CHAP. IX. Twelve Rules of Direction for walking with God.
WHat Rules should be observed for a Christian's walking with God? You will say to me, You have shewed to us, That it is a most blessed thing to walk with God, and we are convinced of it: But what Rules may there be given for it?
The First Rule.
Be sure of this, That there be no way of sin in thee. Take heed of giving way to any sin, especially known sin, though it be a little one, though it should be but a sin of omision, the giving way to any known sin, will make the presence of God terrible, and make all thy duties empty; will e∣strang God from thy soul: there's more evil in it than thou art aware of, thou canst have no Communion with God while thou art in any way of sin, especially if it be against Light, The least sin that is that a Christian gives way unto, is like a thorn in a mans foot, but a great sin, & a sin against knowledg is like a great gash in a mans foot; now if a man hath but a thorn in his foot he cannot walk well, it will make him halt; if a man hath but a little gravel got into his shoo he will not be able to walk along, he may walk a step or two, but not very long. Now small sins are like gra∣vil in the shoo, or like a thorn got into the foot; but if thou fallest into a great sin, a sin against light, against con∣science, Oh that is like a great gash that one may cut with a hatchet or an ax; if a man hath cut a great gash in his foot he wil hardly be able to walk with comfort: Even so it is when thou fallest into any great sin, thou hadst need then go to the Chyriurgeon, thou hadst need then have salve applied to thee to heal thy soul, or otherwise it wil hinder thee in thy walk with God.
The second Rule, or Direction.
Secondly, Labor to abstract thy heart from earthly and sensu∣al things as much as thou canst that thou mayest be spiritual: A drossie, earthly, sensual heart is unfit to have communion with God, God he is a Spirit, and thou must be Spiritual in thy converse with him, take heed of mingling thy heart with creature comforts, thou mayest make use of them, but in a spiritual way, do not defile thy heart with them, let not thy heart close with them as adequat objects of thy desires, or of thy love, take heed of being intangled, of be∣ing insnar'd with any creature comforts; a man cannot walk if he hath got into a snare, when men fetter them∣selves in the world, and intangle themselves with abun∣dance of businesses, & creature contentments, it doth migh∣tily hinder their freedom in walking with God, when mens hearts sink down to the creature they cannot walk with God, for God is above, he is on high, and the way of the wise is on high, and we must keep our selves on high: If so be that Christians have sometimes some good affecti∣ons, their hearts are a little stir'd up to things that are good; but at other times their hearts sink down to the world, and to sensual, and earthly contentments, they cannot walk freely with God, they can but hault at the best; as a man that hath one leg shorter than the other, he cannot walk evenly, but he haults as he goes; so when our affections are up and down, sometimes they are stir'd up to Heaven, and sometimes down to the world again, yea, perhaps at the same time when we have some truths heave us upward, and yet a drossie spirit to sink us downward, this will be but haulting, our affections must go even, must not be for Heaven and Earth together, except it be in sub∣ordination one to the other, and so while we are on the earth we are in Heaven if we keep our hearts in a subordi∣nation to spiritual things when we are busied about earth∣ly; Then is a mans heart spiritual, and separated from the Page 322 earth when he knows how to have comfort in God alone, when he knows how to make up the want of all creature∣comforts in God himself, that's a spiritual heart. Now you will say, we must not be insnar'd in the things of the earth: when is a mans heart spiritual? It's then Spiritual when it knows how to satisfie its self in God alone, and to make up the want in all creature comforts in God himself, and no Christian can walk with God except he attains to that pitch, to know how to make up all in God, and use all in order unto God.
The third Rule, or Direction.
