The Trial of a Christian's Growth - continued.
THE TRIAL OF A CHRISTIAN'S
[PART I. CHAPTER II]
Back to Part One
What it is to bring forth more fruit explicated negatively by removing many mistakes.
LET us now see what it is wherein Christians may be said to grow, that so you may be able to discern what it is to bring forth more fruit.
And this I will explicate two ways
I. First, negatively; what it is not to bring forth more fruit really, though in appearance and in show it be a growth in fruit which occasions many mistakes.
II. Secondly, positively; what it is truly to bring forth more fruit.
I. For the first : - 1. First, to grow is not only or chiefly to grow in gifts or abilities, as to preach and pray, &c., but to increase in graces: in gifts only, so reprobates may grow; yea, and so true believers may grow, and yet not bring forth more fruit. The Corinthians grew fast this way in respect of gifts; they were 'enriched in all utterance and knowledge, and came behind in no gift,' 1 Cor. i. 7, and yet he tells them that they were 'babes and carnal,' chap. iii. 2, 3. And therefore in the 12th chapter, after he had spoken of gifts, and endeavouring to excel therein, as they did, he tells them that indeed they were things to be desired, and therefore exhorts them to 'covet the best gifts;' but yet, says he, 'I shew unto you a more excellent way,' in the last verse of that 12th chapter. And what was that? It follows in the 13th chapter, even true grace, charity, love to God, and love of our brethren. A dram of that is, says he, worth a pound of the best fruit of gifts. And so his discourse, chap. xiii., doth begin, ver. 1, 'Though I speak with tongues of men and angels, yet if I have not charity,' &e. Gifts are given for the good of others, to edify them especially, 1 Cor. xii. 7 ; but graces, as love, faith, and humility, these are given to save a man's own soul, and therefore therein is the true growth. Yet as concerning this I will propound a caution or two
Caution 1. - Indeed, growth in gifts, together with growth in sanctification running along with it, will increase our account; for God will crown his own gifts in us, if, as they come from Christ, so they be used in him, and for him, in our intentions; but otherwise they puff up and hinder. They serve indeed to set out and garnish the fruit, and to help forward the exercise of graces; they are good fruit-dishes to set the fruit forth. But if grace grow not with them, we bring not forth much fruit, for at best they are but blossoms, not fruit.
Caution 2. - Again, men are indeed to endeavour to grow in these gifts of memory, and instructing others, and conferences, &e. As was said to Timothy, 'Let thy profiting appear to all,' 1 Tim. iv. 15; and to the Corinthians, 'Covet the best gifts,' especially whilst you are young; yet we are not simply thereby to take an estimate of our growth.
Caution 3. -Though this let me withal add, that often by increasing in grace a man increaseth in gifts, and for want of increasing in grace, gifts also do decay. The talents being used faithfully, were doubled, and unfaithfully, were lessened. And this consideration may help to answer some doubts and objections which some Christians have about their growth; as, because they cannot pray so well as others, nor do so much service to the saints as some do, therefore they bring forth less fruit. Thou mayest bring more fruit for all that, if thou walkest humbly in thy calling, and prayest more fervently, though less notionally or eloquently. By how much the more we are humble, prize ourselves less by them, and use them in Christ and for Christ, seeing they come all from him; the more we are contented to want them, and not envy others that have them; so much the more fruit we bring forth, even in the want of such gifts.
Again, decay in gifts, as in old age, doth not always hinder men from bringing forth more fruit. As, although they cannot remember a sermon so well as they had wont, nor preach with that vigour, and vivacity, and quickness when they are old, nor be so active, stirring, forward, it follows not that they bring not forth more fruit. David when he was old could not govern the kingdom, nor do the church that service he had done formerly, yet true fruit he might grow in, in regard of his personal carriage towards God for his own salvation. A musician when he is young is able to sing sweetlier than when he is old; or when his vigour decays, his joints grow lame, he cannot play as he had wont; yet still he may grow a better musician, and have more skill, and set better. Affections, the quickness of them depends much upon bodily spirits.
2. Our bringing forth more fruit, it is not to be measured simply by our success towards others in the exercise of those gifts, though that be called fruit also; so, Jer. xvii. 10, they are called 'the fruit of our doings.' There are our doings, and the fruits of onr doings, - that is, the success which our examples, or gifts, or graces, have upon others, - and so the conversion of tbe souls of men by the apostles is called by Christ 'their fruit,' John xv. 16; yet simply by this we are not to reckon our growth, for in success and exercise of gifts a man may decrease when he grows older, and so see less fruit of his labours than formerly, or haply he may be laid aside. So says the Baptist of himself, 'I must decrease,' John iii. 30. John, when Christ came to preach, had less comings in. And in this respect, old Christians and ancient ministers may decrease, and young ones increase, and yet they decay not in grace; for there are God's works in us, and God's works with us. Now, God's work with us in doing good to others may be less when yet his works in us may be more; for as there are 'diversities of gifts,' so of 'operations,' 1 Cor. xii. 4, 6. The Holy Ghost may use one of less grace to do more good than one of more: though herein this caution is to be added, that he delights usually to honour those of most sincerity with most success; as in that eminent apostle, Paul, 'the grace of God was more in him,' and so wrought more with him in doing much good to others, 1 Cor. xv. 10; and God also will reward 'according to the fruit of our doings,' as Jer. xvii. 10, when our desires are enlarged to do much good, and we intended and aimed to do that good which is done; there it is added there, in that Jer. xvii., 'whose heart thou knowest.' When he sees the heart clearly enlarged to do much good, then the fruit that is done is reckoned him as his; otherwise, whatever it be he doth by us, he will reward but according to our works, as concurrent with his. So, 1 Cor. iii. 8, the Apostle upon this occasion intimates that seeing it is 'God that gives the increase,' he says that 'God will reward men according to their own labours;' not simply according to his works by them. As if God doth hot go forth with a minister whose heart is much set to do good and to convert souls, to do so in itch good by him as with another, who is in his own spirit less zealous; yet if bra heart was large in desires, and his endeavours great to do good, God will reckon more fruit to him than to another that had fewer endcavours, though more success
3. This growth in grace, and bringing forth more fruit, is not simply to be reckoned by the largeness or smallness of those opportunities which men have of doing more or less good, and so, by the bringing forth of more fruit, in respect of more opportunities vouchsafed. Some that have more grace, and better gifts, have their shop-windows shut, night overtakes them, and the power of darkness, as it did Christ himself in the end, and then 'they cannot work.' Others have lesser shops to work in, and yet have more grace; yea, the same man may have larger opportunities when young and lesser when he is old, and yet grows and brings forth before God more fruit, because he accepts the will for the deed. So the Baptist was hindered in his latter time in prison, when yet he brought forth more fruit; and therefore he envied not Christ that got all his custom, his hearers, and disciples, but rejoiced that the work went forward, though not by himself. Here was as much grace expressed as in many sermons. So Paul, he was much of his time in prison, yet then he ceased not to bring forth more fruit that should tend to his salvation; for, Phil. i. 15, 16, whenas he being in prison, he heard others preached, and that out of envy to him, others out of good-will, I in prison rejoiced, says he, 'that Christ is preached,' though I cannot do it myself; and I know, says he, 'that this shall turn to my salvation,' ver. 19. These fruits were as much, and would bring him in as much glory as his preaching. Indeed, when a man shall prize opportunities of doing good, and for them voluntarily let go all opportunities of advancing himself and his credit, or ease, or carnal advantages, then the more fruit he brings forth in those opportunities, the more is reckoned on his score.
4. It is not always to be measured by accessory graces, as joy and spiritual ravishment, &c., which tend to the comfort of a Christian; but it is to be estimated rather by those substantial graces, as faith, humility, love, strong and solid affections to what is good. The other may decrease when these that are more substantial do increase. These sweet blooms may fall off when fruit comes on; though the gloss wear out, no matte; so the stuff be strong and substantial. Young Christians grow like new instruments; they have more varnish than old, but not so sweet a sound. Yea, often the decreasing of those superadded graces are a means of the increase of the other. Want of feeling causeth more exercise of faith, as taking away bladders exercises a man to swim. One that hath bladders, and the stream with him, seems to swim as well and as fast as one that hath learned long, and hath more skill and strength, but wanteth these, and swims against the stream, yet not so fast. Spiritual withdrawings cause more humility, more cleaving to God. A man, as the leper cleansed, haply at the first leaps more, but goes as fast afterward.
5. It is not increasing in outward professing, and a seeming forward, but especially in inward and substantial godliness; the other is but as increasing in leaves; but in growth there must be a bringing forth more fruit. When the root strikes not deeper downward and further into the earth, but spreading much upward in the branches, this is not a true growth; though look when there is more rooting, there will be more spreading also above ground. Growth, it lies not in this, 'that men should think of me above what I am indeed,' 2 Cor. xii. 6. Many at first grow into so great a profession as they cannot fill up and grow up to all their days: make bigger clothes than they can grow to fill; as they say of elephants, that the skin is as big at first as ever after, and all their lifetime their flesh grows but up to fill their akin True growth begins at the vitals; the heart, the liver, the blood gets soundness and vigour, and so the whole man outwardly; this heart-godliness is the thing you must judge by.
6. And yet, even in inward affections many be deceived; even there the party for Christ in appearance may be greater than in truth. So, often in a young Christian, there is a greater army of affections mustered, hut most of them but mercenaries: his affections are then larger, his joys greater, his sorrows violenter than afterwards. More of his heart joins in duties at first; but afterwards, though less, yet more spiritually and truly. The objects being then new, draw all after them: not only spirit, or that new principle of grace is stirred then, but flesh also. The unregenerate part becomes a temporary believer for a time, hath a work upon it per redundantiam, as an unregenerate man hathwho is a temporary; which work on the unregenerate part doth decay, as in temporaries it doth, and grows less. Not only godly sorrow is stirred to mourn for sin, but carnal sorrow, being awakened by God's wrath, joins also, and so makes the stream bigger. Infidelity itself, like Simon Magus, for a while believes. Whilst the things of grace ar a wonder to a man, as at first they are, presumption joins and ekes out faith. A great party in the heart 'cleaves by flattery,' as the phrase is in Daniel, and for by-ends, which, after some progress, fall off and faint in the way; and those lusts that, over and above their true mortification, were further cast into a swoon, begin again to revive.
