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Title: The works of the Rev. John Wesley, Vol. 04 (of 32)

Author: John Wesley

Release Date: June 15, 2022 [eBook #68320]

Language: English

Produced by: Richard Hulse and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive)

Book Cover

The Works of the Rev. John Wesley

Transcriber’s Notes

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This book was written in a period when many words had not become standardized in their spelling. Words may have multiple spelling variations or inconsistent hyphenation in the text. These have been left unchanged unless indicated with a Transcriber’s Note.

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Transcriber’s Notes are used when making corrections to the text or to provide additional information for the modern reader. These notes are identified by ♦♠♥♣ symbols in the text and are shown immediately below the paragraph in which they appear.


Late Fellow of Lincoln-College, Oxford.

Volume IV.


Printed by WILLIAM PINE, in Wine-Street


Of the Fourth Volume.

SERMONS on several Occasions.


On Self-denial.

Luke ix. 23. And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.


The Cure of Evil-speaking.

Matt. xviii. 15, 16, 17. If thy brother shall sin against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he will hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

But if he will not hear, take with thee one or two more, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word may be established.

And if he will not hear them, tell it to the church: but if he will not hear the church, let him be to thee as an Heathen man and a Publican.


The Use of Money.

Luke xvi. 9. I say unto you, make unto yourselves friends of the mammon of righteousness, that when ye fail, they may receive you into the everlasting habitations.


The Good Steward.

Luke xvi. 2. Give an account of thy stewardship: for thou canst be no longer steward.


Preached before the Reformation Society.

Psalm xciv. 16. Who will rise up with me against the wicked?


On the Death of the Rev. Mr. George Whitefield.

Numb. xxiii. 10. Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!

Advice to the People called Methodists,

With regard to dress.

The Duties of Husbands and Wives.


The first duties of the married, Chastity.


Of the Love of married persons.


Of the effects of love.


Of the duties of the married to their family.


Of a man’s keeping his authority.


Of the wife’s peculiar duties.


Some application of the whole.

Directions to children.

Directions to servants.

An extract from Mr. Law’s treatise on Christian Perfection.


Several important considerations and directions.


Christianity requires a renouncing of the world, and all worldly tempers.


Christianity calleth all men to a state of self-denial and mortification.


The necessity of divine grace, another general ground of self-denial.


The necessity of divine grace, obligeth all Christians to a constant purity and holiness of conversation; wherein is shewn the great danger and impiety of reading vain and impertinent books.


Luke ix. 23.

And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.

1.IT has been frequently imagined, that the direction here given, related chiefly, if not wholly to the apostles: at least to the Christians of the first ages, or those in a state of persecution. But this is a grievous mistake: for although our blessed Lord is here directing his discourse more immediately to his apostles, and those other disciples who attended him in the days of his flesh, yet in them he speaks to us, and to all mankind, without any exception or limitation. The very reason of the thing puts it beyond dispute, that the duty which is here enjoined, is not peculiar to them, or to the Christians of the early ages. It no more regards any particular order of men, or particular time, than any particular country. No: it is of the most universal nature, respecting all times and all persons. Yea, and all things: not meats and drinks only, and things pertaining to the senses. The meaning is, If any man, of whatever rank, station, circumstances, in any nation, in any age of the world, will effectually come after me, let him deny himself in all things: let him take up his cross, of whatever kind, yea and that daily, and follow me.

2. The denying ourselves and the taking up our cross, in the full extent of the expression, is not a thing of small concern: it is not expedient only, as are some of the circumstantials of religion; but it is absolutely, indispensably necessary, either to our becoming, or continuing his disciples. It is absolutely necessary, in the very nature of the thing, to our coming after him and following him. Insomuch that as far as we do not practise it, we are not his disciples. If we do not continually deny ourselves, we do not learn of him, but of other masters. If we do not take up our cross daily, we do not come after him: but after the world, or the prince of the world, or our own fleshly mind. If we are not walking in the way of the cross, we are not following him; we are not treading in his steps, but going back from, or at least wide of him.

3. It is for this reason that so many ministers of Christ, in almost every age and nation, particularly since the reformation of the church from the innovations and corruptions gradually crept into it, have wrote and spoke so largely on this important duty, both in their public discourses and private exhortations. This induced them to disperse abroad many tracts upon the subject; and some in our own nation. They knew both from the oracles of God, and from the testimony of their own experience, how impossible it was not to deny our master, unless we will deny ourselves: and how vainly we attempt to follow him that was crucified, unless we take up our own cross daily.

4. But may not this very consideration make it reasonable to enquire, If so much has been said and wrote on the subject already, what need is there to say or write any more? I answer, there are no inconsiderable numbers, even of people fearing God, who have not had the opportunity either of hearing what has been spoke, or reading what has been wrote upon it. And perhaps if they had read much of what has been written, they would not have been much profited. Many who have wrote, (some of them large volumes) do by no means appear to have understood the subject. Either they had imperfect views of the very nature of it (and then they could never explain it to others) or they were unacquainted with the due extent of it; they did not see how exceeding broad this command is: or they were not sensible of the absolute, the indispensable necessity of it. Others speak of it in so dark, so perplext, so intricate, so mystical a manner, as if they designed rather to conceal it from the vulgar, than to explain it to common readers. Others speak admirably well, with great clearness and strength, on the necessity of self-denial; but then they deal in generals only, without coming to particular instances, and so are of little use to the bulk of mankind, to men of ordinary capacity and education. And if some of them do descend to particulars, it is to those particulars only, which do not affect the generality of men, since they seldom, if ever, occur in common life: such as the enduring imprisonment or tortures: the giving up, in a literal sense, their houses or lands, their husbands or wives, children, or life itself: to none of which we are called, nor are likely to be, unless God should permit times of public persecution to return. In the mean time, I know of no writer in the English tongue, who has described the nature of self-denial, in plain and intelligible terms, such as lie level with common understandings, and applied it to those little particulars, which daily occur in common life. A discourse of this kind is wanted still: and it is wanted the more, because in every stage of the spiritual life, altho’ there is a variety of particular hindrances, of our attaining grace or growing therein, yet are all resolvible into these general ones, either we do not deny ourselves, or we do not take up our cross.

In order to supply this defect in some degree, I shall endeavour to shew, first, What it is for a man to deny himself, and what to take up his cross: and secondly, That if a man be not fully Christ’s disciple, it is always owing to the want of this.

I. 1. I shall, first, endeavour to shew, What it is for a man, to deny himself and take up his cross daily. This is a point which is of all others most necessary to be considered, and throughly understood, even on this account, that it is of all others most opposed, by numerous and powerful enemies. All our nature must certainly rise up against this, even in its own defence: the world consequently, the men who take nature not grace for their guide, abhor the very sound of it. And the great enemy of our souls, well knowing its importance, cannot but move every stone against it. But this is not all: even those who have in some measure shaken off the yoke of the devil, who have experienced, especially of late years, a real work of grace in their hearts, yet are no friends to this grand doctrine of Christianity, tho’ it is so peculiarly insisted on by their master. Some of them are as deeply and totally ignorant concerning it, as if there was not one word about it in the bible. Others are farther off still, having unawares imbibed strong prejudices against it. These they have received partly from outside Christians; men of a fair speech and behaviour, who want nothing of godliness, but the power, nothing of religion, but the spirit: and partly from those who did once, if they do not now, taste of the powers of the world to come. But are there any of these who do not both practise self-denial themselves and recommend it to others? You are little acquainted with mankind, if you doubt of this. There are whole bodies of men who only do not declare war against it. To go no farther than London. Look upon the whole body of Predestinarians, who by the free mercy of God, have lately been called out of the darkness of nature, into the light of faith. Are they patterns of self-denial? How few of them even profess to practise it at all! How few of them recommend it themselves, or are pleased with them that do? Rather do they not continually represent it in the most odious colours? As if it were seeking salvation by works, or seeking to establish our own righteousness? And how readily do Antinomians of all kinds, from the smooth Moravian, to the boistrous, foul-mouthed Ranter, join the cry, with their silly, unmeaning cant, of legality, and preaching the law? Therefore you are in constant danger of being wheedled, hectored, or ridiculed out of this important gospel-doctrine, either by false teachers or false brethren; (more or less beguiled from the simplicity of the gospel) if you are not deeply grounded therein. Let fervent prayer then go before, accompany, and follow, what you are now about to read, that it may be written in your heart by the finger of God, so as never to be erased.

2. But what is self-denial? Wherein are we to deny ourselves? And whence does the necessity of this arise? I answer, the will of God is the supreme, unalterable rule for every intelligent creature: equally binding every angel in heaven, and every man upon earth. Nor can it be otherwise: this is the natural, necessary result of the relation between creatures and their Creator. But if the will of God be our one rule of action, in every thing, great and small, it follows by undeniable consequence, that we are not to do our own will in any thing. Here therefore we see at once the nature, with the ground and reason of self-denial. We see the nature of self-denial: it is the denying or refusing to follow our own will, from a conviction that the will of God is the only rule of action to us. And we see the reason thereof, because we are creatures; because it is he that hath made us and not ourselves.

3. This reason for self-denial must hold, even with regard to the angels of God in heaven: and with regard to man, innocent and holy, as he came out of the hands of his Creator. But a farther reason for it arises, from the condition wherein all men are since the fall. We are all now shapen in wickedness, and in sin did our mother conceive us. Our nature is altogether corrupt, in every power and faculty. And our will, depraved equally with the rest, is wholly bent to indulge our natural corruption. On the other hand, it is the will of God, that we resist and counter-act that corruption, not at some times, or in some things only, but at all times, and in all things. Here therefore is a farther ground for constant and universal self-denial.

4. To illustrate this a little further. The will of God is a path leading straight to God. The will of man which once ran parallel with it, is now another path, not only different from it, but in our present state directly contrary to it. It leads from God; if therefore we walk in the one, we must necessarily quit the other. We cannot walk in both. Indeed a man of faint heart and feeble hands, may go in two ways, one after the other. But he cannot walk in two ways at the same time: he cannot at one and the same time, follow his own will, and follow the will of God; he must chuse the one or the other: denying God’s will, to follow his one, or deny himself, to follow the will of God.

5. Now it is undoubtedly pleasing for the time, to follow our own will, by indulging in any instance that offers, the corruption of our nature. But the following it in any thing, we so far strengthen the perverseness of our will: and by indulging it, we continually increase the corruption of our nature. So by the food which is agreeable to the palate we often increase a bodily disease. It gratifies the taste; but it inflames the disorder. It brings pleasure: but it also brings death.

6. On the whole then, to deny ourselves is, to deny our own will, where it does not fall in with the will of God, and that, however pleasing it may be: it is, to deny ourselves any pleasure which does not spring from, and lead to God: that is, in effect to refuse going out of our way, though into a pleasant, flowry path: to refuse what we know to be deadly poison, though agreeable to the taste.

7. And every one that would follow Christ, that would be his real disciple, must not only deny himself, but take up his cross also. A cross is, any thing contrary to our will, any thing displeasing to our nature. So that taking up our cross goes a little farther than denying ourselves: it rises a little higher, and is a more difficult task to flesh and blood: it being more easy, to forego pleasure, than to endure pain.

8. Now in running the race which is set before us, according to the will of God, there is often a cross lying in the way, that is, something which is not joyous, but grievous, something which is contrary to our will, which is displeasing to our nature. What then is to be done? The choice is plain; either we must take up our cross, or we must turn aside from the way of God, from the holy commandment delivered to us: if we do not stop altogether, or turn back to everlasting perdition.

9. In order to the healing of that corruption that evil disease which every man brings with him into the world, it is often needful, to pluck out as it were a right-eye, to cut off a right-hand: so painful is either the thing itself which must be done, or the only means of doing it: the parting, suppose with a foolish desire, with an inordinate affection: or a separation, from the object of it, without which it can never be extinguished. In the former kind, the tearing away such a desire or affection, when it is deeply rooted in the soul, is often like the piercing of a sword, yea, like the dividing asunder of the soul and spirit, the joints and marrow. The Lord then sits upon the soul as a refiner’s fire, to burn up all the dross thereof. And this is a cross indeed: it is essentially painful: it must be so in the very nature of the thing. The soul cannot be thus torn asunder, it cannot pass through the fire, without pain.

10. In the latter kind, the means to heal a sin-sick soul, to cure a foolish desire, an inordinate affection, are often painful, not in the nature of the thing, but from the nature of the disease. So when our Lord said to the rich young man, Go sell that thou hast and give it to the poor, (as well knowing, this was the only means of healing his covetousness) the very thought of it gave him so much pain, that he went away sorrowful: chusing rather to part with his hope of heaven, than his possessions on earth. This was a burden he could not consent to lift, a cross he would not take up. And in the one kind or the other every follower of Christ will surely have need to take up his cross daily.

11. The taking up differs a little from bearing his cross. We are then properly said to bear our cross, when we endure what is laid upon us without our choice, with meekness and resignation. Whereas we do not properly take up our cross, but when we voluntarily suffer what it is in our power to avoid: when we willingly embrace the will of God, though contrary to our own: when we chuse what is painful, because it is the will of our wise and gracious Creator.

12. And thus it behoves every disciple of Christ, to take up, as well as to bear his cross. Indeed in one sense, it is not his alone; it is common to him and many others: seeing there is no temptation befals any man εἰ μή ἀνθρώπινος· but such as is common to men, such as is incident and adapted to their common nature, and situation in the present world. But in another sense, as it is considered with all its circumstances, it is his; peculiar to himself: it is prepared of God for him: it is given by God to him, as a token of his love: and if he receives it as such, and (after using such means to remove the pressure as Christian wisdom directs) lies as clay in the Potter’s hand, it is disposed and ordered by God for his good, both with regard to the quality of it, and in respect to its quantity and degree, its duration, and every other circumstance.

13. In all this we may easily conceive our blessed Lord to act as the physician of our souls, not merely for his own pleasure, but for our profit that we may be partakers of his holiness. If in searching our wounds he puts us to pain, it is only in order to heal them. He cuts away what is putrified or unsound, in order to preserve the sound part. And if we freely chuse the loss of a limb, rather than the whole body should perish, how much more should we chuse, figuratively, to cut off a right-hand, rather than the whole soul should be cast into hell?

14. We see plainly then both the nature and ground, of taking up our cross. It does not imply the disciplining ourselves (as some speak) the literally tearing our own flesh: the wearing haircloth, or iron girdles, or any thing else that would impair our bodily health: (although we know not what allowance God may make for those, who acts thus through involuntary ignorance:) but the embracing the will of God, tho’ contrary to our own; the chusing wholesome, tho’ bitter, medicines: the freely accepting temporary pain, of whatever kind, and in whatever degree, when it is either essentially or accidentally necessary to eternal pleasure.

‘discipling’ replaced with ‘disciplining’

II. 1. I am, secondly, to shew, that it is always owing to the want either of self-denial, or taking up his cross, that any man does not throughly follow him, is not fully a disciple of Christ.

It is true, this may be partly owing in some cases, to the want of the means of grace: of hearing the true word of God spoken with power, of the sacraments, or of Christian fellowship. But where none of these is wanting, the great hindrance of our receiving or growing in the grace of God, is always the want of denying ourselves, or taking up our cross.

2. A few instances will make this plain. A man hears the word which is able to save his soul. He is well pleased with what he hears, acknowledges the truth, and is a little affected by it. Yet he remains dead in trespasses and sins, senseless and unawakened. Why is this? Because he will not part with his bosom-sin, tho’ he now knows it is an abomination unto the Lord. He came to hear, full of lust and unholy desire: and he will not part with them. Therefore no deep impression is made upon him, but his foolish heart is still hardened: that is, he is still senseless and unawakened, because he will not deny himself.

3. Suppose he begins to awake out of sleep, and his eyes are a little opened, why are they so quickly closed again? Why does he again sink into the sleep of death? Because he again yields to his bosom-sin: he drinks again of the pleasing poison. Therefore it is impossible that any lasting impression, should be made upon his heart. That is, he relapses into his fatal insensibility, because he will not deny himself.

4. But this is not the case with all. We have many instances of those, who when once awakened sleep no more. The impressions once received, do not wear away; they are not only deep, but lasting. And yet many of these have not found what they seek: they mourn, and yet are not comforted. Now why is this? It is because they do not bring forth fruits meet for repentance: because they do not according to the grace they have received, cease from evil, and do good. They do not cease from the easily besetting sin, the sin of their constitution, of their education, or of their profession. Or they omit doing the good they may, and know they ought to do, because of some disagreeable circumstances attending it: that is, they do not attain faith, because they will not deny themselves, or take up their cross.

5. “But this man did receive the heavenly gift. He did taste of the powers of the world to come. He saw the light of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ. The peace which passeth all understanding, did rule his heart and mind; and the love of God was shed abroad therein, by the Holy Ghost which was given unto him. Yet he is now weak as another man. He again relishes the things of earth, and has more taste for the things which are seen, than for those which are not seen. The eye of his understanding is closed again, so that he cannot see him that is invisible. His love is waxed cold, and the peace of God no longer rules in his heart. And no marvel: for he has again given place to the devil, and grieved the Holy Spirit of God. He has turned again unto folly, to some pleasing sin, if not in outward act, yet in heart.” He has given place to pride, or anger, or desire; to self-will, or stubbornness. Or he did not stir up the gift of God which was in him; he gave way to spiritual sloth, and would not be at the pains of praying always, and watching thereunto with all perseverance. That is, he made shipwreck of the faith, for want of self-denial and taking up his cross daily.

6. But perhaps he has not made shipwreck of the faith: he has still a measure of the Spirit of adoption, which continues to witness with his spirit that he is a child of God. However he is not going on to perfection: he is not, at once, hungring and thirsting after righteousness, panting after the whole image and full enjoyment of God, as the hart after the water-brook. Rather he is weary and faint in his mind, and as it were hovering between life and death. And why is he thus, but because he hath forgotten the word of God, By works is faith made perfect? He does not use all diligence, in working the works of God. He does not continue instant in prayer, private as well as public: in communicating, hearing, meditation, fasting and religious conference. If he does not wholly neglect some of these means, at least he does not use them all, with his might. Or he is not zealous of works of charity, as well as works of piety. He is not merciful after his power, with the full ability which God giveth. He does not fervently serve the Lord, by doing good to men, in every kind, and in every degree he can, to their souls as well as their bodies. And why does he not continue in prayer? Because in times of dryness it is pain and grief unto him. He does not continue in hearing at all opportunities, because sleep is sweet; or it is cold, or dark, or rainy. But why does he not continue in works of mercy? Because he cannot feed the hungry, or cloath the naked, unless he retrench the expence of his own apparel, or use cheaper and less pleasing food. Beside which, the visiting the sick or those that are in prison, is attended with many disagreeable circumstances. And so are most works of spiritual mercy; reproof, in particular. He would reprove his neighbour; but sometimes shame, sometimes fear comes between. For he may expose himself not only to ridicule, but to heavier inconveniences too. Upon these and the like considerations, he omits one or more, if not all works of mercy and piety. Therefore his faith is not made perfect, neither can he grow in grace: namely, because he will not deny himself, and take up his daily cross.

‘his’ replaced with ‘is’

7. It manifestly follows, That it is always owing to the want, either of self-denial or taking up his cross, that a man does not throughly follow his Lord, that he is not fully a disciple of Christ. It is owing to this, that he who is dead in sin, does not awake, tho’ the trumpet be blown: that he who begins to awake out of sleep, yet has no deep or lasting conviction: that he who is deeply and lastingly convinced of sin, does not attain remission of sins: that some who have received this heavenly gift, retain it not, but make shipwreck of the faith: and that others, if they do not draw back to perdition, yet are weary and faint in their mind, and do not reach the mark of the prize of the high-calling of God in Christ Jesus.

III. 1. How easily may we learn hence, that they know neither the scripture nor the power of God, who directly or indirectly, in public or in private, oppose the doctrine of self-denial and the daily cross. How totally ignorant are these men, of an hundred particular texts, as well as of the general tenor of the whole oracles of God? And how entirely unacquainted must they be, with true, genuine, Christian experience! Of the manner wherein the Holy Spirit ever did, and does at this day work in the souls of men? They may talk indeed very loudly and confidently, (a natural fruit of ignorance) as though they were the only men who understood either the word of God, or the experience of his children. But their words are, in every sense, vain words: they are weighed in the ballance and found wanting.

2. We may learn from hence, secondly, the real cause why not only many particular persons, but even bodies of men, who were once burning and shining lights, have now lost both their light and heat. If they did not hate and oppose, they at least lightly esteemed this precious gospel-doctrine. If they did not boldly say, Abnegationem omnem proculcamus, internecioni damus; “We trample all self-denial under foot, we devote it to destruction:” yet they neither valued it according to its high importance nor took any pains in practising it. Hanc mystici docent, said that great, bad man. The mystic writers teach self-denial: no, the inspired writers. And God teaches it to every soul, who is willing to hear his voice.

3. *We may learn from hence, thirdly, That it is not enough for a minister of the gospel, not to oppose the doctrine of self-denial, to say nothing concerning it. Nay, he cannot satisfy his duty, by saying a little in favour of it. If he would indeed be pure from the blood of all men, he must speak of it frequently and largely: he must inculcate the necessity of it, in the clearest and strongest manner. He must press it with his might, on all persons, at all times, and in all places: laying line upon line, line upon line, precept upon precept, precept upon precept. So shall he have a conscience void of offence: so shall he save his own soul and those that hear him.

4. Lastly, See that you apply this, every one of you, to your own soul. Meditate upon it when you are in secret: ponder it in your heart. Take care not only to understand it throughly, but to remember it to your live’s end. Cry unto the strong for strength, that you may no sooner understand, than enter upon the practice of it. Delay not the time, but practise it immediately, from this very hour: practise it universally, on every one of the thousand occasions which occur in all circumstances of life. Practise it daily; without intermission, from the hour you first set your hand to the plow: and enduring therein to the end, till your spirit returns to God.

‘are’ replaced with ‘care’


Matt. xviii. 15, 16, 17.

If thy brother shall sin against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he will hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

But if he will not hear, take with thee one or two more, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word may be established.

And if he will not hear them, tell it to the church: but if he will not hear the church, let him be to thee as an Heathen man and a Publican.

1.SPEAK evil of no man, says the great apostle; as plain a command as Thou shalt do no murder. But who even among Christians regards this command? Yea, how few are there, that so much as understand it? What is evil-speaking? It is not, (as some suppose) the same with lying or slandering. All a man says, may be as true as the bible; and yet the saying of it is evil-speaking. For evil speaking is neither more nor less, than speaking evil of an absent person: relating something evil which was really done or said, by one that is not present when it is related. Suppose, having seen a man drunk or heard him curse or swear, I tell this when he is absent, it is evil-speaking. In our language this is also by an extremely proper name termed backbiting. Nor is there any material difference between this, and what we usually stile tale-bearing. If the tale be delivered in a soft and quiet manner, (perhaps with expressions of good-will to the person, and of hope, that thing may not be quite so bad) then we call it whispering. But in what manner it be done, the things is the same; the same in substance if not in circumstance. Still it is evil-speaking; still this command, Speak evil of no man, is trampled under foot, if we relate to another the fault of a third person, when he is not present to answer for himself.

2. And how extremely common is this sin, among all orders and degrees of men? How do high and low, rich and poor, wise and foolish, learned and unlearned, run into it continually? Persons who differ from each other in all things else, nevertheless agree in this. How few are there that can testify before God, “I am clear in this matter: I have always set a watch before my mouth, and kept the door of my lips?” What conversation do you hear, of any considerable length, whereof evil-speaking is not one ingredient? And that, even among persons, who in the general have the fear of God before their eyes, and do really desire to have a conscience void of offence toward God and toward man.

3. And the very commonness of this sin, makes it difficult to be avoided. As we are incompassed with it on every side, so if we are not deeply sensible of the danger, and continually guarding against it, we are liable to be carried away by the torrent. In this instance, almost the whole of mankind is, as it were, in a conspiracy against us. And their example steals upon us we know not how; so that we insensibly slide into the imitation of it. Besides, it is recommended from within as well as from without. There is scarce any wrong temper in the mind of man, which may not be occasionally gratified by it, and consequently incline us to it. It gratifies our pride, to relate those faults of others, whereof we think ourselves not to be guilty. Anger, resentment, and all unkind tempers are indulged, by speaking against those with whom we are displeased. And in many cases, by reciting the sins of their neighbours, men indulge their own foolish and hurtful desires.

4. Evil-speaking is the more difficult to be avoided, because it frequently attacks us in disguise. We speak thus, out of a noble, generous (’tis well if we do not say, holy,) indignation against these vile creatures! We commit sin, from mere hatred of sin! We serve the devil, out of pure zeal of God! It is merely in order to punish the wicked, that we run into this wickedness. So do “the passions (as one speaks) all justify themselves,” and palm sin upon us, under the veil of holiness.

5. But is there no way to avoid the snare? Unquestionably there is. Our blessed Lord has marked out a plain way for his followers, in the words above recited. None who warily and steadily walks in this path, will ever fall into evil-speaking. This rule is either an infallible preventive, or a certain cure of it. In the preceding verses our Lord had said, Wo to the world because of offences. Unspeakable misery will arise in the world from this baleful fountain. (Offences are all things whereby any one is turned out of, or hindered in, the ways of God.) For it must be that offences come. Such is the nature of things; such the wickedness, folly and weakness of mankind. But Wo to that man, miserable is that man, by whom the offence cometh. Wherefore if thy hand, thy foot, thine eye cause thee to offend—If the most dear enjoyment, the most beloved and useful person, turn thee out of, or hinder thee in the way, pluck it out, cut them off, and cast them from thee. But how can we avoid giving offence to some, and being offended at others? Especially suppose they are quite in the wrong, and we see it with our own eyes? Our Lord, here teaches us how: he lays down a sure method of avoiding offences and evil-speaking together. If thy brother shall sin against thee, go and tell him of his fault, between thee and him alone: if he will hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, take with thee one or two more, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he will not hear them, tell it to the church; but if he will not hear the church, let him be to thee as an Heathen man and a Publican.

I. 1. First, If thy brother shall sin against thee, go and tell him of his fault, between thee and him alone. The most literal way of following this first rule, where it is practicable, is the best. Therefore if thou seest with thine own eyes a brother, a fellow Christian commit undeniable sin, or hearest it with thine own ears, so that it is impossible for thee to doubt the fact, then thy part is plain: take the very first opportunity of going to him: and if thou canst have access, tell him of his fault between thee and him alone. Indeed great care is to be taken, that this is done in a right spirit, and in a right manner.—The success of a reproof greatly depends on the spirit wherein it is given. Be not therefore wanting in earnest prayer to God, that it may be given in a lowly spirit: with a deep, piercing conviction, that it is God alone who maketh thee to differ, and that if any good be done by what is now spoken, God doth himself. Pray, that he would guard thy heart, inlighten thy mind, and direct thy tongue to such words as he may please to bless. See that thou speak in a meek as well as a lowly spirit: for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. If he be overtaken in a fault, he can no otherwise be restored than in the spirit of meekness. If he opposes the truth, yet he cannot be brought to the knowledge thereof, but by gentleness. Still speak in a spirit of tender love, which many waters cannot quench. If love is not conquered, it conquers all things: who can tell the force of love?

Love can bow down the stubborn neck,

The stone to flesh convert;

Soften and melt and pierce and break

An adamantine heart.

Confirm then your love toward him, and you will thereby heap coals of fire upon his head.

2. But see that the manner also wherein you speak, be according to the gospel of Christ. Avoid every thing in look, gesture, word and tone of voice, that savours of pride or self-sufficiency. Studiously avoid every thing magisterial or dogmatical, every thing that looks like arrogance or assuming. Beware of the most distant approach to disdain, overbearing, or contempt. With equal care avoid all appearance of anger, and though you use great plainness of speech, yet let there be no reproach, no railing accusation, no token of any warmth, but that of love. Above all, let there be no shadow of hate or ill-will, no bitterness or sourness of expression; but use the air and language of sweetness as well as gentleness, that all may appear to flow from love in the heart. And yet this sweetness need not hinder your speaking in the most serious and solemn manner: as far as may be, in the very words of the oracles of God, (for there are none like them) as under the eye of him who is coming to judge the quick and dead.

3. If you have not an opportunity of speaking to him in person, or cannot have access, you may do it by a messenger; by a common friend, in whose prudence, as well as uprightness, you can throughly confide. Such a person, speaking in your name, and in the spirit and manner above described, may answer the same end, and in a good degree supply your lack of service. Only beware you do not feign the want of opportunity, in order to shun the cross; neither take it for granted, that you cannot have access, without ever making the trial. Whenever you can speak in your own person, it is far better. But you should rather do it by another than not at all: this way is better than none.

4. But what if you can neither speak yourself, nor find such a messenger as you can confide in? If this be really the case, it then only remains, to write. And there may be some circumstances, which make this the most advisable way of speaking. One of these circumstances is, when the person with whom we have to do, is of so warm and impetuous a temper, as does not easily bear reproof, especially from an equal or inferior. But it may be so introduced and softened in writing, as to make it far more tolerable. Besides, many will read the very same words, which they could not bear to hear. It does not give so violent a shock to their pride, nor so sensibly touch their honour. And suppose it makes little impression at first, they will perhaps give it a second reading, and upon farther consideration, lay to heart, what before they disregarded. If you add your name, this is nearly the same thing, as going to him, and speaking in person. And this should always be done, unless it be rendered improper by some very particular reason.

5. It should be well observed, not only that this is a step which our Lord absolutely commands us to take, but that he commands us to take this step first, before we attempt any other. No alternative is allowed, no choice of any thing else: this is the way; walk thou in it. It is true, he enjoins us, if need require, to take two other steps. But they are to be taken successively after this step, and neither of them before it. Much less are we to take any other step, either before, or beside this. To do any thing else, or not to do this, is therefore equally inexcusable.

