CHRIST'S FAMOUS TITLES
by William Dyer
A BELIEVER'S GOLDEN CHAIN
I come now to the second use, and that is a use of
exhortation. And here I shall make a Golden Chain of twenty links
for believers to wear about their necks.
I.Hear the best men. Read the best books. Keep the best company.
1. Hear the best MEN.Oh, sirs, hear a soul-enriching minister, a soul-winning minister, and soul-searching minister--one that declares the whole counsel of God, and gives the Father his due, the Son his due, the Holy Spirit his due; one that makes hard things easy, and dark things plain.
Many there are, I may speak with grief and to their shame, who, instead of making hard things easy to the people--make easy things hard to the people. They make plain things dark, speaking in an unknown tongue, which the people cannot understand; and all to work a vain admiration of themselves in the ignorant! But how unlike Christ, and the prophets, and the apostles, these are--I will leave you to judge.
A sanctified heart--is better than a silver tongue! A heart full of grace--is better than a head full of notions! Mere notional knowledge, it may make a man's head giddy--but it will never make a man's heart holy! That which most tickles delicate ears--least helps sin-wounded hearts! How are we to speak to God and live--much less to speak from God and to the people, that they may live! How holy had they need to be--who draw near to a holy God! Ministers are called angels, because we should be as angels in our lives; but it angels fall--they turn into devils. Oh! we should be holy as the holy angels.
It is the foolishness of preaching which saves souls--but not foolish preaching! Christ taught them as they were able to hear it, and as they were able to bear it, Mark 4:33. Paul was excellent at this, "I had rather speak five words in a known tongue--than ten thousand in an unknown tongue." A man may be a great scholar--and yet a great sinner.
Judas the traitor--was Judas the preacher! Therefore, sirs, let me beseech you, for your poor souls' sake--hear these ministers who come nearest to Christ, the prophets, and the apostles. He is the best preacher--who does the most good, and wins the most souls. You may go from men to truth--but not from truth to men; for the best of men--are but men at best.
2. Read the best BOOKS, for in them you will find the best things! Compare what is spoken in the books of men--with what is written in the book of God.
3. Keep the best COMPANY.Be much with those who are much with God. Walk with those who walk with God, "Truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ," 1 John 1:3.
Forsake all bad company--and join yourself with good
company. Let them be your choicest companions--who have made Christ their
choicest companion. Lay them nearest your hearts--who lie nearest his heart.
Carry them in your bosom by love--who shall be carried by the angels into
Abraham's bosom. Let Christ's love--be your love. With whom shall believers
be--but with believers? You know what our English proverb is, 'Birds of a
feather will flock together.' Acts 4:23, "On their release, Peter and John
went back to their own people." Indeed none are fit company for a
believer--but a believer. To see a saint and a sinner
associating one with another--is to see the living and the dead
keep house together! Carnal men, though they are naturally alive--yet
they are spiritually dead! It is better to be with Lazarus, though in
rags--than to be with Dives, though in his fine robes! "He who walks with
the wise--shall be wise," Proverbs 13:20. Oh dwell where God dwells, make
them your companions on earth, who shall be your companions in heaven.
II. Meditate often on these four last things:
Death, which is most certain.
Judgment, which is most strict.
Hell, which is most doleful.
Heaven, which is most delightful.
1. Meditate upon DEATH, which is most certain."It is appointed to men once to die." Hebrews 9:27
Out of the dust was man formed--into the dust shall man be turned. To think of death--is a death to some men! But, beloved, meditate upon death. Meditation on death--will put sin to death! Death to the wicked--is the end of all comfort, and the beginning of all misery! But death to the godly--is the outlet to sin and sorrow, and an inlet to peace and happiness. The saints' enjoyment shall be incomparable, when the sinners' torments shall be intolerable! When a believer's soul goes out of his own bosom--it goes into Abraham's bosom! When a believer dies--he leaves all his bad behind him, and carries his good with him! When a sinner dies--he carries his bad with him, and leaves his good behind him! The godly man goes from evil to good; the wicked man goes from good to evil. When a saint leaves the world--his flesh returns to the dust, and his spirit returns to rest! When a sinner leaves this world--his body goes to worms to be consumed, and his soul goes to flames to be tormented! The saint goes to Abraham's bosom, the sinner goes to Beelzebub's bosom! The wheat goes to the barn; the chaff goes to the fire! Oh! for the Lord's sake, meditate upon death!
When you come into the world--you do but live to die! When you go out of the world--you do but die to live! He who lives well--cannot die ill. He who is assured of a life that has no end--cares not how soon his life is at an end. He who lives without the fear of God--shall die without hope. He who has no grace in his life--shall have no true peace in his death. An old sinner is nearer to his second death--than he is to his second birth; his body is nearer to corruption--than his soul is to salvation.
Death levels the highest mountains with the lowest valleys; the robes of princes and the rags of beggars are both laid up together in the wardrobe of the grave! The reason why men so little prepare for death, is because they think so little of death; when they feel sin arresting them--then they fear death approaching. The grave is a bed to rest in--but not a shop to trade in. When the soul at death takes its flight from his loving mate--they shall meet no more until the general assize. When you are putting off your clothes, think of the putting off your bodies; be going to your beds, as if you were going to your graves, and close your eyes in one world, as if you would open them in another world; when you are creeping between the sheets, then think of your winding-sheets.
Remember, Christians, that God can as easily turn you into the dust as he could take you out of the dust; today is your living day, tomorrow may be your dying day. The meditation of death will prepare you for death.
2. Meditate upon JUDGMENT, which is most strict."We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ!" Those who will not come before his mercy-seat, shall be forced to come before his judgment-seat! Those who will not hear his Word--shall feel his sword! Those who are graceless in this day--will be speechless in that day! At the world's end--such will be at their wits' end, to see the earth flaming, the heavens melting, the stars falling, the graves opening, the judgment hastening, the sun and moon mourning, and Christ and his angels coming! He who comes to raise the dead, will also come to judge the dead. Oh! sirs, the great day to great sinners will be a dreadful day--when they shall see Christ coming in the clouds, with great power and glory, crowned with dignity, and attended with the angel reapers, and enraged with anger--to bring all kings and nobles, high and low, rich and poor, to his judgment bar! And there he will judge them, not by the whiteness of their countenances--but by the blackness of their hearts! "He comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity!" Psalm 98:9
He who was guarded to the cross with a band of soldiers, shall be guarded to the bench with a guard of angels! You who make no account of his coming--how do you think to give an account at his coming? For the Lord's sake, meditate upon judgment! Sirs! meditation on judgment--may make you judgment proof! Those who now judge themselves in their own private sessions--shall not be judged by Christ at his great white throne!
3. Meditate upon HELL, which is most doleful!Oh sirs, heaven is a place where all is joyful, and hell is a place where all is doleful. In heaven--there is nothing but happiness; but in hell--there is nothing but heaviness! "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.'' Psalm 9:17. Mark, sirs, the wicked shall be turned into hell. Oh, dreadful place--where the devil is the jailor!
Hell is the prison,
damnation is the punishment,
eternity is the duration,
brimstone is the fire, and
men and devils are the fuel!
To endure this will be intolerable--and to avoid it will be impossible! This is the day of God's long-suffering, that will be the day of man's long-suffering! There they will suffer: pain without ease, torment without end, sorrow without support, and misery without mercy!
Sirs! Meditate upon hell! Oh, what hells are there in hell! Hell is the loss of God, the loss of Christ, the loss of all good! Endless, ceaseless, and remediless torments must be their eternal portion. Oh, that you would often think of hell! If once you drop into hell--then after a thousand years, you will be as far from coming out hell--as you were at your first entrance in! There is only one way to keep a man out of hell--but there is no way to get a man out of hell!
