The Fountain of Life
The Fountain of Life opened up: or, a display
of Christ in his essential and mediatorial glory
by John Flavel
General Use, Exhortation and Application
And now, to close up all, let me persuade all those for whom the dear Son of God came from he blessed bosom of the Father; assumed flesh; broke, by the strength of his own love, through all discouragements and impediments; laid down his own life a ransom for their souls; for whom he lived, died, rose, ascended, and lives forever in heaven to intercede; to live wholly to Christ, as Christ lived and died wholly for them.
O brethren, never was the heathen world acquainted with such arguments to deter them from sin; never acquainted with such motives to urge them to holiness, as I shall this day acquaint you with. My request is, to give up both your hearts and lives to glorify the Father, Son, and Spirit, whose you are, by the holiness and heavenliness of them. Other things are expected tram you than from other men. See that you turn not all this grace that has sounded in your ears into wantonness. Think not because Christ has done so much for you, you may sit still; much less indulge yourselves in sin, because Christ has offered up such an excellent sacrifice for the expiation of it. No, though Christ came to be a curse, he did not come to be a cloak for your sins. "If one died for all then were all dead; that they that live, should not henceforth live to themselves, but to him that died for them," 2 Cor. 5:15. O keep your lives pure and clean.
Do not make fresh work for the blood of Christ every day. "If you live in the Spirit, see that you walk in the Spirit, Gal. 5:25, that is "Let us shape and order our lives and actions according to the dicates, instinct, and impulses of the Spirit, and of that grace of the Spirit put within us, and planted in our hearts, which tends to practical holiness." O let the grace which is in your hearts, issue out into all your religious, civil, and natural actions. Let the faith that is in your hearts appear in your prayers; the obedience of your hearts in hearing; the meekness of your hearts in suffering; the mercifulness of you hearts in distributing; the truth and righteousness of your hearts in trading; the sobriety and temperance of your hearts in eating and drinking. These be the fruits of Christ's sufferings indeed, they are sweet fruits. Let grace refine, ennoble, and elevate all your actions; that you may say, "Truly our conversation is in heaven." Let grace have the ordering of your tongues, and of your hands; the mounding of your whole conversation. Let not humility appear in some actions, and pride in others; holy seriousness in some companies, and vain frothiness in others. Suffer not the fountain of corruption to mingle with, or pollute the streams of grace. Write as exactly as you can, after your copy, Christ. O let there not be (as one well expresses it) here a line, and there a blank; here a word, and there a blot. One word of God, and two of the world. Now a spiritual rapture, and then a fleshly frolic. This day an advance towards heaven, and tomorrow a slide back again towards hell. But be you in the fear of the Lord all the day long. Let there be a due proportion between all the parts of your conversation. Approve yourselves the servants of Christ in all things. "By pureness, by knowledge, by long suffering, by the Holy Spirit, by love unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness, on the right hand, and on the left," 2 Cor. 6:6. See then how accurately you walk. - Cut off occasion from them that desire occasion; and in well doing commit yourselves to God, and commend religion to the world. That this is your great concernment and duty, I shall evidence to your consciences, by these following considerations. That of all persons in the world, the redeemed of the Lord are most obliged to be holy; most assisted for a life of holiness; and that God intends to make great use of their lives, both for the conviction and conversion of others.
Consider, First, God has more obliged them to live pure and strict lives. I know the command obliges all men to it, even those that cast away the cords of the commands, and break Christ's bonds asunder, are yet bound by them; and cannot plead a dispensation to live as they do. Yes, and it is not unusual for them to feel the obligations of the command upon their consciences, even when their impetuous lusts hurry them on to the violation of them; but there are special ties upon your souls, that oblige you to holiness more than others. Many special and peculiar engagements you are under. First, from God. Secondly, from yourselves. Thirdly, from your brethren. Fourthly, from your enemies.
First, God has peculiarly obliged you to purity and strictness of life. Yes, every Person in the blessed Trinity has cast his cord over your souls, to bind up your hearts and lives to the most strict and precise obedience of his commands. The Father has obliged you, and that not only by the common tie of creation, which is yet of great efficacy in itself; for, is it reasonable that God should create and form so excellent a piece, and that it should be employed against him? That he should plant the tree, and another eat the fruit of it? But, besides this common engagement, he has obliged you to holiness of life.
First, By his wise and merciful designs and counsels for your recovery and salvation by Jesus Christ. It was he that laid the corner-stone of your salvation with his own hands. The first motion sprang out of his bosom. If God had not designed the Redeemer for you, the world had never seen him; he had never left that sweet Bosom for you. It was the act of the Father to give you to the Son to be redeemed, and then to give the Son to be a Redeemer to you. Both of them stupendous and astonishing acts of grace. And in both God acted as a most free Agent. When he gave you to Christ before the beginning of time, there was nothing out of himself that could in the least move him to it. When the Father, Son, and Spirit sat (as I may say) at the council-table, contriving and laying the design for the salvation of a few out of many of Adam's degenerate offspring, there was none came before him to speak one word for you; but such was the divine Pleasure to insert your name in that catalogue of the saved. Oh how much owe you to the Lord for this. And what an engagement does it leave upon your soul, to obey, please, and glorify him?
Secondly, By his bountiful remunerations of your obedience, which have been wonderful. What service did you ever perform for him, for which he has not paid you a thousand times more than it is worth. Did you ever seek him diligently, and not find him a bountiful rewarder? none seek him in vain, unless such only as seek him vainly, Heb. 11:6. Did you ever give a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, and not receive a disciple's reward? Matt. 10:42. Have you not found inward peace and comfort flowing into your soul, upon every piece of sincere obedience! Oh what a good Master do saints serve? You that are remiss and inconstant in your obedience, you that are heartless and cold in duties; hear how your God expostulates with you, Jer. 2:31. "Have I been a wilderness to Israel, or a land of darkness?" q. d. Have I been a hard Master to you? Have you any reason to complain of me? To whoever I have been strait handed, surely I have not been so to you. Are fruits of sin like fruits of obedience? Do you know where to find a better Master? Why then are you so shuffling and inconstant, so sluggish and remiss in my work? Surely God is not behind-hand with any of you. May you not say with David, Psalm. 119:56. "This I had, because I kept your precepts." There are fruits in holiness, even present fruit. It is a high favor to be employed for God. Reward enough that he will accept anything you do. But to return every duty you represent to him with such comforts, such quickening, such inward and outward blessings into your bosom, so that you may open the treasury of your own experiences, view the variety of encouragements and tokens of his love, at several times received in duties; and say, this I had, and that I had, by waiting on God, and serving him. Oh what an engagement is this upon you to be ever abounding in the work of the Lord! Though you must not work for wages; yet God will not let your work go unrewarded. For he is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love.
