Paradise Opened, or the
Secrets, Mysteries, and
Rarities of Divine Love, of Infinite Wisdom, and
of Wonderful Counsel—Laid Open to Public View
By Thomas Brooks, London, 1675.
THE EPISTLE DEDICATORY
To my honored friends, Sir John and Mary Moore. The Father of all mercies, and the God of all blessings, bless you with grace and peace here, and glory hereafter.
Christian friendship makes such a knot, that great Alexander cannot cut. It was well observed by Sir Francis Bacon, "That old wood is best to burn, and old books best to read, and old friends best to trust." It was a witty saying of the Duke of Buckingham, "Faithful friends," says he, "are in this age for the most part gone all in pilgrimage, and their return is uncertain." "They seem to take away the sun out of the world," said the heathen orator, who take away friendship from the life of men, and we do not more need fire and water than true friendship." In this epistle I shall endeavor so to acquit myself as becomes a real friend, a cordial friend, a faithful friend, and a soul-friend, as to your great and everlasting concernments, that it may go well with you forever and ever.
The points that are handled in this following treatise, and in the first part, are of as high, choice, necessary, noble, useful, and comfortable a nature, as any that can be treated by mortal man. The four things which God minds most and loves most are:
(1.) His honor.
(2.) His worship.
(3.) His people.
(4.) His truth.
Surely their souls must needs be of a very sad state, who can read the great truths that are here opened and applied, and not
(1.) dearly love them,
(2.) highly prize them,
(3.) cordially bless God for them,
(4.) seriously ponder and meditate upon them,
(5.) and not frequently and diligently study them, and make a gracious and daily improvement of them.
The covenant of grace, and the covenant of redemption, are a rich armory, out of which you may furnish yourselves with all sorts of spiritual weapons, wherewith you may encounter Satan's temptations, wiles, devices, methods, depths, stratagems. Nothing of Satan's can stand before the covenant of grace and the covenant of redemption, when well understood and well applied, Eph. 6:11; 2 Cor. 2:11; Rev. 2:24.
In the covenant of grace and the covenant of redemption that is passed between God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, [2 Sam. 23:5; Isaiah 54:9-10; Jer. 32:38-41; Zech. 9:11; Heb. 13:20.] you will find many rich and rare cordials, which have a strong tendency to preserve all gracious souls from desponding and fainting:
(1.) in times of affliction;
(2.) in times of temptation;
(3.) in times of desertion;
(4.) in times of suffering for Christ's sake and the gospel's sake;
(5.) in times of opposition;
(6.) and at the time of death and dissolution.
There are no comforts nor cordials which can reach the souls of Christians in their deep distresses, but such as flow from these two covenants. The more it concerns all such Christians to study these two covenants, and to be well acquainted with them, that so they may the more readily have recourse to such cordials as their present estate and condition calls for.
In these two covenants you will find much matter which has a strong tendency:
(1.) to inflame your love to God and Christ, and all in the covenant of grace;
(2.) to strengthen your faith;
(3.) to raise your hopes;
(4.) to cheer your souls;
(5.) to quiet and satisfy your consciences;
(6.) to engage you to a close and holy walking with God;
(7.) to provoke you to triumph in free grace, and in the Lord Jesus Christ;
(8.) to sit loose from this world.
[Psalm 116:1-9, 16, and Psalm 3; 2 Sam. 23:5; Psalm 103:17-18, and 111:5, 9, 17; 2 Cor. 2:14; Gal. 6:14.] The riches and treasures that are wrapped up in both these covenants are so great, so sure, so durable, and so suitable to all believers—as may well deaden their hearts to all the riches and glories of this lower world, Rev. 12:1.
In these two covenants every sincere Christian will find:
(1.) a special salve for every spiritual sore;
(2.) a special remedy against every spiritual malady;
(3.) a special plaster against every spiritual wound;
(4.) a spiritual storehouse to supply all their spiritual needs;
(5.) a spiritual shelter under every spiritual storm.
(6.) food to nourish you;
(7.) a staff to support you;
(8.) a guide to lead you;
(9.) a fire to warm you;
(10.) springs of life to cheer and refresh you.
In this covenant of grace and the covenant of redemption, you may clearly see the wisdom, counsel, love, and transactions between the Father and the Son sparkling and shining; there being nothing under heaven which contributes more to the peace, comfort, assurance, settlement, and satisfaction of sincere Christians, than such a sight. [It was the saying of an eminent saint, on his deathbed, that he had much peace and quietness, not so much from a greater measure of grace than other Christians had, or from any immediate witness of the Spirit; but because he had a more clear understanding of the covenant of grace than many others, having studied it and preached it so many years as he had done.
The main reason why so many gracious souls are so full of fears, doubts, darkness, and disputes about their internal and eternal estates, is because they have no more clear and full understanding of these two covenants; and if such Christians would but more seriously buckle down to the study of those two covenants, as they are opened and applied in the following treatise, their fears and doubts, etc., would quickly vanish. They would have their triumphant songs; their mourning would soon be turned into rejoicing; and their complaints into hallelujahs. Neither do I know anything in all this world that would contribute more to seriousness, spiritualness, heavenliness, humbleness, holiness, and fruitfulness, than a right understanding of these two covenants, and a divine improvement of them. There are many choice Christians who have always either tears in their eyes, complaints in their mouths, or sighs in their breasts; and oh that these, above all others, would make these two covenants their daily companions! Let these few hints suffice concerning the following treatise.
Now, Sir John, I shall crave permission to put you a little in mind of your deceased and glorified father. "He is a true friend," says the Smyrnean poet of old, "who continues the memory of his deceased friend." When a friend of Austin's died, he professed he was put into a great strait, whether he himself should be willing to live or willing to die: he was unwilling to live, because one half of himself was dead; yet he was not willing to die, because his friend did partly live in him, though he was dead. Let you and I make the application as we see cause. Your glorified father's name and memory remains to this day as fresh and fragrant as the Rose of Sharon among all those who fear the Lord, and had the happiness of inward acquaintance with him. "The memory of the just is blessed, but the name of the wicked shall rot," Proverbs 10:7. In the original it is, "The memory of the just shall be for a blessing;" the very remembering of them shall bring a blessing to such as do remember them. The moralists say of fame, or of a man's good name—"Whatever commodity you lose, be sure yet to preserve that jewel of a good name." [Heb. 11:13, 39.] This jewel, among others, your honored father carried with him to the grave—yes, to heaven.
