The Consistent Christian
William Secker, 1660
PRINCIPLES which a believer should walk by—
11. Another principle that a believer should walk by, is this: That all the time which God allows him—is but enough for the work which he allots him.
"Man that is born of a woman, is of few days, and full of trouble." Nature's womb—sometimes proves nature's tomb.
With many it is ebb water—before the tide is at the full. The lamps of their lives are wasted—almost as soon as they are lighted. The sand of their hour-glass is run out—when they think it is but newly turned.
When men feel sickness arresting—then they fear death is approaching. But we begin to die—as soon as ever we began to live. Every man's death-bell, hangs in his own steeple. Take him in his four elements, of earth, air, fire, and water. In the earth—he is as fleeting dust; in the air—he is as a disappearing vapor; in the water—he is as a breaking bubble; and in the fire—he is as consuming smoke. Many think not of living any holier—until they can live no longer; but one today is worth two tomorrows.
Reader, you know not how soon the sails of your life may be rolled up—or how near you are to your eternal haven; and if you have not Jesus as your pilot within you—you will suffer an eternal shipwreck!
Poor soul what will you do, if you begin to die naturally, before you begin to live spiritually! How will you be astonished, if the tabernacle of nature be taken down—before the temple of grace be raised up! What must you feel, if your paradise is laid waste, before the tree of life is set in it! How can you bear to give up the spirit, before you have received the Holy Spirit? Eternal will be your darkness—if the sun of your life sets within you, before the Sun of Righteousness shines upon you. Woe be to you—if your body is returned into the earth—before your soul is fit to be taken into heaven. If the second birth has no place in you—the second death will assuredly have power over you.
Our life can be compared to a DAY. Infancy is the day dawn; youth is the sun rising; adulthood is the sun's meridian; and old age is the setting sun. By the light of the day—the Lord helps us to do the work of the day. "O that you had known in this your day, the things that belong to your peace; but now they are hidden from your eyes!" O how just it is—that they should miss of heaven at last, who never seek for heaven until the last! How reasonable it is—that God should deny them his grace to repent—who abuse his grace to sin!
It is a maxim, that everything has a principle to return to its own source. The rivers which have their efflux from the sea—have their reflux to the sea. Out of the dust man was formed—and therefore into the dust man will be returned. Aged Reader! how much of your life is gone—and yet how little of God is known! How can you appear before God—if you are not found in God? Your being ancient in days—will be no plea for you before the Ancient of Days. If you have not Christ the hope of glory in you—you must have Christ the God of glory against you. If you do not partake of what Christ has done—you will be eternally undone!
O fresh picture of youth—how lovely will you appear, if hung up in heaven's palace! And will you spend your youthful life—in following youthful lusts? Do you not know that the blossom is as subject to be nipped—as the flower to be withered; and the spark to be extinguished—as the flame to be consumed? Veins full of youthful blood, may be emptied by an accident, as soon as those that are leakish with old age. As there are none too old for eternity—so there are none too young for mortality. In Golgotha, there are skulls of all sizes. Tell me—how will you live when you die—if you are dead while you live? Every step that your body takes, is towards the earth. Oh that every step your soul takes may be towards heaven!
The vine which brings forth no grapes—shall be cut down as well as that which brings forth wild grapes. Oh how sad is it, to be taken out of the world—before we are taken off from the world! "Today if you hear his voice—do not harden your hearts." We have but a day wherein we are called to repent—and therefore, should repent while it is called today. He is the deafest adder—who stops his ears to the voice of the sweetest charmer. The Lord has made a promise to late repentance—but he has not made a promise of late repentance. If the heart of man is not now thawed—it will be forever frozen.
A pardon is sometimes given to a thief at the gallows—but he who trusts to that, sometimes has a rope for his wages! "Do not boast of tomorrow; for you don't know what a day may bring forth." Man is such a blind creature, that he cannot unerringly see a day before him. O see the end of one day—before you glory in the beginning of another!
Many a man's days deceive him—they pass away like a shadow by moonshine, which appears longest when the moon is lowest. You may not have half a day to live—when you think that you have not lived out half your days.
"The night is coming—wherein no man can work." The grave is a bed to rest in—but not a shop to trade in. There is no setting up under ground, for those who have neglected their souls above ground.
When the soul takes her flight from her loving mate the body—they shall meet no more until the great day of retribution. "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation!" Opportunities are for eternity—but not to eternity. Mercy's clock does not strike at the sinners beck! Where the means of grace are greatest—there they are often the shortest. You may be unhappy all your days, for despising the happiness of these days.
That was a sad cry of one, "My life is done—but my work is undone." "Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise." Though the summer of life is but just opening—yet the winter of death is approaching. And how can you live in that winter, if there be no honey in your hive in this summer?
"Seek you the Lord while he may he found—call you upon him while he is near!" Young person, the sufferings of eternal death are but the consequence of your willful contempt of eternal life. Methinks the worth of such a heavenly pearl as Christ—should sparkle in your eyes. Oh that you may walk in the light of that sun—by the beams of which you may see your way to heaven! No disease is more fatal—than that which stimulates you to reject the restoring medicine. What a sad thing it is—that such mines of grace should be opened, and not a penny of this treasure fall to your share! Come, I trust you are not gone so far in sin—as to be beyond all hope of returning. A returning prodigal—may yet meet with a welcome reception. The eternal Father is yet a tender father. He delights to see a repenting prodigal; to hear a mourning Ephraim; and help a sinking Peter.