Thirdly, If thou wouldst walk with God, evermore take Christ with thee God and the Soul cannot walk together but with Christ; Christ, God and Man, that Mediator, by that I mean this, in all thy converse with God have an eye to Christ, look unto God the infinite glorious First. Being of all things, but through Christ the Mediator, or other∣wise God will not be rendered amiable, and sweet, and lovely to thee, then is God rendered sweet and amiable, and lovely to the soul, even as a friend that the soul can have familiarity withal when as he is look't upon through Jesus Christ: do thou act all by Christ by the strength of Christ, and tender up all thy services to God through Christ, those that are not acquainted with the mystery of the Gospel in Christ, surely they know but little of this walk with God.
Quest. You will say, Enoch did not know much of Christ.
Answ. Oh yes! Certainly, though it was so long be∣fore Christ came, yet his eye was upon Christ: for in the 11. of the Heb 5. verse, the Apostle saith, That it was by faith that he walked with him; it was all by faith. Now Christ is the object of faith, and so his eye certainly was upon Christ: It was through faith, and I will give you one Scripture that will shew the use of eying of Christ in Page 323 walking with God, in the 25. of Exod, 21. verse, Thou shalt put the Meroy-Seat above upon the Arke, and in the Ark thou shalt put the Testimony that I shall give thee, and there will I meet with thee, and I will commune with thee. That is, There at the Mercy-Seat. They were come to the Ark to look up to the Mercy-Seat, and there saith God, wil I meet with thee, and there will I commune with thee. Now what's the Mercy-Seat but Jesus Chaist? we must look upon God in Christ, and so God is rendered amiable, sweet, glorious, and lovely unto us in his Son, there doth God meet with his Saints, and there he communes with them; Indeed while we look upon God as he is in himself he is a consu∣ming fire, and we cannot epxect to commune with God there, and therefore those that look upon God meerly in a legal way, look upon him as one that doth exact and require such and such services and duties of them, and meerly considering God as a Judge; if they perform not such and such duties they do not meet and commune with God; But such as look up to the Mercy-Seat, look up to Christ by faith, when they have to deal with God in Christ, Oh these meet with God, these commune with God, Oh there's much sweet communion between God and their souls, they walk with God, because God through Christ comes to be rendered gracious, lovely, sweet, amiable, and familier to them.
The fourth Rule, or Direction.
Be careful to beautifie thy soul; or more generally thus, (First:) Have a great care of thy spirit, look to thy spirit rather than to thy outward actions in thy walking with God; God is a Spirit, and will be worshiped in spirit and truth. One that would walk with God had need be very careful of his spirit, keep thy heart with all diligence, for it is with thy soul that God converses: Indeed 'tis the proper spheer of a Christian to be busie about his heart, to be busie in the inward man, there's the spheer of a Christi∣an: Page 324 It's not so much about the outward man, if the hear be kept in a right frame, the outward man will be brought over of its own accord; But be careful of thy spirit, (that is) of the thoughts of thy mind; Take heed of admitting of any uncleannesse in thy very thoughts, for the soul con∣verses with God in thoughts as well as we converse with men in words; how do you commune and converse with men but by speech? therefore doth God give speech to men that they may converse one with another, what speech is unto men, that the thoughts are unto God; we converse much with God by our thoughts, make consci∣ence of thoughts, labor to cleanse thy thoughts, and like∣wise the affections of thy heart, and the stirrings of thy heart, for God and thy soul doth converse together, in the workings and stirrings of thy heart look to thy spirit; and labor to beautifie thy soul with that that may make thee aimable and lovely in the eyes of God, and then the Lord will delight to converse with thee, and walk with thee. If you were call'd out to walk with a man that were your superior, with some Chief in your parish, Gen∣tleman, or Knight, or Noble man, If such a one should call you to walk with him, you would labour then so far as you were able to adorne your selves with such cloaths as were sutable unto the company of such a one: you that professe your selves Christians, God doth call you every day to walk with him, and if you would expect to have communion with God, and that God should take delight in you, you must labor to beautifie your souls, to dresse you with those things that may make you aimable in the eyes of God, and not to come dirtily and filthy into the presence of God. Now that that makes the soul aimable in the eyes of God it is, Holinesse, for that's the very Image of God, and God delights to walk with one where he can see his own Image, the more resplendent the Image of God is in the soul the more doth the Lord delight to walk with such a soul; labour