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Application of the Christian’s Duty

   Let this stir us up to get the girdle of truth closely girt to us, that we may be able to hold fast the profession of it, even in the face of death and danger, and not be offended when persecution ariseth. Blessed be God it is not yet come to that.  We have the truth at a cheaper rate, but how soon the market may rise we know not.  Truth is not always to be had at the same price.  Buy it we must at any, but sell it upon no terms.  And let me tell you, there hath [been], is, and will be, a spirit of persecution in the hearts of the wicked to the end of the world; and as Satan was considering Job before he laid his foul hands on him, so now, persecution is working in the spirits of the ungodly.  There are engines of death continually preparing in the thoughts and desires of Satan and his instruments against the sincere profes­sors of the truth.  It is already resolved upon what they would do, might power and opportunity be given to put their malice in execution.  Yea, we are half-way already towards a persecution.  Satan comes first with a spirit of error and then of persecution.  He first corrupts men’s minds with error, and then enrageth their hearts with wrath against the professors of truth. It is impossible that error, being a brat of hell, should be peaceable.  It would not then be like its father. That which is from beneath can neither be pure nor peaceable.  And how far God hath suffered this sul­phurous spirit of error to prevail, is so notorious, that no apology is broad enough to cover the nakedness of these unhappy times.  It is therefore high time to have our girdle of truth on, yea, close girt about us in the profession of it.  Not every one that now applauds truth, will follow it when once it comes to show them the way to prison.  Not every one that preacheth for it, or disputes for it, will suffer for it.  Arguments are harmless things—blunt weapons—they fetch no blood; but when we suffer, then we are called to try it with truth’s enemies at sharps.  This requires some­thing more than a nimble tongue, a sharp wit, and a logical head.  Where then will be the wise, the dis­puter, the men of parts and gifts? alas, they will, like cowardly soldiers, be wanting in the fight, though they could be as forward as the best at a muster or training, when no enemy was in the field—when to appear for truth was rather a matter of gain or ap­plause than loss and hazard.  No, God hath chosen the foolish to confound the wise in this piece of service—the humble Christian, by his faith, patience, and love to the truth, to shame men of high parts and no grace.

 

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 Reason. I shall give but one reason of the point, and that is taken from the great trust which God puts in his saints concerning his truth.  This is the great depositum—treasure, which God delivers to his saints, with a strict and solemn charge to keep against all that undermine or oppose it.  Some things we trust God with, some things God trusts us with.  The great thing which we put into God’s hand to be kept for us is our soul.  ‘He is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day,’ II Tim. 1:12. That which God trusts us chiefly with is his truth.  It is therefore said to be ‘delivered’ to them, as a charge of money to a friend whom we confide in.  ‘Contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints,’ Jude 3.  ‘Unto them,’ saith the apostle, speaking of the Jews, ‘were committed the oracles of God,’ Rom. 3:2.  They were concredited with that heavenly treasure. So Paul Exhorts Timothy to ‘hold fast the form of sound words,’ II Tim. 1:13, and this, he calls the ‘good thing which was committed to him,’ ver. 14.  If he that is intrusted with the keeping of a king’s crown and jewels, ought to look carefully to his charge that none be lost or stolen, much more the Christian that hath in his charge God’s crown and treasure.  Rob God of his truth, and what hath he left?  The word of truth is that testimony which the great God gives of himself to man, Ps 19:7; Isa.20; Heb. 12:1; Rev. 11:3.  The saints are his chosen witnesses above others, whom he calls forth to vouch his truth, by a free and holy profession thereof before men—called therefore the witnesses of God.  He that maintains any error from the word, bears false witness against God.  He that for fear or shame deserts the truth, or dissembles his profession, denies God his testimony; and who can express what a bloody sin this is, and what a high contempt of God it amounts?  It were a horrid crime though but in a man’s case.  As when one is falsely accused in a court, [it would be that one able] to speak something that might clear the innocency of the man, should yet suf­fer him to be condemned, rather than hazard himself a little by speaking the truth in open court.  O, what then is his sin, that when God himself in his truth stands at sorry man’s bar, dares not speak for God when called in to declare himself, but lets truth suffer by an unjust sentence, that himself may not, at man’s hands, for bearing witness to it!

           Objection. But this may seem too heavy a bur­den to lay on the Christian’s back.  Must we lay all at stake, and hazard all that is dear to us, rather than deny or dissemble our profession of the truth?  Sure Christ will have but few followers if he holds his servants to such hard terms.

