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them all: and instead of being solicitous how to secure himself, as one minding nothing less, he was, with utmost hazard of himself, most careful how to preserve the honour of God, by his fidelity to his will. And though at the first it exposed him to ruin, yet, as an instance of great encouragement to all, that like him will choose to keep a good conscience in an evil time, at last it advanced him greatly in the world; and the God of Daniel was made famous and terrible through his perseverance, even in the eyes of heathen kings.
What shall I say of all the rest, who counted nothing dear, that they might do the will of God, abandoned their worldly comforts, and exposed their ease and safety, as often as the heavenly vision called them,* to the wrath and malice of degenerate princes, and an apoftate church ? More especially Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Micah, that after they had denied themselves, in obedience to the divine voice, sealed their testimony with their blood.
Thus was felf-denial the practice and glory of the ancients, that were predeceffors to the coming of Christ in the flesh; and shall we hope to go to heaven without it now, when our Saviour himself is become the most excellent example of it? and that not as fome would fain have it, viz. For us, that we need not;' but for us, that we might deny ourselves,
Dorotheus in his Lives of the Prophets.
4 1 Peter ü. 21.
and so be the true followers of his blessed example.
$. XXI. Whoever therefore thou art, that wouldst do the will of God, but faintest in thy desires, from the opposition of worldly considerations ; remember I tell thee, in the name of Christ, that he that prefers father or mother, fifter or brother, wife or child, house or land, reputation, honour, office, liberty, or life, before the testimony of the light of Jesus, in his own conscience, shall be rejected of him in the folemn and general inquest upon the world, when all shall be judged, and receive according to the deeds done, not the profession made, in this life. It was the doctrine of Jesus, that if thy right hand offend thee thou must cut it off; and if thy right eye offend thee, thou must pluck it out;' that is, if the most dear, the most useful and tender comforts thou enjoyest, stand in thy soul's way, and interrupt thy obedience to the voice of God, and thy conformity to his holy will revealed in thy soul, thou art engaged, under the penalty of damnation, to part with them.
$. XXII. The way of God is a way of faith, as dark to sense, as mortal to felf.
It is the children of obedience, who count, with holy Paul, all things dross and dung, that they may win Christ, and know and walk in this narrow way. Speculation will not do, nor can refined notions enter; the obedient only eat the good of this land. They that do his will, says the blessed Jesus, shall know of my doctrine; them he will instruct. There is no room for instruction, where lawful self is lord, and not fervant. For self cannot receive it; that which should, is oppressed by felf, fearful, and dare not. O! what will my father or mother say? How will my husband use me? or finally, what will the magistrate do with me? For though I have a most powerful persuasion, and clear conviction upon my soul, of this or that thing, yet considering how unmodifh it is, what enemies it has, and how strange and singular I fhall seem to them, I hope God will pity my weakness : if I sink, I am but flesh and blood; it may be hereafter he may better enable me; and there is time enough. Thus selfish, fearful man.
* Mat, v, 29, 30.
Isaiah i. 19.
But deliberating is ever worst; for the foul loses in parley : the manifestation brings power with it. Never did God convince people, but, upon submission, he empowered them. He requires nothing without ability to perform it: that were mocking, not saving of men. It is enough for thee to do thy duty, that God shews thee thy duty ; provided thoil clofest with that light and spirit, by which he gives thee that knowledge. They that want power, are such as do not receive Christ in his convictions upon the soul, and such will always want it; but such as do, they receive power, like those of old, to become the children of God, through the pure obedience of faith. §. XXIII. Wherefore, let me beseech you,
John vii. 17.
by the love and mercy of God, by the life and death of Christ, by the power of his spirit, and the hope of immortality, that you,
whose hearts are established in your temporal comforts, and so lovers of self, more than of these heavenly things, would let the time past suffice: that you would not think it enough to be clear of such impieties, as too many are found in, whilst. your inordinate love of lawful things has defiled your enjoyment of them, and drawn your hearts from the fear, love, obedience, and self-denial of a true disciple of Jesus. Tack about then, and hearken to the Itill voice in thy conscience; it tells thee thy fins, and of misery in them; it gives a lively discovery of the very vanity of the world, and opens to thy foul some prospect of eternity, and the comforts of the just that are at rest. If thou adhereft to this, it will divorce thee from sin and self: thou wilt soon find, that the power of its charms exceed that of the wealth, honour, and beauty of the world, and finally will give thee that tranquillity, which the storms of time can never shipwreck, nor diforder. Here all thy enjoyments are blest, though small, yet great by that presence that is within them.
Even in this world the righteous have the better of it, for they use the world without rebuke, because they do not abuse it. They fee and bless the hand that feeds, and clothes, and preserves them. And as by beholding Him in all his gifts, they do not adore them, but Him ; fo the sweetness of his blessings that gives them, is an advantage fuch have upon those that fee him not. Besides, in their increase they are not lifted up, nor in their adversities are they cast down: and why? Because they are moderated in the one, and comforted in the other, by his divine presence.
In short, heaven is the throne, and the earth but the footstool, of that man that hath self under foot. And those that know that station will not easily be moved ; such learn to number their days, that they may not be sure prised with their dissolution; and to redeem their time, because the days are evil ; remembering that they are stewards, and must deliver up their accounts to an impartial judge. Therefore not to self, but to him they live, and in him die, and are blessed with them that die in the Lord. And thus I conclude discourse of the right use of lawful self.
* Ephes. v. 16.
f. 1. Of unlawful self; it is two-fold: 1. in
religion. 2. in morality. $. 2. Of those that are most formal, superstitious, and pompous in worship. $. 3. God's rebuke of car. nal apprehensions. 9. 4. Christ drew off his disciples from the Jewish, exterior worship, and instituted a more spiritual one. $. 5. Stephen is plain and full in this matter.