Look if the world, or anything in it, lays claim to the
first-fruits of your labours daily. If it be first in your heart, or first in
your hand, in the morning, it is your God; for a man's God claims his first
thoughts, and ordinarily his last thoughts at night, and often his thoughts
when he is sleeping. 0, how few can say their sleep is sweet unto them on a
better account, and, when they awake, they are still with Him!
Look if the
world lays claim to your most precious time, which is devoted to a deity. Doth
it come often in your heart when you are about holy religious exercises? it is
an ill token.
Look if the world takes the pre-eminence of God more
avowedly, hasting all His matters that it may take up the whole man, but never
hasting itself to give God His due; wearying of God, but never of itself. And
look if, for a business of the world, your heart will curse God and blaspheme
and sin against Him. This is a woeful token.
Look if the world claims the
prerogative of quickening your soul; then it is your God. Hath it power to
enliven you when most dumpish and indisposed for anything? But the remembrance
of all that God hath said or promised in spiritual things doth not so, and hath
no power nor influence upon your spirit, to quicken or cherish or raise it up.
That is a bad token. Yea, you who are godly, in as far as you yourselves guilty
in these things, know that you a too far engaged.From a sermon on Ps. iv. 6, 7; -preached Dec. 27,
A Workman not Needing to be
A minister who is a pointed shaft, taken out of God's
own quiver, may persuade men a great length towards Christianity. Paul
persuaded King Agrippa far. It is true, no minister can give the thing; but a
serious minister, that preacheth home, is a great help and promising mean. Such
do speak from conscience to conscience, and divide between the marrow and the
bone; yea, as one speaketh home to men's hearts, he evinceth from them some
rational and peremptory answer: they will not get a powerful preacher shifted,
like another man. Nay, a searching minister will find a portion of light within
any man's bosom, which he will quicken by persuasion to speak for God. Let it
be a lamentation that there are but few such ministers in the land, and small
care in the people to seek after such. From a
sermon on Acts xxvi. 28 - 80; preached Dec. 80, 1655.
All in All, or Not at
Folk may move a great length towards true Christianity, and
yet reach not the thing. It is the plague of many to be brought such a length,
for they settle on their lees, and it slayeth them. This should alarm you all.
Look on the parts of a man. He may reach far in his knowledge; had not
Balaam great revelations? In his will or resolution; so did Saul in a manner
change his heart towards David, when he was convinced. In his affections; he
may love, rejoice, delight in the things of God. In the outward man; he may
reach a deal of reformation, both in regard of sin and of duty. In his
judgment; he may judge the things of God excellent - many said of Christ,
Never man spake as this Man.
Consider the common steps of a
Christian work, and we shall find him come a great length who hath not the
thing. He may be under conviction, as Saul was. Under the terror of God, as
Felix, who trembled. Under some joyful reception of the truth, holding out a
refuge. Under some calm and quiet of mind, in expectation of His favour; so
were the foolish virgins. He may be a man of some experience, as Balaam, whose
eyes are opened to see the visions of God. All this may be followed by some
reformation; Satan may go out of the man for a season, and yet his estate be
If we consider profession, and the parts of it, he may go a great
length. He may talk much of Law and Gospel. He may confess much to his own
shame. He may humble himself in sackcloth, as Ahab did! He may ask for the
ordinances of justice, as a man that fain would know and do duty. He may side
and join with God's interest in a very hard time; so Demas and others, who
afterwards left the apostle! He may give much of his goods to God and the
saints so did Ananias and Sapphira - if not all his goods, and his body to
If we consider the most special graces, he may have things
very like them. He may have a sort of faith; so are many said to believe in
Christ, to whom He would not entrust Himself. He may have a huge deal of
repentance, and walk mournfully. He may have a strange measure of the fear and
awe of God. He may have a strange sort of hope; so are hypocrites said have a
hope which perisheth. He may have He may have flashes of joy, very like the joy
of the Holy Ghost, even the powers of the life to come, as if it were preludes
of heaven. Yea, he may have more than I can now condescend upon, and be almost
Christian, and yet have nothing of true Christianity, a dram weight of which
can lay claim to the crown of heaven, and that most justly.