All this was resembled to us by the coming of the children of Israel out of Egypt, when, by those plagues in Egypt, and Moses's call, not only the Israelites, but even many of the Egyptians were wrought upon, and began out of self-love to fear the Lord, Exod. ix. 20, and so 'a mixed multitude,' it is said, went out with the Israelites, Exod. xii. 38, to sacrifice to the Lord; but ere long, as Num. xi. 4, this mixed multitude began to murmur, and to fall off. So, at a man's first setting out at his first conversion, mixed carnal affections, the unregenerate part, through the newness of the objects, and impression of God's wrath, and heavenly ravishments, are wrought upon, and go out with the new Israel to sacrifice, but after a while these fall away, and then the number is less; but the true Israelites may be increased. Hence it is that young Christians, if they know their hearts, complain more of hypocrisy, and old Christians of deadness. So, in times of peace, presumption ekes out faith, and makes it seem a great deal, which in times of desertion and trial falls off; and then, though the believing party be less, yet more sincere. When the fire is first kindled, there is more smoke, even as much as fills the house; but after the flame comes, that contracts all into a narrow compass, and hath more heat in it. So it is in young Christians, their affections, which Christ compares-to the smoking flax, their joy in duties, their sorrow for sin, their love of God, is more, but exceeding carnal; the flame after, though less, grows purer, and less mixed with vapours of corrupt self-love.
7. We must ot measure our bringing forth more fruit by some one kind or sort of duties, but by our growth in godliness, in the universal extent and latitude of it, as it takes in and comprehendeth the duties of both callings, general and particular, and all the duties of a Christian. Thus it may be when grown up we are less in some sort of duties than we were, when we were young Christians. Haply we were more then in praying, in fasting, and reading and meditating; yea, spent the most, if not the whole, of our time in these. But because now we spend less time in these, we must not say therefore that we are fallen or decayed; for there are many other duties to be done besides these, which haply then we neglected, but now make conscience of. So that take all sorts of duties in the latitude of them, and we may be grown more, and do bring forth more fruit. Perhaps we bring forth less fruit of some one kind than afore, but if we be filled with all variety of fruits of the first and second table of our general and 'particular callings, this is to bring forth more fruit. Men at their first conversion are necessitated often for to spend their whole time in such duties wherein they immediately draw nigh to God. Paul then spent three whole days in fasting and prayer. And then we allow them to do it, because their estates require it; they want assurance ,and establishment, they see grace to be that one thing necessary, and therefore we give them leave to neglect all things for it; they are new married to Christ, and therefore they are not to be pressed to war the first year, (as I may so allude,) as for young married persons it was provided in Leviticus; and parents and masters are to give allowance to such, then in their travail of their new birth, to lie in, and not to be cruel to them, in denying them more time than ordinary. So also when they are in desertion, - which is a time of sickness, and in sickness you allow your servants time from their work, - as the church when she wanted her beloved, Cant. iii. 2, no wonder if she leaves all to seek him. As yourselves, when you want a child or a servant, you cry him in every street, and leave all to find him, as he left ninety-nine to find one lost sheep. And they then come new out of prison, out of their natural estate, and out of the fresh apprehension of the wrath of God, and therefore no wonder if they run so fast to haste out of it, and salute none by the way, stay to do no business; but when once they are gotten to the city of refuge, then they fall about their business and callings again. Hence young Christians are apt to be more negligent in their particular callings, and are all for the duties of religion, for their present distress and estate tequires it. Ancienter Christians are apt to abound more in the dnties of their particular calling. But he that hath learned to be conversant in both aright, to be conversant in his calling, so as to keep his heart up in communion with God, and so attend upon God without distraction, and to be conversant so in duties as to go about his calling cheerfully, and to 'do with all his might what his hand therein finds to do,' he is the best Christian. And therefore, 1 These. iv. 10, when he had exhorted them to increase more and more in grace, he goes on, ver. 11, to exhot them also 'to do their own business, and to work, with their hands,' that they may 'walk honestly towards them without ;'for to neglect' our callings gives offence to them without, and therefore masters stumble at young Christians. But both, you see by the Apostle's exhortation in that epistle, may stand together, increasing in holiness, of which he had spoken before, chap. iii. 12, and chap. iv. 1, 10, with diligence in a calling, of which he speaks, ver. 11, &c. To be conversant all day in holy duties is indeed more sweet to a man's self, and is a heaven upon earth; but to be conversant in our callings is more profitable to others; and so may glorify God more. And therefore, as when Paul would gladly have been with Christ, - for 'that is best for me,' says he, - yet, says he, to abide here is more profitable for you,' Phil. i. 24. So, to enjoy immediate communion with God in prayer, and to meditate all the week long, is more for the comfort of a man's particular; but to be employed in the business of a man's calling; the more profitable for the church, or commonwealth, or family. And therefore it is to be accounted a bringing forth of more fruit, when both are joined and wisely subordinated, so as the one is not a hindrance to the other. Though the child, out of love to his mother, and the sweetness he hath in her company, could find it in his heart to stay all day at home to look on her, let it pleaseth her more for him to go to school all day, and at night to come home and be with her, and play with her; and she then kisseth him; and makes much of him. Children when they are young, they eat often, and do little, and we allow them to do so; afterwards you set them to work, and to school, and reduce them to two good meals, and they thrive as well with it
What it is to bring forth more fruit explicated positively; wherein many direct trials of growth are given.
II. THUS I have shewn you negatively what this growth is not to be measured by, and so by way of intimation wherein it consists; I will, secondly, do it more positively, and directly, and affirmatively.
1. We grow when we are led on to exercise new graces, and so to 'add one grace to another,' as the apostle Peter exhorts; as when in our knowledge we are led into new truths, and have answerable affections running along with those discoveries towards the things revealed. At first a Christian doth not exercise all graces, though all are radically in him. But as a man lives first the life of a plant, then of sense, then of reason, so is it in graces. There are many forms Christians go through, as scholars at school do, wherein their thoughts are in a more especial manner taken up about divine objects of a higher or inferior nature. The first form is to teach them to know their sinfulness of heart and life more; and so they go to school to the law, and are set to study it, even oftentimes a good while after conversion and faith begun. And then, after they have learned that lesson throughly, they are led up higher to have their faith drawn out, and to be exercised about free grace more, and towards Christ's person, union with him, and about the art and way of drawing virtue from him, and doing all in him. And herein it falls out with particular Christians as with the church in general; that as although the, most infant days of the church, from Adam's time in the old world, had the knowledge of all fundamentals necessary to salvation, yet God went over piecemeal, Heb. i. 1, age after age, to instruct his church in a larger knowledge of those fundamentals: so is it in God's dealing with particular Christians. Though a believer in his conversion hath the substance of all these taught him, yet he goes over them by piecemeal again throughout his whole life; and hath often such a distinct apprehension renewed of them, as if he had not known or minded them before. And sometimes his thoughts do dwell more about the emptiness of his own righteousness, sometimes about that fulness is in Christ, sometimes more about the spiritual strictness he ought to walk in. And because some are apt to give up the old work when they have new, hence that which is indeed but growth in grace in them many account to be but their first conversion; though every such eminent addition be to be accounted as a conversion, as Christ speaks to his disciples, 'Except ye be converted;' yet they were converted before. Now, the purpose I speak this for is a help to discern our growth; for when God thus is leading us with further light and affection to a larger apprehension of spiritual things, or to the trying new graces, so long we grow. Therefore, Cant vii. 13, the church is said to 'lay up for her beloved fruits new and old;' and, Rom. v., from patience a man is led to experience, and from experience to hope. As wicked men are led on from one sin to another, and so grow worse and worse; so godly men from one grace to another: and when it is so with us, then we increase.
2. When a man finds new degrees of the same grace added, and the fruits of them grow bigger and more plentiful: as when a man's love grows 'more fervent' as 1 Pet. iv. 8; when faith, from merely casting itself on Christ, comes to find sweetness in Christ, which is to 'eat his flesh and drink his blood;' and then from that grows further up to an 'assurance of faith,' which is an addition to it; when anything that 'was lacking in faith,' as the apostle speaks, 1 Thess. iii. 10, is added. So when a man grows up to more strength of faith in temptations, and is less moved and shaken in them, more rooted in faith, as the apostle speaks. Thus in godly sorrow, when from mourning for sin as contrary to God's holiness, we go on to mourn for it as contrary to him who roves us, which follows upon assurance, as they 'mourned over him which once they had pierced; not only that we mourn that we should offend a God hath so much mercy in him, but out of a sense of it to us, which many cannot find. So when our motives to hate sin grow more raised, more spiritual, these are additions of the same degree. So in prayer, when we find our prayers to grow more spiritual, as in that part of prayer, confession, when more spiritual corruptions are put into our confessions; and so, in like manner, stronger grounds of faith put into deprecation, and petitions for pardon; more enlargedness to thankfulness; more zeal to pray for the churches; when we go on to 'pray with all prayer more, as the Apostle speaks, Eph. vi. 18. Or in obedience, when we 'abound more and more in the work of the Lord,' as, Rev. ii. 19, it is said of that church, that 'their last works were more than the first;' so as the boughs are laden, and we are 'filled with the fruits of righteousness,' Phil. i. 11. 3. When the fruits and duties we perform grow more ripe, more spiritual, though less juicy, that is, less affectionate; and though they grow not in bigness nor in number, - that is, we pray not more nor longer, - yet they grow more savoury, more spiritual, more compact and solid. It is not simply the multitude of performances argues growth; when one is sick, and his body is decayed, he may be less in duties; but it is the spiritualness, the holiness of them. One short prayer put up in faith, with a broken heart, is in God's eye more fruit than a long one, or a whole day spent in fasting; even in the same sense that the 'widow's mite' is said to be more than they all cast in, Luke 21
3. Young Christians perform more duties at first, and oftener, than after; as young stomachs eat more and oftener. As in noting sermons, so in performing duties, some will note more words but not more matter, because with less understanding. Young Christians perform more duties, and withal spoil more duties; young carpenters make many chips. But the more spiritual your performances grow, the more fruit there is to be esteemed that there is in them. It is not the bigness of the fruit, or juiciness of them, for then crabs were better than apple; but the relish it is that gives the commendation. And it is the end you have therein that puts this relish into them: when your arms are raised more to aim at God, and to sanctify him more, and to debase yourselves in a sense of your own vileness, and emptiness; and inability; and when your obedience proceeds more out of thankfulness, and less out of the constraint of conscience. As the greatest growth of wicked men is in spiritual wickednes; - in which the Pharisees grew, and sinners against the Holy Ghost do grow, when yet it may be they leave more gross evil; - so the greatest growth of grace is in spiritual holines; in sanctifying God much in the heart, and 'worshipping him in spirit and truth.'