There is nothing which raises a man's name and fame in the world like holiness. The seven deacons which the church chose, were "holy men," Acts 6:5; and they were men of "good report," ver. 3. They were men well witnessed unto, well testified of, as the Greek word imports. [The Persians seldom write their king's name but in characters of gold. Throughout the Old and New Testaments God has written the names of just men in golden letters, as I may speak.] Cornelius was a "holy man," Acts 10:1-4; and he was a man of "good report" among all the nation of the Jews, ver. 22. Ananias was a "holy man," Acts 9:10, 20; and he was a man of a "good report," Acts 22:12. Caius and Demetrius were both "holy men," and of a "good report;" witness that Third Epistle of John. The patriarchs and prophets were "holy men," and they were men of a "good report," Heb. 11:1-2, "For by it the elders obtained a good report;" their holiness did eternalize their names. The apostles were "holy men," 1 Thes. 2:10; and they were men of "good report," 2 Cor. 6:8.
Now certainly it is none of the least of mercies to be well reputed and reported of. Next to a good God and a good conscience—a good report, a good name—is the noblest blessing. It is no great matter, if a man is great and rich in the world, to obtain a great report; but without holiness you can never obtain a good report. Holiness, uprightness, righteousness, will embalm your names; it will make them immortal. Psalm 112:6, "The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance." Wicked men many times outlive their names, but the names of the righteous outlive them. Holy Abel has been dead above five thousand years, and yet his name is as fresh and fragrant as it was the first day he was made a martyr, 1 John 3:12. When a sincere Christian dies, he leaves his name as a sweet and as a lasting scent behind him; his fame shall live when he is dead. This is verified in your precious father, who is now "asleep in Jesus," 1 Thes. 4:14.
Now you both very well know that there was no Christian friend who had so great a room in his heart, in his affections, as I had; and you can easily guess at the reasons of it. Neither can you forget how frequently, both in his health, sickness, and before his death, he would be pressing of me to be a soul-friend to you, and to improve all the interest I had in heaven for your internal and eternal good, that he might meet you both in that heavenly world, Mat. 25:33, and that you might both be found with him at the right hand of Christ in the great day of the Lord. I know that your glorified father, while he was on earth, did lay up many a prayer for you in heaven. My desire and prayer is, that those prayers of his may return in mighty power upon both of your hearts; and having a fair opportunity now before me, I shall endeavor to improve it for the everlasting advantage of both your souls. Therefore let my following counsel be not only accepted, but carefully, faithfully, and diligently followed by you, that so you may be happy here and blessed hereafter.
1.The first word of counsel is this: Let it be the principal care of both of you, to look after the welfare of your precious and immortal souls. If your souls are safe, all is safe; if they are well, all is well. But if they are lost, all is lost, and you lost and undone in both worlds. [Mat. 16:26. "The soul is a greater miracle in man than all the miracles wrought among men," says Augustine.] Christ, who only paid the price of souls, has told us that one soul is more worth than all the world. Chrysostom well observes, "that whereas God has given us many other things double—namely, two eyes to see with, two ears to hear with, two hands to work with, and two feet to walk with, to the intent that the failing of the one might be supplied with the other—he has given us but one soul. If that is lost, have you, another soul to give in recompense for it?"
Ah, friends! Christ left his Father's bosom and all the glory of heaven, for the good of souls. He assumed the nature of men for the happiness of the soul of man. He trod the wine-press of his Father's wrath for souls. He prayed for souls. He paid for souls. He bled out his heart-blood for souls. [Isa 63:3; John 17; Luke 23:34; Mat. 26:28.] The soul is the breath of God, the beauty of man, the wonder of angels, and the envy of devils! It is of an angelical nature; it is a heavenly spark, a celestial plant, and of a divine offspring, 1 Pet. 5:8.
Again, weigh well "the incomparable price" which Christ paid for the redemption of the soul, 1 Pet. 1:18-19. What are the riches of the East or West Indies, the spoil of the richest nations, mountains of diamonds and gold, compared to the price that Christ laid down for souls! John 1:4, 12, and Heb. 22:23. The soul is a spiritual substance, capable of the knowledge of God, of union with God, of communion with God, and of an eternal fruition of God. There is nothing which can suit the soul below God, nor anything which can satisfy the soul without God, nor anything which can save the soul but God. The soul is so choice, so high, and so noble a piece—that it divinely scorns all the world in point of acceptance, justification, satisfaction, enjoyment, and salvation.
Christ made himself an offering for sin—that souls might not be undone by sin. The Lord died—that slaves might live. The Son died—that servants might live. The natural Son died—that adopted sons might live. The only-begotten Son died—that bastards might live. Yes, the judge died—that malefactors might live! Heb. 9:11-14, and 10:10,14; Gal. 4:4-6; Heb. 2:8. Ah, friends! as there was never sorrow like Christ's sorrow, so there was never love like Christ's love, and of all his love, there is none compared to his love for souls, Isaiah 53:3, and Gal. 2:20. To say much in a little space, the spiritual enemies which daily war against the soul, the glorious angels which hourly guard the soul, and the precious ordinances which God has appointed as means both to convert and nourish the soul, show forth that love. Eph. 6:11-12; 1 Pet. 2:11; Romans 10:17; 1 Cor. 11:23-27. The soul is capable of "a crown of life," Rev. 2:10; of "a crown of glory," 1 Pet. 5:4; of "a crown of righteousness," 2 Tim. 4:8; of "an incorruptible crown," 1 Cor. 9:25.
Earthly crowns have so many cares, fears, vexations, and dangers which daily attend them, that oftentimes they make the heads and hearts of monarchs ache, which made Cyrus say, "You look upon my crown and my purple robes, but did you but know how they were lined with thorns, you would not stoop to take them up!" [Proverbs 27:4, "Does the crown endure to all generations?"] But the crowns which immortal souls are capable of, are crowns without crosses; they are not attended with care of keeping or fear of losing; there are no evil persons nor evil spirits who haunt those crowns. Darius, that great monarch, fleeing from his enemies, he threw away the crown of gold from his head that he might run the faster; but a sincere Christian is in no danger of losing his crown, 2 Tim. 4:8. His crown is laid up in a safe hand, in an omnipotent hand, 1 Pet. 1:5. Now what do all these things speak out, but the preciousness and excellency of the soul?
Once more, the excellency of the body, intimates a more than ordinary excellency of this jewel. The body is of all materials the most excellent. How does David admire the rare texture and workmanship of his body! "I am fearfully and wonderfully made. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb." Psalm 139:14-15. When workmen have some choice piece in hand, they perfect it in private, and then bring it forth to the light for men to gaze at. So here, the greatest miracle in the world is man, in whose very body—how much more in his soul!—are miracles enough to fill a volume.