these things are not my allegations but clear and manifest, according to the
Scripture. And, therefore, look to yourselves, and be not easily satisfied, for
it is very hazardful to be a half-Christian. From a sermon on Acts xxvi. 28 - 80; preached Dec. 80,
"Thou hast delivered my soul
This mercy, rightly seen, bulks bravely in a man's
eye. It is on the front and top of all his mercies, and The true stock of his
riches, and it binds the vows of God on him. For it is the determination of his
greatest controversy, that was most vexing and of greatest concernment. It is
an inlet to all other mercies here and hereafter, a sure pledge of them, and
speaks his ground-right to them. It hath a power of comforting over all
tribulation. It quiets the soul in all future contingencies, which use to vex
men's the man, whose heart is fixed, feareth no tidings and cannot be greatly
moved. Yea, it giveth confidence in all things. Then try by this, what real
discovery you ever had of your souls deliverance. Do you lift it above all your
mercies? Judge you it your stock and treasure, engaging you to Godwards? Have
you peace and confidence and comfort in the remembrance of this? From a sermon on Ps. lvi. 18 ; preached Dec. 81, 1655;
"Which a Man Found and
There is prejudice by venting religion too soon. Profession
gets the foregate of both knowledge, faith, and tenderness; and ordinarily
there is an ill-holden house afterwards. I may say, through the untimely din of
some folks religion, both godly folk and piety do suffer. It often holds true,
they that show their gear long to be robbed. This reproves many who, they but
find some warming in the outer court of affection, proclaim that they have
found Christ. Stay a while, till you look about you; the trial follows. But you
question me: What shall we do, if we may not vent what we find? Go and examine
thy way, by what thou findest in others and their finding of the jewel. Go,
look what ado you have had for it, and search your former ways. Bethink what it
may cost you, and what you must quit for it., By all means insure it, and hide
it till you do insure it.From a sermon on Matt.
xiii. 44; preached July 26, 1656.
"Joie! Joie! Pleurs!
Keep as close as you will, there will be a joy in thy
soul that will make health in the countenance. The broken bones must sing and
greet, and greet and sing, and hope and fear, and fear and hope. Look if this
contrariety of tides be, or hath been, in thy bosom; it speaks good, and thou
must not think it a delusion that the soul dare so soon rejoice. Let it alone,
it shall perhaps get mourning enough; but a blythe heart must be at the entry
of sweet Christ in the soul - on the first sight of that attainable rock to the
drowning man.From a sermon on Matt. xiii. 44;
preached July 26, 1656.
Why is He called the Bridegroom, since the marriage is
past between Him and many? There are various answers. Because of the vigour and
greenness of love that is still on Him; He remembers the love of espousals and
kindness of youth. Because He is still wooing others, and carrying on marriage
daily. Because there be some things to perfect to them all, whom He hath
What, then, is wanting in that marriage-business, for which Christ
must come back to perfect it? There wants full possession of Himself, which we
could not bear hereaway; we shall drink of that wine new in His Kingdom. We
want that equipage that beseems the Lamb's wife; she will be made suitable to
Him, when she shall be made like His glorious body. She wants possession of the
dowry, of which she hath got but poor infeftment (i.e., investiture) hitherto -
these rivers of pleasure, these mansions. The saints want a full sight of the
Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, whom they shall see no more
through a glass. In a word, He is yet to put them in a state, where they shall
be not only in a capacity not to fall out of His love, hut also out of a
capacity of offending Him and of all mistakes of Him.