4. When a man grows more rooted into Christ, that is the true growth, and that which makes the fruit to be more in God's sight and esteem; therefore, Eph. iv. 1 , we are said 'to grow up in him,' - that is, to live the life we lead more out of ourselves and in Christ. As when, for the acceptation of our persons, we are emptied of our own righteousness; so for strength to perform duties, we are emptied of our abilities, seeing 'without him we can do nothing.' So when for acceptation of our performances when we have done them, our hearts have learned habitually to say more and more with the apostle, 'Not I, but Christ in me;' when we interest Christ more and more in all we do, as the efficient and also the final cause. And therefore I observe, when growth of grace is mentioned, it is still expressed by 'growing in the knowledge of Christ;' so, 2 Pet, iii. 18, 'Grow, in grace and in the knowledge of Christ;' as if to grow in grace without him were nothing, as indeed it is not so in the Ephesians we are said both to grow up in him and for him. Philosophers did grow in moral virtues, but not in Christ; so do civil men and others. Temporaries do duties from him, but yet as in themselves; as the ivy that hath sap from the oak, but concocts it in its own root, and so brings forth as from itself. To do one duty, sanctifying Christ and free grace in the heart, is more than a thousand. Young Christians, it may be, do more works, but not as works of grace: and the more men think by duties to get Christ and God's favour, the more in duties they trust, and so they become as works of the law; but the more dead a man grows to the law, and to live to Christ and Christ in him, and the more free grace is acknowledged in all, trusted in above all, the more evangelical our works are, and the more to God, (for that is the end,of the gospel, to honour Christ and free grace,) the more we grow. 'We are of the circumcision,' says the Apostle, 'who rejoice in the Lord Jesus, worship God in the spirit, and have no confidence in the flesh,' Phil. iii. 3. As these are the surest signs of true grace, so of tne growth.
5. The more we learn to bring forth fruits in season, the more fruit we may be said to bring forth. For the seasonable performance of them makes them more. All the fruits in their season, how acceptable are they which out of season they are not. In the 1st Psalm a righteous man is said to 'bring forth his fruits in due season;' and in theProverbs, 'Words in season are as apples' of gold and pictures of silver.' In Ezek. xlvii. 12, they are said to 'bring forth pleasant fruits in their months.' As in reproving he is not so much to reprove, as to reprove in season; to have our 'senses exercised' to know fit seasons, and to 'consider one another to provoke to love,' as it is Heb. x. 24. Young Christians do more, but more out of season, and the devil abuseth them, putting them upon duties, when they would be at their refreshings, at their callings; he deceiving them with this, that holy duties in themselves, as alone simply compared, are better than to do anything else; whenas the season adds the goodness to our actions. Thus to recreate thyself at some seasons is better than to be a-praying. . A 'righteous man orders his conversation aright,' Ps 1 23, and order gives a rectitude, a goodness to things.
6. When we grow more constant in performances, and more even in a godly course, and settled in spiritual affections without intermission, it is a sign we grow. It argues that 'our inward man is more renewed day by day,' when we can walk closely with God a long while together. A righteous man is compared to the palm-tree, 'whose leaf never fades,' Ps. i. whereas other trees bring forth by fits. And by fits to be much in dutie is not a sign of growth, but weakness; it is out of inordinacy. And of such a frame are young Christians hearts, like new lute-strings, which, when they are wound too high, are still a-falling ever and anon; whereas strings settled long on an instrument will stand long, awl not slip down.
7. A man may be said to grow and bring forth more fruit, when, although the difficulties of doing duties become greater, and his means less, yet he continues to do them, and this though it may be he doth no more than he did before. For a tree to bring forth much fruit in cold weather, or standing in the shade, is more than in summer, or when it stands in the sun. 'I know thy work, thy labour, and thy patience,' Rev. ii. 19. When a, man, though he does fewer works, yet with much labour, having it may be now a body grown weak; or holds out in the profession of the ways of God, with more scoffs, and hazarding more, in a place where 'Satan's throne is;' this makes a little done for Christ a great deal. So when a man thrives with a little trading, with small means of grace, and yet exceedeth those that have more; to pray, and to continue to do so, though the stream is against us, and gales cease; to pray, and to continue to pray, when we hear no answers, but the contrary. It is noted of Daniel, that 'he did the king's business after he had been sick,' chap. 'viii 27; and so he prayed, you know, when he ventured his life for it. When we have less straw to make the same number of brick with, less wages, less encouragements, and yet do as much work with cheerfulness.
8. When a man, though he doth less for the outward bulk, yet grows more wise and faithful to lay out all his opportunities and abilities to the best advantage; this is to bring forth more fruit. Thus Moses, who at first began to hear himself all causes both small and great, but in the end he gave over the lesser causes to others, and reserved the hearing of the greater to himself, Exod. xviü. 13 - 26, yet still he continued to do more, and laid himself out to the greater advantage. His former course would in the end have killed him; 'Thou wilt wear away like a leaf,' saith Jethro to him. So the Apostle, who strived to preach the gospel 'where Christ had not been known,' Rom. xv. 20. When a man forbears lesser things to lay out all for the church's advantage; less ventures himself jn a smaller course, (unless particularly called to it,) not out of fearfulness but faithfulness, and will lay all the stock on it in a greater. Young Christians are as young fencers, they strike hand over head, downright blows; whereas if they would consider their brother, or a wicked man whom they wuild reprove, as skilful fencers do, ,and at an advantage hit them a good blow, is it not much better! When a-man 'watcheth in all things,' as he exhorts Timothy, 2 Tim. iv. 5, and 'serves the season,' as some read it, Rom. xii. 11, - that is, waits for the best advantages of doing good, both which may stand with fervency of spirit, and enduring afflictions, for so the next words are in both those places. A man is no less liberal that studies how to lay out his money to most charitable uses, though he gives less to fewer particulars. We live in a wicked world, and godly men cannot do what they would, as wicked men also cannot. When therefore a man looks about him and studies - to improve himself to the utmost advantage for God in his place, to lay out his credit, his parts, and all for God, as a faithful factor in the best wares, though he deals in fewer particulars, he may notwithstanding bring forth more fruit - And thus much for matter of trial about he first thing, positive growth in fruitfulness.
OF GROWTH IN MORTIFICATION; OR, GOD'S PURGING OUR CORRUPTION.
He purgeth it, that it may bring forth new fruit. John XV 2.
The observation out of the text propounded, That God goes on to purge corruption out of true branches. - Bounds set to this discourse about it, according to the scope of the text. - The reasons of the point.
I come now to the trial of our growth in that other part of
sanctification, - namely, the mortification of lusts, and purging out of
corruptions, - which the text also calls for; Christ here saying not only that
they bring forth more fruit, but that God 'purgeth them' that they may bring
forth more fruit. The observation from which words is clearly this, That God
chooseth true branches to grow, in a purging out of their corruptions, as in
true fruitfulness. In the handling of this point, I shall do these four things
I. First, Set the bounds and limits of this discourse about it, according to , Christ's intendment, as here he speaks of it.
II. Secondly, Give some reasons of the point.
III. Thirdly, Shew the ways which God useth to carry on the progress in thiswork.
IV. Fourthly, Give some helps of trial about it.
I. Now for the first, the explication and limiting this point unto Christ's intendment here, that so I may only so far handle it as the scope of the words will bear, I premise these three things about it
1. That purging here intended, which is indeed all one with mortification, and emptying out sin out of our hearts and lives, is to be restrained here to the progress of a Christian in that work, and not as taking in with it that first work of mortification wrought at a man's first conversion; so as I intend not now to lay open to you the nature of mortification, and what it is, by way of commonplace, but only intend to speak of growth in it: 'for of that Christ speaks, because it is such a purging as is after bringing forth some fruit, and whereof the end is to bring forth more fruit.. Neither -
2. Are we so much to speak of it here as it is a duty to be done by us, though it be so, but as it is a work of God upon us, which he takes care to go through with and perfect in those who are fruitful; for he speaks here of it rather as an act of God's - ' he purgeth '- than as it is to be an act of our; that we ought to purge ourselves though both do go together, as in that speech, Rom. viii. 13, 'We by the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the flesh;' so as that which is proper to the point in hand, for the explication of it, as here in this place it is laid down, is not so much to give you motives or means of purging yourselves, as to shew you the ways and courses God takes still one way or other to purge his children by, that they- may be more fruitful,. And yet -
3: In this work of mortification, considered thus in the progress of it, we are not mere passives, - as at that final perfecting and finishing of it, and carrying away all sin at death we are, and are at that first habitual beginning of it, at conversion, - but therein we are 'workers together with' God:' we being purged from sin as the body is by physic from humours; though the physic work, yet nature joins with the physic, being quickened and helped by it to cast out the humours; for give a dead man physic, and it carries not any humours away. So as those means whereby God purgeth us are not to be imagined to do it as mere plysical agents, like as the pruning-hook cuts off branches from a tree, or as when a surgeon cuts out dead flesh; but these means do it by stirring up our graces, and quickening them, and by setting our thought; and faith, aud affections a-work, and so God assisting with the power of Christ's death, he doth purge us daily, by making his word, afflictions, and the like, to set our thoughts a-work against sin, and so to cast it forth. It is certain, that unless our thoughts work upon the mean; as well as the means work upon us, and so do mingle themselves with those means; that unless faith and Christ's death be mingled in the heart, it purgeth not. And therefore it is said as well that 'we purge ourselyes,' - so 2 Thu. ii. 21, and also 1 John jii. 3, and ibm. Viij., that 'we by the Spirit mortify the deeds of the fiesh,' - as it is said that 'God purgeth us,' which is the thing affirmed here, because God still, in going on to purge us; doth it by stirring up our graces, and useth therein acts of our faith, and love, and many motives and consideration; to stir up our graces so to effect it. Now--
II. For the reasons that move God thus to go on to purge corruptions out of his children
1. Because Jesus Christ hath purchased an eternal divorce between corruption and our hearts. He hath bought off all our corruptions, and redeemed us from all iniquity. Titus ii. 14, 'He gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people;' and God will have the price of Christ's blood out.
2. Because God desires more and more to have delight in us, and to draw nigh to us; and therefore he more and more goes on to purge us. For though he loves us at first, when full of corruption; yet he cannot so much delight in us as he would, nor have that communion with us, no more 'than a husband can with a wife who hath an unsavoury breath or a loathsome disease. They must therefore be purified for his bed, as Esther was for Ahasuerus. 'Draw nigh to God,' says James; 'and he will draw nigh to you,' chap. iv. 8, 9; but then you must 'cleanse your hands, and purify your hearts,' as it 'follows there; God else hath no delight to draw nigh to you.
3. He daily purgeth his that they may be fit for use and service; for unless he purged them, he could not use them in honourable employment; such as to suffer or to stand for him, in what concerns his glory; they would be unfit for such use; as a vessel is that is unscoured. Therefore, 2 Tim. ii. 21,-' If a man purge himself from these,' he shall be a vessel unto honour,' - that is; he shall be used in honourable employment; and not laid aside, - and he shall be 'meet for his master's use,' as vessels kept clean, when on the sudden the master hath occasion to use them, and have them served in.
4. That as our persons, so that our services may be more and more acceptable; that our prayers and such performances may savour less of gifts, and pride, and self-love, and carnal desires: so, Mal. iii. 3, 4, it is said, 'He shall sit as a purifier of silver; and he shall purify the sons of Levi, as gold is purified, from their dross, that they may offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness: and then shall their offerings be pleasant to the Lord.' The more the heart and life is purged, the more acceptable your prayers are, and your obedience, and all you do.
