A Door Unto Everlasting
Life, Containing Several Arguments For Leaving Sin and Living
by Andrew Gray (1634—1656)
Reader, I have always thought that good books
(being silent teachers of goodness) are the best part of a man's furniture
in his house, and the choicest goods of a country. Yet, many are so far from
reading them, that they revile them, and employ their wicked wits in jeering
whatever tends to make them wise to salvation. The profaneness and
corruption of this present age is too visible. Many who bear the Name of
Christ are enemies of the cross of Christ, and of the power of Christianity.
They are even sunk below beasts in enormous sensuality, and whoever does not
approve of, yes, and practice such detestable wickedness, such beastly and
satanical sins as they do; whoever is not metamorphosed into a devil
incarnate, is reproached by them as a devilish hypocrite.
With such, this plain piece will find no cordial respect,
no practical entertainment; it will be as an unsavory breath in their
nostrils. Yet if you are serious and solicitous for savory and wholesome
truths; if to have the kingdom of Christ set up in your heart and life be
what you do breathe after; if you be really sick of sin and sick of love for
Him who is altogether lovely; if you be one of Zion's mourners, one whose
heart is shaken with devils, scruples, and fears concerning the condition of
your soul; if you be one of Zion's citizens, one whose conversation is in
heaven, and would have your heart and affections more elevated, and set upon
the things above, I am confident the ensuing treatises will be grateful and
welcome to you. The very subject matter of them will allure you to read
them, and I question not, but through divine blessing, this little book will
be a great blessing unto you. Let not any despise it because it is destitute
of those elaborate and rhetorical flourishes with which many pieces are
beautified, for the design of it is not to please the fancy, but to profit
the soul, and to warm the heart. Sure I am that what profits the soul, and
makes a Christian more devout and pious, is to be valued far above what only
tickles the fancy of the curious.
Read it therefore, yes, read it seriously. It may be you
may find something that may refresh your heart and do your soul good. What
human frailties you discern in this small piece (which doubtless are not a
few), pity them, and so much the more pray for me that God would pardon and
amend all the errors both of my heart and life. Good reader, I shall detain
you no longer in the porch, but only beg of you, that when you do begin to
read this book, you would at least send up some short petitions to that God
from whom all our fruit is found, that by His blessing upon it (without
which you may read it often over, and yet profit little or nothing by
reading it), it may distill as the precious dew upon the tender herb.
May it make your barren soul more fruitful, your
treacherous soul more faithful, your weak soul more powerful, your troubled
soul more joyful. It may pour you out a blessing of light for your
understanding, a blessing of life for your affections, a blessing of peace
for your conscience, and a blessing of joy and gladness for your heart and
soul; in the attaining whereof I shall think my pains well bestowed, and my
labors abundantly recompensed, especially if you will gratify with your
remembrance at the throne of grace, him whose utmost design and ambition is
to be serviceable in promoting the eternal interest of souls.
It is a very sad, but yet an apparent truth, that
there is no creature in the world so merciless and mischievous to itself as
man is. For whereas everything naturally desires, or tends to its own
preservation, man unweariedly endeavors his own destruction. He becomes his
own murderer and executioner, by loving vice, and hating virtue, by
forsaking Christ, to follow the world, by poisoning his soul to please his
senses, by leaving the safe and pleasant way of holiness, to walk in the
dangerous and destructive way of wickedness. Wicked men turn their backs
upon God, and are ruled by sin and Satan at their pleasure. Such profane
beasts are many. They glory in their shame. Like Sodom, they carried their
sin in their foreheads, oathing it, telling of their cheats, how many they
have defrauded, and of their whoredoms, how many they have defiled. Alas,
they have not so much as one grain of grace in their hearts, nor the least
sign of holiness in their lives. Though, by the ministry of the word, they
be called upon to be holy, yet the more they are called unto holiness, the
further do they run into all sin and wickedness.
Yes, God's own children make but little progress in
holiness. The estate of many is a declining estate. They have lost the
savouriness of their spirits, and their delight in communion with God. They
are weak in resisting temptations to sin, from the devil, the world, and the
flesh. They are often overcome by sensuality, pride, worldliness, envy, etc.
Their heart is less watched, their tongue less bridled, and their
conversation more vain than formerly. What then more needful, than to have
before our eyes such arguments, as are most likely to deter us from sin, to
prevail with us to loath and leave all our lusts and transgressions, and to
walk humbly and holily before God all our days. May the Lord open our eyes,
to see the baseness of sin, and sanctify our hearts, that we may never
welcome nor embrace it anymore, but may grow holier every day than the
other. So living holily, may we die happily, and after death, reign with God
In order to realize this, let these following
considerations sink into our hearts. We must be holy, because the Lord our
God is holy. "You shall be holy—for I the Lord your God am holy" (Lev.
19:2). "It is written, Be holy, for I am holy" (1 Pet. 1:16). God's holiness
is the great ground and cause of our holiness, and the motive of all
obedience. "Let them praise Your great and awesome Name, for it is holy"
(Psalm 99:3). "Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at His holy hill; for the
Lord our God is holy" (Psalm 99:9). We are not bound to be essentially
and infinitely holy—as God is holy; yet are we bound to be
perfectly holy for our state, as God is holy. You call God Father, and if He
is your Father indeed, you will be like Him in holiness. You will both have
the same nature for likeness. You read a Holy Bible, serve an holy God,
pretend to be led by a Holy Spirit. Oh, what shame and trembling then should
cover you, if you be unholy! You pretend to love God, and why are you not an
imitator of God? Is it not a known saying, likeness makes love? Likeness is
the cause of love, and an effect of it. If you would have God to love you,
you must labor to be like Him. If you remain unholy, think with yourself,
how can an infinitely holy God delight in such an unholy wretch, in such an
unlovely and loathsome soul, in such a vile abominable sinner? How unfit am
I for His love and embracements! If unholy, you will not endure the purity
and presence of God, nor will God's purity and presence endure you.