6. Do not think to excuse yourself for taking an entirely different step, by saying, “Why, I did not speak to any one, ’till I was so burdened that I could not refrain.” You was burdened! It was no wonder you should; unless your conscience was seared. For you was under the guilt of sin, of disobeying a plain commandment of God. You ought immediately to have gone and told your brother of his fault between you and him alone. If you did not, how should you be other than burdened (unless your heart was utterly hardened) while you was trampling the command of God under foot, and hating your brother in your heart? And what a way have you found to unburden yourself? God reproves you for a sin of omission, for not telling your brother of his fault; and you comfort yourself under his reproof, by a sin of commission, by telling your brother’s fault to another person! Ease bought by sin is a dear purchase: I trust in God you will have no ease, but will be burdened so much the more, ’till you go to your brother, and tell him, and no one else.

7. I know but of one exception to this rule. There may be a peculiar case, wherein it is necessary to accuse the guilty tho’ absent, in order to preserve the innocent. For instance: you are acquainted with the design which a man has against the property or life of his neighbour. Now the case may be so circumstanced, that there is no other way of hindering that design from taking effect, but the making it known without delay, to him against whom it is laid. In this case therefore this rule is set aside, as is that of the apostle; Speak evil of no man: and it is lawful, yea it is our bounden duty, to speak evil of an absent person, in order to prevent his doing evil, to others and himself at the same time. But remember mean-while, that all evil-speaking is, in its own nature deadly poison. Therefore if you are sometimes constrained to use it as a medicine, yet use it with fear and trembling; seeing it is so dangerous a medicine, that nothing but absolute necessity can excuse your using it at all. Accordingly use it as seldom as possible; never but when there is such a necessity: and even then use as little of it as is possible; only so much as is necessary for the end proposed. At all other times, go and tell him of his fault, between thee and him alone.

II. 1. But what if he will not hear? If he repay evil for good? If he be enraged rather than convinced? What if he hear to no purpose, and go on still in the evil of his way? We must expect this will frequently be the case; the mildest and tenderest reproof, will have no effect, but the blessing we wished for another, will return into our own bosom. And what are we to do then? Our Lord has given us a clear and full direction. Then take with thee one or two more: This is the second step. Take one or two whom you know to be of a loving spirit, lovers of God and of their neighbour. See likewise that they be of a lowly spirit, and cloathed with humility. Let them also be such as are meek and gentle, patient and long-suffering; not apt to return evil for evil, or railing for railing, but contrariwise blessing. Let them be men of understanding, such as are endued with wisdom from above; and men unbiassed, free from partiality, free from prejudice of any kind. Care should likewise be taken, that both the persons and their characters be well-known to him. And let those that are acceptable to him be chosen, preferable to any others.

2. Love will dictate the manner wherein they should proceed, according to the nature of the case. Nor can any one particular manner be prescribed for all cases. But perhaps in general one might advise, before they enter upon the thing itself, let them mildly and affectionately declare, that they have no anger or prejudice toward him, and that it is merely from a principle of good-will, that they now come, or at all concern themselves with his affairs. To make this the more apparent, they might then calmly attend, to your repetition of your former conversation with him, and to what he said in his own defence, before they attempted to determine any thing. After this they would be better able to judge, in what manner to proceed, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word might be established: that whatever you have said, may have its full force, by the additional weight of their authority.

3. In order to this, may they not 1. Briefly repeat what you spoke, and what he answered? 2. Inlarge upon, open and confirm the reasons which you had given? 3. Give weight to your reproof, shewing how just, how kind, and how seasonable it was: and lastly, inforce the advices and persuasions which you had annext to it? And these may likewise hereafter, if need should require, bear witness of what was spoken.

4. With regard to this, as well as the preceding rule we may observe, That our Lord gives us no choice, leaves us no alternative, but expresly commands us, to do this, and nothing else in the place of it. He likewise directs us, When to do this? Neither sooner, or later. Namely, after we have taken the first, and before we have taken the third step. It is then only that we are authorized to relate the evil another has done, to those whom we desire to bare a part with us, in this great instance of brotherly love. But let us have a care, how we relate it to any other person, till both these steps have been taken. If we neglect to take these, or if we take any others, what wonder if we are burdened still? For we are sinners against God and against our neighbour. And how fairly soever we may colour it, yet if we have any conscience, our sin will find us out, and bring a burden upon our soul.

III. 1. That we may be throughly instructed in this weighty affair, our Lord has given us a still farther direction. If he will not hear them, then and not till then, tell it to the church. This is the third step. All the question is, How this word, the church, is here to be understood? But the very nature of the thing will determine this, beyond all reasonable doubt. You cannot tell it to the national church, the whole body of men termed the church of England. Neither would it answer any Christian end, if you could: this therefore is not the meaning of the word. Neither can you tell it to that whole body of people in England, with whom you have a more immediate connexion. Nor indeed would this answer any good end: the word therefore is not to be understood thus. It would not answer any valuable end, to tell the faults of every particular member, to the church (if you would so term it) the congregation or society united together in London. It remains that you tell it to the elder or elders of the church, to those who are overseers of that flock of Christ, to which you both belong, who watch over yours and his soul, as they that must give account. And this should be done, if it conveniently can, in the presence of the person concerned, and tho’ plainly, yet with all the tenderness and love, which the nature of the thing will admit. It properly belongs to their office, to determine concerning the behaviour of those under their care, and to rebuke according to the demerit of the offence, with all authority. When therefore you have done this, you have done all which the word of God, or the law of love requireth of you. You are not now partaker of his sin, but if he perish, his blood is on his own head.

2. Here also let it be observed, that this, and no other, is the third step which we are to take: and that we are to take it in its order, after the other two; not before the second, much less the first; unless in some very particular circumstance. Indeed in one case, the second step may co-incide with this: they may be, in a manner, one and the same. The elder or elders of the church, may be so connected with the offending brother, that they may set aside the necessity, and supply the place of the one or two witnesses. So that it may suffice to tell it to them, after you have told it to your brother, between you and him alone.

3. When you have done this, you have delivered your own soul. If he will not hear the church, if he persist in his sin, let him be to thee as an Heathen man and a Publican. You are under no obligation to think of him any more: only when you commend him to God in prayer. You need not speak of him any more, but leave him to his own master. Indeed you still owe to him, as to all other Heathens, earnest, tender good-will. You owe him courtesy, and as occasion offers, all the offices of humanity. But have no friendship, no familiarity with him; no other intercourse than with an open Heathen.

4. But if this be the rule by which Christians walk, which is the land where the Christians live? A few you may possibly find scattered up and down, who make a conscience of observing it. But how very few? How thinly scattered upon the face of the earth? And where is there any body of men, that universally walk thereby? Can we find them in Europe? Or, to go no farther, in Great Britain or Ireland? I fear not: I fear we may search these kingdoms throughout, and yet search in vain. Alas for the Christian world! Alas for Protestants, for reformed Christians! O who will rise up with me against the wicked? Who will take God’s part against the evil-speakers? Art thou the man? By the grace of God wilt thou be one, who art not carried away by the torrent? Art thou fully determined, God being thy helper, from this very hour, to set a watch, a continual watch before thy mouth, and keep the door of thy lips? From this hour wilt thou walk by this rule, speaking evil of no man? If thou seest thy brother do evil, wilt thou tell him of his fault between thee and him alone? Afterwards take one or two witnesses, and then only tell it to the church? If this be the full purpose of thy heart, then learn one lesson well. Hear evil of no man: if there were no hearers, there would be no speakers of evil. And is not (according to the vulgar proverb) the receiver as bad as the thief? If then any begin to speak evil in thy hearing, check him immediately. Refuse to hear the voice of the charmer, charm he never so sweetly: let him use ever so soft a manner, so mild an accent, ever so many professions of good-will, for him whom he is stabbing in the dark, whom he smiteth under the fifth rib. Resolutely refuse to hear, tho’ the whisperer complain of being burdened till he speak. Burdened! Thou fool, dost thou travail with thy cursed secret, as a woman travaileth with child? Go then and be delivered of thy burden, in the way the Lord hath ordained. First, Go and tell thy brother of his fault, between thee and him alone. Next, Take with thee one or two common friends, and tell him in their presence. If neither of these steps take effect, then tell it to the church. But at the peril of thy soul, tell it to no one else, either before or after. Unless in that one exempt case, when it is absolutely needful, to preserve the innocent. Why shouldst thou burden another as well as thyself, by making him partaker of thy sin?

5. *O that all you who bear the reproach of Christ, who are in derision called Methodists, would set an example to the Christian world, so called, at least in this one instance! Put ye away evil-speaking, tale-bearing, whispering: let none of them proceed out of your mouth. See that you speak evil of no man; of the absent nothing but good. If ye must be distinguished, whether ye will or no, let this be the distinguishing mark of a Methodist, “He censures no man behind his back: by this fruit ye may know him.” What a blessed effect of this self-denial should we quickly feel in our hearts? How would our peace flow as a river, when we thus followed peace with all men? How would the love of God abound in our own souls, while we thus confirmed our love to our brethren? And what an effect would it have on all that were united together in the name of the Lord Jesus? How would brotherly love continually increase, when this grand hindrance of it was removed? All the members of Christ’s mystical body would then naturally care for each other? If one member suffered, all would suffer with it; if one was honoured, all would rejoice with it: and every one would love his brother with a pure heart fervently. Nor is this all: but what an effect might this have, even on the wild, unthinking world? How soon would they descry in us, what they could not find among all the thousands of their brethren, and cry (as Julian the apostate to his Heathen courtiers) “See how these Christians love one another!” By this chiefly would God convince the world, and prepare them also for his kingdom: as we may easily learn from those remarkable words in our Lord’s last, solemn prayer. I pray for them who will believe in me, that they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee—That the world may believe that thou hast sent me! The Lord hasten the time! The Lord enable us, thus to love one another, not only in word and in tongue, but in deed and in truth, even as Christ hath loved us.


Luke xvi. 9.

I say unto you, make unto yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that when ye fail, they may receive you into the everlasting habitations.

1.OUR Lord having finished the beautiful parable of the prodigal son, which he had particularly addressed to those who murmured at his receiving Publicans and sinners, adds another relation of a different kind, addressed rather to the children of God. He said unto his disciples (ver. 1.) not so much to the Scribes and Pharisees, to whom he had been speaking before—There was a certain rich man, who had a steward, and he was accused to him of wasting his goods. And calling him he said, Give an account of thy stewardship, for thou canst be no longer steward, (ver. 2.) After reciting the method which the bad steward used, to provide against the day of necessity, our Saviour adds, His Lord commended the unjust steward, namely in this respect, that he used timely precaution, and subjoins this weighty reflection, The children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light. (ver. 8.) Those who seek no other portion than this world, are wiser, (not absolutely; for they are, one and all, the veryest fools, the most egregious madmen under heaven, but) in their generation, in their own way: they are more consistent with themselves, they are truer to their acknowledged principles, they more steadily pursue their end, than the children of light, than they who see the light of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ. Then follow the words above recited. And I—the only begotten Son of God, the Creator, Lord and possessor of heaven and earth and all that is therein: the judge of all, to whom ye are to give an account of your stewardship when ye can be no longer stewards—I say unto you, learn in this respect, even of the unjust steward, make yourselves friends, by wise timely precaution, of the mammon of unrighteousness. Mammon means riches or money. It is termed the mammon of unrighteousness, because of the unrighteous manner wherein it is frequently procured, and, wherein even that which was honestly procured, is generally employed. Make yourselves friends of this by doing all possible good, particularly to the children of God: that when ye fail, when ye return to dust, when ye have no more place under the sun, those of them who are gone before may receive you, may welcome you into the everlasting habitations.

2. An excellent branch of Christian wisdom here inculcated by our Lord on all his followers, namely, the right use of money; a subject largely spoken of, after their manner, by men of the world: but not sufficiently considered by those whom God hath chosen out of the world. These generally do not consider as the importance of the subject requires, the use of this excellent talent. Neither do they understand how to employ it to the greatest advantage; the introduction of which into the world, is one admirable instance of the wise and gracious providence of God. It has indeed been the manner of poets, orators and philosophers, in almost all ages and nations, to rail at this, as the grand corrupter of the world, the bane of virtue, the pest of human society. Hence nothing so commonly heard as,

Ferrum, Ferroq; nocentius aurum:

And “gold, more mischievous than keenest steel.” Hence the lamentable complaint

Effodiuntur opes, irritamenta malorum.

Nay, one celebrated writer gravely exhorts his countrymen, in order to banish all vice at once, to “throw all their money into the sea.”

In mare proximum,
Summi materiem mali!

But is not all this mere, empty rant? Is there any solid reason therein? By no means. For let the world be as corrupt as it will, is gold or silver to blame? The love of money, we know, is the root of all evil: but not the thing itself. The fault does not lie in the money, but in them that use it. It may be used ill: and what may not? But it may likewise be used well: it is full as applicable to the best, as to the worst uses. It is of unspeakable service to all civilized nations, in all the common affairs of life. It is a most compendious instrument, of transacting all manner of business, and (if we use it according to Christian wisdom) doing all manner of good. It is true, were man in a state of innocence, or were all men filled with the Holy Ghost, so that like the infant church at Jerusalem, no man counted any thing he had his own, but distribution was made to every one as he had need, the use of it would be superseded: as we cannot conceive there is any thing of the kind among the inhabitants of heaven. But in the present state of mankind, it is an excellent gift of God, answering the noblest ends. In the hands of his children, it is food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, raiment for the naked. It gives to the traveller and the stranger, where to lay his head. By it we may supply the place of an husband to the widow, and of a father to the fatherless. We may be a defence for the oppressed, a means of health to the sick, of ease to them that are in pain: it may be as eyes to the blind, as feet to the lame: yea, a lifter up from the gates of death.

‘word’ replaced with ‘world’

3. It is therefore of the highest concern, that all who fear God, know how to employ this valuable talent: that they be instructed, how it may answer these glorious ends, and in the highest degree. And perhaps all the instructions which are necessary for this, may be reduced to three plain rules, by the exact observance whereof, we may approve ourselves faithful stewards of the mammon of unrighteousness.

I. 1. The first of these is (he that heareth let him understand!) Gain all you can. Here we may speak like the children of the world: we meet them on their own ground. And it is our bounden duty to do this: we ought to gain all we can gain, without buying gold too dear, without paying more for it than it is worth. But this it is certain we ought not to do; we ought not to gain money at the expence of life: nor (which is in effect the same thing) at the expence of our health. Therefore no gain whatsoever should induce us to enter into, or to continue in any employ, which is of such a kind, or is attended with so hard or so long labour, as to impair our constitution. Neither should we begin or continue in any business, which necessarily deprives us of proper seasons, for food and sleep in such a proportion as our nature requires. Indeed there is a great difference here: some employments are absolutely and totally unhealthy: as those which imply the dealing much with arsenic, or other equally hurtful minerals: or the breathing an air tainted with streams of melting lead, which must at length destroy the firmest constitution. Others may not be absolutely unhealthy, but only to persons of a weak constitution. Such are those which require many hours to be spent in writing; especially if a person write sitting, and lean upon his stomach, or remain long in an uneasy posture. But whatever it is which reason or experience shews to be destructive of health or strength, that we may not submit to; seeing the life is more valuable than meat, and the body than raiment. And if we are already engaged in such an employ, we should exchange it as soon as possible, for some, which if it lessen our gain, will however not lessen our health.

2. We are secondly, to gain all we can, without hurting our mind any more than our body. For neither may we hurt this: we must preserve, at all events, the spirit of an healthful mind. Therefore we may not engage or continue in any sinful trade, any that is contrary to the law of God, or of our country. Such are all that necessarily imply our robbing or defrauding the king of his lawful customs. For it is at least as sinful, to defraud the king of his right, as to rob our fellow-subjects. And the king has full as much right to his customs, as we have to our houses and apparel. Other businesses there are, which however innocent in themselves, cannot be followed with innocence now: at least, not in England: such, for instance, as will not afford a competent maintenance, without cheating or lying, or conformity to some custom, which is not consistent with a good conscience. These likewise are sacredly to be avoided, whatever gain they may be attended with, provided we follow the custom of the trade. For, to gain money we must not lose our souls. There are yet others which many pursue with perfect innocence, without hurting either their body or mind. And yet perhaps you cannot; either they may entangle you in that company, which would destroy your soul: and by repeated experiments it may appear, that you cannot separate the one from the other: or there may be an idiosyncracy, a peculiarity in your constitution of soul (as there is in the bodily constitution of many) by reason whereof that employment is deadly to you, which another may safely follow. So I am convinced from many experiments, I could not study to any degree of perfection, either mathematics, arithmetic, or algebra, without being a Deist, if not an Atheist. And yet others may study them all their lives, without sustaining any inconvenience. None therefore can here determine for another, but every man must judge for himself, and abstain from whatever he in particular finds to be hurtful to his soul.

3. We are, thirdly, to gain all we can, without hurting our neighbour. But this we may not, cannot do, if we love our neighbour as ourselves. We cannot, if we love every one as ourselves, hurt any one in his substance. We cannot devour the increase of his lands, and perhaps the lands and houses themselves, by gaming, by over-grown bills (whether on account of physic, or law, or any thing else) or by requiring or taking such interest, as even the laws of our country forbid. Hereby all pawn-broking is excluded: seeing whatever good we might do thereby, all unprejudiced men see with grief, it is abundantly overballanced by the evil. And if it were otherwise, yet we are not allowed, to do evil that good may come. We cannot, consistent with brotherly love, sell our goods below the market-price. We cannot study to ruin our neighbour’s trade, in order to advance our own. Much less can we entice away, or receive any of his servants or workmen whom he has need of. None can gain, by swallowing up his neighbour’s substance, without gaining the damnation of hell.

4. Neither may we gain, by hurting our neighbour in his body. Therefore we may not sell any thing which tends to impair health. Such is eminently all that liquid fire, commonly called drams or spirituous liquors. It is true, these may have a place in medicine: they may be of use, in some bodily disorders: (altho’ there would rarely be occasion for them, were it not for the unskilfulness of the practitioner.) Therefore such as prepare and sell them only for this end, may keep their conscience clear. But who are they? Who prepare and sell them only for this end? Do you know ten such distillers in England? Then excuse these. *But all who sell them in the common way, to any that will buy, are poisoners-general. They murder his Majesty’s subjects by wholesale, neither does their eye pity or spare. They drive them to hell, like sheep: and what is their gain? Is it not the blood of these men? Who then would envy their large estates and sumptuous palaces? A curse is in the midst of them: the curse of God cleaves to the stones, the timber, the furniture of them. The curse of God is in their gardens, their walks, their groves; a fire that burns to the nethermost hell. Blood, blood is there: the foundation, the floor, the walls, the roof are stained with blood! And canst thou hope, O thou man of blood, tho’ thou art clothed in scarlet and fine linen, and farest sumptuously every day: canst thou hope to deliver down thy fields of blood, to the third generation? Not so; for there is a God in heaven: therefore thy name shall soon be rooted out. Like as those whom thou hast destroyed, body and soul, thy memorial shall perish with thee.

5. And are not they partakers of the same guilt, tho’ in a lower degree, whether surgeons, apothecaries or physicians, who play with the lives or health of men, to enlarge their own gain? Who purposely lengthen the pain or disease, which they are able to remove speedily? Who protract the cure of their patient’s body, in order to plunder his substance? Can any man be clear before God who does not shorten every disorder, as much as he can, and remove all sickness and pain, as soon as he can? He cannot: for nothing can be more clear, than that he does not love his neighbour as himself; than that he does not do unto others, as he would they should do unto himself.

6. This is dear-bought gain. And so is whatever is procured, by hurting our neighbour in his soul: by ministring, suppose, either directly or indirectly to his unchastity or intemperance; which certainly none can do, who has any fear of God, or any real desire of pleasing him. It nearly concerns all those to consider this, who have any thing to do with taverns, victualling-houses, opera-houses, play-houses, or any other places of public, fashionable diversion. If these profit the souls of men, you are clear; your employment is good, and your gain innocent. But if they are either sinful in themselves, or natural inlets to sin of various kinds, then it is to be feared, you have a sad account to make. O beware lest God say in that day, These have perished in their iniquity, but their blood do I require at thy hands!

7. These cautions and restrictions being observed, it is the bounden duty of all who are engaged in worldly business, to observe that first and great rule of Christian wisdom with respect to money, Gain all you can. Gain all you can by honest industry: use all possible diligence in your calling. Lose no time: if you understand yourself and your relation to God and man, you know you have none to spare. If you understand your particular calling as you ought, you will have no time that hangs upon your hands. Every business will afford some employment sufficient for every day and every hour. That wherein you are placed, if you follow it in earnest, will leave you no leisure for silly, unprofitable diversions. You have always something better to do, something that will profit you, more or less. And whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might. Do it as soon as possible: no delay! No putting off from day to day, or from hour to hour. Never leave any thing ’till to-morrow, which you can do to-day. And do it as well as possible. Do not sleep or yawn over it: put your whole strength to the work. Spare no pains. Let nothing be done by halves, or in a slight and careless manner. Let nothing in your business be left undone, if it can be done by labour or patience.

8. Gain all you can, by common sense, by using in your business all the understanding which God has given you. It is amazing to observe, how few do this: how men run on in the same dull track with their forefathers. But whatever they do who know not God, this is no rule for you. It is a shame for a Christian, not to improve upon them, in whatever he takes in hand. You should be continually learning, from the experience of others, or from your own experience, reading and reflection, to do every thing you have to do better to-day, than you did yesterday. And see that you practise whatever you learn, that you may make the best of all that is in your hands.

II. 1. Having gained all you can, by honest wisdom, and unwearied diligence, the second rule of Christian prudence is, Save all you can. Do not throw the precious talent into the sea: leave that folly to Heathen philosophers. Do not throw it away in idle expences, which is just the same as throwing it into the sea. Expend no part of it merely to gratify the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eye, or the pride of life.

2. Do not waste any part of so precious a talent, merely in gratifying the desires of the flesh; in procuring the pleasures of sense of whatever kind; particularly, in enlarging the pleasure of tasting. I do not mean, avoid gluttony and drunkenness only: an honest Heathen would condemn these. But there is a regular, reputable, kind of sensuality, an elegant epicurism, which does not immediately disorder the stomach, nor (sensibly at least) impair the understanding. And yet (to mention no other effects of it now) it cannot be maintained without considerable expence. Cut off all this expence: despise delicacy and variety, and be content with what plain nature requires.

3. Do not waste any part of so precious a talent, merely in gratifying the desire of the eye, by superfluous or expensive apparel, or by needless ornaments. Waste no part of it in curiously adorning your houses, in superfluous or expensive furniture: in costly pictures, painting, gilding, books: in elegant (rather than useful) gardens. Let your neighbours, who know nothing better, do this: Let the dead bury their dead. But what is that to thee, says our Lord? Follow thou me. Are you willing? Then you are able so to do.

4. Lay out nothing to gratify the pride of life, to gain the admiration or praise of men. This motive of expence is frequently interwoven with one or both of the former. Men are expensive in diet, or apparel or furniture, not barely to please their appetite, or to gratify their eye, their imagination, but their vanity too. So long as thou dost well unto thyself, men will speak good of thee. So long as thou art cloathed in purple and fine linen, and farest sumptuously every day, no doubt many will applaud thy elegance of taste, thy generosity and hospitality. But do not buy their applause so dear. Rather be content with the honour that cometh from God.

5. Who would expend any thing in gratifying these desires, if he considered, that to gratify them is to increase them? Nothing can be more certain than this: daily experience shews, the more they are indulged, they increase the more. Whenever therefore you expend any thing to please your taste or other senses, you pay so much for sensuality. When you lay out money to please your eye, you give so much for an increase of curiosity, for a stronger attachment to these pleasures, which perish in the using. While you are purchasing any thing which men use to applaud, you are purchasing more vanity. Had you not then enough of vanity, sensuality, curiosity before? Was there need of any addition? And would you pay for it too? What manner of wisdom is this? Would not the literally throwing your money into the sea, be a less mischievous folly?

6. *And why should you throw away money upon your children, any more than upon yourself, in delicate food, in gay or costly apparel, in superfluities of any kind? Why should you purchase for them, more pride or lust, more vanity, or foolish and hurtful desires? They do not want any more: they have enough already: nature has made ample provision for them. Why should you be at farther expence, to increase their temptations and snares, and to pierce them thro’ with more sorrows?

7. *Do not leave it to them, to throw away. If you have good reason to believe, they would waste what is now in your possession, in gratifying and thereby increasing, the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eye, or the pride of life; at the peril of theirs and your own soul, do not set these traps in their way. Do not offer your sons or your daughters unto Belial, any more than unto Moloch. Have pity upon them and remove out of their way, what you may easily foresee, would increase their sins, and consequently plunge them deeper into everlasting perdition. How amazing then is the infatuation of those parents, who think they can never leave their children enough? What! cannot you leave them enough of arrows, fire-brands, and death? Not enough of foolish and hurtful desires? Not enough of pride, lust, ambition, vanity? Not enough of everlasting burnings! Poor wretch! Thou fearest where no fear is. Surely both thou and they, when ye are lifting up your eyes in hell, will have enough both of the worm that never dieth, and of the fire that never shall be quenched.

‘were’ replaced with ‘where’

8. *“What then would you do, if you was in my case? If you had a considerable fortune to leave?” Whether I would do it, or no, I know what I ought to do: this will admit of no reasonable question. If I had one child, elder or younger, who knew the value of money, one who I believed would put it to the true use, I should think it my absolute, indispensable duty, to leave that child the bulk of my fortune; and to the rest just so much as would enable them to live in the manner they had been accustomed to do. “But what if all your children were equally ignorant of the true use of money?” I ought then (hard saying, who can hear it?) to give each what would keep him above want: and to bestow all the rest in such a manner as I judged would be most for the glory of God.

III. 1. But let not any man imagine, that he has done any thing, barely by going thus far, by gaining and saving all he can, if he were to stop here. All this is nothing, if a man go not forward, if he does not point all this at a farther end. Nor indeed can a man properly be said, to save any thing, if he only lays it up. You may as well throw your money into the sea, as bury it in the earth. And you may as well bury it in the earth, as in your chest, or in the Bank of England. Not to use, is effectually to throw it away. If therefore you would indeed make yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, add the third rule to the two preceding. Having first gained all you can, and secondly saved all you can, then give all you can.

2. *In order to see the ground and reason of this, consider, when the Possessor of heaven and earth brought you into being and placed you in this world, he placed you here not as a proprietor, but a steward. As such he intrusted you for a season with goods of various kinds. But the sole property of these still rests in him, nor can ever be alienated from him. As you yourself are not your own, but his, such is likewise all that you enjoy. Such is your soul, and your body, not your own, but God’s. And so is your substance in particular. And he has told you in the most clear and express terms, how you are to employ it for him, in such a manner, that it may be all an holy sacrifice, acceptable thro’ Christ Jesus. And this light, easy service he has promised to reward with an eternal weight of glory.

3. *The directions which God has given us, touching the use of our worldly substance, may be comprized in the following particulars. If you desire to be a faithful and a wise steward, out of that portion of your Lord’s goods, which he has for the present lodged in your hands, but with the right of resuming whenever it pleases him, first, provide things needful for yourself, food to eat, raiment to put on, whatever nature moderately requires, for preserving the body in health and strength: secondly, provide these for your wife, your children, your servants, or any others who pertain to your houshold. If when this is done, there be an overplus left, then do good to them that are of the houshold of faith. If there be an overplus still, as you have opportunity, do good unto all men. In so doing, you give all you can: nay, in a sound sense, all you have: for all that is laid out in this manner, is really given to God. You render unto God the things that are God’s, not only by what you give to the poor, but also by that which you expend in providing things needful for yourself and your houshold.

4. *If then a doubt should at any time arise in your mind, concerning what you are going to expend, either on yourself or any part of your family, you have an easy way to remove it. Calmly and seriously enquire, 1. In expending this, am I acting according to my character? Am I acting herein, not as a proprietor, but as a steward of my Lord’s goods? 2. Am I doing this in obedience to his word? In what scripture does he require me so to do? 3. Can I offer up this action, this expence, as a sacrifice to God thro’ Jesus Christ? 4. Have I reason to believe, that for this very work I shall have a reward at the resurrection of the just? You will seldom need any thing more to remove any doubt which arises on this head; but by this fourfold consideration you will receive clear light as to the way wherein you should go.

5. If any doubt still remain, you may farther examine yourself by prayer, according to those heads of enquiry. Try whether you can say to the Searcher of hearts, your conscience not condemning you, “Lord, thou seest, I am going to expend this sum, on that food, apparel, furniture. And thou knowest, I act therein with a single eye, as a steward of thy goods, expending this portion of them thus, in pursuance of the design thou hadst in intrusting me with them. Thou knowest I do this, in obedience to thy word, as thou commandest, and because thou commandest it. Let this, I beseech thee, be an holy sacrifice, acceptable thro’ Jesus Christ! And give me a witness in myself, that for this labour of love, I shall have a recompence, when thou rewardest every man according to his works.” Now if your conscience bear you witness in the Holy Ghost, that this prayer is well pleasing to God, then have you no reason to doubt, but that expence is right and good, and such as will never make you ashamed.