for the behavior of thy soul to be suta∣ble unto God; When I walk with one that is my superi∣our Page 325 I must have such a demenour as is sutable to his pre∣sence, and as it was said before, To walk with God was to walk in the fear of God. And that's the fourth thing, Take heed to thy spirit, beautifie thy soul in that that may make thee aimable and lovely in Gods eyes, and car∣ry thy self so as is sutable to the presence of God; I shall only give you one Scripture about the beautifying of the soul, in the 45. Psalm, where it's spoken of the Church and of the Saints being brought into the presence of God, in the 13. verse, The Kings daughter, (that is, the Church) is all glorious within. (Many make great shews of Religi∣on without, but the Kings daughter is all glorious within,) her cloathing is of wrought gold: there's her ornaments: mark what follows in the 14. verse, She shall be brought unto the King in raiment of needle-work: (She shall be brought to the King, to Jesus Christ, with garments of needle-work) by that is meant, the several graces of the Spirit of God that puts a beauty upon the soul: as there is a variety in needle∣work that causes a beauty upon the work, and so she shall be brought to the King. So you must have that that may make you aimable and lovely in the eyes of the King.
The Fifth Rule, or Direction.
Take heed of halting. When you walk with him you must not halt between two but give up your self fully to God, you must give up your selves wholly to him in walking with him; not to have a distracted heart, or a divied heart between two: Why halt ye between two opinions (saith the Prophet?) If God be God, worship him; if Baal, worship him. So, when the heart is not divided up and down, and is re∣solved in the way of God, that's the thing that I mean here; that is, If I cannot be happy here, I am content to be mi∣serable here; when the soul is so resolved and doth not halt in Gods way, when the soul knows that here is the way that there is happiness to be had in, and whatsoever seems to the contrary to flesh and blood, yet I know that Page 326 in these waies there's happiness to be had, there's enough to blesse my soul for ever, and therefore whatsoever becoms of me, I am resolved upon these waies; this is one that is fit to walk with God, he will not halt, but will treat strait steps in the waies of God: and that the Apostle requires of us in Heb. 12. 13. Make streight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way. Make streight paths, go on in a streight way, not having the heart longing af∣ter something else: There are some that have some convi∣ctions of conscience, that have their hearts inclinable to the waies of God, and are going on in some of the waies of God, yet they have longings of spirit after something else: but when the heart indeed walks with God, it gives up its self wholly to him, and is resolv'd in these waies: you have had some good thoughts; but if your hearts be divided between God and the world, you will turn to be Apostats in time, that which is lame will be turn'd out of the way, the waies of God will be tedious to you when you do not give up your selves wholly to them; and this is the reason of the Apostafie that there is in the world, they seem to go on in Gods waies, but they go on but lamely because they do not give up themselves wholly to the waies of God.
The sixth Rule, or Direction.
If you would walk with God, Take heed of formality in all holy duties; be laborious in holy duties, take pains with your hearts in them, labor for the power of godliness in holy duties, you must strive to get up to God in them: It were well if when we perform holie duties we did but keep close to the Duty its self, few go so far: But it's one thing to keep close to the Duty, and another thing to keep close to God in the Duty; we must labor not only to mind what we are about, but to keep close to God in the Duty, to find God in all duties that we perform, and in the use of all or∣dinances to take pains to find God there, and not to satis∣fie & quiet our hearts except we find God in the duties that we do perform; we have a notable Scripture for this, in Page 327Exod. 20. 24. In all places where I record my Name, I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee. That is, where ever there is any Ordinance, or any holy Duty to be perform'd, there's a recording of Gods Name. And saith he, I will come un∣to thee, and there I wil bless thee. If you would walk with God, you must go where God is, and be in those places where God uses to come: now the walk where God uses to walk it is, in his Ordinances, in his Worship, therefore you must be very spiritual in worship, and sanctifie the Name of God there; (according to that that we have trea∣ted upon at large) you must take pains there, stir up your * hearts and all that is within you to walk with God there, and not be satisfied except you have something of God there. It's a notable speech of Bernard, I never go from thee without thee: when ever I come to any holy duty and leave it, I never leave it but I have thee with it: we must not be satisfied except we meet with God in holy duties.