           Answer. Indeed it is hard to flesh and blood —one of the highest stiles to be gone over in our way to heaven—a carnal heart cannot hear it but he is offended presently, Matt. 13:21.  Therefore such as are loath to lose heaven, and yet unwilling to venture thus much for it, have set their wits at work to find an easier way thither.  Hence those heretics of old —Priscillianists  and others, whose chief religion was to save their own skin—made little of outward pro­fession.  They thought they might say and unsay, swear and forswear—according to their wretched principle, juro, perjuro, mentem injuratum gero—I swear and forswear, I bear a mind that is not bound by any oath—so in their heart they did but cleave to the truth.  O what fools were the prophets, apostles, and other holy martyrs, that have sealed the truth with their blood, if their might have been such a fair way of escaping the storm of persecution.  [Those must be] bold men, that to save a little trouble from man for truth’s sake, durst invent such detestable blasphemies against the truth; yea, deface those cha­racters which nature itself engraves upon the con­science.  The same window that lets in the light of a deity, would, with it, let in this also, that we should walk in the name of this God.  The every heathen know this: ‘All people will walk every one in the name of his god,’ Micah 4:5.  Socrates, to blood, held [that] there was but one God; and in his apology for his life said, ‘If they would give him his life on condition to keep this truth to himself, and not teach it to others, he would not accept it.’  Behold here the powerful workings of a natural conscience!  Have not they then improved the knowledge of the Scripture well in the meantime, that are so far outshot from nature’s weak bow?  Religion would soon vanish into an empty nothing, if, for fear of every one we meet, we must, like runaway soldiers, pluck off our colours and put our profession as it were in our pockets, lest it should be known to whom we belong.  What doth God require by a free profession of his truth, more than a master doth of his servant, when he bids him take his livery and follow him in the streets?  Or, than a prince, [when he] calls his subjects into the field, to declare their loyalty by owning his quarrel against an invading enemy?  And is it reasonable, what man requires of these—and only hard, when it comes from God’s hands?  Nay, it is not more, nor so much as we desire of God for ourselves.  Who would not have God make profession of his love to us, and bear witness for us against Satan and our own sins, at that great day when men and angels shall be specta­tors?  And shall we expect that from God which he owes us by no law, but of his own free promise, and deny him that which we are under so many bonds to pay?  If it be but in some affliction, while we are here, how disconsolate are we if God’s face be a little overcast, and he doth not own us in our distress? And is there no kindness to be shown to that God that knows your soul in adversity?  When his truth is in an agony, may not Christ look that all his friends should sit up and watch with it?  O it were shame with a witness that any such effeminate delicacy should be found among Christ’s servants, that they cannot break a little of their worldly rest and enjoyments, to attend on him and his truth.

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           Since Satan comes sometimes as a lion in the persons of bloody persecutors, and labours to scare Christians from the truth with fire and faggot; to defend us against this design, we need to have truth girt about us, so that with a holy resolution we may maintain our profession in the face of death and danger.  The second way that truth is assaulted is by force and violence, the devil pierceth the fox’s skin of seducers with the lion’s skin of persecutors.  The bloodiest tragedies in the world have been acted on the stage of the church; and the most inhuman mas­sacres and butcheries committed on the harmless sheep of Christ.  The first man that was slain in the world was a saint, and he for religion.  And as Luther said, Cain will kill Abel unto the end of the world. The fire of persecution can never go out quite, so long as there remains a spark of hatred in the wicked’s bosom on earth, or the devil in hell to blow it up. Therefore there is a second way of having truth girt about the Christian’s loins, as necessary as the other, and that is in the profession of it.  Many that could never be beaten from the truth by dint of argument, have been forced from it by the fire of persecution.  It is not an orthodox judgment will enable a man to suffer for the truth at the stake.  Then that poor Smith, in our English Martyrology, would not have sent such a dastardlike answer to his friend—ready to suffer for that truth which he himself had been a means to instruct him in—that indeed it was the truth, but he could not burn.  Truth in the head, without holy courage, makes a man like the sword-fish, which Plutarch saith hath a sword in the head, but no heart to use it.  Then a person becomes un­conquerable, when from heaven he is endued with a holy boldness to draw forth the sword of the Spirit, and own the naked truth, by a free profession of it in the face of death and danger.  This, this is to have our ‘loins girt about with truth.’  So that the note from this second kind of girding with truth is,

