The XVIII. Serm.
1 Tim. I. 15.
[ D] THE chief business of our Apostle St. Paul in all his Epistles is, what the main of every Preacher ought to be, Exhortation. There is not one doctrinal point but contains a precept to our Understanding to believe it, nor moral dis∣course, but effectually implies an admonish∣ment to our Wills to practise it. Now these Exhortations are proposed either vulgarly in [ E] the downright garb of precept,* as, These things command and teach, &c. or in a more artificial, obscure, enforcing way of Rhetorick, as, God forbid that I should glory,*save in the cross of Christ, whereby the world is crucified to me, and I unto the world; which though in words it seems a protestation of St. Pauls own resolution, yet in effect is a most powerful exhortatory to every succeeding Christian to glory only in the cross of Christ, and on it to crucifie both the world and himself. This method of reducing St. Paul to Exhortation I observe [ F] to you for the clearing of my Text. For this whole verse at the first view seems only a meer Thesis or point of belief, that Christ came into the world to save sinners, illustrated and applied by the speaker as one, and the chief of the number of those sinners to be saved. But it contains a most Rhetorical powerful Exhortation to both Under∣standing and Will; to believe this faithful saying, That Christ came,Page 272 &c. and to accept, lay hold of, and with all our might to embrace [ A] and apply to each of our selves this great mercy, toward this great salvation bestowed on sinners, who can with humility confess their sins, and with faith lay hold on the promise. And this is the business of the Verse, and the plain matter of this obscure double Exhortation to every mans Understanding, that he believe that Christ, &c. to every mans affections, that he humble himself, and teach his heart, and that his tongue to confess, Of all sinners, &c. This Text shall not be divided into parts (which were to disorder [ B] and distract the significancy of a Proposition) but into several considerations; for so it is to be conceived either absolutely as a profession of St. Paul of himself, and there we will enquire whe∣ther and how Paul was the chief of all sinners. Secondly, respe∣ctively to us, for whom this form of confessing the state and apply∣ing the salvation of sinners to our selves is set down. And first, whether and how Paul was the chief of all sinners, where we are to read him in a double estate, converted and unconverted, exprest [ C] to us by his double name Paul and Saul, Paul an Apostle of Jesus Christ, Saul a Persecutor, mad against the Christians; and that both these estates may be contained in the Text, although penn'd by Paul regenerated, may appear, in that the Pronoun 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 I, sig∣nifying the whole compleat person of Paul, restrains not the speech to his present being only, but considers also what he had been; more especially set down at the 13. verse, Who was before a blasphemer, &c. So then Paul in his Saul-ship being ablasphemer, [ D] a persecuter and injurious, and in sum, a most violent, perverse, malicious unbeliever, was a chief sinner, rankt in the front of the Devils army; and this needs no further proof or illustration. Yet seeing that that age of the world had brought forth many other of the same strain of violent unbelief, nothing inferiour to Saul, as may appear by those many that were guilty of Christs death (as Saul in person was not) and those that so madly stoned St. Stephen whilst Saul only kept the witnesses clothes,* and as the Text [ E] speaks, was consenting unto his death; seeing, I say, that others of that age equalled, if not exceeded Sauls guilt, how can he be said above all other sinners to be the chief. I think we shall not wrest or enlarge the Text beside or beyond the meaning of the Holy Ghost or Apostle, if in answer unto this we say that here is in∣tended not so much the greatness of his sins above all sinners in the world, but the greatness of the miracle in converting so great a sinner into so great a Saint and Apostle. So that the words shall [ F] run, Of all sinners that Christ came into the world to save, and then prefer to such an eminence, I am the chief, or as the word primarily signifies 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, I am the first, i. e. Paul was the chief of all converts, and Paul was the first, that from so great a persecuter of Christ was changed into so great, so glorious an Page 273 [ A] Apostle. For so it follows in the verses next after my Text, For this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Christ Jesus might shew forth all long suffering, &c. The issue of all is this, that Saul un∣converted was a very great sinner, yet not the greatest of sinners absolutely, but for ought we read in the New Testament, the great∣est and first that was called from such a degree of infidelity; a blas∣phemer, a persecuter, to so high a pitch of salvation, a Saint, an Apostle, yea, and greater then an Apostle; whence the observati∣on [ B] is, that though Saul were, yet every blasphemous sinner can∣not expect to be called from the depth of sin to regeneracy and sal∣vation. Although Saul being 