The ways God useth to purge out our corruptions; and means wherely he causeth us to grow therein.
IlI Now, in the third place, for the ways whereby God goes on to purge us, there are many and diverse; he blesseth all sorts of means and dealings of his to accomplish it.
1. First, he useth occasional means to do it, and blesseth them; as -
(1.) Even falling into sins. Thus it was with David when he fell; thereby God set him anew upon this work, as by his prayer appears, Ps. li, 'Oh, purge me, make me clean.'
(2.) Secondly, by casting them into afflictions. So, Dan. xi. 35, 'They shall fall, to purge them and make them white.' What the word doth not purge out, nor mercies, that afflictions must. These vines must be cut till they bleed. Summer purgeth out the outward humours that lie in, the skin by sweating, but winter concocteth the inward by driving in the heat, and so purgeth away the humours that lie in the inward parts; and so, what by the one, what by the other, the body is kept in health. Thus mercies prevail against some sins, and afflictions against others. Moses neglected to circumcise his child, (as we do our hearts, it is such a bloody work,) till God met him, and would have killed him. And in like manner God sometimes puts us in the fear or danger of losing our lives, casts us into sicknesses, and the like, making as if he meant to kill us, and all to bring us off to this work of purging, to circumcise our hearts.
2. As these occasional, so also instrumental instituted helps, as his word. So, Eph. v. 26, Christ is said 'to cleanse his church with the washing of water by the word;' by the word spoken, either in preaching or in conference. So in the very next words to my text, 'Now ye are clean through the words I have spoken unto you;' they had then received the sacraments, and had heard a good sermon. The word at once discovers the sin, and sets the heart against it: 'I was ignorant, till I went into the sanctuary.' There goes a light with it to see sin after another manner, although a man did know it before, and then the word sets out the vileness of a sin; and to hear a sin declaimed against and reproved sets an exasperation upon the mind against it, and so a man goes home, and sets upon it to kill it and destroy it. Or else by the word meditated upon, as by keeping some truth or other fresh and sweet in the mind, which the mind cheweth on. God fastens the mind upon some new promise, or new discovered sign of a man's estate, and these 'cleanse' him, 2 Cor. vii. 1; 'or upon some attribute of his, and that quickens the inward man, and overcomes the outward. Some consideration or other every day God doth make familiar to a man's spirit, to 'talk with him,' (as the phrase is, Prov. vi. 22,) and to keep him company, and usually some new one; God leading us tbrouh varieties of sweet truths to chew upon, one this day, and another to-morrow. And thesehave an exceeding purging virtue in them; they keep the purging issue open, even as those that have issues made in their arms or legs use to have a pea, or some such small thing, to lie in the orifice of the issue to keep it open; and so doth such a new truth, with spiritual light discovered, still keep the purging issue of sin open, and draws out the filth, and 'keeps the heart.' So says Solomon, Prov. vi. 21, 22, 24 : observe the coherence there, and it is as if he had said, Keep this command fresh in mind, and it shall keep thee.
3. God useth also the examples of others as means to provoke a man to purge himself.
(1.) Examples of those that have been professors, and fallen away. They provoke a wan to set fresh upon this work, lest that the like sins should prevail against him also, and cause him to fall. Therefore the Apostle, when he heard of Hymenus and Philetus's fall, 2 Tim. ii. 19, 'Let every one,' says be, 'that calls upon the name of the Lord,' make this use of it, to 'depart from iniquity.' And it follows, 'If you purge yourselves from these, ye shall be vessels of honour.' It follows upon that occasion.
(2.) Examples of holy men. To hear very holy men speak what victory over lusts may be attained here doth much provoke another to purge himself who else would content himself with a lesser degree; so Phil. iii. 17. 4. In the last place, there are many inward workings upon the heart, whereby God goes on still to purge us.
(I.) First, by a further discovering of corruptions unto us; either a greater filthiness in the evils we saw before, or to see more of them, and by what one sees to suspect more. God never discovers lusts to his but to carry them away; he stirs the humours to purge them. Thus when David saw his sin, he sets anew upon cleansing himself. In the 19th Psalm, coming new from taking a view of his heart, and having seen such volumes of corruptions, so many errors in all that he did, he cries out, 'Who can understand his errors?' and withal, 'Oh, cleanse me from secret sins.' He then saw secret evil; and suspected more than as yet he saw; and this made him cry out, 'Oh, cleanse me,' and so to use all means, and to go to God to cleanse him. So when, in the 51st Psalm, God let down a light to let him but see the corruption of, his nature afresh, that he was 'born in sin,' and had 'no truth' there, more falsehood than he could ever have imagined, 'Oh, purge rue,' says he upon it.
(2.) Secondly, he sets the heart on work to make it a business to get one's lusts mortified more and more, and not to rest in the measure attained. Phil. iii. 13, Paul 'forgot what was behind;' he did still desire to have more fellowship with Christ in his death and sufferings, in the death of sin. When a man's heart is set upon the work, as that he came into the world for, as David, who took up a resolution, 'I said I would look to my ways;' so when a man hath said unto himself, I will grow in grace, as they say, 'I will be rich,' 1 Tim. vi. 9, and so looks at it as his business being as much convinced of this, that he should be more holy, as he was at first that he was 'to be new born; when growth of grace is as much in a man's eye as getting grace at first was, and as great a necessity made of the one as of the other. This conviction many want, and so take no care to grow more holy and more pure. Phil. iii. 15, 'If any be otherwise minded, says the Apostle, that there is no such absolute necessity of going on still to perfection, 'God shall reveal it to him.' God doth reveal and set on this upon every godly man's heart at one time or another, and so goes on to purge them. And this is also expressed to us, 1 Peter iv. 1, 'Forasmuch as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, let us arm ourselves with the same mind,' namely, to mortify our lusts; for it follows, 'He that hath suffered in the flesh,' that is, hath mortified his lust; 'hath ceased from sin.' That same 'asking' there is God's putting into the mind a strong and invincible resolution to go through with this work; when he arms and steels it against all difficulties, all encounters. This is meant by 'arming us with the same mind:' that as Christ looked upon it as his business why he came into the world, even to suffer for us; so for us to look upon it as our busineas to remove our lusts. When therefore we intend all our endeavours upon this work, and mind nothing in comparison, pray for nothing more, receive sacraments for this purpose, and hear and perform all other duties with an eye to this, prosecute this business as the main; when God hath put such a resolution into a man, and preserves it, then he goes on to purge him.
(3.) Thirdly, God doth it by drawing the sap and juice of the affections of the heart more and more into holy duties and into obedience. When that intention of mind, as our morning thoughts and the like, which we formerly spent upon vanitie; are now drawn into prayer and holy meditations, then lusts do wither; and when our care is how to please God more, and our hearts are more in the duties of obedience, then doth corruption shale off more and more; and thus by diverting our intentions doth God work out corruptions. And look, as the sun doth draw up the sap out of the root, so doth Christ draw out the heart at some times more than at others to holy duties, and unto communion with himself in the duties. This killeth sin, and causeth it to wither, - namely, by taking away the sap, that is that intention of mind which doth usually nourish it. Thus, 1 Pet. i. 22, 'We purify our hearts by obeying the truth.'
(4.) Fourthly, by bringing the heart more and more acquainted with Christ, his Son, which is the Father's work to do, for 'none comes to the Son but whom the Father draws.' Now, how many souls are there who have gone puddering on, as I may so speak, in the use of other means, and though in the use thereof Christ hath communicated some virtue to them, yet because they did not trade with him chiefly in those duties, they have had little in comparison to what afterwards they have had when he hath been discovered to them, as that great ordinance who is appointed by God to get their lusts mortified Before this they have washed and washed, but they have washed without soap, until Christ hath been thus revealed tt them, and the virtue of his death and rising again, which is compared, Mal. iii. 2, 'unto soap,' &c. In Zech. xiii. 1, it is said that 'God opens a fountain to the house of David, for sin and for uncleanness,' that is, for the guilt of sin and the power of sin. Now by that opening is not meant the promise of sending his Son into the world to be crucified, but the discovery of him to believers after his being crucified: for, chap. xii. 10, he is supposed to be crucified already, for they there 'see him whom they have pierced;' therefore by that opening there is meant the discovery of him to his people, and him to be the great ordinance of cleansing them. Now, the more distinctly a man understands Christ, and how to make use of him, who is already made sanctification to us, the more easily he gets his lusts purged. Such a one, that trades immediately with Christ, will do more in a day than another in a year; for, seeing that the power of purging us lies immediately in him, and that he is the purging drug which mingles itself with the word and all means else, and sets them all a-work, therefore the more of him we have, and the more immediate application we have of him to us, and of his power, the more recourse our hearts have to him, the more our lusts are purged. As it is in drugs or minerals, if the infusion and steeping of them in liquors will work, how much more if the substance of them be taken down inwardly and immediately? NOW this comes to pass, as God doth go on to open our faith to see him, and know him, and to be acquainted with him ; for so the Apostle expresseth it, Phil. iii., 'That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection.' The more we look upon all means else in the use of them as ineffectual without him, the more power we shall find from him.
(5.) Fifthly, by assuring the soul of his love, and shedding it abroad in the heart, and by working spiritual joy in the heart, doth God also purge his people. And to work all these is in God's power immediately and solely. 'I am crucified with Christ,' Gal. ii. 20. And how? By believing that 'Christ gave himself for me, and loved me.' This deadens a man to the world, makes a man crucify that which Christ was crucified for; and this makes a man hate sin, the more he loves Christ, or apprehends his love. And it doth this in a double relation or respect, not only because sin so displeaseth him, nor only as it is contrary to his will, but because it did afflict him so much once, and because to 'take sin away' was the intent he came into the world. For so (1 John iii. 4) although a believer is said to mortify sin upon this consideration indeed, that it is 'the transgression of the law,' yet much more upon this other, because 'Christ was manifest to take sin away.' And the more assurance I have of another life and a better, and of being like Christ hereafter, the more a man purgeth himself to be fit for that condition. 'He that hath this hope in him purgeth himself, as he is pure;' so in 1 John iii. 2. The more joy a man hath in Christ, the more deadened he must needs be to the world; the one eats up the other: for the ground of all sin is but the love of pleasure. Now, if I find it in God and Christ, it deadens me for seeking it in the world; for all life is maintained by a taste of some sweetness. Now, when the sweetness of sin, the relish of it, is spoiled by the taste of a greater, it must needs die and abate. And though that sweetness from God doth not always remain in the present taste and relish of it, yet it leaves such an impression behind it, that whatever a man tastes after, it hath no relish with him in comparison; still he says 'the old is better:' and though the taste of one sinful pleasure may take us off from another, yet none but a contrary pleasure doth kill the sin, and the pleasure in it.
