페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

:

not acknowledged by his New-Teftament titles, Religion may have in it the power of the Sword, but not the power of Godliness; and we may complain of this to God, and amongst them that are afflicted, but we have no remedy, but what we muft expect from the fellowship of Chrift's fufferings, and the returns of the God of Peace. In the mean time, and now that Religion pretends to ftranger actions upon new principles, and Men are apt to preferr a profperous errour before an afflicted truth, and fome will think they are religious enough, if their worshippings have in them the prevailing ingredient, and the Minifters of Religion are fo fcattered that they cannot unite to ftop the inundation, and from Chairs, or Pulpits, from their Synods, or Tribunals, chaftife the iniquity of the errour, and the ambition of evil Guides, and the infidelity of the willingly-feduced multitude, and that those few good People who have no other Plot in their Religion but to ferve God, and fave their Souls, do want fuch affiftances of ghoftly counfel as inay ferve their emergent needs, and aflift their endeavours in the acquift of vertues, and relieve their dangers when they are tempted to fin and death; I thought I had reafons enough inviting me to draw into one body thofe advices which the feveral neceffities of many Men muft ufe at fome time or other, and many of them daily that by a collection of holy precepts they might lefs feel the want of perfonal and attending Guides, and that the Rules for conduct of Souls might be committed to a Book which they might always have; fince they could not always have a Prophet at their needs, nor be fuffered to go up to the Houfe of the Lord to enquire of the appointed Oracles.

:

I know, my Lord, that there are fome interefted perfons who add fcorn to the afflictions of the Church of England, and, becaufe fhe is afflicted by Men, call her forfaken of the Lord; and, becaufe her folemn Affemblies are fcattered, think that the Religion is loft, and the

Church

Church divorc'd from God, fuppofing Chrift (who was a Man of forrows) to be angry with his Spouse when she is like him, [for that's the true ftate of the Errour] and that he who promifed his Spirit to aflift his Servants in their troubles, will, because they are in trouble, take away the Comforter from them, who cannot be a Comforter but while he cures our fadneffes, and relieves our forrows, and turns our Perfecutions into Joys, and Crowns, and Scepters. But concerning the prefent ftate of the Church of England, I confider, that because we now want the bleffings of external Communion in many degrees, and the circumftances of a profperous and unafflicted People, we are to take eftimate of our felves with fingle judgments, and every Man is to give fentence concerning the ftate of his own Soul by the Precepts and Rules of our Law-giver; not by the after decrees and ufages of the Church; that is, by the effential parts of Religion, rather than by the uncertain fignifications of any exteriour adherences. For though it be uncertain when a Man is a Member of a Church, whether he be a Member to Chrift or no, because in the Church's Net there are Fishes good and bad: yet we may be fure that, if we be Members of Chrift, we are of a Church to all Purposes of spiritual Religion and Salvation. And, in order to this, give me leave to fpeak this great Truth.

That Man does certainly belong to God, who, 1. Believes and is Baptized into all the Articles of the Chriftian Faith, and ftudies to improve his knowledge in the matters of God, fo as may beft make him to livea holy life. 2. He that in obedience to Chrift worships God diligently, frequently and conftantly, with natural Religion, that is, of Prayer, Praises and Thanksgiving. 3. He that takes all opportunities to remember Chrift's Death by a frequent Sacrament (as it can be had;) or elfe by inward acts of understanding, will and memory (which is the fpiritual Communion) fupplies the want of external Rite. 4. He

A 4

that

that lives chaftly, 5. And is merciful, 6. And defpifes the World, using it as a Man, but never fuffering it to rifle a duty, 7. And is juft in his dealing, and diligent in his calling. 8. He that is humble in his fpirit, 9. And obedient to Government, 10. And content in his Fortune and employment. II. He that does his Duty, becaufe he loves God. 12. And efpecially, if after all this, he be afflicted and patient, or prepared to fuffer affliction for the cause of God. The Man that hath these twelve signs of grace and predeftination, does as certainly belong to God, and is his Son, as furely as he is his creature.