How much time has God bestowed upon man—before ever he has returned any of it to him again? It is good to have an ark prepared, before that deluge comes in, which you may be overwhelmed. Remember that God can as easily turn you into dust—as he took you out of the dust. Delays are no more numerous, than they are dangerous. Before you can do good—you must be made good. For who would look for fresh water—from a drained river; or that sweet grapes should grow upon a withered vine?
For a man to make his soul's concern his last concern; what is this—but as if a gardener should be putting in his plough—when he should be thrusting in his sickle!
Know, man, that there is but one heaven! Miss that, and where will you take up your eternal lodging—but in hell! A wicked man's life expires like a tallow candle, leaving an foul savor behind it—but a gracious man's life expires like a wax candle—which leaves a sweet perfume behind it.
12. Another principle that a Christian will walk by, is this: That there can never he too great an estrangement, from defilement.
He who now gives way to the least sin—may be given up to the greatest sins. We are never far enough from lust—while we are on earth; or near enough to Christ—while we are out of heaven. A sound eye cannot endure the least spot. O, stand far off from the devil's mark—unless you would be hit by his arrows!
"Abstain from all appearance of evil." The drawing near to the appearance of evil—is the first step to the accomplishment of the most enormous evil. A spark of fire—will easily catch in a box of tinder. Little streams will find a passage to the great sea. Christian Reader! restriction is a good barrier to transgression. Why should you venture on slippery places—who can scarcely stand upon the firmest ground?
As faith is a grace which feeds all the rest—so fear is a grace that guards all the rest. "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation." That man who is the most watchful—is the least sinful. He may quickly be cast down by a sinful temptation—who is already prepared for it by a sinful occasion. Who will pity that man whose house is blown up with gun powder—if he stores it in the chimney corner?
Such is the monstrous wickedness of men, that they use spurs and whips to that horse, which of itself rushes too fast into the battle. Though the streams and currents of their own lusts carry them too swiftly already—yet they hoist up sails to catch the devil's winds! Such have a title good enough for hell—without so much trouble to make it surer.
The fowler spreads his net—but the wings of the bird carry her into it! Do you murmur for lack of liberty—and yet surrender yourself to slavery? If you would not step into the harlot's house—you should not go by the harlot's door! If you would not gather the forbidden fruit, then beware how you look on the tree where it grows!
To pray against temptations, and yet to rush into occasions to sin—is to thrust your fingers into the fire—and then pray that they might not be burnt! The fable says, "That the butterfly inquired of the owl, how she should deal with the candle which had singed her wings? The owl counseled her, not so much as to behold the smoke!" If you hold the stirrup—no wonder Satan gets into the saddle!
The fort-royal of your souls is in danger of an attack, while the outworks of your senses are unguarded. Your eyes, which may be floodgates to pour out tears—should not be windows to let in lusts. A careless eye is an index to a graceless heart! Remember—the whole world died by a wound in the eye. The eyes of a Christian should be like sunflowers, which are opened to no blaze, but that of the sun.
To keep the eyes and not regard the ears, is as if a man should shut the windows of his house, and leave the doors open to the thief! The ear is an instrument which the devil loves to play upon! As your ears are joined to your head on earth, so they should be fastened to your head in heaven.
Your tongue, which should be tuned for God's glory, should not be turned to your own shame. By the striking of those clappers, we guess at the metal of the bell. "You are a Galilean; your speech betrays you."
A soul without its watch—is like a city without its wall, exposed to the inroad of all its enemies. We need a sun to dispel our darkness—and a shield to repel our dangers. The earth is not so apt to be over-run with thorns—as the mind would with sins—did not our heavenly Gardener prevent their growth.
Those who would not fall into the river—should beware how they approach too near to its banks. He who crushes the egg—need not fear the biting of the serpent. He who would not drink of the wine of divine wrath—let him not touch the cup of sinful pleasure. He who would not hear the bell of eternal death, should not play with the rope of sin. A person who carries gunpowder about him—can never stand too far from the fire. If we accompany sin one mile—it will compel us to go two. It swells like Elijah's cloud, from the size of a man's hand to such an expansion, as to cover the whole sky.
"Let him who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall." 1 Corinthians 10:12. You will quickly lose your standing—if you are fearless of falling. He who abstains from no lawful thing—may soon be brought to commit something that is sinful. Many a man has been thrown out of the saddle of profession, by riding with too slack a rein of circumspection.
An honest woman will blush to be found in the attire of a sluttish woman. Reader, will you invite that sin into the chamber of your heart—which brought Christ unto the cross? Is your house so largely built, that you can afford that sin a harbor, which you know to be a traitor?
"Hate even the garment spotted hy the flesh." Those garments which are defiled with the leprosy of sin—must either be cleansed by the priest, or burnt outside the camp. If a sick man dislikes the cup out of which he took his bitter medicine—how should he refuse and abhor that which is filled with deadly poison! A believer disbands those auxiliaries, who have assisted his adversaries.
If Achan handles the golden wedge—his next work will be to steal it. If you take the devil's cup into your hand—it is to be feared that you will quickly lift it to your head.
13. Another principle by which a believer should walk, is this: That whatever is temporally enjoyed, should be spiritually improved.
All that a believer receives is from the hand of divine bounty—and should be employed to the end of the divine glory. Others make an earthly use of heavenly things—but he makes a heavenly use of earthly things. The more God oils our wheels on earth—the swifter our chariots move to heaven. Grace can teach how to plume the wings of riches, and instruct us how to lay up that treasure in heaven, which comes out of the midst of this earth.
There is a divine chemistry, which can extract the purest spirits out of the most foul matter. The beast on the altar differs not in kind—from the beast at the slaughter. There is a lawful craft of coining our money over again, and adding the image and superscription of God—to that which is Caesar's. It is said of the philosopher's stone—that it turns whatever it touches, into gold.