In this world, the wheat and the chaff both grow together--but they shall not always both lie together! In hell there shall not be a saint among those that are terrified! And in heaven there shall not be a sinner among those that are glorified! The sea of damnation--shall not be sweetened with a drop of compassion!
Will you pity a person who is going to the gallows, and will you not pity a person who is going to the bottomless pit? What a dreadful visitation is that--where the black horse of death goes before, and the red horse of wrath follows after! Oh, that must needs be sad--when one death comes upon the back of another; when the second death comes upon the back of the first death! A man's condition in this life may be honorable, and yet his state in eternity may be damnable! Poor Lazarus goes to heaven--when rich Dives goes to hell. It is far better to go to heaven poorly--than it is to go to hell richly! Oh, sirs! let us go to hell by contemplation, that we may never go to hell by condemnation!
4. Meditate on HEAVEN, which is most joyful."Then the King will say to those on his right--Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world!" Matthew 25:34
"Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter into the joy of your Lord!" Matthew 25:21. Heaven is a place where all joy is enjoyed! In heaven, there will be mirth without sadness, light without darkness, sweetness without bitterness, life without death, rest without labor, plenty without poverty! Oh, what joy enters into the believer--when the believer enters into the joy of his Lord! Who would not work for glory with the greatest diligence--and wait for glory with the greatest patience?
Oh, what glories are there in glory! Thrones of glory, crowns of glory, vessels of glory, a weight of glory, a kingdom of glory! Here on earth, Christ puts his grace upon his spouse--but there in heaven, he puts his glory upon his spouse! In heaven the crown is made for them, and in heaven the crown shall be worn by them! In this life believers have some good things--but the rest and best are reserved for the life to come.
Oh, sirs! meditate upon heaven, for meditation of heaven will make us heavenly! Heaven is not only a possession promised by Christ--but a possession purchased by Christ! When our contemplations and minds are in heaven--then we enjoy heaven upon earth!
To be in Christ is heaven below, and to be with him is heaven above! There cannot be a better thing for us, than for us to be with the best of beings, "To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Philippians 1:21. Paul was contented to stay a while out of heaven, that he might bring other souls into heaven: his life to them was most useful--but his death to him was most gainful. Let our condition be ever so great, it is hell without Christ! And let our condition be ever so bad--it is heaven with Christ! "I had rather be in hell with Christ, than in heaven without him," says Luther. Indeed hell itself would be heaven--if Christ were in it; and heaven would be hell--if Christ were from it.
That which makes heaven so full of joy--is that it is
above all fear! And that which makes hell so full of horror--is that it is
below all hope! The vessels of grace--shall swim in the ocean of
glory! Here all the earth is not enough for one man--but there one
heaven is enough for all men. A believer shall see with an eye that is
purified, what he shall shortly see with an eye that is glorified. We may
talk of the greatness of our crowns--but we shall never know the
weight of our crowns--until they are set on our heads!
III. Set the watch of your lives--by the Sun of righteousness."But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture!" Malachi 4:2
Live in print--and keep the copy of your lives free from blots and blurs--that the characters may be read by all. Bring up the bottom of your living--to the top of your Scripture light. When the watch of your life is set by the beams of the Sun of righteousness, then it moves with uprightness. "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age." Titus 2:11-12
Those who will not submit to grace's teaching, shall never enjoy grace's salvation. Oh, live so that the Word which has brought salvation to your souls--may bring your souls into salvation; that you may be such jewels of grace--as shall be locked up in the cabinet of glory! The Father of light takes no pleasure in the children of darkness; "Let your light so shine before men," Matthew 5:16. We must shine in grace--before we can shine in glory!
Those who look for a heaven made ready--should live as if they were in heaven already.
There are four things which make a new creature:
4. Good works.
The children of light--must put on the armor of light.
I cannot but sadly reflect, on the inconstancy of rotten professors. An applauded Christ shall have many hosannas--but shall a condemned Christ should not have many crucifiers! A true believer can as well go with Christ to the tree where he is to be crucified--as he can go with him to the throne where he is to be glorified. Oh, how unanswerable are the lives of some professors--to the light of professors! They know much--but do little! They know the good they are to do--but they do not do the good which they know! They speak of heavenly things above--but they love and follow after earthly things! A man is not what he says--but is what he does!
A man is not what he says--but is what he does! To say what we do--and not to do what we say--is but to undo ourselves by doing. Take heed, sirs--that you do not take yourselves to hell with heavenly words! What is the great prejudice that the world has against professors but this, that those who profess against pride more than others--are themselves as proud as others! They profess against covetousness more than others--but are themselves as covetous as others! They often meet together to be better--but they are never the better for their often meeting together! Do but take away their profession--and you take away all their religion! They have nothing of the form of religion--but the skin! They are better in their outside--than they are in their inside!
Oh, sirs, if ungodliness is evil--why do you so much practice it? And if goodness is good--why do you so little practice it? Either take Christ in your lives--or cast him out of your lips! Either obey his commandments more--else call him Lord no more! Either get oil in your lamps--or cast away your lamps. To be a professor of piety--and a practicer of iniquity--is an abomination unto the Lord.
Some would not seem evil--and yet would be so! Others would seem to be good--and yet are not so! Either be what you seem--or else be what you are. There are many who blush to confess their sins--who never blushed to commit their sins.
There is nothing done in vain--but what is vainly done.
Oh, Christians, bring your lights to the light. What darkness can obscure
those who have a sun above them? Believers, when their candles are put out,
they can fetch light from the Sun of righteousness. The nearer you are to
such a sun--the clearer will be your light. Oh, Christians, you are never
the better for your light--if you are not made better by your light. He who
sins against his light, will at last sin away his light. If
your light does not put sin and the world under your feet--it will never put
a crown of glory upon your head.
IV. Be willing to lack--what God is not willing to give.
As God has never the less for the mercies he gives--so he has never more for the duties he gets. Man is such a debtor to God--that he can never pay his due to God! We are so far from paying the utmost farthing--that at the utmost we have not a farthing to pay! There is no man but has received more good than he deserves--and done more evil than he has suffered! Therefore he should be contented though he enjoys but little good-- and not discontented though he suffers much evil. "If we have food and clothing, we will be content with these." 1 Tim. 6:8. A Christian is to submit to the will of God's disposing--as well as to the will of God's commanding. That man obtains his will from God--who submits his will to God. A gracious heart shall never be out of heart, because God has said, "I will never leave you, nor will I ever forsake you," Hebrews 13:5. He who has said it--will not unsay it; therefore take up your contentment, in God's appointment.
We are not to be troubled for this--that we have no more from God. But we are to be troubled for this--that we do no more for God! A Christian though he has a will of his own--yet it does not befit a Christian to do his own will. Contentment without the world--is better than the world without contentment! Christian, get a holy heart--and your estate on earth shall be sufficient! Christian, is God not willing to give you riches? Oh, then--you be willing to lack riches! Is God not willing to give you health? Oh, then--you be willing to lack health! Is God not willing to give you children? Oh, then--you be willing to lack children! Is God not willing to give you your desire for this thing or that thing? Oh, then--you be willing to lack this or that thing!
Never were any saints their own carvers--but before they were done, they cut their own fingers! Lot, you know, was put to his own choice--and he chose Sodom. And you know what happened--it was not long before Sodom was burned to the ground! Rachel said, "Give me children--else I die!" And she had a child--and it cost her her life! Abraham desired the life of lshmael--but he had much trouble from him all his days. Therefore, dear Christians, submit your will to God's will. That soul shall have his will from God--who desires nothing but what God wills! Do but take care of all that which belongs to God--and God will take care of all that which belongs to you!