We must leave sin and live holily, because to sin is very
unsuitable work; and very unbecoming to Christians–
(1) Are we not strangers, and therefore to abstain
from whatever is contrary to holiness? "Dearly beloved, I beseech you, as
strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the
soul" (1 Peter 2:11). We are traveling to an higher country, where pure
souls breathe in an uninfected air and are partakers of heavenly visions to
the full. Oh, do not by living unholily, belie your great and glorious
hopes. "Every man that has this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is
pure" (1 John 3:3). Show yourselves to be the true seed of the woman, by
flying from the face of the old serpent, and abhorring his image. Strangers
must not be meddlers; oh, meddle not with sin, but put off the old man with
his deceitful lusts. Trouble not yourselves with anything that will hinder
you in your journey heavenward. You expect a room among the angels, and will
you live as slaves in the world? You are in the way to Canaan, why then are
you in love with the flesh-pots of Egypt? "Having therefore these promises,
dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh
and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Cor. 7:1).
(2) Are not your relative conditions changed? Once
you were Satan's slaves, now God's servants. Once in darkness, now children
of the light. Once the devil's drudges, now Christ's followers. Are your
relative conditions thus changed, and shall not your work be altered? "You
are all the children of the light, and the children of the day—we are not of
the night, nor of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep as do others; but
let us watch and be sober" (1 Thess. 5:5-6). "As obedient children, not
fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance; but
as He who has called you is holy, so be you holy in all manner of
conversation" (1 Pet. 1:14-15). Is not sin the devil's creature? His old
sorceress? And will you have any communion with it? Oh, you children of the
(3) What does baptism into the name of Christ stand for?
Why were you baptized? Was it not for the renunciation of all sin, and the
mortification of every lust? "How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any
longer therein? Know you not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus
Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with Him by
baptism into death that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the
glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (Rom.
6:2-4). As God promised on His part to be your God, so you promised to
forsake His enemies, to dedicate yourself to His service, to obediently keep
God's holy will and commandments, and to walk in the same all the days of
your life. Surely it is a most wretched forgetfulness, to forget yourself to
be a Christian. Live holily, because the wicked lives of Christians are far
more sinful than the wicked lives of pagans and heathens, for—
(1) The sins of pagans are only against natural light;
but the sins of Christians, both against natural and supernatural. And to
sin, not only against a natural conscience, but an enlightened conscience,
is a great aggravation of sin. Was it not an aggravation of Solomon's sin,
that "his heart was turned from the Lord God of Israel, who had appeared
unto him twice"? (1 Kings 11:9).
(2) The sins of pagans may have fairer excuses than
others; they may plead in another sense than the apostle—"How can we call on
Him, of whom we have not heard? And how shall we hear without a preacher?
The sun, moon, and stars were but silent preachers. Had we, O God, heard the
joyful sound, we would have received it gladly. We never knew that your Son
was crucified, for had we known it, we would have believed in Him. We would
have taken Him for our rightful Sovereign, and obeyed His laws."
But what will you pretend? Can you say, you never heard
of heaven and hell? Never heard of faith, repentance, and remission of sins
preached? Never heard a strict and circumspect course of life pressed upon
you? Did you not know that drunkenness, cursing, etc. were sins? That piety,
sobriety, and righteousness was your duty? Why then do you the one, and
leave the other undone? Surely, if heathens shall be damned, wicked
professing Christians cannot think to be saved.
(3) The sins of heathens bring not so much dishonor to
God and Christ, as our sins do. We pretend greater holiness than they, and
shall our holiness better than theirs, as if the death and resurrection of
Christ was not able to make us live more holily, than the foundation of
civility and morality among them? What scandal and reproach this brings to
Christ. "The Name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you" (Rom.
2:24). What! Has the gospel no more efficacy than a pagan's ethics, or a
Turkish Koran? Devout Salvian brings in the pagans insultingly over the
professing Christians, whose lives were not agreeable to their knowledge.
Both Christ and His law are scandalized by such professors—behold, this is
the common report of pagans concerning them—"Where is this Christian law
which they believe? Where are those precepts of piety and chastity which
they learn? They read the gospel, and yet are unclean; they hear the
apostles, and frequent sermons, and yet are drunkards. They follow Christ,
and yet are thieves. They lead a wicked life, and yet boast that they have a
righteous law. It is altogether false (say the heathens) that they learn
good things, and retain the rules of an holy law, for if these things which
they learn were good, they then would be good themselves."
Thus we who would be accounted Christians, do bring our
God, our religion, and our profession into contempt, if our lives be not
answerable to our knowledge.
I would to God that everyone of us would take this into
his consideration, so that, at length, we may be careful to adorn our holy
religion with a holy and circumspect life and conversation. The love of God
in giving His Son for us, should forcibly overcome us to live holily. "The
grace of God, that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us
that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly,
righteously, and godly, in this present world" (Titus 2:11-12). What moved
God to give His Son, but His own grace and love? That pure love, that lodged
in His bosom from all eternity. "God so loved the world, that He gave His
only begotten Son" (John 3:16). If like Gideon, He had had threescore and
ten sons, it had still been much to part with one of them. Oh, but it was
His only Son.
