The Consistent Christian
William Secker, 1660
DIRECTIONS to Those Who Wish to Do More than Others
Having thus digested the twenty singular principles by which a believer walks; I come lastly, to give directions to those who wish to do more than others. And here I shall stud your golden ring with seven precious diamonds.
Would you therefore do more than others?
1. You must deny yourself more than others.
2. You must pray more than others.
3. You must resolve more than others.
4. You must love more than others.
5. You must believe more than others.
6. You must know more than others.
7. God must reveal himself more to you, than he does to others.
1.Would you DO more than others? Then DENY yourselves more than others.
Either self must be laid aside—or God will lay us aside. What can any true Israelite behold in this Dagon—that the Ark of God should bow before it?
Though self-seeking had its birth in heaven—yet, being justly cast out, it can never find its way there again. "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me." This is the very basis of our profession. Sinful self is to be destroyed—and natural self is to be denied.
A little will serve a man who is strong in grace; much will but serve him who is weak in grace; but nothing will do for him who is void of grace. As we are called to lay out all in the cause of God—so we are to lay down all at the call of God.
2.Would you do yourselves more than others? Then you should PRAY more than others.
Our daily bread—calls for our daily prayers; because one want is created while another is supplied. Are we called by the name of Christ—and shall we not call upon the name of Christ? Take away spiritual breath—and you take away spiritual life. There never was one new-born soul—who was still-born.
Who would not stretch out a beggar's hand—to receive a jewel of infinite value? With what boldness should those appear at court—who are sure of the king's ear!
Spiritual prayer resembles Noah's dove—which returned with an olive branch. Prayers were never rightly offered to God—but they were quickly answered. We are as much bound to pray while on earth, as angels are to praise while in heaven.
He who would speed in his enjoyment—should plead for the attainment. The prayerless soul—is a fruitless soul. The waters of life are sweet—and it is blessed to bring the vessels of prayer to these wells. Throw a dry sponge into the river—it will soon fill itself with water.
Many will cast off this duty, because they are ashamed to go to it with crutches—but these wants of accomplishment should not be a discouragement; for many dumb beggars have been relieved at Christ's gate—by making signs. "As He was praying, the appearance of His face changed, and His clothes became dazzling white." Christ had the bright sunshine of his Father's affection, when he was moving in the orbit of supplication.
Reader, is not that mercy worth your breath—which was worth a Savior's blood! Why should we cease petitioning, while God continues granting? "Lord, what will you give me—seeing I go childless?" Thus may you pray: "Lord, what will you give me—seeing I go comfortless?" Believing prayer is a trading for those commodities which are only locked up in heaven's storehouse. Why should we be dumb—seeing God is not deaf?
By fasting—the body learns to obey the soul; by praying—the soul learns to command the body.
No Christian has so little from Christ—but there is ground for praise; and no Christian has so much from Christ—but he has need of prayer. Every day we find it is a great work—to accomplish a little work. Every new act of obedience, requires fresh assistance.
"Ask, and receive—that your joy may be full." Spiritual supplication is the channel to consolation. Now none are more fruitful in divine labor—than those who are most joyful under a sense of the divine favor. Death shortens our way to heaven—but prayer sweetens our way to heaven.
A neglect to prune the flowers, does but increase the growth of the weeds. A small vessel with large gales—will sail faster than a large ship with small winds. I never expect that branch to bear any fruit—which receives no sap from the vine. When prayer mounts upon the wings of fervor to God—then answers come down like lightning from God.
The gift of prayer may have praise from men—but it is the grace of prayer which has power with God. A few grapes prove the plant to be a vine, and not a thorn. Though prayer is God's due as a Creator; yet it is more truly performed when offered to him as a Father.
Though none can pray aright but new creatures—yet all ought to pray because they are creatures.
Christians will never lack a praying time—if they possess a praying frame. In the morning, prayer is a golden key—to open the heart for God's service; and in the evening, prayer is an iron lock—to guard the heart against sin.
"Peter was kept in prison; but prayer was made without ceasing by the church unto God for him." These prayers fetched an angel out of heaven—to fetch Peter out of prison. Their prayer went up like fire, and brought down blessings like water. It is not always that hound which barks the loudest, which catches the hare; but that which follows closest in the chase.
Believers should not only pray one with another—but one for another. Next to the breach of piety in religion, we should abominate the breach of charity in communion.
Reader, when the vessel of your soul has given over sailing, we may conclude the divine winds have given over blowing. He who is omniscient—to know your needs; is also omnipotent—to grant your requests. Are you made a spiritual priest—and will you refuse to offer up spiritual sacrifices! Your affections should soar like an eagle, when your lips cannot move faster than a snail.