Austin complains that men much wonder at the high mountains of the earth, the huge waves of the sea, the deep waterfalls of rivers, the vastness of the ocean, and at the motions of the stars, etc., but they wonder not at all at their wonderful selves. Galen, a profane physician and a great atheist, writing of the excellent parts of man's body, he could not choose but sing an hymn to that God, whoever he was, who was the author of so excellent and admirable a piece of work; he could not but cry out, "Now I adore the God of nature." Now if the cabinet (the body) is so marvelously wrought, how much more is the jewel (the soul) which is contained in it! Oh, how richly and gloriously is the soul embroidered! How divinely inlaid and enameled is the soul!
Princes impress their images or effigies upon the choicest metals, namely, gold and silver. God has engraved his own image with his own hand upon angels and men, Gen. 1:26. The soul is the glory of the creation, a beam of God, a spark of celestial brightness, a vessel of honor, a bird of paradise, a habitation for God. The soul is spiritual in its essence; God breathed it in; God has invested it with many noble endowments; he has made it a mirror of beauty, and printed upon it a surpassing excellency. The soul is spiritual in its object; it contemplates God and heaven. God is the orb and center where the soul does fix. [Gen. 2:7; Heb. 12:9; Eccles. 12:7; Zech. 12:1; P. 116:7; John 14:8; Psalm 17:16.] God is the terminus of the soul—the soul moves to him as to his rest, "Return to your rest, O my soul." This dove can find no rest but in this heavenly ark. ["Lord," says Austin, "you have made us for yourself, and our heart is unquiet until it comes unto yourself!"]
Nothing can fill the soul but God, nothing can quiet the soul but God, nothing can satisfy the soul but God, nothing can secure the soul but God, nothing can save the soul but God. The soul being spiritual, God only can be the adequate object of it. The soul is spiritual in its operations. It being immaterial, does not depend upon the body in its working. The rich and rare endowments, and the noble operations of the soul, speak out the excellency of the soul. "The soul," says Aristotle, "has a nature distinct from the body; it moves and operates of itself, though the body be dead, and has no dependence upon, or co-existence with, the body." The soul has an intrinsic principle of life and motion, though it be separate from the body. And does not the immortality of the soul speak out the excellency of the soul? [Luke 23:43; 1 Thes. 4:17-18; Phil. 1:23; Acts 7:59.]
Luke 12:4, "Fear not those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do." Therefore the soul, not being capable of being killed, is not in a possibility of dying. The essence of the soul is spiritual. It has a beginning, but no end; it runs parallel with eternity. The soul does not wax old; it lives forever, which we cannot affirm of any sublunary created glory. To conclude this first word of counsel, what Job says of wisdom, I may fitly apply to the soul, "Man knows not the price thereof; it cannot be valued with the gold of Ophir, with the precious onyx, or the sapphire, the gold and crystal cannot equal it, and the exchange of it shall not be for jewels of fine gold," Job 28:13, 16-17. O my friends, it is the greatest wisdom, policy, equity, and justice, to provide for your precious souls, to secure your precious souls; for they are jewels of more worth than ten thousand worlds. All the honors, riches, greatness, and glory of this world are but chips, toys, and pebbles, compared to these glorious pearls. But,
2.The second word of counsel is this, as you would be safe here, and saved in the great day of the Lord, as you would be happy here, and blessed hereafter, be taken up with nothing below a gracious acquaintance with Christ, a choice acceptance of Christ, a holy reliance upon Christ, a full resignation of yourselves to Christ, and a real and glorious union with Christ. Acts 2:20; Job 22:21; 1 Tim. 1:15; Job 13:15; 2 Cor. 2:11. If you do, you are lost and undone in both worlds!
[1.] First, Some rely on a name to live, when they are dead,Rev. 3:1, dead in trespasses and sins, Eph. 2:1, dead God-wards, and dead Christ-wards, and dead heaven-wards, and dead holiness-wards. The the worst men, often get the best names. The Alcoran of the Turks has its name from brightness; but it is full of darkness, and fraught with falsehoods. It will be but a poor comfort to any, for the world to commend them as gracious, if God condemns them as graceless; for the world to commend them as pious, if God condemns them as impious; for the world to commend them as sincere, if God condemns them as hypocrites. But,
[2.] Secondly, Some rely on a 'form of godliness' when they are strangers to the 'power of godliness'.2 Tim. 3:5; when they deny, yes, when they oppose and persecute, the godly. Such monsters this age has abounded with; but their seeming goodness is but a religious cheat, Acts 13:45, 50.
[3.] Thirdly, There are some who rely on their religious duties and services; in their praying, fasting, prophesying, hearing, receiving. They make a God, a Christ, a Savior of their own duties and services! This was the undoing and damning sin of the Scribes and Pharisees, and is the undoing and damning sin of many thousands in our days, Mat. 7:22; Luke 18:12, 13:26, and 16:15; Ezek. 33:31-32.
[4.] Fourthly, There are many who rely on their common gifts and abilities; in a gift of knowledge, and in a gift of teaching, and in a gift of utterance, and in a gift of memory, and in a gift of prayer; and this proves ruinous and destructive to them, Mat. 7:22; Romans 2:17-24; 1 Cor. 12.; Heb. 6:4-5.
[5.] Fifthly, There are many who rely on their riches, prosperity, and worldly grandeur and glory.Proverbs 18:11, "The rich man's wealth is his strong city." "Don't weary yourself trying to get rich. Why waste your time? For riches can disappear as though they had the wings of a bird!" Proverbs 23:4-5. It is hard to have wealth, and not trust to it, Mat. 19:24. Wealth was never true to those who have trusted it. There is an utter uncertainty in riches, 1 Tim. 6:17; an impotency to help in an evil day, Zeph. 1:18; an impossibility to stretch to eternity, unless it be to destroy the owner forever, [Rich men's wealth proves an hindrance to their happiness, Eccles. 5:13; James 5:1-2.] Proverbs 10:15; Psalm 73:19; Mat. 20:26. There is nothing more clear in Scripture and history, than that riches, prosperity, and worldly glory—have been commonly their portion who never have had a God for their portion, Luke 16:25. It was an excellent saying of Lewis, emperor of Germany: "Such goods are worth getting and owning—which will not sink or wash away if a shipwreck happens." [Riches are called thick clay, Hab. 2:6, which will sooner break the back, than lighten the heart.] "Only the wise man is the rich man," says the philosopher. Augustine says, "that earthly riches are full of poverty, they cannot enrich the soul; for oftentimes under silken apparel there is a threadbare soul."
He who is rich in conscience, sleeps more soundly than he who is richly clothed in purple.
"No man is rich, who cannot carry into eternity, that which he has. That which we must leave behind us, is not ours—but belongs to someone else." [Ambrose]
"The shortest way to true riches is by their contempt. It is great riches not to desire riches. He has most—who covets least." [Seneca.]