The trial of mortification; and that first by negative signs, or such as argue much corruption yet remaining unpurged out.
IV. I WILL NOW COME to that fourth thing which was
propounded, namely, helps whereby you may discern what progress hath been made
in this work. And as I said at first that my purpose was not so much to handle
mortification in the commonplace of it, as only growth therein; so those things
I shall now deliver about discerning the measure of it, I intend them not so
much for signs of mortification, as rules whereby we may judge how the work
goes forward in us, and how far we are still short in it.
1. And, first, I will handle it negatively, and give you such symptoms as argue much corruption, a great deal of humours yet remaining to be purged out; such as argue little proficiency in this work, though such as withal true grace may be supposed to be in the heart.
(1.) When a man doth magnify and sets a high price upon worldly and carnal excellencies and pleasures; is much taken with outward things, and carried away with them; or when, though we restrain ourselves from the eager pursuit after them, yet if in our eyes and opinions they seem glorious and goodly things, and, oh, we secretly think, the enjoying such a pleasure, the obtaining such an excellency, or such or such a condition of life, accommodated with such and such conveniences and circumstances, would be so great an addition of happiness to us; this argues a green heart, much want of mortification, though truth of grace be there. These apostles to whom Christ spake this parable of the vine, and unto them especially, how were they affected and transported with a trifle! Even that very night that Christ was to be attached, they strive for precedency, and 'who should be the greatest amongst them,' Luke xxii 24, who should be chief of that noble order. And it was such a precedency which they affected as noblemen have in kingdoms, as appears by the following words: they shewed themselves but Gentiles in it, (as, ver. 25, Christ insinuates,) who stand upon their blood and their outward privileges. It was not for nothing Christ tells them in this parable they needed purging; but the reason was, they were but children yet, and 'babes in Christ,' now in their minority, and were not weaned from rattles and trifles. Christ was not yet crucified, nor they so thoroughly crucified with him as they were afterwards. The Holy Ghost had not yet come upon them as fire to burn up their lusts, and to consume this their dross. That other apostle, Paul, - who says of himself that he was 'born out of time,' in comparison to them, - had attained to a greater measure, he glorying in this as his highest title, that he was 'the least of the apostles.' This magnifying of outward things in our conceits and opinions is indeed but 'knowing things after the flesh,' as the Apostle speaks, 2 Cor. v. 16, because the flesh doth fascinate and corrupt the judgment, in judging ourselves by such things. And this argues exceeding much want of mortification, for it is lust that puts that lustre, and gloss, and varnish upon the things of the world; for the things in themselves are vain, and we have had experience that they are such. How comes it, then, we should esteem them and be taken with them, that we should have such high conceits of them? It is by reason of our lusts unpurged out, which represent them falsely; and therefore it is observable that John, I Epist. ii. 16, speaking of the things of this world, he puts the lust which is in us to express the things themselves. He says not, riches and preferment, &c., though he speaks of them, but the' lusts of the eye' and 'pride of life;' so he expresseth them, because they are these lusts that make the things so glorious to us, and set a price upon them. And therefore so much magnifying and high esteem of outward things a there is in us, so much inordinate lust there is in the heart after them, and so much want of mortification; and when these lusts boiling in us fume up so high as to intoxicate and corrupt our esteem and judgments, which though grace should keep us from pursuing these vanities, that yet we look upon 'them with a wanton eye, and think great matters in them, and think ourselves, as it were, debarred and restrained of so much of our happiness, whilst we want and cannot enjoy them, this argues an unmortifiedness; for herein lies the power of mortification, even to 'count all things dross and dung,' to look upon them as 'crucified things,' to have them seem all as withered flowers, as 'small things,' as he speaks of man's esteem, 1 Cor. iv. 3. (2.) Secondly, when our minds are carried out to superfluities, and more than needs, and are discontented with our own condition, though it be such as might content us, this argues a great want of purging, this is from superfluity of humours abounding in the heart. When they in the wilderness, though they had manna, yet they must have quails also. When there are such extravagant affections in us, that we think any other condition would please us better than our own, this argues much unmortifiedness, though it run not out into acts; it is the 'superfluity of naughtiness,' the excess of corruption that thinks 'stolen meat sweet,' as in the Proverbs. When our longings are wild and humorous, like the longings of women with child, whom nothing but some one odd thing they have set their fancy on will please; like sick men's stomachs, with whom nothing will down that is provided for them, but still they have a mind rather to something else ; so nor we with what God allots us. And when we are environed about with comforts, yet all are nothing if some one be wanting. Such unmortified lusts we see in Samson; though a good man, yet none of the daughters of Israel could please, but he must have one of the Philistines, Judges xiv. 3.
(3.) Thirdly, when our minds are so glued to anything, as we cannot tell how to part with it, how to lose such a friend or such a convenience, we would think ourselves half undone if such or such a thing should fall out. David's heart was full of humours, and needed purging, when he ventured so much of his comfort in his Absalom alone, that when he was cast away he wished that he had died for him. It is good often to try our hearts, by supposing the worst that can befall us, What if a change should come, such a thing I should be put to, to see how the heart can bear it. When some men have a loss in their estates and riches, it is as it were raked out of their bellies, as Zophar speaks, Job 1, and a piece even of, their very heart goes with them.
(4.) Fourthly, when a man is still distempered under variety of conditions and businesses, and is inordinate in them all, it argues much unmortifledness. As if he be to recreate himself, he is inordinate in it, and knows not when to end, and fall to his calling again; if to study, then he is also as violent in it, and entrenches upon the duties should keep up his soul in health, as also upon the necessary refresliings his body requires. Broach the vessel where you will, if still it runs muddy and thick it is a sign the vessel is full of ill liquor To be distempered in some one particular is less, but when in every vein that is opened much corrupt blood comes forth, it is a sign the body is full of humours, and needs purging. A man that is in an ague, and when the cold fit takes him he is extreme cold, and when the hot fit comes he is on the contrary as extreme hot, it is a sign he is full of humours, which as they are purged out, one or the other abates, or both. If when a man abounds, then he is commonly confident, and forgets God; if when he wants, then he is as much on the other side distempered, and grows solicitous, distrustful. Sound bodies can bear sudden alteration of heat and cold, but distempered weak bodies cannot. Nature cannot bear a sudden alteration, but much grace can; 'I know how to want, I know how to abound,' Phil. iv. l2. He was much therefore mortified; he could work hard in summer, with much sweating, and he could undergo the cold of winter without catarrhs, and such weaknesses as others are subject to; his soul was well purged of humours. And so Job had learned to bless God when all was gone; he was a man thoroughly mortified before, he had carried himself in his best estate without security and carnal rejoicing; thus he says of himself, that he 'made not gold his hope, nor his confidence, nor had rejoiced because his wealth was great,' chap. xxxi. 5, and answerably, he behaves himself in his worst estate with patience and thanksgiving.
(5.) Fifthly, the more carnal confidence we have in the creatures, and bear ourselves upon them, and have our spirits strengthened and upholden by them, the more want of mortification. The Corinthians, though godly, yet they were very unmortified; therefore the Apostle says, they were 'rather carnal than spiritual,' 1 Cor. iii. 1. Now this their carnal-mindedness, among other things, was expressed in their carnal confidence they had in outward things. They had riches, and gifts, and learning, and they did swim in these; and reigned and domineered in their own thoughts, and excelled all other churches in their own opinions, and so despised others in comparison. They were carried aloft by these waxen wings, which I take to be the Apostle's meaning, 1 Cor. iv. 8, 'Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned:' they had riches and gifts, &c., and they thought themselves as kings, full of happiness, having the world before them, and were filled with conceits of it; and 'I would to God you did reign,' says he, - that is, that it were not in your own conceits only, - and that there were indeed such real cause to applaud your own conditions. 'We are of the circumcision,' says the Apostle, 'and have no confidence in the flesh,' Phil. iii. 3. The more the heart is truly circumcised, - of which he there speaks, in opposition to those who rested in outward circumcision, - it trusteth not, nor beareth not itself; upon outward things, privileges, and endowments, as riches, blood, credit, learning, righteousness; these, when the heart is not circumcised, do puff it up; 'but we,' says he, 'have no confidence in the flesh,' either for comfort, or for justification, or anything else; 'but we rejoice in Christ Jesus.'
(6.) Sixthly, the more full of envyings, and heart-burnings against others, and of breaking forth into strife, our hearts are, and of strivings and contentions to get the credit, or riches, or victory away from others, &c., the more unmortified are our hearts, and the more need of purging. These overflowings of the gall and spleen come from a fulness of bad humours. 'Whereas there is among you envying and strife -are ye not carnal? 1 Cor. iii. 3. That is, this argues you to be such, for envy and strife are not only lusts in themselves, but further they are such lusts as are always the children and fruit of some other; they are rooted in, and spring from inordinate affections to some things which we contend for; and accordingly, if this fire of envy or strife prove great, it argues the fuel - that is, the lusts after the things we envy others for - to be much more. For envy is but an oblique lust, founded on some more direct lust; these are but the outward flushings, that shew the distemper to be much more within. James iv. 1, 'From whence come wars and fightings amongst you? come they not hence, even of your lusts which fight in your members?' There is something the heart would have, as it follows in the 2d verse, 'Ye lust, and have not,' &c. A contentious spirit is an unmortified spirit; 'If ye bite and devour one another,' Gal. v. iS. 'This I say then, Walk in the spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh.' Mark the coherence, it comes in upon biting one at another, for such walk not in the spirit, flesh doth prevail in them, that is his meaning.
(7.) Seventhly, the less able we are to bear reproofs for the breakings forth of our lusts, the more unmortified it argues our hearts to be. It is a sign we love those much whom we cannot endure to hear spoken against: therefore, says the Apostle, 'Be swift to hear, but slow to wrath;' - take heed of raging when you are touched. And it follows a verse after, 'Casting away all superfluity, receive the word with meekness,' for it is your lusts uncast out, unpurged, that cause that wrath and heart-boiling against reproof. That good king was in a great distemper of spirit when he cast the prophet in prison that reproved him, for 'he oppressed the people also at the same time,' as is said, 2 Chron. xvi. 10. He was then taken in the springtide and swelling of his lusts of covetousness and oppression; they brake down all that withstood and opposed the current of them: and if, as he in this fit at this time, so we be found in such passionate tempers upon such occasions of reproof ordinarily, it argues the habitual frame of our hearts to be much unmortified, as this argued him at this time to have been actually much distempered.