Jacob tore his clothes, and went mourning many days, for
losing one son of twelve (Gen. 37:34). Even a harlot pitied the fruit of her
womb (1 Kings 3:26). But God gave the only Son of His love, and does
not this eternal and astonishing love teach us to deny ungodliness? "I
denied not", says the Lord, "My Son a suffering body for your sake. I denied
not His precious blood. The consolations of the Spirit, and the joys of the
higher world—I kept back nothing, but exposed all for your sake. Oh, deny
not your sins a sacrifice unto Me, but give them up to be condemned and
crucified, and to be nailed to the cross of Christ, that they may languish
and give up the spirit. I ask nothing of you that you can not easily deny.
It is not your estate, your life, or your little ones I require. Nothing,
but what you can well spare; nothing, but what is better parted with than
kept. Nothing, but what, if it were never required at your hands, yet were
it your wisdom and happiness to reject—even your base, vile, scarlet lusts.
That sin may die in you, and you may live to God."
Oh, what will prevail with us to leave sin, and live
holily, if love does not? Shall the consideration of death, or heaven, or
hell move us? And shall not the consideration of Christ's wonderful love
move us much more? "Death is certain," says one. "It may come suddenly, and
will come certainly; therefore, I will avoid sin, and serve God." "I care
not so much for death", says another. "It is but parting soul and body for a
season. Oh, but I fear hell-torments, the worm that never dies, and the fire
that never shall be quenched!" "Therefore I will leave sin, and live holily.
I hope", says a third, "for the joys of heaven—that I shall live though I
die; and that I shall eat and drink at Christ's table in His celestial
kingdom. Therefore I will reject the fawning pleasures of sin, that would
beguile me of the pleasures of heaven." "Oh, but Christ loved me", says a
fourth, "and gave Himself for me, that He might redeem me from all iniquity.
And this love of Christ constrains me, that I dare not, I will not sin."
This is the best motive. Holiness will not hinder you,
but bring a blessing upon you, in your private and particular callings. Say
not, I shall suffer loss, by leaving my worldly concerns to mind religion.
Suppose your estate did suffer, and your body fared the worse by it; yet,
sure I am, the cumberings and carings of worldlings bring them more grief,
than religious duties bring loss to you. Say not, "My affairs and
employments in the world are so great, and so many, that I cannot spare
time." The more and greater your affairs are, the more need to mind
religion, lest your heart be swallowed up of your affairs.
Are not the affairs of a kingdom more, and greater, than
those of an household? And yet David, who had the affairs of a kingdom to
look after, made religion his chief care. Say not, "My children must be
educated and provided for." What! will you lose salvation, and damn your
souls, to gather an estate, and to provide a portion for them? Provide for
them a portion in God's Name—but especially let God be their Portion
forever. Give them pious education and an holy example.
Is it not more comfortable to see children, in their
parent's lifetime, just heirs of their parents' graces, than to see them,
when parents are dead, heirs of their parents unjust gains? Oh remember,
that providing for your children's bodies, will not answer the damning of
your own soul. Your present welfare lies in divorcing sin and living holily.
Were there no commandment from heaven to leave sin, yet
should you leave it, because it is the ulcer that sits on a creature's
heart, and robs him of all true contentment and sound joy. Suppose no
torment, no horror did follow sin hereafter; yet it disquiets and torments
for the present. Oh the secret gnawings that envy, and pride, and
covetousness give a man's soul. Oh, what a sweet life leads the contented
and quiet spirited Christian when God and he are both of a mind! Compare him
with the fretful and discontented, who would be always correcting God's
providence, and vex themselves daily with crosses to no purpose. Oh, what
peace and comfort crowns the heart of the godly! Oh, what outward miseries
and inward horror fall upon the wicked!
Besides, sin is the soul's disease, a burning fever; it
blinds the mind, hardens the heart, enthralls the will, defiles the
conscience, deadens the affection, and hurls the whole man into confusion.
It brings more evils, external and internal, for the present, than either
tongue can speak or heart can think. Shall it not be divorced? Holiness is
the way to the enjoyment of all visible blessings. "Godliness is profitable
unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which
is to come" (1 Tim. 4:8). "Seek first the kingdom of God and His
righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:33).
Who has not seen or heard, how large revenues, riches, and estates, have
been wasted by vice and wickedness? There is a secret consuming cancer in
the wicked man's estate; a worm in the gourd. Some men's wealth melts away,
but how does this come about? Alas, it is banished by impiety. "Cursed shall
you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the field. Cursed shall be
your basket and your store" (Deut. 28:16-17). Oh but, "All these blessings
shall come on you, and overtake you, if you shall hearken unto the voice of
the Lord your God. Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you
be in the field" (Deut. 28:2-3).
Thus the Lord puts a difference between the godly and the
wicked, as He did between the Egyptians and the Israelites (Exodus 11:7).
Will holiness bring disgrace? No. "By humility and the fear of the Lord are
riches, and the honor, and life" (Prov. 22:4). Will holiness bring poverty
and need? No. "If you be willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the
land" (Isa. 1:19). "The young lions lack, and suffer hunger—but those who
seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing" (Psalm 34:10). See Job
22:21-30. God will be the godly mans gold and silver. Many of the godly have
fuller treasure, and more riches than ever they enjoyed in their
unregenerate condition. Who ever lost by serving God? Sin and the world have
made many a beggar, but never did God and Christ, for in their worst and
poorest condition, the godly are rich. "As dying—and behold we live; as
chastened—and not killed; as sorrowful—yet always rejoicing; as poor—yet
making many rich; as having nothing—and yet possessing all things" (2 Cor.