When one was commending the riches and wealth of merchants; the poor man replied, "I do not love that wealth which hangs upon ropes; for if they break, the ship miscarries, and then where is the merchant's riches?"
"If I had an enemy, whom it was lawful to wish evil unto, I would chiefly wish him great store of riches, for then he should never enjoy peace and quiet." [Latimer.]
The historian Tacitus observes, that the riches of Cyprus invited the Romans to hazard many dangerous fights for the conquering of it.
"Earthly riches," says Augustine, "are an evil master, a treacherous servant, fathers of flattery, sons of grief, a cause of fear to those that have them, and a cause of sorrow to those who lack them."
I have read a famous story of Zelimus, emperor of Constantinople, who after he had captured Egypt, he found a great deal of treasure there; and the soldiers coming to him, and asked him what they should do with the rich citizens of Egypt. "Oh," says the emperor, "hang them all—for they are too rich to be made slaves!" This was all the thanks they had for the riches they were robbed of. What more contemptible than a rich fool, a golden beast? Not but that some are great and gracious, rich and righteous, as Abraham, Lot, Job, David, Hezekiah, etc.
By these short hints you may see the folly and vanity of those men who trust in their riches. But,
[6.] Sixthly, Many rely on their own righteousness, which at best is but as filthy rags, Isaiah 64:6. This was the damning sin of the Jews, and of the scribes and Pharisees; and is the undoing sin of many of the professors of this age, Romans 10:2-3; Mat. 5:20.
[7.] Seventhly, Many rely on their external church privileges, crying out, "The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!" Jer. 7:4, 8-11, when they have no union nor communion with the Lord of the temple. These forget that there will come a day, when the "children of the kingdom shall be cast out," Mat. 8:12. It would be very good for such people to make these five scriptures their daily companions, Mat. 22:10, 12-14; Luke 13:25-28; Romans 2:28-29; Gal. 6:15; Jer. 9:25- 26. They should never dare to rely on their outward church privileges, which can neither secure them from hell, nor secure them of heaven. But,
[8.] Eighthly, Many who rely on common convictions.
Judas had mighty convictions of his sin, but they ended in desperation, Mat. 27:4-5.
Balaam was mightily enlightened and convinced, in as much that he desired to die the death of the righteous; but under all his convictions he died Christless and graceless, Num. 23 and 24.
Nebuchadnezzar had great convictions, Dan. 4:31-32, yet we do not read that ever he was converted before he was driven from the society of men, to be a companion with the beasts of the field, Dan. 4:31-32. He had strong convictions, (1.) by Daniel's interpreting of his dream, Dan. 2:47. (2.) He told Daniel, that "his God was the God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets;" and yet presently he fell into gross idolatry, Dan. 3, and strictly commanded to worship the golden image that he had set up; and as if he had lost all his former convictions. He was so swelled up with pride and impudence, as to say to the three Hebrew children, when they divinely scorned to worship the image he had set up, "What God is there that can deliver you out of my hand?" ver. 15.
Saul had great convictions, "I have sinned! Return, my son David, I will no more do you harm," etc. "And Saul lifted up his voice and wept; and he said unto David, You are more righteous than I, for you have rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded you evil," 1 Sam. 26:21, 25, and 24:16-19. But these convictions issued in no saving change, for after these he lived and died in the height of his sins.
Pharaoh had great convictions: "And Pharaoh sent, and called for Moses and Aaron, and said unto them—I have sinned this time: the Lord is righteous, and I and my people are wicked." And again, "Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron in haste; and he said—I have sinned against the Lord your God, and against you," Exod. 9:27, and 10:16. But these convictions issued in no reformation, in no sound conversion, and therefore drowning and damning followed.
Cain was under convictions, but went and built a city, and lost his convictions in a crowd of worldly business, Gen. 4.
Herod and Felix were under convictions, but they went off, and never issued in any saving work upon their souls, Mark 6:20; Acts 24:25.
Oh, how many men and women have fallen under such deep convictions, that they have day and night cried out of their sins, and of their lost and undone estates, and that they would certainly go to hell and be damned forever, so that many good people have hoped that these were the pangs of the new birth; and yet either merry company, or carnal pleasures and delights, or much worldly business, or else length of time—have wrought off all their convictions, and they have grown more profane and wicked than ever they were before. As water heated, if taken off the fire, will soon return to its natural coldness, yes, becomes colder after heating than before, (says Aristotle,) this has been the case of many under convictions. I shall forbear giving of particular instances. But,
[9.] Ninthly, Many rely on an outward change and reformation; they have left some old courses and sinful practices which formerly they walked in, etc., and therefore they conclude and hope that their condition is good, and that all is well, and shall be forever well with them. They were accustomed to swear, whore, be drunk, profane Sabbaths, reproach saints, etc.; but now they have left all these practices, and therefore they assume that the main work is done, and they shall be saved forever.
I confess that sin is that abominable thing which God hates, Jer. 44:4, and therefore it is a very great mercy to turn from it. To leave one sin is a greater mercy than to win the whole world, Mat. 16:26; and it is certain that he who does not outwardly reform, shall never go to heaven, Job 22:23, 26. He who does not leave his sins, he can never be happy here nor blessed hereafter. And yet it is possible for a man, with Herod, to reform many things, and yet be a lost and undone man forever, as he was, Mark 6:20. Judas was a very reformed man, but he was never inwardly changed nor throughout sanctified, Mat. 26:20-22; 1 Thes. 5:23. The scribes and Pharisees were outwardly reformed, but they were not inwardly renewed. A man may be another man than what once he was, and yet not be a new man, a new creature.
When a sinner is sermon-sick, oh, then he will leave his sins; but when that sickness is off, he returns with the dog to his vomit, and with the sow to her wallowing in the mire, 2 Cor. 5:17; 2 Pet. 2:20, 22. Sometimes conscience is like the handwriting upon the wall, Dan. 5:5-8: it makes the sinner's countenance to change, and his thoughts to be troubled, and the joints of his loins to be loosed, and his knees to knock one against another. And now the sinner is all for reforming, and turning over a new leaf; but when these agonies of conscience are over, the sinner returns to his old courses again, and oftentimes is twofold more a child of hell than before, Mat. 23:15.
