Flavel, Fountain of Life, File 44 (conclusion). ( ...continued from File 43_ 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, whilst the Spirit, by divine pulsations, is awaking and rousing up your sluggish hearts with such inward motions, and whispers, as that, Psal. 27:8. "Seek my face". Yea, whilst 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, till 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, till you come back to God, and say, as Psal. 116 "Return to thy rest, O my soul". Is it not hard, yea, 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 centre, 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, et soevior ab obice ibit; 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 engraven upon your own bowels. To this purpose a late writer speaks; Till you were converted, (saith he) the flesh was predominant, and therefore it was impossible for you to live any other than a fleshly life; for every thing 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 ye 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 Ghost (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, whilst they tabernacled on earth. Whilst 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 endeavour 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 honour to be dishonoured for the name of Christ", as the original of the text, Acts 5:41, may be translated. Is it a dishonour to thee, to be ranked with Abraham, Moses, David, and such as were the glory of the ages they lived in? Art thou at any time under a faint fit of discouragement, and ready to despond under any burden? Oh, how mayest thou be animated by such examples, when such a qualm comes over thy heart? Some sparks of their holy courage cannot choose but steal into thy breast, whilst thou considerest them. In them, God has set before thee the possibility of overcoming all difficulties, thou seemst men of the same mould, who had the same trials, discouragements and fears, that now thou hast, and yet overcame all. How is thy unbelief checked, when thou sayest, Oh! I shall never reach the end, I shall one day utterly perish! Why dost thou say so? Why may not such a poor creature as thou art, 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, whilst 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 "Thine eyes shall behold thy teachers, and thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, "This is the way, walk ye 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 ye are turning aside to the right-hand, or to the left Alluding to a shepherd, saith one, who, driving his sheep before him; whistles then in, when he sees them ready to stray. (2 ) Secondly, When ye 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 saith, 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, Psal. 119: 67. "Before I was afflicted, I went astray; but now I have kept thy 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 thy 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 marvellous 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 lustre 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 buck from sin? Has God also set before you such eminent patterns to encourage and quicken you in your way? Doth 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 practised. 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 verticordia, 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 ye 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 as a concause, 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 ye 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. Yea, 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 honoured 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 bowels 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," whilst others are perishing? Shall the lips of ministers, and the lives of Christians, be both silenced together? Shall poor sinners neither hear any thing from us, nor see any thing 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, bowels 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 honour and adorn it. I remember Chrysostom brings in the persecutors speaking to two renowned martyrs, after this manner, Nonne videtis alios vestri ordinis hoc fecisse? i.e. Why are you so nice and scrupulous? See you not that others of your rank and profession have done these things? To which they returned this brave answer, Nos hac potissimum ratione viriliter stabimus, i.e. have they done it? For that 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, Psal. 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 labour 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 (saith the apostle) if ye 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 wrapt 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 labours, 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 labour, as that we labour 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 nought 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 labours, 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 labours, 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 honour 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, thou art 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, yea, we shall judge angels;" i.e. our examples are to condemn their lives and practices, as Noah, Heb. 11:7 is said to condemn the world by building the ark, i.e. 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, yea, 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 honour 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 labours, 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 ye be holy in all manner of conversation. See that, "as ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so ye 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, thou art come to the last leaf of this treatise of Christ, it will be but a little while, and thou shalt come to the last page or day of thy life; and thy last moment in that day. Wo to thee, wo and alas for ever; 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 thy case, reflect upon what thou hast read in these sermons. Judge thyself in the light of them. Obey the calls of the Spirit in them. Let not thy slight and formal spirit float upon the surface of these truths, like a feather upon the water; but get them deeply fixed upon thy spirit, by the Spirit of the Lord; turning them into life and power upon thee; and so animating the whole course and tenor of thy conversation by them, that it may proclaim to all that know thee, that thou art one who esteemest all to be but dross, that thou mayest win Christ. The End (... concluded) ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: flafn-44.txt .