6. You see then what it is, to make yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, and by what means you may procure, that when ye fail they may receive you into the everlasting habitations. You see the nature and extent of truly Christian prudence, so far as it relates to the use of that great talent, money. Gain all you can, without hurting either yourself or your neighbour, in soul or body; by applying hereto with unintermitted diligence, and with all the understanding which God has given you. Save all you can, by cutting off every expence, which serves only to indulge foolish desire: to gratify either the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eye, or the pride of life. Waste nothing, living or dying, on sin or folly, whether for yourself or your children. And then Give all you can, or in other words give all you have to God. Do not stint yourself, like a Jew rather than a Christian to this or that proportion. Render unto God, not a tenth, not a third, not half; but all that is God’s, be it more or less: by employing all, on yourself, your houshold, the houshold of faith and all mankind, in such a manner, that you may give a good account of your stewardship, when ye can be no longer stewards: in such a manner as the oracles of God direct, both by general and particular precepts: in such a manner, that whatever ye do may be a sacrifice of a sweet-smelling savour to God; and that every act may be rewarded in that day, when the Lord cometh with all his saints.

removed unneeded word ‘your’

‘houshould’ replaced with ‘houshold’

7. Brethren, can we be either wise or faithful stewards, unless we thus manage our Lord’s goods? We cannot; as not only the oracles of God, but our own conscience beareth witness. Then why should we delay? Why should we confer any longer with flesh and blood, or men of the world? Our kingdom, our wisdom is not of this world: Heathen custom is nothing to us. We follow no men any farther, than they are followers of Christ. Hear ye him: yea, to-day, while it is called to-day, hear and obey his voice. At this hour and from this hour, do his will: fulfil his word, in this and in all things. I intreat you, in the name of the Lord Jesus, act up to the dignity of your calling. No more sloth! Whatsoever your hand findeth to do, do it with your might. No more waste! Cut off every expence which fashion, caprice, or flesh and blood demand. No more covetousness! But employ whatever God has intrusted you with, in doing good, all possible good, in every possible kind and degree, to the houshold of faith, to all men. This is no small part of the wisdom of the just: give all ye have, as well as all ye are, a spiritual sacrifice to him, who with-held not from you his Son, his only Son: so laying up in store for yourselves a good foundation against the time to come, that ye may attain eternal life.


LUKE xvi. 2.

Give an account of thy stewardship; for thou canst be no longer steward.

1.THE relation which man bears to God, the creature to his Creator, is exhibited to us in the oracles of God under various representations. Considered as a sinner, a fallen creature, he is there represented as a debtor to his Creator. He is also frequently represented as a servant, which indeed is essential to him as a creature: insomuch that this appellation is given to the Son of God when in his state of humiliation: he took upon him the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men.

2. But no character more exactly agrees with the present state of man than that of a steward. Our blessed Lord frequently represents him as such; and there is a peculiar propriety in the representation. It is only in one particular respect, namely, as he is a sinner, that he is stiled a debtor. And when he is stiled a servant, the appellation is general and indeterminate. But a steward is a servant of a particular kind: such a one as man is in all respects. This appellation is exactly expressive of his situation in the present world; specifying what kind of servant he is to God, and what kind of service his divine Master expects from him.

It may be of use then to consider this point throughly, and to make our full improvement of it. In order to this, let us, first, inquire, in what respects we are now God’s stewards. Let us, secondly, observe, that when he requires our souls of us, we can be no longer stewards. It will then only remain, as we may in the third place, observe, to give an account of our stewardship.

I. 1. And first, we are to enquire, in what respects we are now God’s stewards. We are now indebted to him for all we have; but although a debtor is obliged to return what he has received, yet until the time of payment comes, he is at liberty to use it as he pleases. It is not so with a steward; he is not at liberty to use what is lodged in his hands, as he pleases, but as his master pleases. He has no right to dispose of any thing which is in his hands, but according to the will of his Lord. For he is not the proprietor of any of these things, but barely intrusted with them by another: and intrusted on this express condition, that he shall dispose of all as his master orders. Now this is exactly the case of every man, with relation to God. We are not at liberty to use what he has lodged in our hands, as we please, but as he pleases who alone is the possessor of heaven and earth, and the Lord of every creature. We have no right to dispose of any thing we have, but according to his will, seeing we are not proprietors of any of these things: they are all, as our Lord speaks, ἀλλότρια, belonging to another person; nor is any thing properly our own, in the land of our pilgrimage. We shall not receive τὰ ἵδια our own things, ’till we come to our own country. Eternal things only are our own: with all these temporal things we are barely intrusted by another; the Disposer and Lord of all. And he intrusts us with them on this express condition, that we use them only as our master’s goods, and according to the particular directions, which he has given us in his word.

2. On this condition he hath intrusted us with our souls, our bodies, our goods, and whatever other talents we have received. But in order to impress this weighty truth on our hearts, it will be needful to come to particulars.

And first, God has intrusted us with our soul, an immortal spirit, made in the image of God, together with all the powers and faculties thereof, understanding, imagination, memory; will, and a train of affections, either included in it, or closely dependent upon it; love and hatred, joy and sorrow, respecting present good and evil; desire and aversion, hope and fear, respecting that which is to come. All these St. Paul seems to include in two words, when he says, The peace of God shall keep your hearts and minds. Perhaps indeed the latter word, νοήματα, might rather be rendered thoughts: provided we take that word in its most extensive sense, for every perception of the mind, whether active or passive.

3. Now of all these, it is certain, we are only stewards. God has intrusted us with these powers and faculties, not that we may employ them according to our own will, but according to the express orders which he has given us: (although it is true, that in doing his will, we most effectually secure our own happiness, seeing it is herein only that we can be happy, either in time, or in eternity.) Thus, we are to use our understanding, our imagination, our memory, wholly to the glory of him that gave them. Thus our will is to be wholly given up to him, and all our affections to be regulated as he directs. We are to love and hate, to rejoice and grieve, to desire and shun, to hope and fear, according to the rule which he prescribes, whose we are, and whom we are to serve in all things. Even our thoughts are not our own in this sense: they are not at our own disposal: but for every deliberate motion of our mind, we are accountable to our great Master.

4. God has, secondly, intrusted us with our bodies, (those exquisitely wrought machines, so fearfully and wonderfully made) with all the powers and members thereof. He has intrusted us with the organs of sense, of sight, hearing, and the rest: but none of these are given us as our own, to be employed according to our own will. None of these are lent us in such a sense, as to leave us at liberty to use them as we please for a season. No: we have received them on these very terms, that as long as they abide with us, we should employ them all, in that very manner, and no other which he appoints.

5. It is on the same terms, that he imparted to us that most excellent talent of speech. Thou hast given me a tongue, says the antient writer, that I may praise thee therewith. For this purpose was it given to all the children of men, to be employed in glorifying God. Nothing therefore is more ungrateful, or more absurd, than to think or say, our tongues are our own. That cannot be, unless we have created ourselves, and so are independent on the Most High. Nay, but it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves. The manifest consequence is, that he is still Lord over us, in this, as in all other respects. It follows, that there is not a word of our tongue, for which we are not accountable to him.

6. To him we are equally accountable for the use of our hands and feet, and all the members of our body. These are so many talents which are committed to our trust, until the time appointed by the Father. Until then, we have the use of all these; but as stewards, not as proprietors; to the end, we should render them not as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin, but as instruments of righteousness unto God.

7. God has intrusted us, thirdly, with a portion of worldly goods, with food to eat, raiment to put on, and a place where to lay our head, with not only the necessaries, but the conveniencies of life. Above all, he has committed to our charge that precious talent, which contains all the rest, money: indeed it is unspeakably precious, if we are wise and faithful stewards of it: if we employ every part of it for such purposes as our blessed Lord has commanded us to do.

8. God has intrusted us, fourthly, with several talents, which do not properly come under any of these heads: such is bodily strength: such are health, a pleasing person, an agreeable address: such are learning and knowledge in their various degrees, with all the other advantages of education. Such is the influence which we have over others, whether by their love and esteem of us, or by power: power to do them good or hurt, to help or hinder them in the circumstances of life. Add to these that invaluable talent of time, with which God intrusts us from moment to moment. Add, lastly, that on which all the rest depend, and without which they would all be curses, not blessings: namely, the grace of God, the power of his holy Spirit, which alone worketh in us all that is acceptable in his sight.

II. 1. *In so many respects are the children of men, stewards of the Lord, the Possessor of heaven and earth. So large a portion of his goods, of various kinds, hath he committed to their charge. But it is not for ever, nor indeed for any considerable time. We have this trust reposed in us, only during the short, uncertain space that we sojourn here below: only so long as we remain on earth, as this fleeting breath is in our nostrils. The hour is swiftly approaching, it is just at hand, when we can be no longer stewards. The moment the body returns to the dust as it was, and the spirit to God that gave it, we bear that character no more; the time of our stewardship is at an end. Part of those goods wherewith we were before intrusted, are now come to an end: at least, they are so with regard to us: nor are we longer intrusted with them: and that part which remains, can no longer be employed or improved as it was before.

2. *Part of what we were intrusted with before, is at an end, at least with regard to us. What have we to do, after this life, with food, and raiment, and houses, and earthly possessions? The food of the dead is the dust of the earth: they are cloathed only with worms and rottenness. They dwell in the house prepared for all flesh: their lands know them no more. All their worldly goods are delivered into other hands, and they have no more portion under the sun.

3. The case is the same with regard to the body. The moment the spirit returns to God, we are no longer stewards of this machine, which is then sown in corruption and dishonour. All the parts and members of which it was composed, lie mouldering in the clay. The hands have no longer power to move; the feet have forgot their office; the flesh, sinews, the bones, are all hasting to be dissolved into common dust.

4. Here end also the talents of a mixt nature, our strength; our health; our beauty; our eloquence, and address; our faculty of pleasing, of persuading, or convincing others. Here end likewise all the honours we once enjoyed, all the power which was lodged in our hands, all the influence which we once had over others, either by the love or the esteem which they bore us. Our love, our hatred, our desire is perished: none regard how we were once affected toward them. They look upon the dead as neither able to help nor hurt them; so that a living dog is better than a dead lion.

5. *Perhaps a doubt may remain concerning some of the other talents wherewith we are now intrusted, whether they will cease to exist when the body returns to dust, or only cease to be improvable. Indeed there is no doubt, but the kind of speech which we now use, by means of these bodily organs, will then be intirely at an end, when those organs are destroyed. It is certain the tongue will no more occasion any vibrations in the air: neither will the ear convey these tremulous motions to the common sensory. Even the sonus exilis, the low, shrill voice, which the poet supposes to belong to a separate spirit, we cannot allow to have a real being; it is a mere flight of imagination. Indeed it cannot be questioned, but separate spirits have some way to communicate their sentiments to each other: but what inhabitant of flesh and blood can explain that way? What we term speech, they cannot have. So that we can no longer be steward of this talent, when we are numbered with the dead.

6. *It may likewise admit of a doubt, whether our senses will exist, when the organs of sense are destroyed. Is it not probable, that those of the lower kind will cease; the feeling, the smell, the taste, as they have a more immediate reference to the body, and are chiefly, if not wholly intended for the preservation of it? But will not some kind of sight remain, although the eye be closed in death? And will there not be something in the soul, equivalent to the present sense of hearing? Nay, is it not probable, that these will not only exist in the separate state, but exist in a far greater degree, in a more eminent manner than now! When the soul, disintangled from its clay, is no longer.

“A dying sparkle in a cloudy place;

when it no longer

Looks thro’ the windows of the eye and ear.”

But rather is all eye, all ear, all sense, in a manner we cannot yet conceive. And have we not a clear proof of the possibility of this, of seeing without the use of the eye, and hearing without the use of the ear? Yea, and an earnest of it continually? For does not the soul see, in the clearest manner, when the eye is of no use, namely, in dreams? Does she not then enjoy the faculty of hearing, without any help from the ear? But however this be, certain it is, that neither will our senses, any more than our speech, be intrusted to us in the manner they are now, when the body lies in the silent grave.

7. *How far the knowledge or learning which we have gained by education will then remain, we cannot tell. Solomon indeed says, There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave whither thou goest. But it is evident, these words cannot be understood in an absolute sense. For it is so far from being true, that there is no knowledge after we have quitted the body, that the doubt lies on the other side, whether there be any such thing as real knowledge till then? Whether it be not a plain sober truth, not a mere poetical fiction,

That “all these shadows which for things we take,

Are but the empty dreams, which in death’s sleep we make”?

Only excepting those things which God himself has been pleased to reveal to man. I will speak for one: after having sought for truth with some diligence for half a century, I am at this day hardly sure of any thing, but what I learn from the bible. Nay, I positively affirm, I know nothing else so certainly, that I would dare to stake my salvation upon it.

So much however we may learn from Solomon’s words, that that there is no such knowledge or wisdom in the grave, as will be of any use to an unhappy spirit; there is no device there, whereby he can now improve those talents, with which he was once intrusted. For time is no more: the time of our trial for everlasting happiness or misery is past. Our day, the day of man, is over; the day of salvation is ended. Nothing now remains but the day of the Lord, ushering in, wide, unchangeable eternity.

8. But still our souls, being incorruptible and immortal, of a nature little lower than the angels, (even if we are to understand that phrase of our original nature, which may well admit of a doubt) when our bodies are mouldered into earth, will remain with all their faculties. Our memory, our understanding will be so far from being destroyed, yea, or impaired by the dissolution of the body, that on the contrary, we have reason to believe, they will be inconceivably strengthened. Have we not the clearest reason to believe, that they will then be wholly freed from those defects, which now naturally result from the union of the soul with the corruptible body? It is highly probable, that from the time these are disunited, our memory will let nothing slip: yea, that it will faithfully exhibit every thing to our view, which was ever committed to it. It is true, that the invisible world is in scripture termed the land of forgetfulness; or as it is still more strongly expressed in the old translation, the land where all things are forgotten. They are forgotten; but by whom? Not by the inhabitants of that land, but by the inhabitants of the earth. It is with regard to them that the unseen world is the land of forgetfulness. All things therein are too frequently forgotten by these; but not by disembodied spirits. From the time they have put off the earthly tabernacle, we can hardly think they forget any thing.

‘strengthned’ replaced with ‘strengthened’

9. *In like manner the understanding will doubtless be freed, from the defects that are now inseparable from it. For many ages it has been an unquestioned maxim, Humanum est errare & nescire: Ignorance and mistake are inseparable from human nature. But the whole of this assertion is only true, with regard to living men, and holds no longer, than while the corruptible body presses down the soul. Ignorance indeed belongs to every finite understanding, seeing there is none beside God that knoweth all things: but not mistake. When the body is laid aside, this also is laid aside for ever.

10. What then can we say of an ingenious man, who has lately made a discovery, that disembodied spirits have not only no senses (not even in sight or hearing) but no memory or understanding, no thought or perception, not so much as a consciousness of their own existence? That they are in a dead sleep from death to the resurrection? Consanguineus lethi sopor indeed! Such a sleep we may well call a near kinsman of death, if it be not the same thing. What can we say, but that ingenious men have strange dreams: and these they sometimes mistake for realities.

11. But to return. As the soul will retain its understanding and memory, notwithstanding the dissolution of the body, so undoubtedly the will, including all the affections, will remain in its full vigour. If our love or anger, our hope or desire perish, it is only with regard to those whom we leave behind. To them it matters not, whether they were the objects of our love or hate, of our desire or aversion. But in separate spirits themselves, we have no reason to believe, that any of these are extinguished. It is more probable, that they work with far greater force, than while the soul was clogged with flesh and blood.

12. But although all these, although both our knowledge and senses, our memory and understanding, together with our will, our love, hate, and all our affections, remain after the body is dropt off, yet in this respect they are as though they were not, we are no longer stewards of them. The things continue, but our stewardship does not: we no more act in that capacity. Even the grace which was formerly intrusted with us, in order to enable us to be faithful and wise stewards, is now no longer intrusted for that purpose. The days of our stewardship are ended.

III. 2. It now remains, that being no longer stewards, we give an account of our stewardship. Some have imagined, this is to be done immediately after death, as soon as we enter into the world of spirits. Nay, the church of Rome does absolutely assert this; yea, makes it an article of faith. And thus much we may allow, the moment a soul drops the body, and stands naked before God, it cannot but know what its portion will be to all eternity. It will have full in its view, either everlasting joy, or everlasting torment: as it is no longer possible for us to be deceived, in the judgment which we pass upon ourselves. But the scripture gives us no reason to believe, that God will then sit in judgment upon us. There is no passage in all the oracles of God, which affirms any such thing. That which has been frequently alledged for this purpose, seems rather to prove the contrary: namely, (Heb. ix. 27.) It is appointed for men once to die, and after this, the judgment. For in all reason, the word once is here to be applied, to judgment as well as death. So that the fair inference to be drawn from this very text, is, not that there are two judgments, a particular and a general: but that we are to be judged as well as to die, once only: not once immediately after death, and again after the general resurrection; but then only when the Son of Man shall come in his glory, and all his holy angels with him. The imagination therefore of one judgment at death, and another at the end of the world, can have no place with those who make the written word of God, the whole and sole standard of their faith.

2. The time then when we are to give this account, is when the great white throne comes down from heaven, and he that sitteth thereon, from whose face the heavens and the earth flee away, and there is found no place for them. It is then the dead, small and great, will stand before God: and the books will be opened; the book of scripture, to them who were entrusted therewith, the book of conscience to all mankind. The book of remembrance likewise, (to use another scriptural expression) which had been written from the foundation of the world, will then be laid open to the view of all the children of men. Before all these, even the whole human race, before the devil and his angels, before an innumerable company of holy angels, and before God, the Judge of all: thou wilt appear, without any shelter or covering, without any possibility of disguise, to give a particular account of the manner wherein thou hast employed all thy Lord’s goods.

3. The judge of all will then enquire, “How didst thou employ thy soul? I intrusted thee with an immortal spirit, endowed with various powers and faculties, with understanding, imagination, memory, will, affections. I gave thee withal full and express directions, how all these were to be employed. Didst thou employ thy understanding, as far as it was capable, according to those directions, namely, in the knowledge of thyself and me? My nature, my attributes? My works, whether of creation, of providence, or of grace? In acquainting thyself with my word? In using every means to increase thy knowledge thereof? In meditating thereon day and night? Didst thou employ thy memory according to my will? In treasuring up whatever knowledge thou hadst acquired, which might conduce to my glory, to thy own salvation, or the advantage of others? Didst thou store up therein, not things of no value, but whatever instruction thou hadst learned from my word: and whatever experience thou hadst gained, of my wisdom, truth, power, and mercy? Was thy imagination employed, not in painting vain images, much less such as nourished foolish and hurtful desires, but in representing to thee whatever would profit thy soul, and awaken thy pursuit of wisdom and holiness? Didst thou follow my directions with regard to thy will? Was it wholly given up to me? Was it swallowed up in mine, so as never to oppose, but always run parallel with it? Were thy affections placed and regulated in such a manner, as I appointed in my word? Didst thou give me thy heart? Didst thou not love the world, neither the things of the world? Was I the object of thy love? Was all thy desire unto me, and unto the remembrance of my name? Was I the joy of thy heart, the delight of thy soul, the chief among ten thousand? Didst thou sorrow for nothing but what grieved my Spirit? Didst thou fear and hate nothing but sin? Did the whole stream of thy affections flow back to the ocean from whence they came? Were thy thoughts employed according to my will? Not in ranging to the ends of the earth, not on folly, or sin: but on whatsoever things were pure, whatsoever things were holy, on whatsoever was conducive to my glory, and to peace and good-will among men?”

4. The Lord will then inquire, “How didst thou employ the body wherewith I intrusted thee? I gave thee a tongue, to praise me therewith: didst thou use it to the end for which it was given? Didst thou employ it, not in evil-speaking or idle-speaking, not in uncharitable or unprofitable conversation: but in such as was good, as was necessary or useful, either to thyself or others? Such as always tended, directly or indirectly, to minister grace to the hearers? I gave thee, together with thy other senses, those grand avenues of knowledge, sight and hearing: were these employed to those excellent purposes for which they were bestowed upon thee? In bringing thee in more and more instruction in righteousness and true holiness? I gave thee hands and feet and various members wherewith to perform the works which were prepared for thee: were they employed, not in doing the will of the flesh, of thy evil nature, or the will of the mind, (the things to which thy reason or fancy led thee,) but the will of him that sent thee into the world, merely to work out thy own salvation? Didst thou present all thy members, not to sin, as instruments of unrighteousness, but to me alone, through the Son of my love, as instruments of righteousness?”

5. The Lord of all will next enquire, “How didst thou employ the worldly goods which I lodged in thy hands? Didst thou use thy food, not so as to seek or place thy happiness therein, but so as to preserve the body in health, in strength, and vigour, a fit instrument for the soul? Didst thou use apparel, not to nourish pride or vanity, much less to tempt others to sin, but conveniently and decently to defend thyself from the injuries of the weather? Didst thou prepare and use thy house and all other conveniencies, with a single eye to my glory? In every point seeking not thy own honour, but mine: studying to please not thyself, but me? Once more: in what manner didst thou employ that comprehensive talent money? Not in gratifying the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eye, or the pride of life? Not squandering it away in vain expences, the same as throwing it into the sea? Not hoarding it up to leave behind thee, the same as burying it in the earth? But first supplying thy own reasonable wants, together with those of thy family: then restoring the remainder to me, through the poor, whom I had appointed to receive it: looking upon thyself as only one of that number of poor, whose wants were to be supplied out of that part of my substance, which I had placed in thy hands for this purpose: leaving thee the right of being supplied first, and the blessedness of giving rather than receiving? Wast thou accordingly a general benefactor to mankind? Feeding the hungry, cloathing the naked, comforting the sick, assisting the stranger, relieving the afflicted, according to their various necessities? Wast thou eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame? A father to the fatherless, and an husband to the widow? And didst thou labour to improve all outward works of mercy, as means of saving souls from death?”

‘hungery’ replaced with ‘hungry’

6. Thy Lord will farther enquire, “Hast thou been a wise and faithful steward, with regard to the talents of a mixt nature which I lent thee? Didst thou employ thy health and strength, not in folly or sin, not in the pleasures which perished in the using, not in making provision for the flesh, to fulfil the desires thereof, but in a vigorous pursuit of that better part, which none could take away from thee? Didst thou employ whatever was pleasing in thy person or address, whatever advantages thou hadst by education, whatever share of learning, whatever knowledge of things or men was committed to thee, for the promoting of virtue in the world, for the enlargement of my kingdom? Didst thou employ whatever share of power thou hadst, whatever influence over others, by the love or esteem of thee which they had conceived, for the increase of their wisdom and holiness? Didst thou employ that inestimable talent of time, with wariness and circumspection, as duly weighing the value of every moment, and knowing that all were numbered in eternity? Above all, wast thou a good steward of my grace, preventing, accompanying, and following thee? Did thou duly observe and carefully improve all the influences of my Spirit? Every good desire? Every measure of light? All his sharp or gentle reproofs? How didst thou profit by the Spirit of Bondage and fear, which was previous to the Spirit of Adoption? And when thou wast made a partaker of this Spirit, crying in thy heart, Abba, Father, didst thou stand fast in the glorious liberty wherewith I made thee free? Didst thou from thenceforth present thy soul and body, all thy thoughts, thy words and actions, in one flame of love, as an holy sacrifice, glorifying me with thy body and thy spirit? Then well-done, good and faithful servant! Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord!” And what will remain, either to the faithful or unfaithful steward? Nothing but the execution of that sentence, which has been passed by the righteous Judge; fixing thee in a state which admits of no change, through everlasting ages. It remains only, that thou be rewarded to all eternity, according to thy works.

‘faarther’ replaced with ‘farther’

IV. 1. From these plain considerations we may learn, first, How important is this short, uncertain day of life! How precious, above all utterance, above all conception, is every portion of it!

“The least of these a serious care demands;

For tho’ they’re little, they are golden sands!”

How deeply does it concern every child of man, to let none of these run to waste; but to improve them all to the noblest purposes, as long as the breath of God is in his nostrils!

2. We learn from hence, secondly, that there is no employment of our time, no action or conversation that is purely indifferent. All is good or bad, because all our time, as every thing we have, is not our own. All these are, as our Lord speaks, τὰ ἀλλότρια, the property of another; of God, our Creator. Now these either are, or are not employed, according to his will. If they are so employed, all is good; if they are not, all is evil. Again: it is his will, that we should continually grow in grace, and in the living knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Consequently, every thought, word, and work whereby this knowledge is increased, whereby we grow in grace, is good: and every one whereby this knowledge is not increased, is truly and properly evil.

3. We learn from hence, thirdly, that there are no works of supererogation; that we can never do more than our duty: seeing all we have is not our own, but God’s, all we can do is due to him. We have not received this or that, or many things only, but every thing from him: therefore every thing is his due. He that gives us all, must needs have a right to all. So that if we pay him any thing less than all, we cannot be faithful stewards. And considering every man shall receive his own reward, according to his own labour, we cannot be wise stewards, unless we labour to the uttermost of our power: not leaving any thing undone, which we possibly can do, but putting forth all our strength.

4. Brethren, Who is an understanding man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him shew the wisdom from above; by walking suitably to his character. If he so account of himself, as a steward of the manifold gifts of God, let him see that all his thoughts, and words, and works be agreeable to the post God has assigned him. It is no small thing, to lay out for God all which you have received from God. It requires all your wisdom, all your resolution, all your patience and constancy: far more than ever you had by nature: but not more than you may have by grace. For his grace is sufficient for you, and all things, you know, are possible to him that believeth. By faith then, put on the Lord Jesus Christ; put on the whole armour of God, and you shall be enabled to glorify him in all your words and works, yea, to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.


May 14, 1768.


¹ Preached before the Society for Reformation of Manners, on Sunday, January 30, 1763, at the Chappel in West-street, Seven Dials.

Psalm xciv. 16.

Who will rise up with me against the wicked?

1.IN all ages, men who neither feared God nor regarded man, have combined together and formed confederacies, to carry on the works of darkness. And herein they have shewn themselves wise in their generation; for by this means they more effectually promoted the kingdom of their father, the devil, than otherwise they could have done. On the other hand, men who did fear God and desire the happiness of their fellow-creatures, have in every age found it needful to join together, in order to oppose the works of darkness, to spread the knowledge of God their Saviour, and to promote his kingdom upon earth. Indeed he himself has instructed them so to do. From the time that men were upon the earth, he hath taught them to join together in his service, and has united them in one body by one spirit. And for this very end he has joined them together, that he might destroy the works of the devil, first in them that are already united, and by them in all that are round about them.

2. This is the original design of the church of Christ. It is a body of men compacted together, in order first, to save each his own soul, then to assist each other in working out their salvation, and afterwards as far as in them lies, to save all men from present and future misery, to overturn the kingdom of Satan, and set up the kingdom of Christ. And this ought to be the continued care and endeavour of every member of his church. Otherwise he is not worthy to be called a member thereof, as he is not a living member of Christ.

3. Accordingly this ought to be the constant care and endeavour of all those, who are united together in these kingdoms, and are commonly called The Church of England. They are united together for this very end, to oppose the devil and all his works, and to wage war against the world and the flesh, his constant and faithful allies. But do they in fact answer the end of their union? Are all who stile themselves “members of the church of England” heartily engaged in opposing the works of the devil, and fighting against the world and the flesh? Alas, we cannot say this. So far from it, that a great part, I fear, the greater part of them, are themselves the world, the people that know not God, to any saving purpose: are indulging, day by day, instead of mortifying the flesh, with its affections and desires; and doing themselves those works of the devil, which they are peculiarly engaged to destroy.

4. There is therefore still need, even in this Christian country (as we courteously stile Great Britain) yea, in this Christian church (if we may give that title to the bulk of our nation) of some to rise up against the wicked, and join together against the evil-doers. Nay, there was never more need than there is at this day, for them that fear the Lord, to speak often together, on this very head, how they may lift up a standard against the iniquity which overflows the land. There is abundant cause for all the servants of God, to join together against the works of the devil, with united hearts and counsels and endeavours, to make a stand for God, and to repress, as much as in them lies, these floods of ungodliness.

5. For this end a few persons in London, towards the close of the last century, united together, and after awhile were termed, “The Society for Reformation of Manners.” And incredible good was done by them, for near forty years. But then most of the original members, being gone to their reward, those who succeeded them grew faint in their mind, and departed from the work. So that a few years ago the society ceased, nor did any of the kind remain in the kingdom.

6. It is a society of the same nature, which has been lately formed. I purpose to shew, first, The nature of their design, and the steps they have hitherto taken; 2. The excellency of it, with the various objections which have been raised against it; 3. What manner of men they ought to be, who engage in such a design; and 4. With what spirit and in what manner they should proceed in the prosecution of it. I shall conclude with an application both to them, and to all that fear God.

I. 1. I am, first, to shew the nature of their design and the steps they have hitherto taken.

It was on a Lord’s day in August 1757, that in a small company, who were met for prayer and religious conversation, mention was made of the gross and open profanation of that sacred day, by persons buying and selling, keeping open shop, tippling in ale-houses, and standing or sitting in the streets, roads or fields, vending their wares as on common days: especially in Moorfields, which was then full of them every Sunday, from one end to the other. It was considered, what method could be taken, to redress these grievances? And it was agreed, that six of them should in the morning wait upon Sir John Fielding for instruction. They did so. He approved of the design, and directed them how to carry it into execution.

2. They first delivered petitions to the Right Honourable the Lord Mayor and the court of Aldermen, to the Justices sitting at Hick’s-Hall, and those in Westminster-Hall. And they received from all these honourable benches much encouragement to proceed.

3. It was next judged proper, to signify their design to many persons of eminent rank, and to the body of the clergy, as well as the ministers of other denominations, belonging to the several churches and meetings, in and about the cities of London and Westminster. And they had the satisfaction to meet with an hearty consent and universal approbation from them.

4. They then printed and dispersed, at their own expence, several thousand books of instruction, to constables and other parish-officers, explaining and inforcing their several duties. And to prevent, as far as possible, the necessity of proceeding to an actual execution of the laws, they likewise printed and dispersed, in all parts of the town, dissuasives from sabbath-breaking, extracts from acts of parliament against it, and notices to the offenders.

