Only (saith the Apostle) let your Conversation be as becomes the Gospel of Christ. Have a care of this above all things, Oh you would fain get more knowledg, and be accounted some∣body in the place where you live, and be an eminent professor Page 16 where you live; Well, whatsoever you would fain be accoun∣ted of, let it be your only care, that your Conversation be as becomes the Gospel of Christ. Oh! this point speaks bitter things, and sharply rebukes the carelesness of the professors of the Gospel in point of their Conversation.
Oh Lord, how have we cause to bewail the loosnesse of the professors of the Gospel at this day! and I fear, that some may be present whose consciences may tell them that they are very loose in the point of their Conversations. Thou professest thou knowest Jesus Christ, that the Lord hath made known the glorious Mysteries of the Gospel to thee; What is thy life? Canst thou say as in the presence of God, that thy Conversation is answerable? I beseech you as in the presence of God, examin but this, see whether thou art able to say, Lord, thou knowest according to what light thou hast given me in the Gospel, it hath been my care to look to my Conversation, Oh that I might live to thy honor, and be a witnesse to thy truth; that I might hold forth thy image and further thy designs, and make up the dishonor that thou hast from others in the world; and that I might convince wicked men, and stop the mouthes of those that are opposite; and that I might be a means to con∣vert those that I live with, or otherwise to judge them; Oh that I might rejoyce the hearts of the Saints, that they might lift up their heads with boldness because of me, that they may, and so I might be stablished and edified! Go along in the rest of the heads. Can thy conscience tell thee that thou hast done so? No, but its quite contrary in some. The Lord speaks now to the consciences of those that this point concerns, that have been negligent in the point of their Conversation, thou art the man or woman that God hath as great dishonor from as from most in the world, yea certainly, there is no men upon the face of the earth that darkens the glory of the blessed God so much, as professors of Religion who live loosly, al the prophane ones, all your drunkards that reel up and down in the streets, and your blasphemers, yea name what sinners you will, there is non that do darken the glorie of God so much as thou doest, who art loose in thy Conversation, and yet a professor of the Go∣spel, thou castest dirt upon the blessed Image of God, thou doest Page 17 as much hinder the designe that God hath in the world as any men whatsoever, thou standest against the great works that God hath to do in the world, Oh wretch that thou art, what is this a time to be loose and wicked in? There was never a time that the Conversations of the professors of Religion were so pried into as now, and never a time since Christian Religion was professed upon the earth that the loose Conversation of Professors have done more hurt; and I verily beleeve never a time wherein there were more loose Professors. If so be that our fore-fathers that were godly and holie, and kept strict with God were now alive again, they would spit in the faces of ma∣nie that would think themselves eminent Professors of Religion, because of the looseness of their Conversations: And this is the worst, that they can all put it upon Christ, and the Do∣ctrine of Christ: but of that we shall speak more when we come to shew how our Conversation must be as becomes the Gospel of Christ: Certainly it is that that is quite opposite to the Gos∣pel of Jesus Christ. The Lord rebuke thee this day, and let this point be as a dart in thy liver, thou art the man that livest in this generation as if thou wert born to do mischief; no men live so as if they were born to do mischief as the Professors of the Gospel that live looslie in their Conversations: If I should give a mark of a man that were born on purpose to do mischief, it's that man that lives in these times and walks looslie. What, doest thou convince wicked men, and stop the mouthes of wicked men? Oh no, thou hardenest them, and openest their mouthes, nay, all the scorns of Religion thou art char∣ged with, and shalt be brought to an account for it; I say such as live looslie in their Conversations they shall be one day charged for all the scorn that is cast upon the profession of Religion, and for