           Doctrine. That it is the saint’s duty, and should be their care, not only to get an established judgment of the truth, but also to maintain a steadfast profession of the truth.  This the apostle presseth: ‘Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering,’ Heb. 10:23.  He speaks it in opposition to those who in those hazardous times declined the as­semblies of the saints for fear of persecution; he calls it a ‘wavering,’ and he that staggers is next door to apostasy.  We must not spread our sails of profession in a calm, and furl them up when the wind riseth.  Pergamos is commended, Rev. 2:13, for her bold pro­fession: ‘I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.’  It was a place where Satan sat in the magistrate’s seat, where it was grande satis picaculum mortem mereri, Chris­tianum esse—matter enough to deserve death to be a Christian; yea, some blood was now shed before their eyes, and even in those days they denied not the truth.  This God took kindly.  It is a strict charge Paul gives Timothy, ‘But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness,’ &c., I Tim. 6:11. While others are proling for the world, lay about thee for spiritual riches, pursue this with as hot a chase as they do the temporal.  But what if this trade cannot be peaceably driven; must shop windows be then shut up, profession be laid aside, and he stay to be relig­ious till more favourable times come about?  No such matter.  He bids him ver. 12, ‘fight the good fight of faith.’  Do not base ly quit thy profession, but lay life and all to stake to keep this; and that he might engage him beyond a retreat, see ver. 13, ‘I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things; and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate wit­nessed a good confession, that thou keepest this com­mandment.’  As if he had said, ‘If ever you will see the face of Christ with comfort at the resurrection —who chose to lose his life, rather than deny or dis­semble the truth—stand to it, and flinch not from your colours.’  Augustine in his Confess., lib. 8. ch.2., hath a notable story of one Victorinus, famous in Rome for rhetoric, which he taught the senators. This man in his old age was converted to Christianity, and came to Simplicianus, one eminent at that time for his piety, whispering in his ears softly these words, Ego sum Chris­tianus—I am a Christian; but this holy man answered, non credo, nec deputabo te inter Christianos, nisi in ecclesia Christi te videro—I will not believe it or count thee so, till I see thee among the Christians in the church.  At this he laughed, say­ing, ergone parietes faciunt Christianum?— do then those walls make a Christian? cannot I be except I openly profess it, and let the world know the same? This he said for fear, being yet a young convert though an old man; but a while after, when he was more confirmed in the faith, and seriously considered that if he should continue thus ashamed of Christ, he would be ashamed of him, when he cometh in the glory of his Father and the holy angels, he changed his note, and came to Simplicianus, saying, eamus in ecclesiam, Christianus volo fieri—let us go to the church, I will now in earnest be a Christian.  And there though a private profession of his faith might have been accepted, he chose to do it openly, saying, that he had openly professed rhetoric, which was not a matter of salvation, and should he be afraid to own the word of God in the congregation of the faithful?  God requires both the religion of the heart and mouth.  ‘With the heart man believeth unto righ­teousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation,’ Rom. 10:10.  Confession of the mouth without faith in the heart is gross hypocrisy.  To pretend faith without profession of the mouth, is both hypocrisy and cowardice.

          

Directions for establishing the judgment in the truth 2/2

 Fifth Direction. Humbly beg and established judgment of God.  No travellers lose their way sooner than they who think they know it so well that they need not ask it.  And no professors are in danger of being drawn from the truth, as much as they who lean to their own understandings, and acknowledge not God in their way, by consulting with him daily.  Mark pride—however it may seem to soar aloft in profes­sion at present—and you shall find it at last laid in the ditch of error or profaneness.  This is the bed God hath made for it, and it must lie there where God hath appointed its lodging.  It is very necessary that such men should be left to be bewildered, and so put to shame, that, when their understanding returns to them—if God hath such a mercy in store for them—they may, with Nebuchadnezzar, ‘bless the Most High,’ and acknowledge him, at their return, whom they neglected so unworthily at their setting forth.  O take heed therefore of pride, which will soon make thee a stranger at the throne of grace.  Pride takes little delight in begging.  It turns humble praying for truth into a busy stickling and ambitious disputing about truth (there is honour to be got here): and thus many, to get victory, have lost truth in the heat of the battle.  Lay this deep in thy heart, that God, which gives an eye to see truth, must give a hand to hold it fast when we have it.  Quœ habemus ab eo, tenere non possumus sine eo (Bern.)—what we have from God, we cannot keep without God.  Keep there­fore thy acquaintance with God, or else truth will not keep her acquaintance long with thee.  God is light, thou art going into the dark, as soon as thou turnest thy back upon him.  We stand at better advantage to find truth, and keep it also, when devoutly praying for it, than when fiercely wrangling and contending about it.  Disputes roil the soul, and raise the dust of pas­sion.  Prayer sweetly composeth the mind, and lays the passions which disputes draw forth.  And I am sure a man may see farther in a still clear day, than in a windy and cloudy one.  When a person talks much, and rests little, we have great cause to fear his brain will not long hold; and truly, when a person shall be much in talking and disputing about truth without a humble spirit in prayer to be led into it, God may justly punish that man’s pride with a spiritual frenzy in his mind, that he shall not know error from truth.