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the chief of sin∣ners, was called and saved; yet Saul was also in another sense, for ought we read 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, and perhaps the last that from so great a riot of sin obtained so great salvation. Wherefore, O sinner, be not presumptuous from Pauls example, but from Pauls single example begin to suspect thy state, and fear that such a miracle of salvati∣on [ C] shall not be afforded thee. There hath been an opinion of late reviv'd, perhaps original among the Romans, that the greatest sin∣ner is the more likely object of Gods mercy, or subject of his grace then the mere moral man, whom either natural fear, or the like, not spiritual respects hath restrained from those out-rages of sin. The being of this opinion in the primitive Romans, and the false∣ness of it is sufficiently prov'd by that expostulation of St. Paul, Shall we continue in sin,*that grace may abound? God forbid. In an∣swer [ D] to some, who, hearing that Christ came into the world to save sinners, thought that the excess of sin was the best qualification, and only motive to provoke and deserve a more abundant grace and certain salvation. As if that spirit which once to manifest its power called Saul in the midst of his madness breathing out threatnings and slaughters against the Church, would not call any but those who had prepared themselves by the same degree of madness, but required that men should make themselves almost [ E] Devils that they might be called into Christians, as if that God which could out of stones,* could not also out of men raise up chil∣dren unto Abraham; as if that Christ which raised up Lazarus, being dead four dayes, and as they thought stinking in his grave, could not as easily have heal'd him whilst he was yet alive: whereas we read that Christ dealt more on the cures of the impotent, then resurrections of the dead; that is in a spiritual application heal'd more from the bed of languishment, of their weaknesses and disea∣ses, [ F] then he raised out of the graves of trespasses and sins, though some also hath he out of death quickned to exalt the power and miracle of his mercy. Yet hath not this doctrine too, been most confidently maintained among some of our times? That there is more hope of the debauch'd man, that he shall be called or saved, then of the mere moral, honest man, who yet is in the state of unre∣generacy. Page 274 Have not some men defining this moral man by the for∣mal [ A] hypocrite set him in the greatest opposition to Heaven? As if that degree of innocence, or rather not being extremely sinful, which a moral care of our wayes may bestow on us, were a great∣er hindrance then promotion toward the state of grace, and the natural man were so much the further from God, the nearer he were to goodness, and no man could hope to come to Heaven but he that had knockt at Hell gates. I confess indeed that the Holy Ghost where he means to inhabit hath no need of pains to prepare him a [ B] room, but can at his first knock open and cleanse, adorn and beau∣tifie the most uncouth, ugly, and unsavory heart in the world. That omnipotent convincing Spirit can at the same instant strike the most obdurate heart, and soften it, and where it once enters cannot be repuls'd by the most sturdy habituate sin, or Deval. I confess likewise, that some have been thus rather snatch'd then call'd, like the fire-brands out of the fire, and by an extasie of the Spirit inwardly in a minute chang'd from incarnate Devils into in∣carnate [ C] Saint. So was Mary dispossest of seven Devils, who was after so highly promoted in Christs favour, that she had the honor to be the first witness of the resurrection.* So that Gadarene who had intrencht and fortified himself among the Tombs, and was gar∣rison'd with an army of Devils, so that he brake fetters and chains, and could not be tam'd or kept in any compass, yet in a minute at Christs word sent forth a legion of Fiends sufficient to people and destroy a Colony of Swine. And so was Paul in my Text, in a [ D] minute at Christs call delivered of a multitude of blasphemous malicious spirits, and straight became the joy of Angels, the A∣postle of the Gentiles. Yet mean time, these miraculous, but rarer examples must not prescribe and set up, must not become a rule and encourage any one to Sauls madness on confidence of Pauls con∣version, to a more impetuous course of sinning, that he may become a more glorious Saints. 