Thirdly, Your Father has further obliged you to holiness and purity of life, by signifying to you (as he has frequently done) you great delight and pleasure he has therein. He has told you, "that such as are upright in the way are his delight," Prov. 11:20. That he would not have you forget to do good, and to communicate, for with such sacrifices he is well pleased," Heb. 13:16. You know you cannot "walk worthy of the Lord to all pleasing, [excepts you be fruitful in every good word and work," Col. 1:10. And oh what a bond is this upon you to live holy lives! Can you please yourselves in displeasing your Father? If you have the hearts of children in you, sure you cannot. O you cannot grieve his Spirit by loose and careless walking, but you must grieve your own spirits too. How many times has God pleased you, gratified and contented you, and will you not please and content him? This mercy you have asked of him, and he gave it, that mercy and you were not denied; in many things the Lord has wonderfully condescended to please you, and now there is but one thing that he desires of you, and that most reasonable, yes, beneficial for you, as well as pleasing to him, Phil. 1:27. "Only let your conversation be as becomes the gospel of Jesus Christ." This is the one thing, the great and main thing he expects from you in this world, and will not you do it? Can you expect he should gratify your desires, when you make no more of grieving and displeasing him? Well, if you know what will please God, and yet resolve not to do it, but will rather please your flesh, and gratify the devil than him; pray pull off your masks, fall into your own rank among hypocrites, and appear as indeed you are.
Fourthly, The Father has further obliged you to strictness and purity of conversation, by his gracious promises made to such as so walk. He has promised to do great things for you, if you will but do this one thing for him. If you will "order your conversation aright," He will be your sun and shield; if you walk before him and be upright, Gen. 15:1. "He will give grace and glory, and no good thing will he withhold from him that walks uprightly," Psalm. 84:11. And he promises no more to you, than he has made good to others, that have thus walked, and stands ready to perform to you also. If you look to enjoy the good of the promise, you are obliged by all your expectations and hopes to order your lives purely and uprightly. This hope will set you on work to purge your lives, as well as your hearts, from all pollutions, 2 Cor. 7:1. "Having these promises, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God."
Fifthly, Yes, He has yet more obliged you to strict and holy lives, by his confidence in you, that you will thus walk and please him. He expresses himself in scripture, as one that dares trust you with his glory, knowing that you will be tender of it, and dare do no otherwise. But if a man repose confidence in you, and trust you with his concerns, it greatly obliges you to be faithful. What an engagement was that upon Abraham to walk uprightly, when God said of him, Gen. 18:19. "I know him, that he will commend his children, and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord,"--as for this wicked generation, whom I will speedily consume in my wrath, I know they regard not my laws, they will trample my commands under their feet, they care not how they provoke me, but I expect other things from Abraham, and I am confident he will not fail me. I know him, he is a man of another spirit, and what I promise myself from him, he will make good. And to the like purpose is that in Isa. 63:7. "I will mention the loving-kindness of the Lord, and the praises of the Lord; according to all that the Lord has bestowed on us, and the great goodness towards the house of Israel, which he has bestowed on them, according to his mercies, and according to the multitude of his loving kindnesses. For he said, Surely they are my people, children that will not lie, (or fail me:) so he was their Savior." Here you have an ample account of the endearing mercies of God to that people, ver. 7. and the Lord's confident expectations of suitable returns from them, ver. 8. I said, that is (speaking after the manner of men in like cases) I made a full account, that after all these endearments and favors bestowed upon them, they would not offer to be disloyal and false to me. I have made them sure enough to myself, by so many bonds of love. Like to which is that expression, Zeph. 3:7. "I said, surely you will fear me, you will receive instruction." Oh! how great are the expectations of God from such as you! I know Abraham, there is no doubt of him! And again, they are children that will not lie, that is they will not break their covenant with me.
Or they are my people that will not shrink, as Mr. Coverdale well translates--such as will be true to me, and answer their covenant-engagements. And again, surely you will fear me, you will receive instruction. And shall not all this engage you to God? What! Neither the ancient and bountiful love of God, in contriving your redemption from eternity, nor the bounty of God, in rewarding all and every piece of service you have done for him? Nor yet the pleasure he takes in your obedience and upright walking? nor the encouraging promises he has made thereto, nor yet his confident expectations of such a life from you, whom he has so many ways obliged and endeared to himself? Will you forget your ancient friend, condemn his rewards, take no delight or care to please him? Slight his promises, and deceive and fail his expectations? "Be astonished, O you heavens, at this! and be horribly afraid." Consider how God the Father has fastened this fivefold cord upon your souls, and show yourselves Christians; yes, to use the prophet's words, Isa. 46:8. "Remember this, and show yourselves men."
Secondly, You are further engaged to this precise and holy life, by what the Son has done for you; is not this pure and holy life the very aim, and next end of his death? Did he not shed his blood to "redeem you from your vain conversations?" 1 Pet. 1:18. Was not this the design of all his sufferings? "That being delivered out of the hands of your enemies, you might serve him in righteousness and holiness all the days of your life," Luke 1:74, 75. And is not the apostle's inference, 2 Cor. 5:14, 15. highly reasonable? "If one died for all, then were all dead, and that he died for all, that they which live, should not henceforth live to themselves, but to him that died for them." Did Christ only buy your persons, and not your services also? No, whoever has your time, your strength, or any part of either, I can assure you, Christian, that Christ has paid for it, and you give away what is none of your own to give. Every moment of your time is his, every talent, whether of grace or nature, is his; and do you defraud him of his own? O how liberal are you of your precious words and hours, as if Christ had never made a purchase of them! O think of this, when your life runs muddy and foul. When the fountain of corruption flows out at your tongue, in idle frothy discourses; or at your hand, in sinful unwarrantable actions? Does this become the redeemed of the Lord? Did Christ come from the bosom of his Father for this? Did he groan, sweat, bleed, endure the cross, and lay down his life for this? Was he so well pleased with all his sorrows and sufferings, his pangs and agonies, upon the account of that satisfaction he should have in seeing the travail of his soul? Isa. 53:11. as if he had said, "Welcome death, welcome agonies, welcome the bitter cup and heavy burden; I cheerfully submit to all this. These are travailing pangs indeed, but I shall see the beautiful birth at last. These throws and agonies shall bring forth many lovely children to God; I shall have joy in them, and glory from them, to all eternity. This blood of mine, these sufferings of mine, shall purchase to me the persons, duties, services, and obedience of many thousands that will love me, and honor me, serve me, and obey me, with their souls and bodies which are mine." And does not this engage you to look to your lives, and keep them pure? Is not everyone of Christ's wounds a mouth open to plead for more holiness, more service, and more fruit from you? Oh! what will engage you if this will not? But,
Thirdly, This is not all; as a man when he weighs a thing, casts in weight after weight, until the scales are counterpoised; so does God cast in engagement after engagement, and argument upon argument, until your heart, Christian, be weighed up and won to this heavenly light. And therefore, as Elihu said to Job, chapter 36:22. "bear with me a little, and I will show you what I have yet to speak on God's behalf." Some arguments have already been urged on the behalf of the Father and Son, for purity and cleanness of life; and next I have something to plead on the behalf of the Spirit. I plead now on his behalf, who has so many times helped you to plead for yourselves with God. He that has so often refreshed, quickened, and comforted you, he will be quenched, grieved, and displeased by an impure, loose, and careless conversation; and what will you do then? Who shall comfort you when the Comforter is departed from you? When he that should relieve your souls is far off? O grieve not the holy Spirit of God by which you are sealed, to the day of redemption, Eph. 4:30. There is nothing grieves him more than impure practices, for he is a holy Spirit. And look, as water damps and quenches the fire, so does sin quench the Spirit, 1 Thess. 5:19.