Whatever mill a saint has going in the world—he will spread the sails of it for the wind of divine approbation, that it may move round for God's glory. When God sets him up above the world—then he holds up God to the world.
It is unequal, to be hot in our petitions—and cold in our praises. Many will cry aloud, "Give us this day our daily bread" and whisper out, "Hallowed he your name." This is like opening our windows to admit the light, and then shutting them closely to keep out the sun.
It cannot be praiseworthy to remember God in our necessities—and then forget him in our prosperity. His kindness is as proper a ground for praising him—as his promise is for praying to him. If under our miseries we can seek God with diligence—then under the weight of his mercies we should praise him with cheerfulness. Mercies are such gifts—as advance our debts. It is as unpleasant to see a Christian in an ungrateful temper—as it is unnatural to see Pharaoh's lean cows in a fat pasture.
If God gives us any enjoyment—it is for his own entertainment. Well may those hands reap the fruits, which set the plants. Is he not worthy to feed at that table—which his own hands have spread? Where former blessings have been acknowledged, there future blessings shall be enjoyed. He shall never want mercy—who does not wanton with mercy. When man fights against God with his gifts—he fights against himself with his own sins.
Take a wicked man, and you will not find him led to God, by that which comes from God. He, like the sea, turns the sweetest showers—into the saltiest waters. The greater substance he has from God—the less service has God from him. Like the moon he is furthest from the sun—when he shines with the greatest splendor. The more a dunghill has the sunbeams upon it—the more stinking is the vapor arising from it.
Sinners, instead of having vials full of sweet odors—have hearts full of foul evils. How many are there, who are highly above others in false greatness, and yet are greatly below them in real goodness! To turn from God while he is blessing them—is worse than to turn from him when he is smiting them!
Jesus answered, "Many good works have I showed you—for which of these good works do you stone me?" He showed them his goodness—and they stoned him for the goodness he had showed. They were like Aesop's snake, which lay still in the frost—but stung him who laid it in his bosom! If it be a sin to return unto man evil for evil—what must it be to return unto God evil for good?
When we taste the sweet wine—we should not forget the tree whereon the grapes grew. When we are refreshed by the rolling streams—it would be well to remember the spring from whence they arose. A load of earth has crushed many a man to death! The richer some professors have been without—the poorer they have been within.
Notwithstanding the pious pretenses of the Romish conclave, the Indians have brought more of the Spaniards to worship their gold, than ever the Spaniards brought of the Indians to worship their God. The Indians have made more infidels—than the Spaniards have made converts. Outward mercies to our bodies, are divine baits—which are sometimes laid to catch our souls. God tries the vessel with plain water—that he may fill it with sweet wine. Every stream leads an observant believer—to the fountain-head. The more God's hand is enlarged in blessing him—the more his heart is enlivened in blessing God.
Where the sun of mercy shines hottest—there the fruits of grace grow fastest. In the book of nature—we may read the God of nature. The creature is like a tuned instrument, and the Christian's hand can strike it to the Redeemer's praise.
As a saint has a heart to seek God in what he has promised—so he has an hand to serve him with what he possesses. The greater the wages are which he receives—the better is the work which he performs. If he has five talents committed to him—he earns five more. If he has one—he improves one. The more a merchant adventures at sea—the greater are the returns expected at land. The tallest vines should always bear the sweetest grapes, because they lie most open to the sun. It is sacrilege to possess the largest crops—and return to God the smallest gifts of gratitude.
The requital of good for evil—is admirable.
The requital of good for good—is laudable.
The requital of evil for evil—is blamable.
The requital of evil for good—is abominable!
The April showers which invigorate the herbage, and beautify the spring—do likewise bring forth many offensive, croaking frogs. Man should resemble the rivers, which as they receive their increase from the sea—are restlessly returning to their source. Who is so unworthy of God's blessing as man? Who is so worthy of man's praises as God?
Beloved, we have not longer enjoyed the blessings of the earth—than we have abused them. This gives too much cause to fear, that though the child of mercy, like Jacob, has put forth his hand—yet the child of judgment, like Esau, may supersede him.
The devout Bernard observes, "Ingratitude is a parching wind—which will dry up the divine springs of bounty, and dews of mercy." Man was formed the last of the creation—that he might contemplate upon God through every creature. Beloved, when you survey the spacious skies, and behold it hung with such resplendent gems—then think that if the suburbs are so beautiful, what must the city be! What is God's footstool, compared to the throne whereon he sits! When you view the evening star above you—then reflect upon the morning star within you.
When you sit down at your table to eat, let this be your first course—how happy are all those who shall eat bread in the kingdom of Christ! Those are the rarest feasts—which are graced with the most royal guests. When you see the winged travelers swiftly part the skies; or the winding rivers hastening to their origin—then consider how rapidly the little rivers of opportunity are pushing their way to the great ocean of eternity. When you are decorating your bodies with fine clothing—then reflect how the eternal Word put on the rough suit of humanity. Think how mercy undressed itself—to cover you with its garments!
When you take off your apparel—then remember that you must put off this tabernacle. Be going to your bed—as if you were going to your grave; and so close your eyes in one world—as if you were immediately to open them in another. When you behold your garden stored with trees, and richly laden with fruit—then contemplate upon the Great Gardener, the true Vine, and his believing branches. It cannot be so pleasant to see our orchards bearing fruits for us—as it is to God, to see us bringing forth fruit to him.