And these are great
things.From a sermon on Matt. xxv. 6; preached
Aug. 18, 1656.
were a sweet life, if we might dwell still with Christ, and nothing come
between Him and us. If we had it in our choice what to do, we would soon be
determined; a fool's bolt is quickly shot. We would all seek to be taken away
to heaven together in a cloud. There be several things make us wish so. There
is the difficulty of enjoying His Face; we find it almost impossible to keep
ourselves in tune for His loves: therefore we cry still, It is best of all to
be with Christ, and, When shall the shadows flee away
? W would fain know
what He is face to face, without the glass of burdensome ordinances; we would
have the day breaking up that way. We fear much what may overtake us in our
time, having a body of sin in us, and many tentations, and we every day at the
pit's brink, and our foot near slipping; so we cry to be delivered from this
body of death. There is our unprofitableness in our generation, not daring to
say with Paul, It is Christ for me to live; no wonder we desire to be gone.
There is our hopelessness to see Christ's matters recovered again - the glory
and the beauty as we have seen it; this made Elijah to wish himself away. There
be the manifold cares and burdens, even the sore travail that God hath given
men under the sun to be exercised with; which makes His poor people groan with
all His creation to be delivered. Some may add this, The woe of offences; some
times are so kittle (i.e., hazardous) that men can hardly walk without
offending or being offended; and often they wish for the wings of a dove, to
leave all these things; they would fain be buried for a while. There is an
universal decay and inclination to sleep among the Lord's people, joined with
hopelessness of bettering their state and condition; so they would venture upon
etemity. And there are the persecution and hard. dealing they meet with.
Hardly will we find so many things to countervail these, for which we
should desire to stay. But Jesus Christ knew all these things; and yet, having
both in option - whether His friends should be taken up heaven, or stay in the
world - He will have them pass their course here a whileFrom a sermon on John xvii. 15; preached Oct. 19, 1656.
The Foolish Man builds his
House on the Sand.
The hypocrite has hope. His hope is to lay up
some satisfying stock to himself in the world, after which he will disquiet
himself more: "If I had this or that done, I would trouble no more"; though
still they get new occasions that way. His hope is never to be moved; having
fastened roots in the earth, he thinks to make out something, let the world
roll as it will. He hopes many times that all shall be well with his soul; any
thought he hath of it is soon at a point, as one of the foolish virgins. He has
hope to leave enough to them that are behind him, and so to have his memory
blest in the earth.
As for the grounds of this hope, I shall comprehend
them all under these. They are sensual, and lay much weight on a present
visible good, and look not at things to come. They are atheistical, and know
not that there is a Higher than the highest, disposing of the affairs of men,
casting down and lifting up. They are brutish and ignorant, taking the
abundance of the world for evidence of God's love and goodwill. Yea, -and
sometimes they are popish, and many think their charitable deeds will gain
heaven to them.
And what strengthens them in their way? Their good is
present, and in their hand, and visible, and they have known no changes;
therefore have they hope in spite of anything. They see rich men die in their
nest, and no bands in their death, and no difference between them and poor
godly folk; indeed, the rich die with appearing advantage over him that hath
been plagued every morning. It is not granted to them that one should be sent
from the dead; and they do not believe the Law nor the Prophets. They see godly
folk regarding much the things of the world, and seeking much after them, and
that is a great snare to them, and encourages them in their way. Some precepts
tending to diligence in our business, having promise annexed, do fortify their
0, study to have a hope in God, the ground which must be the words on
which He hath caused you to hope, and the conviction of the vanity of all
things else. From a sermon on Job xxvii. 8;
preached - Jan. 15, 1657.
The Giver of the Everlasting
It is God Himself.
He is no churl, but very bountiful.
A man needs not scar (i.e., fear) to take a good turn of Him; for He is a
hearty, liberal God.
He is One who may well give it. He is the Lord who
saveth whom He will. And it costeth Him not much now to put it out, having once
given the Son; He but says to folk dying in their blood, Live, and it is so. It
is as native in a manner, and kindly for Him, to give life to poor dead dogs,
and beseemeth Him as well, as shame beseemeth a transgressing party.
One in whose debt you are already, infinitely and above count or payment; and
so you need not stick at this - take it on among the rest.