Will you quench the warm affections and burning desires which he has kindled in your bosoms? If you do, it is a question whether ever you may recover them again to your dying day. The Spirit has a delicate sense. It is the most tender thing in the whole world. He feels the least touch of sin, and is grieved when your corruptions within are stirred by temptations, and break out to the defiling of your life; then is the holy Spirit of God, as it were, made sad and heavy within you. As that word may be rendered. For thereby you resist his motions, whereby in the way of a loving constraint he would lead and guide you in the way of your duty; yes, you not only resist his motions, but crossest his grand design, which is to purge and sanctify you wholly, and build you up more and more to the perfection of holiness. And when you thus forsakes his conduct, and crossest his design in your soul, then does he usually withdraw as a man that is grieved by the unkindness of his friend. He draws in the beams of his evidencing and quickening grace, withholds all his divine cordials, and says, as it were, to the unkind and disingenuous soul,
"Have you thus requited me, for all the favors and kindnesses you have received from me? Have I quickened you, when you was dead in transgressions? Did I descend upon you in the preaching of the gospel, and communicate careless life, even the life of God, to you; leaving others in the state of the dead? Have I shed forth such rich influences of grace and comfort upon you? Comforting you in all your troubles, helping you in all your duties; satisfying you in all your doubts and perplexities of soul; saving you, and pulling you back from so many destructive temptations and dangers? What had been your condition, if I had not come unto you? Could the world have converted you without me? Could ministers, could angels, have done that for you which I did? And when I had quickened you, and made you a living soul, what could you have done, without my exciting and assisting grace? Could you go on in the way of duty, if I had not led you? How Would you have waded through the deeps of spiritual troubles, if I had not borne you up? Where had the temptations of Satan and your own corruptions carried you before this day, if I had not stood your Friend, and come in for your rescue in the time of need? Did I ever fail you in your extremities? Did I ever leave you in your dangers? Have I not been tender over you, and faithful to you? And now, for which of all these kindnesses, do you thus wrong and abuse me? Why have you wounded me thus by your unkindness? Ah! you have ill requited my love! And now you shall eat the fruit of your doings. Let your light now be darkness; your songs turned into cowlings; the joy of your heart, the light of your eyes, the health of your countenance, even the face of your God, and the joy of salvation, be hid from you."
This is the fruit of careless and loose walking. To this sad issue it will bring you at last, and when it is come to this, you shall go to ordinances, and duties, and find no good in them; no life-quickening comfort there. When your heart which was accustomed to be enlarged, and flowing, shall be clung up and dry; when you shall kneel down before the Lord, and cry, as Elisha, when with the mantle of Elijah, he smote the water, "Where is the Lord God of Elijah?" So you, where is the God of prayer? Where is the God of duties? But there is no answer: when like Samson, you shall go forth and shake yourself, as at other times; but your strength is gone; then tell me, what you have done in resisting, quenching, and grieving the Holy Spirit of God by impure and offensive practices? And thus you see what engagements lie upon you from the Spirit also to walk uprightly, and keep the issues of life pure. I could willingly have enlarged myself upon this last branch, but that a judicious hand has lately improved this argument, to which I shall refer the reader. Thus God has obliged you to circumspect and holy lives.
Secondly, You are under great engagements to keep your lives pure; even from yourselves, as well as from your God. As God has bound you to purity of conversation, so you have bound yourselves. And there are several things in you, and done by you, which wonderfully increase, and strengthen your obligations to practical holiness.
First, Your clearer illumination is a strong bond upon your souls, Eph. 5:8. "You were sometimes darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of the light." You cannot pretend, or plead ignorance of your duty. You stand convinced in your own consciences before God, that this is your unquestionable duty. Christians, will you not all yield to this? I know you readily yield. We live, indeed, in a contentious, disputing age. In other things, our opinions are different. One Christian is of this judgment, another of that: but does he deserve the name of a Christian that dare once question this truth? In this we all meet and close in oneness of mind and judgment, that it is our indisputable duty to live pure, strict, and clean lives. "The grace of God, which has appeared to you, has taught you this truth clearly, and convincingly," Tit. 2:11, 12. "You have received how you ought to walk, and to please God," 1 Thess. 4:1.
Well then, this being yielded, the inference is plain and undeniable, that you cannot walk as others, in the vanity of their mind; but you must offer violence to your own light. You cannot suffer the corruptions of your hearts to break forth into practice, but you must slight, and put by the notices and rebukes of your own consciences, Jam. 4:17. "He that knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is sin." Yes, sin with a witness. Aggravated sin. Sin of a deeper tincture than that of Heathens. Sin that sadly wastes and violates conscience. Certainly, whoever has, you have no cloak for your sin. Light and lust struggling together, great light and strong lusts: these make the soul a troubled sea that cannot rest. O but when masterless lusts overbear conscience, this impresses horror upon the soul. This brake David's heart, Psalm. 51:6. "You have put knowledge in my inner part", q. d. Ah, Lord! I went against the rebukes of conscience, to the commission of this sin. I had a watchful light set up within me. I knew it was sin. My light endeavored lovingly to restrain me, and I thrust it aside. Besides, what pleasure in sin can you have? Indeed, such as for want of light know not what they do, or such, whose consciences are seared, and past feeling; they may seek a little pleasure (such as it is) out of sin: but what content or pleasure can you have, so long as your light is ever breaking in upon you, and smiting you for what you do? This greatly increases your obligation to a precise, holy life. Again,
Secondly, You are professors of holiness. You have given in your names to Christ, to be his disciples; and by this your engagements to a life of holiness, are yet further strengthened, 2 Tim. 2:19. "Let everyone that names the name of Christ, depart from iniquity." The name of Christ is called upon you, and it is a worthy name, Jam. 2:7. It is called upon you, as the name of the husband is called upon his wife, Isa. 4:1. "Let your name be called upon us." Or, as the name of a Father is called upon his child, Gen. 48:16. "Let my name be called on them, and the name of my fathers. Well then, you bear the name of Christ as his spouse or children; and will you not live suitably to your name? Every place and relation, every title of honor and dignity has its decorum and becomingness. O how will that worthy name of Christ be blasphemed through you, if you adorn it not with becoming deportment? Better you had never professed anything, than to set yourselves by your profession in the eye and observation of the world; and then to pour contempt on Jesus Christ, by your scandalous conversations, before the eyes of the world, who will laugh at it. I remember it was a momento given to one of his name by Alexander--"Remember (said he) your name Alexander, and do nothing unworthy of that name!"