When you gaze upon the stately buildings, the shady groves, the crystal streams, the pleasant meadows, and all the pomp of wicked men—then think if sinners go away with such large portions—how great shall Benjamin's portion be! If the children of the concubines have such possessions, what shall be the inheritance of the children of promise! If the dogs fare so well beneath the table—how must the children fare at it! Give me that eye which can see God in all; and that hand which can serve God with all; and that heart that can bless for for all.
14. Another principle that a Christian is to walk by is this: that he should speak well of God—whatever evil he receives from God.
"What! Shall we receive good at the hand of God—and shall we not receive evil?" Job 2:10.
While the water is quiet—the mud lies at the bottom; but when it is disturbed—it rises to the top. Every small row-boat can swim in a shallow river; but it must be a strong vessel which ploughs the troubled ocean. "The Lord gives—and the Lord takes away; blessed be the Name of the Lord." Job 1:21. God gives before he takes—and he takes only what he gives. The hour-glass of outward happiness soon runs out! Today Job is the richest man in all the east; tomorrow Job is the poorest man in all the world. Yet his heart was like a fruitful paradise—when his estate was like a barren wilderness! Though God burnt up his houses—yet his palace (his heart) was left standing.
Outward mercies are like the tide—which ebbs as well as flows. Outward mercies are like the sky—which sometimes is clear, and at another time clouded. Outward mercies are like a budding flower—which opens on a warm day, and shuts on a cold day. If God bless us in taking—as well as in giving; let us bless Him for taking—as well as for giving.
That is a choice artist—who can play well upon a broken instrument. To be impatient with our affliction, and patient with our corruption—is to be angry with the medicine which heals us, and in love with the poison which kills us! Beloved, it is sometimes a mercy to us—that God removes outward mercies from us. He never wounds a saint to kill him—but to heal him! A gracious person once said, "Though I am sometimes full of pain—yet I am at all times full of patience! I often mourn under my corruption—but I never murmur under my affliction." Some can rejoice in anything but in Christ, and grieve for anything but lust.
Too many think that God is cutting down the whole tree—when he is but lopping off its wasteful branches. They imagine that he is demolishing the superstructure, when he is only laying a right foundation. Poor souls, he is not nipping the flowers—but plucking up the weeds! He is not laying your land fallow—but ploughing the field! He is not putting out the light—but snuffing the candle. God's Providence has a beautiful face—under a black mask! God has the fairest ends—in the foulest ways! The sheep may be dipped in water to wash it, when there is no design in the Good Shepherd to drown it!
Christian reader, you may read the marks of a kind Father—in the severe stripes of His children. Every twig of His black rod of affliction—is but to draw His image upon you!
Could we but bury our friends alive—we should not mourn so much for them when they are dead. Did not the possession of riches sometimes draw away our hearts—then the loss of them would not break our hearts! "Behold, I take away the desire of your eyes with a stroke!" Though God takes your wife out of your bosom—so he take her into his own. You may embrace a creature—until you kill it with kindness. You may wither the sweetest flowers—by smelling them too often. God does but take that out of your hands—which would thrust him out of your heart.
He who mingles his angry passions with his afflictions—is like a foolish patient, who chews the bitter pills—which he should swallow whole. He who carnally disturbs his soul for the loss of his substance—casts away the kernel, because God has taken away the shell. If the tree yields us good fruit—it will be no very great loss, though the wind blows away the leaves. To bless God for mercies—is the way to increase them; to bless God for miseries—is the way to remove them. No good lives so long—as that which is thankfully improved; no evil dies so soon—as that which is patiently sustained. God can make a plaster—of a disease; and bring soundness to the inward man—by the sickness of the outward man. When the stars do not shine, the sun appears, repairing the loss of the smaller lights with brighter beams. In the loss of withered bouquets, you may smell flowers fresh on the stalk. When Christians have their candles put out, they may fetch their light from the sun; and when they have their streams cut off, they may drink at the fountain.
The birds of paradise make the swiftest flight, when they have the smallest feathers. These nightingales warble the most sweetly, when they are pierced by a thorn. The creature often interrupts the respect which we owe to our Creator; and then no wonder if he breaks the cistern—to bring us unto the fountain. Those who are found blessing God under all their losses—shall find God blessing them after all their losses.
15. Another principle by which a Christian should walk is this: that the longer God forbears with the unrelenting sinner in life—the sorer he strikes him in the judgment-day.
Divine patience is to be adored by all—and abused by none. Sinners usually take God's forbearance, for their acquittance. Because they sin unpunished for a time—they imagine there is no punishment for sin in eternity. They forget that it is one thing to forbear the debtor—and another to forgive the debt.
"Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily; therefore, the heart of men is fully set in them to do evil." Because the Lord continues to spare them, therefore they go on to provoke him. As he adds to their lives—so they add to their lusts. What is this, but as if a man should break all his bones—because there is a surgeon who is able to set them again!
Christian reader, you were greatly in debt to divine justice—but mercy stopped the dreadful arrest of vengeance. Many others have been taken from the earth—by a sudden arrow darted from heaven. Adulterous Zimri and Cozbi unloaded their lives and their lusts at the same time. Because Justice seems to wink—men suppose her blind; because she delays punishment—they imagine she denies to punish them; because she does not always reprove them for their sins—they suppose she always approves of their sins. But let such know, that the silent arrow can destroy as well as the roaring cannon. Though the patience of God is lasting—yet it is not everlasting. Believer, the sword of justice is dipped in the oil of mercy for your sake; and it afflicts some parts of your body—that the whole might not be destroyed. "He who being often reproved, hardens his neck—shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy!"
God loves all men so as to feed and forbear them; yet he loves but few men so as to forgive them. He was six days in making the whole world—and seven days in destroying one city. Our garrisons are fairly summoned, before they are furiously stormed. If God's warnings are not sanctified to us—his vengeance will be executed upon us. It is sad for the iron—to gather rust under the file.