5. The way being paved by these precautions, it was in the beginning of the year 1758, that after notices delivered again and again, which were as often set at nought, actual informations were made to magistrates, against persons profaning the Lord’s day. By this means they first cleared the streets and fields, of those notorious offenders, who without any regard either to God or the King, were selling their wares from morning to night. They proceeded to a more difficult attempt, the preventing tippling on the Lord’s day, spending the time in ale-houses which ought to be spent in the more immediate worship of God. Herein they were exposed to abundance of reproach, to insult and abuse of every kind: having not only the tipplers and those who entertained them, the ale-house-keepers, to contend with, but rich and honourable men, partly the landlords of those ale-house-keepers, partly those who furnished them with drink, and in general all who gained by their sins. Some of these were not only men of substance, but men of authority; nay, in more instances than one, they were the very persons before whom the delinquents were brought. And the treatment they gave those who laid the informations, naturally encouraged the beasts of the people, to follow their example, and to use them as fellows not fit to live upon the earth. Hence they made no scruple, not only to treat them with the basest language, not only to throw at them mud or stones or whatever came to hand, but many times to beat them without mercy, and to drag them over the stones, or through the kennels. And that they did not murder them, was not for want of will; but the bridle was in their teeth.

6. Having therefore received help from God, they went on to restrain Bakers likewise, from spending so great a part of the Lord’s day, in exercising the works of their calling. But many of these were more noble than the victuallers. They were so far from resenting this, or looking upon it as an affront, that several who had been hurried down the stream of custom, to act contrary to their own conscience, sincerely thanked them for their labour and acknowledged it as a real kindness.

7. In clearing the streets, fields and ale-houses of sabbath-breakers, they fell upon another sort of offenders as mischievous to society as any, namely, Gamesters of various kinds. Some of these were of the lowest and vilest class, commonly called gamblers, who make a trade of seizing on young, and unexperienced men, and tricking them out of all their money. And after they have beggared them, they frequently teach them the same mystery of iniquity. Several nests of these they have rooted out, and constrained not a few of them, honestly to earn their bread by the sweat of their brow, and the labour of their hands.

8. Increasing in number and strength, they extended their views, and began not only to repress profane swearing, but to remove out of our streets, another public nuisance and scandal of the Christian name, common prostitutes. Many of these were stopped in their mid career of audacious wickedness. And in order to go to the root of the disease, many of the houses that entertained them, have been detected, prosecuted according to law, and totally suppressed. And some of the poor, desolate women themselves, tho’ fallen to

“The lowest line of human infamy”

have acknowledged the gracious providence of God, and broke off their sins by lasting repentance. Several of these have been placed out, and several received into the Magdalen Hospital.

9. If a little digression may be allowed, who can sufficiently admire the wisdom of Divine Providence, in the disposal of the times and seasons, so as to suit one occurrence to another? For instance. Just at a time when many of these poor creatures, being stopt in their course of sin, found a desire of leading a better life, as it were in answer to that sad question, “But if I quit the way I now am in, what can I do to live? For I am not mistress of any trade; and I have no friends that will receive me:” I say, just at this time, God has prepared the Magdalen Hospital. Here those who have no trade, nor any friends to receive them, are received with all tenderness. Here they may live, and that with comfort, being provided with all things, that are needful for life and godliness.

10. But to return. The number of persons brought to justice, from August 1757, to August 1762 is

From thence to the present time:  
For unlawful gaming, and profane swearing, 40
For sabbath-breaking, 400
Lewd women and keepers of ill houses, 550
For offering to sale obscene prints, 2
In all 10,588

‘swering’ replaced with ‘swearing’

11. In the admission of members into the society, no regard is had to any particular sect or party. Whoever is found upon enquiry to be a good man, is readily admitted. And none who has selfish or pecuniary views, will long continue therein: not only because he can gain nothing thereby, because he would quickly be a loser: inasmuch as he must commence subscriber, as soon as he is a member. Indeed the vulgar cry is “These are all Whitfelites.” But it is a great mistake. About twenty of the constantly subscribing members, are all that are in connexion with Mr. Whitefield. About fifty are in connexion with Mr. Wesley. About twenty, who are of the established Church, have no connexion with either: and about seventy are dissenters, who make in all an hundred and sixty. There are indeed many more, who assist in the work by occasional subscriptions.

II. 1. These are the steps which have been hitherto taken, in prosecution of this design. I am in the second place, to shew, the excellency thereof, notwithstanding the objections which have been raised against it. Now this may appear from several considerations. And first, from hence: That the making an open stand, against all the ungodliness and unrighteousness, which overspread our land as a flood, is one of the noblest ways of confessing Christ in the face of his enemies. It is giving glory to God, and shewing mankind, that even in these dregs of time

“There are, who faith prefer,

Tho’ few, and piety to God.”

And what more excellent, than to render to God, the honour due unto his name? To declare by a stronger proof than words, even by suffering, and running all hazards, Verily there is a reward for the righteous; doubtless there is a God that judgeth the earth.

2. How excellent is the design, to prevent in any degree, the dishonour done to his glorious name, the contempt which is poured on his authority, and the scandal brought upon our holy religion, by the gross, flagrant wickedness of those who are still called by the name of Christ? To stem in any degree the torrent of vice, to repress the floods of ungodliness, to remove in any measure those occasions of blaspheming the worthy name whereby we are called, is one of the noblest designs it can possibly enter into the heart of man to conceive.

3. And as this design thus evidently tends, to bring glory to God in the highest, so it no less manifestly conduces, to the establishing peace upon earth. For as all sin directly tends, both to destroy our peace with God, by setting him at open defiance, to banish peace from our own breasts, and to set every man’s sword against his neighbour: so whatever prevents or removes sin, does in the same degree promote peace, both peace in our own soul, peace with God, and peace with one another. Such are the genuine fruits of this design, even in the present world. But why should we confine our views to the narrow bounds of time and space? Rather pass over these into eternity. And what fruit of it shall we find there? Let the apostle speak: Brethren, if one of you err from the truth, and one convert him (not to this or that opinion, but to God!) let him know, that he who converteth a sinner from the error of his way, shall save a soul from death, and hide a multitude of sins, Jam. v. 19, 20.

4. Nor is it to individuals only, whether those who betray others into sin, or those that are liable to be betrayed and destroyed by them, that the benefit of this design redounds, but to the whole community whereof we are members. For is it not a sure observation, righteousness exalteth a nation? And is it not as sure on the other hand, that sin is a reproach to any people? Yea, and bringeth down the curse of God upon them? So far therefore as righteousness in any branch is promoted, so far is the national interest advanced. So far as sin, especially open sin is restrained, the curse and reproach are removed from us. Whoever therefore they are that labour herein, they are general benefactors. They are the truest friends of their king and country. And in the same proportion as their design takes place, there can be no doubt, but God will give national prosperity, in accomplishment of his faithful word, Them that honour me, I will honour.

5. But it is objected, “However excellent a design this is, it does not concern you. For are there not persons, to whom the repressing these offences and punishing the offenders properly belong? Are there not constables and other parish-officers, who are bound by oath to this very thing?” There are constables and church-wardens in particular, who are engaged by solemn oaths, to give due information against profaners of the Lord’s day, and all other scandalous sinners. But if they leave it undone, if notwithstanding their oaths, they trouble not themselves about the matter, it concerns all that fear God, that love mankind, and that wish well to their king and country, to pursue this design with the very same vigour, as if there were no officers existing. It being just the same thing, if they are of no use, as if they had no being.

6. “But this is only a pretence: their real design, is to get money by giving informations.” So it has frequently and roundly been affirmed; but without the least shadow of truth. The contrary may be proved by a thousand instances: no member of the society, takes any part of the money which is by the law allotted to the informer. They never did from the beginning: nor does any of them ever receive any thing, to suppress or withdraw their information. This is another mistake, if not wilful slander, for which there is not the least foundation.

7. “But the design is impracticable. Vice is risen to such an head, that it is impossible to suppress it: especially by such means. For what can an handful of poor people, do in opposition to all the world?” With men this is impossible, but not with God. And they trust, not in themselves, but him. Be then the patrons of vice ever so strong, to him they are no more than grasshoppers. And all means are alike to him. It is the same thing with God to deliver by many or by few. The small number therefore of those who are on the Lord’s side is nothing, neither the great number of those that are against him. Still he doth whatever pleaseth him. And there is no counsel or strength against the Lord.

‘9’ replaced with ‘7’

8. “But if the end you aim at, be really to reform sinners, you chuse the wrong means. It is the word of God must effect this, and not human laws. And it is the work of ministers, not of magistrates. Therefore the applying to these, can only produce an outward reformation. It makes no change in the heart.”

It is true the word of God is the chief, ordinary means, whereby he changes both the hearts and lives of sinners: and he does this chiefly by the ministers of the gospel. But it is likewise true, that the magistrate is the minister of God: and that he is designed of God to be a terror to evil doers, by executing human laws upon them. If this does not change the heart, yet to prevent outward sin, is one valuable point gain’d. There is so much the less dishonour done to God, less scandal brought on our holy religion, less curse and reproach upon our nation, less temptation laid in the way of others. Yea, and less wrath heaped up by the sinners themselves against the day of wrath.

9. “Nay, rather more: for it makes many of them hypocrites, pretending to be what they are not. Others, by exposing them to shame, and putting them to expence, are made impudent and desperate in wickedness: so that in reality none of them are any better, if they are not worse than they were before.”

This is a mistake all over. For 1. Where are these hypocrites? We know none who have pretended to be what they were not. 2. The exposing obstinate offenders to shame, and putting them to expence, does not make them desperate in offending, but afraid to offend. 3. Some of them, far from being worse, are substantially better, the whole tenor of their lives being changed. Yea 4. Some are inwardly changed, even from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God.

10. “But many are not convinced, that buying or selling on the Lord’s day is a sin.”

If they are not convinced, they ought to be: it is high time they should. The case is as plain as plain can be. For if an open, wilful breach both of the law of God and the law of the land, is not sin, pray what is? And if such a breach both of divine and human laws is not to be punished, because a man is not convinced it is a sin, there is an end of all execution of justice, and all men may live as they list.

11. “But mild methods ought to be tried first.” They ought. And so they are. A mild admonition is given to every offender, before the law is put in execution against him: nor is any man prosecuted, till he has express notice, that this will be the case, unless he will prevent that prosecution, by removing the cause of it. In every case the mildest method is used, which the nature of the case will bear: nor are severer means ever applied, but when they are absolutely necessary to the end.

12. “Well, but after all this stir about reformation, what real good has been done?” Unspeakable good; and abundantly more, than any one could have expected, in so short a time, considering the small number of the instruments, and the difficulties they had to encounter. Much evil has been already prevented, and much has been removed. Many sinners have been outwardly reformed; some have been inwardly changed. The honour of him whose name we bear, so openly affronted, has been openly defended. And it is not easy to determine, how many and how great blessings, even this little stand, made for God and his cause, against his daring enemies, may already have derived upon our whole nation. On the whole then, after all the objections that can be made, reasonable men may still conclude, a more excellent design could scarce ever enter into the heart of man.

III. 1. But what manner of men ought they to be, who engage in such a design? Some may imagine, any that are willing to assist therein, ought readily to be admitted; and that the greater the number of members, the greater will be their influence. But this is by no means true: matter of fact undeniably proves the contrary. While the former society for reformation of manners, consisted of chosen members only, tho’ neither many, rich, nor powerful, they broke thro’ all opposition, and were eminently successful in every branch of their undertaking. But when a number of men, less carefully chosen, were received into that society, they grew less and less useful, till by insensible degrees, they dwindled into nothing.

2. The number therefore of the members is no more to be attended to, than the riches or eminence. This is a work of God. It is undertaken in the name of God, and for his sake. It follows, that men who neither love nor fear God, have no part or lot in this matter, Why takest thou my covenant in thy mouth, may God say to any of these, whereas thou thyself hatest to be reformed, and hast cast my words behind thee? Whoever therefore lives in any known sin, is not fit to engage in reforming sinners. More especially if he is guilty in any instance, or in the least degree, of profaning the name of God, or buying, selling or doing any unnecessary work on the Lord’s day, or offending in any other of those instances, which this society is peculiarly designed to reform. No: let none who stands himself in need of this reformation, presume to meddle with such an undertaking. First, let him pull the beam out of his own eye. Let him be himself unblamable in all things.

3. Not that this will suffice. Every one engaging herein, should be more than a harmless man. He should be a man of faith: having at least such a degree of that evidence of things not seen, as to aim not at the things that are seen, which are temporal, but at those that are not seen, which are eternal: such a faith, as produces a steady fear of God, with a lasting resolution, by his grace to abstain from all that he has forbidden, and to do all that he has commanded. He will more especially need, that particular branch of faith, confidence in God. It is this faith which removes mountains, which quenches the violence of fire, which breaks thro’ all opposition, and enables one to stand against and chase a thousand, knowing in whom his strength lies, and even when he has the sentence of death in himself, trusting in him who raiseth the dead.

4. He that has faith and confidence in God, will of consequence be a man of courage. And such it is highly needful every man should be, who engages in this undertaking. For many things will occur in the prosecution thereof, which are terrible to nature: indeed so terrible, that all who confer with flesh and blood will be afraid to incounter them. Here therefore true courage has its proper place, and is necessary in the highest degree. And this, faith only can supply. A believer can say,

I fear no denial;

No danger I fear:

Nor start from the trial;

For Jesus is near.

5. To courage, patience is nearly allied: the one regarding future, the other present evils. And whoever joins in carrying on a design of this nature, will have great occasion for this. For notwithstanding all his unblamableness, he will find himself just in Ishmael’s situation, his hand against every man, and every man’s hand against him. And no wonder. If it be true, that all who will live godly, shall suffer persecution, how eminently must this be fulfilled in them, who not content to live godly themselves, compel the ungodly to do so too, or at least to refrain from notorious ungodliness? Is not this, declaring war against all the world? Setting all the children of the devil at defiance? And will not Satan himself, the prince of this world, the ruler of the darkness thereof, exert all his subtlety and all his force, in support of his tottering kingdom? Who can expect, the roaring lion will tamely submit to have the prey plucked out of his teeth? Ye have therefore need of patience, that when ye have done the will of God ye may receive the promise.

6. And ye have need of steddiness, that ye may hold fast this profession of your faith without wavering. This also should be found in all that unite in this society; which is not a task for a double-minded man, for one that is unstable in his ways. He that is as a reed shaken with the wind, is not fit for this warfare, which demands a firm purpose of soul, a constant, determined resolution. One that is wanting in this, may set his hand to the plow: but how soon will he look back? He may indeed endure for a time. But when persecution or tribulation, public or private troubles, arise because of the work, immediately he is offended.

7. Indeed it is hard for any to persevere in so unpleasing a work, unless love overpowers both pain and fear. And therefore it is highly expedient that all engaged therein, have the love of God shed abroad in their hearts: that they should all be able to declare, we love him, because he first loved us. The presence of him whom their soul loveth, will then make their labour light. They can then say, not from the wildness of an heated imagination, but with the utmost truth, and soberness.

duplicate ‘and’ removed

With thee conversing, I forget

All time, and toil, and care:

Labour is rest, and pain is sweet,

While thou, my God, art here.

8. What adds a still greater sweetness even to labour and pain, is the Christian love of our neighbour. When they love their neighbour, that is, every soul of man, as themselves, as their own souls; when the love of Christ constrains them to love one another, even as he loved us; when, as he tasted death for every man, so they are ready to lay down their life for their brethren, (including in that number, every man, every soul for which Christ died:) what prospect of danger will then be able to fright them from their labour of love? What suffering will they not be ready to undergo, to save one soul from everlasting burnings? What continuance of labour, disappointment, pain, will vanquish their fixt resolution! Will they not be

“Gainst all repulses steeled, nor ever tired,

With toilsome day, or ill-succeeding night?”

So love both hopeth and endureth all things. So charity never faileth.

‘toilsom’ replaced with ‘toilsome’

9. Love is necessary for all the members of such a society, on another account likewise; even because it is not puffed up; it produces not only courage and patience, but humility. And O! how needful is this for all who are so employed! What can be of more importance, than that they should be little, and mean, and base, and vile in their own eyes? For otherwise, should they think themselves any thing, should they impute any thing to themselves, should they admit any thing of a pharisaic spirit, trusting in themselves that they were righteous, and despising others: nothing could more directly tend to overthrow the whole design. For then they would not only have all the world, but also God himself to contend with; seeing he resisteth the proud, and giveth grace only to the humble. Deeply conscious therefore should every member of this society be, of his own foolishness, weakness, helplessness: continually hanging with his whole soul upon him, who alone hath wisdom and strength, with an unspeakable conviction, that the help which is done upon earth, God doth it himself; and that it is he alone who worketh in us, both to will and to do, of his good pleasure.

10. One point more, whoever engages in this design should have deeply imprest on his heart, namely, that the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. Let him therefore learn of him who was meek as well as lowly. And let him abide in meekness as well as humility: With all lowliness and meekness, let him walk worthy of the vocation wherewith he is called. Let him be gentle toward all men, good or bad, for his own sake, for their sake, for Christ’s sake. Are any ignorant and out of the way? Let him have compassion upon them. Do they even oppose the word and the work of God, yea set themselves in battle array against it? So much the more hath he need, in meekness to instruct those who thus oppose themselves, if haply they may awake out of the snare of the devil, and no more be taken captive at his will.

IV. 1. From the qualifications of those who are proper to engage in such an undertaking as this, I proceed to shew, fourthly, With what spirit, and in what manner, it ought to be pursued. First, with what spirit. Now this first regards the motive which is to be preserved, in every step that is taken. For if at any time the light which is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness? But if thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. This is therefore continually to be remembred, and carried into every word and action. Nothing is to be spoke or done, either great or small, with a view to any temporal advantage: nothing with a view to the favour or esteem, the love or the praise of men. But the intention, the eye of the mind is always to be fixt on the glory of God and good of man.

2. But the Spirit with which every thing is to be done, regards the temper, as well as the motive. And this is no other than that, which has been described above. For the same courage, patience, steddiness, which qualify a man for the work, are to be exercised therein. Above all, let him take the shield of faith: this will quench a thousand fiery darts. Let him exert all the faith which God has given him, in every trying hour. And let all his doings be done in love: never let this be wrested from him. Neither must many waters quench this love, nor the floods of ingratitude drown it. Let likewise that lowly mind be in him, which was also in Christ Jesus. Yea, and let him be cloathed with humility, filling his heart, and adorning his whole behaviour. At the same time, let him put on bowels of mercies, gentleness, long-suffering: avoiding the least appearance of malice, bitterness, anger or resentment; knowing, it is our calling, not to be overcome of evil, but to overcome evil with good. In order to preserve this humble, gentle love, it is needful to do all things with recollection of spirit, watching against all hurry, or dissipation of thought, as well as against pride, wrath, or surliness. But this can be no otherwise preserved, than by continuing instant in prayer, both before and after he comes into the field; and during the whole action; and by doing all in the spirit of sacrifice, offering all to God, thro’ the Son of his love.

3. As to the outward manner of acting, a general rule is, let it be expressive of these inward tempers. But to be more particular. 1. Let every man beware, not to do evil that good may come. Therefore putting away all lying, let every man speak the truth to his neighbour. Use no fraud or guile, either in order to detect or to punish any man, but by simplicity or godly sincerity commend yourself to mens consciences in the sight of God. It is probable, that by your adhering to these rules, fewer offenders will be convicted. But so much the more will the blessing of God accompany the whole undertaking.

4. But let innocence be joined with prudence, properly so called. Not that offspring of hell, which the world calls prudence, which is mere craft, cunning, dissimulation: but with that wisdom from above, which our Lord peculiarly recommends, to all who would promote his kingdom upon earth. Be ye therefore wise as serpents, while ye are harmless as doves. This wisdom will instruct you, how to suit your words and whole behaviour, to the persons with whom you have to do, to the time, place, and all other circumstances. It will teach you to cut off occasion of offence, even from those who seek occasion, and to do things of the most offensive nature, in the least offensive manner that is possible.

5. Your manner of speaking, particularly to offenders, should be at all times deeply serious, (lest it appear like insulting or triumphing over them) rather inclining to sad: shewing that you pity them, for what they do, and sympathize with them in what they suffer. Let your air and tone of voice, as well as words, be dispassionate, calm, mild: yea, where it would not appear like dissimulation, even kind and friendly. In some cases, where it will probably be received as it is meant, you may profess the good-will you bear them: but at the same time, (that it may not be thought to proceed from fear, or any wrong inclination) professing your intrepidity and inflexible resolution, to oppose and punish vice to the uttermost.

V. 1. It remains only to make some application of what has been said, partly to you who are already engaged in this work, partly to all that fear God, and more especially to them that love as well as fear him.

With regard to you, who are already engaged in this work, the first advice I would give you is, calmly and deeply to consider, the nature of your undertaking. Know what you are about; be throughly acquainted with what you have in hand. Consider the objections which are made to the whole of your undertaking. And before you proceed, be satisfied that those objections have no real weight. Then may every man act, as he is fully persuaded in his own mind.

2. I advise you, secondly, be not in haste, to increase your number. And in adding thereto, regard not wealth, rank, or any outward circumstance. Only regard the qualifications above described. Enquire diligently, Whether the person proposed be of an unblamable carriage, and whether he be a man of faith, courage, patience, steddiness? Whether he be a lover of God and man? If so, he will add to your strength as well as number. If not, you will lose by him more than you gain. For you will displease God. And be not afraid to purge out from among you, any who do not answer the preceding character. By thus lessening your number, you will increase your strength: you will be vessels meet for your master’s use.

3. I would, thirdly, advise you, narrowly to observe from what motive, you at any time act or speak. Beware that your intention be not stained, with any regard either to profit or praise. Whatever you do, do it to the Lord, as the servants of Christ. Do not aim at pleasing yourself in any point, but pleasing him whose you are, and whom you serve. Let your eye be single, from first to last: eye God alone in every word and work.

4. I advise you, in the fourth place, see that you do every thing in a right temper: with lowliness, and meekness, with patience and gentleness, worthy the gospel of Christ. Take every step trusting in God, and in the most tender, loving spirit you are able. Mean time watch always, against all hurry and dissipation of spirit, and pray always with all earnestness and perseverance, that your faith fail not. And let nothing interrupt that spirit of sacrifice, which you make of all you have and are, of all you suffer and do, that it may be an offering of a sweet smelling savour to God through Jesus Christ.

5. As to the manner of acting and speaking, I advise you to do it with all innocence and simplicity, prudence and seriousness. Add to these all possible calmness and mildness; nay, all the tenderness which the case will bear. You are not to behave as butchers or hangmen, but as surgeons rather; who put the patient to no more pain than is necessary, in order to the cure. For this purpose, each of you likewise has need of “a lady’s hand with a lion’s heart.” So shall many even of them you are constrained to punish, glorify God in the day of visitation.

6. I exhort all of you who fear God, as ever you hope to find mercy at his hands, as you dread being found (tho’ you knew it not) even to fight against God: do not on any account, reason, or pretence whatsoever, either directly or indirectly, oppose or hinder so merciful a design, and one so conducive to his glory. But this is not all: if you are lovers of mankind, if you long to lessen the sins and miseries of your fellow-creatures: can you satisfy yourselves, can you be clear before God, by barely not opposing it? Are not you also bound by the most sacred ties, as you have opportunity to do good to all men? And is not here an opportunity of doing good to many, even good of the highest kind? In the name of God then, embrace the opportunity. Assist in doing this good, if no otherwise, yet by your earnest prayers, for them who are immediately employed therein. Assist them, according to your ability, to defray the expence which necessarily attends it, and which without the assistance of charitable persons, would be a burden they could not bear. Assist them, if you can without inconvenience, by quarterly or yearly subscriptions. At least, assist them now: use the present hour, doing what God puts into your heart. Let it not be said, that you saw your brethren labouring for God, and would not help them with one of your fingers. In this way, however, come to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord, against the mighty!

7. I have an higher demand upon you who love, as well as fear God. He whom you fear, whom you love, has qualified you, for promoting his work in a more excellent way. Because you love God, you love your brother also: you love not only your friends, but your enemies; not only the friends, but even the enemies of God. You have put on, as the elect of God, lowliness, gentleness, long-suffering. You have faith in God, and in Jesus Christ whom he hath sent: faith which overcometh the world. And hereby you conquer both evil shame, and that fear of man which bringeth a snare: so that you can stand with boldness before them that despise you and make no account of your labours. Qualified then as you are, and armed for the fight, will you be like the children of Ephraim, who being harnessed, and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle? Will you leave a few of your brethren to stand alone, against all the hosts of the aliens? O say not, “This is too heavy a cross: I have not strength or courage to bear it.” True; not of yourself. But you that believe, can do all things through Christ strengthening you. If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. No cross is too heavy for him to bear, knowing that they that suffer with him, shall reign with him. Say not, “Nay, but I cannot bear to be singular.” Then you cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven. No one enters there but thro’ the narrow way. And all that walk in this, are singular. Say not, “But I cannot endure the reproach, the odious name of an informer.” And did any man ever save his soul, that was not a by-word, and a proverb of reproach? Neither canst thou ever save thine, unless thou art willing, that men should say all manner of evil of thee. Say not, “But if I am active in this work, I shall lose not only my reputation, but my friends, my customers, my business, my livelihood, so that I shall be brought to poverty.” Thou shalt not: thou canst not: it is absolutely impossible, unless God himself chuseth it. For his kingdom ruleth over all, and the very hairs of thy head are all numbered. But if the wise, the gracious God chuse it for thee, wilt thou murmur or complain? Wilt thou not rather say, The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it? If you suffer for Christ, happy are you: the Spirit of glory and of Christ shall rest upon you. Say not, “I would suffer all things, but my wife will not consent to it. And certainly a man ought to leave father and mother and all, and cleave to his wife.” True, all—but God; all—but Christ. But he ought not to leave him for his wife. He is not to leave any duty undone, for the dearest relative. Our Lord himself hath said in this very sense, If any man loveth father, or mother, or wife, or children, more than me, he is not worthy of me! Say not, “Well, I would forsake all for Christ. But one duty must not hinder another. And this would frequently hinder my attending public worship.” Sometimes it probably would. Go then and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy and not sacrifice. And whatever is lost, by shewing this mercy, God will repay sevenfold into thy bosom. Say not, “But I shall hurt my own soul. I am a young man: and by taking up loose women, I should expose my self to temptation.” Yes, if you did this in your own strength, or for your own pleasure. But that is not the case. You trust in God: and you aim at pleasing him only. And if he should call you even into the midst of a burning fiery furnace, though thou walkest thro’ the fire thou shalt not be burnt, neither shall the flames kindle upon thee. “True; if he called me into the furnace. But I do not see that I am called to this.” Perhaps thou art not willing to see it. However, if thou wast not called before, I call thee now, in the name of Christ: take up thy cross and follow him. Reason no more with flesh and blood, but now resolve to cast in thy lot, with the most despised, the most infamous of his followers, the filth and off-scouring of the world. I call thee in particular, who didst once strengthen their hands, but since art drawn back. Take courage! Be strong! Fulfil their joy, by returning with heart and hand. Let it appear, thou departedst for a season, that they might receive thee again for ever. O be not disobedient to the heavenly calling! And as for all of you, who know whereunto ye are called, count ye all things loss, so ye may save one soul, for which Christ died. And therein take no thought for the morrow, but cast all your care on him that careth for you. Commit your souls, bodies, substance, all, to him, as unto a merciful and faithful Creator.

N. B. After this Society had subscribed several years, and done unspeakable good, it was wholly destroyed, by a verdict given against it in the King’s Bench, with three hundred pounds damages. I doubt a severe account remains for the witnesses, the jury, and all who were concerned in that dreadful affair.


¹ On the death of the Rev. Mr. George Whitefield. Preached at the Chappel in Tottenham-Court-Road, and at the Tabernacle near Moorfields, on Sunday, November 18, 1770.

Numb. xxiii. 10.

Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!

1.LET my last end be like his! How many of you join in this wish? Perhaps there are few of you who do not, even in this numerous congregation. And O that this wish may rest upon your minds! That it may not die away, till your souls also are lodged where the wicked cease from troubling, and where the weary are at rest!

2. An elaborate exposition of the text, will not be expected on this occasion. It would detain you too long from the sadly-pleasing thought of your beloved brother, friend, and pastor; yea, and father too: for how many are here whom he hath begotten in the Lord? Will it not then be more suitable to your inclinations, as well as to this solemnity, directly to speak of this man of God, whom you have so often heard speaking in this place? The end of whose conversation ye know, Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.

And may we not,

First, Observe a few particulars of his life and death.

Secondly, Take some view of his character. And,

Thirdly, Inquire how we may improve this awful providence, his sudden removal from us.

I. 1. We may, in the first place, observe a few particulars of his life and death. He was born at Glocester, in December, 1714, and put to a Grammar-school there, when about twelve years old. When he was seventeen he began to be seriously religious, and served God to the best of his knowledge. About eighteen he removed to the university, and was admitted at Pembroke-College in Oxford. And about a year after, he became acquainted with the Methodists, (so called) whom from that time he loved as his own soul.

2. By them he was convinced, that we must be born again, or outward religion will profit us nothing. He joined with them in fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays, in visiting the sick and the prisoners, and in gathering up the very fragments of time, that no moment might be lost. And he changed the course of his studies, reading chiefly such books as entered into the heart of religion, and led directly to an experimental knowledge of Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

3. He was soon tried as with fire. Not only his reputation was lost, and some of his dearest friends forsook him; but he was exercised with inward trials, and those of the severest kind. Many nights he lay sleepless upon his bed; many days prostrate on the ground. But after he had groaned several months under the Spirit of bondage, God was pleased to remove the heavy load, by giving him the Spirit of adoption, enabling him, through a living faith, to lay hold on the Son of his love.