O, that is a heavy charge, Rom. 2:24. "Through you is the name of God blasphemed among the Heathens." Unhappy man that ever you should be a reproach to Christ: The herd of wicked men are men of no note for observation. They may sin, and sin again; drink, swear, and tumble in all uncleanness; and it passes away silently; the world takes little notice of it. Their wicked actions make but little noise in the world; but the miscarriages of professors, are like a blazing comet, or an eclipsed sun, which all men gaze at, and make their observations upon; oh then, what manner of persons ought you to be, who bear the worthy name of Christ upon you!
Thirdly, But more than this, You have obliged yourselves to this life of holiness by your own prayers. How many times have you lifted up your hands to heaven, and cried with David, Psalm. 119:5. "O that my ways were directed to keep your statutes. Order my steps in your word, and let no iniquity have dominion over me," ver. 133. Were you in earnest with God, when you thus prayed? did you mean as you said? Or did you only compliment with God? If your hearts and tongues agreed in this request, doubtless it is as much your duty to endeavor, as to desire those mercies and, if not, yet do all these prayers stand on record before the Lord, and will be produced against you as witnesses to condemn you, for your hypocrisy and vanity. How often also have you in your prayers lamented, and bewailed your careless and uneven walkings? You have said with Ezra, chapter 9:6. "O my God, I am ashamed, and even blush to look up unto you." And do not your confessions oblige you to greater circumspection and care for time to come? Will you confess, and sin? And sin, and confess? Go to God and bewail your evils, and when you have bewailed them, return again to the commission of them? God forbid you should thus dissemble with God, play with sin, and dye your iniquities with a deeper tincture.
Fourthly, and lastly, to add no more, You have often reproved or censured others for their miscarriages and falls, which adds to your own obligation, to walk accurately, and evenly. Have you not often reproved your erring brethren? or at least privately censured them, if not duty reproved them, (for to these left-handed blows of secret censurings, we are more apt, than to the fair and open strokes of just and due reproofs (and will you practice the same things you criminals and censure others for? "You that teach another, says the apostle) teach you not yourself?" Rom. 2:21. So say I, you that censures or rebukes another--you condemn yourself! Will your rebukes ever do good to others, while you allow in yourselves what you condemn in them? And as these reproofs and censures can do them no good, so they do you much evil, by reason of them you are self-condemned people and out of your own mouths God will judge you. For you need no other witness than yourselves in this case. Your own tongues will fall upon you. Your censures and reproofs of others will leave you without plea or apology, if you look not to your lives with greater care. And yet will you be careless still? Fear you not the displeasure of God? Nor the wounding and disquieting your own consciences? Surely, these things are of no light value with you, if you be Christians indeed.
Thirdly, You are yet further engaged to practical holiness upon the account of your brethren, who are not a little concerned and interested therein. For if, through the neglect of your hearts your lives be defiled and polluted, this will be thrown in their faces, and many innocent and upright ones both reproached and grieved upon your account. This mischievous effect holy David earnestly deprecated, Psalm. 69:5, 6. "O God, you know my foolishness, and my sins are not hid from you; let not them that wait on you, O Lord God of hosts, be ashamed for my sake. Let not them that seek you, be confounded for my sake, O God of Israel," q. d. Lord, you know what a weak and foolish creature I am. And how apt to miscarry, if left to myself, and should I, through my foolishness, act unbecoming a saint; how would this shame the faces, and sadden the hearts of your people! They will be as men confounded at the report of my fall. The fall of one Christian is matter of trouble and shame to all the rest; and, when they shall hear the sad and unwelcome news of your scandalous miscarriages, (which will certainly be the effect of a neglected heart and life) they will say as David concerning Saul and Jonathan, "Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon," etc. Or as Tamar concerning Amnon, "And we, where shall we cause our shame to go?" And for them, they shall be as fools in Israel. Your loose and careless life will cause them to estrange themselves from you, and look shy upon you, as being ashamed to own you, and canned you bear that; will it not grieve and pierce your very hearts to see a cloud of strangeness and trouble over the countenances of your brethren? To see yourselves disowned and lightly esteemed by them? This very consideration struck a great favorite in the Persian court to the very heart.
It was Ustazanes, who had been governor to Sapores in his minority. And this man for fear denied the Christian faith, and complied with the idolatrous worship of the king. And one Day (says the historian) sitting at the court-gate, he saw Simon, the aged archbishop of Seleucia, drawn along to prison, for his constancy in the Christian faith; and, though he dared not openly own the Christian faith he had so basely denied, and confess himself a Christian, yet he could not but rise, and express his reverence to this holy man, in a respective and honorable salutation; but the zealous good man frowned upon him, and turned away his face from him, as thinking such an apostate unworthy of the least respect from him This presently struck Ustazanes to the heart, and drew from him many tears and groans, and thus he reasoned with himself: Simon will not own me, and can I think but that God will disclaim me, when I appear before his tribunal? Simon will not speak unto me, will not so much as look upon me, and can I look for so much as a good word or look from Jesus Christ, whom I leave so shamefully betrayed and denied? Hereupon he threw off his rich courtly robes, and put on mourning, apparel, and professed himself a Christian, and died a martyr O it is a piercing thing to an honest heart, to be cast out of the favor of God's people. If you walk loosely, neither God nor his people look in kindly upon you.
Fourthly, and lastly; Your very enemies engage you to this pure and holy life upon a double ground. You are obliged by them two ways, namely, as they are your bold censurers, and your watchful observers. They censure you as hypocrites, and will you give them ground and matter for such a charge? They say, only your tongues are more holy than other men's, and shall they prove it from your practice? They also observe you diligently; lie at catch, and are highly gratified by your miscarriages. If your lives be loose and defiled, you will not only be a shame to your friends, but the song of your enemies. You will make mirth in hell; and gratify all the enemies of God. This is that they watch for. They are curious observers of your goings And that which makes them triumph at your falls and miscarriages, is not only that deep rooted enmity between the two seeds, but because all your miscarriages and evils are so many absolutions to their consciences, and justifications (as they think) of their ways and practices. For look, as your strictness and holiness does, as it were, cast and condemn them, as Noah, Heb. 11:7. by his practice, condemned the world, their consciences fly in their faces, when they see your holy and pure conversations. It lays a damp upon them. It works upon their consciences, and causes many smart reflections. So when you fall, you, as it were, absolve their consciences, loose the bonds of conviction you had made fast upon them, and now there is matter of joy put before them.
