Page images

meet with oppositions. Those who are in any measure acquainted with the secret triumphing exaltations of wisdom and knowledge against folly and ignorance, with the principles and conditions wherewith they advance themselves in their gloryings, even then when the precedency of (that which is bestial in this world) force and violence outwardly bears them down with insultation and contempt, will rather envy than pity you in any contest that on this foot of account you can be engaged in. You are not the first that have fought with men after the manner of beasts, nor will be the last who shall need to pray to be delivered from absurd and unreasonable men, seeing “all men have not faith.”

Men of profane and atheistical spirits, who are ready to say, “Who is the Lord? What is the Almighty that we should fear him? or his truth that we should regard it?” whose generation is of late multiplied on the face of the earth, crying “A confederacy” with them who, professing better things, are yet filled with grievous indignation at the sacrifice that hath been made of their abominations before their eyes, by that reformation of this place wherein you have been instrumental, are a continual goad on the other side, and would quickly be a sword in your very bowels, were not “ He that is higher than the highest” your dwelling-place and refuge in your generation. These are they upon whom God having poured contempt and stained their glory, they, instead of accepting of his dispensations, are filled with wrath, and labour to make others drink of the cup which hath been offered to themselves. With their reproaches, slightings, undervaluations, slanders, do your worth, diligence, integrity, labours, contend from one end of this earth to the other. He that “hath delivered doth deliver; and in him we trust that he will yet deliver.”

What other oppositions you do meet, or in your progress may meet withal, I shall not mention; but wait with patience on Him who gives men repentance and change of heart to the acknowledgment of the things that are of Him. This in the midst of all hath hitherto been a cause of great rejoicing, that God hath graciously kept off ravenous wolves from entering into your flocks, where are so many tender lambs, and hath not suffered" men to arise from amongst yourselves speaking perverse things, and drawing away disciples after them;" but as he hath given you to “obey from the heart that form of doctrine which hath been delivered unto you,” so he hath preserved that “ faith” amongst you of which was once delivered unto the saints.”