'Tis a wrong way to Heaven to dig into the deep, and a brutish arrogance to hope that God will the more [ E] eagerly woo us, the further our sins have divorc't us from him. If some (as hath been said) have been caught or strucken in the height of their rebellions, or in the fulness of the evil spirit called to a wane (as diseases in the 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, or top-pitch, are wont to decay and weaken into health again) if there have been some of these, as my Apostle, rais'd from the depth of sin, as Lazarus from the stench of the grave, yet these in respect of others more softly and ordinarily called, are found few in number; and such [ F] as were appointed for the miracles as well as the objects of Gods mercy. Hence it is, that a strange disorder hath most times ac∣companied this extraordinary conversion of more violent out∣ragious sinners. Our Apostle (to go no farther) was to be cast into a trance, and his regeneration not to be accomplisht without a Page 275 [ A] kind of death and resurrection, whereas others who are better mo∣rally qualified, or rather are less hardned in the sins of unregene∣racy, do answer at the softest knock or whispering'st call of the Spirit, and at his becken will come after him. More might be said of this point, how St. Paul was most notably converted; that he had the alleviation of ignorance, for which cause (as he sayes him∣self) he found mercy, and that others are not probably to expect the like miracle, who have not those insuperable prepossessions [ B] from custom and religion, but that this is not the business of the Text, but a praecognoscendum or passage to the clearing of it. Briefly there∣fore to conclude this note, Paul is the chief example mentioned in Scripture, and there be not many, though some more, that were called from the height of impiety, from the gall of bitterness, to this mystical third Heaven, or so high degree of Saint and Apostle. The more ordinary course of Gods proceeding (if we may possi∣bly judge of the Decree by events and examples) is to call such [ C] to the state of grace, and so consequently of glory, who have passed their unregeneracy most innocently, and kept themselves least polluted from the stains of habituate wickedness, that is, have lived as much as natural men can do, in the plainest, honestest course of morality, it being presupposed that among all other mo∣ral vertues they have purchased humility, the best (if there be a∣ny preparative) for the receiving of grace. Mean while we are not to be mistaken, as if we thought Gods purposes tyed to mans [ D] good behaviour, or mans moral goodness to woo and allure Gods Spi∣rit, as that the Almighty is not equally able to sanctifie the foulest soul by his converting grace, and the less polluted, or that he re∣quires mans preparation: but our position is, that in ordinary cha∣ritable reason we ought to judge more comfortably, and hope more confidently of a meer moral man naturally more careful of his wayes, that he shall be both called and saved, that God will with his Spirit perfect and crown his morally good, though imperfect [ E] endeavours, then of another more debauch't sinner utterly negli∣gent of the commands of either God or Nature. Which position I have in brief proved, though nothing so largely as I might, in con∣futation of them who do utterly condemn unregenerate morality, and deject it below the lowest degree of prophaneness, as if they would teach a man his way to Heaven by boasting arrogantly, what Paul converted confesses humbly, I am the nearer to Christs Sal∣vation, because of all sinners I am the chief. The Use in brief [ F] of this Thesis shall be for those who not as yet find the power of the regenerating spirit in them (for I am to fear many of my au∣ditors may be in this case, and I pray God they feel, and work, and pray themselves out of it) the Use, I say, is for those who are not yet full possessors of the spirit, to labour to keep their unregeneracy spotless from the greater offence, that if they are not yet Page 276 called to the preferment of Converts and Saints, the second part of [ A] Heaven, that earthly City of God, that yet they will live orderly in that lower regiment, wherein they yet remain, and be subject to the law of nature, till it shall please God to take them into a new Common-wealth under the law of grace, to improve their natural abilities to the height, and bind their hands and hearts from the practice and study of outragious sins, by those ordinary restraints which nature will afford us; such as are a good disposition, educa∣tion, and the like; not to leave and refer all to the miraculous [ B] working of God, and to encrease our sins for the magnifying of the vertue in recalling us. God requires not this glory at our hands that we should peremptorily over-damn our selves, that he may be the more honoured in saving us. His mercy is more known to the world then to need this woful foil to illustrate it. God is not wont to rake Hell for converts, to gather Devils to make Saints of; the Kingdom of Heaven would suffer great violence, if only such should take it. If Saul were infinitely sinful before he proved an [ C] Apostle (though by the way we hear him profess,* he had lived in all good conscience) yet expect not thou the same miracle, nor think that the excess of sins is the cue that God ordinarily takes to convert us. The Fathers in an obedience to the discipline and pe∣dagogy of the old Law possest their soule in patience, expecting the prophecied approach of the new, did not by a contempt of Moses precipitate and hasten the coming of the Messias. Cornelius liv'd a long while devoutly,* and gave much alms, till at last God [ D] call'd him, and put him in a course to become a Christian: and do thou, if thou art not yet called, wait the Lords leisure in a sober moral conversation, and fright not him from thee with unnatural abominations. God is not likely to be wooed by those courses which nature loaths, or to accept them whom the world is ashamed of. In