It is only reasonable, that God should fall out with those who, in the course of his providence--fall off from him in the course of their obedience.
Wicked men make the world their treasure--and God makes
the world their torment! When they desire great estates--they are
troubled for them. And when they gain great estates--they are
troubled with them. Murmuring people think everything too much that is done
by them--and everything too little that is done for them! God
is as far from pleasing them with his mercy--as they are from pleasing him
with their duty. It is unthankfulness, which is the cause of the
earth's unfruitfulness. Did a man believe that the Lord would not
fail his body--how carefully would he look after his soul! It is only the
Christian man--who is the contented man. He does not quarrel with God for
mercies denied--but blesses God for mercies bestowed. The
higher a Christian is raised above the things of the earth--the more is he
ravished with the joys of heaven!
V. Crucify your sins--which have crucified your Savior!"Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires!" Galatians 5:24. Did the rocks rent, when Christ died for our sins--and shall not our hearts rent, who have lived in our sins! Oh, that the nails which pierced his hands--should now pierce our hearts! Oh, that they should wound themselves with their sorrows--who have wounded him with their sins! Oh, that they who have grieved his heart--should be grieved in their hearts! Oh, that I should be such a bad a child to him--who has been such a good a Father to me! My sins have been my greatest terror--and my Savior has been my choicest helper!
Oh! put sin to death--for sin was the cause of Christ's death! If someone killed your father--would you hug him and embrace him as your friend, and let him eat at your table? Would you not rather hate and detest the very sight of him! If a snake should sting your dearly beloved spouse to death--would you preserve it alive, warm it at the fire, and hug it in your bosom? Would you not rather stab it with a thousand wounds! And were not our sins the cause and instrument of Christ's death? Were not they the whips that scourged him, the nails, the cords, the spear, the thorns that wounded him, and fetched the heart-blood from him! And can we love our sins--which killed our Savior? Can a spouse truly love her husband--and still embrace an adulterer?
We complain of the sins of Judas, and seem to hate them, and shudder at their mention! And can we love our Judas sins--which put Christ to death? And yet how many are there--who had rather have sinful-self satisfied, than to have sinful-self crucified. Oh, sin is that mark at which all the arrows of Divine vengeance are shot! Were it not for sin--death would never have had a beginning! And were it not for death--sin would never have an ending! Man began to be sorrowful--when he began to be sinful. The wind of our lusts--blows out the candle of our lives. If a man had nothing to do with sin--death would have nothing to do with man.
Oh, did sin bring sorrow into the world? Oh, then--let sorrow carry sin out of the world. Of all evils--sin is the great evil! "The wages of sin is death!" Romans 6:23. Oh, sin is worse than punishment, banishment, and imprisonment! Sin kills both body and soul--it throws the body into cold earth rotting, and the soul into the hot hell burning!
Oh, for the Lord's sake, think on this, and weep for this early! Let the cry of your prayers--outcry the cry of your sins!
Nothing can quench the fire that sin has
kindled--but the water which repentance has caused. If we confess our
sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from
our sins. 1 John 1:11. A saint is not free from sin--that is his burden! A
saint is not free to sin--that is his rejoicing! Sin is in his soul--that is
his lamentation. His soul is not in sin--that is his consolation. If you
will grieve for your sins--you will not sin grievously.
VI. Those who are most blessed by God--must bless God most.God is good to all--but he is most good to his people. "Surely God is good to Israel--to those who are pure in heart, even to such as are of a clean heart." Psalm 73:1. They can never speak enough of God--who have tasted the goodness of God. It is but reasonable, that they should bless God most--who are most blessed by God.
Those who lease the largest farms--must pay the greatest rents. Differing mercies--call for differing duties. It is very fit that Christ should be magnified by us--who makes us fit to be glorified with him. Oh, Christians, if he has called you out of your marvelous darkness into his marvelous light--you ought to show forth his marvelous praise! 1 Peter 2:9, "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God--that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light."
Men should not glory in what they have received--but they should give glory for what they have received. The glory of God must be the golden bulls-eye, at which all the arrows of duty are shot. Grace in our hearts is like the moon--which shines not by its own splendor--but by the borrowed beams from the Sun of righteousness. "Giving thanks to the Father, who has made us fit to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light!" Col. 1:12.
As the best of means should make us fruitful--so the best of mercies should make us thankful.
Shall a saint find God to be a bountiful master--and shall God find a saint to be an undutiful servant? If he gives us any enjoyment, it is but for his own glory! He shall never lack mercy--who does not trifle with mercy. To bless God for mercies--is the way to increase them. To bless God for miseries--is the way to remove them. No blessing lives so long--as that which is thankfully improved. No evil dies so soon--as that which is patiently endured. Oh, Christians, give all your glory unto him--who has given all his glory unto you. Do as these glorified ones do in glory, "The the twenty-four elders fall down and worship the one who lives forever and ever. And they lay their crowns before the throne and say--You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created everything, and it is for your pleasure that they exist and were created!" Revelation 4:10, 11. All you have is derived from God--let all you have be returned to God. The more God's hand is enlarged in the blessing of us--the more our hearts should be enlarged in the blessing of God.
Oh, believers! God has frowned upon others--but he has smiled upon you! God has passed by others' doors--and knocked at your doors! God has made you light--when others remain in darkness! God has made you live--when others remain dead! God has made you heirs of glory--when others remain the children of wrath! God has made you his sons--when others remain Satan's slaves! God has made you higher than the angels--when others are no better than devils! All this has he done, and more--for you who are believers. Now, have you not great cause to bless God? While man is a-blessing of God for his mercies, God is a-blessing of man with his mercies.
Can you find me out that good that is not given
you--or that evil that is not forgiven you? God deserves more
from every Christian--than he demands from every Christian! Where the
Sun of mercy shines the hottest--there the fruits of grace
should grow fairest!
VII. Do not fear--the fear of men.Wicked men must not be feared--though they are ever so mighty. Nor must they ever be followed--though they are ever so many. "Do not fear those who can kill can the body," says our blessed Savior, "but can do no more," Matthew 10:28. If a righteous cause brings us into suffering--a righteous God will bring us out of suffering. If we suffer for well-doing, we do well in suffering. Shall we cease to be professors, because others will not cease to be persecutors. "If you suffer for well-doing," says the Scripture, "you are blessed."
What! are you members of Christ--and yet afraid to be martyrs for him? What! are the children of God--afraid of the children of the devil? What! are the children of light--afraid of the children of darkness? What! are the children of heaven--afraid of the children of wrath? What though you re weak--your King is strong! What though you are lambs among wolves--your Captain is the lion of the tribe of Judah! What though you have no power--Christ has all the power given him both in heaven and earth! Matt, 28:8.
The fear of persecution--is more than persecution. He who loses a base life for Christ--shall find a better life in Christ. Persecution, though it brings death in one hand--it brings life in the other hand. Though it kills the body--it crowns the soul. Though it sends the body to the dust--it sends the soul to rest! The worst they can do against you--is the best they can do for you! The worst they can do is but to send you out of earth--and the best they can do for you is to send you up to heaven! They take a life from you, which you cannot keep--and bestow a life upon you, which you cannot lose.
If they are blessed who die in the Lord--oh, how blessed are those who die for him! Do wicked men glory in that which is their shame--and shall we be ashamed of that which is our glory! It is an honor--to be dishonored for Christ. What is a short happiness, attended with everlasting misery--compared to a short misery, attended with everlasting happiness?