all the opposition of it, and for all the persecution of it, and for all the dishonor of it; it is because of you, you harden the hearts of wicked men, that they think they do God good service in following and persecuting such and such men so forward in Religion, for they think they are all like to you, what care they for mens talking and professi∣on when they see your Conversation loose and wicked, there∣fore they be hardened by you; and the Saints they fare the Page 18 worse for you, they are ashamed of it, when they go in the streets and meet with some of their acquaintance, Oh say they, Do you not know such a one, what he did such a week in his house, how false he was, and how he plaid the knave? What! one that would go in a morning to hear, and rise early in the winter time, and take so much pains, and yet do such and such things! it casts a mighty scorn upon all professors of Religion, and upon the Ministers of the Gospel, and the waies of the Gospel, all (I say) is scorn'd and contemn'd and men be hard∣ned against it, meerly for thy Conversation; and it may be some that were coming on, and began to think that the pro∣fession of Religion was the way to Heaven, and for them to be more strict than they were, and to enquire after the waies of God more than before, and to attend upon the Ministry of the Word; but since they heard of such a miscarriage, such loos∣ness in such a ones Conversation, their hearts rise against it, and they blesse themselves from such a way, God blesse me (say they) from such waies! If this be the fruit of their profession, and of their talking of Religion, to do thus and thus! So that thou provest to be a stumbling block that others stumble at and perish by, and dost thou think that (they stumbling and peri∣shing at thy sins) that thou shalt go scot-free? Canst thou think that thou that art a means to send so many to Hell, that thou shalt not go thither thy self? Certainly there's no men in the world that are the causes of sending so many to Hell, as such as live loosly in their Conversations, when they make profession of Religion. Canst thou have any evidence to thy soul that there is any work of grace in thee, and yet live looslie? Oh! Christ and His Gospel will scorn such as thou art, such wicked loose ones, thou art a dishonor to Jesus Christ, a dishonor to the Go∣spel, and I may say of thee that dost so, as it was said of Judas, It had been happy if thou hadst never been born: especially to be born in these times. But we shall meet with these again, when we come to the point in the particulars, how we should walk as becomes the Gospel; this is but only in the general for such as are loose in their Conversations; for certainly this must be granted as an everlasting rule, That that man or woman which makes not conscience of every thing in their Conversations, Page 19 makes conscience of nothing, if there be anie that upon deli∣beration, and knowing this or that to be sin beforehand, and yet for by and base ends, will sin to get monie, or the like, and so think to gain or free themselves from some trouble, by going against their light, and that upon deliberation, let that man or woman know that they can have no evidence that they ever made conscience of anie one thing: He that breaks one Comman∣dement breaks all; and there is such a bond in the Commande∣ments, and conscience doth knit the bond so uniformlie, that where there is one bond thus broken, the truth is, all is broken: Knowest thou not (saith Saint James) Oh vain man, what doest thou talk of faith if there be no works? thou art a vain man and thou doest deceive thy self. Certainlie those men that are loose in their Conversations, if God doth not humble them, and bring down their hearts, they will grow in time not onlie to lose their pro∣fession (as I said) but to be enemies to those that are stricter than themselves; that is, when men have corrupt hearts, and can∣not get up to that height of strictness that others do, they fall to persecute that way which is above them.
First, They begin to envie others that live better than them∣selves, and after having envied them, then they will begin to have their hearts rise against them, and to hate them, and after hating to speak against them, and after speaking against them, to persecute them, and thus by degrees men that have been for∣ward professors, now they grow as bitter persecutors as others, Oh therefore look to your Conversations.