brief, remember Saul and Cornelius; Saul, that he, not ma∣ny, were called from a profest blasphemer; Cornelius, that before he was called, he prayed to God alway: and do thou endeavour to [ E] deserve the like mercy, and then in thy prayer confess thine unde∣serving, and petition grace, as grace, that is not as our merit, but as his free-will favour, not as the desert of our morality, but a stream from the bounty of his mercy, who (we may hope) will crown his common graces with the fulness of his Spirit. And now, O powerful God, on those of us which are yet unregenerate, be∣stow thy restraining grace, which may curb and stop our natural inordinacy, and by a sober, careful, continent life, prepare us [ F] to a better capability of thy sanctifying Spirit, wherewith in good time thou shalt establish and seal us up to the day of redemption. And thus much concerning Saul unconverted, how of all sinners he was the chief, not absolutely, that he surpassed the whole world in rankness of sin, but respectively to his later state, that few or Page 277 [ A] none are read to have been translated from such a pitch of sin to Saint-ship. Now follows the second consideration of him be∣ing proceeded Paul, i. e. converted, and then the question is, Whether, and how Paul converted may be said the chief of all sin∣ners.
'Twere too speculative a depth for a popular Sermon to discuss the inherence and condition of sin in the regenerate; the business will be brought home more profitably to our practice, if we drive [ B] it to this issue, That Paul in this place intending by his own exam∣ple to direct others how to believe the truth, and embrace, and fa∣sten on the efficacy of Christs Incarnation, hath no better motive to incite himself and others toward it, then a recognition of his sins, that is, a survey of the power of sin in him before, and a sense of the relicks of sin in him since his conversion. Whence the note is, That the greatness of ones sins makes the regenerate man apply himself more fiercely to Christ. This faithful saying was therefore [ C] to Paul worthy of all acceptation, because of all sinners he was the chief. St. Paul, as every regenerate man, is to be observed in a treble posture, either casting his eyes backward, or calling them in upon himself, or else looking forward and aloof; and according∣ly is to be conceived in a treble meditation, either of his life past, or present state, or future hopes. In the first posture and meditati∣on you may see first Paul alone, who was before a blasphemer, a persecuter and injurious; secondly, all the regenerate together: [ D] For when we were in the flesh the motions of sin did work in our members, &c. and many the like. In the second posture and me∣ditation you may observe him retracting an error,*Acts xxiii. de∣precating a temptation with earnest and repeated intercessions, 2 Cor. xii. 7.* fighting with and harrasing himself, beating down his body, and keeping it in subjection, lest while he preacht to others he himself might be a cast-away,* 1 Cor. ix. 27. &c. In the third po∣sture we find him, Rom. vii. 25. where after a long disguise he cries [ E] out,*I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. And again, Phil. iii. 13. most evidently, Forgetting those things that are behind, and reaching out to those things which are before, I press toward the mark, &c. like a racer in the heat of his course whose eyes desires to an∣ticipate his feet, and enjoy the goal before he reach it. These three carriages of the regenerate man fully prove our observation: for if either of the two former sights could afford him any content; if either his former or present state did not sufficiently terrifie him, [ F] he would not be so eager on the third, it being the folly of humane pride and self-love to contemn any forraign aid as long as it finds either appearance or hope of domestick. If in the view of his for∣mer life he should find any thing either good or not extremely bad and sinful, he would under-prize the mercy of that Saviour that redeem'd him from so poor a guilt; if he could observe in his Page 278 present state any natural firmness or stability, any inherent purity, [ A] any essential justice, he might possibly sacrifice to his own nets, and reckoning himself in perfect peace with God, neither invoke and seek, nor acknowledge a Mediatour. But when in his former life he shall find nothing but the matter and cause of horrour and amaze∣ment, nothing but hideous ghastly affrightments, yea, and a bo∣dy of damnation: when in hope to mend himself, and ease his fears, he shall fly to the comfort of his present converted state, and yet there also espy many thorns of temptations,* how can he but be [ B] frighted out of himself? How can he but fly from the scene of those his torments, and seek out and importune the mercy of a Saviour, which may deliver him out of all his fears? After the ex∣ample of our Apostle in my Text, where he does more perempto∣rily apprehend Christ, and more bodily believe, That he came in∣to the world to save sinners, because of all sinners he was chief, ma∣king his own sinfulness (being the object and external motive of Gods mercy) an argument and internal motive of his own faith [ C] and confidence.