Oh how clear will the Sun of righteousness shine, when
these dark clouds are blown over! What if they threaten you with present
death--does not God threaten you with everlasting death, if you be not ruled
by him? Whose threatening should you fear? Is man more dreadful than
God? Is death more dreadful than hell? God has said,
"I, even I, am the one who comforts you. So why are you afraid of mere men,
who wither like the grass and disappear?" Isaiah 51:12. Do you see,
Christians, God would not have you to be afraid of men; he who is afraid of
man--is afraid of grass! "Do not be afraid, for I am with you.
Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help
you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand!" Isaiah 41:10. Let but
Christians do their best--and let the world do their worst.
8. Cleave closest to that truth--which is the choicest.
First, Be both for hearing and doing--but more for doing.He who does most--shall receive most. Christians, the more glory you bring to God--the more glory you shall have from God. Oh, how abundant shall they be in the work of the Lord--who know that their labor is not vain in the Lord! 1 Corinthians 15:58.
Secondly, Be both for knowledge and practice--but more for practice. Alas! what is it to be a Christian--no farther than a few good words will go! I tell you, sirs, good words without good works--will never turn to a good account! Holy sayings without holy doings--will never conduct your souls to a holy place!
Thirdly, Be both for gifts and graces--but more for graces. A sanctified heart--is better than a silvered tongue. Grace brings Christ and your soul together, and unites them together. Without grace, there may be much "head knowledge". But without grace, there can be no "saving knowledge".
Fourthly, Be both for reputation and conscience--but more for conscience. Where there is a pure conscience, there will be a pure life. As no flattery can heal a bad conscience--so no cruelty can hurt a good conscience.
Fifthly, Be godly in both good and bad times--but more in bad times. To be godly at all times, is a Christian's duty--but to be godly in bad times, is a Christian's glory. You cannot tread in the steps of our Savior--but you will taste of the cup of our Savior! "Any man," says the apostle, "who lives godly in Christ Jesus--must suffer persecution."
Sixthly, Be both for body and soul--but more for the soul. Oh, how careful are men for their bodies--but how careless for their souls! They are true to the part which is without--but false to that part which is within. As long as they have something of the world in their hands--they care not though they have nothing of heaven in their hearts. Oh, Christians! Our work below is then the best done--when our work above is first done. The greatest happiness of the creature--is not to have the creature for one's happiness!
Seventhly, Be both for peace and truth--but more for truth. Oh, Christians! Love the truth in truth. Love the truth of God in truth. Justify the truth--and the truth will justify you. Until you can love the naked truth--you will never love to go naked for the truth. Remember that, I pray, Christians.
Eighthly, Be both for life and Christ--but more for Christ. Christ is sweeter than wine, and better than life. He who came from above--is above all. He alone who has the key of heaven--can open the door of heaven!
Ninthly, Be both for works and faith--but more for faith. Faith is a grace that is the most needful, and a grace that is the most faithful. A faith that does not work--is a faith that does not save! Nothing will get up to heaven--but that which came down from heaven.
Tenthly, Be both for public and private duties--but more for private duties. Be much in private duties; if you fall short in any duties--fall short in public duties, and be most in private duties. You who have filled the book of God, with your sins--must fill the bottle of God, with your tears.
Eleventhly, Be both for the form and the power of godliness--but more for the power. Christians, alas! What is the form of godliness, without the power of godliness? Some give God the hymn and the knee--and give up themselves to all manner of abominable wickedness. Oh, Christians, I say--be for the power of godliness, more than the form of godliness.
Twelfthly, Seek to please both men and God--but
more to please God. To be in favor with those who are out of
favor with God, to be well spoken of by those who are evil spoken of by
God--is rather a reproach than an honor! If there is no
fellowship between Christ and you in holiness--there will be no society
between Christ and you in heaven.
9. Acquaint yourselves with yourselves.
The trial of yourselves--is the ready road to the right knowledge of yourselves. No man begins to be good--until he sees himself to be bad. Until you see how foul your faces are--you will never bow to Christ for washing them. He can never truly relish the sweetness of God's mercies--who never tasted the bitterness of his own misery.
The bottom of our disease lies here--that we do not search our disease to the bottom. "He who trusts in his heart is a fool"--and yet such fools are we, that trust our hearts! The outward life may be civilized, when the inward life not sanctified. A man may be acquainted with the grace of truth--who never experienced the truth of grace. "Therefore examine yourselves, and prove yourselves," 1 Corinthians 13:5 "whether you are in the faith or not" or whether the faith is in you or not; whether your hearts are the cabinet of such a jewel! For lack of this self-examination, men are like travelers skilled in other countries--but ignorant of their own. Many have their evidences of grace to seek--when they should have their evidences of grace to show.
Oh, beloved, I beseech you with beseeching, be more in searching of your own hearts! It is of a greater concernment to know the state of your hearts--than to know the state of all your estates. A man may profess like a saint, pray like a saint, speak like a saint, look like a saint--and yet be a devil! You cannot always tell what 'time' it is in a man's heart--by the 'dial' of his countenance. The humblest look--is sometimes linked to the proudest heart!
Believers, for the Lord's sake, consider well these three things:
1. What you were--in the state of nature.
2. What you are--in the state of grace.
3. What you shall be--in the state of glory.
Oh! methinks you should think of this, what you were, are, and what you shall be. Conversion begins in consideration. Grace, as it makes our comforts sweeter--so it makes our crown greater.
Beloved, for God's sake, and for your soul's sake--acquaint yourselves with yourselves! The readiest way to know whether or not you are in Christ--is to know whether or not Christ is in you! For the fruit is more visible--than the root. The tree of righteousness, is known by the fruits of righteousness. Matthew 7:20, "The tree is known by its fruit," said our Lord Jesus Christ. If you would know the heart of your sins--you must then know the sin of your heart. Will you remember that Christians?
"For out of the heart," says our Lord, "come evil
thoughts, murder, adultery, all other sexual immorality, theft, lying, and
slander!" Matthew 15:19. Many have passed the rocks of gross sins--who
have been cast away upon the sands of self-righteousness! If you are
found in your righteousness; you will be lost in
your righteousness! He who has no better righteousness than what is of
his own providing--shall meet with no bigger happiness than what is of his
10. Do good in the world--with the goods of the world.
It is better spending your time in doing good--than in getting goods! For the goods we get, we must leave--but the good we do, will never leave us! Revelation 14:13, "They shall rest from their labor--and their works follow them." The ambitious man shall leave all his greatness behind him--when the pious man shall carry all his good with him.
Dives' charity was very cold--and he found the flames of hell very hot! There is not a drop of water for such Dives' in hell--who have not a crumb of bread for such Lazaruses on earth! Dives denied Lazarus a crumb of bread--and therefore Lazarus must not bring him a drop of water! He who will show no mercy--shall have no mercy shown to him. Let charity be your shop to trade in--and eternity shall be your bed to rest in! Be a father to all in charity--and a servant to all in humility! Do much good--and make but little noise.
Every grace that is more exercised--shall be more glorified. The more good you do for God--the more good you shall receive from God. As the poor cannot live without your mercy on earth--so without God's mercy you shall not live in heaven. He who gives to the poor saints for Christ's sake--shall be rewarded by Christ for the saints' sake!
"Then the King will say to those on the right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.' Then these righteous ones will reply, 'Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?' And the King will tell them, 'I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters--you were doing it to me!'" Matthew 25:34-40
The more you disburse for Christ on earth--the greater sums of glory you shall receive from Christ in heaven. The crop that is sown in mercy--shall be reaped in glory!
As we must lay all out in the cause of God--so we must lay down all for the cause of God. That which is cast into Christ's treasure by the way--is not cast away. Charity is so good a servant, that it will never let its master die a beggar! Though charity makes your pockets lighter--yet it will make your crowns greater Oh, that God should give the rich so much! And, oh, that the rich should give the poor so little!
