thou art to judge, what is the best worship pleasing to God, and wherein he doth most delight, doe not consult with thy own Methinks, or what Custome and Education hath ingaged thee too, but to what the Scripture informs therein. The manner of Gods worship in publick we see, hath become the matter of sad contentions for a long while. The Protestants calling that Reformation which the Papists abhorred, as deformation. Now certainly, if men would, as Constantine did in the Councell of Nice, cause the Bible to be the judge of the Controversies, and not to goe beyond, or on this side that direction, laying aside all carnall pre∣judices and suggestions, &c. the spirituall worship of God would be readily imbra∣ced. Austin admired Socrates his Speech, that God must be worshipped onely that way, which he hath appointed. Oh therefore labour to subdue that remnant of Heathenism in thee, which is to adore God and worship him by carnal imagina∣tions, light of reason, and not supernatural Revelation of Gods will: for still we see how bitter naturall devotion is to true piety: none so cruel and bloudy as they who are carryed out against the true worshippers of God: witnesse the Antichristi∣an party, who like Wolves have accounted the Sheeps bloud sweetest.Page 354〈1 page duplicate〉Page 355〈1 page duplicate〉
Page 356 Fourthly, Although naturall light hath attributed unto God, a Government in this world, punishing the wicked, and absolving the righteous, yet they have done this*with many doubtings, and much weaknesse, often speaking of Fortune and Chance, which they thought moderated every thing in the world. That God hath a revenge∣full eye upon sinners, see how the Barbarians did acknowledge, Acts 28. For when Paul had a Viper fastned on his hand, they concluded after this manner, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom though he hath escaped the Sea, yet vengeance suffers not to live. And so Jonas Mariners, when they were in extream danger of Shipwrack, they thought it was, because some hainous Offender was among them, with whom God was angry. Thus it was implanted in them, that there was a God who did behold and take notice of wicked men, and would accordingly bring them to judg∣ment. Though they were thus at sometimes, yet at other times they spake much of a goddesse Fortune, to whom they gave the reins of the government of the World; and therefore the Emperors had a golden Ball, which was Fortune, that was kept successively, as if the keeping of that would preserve their Empire: and they sacrificed to Fortunae Viscosae, Fortune Bird-limed, that she might not leave them, but make them always prosperous. Now this corrupt opinion, that Chance ordered all things, could not but strike out all true fear of God, and obedience to him.
Lastly, Their Religion was nothing but Superstition, their 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 was 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, a sinfull and wicked fear, after a slavish manner about God. God would be wor∣shipped * as a Father, in a Filiall fear, John 4. not like a Tyrant, after a slavish man∣ner: As some Heathens sacrificed to the Devils, Ut ne noceant, That they should not hurt them. The Prophet Jeremiah, Chap. 10. excellently describeth this su∣perstition, Learn not the way of the Heathen, nor be dismayed at the Signs of Hea∣ven, for the customes of the people are vain. We have many Heathenish fears still among us, as the meeting of an Hare, the falling of Salt, &c. all which were cu∣stomes among Pagans, yet among ignorant people retained with a superstitious fear.
The second thing is their naturall honesty and righteousnesse, which was indeed the chiefest flower in their Garden, wherein they seemed in their greatest glory. Si∣verus* the Emperor did most admire that rule, which he said he learned from Chri∣stians, That which thou wouldest not have done to thy self, doe not to another. An excellent particular rule in all commerce between man and man: And although many of them did walk up to this rule, yet this natural righteousness was not grace, because the end of all their actions was not the glory of God, and the salvation of their souls, but either vain-glory, or at best onely the publick good, or comfort and ease in their Consciences, which unjust acts would disquiet: and therefore as the light of the Moon and the Stars is not able to dispell the night, but the light of the Sun onely; so neither is the power of nature able to rectifie that crookednesse and perversenesse which is in all our wayes; its the proper work of Grace onely to doe that: And the like we may say of all their actions of frugality, temperance, and sobriety; these all, like their acts of righteousnesse, had but humane ends, the aim they shot at, was far lower than heaven; and therefore were not grace, because that doth lift us up to God, aiming at, and beholding his Glory in all that we doe. But because the next thing I shall speak of, is, their morall vertues, a step higher than those naturall Dictates remaining in us, and am there to shew their insufficiency, I shall desist, and come to the Use, which is of Exami∣nation.