* The plain meaning of this Thesis is, that among men things are not alway valued according to the merit of their na∣ture, for then each commodity should be equally prized by all men, and the man in health should bestow as much charges on phy∣sick as the diseased: but each thing bears its several estimation by its usefulness, and the riches of every merchandize is encreased ac∣cordingly as men to whom it is proferred do either use or want it. Moreover, this usefulness is not to be reckoned of according to [ D] truth, but opinion, not according to mens real wants, but accord∣ing to the sense which they have of their wants; so a man distra∣cted, because he hath not so much reason about him as to observe his disease, will contemn Hellebore, or any other the most preci∣ons Recipe for this cure: and generally no man will hasten to the Physician, or justly value his art and drugs, but he whom misery hath taught the use of them. So then unless a man have been in some spiritual danger, and by the converting Spirit be instructed into [ E] a sense and apprehension of it, he will not sufficiently observe the benefit and use of a deliverer: unless he feel in himself some stings of the relicks of his sin, some pricks of the remaining Amorite, he will not take notice of the want and necessity which he hath of Christs mediation. But when he shall with a tenderness of me∣mory survey the guilt of his former state, from the imputation, not importunity whereof he is now justified, when he shall still feel with∣in him the buffetings of Satan, and sensibly observe himself not ful∣ly [ F] sanctified, then, and not before, will he with a zealous earnest∣ness apprehend the profit, yea, necessity of a Saviour, whose as∣sistance so nearly concerns him.* The second ground of this positi∣on is, That an extraordinary undeserved deliverance is by an affli∣cted man received with some suspition: the consideration of the Page 279 [ A] greatness of the benefit makes him doubt of the truth of it, and he will scarce believe so important an happiness befaln him, because his misery could neither expect nor hope it. Hence upon the first notice of it he desires to ascertain it unto his sense, by a sudden possession of it, and not at all to defer the enjoying of that mercy which his former misery made infinitely worthy of all acceptation. Thus may you see a ship-wrackt man recovered to some refuge, cling about, and almost incorporate himself unto it, because the fortune [ B] of his life depends on that succour. The new regenerate man find∣ing in the Scripture the promise of a Redeemer, which shall free him from those engagements which his former bankrupt estate had plung'd him in, cannot delay so great an happiness, but with a kind of tender fear and filial trembling, runs (and strives as the Disciples to the Sepulchre) to assure his necessitous soul of this acceptable salvation:* even sets upon his Saviour with a kind of violence, and will seem to distrust his promise, till his seal shall au∣thorize [ C] and confirm it. Thus did the greatness of the work of the unexpected resurrection beget in Thomas a suspition and incredulity, I will not believe, &c.* where our charity may conjecture, that he above all the rest was not absolutely resolved not to believe the re∣surrection, but that he being absent at the first apparition, would not take so important a miracle upon trust, but desired to have that demonstrated to his sense, which did so nearly concern his faith; that so by putting his finger into the print of the nails, and [ D] thrusting his hand into his side, he might almost consubstantiate and unite himself unto his Saviour, and at once be assured of the truth and partake of the profit of the resurrection. Hear but the voice of the Spouse, and any further proofs shall be superfluous, where in violence and jealousie of love she importunes the Eternal pre∣sence of the Beloved,*Set me as a seal upon thy heart, as a seal upon thine arm, for love is strong as death, jealousie as cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire which hath a vehement flame. She [ E] had before often lost her beloved, which made her so fiercely fasten on him,* for having roused him, ruit in amplexus, she rusht into his embraces, she held him and would not let him go. Thus you see the jealousie and eagerness of love produc'd by either a former loss, or present more then ordinary want of the object, both which how pertinent they are to the regenerate man, either observing his past sins, or instant temptations, this discourse hath already made ma∣nifest. The Use of this Thesis (to wit, that the greatness of ones [ F] sins makes the regenerate man apply himself more fiercely to Christ) is first by way of caution,* that we mistake not a motive for an efficient, an impulsive for a principal cause. For where we say, It makes him apply himself, &c.] we mean not that the encrease of sin produces faith formally, but only inciteth to believe by way of instruction, by shewing us what distress we are in, and conse∣quently Page 280 in what a necessity of a deliverer. The meditation of our [ A] sinful courses may disclose our misery, not redress it; may ex∣plore, not mend a sinner, like a touchstone to try, not any way to alter him. It is the controuling Spirit which must