"Pray without ceasing." We may pray continually, though you be not continually at prayer. If the lesson is not always playing—yet the instrument must be kept in tune.
"And this is the confidence that we have in him—that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us." That soul shall have its will with God—who desires nothing but what God wills. They should never be dying petitioners—who have an ever-living intercessor. It matters not, how often you carry your empty pitcher—to so full a river!
The intercession of Christ is a golden censor, and can we desire him to offer up our drossy prayer for incense? It was an expression of Luther's: "Let my will be done—mine Lord, because it is yours." Because it fixed in the same center—he was bold to call for the fulfilling of it.
The covenant of grace without us—turns precepts into promises; but the spirit of grace within us—turns promises into prayers. "Take with you words and turn unto the Lord; say unto him, take away all our iniquity, and receive us graciously." Oh how willing is God that we should hit the mark—when he teaches us how to direct our arrows! What desires are there in him that we should prevail—when he shows us how we should wrestle! Spiritual breathings are more potent than carnal roaring. None but such desires as lack good aims—do lack good outcomes. Nothing will get up to heaven—but that which has first come down from heaven. That prayer meets with no answer—which is not offered up in faith. Deny not God faith in prayer—and God will not deny a faithful prayer.
3.Would you do yourselves more than others? You must RESOLVE more than others.
God looks more at our wills—than at our works. The firstfruits of conversion—hang upon the trees of holiness. "I will arise—and go to my Father!" Arrows weakly shot—fall short of the mark. Shame is that which sinful nature abhors—and danger is what timorous nature declines. Reformation is an icy path, and cowardly spirits love to have it well beaten by others, before they will venture to tread it.
"As for me and my house—we will serve the Lord!" Firm resolutions are like rocks—which the waves cannot move. By our prayers we show what we wish God to do for us; and by our purposes we manifest what we desire to do for God. By the illumination of the Holy Spirit, the heart conceives holiness; the will resolves on holiness; and the life produces holiness.
"I am determined to know nothing among you—except Jesus Christ, and him crucified!" Until we attain to strong resolutions, we shall not be conquerors of Satan's strong temptations. As diseases resort most
to that part of the body which is weakest—so the devil's attacks will be most frequent where he is likely to be most prevailing. The Law's curse is the motive of a servile spirit—but the love of God is the motive of a true Christian.
The resolutions of a Christian are like the water of a fountain—which flows by itself; but the resolutions of a sinner resemble the water of a pit—which must be forced up by artificial engines. Some never form resolutions—but under heavy afflictions; such are like goats, which never yield any milk—until they are stung; or like children under the rod—full of promises, but empty of performances.
The sinner's determinations are like ice—which thaws in the burning sun, but freezes again in the cold shade. What! shall we vow against our sins—and then sin against our vows? This is to take the wages from one master, and do the work for another master! This is to make our promises to God—and our performances to the devil!
Sacred vows bind us to obedience—and sinful vows to repentance. Reader, say not that you have noble blood running in your veins—except you can prove it by heroic actions.
4.Would you do yourselves more than others? You must LOVE more than others.
"The love of Christ constrains us." There is no sin so sweet—but the love of Christ restrains them from it; there is no service so great—but the love of Christ constrains them to it. If once this affection takes fire—the room becomes too hot for any sin to stay in. The heart becomes a chamber for Christ—but not a harbor for lust. "The mandrakes give forth their fragrance, and the rarest fruits are at our doors, the new as well as old, for I have stored them up for you, O my beloved." Love never shakes the boughs—but for Christ to eat the fruits.
Many pay the performance of duties, as oppressed subjects do heavy taxes—with sad complaints; but the spouse of Christ looks upon what she is—as not great enough for his remembrance; and what she does—as not good enough for his acceptance. Had she anything a thousand times better than herself, or were she herself a thousand times better—it would be bestowed upon him! What is that little which he desires, compares to that much which he deserves.
When Achilles was asked what enterprises he found most easy; he answered: "Those which I undertake for my friends." Seven years service seemed like nothing to Jacob, because of the love he bore to Rachel. Love, as it acts the most excellently, so it acts the most easily: "If you love me, keep my commandments." The crystal streams of divine actions—bubble from the pure spring of divine affection.