6:9-10), all things in hope and all things in the promise. God's people are
possessors of Him who possesses all. Godliness with contentment is great
Christian, when you are about to die, gather up your
accounts, and see how much you have laid out for God, and how much He has
rewarded you. You must needs confess that God is not behind-hand with you as
your debtor, should He deny you heaven. Look on Abraham, Lot, Jacob,
Jehoshaphat, Job, David, etc. I grant, a good man may suffer hardships and
scarcity, but it is not due to his godliness, but because of some
unmortified corruption, idleness, indiscretion, voluptuousness, or the like.
He who lives wickedly is self-condemned—
(1) Condemned in his own conscience. What Paul
said of the heretic, in Titus 3:11, may be said of every wicked man, he is
condemned of himself. "Happy is he who condemns not himself in that thing
which he allows" (Rom. 14:22). But wicked men condemn themselves in that
thing which they allow. Ask even the grossest and most profane wretch in a
country, Is it not excellent and desirable to live holily, to beware of open
impiety, and resist Satan's temptations, to be pure, and holy, and chaste,
and temperate? Yes, without question, will he say, it is very good. And yet
he will hate what he has commended, and do what he has condemned. He will
hate sanctity, and act wickedly. He says, he detests wickedness; but his own
wickedness he detests not.
(2) He is condemned by his profession, because his
most holy faith is contradicted by an unholy life. Baptism, wherein he gave
his name to Christ, engages him to obey Christ as his Lord; but though he
was baptized into the name of Christ, yet he obeys Him not. His profession
is sacred, but his practice is sinful. The one is pure, the other impure.
Now could any but dumb idols, stocks and stones, live without sense and
shame of this contradiction? He is condemned in conscience, and condemned by
There is no true comfort outside of the ways of holiness.
All earthly contentments are dead, bitter and inconstant. No course gives
such solid foundation for comfort as an holy course. A worldly course does
not, for the worldling is filled and fed from day to day with vexing cares,
and tormenting thoughts, and in a time of common calamity and affliction, he
is cast down. His face waxes pale; his mind is confused and his heart
trembles. His cares and fears devour all his joy—whereas the godly man is
anxious for nothing and rejoices in tribulation. He takes a providential and
moderate care, but not an unbelieving and excessive thoughtfulness. He walks
by faith, not by sense; he trusts in God in the midst of need, and finds
faith and trust a universal remedy for trouble.
No way is so full of pleasantness as the ways of
holiness. "Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace"
(Prov. 3:17). The paths of sin are void of peace, but great peace have they,
who keep God's law (Gal. 6:16). What peace, what joy like that of a good
conscience, in a time of affliction! When old age creeps up on a man, death
approaches, and eternity is before him. Oh, then a world for a good
conscience! The sinner's mirth and merriment is downright madness. "I said
of laughter, It is mad—and of mirth, What does it?" (Eccles. 2:2).
Christianity will not deprive you of your joy, it will only rectify,
moderate, and sanctify the same. I grant, some of God's people are of
sad, dark, uncomfortable spirits, but yet I affirm that godliness is not the
proper cause of their sadness. And suppose it were, were it not better for a
man to suffer qualms, and fits of melancholic sadness all his life, than to
suffer hell torments even for one hour? I leave the wicked, when sober and
settled in their wits, to judge and determine.
The mercies of God engage and bind us unto holiness.
Every mercy is a silent sermon, preaching to us the doctrine of holiness.
Every blessing is a suitor, wooing us to live holily. "That we being
delivered out of the hands of our enemies might serve Him without fear, in
holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of our life" (Luke
God, by His blessings, would allure and invite us unto
holiness. Has not God caused our lot to fall in a pleasant land? Whereas we
might have been born in Meshech, or in the tents of Kedar, in a barren land,
a land of spiritual drought. Has He not kept us back from presumptuous,
scandalous sins? And, at least from that unrepentable sin against the Holy
Spirit? Has He not kept us safe from deadly dangers? Might not fire have
suddenly broken out and laid our houses in ashes? Might not the devil, in
the night time, have murdered us and our children in bed? Who was it that
bound the devil to his good behavior, that he did not roar and tear both us
and them in pieces? Was it not God? God's outward providential mercies are
innumerable. Is it not pure mercy, that you have a dwelling house, though
but a lowly cottage? You might have been a vagabond, and run up and down
begging your bread. Is it not pure mercy, that you have a spread table? Have
you an healthful state of body, when others your betters are crying out from
day to day sick, sick? And are not children, which are an heritage from the
Lord, multiplied unto you, and are continued with you, while others are fast
burying their dead? Is it not pure mercy, that you have sufficient riches,
and a soft bed, when Christ Himself lived in poverty, and had nowhere to lay
His weary head? Have you not liberty and plenty of ordinances, burning and
shining lights, while others have not the gospel preached to them, but live
and die in gross darkness?
Therefore when you are tempted to sin, say as Joseph did,
"How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" (Gen. 39:9).
Shall I thus requite the Lord for the innumerable mercies bestowed upon me?
Has He surrounded me with blessings and loaded me with His benefits? Has He
crowned me with loving-kindness, and many rich blessings here; and has He
promised to crown me with eternal blessedness hereafter? And shall I be so
unkind and disingenuous as to wrong that God, who has been so kind to me,
and is continually doing me good? Shall I not hear Him calling on me to be
holy, who has so often heard me crying to Him for help? Has He denied
nothing to me, and shall I not deny my lusts for His sake? Is He my friend
and benefactor, and shall I do service to His enemy? Has He honored me, and
shall I dishonor Him? Does He promise me blessedness, and is a wicked life
the way to come to it? Have I tasted and seen that the Lord is good, and
shall I continue to do what is evil? Do showers of precious mercies distill
on my head, and shall they all miscarry? Shall I displease and dishonor that
high and awesome Majesty, whose free grace is the well-head and fountain of
all these mercies? Or shall I not rather express my thankfulness in such a
manner, as may become the mercies of God? Oh, the mercies of God are a
mighty motive to prevent sin and promote holiness.