There was a man in this city who was given up to the highest wickednesses; on his sick-bed conscience made an arrest of him, and he was filled with such amazing horror and terror, that he cried out day and night that he was damned, he was damned, he was damned; and when he had some small intervals, oh, what large promises did he make! what a new man, a reformed man, he would be! but when in time his terrors and sickness wrought off, he was sevenfold worse than before. Sometimes the awakened sinner parts with some sins to make room for others, and sometimes the sinner seems to give a bill of divorce to this sin and that; but it is only because his bodily strength fails him, or because he lacks an opportunity, or because there is a more strict eye and watch upon him, or because the sword of the magistrate is more sharpened against him, or because he lacks fuel, James 4:3; he has not the money to afford it; or because some company, or some relations, or some friends lie between him and his sins, so that he must either tread over them, or else keep from his sins; or because he has deeply smarted for this sin—perhaps his name has been blotted, his credit and reputation stained, his trade decayed, his health impaired, his body wasted, etc., Proverbs 6:32-35. By these short hints it is evident that men may attain to some outward reformation, whose states and hearts were never changed, and who were never taken into marriage union with Christ. But,
[10.] Tenthly and lastly, Many rely on their particular church party.As of old some cried up Paul as the only deep preacher, and others cried up Apollos as the only eloquent preacher, and many cried up Cephas as the most zealous preacher, 1 Cor. 1:10-13. "We are for the Church of England," say some. "We are for the Baptist way," say others. "We are for the Presbyterian government," cry some. "We are for the Congregational way," cry others. I have so much charity, as to judge that some of all these different parties and persuasions are really holy and will be eternally happy, are gracious and will be glorious, are sanctified and will be saved, are now governed by Christ and will be hereafter glorified with Christ.
Judas was one of Christ's party, if I may so speak, and yet he had no part nor portion in Christ, Mat. 26:20-26. Demas was one of Paul's party, and yet he played the apostate, and turned an idolatrous priest at Thessalonica, as Dorotheus says, 2 Tim. 4:10. And Phygellus and Hermogenes were of Paul's party, but were only famous for their relapse and apostasy, 2 Tim. 1:15. Hymeneus and Alexander were of Paul's party, but they made shipwreck of faith and a good conscience, 1 Tim. 1:19-20. The five foolish virgins were in society with the wise, and were accounted as members of their association, and yet the door of heaven was shut against them, Mat. 25:1-2, 12. Many light, slight, and vain people went with the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt, even a mixed multitude that embarked in the same journey with them, and yet never arrived at the land of promise, Exod. 12:38; Num. 11:4.
O my friends, it is not a man's being of this party or that, this church or that, this way or that, this society or that—which will bring him to heaven, without a spiritual union and communion with Christ, 1 Pet. 1:4; Heb. 1:2. He who would enjoy the heavenly inheritance must be espoused to Christ, the heir of all things: "For he who has the Son has life, and he who has not the Son has not life," 1 John 5:12. This marriage-union between Christ and the soul is set forth to the life, throughout the book of Solomon's Song, Cant. 2:16. Though the marriage-union between Christ and the soul is imperceptible to the eye of reason, yet it is real, 1 Cor. 6:17. Things in nature often work insensibly, yet really. We do not see the hand move on the dial, yet it moves. The sun exhales and draws up the vapors of the earth insensibly, yet really, Eccles. 11:6. Now this marriage-union between Christ and the soul includes and takes in these following particulars—
First, This marriage-union between Christ and the soul, includes the soul's giving a present bill of divorce to all other lovers—sin, the world, and Satan.[Consult these scriptures: Hosea 14:8; Isaiah 2:20, and 30:22; Psalm 45:10; Exod.12:33; Isaiah 59:20.] Are you seriously and sincerely willing forever to renounce these, and be divorced from these? There is no mixing between Christ and them. Sin and your souls must part—or Christ and your souls can never meet! Sin and your souls must be two—or Christ and your souls can never be one! You must in good earnest fall out with sins—or else you can never in good earnest fall in with a Savior! The heart must be separated from all other lovers—before Christ will take the soul into his bed of loves. Christ takes none into marriage-union with himself, but such as are cordially willing that all old former leagues with sin and the world shall be forever broken and dissolved. Your cordial willingness to part with sin—is your parting with sin in divine account.
You may as soon bring east and west together, light and darkness together, heaven and hell together—as bring Christ to espouse himself to such a soul, as has no mind, no will, no heart to be divorced from his former lovers. It is a foolish thing for any to think of keeping both Christ and their lusts too. It is a vain thing for any to think of saving the life of his sins, and the life of his soul too. If sin escapes, your soul cannot escape! If you are not the death of your sins, they will be the death and ruin of your soul! Marriage is a knot or tie, wherein people are mutually limited and bound each to other, in a way of marital separation from all others; and this in Scripture is called a covenant, Proverbs 2:7. So when anyone marries Christ, he does therein discharge himself in affection and subjection from all that is contrary unto Christ, and solemnly covenants and binds himself to Christ alone; he will have no Savior and no Lord but Christ, and to him will he cleave forever! Psalm 63:8; Acts 11:23. But,
Secondly, This marriage-union with Christ includes a hearty willingness, to take, to receive the Lord Jesus Christ for your Savior and sovereign.[John 1:12; Acts 5:31; Col. 2:6: weigh well these scriptures: Psalm 112:3, and 25:5; Hosea 2:7.] Are you willing to consent to the match? It is not enough that Christ is willing to enter into a marriage-union with us—but we must be willing also to enter into a marriage-union with him. [Many can choose Christ as a refuge to hide them from danger, and as a friend to help them in their need—who yet refuse him as a husband.] God will never force a Christ, nor force salvation upon us, whether we will or not. Many approve of Christ, and cry up Christ, who yet are not willing to give their consent, that he, and he alone shall be their Prince and Savior. Though the knowledge of the other person is necessary and fit; yet it is not sufficient to marriage, without consent; for marriage ought to be a voluntary transaction of persons. In marriage we do in a sort give away ourselves, and elect and make choice for ourselves, and therefore consent is a necessary concurrence to marriage.
Now this consent is nothing else but a free and plain act of the will, accepting of Jesus Christ before all others to be its head and Lord, and in the soul's choice of him to be its Savior and sovereign. Then a man is married to Christ—when he does freely and absolutely and presently receive the Lord Jesus. Not, "I would have Christ if it did not prejudice my worldly estate, ease, friends, relations, etc." Nor is it, "Hereafter, I will accept of him when I come to die, and am in distress." But it is, "Now when salvation is offered, now while Christ offers himself, I now yield up my heart and life unto him." But,
Thirdly, This marriage-union with Christ includes a universal and perpetual consent for all time, and in all states and conditions.There is, you know, a great difference between a wife and a strumpet; a wife takes her husband upon all terms, to have and to hold, for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health; whereas a strumpet is only for hire and lust. When the purse is emptied, or the body wasted and strength consumed, the harlot's love is at an end. Just so here. That acceptance and consent which ties the marriage-knot between Christ and the soul, must be an unlimited and universal acceptance and consent, when we take the Lord Jesus Christ wholly and entirely, without any secret reservations or exceptions. That soul that will have Christ—must have all Christ or no Christ, "for Christ is not divided," 1 Cor. 1:13. That soul must entertain him to all purposes and intents, he must follow the Lamb wherever he goes, Rev. 14:4, though it should be through fire and water, over mountains and hills. He must take him with his cup of affliction—as well as his cup of consolation, Psalm 66:12; with his shameful cross—as well as his glorious crown; with his great sufferings—as well as his great salvation, Heb. 2:3; with his grace—as well as his mercy; with his Spirit to lead and govern them—as well as his blood to redeem and justify them; to suffer for him—as well as to reign with him; to die for him—as well as to live to him, 2 Tim. 2:12; Acts 21:13; Romans 14:7-8.