Your peculiar designation to the service of the gospel and defence of the truth thereof, your abilities for that work, your abiding in it notwithstanding the opposition you meet withal, “ in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation,” are, as I said before, my encouragements in this address unto you, wherein I shall crave leave a little farther to communicate my thoughts unto you as to the matter in hand. Next to the Son of his love, who is the Truth, the greatest and most emiDent gift that God hath bestowed on the sons of men, and communicated to them, is his truth revealed in his word,—the knowledge of him, his mind and will, according to the discovery which he hath made of himself from his own bosom, having magnified his word above all his name. The importance hereof as to the eternal concernments of the sons of men, either in ignorance refusing and resisting, or accepting and embracing of it, is that which is owned, and lies at the bottom and foundation of all that we any way engage ourselves into in this world, wherein we differ from them whose hope perisheth with them. Unto an inquiry after and entertainment of this divine and sacred depositum hath God designed the fruit and labour of that wherein we retain the resemblance of him; which, whilst we have our being, nothing can abolish. The mind of man and divine truth are the two most eminent excellencies wherewith the Lord hath adorned this lower part of his creation; which, when they correspond and are brought into conformity with each other, the mind being changed into the image of truth, there is glory added to glory, and the whole rendered exceeding glorious. By what suitableness and proportion in the things themselves (that is, between truth and the mind of man), as we are men,-by what almighty, secret, and irresistible power, as we are corrupted men, our minds being full of darkness and folly,—this is wrought, is not my business now to discuss. This is on all hands confessed, that, setting aside the consideration of the eternal issues of things, every mistake of divine truth, every opposition to it or rejection of it, or any part of it, is so far a chaining up of the mind under the power of darkness from a progress towards that perfection which it is capable of. It is truth alone that capacitates any soul to give glory to God, or to be truly useful to them who are partakers of flesh and blood with him ; without being some way serviceable to which end, there is nothing short of the fulness of wrath that can be judged so miserable as the life of a man. Easily so much might be delivered on this account as to evince the dread of that judgment whereto some men, in the infallibly wise counsel of God, are doomed, even to the laying out of the labour and travail of their minds, to spend their days and strength in sore labour, in making opposition to this truth of God. Especially is the sadness of this consideration increased in reference to them who, upon any account whatever, do bear forth themselves, and are looked upon by others, as "guides of the blind,” as “lights to them which are in darkness," as the “instructors of the foolish,” and “ teachers of babes.” For a man to set himself, or to be set by others, in a way wherein are many turnings and cross paths, some of them leading and tending to places of innumerable troubles, and perhaps death and slaughter, undertaking to be a guide to direct them that travel towards the place of their intendments, where they would be, and where they shall meet with rest; for such an one, I say, to take hold of every one that passeth by, pretending himself to be exceeding skilful in all the windings and turnings of those ways and paths, and to stand there on purpose to give direction, if he shall, with all his skill and rhetoric, divert them out of the path wherein they have perhaps safely set out, and so guide them into those by-ways which will certainly lead them into snares and troubles, if not to death itself,—can he spend his time, labour, and strength, in an employment more to be abhorred? or can he design any thing more desperately mischievous to them whose good and welfare he is bound and promiseth to seek and promote ? Is any man's condition under heaven more to be lamented, or is any man's employment more perilous, than such an one's, who, being not only endowed with a mind and understanding capable of the truth and receiving impressions of the will of God, but also with distinguishing abilities and enlargements for the receiving of greater measures of truth than others, and for the more effectual improvement of what he doth so receive, shall labour night and day, dispending the richest treasure and furnishment of his soul for the rooting out, defacing, and destruction of the truth, for the turning men out of the way and paths that lead to rest and peace? I never think of the uncomfortable drudgery which men give up themselves unto, in laying the hay and stubble of their vain and false conceptions upon the foundation, and heaping up the fruit of their souls, to make the fire that consumes them the more fierce and severe, but it forces compassionate thoughts of that sad condition whereto mankind bath cast itself by its apostasy from God. And yet there is not any thing in the world that men more willingly, with more delight and greediness, consecrate the flower of their strength and abilities unto, than this of promoting the delusions of their own minds, in opposition to the truth and ways of God. It is a thing of obvious observation and daily experience, that if, by any means whatever, any one closeth with some new and by-opinion, off from the faith delivered to and received by the generality of the saints, be it a thing of never so small concernment in our walking with God in gospel obedience, and in love without dissimulation one towards another, yet instantly more weight is laid upon it, more pains laid out about

[ocr errors]

it, and zeal dispended for its supportment and propagation, than about all other most necessary points of Christian religion. Have we not a deplorable cloud of examples of men contending about some circumstance or other in the adminis. tration of an ordinance, biting and devouring all that stand in their way, roving up and down to gain proselytes unto their persuasion, and in the meantime utterly ignorant or negligent of the great doctrines and commands of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which are, as in him, the head and life of souls? How many a man seems to have no manner of religion at all, but some one error! That is his God, his Christ, his worship; that he preaches, that he discourseth of, that he labours to propagate, until, by the righteous judgment of God, it comes to pass that such men in all other things wither and die away, all the sap and vigour of their spirits feeding that one monstrous excrescency, which they grow up daily into. Desire of emerging and being notable in the world, esteem and respect in the hearts and mouths of them whom peculiarly they draw after them, with the like unworthy aims of self-advancement, may, without evil surmising (when such attempts are, as in too many, accompanied with irregularity in conversation), be supposed to be advantages given into the hands of the envious man, to make use of them for the sowing of his tares in the field of the poor seduced world.