"Faith works by love." The Christian's love advances—by equal paces with the Christian's faith; as the heat of the day advances—with the shining of the sun. Faith like Mary sits at the feet of Christ to hear his sermons; and love like Martha, compasses him about with services. Faith is the great receiver—and love is the great disburser. We take in all by believing—and we lay out all by loving. Faith at first—works love; and then it works by love, as the workman sharpens an edge upon his tools, and then carves and cuts with them.
The scripture has exceeding high expressions of this affection. Christ brings the ten commandments, down into two commandments, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind; this is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it—you shall love your neighbor as yourself." Christ brings the ten words, down into two words—but Paul folds them all up in one word: "For the law is fulfilled in one word." What is that word? Surely it is too big for any mouth to utter: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." He who is not lacking in this duty—is lacking in no duty. Love is called "An old commandment, and a new commandment." It is as old as the law of Moses—and yet as new as the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Faith is the grace which first seals the title to heaven—and love is the grace that at last possesses the heavenly inheritance. Faith unites Christ and sanctified souls together on earth—but love that unites God and glorified souls together in heaven.
As the spleen grows—the body decays; and as hatred increases—so holiness abates. It is best that dissension should never be born among brethren—and next that it should die presently after its birth. When any leak springs in the ship of Christian society, we should use our endeavors to stop it speedily! The nearer the union is—the more dangerous is the breach. Things which are glued together may (if severed) be set together as beautiful as ever—but bodies rent and torn, cannot be healed without a scar.
The love in a hypocrite's bosom is just like the fire in the Israelite's bush, which was not burning all the while it was blazing; his estate and relations have the chief and strength of his affections; they admit the world not only into the suburbs of their senses—but into the city of their souls. But the love of a Savior in the soul of a believer, is as oil put into a vial with water, in which, though both be ever so much shaken together, the oil will be uppermost.
The expression of Absalom is also the language of God's people: "Now, therefore, let me see the king's face!" It is heaven on earth—for his children to see him; and it is heaven in heaven—for his children to dwell with him! Love does not put off the pursuit of duty—until it attain the possession of glory. There is no rocking this babe to sleep—but in the cradle of the grave. A soul who loves much—will work much. The injunctions of love are not grievous—but precious.
God is not so much displeased at our having sin—as at our loving sin. He is more pleased at our loving his service—than at our performing his service. None can serve God like a believer; because none can love him as a believer; for the obedience of the heart—is the heart of obedience.
5.Would you do more than others? Then it is necessary to BELIEVE more than others.
If there is life in the body—the pulse will beat; and if there is faith in the heart—it will work. "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?" James 2:14. An idle faith—is an evil faith; for the faith which works not—saves not.
Perceiving of Christ, bespeaks our knowledge—but receiving him, bespeaks our faith. "To as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to those who believe on his name." Faith not only looks upon Christ as a fountain—but it also lays pipes to convey the water into its own cistern. The window only radiates the room as a medium, by which the rays of light are let in. As faith can do nothing without Christ, so it will do nothing against Christ. A true faith resembles the spring in a watch, which moves all the golden wheels—but only as it is wound up.
"The father of the child cried out with tears: Lord, I believe; help my unbelief." Though his tears dropped to the earth—yet his faith reached up to heaven. Divine confidence can swim upon those seas—which feeble reason cannot fathom. Strong distrust—begets weak obedience. The cords of unbelief once tied the hands of Christ—but not so strongly but he could have broken them. Now if they bound this greater than Samson—what must they do to feeble Israelites?
It is as natural for a believing man to be a working man—as it is for the sun to shine, or the fire to burn. Other graces, like the common people of Israel, stand in the outward court; but faith, like the high-priest, enters within the veil. If Satan can undermine the foundation, the superstructure will soon totter and fall. The great Bernard said, "Infidels fear the devil as a lion—but those who are strong in the faith, despise him as a very little worm." As there is no grace which glorifies God so much as faith—so there is no grace which he magnifies so much as faith.
Martha and Mary both said, "Lord, if you had been here, our brother would not have died." What then, could not he have saved him while absent—as well as present? Could he not as easily have sent him health—as brought it? But does their unbelief stop here? No! "Lord, by this time there is a bad odor!" True—but their unbelief stank more in Christ's nostrils—than Lazarus' body did in theirs.
"Being strengthened in his faith, he gave glory to God." Skillful swimmers are not afraid to venture beyond their depth; while learners paddle along the river bank.
As faith receives the righteousness of Christ for justification, so it receives the holiness of Christ for sanctification. Faith is the hand, the mouth, and the eye of the child of God. It is the ring by which the soul is united to God, the chief good. "He who believes, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." When saints would advance to a high degree in other virtues, then they generally pray for an increase of faith. "Lord, increase our faith!" is no uncommon prayer.
