« PoprzedniaDalej »
TO THE READER.'
THOUGH God be not the author of sin, he knows why he permitteth it in the world. He will be no loser, and Satan shall be no gainer by it in the end. The malice of the devil and wicked men is, ordinarily, the destruction of the cause which they most desire to promote; and an advantage by accident to the cause and persons which they would root out from the earth. Were there no more to prove this than the instances of Joseph's brethren, of Pharaoh, and the murderers of our Lord, it were enough. We usually lose more by the flatteries of Satan and the World, than by their violence. If these hasty, coarse, unpolished sermons, shall prove beneficial to the souls of any, this also may come in among the lower rank of instances. If the devil had let me alone, they might have been cast aside, and no further molested him or his kingdom, for aught I know, than they did upon the preaching of them. But seeing he will needs, by malicious misreports, and slanders, kindle suspicion, and raise offence, against them and the author, let him take what he gets by it. He hath never yet got much from me, by violence, or by his foul-mouthed slanderous instruments : no, not when the impudence or multitude of their slanders have forced me to be silent, lest I trouble the reader, or misspend my time.
The first of these discourses, being intended to undeceive the formal hypocrite, and to call men from a vain, to a saving, serious religion, and to acquaint them that cry out against hypocrisy, where the hypocrite is to be found, it seems, provoked the ignorant or the guilty; in so much that the cry went, that I preached down all forms of prayer, and all government and order in the church : when there is not a syllable that hath any such sense; but it seems what I spoke against the carcass, was interpreted to be spoken against the body of religion.
The words of Mr. Bolton, and other divines, which I have cited against the reproachers of serious piety, are added since the preaching of the rest, as being more fit to be presented here to the eye, than in the pulpit to the ear.
The petulancy of men on both extremes constrained me to add, “ The Bridle for their Tongues.”
The second discourse, I understand, offended some few of the gallants, that thought they were too roughly handled; let them here peruse it, and better concoct it, if they please.
I only add this observation to the heirs of heaven, that are above this world, and live by faith.
Few rich men are truly religious; it is as hard for them to be saved, as for a camel to go through a needle's eye. Yet rich men will every where be the rulers of the world, and so (as to outward protection or opposition) the judges in matters of religion. Judge, therefore, whether dominion and earthly reign be the portion of the saints (as Jewishly some of late imagine); and what usage we must ordinarily expect on earth! and what condition the church of Christ is like to be in to the end. As his kingdom, so ours, is not of this world. A low, despised, suffering state, is it that believers must ordinarily expect, and prepare for, and study to be serviceable in. If better (may I call it better) come, take it as a feast, and grudge not when the table is withdrawn ; and look not it should be our every day's fare.
1 But yet, value the more highly those few of the rich, and great, and rulers, that are above this world, and devote their power and riches to the Lord, and are holy and heavenly in the midst of so great temptations and impediments.
The Lord teach us to use this transitory world as not overusing it, that we may never hear, “Remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things. (Luke xvi. 25.) How shortly will they find themselves everlastingly undone, that made not sure of a more enduring portion! Reader, that thou mayest savingly remember these common but necessary, though much neglected, truths, is the end of these endeavours, and shall be the matter of my heart's desire and prayers, while the Lord continueth me
His servant for the promoting the increase
and edification of his church, November 15, 1660.
Postscript. Readers, meeting, in his consideration of the Liturgy, with these following words of the Rev. D. Gauden, “I cannot but commend the candour, justice, and integrity of Mr. Baxter, who lately professed to me, that he saw nothing in the Liturgy, which might not well bear a good construction, if men looked upon it as became Christians, with eyes of charity,” I was sensible of the great respects of this learned and Reverend man; but, lest you misunderstand both him and me, I think it best to tell you more fully what were my words. Speaking for reformation of the Common Prayer Book, and an addition of other forms in scripture phrase, with liberty of choice, &c. I said, “ That for the doctrine of the Common Prayer Book, though I had read exceptions against divers passages, I remembered not anything that might not receive a good construction, if it were read with the same candour and allowance, as we read the writings of other men.” So that it was only the truth of the doctrine that I spoke of; against which I hate to be peevishly quarrel some, when God hath blest this church so wonderfully, with a moderate and cautelous, yet effectual, reformation in matter of doctrine : the more pity is it that the very modes of worship and discipline should be the matter of such sharp and uncharitable discords, which must one day prove the grief of those that are found to have been the causes of it, and of the sufferings of the church on that occasion.