4. However, it was thought needful, for the recovery of his health, which was much impaired, that he should go into the country. He accordingly went to Glocester, where God enabled him to awaken several young persons. These soon formed themselves into a little society, and were some of the first fruits of his labour. Shortly after he began to read twice or thrice a week to some poor people in the town, and every day to read to, and pray with the prisoners in the county gaol.

‘goal’ replaced with ‘gaol’

5. Being now about twenty-one years of age, he was solicited to enter into holy orders. Of this he was greatly afraid, being deeply sensible of his own insufficiency. But the bishop himself sending for him, and telling him, “Tho’ I had purposed to ordain none under three and twenty, yet I will ordain you whenever you come;” and several other providential circumstances concurring, he submitted, and was ordained on Trinity-Sunday, 1736. The next Sunday he preached to a crouded auditory, in the church wherein he was baptized. The week following he returned to Oxford, and took his Batchelor’s degree. And he was now fully employed, the care of the prisoners and the poor lying chiefly on him.

6. But it was not long before he was invited to London, to serve the cure of a friend going into the country. He continued there two months, lodging in the Tower, reading prayers in the chappel twice a week, catechizing and preaching once, beside daily visiting the soldiers in the barracks and the infirmary. He also read prayers every evening at Wapping-chappel, and preached at Ludgate-prison every Tuesday. While he was here, letters came from his friends in Georgia, which made him long to go and help them. But not seeing his call clear, at the appointed time he returned to his little charge at Oxford; where several youths met daily at his room, to build up each other in their most holy faith.

7. But he was quickly called from hence again to supply the cure of Dummer in Hampshire. Here he read prayers twice a day, early in the morning, and in the evening, after the people came from work. He also daily catechized the children, and visited from house to house. He now divided the day into three parts, alloting eight hours for sleep and meals, eight for study and retirement, and eight for reading prayers, catechizing, and visiting the people.—Is there a more excellent way for a servant of Christ and his church? If not, Who will go and do likewise?

8. Yet his mind still ran on going abroad. And being now fully convinced he was called of God thereto, he set all things in order, and in January 1737, went down to take leave of his friends in Glocester. It was in this journey that God began to bless his ministry in an uncommon manner. Wherever he preached, amazing multitudes of hearers flocked together, in Glocester, in Stonehouse, in Bath, in Bristol: so that the heat of the churches was scarce supportable. And the impressions made on the minds of many, were no less extraordinary. After his return to London, while he was detained by General Oglethorpe, from week to week, and from month to month, it pleased God to bless his word still more. And he was indefatigable in his labour: generally on Sunday he preached four times, to exceeding large auditories; beside reading prayers twice or thrice, and walking to and fro, often ten or twelve miles.

9. On December 28, he left London. It was on the 29th that he first preached without notes. December 30, he went on board; but it was above a month before they cleared the land. One happy effect of their very slow passage, he mentions in April following: “Blessed be God, we now live very comfortably in the great cabbin. We talk of little else but God and Christ: and scarce a word is heard among us when together, but what has reference to our fall in the first, and our new birth in the second Adam.” It seems likewise to have been a peculiar providence, that he should spend a little time at Gibraltar; where both citizens and soldiers, high and low, young and old, acknowledged the day of their visitation.

10. From Sunday, May 7, 1738, till the latter end of August following, he made full proof of his ministry in Georgia, particularly at Savannah: he read prayers and expounded twice a day and visited the sick daily. On Sunday he expounded at five in the morning; at ten read prayers and preached, and at three in the afternoon: and at seven in the evening expounded the church-catechism. How much easier is it for our brethren in the ministry, either in England, Scotland, or Ireland, to find fault with such a labourer in our Lord’s vineyard, than to tread in his steps?

11. It was now that he observed the deplorable condition of many children here; and that God put into his heart the first thought of founding an Orphan-house: for which he determined to raise contributions in England, if God should give him a safe return thither. In December following he did return to London: and on Sunday, January the 14th, 1739, he was ordained priest at Christ-Church, Oxford. The next day he came to London again: and on Sunday the 21st preached twice. But though the churches were large, and crouded exceedingly, yet many hundreds stood in the churchyard, and hundreds more returned home. This put him upon the first thought of preaching in the open air. But when he mentioned it to some of his friends, they judged it to be mere madness. So he did not carry it into execution, till after he had left London. It was on Wednesday, February 21, that finding all the church-doors to be shut in Bristol, (beside that no church was able to contain one half of the congregation) at three in the afternoon he went to Kingswood, and preached abroad, to near two thousand people. On Friday he preached there to four or five thousand; and on Sunday to (it was supposed) ten thousand. The number continually increased all the time he stayed at Bristol. And a flame of holy love was kindled, which will not easily be put out. The same was afterwards kindled in various parts of Wales, of Glocestershire, and Worcestershire. Indeed wherever he went, God abundantly confirmed the word of his messenger.

‘whereever’ replaced with ‘wherever’

12. On Sunday, April 29, he preached the first time in Moorfields, and on Kennington-common. And the thousands of hearers were as quiet as they could have been in a church. Being again detained in England from month to month, he made little excursions into several counties, and received the contributions of willing multitudes, for an Orphan-house in Georgia. The embargo which was now laid on the shipping, gave him leisure for more journies, through various parts of England, for which many will have reason to bless God to all eternity. At length, on August 14, he embarked. But he did not land in Pensylvania till October 30. Afterwards he went through Pensylvania, the Jerseys, New-York, Maryland, Virginia, North and South Carolina, preaching all along to immense congregations, with full as great effect as in England; on January 10, 1740, he arrived at Savannah.

13. January 29, he added three desolate orphans to near twenty which he had in his house before. The next day he laid out the ground for the house, about ten miles from Savannah. February 11, he took in four orphans more, and set out for Frederica, in order to fetch orphans that were in the southern parts of the colony. In his return he fixt a school, both for children and grown persons, at Darien, and took four orphans thence. March 25, he laid the first stone of the Orphan-house, to which, with great propriety, he gave the name of Bethesda: a work for which the children yet unborn shall praise the Lord. He had now about forty orphans, so that there were near an hundred mouths to be fed daily. But he was careful for nothing, casting his care on him who feedeth the young ravens that call upon him.

14. In April he made another tour through Pensylvania, the Jerseys, and New-York. Incredible multitudes flocked to hear, among whom were abundance of negroes. In all places the greater part of the hearers were affected to an amazing degree. Many were deeply convinced of their lost state; many truly converted to God. In some places thousands cried out aloud; many as in the agonies of death. Most were drowned in tears; some turned pale as death; others were wringing their hands; others lying on the ground; others sinking into the arms of their friends; almost all lifting up their eyes, and calling for mercy.

15. He returned to Savannah, June 5. The next evening, during the public service, the whole congregation, young and old, were dissolved in tears. After service, several of the parishioners, and all his family, particularly the little children, returned home crying along the street, and some could not help praying aloud. The groans and cries of the children continued all night, and great part of the next day.

16. In August he set out again, and through various provinces came to Boston. While he was here, and in the neighbouring places, he was extremely weak in body. Yet the multitudes of hearers were so great, and the effects wrought on them so astonishing, as the oldest men then alive in the town had never seen before. The same power attended his preaching at New-York; particularly on Sunday, November 2. Almost as soon as he began, crying, weeping, and wailing, were to be heard on every side. Many sunk down to the ground, cut to the heart: and many were filled with divine consolation. Toward the close of his journey he made this reflection: “It is the seventy-fifth day since I arrived at Rhode-Island, exceeding weak in body. Yet God has enabled me to preach an hundred and seventy-five times in public, beside exhorting frequently in private. Never did God vouchsafe me greater comforts: never did I perform my journies with less fatigue, or see such a continuance of the divine presence in the congregations to whom I preached.” In December he returned to Savannah, and in the March following arrived in England.

17. You may easily observe, that the preceding account is chiefly extracted from his own journals, which, for their artless and unaffected simplicity, may vie with any writings of the kind. And how exact a specimen is this of his labours both in Europe and America, for the honour of his beloved Master, during the thirty years that followed! As well as of the uninterrupted shower of blessings wherewith God was pleased to succeed his labours! Is it not much to be lamented, that any thing should have prevented his continuing this account, till at least near the time when he was called by his Lord to enjoy the fruit of his labour?—If he has left any papers of this kind, and his friends account me worthy of the honour, it would be my glory and joy to methodize, transcribe, and prepare them for the public view.

18. A particular account of the last scene of his life, is thus given by a gentleman of Boston: “After being about a month with us in Boston and its vicinity, and preaching every day, he went to Old-york, preached on Thursday, September 27, there; proceeded to Portsmouth, and preached there on Friday. On Saturday morning he set out for Boston; but before he came to Newbury, where he had engaged to preach the next morning, he was importuned to preach by the way. The house not being large enough to contain the people, he preached in an open field. But having been infirm for several weeks, this so exhausted his strength, that when he came to Newbury, he could not get out of the ferry-boat without the help of two men. In the evening, however, he recovered his spirits, and appeared with his usual chearfulness. He went to his chamber at nine, his fixt time, which no company could divert him from: and slept better than he had done for some weeks before. He rose at four in the morning, September 30, and went into his closet; and his companion observed he was unusually long in private. He left his closet, returned to his companion, threw himself on the bed, and lay about ten minutes. Then he fell upon his knees, and prayed most fervently to God, ‘That if it was consistent with his will he might that day finish his Master’s work.’ He then desired his man to call Mr. Parsons, the clergyman, at whose house he was: but in a minute, before Mr. Parsons could reach him died, without a sigh or groan. On the news of his death, six gentlemen set out for Newbury, in order to bring his remains hither, but he could not be moved, so that his precious ashes must remain at Newbury. Hundreds would have gone from this town to attend his funeral, had they not expected he would have been interred here.—May this stroke be sanctified to the church of God in general, and to this province in particular!”

II. 1. We are in the second place, to take some view of his character. A little sketch of this, was soon after published in the Boston Gazette: an extract of which is subjoined: “In his public labours he has for many years astonished the world with his eloquence and devotion. With what divine pathos did he persuade the impenitent sinner to embrace the practice of piety and virtue! He spoke from the heart, and with a fervency of zeal, perhaps unequalled since the days of the apostles. From the pulpit he was unrivalled in the command of an ever-crowded auditory. Nor was he less agreeable and instructive in his private conversation: happy in a remarkable ease of address, willing to communicate, studious to edify. May the rising generation catch a spark of that flame which shone with such distinguished lustre in the spirit and practice of this faithful servant of the most high God!”

2. A more particular, and equally just character of him, has appeared in one of the English papers. It may not be disagreeable to you, to add the substance of this likewise: “The character of this truly pious person, must be imprest on the heart of every friend to vital religion. In spite of a tender constitution, he continued, to the last day of his life, preaching with a frequency and a fervor, that seemed to exceed the natural strength of the most robust. Being called to the exercise of his function at an age, when most young men are only beginning to qualify themselves for it, he had not time to make a very considerable progress in the learned languages. But this defect was amply supplied, by a lively and fertile genius, by fervent zeal, and by a forcible and most persuasive delivery. And though in the pulpit he often found it needful, by the terrors of the Lord to persuade men, he had nothing gloomy in his nature, being singularly chearful, as well as charitable and tender-hearted. He was as ready to relieve the bodily as the spiritual necessities of those that applied to him. It ought also to be observed, that he constantly enforced upon his audience every moral duty, particularly industry in their several callings, and obedience to their superiors. He endeavoured, by the most extraordinary efforts, of preaching in different places, and even in the open fields, to rouse the lower class of people, from the last degree of inattention and ignorance, to a sense of religion. For this, and his other labours, the name of George Whitefield, will long be remembred with esteem and veneration.”

3. That both these accounts are just and impartial, will readily be allowed; that is, as far as they go. But they go little farther than the outside of his character. They shew you the preacher, but not the man, the Christian, the saint of God. May I be permitted to add a little on this head, from a personal knowledge of near forty years? Indeed, I am thoroughly sensible how difficult it is to speak on so delicate a subject; what prudence is required to avoid both extremes, to say neither too little, nor too much? Nay, I know it is impossible to speak to all, to say either less or more, without incurring from some the former, from others the latter censure. Some will seriously think, that too little is said; and others, that it is too much. But without attending to this, I will speak just what I know, before him to whom we are all to give an account.

4. Mention has already been made of his unparalleled zeal, his indefatigable activity, his tender-heartedness to the afflicted, and charitableness toward the poor. But should we not likewise mention his deep gratitude, to all whom God had used as instruments of good to him? Of whom he did not cease to speak in the most respectful manner, even to his dying day. Should we not mention, that he had an heart susceptible of the most generous and the most tender friendship? I have frequently thought, that this, of all others, was the distinguishing part of his character. How few have we known of so kind a temper, of such large and flowing affections? Was it not principally by this, that the hearts of others were so strangely drawn and knit to him? Can any thing but love beget love? This shone in his very countenance, and continually breathed in all his words, whether in public or private. Was it not this, which, quick and penetrating as lightning, flew from heart to heart? Which gave that life to his sermons, his conversations, his letters? Ye are witnesses.

5. But away with the vile misconstruction of men of corrupt minds, who know of no love but what is earthly and sensual. Be it remembered, at the same time, that he was endued with the most nice and unblemished modesty. His office called him to converse very frequently and largely, with women as well as men; and those of every age and condition. But his whole behaviour toward them, was a practical comment on that advice of St. Paul to Timothy, Intreat the elder women as mothers, the younger as sisters, with all purity.

6. Mean time, how suitable to the friendliness of his spirit, was the frankness and openness of his conversation? Although it was far removed from rudeness on the one hand, as from guile and disguise on the other. Was not this frankness at once a fruit and a proof of his courage and intrepidity? Armed with these, he feared not the faces of men, but used great plainness of speech to persons of every rank and condition, high and low, rich and poor: endeavouring only by manifestation of the truth, to commend himself to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.

7. Neither was he afraid of labour or pain, any more than of what man could do unto him, being equally

Patient in bearing ill and doing well.”

And this appeared in the steddiness wherewith he pursued whatever he undertook for his Master’s sake. Witness one instance for all, the Orphan-house in Georgia, which he began and perfected, in spite of all discouragements. Indeed, in whatever concerned himself, he was pliant and flexible. In this case he was easy to be intreated, easy to be either convinced or persuaded. But he was immoveable in the things of God, or wherever his conscience was concerned. None could persuade, any more than affright him, to vary in the least point from that integrity, which was inseparable from his whole character, and regulated all his words and actions. Herein he did

“Stand as an iron pillar strong,

And stedfast as a wall of brass.”

8. *If it be inquired, What was the foundation of this integrity, or of his sincerity, courage, patience, and every other valuable and amiable quality, it is easy to give the answer. It was not the excellence of his natural temper: not the strength of his understanding: it was not the force of education; no, nor the advice of his friends. It was no other than faith in a bleeding Lord; Faith of the operation of God. It was a lively hope of an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away. It was the love of God shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost, which was given unto him, filling his soul with tender, disinterested love to every child of man. From this source arose that torrent of eloquence which frequently bore down all before it: from this, that astonishing force of persuasion, which the most hardened sinners could not resist. This it was, which often made his head as waters, and his eyes a fountain of tears. This it was which enabled him to pour out his soul in prayer, in a manner peculiar to himself, with such fulness and ease united together, with such strength and variety both of sentiment and expression.

9. *I may close this head with observing, What an honour it pleased God to put upon his faithful servant, by allowing him to declare his everlasting gospel in so many various countries, to such numbers of people, and with so great an effect, on so many of their precious souls! Have we read or heard of any person since the apostles, who testified the gospel of the grace of God, through so widely extended a space, through so large a part of the habitable world? Have we read or heard of any person who called so many thousands, so many myriads of sinners to repentance? Above all, have we read or heard of any, who has been a blessed instrument in his hand of bringing so many sinners from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God? It is true, were we to talk thus to the gay world, we should be judged to speak as barbarians. But you understand the language of the country to which you are going, and whither our dear friend is gone a little before us.

III. But how shall we improve this awful providence? This is the third thing which we have to consider. And the answer to this important question is easy; (may God write it in all our hearts!) By keeping close to the grand doctrines which he delivered: and by drinking into his Spirit.

1. And first, let us keep close to the grand scriptural doctrines, which he every where delivered. There are many doctrines of a less essential nature, with regard to which, even the sincere children of God (such is the present weakness of human understanding!) are and have been divided for many ages. In these we may think and let think; we may “agree to disagree.” But mean time let us hold fast the essentials of the faith, which was once delivered to the saints; and which this champion of God so strongly insisted on, at all times, and in all places.

2. His fundamental point was, Give God all the glory of whatever is good in man. And in the business of salvation, Set Christ as high, and man as low as possible. With this point, he and his friends at Oxford, the original Methodists (so called) set out. Their grand principle was, There is no power (by nature) and no merit in man. They insisted, all power to think, speak, or act right, is in and from the Spirit of Christ: and all merit is (not in man, how high soever in grace, but merely) in the blood of Christ. So he and they taught: There is no power in man, till it is given him from above, to do one good work, to speak one good word, or to form one good desire. For it is not enough to say, all men are sick of sin: no, we are all dead in trespasses and sins. It follows, that all the children of men are by nature children of wrath. We are all guilty before God, liable to death temporal and eternal.

3. And we are all helpless, both with regard to the power and to the guilt of sin. For who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? None less than the Almighty. Who can raise those that are dead, spiritually dead in sin? None but he who raised us from the dust of the earth. But on what consideration will he do this? Not for works of righteousness that we have done. The dead cannot praise thee, O Lord! Nor do any thing for the sake of which they should be raised to life. Whatever therefore God does, he does it merely for the sake of his well beloved Son; he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities. He himself bore all our sins in his own body upon the tree. He was delivered for our offences, and rose again for our justification. Here then is the sole meritorious cause of every blessing we do or can enjoy: in particular of our pardon and acceptance with God, of our full and free justification. But by what means do we become interested in what Christ has done and suffered? Not by works, lest any man should boast; but by faith alone. We conclude, says the apostle, that a man is justified by faith, without the works of the law. And to as many as thus receive him, giveth he power to become the sons of God: even to those that believe in his name, who are born, not of the will of man, but of God.

4. And except a man be thus born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. But all who are thus born of the Spirit, have the kingdom of God within them. Christ sets up his kingdom in their hearts; Righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. That mind is in them, which was in Christ Jesus, enabling them to walk as Christ also walked. His indwelling-Spirit makes them both holy in heart, and holy in all manner of conversation. But still, seeing all this is a free gift, through the righteousness and blood of Christ, there is eternally the same reason to remember, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

5. You are not ignorant, that these are the fundamental doctrines which he every where insisted on. And may they not be summed up, as it were, in two words, The new birth, and justification by faith? These let us insist upon with all boldness, at all times, and in all places: in public (those of us who are called thereto) and at all opportunities, in private. Keep close to these good, old, unfashionable doctrines, how many soever contradict and blaspheme. Go on, my brethren, in the name of the Lord, and in the power of his might. With all care and diligence, keep that safe which is committed to your trust: knowing that heaven and earth shall pass away; but this truth shall not pass away.

6. But will it be sufficient, to keep close to his doctrines, how pure soever they are? Is there not a point of still greater importance than this, namely, to drink into his spirit? Herein to be a follower of him, even as he was of Christ? Without this, the purity of our doctrines, would only increase our condemnation. This therefore is the principal thing, to copy after his spirit. And allowing that in some points, we must be content, to admire what we cannot imitate: yet in many others we may, through the same free grace, be partakers of the same blessing. Conscious then of your own wants, and of his bounteous love, who giveth liberally and upbraideth not, cry to him that worketh all in all, for a measure of the same precious faith: of the same zeal and activity, the same tender-heartedness, charitableness, bowels of mercies. Wrestle with God for some degree of the same grateful, friendly, affectionate temper: of the same openness, simplicity, and godly sincerity. Love without dissimulation. Wrestle on, till the power from on high works in you the same steady courage and patience: and above all, because it is the crown of all, the same invariable integrity.

7. *Is there any other fruit of the grace of God, with which he was eminently endowed, and the want of which among the children of God he frequently and passionately lamented? There is one, that is, Catholic love: that sincere and tender affection, which is due to all those, who, we have reason to believe, are children of God by faith: in other words, all those in every persuasion, who fear God and work righteousness. He longed to see all who had tasted of the good word, of a truly Catholic spirit, (a word little understood and still less experienced by many, who have it frequently in their mouth.) Who is he that answers this character? Who is a man of a Catholic spirit? One who loves as friends, as brethren in the Lord, as joint partakers of the present kingdom of heaven, and fellow-heirs of his eternal kingdom, all of whatever opinion, mode of worship, or congregation, who believe in the Lord Jesus; who love God and man: who rejoicing to please, and fearing to offend God, are careful to abstain from evil, and zealous of good works. He is a man of a truly Catholic spirit, who bears all these continually upon his heart: who having an unspeakable tenderness for their persons, and an earnest desire of their welfare, does not cease to commend them to God in prayer, as well as to plead their cause before men: who speaks comfortably to them, and labours by all his words, to strengthen their hands in God. He assists them to the uttermost of his power, in all things, spiritual and temporal. He is ready to spend and to be spent for them; yea, to lay down his life for his brethren.

8. How amiable a character is this? How desirable to every child of God! But why is it then so rarely found? How is it, that there are so few instances of it? Indeed, supposing we have tasted of the love of God, how can any of us rest, ’till it is our own? Why, there is a delicate device, whereby Satan persuades thousands, that they may stop short of it, and yet be guiltless. It is well, if many here present are not in this snare of the devil, taken captive at his will. “O yes, says one, I have all this love for those I believe to be children of God. But I will never believe, he is a child of God, who belongs to that vile congregation! Can he, do you think, be a child of God, who holds such detestable opinions? Or he that joins in such senseless and superstitious, if not idolatrous worship?” So we justify ourselves in one sin, by adding a second to it! We excuse the want of love in ourselves, by laying the blame on others. To colour our own devilish temper, we pronounce our brethren children of the devil. O beware of this! And if you are already taken in the snare, escape out of it as soon as possible. Go and learn that truly Catholic love, which is not rash or hasty in judging: that love which thinketh no evil, which believeth and hopeth all things: which makes all the allowances for others, that we desire others should make for us. Then we shall take knowledge of the grace of God, which is in every man, whatever be his opinion or mode of worship. Then will all that fear God be near and dear unto us, in the bowels of Jesus Christ.

9. Was not this the spirit of our dear friend? And why should it not be ours? O thou God of love, how long shall thy people be a bye-word among the Heathen? How long shall they laugh us to scorn, and say, “See how these Christians love one another?” When wilt thou roll away our reproach? Shall the sword devour for ever? How long will it be, ere thou bid thy people return from following each other? Now at least, let all the people stand still, and pursue after their brethren no more! But whatever others do, let all of us, my brethren, hear the voice of him that being dead, yet speaketh! Suppose ye hear him say, “Now at least, be ye followers of me as I was of Christ! Let brother no more lift up sword against brother, neither know ye war any more! Rather put ye on, as the elect of God, bowels of mercies, humbleness of mind, brotherly kindness, gentleness, long-suffering, forbearing one another in love. Let the time past suffice for strife, envy, contention; for biting and devouring one another. Blessed be God, that ye have not long ago been consumed one of another! From henceforth hold ye the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

10. O God, with thee no word is impossible: thou dost whatsoever pleaseth thee! O that thou wouldst cause the mantle of thy prophet, whom thou hast taken up, now to fall upon us that remain! Where is the Lord God of Elijah? Let his spirit rest upon these thy servants! Shew thou art the God that answerest by fire! Let the fire of thy love fall on every heart! And because we love thee, let us love one another with a love stronger than death. Take away from us all anger, and wrath, and bitterness; all clamour, and evil-speaking. Let thy Spirit so rest upon us, that from this hour, we may be kind to each other, tender-hearted: forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ’s sake, hath forgiven us!


SERVANT of God, well done!

Thy glorious warfare’s past,

The battle’s fought, the race is won,

And thou art crown’d at last;

Of all thy heart’s desire

Triumphantly possest,

Lodg’d by the ministerial quire

In thy Redeemer’s breast.

In condescending love

Thy ceaseless prayer He heard,

And bad thee suddenly remove,

To thy complete reward:

Ready to bring the peace,

Thy beauteous feet were shod,

When mercy sign’d thy soul’s release

And caught thee up to God.

With saints inthron’d on high

Thou dost thy Lord proclaim,

And still to God salvation cry,

Salvation to the Lamb!

O happy, happy soul!

In extacies of praise,

Long as eternal ages roll,

Thou seest thy Saviour’s Face.

Redeem’d from earth and pain,

Ah! when shall we ascend,

And all in Jesus’ presence reign

With our translated Friend!

Come, Lord, and quickly come!

And when in Thee complete,

Receive thy longing servants home,

To triumph—at thy feet!

‘savation’ replaced with ‘salvation’

To the People call’d METHODISTS,
With regard to DRESS.

I. 1.I AM not fond of saying the same thing over and over: especially when I have so many things to say, that the day of life (which with me is far spent) is not likely to suffice for them. But in some cases, it is needful for you that I should: and then, it is not grievous to me. And it may be best, to speak freely and fully at once, that there may be the less need of speaking on this head hereafter.

2. When we look into the bible with any attention, and then look round into the world, to see who believes and who lives according to this book: we may easily discern, that the system of practice, as well as the system of truth there delivered, is torn in pieces, and scattered abroad, like the members of Absyrtus. Every denomination of Christians retains some part either of Christian truth or practice: these hold fast one part, and those another, as their fathers did before them. What is the duty mean-time of those who desire to follow the whole word of God? Undoubtedly to gather up all these fragments, that if possible nothing be lost: with all diligence to follow all those we see about us, so far as they follow the bible: and to join together in one scheme of truth and practice what almost all the world put asunder.

3. Many years ago I observed several parts of Christian Practice, among the people call’d Quakers. Two things I particularly remarked among them, Plainness of speech and plainness of dress. I willingly adopted both, with some restrictions, and particularly plainness of dress. The same I recommended to you, when God first called you out of the world: and after the addition of more than thirty years experience, I recommend it to you still.

4. But before I go any farther, I must intreat you, in the name of God, Be open to conviction. Whatever prejudices you have contracted from education, custom or example, divest yourselves of them, as far as possible. Be willing to receive light either from God or man: do not shut your eyes against it. Rather be glad to see more than you did before; to have the eyes of your understanding opened. Receive the truth in the love thereof, and you will have reason to bless God for ever.

II. 1. Not that I would advise you, to imitate the people called Quakers, in those little particularities of dress, which can answer no possible end, but to distinguish them from all other people. To be singular, merely for singularity’s sake, is not the part of a Christian. I do not therefore advise you, to wear a hat of such dimensions, or a coat of a particular form. Rather, in things that are absolutely indifferent, that are of no consequence at all, humility and courtesy require you to conform to the customs of your country.

2. But I advise you to imitate them, first, in the Neatness of their apparel. This is highly to be commended, and quite suitable to your Christian calling. Let all your apparel therefore be as clean as your situation in life will allow. It is certain, the poor can’t be so clean as they would, as having little change of raiment. But let even these be as clean as they can, as care and diligence can keep them. Indeed they have particular need so to be; because cleanliness is one great branch of frugality. It is likewise more conducive to health, than is generally considered. Let the poor then especially labour to be clean, and provoke those of higher rank to jealousy.

3. I advise you to imitate them secondly, in the Plainness of their apparel. In this are implied two things; 1. That your apparel be cheap, not expensive; far cheaper than others in your circumstances wear, or than you would wear, if you knew not God: 2. That it be grave, not gay, airy, or showy; not in the point of the fashion. And these easy rules may be applied both to the materials whereof it is made, and the manner wherein it is made or put on.

4. Would you have a farther rule, with respect to both? Then take one which you may always carry in your bosom. “Do every thing herein with a single eye:” and this will direct you in every circumstance. Let a single intention to please God prescribe, both what cloathing you shall buy, and the manner wherein it shall be made, and how you shall put on and wear it. To express the same thing in other words: Let all you do in this respect, be so done, that you may offer it to God, a sacrifice acceptable thro’ Christ Jesus. So that, consequently, it may increase your reward, and brighten your crown in heaven. And so it will do, if it be agreeable to Christian humility, seriousness and charity.

5. Shall I be more particular still? Then I exhort all those who desire me to watch over their souls, Wear no gold, (whatever officers of state may do; or magistrates, as the ensign of their office) no pearls or precious stones: use no curling of hair, or costly apparel, how grave soever. I advise those who are able to receive this saying, Buy no velvets, no silks, no fine linen: no superfluities, no mere ornaments, tho’ ever so much in fashion. Wear nothing, tho’ you have it already, which is of a glaring colour, or which is in any kind gay, glittering, showy; nothing made in the very height of the fashion, nothing apt to attract the eyes of the by-standers. I do not advise women to wear rings, ear-rings, necklaces, Lace, (of whatever kind or colour) or ruffles, which by little and little may easily shoot out from one to twelve inches deep. Neither do I advise men, to wear coloured waistcoats, shining stockings, glittering or costly buckles or buttons, either on their coats or in their sleeves, any more than gay, fashionable or expensive perukes. It is true, these are little, very little things: therefore they are not worth defending: therefore give them up, let them drop, throw them away, without another word. Else a little needle may cause much pain in your flesh, a little self-indulgence much hurt to your soul.