Oh, say they, whatever these men talk, we see they are no better than we. They can do as we do. They can defraud and cheat for adventure. They can comply with anything for their own ends; it is not conscience, as we once thought, but mere stomach and humor, that made them so precise. And oh! what a sad thing is this! hereby you shed soul-blood. You fasten the bands of death upon their souls. you kill those convictions, which, for anything you know, might have made way to their conversion. When you fall, you may rise again; but they may fall at your example, and never rise more. Never have a good opinion of the ways of God, or of his people any more. Upon this consideration, David begs of God, Psalm. 5:8. "Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness, because of mine enemies;" (or, as the Hebrew;) my observers, make your way straight before my face. And thus you see how your very enemies oblige you to this holy and pure conversation also.
Now put all this together, and see to what these particulars will amount. You have heard how God the Father has engaged you to this purity of conversations by his design of your salvation; rewarded your obedience; his pleasure in it; his promises to it; and his great confidence in you, that you will thus walk before him. The Lord Jesus has also engaged you thereunto by his death and sufferings, whereby you were redeemed from your vain conversations. The Spirit has engaged you, by telling you plainly how much you will grieve and wrong him, resist and quench him, if you do not keep yourselves pure. Yes, you are obliged further, by yourselves; your clear illumination; your high profession; your many prayers and confessions; your many censures and reprehensions of others; do all strengthen your obligation to holiness. Yes, you are obliged further to this holy life by the shame, grief, and trouble your loose walking will bring upon your friends; and the mirth it will make for, and mischief it will do to your enemies; who, thereby, may be made utterly to fall, where, it may be, you only have stumbled: who are justified and absolved, (as before yell heard), by your miscarriages. And now, what think you of all this? Are you obliged or not, to this purity of life? Are all these bonds so tied, that you can set loose, and free yourselves at pleasure from them? If all these things are of no force with you, if none of these bonds can hold you, may it not be questioned, (notwithstanding your profession), whether any spiritual principle, any fear of God, o; love to Christ, be in your souls or no? O, you could not play fast and loose with God? if so, you could not, as Samson, snap these bonds asunder at your pleasure.
Consider. 2. Secondly, As you are more obliged to keep the issues of life pure than others are, so God has given you greater assitances and advantages for it than others have. God has not been wanting to any in helps and means. Even the Heathen, who are without the gospel, will be yet speechless and inexcusable before God; but how much more will you be so? Who, besides the light of nature, and the general light of the gospel, have, First, Such a principle put within you. Secondly, Such patterns set before you. Thirdly, Such an assistant ready to help you. Fourthly, So many rods to quicken you and prevent your wandering: if notwithstanding all these helps, your life be still unholy.
First, Shall men of such principles walk as others do? Shall we lament for you, as David once did for Saul, saying, "There the shield of the mighty was vilely cast away, the shield of Saul; as though he had not been anointed with oil." There the honor of a Christian was vilely cast away, as though he had not been anointed with the Spirit? "You have received an unction from the holy One, which teaches you all things", 1 John 2:20. Another Spirit, far above that which is in other men, 1 Cor. 2:12. And as this spirit which is in you, is fitted for this life of holiness "(for you are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works", Eph. 2:10.) so this holy spirit of principle, infused into your souls, has such a natural tendency to this holy life, that if you life not purely and strictly, you must offer violence to your own principles and new nature. A twofold help this principle affords you for a life of holiness.
1. First, It pulls you back from sin, as in Joseph; "How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" And it also inclines you powerfully to obedience. It is a curb to sin, and an spur to holiness. It is impossible for all others to live spiritually and heavenly, because they have no new nature to incline them hereunto. And, methinks, it should be hard for you to live carnally, and sensually; and therein cross the very bent and tendency of the new creature, which is formed in you. How can you neglect prayer, as others do, while the Spirit, by divine pulsations, is awaking and rousing up your sluggish hearts with such inward motions, and whispers, as that, Psalm. 27:8. "Seek my face". Yes, while you feel, (during your omissions of duty), something within that bemoans itself, and, as it were, cries for food, pains and gripes you, like an empty stomach, and will not let you be quiet, until it be relieved. How can you let out your hearts to the world, as other men do, when all that while your spirit is restless, and aches like a bone out of joint? And you can never be at ease, until you come back to God, and say, as Psalm. 116 "Return to your rest, O my soul". Is it not hard, yes, naturally impossible, to fix a stone, and make it abide in the fluid air? Does not every creature, in a restless motion, tend to its proper center, and desire its own perfection? So does this new creature also. You see how the rivers in their course will not be checked, but bear down all the obstacles in their way--a stop does but make them raise the more, and run the swifter afterwards.
There is a central force in these natural motions, which cannot be stopped. And the like may you observe, in the motions of a renewed soul, John 4:14 "It shall be in him as a well of water springing up." And is it not hard for you to keep it down, or turn its course? How hard did Jeremiah and David find that work? If you do not live holy lives, you must cross your own new nature, and violate the law that is written in your own hearts, and engraved upon your own affections. To this purpose a late writer speaks; Until you were converted, (says he) the flesh was predominant, and therefore it was impossible for you to live any other than a fleshly life; for everything will act according to its predominant principle. Should you not therefore live a spiritual life? Should not the law of God written in your hearts, be legible in your lives? O should not your lives be according to the tendency of your hearts? Thus he: Doubtless this is no small advantage to practical holiness. But,
Secondly, Besides this principle within, you have no small assistance for the purity of life, by these excellent patterns before you. The path of holiness is no untrodden path to you. Christ and his servants have beaten it before you. The life of Christ is your copy, and it is a fair copy indeed, without a blot. Oh! what an advantage is this, to draw all the lines of your actions, according to his example! This glorious, grand example is often pressed upon for your imitation, Heb 12:2. Looking to Jesus, he has left you an example, that you should tread in his steps, 1 Pet 2:21. His life is a living rule to his people; and besides Christ's example, (for you may say, who can live as Christ did? his example is quite above us) you have a cloud of witnesses. A cloud for its directive use, and these men of like passions, temptations, and constitutions with you; who have gone before you in exemplary holiness. The Holy Spirit (intending therein your special help and advantage) has set many industrious pens to sock, to write the lives of the saints, and preserve for your use, their holy sayings, and heavenly actions He bids you "take them for an example," James 5:10. Oh! what excellent men are passed on before you! what renowned Worthies have led the way! Men, whose conversions were in heaven, while they tabernacled on earth.