That this procedure is also furthered by the burdensomeness of sound doctrine unto the generality of men, who, having “itching ears," as far as they care for these things, do spend their time in religion in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing, cannot be denied. Besides, to defend, improve, give and add new light unto, old truths (a work which hath so abundantly and excellently been laboured in by so many worthies of Christ, especially since the Reformation), in any eminent manner, so as to bring praise and repute unto the undertakers (which, whether men will confess or no, it is evident that too many are enslaved unto), is no easy task. And for the most part of what is done that way, you may say, “Quis leget hæc?” The world, says every one, is burdened with discourses of this nature. How many have we in our days who might have gone to the grave in silence among the residue of their brethren, and their names have re. mained for a season in the voisinage, where they might have done God the service required of them in their generation, would they have kept themselves in the form of wholesome words and sound doctrine, that have now delivered their Dames into the mouths of all men, by engaging into some singular opinions, though perhaps raked out of the ashes of Popery, Socinianism, or some such fruitful heap of error and false notions of the things of God!

I desire not to judge before the time; the day will manifest all things, and the hidden secrets of the hearts of men shall by it be laid open, when all the ways, causes, and occasions, of their deceiving and being deceived shall be brought to light, and every man according to his work shall have praise of God;-only. I say, as to the present state of things, this is evident (not to speak of those locusts from the bottomless pit that professedly oppose their strength to all that is of God, his name, word, worship, truth, will, and commands, razing the foundation of all hopes for eternity; nor of him and his associates who “ exalteth himself above all that is called God," being“ full of names of blasphemy," sealed up to destruction), very many amongst ourselves, of whom we hoped better things, do, some in greater, some in lesser matters, give up themselves to that unhappy labour we before mentioned, of opposing the truth of God, and exalting their own darkness in the room of his glorious light.

“ Ut jugulent homines, surgunt de nocte latrones:

Ut teipsum serves, non expergisceres?” ? Reverend brethren, if other men can rise early, go to bed late, and eat the bread of carefulness, spend their lives and strength to do their own work, and

1 Ilor. Ep., lib. i. 2

propagate their own conceptions, under a pretence of doing the work of God; if the envious man watcheth all night and waits all advantages to sow his tares,— how will you be able to lift up your heads with joy, and behold your

Master's face with boldness at his coming, if, having received such eminent abilities, endowments, and furnishments from him for his service, and the service of his sheep and lambs, as you have done, you gird not up the loins of your minds, and lay not out your strength to the uttermost for the weeding out of the field and vineyard of the Lord “every plant which our heavenly Father hath not planted,” and for feeding the flock of Christ with sincere milk and strong meat, according as they are able to bear? What you have received more than others is of free grace; which is God's way of dealing with them on whom he lays the most unconquerable and indispensable obligations unto service. Flesh and blood hath not revealed unto you the truth of God which you do profess, but our Father which is in heaven. You do not upon any endeavour of your own differ from them who are given up to the sore judgment and ever-to-be-bewailed condition before mentioned. It hath not been from your own endeavours or watchfulness that you have been hitherto preserved under the hour of temptation, which is come to try the men that live upon the face of the earth. It is not of yourselves that you are not industriously disturbing your own souls and others with this or that intrenchment upon the doctrine of the gospel, and the free grace of God in Jesus Christ; which not a few pride themselves in, with the contempt of all otherwise minded. And doth not the present state of things require the full disbursing of all that you have freely received for the glory of Him from whom you have received it? You are not only persons who, as doctors and teachers in a university, have a large, distinct disciplinary knowledge of divinity, but also such as to whom “the Son of God is come, and hath given an understanding to know him that is true;" “ into whose hearts God hath shined, to give the light of the knowledge of his glory in the face of Jesus Christ ;” and therefore may say, “• What shall we render to the Lord?' how shall we serve him in any way answerable to the grace we have received? I speak not this, the Lord knows it, before whom I stand, with reflection on any, as though I judged them neglecters of the duty incumbent on them. • Every one of us must give account of himself to God.” The daily pains, labour, and travail, of many of you in the work of the gospel, the diligence and endeavours of others in promoting other useful literature, are known unto all. Only the consideration of my own present undertaking, joined with a sense of mine own insufficiency for this

, or any other labour of this kind, and of your larger furnishment with abilities of all sorts, press me to this stirring up of your remembrance to contend for the faith, so much opposed and perverted. Not that I would press for the needless multiplying of books (whose plenty is the general customary complaint of all men versed in them), unless necessity call thereto. “ Scribimus indocti, doctique.” But that serious thoughts may be continually dwelling in you to lay out yourselves to obviate the spreading of any error whatever, or for the destruction of any already propagated, by such ways and means as the providence of God and the circumstances of the matter itself shall call you out unto, is in the desire of my soul.