The Seventh Rule, or Direction.
Take heed of secret declinings, or slidings away from the paths of God into any by paths. For those that professe their desires to walk with God they will not in an open way forsake God, and his waies; but if you be not very watchful over your hearts, you will have them secretly de∣cline away from the waies of God, from those paths where∣in you have had heretofore communion with God, Oh take heed of turning out of the paths of God, of any allure∣ments from the flesh, of any temptations, and especially such temptations as are sutable to your corruptions, they will be alluring you to lead you aside out of the waies of God, and seem to promise waies of contentment to the flesh; Oh take heed of any such thing, take heed of being allur'd through the deceitfulness of the flesh, as the Apostle speaks in the 2 Epist. of Peter, 2. 18. (there he speaks of some false teachers) When they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live inPage 328error. There were some that were escaped from the waies o error, from sinful ungodly waies, and really escaped that is, in their kind, they were not hypocrites, that is, to make shew of one thing and do another, but what they did they did according to the light of their consciences, but yet it was not through the sanctifying saving work of God but through the strength of a natural conscience; and so they were allur'd through the lusts of the flesh, and through wantonness, by those that taught false Doctrine, but they together with their false Doctrine came to that that was sutable to the flesh. I beseech you observe it, some that have been walking with God and then met with these that come with fair shews with that which is false, (and you may know it in this that it gives liberty to the flesh) they think here's a fine, even, and smooth way that I may have content to the flesh in; observe it, there's no such way to allure such as have by the power of the Word escaped from the waies of sin in a great measure, no such way (I say) to allure them as to come and shew them how they may make a profession of godliness and yet have liberty to the flesh too: Oh the Lord deliver yong beginners from the wan∣tons of our age! the wantons that are in our generation that do allure them through the lusts of the flesh, and pro∣mise liberty to them, for so the text saith, While they pro∣mise them liberty they themselves are the servants of corruption: THEMSELVES: Mark, those that promise them liber∣ty, and bring such Doctrine of liberty to you, they Them∣selves are in the mean time the servants of corruption: Oh take heed of declining to the waies of the flesh after thou hast seem'd to begin in the spirit; what hast thou to do in the way of Asher and in the waies of Egypt? Oh thou that heretofore didst seem to converse with God, and to walk with him, what iniquity hast thou found with me saith God? So what evil hast thou found in the waies of God? Do you find them too difficult for you, Oh it is through the baseness of thy heart, because thy heart is not changed and made sutable to that that is spiritual and holy, Oh Page 329 that the Lord would be pleased to cause his Angel to meet with some that are declining from his good and blessed waies! as we read in the book of Genesis, That the Angel met Hager when she was flying from Abrahams family, from the Church of God, and saith he, Hager Sarah's Maid, from whence camest thou? doest thou come from Abraham's family? art thou going from thence? and where dost thou think to find so much good as in Abraham's family, where the presence of God is? So, Oh that God would meet with such as are declining from the good waies of God, Oh thou soul whither art thou going? thou that hast had the Word working upon thy heart and thou wert seem'd to be turned into the good waies of God, whither art thou go∣ing? are these the waies that are like the former waies that thou hast seem'd to walk in? Oh what will be the end of these waies that now thou art in? Indeed they do give contentment unto the flesh more than former waies, but doest thou think that the end of them will be peace? Oh that there were such a messenger from God to meet thee in those waies that thou art walking in, that thou maiest say as the Church doth in the 2. of Hosea, 7. verse, I will return to my first husband, for then it was better with me than it is now: I was wont to have more peace, comfort, and sweet∣nes in conversing with God in holy duties than now I find, I will return to those waies of God; howsoever many loose professors seem to make a scorn of them and deride them, but Lord I am sure I found more sweetness in them then, than now; well I will return to them and labor to walk in them.