III. 1st. 1. For the preceding exhortation, I have the authority of God, in clear and express terms. ¹I will that women (and by parity of reason, men too) adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shame-facedness and sobriety, not with broidered (curled) hair, or gold, or pearls, (one kind of precious stones, which was then most in use, put for all) or costly apparel, but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. Again, ²Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning, of plating (curling) the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel. But let it be—the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. Nothing can be more express, The wearing of gold, of precious stones, and of costly apparel, together with curling of hair, is here forbidden by name: nor is there any restriction made either here or in any other scripture. Whoever therefore says, “There is no harm in these things,” may as well say, There is no harm in stealing or adultery.

¹ 1 Tim. ii. 9, 10.

² 1 Pet. iii. 3, 4.

2. There is something peculiarly observable in the manner wherein both St. Peter and St. Paul speak of these things. Let not your adorning (says St. Peter) be that outward adorning; but let it be the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit. The latter clause is not added barely to fill up the sentence, but with strong and weighty reason. For there is a direct contrariety (as little as we may suspect it) between that outward and this inward adorning. And that, both with regard to their source, and with regard to their tendency. As to their source, all that adorning springs from nature; a meek and quiet spirit from grace: the former, from conforming to our own will and the will of man, the latter from conformity to the will of God. And as to their tendency; nothing more directly tends to destroy meekness and quietness of spirit, than all that outward adorning, whereby we seek to commend ourselves, to men and not to God. For this cherishes all those passions and tempers, which overthrow the quiet of every soul wherein they dwell.

‘peculiary’ replaced with ‘peculiarly’

3. Let them adorn themselves, saith St. Paul, not with curling of hair, or with gold, pearls, or costly apparel, but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. The latter clause is here likewise added, for plain and weighty reasons. For 1. That kind of adorning cannot spring from godliness, from either the love or fear of God, from a desire of conforming to his will, or from the mind which was in Christ Jesus. 2. It no way tends to increase godliness; it is not conducive to any holy temper. But 3. It manifestly tends to destroy several of the tempers most essential to godliness. It has no friendly influence on humility; whether we aim at pleasing others or ourselves hereby. Either in one case or the other, it will rather increase pride or vanity than lowliness of heart. It does not at all minister to the seriousness which becomes a sinner born to die. It is utterly inconsistent with simplicity; no one uses it, merely to please God. Whoever acts with a single eye, does all things, to be seen and approved of God; and can no more dress, than he can pray, or give alms, to be seen of men.

4. “O! but one may be as humble in velvet and embroidery, as another is in sackcloth.” True: for a person may wear sackcloth, and have no humility at all. The heart may be filled with pride and vanity, whatever the raiment be. Again; women under the yoke of unbelieving parents or husbands, as well as men in office, may on several occasions be constrained, to put on gold or costly apparel. And in cases of this kind, plain experience shews, that the baleful influence of it is suspended. So that wherever it is not our choice but our cross, it may consist with godliness, with a meek and quiet spirit, with lowliness of heart, with Christian seriousness. But it is not true, that any one can chuse this, from a single eye to please God; or consequently, without sustaining great loss, as to lowliness and every other Christian temper.

Points ‘7 & 8’ replaced with ‘4 & 5’

5. But however this be, can you be adorned at the same time with costly apparel, and with good works? That is, in the same degree as you might have been, had you bestowed less cost on your apparel? You know this is impossible: the more you expend on the one, the less you have to expend on the other. Costliness of apparel, in every branch, is therefore immediately, directly, inevitably destructive of good works. You see a brother, for whom Christ died, ready to perish for want of needful cloathing. You would give it him gladly: but alas! It is corban, whereby he might have been profited. It is given already: not indeed for the service of God; not to the treasury of the temple: but either to please the folly of others, or to feed vanity, or the lust of the eye in yourself. Now (even suppose these were harmless tempers, yet) what an unspeakable loss is this, if it be really true, that every man shall receive his own reward, according to his own labour! If there is indeed a reward in heaven, for every work of faith, for every degree of the labour of love!

2dly. 1. As to the advice subjoined, it is easy to observe, that all those smaller things are, in their degree, liable to the same objections as the greater. If they are gay, showy, pleasing to the eye, the putting them on does not spring from a single view to please God. It neither flows from, nor tends to advance a meek and quiet spirit. It does not arise from, nor any way promote, real, vital godliness.

2. And if they are in any wise costly, if they are purchased with any unnecessary expence, they cannot but in proportion to that expence, be destructive of good works. Of consequence they are destructive of that charity, which is fed thereby: hardening our heart against the cry of the poor and needy, by inuring us to shut up our bowels of compassion toward them.

3. At least, all unnecessary expences of this kind, whether small or great, are senseless and foolish. This we may defy any man living to get over, if he allows there is another world. For there is no reward in heaven for laying out your money in ornaments or costly apparel: whereas you may have an eternal reward, for whatever you expend on earth.

4. Consider this more closely. Here are two ways proposed of laying out such a sum of money. I may lay it out in expensive apparel for myself, or in necessary clothing for my neighbour. The former will please my own eye, or that of others: the latter will please God. Now suppose there were no more harm in one than in the other, in that which pleases man, than in that which pleases God: is there as much good in it? If they are equally innocent, are they equally wise? By the one, I gratify the desire of the eye, and gain a pleasure that perishes in the using: by the other, I gain a larger share of those pleasures that are at God’s right hand for evermore. By the former I obtain the applause of man; by the latter, the praise of God. In this way, I meet with the admiration of fools: in that, I hear from the Judge of All, Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.

5. Brethren, whatever ye are accounted by men, I would not have you fools in God’s account. Walk ye circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise; not in those ways which God may possibly forgive; (to put things in the most favourable light) but in those which he will certainly reward. In wickedness be ye children still; but in understanding be ye men. I want to see a visible body of people, who are a standing example of this wisdom; a pattern of doing all things, great and small, with an eye to God and eternity.

IV. 1. But we may be assured, the wisdom of the world will find out abundance of objections to this. Accordingly it is objected, first, “If God has given us plentiful fortunes, if we are placed in the higher ranks of life, we must act suitably to our fortune. We ought then to dress according to our rank, that is, in gold and costly apparel.” Not to insist, that none of you are of this rank, I answer, Where is this written? Our Saviour once occasionally said, Behold, they who wear gorgeous (splendid) apparel, are in king’s courts: but he does not say, they ought to be even there: he neither enjoins, nor countenances it. And where is this either enjoined or allowed, by him or any of his apostles? Bring me plain, scriptural proof for your assertion, or I cannot allow it.

2. “But did not God give express command by Moses, that some even among his chosen people should be adorned in the most exquisite manner, with gold and precious stones and costly array?” Indeed he did: he expressly commanded this, with regard to Aaron, and his successors in the high-priesthood. But to this I answer, first, this direction which God gave, with regard to the Jewish high-priest, can certainly affect no person in England, unless the Archbishop of Canterbury. And I apprehend, he does not plead the precedent. Secondly, The Jews and we are under different dispensations. The glory of the whole Mosaic dispensation, was chiefly visible and external: whereas the glory of the Christian dispensation, is of an invisible and spiritual nature.

3. “But what then are gold and precious stones for? Why have they a place in the creation?” What if I say, I cannot tell? There are abundance of things in the creation, which I do not know the use of. What are crocodiles, lions, tigers, scorpions for? Why have so many poisons a place in the creation? Some of them are for medicine: but whatever they are for, in whatever manner they may be useful, they are certainly not to be used in such a manner as God has expressly forbidden.

4. “But if they were not thus adorned, Kings and Generals would be despised by their subjects and soldiers.” Supposing they would, that is nothing to you; for you are neither Kings nor Generals. But it is absolutely certain, they would not, if they were not despised on other accounts. If they are valiant and wise, they will never be despised, for the plainness of their dress. Was ever General or King more esteemed or beloved by his subjects and soldiers than King Charles of Sweden? And ’tis sure, he wore no gold or costly apparel, not so much as a common officer. But we need not go so many years back. Who is the Prince that is now honoured and beloved both by his subjects and soldiers, far beyond any other King or General in Europe? There is no need to repeat his name. But does he gain this honour and love, by the costliness of his apparel? So far from it, that he rarely uses any other dress, than the uniform of his own guards.

5. “But if all men were to dress like him, how would tradesmen live?” I answer, 1. God certainly considered this, or ever he gave these commands. And he would never have given them, had he not seen, that if they were universally observed, men in general would live better than they otherwise could: better in this world, as well as that to come. But, 2. There is no danger at all, that they should be universally observed. Only a little flock in any civilized nation will observe them, till the knowledge of God covers the earth. 3. If those who do observe them, employ the money they thus save, in the most excellent manner, then a part of what before only served to fat a few rich tradesmen for hell, will suffice to feed and clothe and employ many poor, that seek the kingdom of heaven. 4. And how will those tradesmen themselves live? They will live like men, by honest labour, most of whom before lived like swine, wallowing in all gluttony and sensuality. But, 5. This is all mere trifling. It is only a copy of your countenance. For it is not this, it is not a regard to trade, or the good of the nation, that makes you disobey God. No: it is pride, vanity, or some other sinful temper, which is the real cause of these sinful actions.

6. “But we cannot carry on our own trade, without dressing like other people.” If you mean only, conforming to those customs of your country, that are neither gay, nor costly, why should you not “dress like other people?” I really think you should. Let an Englishman dress like other Englishmen; not like a Turk or a Tartar. Let an English woman dress like other English women; not like a French woman or a German. But if you mean “conformity to them in what God has forbidden,” the answer is ready at hand. If you can’t carry on your trade without breaking God’s command, you must not carry it on. But I doubt the fact: I know no trade which may not be carried on by one who uses plain and modest apparel. I fear, therefore, this too is but a copy of your countenance: you love these things, and therefore think them necessary. Your heart carries away your judgment: if you were not fond of them, you would never dream of their necessity.

7. In one single case these things may be necessary, that is, unavoidable, namely, that of women who are under the yoke of self-willed, unreasonable husbands or parents. Such may be constrained to do in some degree, what otherwise they would not. And they are blameless herein, if 1. They use all possible means, arguments, intreaties, to be excused from it; and when they cannot prevail, 2. Do it just so far as they are constrained, and no farther.

V. 1. And now, brethren, what remains, but that I beseech you who are not under the yoke, who are, under God, the directors of your own actions, to set prejudice, obstinacy, fashion aside; and yield to scripture, to reason, to truth. Suppose, as some affirm, you acted on no higher motive than to please me herein, I know not that you would have need to be ashamed; even this you might avow in the face of the sun. You owe something to me: perhaps it is not my fault, if ye owe not your own souls also. If then you did an indifferent thing, only on this principle, not to give me any uneasiness, but to oblige, to comfort me in my labour, would you do much amiss? How much more may you be excused in doing what I advise, when truth, reason and scripture advise the same? When the thing in question is not an indifferent thing, but clearly determined by God himself?

2. Some years ago, when I first landed at Savannah in Georgia, a gentlewoman told me, “I assure you, Sir, you will see as well-dressed a congregation on Sunday, as most you have seen in London.” I did so: and soon after I took occasion to expound those scriptures which relate to dress, and to press them freely upon my audience, in a plain and close application. All the time that I afterward ministered at Savannah, I saw neither gold in the church, nor costly apparel. But the congregation in general was almost constantly cloathed in plain, clean linen or woollen.

3. And why should not my advice, grounded on scripture and reason, weigh with you as much as with them? I will tell you why. 1. You are surrounded with saints of the world, persons fashionably, reputably religious. And these are constant opposers of all, who would go farther in religion than themselves. These are continually warning you against running into extremes, and striving to beguile you from the simplicity of the gospel. 2. You have near you still more dangerous enemies than these, Antinomians, whether German or English; who when any Christian practise is enforced, come in with the cookoo’s note, “The law, the law;” and while they themselves glory in their shame, make you ashamed of what should be your glory. 3. You have suffered by false teachers of our own, who undermined the doctrine you had received: negatively, in publicly, by not insisting upon it, by not exhorting you to dress as persons professing godliness: (and, not to speak for a Christian duty, is in effect to speak against it:) and positively in private, either by jesting upon your exactness in observing the scripture-rule, or by insinuations, which if you did not mind them then, yet would afterward weaken your soul. 4. You have been, and are at this day in perils among false brethren: I mean, not only those of other congregations, who count strictness all one with bondage: but many of our own; in particular those, who were once clearly convinced of the truth: but they have sinned away that conviction themselves, and now endeavour to harden others against it: at least, by example; by returning again to the folly, from which they were once clean escaped. But what is the example of all mankind, when it runs counter to scripture and reason? I have warned you a thousand times, not to regard any example, which contradicts reason or scripture. If it ever should be (pray, that it may not be; but if it ever should) that I or my brother, my wife, or his, or all of us together, should set an example contrary to scripture and reason: I intreat you, regard it not at all: still let scripture and reason prevail.

4. *You who have passed the morning, perhaps the noon of life, who find the shadows of the evening approach, set a better example to those that are to come, to the now-rising generation. With you the day of life is far spent; the night of death is at hand. You have no time to lose: see that you redeem every moment that remains. Remove every thing out of the way, be it ever so small (tho’ indeed gay or costly apparel is not so) that might any ways obstruct your lowliness and meekness, your seriousness of spirit, your single intention to glorify God, in all your thoughts and words and actions. Let no needless expence hinder your being in the highest degree you possibly can, rich in good works: ready to distribute, willing to communicate, till you are cloathed with glory and immortality.

‘possible’ replaced with ‘possibly’

*Our carcases will soon fall into the dust: then let the survivors adorn them with flowers. Mean time let us regard those ornaments only, that will accompany us into eternity.

5. *You that are in the morning of your days, either your form is agreeable, or it is not. If it is not, do not make your person remarkable: rather let it lie hid in common apparel. On every account, it is your wisdom, to recommend yourself to the eye of the mind: but especially to the eye of God, who reads the secrets of your hearts, and in whose sight the incorruptible ornaments alone are of great price. But if you would recommend yourself by dress, is any thing comparable to plain neatness? What kind of persons are those, to whom you could be recommended by gay or costly apparel? None that are any way likely to make you happy: this pleases only the silliest and worst of men. At most, it gratifies only the silliest and worst principle in those who are of a nobler character.

6. *To you whom God has intrusted with a more pleasing form, those ornaments are quite needless,

“The adorning thee with so much art

Is but a barbarous skill:

’Tis like the poisoning of a dart,

Too apt before to kill.”

That is, to express ourselves in plain English, without any figure of poetry, it only tends to drag them faster into death everlasting, who were going fast enough before, by additional provocations to lust, or at least, inordinate affection. Did you actually design to raise either of these, in those who looked upon you? What, while you and they were in the more immediate presence of God? What profaneness and inhumanity mixt together! But if you designed it not, did you not foresee it? You might have done so, without any extraordinary sagacity. “Nay, I did not care or think about it.” And do you say this by way of excuse? You scatter abroad arrows, firebrands and death; and do not care or think about it!

7. *O let us all walk more charitably and more wisely for the time to come! Let us all cast aside from this very hour, whatever does not become men and women professing godliness: whatever does not spring from the love and fear of God, and minister thereto. Let our seriousness shine before men, not our dress: let all who see us know that we are not of this world. Let our adorning be that which fadeth not away, even righteousness and true holiness. If ye regard not weakening my hands and grieving my spirit, yet grieve not the Holy Spirit of God. Do you ask, “But what shall I do with the gay or costly apparel, and with the ornaments I have already? Must I suffer them to be lost? Ought I not to wear them now I have them?” I answer, There is no loss like that of using them: wearing them is the greatest loss of all. But what then shalt thou do with them? Burn them rather than wear them; throw them into the depth of the sea. Or if thou canst with a clear conscience, sell them, and give the money to them that want. But buy no more at the peril of thy soul. Now be a faithful steward. After providing for those of thine own houshold things needful for life and godliness, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, relieve the sick, the prisoner, the stranger, with all that thou hast. Then shall God clothe thee with glory and honour, in the presence of men and angels: and thou shalt shine as the brightness of the firmament, yea, as the stars for ever and ever.


I AM persuaded, it is not possible for me to write any thing so full, so strong, and so clear on this subject, as has been written near an hundred and fifty years ago, by a person of equal sense and piety. I shall therefore only abridge what he has written on the head, with some few alterations and additions. I beseech you all, who are more immediately concerned, to read it with the calmest attention, and with earnest prayer, that what is here written, may be transcribed into your hearts and lives.

The first duty of the Married, Chastity.

1.THIS duty is so manifest, that no person whatever can pretend ignorance of it. The law of God, the law of nature, and the laws of all well ordered societies enjoin it. The violation of this unties the marriage-knot, and dissolves the marriage-covenant. For our Lord himself, who utterly disallows of other divorces, yet allows divorce in case of adultery. “But may the person wronged admit the wrongdoer again, after the offence is known?” I answer, they may, provided the offender give full, satisfactory proof of amendment. We read not any command to the contrary. But if the offender persist in sin, then the innocent person, having full proof thereof, is bound to withdraw from the sinner.

2. Let any who find strong temptations to this sin, 1. Constantly and conscientiously perform private duties. The blessing of God hereon will make him conqueror, over what before seemed most unconquerable. 2. Be diligent in your calling, that you may have no leisure for inflaming imaginations. It is certain, an idle person, if occasion and constitution serve, will sooner or later prove adulterous. But diligence joined with hearty prayer, will preserve a man pure and undefiled. 3. Be exactly temperate. It is easy to put out the fiercest fire, by withdrawing the fewel. If therefore you would be chaste in your marriage, be sparing in your food. 4. Carefully shun every temptation and all opportunities of sin: especially, shun as a rock the company of any person apt to tempt, or to be tempted; and consider, that the coldest water will be hot, if it be set near the fire.

3. These directions are such as agree to all, married or unmarried. There remains another help peculiar to the former, the due use of marriage. The ordinances of God will answer their end, if our abuse of them do not hinder. Now God has ordained marriage for this end, among others, to prevent fornication. Wherefore let it be used in the manner it ought, and it will surely answer its end. And in this respect, the wife hath not power over her own body, but the husband. Neither hath the husband power over his own body, but the wife. It is not in the choice of either, whether to live with the other, or not. But they are bound in conscience so to do, and cannot refuse it without grievous sin. There may indeed be a separation for a time, if needful affairs require. But it is not lawful for either the man or the woman to leave the other totally or finally.

4. In this their society two things are to be observed, that it be sanctified and temperate. First, it must be sanctified, that is, made lawful and holy to them by the word of God and prayer. The word of God clearly shews the lawfulness of it. For God has said expresly, Marriage is honourable among all men, and the bed undefiled. But let it also be sanctified or made holy by prayer. Solemnly pray for the blessing of God upon his ordinance, not forgetting to return him particular thanks for his infinite goodness herein. That this is requisite none can deny, that will not deny the authority of St. Paul. For he affirms, that marriage, as well as meat and drink, is sanctified by prayer and thanksgiving. As therefore it is a brutish profaneness, for any man to sit down to his table, as an horse to the manger, without asking the blessing of God first, and to return from it, as a fox from his prey, without praising him that gave him food and appetite; so it is great licentiousness for married persons to come together, as it were brute beasts, without either prayer or thanksgiving. The hope of posterity, the stay of old age, the support of every man’s house, the supply of the church and common-wealth, hang upon the fruit of marriage. Is it then more than needs, to ask the blessing of God in a thing of so great importance? Surely we should bring his curse upon us, were we either to forget it as needless, or despise it as ridiculous. Yea, whereas marriage is instituted in part for the subduing inordinate desires, it cannot answer that end, without God’s blessing; which how can we expect, if we scorn to ask it? Certainly, the men that use marriage in a brutish manner, not seeing God therein, nor sanctifying it to themselves by these means, will thereby become more and more brutish. Wherefore let no man scoff at a duty plainly commanded by God: but let us learn to know the full efficacy of prayer, and to reap the fruit of it in all things.

5. It must, secondly, Be temperate. We are always to remember, God ordained marriage chiefly for the increase of mankind, and not to kindle lustful desires, but to quench them. I confess, we should take great heed of laying snares upon mens consciences, and must be very careful not to bind them, where God has not bound them. But this is a sure rule: the quantity of every thing, must be suited to the end. This being considered, the married are not to provoke desires, but allay them, when they provoke themselves. They must not strive to inflame the passions when they are cool, but when they are moved of themselves, to assuage them. In a word, marriage should be used as sparingly, as consists with the need of the persons married. A temperate use promotes purity: excess inflames lust, and inclines to adultery. Wherefore the foregoing rule should be carefully observed, that the married come no oftener together, than is needful to extinguish natural desires, when they would otherwise become troublesome to them. Now the sanctified use of marriage is also an help to the temperate use of it. But they seldom fail to exceed, who do not take care to make all things holy by prayer and thanksgiving.

6. Perhaps one might add, it should ever be accompanied with chearfulness and willingness. They must neither deny themselves to each other, nor behave with grudging and forwardness; but rather with readiness and all demonstrations of sincere affection. The scripture plainly testifies this, by the very term benevolence or good-will. For no man can call that good-will, which is done churlishly and discontentedly: a behaviour that naturally tends to alienate the heart, and create suspicions of estrangement of affection.

Of the Love of married Persons.

1.THE marriage-covenant binds all that enter into it, to several other duties, as well as to chastity: but not under the same forfeiture, failing in these breaks God’s command, but does not break the bond of matrimony. No ill-behaviour dissolves this, while we are not wronged as to the marriage-bed. Thou art still an husband or a wife, though thy yoke-fellow is wanting in many duties. Be careful therefore to do thy own part still, however slenderly thou art requited.

2. The duties common to husbands and wives, partly respect themselves, and partly their families. All the former sort may be reduced to two heads, love and the fruits of love. First, Love: their hearts must be united as well as their hands: else their union will be more troublesome than can be imagined. Love is the life and soul of marriage, without which it differs from itself as a carcase from a living body. This makes all things easy, whereas the absence of it makes all things hard. Love seasons and sweetens every state; love composes all controversies. In whomsoever love prevails, to them only marriage is what it should be, a pleasing combination of two persons into one home, one purse; one heart and one flesh. And this love must have two especial properties, first, It must be spiritual; secondly, matrimonial. It must be spiritual in its ground, and in its working. Its chief ground must be the commandment of God. A Christian must love his wife, not only because she is beautiful or loving, but chiefly because God enjoins it. The wife must love her husband, not only because he is handsome, kind or well-behaved, but because God the sovereign of all souls, has commanded women to be lovers of their own husbands. Not the face, portion or good qualities of the married, must be the chief cause of their loving each other, but the will of God; and that affection which stands on this stable foundation will be lasting: while that which stands on any other consideration, will be subject to change every hour. For how can the building stand fast, if the foundation sink away? Either some storm of contention will overthrow that love, or it will fall down of itself thro’ age. Or else it will degenerate into jealousy, the devouring canker-worm, that eats up the hearts of married persons, and consumes or spoils the sweet fruit they may reap. But he that loves his wife, because she is his wife, and God commands him to love her as such, will love her, so long as she is his wife, whatever she prove beside. Thou lovest thy wife, because she is fair, good-humoured, courteous: but what if all these should fail? Thou lovest thy husband, because he is handsome, sensible, kind: but where will thy love be, if these things should alter? You see there is no firmness in that love, which is procured only by these motives. But if thou love thy wife or husband, because God enjoins it, then thy love will be constant and perpetual.

3. This property of love, that it is spiritual, built on the rock of God’s commandment, answers all the objections which many would make against it in their own cases. “Who, says a man, can love such a wife?” “And what wife, says a woman, can love such an husband?” I answer, a man whose affection is spiritual, can love even such a wife. And the woman who has attained to spiritual love finds it possible to love even such an husband.

4. But as the ground of their love must be spiritual, so must also the working thereof. It must seek the spiritual good of the person beloved, by every possible means. For that love which seeks only their temporal welfare, deserves no better name than carnal love. But surely those who love each other, because God bids them, will love each other as God bids them. They will be careful of each others souls, as well as of their bodies and estates. But alas! How exceedingly does the love of most married people fail herein? Thou art kind to thy wife or husband, and it goes to thy heart, to think any thing should be wanting for their good. It is well; but so may a Turk as well as thou, if by good, thou meanest only that which is temporal. But dost thou seek to help thy yoke-fellow to heavenly, as well as earthly benefits? This is spiritual love: this becomes a Christian husband, and a Christian wife. Be not then carnal in your love, walking as men, but spiritual as the children of God.

5. *But remember farther, that your love must be matrimonial, as well as spiritual. It must be matrimonial, with regard, 1. To the degree, and 2. To the effect of it. For the first, A man should love his wife, a woman her husband, above all the creatures in the world. Next to the living God, the wife is to have the highest place in the husband’s heart, and he in her’s. No neighbour, no friend, no parent, no child, should be so near and dear to either as the other. They are joined in the closest of all unions; therefore their mutual affection should be most abundant. They must do more and suffer more for each other, than for any other in all the world. They must bear with more faults in each other than any besides, and be ready to take more pains for each other.

6. Secondly, As to the effect of this love, it should knit them together, that they may receive full satisfaction in each other. Love should cause a man to account his wife the only woman in the world: and so the wife to account her husband the only man in the world. The persons of each should be to the other the most precious of all persons. Do any object, this cannot be, unless every man and every woman, could find in their own yoke-fellow as amiable qualities as are to be found in others: I answer, not the good qualities of either, but the good pleasure of God is the ground of their mutual dearness. Good qualities make this duty more easy: but it is still a duty, tho’ good qualities be away. A man may lawfully think another woman a better woman than his own wife. But he may not love another woman, tho’ more virtuous, above his own, tho’ less virtuous. This is the effect of matrimonial love, to settle the heart of each upon the other, above all in the world besides. It admits of none equal in affection, but places the yoke-fellow next to our own soul. Nor will it bear the desire of change, but so links their hearts together, that in this respect they are only dear to each other.

7. The means to get and confirm this love, is to have one house, one table, one bed. But besides this natural means of procuring love, there are two spiritual means. The one is, to take special notice, of God’s gracious providence in their match. They must often consider, that God joined them together, for their mutual benefit, as being on the whole fitter for each other, than any person besides could be. We know, that a mean gift is often respected, for the giver’s sake. And he that loveth God, cannot but love all his blessings for his sake. Wherefore remember, that God in great goodness (for crosses also come to God’s children from his goodness) hath bestowed this yoke-fellow, and thou shalt dearly love thy wife or husband, tho’ perhaps not so well-tempered. For the dearness of the giver will countervail the defects of the gift. And then thy yoke-fellow’s distempers will grieve thee indeed, but not alienate thy affection.

8. Another means of uniting your souls is, constantly to join in exercises of piety. Pray together: sing together: confer together, concerning your heavenly country. And this will be found an excellent means of confirming your mutual love. These will nourish the Spirit of holiness in you: and that inkindles love wherever it comes. By these you will soon perceive yourselves to have been spiritually profitable to each other: and to receive a spiritual benefit cannot but beget and nourish spiritual affection. Naturally you would grow weary of each other: but if you season your natural communion, with this communion in spiritual things, it will prevent all satiety. Jars and contentions are the great hindrances of love; but the joining together in these exercises, will cause you to jar far more seldom: nor will any sudden jar fester or rankle, so as to breed hard thoughts of one another, which are the bane of love. Prayer will prevent most contentions and compose all: for when you shall appear before God in prayer, instead of blaming each other, you will each blame yourself, and then all contention will cease.

9. But some may say, “What shall I do, who have such an husband or wife, as neither can nor will join with me, in the service of God?” I answer, pray for that yoke-fellow, who will not pray with thee. The less able or willing they are to intreat for themselves, the more frequently and earnestly intreat God for them. It may be, God will give thee thy desire, and turn their hearts to thee. At least, thy own soul will gain an increase of heavenly love to them. And this is sure, that to love your yoke-fellow spiritually and fervently, tho’ you are not loved again, is far better, than to be loved of them, without so loving.

Of the Effects of Love.

1.THE effects of nuptial love are three, Pleasingness, Faithfulness, Helpfulness. The first, which must mix itself with all the rest, is an earnest desire to please each other, so far as it is possible to be done, without sinning against God. Wherefore the husband must do or leave undone, any thing he can, that he may please his wife: and the wife must in any thing cross her own desires that she may satisfy his. In diet, attire, choice of company, and all things else, each must fulfill the other’s desire, as absolutely as can be done, without transgressing the law of God. As difficult as this may seem at first, practice will make it easy. Resolutely begin, and the proceeding will be pleasanter than the beginning. Especially if both labour together, each seeking to oblige the other. For it cannot be difficult to satisfy one, who desires to take as well as to give satisfaction.

2. But some will say, “This suits not me, nothing will satisfy my froward yoke-fellow.” I answer, It may be so: it is not in ones power, to make a froward person take a thing well. But it is in your power, to do your best, to satisfy such an one; and to strive the more, the more averse to peace your companion is. “But it is hard, to be still striving against the stream.” It is; but duties must not be omitted because they are hard. The scholar, who has an hard lesson, must take the more pains to learn it. So the husband or wife, that has a perverse companion, must take the more pains to please them. Let the difficulty therefore make thee more diligent: and encourage thyself in this tedious labour, by thinking, “If after all I cannot please my yoke-fellow, I shall not fail to please God. Yea, and the harder the work is, the better he will take it at my hands. Therefore I will so behave, that they may receive content in all things, if any thing but sin will content them.” This caution indeed we must observe; for we may not, to please anyone, sin against God. If any thing but sin will satisfy, thou must do it, be it ever so contrary to thy own will. But if thou canst not fulfill the desires of a creature, without breaking the law of God, then thou must not fulfill them: better offend a mortal man, than the immortal God.

3. In the next place, husband and wife are to be faithful and helpful to each other. These two must always be united: therefore we speak of them together. This was the principal thing which God designed in the creation of the woman. It is not good, saith he, for man to be alone: I will make him an help meet for him. And undoubtedly man was intended to give, as well as to receive help. This helpful fidelity consists in their mutual care to abstain from and prevent whatever might grieve or hurt either: and to do themselves, and incite others to do, whatever might comfort or benefit either. And this must extend to the soul, the body, the name, and the estate.