Is it so, that Heathens have done thus gloriously, though their glory be much stay∣ned? * then try, whether we be not out-stripped by them, or no: Doe not they serve their false gods more than we the true? Because we are Christians, is there∣fore all Paganism banished from us? No, for there are these Heathenish things among us; First, prophane and stupid ignorance: How many people worship they know not what, believe they know not what? having minds as blind Page 357 about any Religious things, as Bats and Owls: Who can bewail this darkness enough.
Secondly, If thou livest in prophaneness, in unjust and unrighteous ways, here thou art worse then an Heathen, they will rise up and condemn thee; neither will the priviledge of Baptism or the title of Christianity be a protection to thee, from that wrath which is due to thy enormous ways.
Thirdly, Our Savior speaks of some Heathens, that if the Gospel were preach∣ed to them, they would be more affected, and testifie better signs of their love of it, and reverence to it, then those who enjoy the means of Grace: If the things had been done in Tyre and Sidon, saith our Savior, which were Heathenish places, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes, Mat. 11. 10. O it is a dreadful and terrible thing to consider, that even Pagans and Gentiles would manifest better affections, and more real respects to the word preached, then many of those do, who yet have the clear day of the Gospel! O that God should deny it to them, and vouchsafe it to thee, who makest no better use of it.
Of Ethicks or Moral Philosophy, that it leads not to Salvation; And that the Moral Vertues of Temperance, Fortitude, Justice, Liberality, &c. are not Grace.
ROM. 2. 15.
I Shall at this time finish the matter I intended out of this Text, which was to shew, That all the Moral excellency and worth, a man by nature can attain unto, deserveth not to be called Grace and Godliness. The onely thing consi∣derable, that remaineth to be discussed, is, Whether those Moral Vertues, the choicest Heathens are so exact in describing of, and pressing to, are Grace: For there is nothing seemeth to be so like godliness, as those Moral Vertues, Fortitude, Temperance, Justice, Liberality, &c. and seeing the Scripture commands the same things, that those Authors do so commend, it may justly be doubted, whe∣ther to have those Moral Vertues that do so excellently civilize a man, and order∣ly regulate all his actions, that the Church and Commonwealth where he liveth, receiveth much good by him, be not enough to Salvation. This is a point of great concernment, for who doth not think, if he attain to such a well-temper∣ed life, that he is in the necessary way to salvation? For the better discovery of the truth in this point, consider these things:
First, That the Heathens were right in this, in commending Moral Philosophy above all other Arts, because the end of it was to make men civilly good, and Page 356〈1 page duplicate〉Page 357〈1 page duplicate〉Page 358 orderly to govern their actions: Therefore Seneca said well, The other Arts are called Liberal, because they are worth the study of a free and ingenuous man; but this is called Liberal, because it makes a man free, and sets him at liberty from his passions and vices. All the Sciences lie in Contemplation and Specula∣tion, but this endeavoreth to bring a man to the injoyment of some good, which is his end. The former were onely invented Ut. Exercitia ingenii, not Remedia animi, but this to be a medicine and cure of the soul. Hence when they com∣pared all the Arts together, sometimes they resembled them to a field; Natural Philosophy they made the plants and roots that grew therein; Logick the hedge that inclosed the field; but Moral Vertue was the fruit growing thereon: At other times they compared them to an Egg; the yolk or substance, was Mo∣ral Philosophy; the shell was Logick. Thus far they did well, that they thought it more excellent to reform a mans manners, to better his conversation, then to know the Motions of the Heavens, or to dispute subtilly: Therefore they called it the musick of the soul, as that which did tame and quiet mens unruly passions, and regulate their crooked lives; and herein they will certainly at the day of judgement condemn many Christians, who labor more for knowledge, and how to get skill and understanding in those matters which have applause in the world, then to live soberly and righteously.