He is One who
will not take it well if His gift be despised, or refused, or suspected to be
out of favour. Is not this the controversy between Him and men? He is One that
can and will avow and maintain His gift against all deadly (i.e., against all
opposition). It it God that justifeth; who will condemn ?From a sermon on 1 John v. 11; preached April 19,
Consider man in all his ages, aud we shall see darkness
exercising much power over him. When he is a child, it puts out itself in
lying, contention with parents or other children, in playing on holy days and
hatred of religious duties. When he comes to some further years, it puts out
itself in vanity of apparel, in scoffing at religion, jarring with others,
youthful lusts, and much self- conceit. In riper years, it puts out itself in
worldly- mindedness and covetousness, deceit, oppression, and pride of
Or let us consider man in every part of him, and there
we shall find this power of darkness. As in his understanding, where he is wise
in evil, ready to invent mischief, wise to shift duty and reproof, and a mere
fool in all the things of God. In his memory he is most tenacious of wicked and
profane purposes, and of injuries done by men - he cannot forget this and he is
most forgetful of all things that belong his peace, and of his latter end. In
his will we find a general averseness from what is good, and a strong
inclination to what is evil. In his affections - his love, joy, delight,
sorrow, fear - he is set on wrong objects; none of them exerciseth itself in
what is pleasing God or advantageous to the soul. In all his outward members -
his eye, his ear, his tongue, his hand, foot - he finds weapons of
unrighteousness, and employs them unto the works of darkness.
man in his ordinary ways. The ways of his calling: what self-seeking! what love
to a present world, preferring it to the matters of God! What falsehood! What
sacrificing to his own net! The ways of his liberties: eating, drinking,
wearing, sleeping, playing, without fear or respect to God, never minding the
end for which these things were allowed, or whereaway excess in them leadeth.
The ways of his fellowship with others: fortifying their atheism, leading them
from a living God, teaching them to transgress, crossing their good purposes,
filling the field with vanity. The ways of his relations: a child, as a parent,
as a husband, as a wife, as master or servant; what huge undutifulness is
there, .cannot soon be told. The ways of his religion: what hypocrisy! what
profaning of the Lord's name! what desire of man's applause! what rotten
atheism, and mocking of God to His face! what doing of the of the Lord
deceitfully, and yet conceiting in self-righteousness!
These all being duly
considered, man must appear be a poor, captive, miserable slave to sin; and who
will deliver ?From a sermon on Col. i. 18;
preached on Aug.8, 1657.
Your duty is wholly militant, for the triumphant state is after this life. Keep
yourselves and Christ's interest in your generation; for the enemy, from whom
you are rescued, is set against these.
If you would he a faithful subject
and soldier, you must be vigilant. You must be temperate in all things, and
sober in the use of the creatures. Be on your guard, lest you be found napping
and asleep, and so surprised. Challenge timeously, when the enemy moveth. Give
intelligence to the Captain of all the motions of the enemy within you ; for
this, says Paul, I prayed thrice. Warn your fellow-soldiers of their hazard,
for it will prove yours next.
If you would be a wise soldier, then take the
surest way with anything; be not sudden to trust it; keep it under guard, till
you see daylight; and bring it before the Captain to be examined. Fight the
enemy, if you can, in your neighbour's quarters, and not in your own; stay not
till the temptation be your own. Never fight but in sight of the Captain, if
you can choose; for without Him ,you can do nothing. Never fight without fresh
ammunition; beware of adventuring the field with your old stock; your ancient
furniture is not readily fixed.
If you would be a stout soldier, play the
man, says the apostle. Your courage stands in bidding be to every enemy; and in
standing out the siege, thot long beleaguered, and though the Captain be far If
you get the worse often, yet never despair victory, but rally again. Be of
undaunted resolutio not only to challenge the enemy and defy him, you find but
little strength, but also to bide out in this fighting life, till you be taken
off by the Master. And, when it cometh to that, deliver things from your hand,
with a good report and credit.
I add, as a special duty to all the subjects
of Christ that they be respectful of the standard. The banner is the Gospel,
the truth, and the ordinances. Keep sight of that, for it is in the Master's
hand; the Standard-Bearer. Be not moved from truth Endanger your life for the
truth.From a sermon Col. i. 13; preached Aug.