The Eighth Rule, or Direction.
Or if thou beest declined, Labor to keep a tenderness of spirit, so a• to be sensible of the beginnings of declining. It's true, we have a great deal of corruption while we remain here in this world, and our hearts are drawn quickly from the waies of God, I but if we could keep a spirit sensible of the beginnings of declining, we might yet keep our walk with Page 330 God: That so soon as we are got but one step from God, if we did but begin to bethink our selves; where are we? what are we doing? Oh this would cause us to return, and not to go so far off from God. For a man to go far from God is very dangerous, for then he begins to have many thoughts of dispair, and so many times he growes even de∣sperate in his course, and gives up himself to excesse even to satisfie the lusts of the flesh with greedinesse: There are some men that are convinced in their consciences that they are out of the way, and though they be convinced of it yet still they go further and further off from God.
Why (you will say?) is that possible?
Yes, Because having once made profession of Religion, and departing from God, now the Devil follows him with dispairing thoughts, he thinks now God will not receive him and accept of him upon his returning to him, and therefore he is resolved that he will satisfie himself to the full; and I verily belee•• this is the great reason why ma∣ny Apostates turn so notoriously wicked as they do: when you see a man that hath been forward in Religion, and afterwards not only fall off, but you shall find him to be a drunkard, a whoremaster, a scorner, you may almost con∣clude that this is the very ground of it, that though his conscience be convinc'd that he is out of the way, yet he is in a desperate manner set to have his pleasure, because he thinks God hath forsaken him, and he hath: forsaken God, and his lusts he will have, and poor creature that's all that he hath to satisfie himself withal; Oh take heed of getting far from God: hearken to this you that are far from righteousnes as the Scripture speaks: Oh it's a terri∣ble thing to be gone far from God, labor to keep thy heart watchful of the beginnings of declining, and be tender and sensible of them.
The Ninth Rule, or Direction
Labor to be spiritual in thy solitary times. If you would Page 331 walk with God, prize much your solitary times, and la∣bor to be spiritual in them; do not lose those times when you are alone, when there's none but God and your selves together. And especially you that have much business in the world; alas what little use do you for the most part make of your solitary times! when you are alone you know not what to do; but a man that would walk with God he had need be careful to be very spiritual there, now I am separated from the world, now I have to deal with God and mine own soul, Oh! let me improve this, and get advantage by this, Oh! let me not be quiet till I get some converse with God: Those Christians that are spiri∣tual in their solitary times they will be very spiritual when they come into company. As Moses, when he was alone with God upon the mount and came down unto the people his face did shine so as they were not able to bear it: Cer∣tainly, those that are alone with God, and are spiritual, they will shine in holy conversation when they come down from the mount, when they come to converse with others.
The Tenth Rule, or Direction.
Let Gods presence be more to thee than all the world; account it more engagement to thy soul, that thou art with God that thou hast Gods presence with thee, than though thou hadst the eye of all the world upon thee: It would migh∣tily compose the spirits of men and women if they had an awful reverence of the presence of God, and did account it more than al the world besides, and therefore to do nothing in Gods presence but what thou wouldest do in the sight of all the world; or what thou maiest do so as thy consci∣ence may not accuse thee for sin in it. Oh look upon the presence of God as more than all the world unto thee.
The Eleventh Rule, or Direction.
Go on with a resolution in the performance of holy duties thoughPage 332thou seest nothing come of them for the present. Though I have not what comfort I would, yet I am doing what duty I am commanded, I am yet in Gods way; and that should sa∣tisfie every gracious heart, that though I have not what encouragements I would, yet that I am in Gods way, and let me keep in that way of God.
The Twelfth Rule, or Direction.