While this lower world had their bodies, the world above had their hearts, and their affections. Their actions, and their designs were all for heaven. Men that improved troubles and comforts; losses and gains, smiles and frowns, and all for heaven. Men that did extract heaven out of spirituals, out of temporals, out of all things; their hearts were full of heavenly meditations, their mouths of heavenly communications, and their practices of heavenly inclination: O what singular help is this! Where they followed Christ, and kept the way, they are propounded for your imitation; and where any of them turned aside, you have a mark set upon that action for your cautions and prevention. Does any strange or unusual trial befall you, in which you are ready to say with the church, Lam. 1:12, "Was there ever any sorrow like unto my sorrow?" Here you may see "the same affliction accomplished in your brethren", 1 Pet. 5:9. Here is a store of good company to encourage you. Do the world and the devil endeavor to turn you from your duty, by loading it with shameful scoffs, or sufferings? In this case you may look to Jesus, who despised the shame; and to your brethren, "who counted it their honor to be dishonored for the name of Christ", as the original of the text, Acts 5:41, may be translated. Is it a dishonor to you, to be ranked with Abraham, Moses, David, and such as were the glory of the ages they lived in? Are you at any time under a faint fit of discouragement, and ready to despond under any burden?
Oh, how may you be animated by such examples, when such a qualm comes over your heart? Some sparks of their holy courage cannot choose but steal into your bosom, while you consider them. In them, God has set before you the possibility of overcoming all difficulties, you seem men of the same mold, who had the same trials, discouragements and fears, that now you have, and yet overcame all. How is your unbelief checked, when you say, Oh! I shall never reach the end, I shall one day utterly perish! Why do you say so? Why may not such a poor creature as you are, be carried through as well as they? Had not they the same temptations and corruptions with you? Were they not all troubled with an naughty heart, an ensnaring world, and a busy devil, as well as you? Alas! When they put on the divine, they did not put off the human nature; but complained, and feared, as you do; and yet were carried through all.
O what an advantage have you this way! They that first trusted in Christ, had not such helps as you. You stand upon their shoulders. You have the benefit of their experiences. You that are fallen into the last times, have certainly the best helps to holiness, and yet, will not you live strictly and purely? still you put on the name and profession of Christians, and yet be lofty in your spirits; earthly in your designs; neglective of duty; frothy in your communications? Pray, from which of all the saints did you learn to be proud? Did you learn that from Christ, or any of his? From which of his saints did you learn to be earthly and covetous, passionate or censorious, over-reaching and crafty? If you have read of any such evils committed by them, have you not also read of their shame and sorrow, their repentance and reformations? If you have found any such blots in their lives, it was left there designedly to prevent the like in yours. O, what an help to holiness is this!
Thirdly, And this is not all. You have not only a principle within you, and a pattern before you, but you have also an omnipotent assistant to help, and encourage you throughout your way. Are you feeble and infirm? and is every temptation, even the weakest, strong enough to turn you out of the way of your duty? Lo, God has sent his Spirit to help your infirmities, Rom. 8:26. No matter then how weak you are, how many and mighty your difficulties and temptations are, as long as you have such an assistant to help you. Great is your advantage for a holy life this way also. For,
(1 ) First, when a temptation to sin presses sore upon you, he pleads with your consciences within, while Satan is tempting without. How often has he brought such scriptures to your remembrance, at the very opportunity, as have saved you out of the temptation? If you attend his voice, you may hear such a voice within you as that, Jer. 44:4, "O do not this abominable thing which I have!" What mighty strivings were there in the heart of Spira, as himself relates? He heard, as it were, a voice within him, saying, Do not write, Spira, do not write. To this purpose is that promise, Isa. 30:20, 21 "Your eyes shall behold your teachers, and your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, "This is the way, walk you in it? when you turn to the right hand, and when you turn to the left." Here you have a two-fold help to holiness, the outward teaching of the word, verse 20 and the inward teachings of the Spirit, verse 21. He shall say, this is the way, when you are turning aside to the right-hand, or to the left Alluding to a shepherd, says one, who, driving his sheep before him; whistles then in, when he sees them ready to stray.
(2 ) Secondly, When you walk homily and closely with God in your duties, and the Spirit encourages you to go on, by those inward comforts, scalings, and joys, you have from him at such times; how often does he entertain your souls in public ordinances, in private duties, with his hidden Manna, with marrow and fatness, with incomparable and unspeakable comforts, and all this to strengthen you in your way, and encourage you to hold on?
(3.) Thirdly, When you are indisposed for duties, and find your hearts empty and dry, he is ready to fill them, quicken and raise them; so that oftentimes the beginning and end of your prayers, hearing or meditations, are as vastly different, as if one man had begun, and another ended the duty. O then, what assistance for a holy life have you! Others indeed are bound to resist temptations, as well as you; but, alas! having no special assistance from the Spirit, what can they do? It may be, they reason with temptation a little while, and in their own strength resolve against it; but how easy a conquest does Satan make, where no greater opposition is made to him than this? Others are bound to hear, meditate, and pray, as well as you; else the neglect of those duties would not be their sin: But, alas, what pitiful work do they make of it! being left to the hardness and vanity of their own hearts, when you spread your sails, you have a gale, but they lie wind bound, heart-bound, and can do nothing spiritually in a way of duty.
Fourthly, and lastly, to mention no more, You have a further advantage to this holy life, by all the rods of God that are at any time upon you. I might show you in many particulars, the advantages this way also, but I shall only present these three to your observation at this time.
First, By these you are clogged, to prevent your straying and wandering. Others may wander even as far as hell, and God will not spend a sanctified rod upon them, to reduce or stop them; but says, let them alone," Hos. 4:17. But if you wander out of the way of holiness, he will clog you with one trouble or other to keep van within bounds, 2 Cor. 12:7. "Lest I should be lifted up, a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, was sent to buffet me." So David, Psalm. 119:67. "Before I was afflicted, I went astray; but now I have kept your word." Afflictions are used by God, as thorns by husband men, to stop the gaps and keep you from breaking out of God's way, Hos. 2:6. "I will hedge up her way with thorns, and build a wall, that she shall not find her paths." A double allusion; 1. To cattle that are apt to stray, I will hedge up your way with thorns. 2. To the sea, which is apt to overflow the country, I will build a wall to prevent inundations. Holy Basil was a long time sorely afflicted with an inveterate head-ache, he often prayed for the removal of it; at last God removed it, but in the room of it, he was sorely exercised with the motions and temptations of lust; which, when he perceived, he heartily desired his head-ache again, to prevent a worse evil. You little know the ends and uses of many of your afflictions. Are you exercised with bodily weakness? it is a mercy you are so; and if these pains and infirmities were removed, these clogs taken off, you may with Basil, wish for them again, to prevent worse evils. Are you poor? why, with that poverty God has clogged your pride. Are you reproached? with these reproaches God has clogged your ambition. Corruptions are prevented by your afflictions. And, is not this a marvelous help to holiness of life?
Secondly, By your afflictions, your corruptions are not only clogged, but purged. By these God dries up and consumes that spring, of sin that defiles your lives, Isa. 27:9. "By this therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged; and this is all the fruit to take away sin." God orders your wants to fill your wantonness; and makes your poverty poison to your pride. They are God's physic, to purge ill humours out of your souls. "When they fall by the sword, and by famine, and by captivity, and by spoil, it is to try them, and to purge them, and to make them white?" They are both purges and lavatories to your souls. Others have the same afflictions that you have, but they do not work on them as on you; they are to you as fire for purging, and water for cleansing: and yet, shall not your lives be clean? It is true, (as one well observes upon that place of Daniel,) Christ is the only lavatory, and his blood the only fountain to wash away sin: but, in the virtue and efficacy of that blood, sanctified afflictions are cleansers and purgers too.
