Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

brotherly dimications; and to appease the anger of that God, whose offended justice hath raised war out of our own bowels. As our enmity, so our peace, begins at heaven: had we not provoked our long-suffering God, we had not thus bled; and we cannot but know 'believe him that said, When a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh his enemies to be at peace with him; Prov. xvi. 7. Oh, that we could throughly reconcile ourselves to that Great and Holy God, whom we have irritated by our crying sins: how soon would he, who is the commander of all hearts, make up our breaches, and calm and compose our spirits to a happy peace and concord! In the next place, give me leave earnestly to exhort you, that, as we have been heretofore palpably faulty in abusing the mercies of our God, for which we have soundly smarted; so £ now, we should be so much the more careful to improve the judgments of God, to our effectual reformation. We have felt the heavy hand of the Almighty upon us to purpose: oh, that qur amendment could be no less sensible than our sufferings! But, alas, my Brethren, are our ways any whit holier; our obedience more exact, our sins less and fewer, than before we were thus heavily afflicted? May not our God too justly take up that complaint, which he made once by his Prophet Jeremiah, Ye have transgressed against me, saith the Lord: In vain have I smitten your children, they received no correction? Jer. ii. 29, 30. Far be it from us, that, after so many sad and solemn mournings of our land, any accuser should be able to charge us, as the Prophet Hosea did his Israel, Bystrearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheh blood, Hos. iv. 2. Woe be to us, if, after so many veins opened, the blood remaining should not be the purer! Let me have leave, in the third place, to excite you to the tice of Christian charity, in the mutual constructions of each others' persons and actions; which, I must tell you, we have heedless! violated, in the heat of our holy intentions: while those, £ have varied from us in matter of opinion, concerning some appendances of religion and outward forms of administration, we have been apt to look upon with such disregard, as if they had herein forfeited their Christian profession, and were utter aliens from the commonwealth of Israel; though, in the mean time, sound at the heart, and endeavouring to walk close with God in all their ways: whereas the Father of all Mercies allows a gracious latitude to his children, in all not-forbidden paths; and in every nation and condition of men, he, that feareth God and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him; Acts x, 35. Beware we, my Dear Brethren, lest, while we follow the chase of zeal, we outrun charity; without which, piety itself would be but unwelcome. As for matter of optnion in the differences of religion, wherewith the whole known world, not of Christians only, but of men, is woefully distracted, to the great prejudice of millions of souls, let this be our sure rule, “Whosoever he be, that holds the faith, which was once delivered to the saints, (Jude 3.) agreeing therefore with us in all fundamental truths, let him be received as a brother:” for there is but one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism ; and other foundation can no man lay, than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 1 Cor. iii. 11. Let those, which will be a devising a new creed, look for a new Saviour, and hope for another heaven: for us, we know whom we have believed. If any man be faulty in the doctrines of superstructure, let us pity and rectify his error, but not abandon his person. The Communion of Saints is not so slight, that it should be violated by weak mistakings. If any man, through ignorance or simplicity, shall strike at the foundation of faith, let us labour, by all gentle means and brotherly conviction, in the spirit of meekness, to reclaim him: if, after all powerful endeavours, he will needs remain obstinate in his evil way; let us disclaim his fellowship, and not think him worthy of a God-speed. But, if he shall not only wilfully undermine the ground-work of Christian Faith, by his own damnable opinions, but diffuse his heretical blasphemies to the infection of others; let him be cut off by spiritual censures; and so dealt with, by public authority, that the mischief of his contagion may be seasonably prevented, and himself be made sensible of his heinous crime. In all which proceedings, just distinction must be made, betwixt the seduced soul, and the pestilent seducer: the one calls for compassion; the other, for severity. . So then, my Brethren, let us pity and pray for all, that have erred and are deceived: let us instruct the ignorant, convince the gainsaying, avoid the obstinate, restrain the infectious, and punish the self-convicted heresiarch. In the fourth place, let us, I beseech you, take heed of being swayed with self-interests in all our designs. These have ever been the bane of the best undertakings, as being not more plausibly insinuative, than pernicious: for that partial self-love, that naturally lodges in every man's breast, is ready to put us upon those projects, which, under fair pretences, may be extremely prejudicial to the public weal; suggesting, not how lawful or expedient they may be for the common, but how beneficial to ourselves; drawing us, by insensible degrees, to sacrifice the public welfare to our own advantage, and to underwork and cross the better counsels of more faithful patriots: whereupon, many flourishing Churches, Kingdoms, States, have been brought to miserable ruin. Oh, that we could remember, that, as all things are ours, so we are not our own: that we have the least interest in ourselves; being infinitely more considerable as parts of a community, than as single persons: that the main end of our being, next to the glory of our Maker, is an universal serviceableness to others; in the attaining whereof, we shall far more eminently advance our own happiness, than by the best of our private self-seeking endeavours. But, withal, it will be meet for us to consider, that, as we are made to serve all, so onl in our own station: there can be no hope of a continued well-being, without order: there can be no order, without a due subordination of degrees, and diversity of vocations: and, in vain shall divers vocations be ordained, if all professions shall interfere with each other. It is the prudent and holy charge of the Apostle, Let every man

abide in the same calling wherein he is called; 1 Cor. vii. 20. We are all members of the same body; every one whereof hath his proper employment: the head is to direct and govern; the feet, to walk; the eyes, to see; the ears, to hear. How mad would we think that man, that should affect to walk on his head; to hear, with his eye; to see, with his ear! Neither, surely, is it less incongruous for men, in Divine and Civil Administrations, to offer to undertake and manage each others' functions, in their nature and quality no less desperate. So then, let us endeavour to advance the common good, as that a pious zeal may not draw in confusion; and that we may not mistakingly rear up the walls of Babel, while we intend Jerusalem. Not religion only, but policy calls us to encouragement of all useful professions; and, of the sacred so much more, as the soul is more precious than all the world beside. Heed, therefore, must be taken, to avoid all means, whereby the study of learning and knowledge may be any way disheartened; as, without which, the world would soon be over-run with ignorance and barbarism. All arts, therefore, as being in their kind excellent, may justly challenge their own rights, and, if they shall want those respects, which are due to them, will suddenly languish. But, above all, as Divinity is the queen of sciences, so should it be our just shame, that, while her handmaids are mounted on horseback, she should wait on them on foot.