Some say that the barrenest ground--is nearest to the richest mines; it is too true in a spiritual sense. How many rich men, though their estates are like a fruitful paradise--yet their hearts are like a barren wilderness! They have much of the earth in their hands--but nothing of heaven in their hearts! They are rich in goods--but not in goodness. I wonder that such worldlings do not tremble at these sayings:
"Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, 'Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his demons! For I was hungry, and you did not feed me. I was thirsty, and you did not give me anything to drink. I was a stranger, and you did not invite me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me no clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you did not visit me.' Then they will reply, 'Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?' And he will answer, 'I assure you, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me!' And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life." Matthew 25:41-46
Oh, that men should be so much taken up with their riches--who must shortly be taken away from their riches! As you brought none of your money into the world with you--so you shall carry none of it out of the world with you! In the world you find it--and in the world you shall leave it; to whom you know not--it may be to those whom you would not.
Did but some rich men know before their death, how their
gold and silver would be spent after their death--they would wish it back
again into the mines from whence it came! Oh, you rich men, I say unto
you--do good in the world, with the goods of the world! It is a greater
honor to give like a prince--than to live like a prince! It is
better to have a heart, and not wealth--than to have wealth, and not have a
heart. "Give--and it shall be given unto you." Your charity should seek the
poor--before the poor should seek your charity! He who shows mercy when it
may best be spared--shall receive mercy when it shall be most needed.
11. Improve that TIME--which is yours but for a time.
Time before long--shall be to you, time no longer!
Opportunities are for eternity--but opportunities are not to eternity. Christians, remember that the race which you run, is short--but the prize for which you run, is eternal. Had we not need to take heed how we shoot--who have but a single arrow to direct to the mark? No time is ours but what is present--and that is as soon past, as present! Nature's womb--often proves nature's tomb!
Oh! consider how much of your time is gone--and yet how little of your work is done! Shall your sleep steal away one half of your time--and your lust the other half? Oh, what enemies are they to themselves, who waste their time! Your work is great, and your time is short! You have a God to honor, a Christ to be believed in, and a soul to save! You have a race to run, a crown to win, a hell to escape, and a heaven to make sure of! You have many strong corruptions to weaken, and many weak graces to strengthen! You have many temptations to withstand, and many afflictions to bear! You have many mercies to improve, and many duties to perform! Therefore endeavor to improve your time!
All the time God allows us--is little enough to perform the task which he allots us! Therefore, dear Christians, "Redeem the time!" Ephesians 5:16. If much of your time is past--let no more of your time be wasted! How much the longer our time has been--the shorter our time shall be. Oh! that every step our souls take, might be towards heaven. Oh! and that you would make sure of God today, because next day you are not sure of yourselves. For the Lord's sake--improve your time! For your soul's sake--redeem your time!
The lawyer will not lose his opportunity, the sailor will not lose his tide, the tradesman will not lose his bargain, the farmer will not lose his season--and will you lose your precious season? If you lose your season--you lose your soul. There is but one heaven--miss that--and where will you take up your eternal lodging, but in hell? There is no preparing for heaven under ground, for those that have lost their time above ground. The great hindrance of well-living, is the expectation of long-living. Many think not of living any better--until they think of not living any longer. Oh, how just is it--that they should miss of heaven at the last! Now is the time of grace to accept of you--and now is the time for you to accept of grace.
"Today! Today! Today!" says God, thrice in one
chapter, Hebrews 3. Today! in the 7th verse; Today! in the 13th verse;
Today! in the 15th verse. Oh--but sinners say, "Tomorrow! Tomorrow!
Tomorrow!" Alas! sirs, one today--is better than ten tomorrows.
Today is your living day, tomorrow may be your dying day; and
therefore, for the Lord's sake, do not put it off. Now--if ever,
now--forever, now--or never--be up and be doing--lest you be
12. Learn humility--from Christ's humility."Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Matthew 11:29
Humility makes a man like an angel. For lack of humility--some angels became devils! Proud sinners are fit companions for none but proud devils! The most lowly Christian--is the most lovely Christian.
A believer is like a vessel in the sea: the more it fills--the more it sinks! None live so humble on earth--as those who live highest in heaven. Do but see how one of the best of saints looks upon himself--as one of the least of saints, "Unto me who am less than the least of all saints," said the great Paul in Ephesians 3:8. The most holy men--are always the most lowly men. Where humility is the corner-stone, there piety is the top-stone. It is good to have true thoughts of ourselves. The coat of humility--should always be worn on the back of Christianity. "Clothe yourselves with humility." 1 Peter 5:5
God Almighty has two houses in which he dwells: his city-house, and his country-house. His city-house is the heaven of heavens; and his country-house is the humble and lowly heart! Isaiah 57:15, "I dwell in the high and holy place," that is, in heaven, God's city-house; "and also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit," that is his country house. Humility is a 'Bethel' for God's dwelling-place! Pride is a 'Babel' for the devil's residence. If you do not keep pride out of your soul, and your soul out of pride--pride will keep your soul out of heaven!
I will not say a poor man is never proud--but I will say a proud man is never godly. James 4:16, "God resists the proud--but gives grace to the humble." The face of piety, shines brightest through the mask of humility.
"Clothe yourselves with humility." Of all garments, humility best fits Christians, and best adorns their profession. God will not endure that any man should think well of himself--but Himself. A Christian should look with one eye upon God's grace--to keep him thankful; and with the other eye upon himself--to keep him mournful. When you begin to grow proud of your glistening feathers--look down upon your black feet! Revelation 4:10, "The twenty-four elders fall down before the throne, and cast down their crowns before him who sits on the throne." The only way of keeping our crowns on our heads--is the casting them down at Christ's feet!
Alas! sirs--what are you proud of? Are you proud--of your riches, of your honors, of your relations, of your beauty, of your strength? Alas! alas! these are poor base things to boast in! When men glory in their pride--God stains the pride of their glory!
Oh, go to the graves of those who have died before you. Are not their bones scattered, their eyes rotted, their flesh consumed, their mouth corrupted! Where now are their ruddy lips, their lovely cheeks, their fluent tongue, their sparkling eyes, their flowing hair? Are they not all gone, as a dream? And where will you be before long? And will you be proud of these things? A humble heart knows no fountain--but God's grace; and an upright man knows no end--but God's glory. "I hate pride and arrogance!" Proverbs 8:13. "He is able to humble those who walk in pride!" Daniel 4:37.
13. Be altogether Christians.
The gospel does not only require that we should be excellent Christians--but that we should be diligent Christians. The more glorious dispensations you live under--the more gracious conversation you should have. Spiritual actions, will make you look lovely in the eyes of spiritual Christians. The more you have of God in you--the more you shall have of good with you. The clearer the lamp of grace burns on earth--the clearer the Sun of glory shall shine in heaven. We live--by dying to ourselves; and die--by living in ourselves.
Christians should be burning lamps--as well as shining lamps. Should we walk in darkness--whose Father is light? Shall the tongue be found lying continually to men--which was found praying so earnestly to God? Shall those be found gazing on sinful objects--who were found reading of sacred oracles? Shall such as have received Christ's holy wages--fight under Satan's vile colors? Beloved, either let your works be according to your profession; or else let your profession be according to your works. Never put on your fair suit of profession--to do your foul work of corruption! Never put on Christ's livery--and do Satan's drudgery.
"Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity." "Not everyone who says unto me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter into the kingdom of heaven--but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." Oh, that men's tongues should be larger than their hands! In words they profess him--but in works they deny him! Many set a crown of glory on the head of Christ by a good profession; but place a crown of thorns on the head of Christ by an evil life. "They worshiped the Lord--but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought." 2 Kings 17:33
Alas! beloved, what good will your profession do you--if you do not make good your profession? "All that glitters--is not gold." It is better never to glitter--than not to be gold. Either take oil in your lamps--or throw away your lamps! The almost Christian--shall be but almost saved!
Therefore my brethren, let me beseech you, be altogether Christians; be right, upright Christians, be sincere Christians, be as godly as the godly in Psalm 15:1-4. Who is the upright man? Who is the right, upright Christian? "He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart," and so he goes on. If you would keep yourselves unspotted from the world, you must keep yourselves unspotted in the world. Oh! be not vain--in a vain world!
The loose walkings of professors--are the reproaches of professors. Were Abraham now on earth, how would the father of the faithful blush to see their actions, who call themselves his offspring? Oh! there are some men who think themselves too good to go to hell--but God thinks them too bad to go to heaven! Noah was a just man and perfect in his generation, Genesis 6:9; he was not a sinner among those who were saints; but he was a saint among those who were sinners. He walked with God--when others walked in iniquity. He was a just man, and like unto God--though there was not another man, like unto him.
The primitive Christians were the best of Christians;
they knew little--but did much. We know much--but do
little. Oh! sirs, if the service of God is bad--why do you set forth in
it? Be altogether Christians--or else be not Christians at all. It is
good to profess--but it is better to practice. Yes, of the
two, practice without profession, is better than profession without
practice! We must not be offended at the professors of religion,
because they are not all religious, who make a profession. Though there are
many professors who are not true believers--yet there are no true believers,
but are professors. Those who make a good profession, are sure to make their
14. Let it be your aim in duty--to give God your heart in duty."My son--give me your heart!" Proverbs 23:26. You see, God calls for the heart! The heart is that field from which God expects the most plentiful crop of glory. God bears a greater respect to your hearts--than he does to your works. God looks most--when men look least. If the heart is for God--then all is for God: our affections, our wills, our desires, our time, our strength, our tears, our alms, our prayers, our estates, our bodies, our souls. For the heart is the fort-royal, that commands all the rest. The eye, the ear, the hand, the tongue, the head, the foot--the heart commands all these. Now, if God has the heart--he has all; if he has not the heart--he has none.
The heart of obedience--is the obedience of the heart. As the body is at the command of the soul that rules it--so should the soul be at the command of God who gave it. 1 Corinthians 6. 20, "You are bought with a price," says the apostle, "therefore glorify God in your bodies and in your spirits." He who is all in all for us--would have that which is all in all in us. The heart is the royal castle, where the King of Glory takes up his lodging. That which is most worthy in us--should be given to him who is most worthy of us. The body is but the cabinet--the soul is the jewel. The body is but the shell--the soul is the kernel.
The soul is the breath of God, the beauty of man, the wonder of angels, and the envy of devils! The devil knows that if there if any good treasure, it is in our hearts! And he would gladly have the key of this cabinet--that he might rob us of our jewel! The devil would gladly have the key of our hearts. As we commit our estate into the hand of men, so we should commit ours hearts into the hands of God. But alas! man has no desire to give, what God has a desire to have. "This people draw near to me with their mouth, and honor me with their lips--but their hearts are far from me!" Matthew 15:8.
Alas! too often we have our hearts to seek--when we come to seek God. You may keep your duty to yourselves, if you do not give your heart to God. A duty that is heartless--is a duty that is fruitless. You can never give God the heart of your service--if you do not give him the heart in your service.
The heart should be the first that comes into duty, and
the last that goes out of duty. Good words without the heart, are but
flattery; and good works without the heart, are but
hypocrisy. Beloved, for your poor souls' sake: let words and works go
together; let your tongue and hearts go together; let your lips and lives go
together; let your prayer and practice go together. If your duties do not
eat out the heart of your sins--your sins will eat out the heart of your
duties! A grain of works, is better than a flood of words. A heart
without words--is better than words without a heart. A little done with the
heart--is better than a great deal done without the heart.
15. Be diligent in the means--but do not make an idol of the means.
"Give all diligence to make your calling and election sure." 2 Peter 1:10. It is our present business--to make sure our future blessedness. When estates, and honors, and life, and friends, and pleasures, cannot be made sure--let future blessedness be made sure. For, you see, by daily experience, earthly blessings cannot be made sure. 2 Timothy 6. 19, "Lay up for yourselves a good foundation." See what the apostle says, "Lay up for yourselves a good foundation." And why? That you may lay hold on eternal life. There is no landing on the shore of felicity--without sailing on the bark of fidelity.
Philippians 2:12, "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling." Until you attain to firm salvation--you will never be free from great temptation. Luke 13:24, "Strive to enter in at the strait gate!" Who would not strive for glory with the greatest diligence, and patiently wait for glory?
"Pray without ceasing," 1 Thess. 5:17. Pray continually, though you are not continually at praying. Our daily bread--calls for daily prayers. Every day, begin and end the day with God; let prayer be your first work and your last work every day. Oh, Christian, lock up your heart with prayer--and give God the key! Are you called by the name of Christ--and will not you call upon the name of Christ? Take away spiritual breathings--and you take away spiritual living. We may pray always--and yet not be always at prayer. Christians can never lack a praying time--if they do not lack a praying frame. None can pray aright--but those that are new creatures; but all ought to pray--because they are creatures. A spiritual man may pray carnally--but a carnal man cannot pray spiritually. Prayer fetches an angel out of heaven to fetch Peter out of prison; he prayed heartily and speeds happily. The gift of prayer may have praise from men--but it is the grace of prayer which has power with God. Prayer--never did man rightly make it--but God did quickly grant it. No Christian has so little of Christ--but he has matter of praising; and no Christian has so much of Christ--but he has matter of praying. Do not deny God faith in prayer--and God will not deny a faithful prayer.
But then, in the second place--as you must be diligent in the means--so do not make an idol of means. Take up all duties in point of performance, and lay them down in point of dependence.
What is hearing without Christ--but like a cabinet without a jewel? What is receiving without Christ--but like an empty glass without a cordial? Duty can never have too much of our diligence--nor too little of our confidence. A believer does not do good works to live--but he lives to do good works. It is a bad thing for us to be something in ourselves--and to be nothing in Christ. We must undertake all our duties, and yet to overlook all our duties. The righteousness of Christ is so to be magnified--but the righteousness of Christians is not to be mentioned. When you have done all, then say, "We are unprofitable servants; we have only done our duty." Luke 17:10. We owe the life of our souls--to the death of our Savior. Duties are not destroyed by Christ--but they must be denied for Christ.
We have as much need of the Spirit to bring up our graces--as we have need of the Spirit to bring forth our graces. The clock of our hearts will stand still--unless he oil the wheels! "Rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." Good works are so indigent--as none can be saved by them; and yet they are so excellent--as none can be saved without them. Duties, if Christ breathes not in them--a Christian grows not under them.
We must live in obedience to Christ alone. Many live more
upon their customs--than they do upon Christ; more upon the
prayers they make to God--than upon the God to whom they make their prayers.
Duties are but dry pipes in themselves, though ever so meticulously worked
out--until Christ fills them.
16. Take nothing upon trust--but all upon trial.
Though all gold glitters--yet all that glitters is not gold. All is not truth--which goes for truth. Mark, sirs, "Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world." 1 John 4:1. "Prove all things--hold fast that which is good." 1 Thess. 5:21. Prove all things, that is, test all things by the Scripture. Many hold fast before they test--but we must test before we hold fast.
