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carnal and sensual! Sure it is our little communion with God, that has thus debased the communion of saints.
O let us live more in the fellowship of the Spirit, and we shall have fellowship one with another to better purpose. Let us warm ourselves at the Sun, let us dwell more in his beams, and we shall get and give more light and heat. Thus must it be considered ere we resolve what there is in this obedience.
Further, it must be considered what obedience is likely to be attended with from without : what suffering it may cost us, what scorn and contempt and reproaches and persecutions of all sorts. It is likely to set earth and hell upon our backs. If carnal counsels and fleshly policies, if all the powers of darkness, if might and malice can do it, this way will be made too hot and too hard for thee; tribulation, great tribulation thou must expect, and canst not escape ; and the more strict and circumspect, the hotter must thou expect thine assaults will be.
Professors of religion who are not so strict to their rule but that they can dispense with duty, nor so forward in point of zeal and activity but that they can remit and abate as occasion serves, escape this persecuting world the better; but he that will be faithful, whoever escape, is sure to be made a prey. This also must be well considered. I will follow Christ; but can I drink of the cup that he drank of? Can I be baptized with the baptism that he was baptized with?
There are persons who sometimes take up the pro
fession of religion, and resolve all of a sudden that they will follow Christ, not understanding what there is in it, or what Christianity may do for them, who, by the time they have looked a little further, and find it another manner of difficulty than at first they imagined; and withal, when they find the armies of the aliens begin to fall on them, the dogs to tear, the wolves to worry, the eagles and the vultures and all the birds of prey to pitch upon them, and begin in earnest to feel the smart of religion in those persecutions that are raised against them for it, presently make their retreat and go back. “Where am I? What have I chosen ? Is this to be a Christian ? Does Christ look for all this from his followers, and will he leave them to such violence and rapine, as the reward of their faithfulness to his name? I never thought it had been such hot service; and if I cannot be a saint at a cheaper rate than this, follow Christ who will for all me: let those who have nothing to lose, or can bear so much labor and pain and violence, take it up if they please; for my part, I must look to myself, I must not be undone."
6 Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest,” said the scribe. Matt. 8:19. “Man,” says Christ, “thou understandest not what thou sayest. Dost thou know whither I am going, where my dwelling, where my lodging is? The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” And behold, there is an end of the scribe's Christianity, we hear not one word more about it.
Not so he who knows what it is to be a disciple, who has looked through religion, through the length and breadth of it, has duly weighed all that can be said for or against his taking it up, has examined the grounds and reasons he has for it, what weight there is in them, has considered the objections, has cast up the cost and charges of it, and as the issue and result of the most serious debate, stands settled in his judg. ment, that, all things considered, it is indisputably the best and wisest and safest course he can take: " It is, beyond all controversy, incomparably better for me to hearken to the Lord in all that he shall require, and to run all hazards with him, and that presently, from this day forward to the end of my life.” He that stands thus settled in his judgment, thereupon feels his soul fixing itself in this peremptory resolution : “Well, through the grace of God, I will be his servant; I give up myself to the government of his will, to follow him in righteousness and holiness all my days. I am sensible it is no light thing to be a Christian; I see I must be subject, I see I must be circumspect, I see I must be active, I must hold back nothing that God will have. I see this flesh will be pained, and will flinch and groan under so severe a yoke. I see the devil and this evil world will be upon me, laying on more load, to make my bargain as dear as they can. But be there in it what there will, let it cost me ever so dear, I am resolved, I will venture all upon it; the Lord is my God, and him will I follow in all things that he shall speak; I put myself into the everlasting arms, I trust upon everlasting
strength, I will go forth in the name of the Lord: and now speak, Lord, for I will hear."
This sincere resolution, this will hold out: when our holy inclinations are so rooted and strong, that they bear down all fleshly inclinations; when our assent to scripture is so firm that it overbalances all objections against it; when our reasons for religion are so high and weighty that they weigh down the highest pretences against it; when we have thoroughly considered what there is in it, and compared all that can be said for or against our following the Lord, and upon the whole matter we judge it our best course, and accordingly resolve for it—this is sincere resolution, this is the obedience of the heart.
II. OBEDIENCE OF THE LIFE. This is the inclination and resolution springing up into action, and is a necessary proof of the soundness of the resolution.
Though sincere resolution be obedience on God's account, yet that resolution which, supposing there be time and opportunity, does not break forth into act, is undoubtedly unsound and deceitful. There are two things infallibly included in spiritual life—a will, and a power. Grace is the disposing and enabling the heart for a holy life; and where there is both a will and a power, performance will certainly follow. This sincerity of actual obedience is that which the prayer of the psalmist looks to: “Let my heart be sound in thy statutes, that I be not ashamed.” Psa. 119 : 80.
There is a soundness in the faith, and a soundness in the statutes of the Lord. · Faith denotes in Scripture either the doctrine of faith, or the grace of faith. And accordingly, soundness in the faith signifies both the receiving and entertaining sound doctrine, and the sound or sincere embracing that doctrine. Soundness in the statutes of the Lord denotes especially the practice, the living or walking uprightly under the power of that doctrine, under the government and obedience of the statutes of the Lord. What this obedience of life is, it is easy to gather out of what has been spoken touching the obedience of the heart; I shall only add, that this obedience is sound and sincere
1. In general, when the whole course of life is the issue of the mentioned sincere resolution—when the life is the birth of the purpose, the fruit growing up out of that holy root. There may be actions materially good, that yet are not gracious actions because they arise not from a right spring. When the soul has devoted itself to God in Christ, and believingly, understandingly, and deliberately determined in his strength to keep his word, and this determination goes into the performances of the life, and is the root and soul of that holy course we walk in, there is sincerity.
Some persons may be found who have taken up the profession and go far in the practice of godliness, abstaining from gross sins, yea, and making attempts upon the mortification of inward lusts—applying themselves to the duties of religion, praying, hearing, reading, meditating, discoursing of God and the things of God, exercising themselves in the works of righteousness and mercy, being meek, temperate, patient; and if all this arise only from the advantages of a good