           Sixth Direction. Look thou takest not offense at the difference of judgments and opinions that are found amongst the professors of religion.  It is a stone which the Papists throw, in these divided times es­pecially, before our feet.  How know you, saith he, which is truth, when there are so many judgments and ways amongst you?  Some have so stumbled at this, that they have quit the truth they once professed, and, by the storms of dissensions in matters of religion, have been, if not thrown upon the rock of atheism, yet driven to and fro in a fluctuation of mind, not willing to cast anchor anywhere in their judgment till they see this tempest over, and those that are scat­tered from one another by diversity of judgment, met together in a unity and joint consent of persuasions in matters of religion—a resolution, as one saith very well, as foolish and pernicious to the soul, if not more, than it would be to the body if a man should vow he would not eat till all the clocks in the city should strike twelve just together.  The latter might sooner be expected than the former.

           Seventh Direction. Rest not till thou feelest the efficacy of every truth thou holdest in thy judgement, upon thy heart.  One faculty helps another.  The more clear truth is in the understanding, the more abiding in the memory.  And the more operative truth is on the will, the more fixed in the judgment.  Let a thing be never so excellent, yet, if a man can make little or no use thereof, it is little worth to him, and may easily be got from him.  Thus may rare libraries have been parted with, by rude soldiers, into whose hands they have fallen, for little more than their covers were worth, which by some, that could have improved them, would [have] been kept as the richest prize.  And verily, it fares with truth according as they are into whose hands it falls.  If it lights upon one that falls to work with it, and draws out the strength and sweetness of it, this man holds it so much the faster in his judgement, by how much more operative it is on his heart; but if it meets with one that finds no divine efficacy it hath, to humble, comfort, sanctify him, it may soon be turned out of doors, and put to seek for a new host.  Such may, for a time, dance about that light which, a while after, themselves will blow out.  When I hear of a man that once held original sin and the universal pollution of man’s nature to be a truth, but now denies it, I cannot but fear, he did never lay it so close [to] his heart, as to abase and humble himself kindly for it; or that he grew weary of the work, and, by sloth and negligence, lost the efficacy of that truth in his heart, before he lost the truth itself in his judgment.  I might instance in many other particulars, wherein professors in these rowling times have slidden from their old principles. Singing of psalms hath been a duty owned and practised by many, who now have laid it down; and it were a question worth the asking them, Whether formerly they never enjoyed sweet communion with God in that duty as well as in others? whether their hearts did never dance and leap up to God with heavenly affections, while they sang with their lips? and verily I should think it strange to hear a godly person deny this.  Well, if ever thou didst, Christian, meet with God at this door of the tabernacle—for I cannot yet think it other—let me ask thee again, whether the heart did not grow common, cold, and formal in they duty before thou durst cast it off?  And if so—which I am ready to believe—I desire such in the fear of God to consider these four questions, I John 2:23, 24.

  1. Question. Whether they may not fear that they are in an error, and that this darkness is befallen their judgments as a punishment for their negligence and slightness of spirit in performing the duty when they did not question the lawfulness of it?
  2. Question. Whether it were not better they should labour to recover the first liveliness of their af­fections in the duty—which would soon bring them again acquainted with that sweetness and joy they found of old in it—than to cast it off, upon so weak evidence as they who can say most, bring in against it?
  3. Question. Whether such as neglect one duty, are likely to thrive by any other, and keep up the savour of them fresh in their souls?