4. First, to the souls, by provoking each other on all occasions, to inward and outward holiness. The husband must further the wife in all goodness, and the wife the husband: for she has also liberty to stir up her husband, by intreaty and fair means. And as they have special opportunity, so they should be always ready, with special diligence, to provoke one another to love and to good works. O how sweet is the society when they thus watch all occasions to further each other in godliness! Again; being continually together, they may discover in each other divers corruptions and imperfections. They must not turn these into matter of contempt, but of compassion and care for each others reformation. They should observe each others temper, ’till they perceive what infirmities each is chiefly inclined to, and then diligently abstain from what may provoke that evil, and apply all means that may heal it. If all their labour does not avail, they must not fear to seek the help of some common friend, who possibly may effect that cure, which themselves had endeavoured in vain. And if even this does not succeed, still they must wait and pray, referring the matter to God, the only physician of the soul, who is able in due time to redress all.

5. The same faithful helpfulness they owe, to the bodies of each other. They must shun all things that might cause sickness or pain to each other, and readily undergo any pains or cost, according to their power, to procure whatever is necessary either to keep or recover their health. They must comfort each other, in the days of sorrow, that worldly sorrow work not death. The wife must be health to her husband in his sickness: she must support his weakness, and he her’s. Sickness and weakness are things which of themselves are hard enough to be borne. There needs not the addition of unkindness to make the burden heavier. Let every husband and wife avoid or mend this fault, and be particularly careful of their behaviour, at that time above all, when either is visited with grief, or weakness, or sickness. When your wife is sick or pain’d, then comfort her with loving words, and chear her by a tender countenance. Then see that she want no looking too, no help which thou canst procure. When thy husband is sick or weak, then stay him with comfortable speech, revive him with diligent attendance. Do all thou canst, to ease his pain, and to recover his strength. Let thy love and care be his best physic, and thyself his best physician. This is to be faithful to thy husband’s body, and to “cherish him in sickness as in health.”

6. In the third place, man and wife must be faithfully helpful to each others names, and that in a double respect: in maintaining them both between themselves and also among others. First, they must hold fast a good opinion of each other, so far as it may possibly stand with truth. Yea, it is no blame for them to have somewhat too good an opinion of each other: for a man to think his wife not only more handsome, but more wise and good than she is; (making her virtues carry a greater show to the eye, by looking at them thro’ the glass of love:) and for her to think him not only more proper, but more kind and good than he really is, by taking things with that largeness of good interpretation, which much love naturally puts upon them. Certainly then they should be peremptory to give no place to ungrounded, unwarranted surmises. They must on no account suffer their hearts to grow mistrustful of each other. All rash, ill-built, hasty surmises, must be far from them. Otherwise love will go out at the same door, at which suspicion came in. He or she that has a suspicious head, has not a truly loving heart. Such may be lustful or fond; but an holy, virtuous, spiritual affection they cannot have. So long as they give way to evil surmisings, there is no place for this. *And therefore of all domestic makebates, of all that breeds quarrel between married people, nothing in the world is more pestilently effectual to this bad end than jealousy. Having leavened the heart, it makes the speech tart and sharp, the countenance sour, the whole behaviour distasteful. No good words, no good actions, or gestures, or looks can proceed from a jealous heart. Jealousy will make one suck mischievous things out of his own fingers ends. Suffer not therefore this evil weed to grow up in the garden of matrimony. For no good herb will prosper by it; no praise-worthy thing will flourish. Let all then that are married, detest any thought of this kind that may arise. Let their hearts disdain to give the least credit, unless the proofs be more than manifest. Away then with this makebate jealousy, this quarreler suspicion, this breeder of brawls, this mother and nurse of contention, this underminer of love and of good husbandry, of all that should be profitable to an houshold. Away with it, I say, out of thy heart: chase it far from thy breast, from thy house. It is better to receive ten wrongs without suspecting, than to suspect one that is not received. Wherefore as thou wouldst stand for the good name of thy companion, against the tongue of a slanderer, so stand for it against the dreams of thy own heart, against thy own slanderous imagination. And if any person will suffer his lips to be so ill employed, as to become Satan’s bellows, by blowing these coals betwixt you, by telling thee this or that, rebuke such a person, reject his words with detestation, flee his company, nor defile thy ears and heart, by giving gentle audience to a whisperer and talebearer. In a word, wouldst thou love or be loved? Wouldst thou live otherwise in marriage, than as in a prison or dungeon? Then strengthen thy heart against all suspicion, and rather be any thing than jealous.

‘guestures’ replaced with ‘gestures’

7. Ye must be tender also of each other’s reputation abroad. This requireth two things: First, that each labour to conceal the weaknesses of the other, so far as is possible, from all men. The husband must endeavour, that none may know of his wife’s faults, but himself: and the wife must do her best to keep her husband’s faults from the knowledge of every creature. On the contrary, to publish each others sins, is a monstrous treachery. To backbite an enemy is a sin: how much more to backbite ones yoke-fellow? Whose faults can a man cover if not his wife’s, that is in effect, his own? Or who can be free from reproach, if one so near as his wife, deface his good name? ’Tis impossible but man and wife must sooner or later discover their weaknesses to one another. And for them to be playing the tell-tale against each other, what soul does not loath to think of it? If thou hast been so sinfully talkative before, now for shame lay thy hand upon thy mouth, that thou mayst no more incur the name of fool, by making thy tongue to spread abroad folly.

8. But besides this, you must faithfully keep each others secrets. A man may have occasion to acquaint his wife, with things which he would not reveal to others; so may a woman to acquaint her husband. Now if in such cases a wife find, that her husband has revealed what she intrusted with him alone; or he find, that she has revealed what he spoke to her in the confidence of love, this will breed such a distrust of the offending party, as will not easily be removed. Wherefore let husbands and wives always mind this: If he lay up any thing in her breast, let him find it safe there, as in a chest, which cannot be opened by any pick-lock. If she commit a thing to his safe keeping, let it be imprisoned in his bosom. Otherwise no man can chuse but be strange to one, whom experience has convinced of blabbing. And it is an infallible truth, that there is no comfortable living with one whom you cannot trust.

9. The last part of faithful helpfulness to each other, is that which concerns their estates. And to this end it is requisite, first, that all things be common between them, goods as well as persons: For if they make not a division in the greater, it is absurd to make it in the less. They should have one house and one purse: for they are one, and their estates should be one also. And having thus united their fortunes, let them, secondly, practise good husbandry therein. This implies three things, diligence in getting, prudence in saving, providence in foreseeing. These three, industry, frugality, and forecast, make up good husbandry. And if any of these are wanting, so much is wanting to the perfection of it; and so much also will be wanting, for their comfort and prosperity.

Of the duties of the married to their family.

1.A Man and his wife, who before were members of other families, join together that they may become the roots of a new family: Wherein by training up their servants and children, they provide plants for God’s vineyard, the church. In this family the husband is the head; the wife is the next, as subordinate to him. They are both to maintain and govern their family. First, they must join in providing it with all necessaries, imitating herein the father of this great family, the world, who fills every creature with good things fit for it. But they must govern as well as maintain their houshold; the man as God’s immediate officer, the woman as an officer deputed by him, not equal, but subordinate: he, by the authority derived immediately from God, she by authority derived from her husband.

2. The first point, in order to the due government of their family, is to educate their children well; more especially in their tender years. I cannot lay down a better method for this, than is laid down in a letter printed some years since; part of which is here subjoined.

*“According to your desire, I have collected the principal rules I observed in educating my family. The children (she had ten who came to man’s estate, eight of whom were frequently at home together) were put into a regular method of living, in such things as they were capable of, from their birth, as in dressing, undressing, changing their linen, &c. The first quarter commonly passes in sleep. After that, they were, if possible, laid into their cradles awake, and rocked asleep, and so they were kept rocking till it was time for them to awake. This was done to bring them to a regular course of sleeping, which at first was three hours in the morning, and three in the afternoon: afterwards two hours till they needed none at all.

*“When they were turned a year old, they were taught to fear the rod, and cry softly. By this means they escaped abundance of correction which otherwise they must have had, and that odious noise of the crying of children was rarely heard in the house.

*“As soon as they were grown pretty strong, they were confined to three meals a day. They were never suffered to chuse their meat, but always ate such things as were provided for the family. Whatever they had, they were never permitted to eat of more than one thing. Drinking or eating between meals was never allowed, but in case of sickness, which rarely happened.

*“At six they had their supper. At seven their maid washed them, and got them all to bed by eight. Then she left them in their several rooms awake: for we allowed no such thing, as sitting by a child till it fell asleep.

“They were so constantly used to eat and drink what was given them, that when any of them was ill, there was no difficulty in making them take the most unpleasant medicine. This I mention, to shew a person may be taught to take any thing, be it ever so disagreeable.

*“In order to form the minds of children, the first thing to be done, is, to conquer their will. To inform their understanding is a work of time, and must proceed by slow degrees: but the subjecting the will is a thing which must be done at once; and the sooner the better. For by our neglecting timely correction, they contract a stubbornness, which is hardly ever to be conquered, and never without using that severity, which would be as painful to us as to the children. Therefore I call those cruel parents, who pass for kind and indulgent: who permit their children to contract habits, which they know must be afterwards broken.

“Whenever a child is corrected, it must be conquered. And when his will is totally subdued, then a great many childish follies and inadvertencies may be past by. Some should be overlooked and taken no notice of, and others mildly reproved. But no wilful transgression should ever be forgiven, without chastisement, less or more.

“I insist upon conquering the wills of children betimes, because this is the only foundation of a religious education, without which both precept and example will be ineffectual. But when this is throughly done, then a child is capable of being governed by the reason of its parent, till its own understanding comes to maturity, and the principles of religion have taken root.

*“I cannot yet dismiss this subject. As self-will is the root of all sin and misery, so whatever cherishes this in children, ensures their after wretchedness and irreligion; and whatever checks and mortifies it, promotes their future happiness and piety. This is still more evident, if we consider, that religion is nothing else but the doing the will of God, not our own: and that self-will being the grand impediment to our temporal and eternal happiness, no indulgence of it can be trivial, no denial of it unprofitable. Heaven or hell depends on this alone. So that the parent who studies to subdue it in his children, works together with God in the saving a soul; the parent who indulges it, does the devil’s work, makes religion impracticable, salvation unattainable, and does all that in him lies, to damn his child, soul and body for ever.”

3. This advice, first, to conquer the wills of children, is exactly agreeable to the apostle’s direction to parents, Eph. vi. 4. Train them up, (I do not say, in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; for I know not what that odd expression means, but) ἐν παιδεία καὶ νουθεσία Κυρίου, in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ἐν παιδεία, in the discipline first; then ἐν νουθεσία, in Christian knowledge; because they may be inured to discipline, before they are capable of instruction. *This therefore I cannot but earnestly repeat, break their wills betimes: begin this great work before they can run alone, before they can speak plain, perhaps before they can speak at all. Whatever pains it costs, conquer their stubbornness: break the will, if you would not damn the child. I conjure you, not to neglect, not to delay this. Therefore, 1. Let a child, from a year old, be taught to fear the rod, and to cry softly. It cannot be exprest, how much pains this will save both to the parent and the child. In order to this, 2. Let him have nothing he cries for; absolutely nothing, great or small. Let this be an unvariable rule; else you undo all your own work. 3. At all events, from that age, make him do as he is bid, if you whip him ten times running to effect it. Let none persuade you it is cruelty to do this: it is real cruelty, not to do it. If you spare the rod, you spoil the child; if you do not conquer, you ruin him. Break his will now, and his soul shall live, and he will probably bless you to all eternity.

παιθεία’ replaced with ‘παιδεία

4. *But we are by nature not only full of self-will, but likewise of pride, atheism, anger, falshood and idolatry. Now the end of education is to counteract and remove all the corruption of nature; of Christian education in particular, termed by St. Paul, the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Set yourselves, therefore, ye Christian parents, to the work. Indeed it is not a little one. In order to accomplish it, you will need both the wisdom and the power of God: in order to root up, instead of strengthening, as most do, all these roots of bitterness. Self-will has been spoken of already. The next evil you are to oppose in children is pride. In order to guard against this, 1. Never commend them to their face, either for their goodness, sense or beauty. It is deadly poison. It is the direct way to plunge their souls in everlasting perdition. 2. Suffer no other to do it, if you can possibly prevent it: and if any should commend them, in their hearing, regard not complaisance, or good-breeding so called, but check them immediately. 3. Lovingly shew them their faults, especially their wrong tempers, as soon as ever their understanding dawns. 4. In particular, labour to convince them of atheism: shew them, that they are without God in the world: that they do not know God; that they do not love, delight in, or enjoy him, any more than do the beasts that perish. 5. Do not teach them revenge: never say, “Who hurts my child? Give me a blow for him.” Do not encourage them in anger, by laughing at, or seeming pleased with their little froward tricks. Rather check them for the least appearance of it, much more for an angry word or action. 6. Let property be inviolably maintained among your little ones. Let none of them dare to take the very least thing, not an apple or a pin, without, much less, against the consent of the owner. 7. Do not teach them lying. Never say, “It was not my child that did so.” On the contrary, inure them to confess their faults, and to tell the truth at all hazards. 8. Begin early to guard them against idolatry, against the love of the world in all its branches. Do nothing to feed in them the desire of the flesh; that is, of the pleasures of sense. Keep them (on this account, as well as on account of health) to the plainest, simplest diet. If they do not want it as physic, let them taste no liquid till ten or twelve years old, but water or milk. Above all, let no tea come within their lips, no strong drink of any kind. If they never have it, they will never desire it. It is wholly your fault if they do. Do nothing to feed in them the desire of the eye. Let their dress also be plain and simple. Let them always (so far as your circumstances will allow) be clean, but never fine. Let them never wear any thing that is showy, any thing that is gay or glittering. Put nothing upon them that attracts the eye, either their own, or that of others. Give them nothing, nor suffer others to give them any thing that is purely ornamental. Dress your children just as you dress yourself, that when they are grown up, they may have nothing to unlearn. More full directions on these heads, and many others, you have in the “Instructions for Children,” which I advise every parent to read again and again, and to put it in practice with all his power.

‘complisance’ replaced with ‘complaisance’

‘showey’ replaced with ‘showy’

5. The government of your family in general respects matters of God, and matters of the world. Your first care must be, that the living God be duly worshipped by all in your house. To this end, you must read the scriptures, call upon the name of God among them, and catechise them in the principles of religion, that none under your roof may be ignorant of the great truths of the gospel. To this end also you must see, that they sanctify the sabbath: you must carefully and constantly bring them to the public assemblies, and examine them afterwards, how they profit thereby. If this care be wanting, you will want the blessing of God on all your other cares. Wherefore, let man and wife be principally helpful to each other in this business. When the husband is present, let him read and pray with the family, and teach them the fear of the Lord. In his absence, let his wife do these duties, or at least take care to see them done. And let both of them provide and allow convenient time and leisure for the same: and let each quicken the slackness of the other, if either begin to grow weary. If he is worse than an infidel, who provideth not food and cloathing for his family, what is he that lets their souls go naked, for want of that which is both food and cloathing to them; I mean, instruction in the things that pertain to life and godliness? Herein, then, let all husbands and wives be of one mind in the Lord, using all good means to plant and water piety in the hearts of all that are under their care.

6. As to matters of the world, first, They must appoint their inferiors such works and services, as they are severally fit for, and then follow and look after them, that they may perform those services. Had not the Lord seen, that inferiors would need this, he would not have made this difference in the family. But God saw, that the best servants need this help, and therefore ordained governors; generally two, that the absence of the one might be supplied by the presence of the other. Secondly, You must mark the carriage of your inferiors, and see what disorders do, or are ready to break in, whether openly or secretly, that they may be either prevented or resisted speedily. Idleness, tatling, discord, and many more evils, are apt to steal even on good servants and children, which the Lord well knowing, made rulers in the house, to keep all in good order: and if this care be some trouble, yet the mischiefs which arise from the want of it are much more troublesome: whereas, if the eyes of the master and mistress be always open, much peace will follow in the house. Thirdly, You must join in admonishing, encouraging, reproving, and, if need be, correcting your inferiors. Both must discountenance what is evil, and encourage what is good. And in so doing you must take care to maintain each other’s authority to the full. If one encourage, the other must not oppose; if one reprove, the other must not defend. If he see cause to correct the children, she must not grow angry or hinder: neither, when she would correct, must he save them out of her hands. Nay, suppose either should exceed, correcting either without cause, or above measure, the other must not find fault, in hearing of the inferiors; but they must debate the matter between themselves, and keep their disagreements from appearing in the family. So therefore join hands, that your dissention may not blast the fruit of all your endeavours. So shall you preserve your authority, increase your love to each other, and procure amendment in your inferiors.

‘encrease’ replaced with ‘increase’

Of a Man’s keeping his Authority.

1.IT is the duty of an husband, to govern his wife, and to maintain her. The former implies, that he keep his authority, and that he use it. And, first, every man is bound to keep himself in that place wherein his Maker hath set him, and to hold fast that precedency which God hath assigned him. The Lord hath intitled him your head, and he may not take a lower place. The contempt redounds upon God, which a man takes upon himself, by making his wife his master. But perhaps some will say, “All this is reasonable, if it were practicable. But there are some wives so proud, headstrong, and stubborn, that their husbands cannot govern them.” I answer, most men blame their wives, when the real fault is in themselves. Man cannot hinder a violent woman from assaulting his authority, but he may from winning it: not indeed by violence, but by skill; not by main force, but by a steady and wise proceeding. And, first, let him endeavour to exceed his wife in goodness as he does in place. Let him walk uprightly and religiously in his family, and give a good example to all in the house. Then any reasonable woman will give him the better place, whom she sees to be the better person. Take pains then to make thyself good, and that is the most compendious way to make thyself reverenced.

‘steddy’ replaced with ‘steady’

2. This in general. But in particular, shun those evils, that make a man seem vile in the eyes of those that are round about him. The first of these is bitterness: sharp, tart carriage, reviling, passionate, provoking language, are fitly so called; being as offensive to the mind, as gall and worm-wood to the palate. This bitterness shews folly, and works hatred, and therefore must needs be a great underminer of authority. For wherever want of wisdom is, there will ensue want of reverence. He that would retain his pre-eminence, must, secondly, avoid unthriftiness, another great enemy to reverence. Drunkenness, gaming, and ill company, are the three parts of unthriftiness. And whoever gives way to any of these, must expect to be despised. Thirdly, lightness must be avoided by husbands, all foolish, childish behaviour, that wears no stamp of gravity or discretion, but savours of a kind of boyishness. If the husband puts a fool’s coat upon his back, can he blame his wife for laughing at him? Cast therefore all those base evils from you, and strive for holiness and gravity of conversation, that your superiority, supported by such pillars, may stand upright and unshaken.

3. But how is a man to use this authority, so that it may answer the end for which it is given? The end of it is, That he may present her to God, holy and without blemish; that he may so govern her, as to weaken every corruption, and strengthen every grace in her soul. In order to do this, he must temper the exercise of his authority, by justice, wisdom and mildness. Justice is the life and soul of government, without which it is no better than a dead carcase: wisdom is the eye of government, without which it is like a strong man stark blind. Mildness is the health and good constitution of government: and when these are all joined together, then the husband is, as it were, God in the family, a resemblance of his sovereignty and goodness.

4. Justice is to be practised in directing and recompensing. For the first, a man must not so abuse his authority, as to enjoin any thing sinful: what God commands, he must not forbid; what God forbids, he must not command. Let no husband forget, that the Lord in heaven, and the magistrate on earth, are above him. He and his wife are equally subject to these. Therefore let him never set his private authority against theirs, nor make his wife undutiful to either of these, by a false claim of duty to himself. For instance: let no husband command his wife to lie for his advantage, to break the sabbath for his gain; to partake of his fraud, or sin of any kind. Neither let any man forbid his wife to pray unto God, to attend his word and sacraments; to use any of the means which God hath made the ordinary channels of his grace. See then, all ye husbands that your directions to your wives agree with the laws of God. Otherwise to disobey you is the better obedience, and to reject your evil directions, is not to deny subjection to your persons but to your sins, yea to the devil himself, who rules in you.

5. But this rule of justice must extend a little farther. The husband must not urge his authority, not only in things unlawful, but even in those that seem unlawful to his wife’s mistaken confidence. He ought not to force her to what she thinks a sin. Conscience is God’s immediate officer, and tho’ it is mistaken, must be obeyed, ’till it be better informed. Wherefore, when a woman thro’ weakness fancies a thing indifferent to be sinful, a man must not compel her to act against her conscience, but with pity and gentleness try to remove that mistake. “But what if she pretend conscience, when it is but willfulness?” Then he must wait awhile, and if persuasions avail not, at length use his authority, and enjoin her to change her obstinacy into subjection. “But how shall I know, whether she be scrupulous or stubborn?” I answer, scruple of conscience is grounded on the word of God, on some text which carries an appearance at least of condemning the thing in question. But obstinacy is backed with no part of God’s word. Therefore, if a woman produce some scripture, tho’ perhaps misinterpreted, for her scruple, she must be tenderly dealt with. But if she plead conscience, without God’s word, it is probably a mere pretence. Again, it may be a mistaken conscience, when things indifferent are deemed either necessary or sinful. But if conscience be pleaded against doing what God hath plainly commanded, this is willfulness in error, not weakness of conscience.

6. Justice is likewise to be exercised in requiring either the bad or good carriage of the wife. Bad behaviour may be requited with reproof or correction. But be sure, not to reprove without a fault. Find not a fault where no fault is, for fear of making one where there was none. And observe; a fault reformed is to be accounted no fault. Therefore it must never be mentioned more. And when a real fault requires punishment, still the husband must come exceeding slowly to it, and be very seldom in it, never until he is compelled, because all other means are ineffectual. For a man to look and behave cooly towards his wife, to withdraw the testimonies of his love, to cease to trust and to speak familiarly and chearfully to her, these things I call punishments. And all things of this kind must be more or less sharp, as the fault is greater or less, being suited, not to the passion, or loss, or hurt of the reprover, but to the offence of the reproved. On the other hand, rewards and commendations should be proportioned to the nature and degree of her good behaviour: the husband being careful to feed her virtues, nourish her obedience, and confirm all her amiable qualities.

‘9’ replaced with ‘6’

7. The next virtue of the husband is wisdom, which gives rules for the right ordering his authority. It is a main part of this wisdom, to conform the use of his authority to the disposition of his wife. There is a great difference in tempers: some are more stiff, some more pliant; some are easy to be ruled, some the contrary. Some require more sharpness; others will be better wrought upon by gentleness; and wisdom teaches to frame all commands, reproofs, rewards, according to the condition of the person. A soft, tender woman must be dealt with tenderly; a rough, high-spirited one, with more sternness and severity. And herein an husband must not follow his own inclinations, but bow himself to the temper of his wife. As she is more apt to grieve or rage, to be dejected or careless, so ought a man to shape his words and behaviour, that he may most heal and least provoke those passions to which she is most liable. St. Peter points all men to this part of discretion, when he terms women, the weaker vessel; meaning, subject to more natural infirmities than the man. So much the more should the husband shew himself a man of knowledge toward her. Our Saviour’s government may be our example. He well considers the particular nature of all his members, sees the tempers and infirmities of each, and deals with them accordingly. And his wisdom appears in mixing a fit cup of consolation or affliction for every soul. Every husband must carefully imitate this: for if some women were reproved so frequently and so sharply as others; they would be quite disheartened: and if some were to receive so great kindness and such commendations as others need, they would be utterly destroyed by pride. Now the art of government must moderate all these things, according to the nature of the governed. And this art the giver of wisdom will not deny, to them that earnestly crave it at his hands.

8. Another part of wisdom is, to chuse a fit time and place for every act of authority. Two rules may be observed with regard to time, particularly in reproving, that being a thing wherein most caution should be used, because it is most apt to be taken ill, and because if it speed well, it does much good, if not, it does much hurt. But in all other parts of government, the same rules are so needful, that much mischief will grow by not observing them. Now, as in this case there are two persons concerned, so a time of reproving or commanding must be chosen, suitable to both. It must be then used, when he is fit to use it well, and she to take it well. First then, when a man himself is quiet, in tune, and free from perturbation, then probably he will reprove or command well. But when anger boils within, let him forbear exercising any part of his authority, till he recover his due temper. Authority cannot be well managed, but by the hand of wisdom. Therefore undertake not to exercise it, at a time when wisdom is banished. Go not about such a work, but when thou art thyself, when thy mind is settled, thy judgment clear. Then shew thy wife her duty, then tell her of her faults; else she will never mend her faults or see her duty. Chuse, secondly, the time wherein she is most capable of receiving information or reproof: when she is chearfully quiet, well-pleased, free from excessive grief, anger, pain, sickness, which often untunes the soul, then is a good time to advise or tell her of a fault. Else her passions will make her as unable to take any thing well, as his will make him unable to do it well.

9. As to place, commendations or easy commands may be given before others. But for reproofs, the most secret place is generally the most convenient. Or if you would have her do or forbear any thing, which you think will be displeasing to her to hear, tell your mind in private, and then persuade where you may freely speak all that is fit to be spoken. “But what if women offend in public, before servants and children, and strangers?” I answer, in this case, a man may shew his dislike, that others may not be hurt by the bad example. But he should delay the proper, home reproof, ’till his wife and he be together alone.

10. Next to wisdom is mildness, a very necessary virtue in this society. No woman can endure her husband’s government with comfort, if gentleness do not temper it. The Lord Jesus is the most gentle and meek governor in the world: and when he requireth us to take his yoke upon us, he commends himself as meek and lowly, his yoke as easy and his burden as light. This is the best precedent for husbands to follow, the most worthy copy for them to write after. The apostle teaches us to be gentle, not only to the good, but also to them that are froward. Surely then the husband must be gentle toward his wife, tho’ she be of a froward disposition. Yea, we are commanded to shew all meekness to all men: much more should each man shew it to his wife. And that in both the parts of authority, in directing and recompensing.

11. As to the former, the husband should beware of extending the use of his commanding power too far. Let him use it as seldom, and as little as possible. It may suffice him to know, that God has given him the right of directing, in every thing which is not sinful. But in the exercise of it, he must shew himself of a kind and free nature, not rigorously taking upon him, to command all he may, but willingly gratifying his wife, in some, in many, in most things, that she may with the more chearfulness, be subject to him in others. Let him also shew mildness, in forbearing hard commandments, as much as possibly he can. Beware of crossing your wife, without cause, and forcing her to things against her natural disposition. Enjoin nothing of this kind, unless there be an absolute necessity. And as to the manner of commanding, let nothing be imperiously prescribed, but with sweet kindness and familiar requests. Indeed, if the wife will try for mastery, and strive to cast off the yoke of obedience, then it is needful for the husband, with good words, to stand for his authority, even somewhat stifly and peremptorily professing, that he will have his will in things lawful. But this course should be rarely taken, and that only in matters of importance. In other cases it is better mildly to wish this or that, than haughtily to enjoin it.

12. But mildness is never so needful as in reproving, both with regard to the matter and the manner of it. For the matter; find not fault with every foible; chide not for every infirmity. What is not of a gross nature, or done wilfully, may be passed over either with none, or half a word. The love which passes by weaknesses is necessary toward strangers; much more with those who are so nearly united. *Be not therefore extreme or rigorous, but be affected toward thy wife, as a tender mother toward her child. Pray to God against all her faults; see and commend all her virtues: but petty wants and little ordinary weaknesses, seldom take notice of, or reprove. Let her perceive, that thou dost, but wilt not know them. And thy unwillingness to see and reprove, will make her, if she has any spark of generosity, more willing to see and reform. But an ever-lowering and ever-chiding husband will make his wife worse than she would otherwise be. For the manner of reproving, even when it is most needful, it should be very gentle. The words and gestures used to press the fault, should be mild and amiable, breathing out love and pity at once. No patient is so desirous of health, that he will drink a potion scalding hot. So it is with reproof: if it, as it were, scald the ear with bitter upbraiding, with railing words, and a fiery look, it will never gain passage to the heart. Compassion, kindness, declaring your sorrow for her fault, desire of her good, and care for her amendment, these incline the will to accept of an admonition, and help the effect of it. I am not against the wholesome earnestness of reproving; but this may be without bitterness or fierceness. An admonition is then healthfully sharp and earnest, when a man with much plainness of speech and strength of reason lays open the greatness and danger of the sin, and vehemently enforces them on the sinner’s conscience: but compassionately still, with a declaration of more sorrow than anger, of more grief for her fault and danger, than displeasure against her person.

Of the Wife’s peculiar Duties.

1.THE special duties of a wife may be reduced to two heads, To know herself the inferior, and to behave as such. First, She must know herself the inferior; she must be thoroughly convinced, that she is not her husband’s equal, without which there can be no content, either in her heart, or in her house. Where the woman counts herself equal with her husband, (much more, if she count herself better) the root of all good carriage is withered, the fountain thereof dried up. Whoever therefore would be a good wife, let this sink into her inmost soul, “My husband is my superior, my better: he has the right to rule over me. God has given it him, and I will not strive against God. He is my superior, my better.” Unless she has learnt this lesson perfectly, unless she has it at her fingers ends, if her very heart does not thoroughly agree thereto, there will be nothing between them but wrangling, repining, striving: so that their life will be little else than a continual battle, a trying for masteries. Let us grant, you have more wit and understanding than him, more readiness of speech, more skill in business. Yet consider; your servant may exceed you in all these, as much as you do him. And yet you would be loath that your servant should claim an equality either with him or you. Know then, a man may be superior in place to him, who is his superior in gifts: and know likewise, thou dost abuse the gifts of God, if thence thou infringest thy husband’s superiority. Wherefore, with all thy understanding, understand this, that God has made him thy governor and ruler, and thee his inferior, to be ruled by him, and to submit to him in all things. Though he be of meaner birth and smaller capacity, tho’ he had no wealth or name before thou didst marry him, yet from that hour the case is changed, and he is no longer beneath thee, but above thee. Set it down therefore as a conclusion never to be called in question. “My husband is my superior.”