And that should have been the exhortation, Christians be careful of your Conversations in your families, be careful there. Psal. 101. 1. you have an excellent Scripture of Davids professing his care of his Conversation in his familie, how he would walk, I will behave my self wisely in a perfect way: when wilt thou come unto me? I will walke within my house with a perfect heart. Oh I beseech you look to this Scripture; I will behave my self wiselie in a perfect way; mark, I'le look that my way may be perfect, everie way right and square to the world, and when it is so, I will labor to behave my self wiselie, I will not carrie my self foolishlie in those waies that are good: and then, Oh when wilt thou come unto me? Mark, it was a time Page 20 that God was absent from him, and yet then he professes that he will behave himself wiselie in a perfect way; and I wil walk in my house with a perfect heart: There are some that make pro∣fession of Religion indeed, and if you come to them before o∣ther companie, then their conversations seem to be very fair and square; but if you do but follow them to their families, and see what they do there, Oh those that live with them in their families, after they have been abroad in companie shall see in what guiz they come home. Shal they see their conversations to be holy as becomes the Gospel of Jesus Christ? But thus it was with David, saith David, Let those that live with me in my house mark me as narrowlie as they can; I will walk in my house with a perfect heart; what I am in the Congregation or among those that are godly, or any company; I will be in my family, that those in my family shall see my Conversation to be thus and thus. Oh that pro∣fessors of Religion would look to this, not only to live before others in the parish or the town where they live, but to walk in their familie with a perfect heart, so as all in their family may even bless them and say, Oh how doth my Master or Mistriss walk! how graciously in their whol course from morning to night! observe them in all their waies and you shall not be a∣ble almost to see anie miscarriage in them: Oh that's excellent, when a man shall have a better testimony even from those in his familie than from those that are strangers; it may be they think though thou makest profession of Religion, yet all things are not answerable; but those that see it everie day can testifie all things are answerable; thus it should be wth every Christian that professes the Gospel, to walk with a perfect heart in the midst of his family, & so to converse in the world. Divers Arguments I shall give you, to stir you up to look to your Conversations.
1. Arg. First, It is the mercy of God that you have your Conversations among men to this day, that you have not your Conversations among De∣vils and Reprobates, it might have been your portion that your Conver∣sation might have been among Devils and Reprobates, God might have sent you down to your own place to have conversed with them. Let this be an Argument for you to look to your Conversations.
2. Arg. Secondly consider this, Wicked and carnal men (among whom you live) have no skill in the principles that you walk by, but Page 21 they have skill in your lives and Conversations, they are able to pass judgment upon your lives and Conversations, but not of your principles. Godlie people are acted by such and such principles that are mysteries to carnal men; but when it comes to their lives they can understand them; they cannot search into their prin∣ciples, whether such a Doctrine be true or no, or such a thing be according to such a Scripture, whether there be a right interpre∣tation of such a Scripture that carries them on in such a way, they take no pains to look after this, but they look to your lives, there they have skill to discern how you walk, and whe∣ther you walk to the rule or not in your lives and Conversati∣ons, and therefore let it be your great care to look to your Con∣versations.
3. Arg. A third motive is this, There are some things that you can∣not but do, that will displease wicked men, if you will act according to your Principles. Well, but this should make thee so much the more careful of thy Conversation in all other things, that so wicked men may be convinc'd, that if such men do some things that I do not understand, yet surelie it is for some thing that God hath made known to them more than to me, for I find this, that in all things that I do understand there they walk exactly, therfore though there be some things that they do that I cannot understand, why should I be enraged against them? As now in point of institution of Worship, which doth not depend upon the light of Nature at all, but meerly upon Scripture, and such and such interpretations of Scripture; and such principles wic∣ked men have no skill in: Now the professors of Religion they are tyed up by institution, and by the words of Scripture thus interpreted, which they think in their consciences is the truth, they having compared all things together think this is the mind of Christ rather than the other, and so long as they think thus they must follow it: Now there's many of these things that car∣nal men understand not, (for they take no pains to search in∣to them) and therefore they will be angry with you for them; and indeed they will have cause to be angry with you for those things they understand not, if they see you make no conscience of those things that they understand; but if in other things that they do understand you walk circumspectly, and that it Page 22 appear to them that in those things they understand they walk conscionably, then they will beleeve that it was meer conscience that made you differ from them in those things which they un∣derstood not, or had no skill in; this will make them ready to stand for you, yea to speak and plead for you (no such way to get true libertie of conscience as this is) if you be careful to walk blameleslie in all those things that they understand with whom you converse; they will be convinced in their consciences that if these men differ from us, it's conscience that makes them differ, for (say they) we find that in all those things we understand these men walk conscionablie. Certainlie a holie Conversa∣tion will make manie men (even carnal men themselves) plead for libertie of conscience (so far as things be not destructive to godliness or the Kingdom) for such men, they will say, were they all such men as these men are they might verie wel be born withal, for they differ in nothing but that conscience puts them upon, (say they) for we find them in all their waies square and just, they walk conscionablie. Therefore be careful of your Conversations, because in some things you cannot but do that which will displease wicked men.