           4. Question. Whether, if God should suffer them to decline in their affections to any other ordin­ance—which [may] he forbid, if it be his will—it were not as easy for Satan to gather together arguments enough to make them scruple, and in time cast off that also as well as this?  And that there is reason for such a question, these times will tell us; wherein every ordinance hath had its turn to be questioned, yea, disowned, some by one, some by another.  One will not sing; another will not have his child baptized; a third will not have any water baptism, nor supper neither; a fourth bungs up his ear too from all hearing of the word, and would have us expect an immediate teaching.  Thus when once ordinances and truths become dead to us through our miscarriage under them, we can be willing—how beautiful soever they were once in our eye—yea call, to have them buried out of our sight.  These things sadly laid to heart, will give you reason to think, though this direction be placed last in order of my discourse, yet it should not find neither the last nor least place among all the other named, in your Christian care and practice.

Directions for establishing the judgment in the truth 1/2

           But what counsel can you give me towards the establishing of my judgement in the truth of Christ?

           First Direction. Let thy aim be sincere in em­bracing truths.  A false naughty heart and unsound judgment, like ice and water, are produced mutually by one another.  The reason of the fickleness of some men’s judgments proceeds from the guile of their hearts.  A stable mind and a double heart seldom meet.  That place speaks full to this, I Tim. 1:5, ‘The end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith un­feigned.’  Now mark what follows, ver. 6—‘from which some have swerved’—or as it is in the original, not aiming at—‘having turned aside unto vain jangling.’ They never aimed at the power of holiness in receiv­ing truth, that by it they might advance in their love, faith, and other graces.  And taking a wrong end and aim, no wonder they turn out of the right way.  A naughty heart can easily bribe the judgment to vote on its side.  This shall be truth now, and no truth a month hence if it please.  That is truth with many which serves their interest.  They tie their judgments to their purse-strings, or preferments, &c.,  and such men are ready—with that weather-cock in Queen Mary’s days—to sing a new song upon any change in their carnal concernments.  When love receives a truth it is held fast, but if lust after any worldly interest be the cause, then it may be packed away again when the turn is served.  Amnon was soon as sick of Tamar as ever he was for her.  And have we not in our days seen some truths and ordinances kicked away with as much scorn and contempt as he did her, and by those that have been sufficiently fond of them  a few years past, but who, it is to be feared, were never truly in love with them?

           Second Direction. Attend on the ministry of the word.  One great end of its appointment is to establish us in the truth: ‘He gave some pastors and teachers for the perfecting of the saints,’ Eph. 4:11, 12; and mark, ‘that henceforth we be no more children tossed to and fro,’ &c., ver. 14.  He that runs from his guide will soon be out of his way.  It is no small testimony that God hath given to his faithful minis­ters in this present age, viz. that few leave them but the leprosy of error appears soon on their forehead. And in thy waiting on the ministry of the word, be sure thou attendest to the doctrinal part of the sermon, as well as to the application.  The former is necessary to make thee a solid Christian, as the other to make thee a warm Christian.  Indeed, hot affec­tions without solid knowledge, are but like fire in the pan, when the piece is not charged.  The Levites, we find, ‘gave the sense of the law, and caused the people to understand the reading,’ Neh. 8:7, 8.  Planting goes before watering, and so should teaching before ex­horting.  And the same method people should learn in, that we are to preach in.

           Third Direction. Enslave not thy judgment to any person or party.  There is a spiritual suretiship which hath undone many in their judgments and principles.  Be not bound to, or for the judgment of any.  Weigh truth, and tell gold thou mayest, after thy father; but thou must live by thy own faith, not another’s.  Labour to see truth with thine own eyes. That building stands weak which is held up by a shore, or some neighbour house it leans on, rather than on a foundation of its own.  When these go, that will fall to the ground also.  Let not authority from man, but evidence from the word, conclude thy judgment; that is but a shore, this is a foundation. Quote the Scripture rather than men for thy judg­ment.  Not, so saith a learned man; but thus saith the holy Scripture.  Yet, take heed of bending this direc­tion too far the other way; which is done when we contemn the judgment of such whose piety and learn­ing might command reverence.  There is sure a mean to be found betwixt defying men, and deifying them. It is the admiring of persons that forms the traitor to truth, and makes many cry ‘Hosanna’ to error, and ‘Crucify’ to truth.  Eusebius, out of Josephus, tells us of Herod’s—that Herod whom we read of, Acts 12:23, as being eaten up of worms—coming upon the theatre gorgeously clad, and that while he was making an elo­quent oration to the people, his silver robe, which he then wore, did, by the reflex of the sunbeams shining on it, so glister, as dazzled the eyes of the spectators; and this, saith he, occasioned some flatterers to cry out, ‘The voice of God, and not of man.’  And truly the glistering varnish which some men’s parts and rhetoric put upon their discourses, does oft so blind the judgments of their admirers, that they are too prone to think all divine they speak, especially if they be such as God hath formerly used as instruments for any good to their souls.  O it is hard then, as he said, amare hominem humaniter—to love and esteem man as a man, to reverence him such so, as not to be in danger of loving their errors also.  Augustine had been a means to convert Alypius from one error, and he confesseth this was an occasion why he was so easily by him led into another error—no less than Mani­cheism.  Alypius thought he could not pervert him here that had converted him.  Call therefore none father on earth; despise none, adore none.