Christianity, like the wind acacias, does ever draw clouds and afflictions after it. "All who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution," 2 Tim. 3:12. A man may have many faint wishes and cold desires after godliness, and yet escape persecution; yes, he may make some tries and attempts, as if he would be godly, and yet escape persecution. But when a man is thoroughly resolved to be godly, and sets himself in good earnest upon pursuing after holiness, and living a life of godliness—then he must expect to meet with afflictions and persecutions. Whoever escapes, the godly man shall not escape persecution in one kind or another, in one degree or another. [Within the first three hundred years after Christ, all who made a profession of the apostle's doctrine, were cruelly persecuted.]
He who is peremptorily resolved to live up to holy rules, and to live out holy principles—must prepare for sufferings. All the roses of holiness are surrounded with pricking briars. The history of the Ten Persecutions, and that little Book of Martyrs, the 11th of the Hebrews, and Mr. Fox's Acts and Monuments, with many other treatises that are extant, do abundantly evidence that from age to age, and from one generation to another—they those who been born after the flesh have persecuted those who have been born after the spirit; and that the seed of the serpent have been still a-multiplying of troubles upon the seed of the woman, Gal. 4:29. But a believer's future glory and pleasure will abundantly recompense him for his present pain and ignominy.
But such as will have Christ for their Savior and sovereign, but still with some proviso or other—namely, that they may keep such a beloved lust, or enjoy such carnal pleasures and delights, or raise such an estate for them and their children, or comply with the times, and such and such great men's desires, or that they may follow the Lamb only in sunshine weather, etc., these are still Satan's bond-slaves, and such as Christ can take no pleasure nor delight to espouse himself unto. But,
3. The third word of advice and counsel is this, namely, "Put off the old man, and put on the new man."Col. 9-10. Consult these scriptures. [Eph. 4:22-24; Gal. 6:35; 1 Pet. 2:2.] You must be new creatures, or else it had been better that you had been any creatures than what you are: 2 Cor. 5:17, "If any man be in Christ he is a new creature, old things are passed away, behold all things are become new." The new creature includes a new light, a new sight, a new understanding. The new creature sees sin to be the greatest evil, and Christ and holiness to be the chief good, Psalm 38:4, and Cant. 5:10. When a man is a new creature, he has a new judgment and opinion, he looks upon God as his only happiness, and Christ as his all in all, Col. 3:11, and upon the ways of God as ways of pleasantness, Proverbs 3:17. The new man has new cares, new requests, new desires. Oh that my soul may be saved! Acts 2:37, and 16:30; Oh that my interest in Christ may be cleared! Oh that my heart may be adorned with grace! Oh that my whole man may be secured from wrath to come! 1 Thes. 1:10.
The new man is a man of new principles. If you make a serious inspection into his soul, you shall find a principle of faith, of repentance, of holiness, of love, of contentment, of patience, etc. [Phil. 1:29; Acts 11:18; 1 Thes. 4:9; Phil. 4:11; 1 Cor. 4:12.] There is not any one spiritual and heavenly principle respecting salvation, but may be found in the new creature. The new man experiences a new combat and conflict in his soul. "The flesh lusts against the spirit, and the spirit lusts against the flesh." "I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind," Gal. 5:17, and Romans 7:23. The new man experiences a combat in every faculty. Here is the new judgment against the old judgment, and the new will against the old will, and the new affections against the old affections. And the reason is this; because there is flesh and spirit, sin and grace co-existent and cohabiting in every faculty of the soul; renewing grace is in every faculty, and remaining corruption is also in every faculty, like Jacob and Esau struggling in the same womb, or like heat and cold in the same water, and in every part of it.
The new man also combats with all sorts of known sins, whether they are great or small, inward or outward, whether they are the sins of the heart or the sins of the life. This conflict in the new man is a daily conflict, a constant conflict. The new creature can never, the new creature will never, be at peace with sin; sin and the new creature will fight it out to the death. The new creature will never be brought into a league of friendship with sin.
The new man is a man of a new life and conversation. A new life always attends a new heart. You see it in Paul, Mary Magdalene, Zaccheus, the jailor, and all the others that are upon Scripture record. [See 1 John3:14; 2 Cor. 6:14; Psalm 120:5, 139:21, and 42:4.]
The new man has new society, new company: Psalm 119:63, "I am a companion of all those who fear you, and of those who keep your precepts," Psalm 16:3, "My goodness extends not to you, but to the saints who are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight." Holy society is the only society for people with holy hearts, and in that society can no man delight, until God renews his heart by grace.
Many men be as the planet Mercury, good when in company of those that are good; and bad when in company of those that are bad. These are those who put honesty to an open shame. [Cicero had rather have no companion than a bad one.] Clothes and company do oftentimes tell tales in a mute but significant language. "Tell me with whom you go, and I will tell you what you are," says the Spanish proverb. Algerius, an Italian martyr, had rather be in prison with Cato than with Caesar in the senate-house.