4. Arg. Fourthlie, Consider that your lives are but short, within a while you must have your Conversations either among Devils or Angels, one of the two; and how soon it may be, only God knows. Now then I would appeal and put this to your consciences, Are your Conversations now, such as can give you comfort? Oh I hope within a while I shall have my Conversation among Angels; I desire now that the will of God may be done in earth as it is in heaven, and that my familie and life were as it were a heaven, I would fain have my Conversation in heaven now, and this gives me some good hope that my Conversation shall be with Angels within a while.
But on the other side, Will not mens consciences mis-give them, if you would make a judgment of what your Conversa∣tion shall be within a while by that they are now? are not the Conversations of many of you in your families, and when you come in some companie more like to those that are appointed to have their Conversation among Devils?
Why? what's done among Devils? there's hatred Religi∣on, Page 23 and of God, and of his Saints, there's railing and blas∣pheming, the Devils they accuse the Brethren, and blaspheme the Name of God; And what is your Conversation otherwise than theirs? Know, that your Conversation is such as is an evi∣dent fore-runner, that if you continue as now you are, that within a while your Conversation will be among Devils; for that's the most sutable to you.
And my Brethren consider further, The eyes of the world, yea the eyes of God, and of Christ, and the Angels are upon you, to see how grace acts in your Conversations; the eyes of the world are upon you watching for your halting, and re∣joycing: remember but this; that your Conversations are not onlie before men, but the eyes of God, and Christ, and His holy Angels, they look upon you where ever you are; when you are in your familie, there God, Christ, and His holie An∣gels stand looking upon you to see what your Conversation is with your wife, husband, children, servants; when you come into companie, there the Lord God, and Jesus Christ, and An∣gels stand looking upon you: and therfore look to your Con∣versations.
And besides, The eyes of wicked men are upon you, they watch for your haulting, and they would rejoice to see any thing that they might have against you. That place that we had before, in 1 Pet. 2. 12. where the Holie Ghost saith, That whereas they speak against you as evil doers, they may by your good works which they shall behold, glorifie God in the day of visitation. The word is thus: that is, Beholding with a narrow circumspection; it is not onlie seeing, but with a narrow circumspection: Oh! it's an excellent thing, that when wicked men bend their eyes and look narrowlie upon the Saints, and would be glad and rejoice if they could find them halting, yet that they are able to find nothing. As it was said of Christ, the Pharisees sent to watch Him, but they could find nothing amiss in Him. And so though others should be sent on purpose to watch your lives, yet your lives should be so exact that they might find nothing amisse in you.
And I conclude all with that excellent promise that we have to such as are careful of their Conversations. In Psalm. 50. 23. Page 24 These times you all crie out of, as dangerous times: Mark, that one Scripture will help you that are careful of your Conversa∣tions, against the danger of the times wherein we live: Who se offereth praise, glorifieth me; and to him that ordereth his Conversation aright, will I shew the Salvation of God. These are times that you are called upon for praises and thanksgiving for mercies, we are bound to do that: but mark, Do not put off God with a verbal praise: it's true, he that offereth praise, honoreth me; but yet together there must be an ordering of our Conversati∣ons; and to him that ordereth his Conversation aright, will I shesh the Salvation of God: This is that which is required of Christians, to order their Conversations aright: Oh! it's an excellent thing to see the Conversations of Christians in due order, all guided with Spiritual wisdom and holiness; Oh that man or woman that is careful to order their Conversations a∣right, here is a promise to them: That the Lord will shew them his Salvation: What ever times thou livest in, though never so dan∣gerous, though God apear never so dreadful in the times where∣in thou livest, yet if thou canst have but this testimonie of thy conscience, Lord, thou knowest it is the care of my soul, not on∣ly to make profession of Religion, but to order my Conversati∣on aright, therefore Lord, save me in evil times, Lord shew me thy salvation: thou maiest take this promise and lay it to thy heart, and comfort thy heart with it, thou maiest plead it with God in prayer, Oh make it to be a matter of thy prayer to God In these evil times, that the Lord would shew His Salvation to thee, because He hath put it into thy heart through His Grace to order thy Conversation aright.