           Fourth Direction. Beware of curiosity.  He is half gone into error that vainly covets novelties, and lis­tens after every new-fangled opinion.  We read of ‘itching ears,’ II Tim. 4:3.  This itch commonly ends in a scab of error.  Tamar lost her chastity by gadding.  Castitas mentis est fides incorrupta—the chastity of the mind is its soundness in the faith.  And this they are in danger to lose who will go into all companies, and lend an ear to all doctrines that are preached. First be a hearer, and then a disciple of them.  Many indulge themselves so far in this curiosity of con­versing with every sect and opinion, that at last they turn skeptics, and can settle upon nothing as truth. Augustine confesseth of himself, that he had gone through so many errors and delusions of the Mani­cheans—that at last he was afraid of truth itself, which heard Ambrose preach.  Ut malum medicum expertus, etiam bono timeat se committere—as, saith he, one that hath had experience of an unskilful physician, is at last afraid to put himself in the hands of him that is skilful.  O take heed that you, who will not hear anything, come not in the end that you will believe nothing.

          

APPLICATION AS TO WHY the Christian should labour for AN ESTABLISHED JUDGMENT in the truth

 Use First. They were emboldened to reprove those that, instead of endeavouring to establish their judgments in the truth, make it their great study how to strengthen themselves in their errors.  I am per­suaded some men take more pains to furnish them­selves with arguments to defend some one error they have taken up, than they do for the most saving truths in the Bible; yea, they could sooner die at a stake to defend one error they hold, than for all the truths they profess.  Austin saith of himself when he was a Manichean, Non tu eras, sed error meus erat Deus meus—‘thou, O Lord, wast not, but my error was, my God.’  O it is hard to reduce a person deeply engaged in the defence of an error!  How oft had the Pharisees their mouths stopped by our Saviour? yet few or none reclaimed.  Their spirits were too proud to recant. What! they lay down the bucklers, come down from Moses’ chair, and confess [that] what they have taught the people for an oracle is now false!  they will rather go on, and brave it out as well as they can, than come back with shame, though the shame was not to be ashamed of their error, but ashamed to confess it. The cynic answered smartly, who, coming out of a brothel-house, was asked, whether he was not ashamed to be seen coming out of such a naughty house: No, he said, the shame was to go in, but hon­esty to come out.  O sirs, it is bad enough to fall into an error, but worse to persist.  The first shows thee a weak man—humanum est errare, to err is human; but the other makes thee too like the devil, who is to this day of the same mind he was at his first fall.

           Use Second. It reproves those who labour to unsettle the judgements of others—to ungird this belt about the Christian loins.  They come with the devil’s question in their mouths, ‘Yea, hath God said?’ are you sure this is a truth? do not your ministers deceive you? labouring slyly to breed suspicions and jeal­ousies in the hearts of Christians towards the truths they have received.  Such were they that troubled the Galatians, whom Paul wished ‘cut off’ for their pains, Gal. 5:12.  They laboured to puzzle them, by starting scruples in their minds concerning the doctrine of the gospel.  This is a cunning way at last to draw them from the faith, and therefore they are called ‘sub­verters of the faith of others,’ II Tim 2:14; Titus 1:11.  The house must needs be in danger when the ground­sels are loosened.  Can you think he means honestly that undermines the foundation of your house?  This they do that would call in question the grand truths of the gospel.  But this is a small fault in our loose age, or else so many seducers—whom I may call spiritual rogues and vagrants—would not be suffered to wander like gipsies up and down, bewitching poor simple souls to their perdition.  O, it is sad that he who steals the worth of two or three shillings should hold up his hand at the bar for his life, yea, some­times hang for it; and that those who rob poor souls of the treasure of saving truths, and subvert the faith of whole families, should be let to lift up their heads with impudence, glorying in their impunity.  It is sad that blasphemy against God should not bear an ac­tion, where blasphemy against the king is indicted for treason.  It is well that God loves his truth better than men, or else these would escape in both worlds.  But God hath declared himself against them.  There is a day when they who rob souls of truth shall be found, and condemned as greater felons than they who rob houses of Gold and silver.  See how God lays their indictment, ‘Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that steal my words every one from his neighbour,’ Jer. 23:30.  He means the false prophets that enticed the people from those truths which the faithful servants of God had delivered to them. There will be none on the bench to plead the blasphemer’s and seducer’s cause when God shall sit as judge.