Reader, remember that if you are corrected—the Lord takes the scourge out of your own house. "I gave her space to repent of her fornication—but she repented not." Many have the space of repentance, who have not the grace of repentance. But what follows? "Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds." Sinners may cast themselves upon a bed of false hope; but justice will cast them into a bed of real torment. Mark how the long-slumbering arm of Deity, awakes to the prey: "I have long been silent; yes, I have restrained myself. But now I will give full vent to my fury!" The longer God is in fetching about his hand, the heavier will the blow be when it falls.
Carnal security resembles a flash of lightning—which ushers in a clap of thunder; or it is like a profound calm at sea—which is generally followed by a dreadful storm.
Know, sinner, that God is pleased, sometimes, to shake your feeble cottage before he throws it down; he often makes it totter before it tumbles. It may be a fair, sunshiny season with you now—but a whirlwind may soon arise and dash you to pieces!
We pity a body that is going to the block—and shall we not pity a soul that is hastening to the bottomless pit? He dies the most comfortably, who lives the most heavenly. It is easier tor a bird to avoid the snare—than to break the snare. The very beasts will shun the places—where their own species have miscarried. The rising sun in the morning—was no proof that Sodom should not be entombed in its own ashes before the evening. That day which begins in prosperity—may end in adversity.
Attend to the charge which the King of heaven brings against the priests of Israel: "These things you have done and I kept silent; you thought I was altogether like you. But I will rebuke you and accuse you to your face!" But what is the application of this? "Consider this, you who forget God, or I will tear you to pieces, with none to rescue!" Justice proportions the sinner's punishment to his sin—so that we may behold the greatness of the offence—in the fitness of the punishment.
"If a person does not repent, God will sharpen his sword; he will bend and string his bow. He will prepare his deadly weapons and ignite his flaming arrows." The sharpening of the sword—is but to give it a keener edge, that it may cut the deeper. God is silent as long as the sinner will let him; but when the sword is sharpened—it is to cut; and when the bow is bent—it is to kill. Woe be to that man—who is God's target!
Enraged justice will avenge the quarrel of abused mercy. For, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!" It is a good thing to fall at his feet—but a fearful thing to fall into his hands. The stronger the enemy's arm is—the stronger will his blow be. Never did a weary traveler complain of being at his journey's end too soon. But a sinner, if he dies soon—it does but hasten his torment; and if he lives long—it does but heighten his torment.
Ah, what a dreadful vision is that—where the black horse of death, precedes, and the red horse of wrath, follows after!
Sinner, how fearful is it, to be preserved from small evils—and reserved for great evils! The higher you are raised—the greater will be your fall. You may wonder more at the divine indulgence which has so long reprieved you—than at the Almighty vengeance which so soon overtakes you. You were dry enough for eternal flames—when you were wrapped in your swaddling bands: for "You were by nature a child of wrath—even as others." All who draw their first breath in corruption—deserve to draw their second breath in destruction! It is a wonder that he should add to our days—when we are adding to our sins.
God has his vials of wrath, filled with indignation—for those who are vessels of wrath, fitted for destruction. If his patience does not draw the sinner to repentance, his wrath will drown him in desperation! O sinner, either seek a Savior to deliver you from the wrath of God—or else find a shoulder to bear you up under the wrath of God.
16. Another principle by which a Christian should walk, is this: that there is no judging ot the inward conditions of men—by the outward dispensations of God.
"For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked." Psalm 73:3. The greatness of our estates—is no argument of the goodness of our hearts. To prize ourselves by what we have—and not by what we are; is to estimate the value of the jewel—by the box which contains it. Grace and gold can live together; but the smallest degree of grace in the heart, is preferable to a thick chain of gold around the neck.
Here on earth, it is sometimes evil with the righteous—and well with the wicked. Those who live most upon God, sometimes fare worst from the world. Under the law, the dove was preferred in sacrifice—to the swine. Riches are called 'thick clay'. They are more likely to weaken the back—than strengthen the heart. You cannot read the wrath of God—in the black lines of adversity; or the love of God—in the white lines of prosperity.
God often gives a full cup of temporal blessings to wicked men, though there are dregs at the bottom. They may be fruitful vines—and yet only laden with sour grapes. It is seldom that the sparkling diamond of a great estate—is set in the golden ring of a pious heart. Riches have made many good men—worse; but they never made any bad man—better. Thus if we discern but a spark of grace in a nobleman, we cry it up as a blazing comet, and speak of it in the superlative degree.
Though a Christian is made happy in the world—yet he is not made happy by the world. Give me those judgments which give birth to mercy—rather than those outward mercies which give birth to judgments. There are many who are temporally happy, who will be eternally miserable; and many are now temporally miserable, who will be eternally happy.
If poverty could procure heaven—how many poor people would then be saved; and if wealth could free a man from hell—how very few of the rich would be damned! The kingdom of Christ—is the kingdom of the cross. Those who attempt to take the cross from the Christian's shoulders, do, in effect, aim to remove the crown from his head.
"God causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good—and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." The sun of prosperity shines upon the dunghill—as well as upon beds of spices. The rain of adversity falls upon the fruitful garden—as well as the barren wilderness. The abundance of the infidel is a golden chain—to bind him to the earth; and the apparent miseries of the believer are as fiery chariots—to convey him to heaven!
"Now, those who do evil get rich, and those who dare God to punish them, go free of harm." Malachi 3:15. God's jewels may here be trodden under foot—but hereafter, they will be fixed in his royal diadem. If we look for a saint, he is not always to be found upon a bed of down—but sometimes he has been seen on a heap of dust. Poor Lazarus rises to heaven—and rich Dives sinks to hell.