A cross without a Christ never made any man better, but with Christ, saints are much the better for the cross. Has God been (as it were) so many days and nights a whitening you, and yet is not the hue of your conversation altered? Has he put you so many times into the furnace, and yet is not the dross separated? The more afflictions you have been under, the more assistance you have had for this life of holiness.
Thirty, By all your troubles, God has been weaning you from the world, the lusts, loves, and pleasures of it; and drawing out your souls to a more excellent life and state than this. He makes your sorrows in this life, give a luster to the glory of the next. Whoever has, be sure you shall have no rest here; and all, that you may long more ardently for that to come. He often makes you groan, "being burdened, to be clothed with your house from heaven," 2 Cor. 5:4. And yet will you not be weaned from lusts, customs, and evils of it? O what mariner of persons should you be for heavenly and holy conversations? You stand upon the higher ground. You have, as it were, the wind and tide with you. None are assisted for this life as you are. Put all this together, and see what this second argument contributes toward our further conviction, and persuasion to holy life. Have you received a supernatural principle, fitting you for, and inclining you to holy actions, resisting and holding you back from sin?
Has God also set before you such eminent patterns to encourage and quicken you in your way? Does the Spirit himself stand ready, so many ways, to assist and help you in all difficulties, and has God hedged up the way of sin with the thorns of affliction, to prevent your wandering, and yet will you turn aside? Will you offer violence to your own principles and new nature? Refuse to follow such leaders as have beaten the way before you? Resist, or neglect his gracious assistance of the blessed Spirit, which he offers you in every need, and venture upon sin, though God has hedged up your way with afflictions? O, how can you do such great wickedness, and sin against such grace as this!
Methinks, I need say no more to convince you how much you are concerned to keep the issues of life pure, none being so much obliged to it, or assisted for it, as you are. But when I remember that Joash lost the complete victory over the Syrians, because he smote not his arrows often enough upon the ground, 2 Kings 13:8. I shall level one arrow more at this mark: For, indeed, that can never be enough pressed, which can never be enough practiced. And therefore,
Consid. 3. Thirdly, It will yet farther appear to be your high concernment, to exact holiness in your conversations, because of the manifold and great uses which God has to make of the visible holiness and purity of your lives, both in this world and that to come. The uses God puts the conversation-holiness of his people in this world unto, are these among others.
First, To win over souls to Christ, and bring them in love with religion. Practical holiness is a very lovely, attractive, and obliging thing. If the heathen could call moral virtue 'turn-heart', from that obliging and winning power it exercises upon the hearts of men; if they could say of it, that were it visible to human eyes, all men would adore it, and fall in love with it; how much rather may we say so of true holiness, made visible in the lives of saints! This is the turn-heart indeed. It makes the souls of men to cling and cleave to the persons in whom it is; as it is prophesied, Zech. 8:23. of the Jews, when they shall be called, (which shall be a time of great holiness,) "in that day, ten men out of all languages of the nations shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, we will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you." So much of God as appears in men, so much drawing excellency there is in them. And this is the apostle's argument, 1 John 1:3 "That you may have fellowship with us." Why, what is there in your fellowship to invite men to you? "Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Christ Jesus." Who can choose but to covet their company, that keep company every day with God? Great is the efficacy of visible holiness to work upon the hearts of men; either working in fellowship with the word, or as a single instrument, working solitarily without the word.
Where God is pleased to afford the word unto men, there the practical holiness of saints is of singular use, to assist and help it in its operation upon the hearts of men. When the lives of Christians sensibly experience that to the eyes of men, which the gospel does to their ears; when so we preach, and so you believe and live; when we draw by our doctrines, and you draw with us by your examples; when we hold forth the word of life doctrinally, and you hold it forth practically, as Phil. 2:16. Where is the heart that can stand before us? O! when the plain and powerful gospel pierces the ears of men, and at the same time, the visible holiness of professors shines so full in their faces, that they must rather put out their own eyes, or else be forced to acknowledge, that God is in you of a truth; then it will work to purpose upon souls. Then will Christ see of the travail of his soul daily.
Yes, if God deny the word to men, yet this practical holiness I am speaking of, may be to them an ordinance for conversion. This way, souls may be won to Christ without the word, as the apostle speaks, 1 Pet. 3:1. Though pulpits should be silent, and vision fail; yet, if you would this way turn preachers, if your lives may but preach the reality, excellency, and sweetness of Jesus Christ and his ways; and, if you would this way preach down the love of the world, and let men see what poor vanities these are; and preach up the necessity and beauty of holiness; surely you, even you might be honored to bring many souls to Christ, to turn many to righteousness, and cause many to bless God, on your behalf, in the day of visitation. This is the use God has for the holiness and purity of your lives, and does not this engage you strongly to it? What, not when it may prove the means of eternal the to others? Surely, if you have any affections of mercy in you, you cannot hide from others that whereby they may be saved. How can you, instead of holding forth the word of life, (which is your manifest duty) visibly hold forth the works of death before men? Have you been beholden to others, and shall none be beholden to you for help towards heaven?
Dare you say, let others shift as well as they can, find the way to heaven by themselves if they can, they shall have no benefit by your light? If you be Christians, you are Christians of a different stamp and spirit frown all those we find described in scripture. Should you not rather say as the lepers did, 2 Kings 7:6. "Do we well to hold our peace," while others are perishing? Shall the lips of ministers, and the lives of Christians, be both silenced together? Shall poor sinners neither hear anything from us, nor see anything from you, that may help them to Christ? The Lord have mercy then upon the poor world, and pity it, for its case is desperate. O put on, as the elect of God, affections of mercy. Destroy not, by the looseness of your conversation, so many souls; for your scandalous miscarriages are like a bag of poison put into the spring which supplies the whole city with water.
Secondly, Another use God has for it, is to recover and salve the credit of religion, which by the apostasies of hypocrites, and scandalous falls of careless Christians, is wounded and exposed to contempt. Much reproach by this means is brought upon religion, and how shall that reproach be rolled away, but by your strictness and purity? By this the world must be convinced that all are not so. Though some be a blot to the name of Christ, yet others are his glory. The more others slur and disgrace religion, the more God expects you to honor and adorn it.
