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than to adventure to die for them. And yet Christ's love was of a higher degree; for He died for you when you were His enemy, and that death, too, which was all full of reproach and pain. (John xv., 13.) And this love of Christ obligeth you to love Him again; and if not, you come short of the publicans, (whom the Jews esteemed the worst sort of men,) for even they love those that love them. (Matt. V., 46.) And if your love to Christ be without dissimulation, it will admit of no rival, nor hold any intelligence with His enemies; but you will be glad of the happy occasion you now have at the Sacrament of sacrificing all vile affections and mortifying every lust, as the best testimony of your own love, and requital of His who delivered Himself unto death to redeem you from all iniquity and vicious living, and to oblige you to advance toward the highest pitch of all virtue. And when your love to Christ is in some due measure proportionable to His love to you, it will make you (with St. Paul), ready not to be bound only but also to die for His name, when His command shall bring you to such an expression of your obedience.
Those who after their conversion to the Christian faith did again return to the sins of their former unconverted life, they made their Christian heathenism worse than their bare heathenism was at first. So that it had been more for the advantage of such never to have been taught the doctrine of Christ and Christian practice, than when they had been taught and undertaken to obey it, to fall back again into their heathen and vicious courses. (2 Peter ii., 20, 21.) And you know what happened to the man in St. Matt. xii., 43, who (after the evil guests were cast out of his soul) kept it empty of those that were good ; which is easily applicable to all those who wilfully and knowingly run again to those evil ways which at their coming to the Sacrament they pretend to repent of and abandon.
Keep continually in your mind all those resolutions that you now put on, to the end you may have them always ready to oppose against the things that would tempt you to break them, and to relapse into the evils you have taken leave of. And it will be seasonable that you here think with yourself, with what face you can commit that sin which you but now have solemnly vowed against Think, too, what an affront you offer unto God in breaking that league of friendship you entered into with Him at the Sacrament. Think, likewise, that if to keep God's favour be your only happiness and safety, then to lose it will prove your extremest danger and misery. And then finish your other thoughts herein with this : that every sin you wilfully commit after your being at the Sacrament breaks that covenant you there renewed, and may justly make God of your best friend become your sorest enemy. And if God be once against you no matter who is on your side.
Consider how that to fall back willingly into your old iniquities, as it sets God against you, so it likewise makes your own conscience fly in your face, and to upbraid, arraign, accuse, condemn, and punish you for breaking covenant with Him. And it doth not only fill you with present pain and agony, but also with a fearful expectation of wrath to come. For what can you expect but extreme misery when you break league with Him who is a consuming fire, and who will render indignation, wrath, tribulation, and anguish to every soul that thus doth evil ? (Rom. ii., 9.) These are the considerations whereby you may confront all enticements to break the covenant you have renewed. And when you maturely look into the nature and design of temptations, you will find the most taking to be but as so many cheats, which, under the visor of some delight or profit, would rob you of your integrity, and betray you to enmity both with God and yourself
. And, therefore, when you entertain any temptation to sin, you do as wisely as He who takes those into his house whom he knows are come on purpose to spoil him of what he esteems most precious.
Some have drunk in such a preposterous opinion of God's long-suffering that, instead of being led thereby unto repentance, as God would have them, they are carried on unto a horrid presumptuous offending. But no wickedness can be greater, nor ingratitude more provoking, than to sin against God because He is long-suffering ; and yet this is such common logic, and of so great antiquity, that Solomon observed it. (Eccles. viii., 11.) But to sin upon hopes or rather presumption of finding mercy, and to break your covenant with God afresh, because you have done so and yet He has spared you, is so absurd, vile, and disingenious a way of arguing that it carries with it its own confutation. Why should you not rather conclude that God will forbear your breach of covenant no longer, because He has forborne it so long already?
Use makes hard things easy : the chief if not only difficulty in holiness is want of practice, and a being accustomed to the contrary. The ways of God's commandments neither waste the spirits nor gall the feet of those who use constantly to walk in them. Let the like serious and holy thoughts possess your soul for the future that you have the day of receiving; and continue to co-operate with that grace God gives you at the Sacrament, and I see not why your whole life may not be all of the same piece, and your conversation continue as virtuous and well governed after as it was at the time you came to the Holy Communion: from which I will no longer stay you than with this hearty wish, that when you come thither to renew your covenant in vows and purposes of better obedience, God may vouchsafe to assist you with His grace, and to strengthen you with His power, that you may pay the vows you then make unto Him; and that by virtue of the heavenly nourishment you there receive, you may grow up in grace and holiness, till at last you come to be a perfect man in Christ. Amen.
HOW TO BE HAPPY IN THE APPREHENDING OF CHRIST.
THERE is not so much need of learning as of grace to apprehend those things which concern our everlasting peace. Neither is it our brain that must be set on work here, but our heart : for true happiness doth not consist in a mere speculation, but a fruition of good. However, therefore, there is excellent use of scholarship in all the sacred employments of Divinity, yet in the main act, which imports salvation, skill must give place to affection. Happy is the soul that is possessed of Christ, how poor soever in all inferior endowments.
Ye are wide, O ye great wits, while you spend yourselves in curious questions and learned extravagancies. Ye shall find one touch of Christ more worth to your souls than all your deep and laboursome disquisitions ; one dram of faith more precious than a pound of knowledge. In vain shall ye seek for this in your books, if you miss it in your bosoms. If you know all things, and cannot truly say “I know whom I have believed,” (2 Tim. i., 12,) you have but knowledge enough to know yourselves truly miserable.
Wouldst thou, therefore, my son, find true and solid comfort in the hour of temptation, in the agony of death, make sure work for thy soul in the days of thy peace. Find Christ thine ; and, in the despite of hell, thou art both safe and blessed.
Look not so much to an absolute Deity, infinitely and incomprehensibly glorious : alas ! that Majesty, because perfectly and essentially good, is, out of Christ, no other than an enemy to thee. Thy sin hath offended His justice, which is Himself: what hast thou to do with that dreadful Power which thou hast provoked ?
Look to that merciful and all-sufficient“Mediator betwixt God and man,” who is both God and man, “Jesus Christ the righteous.” (1 Tim. ii., 5; 1 John ii., 1.) It is His charge, and our duty, “Ye believe in God, believe also in Me." (John xiv., 1.)
Yet look not merely to the Lord Jesus, as considered in the notion of His own eternal being, as the Son of God, co-equal and co-essential to God the Father; but look upon Him as He stands in reference to the sons of men. And herein also look not to Him so much as a lawgiver and a judge ; there is terror in such apprehension ; but look upon Him as a gracious Saviour and Advocate. And, lastly, look not upon Him as in the generality of His mercy the common Saviour of mankind; what comfort were it to thee that all the world except thyself were saved ? but look upon Him as the dear Redeemer of thy soul; as thine advocate at the right hand of Majesty; as one with whom thou art, through His wonderful mercy, inseparably united.
Thus look upon Him, firmly and fixedly, so as He may never be out of thine eyes ; and whatever secular objects interpose themselves betwixt thee and Him, look through them as some slight mists; and terminate thy sight still in this blessed prospect. Let neither earth nor heaven hide them from thee, in whatsoever condition.
THE HONOUR AND HAPPINESS OF BEING UNITED TO
And while thou art thus taken up, see if thou canst, without wonder and a kind of ecstatical amazement, behold