The first failing in our duty is in this, we forget that God
is the Lord; especially in one of these three respects -
That of Him are all
things. It is He that must prescribe laws, and He that must give knowledge of
and respect unto these laws. And He it is whose breath and influence alone make
dead dry bones live and move. 0, what holy, awful dependency would be on Him in
all things, natural and spiritual, if this were believed! But the faith of it
must be from Him also. That through Him are all things. When He hath set them
on foot, they cannot continue in their being but through Him, and as they are
and have sparkles of His image, and are fluttered over by that Spirit that
moved on the waters. 0, what self-denial, and adhering to Him, would be here in
things which are, as well as in things which are not; for what is, it is as in
Him, whence, if it depart, it is nothing, if not worse.
That to Him are all
things. Not only is He the last end for whom all things are made, and towards
whom they do drive; but the proper end of each being is that God may be made
manifest. He will, by all things that are, whatsoever they be, some one way or
other appear to be what He is; so that whatsoever is be, some must be to His
account and behoof. 0, what abstractedness from your created ends and designs,
and what reverent submission to His will, would be in men, if folk did
practically believe this!
Study to know Him, in these three respects to be
the Lord. It shall contribute much for your duty.From a sermon on Ps. xlv. 11; preached Aug. 17,
They who wait on God sometimes get a sensible armsful of
Him, as did Jacob.
This palpable communication of God to the soul is not a
visible apparition of Him, as was wont to be both before Christ's coming and
after it. We require not such things now. Christ being come in the flesh, He
needs no more preludes of His incarnation; and this Gospel is so verified,
there needs no voice from heaven. Nor is it a vision of God in a dream, when
deep sleep is upon men; wherein folk say, they a light shine about them, and
dreamed such and such things, half-sleeping, half-waking. God in these last
times hath spoken unto us in His Son, and more clearly; and what is promised of
dreaming dreams and a seeing visons in the latter days is but to hold out how
great the light shall be, and what homeliness we have God; lasses and lads
shall have as much as some singular courtiers of heaven had in old times. Nor
it a breaking up of a new light in the soul, with quaking and trembling,
overthrowing all the light was before, and establishing a light inconsistent
with the Scriptures; for we find no such thing in the Word of God, which to us
is a surer word of prophecy than a voice from heaven. Nor is it a stretching of
the affections with some joy; nor yet some head - tastings of the powers of the
life to come. These may be without any saving change of heart.
What is it
It is a sensible manifestation of God to the soul, making out His
respect, as if He spake to the ear, man greatly beloved! His Spirit can impart
things a man's spirit, without the help of outward organs. This carrieth along
with it the signification of the power the man hath with God. It beareth also a
beam of light upon my former receivings of God and of His image; and a beam of
light on the Scriptures to which these do relate, either promises, or such as
speak of marks and evidences of the life of God. It beareth also, along with it
necessarily, access with boldness and confidence.
There is somewhat done to
the man, answering the love-embracings of the bridegroom over the bride, or the
husband over the wife, showing that God's delight is in him, and that the King
greatly desireth his beauty. His Spirit can make out sweet love to our spirits,
without corporal organs; as if His left hand were under our head and His right
hand embraced us! This is the shedding abroad of His love in our heart. There
is such heavenly influence of His dew seizing the branch of the soul, that all
the powers of it are in a like manner dilated to hold much, and all the
principles of the new life are quickened and enlivened, the wind so blowing,
the spices flow out. Now in case, in the imparting of this love, there is such
a declaration, a palpable outmaking of union and communion between God and the
soul, that the soul is as with marrow and fatness, and there remaineth more
spirit in the man, as is said of the Queen of Sheba.
Now, this is not
always equally communicated to folk. But some have more of it, and some less;
and same person, at sundry times, diverse communications of it, sometimes more
biding, sometimes more transitory; sometimes more distinct, so as he can give
good account of it, sometimes more indistinct, so the person only knows and
finds it, but cannot well make others wise in it. From a sermon on Gen. ii. 26; preached in the Autumn of
1657. Back to 'Sentences'