effectually re∣new our spirits, and lead us to the Christ which our sins told us we had need of. The sense of sin may rouze the soul, but it is the Spi∣rit of God that layes the toils; the feeling of our guilt may beat the waters, but it is the great fisher of our souls which spreads the nets, which entraps us as we are in our way to Hell, and leads us [ B] captive to salvation. The mere gripings of our Conscience being not produced by any Pharmacon of the spirit, but by some distemper arising from sin, what anxiety doth it cause within us? What pangs and twinges to the soul? O Lord, do thou regenerate us, and then thy Holy Spirit shall sanctifie even our sins unto our good; and if thy grace may lead us, our sins shall pursue and drive us unto Christ. Secondly, by way of character, how to distinguish a true convert from a false. A man which from an inveterate desperate malady [ C] shall meet with a miraculous unexpected cure, will naturally have some art of expression above an ordinary joy; you shall see him in an extasie of thanksgiving and exultancy, whilst another, which was never in that distress, quietly enjoys the same health, and gives thanks softly by himself to his preserver. So is it in the distresses of the soul, which if they have been excessive, and al∣most beyond hope of recovery, as the miracle must, so will the expression of this deliverance be somewhat extraordinary. The [ D] soul which from a good moral or less sinful natural estate, is magis immutata quam genita, rather chang'd then regenerate into a spiri∣tual, goes through this business without any great noise, the Spi∣rit entring into it in a still small voice,* or at a breathing: but when a robustous obdurate sinner shall be rather apprehended then cal∣led, when the Sea shall be commanded to give up his ship-wrack't, and the Sepulchre to restore her dead, the soul surely which thus escapeth shall not be content with a mean expression, but will pra∣ctice [ E] all the Hallelujahs and Magnificats which the triumphant Li∣turgies of the Saints can afford it. Wherefore, I say, if any one out of a full violent course of sinning conceive himself converted and regenerated, let him examine what a degree of spiritual exul∣tancy he hath attained to, and if he find it but mean, and slight, and perfunctory, let him somewhat suspect that he may the more confirm the evidence of his calling. Now this spiritual exultancy of the regenerate consists both in a solemn humiliation of himself, [ F] and a spiritual rejoycing in God his Saviour; both exprest in Maries Magnificat, where she specifies in the midst of her joy the lowliness of his handmaid, and in St. Pauls victory-song over death. So that if the conversion of an inordinate sinner be not accompani∣ed with unwonted joy and sorrow, with a godly sense of his past Page 281 [ A] distress, and a godly triumph for his delivery; if it be not followed with a violent eagerness to fasten on Christ; finally, if there be not somewhat above ordinary in the expression, then I counsel not to distrust, but fear, that is, with a sollicitous, not suspicious trembling to labour to make thy calling and election sure: to pray to that Holy Spirit to strike our hearts with a measure of holy joy and holy sorrow, some way proportionable to the size of those sins, which in our unregeneracy reigned in us; and for those of us whom [ B] our sins have separated far from him, but his grace hath called home to him, that he will not suffer us to be content with a distance, but draw us close unto himself, make us press toward the mark, and fasten our selves on that Saviour, which hath redeemed us from the body and guilt of this so great death.* The third Use is of com∣fort and confirmation to some tender souls who are incorporated in∣to Christ, yet finding not in themselves that excessive measure of humiliation which they observe in others, suspect their own state, [ C] and infinitely grieve that they can grieve no more. Whereas this doctrine being observed will be an allay to their sorrow, and wipe some unnecessary tears from their eyes. For if the greatness of sin past, or the plentiful relicks of sin remaining, do require so great a measure of sorrow, to expiate the one, and subdue the other; if it be a deliverance from an habituate servitude to all manner of sin, which provokes this extraordinary pains of expression; then certainly they who have been brought up with the spirit, which were [ D] from their baptism never wholly deprived of it, need not to be bound over to this trade of sorrow, need not to be set apart to that perpetual humiliation which a more stubborn sin or Devil is wont to be cast out by. I doubt not but a soul educated in familia∣rity with the spirit, may at once enjoy her self and it; and, so that if it have an humble conceit of it self, and a filial of God, may in earth possess God with some clearness of look, some sere∣nity of affections, some alacrity of heart, and tranquility of spi∣rit. [ E] God delights not in the torment of his children, (though some are so to be humbled) yea, he delights not in such burnt offerings as they bestow upon him, who destroy, and consume, and sa∣crifice themselves; but the Lords delight is in them that fear him filially, and put their trust, i. e. assurance, confidence in his mercy; in them that rejoyce, that make their service a pleasure, not an affliction, and thereby possess Heaven before they come to it. 