Secondly, Howsoever Plato and other Heathens, have labored much in laying down Doctrines and Precepts to cure mens lives, yet Aristotle hath the more general approbation, for describing of Ethical Doctrine; Indeed Plato hath more Divine matter in his works, but Aristotle methodizeth it; therefore one said, That all things lay confused, till Aristotle came, who put them unto order. As the great Army of the M•des was confused and tumultuous, till Cyoxares their General regulated them. Yet the Fathers, they generally were most addicted to Plato, from whom also they sucked in some corrupt opinions, which their Christianity did not quite wash away; and because of their former life and opi∣nions, it is an usual thing with them to call the Christian Doctrine, and the Christian Religion, Philosophy: But afterwards Aristotle began to be admired, whom Averroes called the Rule and Example, which Nature had found out, to demonstrate the ultimate perfection of a man; yea, some Popish Writers have thought him a glorified Saint in Heaven: But whatsoever excellent Doctrine he might propound to make men civil, and externally vertuous, yet the Christi∣an Religion doth reveal a far more excellent and noble way; and therefore if we take Solomons Proverbs, which we may call Solomons Ethicks; how infinitely doth he transcend Aristotle, for though both may prescribe the same Moral duty, yet Solomon still carrieth us out to God, and sets up a sure light to direct our feet in a good and upright way.
Thirdly, That which we call Ethicks, or moral Philosophy, is a doctrine informing us how to regulate our actions, according to honesty and righteousness, that so we might be happy: For although Heathens miserably erred, and were con∣founded, about what happiness was, and the chiefest good, yet they all con∣cluded, there was such a thing, and that the way thereunto was onely by ver∣tuous actions: The nature of which they described to be in keeping of an ex∣cellent Mean, so that a man do not fail in excess or defect; and all this was to be done for vertues sake, out of love to it; as for example, they made Tempe∣rance a vertue, but when and how? even when a man had got an habit of this sobriety rooted in him; not excessive in any things of pleasure, nor yet defective in things convenient and necessary; and all this he doth not for applause sake, or to preserve his health, but out of a love to vertue: This therefore they press, that he who would be happy, he must be a vertuous man; and certainly, this may seem an high point, that they held none vertuous, but such who did vertuous actions, for vertues sake: This laid down, it will be very profitable to know whether this be not Grace: whether any men need to do any more: would it Page 359 not be well, if many amongst us were thus far moralized? The answer is nega∣tive, All such vertues, let men attain to never so much loveliness and come∣liness in them, yet are not the Grace God requireth of those who would be saved: Their Temperance, their Meekness, their Justice, is far different from that Temperance, Meekness and Righteousness, which the spirit of God works in us; therefore there are some Divines that say, The Scripture never useth ver∣tue in that sense, as the Philosophers do; neither (say they) is Grace ever cal∣led vertue: But I cannot say this latter is true, for the Scripture saith, A ver∣tuous woman, Prov. 30. 10. that is, A gracious godly woman; and the Apostle speaking of the chain of Graces, saith, Adde to faith, vertue; and to vertue know∣ledge, 1 Pet. 1. 5. It is true, to deliver such matter as this, as to love a good and honest action for honesties sake, seemeth to be very high, and we may justly question, whether ever any Heathen was so vertuous in that respect; they were onely notions, delivered by men in Books, not realities practised in mens lives; but grant all this were so, and we have many men amongst us, who are admirably moralized, prudence and reason hath wonderfully civilized them, that they abhor any gross sins, as that which is against the nature of a man, and makes him become bruitish; but yet none of these are yet in a state of Grace. And consider well the grounds of this point, that at last thou mayest be provoked to true godliness:
First, This civilized Vertue falls short, because it hath not been built upon a sure, deep and humble foundation; which is, the acknowledgement of our natural cor∣ruption * and the horrible stain that is now throughout the whole man: They were also ignorant of the sinfulness of those inward motions, and first suggesti∣ons to sin, which Paul doth so bemoan and bewail himself for, as a miserable captive. Now if a man build never so fair an Edifice, upon a slighty and weak foundation, when any storm ariseth, all will fall presently to the ground. All men indeed, have acknowledged vertue hard and difficult to flesh and blood, they placed it upon an high hill, to which it was hard climbing, but yet they did not make it impossible to flesh and blood. Some of the Heathens conceived, the seeds and foundations of vertue were in our nature, as sparks of fire are in a flint stone, which are stricken out, though with an hard blow; but man is said To be dead, not asleep in sin, Ephes. 2. and our Regeneration is called a Resur∣rection, not an awakning from evil ways. Grace is not sowed in an heart, as seed in the ground, which the earth brings forth by a natural power, and in∣bred strength; but as Sarah did conceive, wholly by the power of God: Thus doth the heart of a man bring forth the fruits of righteousness. Here then is the certain ground of mens mistakes, they lay not a sure foundation at first; they think not sin hath made such a deep and inward wound upon a mans soul, and therefore they seek not out for such a deep and inward cure: Oh know then! that although thy life be never so externally vertuous, yet if thou hast not begun with this principle of Debasement, all the work of grace is to begin a new in thee.