THE VAIN RELIGION OF THE FORMAL
JAMES i. 26.
If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his
tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.
BELOVED hearers, I may suppose that we are all come hither to-day for the great end of our lives; and to labour in that work for which we are created, preserved, instructed, and furnished with the helps and means of grace; even to prepare
for death that is coming to arrest us, and for the presence of our Judge, who stands at the door; and to make our calling and election sure, that the glory of the saints may be our lot, when the world of the ungodly are cast into endless misery and despair. And I hope I may suppose that, in order to this end, you would gladly be acquainted with the causes of damnation, that you may avoid them ; with your greatest dangers, that you may escape them; and with the hinderances of your salva
that you may overcome them. When we read in the Gospel, that salvation is to be offered unto all, and no man is excepted or shut out, but such as shut out and except themselves ; and yet read that there are but few that find the “strait gate, and the "
narrow way,” and that the “flock is little” that shall have the “ kingdom," and that “many shall seek to enter that shall not be able,” (Matt. vii. 13, 14; Luke xii. 32, and xiii. 24.) we must needs conclude that some powerful enemy standeth in the way, that can cause the ruin of so many millions of souls ; but when we go further and find what rich preparations God hath made, and what means he hath used, and what abundant helps he offereth and affordeth to bring men to this blessed state of life, it forceth us to admire that any enemy can be so strong, as to frustrate so many, and such excellent means. But when we yet go further, and find that salvation is freely offered, and that the purchase is made by a Saviour to our hands, and
that hearty consent is the condition of our title, and nothing but our wilful refusal can undo us; when we find that salvation is brought down to men's wills, and also what motives and convincing helps, and earnest persuasions, are appointed and used to make men willing; we are then surprised with yet greater admiration, that
any deceiver can be so subtle, or the heart of man can be so foolish, as to be drawn (in despite of all these means) to cast away the immortal crown that else no enemy could have taken from him. And now we discern the quality of our enemy, of our snares, of our danger, and of our duty; it is not mere violence, but deceit, that can undo us; not force, but fraud, that we have to resist. And were not the mind of a carnal man exceeding brutish, (while he seemeth wise for carnal things,) it were a thing incredible that so many men could, by all the subtlety of hell be drawn, in the day-light of the gospel, deliberately and obstinately to refuse their happiness, and to choose the open way of their damnation, and leave their friends lamenting their calamity, that might have mercy, and cannot be persuaded to consent.
That Satan is the great deceiver, and layeth the snare, and manageth the bait, we are all convinced; that the world, and all our fleshly accommodations are the instrumental deceivers ; the snare, the bait which Satan useth, is also a thing that we all confess. But that beside the devil and the world, a reasonable creature should be his own deceiver, and that in a business of unspeakable, everlasting consequence; and that religion itself, (a seeming religiousness that indeed is vain,) should be made by himself the means of his deceit, this is a mystery that is opened to you in my text, and requireth our most careful search and consideration.
When Satan and the World have wounded us by their deceits, religion is it that helpeth us to a cure. He that is deceived by pleasures and profits, and the vain glory of the world, must be undeceived and recovered by religion, or he must perish. But that religion itself should become his deceit, and the remedy prove his greatest misery, is the most stupendous effect of Satan's subtlety, and a sinner's fraudulency, and the saddest aggravation of his deplorable calamity. And yet, alas, this is so common a case, that where the gospel is preached, it seems to be Satan's principal game, and the highway to hell. There is no other name by which we can be saved, but by Jesus Christ, the only mediator between