'Tis observed in husbandry, that soil, laid on hard, barren, starved [ F] ground doth improve it, and at once deface and enrich it, which yet in ground naturally fruitful, and kept in heart, and good case, is esteemed unnecessary and burthensome. You need not the application. Again, the husbandman can mend a dry, stub∣born, wayward, fruitless earth, by overflowing of it, and on such indeed is his ordinary requisite discipline, to punish it for its Page 282 amendment. But there is a ground otherwise well tempered, which they call a weeping ground, whence continually water soaks out, and this proves seldom fruitful (if our learned husbandmen ob∣serve aright) whereof there is sometime need of draining, as well as watering. The application is, that your soul which either hath been naturally dry and barren, or else over-wrought in the busi∣ness of the world, needs a flood of tears to soften and purge it. But the well temper'd soul which hath never been out of heart, but hath alwayes had some inward life, some fatness of, and nourishment [ B] from the spirit, is rather opprest then improved by such an over∣flow. The Christian is thereby much hindred in his progress of good works, and cannot serve the Lord with alacrity, that so per∣petually hangs down his head like a Bulrush. Wherefore, the Coun∣try rule is, that that ground is best which is mellow, which being crusht will break but not crumble, dissolve, but not excessively. Hence, I say, the habituate believer need not suspect his estate, if he find not in himself such an extremity of violent grief, and humilia∣tion [ C] as he observes in others; knowing that in him such a measure of tears would both soil the face of his devotion, and clog the exercise of it. His best mediocrity will be to be habitually hum∣bled, but actually lively and alacrious in the wayes of godliness; not to be too rigid and severe a tyrant over his soul, but to keep it in a temper of Christian softness, tender under the hand of God, and yet man-like and able both in the performance of Gods wor∣ship and his own calling. And whensoever we shall find our selves [ D] in either extreme, either too much hardned, or too much melted, too much elevated, or too much dejected; then to pray to that Holy Spirit so to fashion the temper of our souls, that we neither fail in humbling our selves in some measure for our sins, nor yet too cowardly deject and cast down our selves, below the cou∣rage, and comfort, and spiritual rejoycing which he hath prescri∣bed us. O Holy Lord, we are the greatest of sinners, and there∣fore we humble our selves before thee, but thou hast sent thy Christ [ E] into the world to save sinners, and therefore we raise up our spirits again, and praise, and magnifie thy name. And thus much of this point, and in brief, of the first consideration of these words, to wit, as they are absolutely a profession of Paul himself, to which end we beheld him in his double estate, converted and un∣converted. In his unconverted state we found, though a very great sinner, yet not absolutely greater then those times brought forth, and therefore we were to think of him relatively to his [ F] future estate, and so we found him the greatest sinner that ever was called in the New Testament into so glorious a Saint. Whence we observe the rarity of such conversions, that though Saul were, yet every blasphemous sinner could not expect to be called from the depth of sin to regeneracy and salvation: and Page 283 [ A] this we proved both against the ancient Romans and modern Cen∣sors of morality, and applied it to the care which we ought to have of keeping our unregeneracy spotless from any reigning sin. After∣ward we came to Paul converted, where we balk't the discourse of the condition of sin in the regenerate, and rather observed the effect of it; and in it, that the greatness of his sin made (as Paul, so) eve∣ry regenerate man more eagerly to fasten on Christ. Which being proved by a double ground, we applied first by way of caution, [ B] how that proposition was to be understood; 2. by way of character, how a great sinner may judge of his sincere certain conversion; 3. by way of comfort to others, who find not the effects of humi∣liation and the like in themselves, in such measure as they see in o∣thers; and so we have past through the first consideration of these words, being conceived absolutely as St. Pauls profession of him∣self, we should come to the other consideration, as they are set down to us as a pattern or form of confessing the estate, and applying the [ C] salvation of sinners to our selves, which business requiring the pains, and being worthy the expence of an entire hour, we must defer to a second exercise.
Now the God which hath created us, hath elected, redeemed, called, justified us, will sanctifie us in his time, will prosper this his ordinance, will direct us by his grace to his glory. To him be ascribed due the ho∣nour, the praise, the glory, the dominion, which through all ages of the world have been given to him that sitteth on the Throne, to the Holy Spirit, and Lamb for evermore.