Benjamin was not the less regarded by Joseph, because the silver cup was discovered in his sack. We must not infer the absence of God's affections—from the presence of numerous afflictions. Though the north wind may chill us—yet the warm beams of summer can soon revive us. Those stones which are designed for the building are frequently wounded by the chisel; while those which are neglected lie in ruinous heaps.
A saint is glorious in his misery—but a sinner is miserable amidst all his glory. We must not therefore think evil of religion, though we should behold a Joseph in the prison, while a Pharaoh is in a palace; or a Job on the ash-heap, while a Julian is on a throne. The most choice pearls are often enclosed in the most hideous shells. "Judge nothing according to appearance—but judge righteous judgment." Those who judge of a man's real greatness by his apparent grandeur, are unfit to sit upon the judicial bench. That apple which has the fairest skin—may have the rottenest core.
The tinsel glare upon a sinner, is too apt to blind the weak eyes of a saint. Alas, why should he envy him a little light—who is to be shrouded in everlasting darkness! Why should we throw bludgeons at those boughs—which are only laden with poisonous fruits! "Deliver my soul from the wicked—who have their portion in this life." Psalm 17:14. The things of the world are the only happiness of the men of the world. None of their flowers grow in paradise. They are anxious for the creature—and indifferent about the Creator.
A man's estate in this world may be great—and yet his state for the eternal world may be fearful. God may say to him as to Pharaoh, "For this purpose have I raised you up—that I might show my power upon you." The same hand which now pours abundance on ungodly men like oil—will soon pour down wrath upon them like fire. Under all their wealth—their hearts are sinful; and after all the riches are fled—their situation will be doleful! It is far better to pass through the Valley of Baca (Valley of Weeping), to Zion; than to pitch our tents in the plains of Sodom. Luther's expression was not the less true because it was homely: "The whole Turkish empire is but a crust—which God threw to the dogs." One said, "I would rather have Paul's plain coat, with his heavenly graces—than the purple robes of princes, with all their kingdoms."
Lest riches should be accounted evil in themselves, God sometimes gives them to the righteous; and lest they should be considered as the chief good, he frequently bestows them on the wicked. But they are more generally the portion of God's enemies—than his friends.
Alas, what is it to receive, and not to be received! Alas, what is it to have no other dews of blessing—than such as shall be followed with showers of brimstone! We may compass ourselves with sparks of security—and afterwards be secured in eternal misery! This world is a floating island, and so sure as we cast anchor upon it, we shall be carried away by it.
He can never lack treasure, who has such a golden mine as God! He is enough without the creature—but the creature is not anything without him. It is, therefore, better to enjoy him without anything else—than to enjoy everything else without him. It is better to be a wooden vessel filled with wine, than a golden vessel filled with water.
17. Another principle by which a Christian should walk is this: that it is safest to cleave to that good which is the choicest.There never was one who thought he had made a bad market—by selling all, for the Pearl of great price.
"Lord, to whom shall we go? for you have the words of eternal life." Peter knew that a soul who was truly changed—was not for changing. There cannot be a better being for us—than for us to be with the Lord; and shall those who have forsaken all to follow him—forsake him again to follow nothing?
Reader, you cannot tread in the steps of Christ—without drinking of the cup of Christ. The nearer you are to such a spring—the clearer will your streams be. When every other gourd is withered, he will prove a refreshing shelter. "How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you."
David was least alone—when he was most alone. His heart was like the needle in the compass, which always inclines to the northern pole. Believers are desirous of leaving their hearts with God now—that they may dwell with him forever. "Whom have I in heaven but you; and there is none upon earth that I desire besides you." Let a believer search heaven and earth—yet he can find nothing comparable to God! As Judah said of Jacob, "His life is bound up in the life of the lad;" so say I of the Christian—his life is bound up in God. To draw near to him in present holiness—is to be near to him in eternal happiness.
Many unstable professors may justly be reflected upon. They will readily attend an applauded Christ—but will hastily desert a crucified Christ. But a true Christian is as willing to follow him to the cross—as to the throne! He has no desire to turn like a shadow from him—in whom there is no shadow of turning.
As there is no natural good in us—to lead us to God; so there is no evil outside of us—which shall finally draw us from him. Who—but an idiot, would address a picture instead of a person; or prefer a shadow to a substance? There is nothing which can do us so much good as God's presence—or so much evil as his absence.
It is far better to part with a thousand worlds—for one Christ; than with one Christ—for a thousand worlds. How dreadful is their darkness—who live in the absence of such a sun! Reader, every step you take to Christ—is a step toward heaven; and every step you take from him—is a moral step towards hell.
"'One thing you lack. Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.' At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth." Mark 10:21-22. This poor rich man, or rather this rich poor man, came hastily to Jesus, and ran heavily from him. If he may not enjoy God and mammon—he will leave God for mammon. Jesus was for selling all—and the rich man was for saving all. Ah, what false balances are those which will make corruptible silver—outweigh an incorruptible Savior!
The 'prince of darkness' employs the men of the world to draw us from God—and the things of the world to keep us from God. Truly that good was never worth seeking—which is not worth keeping.
Reader, is it not a fault to depart from that God, in whom there is no fault? As Saul said to his servants, "Listen, men of Benjamin! Will the son of Jesse give all of you fields and vineyards? Will he make all of you commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds?" So say I to sinners: Can sin, Satan, or the world—do that for you which God can? It is only the best of beings—who can convey the best of blessings.