Therefore, dwell much in your thoughts upon the mercies
and love-tokens of God. I read of one, that said, he had but one book, and
that book had but two leaves, a white leaf, and a red leaf. Yet he could
never read beyond these two leaves, though he lived many years, and read
diligently, so much matter was contained in them. For in the red leaf (he
said) were laid down all God's fearful judgments poured out upon sinners who
were disobedient and would not be reformed; and in who the white leaf were
laid down, all the mercies and favors of God given to mankind, either in
general or particular. This book remains to this day, and happy is the man
who is most careful to exercise therein day and night.
All a man's spiritual relations call for holiness. Our
relation to duties calls for it. What is our praising God without an holy
heart, but blessing of an idol? What good will our prayers do, if we lift
not up pure hands without wrath and doubting? What are sacraments and
ordinances, but abominations to the eye of God, when profaned by the sins of
men? Prayers, praises, sacraments, and ordinances, are holy things, and what
have swine and dogs do with such? Our relation to the saints calls for
holiness. The saints are called a holy nation, and what are we but withered
branches in the vine, masks of saints, and hypocritical counterfeits in the
church, without holiness? Are not the saints above closely allied to the
Church of God on earth? Are we not akin to the spirits of just men made
perfect? Have we not the same father? The same Redeemer? The same Sanctifier
and Savior? Who is our Head? Is it not the holy child Jesus? The holy, and
just, and righteous One, who is white and ruddy (Cant. v. 10). He is white
for sanctity, purity, and innocency; and ruddy in His sufferings, bloody
stripes, gallings, woundings, and crucifixion. Now, must we not be conformed
to our Head? Must the Head be of gold, and yet the thighs of brass, and feet
The duties we engage in are holy; the Christians we
converse with are holy. Christ our Head is holy; and yet will we be unholy?
Holiness will make you blessings to the places where you live. Wicked men
are the firebrands of a nation, but good men are as props and pillars to it.
Paul, indeed, was called a "pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition
throughout the world" (Acts 24:5), as if he was no less to be avoided than a
man coming out of a pest-house, with running plague-sores. But this was only
a malicious slander. The turning of the world upside down, seditions,
uproars, tumults, wars, and plagues are the fruits of unholiness, the
effects of iniquity. Whereas godliness is gainful, and a whole family and
nation has sometimes fared better for a single godly servant's sake. Witness
Laban's family, for the sake of upright and plain-hearted Jacob. Witness
also the house of Pharaoh, and the land of Egypt, for Joseph's sake. Witness
the many souls in the ship, that had all perished, but for Paul's sake.
Witness the Israelites that had been destroyed, while they wandered and
wavered in the wilderness, but for Moses sake.
Therefore be holy, that you also may be props and pillars
to the nation, and your names may be fragrant, and dear, and precious to
others. Holiness is an excellent help to prolong our days. "That you might
fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments, which
I command you.. .that your days may be prolonged" (Deut. 6:2). Religion
teaches temperance. A sober care of the body, and a religious and virtuous
course of life, does naturally tend to the prolonging of our days, and has
very frequently the blessing of health and long life attending upon it.
Objection—Wicked men sometimes live long, and good
men die soon.
Answer—1. Though wicked men sometimes live a long
life, yet theirs is not a promised life. "Bloody and deceitful men shall not
live out half their days" (Psalm 55:23). Now every wicked man is a bloody
and deceitful man, he is a self-deceiver, and imbrues his hands in the blood
of his own soul.
2. Though good men sometimes lose life soon, yet firstly,
they live in a spiritual, comfortable manner while they live. And secondly,
by losing a temporal life, they gain an eternal life; the life which they
gain, is infinitely better than the life which they lose. It is not a hard
and difficult thing to live holily, after a man has obtained a willing mind,
and made an entrance into heaven's way. It is not so much lack of power to
live holily, as lack of will that is the cause of so much unholiness. Many
pretend they cannot, but the truth is they will not. I would have gathered
you, as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and you would not (Matt.
23:37). "You will not come to me, that you might have life" (John 5:40).
"Knowledge is easy unto him that understands" (Prov. 14:6). Therefore up and
be doing! Use a holy violence, a holy habit. If there be only an hearty
willingness, and gracious assistance, what will these not do? What
difficulties can hinder a resolved and encouraged Christian? There is honey
in the carcass of the lion, for such as will not stumble at the cost. There
is glory as well as duty, and yet will you say that duty is hard? Be but
persuaded of the reward that attends duty, and you shall acknowledge that
Christ's yoke is easy.
Compare the freedom of God's servants, with the service
of Satan. Is not Satan's service a terrible task, an intolerable burden, an
iron yoke, in comparison to God's service? Is it not easier to tell the
truth, than by telling forgeries to bring upon ourselves shame and fear? Is
it not easier to employ our thoughts in the service of God, than to waste
our estates in satisfying our lusts? A wicked life will arm death with dread
and terror. A holy life is always sure to be concluded with a happy death.