Secondly, This Moral Vertue is not Godliness, because they erred in the maner*also of obtaining it: They looked upon vertue, as that which was acquired by their own industry and customary actions; they call them acquired habits, not infused: They thought by often actions of Temperance, Meekness and Righte∣ousness, to get the habits of them; but in Christianity it is far otherwise, God first makes the tree good, then the fruit will be good: First he infuseth into our souls supernatural principles, inabling us to walk holily, and then we walk in his Commandments; this is called, The taking away of an heart of stone, and giving an heart of flesh, Ezek. 32. and Writing his Law in our hearts, Jer. 31. so that when we are righteous, temperate, in a Christian way, it is not because we often accustomed our selves to such actions before, but because God first sanctified our natures thereunto; whereas all Moral Vertue is obtained by a studious and Page 360〈1 page duplicate〉Page 361〈1 page duplicate〉Page 360 diligent exercise of our selves in such ways; therefore they called this Art or Doctrine, Ethicks, from 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Custom, because they did frequently use them∣selves to such maners; And how common is this amongst us? Have men been formerly given to such and such vicious and sinful courses? if they recover out of these, they do it by an humane power, they stint themselves in such and such a maner: All this is well done, but still they must look higher, they must ex∣pect and beg for grace, to be infused in their hearts by Gods spirit, not obtain∣ed by their own labors: Therefore men thus moralized, and no more, are ne∣ver zealously affected with the Grace of God converting them; they never are admiring, as you see Paul is, sometimes to ravishment, of the riches of Gods grace, and his unspeakable love to them: Nor have they such discovery of Grace in them, as to be often speaking of, and affected with the original of it.
Thirdly, This Moral Vertue is therefore insufficient, because it is not guided by a sure and standing rule, which is the word of God: For seeing that is true, which is affirmed * by them, That vertue is in a golden Mediocrity, moderating against excess and de∣fect; there must be some standard or immoveable rule to go by, that we erre neither on the right hand or the left. Now that which they prescribed, was one∣ly the dictate and resolution of a prudent man; Sicut vir prudens judicabit, As a prudent man shall judge: But alas? no man can be a rule to a vertue, but ver∣tue must regulate him: This were to have the Sun follow the Clock, as they say; therefore these did onely grope in the dark, not knowing how to order their steps; they were like ships in the sea, without any Pilot. But to that which is truly grace and godliness, the word of God is a sure rule; that onely regu∣lateth our actions, that informeth us how to moderate our passions, how to bound and limit our affections; as also, what motives and attractives should in∣large our desires to what is good: Therefore the Word of God is so often called a Light and a Lamp, Psal. 119. and the Apostle calls it the Rule, Gal. 6. 16. ac∣cording to which we must direct and order our steps: That is not grace, which the thoughts of a wise man shall determine, but what Christ and the Word of God shall conclude; and indeed, hence arise all mistakes about God∣liness, that the Scripture is not made the Judge of it. That which to our apprehensions, to our prudential thoughts, we think to be right and Reli∣gious, that presently we imbrace, and go no further: But the nature of true godliness, is as much above thy thoughts, and beyond thy expectation, as any mystery of Faith. A man would as hardly believe, that Grace is such a supernatural mysterious work, as the Doctrine of the Trinity, or Christs Incarnation is incredible to a Natural man: Look therefore to have true Grace, a farre other thing, then thy Natural Prudence would con∣clude.