None but that God who has the keys of heaven—can open the gates of heaven. By him we obtain admittance, into the celestial inheritance. What is our life but a warfare; and what is the world but a thoroughfare? Know sinner, if you reject the Savior, you despise grace—which is the fairest jewel on earth; and glory—which is the brightest sun beyond this life.
No set of men are in greater danger of losing the life to come, than those who are contented with the present. A drop is more easily dried up—than a river; and a spark sooner extinguished—than a flame.
What powerful constraints does our God lay upon us to seek his friendship! "I will never leave you, nor ever forsake you." It would be better for us to leave all behind—than that he should leave us behind. It is not the brightest star that can constitute day when the sun is set; or the thickest cloud that can make a night if the sun is risen.
18. Another principle by which a Christian should walk, is this: that no present worldly business—should interrupt his pursuit of future blessedness.Solomon says, "All the labor of man is for his mouth." Though he says it is so—yet he does not say it should be so. This would encourage a Christian—to become a glutton.
That hawk which follows the world's prey—is in danger of falling into God's snare! Why should I lay out that time in seeking worthless pebbles, which may be better employed in search of priceless jewels? What God bestows on some men as a temporary pension, they embrace as their only portion. Such foolish travelers are so taken up with the inn—as to forget the end of their journey. They may indeed sow this seed—but it will produce nothing but wormwood.
Outward mercies are not so base as to be totally neglected; or so great as to be primarily desired. If they are seducements from the mercy-seat, they will prove to be indictments at the judgment-seat.
I may say of the earth, as one said of Athens, "It may serve for a transient lodging—but not for a constant dwelling." Outward plenty may be a comfortable ship for indigence to sail in; but it is a dangerous rock for confidence to build upon. Give some people the earth in their hands—and they care not who has heaven in his heart.
When Crates threw his gold into the sea, he cried out, "I will destroy you—lest you should destroy me!" Thus, if the world is not put to death here—it will put us to death hereafter. Then we shall say, as Cardinal Wolsey, when discarded by his prince, and abandoned to the fury of his enemies, "If I had served my God as faithfully as my king, he would not have thus forsaken me." Poor man, all the perfumes on earth—are unable to prevail over the stench of hell.
It would be well for Christians could they say, as one did, "I desire riches no more—than a feeble beast wishes for a heavy burden." Cares are bound to crowns. Anxiety disfigures the face of prosperity. A body laden with cares, and a soul laden with spiritual fruits—cannot well unite together. Those who die trifling with salvation, will, after death—tremble under the pains of damnation.
I have heard of a woman, who, being busied to save her goods, when her house was in flames—forgot her child! But the child being soon after inquired for, she cried out, "O my child, my child!" Thus will many thoughtless sinners in a worse fire cry out, "O our souls, our souls!" Poor Sisera was not much better for the milk and butter—when he so soon after felt the nail and the hammer!
Ah! how careful are men of their outward concerns—and how careless about their inward concerns! In a vigorous body—there is a wicked soul. The evil disposition of the soul—spoils the good composition of the body.
For a man to be attentive to his flesh—and inattentive to his spirit; what is this but as if a gardener should gather in his stubble—and leave his corn behind? Or as if a goldsmith should hoard his dross—and cast away his gold?
Reader, will you decorate your scabbard—and let the costly sword decay with rust? If there is nothing done in your soul on earth—there will be nothing done for it in heaven. It is truly lamentable that the soul, which received its being from God—should be excluded from a being with God.
19. Another principle that a believer should walk by is this: that gospel integrity towards God, is the best security against wicked men.Surly mastiffs which have no teeth may bark—but they cannot bite. Who would fear the hissing serpent—if he knew it had no sting? A naked man with innocence, is preferable to Goliath with his coat of armor.
"Who shall harm you—if you are followers of that which is good?" As no flattery can heal a bad conscience—so no cruelty can wound a good one. As the ways of God—have happiness connected with them; so sufferings for the sake of God—have honor annexed to them. A pious martyr has more renown, than a bloody persecutor.
Integrity may not keep us from infamy. The choicest professors have had their black marks in the world's calendars. But though integrity may not keep us from being shot at—yet it will preserve us from injury.
"With the Lord for me as my helper, I will look in triumph on those who hate me." God will either find a shield to ward off sufferings—or a hand to sustain us under them. Though the Christian is as a sheep among wolves—God can save him from being torn by them. Though the Christian is as a ship amidst waves—God can keep him from being overwhelmed by them.
Whether God plucks up the tares, or lets them stand, it is only for the sake of his people. Noah was sound in the faith—when all the earth was polluted; and he was saved in the ark—while it was deluged.
The shields of salvation—are not hung up in the way of transgression. All the wiles of hell—cannot conquer a single soldier in Christ's camp, much less rout his whole army. "The name of the Lord is a strong fortress; the godly run to him and are safe!" The name of the Lord is a strong fortress—both for sublimity and security. When Christ is our harbor—we may safely run our vessels into so desirable a haven.
"You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride; you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain." As God numbers the hairs of his people—he preserve their heads. He has a strong hedge of protection for them, when their enemies would break in upon them.
"But now, O Israel, the Lord who created you says: Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior!" Here is a dangerous voyage—but a safe convoy. God never deals with his friends—as we do with ours. We serve them too often as we do sun-dials; which we only look upon when the sun of prosperity shines; or as ladies do with flowers, who while they are fresh—place them in their bosoms; but when they fade—cast them away. But when our need is greatest—God's help is nearest. The more grievous is our oppression—the more glorious is our deliverance.
When our misery is most powerful—then the Lord's mercy is most visible. "As our tribulations abound—so our consolations much more abound."