           Use Third. This might well chastise the strange fickleness and unsettledness of judgment which many labour with in this unconstant age.  Truths in many professors’ minds are not as stars fixed in the heaven, but like meteors that dance in the air.  They are not as characters engraven in marble, but writ in the dust, which every wind and idle breath of seducers deface. Many entertain opinions as some entertain suitors —not that they mean to marry them, but cast them off as soon as new ones come.  Never was there a more giddy age than ours.  What is said of fashion-mongers—that some men, should they see their pictures in that habit which they wore a few years past, would hardly know themselves in their present garb—is most true in regard of their opinions. Should many that have been great professors take a few of their religious principles a dozen years ago, and compare them with their present, they would be found not the same men.  They have so chopped and changed that they seem to have altered their whole creed.  And it is no wonder that so many are for a new baptism when they have forsaken their old faith. Not that the old which they renounce was false, or [that] the new which they espouse is true, but because they were either ignorant of the truth they first professed, or were insincere in their profession of it. And it is no wonder that the one should upon easy terms part with that which he first took up upon as weak grounds as now he leaves it; or that the other, who did not love or improve the truth he professed, should be given up of God to change it for an error. If the heathen—who did not glorify God with the light of nature they had—were righteously given up to a reprobate injudicious mind to do that which was inconvenient and morally absurd, then they who dishonoured God with the revealed light of Scripture truth, much more deserve that they should be given up to that which is spiritually wicked, even to believe errors and lies for truth.  A heavy curse, did we rightly judge of it, to wander and wilder  in a maze of error, and yet think they are walking in the way of truth.

           Question. But some may say, How is it possible that ordinary professors should attain to this estab­lished judgement in the truth, when we see many of great parts and eminency much unsettled in their judgments?

           Answer First. We must distinguish between per­sons.  Of persons, there are many eminent for parts, whose parts want piety to establish them, and no wonder to see wanton wits unfixed in the truths of God.  None sooner topple over into error than such as have not an honest heart to a nimble head.  The richest soil without culture is most tainted with such weeds.  They have been men of unsanctified parts that have been the leaders in the way of error, though the more simple and weak that are led by them.  They are knowing men, which first disgorge and vomit error from their from their corrupt hearts, and ignorant ones that lick it up.  And therefore despair not of an established judgement, so long as thou desirest to have an honest upright heart, and conscientiously usest the means.  The promise is on thy side: ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,’ and ‘a good understanding have they that do his command­ments,’ Ps. 111:10.

           Answer Second. We must distinguish between truths.  Some are fundamental, others are superstruc­tory.  Now, though many eminent for piety as well as parts, are in the dark concerning some of the super­structory and more circumstantial—because myster­iously laid down in the word—yet there is a sweet harmony among the godly in fundamentals; and in those, poor souls, thou mayest come by a faithful use of means to be established.  As for our bodies, God hath so provided, that things necessary to preserve their life are more common, and to be had at a cheap­er rate, than things for delicacy and state.  So also for our souls.  If bread were as hard to come by as sweetmeats, or if water were as scarce as wine, the greatest part of men must needs famish.  So if truths necessary to salvation were as hard to be understood and cleared from the Scriptures as some others, many poor weak-parted Christians would certainly perish without a miracle to help them.  But the saving truths of the gospel lie plain, and run clear to all, but those who roil the stream with their own corrupt minds.