Augustine used to say, that man cannot die ill, who lives well; and seldom
does he die well, who lived ill. I grant, a bad life may sometimes be
attended with a good death, where there is the interposition of an sincere
Oh but, he who has lived wickedly, for the most part,
laments ruefully when he comes to die. "Alas! Alas," says he, "the end is
now come, the end of all my mirth and jollity, of all my honors and
prosperity. My wife weeps, my children wail, and all my friends are troubled
for me, but alas, not one of them will go with me to the judgment seat, to
plead for me. Now all my delicious hours are past and gone; all my joys and
pleasures, all my mirth and pastimes, are now finished. Where are all my
companions, that used to laugh with me, and seemed as if they would never
have forsaken me? Now they are all gone, and have left me here alone to
answer the reckoning for all. None of them will do so much, as to go with me
to judgment, or speak one word on my behalf. Oh, fool that I was, not to
think of this day sooner, not to change my life sooner! Oh, unfortunate
wretch that I am, now I must die whether I will or not! I must change earth
for hell, pleasure for pain, light for darkness, and companions for devils.
Now I see the difference between the ends of good and evil. Now I see, it is
unprofitable service to serve the devil, the world and the flesh. It is no
profit to me now, that I have been beautiful, rich, and prosperous upon
earth. It is no profit that I have glittered in gold, and borne a great sway
in the world. Now I would give all my estate, all I ever had in the world,
yes, mountains of gold and silver, if I had them, but for one mite of true
gospel-grace and holiness. But alas, it is not to be bought, and if it were,
I have now no time to buy it! Now death is come, I must go away, and yet,
alas, I know not where."
Oh, when death comes, a little grace will be worth all
the world! Poor sinner, are not you as well as others tumbling towards the
grave? Every moment of life you come nearer death. Your strength is but
ashes, your glory but a flower. You eat today of the meat of birds and
animals, and soon, it may be in two or three months time, your flesh may
be dished out for crawling worms! Oh, it is but one spurn with God's
foot, one touch with God's finger, and you are gone, and where, oh where!
Think where you are then going without holiness. Catch therefore fleeing
time, and make the best of it. Bid farewell to self, and welcome holiness.
Abandon vanity, and embrace true piety. So live every day, that you may not
be afraid of the day of death.
You may be wise, and rich, and educated, and yet damned
at last, if not holy. For all the wicked shall be turned into hell. And God
will wound the hairy scalp of every one that goes on in His trespasses
(Psalm 68:21). Many that are clothed with infamy, and poverty, shall be
saved; but none that die in unholiness, can escape hell and damnation. What
but everlasting death, is the outcome and consequence of a sinful and
vicious course of life? "The end of these things is death. The wages of sin
is death" (Rom. 6:21-23), even eternal death. A death that comprehends in it
all those fearful and startling miseries, with which the wrath of God will
afflict and pursue sinners, in another world. "But unto them that are
contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness,
indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that
does evil" (Rom. 2:8-9).
So that, no matter how quietly a wicked man may pass out
of this world, yet unspeakable and intolerable misery will most certainly
overtake him at last. Sin is the highway to hell. Those who persevere in sin
while they live, cannot escape hell when they die. Such may read their doom,
"They must drink the wine of God's wrath. It is poured out undiluted into
God's cup of wrath. And they will be tormented with fire and burning sulfur
in the presence of the holy angels and the Lamb." (Rev. 14:10). It is mixed
with all stinging ingredients, but unmixed with any relief or offer of
mercy! No tortures so great as fire, and no fire worse than that of
brimstone. Yet, the impenitent sinner shall be tormented with fire and
brimstone, in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the
How did the poor scorched Sodomites run, howling and
yelling, and lamenting their pains, when God rained hell out of heaven upon
them? How then will poor damned creatures howl and lament their pains, in
that lake of fire and brimstone! What can be more horrible than that place,
where both soul and body must be crowded into a fiery dungeon, with torments
that can neither be avoided nor endured! There the sun, much less the face
of God, never shines! There the eyes shall distill like fountains, and the
teeth clatter like armed men, and the mind muse on nothing but sad despair,
and that forever! Oh, the bitterness, the multitude, the everlastingness of
their pains! Oh, eternity, eternity! Who can comprehend it? After the
expiration of millions of years, eternity will not be one minute less. Oh,
when eternity is added to extremity, then hell is hell indeed!
If dissolute sinners of our age were allowed to have a
sight of hell, what a fear and astonishment would it strike into their
hearts! How would they weep, yes, bleed for their sins? How constantly would
they pray for pardon? How would they rectify their crooked and cursed steps,
that they might never come to such a place? How would they loathe and leave
sin, which only can endanger them there?
There is a story of one, who gave a young ruffian a
curious ring, with a 'death's head' on it, upon this condition, that for a
certain time, he should spend one hour every day in looking and thinking
upon it. He took the ring in excitement, but performing his promise with
diligence wrought a wonder upon him—so a desperate ruffian became a
conscionable Christian. Did a Christian spend but one half hour fixedly
every day, in meditating seriously on hell, the sad yet certain consequence
of a sinful life, I doubt not, but by God's grace, he would find a blessed
alteration, both in his heart and life.
Bishop Babington, in his comforting notes upon the book
of Exodus, tells us of an unconcerned woman, who, spending her time in sin,
desired her wicked associate, to bestow on her a new gown. When he
hesitated, she instantly answered, "Do I desperately cast away both body and
soul forever to content you, and do you deny me so small a request?
Henceforward, I am resolved to look to myself better, and to avoid both you
and this wicked life." If she did turn from her wickedness, the denial was
made a blessing unto her.