I remember Chrysostom brings in the persecutors speaking to two renowned martyrs, after this manner--Why are you so precise and scrupulous? See you not that others of your rank and profession have done these things? To which they returned this brave answer--that is the very reason we will stand out like men, and will never yield to it. There is an holy Antiperistasis in the zeal of a Christian, which makes it, like fire, burn most vehemently in the coldest weather. If men make void God's law, therefore will David love his commandments above gold, Psalm. 119:127. If there be many Pendletons among professors who will betray Christ and his truth to save their flesh; God will have some Sanders to repair that breach, by their constancy and courage in appearing for them.
Thirdly, God makes use of it for the encouragement of his ministers who labor among you. And indeed it is of no small use to refresh their hearts, and strengthen their hands in their painful work: "Now we live (says the apostle) if you stand fast in the Lord," 1 Thess. 3:8. He speaks as if their very life lay at the mercy of the people, because so much of the joy and comfort of it is enrapt up in their regularity and steadfastness. God knows what a hard providence his poor ministers have, and how many discouragements attend them in their work; hear how one of them expresses it, "Ministers would not be gray headed so soon, nor die so fast, notwithstanding their great labors, if they were but successful; but this cuts to the heart, and makes us bleed in secret, that though we do much, yet it comes to nothing.
Our work dies therefore we die. Not so much that we labor, as that we labor in vain: When our ministry petrifies, turns hearts into stones, and these taken up and thrown at us, this kills us; the recoiling of our pains kills us. When our peace returns to us; when we spend our strength to make men more nothing than they were; this wounds our hearts, which should be considered by sinners. To kill one's self, and one's minister too, who would save them; what a bloody condition is this! Every drop that has fallen from our heart and hand, from our eye-lids and eye-brows, shall be all gathered up, and put as marginal notes by all our labors, and all put in one volume together, and this volume put into your hands at the great day, and opened leaf after leaf, and read distinctly and exactly to you.
Christians, you hear our case, you see our work. Now a little to cheer our spirits in the midst of our hard and killing labors, God sends us to you for a little refreshment, that, by beholding your holy and heavenly conversation, your cheerful obedience, and sweet agreement in the ways of God, we may be comforted over all these troubles, 2 Thess. 1:3, 4. And will you wound and kill our hearts too? O what a cut will this be!
Fourthly, God has further use for the holiness of your lives; this serves to daunt the hearts, and overawe the consciences of his and your enemies. And sometimes it has had a strange influence and effect upon them. There is a great deal of awful Majesty in holiness, and when it shines upon the conscience of a wicked man, it makes him stoop and do obeisance to it, which turns to a testimony for Christ and his ways before the world. Thus Herod was overawed by the strict and holy life of John; he feared him, knowing that he was a just and holy man, and observed (or preserved and saved) him.
That bloody tyrant was convinced in his conscience of the worth and excellency of that servant of God, and was forced to reverence him for his holiness. So Darius, Dan. 6:14,18, 19, 20. What conflicts had he with himself about Daniel, whom he had condemned; his conscience condemned him, for condemning so holy and righteous a person. "Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night in fastings; neither were instruments of music brought before him, and his sleep went from him. He goes early in the morning to the den, and cries with a lamentable voice, O Daniel, servant of the living God."
How much is this for the honor of holiness, that it conquers the very persecutors of it; and makes them stoop to the meanest servant of God! It is said of Henry II of France, that he was so daunted by the heavenly majesty of a poor taylor that was burnt before him, that he went home sad, and vowed, that he would never be present at the death of such men any more. When Valence the emperor came in person to apprehend Basil, he saw such majesty in his very countenance, that he reeled at the very sight of him; and had fallen backward to the ground, had not his servants stept in to support him. O holiness, holiness, you are a conqueror. So much, O Christians, as you show of it in your lives, so much you preserve your interest in the consciences of your enemies: cast off this, and they despise you presently.
Fifthly, and lastly, God will use the purity of your conversations to judge and convince the world in the great day. It is true, the world shall be judged by the gospel, but your lives shall also be produced as a commentary upon it; and God will not only show them by the word how they ought to have lived, but bring forth your lives and ways to stop their mouths, by showing how others did live. And this I suppose is intended in that text, 1 Cor. 6:2, "The saints shall judge the world, yes, we shall judge angels;" that is our examples are to condemn their lives and practices, as Noah, Heb. 11:7 is said to condemn the world by building the ark, that is his faith in the threatening, and obedience to the command, condemned their supineness, infidelity and disobedience.
They saw him every day about that work, diligently preparing for a deluge, and yet were not moved with the like fear that he was; this left them inexcusable; so when God shall say in that day to the careless world, did you not see the care, and diligence, the holy zeal, watchfulness, and self-denial of my people, who lived among you? How many times have they been watching and praying, when you have been drinking or sleeping! Was it not easy to reflect when you saw their pains and diligence, Have not I a soul to look after as well as they; a heaven to win or lose, as well as they? O how speechless and inexcusable will this render wicked men, yes, it shall not only be used to judge them, but angels also. How many shocks of temptations have poor saints stood,; whereas they fell without a tempter? They stood not in their integrity, though created in such excellent natures; how much then are you concerned on this very account also to walk exactly! if not instead of judging then, you shall be condemned with them.
And thus you see what use your lives and actions shall be put to; and are these inconsiderable uses? Is the winning over souls to God a small matter? Ii the salving the honor and reputation of godliness a small matter? Is the encouraging the hearts and strengthening of the hands of God's poor ministers, amidst their spending, killing labors, a small matter? Is the awing of the consciences of your enemies, and judging them in the last day, a light thing? Which of these can you call so?
O then, since you are thus obliged to holiness of life, thus singularly assisted for it; and since there are such great dependencies upon it, and uses for it, both now and in the world to come, see that you be holy in all manner of conversation. See that, "as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so you walk in him," always remembering, that for this very end, Christ has redeemed, or "delivered you out of the hands of your enemies, that you might serve him without fear, in righteousness and holiness all the days of your lives," Luke 1:74, 75. And to how little purpose will be all that I have preached, and you have heard, of Christ, if it be not converted into practical godliness? This is the scope and design of it all.
And now, reader, you are come to the last leaf of this treatise of Christ, it will be but a little while, and you shall come to the last page or day of your life; and your last moment in that day. Woe to you, woe and alas forever; if an interest in this blessed Redeemer be then to get. The world affords not a sadder sight, than a poor Christless soul shivering upon the brink of eternity. To see the poor soul that now begins to awake out of its long dream, at its entrance into the world of realities, to shrink back into the body, and cry, O, I cannot, I dare not die. And then the tears rundown. Lord, what will become of me? O what shall be my eternal lot? This, I say, is as sad a sight as the world affords. That this may not be your case, reflect upon what you have read in these sermons. Judge yourself in the light of them. Obey the calls of the Spirit in them. Let not your slight and formal spirit float upon the surface of these truths, like a feather upon the water; but get them deeply fixed upon your spirit, by the Spirit of the Lord; turning them into life and power upon you; and so animating the whole course and tenor of your conversation by them, that it may proclaim to all that know you, that you are one who esteem all to be but dross, that you may win Christ!