(8.) Eighthly, the more quick and speedy the temptation is in taking, the more unmortified the heart is: when an object at the first presenting makes the lust to rise, and passeth through at the very first presenting of it, and soaks into the heart, as oil into the bones, and runs through all; when a man is gunpowder to temptations, and it is but touch and take, so as there needs not much blowing, but the heart is presently on fire, as, Prov. vii. 22, it is said, 'He went straightway after her.' A man will find that when his heart is actually in a good temper, a temptation doth not so easily take; his heart is then, though tinder, yet as wet tinder, that is more slow in taking. As there is a preparedness to good works, so there is a preparedness to evil; when the heart is in a covetous humour, 'and will be rich, then a man falls into temptations and a snare,' 1 Tim. vi. 9. His lusts will nibble at every bait in everything he deals in; they will take presently. When the heart is thus bird-limed, then it cleaves to everything it meets with. It is a sign that the heart is not 'awake to righteousness,' as the Apostle speaks, but to sin rather, when a little occasion awakeneth a lust, and rouseth it; as when, on the contrary, if a great deal of jogging will not awaken a man's grace.
(9.) Ninthly, the more our lusts have power to disturb us in holy duties, and the more they prevail with the heart, then the more unmortified and profane the heart is; as to have unclean glances in hearing, and worldly thoughts then ordinarily to possess the heart, and to take it up much: 'They are profane,' says God, Jer. xxiii. 11, 'for in my house I have found their wickedness.' If the heart be carried away and overcome with unclean and worldly thoughts, then this argues much unmortifiedness, and that the flesh is indeed much above the spirit. For why, when a man is in God's presence, and that should overcome and overawe the unregenerate part, if it were not impudent and outrageous; and besides, then the regenerate part hath the advantage, for the word and the ordinance is a stirring of it up and provoking it to holiness. And therefore that at such a time a man's lusts should be able to tempt and seduce a man's heart, it argues sin hath a great part in the heart, when it affronts God in his throne, when grace is where it would be. For the disciples then to be talking who should be greatest, when Christ had made so long a sermon to them, and had administered the sacrament to them, this argued much want of mortification in them; even as it were a sign that the orthodox party were but a weak party in a kingdom, it; whilst they are at sermons, Papists durst come in and disturb them, and put them out.
(10.) Tenthly, when the recalling former acts committed by a man prove still to be a snare to him, and being suggested by Satan as a means to quicken his lust, the thought thereof doth rather stir up his lust afresh, it is a sign of an unmortified frame. Thus it is laid to the charge of that nation, Ezek. xxiii. 21, that 'she multiplied her whoredoms in calling to remembrance the days of her youth, wherein she had played the harlot in the land of Egypt.' The remembrance of them was a snare to her, as appears by the 8th verse. It is a sign a man is deeply in love whenas he falls in love with the picture. When the remembrance of whence he is fallen should make him repent, that it should, on the contrary, cause him to commit the same sin again, it is a sign flesh hath much the better. To have the mind stirred with new objects and new temptations may stand with far less corruption and more grace, than to have it stirred afresh with the remembrance of the old. To find sweetness in a lust twice sod, which we have also often steeped, as I may so speak, in godly sorrow and hatred of it, and so boiled it in sour herbs; yet still to find sweetness in the remembrance of such an act, this argues much corruption. As the Apostle argues the sinfulness and strength of corrupt nature in him, that the law, which was holy and good, should stir np his lust whilst unregenerate; so may we, when the thought of a sin, which should stir up godly sorrow, should provoke and tickle corrupt nature again. Indeed, that the new scent of meat should have moved the Israelites would not have been so much, but that the remembrance of their flesh-pots should do it! That speech, Rom. viii., where we are commanded to mortify the deeds of the flesh; may admit, among other, this interpretation also, that not only the lusts, but even former deeds and acts committed, which may prove an occasion of sin to us, and have a fresh verdure in our eye, are to. be mortified.
Positive signs of growth in mortification, and God's purging of us.
2. AND so now I come to the second sort of signs - namely,
positive signs of growth in mortification, and of God's purging of us.
(1.) First, the more insight a man hath into spiritual corruptions, together with a conifict against them, the more growth he hath attained unto in purging out corruptions; so as that now the chiefest of his conflict is come to be with spiritual lusts, not worldly lusts and gross evils; it is an evidence of his progress in this work. These ordinarily are sure rules, that whilst a man's conflict is with more outward gross evils, as uncleanness, worldlymindedness, &c., so long and so much he is kept from the sight of those inward, hidden, close corruptions, which sit nighest to the heart. As also, on the contrary, the more a man is freed from, and hath got victory over such more outward evils, the more his thoughts and intentions are bent inward to the discovery of the other more spiritual wickednesses. And the reason?; for these spiritual lusts, as pride, carnal confidence in a man's own graces, self-flattery, presumption, and the like, these corruptions lie, as I may so express it, more up in the heart of the country; but those other, of worldly lusts, lie, as it were, in the frontiers and skirts of it : and therefore, until such time as a man hath in some good measure overcome those that encounter him at the borders, he comes not to have so through a discovery and constant conflict with those that lie higher up in the heart : 'Let us cleanse ourselves from all pollution, both of flesh and spirit,' says the Apostle, 2 Cor. vii. 1, which implies that there are two sorts of corruptions, one of the flesh or body, the other of the spirit or soul: for so the opposition there is to be taken, for else all lusts are lusts of the flesh; that is, of corrupt nature. Again, such corruptions cause 'a blindness, that a man cannot see afar off,' as 2 Pet i 9. Whilst a scholar that learns a tongue hath not learned to escape all grosser faults in grammatical construction, be cannot be supposed to have come to know the elegancies of the tongue, nor see his errors therein; so nor do men come to be critics indeed, and cunningly skilful in the more curious errata of their hearts and spirits, till they have attained to such a degree of mortification as to be free from grosser evils. And indeed, those who are grown in grace have attained ordinarily some freedom from such sins; therefore, says John, 1 Epist. ii. 14, 'You young men are strong, and have overcome that evil one:' they have attained so much strength as to overcome the grosser evils. So as, to allude to what the Apostle says in another case, they then come to conflict not so much with 'flesh and blood' and outward evils, as with 'spiritual wickednesses' within, - that is, with affections and dispositions contrary to the work of grace; and therein lies their chiefest exercise, which is not till they have some freedom and victory over the other, and so are at leisure to view these.
(2.) Secondly, we may discern our victory over our lusts by our ability more or less to deny ourselves. The more we grow up to a readiness, willingness, and freeness, and cheerfulness of heart to deny ourselves when we are called and put upon doing of it, the more are lusts purged out; for the reason that our hearts consult so much with carnal ends in business, that we have so much ado with them ere we can bring them off to part with such and such things, as God and our own consciences do call us unto, is through want of purging. For all want of self-denial is from an adhesion to outward things. Were we free and unmarried men to tha world, were our hearts loosened from all, and were all the secret stings of lusts that shoot into things, cut, it would be nothing to us to part with them: this was in that great Apostle, how ready was he to lay down his life! 'My life is not dear to me, so I may fulfil my ministration with joy;' and so when the time of his departure was at hand, says he, 'I am ready to be offered,' 2 Tim. iv. 6. He speaks it in the present tense, 'I am offered;' it was done in 'his heart already. As in like phrase of speech it is said, Heb. xi. 17, that 'Abraham offered up his son,' because in his heart he fully purposed it. When men must be forced by terrors of conscience, as Pharaoh with plagues, to let their credits or estates go by restitution, or for God and good uses, it is a sign of want of purging. The more loosened a man is from the world and the things of it, the more prepared that man is for all works of self-denial, and the more purged. So when a man parts with all without sticking or higgling, as Abraham is said to 'believe without staggering,' it is a sign he hath attained to a good degree, even as that argued a strong faith, Rom. iv. 20. When a man hath an open and a large heart to God, as a liberal man hath an open hand to men, as Abraham had when he was willing to let God have his only son, it was a sign he was much weaned; when God can command anything thou hast at an hour's warning, as we say. Abraham stood not long deliberating, Shall I, shall I? but went 'early in the morning,' even the next morning, God having called for his son that very night, as it is likely by that in the 22nd of Genesis, ver. 3; for the night was the time when God used to reveal himself by visions; and the next morning he went forth early.
(3.) Thirdly, the more constancy there is in our hearts and ways, the more even, stable in well-doing, and the more lasting, durable frame and temper for holiness we find our hearts to abide in, the more we are purged; for in that we find such sudden flowings and re-flowings in our hearts, that when a corruption seems to be at a low ebb, and our hearts in a good frame, within an hour or so a mighty tide comes in, and we find our hearts overflown with a sea of filth, such sudden alterations from the better to the worse do come from those vast seas of corruptions that are still within us, that tumble and float up and down in our hearts. So the Apostle intimates, 'Purge your hearts, ye double-minded.' That their hearts are of so unequal a temper, sometimes in hot, fits, sometimes in cold, and so suddenly altered, this cannot be but from much corruption. This double-mindedness comes from want of purging. The Galatians were surely very weak and foolish, as be tells them, when they were so soon transported. He marvels not so much that they were removed, as that so soon, so suddenly, Gal. i. 6, and brings it in as an evidence of their weakness, that they who would have 'given him their eyes' should now so much be altered and carried away; so much mortifiedness, so much constancy. Therefore, in the 5th of Galatians, ver. 24,25, when in the 24th verse he had said, 'Those that are Christ's have crucified the affections with the lusts,' he adds in the 25th verse, 'If we live in the spirit, let us walk in the spirit :this imports a being constant in the spirit. Then when lusts are crucified, then the Holy Spirit will rule us in our ways, and a holy frame of heart will he discovered, in a constant tract of holiness; we shall walk in the spirit, keep ourselves long in a spiritual frame and course, and not be biased aside; that we step out so much, is from strong lusts unmortified.
(4.) Fourthly, the more a man comes to a spiritual taste of the spiritual word, and that which is most spiritual therein, the more it is a sign that corruption is purged out. When a man comes to his stomach, it is a sign he is growing out of a sickness, and that the humours are much purged out. So, 1 Pet. ii. 1, 'Laying aside all malice,' &c., 'as babes desire the word, that ye may grow thereby: if so be ye have tasted.' Therefore the more corruption is laid aside, the more we taste the word, and God in it; the more we taste, the more we desire it; the more we desire it, the more we grow.
(5.) Fifthly, when we are ashamed of former carriages and ways, as seeing and discerning those weaknesses we saw not before, as scholars use to be of their exercises a year or two after; so if we be ashamed of former prayers, hearings, &c., as that great proficient discerned in himself, who, looking back upon his first days of conversion, says, 'When I was a child, I spake as a child:' he speaks it, applying it to his growth of grace.