But to conclude this word of counsel, the new man walks by a new rule. As soon as ever God has made a man a new creature, he presently sets up a new rule of life to walk by, and that is no other but that which God himself sets up for his people to walk by, and that is his written word: Isaiah 8:20, "To the law and to the testimony;" Psalm 119:105, "Your word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path;" ver. 133, "Order my steps in your word;" Gal. 6:16, "And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them and mercy, and upon the Israel of God." This rule he sets up for all matters of faith, and for all matters of fact. The word is like the stone Garamantides, which has drops of gold within itself, enriching of every soul who makes it his rule to walk by. Alexander kept Homer's Iliads in a cabinet, embroidered with gold and pearls; and shall not we keep the word in the cabinet of our hearts, that it may be always ready at hand as a rule for us to walk by? Well, friends, whatever you do forget, be sure that forever you remember this—namely, that none can or shall be glorious creatures, but such as by grace are made new creatures. But,
4. The fourth word of advice and counsel is this—Labor to be more inwardly sincere, than outwardly glorious."The king's daughter is all glorious within," Psalm 45:13. Oh labor rather to be good, than to be thought to be good; to live than to have a name to live, Rev. 3:1, 15-17. Whatever you let go, be sure you hold fast your integrity. A man were better to let friends go, relations go, estate go, liberty go, and all go—than let his integrity go. "I will maintain my integrity until I die." Job 27:5. Job is highly and fully resolved to keep his integrity, against all assaults of enemies or suspicions of friends. Job's integrity was the best jewel he had in all the world, and this jewel he was resolved to keep to his dying day. It was neither good men, nor bad men, nor devils—which could baffle Job out of his integrity; and though they all pulled, and pulled hard, at his integrity, yet he would not let it go, he would hold fast this pearl of great price, whatever it cost him. The sincere Christian, like John Baptist, will hold his integrity though he lose his head for it, Mark 6. The very heathens loved an honest and sincere spirit, as he who wished that there was a window in his bosom—that all the world might see what was in his heart. Integrity will be a sword to defend you, a staff to support you, a star to guide you, and a cordial to cheer you; and therefore, above all gettings—get sincerity, and above all keepings—keep sincerity, as your crown, your comfort, your life. But,
5. The fifth word of comfort and counsel is this—Be true to the light of your consciences, and maintain and keep up a constant tenderness in your consciences.A tender conscience is a mercy worth more than a world. Conscience is God's spy in our bosoms: keep this clear and tender, and then all is well, Acts 24:16; 2 Cor. 1:12. Never act against the dictates of conscience; never rebel against the light of conscience. It would be better that all the world should upbraid you and reproach you—than that your consciences should upbraid you and reproach you, Job 27:5-6. Beware of stifling conscience, and of suppressing the warnings of conscience—lest a warning conscience prove a gnawing conscience, a tormenting conscience. The blind man in the Gospel, Mark 8, newly recovering his sight, imagined trees to be men; and the Burgundians expecting a battle, supposed long thistles to be lances. Thus men under guilt are apt to conceit every thistle a tree, and every tree a man, and every man a devil. Take heed of tongue-tied consciences; for when God shall untie these strings, and unmuzzle your consciences, conscience will then be heard, and ten concerts of music shall not drown her clamorous cries.
Hearken to the voice of conscience, obey the voice of conscience, and when conscience shall whisper you in the ear, and tell you there is this and that amiss in the house, in the habit, in the heart, in the life, in the closet; don't say to conscience, "Conscience be quiet, be still, make no noise now, I will hear you in a more convenient season," Acts 24:24-25. The heathen orator could say, "A man may not depart a hair's-breadth all his life long from the dictates of a good conscience." Will not this heathen one day rise in judgment against those who daily crucify the light of their own consciences? But,
6. The sixth word of advice and counsel is this—Make it the great business of your lives to make sure of those things which will go with you beyond the grave.Riches and honors and titles, and all worldly grandeur—won't go with us beyond the grave. Saladin, a Turkish emperor, lying at the point of death, after many glorious victories, commanded that a white sheet should be borne before him to his grave, upon the point of a spear, with this proclamation: "These are the rich spoils which Saladin carries away with him, of all his triumphs and victories, of all his riches and realms that he had; now nothing at all is left for him to carry with him but this sheet." It is with us in this world as it was in the Jewish fields and vineyards—they might pluck and eat what they would while they were there—but they might not pocket nor put up anything to carry with them, Deut. 23:24-25. Death, as a porter, stands at the gate, and strips men of all their worldly wealth and glory!
Athenseus speaks of one who, at the hour of death, devoured many pieces of gold, and sewed the rest in his coat, commanding that they should be buried with him. Hermocrates, being loath that any man should enjoy his goods after him—in his will, made himself the heir of his own goods. These muck-worms would fain live still on this side Jordan; having made their gold their God, they cannot think of parting with it. They would, if possible, carry the world out of the world. But what says the apostle? "We brought nothing with us into this world, and it is certain"—see how he assures it, as if some rich wretches made question of it—"we can carry nothing out," nothing but a winding-sheet, 1 Tim. 6:7. Oh, how should this alarm us to make sure our calling and election, [2 Pet. 1:10; 2 Cor. 5:17; 2 Sam. 23:5; 1 Thes. 5:23; 2 Cor. 1:12.] to make sure our interest in Christ, to make sure our covenant-relation, to make sure a work of grace in power upon our souls, to make sure the testimony of a good conscience, Gal. 4:5-7, to make sure our sonship, our saintship, our heirship, etc., Romans 8:15-16; for these are the only things that will go with us into another world.
In the Marian persecution there was a woman who, being convened before Bonner, then Bishop of London, upon the trial of religion, he threatened her that he would take away her husband from her. Says she, "Christ is my husband." I will take away your child. "Christ," says she, is better to me than ten sons." I will strip you, says he, of all your outward comfort. "Yes, but Christ is mine," says she, "and you cannot strip me of him." Assurance that Christ was hers, and that he would go with her beyond the grave, bore her heart up above the threats of being robbed of all, Heb. 10:34. When a great and rich man had showed a sober, serious, knowing Christian his riches, his stately habitation, his pleasant gardens, his delightful walks, his rich grounds, and his various sorts of pleasure; the serious Christian, turning himself to this great man, said: "Sir, you had need to make sure Christ and heaven, you had need make sure something that will go with you beyond the grave, for else when you die you will be a very great loser!"
O my friends, I must tell you, it highly concerns you to make sure something that will go with you beyond the grave, or else you will be very great losers when you come to die, God having given you an abundance of the good things and of the great things of this world, beyond what he has given to many thousands of others. But,
7. The seventh word of advice and counsel is this—Look upon all the things of this world, and value all the things of this world now—as you will certainly look upon them and value them when you come to lie upon a sick-bed, a dying-bed.1 Cor. 7:29-31. When a man is sick in good earnest, and when death knocks at the door in good earnest—oh, with what a disdainful eye, with what a weaned eye, with what a scornful eye does a man then look upon the honors, riches, dignities, and glories of this world! If men could but thus look upon them now, it would keep them from being fond of them, from trusting in them, from doting upon them, from being proud of them, and from venturing a damning—either in getting or in keeping of them. But,
8. The eighth word of advice and counsel is this—In all places and companies carry your soul-preservatives still about you—namely, a holy care, a holy fear, a holy jealousy, a holy watchfulness over your own thoughts, hearts, words, and ways,Proverbs 4:23, and 28:14; Gen. 6:9, and 39:9, 10; Psalm 17:4, 18:23, and 39:1, etc. You know that in infectious times men and women carry their several preservatives about them, that they may be kept from the infection of the times. Never were there more infectious times than now. Oh the snares, the baits, the infections which attend us at all times, in all places, in all companies, in all employments, and in all enjoyments; so that if we do not carry our soul-preservatives about us, we shall be in imminent danger of being infected with the pride, sinful customs, and vanities of the times wherein we live. But,
9. The ninth word of advice and counsel is this—Live not at uncertainties as to your spiritual and eternal estates.There are none so miserable as those that are strangers to the state of their own souls. It is good for a man to know the state of his flock, the state of his family, the state of the nation, the state of his body; but above all to know the state and condition of his own soul. How many thousands are there, who can give a better account of their lands, their lordships, their riches, their crops, their shops, their trades, their merchandise, yes, of their hobbies and their hounds—than they can of the estate of their own souls! O my friends, your souls are of more worth than ten thousand worlds, Mat. 16:26, and therefore it must be the greatest prudence, and the choicest policy in the world—to secure their everlasting welfare, and to know how things stands between God and your souls, what you are worth for eternity, and how it is likely to go with you in that other world.