Fourthly, This Moral Vertue is not Grace, because suppose the utmost and highest which they attained in this way, viz. To love a vertuous action, for vertues*sake, not for vain glory, or self-ends, but meerly because vertue is lovely, and comely, and consonant to right reason: Yet because they staid in this, and did not refer all to God, placed their trust and happiness in this, and not in God; therefore these Vertues were indeed Vices. Hence the Apostle, 1 Corinth. 6. 1. calls all their Magistrates and Governors in their Publique Courts, unjust: Do any of you go to Law before the unjust, and not before the Saints: Though they had a Civil Justice, and were a terror to the wicked; yet because this was not referred to Gods glory, the Scripture calls them unjust. But you see, the godly who have true Grace in them, and the fruits of Gods Spirit, yet rest not in this, look not to be justified or made hap∣py hereby, but go out of them all to the favor of God through Christ: Thus Paul accounteth his Righteousness dung and dross, in comparison of the Righteousness by Faith, Philip. 3. 8. Paul, furnished with so many gracious Page 361 abilities, yet as a meer Beggar, runs to Gods Grace for covering, lest his nakedness appear: So that if our Graces, which yet are wrought in us by Gods Spirit, may have no confidence put in them; much less may those Civil Vertues: And for this reason, Austin puts those glorious Vertues in the Catalogue of Vices. Those vertues, saith he, which a man seemeth to him∣self to have, by which he hath power and dominion over vices, unless they be referred to God, they are vices rather then vertues; for although of some they are then thought to be true and honest vertues, when they are referred to themselves, and not desired for any thing else, yet even then they are swelling and proud, and therefore are not vertues but vices: For as that is not flesh, but above flesh, which makes flesh live, so that is not of a man, but above man, which makes man to live happily: thus Austin. So then this Civil vertue can make none godly, because it makes a man stay in himself, and rest in those apprehended perfections, not at all going out to God; whereas Grace in its proper effects, still makes us to eye God, and look out to him.
Fifthly, As a Consectary from the former, therefore this Moral Vertue*is not godliness, because it is not a life of faith, which yet is the soul and heart of all godliness. The just shall live by faith, Romans 1. 17. Now this life of faith is not onely in Justification, whereby we lay hold upon Christ for his Righteousness, that so Christ may be all in all; but also in Sancti∣fication, whereby Christ dwelling in our hearts, we receive Power, Life and Motion from him, to walk in all godliness: Thus Romans 11. By faith we stand as branches in the Olive Tree, and receive of its fatness: The life of Grace in a godly man is not an entire independent and absolute life of it self, but a partial dependent one, such as the branch is of a tree; or a member of the body; or the childes life in the womb. As therefore when the root is withered, the branches must; or as sweet flowers, pulled off their root, presently lose their life and fragrancy; so doth a godly man, if he could be separated from Christ: But civil vertue is not a life of faith, depending upon another; its a life of works, wherein we are a kinde of absolute Lords, not fetching power from without us. Hence it is, that these moralists are never much in prayer, earnest in supplications; they please themselves with custom and formality, and lasie devotions, not feeling the constant need of Christ, and the daily supply which they should have from him; yea, they are wholly strangers to the life of faith, they know not what it means; they have no ex∣ercises or temptations in it: Therefore do not thou judge of thy good condi∣tion by thy Morality, by thy external Righteousness, but by thy faith; Dost thou know what it is to believe? to lie sucking at the breasts of Gods pro∣mise daily? to be drawing out of the wells of Salvation continually? This is the great part of Grace.