WHY the Christian should labour for an established judgment in the truth 2/2

Three characters you may observe among those who are most commonly seduced.  1. They are called ‘simple’ ones—‘By good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple,’ Rom. 16:18, such who mean well, but want wisdom to discern those who mean ill—in cautious ones, that dare pledge every­body, and drink of any one’s cup, and never suspect poisoning.  2. They are called ‘children’—‘Be no more children, tossed to and fro, with every wind of doctrine,’ Eph. 4:14.  Now children are very credulous, prone to believe every one that gives them a parcel of fair words.  They think anything is good, if it be sweet.  It is not hard to make them eat poison for sugar.  They are not swayed by principles of their own, but by those of others.  The child reads, con­strues, and parses his lesson as his master saith, and thinks it therefore right.  Thus as poor creatures that have little knowledge of the word themselves, they are easily persuaded this or that way, even as those of whom they have a good opinion please to lead them. Let the doctrine be but sweet, and it goes down glib. They, like Isaac, bless their opinions by feeling, not by sight.  Hence many poor creatures applaud them­selves so much of the joy they have found since they were of this judgement and that way.  Not being able to try the comfort and sweetness they feel by the truth of their way from the word, they are fain to believe the truth of it by their feeling, and so, poor creatures, they bless error for truth.  3. They are such as are ‘unstable’—‘beguiling unstable souls,’ II Peter 2:14, such as are not well grounded and principled.  The truth they profess hath no anchor-hold in their under­standing, and so they are at the mercy of the wind, soon set adrift, and carried down the stream of those opinions which are the favourites of the present time, and are most cried up—even as the dead fish with the current of the tide.

           Reason Third. We are to endeavour after an established judgment in the truth, because of the universal influence it hath upon the whole man.

  1. Upon the memory,which is helped much by the understanding.  The more weight is laid on the seal, the deeper impression is made on the wax.  The memory is that faculty which carries the images of things.  It holds fast what we receive, and is that treasury where we lay up what we desire afterward to use and converse with.  Now, the more clear and cer­tain our knowledge of anything is, the deeper it sinks, and the surer it is held by the memory.
  2. Upon the affections.Truth is as light, the more steady and fixed the glass of the understanding is, through which its beams are darted upon the affections, the sooner they take fire—‘Did not our hearts,’ saith the disciples, ‘burn within us, while he opened to us the Scriptures?’ Luke 24:32.  They had heard Christ, no doubt, preach much of what he said then, before his passion; but never were they so satisfied and confirmed as now, when Scriptures and understanding were opened together, and this made their hearts ‘burn.’  The sun in the firmament sends his influence where he doth not shed his beams, I mean into the bowels of the earth, but the Sun of righteousness imparts his influence only where his light comes.  He spreads the beams of truth into the understanding, to enlighten that; and while the crea­ture sits under these wings, a kindly heart-quickening heat is begotten in its bosom.  Hence we find that even when the Spirit is promised as a comforter, he comes as a convincer, John 16:13—he comforts by teaching.  And certainly, the reason why many poor trembling souls have so little heat of heavenly joy in their hearts, is because they have so little light to understand the nature and tenure of the gospel-covenant.  The farther a soul stands from the light of truth, the father he must needs be from the heat of comfort.
  3. An established judgment hath a powerful in­fluence upon the life and conversation.The eye directs the foot.  He walks very unsafely that sees not his way, and he uncomfortably that is not resolved whether right or wrong.  That which moves must rest on something that doth not move.  A man could not walk if the earth turned under his feet.  Now the principles we have in our understanding are, as it were, the ground we go upon in all our actions; if they stagger and reel, much more will our life and practice. It is as impossible for a shaking hand to write a straight line, as for an unfixed judgement to have an even conversation.  The apostle joins steadfastness and unmovableness with ‘abounding in the work of the Lord,’ I Cor. 15:58.  And if I mistake not, he means chiefly in that place, a steadfastness of judgment in the truth of the resurrection, which some had been shaking.  It is not the many notions we have, but the establishment we have in the truth, that makes us strong Christians; as he is a strong man whose joints are well set together and knit—not he who is spun out at length, but not thickened suitable to his height. One saith well, ‘Men are what they see and judge; though some do not fill up their light, yet none go beyond it.’  A truth under dispute in the under­standing is, as I may so say, stopped in the head; it cannot commence in the heart, or become practicable in the life.  But when it passeth clearly there, and upon its commendation is embraced in the will and affections, then it is held fast, and hath powerful ef­fects in the conversation.  The gospel, it is said, came to the Thessalonians ‘in much assurance,’ i.e.evidence of its truth, I Thes. 1:5.  And you see how prevalent and opera­tive it was: ‘Ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost,’ ver. 6. They were assured that the doctrine was of God, and this carried them merrily through the saddest afflictions which attended the same.