While a Christian lives at uncertainties as to his spiritual and everlasting estate, as whether he has grace or no grace; or whether his grace be true or counterfeit; whether he has a saving interest in Christ or not; or whether a work in power upon his soul or not; or whether God loves him or loathes him; whether God will bring him to heaven or throw him to hell—how can any Christian who lives at so great an uncertainty delight in God, rejoice evermore, triumph in Christ Jesus, be ready to suffer, and be desirous to die? Job 27:10; Phil. 4:4; 2 Cor. 2:14; Phil. 1:23. All men love to be at a certainty in all their outward concernments; and yet how many thousands are there that are at an astonishing uncertainty as to the present and future state of their precious and immortal souls! But,
10. The tenth word of advice and counsel is this—Set the highest Scripture examples and patterns before you, of grace and holiness—for your imitation.1 Cor. 4:16. In the point of faith and obedience set an Abraham before you, Gen. 12 and 22. In the point of meekness set a Moses before you, Num. 12:3. In the point of courage set a Joshua before you, Josh. 1. In the point of uprightness set a David before you, Psalm 18:23. In the point of zeal set a Phinehas before you. In the point of patience set a Job before you. Make Christ your main pattern, "Be followers of me, as I am of Christ," James 5:11-12, and 1 Cor. 11:1. And next to him set the patterns of the choicest saints before you for your imitation. [Precepts may instruct, but examples persuade.]
The nearer you come to those blessed copies that they have set before you, the more will be your joy and comfort, and the more God will be honored, Christ exalted, the Spirit pleased, piety adorned, the mouths of sinners stopped, and the hearts of saints rejoiced. He who shoots at the sun, though he shoot far short, yet will shoot higher than he who aims at a shrub. It is safest, it is best, to eye the highest and worthiest examples. Examples are,
(1.) More awakening than precepts;
(2.) More convincing than precepts;
(3.) More encouraging than precepts, Heb. 11:8; and that because in them we see that the exercise of godliness, though difficult, yet is possible. When we see men subject to like passions with ourselves to be very mortified, self-denying, humble, holy, etc.; what should hinder, but that it may be so with us also? Such as begin to work with the needle, look much on their pattern: it is so in learning to write, and indeed in learning to live also. Observe the gracious conversations and carriages of the choicest saints; keep a fixed eye upon the wise, prudent, humble, holy, and heavenly deportment; write after the fairest copy you can find; labor to imitate those Christians who are most eminent in grace. But,
11. The eleventh word of advice and counsel is this—Be much in the most spiritual exercises of religion.There are external exercises of religion—such as hearing, praying, singing, receiving, holy conference, etc., Isaiah 1:11-14, and 1 Tim. 4:8, and Mat. 6. Now custom, conviction, education, and a hundred other external considerations, may lead people to these external exercises. But there are the more spiritual exercises of religion—such as loving of God, delighting in God, prizing of Christ, compliance with the motions, counsels, and dictates of the Spirit, living in an exercise of grace, triumphing in Christ Jesus, setting our affections upon things above, meditation, self-examination, self-judging, etc. Now the more you live in the exercise of these, more spiritual duties of religion—the more you glorify God, the more you evidence the power of grace, and the in-dwellings of the Spirit—and the more you difference and distinguish yourselves from hypocrites and all unsound professors, and the better foundation you lay for a bright, strong, and growing assurance. But,
12. The twelfth and last word of advice and counsel I shall give you is—To make a wise, a seasonable, a sincere, a daily, and a thorough improvement of all the talents that God has entrusted you with.There is a talent of time, of power, of riches, of honor, of greatness—which some are more entrusted with than others are. The improvement of these is your great wisdom, and should be your daily works, 1 Cor 4:1-2. You know you are but stewards, and that you must shortly give an account of your stewardship, Luke 16:1-4. And oh that you may make such a faithful and full improvement of all the great talents which God has entrusted you with—that you may give up your account at last with joy, and not with grief!
Some princes have wished upon their beds, that they had never reigned, because they have not improved their power for God and his people, but against God and his people. And some rich men have wished that they had never been rich, because they have not improved their riches for the glory of God, nor for the support and relief of his suffering saints. A beggar upon the way asked something of an honorable lady: she gave him sixpence, saying, "This is more than ever God gave me." "Oh!" says the beggar, "Madam, you have abundance, and God has given you all that you have; say not so, good madam." "Well," says she, "I speak the truth, for God has not given but lent unto me what I have, that I may bestow it upon such as you are." And it is very true, indeed, that poor Christians are Christ's alms-men, and the rich are but his stewards, into whose hands God has put his moneys—to distribute to them as their necessities require.
It is credibly reported of Mr. Thomas Sutton, the sole founder of that eminent hospital commonly known by his name, that he used often to go into a private garden, where he poured forth his prayers unto God, and, among other passages, was frequently overheard to use this expression: "Lord, you have given me a liberal and large estate, give me also a heart to make good use of it;" which was granted to him accordingly. Riches are a great blessing, but wisdom, and a heart to use them aright, is a far greater blessing. Every rich man is not so much a treasurer as a steward, whose praise is more how to give well, than to have received much. I know I have transgressed the bounds of an epistle, but love to your souls, and theirs into whose hands this treatise may fall, must be my apology.
Sir, if you and your lady were both my own children, and my only children, I could not give you better nor more faithful counsel than what I have given you in this epistle. I have given all out of a sincere, serious, and cordial desire and design, that both of you may be happy here, and found at Christ's right hand in the great day of account, Mat. 25:33-34.
Now the God of all grace fill both your hearts with all the fruits of righteousness and holiness, and greatly bless you both with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places, and make you meet-helps to each other heaven-ward, and at last crown you both with ineffable glory in the life to come! 1 Pet. 5:1; Gal. 5:22-23; Eph. 1:3.
Your assured friend, and soul's servant,
Thomas Brooks, 1675.