Sixthly, This Moral life is not a gracious life, because here is nothing of Christ in it; who yet inableth onely to what is godly, and makes that godliness ac∣ceptable: *There is no other name to be saved by, but by Christ; and no other way, but by faith in that Name, Acts 4. 12. Therefore Christ calls himself The Way, the Truth and the Life, John 14. 6. The way, so that whatsoever glory and dig∣nity any action may have, yet if it be not through him, its out of the way; and the faster a man runs, if it be out of the way, the greater loss it is. Then he is the Truth, all actions not done in his name, are but lyes and vanities: Thy Religion is a lye, thy Righteonsness is a lye, if it be not done in and through him. And then he is the Life, let thy conversation be never so resplendent, so glorious, yet it is but a dead glory; there is no supernatural life of grace, but where Christ is. Now a Moral man, if a Christian, though he may in profes∣sion acknowledge Christ, yet he doth not live as one that daily receiveth in∣fluence from him: Christ is not really in his thoughts, in his duties, in his af∣fections; Page 362 he doth not pathetically and heartily, cry out, How vain are all these duties without Christ? How undone were I, if not for Christ?
Seventhly, This Moral Vertue is not a life of Grace, because it is many times a dreadful opposer, and a cursed enemy to it. Those Stoicks, which were the chiefest * of Heathens, and had the sublimest notions about vertue, That would not have a man love vertue, not for the sweetness and delight it brings, they thought that too base, and an unworthy respect, but onely for vertues sake; yet how desperately did they set against Paul, Acts 17. 18. like loves its like; and therefore if Moral vertue were grace, it would love, respect and honor it wheresoever it findes it: Those onely should be chief in our affections, who are in piety.
But you may say, What? is there no difference then to be made between a vicious man, and a civilized man; between these outwardvertuous actions, and gross prophaneness?*
Yes, very much; for First, God hath commanded the prophane, gross man to be cast out of the Church Assemblies, till he be reformed: If one that*is a brother, be a fornicator, drunkard, &c. not to eat with such an one; and cast out from among you that wicked person, 1 Cor. 5. such gross sinners are no more to be suffered in holy Assemblies, then Swine in your garden, then Toades in your dishes, then dead Flies in a box of ointment; but a Christian civilized, though not regenerated, hath no such censure to be inflicted upon him; and although this Morality be no qualification for heaven, yet it keeps men from being spots and blemishes, reproaches and scandals to that holy name which is called upon by us: Therefore its great matter of praise and blessing of God, if these restraints are put upon men, and they do not like Swine wallow in all mire and filth.
2. This Moral vertue is profitable both to others, and to themselves also. To*others; Thus the Righteousness, Fortitude, and other noble Qualifications a∣mong the Romans, were a great advantage to the publique, and while those humane vertues flourished, Rome was the Queen and Head of the world; but (as their own Authors observe) when that strictness and justice was dissolved, and in the room thereof Avarice, Pleasures, and all corrupt administrations, then she became so sick, that she could neither indure her diseases, nor yet her remedies: And then they are profitable to those that do them, partly be∣cause their condemnation will be lesser, their punishments more mitigated; and partly because God doth bestow many outward temporal rewards upon them. Ahab for external humiliation, had the publique judgements of the Land removed for that season; and industry, frugality and righteous dealings, have temporal blessings following them.
Use. To inform how far they are off from all grace, and so all hopes of glory, who live in gross and prophane ways: What? if such Righteousness doth not avail? shall thy unrighteousness? If such temperance and sobriety? shall thy voluptuous and unclean courses? If copper be not found to be gold? shall dung be thought to be gold? Therefore let such be ashamed and con∣founded, and never open their mouthes with any confidence. But
2. This sheweth the excellency of the word of God, which discovers those things as contemptible and unworthy, which among men are so admired: What is more amiable? then to see a man of a sober, temperate, chast and just con∣versation? yet the Scripture sheweth a more excellent way; not that it takes these away, but lifts them up to an higher nature. It makes a man go further, and do those things upon spiritual and supernatural grounds, which were done upon humane and inferior motives before.