Page images
PDF
EPUB

and will take up any report that is going. Brethren, you must make conscience of the least sin, and of the least duty. But it is a fearful sign, when men are zealous against Jesser sins, and yet connive at greater, as these are, Matth. xxiii. 24.

Direct, 5. Take the first opportunity when God gives « fit seaso: for any duty. Let not Satan beguile you, by telling you of another or a better time. It may be thou hast a purpose to reprove thy brother for his sin, but how long wilt thou be a purposing ? Now God gives thee an opportunity. It may be thy backward heart saith, Not now, but another time : and so it is put off, till he or thy. self are removed, ar he is hardened, or at least thou art guilty of the sin that he commits in the mean while, because thou hast not done thy duty to prevent it. It is in thine heart to deal with thine unconverted friend or neighbor about his spiritual estate ; but it may be while thou art delaying, death comes and snatches him away in his sins, or takes thee off, and so farewell for ever to any opportunity for doing the soul of tlıy brother any good. How often are our closet duties hindered or miserably disturbed, for want of care to lay hold on the first opportunity ? We think another hour in the day may do as we'l; but then one thing or another unexpectedly falls'in, and nothing is done, or nothing to purpose: Therefore beware of this cheat. A man scarce peeps into the world, but one briar or thorn, or another will catch him : 'Therefore, take opportunity by the fore.top. Oar Saviour would take bis season for prayer be. fore day, when his other work was pressing, Mark i. 33.

Rule lil. Do nothing of things sacred without God's command ; nothing in things civil without Goul's allowance. Offer not withi trange fire. In God's worship you must see you be well able to answer that question, Who hath required these things at your hands 2. Ilere the command must be observed, without adding or diminishing, Deut. xii. 32. Yet understanding this with two cautions.

(1.) Tiwugh men may not stamp their invented ceremonies with a moral signification, nor impose, nor use them, though with good intentions of edifying the people by devised means, Matt. xv. 9, as if Christ had not suf. ficiently provided for edifying his people with, out their devices : And though nothing may be used as a part of worship that God hath not commanded, Col. ii. 23, (for it is enough to make any thing rejected of the Lord of divine worship, if he shall say, I commanded it not, spake it not, neither came it into my inind, Jer. vii. 31, and xix. 5). yet nevertheless those things that are merely circumstantial, and are in their general kind necessary, and not intended as any part or means of wore slip, may be determined of by human prudence, according to the general rules of the word, which must always be observed, 1 Cor. xiv. 26. And for want of understanding, many have ignorantly condemned preach. ing by an hour-glass, in a high place, in churches, by way of doctrine and use, &c. running from the one extreme to another.

(2.) We may not think that God's ordi. nance remaining for substance may be forsaken, because of some faults of the administra.

tors, or in the way of their administrations. - The administering of God's ordinances be. longs not to the people, but to the minister : and if he fail in his duty by administering them in a way that is not, and is less edifying, it is my grief, but his sin. Hophni and Phin-ehas were corrupt in their lives, and brought. in much corruption and rudeness into the service of God; yet Elkanah and Hannah, with others of the godly, did nevertheless attend God's worsbip

and sanctuary, 1 Sam. i. 3.Much corruption was crept in, both into the doctrine and worship, and lives of the administrators of the church of the Jews. Yet our Saviour (though he still cried down the corruptions, and would not join in them) never prohibited communion with them in God's worship, but enjoins it, Matt. v. 24. Mark iv, Luke v. 14, and practices it, both he, and his parents and apostles, Luke ii. 21, 22, 24, 39, 41, 46. Acts xxi. 23, 24, 26.

But now in things civil it is sufficient that you have the allowance of the word, though not the commands ; always provided, that the general rules be here observed, to do all to the glory of God, 1 Cor. x. 31, and not to abuse our lawful liberty to the offence of oth. ers, Rom. xiv. 20. Now your actions being thus justifiable, as to the matter of them (without which it is impossible, had you never so

[ocr errors]

good intentions, to please God) the influence and virtue of holy ends into them will be effectual to turn all into religious duties, as the touch of the philosopher's stone turns the baser metal into gold.

Rule IV. In every action let God be uppermost, but in religious actions let God be all. Let none of your actions terminate in yourselves, but labour to be able in sincerity to give this account of any thing you set about, that this you do, because it is pleasing unto God, because this is his will concerning you. Set a mark upon this caution. Beware in those actions wherein self may bear a part, lest it should sweep stakes, and carry all. -You may, in your common actions, have an eye to your outward commodity, and comfortable being in the world: but this must not be the chief thing, much less the all that you design herein : for by looking no biglier than self, you incur this double miscbief. (1.) You lose so much from your own account. (2.) You usurp upon the great prerogatives of God. I fear we are not aware of the fearful evil that is in self-seeking; it is no less than justling God beside the throne, and setting ourselves in his room. It is God's great prerogative, and the proper worship that is due to him as God, that he should be the last end of all the operations of us his creatures, and that all our motions should terminate in him. Now when we eye our own commodity, and not God, and look to this more than unto God, we arrogate the divine prerogative to ourselves, and set ourselves above him, which

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

is no less than heinous idolatry. And if it be such an heinous sin to bow down to an image, which is but the giving God's outward worship to the creature ; how much more to seek and honor ourselves before God, which is to give his inward worship, which of all is the principal, to the creature ? Oh, how many that pass for good Christians, will be found heinous idolaters ! because they have songht their own carnal ends, more than God and bis glory. And many real Christians, though they mainly design God, and his glory; yet in many particular actions contract great guilty by looking no higher than themselves in what they do. I know you cannot be always thinking of God, yet I would have you never to forget what you have been taught : In the entrance of every solemn action, to remember God, and make him your end. Lie down in the name of God every evening , go forth in his name every morning, resolving to undertake all for him ; when you enter upon your callings, sit down at your meals, make any journey or visit, do it as unto the Lord, with design to please him therein. This you may come to with care and watchfulness.

Again, in religious actions let God be all. Here self (I mean carnal self) must be shut out, otherwise this dead fly will spoil the box of most precious ointment. "Tis true, self will be crowding in, but you must knock it down carefully ; otherwise if this be the predominant ingredient, all your duties will be but lost labour What more pleasing to God than prayer? This is incense before him, Psa.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

end and

and cinto

a to

sich

« PreviousContinue »