What the root sucks from the earth—it soon disperses through the branches. Lusts may struggle like wounded soldiers on their stumps, and rally like broken troops; but they shall never be masters of that field where faith is fighting. As our lusts would not let Christ live without us—so Christ will not let them live within us. "Holding the mystery of the faith—in a pure conscience." If faith is a precious pearl, a good conscience is the cabinet that contains it. This heavenly manna of faith—must be laid up in a golden pot of a good conscience.
When faith comes out of the battle a glorious conqueror—then fear is foiled and taken prisoner. Faith is as able to keep us from falling into temptations, and from fainting under afflictions. A man in the exercise of faith, is like Joseph; the archers may hit him—but his bow shall abide in strength. He is a rich man—who lives upon his wealth; and he is a righteous man—who lives by faith. Christians are far from wrapping up the talent of faithfulness in the napkin of idleness.
Unbelief not only blinds the eyes to the purity of the law—but deafens the ears to the music of the gospel—and deadens the affections to the glories of heaven. Every appeal to an unbeliever is like a spark of fire falling into the water, which is no sooner in—than it is out.
6.Would you do yourselves more than others? Then you should KNOW more than others.
"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12. "I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins." Acts 26:17-18. "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light." Ephesians 5:8. "You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness." 1 Thessalonians 5:5. "God has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." 1 Peter 2:9.
Wisdom makes the face to shine." I may say of divine wisdom, as was said of a Grecian lady, that no man ever saw her—but he loved her. That Christian is most excellent, who is the most intelligent.
The papists cry up "ignorance" as the mother of devotion. But we cry down "ignorance" as the father of superstition. Satan binds all his captives down in the dark dungeon of ignorance! Like the cunning falconer, he blindfolds his birds—that he may carry them to hell more securely. The Father of Light takes no pleasure in the children of darkness. He is not accustomed to carry souls to heaven—as mariners do their passengers to their port, who shut them under the hatches, so that they cannot see where they are going. It is no wonder that Christ should be so much undesired, when he is so much unknown.
A person without understanding, is but the soul of a beast, imprisoned in the body of a man. "If you know these things, happy are you, if you do them." The will of God must be known on earth, as it is in heaven; before it can be done on earth as it is in heaven. Utter darkness is the recompense of inward darkness. None will ever be darkened by walking in the beams of the Sun of Righteousness. Where there is a veil upon the eye of knowledge—there will be a chain upon the hand of diligence. An ignorant man neither cares what he does—nor knows where he is going. When such a one is taken off the earth—he cannot be taken into heaven.
Wherever there is a trade carried on for heaven, the Spirit of God must first open the shop windows. "I must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; the night comes when no man can work." There is no doing the work of the day—but by the light of the day. Darkness is the devil's element—and the sinner's punishment. "He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves." Colossians 1:13. "My people perish—for lack of knowledge." Hosea 4:6. When the candle of the soul is extinguished, it must needs sit in darkness.
"Taking vengeance with flaming fire on those who don't know God!" 2 Thessalonians 1:8. The infidel's want of judgment—is a sin against which Christ will come to judgment. Ah, how do blinded men take that for devotion—which is only superstition! and that for a Bethel—which is no better than a Babel. To preserve the understanding as a Goshen from the darkness of Egypt—is the way to avoid the plagues of Egypt.
"I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins." Spiritual acts require spiritual eyes; and the clearer we see them—the better we perform them. He who desires to see the face of holiness in its native luster—must not set his carnal judgment to draw the picture!
7.Would you do yourselves more than others? Then you must have God reveal himself more to you—than he does to others.
Man does not first come to God—that he might be taught; but he is first taught—that he may come to God. "Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom." God gives—and then we know. When he opens our eyes—then we can see. When he loosens our tongues—then we can speak. When he says come forth—then we live. When he commands us to be of good comfort—then we can rejoice.
God is first in all the works of creation and providence. He is all in nature, all in grace, and all in glory. "Without me—you can do nothing."
Thus, if you would deny yourselves; pray; resolve; love; believe, or know more than others—it can only be by the gracious revelation of God to your heart. All the difference which exists between man and man, is only from the Lord Almighty; who is wonderful in counsel. You may cast the net on any side of the ship of piety—but God alone can enclose it with spiritual blessings. Only thus, may you be taught to acknowledge who he is, rest on what he does, and finally be with him where he is. And though your journey is attended with bitterness—yet he shall soon crown you with eternal blessedness!