When God's benignity is most admired—our calamity is more easily endured. Israel often slumbers and sleeps—but he who keeps Israel does neither. Thus we may boldly say, "If God is for us—who can be against us?" Against us they may be—to hate us; but against us they shall not be—to hurt us.
Noah rides safely in a well-pitched ark—while the old world is drowned. When Israel is led captive, Jeremiah is set at liberty. The prophet found more favor with the princes of Babel, than from the people of Israel. Gideon's fleece was wet—when the earth was dry. Thus will God always preserves integrity—and punishes vanity. His grain is often gathered into the garner, before he comes to burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire!
20. Lastly, a Christian will walk by this principle: that the richness of the crown—which shall be received; shall more than compensate for the bitterness of the cross—which may here be endured.
The last wine which Christ draws—is the best wine which Christians drink. When the waters cover the earth, where should the dove-like spirits fly—but to the ark of Christ? He who left heaven—to make them righteous; will come from heaven—to make them glorious!
"You joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions." O how did the glory of their heavenly mansions—outshine all the glare of their earthly possessions!
Christian, you are now on a troubled sea—do not say that you shall never arrive at your sure resting-place. What, has God plucked you out of the fire of destruction—and will he leave you in the water of affliction! In a small moment you will cheerfully sing: "The winter is past, and the rain is over and gone. The flowers are springing up, and the time of singing birds has come, even the cooing of turtledoves. The fig trees are budding, and the grapevines are in blossom. How delicious they smell! Yes, spring is here!" The blessed Sun of Righteousness will shine clearer, when these clouds are blown over. If there is so much delight in a single grape, what must there be in the whole cluster!
Take a believer while he lives—and God has a servant on earth; take him when he dies—and God has a servant in heaven. Christian, you must never look for an end to your sorrows—until you see an end to your sins! As your sorrows did not come a day before your sins—so they will not stay a day after your sins! "As many as I love—I rebuke and chasten." Well may you bear the rod, when infinite love makes it up—and lays it on. When you lie under God's afflicting hand—you then lie near his loving heart. Rake a dunghill—and its stench will be foul; but beat perfume, and its fragrance will be sweet.
I have read of a fountain that is cold at mid-day—and warm at midnight. Thus are saints frequently cold in the mid-day of prosperity—and warm in the midnight of adversity. Afflictions are not a consuming fire—but a refining fire to the godly. They are like the thorn at the nightingale's breast, which rouses and puts her upon her delightful notes.
"I reckon that the sufferings of this present life—are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." Our present sufferings fall as far short of glory—as the least filings of gold—fall short of all the riches of India. If the faint glimmerings of Christ's face, overpower the pains of of our afflictions; what must the full meridian of his glorious light do?
"For our light afflictions which are but for a moment—work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." Ah, how light is a grain of reproach, compared to a weight of glory; and how short a moment's pain, compared to an eternity of pleasure!
He should not be weary of the cross—who is sure of the crown. After the cup of affliction, then comes the cup of salvation. The wine-press prepares for the wine-cellar. The painful throes of travail—are soon forgotten in the fond embraces of a tender babe.
Sour fruits require something to sweeten them. Death is grateful to no creature—but it is profitable to every Christian. Our good Physician will not continue us a moment longer in his infirmary—than is necessary. Our Refiner regards his choice gold too much—to consume it in the flames.
Those who are patient in the seed time of sorrow, shall soon reap the glorious harvest of unfading joy! We may converse concerning our future greatness—but we shall never know the weight of the crown, until it be placed on our heads.
Come, O Christian, be of good comfort, though the cloth is cut—it is only to make it up into a splendid garment. The hewing of the timber—is only to prepare it for the structure. The new corn—which lives in summer; is produced from the old corn—which died in the winter. It is neither commendable to rush into the arms of death—contrary to the dictates of reason; or to fly from the arms of death—when God calls us to them.
Shall Jesus come down from heaven to die for you—and will you be unwilling to ascend from earth to heaven to live with him! A saint's retuctancy to meet death, arises from his apprehensions of unreadiness to meet him. A pardon may have passed the prince's seal—which is not put into the prisoner's hand. The edge of the sword of death—has been blunted ever since it was sheathed in Christ's side!
After the vessel has endured the storms—it will arrive at the haven. Though the Christian's triumphs never end—yet, blessed be God, his trials shall soon end. When his body and soul shall part asunder—then God and his soul shall meet together.
"Though you have lain among the pots—yet shall you be as the wings of a dove, covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold." Suppose the lancet makes a deep incision—it is only to reach the depth of your wound, and render the cure more complete. Health is most pleasant—after sharp sickness; and liberty is most pleasant—after the most rigorous bondage. Sailors most rejoice at the appearance of land—after a long and tedious voyage. All the grapes in Christ's vineyard—must pass through the wine-press.
However pleasant a sinner's beginning may be—his end is damnation! And however troublesome a saint's beginning may be—his end shall be salvation! The fresh rivers of carnal pleasures—run into the salt sea of eternal destruction. But the seed-time of a pious life—ends in the blessed harvest of eternal glory.
When Adrianus asked how the Christians could so patiently endure the tortures he had inflicted on them? They answered, "The love of Christ constrains us—and the love of heaven encourages us!" Those who are born blind cannot judge of the glories—which dazzle the eyes of angels. One smile from God's face—will forever dry up all the tears from the saint's eyes!
As fish dropping out of a narrow brook into the large ocean, do not loose—but enlarge their element; so when the godly leave this life, they do not forsake—but increase their blessedness. As the flames of a burnt-offering ascend to heaven—while its ashes fall to the ground; so the soul of a saint rises to glory—while his body falls into the dusty grave!