And if my brethren in perfecution, and in the bonds of the Lord Jefus, can truly thew thefe Marks, they fhall not need be troubled that others can fhew a profperous outfide, great Revenues, publick affemblies, uninterrupted fucceflions of Bithops, prevailing Armies, or any arm of flesh, or lefs certain circumftance. These are the Marks of the Lord Jefus, and the characters of a Chriftian: this is a good Religion: and these things God's grace hath put into our powers, and God's Laws have made to be our duty, and the nature of Men and the needs of Common-wealths have made to be neceffary. The other accidents and pomps of a Church are things without our Power, and are not in our choice they are good to be used when they may be had, and they do illuftrate or advantage it; but if any of them conftitute a Church in the being of a Society and a Government, yet they are not of its conftitution as it is Chriftian, and hopes to be faved.

And now the cafe is fo with us that we are reduced to that Religion which no man can forbid, which we can keep in the midft of a perfecution, by which the Martyrs in the days of our Fathers went to Heaven; that by which we can be fervants of God, and receive the Spirit of Chrift, and make ufe of his comforts, and live in his love and in charity with all men: and they that do so. cannot perish.

My

[ocr errors]

:

My Lord, I have now defcribed fome general lines and features of that Religion which I have more particularly. fet down in the following pages: in which I have neither ferved no differved the intereft of any party of Chriftians as they are divided by uncharitable names from the reft, of their brethren, and no man will have reafon to be angry with me for refufing to mingle in his unneceffary or vitious quarrels, especially while I ftudy to do him good by conducting him in the narrow way to Heaven, without intricating him in the Labyrinths and wild turnings of Questions and uncertain talkings. I have told what inen ought to do, and by what means they may be affifted: and, in moft cafes, I have alfo told them why, and yet with as much quicknefs as I could think neceffary to eftablifh a Rule, and not to engage in Homily or Difcourfe, In the ufe of which Rules (although they are plain, ufeful, and fitted for the beft and worft understandings, and for the needs of all men, yet) I fhall defire the Reader to proceed with the following advices.

1. They that will with profit make ufe of the proper inftruments of vertue, muft fo live as they were always under the Phyfician's hand. For the Counfels of Religion are not to be applied to the Diftempers of the Soul as men ufe to take Hellebore; but they muft dwell together with the Spirit of a Man, and be twifted about his understanding for ever: They must be ufed like nourifhment, that is, by a daily care and meditation; not like a fingle medicine, and upon the actual preffure of a prefent neceffity. For counfels and wife difcourfes applied to an actual diftemper, at the beft are but like ftrong fmells to an Epileptick perfon, fometimes they may raife him, but they never cure him. The following Rules, if they be made familiar to our natures, and the thoughts of every day, may make Vertue and Religion become eafie and habitual: but when the temptation is prefent, and hath already feized upon fome portions of our con

fent

444444

fent, we are not fo apt to be counfell'd, and we find no guft or relish in the Precept; the Leffons are the fame, but the Inftrument is unftrung, or out of tune.

2. In ufing the inftruments of vertue we must be curious to diftinguifh inftruments from duties, and prudent advices from neceffary injunctions; and if by any other means the duty can be fecured, let there be no fcruples ftirred concerning any other helps; only, if they can in that cafe ftrengthen and fecure the duty, or help towards perfeverance, let them ferve in that ftation in which they can be placed. For there are fome perfons in whom the Spirit of God hath breathed fo bright a flame of love that they do all their acts of vertue by perfect choice and without objection, and their zeal is warmer than that it will be allayed by temptation: and to fuch perfons mortification by Philofophical inftruments, as fafting, fackcloth, and other rudeneffes to the body, is wholly ufelefs; it is always a more uncertain means to acquire any vertue, or fecure any duty; and if Love hath filled all the corners of our Soul, it alone is able to do all the Work of God.

3. Be not nice in ftating the obligations of Religion; but where the duty is neceffary, and the means very reafonable in it felf, difpute not too bufily whether in all circumftances it can fit thy particular; but fuper totam materiam, upon the whole, make use of it. For it is a good fign of a great Religion, and no imprudence, when we have fufficiently confider'd the fubftance of affairs, then to be eafie, humble, obedient, apt and credulous in the circumftances which are appointed to us in particular by our fpiritual Guides, or in general by all wife Men in cafes not unlike. He that gives Alms does beft, not always to confider the minutes and ftrict measures of his Ability, but to give freely, incurioufly and abundantly. A' Man muft not weigh grains in the accounts of his Repentance; but for a great fin have a great forrow, and a

great

« 이전계속 »