Something you will find in this kind attempted by the weakest of your number, in this ensuing treatise. The matter of it I know will have your approbation, and that because it hath His whom you serve. For the manner of handling it, it is humbly given up to his grace and mercy, and freely left to your Christian judgment. The general concernments of this business are so known to all that I shall by no means burden you with a repetition of them. The attempt made by Mr Goodwin against the truth here asserted was by all men judged so considerable (especially the truth opposed having a more practical influence into the walking of the saints with God than any other by him assaulted, and the defend

[ocr errors]

ing of it giving more advantage unto an inquiry after the mind of God, as delivered in innumerable places of Scripture, than any of the rest opposed) as that a removal of his exceptions to our arguments, and an answer to his objections, were judged necessary by all. Other reasons manifesting this endeavour to be in order and in season, I have farther communicated in the entrance of the treatise itself. In my addresses to the work, I could by no means content myself with a mere discussing of what was produced by my adversary; for he having kept himself, for the most part, within the compass of the synodal writings of the Remonstrants, which are already most clearly and solidly answered (by one especially, renowned Amesius), to have tied myself unto a contest with him had been merely actum agere, without promoting the cause I had undertaken in the least. As I account it by no means an ingenuous proceeding for men to bear up their own names by standing upon the shoulders of others, to deport themselves authors when indeed they are but collectors and translators; so I am very remote from being so far in love with this way of handling controversies in divinity, as to think it necessary to multiply books of the same matter, without some considerable addition of light and strength to the cause whose protection and promotion are undertaken.. On this consideration, besides incident discourses, which I hope, through the grace of Him that supplied seed to the sower, may be of use and have an increase amongst the saints of God, I have made it my aim (and what therein I have attained is, with all submission of mind and judgment, cast before the thoughts of men whose senses are exercised to discern good and evil) to place each argument insisted on upon its own proper basis and foundation; to resolve every reason and medium whereby I have proceeded into its own principles, discovering the fountain and well-head of all the streams that run in the field of this contest; as also to give some clearings and evidences to our conclusions from the several texts of Scripture discussed, by discovering the reason of them and intent of God in them. Some arguments there are, and sundry texts of Scripture, that are usually produced and urged in the defence of the cause under consideration that I have not insisted on, nor vindicated from the exceptions of the adversaries. Not that I judge them indefensible against their most cunning or most furious assaults, and so slighted what I could not hold,—for, indeed, I know not any one text of Scripture commonly used for this end, nor any argument by any sober man framed to the same purpose, that is not capable of an easy and fair vindication,—but merely because they fell not in regularly in the method I had proposed to myself, nor would so do, unless I had gone forth to the issue of my first intendment, and had handled the abode of believers with God at large from its principles and causes, as I had done that part of our doctrine which concerns the continuance of the love of God with and unto them; which the growth of the treatise under my hand would not give me leave to do. What hath been, or may yet farther be, done by others who have made or shall make it their business to draw the saw of this controversy to and fro with Mr Goodwin, I hope will give satisfaction, as in other things, so in the particulars by me omitted. As to what I have to speak, or at least think it convenient to speak, concerning him with whom in this discourse I have much to do, and the manner of my dealing with him, being a thing of personal concernment, not having any influencing aspect on the merits of the cause, I shall in not many words absolve you of your trouble in the consideration thereof. My adversary is a person whom his worth, pains, diligence, and opinions, and the contests wherein on their account he hath publicly engaged, have delivered from being the object of any ordinary thoughts or expressions. Nothing not great, not considerable, not some way eminent, is by any spoken of him, either consenting with him or dissenting from him. To interpose my judgment in the crowd, on the one side or the other, I know neither warrant nor sufficient cause; we all stand or fall to our own masters, and the fire

« PreviousContinue »