We also read of a covetous father, who raking up riches
sinfully, suddenly called for his eldest son and for a dish of coals, and
required his son to put his finger in and burn it off. At first, he thought
his father had jested, but in the end, perceiving his settled resolution, he
begged to be excused, for he would not do it. Thereupon the father answered,
"Shall I, to make you a great man in the world, so heap up riches by all
unlawful means, that I am sure to burn for it, both body and soul, eternally
in hell, and will not you endure the loss of one finger for me? Now I will
alter my course, and consider in time that which hereafter cannot be
Oh, it is good to meditate often on the wages of sin! I
know, such thoughts, and meditations are held as being too melancholy, but
it is the way to prevent sin, and consequently destruction. Now is the time
to think of these things. The torments of hell are without measure, and the
continuance in these torments is without end. The damned shall be punished
in hell, so long as there is a God in heaven; and yet, will you, O man, for
the pleasure of an hour, incur these everlasting pains? Will you rather lose
your soul, than leave your sins? Is sin more sweet, than the wrath of God
would be bitter? I think the very thought of the end of outcome of a wicked
life (that the end of these things is death, that tribulation and anguish,
far greater than we can imagine, shall be to every soul of man that does
evil), should be more than enough to dishearten any man from a wicked life
and to bring him to a better course.
Remember, oh man, if you who bear the name of Christ,
live wickedly, your hell will be far hotter than the hell of superstitious
Pagans! If Turks and Tartars shall be damned, wicked and debauched
professing Christians shall be doubly damned. And believe it, the
brick-kilns of Egypt, and Babel's fiery furnace, are but shadows and
pictures of pain, when compared with the fiery Tophet. Resolve, therefore
henceforward so to live and conduct yourself, that you may be of the number
of those, who shall be accounted worthy to escape all these things, and to
stand before the Son of man. Holiness is the only way to happiness. Grace
is the only way to glory. No holiness, no heaven. "Without holiness no
man shall see the Lord" (Heb. 12:14). Holiness is the highway to that high
and holy place. "And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the
way of holiness" (Isaiah 35:8). "The pure in heart shall see God" (Matt.
Heaven is the inheritance of saints (Col. 1:12). No
unclean thing can enter into God's kingdom. They who live in those sins
which are the works of the devil, and mock those who are sanctified, shall
have no place with God and His glorious angels. Heaven was never prepared
for the workers of iniquity. "To sit on My right hand, and on My left—it
shall be given unto them for whom it is prepared of My Father" (Matt.
20:23). Who are the blessed royal guests? Men who are gracious and holy.
Heaven is no common inn. "Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit
the kingdom" (Matt. 25:34). You that fed Me and clothed Me, you that visited
the fatherless, which is pure religion (James 1:27).
A wicked man has not so much as half a promise of heaven
in the whole Bible. The poor man has a promise (James 2:5), but the wicked
man has none. Oh, you enemy of gospel holiness, show your warrant. Why do
you look for heaven? You have received no promise from God; and if you have
no promise, you can expect no performance.
It may be, at present, you do taste some comfort from
your self-flattery; oh, but in the end you shall reap the sorrow of your
woeful self-deceit. God is sometimes better than His Word, but never
contradicts His Word, which He must do, if the unholy, unhumbled
sinner comes to heaven. Heaven begins in holiness, and our expectation of
future glory, obliges us to present sanctity. "Nevertheless we, according to
His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwells
righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that you look for such things, be
diligent, that you may be found of Him in peace, without spot, and
blameless" (2 Peter 3:13-14).
What will move us to holiness, if glory does not? Shall
the devil, by showing "the fading glory of this earthly world", prevail with
thousands to serve him? And shall not Jesus, by showing us the everlasting
glory of the world to come, prevail with us to serve Him? Are we called to
this glory, and shall we not walk worthy of Him who has called us to it? (1
Thess. 2:12). Surely the enjoyment of God Himself hereafter, in all His
perfections, sufficiency, blessedness, and goodness to us, according to our
capacity, should make us study holiness, for how can an impure and filthy
soul enjoy God? Alas, there is no suitableness, no fitness in such a soul.
The more holy we are, the more we are like the glorified
saints. Holiness will be our perfection and delight in Heaven, and shall it
not be our desire and study here on earth? Will we rather part with
eternal life, than with our lust? Is our sin to be reckoned or compared
with heavenly glory? Oh, let us choose an holy life, if we would be happy
both in life and death. Let us become the servants of God, and have our
fruit unto holiness, if we ever expect that the end shall be everlasting
life. God calls us from sin to holiness, which is most reasonable (1 Thess.
God calls us to follow Him in the way of holiness to
eternal glory. The devil calls us to follow him in the way of sin to eternal
torments. Now whether it be right that we obey God or the devil, judge
you. "Follow peace with all men and holiness" (Heb. 12:14). Though lions be
in the way, and discouragements be multiplied, though Satan interposes, and
corruptions stop our course, we are yet to follow holiness. Who calls us? Is
it not He, whose presence and breath is consuming? He who can command us
into nothing, and shall not His call be complied with? Must the eternal God
become a humble condescending suppliant to man? Majesty and mercy kneel and
entreat us to be holy, and yet we live in sin still!
What are we called from? Is it not from sin and
destruction to purity and salvation? Is it not from Satan to God, from
embracing of sensual pleasures, to the pursuing of spirituality? And who can
withstand such reasonable entreaties? Our profession of Christianity obliges
us to holiness. Christianity is a matter of free acceptation; it is our own
voluntary choice. When we take upon us the Name of Christ, we bind ourselves
to leave sin, and live holily. "Let every one that names the Name of Christ,
depart from iniquity" (2 Tim. 2:19).
Our Christian profession obliges us to a Christian way of
life. What! Will we plow with an ox and an donkey together? I mean, will we
have the face of a Christian, and yet the life of a heathen!