(6.) Sixthly, when in ordinary times of temptation a man finds a lust not, so violent and raging as it was wont, but more impotent and weak. Look to your fits of sinning whether they become greater or less, for then a man's strength or weakness is discerned most; as the bodily strength is, when a man either goes about to put himself forth, or is assaulted and set upon. Many that are sick, whilst they lie still in their beds think they have a great deal of strength, but when they attempt to rise and walk they sink down again. As a man's weakness to good is discerned when he comes to do and to act it, - Rom. vii., 'to do I am not able,' - so a man's weakness to sin, or strength against it, is then also best discerned. The weakness or strength of a kingdom is best seen and discerned in time of war, when all forces are mustered up. Now, God sometimes appoints some more frequent assaults, and on purpose suffers 'the law in the members to war,' and to muster up all their force, that, as it is said of Hezekiah, a man 'might know what is in his heart.' Now, if then a man finds that the motions of sin in his heart do every temptation after other meet a hotter encounter than they had wont; that the resistance against sin grows quicker and stronger; that sin cannot advance and carry on his army so far as formerly, but is still encountered and met withal at the frontiers, and there overthrown even at the first setting out, so as it cannot carry it through the camp, (as Zimri did his mistress Cozbi,) as sometimes it had wont, whenas grace stood at the tent door, as Moses, weeping, yet unable to resist it; and although assaults and temptations do continue, that yet there is ground kept and won upon the encroachments of a lust, insomuch that at least the outward forts the kept by grace, - that is, outward acts are abstained from: now so far as the lust is not fulfilled as it had wont to be, and not only so, but the inroads of it are contracted also to a narrower compass, and to have a lesser ground and space in regard of inward acts; also so far it is purged more forth. As for instance, be it a lust of fancy, when it cannot boil up to such gross fancies as it had wont; be it a lust of pride, or uncleanness or grosser acts, when it falls from bringing forth fruit, to bring forth but blossoms, but inward burnings, and from blossoms only to bring forth leaves, it is a sign then it is withering more and more. When the intention of mind in the temptation, which is as the fire that makes it to boil, grows less and less; when the inordinate thirst is not so great in the time of the fit; when the inward acts are grown in their requests more modest, the lustings themselves pitch upon lower and inferior acts than they had wont; when their armies depart with lesser spoil, are content with them, whenas before they flew at the first onset to the highest kinds of villanies and outrages; when thus the overflowings of a man's lusts do abate and fall short, the tides lessen, overflow less ground, overspread less every day than another, this is another probable sign of a growth herein.
(7.) Seventhly, the more ability to abstain from occasions and opportunities of satisfying a man's lusts; as Job, a man much mortified, 'made a covenant with his eyes not to behold a maid,' and kept to it, chap. xxxi. 1. When a man bates the 'very garment spotted with the flesh;' it is a sign of a strong hatred, when a man cannot endure to come where one he loves not is, cannot endure the sight of him, anything that may put him in mind of him, not so much as to parlay or to speak with him.
(8.) Eighthly, when our hearts do not linger after such objects as may satisfy our lusts when absent, but when out of sight they are out of mind; this is a good degree of mortification. We may find it in ourselves, that when objects are not presented, that yet there is in our hearts oftentimes a lingering after them, and this from themselves, without any outward provocation; that is far worse. Many a man, when he sees meat, finds he hath a stomach to it, which he thought not till it was set before him; but when a man longs after meat he sees not, it is a sign he is very hungry. As we see against rainy weather, before the rain begins to fall, the stones will give, as we use to say, and grow dank; so a man that observes his heart may find, before objects are presented, or actual thoughts arise, a giving of his heart to such and such a lust, an inclination, a darkness, a moistness, a sympathising with such an object, - that is a sign of unmortifiedness. David was 'as a weaned child,' he had no thoughts of the dug, no longings after it; I have' no high thoughts' after the kingdom, says he, Ps. cxxxi. A child that begins to be weaned, it may be, at first cries after the dug, though he sees it not; but afterwards, though it may be when he sees it he cries after it, yet not when absent. (Objects present have a far greater force to draw,) when absent less; therefore this is a further degree of mortification attainable. It was in Joseph, when his mistress tempted him from day to day; opportunity was ready, the object present, but he denied her. So in Boaz, a woman lay at his feet all night. So in David, when he had Saul in his lurch, might as easily have cut off his head as the lap of his garment; and was egged on to do it, but he was then weaned indeed, and did it not. When a man can look upon beauty and preferment, and truly say, they are no temptations to me. It is a sign of an unsound temper, when upon eating such or such meats, a man is presently put into the fit of an ague; a healthful man is not so. The prophet calls them 'the stumbling-block of their iniquity.' When a man is going on his way, and though he did not seek occasions of falling, yet meeting with them, he cannot step over them, but is caught, and stumbleth, and falls, it is a sign of unmortifledness.
Some cautions to prevent misjudging by false rules. - This case resolved, Whether growth in mortification may be judged by the ordinary prevailings of corruption, or actings of grace.
BESIDES these rules both these ways given, I will, in the
third place, add some cautional considerations, to prevent misjudging of our
growth in mortification, by such false rules as men are apt to be deceived, in
judging worse or better of ourselves by, than the truth is, or than there is
cause. Which considerations will also further serve as directions to us, as
well as the former have done.
1. First, men may deceive themselves when they estimate their progress herein by having overcome such lusts as their natures are not so prone unto. The surest way is to take a judgment of it from the decay of a man's bosom sin, even as David did estimate his uprightness by his 'keeping himself from his iniquity,' Pa. xviii. 23; so a man of his growth in uprightness. When. physicians would judge of a consumption of the whole, they do it not by the falling away of any part whatever, as of the flesh in the face alone, or any the like; such a particular abatement of flesh in some one part may come from some other cause; but they use to judge by the falling away of the brawn of the hands, or arms and thighs, kc., for these are the more solid parts. The like judgments do physicians make upon other diseases, aud of the abatement of them from the decrease in such symptoms as are pathognomical, and proper and peculiar to them. In like manner also the estimate of the progress of the victories of a conqueror in an enemy's kingdom is not taken from the taking or burning of a few villages or dorps, but by taking the forts and strongest holds, and by what ground he hath won upon the chief strength, and by what forces he hath cut off of the main army. Do the like in the decrease of, and victory over, your lusts.
2. Secondly, you must not judge of your mortification by entraordinary assistances or temptations; as you do not judge of the strength of a kingdom by auxiliary foreign forces, that are at extraordinary times called in. A young Christian shall, for his encouragement even in the heat of the battle, when he is ready to be overcome and carried away captive, find the Holy Ghost breaking in, and rescuing of him,' as Jehoshaphat was (to allude to it) 'when 'he cried to the Lord;' whenas a Christian of much standing is left to fight it out hand to hand. Now it doth not follow that the other, because thus freed, hath the more strength. Again, on the other side, a man is not to judge of himself by his weakness in some one extraordinary temptation. A man that is very sick, and nigh unto death and dissolution, may, through much heat and stirring up of all his spirits, have the strength of five men in him, and much greater than when he was in health And so a godly man, whose corruptions are weak, and more near to dissolution, yet in a fit may have all the corruption that is within him mustered up, and blown up by Satan, and so it may for the present appear to have more strength than ever in all his life, and yet he may be much mortified. Even as Sarah may, by an extraordinary means, have pleasure in her old age, and bring forth a child when she had left child-bearing, and yet her 'womb was dead,' Rom. iv. 19. And as it may be true that one of small grace may have that little grace drawn out, and wound up to a higher strain, for one fit, brunt, and exercise; all the strings wound up to a higher note for some one lesson, then one haply of more grace ever felt, to higher acts of love to God, and of rejoicing in God, and purer strains of self-denial; yet take the constant strains of one's spirit that hath more grace, and the strings will ordinarily endure to stand higher, and continue so. So, on the contrary, one of much mortification may have his lusts spurred on faster, and boiled up higher by Satan's fires than one of less. The estimate of our growth must not therefore be taken by a step or two, but by a constant course; for as a man's sincerity is to be measured, so is his growth: even as a man's health is to be measured by the constant tenor of his temper. Only, I will add three things to give further direction concerning such extraordinary cases of temptation : -
(1.) First, that it is certain that so much corruption as at such a time, and in such a fit, a man felt a-stirring in him, so much indeed and in truth there is of corruption in his heart; for the devil can put none in, but only acts and doth improve what is there already. For, as that speech of Christ implies, Satan can work but according to the matter he findeth in us: 'He cometh, and findeth no matter in me;' the wind adds no water to the sea, only can make the waves to rise and surge; the fire adds nothing to the water when it is set upon it, but attenuates it only, and causeth it to boil And so in Hezekiah, when he was cast into that fit of pride, the text says that t was 'that he might know all that was in his heart,' 2 Chron. xxxii 31. It was in his heart before.
(2.) Secondly, I add, that yet hence it cannot be infallibly inferred that a man hath, comparatively either to himself; more corruption in him than be had twenty years before, because more is stirred up; or that, comparatively to others, he hath more corruption than they, because more is now for a fit drawn forth. So that it flows not from hence that others which are kept free from such a temptation, that they have least mortification because they were never cast into so hot and burning a fit. One whose body is less full of humours, and naturally of a more moderate temper for heat, may yet, through some accident or other, or disease, suppose the plague, be cast into hotter fits of a burning fever, than one whose temper is more fiery, and humours more abounding in him. To have recourse to the former instance Hezekiah surely had more corruption twenty years before his recovery out of his sickness than at that time, and yet it wrought not so, that we read of, as it did thes; not that the barrel was then fuller, but that now it was broached lower, and a greater vent given, and so it came more gushing out, dregs and all. That a man, after he is grown up to his full strength, falls into so great sickness, such a one as he never had when he was a child, which maketh him weaker than when he was ten or twelve years old, doth not argue but that he is a man grown for all that. David, after a long growth, had a time of great sickness, whereby he lost the exercise, the lively, vigorous use of his graces; enfeebled by that sickness, he lost his taste in God's ordinances by it, and 'the joy of God's salvation,' as appears by the 51st Psalm.
(3.) And the third thing I would add is this, that such a one as is indeed much mortified, if it happens he falls into such a fit, yet the greater measure of his mortification will appear afterwards, in that the lust will be weaker after his recovery again. It is in this as with a man that is in a hot fiery fit of a fever, though he have at that instant the strength of two men in him, as was said, yet afterward, when the spirits are ebbed and settled again, his body is the weaker for it; so is the body of sin, upon the resurrection of grace, after such a fall. Many grow more after sickness. For God's end being but to discover his weakness, and what he is in himself, and to rouse him out of his security, he then loves to manifest his power when once we have seen our weakness; and so 'makes his strength perfect in our infirmities,' when they are not ordinary, but beyond the ordinary temper and dispositions of our spirits.
Quest. - But then the question may be concerning the more ordinary passages of a man's life: Whether a man may measure and take a sure estimate of the inward root of corruption left in him, by the ordinary risings and stirrings of it, and his failings into sin more or less? I speak not now of extraordinary fits, but of ordinary qualms and weaknesses.