Alas! there are many who are like infants, that swallow everything put into their mouths. Truly it is so with many men and women, whatever men say--down it goes! They will not take so much pains as to test the sayings of men, by the sayings of God. 'Oh,' they say, 'the men we hear are honest men, able and learned men!' But would you blindly trust them with your money? And will you take your beliefs upon trust, without trial? Only a fool would buy a jewel in a box, without first seeing it! Remember, Christians, that the whore's cup is gold without--but poison within! Revelation 17:4, "She had a golden cup in her hand, full of abomination and filthiness." The cup is of gold--but the poison is the rankest poison; methinks this cup is much cupped about.
The learned men are grown so wise, that they have almost made the whole world into fools! "But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies!" 2 Peter 2:1. Oh! that there were not so many false teachers in these days. To counterfeit the coin of heaven, is treason against the King of heaven! And if this treason deserved hanging, very many deserve to be hanged! I have often thought upon Chrysostom's saying, preaching before a company of ministers, 'I do not know whether any of you clergyman are saved or not!' You will say, this is a strange saying of a minister to a company of ministers. Their calling is so weighty, their temptations so many--and their lives were so bad! They speak like angels of light--but they live like demons of darkness.
Oh, how desirous are men to put the fairest gloves--upon the foulest hands! Men are better characterized by what they do--than by what they speak. For many say--and not do. Therefore, beloved, do not believe their clever words, nor fair speeches, whereby they deceive the hearts of the poor ignorant people! "By good words and fair speeches," said the apostle, "they deceive the heart of the simple." God may reject those as copper, whom men do adore as gold.
It is ill dressing ourselves for the eternal world--by the looking-glass of this world. The Scriptures do not only present to us what God will do for man--but also what man must do for God. What is the reason that there are so many scribbling professors in the world--but because they write after such imperfect copies? The generality of people, will rather walk in the way that the most go--rather than in the way that the holiest go. Great men's vices are more imitated, than poor men's graces! But know, those who follow after others in sinning--will follow after others in suffering! We must not walk in the way that most trod--but in the straight and narrow Scripture way.
"Be followers of me" says Paul, "as I am of Christ." Where he follows Christ--we must follow him. But if Paul forsakes Christ--we must forsake Paul. If we will not take the world to be our leaders--we shall be sure to have them to be our troublers! If they cannot seduce us into an evil way--they will oppose us in our holy way. If they cannot scorch us with their fire--they will blacken us with their smoke! They will speak evil of you, because you do not run in their worldly way. Because you will not do evil with them, therefore they will say evil of you! But, sirs, whatever you do, follow those that follow Christ. Oh, that they would speak so much of God to others--and act so little for God themselves.
Now, beloved, I beseech you, that you would take nothing
upon trust--but all upon trial. Try their ways, try their
doctrines, try their sayings, try their worship--by the
Word of truth; and if it is according to truth, and agreeable to truth, and
bottomed on truth--then believe it, then receive it! If not, reject it, and
tread it down as dirt under your feet; whoever it is, who brings it. Nay, if
an angel from heaven comes and preaches any other doctrine, than the written
Word declares--let him be eternally accursed! We ought not to receive it!
"But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than
the one we preached to you--let him be eternally condemned!" Galatians 1:8.
Therefore, once more, let me beseech you, for the Lord's sake, take nothing
upon trust--but all upon trial.
17. Take those reproofs best--which you need most.
Do not be angry with those who tell you the truth--nor with the truth that is told you, "Have I now become your enemy--by telling you the truth?" Galatians 4:16. He can be no true friend to you--who is a friend to your sins! And you can be no friend to yourself--if you are an enemy to him who tells you of your sins. Will you like him the worse--who tries to make you better? "Let a righteous man strike me--it is a kindness; let him rebuke me--it is oil on my head." Psalm 141:5. You see here that the godly man is not angry with reproof--but takes it as a kindness; it shall be a kindness, and as an excellent oil on his head.
But the serpent, the more he is provoked, the more he gathers up his poison to spit at you. If Amos declares the Word of the Lord--the land is not able to bear all his words, Amos 7:10. If John the Baptist endeavors to take away the life of Herod's sins--Herod will take away the life of John the Baptist! Matthew 14:10. If the prophet goes about to expose the king's sins--he himself shall be imprisoned, 2 Chron. 16:10. "The king was so angry with the prophet, that he put him into prison." Jerusalem will stone the prophets, until she has not one stone left upon another. Oh! that men should be so cruel--to those that intend their cure!
Wicked men cannot endure reproof. You allow the physician to tell you of any disease that is in your bodies; you allow your lawyer to show you any flaw that is in your estates. And what! must faithful preachers only flatter you, and deceive you, and cry, "Peace, peace!" until your souls drop into hell! Oh! we cannot, we will not, we must not! "Go out, and tell them whatever I tell you to say. Do not be afraid of them!" Jeremiah 1:17. "Command those who are rich in the present age not to be arrogant or to set their hope on the uncertainty of wealth." 1 Timothy 6:17. Great men, as well as poor men, must be admonished.
But, my brethren, there is a great deal of discretion to be used in reproving. Many reprove anger--with anger; and this is to lay one devil and raise another. Reproof should not be with passion--but with compassion; not with jeering--but with grieving; not with laughing--but with weeping! "I have told you often, and now I tell you weeping," Philippians 3:18. The apostle could not make mention of their sins, with dry eyes; his eyes were wet, because their eyes were dry.
It is the part of a godly man to reprove, though his
reproof is not taken in good part. It is better to lose the smiles of
men--than to lose the souls of men! The magistrates, they look
to your peace; the lawyers, they look to your estate; the
physicians look to your bodies, the ministers, they look to your
souls. Ministers must draw the sword of reproof against men, and
strike at them, and thrust at them. "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful
works of darkness--but rather reprove them," Ephesians 5:11. We must
not allow wicked men to walk in the devil's ways without reproof !we must
reprove you wisely, sincerely, sharply; and when you mend your lives--we
shall mend our language!
18. Labor more for the inward purity--than for the outward felicity.
"Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life." John 6:27. That man who is a laboring bee for earthly prosperity, will be but an idle drone for heavenly felicity. Gold in your bags will make you greater--but it is grace in your heart that will make you better. He is a rich man that lives upon his wealth--but he is a righteous man that lives upon his faith! A heavenly conversation is better than any earthly possession. It is a great mercy to have a portion in the world--but to have the world for a portion, is a great misery. Our affections were made for things that are above us, and not for the things that are below us. Col. 3:1-2, "If you have been raised to new life with Christ," What then? "Set your hearts on things above! Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things!" The things of this life--do not have the promise of godliness--but godliness has the promise of the things of this life.
Inward piety is the best friend to outward felicity--though outward felicity be many times the worst enemy to inward piety. The ways of iniquity are the ways of beggary. You make heaven your throne to serve it--and God will make the earth your foot-stool to serve you. Inward piety is the ready road to outward plenty. 1 Timothy 4:8, "Godliness has the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." Oh what an excellent jewel is godliness! We should part with all--for godliness! We should account all other things but dung and dirt--to gain godliness!
But, alas! some men are so in love with their golden bags, that they will ride with all possible haste to hell--if they are but paid well for their pains! They look upon gain as the highest good, and not upon godliness as the highest gain! They mind the present world so much--as if it would never have an ending! They mind the world to come so little--as if it would never have a beginning! The perishing things of this world--are all the happiness of the men of this world! "Who is the Almighty, and why should we obey him? What good will it do us if we pray?" Job 21:15. Oh, what wretched worldlings! Oh, what pains do men take to cover the flesh from nakedness, when their spirits are not clothed with the robes of righteousness?