Oh, let us not be "almost Christians", lest we be at last almost saved, that
is, altogether damned. Oh, let this truth be like the water of jealousy,
like fire in our bones, like the archangel's trumpet to awaken us.
You who possess Christ are bound to follow Christ, both
in inward and outward holiness. You have taken upon you to be holy in part,
and this obliges you to be holy in all. As he who believes one fundamental
article is bound to believe all fundamental points, so he who obeys God in
one practical duty, is bound to obey all. As for example, suppose you being
a professor of Christianity, come to the Lord 's house upon His blessed day.
Now I tell you—you are the greatest self-condemned man in the world, if you
do not also cast by all profaneness, and make religion your chief business,
both at home and abroad. For upon the same ground you come to Christ, upon
that same ground you should pray with your family, educate your children
Christianly, live strictly, and do all that is required. "He who said, Do
not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill; Now if you commit no adultery,
yet if you kill, you are become a transgressor of the law" (James 2:11).
You that out of conscience, and from the command of God
do one thing, ought likewise to do all. The same law, the same God, and the
same authority that binds you to one, binds you to another. If you endeavor
not to obey God in all, you obey Him insincerely. A professing Christian
that endeavors not to be strict, exact, circumspect, and holy in practice
shall never by me be called a Christian.
Your virtue and piety will profit your posterity after
you. It will help to keep wrath from your children, and to procure a
blessing upon them. This is that which God cannot forget, neither will He
forget His goodness sake. "Showing mercy unto thousands of them that love
Me, and keep My commandments" (Ex. 20:6). "Oh that there were such an heart
in them that they would fear Me, and keep all My commandments always, that
it might be well with them, and their children forever" (Deut. 5:29); 1
Kings 6:34). "The just man walks in his integrity—his children are blessed
after him" (Prov. 20:7).
According as we behave ourselves towards God (says an
ancient writer) we entail a lasting blessing—or a great curse upon our
children. As wicked parents entail God's anger and curse upon their
posterity, so God reserves mercy for the posterity of the godly. He will be
good, even to thousands of their seed, who diligently serve Him. Lo, here is
the fruit of your prayers and tears, of your hearing God's Word, and leading
your lives according to the sacred rules thereof. This seals up the Lord's
favor not only to yourselves, but to your children after you. I beseech you,
professing Christians, think seriously of all this, and as you would ever
wish well to your own souls, as to their dear pledges, that are as your own
heart, be afraid to offend God. And be constantly careful to lead your lives
according to the rules of His most Holy Word. If God has irresistibly and
effectually called you, among those few, very few called ones, whom He has
chosen for Himself, let this engage you to be holy yet more and more. Did
not the Spirit of grace knock at your door with infinite holy motions,
before you condescended to open? You refused to obey, until He called, not a
third time, as to Samuel, but many an hundred times. As Lot was reluctant to
depart out of Sodom, until the angels laid hold upon his hand, and brought
him forth; so you were unwilling to leave your sins, and sinful companions,
until the hand of the Lord laid hold upon your heart. God's arbitrary and
free grace called you and left others. Oh, how should this make you to
admire God's love, and to strive for God's holiness! When God took you, He
left others; he passed by thousands and ten thousands in the world, and left
them in their impenitency and carnal security under the bondage and
vassalage of Satan.
Consider, how few there are that shall be saved,
in comparison of the multitude that shall be eternally destroyed. Consider
that God should call you with a holy calling, and bring you in to be one of
that little flock, that is under the care of the good Shepherd, Jesus
Christ. If you should be chosen and singled out from the rest, when they are
left in a state of sin to perish eternally, what astonishing distinguishing
mercy is this! How should this engage you to be eminently holy. Was you
called in your younger years? Oh, be holy in all manner of conversation for
a requital of God's love that suffered you not to stab your soul to old age.
It is a greater mercy to be called at the first, or
third, than at the eleventh hour; to be called in your infancy and early
days, than in the afternoon, and evening, and twilight of your age. Being
early called, you never made such sad shipwrecks, never involved yourself in
such gross wickedness as others have done. You have had long trial of the
sweetness of holiness, therefore follow after it still.
Were you called in old age? Labor to make requital for
the many hours, days, and years, you lost before you were acquainted with
God. Surely holiness becomes you forever. Oh, be holy, you old disciples,
for your time to gather grace in will not be long.
Oh, be holy, you young converts, for you need liveliness,
strength, and vigor in the way and work of the Lord. Your experiences are
but short; some tastings you have had, oh, but desire more, for the more
holiness you have, the more sweetness you shall find. The richest wine lies
in the lowest cellar. Has Christ come down into your heart? Oh, be pure and
holy that you vex not His righteous soul. Oh, how should you please Him, who
has so highly honored and advanced you!
If a peasant's daughter were married to a prince, would
she put on her old rags, or eat her poor food again? Christ the Prince of
Peace has married you to Himself, and appointed you a rich estate. Will not
you forever lay aside the filthy garments of sin, and slight those husks on
which you fed before? It may be that you are so poor, that of your own you
have nowhere to lay your head, and it is certain you possess not one foot of
land that is your own forever. Yet are you an heir, a child, dearly beloved,
both by God and angels. This honor have all the saints.
Once you were a great, a filthy sinner; oh, be holy, for
Christ has washed you in His blood, justified you by His righteousness, and
sanctified you by His Spirit, even when you were filthy to look upon. Moses
once married a black woman; David had vile men for his soldiers; and Christ
had publicans, harlots, and sinners for His companions. So God chose you
when you had little morality, little ingenuity, or natural goodness. You are
of the number of those few that shall be saved, and so strongly bound to be