Resolved. - To this I answer, that ordinarily men may conclude from the more or less busy they find corruption to be in them, that the more or less there is of corruption in them, and so thereby measure their growth; for grace and corruption are as two roots, and therefore the actions of them both are called their 'fruits,' Gal. v. 19, 22. Now Christ elsewhere gives us this rule of nature, to judge of the tree by the fruits, to proceed by in matters of grace also. And as by the fruit we may know of what species and kind the tree is, so likewise what plenty of sap there is at the root, by the plenty, or bigness, or fairness of the fruit it doth bring forth. The more inward corruption at the root, ordinarily the more fruit thereof appears in the life; and proportionably also of the tender fruits of the Spirit. And therefore Christ here says that the vine is to be 'purged, that it may bring forth more fruit;' because the more corruption is emptied, the more holiness will appear in your inward and outward fruitfulness. And the reason hereof is, because ordinarily as a thing is in being, so it is in working. Children, the weaker, the more falls they have in their ordinary walkings; bodies, the more sickly, or the weaker and more unhealthy the constitution is, the more qualms; and as they recover strength more and more, they find they outgrow such weaknesses. And therefore, ordinarily, according to what activeness a man finds of grace or sin is in him, according are the inward principles of either of them - more or less in him. For the soul of man, as it is an active thing, so being left to its ordinary course, it acts according to the sway, and bias, and inclination of the habits that are in it, which are also active, as both grace and sin are. As a bowl, when the force of the hand that threw it begins to decay, it is swayed by the bias, and lead that is in it; and so the less grace, the less, ordinarily, it acts graciously, and the weaklier. And then also the opposite corruption must needs be so much the more active; for the soul being active, abates not of its mettle, but it will still shew itself one way or other. The flesh will 'lust against the spirit' so much the stronglier, as the spirit is weaker, 'for they are contrary.' Yea, and thus God judgeth of the principles of grace in us, according as they act in us: he will judge of our mortification by the fruits of it in our lives and hearts; the more the fruits of sin grow on in us, the less mortified he will account us; as he will judge of faith by the works, so of mortification by the fruits. And therefore it is observable, that he bids us mortify the deeds of the body, as well as the body of sin, Rom. viii. 13; for God will judge of the one by the other: Therefore the objects of mortification are the needs of the body, as 'well as the inward principle of corruption, because the mortification of the inward principle will be seen and appear in the deeds.
Obj. - But it may be objected, that grace is acted, or lusts do stir, accord ingly as the Spirit of Christ, who is a voluntary agent, doth act grace, or will leave a man; so that if he be pleased to stir that little grace in a weak Christian, he shall act it more, and if he leave a strong Christian to himself, he shall fall more. But to this it is answered -
Ans. 1. - First, that though the Holy Ghost be a voluntary agent, and blows when and where he pleaseth, for his times of working, yet ordinarily he acteth grace in us, take our whole course, according to the proportion of grace given us, so as he that hath more habitual grace shall be more assisted and enlivened, which falls out according to that rule, which in this case will hold, Matt. xxv. 29, 'To him that hath shall be given,' if ' it be a true talent. Hence therefore he that had five talents gained more than he that had but two: for he gained his five more unto his five; the other but two more to his former two; though he that had but one is said to have gained none, because indeed it was not a true talent, for he 'seemed but to have it,' the text says. And the reason hereof is, because those habits of grace which God hath infused are his own works, and are ordained by him to be acted, and he delights still to crown his own works in us with more. And as he proportions glory to works, so he promiseth to act according to the principles of grace infused, which else would be in vain, they being ordained to that end. As the Apostle says of gifts, that they are 'given to profit withal,' so are graces to work, and therefore ordinarily God draws them out, where he hath bestowed them, as he doth gifts also, according to their proportion. And thus, è contra, it is for leaving a man to sin; the more corruption a man hath, the more ordinarily he lets it vent and discover itself; that so men that have many corruptions in them might know what is in their hearts; and so when God doth mortify them in them to thank him the more, the grace of which else would be to them lost, if God should mortify their lusts in them, without their seeing and bewailing them, and crying to him, '0 miserable man that I am!' and ordinarily see and discern them men would not, unless left to them. As in case of humbling a man, though God sometimes doth humble a man that hath fewer sins, more than he that hath greater, to shew that he can give a spiritual light to see more sin in a little than others in much; yet ordinarily those are most humbled that have been greatest sinners, as Manasseh 'humbled himself greatly,' and Mary Magdalene 'loved much,' and the Apostle thought himself 'the greatest of sinners.' And thus it is in acting grace, or letting forth corruptions; it is according to their principles within.
Ans. 2. - And, secondly, that very acting grace doth increase habits: so as the increase of habits and inward mortification is proportioned according to the acting of grace by the Holy Ghost; for every abstinence doth mortify, as was said, and every act of grace doth, through the blessing of the Spirit, further sanctify and increase the habit: Rom. vi., 'You have your fruit in holiness.' When they do any duty, it makes the heart more inwardly holy, so as indeed the one cannot be without the other; but the more a man doth abstain out of right principles, by the assistance of the Spirit, the more he grows: so as in the end all comes to one; he whose holiness is acted most hath in the end most habitual grace, and thereby often it comes to pass that 'he that is first comes to be last, and he that is last first.' Yet there are two limitations to be put in about this : -
(1.) First, I grant, for some times of men's lives, that God doth act some men's graces more, who have yet less grace, and leave those to sins who have more grace. So he left Peter, who in all appearance had more grace than any of the twelve, yet God left him to deny Christ more foully and falsely than any of the other. But then let the ends of God be considered why he doth it : -
[1.] First, in case of too much confidence upon inherent grace, and the strength of it. When we trust to habitual grace received, then Christ, to shew that it is a new grace, to assist that grace, and to the end that it may be acknowledged that he that gives one grace is not bound to give another, may in this case leave one that hath indeed more grace to the prevailing of corruptions more. It falls out sometimes that when men are young Christians, and new born, God adds much assistance, and this for their encouragement; and as you carry young children in your arms, and so they are kept from falls more than some more elderly that are let go alone, thus, Hos. xi. 3, 'God takes them by the arms when a child,' ver. 1, but then 'they acknowledge it not,' as it follows there, and are apt to think that that strength and life they have is from themselves, and so God afterwards leaves them, when grown more elderly. Those Christians who walk most sensibly of their own weakness, and observe God's keeping them from sin, and attribute this to him, such God delights to help, though for the present they have less habitual grace. And so those Christians that sooner come to the knowledge of that way of dependence upon Christ, - some come to see it the first day, and make use of it, others not so clearly a long while, - they shall be more assisted than another. To many that way so soon is not so clearly opened.
[2.] Again, secondly, sometimes God will magnify this his acting grace, as I may call it, more inone man than in another, seeing it is a grace. That one Apostle of the Gentiles, Paul, did more than all the apostles; shall we thereby infallibly conclude he had more inherent grace than they all but that he had more assistance. As God sometimes useth men of weaker gifts to do more than men of greater; so men of weaker graces, and less growth, to shame the other. As there are 'diversities of gifts,' so of 'operations and exercise' of those gifts, 1 Cor. xii. 6, the 'Spirit dividing as he will,' ver. ii. God casts aside one of eminent gifts into a place or condition wherein they are not useful, and so he may one of much habitual grace.
[3.] Thirdly, he acts often according to actual preparation; the habitual preparation lies its habits, and is more remote; as strings may be good, yet out of tune, and so not played upon.
[4.] Again, fourthly, God may leave a Christian of more grace and growth to more stirring of corruptions, in case he means yet to bring him to a higher pitch of humiliation, and that by sins. It is in this his dealing of leaving men to corruptions, and the vigorous conflicts with them, as it is in his leaving his people sometimes to those other evils of afflictions. God humbleth his either by afflictions or by sins, and his manner in both is sometimes alike. You shall see one who hath attained to a great measure of grace already, and that by affliction, and yet never to be out of the fire, but God still followeth him with one affliction or another; whereas one of less growth and grace, who in that regard hath more need, shall have fewer afflictions in his course. And what is the reason of this difference It is not that the grown Christian hath simply more need of affliction than the other, but be.. cause God intends to bring him on yet to a further degree of grace. As refiners of sugar, taking sugars out of the same chest some thereof they melt but once, and another part of it they melt and refine again and again; not that that which they refine twice hath more dross in it, but because they would have it more refined, doubly refined. And as God deals thus in afflictions, so also in leaving of his people to the stirring of corruptions, which of all afflictions is the greatest to humble a holy heart. And thus in experience it is found that he doth sometimes leave a grown Christian to conflict with corruptions more than a weaker Christian; not that he hath more in him, but because he means to bring on that grown Christian to a further degree of humiliation; he is not humbled as he means to have him yet. And whereas God humbleth some men by afflictions, he hmnbleth others by sins. And nothing humbleth more than sins, for crosses do but humble by revealing sin as the cause; and nothing will humble a grown Christian more than to see such shameful soul-corruptions still stirring in him: the greatest aggravation of which to him will be in this, that after so long a time such lusts should be so lively in him; to have such gross faults in his exercises after he hath been so long at school, this shames him. For a grown Christian to be disguised with a corruption, and when his hair is grown, to have it shaven off as David's messengers were ashamed of it, so how doth it shame and humble him! Thus Hezekiah, though he was much humbled by a sickness to death, but because he was not humbled enough, and so far as God meant to bring him, therefore God let loose pride on him, and then he further humbleth himself and all Israel, as it is 2 Chron. xxxii. 26. Upon some men God shews his free grace in keeping them from sin; upon others he spends it in pardoning them. -These are but two several ways he hath of laying it out. And so sometimes he shews his grace in keeping those of less grace, and again in letting those of more to struggle with their lusts: and such sicknesses are not to death or to weaken them, but for the glory of God and their further growth; for this will be the effect and consequent of such stirrings in grown Christians, that as their fits of corruptions stirring are great, so their humblings will be greater. Grace being much in them, will shew itself that way; great fits of sinning have intermingled with them great exercises of repentings, and the growth of their grace will shew itself in them, and appear in them. Even as 'in men' that are cheerful naturally, but sometimes oppressed with melancholy, when those presures are over they are most merry, their spirits, breaking forth, being at liberty, they shew themselves as much on the contrary in mirth; so is it here when grace gets above again. As it is in the body when the spirits are not weak, but only kept under by humours, when they do once get up, they then shew their strength in causing the body to grow the more, - as in many young men after a sickness, where strength of nature is, - and so thereby they become after often the better, and more lively; but if the natural spirits be weak, it is not so.
(2.) A second limitation is, that though one of less growth in mortification may sometimes by watchfulness keep under his lusts more, and act that little grace he hath, more than haply he doth who hath yet radically more grace; therefore says the Apostle, 'Stir up the gift that is in thee.' To Timothy he speaks it, and he exhorts, Gal. v., even young Christians 'to walk in the spirit;' that. is, to have the spirit kept above the flesh, so as a man shall have great hand over his corruptions, that they break not forth.
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