Make good interpretations of all Gods waies and dealings with thee. This is a mighty help to us to keep on in the way of God, and to walk with him. If God comes in a way of affliction, make good interpretation of the affliction, do not presently conclude, that God appears like an enemy to thee, that will discourage thee in the waies of God; but look upon God as intending good unto thee in every thing; and that will help thee to keep close to him, and to walk close with him in every condition: If God seems to go out of the way of prosperity, and to come in the way of affliction, make good interpretations of it: do not therefore think that God is therefore leaving of thee and forsaking thee, but exercise faith in this, and beleeve that God may intend as much good to thee in that way as in any way whatsoever, and I ground this rule upon that text in the 12. Heb. In the former part of the chapter the Apo∣stle speaks of Gods chastening of his people, My Son despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art re∣buked of him; for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scour∣geth every son whom he receiveth: and in the 7. verse, If ye en∣dure chastening then God dealeth with you as with sons: for what son is he whom the father chasieneth not? but if ye be without chastisements whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards and not sons. So still he goes on in the point of chastisement, in the 9, 10, 11. verses he speaks of nothing but of chastise∣ments, now then in the 12. verse he draws a conclusion from thence, having laid this as a ground, that we are to look upon God as a father in his chastisements, WhereforePage 333then lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way. As if he should say, when as you appre∣hend God in a way of wrath against you, and not in a way of love, your knees will be feeble and you will not be able to go on with that cheerfulness, and to walk with God in that hard way that he seems to call you too: But looking upon your selves as sons, and God intending good unto you, that by chastisements you may be made partakers of his holiness; now saith he, lift up your hands that hang down, and those feeble knees, those feeble knees that were so weak whereby you were difinabled to walk with God: Those feeble knees will be strengthened if you make good interpretation of the waies of God, and beleeve that the Lord intends good unto you. And as in other chastise∣ments, so among the rest the chastisements of spiritual dis∣certions; when God not only comes with outward afflicti∣ons upon you, but when the Lord shall come against you, even himself with spiritual discertions, and afflictions, e∣ven afflicting your souls you must make good interpretati∣ons of them.
You will say, That's hardest to walk with God; In∣deed we may walk with God, and keep on in communion with him notwithstanding outward afflictions, but when the Lord seems to withdraw himself, and when there is both outward and inward too, that's hard: For outward afflictions, I will give you one notable Scripture for a child of God, following hard after God though God seeme to withdraw himself from the soul, in the 63. Psal. where by the title of the Psalm you shall find that David was in the wilderness of Judah, and that was when Saul did persecute him for his life: Saul persecuted David and fol∣lowed him, and David was fain to sculk up and down in the wilderness of Judah from place to place, and yet mark, O God, thou art my God, (for all that) early will I seek thee, my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thir∣sty land, where no water is: And then in the 8. verse, MyPage 334soul followeth hard after thee; though Lord thou seem'st to withdraw thy self from me in regard of these outward ad∣ministrations, yet my soul followeth hard after thee (saith David) notwithstanding. If times of affliction, when God seems to withdraw himself by his afflictions, yet our souls should follow hard after God: Doth God seem to go from us as if he would not walk with us? Oh run after him: As a poor child if the mother seems to go away from it, and gets over a stile before it, the child cries and runs after: So it was with David, when the Lord did seem by those administrations of his to be going away from him, saith he, My soul follows hard after him. And this is an excel∣lent frame of spirit, that the more the Lord seems to be gone from a Christian, the more hard doth the soul follow after God, nothing can satisfie such a one but God himself; and therefore he saith, Lord, my soul thirsteth after Thee in a dry land, he doth not say after water, but after Thee. So in any affliction, if thou canst say this, Lord, it is not so much the deliverance from an affliction that my soul thirsteth after, but Oh Lord! thou knowest my soul thirsts after thee, and may the affliction be but made up in thy self it is sufficient, I never find my soul following more earnestly after thee than now in the time of my affliction.