Fifthly, as it is our greatest honour, that the Name of Christ is called upon us; so let it, I beseech you, be our care, that our profession be not formal, empty, and barren, like the Jewish fig-tree, abounding with leaves, '' of fruit; but real, active, fruitful of all good works, and exemplary in an universal obedience to the whole will of God: for it is a scandal never to be enough lamented, that any of those who are Saints by calling, (such we all are, or should be) should hug some darling sin in their bosom, which at last breaks forth to the shame of the Gospel, and to the insultation of Gath and Ascalon. Woe be to us, if we shall thus cause the name of our God to be evil spoken of There are too many of those, whom I am loth and sorry to style Heathen-Christians; Christians in name, Heathens in conversation: these, as they come not within the com. pass of my Dedication, (for, alas, how should they love the Lord Jesus, when they know him not ?) so I can heartily bewail their condition, who, like Gideon's fleece, continue altogether dry, under so many sweet showers of grace; wishing unto their souls, even thus late, a sense of the efficacy of that water, which was once poured on their faces. These, if they run into all excess of riot, what can be other expected from them but, for us, that have learned to know the Great Mystery of Godliness, and have given up our name to a strict covenant of obedience, if we shall suffer ourselves to be miscarried into any enormous wickedness, we shall cause heaven to blush, and hell to triumph. Oh, therefore, let us be so much the more watchful over our ways, as our engagements to the name of our God are greater, and the danger of our miscarriages more deadly.

----------

Lastly, let me beseech and adjure you, in the Name of the Lord Jesus, to be careful in matter of religion; to keep within the due bounds of God's revealed will: a charge, which I would to God were not too needful in these last days; wherein, who sees not what spirits of error are gone forth into the world, for the seducing of simple and ungrounded souls? Woe is me, what throngs are carried to hell by these devilish impostors! One pretends visions, and revelations of new verities, which the world was not hitherto worthy to know: another boasts of new lights of unccuth interpretations, hidden from all former eyes. One despises the dead letter of the Scriptures: another distorts it to his own erroneous sense. Oh, the prodigies of damnable, heretical, atheous fancies, which have here. upon infested the Christian Church; for which, what good soul doth not mourn in secret ? the danger whereof ye shall happily avoid, if ye shall keep close to the written word of our God, which is only able to make you wise to salvation. As our Saviour repelled the Devil, so do ye the fanatic spirits of these brain-sick men, with, It is written: Let those, who would be wiser than God, justly perish in their presumption. My soul for yours, if ye keep you to St. Paul's guard, not to be wise above thai which is written. I could easily, out of the exuberance of my Christian love, overcharge you with multiplicity of holy counsels; but I would not take a tedious farewell. May the God of Heaven bless these, and all other wholesome admonitions, to the furtherance of your souls in grace: and may his Good Spirit ever lead and guide us in all such ways, as may be pleasing to him, till we happily meet in the participation of that incomprehensible glory, which he hath prepared for all his Saints, Till when, Farewell; from your fellow pilgrim in this vale of tears,

JOSEPH HALL.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

SECT. I. į Tim. ii. 16. Let no man go about to entertain the thoughts of Great is the the Great Mystery of Godliness, but with a ravished mystery of heart; a heart filled with a gracious composition of

cose love, and joy, and wonder : such a one, O Saviour, I desire, through thy grace, tú bring with me to the meditation of that thine infinitely glorious work of our redemption.

It was as possible for thy Chosen Vessel, who was, by a divine ecstasy, caught up into paradise, and there heard unutterable words, to express what he saw and heard above, as to set forth what was acted by thee here below: as, therefore, unable either to compre. hend or utter things so far above wonder, he contents himself with a pathetical intimation of that, which he saw could never be enough admired: Great is the Mystery of Godliness.

There are great mysteries of art, which the wit and experience of skilful men have discovered: there are greater mysteries of nature, some part whereof have been described by art and industry ; but the greater part lies hidden from mortal eyes: but these are less than nothing, to the Great Ulystery of Godliness. For, what are these, but the deep secrets of the creature ? mean, therefore, and finite, like itself: but the other are the unfathomable depths of an Infinite Deity ; fitter for the admiration of the highest angels of heaven, than for the reach of human conception.

Great were the mysteries of the Law ; neither could the face of Moses be seen without his veil: but what other were these, but the shadows of this Great Mystery of Godliness ? What did that golden ark overspread with glorious cherubims, that gorgeous temple, those perfumed altars, those bleeding sacrifices, that sumptuous priesthood, but prefigure thee, O Blessed Saviour, which, in the fulness of time, shouldest be revealed to the world, and make up this Great Mystery of Godliness?

There is nothing, O Dear Jesu, that thou either didst or sufferedst for mankind, which is other than mysterious and wonderful: but the great and astonishing Mystery of Godliness is thyself, God manifested in the flesh. Lo, faith itself can never be capable to apprehend a mystery like this. Thou, who art a spirit, and therefore immaterial, invisible, to expose thyself to the view of earthen eyes: thou, who art an infinite spirit, to be enwrapped in flesh:

« AnteriorContinuar »