They are diligent about what is temporal--but negligent about what is eternal! They are careful about dying vanities--but slothful about durable excellencies! They feast their bodies--but starve their souls! They lay up treasures on earth--but none in heaven! Oh! "Why do you spend money on what is not food, and your wages on what does not satisfy?" Isaiah 55:2. Riches have made good men worse--but they never made any bad man better. Usually the poorest on earth--are the richest in heaven. If riches would free from hell--oh then how few rich men would be damned. He who knocks at the creature's door for true happiness--will find but an empty house kept there. Oh, beloved, what is darkness, compared to light? What is gold, compared to grace? What is earth, compared to heaven? that you thus neglect the great things, the weighty things, the eternal things--and busy yourselves about toys and trifles! You have a crown to look after, a heaven to look after, a kingdom to look after!
I beseech you, beloved, labor more for inward
holiness--than for outward happiness! Labor more for the seed of grace--than
for the bag of gold! Labor more for inward piety--than for outward plenty!
Labor more for an heavenly conversation--than for an earthly possession! The
earth is for a saint's passage--but heaven is for a saint's
portion. Oh, believer, while you live, you will find godliness gainful;
and when you die, you will find godliness needful!
19. Live in love--and live in truth.
"Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue--but with actions and in truth." 1 John 3:18. Let your love, Christians, be sincere, and not selfish.
Galatians 5:14, "Love your neighbor as yourself." How do you love yourself? How dearly do you love yourself? Why, just so you must love your neighbor! He who is not lacking in this duty, is lacking in no duty. Love is called both an old commandment, and a new commandment in 1 John 2:7, 8. It is as old as the law of Moses, and yet as new as the gospel of Jesus Christ.
A carnal man may love his friend--but it is a Christian man that loves his enemy. He who loved us when we were enemies, commands us to love our enemies. "Love your enemies," said our Lord, "bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, pray for those who despitefully use you, and persecute you." A Christian should wish well--to those who wish him ill.
Oh, believers, let me beseech you, let me beg of you for your precious souls' sake--to live in love, and to live in truth. You are fellow-laborers, fellow-members, fellow-citizens, fellow-travelers, fellow-sufferers, fellow-heirs, fellow-servants; and will you not love one another! Remember, Christians, he who would not be his brother's keeper, would be his brother's butcher! "While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him!" Genesis 4:8.
All Christians have all the same father, God; the same head, Christ; the same guide, the Spirit; the same attendants, the angels; the same grace, faith; the same title, son; the same clothing, Christ's righteousness; the same glory, heaven. And shall we not love one another? He who loves himself, will not hate his brother; for while you are out of charity with your brother--God is out of charity with you; and you lose more for lack of God's love, than your brother loses for lack of your love!
Hebrews 13:1, "Let brotherly love continue." Do you love the person of Christ--and hate the picture of Christ? Oh, sirs, remember the God of love--has commanded us to love one another. Beloved, it is a sad thing, and truly so sad, that it may make our very hearts bleed within us, to think that the Lamb's little flock--who are in strength the weakest, in riches the poorest, in number the fewest--that they should be in love the coldest! Is not this sad --that the little ones of Jesus Christ, that the lambs of Jesus Christ, should love one another so little? Oh, Christians, either lay your malice aside, or else God will lay you aside--to your great sorrow! He who will be angry and sin not--must not be angry but with sin.
Therefore, dear Christians, let me beseech you to love one another. Oh, that I could but speak out how much I desire love to one another! Oh, it will be a happy day when all the people of God are knit together in love and affection! Oh, sirs, if God had commanded some great thing of us, some burdensome thing of us--it might have been excused! But, alas! it is no more but to love our brethren--and shall we deny this to him? But you may say, How should we believers love one another? I answer:
First, You should highly esteem one another as pearls--in comparison of other men!
This is how God looks on his people. God calls his people his jewels, his treasures, his glory and his portion--when he calls wicked men dogs, vipers, swine, briers and thorns! You should be very high in one another's affections.
Secondly, You should delight in the company of one another, in the society of each other! God delights in the society of saints--and so should you.
Thirdly, You should be ready to help one another, and to do good for one another, and to share with one another. Remember the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, who said, "It is a more blessed to give--than to receive.''
Fourthly, Admonish one another. Exhort one another, stir up one another to love, and to do good works.
Fifthly, Sympathize one with one another.
Fellow-members should be fellow-feelers; so did Moses, and Jeremiah; and old
Eli--his heart was broken before his neck was broken. Dear
Christians, let me beseech you, let me beg of you--to love one another! God
calls us to love--who is love itself.
20. Set out for God at your beginning--and hold out with God until your ending.As there are none too old for eternity--so there are none too young for mortality, "Remember your Creator in the days of your youth," Eccl. 12:1. We are born to serve God. It is better we had never been born--than not serve him. Man is indebted to God--for what he has; but God is not indebted to man--for what he does. It is a greater glory to us--that we serve God; than it is to God--that we serve him. It is not he--who is made happy by us; but we--who are made happy by him. He needs not such servants as we are on earth--but we need such a Master as he is in heaven. He will be everlastingly blessed without us--but we will be everlastingly cursed without him.
"Of him, and through him, and to him are all things--to whom be glory forever. Amen." Romans 11:36. It is sad, my beloved, it is sad--that we should live so long in the world, and do so little good; or that we should live so little in the world, and do so much evil. Oh, you must never imagine that you can dance with the devil all day--and sup with Christ at night! You can never go from Delilah's lap--to Abraham's bosom! If salvation were easy to come by--it would be slightly set by. There is no obtaining of what is promised--but by fulfilling what is commanded. Do not neglect the race of holiness, "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which none shall see God!" Hebrews 12:14.
Beloved, there are many young people in the world, who are very wicked in the world. They walk in darkness, and do the works of darkness. They are young in years--but old in sin. They are very vain--in a vain world. They sin with delight--and make sin their delight. I beseech you to meditate on Ecclesiastes 11:9, "Be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see!" Oh this is brave indeed--if it would always last! But after the flash of lightning, comes the clap of thunder! Mark what follows, "BUT know that for all these things--God will bring you to judgment!" Do you but see here, sirs. Oh were it not for this BUT--how brave wicked men would be! "BUT know that for all these things--God will bring you to judgment!" For all your lusts, and for all your pride, and for all your worldliness and selfishness--you shall be brought to judgment! After all your present receiving, you must be brought to your future reckoning.
Oh, therefore, let nothing be done in this world--which cannot be answered for in the eternal world. I beseech you who are young--to serve God, to love God, to honor God, to obey God in your youthful days. "Remember your Creator in the days of your youth!" The flower of life is Christ's setting--and shall it be of the devil's plucking? Will you hang the most sparkling ring of your young years--on the devil's ear! Oh! it is hard casting off the devil's yoke--when we have worn it so long on our neck! Oh, young people! If God's today is too soon for your repentance, your tomorrow will be too late for God's acceptance. You can never come too soon to God, nor stay too long with God!
He shall be happy in the end--who is holy to the end. "Be faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life," Revelation 2:10. Oh, hold on--and hold out to the end! He who draws back from profession, shall be kept back from salvation! He who endures in the faith shall be saved; but he who departs from the faith shall be damned! "If any man draws back--my soul shall have no pleasure in him." Hebrews 10:38. So I say to you all, both young and old, "Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." 1 Corinthians 15:58.
If God gives us that grace which is not due to us--shall we deny him that glory which is due to him? If God makes our natures gracious--we should make his name glorious. Oh! be still with God! "When I awake, I am still with you!" Psalm 139:18. David was least alone--when he was most alone! There cannot be a better being for us--than for us to be with God.