2. The wife knowing herself the inferior, must, secondly, behave as such, by reverence and subjection to her husband. First, By reverence. She owes this to her husband, as much as the children or servants do to her: yea, as they do to him; only hers is sweetened with more love and familiarity. She is no less bound to reverence her husband, than are the rest of the family. This alone is the difference; she may be more familiar, not more rude, as being more dear, not less subject than they.

3. And this reverence must be both inward and outward. First, she must have an inward, dutiful respect for her husband. She must regard him as God’s deputy, not looking to his person but his place, not thinking so much, what he is, as whose officer. So the apostle, Let the wife see that she reverence her husband. Of all things, let her not fail in this. He here prescribes such a loving, not slavish, fear, as stands with the closest union of heart. And from this fear, she abhors and shuns, as the greatest evil which can befal her, next to the breaking the commandments of God, to displease or offend her husband. We stand in due awe of God, when we loath the breach of his commandments, as the greatest of all evils. And the wife duly stands in awe of her husband, when next to that evil, she shuns the disobeying or grieving him, who is above her, next to God. I know many women care as little for their husbands, as their husbands do for them. But if thou wilt ever please God, take much pains with thy heart, to make it stand in awe of thy husband. As a wife grows in this, so may she look to get the better of all her other infirmities: as she is careless herein, so shall she be pestered with various other evils. “But how shall she bring her heart to this?” By looking thro’ her husband to God the author of marriage, and putting herself often in mind, not of his deserts, but of God’s ordinance. The husband is to the wife the image and glory of God: the power that is given to him is God’s originally, and his by God’s appointment. Look not therefore on the qualities of thy husband, but upon his place. If thou despisest him, the contempt redounds upon God, who hath ordained him to be thy head. If therefore thy heart be seasoned with the fear of God, thou wilt fear thy husband also.

‘woman’ replaced with ‘women’

4. And this inward will produce outward reverence, both in her words and actions. Her words are either to himself, of him behind his back, or to others before him. And, 1. Her words to himself should neither be sharp, sullen, passionate, not rude, careless or contemptuous: such as shew neither anger, nor neglect, but all lowliness and quietness of affection. What kind of words would you dislike from a servant or child? Those must you not give your husband. For the same duty of fear is in the same words, and with the same plainness enjoined to thee that is to them. Indeed a wife, as I observed before, may be more familiar: yet there is an excess of familiarity which is blame-worthy. Why should a woman be so over-bold as to call her husband, Tom, Dick, Ned? Could she speak otherwise to her child or servant? Certainly those speeches of hers which are most familiar should still have a print of reverence upon them.

5. Her words also to others in his presence should be such as witness a due reverence to him: In his company she should be more cautious of her behaviour to any, than otherwise she need to be. Her words to children and servants in his sight, ought not to be loud or snappish. If she perceive a fault in them, she should remember her better stands by, and therefore not speak, but upon necessity, and then utter the reproof in a more still and mild manner, than she might have done in his absence. You allow not your children or servants to be loud before you. And will you be so before your husband!

6. A wife’s words likewise concerning her husband behind his back, should be dutiful and respectful. She must not talk of him with a kind of carelessness, much less with reproachful terms. Hence the apostle recommends the example of Sarah: who when she but thought of her husband, in the absence of all company, (Gen. xviii. 12.) reverently intitled him, My Lord. Who would bear a child speaking against his father behind his back? And shall it be thought sufferable in a wife? He that allows not an evil thought of the prince, will not allow evil speeches of the husband.

7. Yea, the very gestures and countenance of a wife, as well as her words, should be mixt with reverence. Both good and bad tempers have more ways of uttering themselves than by the tongue. Solomon speaks of an eye that despiseth his mother: so the eye of a wife may be a despising eye and her gestures may proclaim contempt, tho’ her tongue be altogether silent. But rude and contemptuous behaviour are no less uncomely than disrespectful words. Wherefore, if you condemn these in your children toward yourself, allow them not in yourself toward your husband.

8. The second duty, subjection, implies obedience to his commands, and submission to his reproofs. The former is expresly enjoined in those words, Let the wife be subject to her husband in all things. And indeed, if she refuse it to him, how can she require it of the children and servants? For it is due to her only as his deputy, and a substitute under him. “But how far must she be subject to him?” The apostle tells us, In all things, in the Lord. Obedience, you see, must be universal: only so that it may be in the Lord. In every thing wherein obedience to him would not prove rebellion against her Maker, she is bound to obey, without any farther question. An English subject is not bound to obey the King in any thing but what some law enjoins. His will is no law, neither does it bind the conscience of his subject. But the husband’s will is a law to his wife, and binds her conscience in all things indifferent. Nor does even this suffice, unless she obey readily, quietly, chearfully, without brawling, contending, sourness.

9. The latter, submission to his reproofs, is also plainly required in these words, As the church is subject to Christ, so must the wives to their own husbands in every thing. Now, bearing his reproofs is doubtless a necessary part of the church’s subjection to Christ. Of consequence it is a necessary part of the wife’s subjection to her husband.

Some Application of the Whole.

1. *AND first, this yields a good instruction to young, unmarried people; not to rush unadvisedly into this state. A thing of so difficult a nature, should not be hastily undertaken. If they get not first their hearts full of grace, and their heads full of wisdom, they will find their hands full of work, an house full of trouble, and a life full of woe. Dost thou desire to be married? Unless thou wouldst meet with gall instead of honey, see what wisdom, what patience, what grace fit to govern, or fit to obey, thou findest in thyself. Get these against thou comest to use them, or marriage will yield thee small contentment. Vain youths will marry, before they have any power to practise, any understanding to know their duties. But he that leaps over a broad ditch with a short staff, will fall into the midst: and he that enters into marriage without great grace, shall fall into disquietude and vexation. Let unmarried people think of this, and be wise before pain teaches them wisdom.

2. Secondly, I advise all married persons to be well acquainted with these duties, and to mark their own failings therein. Let the wife know her’s, the husband his, and both, the common duties. I desire they would each observe their own, and not each the other’s failings. Indeed it may be feared, many will be the worse for what has been said, because they heard amiss. The husband may perhaps ring his wife a peal concerning her duty, and tell her, how her faults were ript up; and yet never consider his own. The wife may tell him of his faults, when she has little or nothing to say of herself. Thus both will be worse, while they seek to upbraid each other, and not each to amend one. Unwise man! Unwise woman! Why hast thou not the greatest care, to save thy own soul? Couldst thou mark what was good for another’s disease, and not what was good for thy own? Brethren, sisters, let this be altered in us. If thou be an husband, have more care to know that, for which thy own soul must answer, than what lies to the account of another. So thou that art a wife; and woe to that man or woman, who sees not more failings in him or herself than in the yoke-fellow. If thy heart were right, thy own sins would be more grievous, and thy yoke-fellows less. Learn, therefore, to pass by their failings more easily, and be more censorious toward thy own. Learn to judge thyself. *He never yet learned to work well at any work, that would cast his eyes more upon his neighbour’s fingers, than upon his own. But oh! how common is this? Every man would be a good husband, if his wife, were not so bad! And she would be a good wife, if her husband were tolerable. All the accusations, all the judgings are darted at each other: but what folly is this? Idle man or woman, it is not the requiring duty from another, but the performing what belongs to thyself, that will make thee a Christian; that will comfort thee in temptation, rejoice thee in death, and stand for thee in judgment.

3. In a word. Know thy own duty, mark thy own failings, and thou wilt not quarrel with thy yoke-fellow. There is no better means of peace, than for every one to learn his own work, and labour to mend his own faults. Have you then both been to blame? Repent both, and strain not courtesy which shall begin. Hast thou been a foolish, passionate, or an unkind husband? Not regarding thy wife’s good? Cry not, “She has been thus and thus;” but repent of thy own sin. Seriously confess it to God. Beseech him to make thee a better husband, that she may be a better wife. Hast thou been a brawling, disobedient, or discontented wife? Ask thy heart before God, and dissemble not. If so, clamour not against thy husband, exclaim not against his passion or unkindness; but condemn thyself, and call upon God, to make thee reverence and obey thy husband, as a commander under him. Intreat him to make thee a better wife, that he may be a better husband. Let each mend one, I mean himself, and contention will cease. Pray each for yourself first, then for the other: labour to see wherein you yourself have offended: and be not skilful to cast the fault upon another, but to cast it out of yourself. So shall your loves be sure, your lives comfortable, your deaths happy, and your memories blessed for ever.

4. Before I conclude, it may not be improper to sum up the duty of married persons, as parents, and as masters. Their duty as parents respects either the temporal or the spiritual good of their children. With regard to the former, you owe them protection and provision of necessaries, according to that rank and degree, wherein the wisdom of God has placed you. You are carefully to protect your children, from all the evils and dangers, to which infancy, childhood and youth are exposed. You are also to nourish and sustain them; not only to provide for them for the present, but to take care for their future subsistence. If you have not a patrimony to leave them, it behoves you to leave them an art or calling, whereby thro’ diligence, with the blessing of God, they may procure food convenient for them. *In the choice of this calling, you should chiefly have an eye to their general Christian calling, and consider not so much what will conduce most to their temporal profit or honour, as what will most effectually advance their spiritual and eternal interest. This is a weighty point: it were well if all parents would deeply lay it to heart. It should next be considered, whether the calling proposed be suitable to their genius and inclination: which are to be consulted on this head, only not as much as their eternal welfare.

5. With regard to their spiritual good, your first labour of love is, to present them to God in baptism. You are then to inure them to good, to instruct and admonish them, to educate them in the knowledge and fear of God, to season their minds as early as possible with the fundamental truths of religion, and in such a manner as is best suited to their capacity, to train them up in all holiness. Every instruction should be seconded by example. Let them continually see, as well as hear, how they ought to walk acceptably, and to please God. Be peculiarly careful to set before your children the copies and patterns of the virtues which you teach. And let them neither see nor hear any thing from you, which you would not desire to have copied by them. Even an Heathen, and none of the most virtuous, could say,

Maxima debetur pueris reverentia.

We ought to reverence and stand in awe of children that nothing may be spoken or done in their sight, which may taint their tender minds. They are prone to imitate any; but more especially those who are so nearly related to them. Which undoubtedly they will be most ready to do, when example strikes in with their natural propensity to evil.

6. If neither good examples nor instructions will prevail, then correction becomes a duty. And this should first be given in words, before you proceed to severer methods: yet not in railing, or foul or bitter language, but in calm and sober reproof. If that fail too, then use the rod. But whenever this correction is given, let it be with all the expressions of love and concern, which the nature of the thing will admit. Let it be timely, before ill habits are contracted, at least, before they have time to take root. And let it be moderate, not exceeding the quality of the fault, or the tenderness of the child. Immoderate, or ill-natured and passionate correction, is so far from profiting children, that it very frequently frets and sharpens their spirits, and makes them more stubborn and untractable. If they are of a softer temper, it frights and dispirits them. This is also the natural effect, of a sour, harsh, unkind behaviour. Hence those solemn cautions of the apostle, Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, (Eph. vi. 4.) Avoid whatever tends thereto. Use no demeanor, no actions or words, or way of speaking, which has such a tendency. And again, Fathers provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged, Col. iii. 21. It is a different word from that used in the former text, Μὴ ἐρεθιζετε Do not purposely fret or teize them: lest you should dishearten them too much, lest you should destroy their courage and vigour of mind, and make them of a faint, fearful, dastardly spirit. The direction doubtless belongs to both the parents, but is more immediately addrest to fathers, as they are generally of rougher and harsher spirits than the mothers, and not so much restrained by natural fondness. Lastly, correction must not be given in anger: if it be, it will lose its effect on the child, who will think he is corrected, not because he has done a fault, but because the parent is angry.

7. These directions chiefly relate to young children. But even after they are grown up, you are still engaged, to watch over their souls, to observe how they practise the precepts, which have been inculcated upon them from time to time, and to exhort, encourage, and reprove them accordingly. You are also to bless them, first by your prayers. Parents are under a peculiar obligation, by daily and earnest prayer to commend their children to God’s protection and blessing. You are, secondly, to bless them by your piety. See that you be such persons in all holiness of conversation, that from you the blessing of God may descend upon your posterity.

8. As masters, you are, 1. To be just to your servants, whether apprentices, journeymen, or houshold servants, in faithfully and exactly performing the conditions on which they engaged to serve you: particularly with regard to food, and the other necessaries or conveniences of life. You are, 2. To admonish and reprove them for their faults, more especially faults against God. But let this be done with all tenderness and mildness; forbearing not only bitter and opprobious language, but even threatening, knowing that your master is in heaven, and that there is no respect of persons with him. You are, 3. To set a good example to your servants; otherwise reproving will be but lost labour. It is your duty, 4. To provide them with all means of necessary instruction, and to allow them sufficient time to worship God, in private as well as in public. You are, 5. To beware that you give them only reasonable and moderate commands, that you do not make their service toilsome to them, by laying on them greater burdens than they can bear, or greater than you would impose, or they would bear, if they were not of the houshold of faith. Lastly, You are to encourage them in well-doing, by using them with that kindness, which their faithfulness, diligence, and piety deserve: in all your dealings with them remembring, you are to give an account to your master of the usage of your meanest servant.

Directions to Children.

1.CHILDREN, says the apostle writing to the Ephesians, (chap. vi. ver. 1.) Obey your parents in the Lord. To which he adds, Honour thy father and mother, which is the first commandment with promise, (with a particular promise annexed; for the promise annexed to the second commandment, does not belong to the keeping that command in particular, but the whole law:) that it may be well with thee, and thou mayst live long upon the earth. And this promise is by no means to be confined to the time of the Jewish dispensation. On the contrary, there are not wanting many instances, even in later times, of persons eminently dutiful to their parents, who have been rewarded with eminent health and prosperity. Tho’ still it is acknowledged, that this promise, as most others, may be understood under the Christian dispensation, in a spiritual and more exalted sense.

2. But how are children to honour their fathers and mothers? First, by reverencing them. This is an unquestionable duty, manifestly contained in the very term honour. And this inward reverence is to appear, in the whole outward behaviour. It is to be expressed both in their speeches and gestures, in their words and actions. Their speech should always testify honour, giving them the most respectful titles which their condition will bear. Likewise (unless on some peculiar occasions) your words before them should be few. For talkativeness before any person, has the appearance of disrespect. You should also carry yourself with all lowliness and modesty, while in the presence of your parents: so that your whole carriage may be the natural expression of the respect lodged in your hearts.

3. This reverence is not to be with-held, on account of either their supposed or real infirmities. For be the faults of the parents ever so great, this gives the children no authority to despise them: seeing whatever their tempers or their behaviour be, they are your parents still. Neither are you to take any step which might cause others to despise them. You cannot therefore mention their faults to others, without bringing guilt upon your own soul. You cannot mention them behind their back, and be guiltless. It is your part to conceal all their faults and infirmities, to the uttermost of your power. Be not like Ham, who bewrayed his father’s nakedness, and was cursed of God to his latest posterity. Rather imitate the piety of Japhet and Shem: cover with all care whatever you disapprove of in a parent. Hide it from every one else, and, if it were possible, even from yourself.

4. A second duty which children owe to their parents is love. We are to bear them a deep, real kindness, an earnest, tender good-will, heartily desiring all manner of good to them, and abhorring to speak or do any thing, which might give them uneasiness. This will appear no more than common gratitude, if we remember, what our parents have done for us. That they were the instruments not only of bringing us into the world, but also of sustaining us after: and certainly they that weigh the cares and fears which attend the bringing up of a child, will judge the love of the child to be but a moderate return for them. This love is to be exprest several ways. First, in all kindness of behaviour, carrying ourselves, not barely with awe and respect, but with tenderness and affection. It is to be exprest, secondly, in praying for them. The debt which a child owes to a parent, is so inconceivably great, that he can never hope, fully to discharge it himself. He is therefore to seek the assistance of God, and continually to beg him that has all power in heaven and earth, to return whatever good his parents have done him, seven-fold into their own bosom.

5. A third duty which children owe to their parents is obedience. As this is plainly implied in the fifth commandment, so it is expresly enjoined by the apostle: Children, obey your parents in the Lord. (Eph. vi. 1.) And again, Children, obey your parents in all things; for this is well-pleasing to the Lord. (Col. iii. 20.) We owe them obedience in all things, unless where their commands are contrary to the commands of God. In every thing of an indifferent nature, whatever they enjoin, we are to do. The case is the same with regard to the authority of parents over their children, as with regard to that of husbands over their wives. The will of your parent is a law to you, as soon as it is signified to you. You are to comply with it immediately, not for wrath, not only to avoid this, but also for conscience sake. Such is the will of God concerning you: so high is the authority which he hath entrusted them with.

6. And yet we are to obey them only in the Lord: only so far as consists with his authority over us. Therefore, if any of their commands are contrary to the commands of God, in that case our duty to God must be preferred. If therefore any parent should be so wicked as to require his child to steal, to lie, or to do any thing unlawful, the child offends not against his duty, tho’ he disobey that command. Nay, he must disobey; otherwise he offends against an higher duty, even that which every child of man owes to his Father which is in heaven. Yet when it is necessary to refuse obedience, it should be done in so modest and respectful a manner, that it may plainly appear, not stubbornness but conscience is the ground of that refusal. Let this appear likewise by your ready and chearful compliance with all their lawful commands: as well knowing, that wherever the command of a parent is not contrary to any command of God, there the child is in conscience bound to obey, whether in a weightier or lighter matter.

7. *Nothing therefore but the unlawfulness of their command, can excuse the disobeying our parents. If any instance of disobedience is more inexcusable than others, it is the marrying against, or even without their consent. Indeed, parents have so peculiar a right to their children, that to give themselves away without their allowance, is not only an high act of disobedience, but of flagrant injustice. And hence we see, that among God’s antient people, if a young woman had even made a vow, she was not suffered to perform it, without the consent of the parent, (Numb. xxx. 5.) Indeed children ought to have a negative voice, and not be compelled to marry without their own consent. But if they marry without the consent of their parents, let them expect no blessing from God.

8. A fourth duty which children owe to their parents, is the assisting them in their wants, of what kind soever they be, whether sickness or weakness of body, decay of understanding, or lowness of estate. In all these the child is bound to assist them, according to his ability. For the two former, weakness of body and infirmity of mind, none can doubt of the duty, when they remember how every child did in his infancy receive the same benefits from his parents. The child had then no strength to support, no understanding to guide itself. But the care of the parent supplied both these: and therefore in common gratitude, when either of these becomes the parent’s case, the child is to perform the same office again. Likewise, as to the relieving their poverty, it is but just to sustain thy parents, who formerly sustained thee. And that this is also implied in honouring our father and mother, our Lord himself teaches. For when he accuses the Pharisees of rejecting the commandment of God, that they might cleave to their own traditions, he instances in this particular, concerning the relieving of parents. Hence it is manifest, this is a part of the duty, which is enjoined in the fifth commandment. And such a duty it is, that no pretence whatever can release us from the performance of it. This should be carefully observed. No fault of the parent can acquit a child of this duty. For as St. Peter tells servants, that they must be subject, out of conscience toward God, not only to good and gentle masters, but also to the froward: so certainly it concerns children, to perform every instance of filial duty, not only to kind and virtuous parents, but to the harshest and wickedest. For tho’ gratitude to a kind and tender parent, be a forcible motive to make a child pay his duty, yet that is not the principal, and much less the only ground for it. This is laid in the authority of God, who commands us to honour our parents. And therefore, were we to suppose a parent to have been so unnatural, as never to have done any thing to oblige a child, yet notwithstanding this, the commandment of God would remain in its full force: and what is prescribed therein we are bound to perform, whether the tie of gratitude be added or no.

Directions to Servants.

1.ST. Paul confirms his directions to masters by that consideration, that they also have a master in heaven, and there is no respect of persons with him. He regards no man’s outward condition: the poor and the rich are the same to him, and the servant is as his master. And the apostle, it seems, had learned of him, to be without respect of persons. For he has the same care for servants as for their masters, and is as large in his advices to them: nay, much more so; probably considering, that they had fewer advantages of education, and fewer opportunities of instruction. He is therefore remarkably particular in his directions to these, which are given at large in the epistle to the Ephesians, and to the Colossians. He gives them farther directions in the first epistle to Timothy, and again in the epistle to Titus. If we add hereto the advices given them by St. Peter, we shall have a full account of the duties of Christian servants.

2. The great duty required of all servants is subjection or obedience to their masters. So St. Peter (1 Pet. ii. 18.) Servants be subject to your masters; St. Paul, exhort servants to be subject to their own masters: and again, both to the Ephesians and Colossians, (Eph. vi. 5. Col. iii. 22.) Servants, obey your masters after the flesh. Allowing that these are your masters only in a qualified sense, and only during this state of flesh and blood; allowing you have but one proper, absolute master, to whom you owe unlimited subjection: yet to these also, as being invested with a part of his power, you owe a limited obedience and subjection.

3. Indeed this obedience varies according to the various kinds of service wherein servants are connected with their masters. The sorts of servants most common among us are, 1. Labourers, or workmen, with whom we agree by the day, to do such work at such a price, and who accordingly serve us during that time: 2. Journeymen, whom we agree with for a longer space, to assist us in our calling, on such conditions: 3. Houshold servants, who usually contract by the year, to perform, on the considerations specified, either some particular branch of houshold work, or (if there be only one servant) all manner of work whatever from time to time is needful to be done in the family. 4. Apprentices, who are engaged for several years, chiefly to serve their masters in their particular trade or calling. Now, how far are all or any of these obliged in conscience, to obey and be subject to their own masters?

4. The apostle answers. During the time agreed, obey your masters after the flesh in all things: that is, in all things specified in that agreement which was made when you entered into service. So a labourer or workman is, during his short service, to follow the direction of him that hired him. A journeyman is to do the same, with regard to that work which he agreed to perform. Domestic servants (to whom particularly St. Peter speaks; for this is the proper meaning of οἱ οἰκέται) are obliged to obey their master or mistress, either in one branch of houshold-business, if they contracted for this, or otherways with respect to the whole work of the house: doing every thing at such times and in such a manner, as is appointed by their superior. And an apprentice is to obey, according to the terms of his indenture, wherein it is usually agreed, by his parents or friends, in what kind of service he shall be employed, according to the discretion of his master.

5. To sum up this. This first¹ part of a servant’s obedience, is, to forbear doing things of his own head, without or against the consent of his master: the reason whereof is plain. During the time of his service, he is not his own; neither ought the things he does, to be for himself. Both his person and his actions are all his masters; and the will of his master is his rule. In particular, servants, 1. may not go whither they will, but only where they are ordered, or at least, permitted to go. 2. They ought not to do their own business. When Jacob was Laban’s servant, tho’ he had flocks of his own, yet he fed his master’s flocks, and committed his own to his sons, Gen. xxx. 35, 36. 3. They are not to do what business they please themselves, but what is allotted them by their master. 4. They ought not to marry, while the time of their service lasts, without the consent of their master. 5. They may not before their covenanted time expires, go away from their master.

¹ Several of the following paragraphs are partly extracted from Mr. Gouge on domestic duties.

6. The second part of a servant’s obedience is, to do whatever his master commands. To look to the hand of his master, (as David speaks) ready to execute any thing he would have done. He is also to obey, by hearkening to his instructions, not only in matters of his secular calling, but likewise in the things of God, in whatever concerns his Christian calling.

7. The manner wherein this obedience is to be performed, is largely declared by both the apostles. Obey your masters, saith St. Paul, with fear and trembling. This indeed is not to be taken literally: it is a proverbial expression, denoting the utmost care, watchfulness, and diligence. Do it fearing God; from a principle of loving fear, a fear of offending your master who is in heaven. Be subject to your masters with all fear, saith St. Peter, with earnest, tender reverence. With a constant fear, either of injuring, grieving or displeasing them, by any part of your behaviour.

8. So proper is this fear of his master in a servant, that the want of it is a denial of his master’s place and power. This God intimates in that expostulation (Mal. i. 6.) If I be a master, where is my fear? That is, you plainly shew, you do not account me your master, because there is no fear of me in your heart. But wherever it is, it will draw servants on to perform all duty. And the more it abounds, the more desire and endeavour there will be to do all things well.

9. An especial means to create and preserve this fear is, a due consideration of the ground of their master’s place and power: which is, the appointment of God: God has placed them in his stead, and in part given them his power. They are the deputies and ministers of God. And therefore in scripture, the title lord, is after a peculiar manner, given them. There can therefore be no excuse for despising them, tho’ they should be poor, mean, weak, or aged. The poorest and weakest have the same place and authority, which the richest and strongest have. All bear the image of God: therefore, to despise them shews, that you regard not God’s image at all.

10. This fear may be shewn either in speech or behaviour: in the former, 1. By sparing to speak in the presence of their master, without some necessary cause: 2. By forbearing to reply, when they observe their masters unwilling they should speak any more: 3. By attending to what their masters speak: shewing such a respect to them, as Samuel did to God, when he said, speak; for thy servant heareth. When they have just occasion to speak, this fear may be shewn, 1. By giving proper titles to their masters, 2. By not talking more than the occasion requires, 3. By speaking in a meek and humble manner, 4. By chusing a fit season, both when he is at leisure to hear, and when his mind is calm, not troubled with any passion, and lastly, by giving a present and ready answer, to whatever their master says to them.

11. Servants should shew a due fear of their masters in their behaviour, 1. By such dutiful and submissive obeisance, as becomes their sex and place, according to the custom of the country and place where they are, when they have occasion to come to them, to go from them, or to receive any charge of them. 2. By standing in his master’s presence. 3. By uncovering their heads before him, and 4. Sobriety and modesty both in countenance and in the whole carriage. And from the same principle you should endeavour to please them well in all things, (Tit. ii. 9.) Do every thing in the most obliging manner. If it be possible, please them in every thing: study to give them satisfaction in whatever you do. Do it in the way which they like best: labour that your whole service, your whole behaviour may be acceptable to them. And do all this with good will, (Eph. vi. 7.) with cordial benevolence, with love to them, springing from love to God: with an earnest desire to make their lives as easy and happy and comfortable as you can.

12. Yet all this time, beware that you do not act as men-pleasers, as having no further design than to please men, to gain their approbation or esteem, to be well-thought of and well-spoken of; or to acquire any temporal advantage which may result from their favour or good-will. Serve not with eye-service, (a certain consequence of serving as men-pleasers) but to do just the same in the absence of your master, as you do when under his eye. Let his absence or presence make no difference in your industry and activity. You may examine yourself by this rule: there is no surer guard against self-deceit. Do I labour in the very same manner at other times, as when my master is looking on? If I do not, I am no better than a man-pleaser, I am a vile eye-servant in the sight of God.

13. An infallible way of avoiding this, is to obey them with singleness of heart, that is, without any temporal motive, with a single eye, with the one view of pleasing God. The apostle insists upon this over and over, and that in the strongest manner. Obey your masters in the singleness of your heart as unto Christ, not with eye-service, but as the servants of Christ, doing service unto the Lord, not unto men. And again, servants obey your masters in all things, with singleness of heart; and whatsoever ye do, do it as unto the Lord, not unto men. For in whatsoever you do with a single eye, ye serve the Lord, Christ. Whatsoever is thus done to any earthly master, he accounts done unto himself. And for all this he will say to you in that day, Well done, good and faithful servants: inasmuch as ye have done it to one of these, for my sake, ye have done it unto me.

14. Therefore in all things which ye do for your masters, consider yourselves as doing the will of God. The will of your master is the will of God to you. His voice is, as it were, the voice of God. His work is to you the work of God, whom you obey in obeying him. But in all this, there is one restriction to be observed: masters, as well as parents, are to be obeyed only in the Lord: only so far as their commands are not contrary to the commands of God. If ever this should be the case, you cannot obey them: you must obey God rather than man. You must humbly and respectfully declare, that in all things else you are ready to obey: but that this you apprehend to be contrary to the plain word of God, and therefore you dare not do it. Neither may you refrain from obeying a plain command of God, because your master forbids you so to do. You must at some times, (if not so often as you otherwise would) hear the word of God, join in public prayer, attend the table of the Lord, and call upon him in private. And if any master violently hinder you from so doing, you should at all hazards quit his service as soon as possible. Let no gain, no temporal consideration whatever, induce you to continue therein. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

15. *But whatsoever ye do, that is not contrary to the commands of God, do it heartily, ἐκ ψυχῆς from your soul, your whole soul, from the bottom of your heart. This naturally results from the doing it, as unto the Lord, and is therefore twice mentioned in the same sentence with it. Whatsoever you do, do it with your might, do it as quick as you can, and as well as you can. Do it at least as well as you would do, if it were for yourself. If you are hired by the day, do as much work in each day as you can. The custom of the trade is nothing to you, nor the example of those that work with you. Do as much to-day as you can without hurting yourself, or disabling you from doing the same to-morrow: and just as much as you would, if it were your own work, or if you were to be paid by the piece. Do the same thing, if you are an houshold-servant; putting forth all your strength, ridding away all the business that you can, and using therein all the understanding which God has given you, in order to do every thing in the most excellent manner, whereof you are capable.

16. These general directions, all servants are to observe, of conscience toward God, and that whether their masters be good or bad, Heathens, (in fact, if not in name) or Christians. For the character of the master, while he is such, does not vacate the duty of the servant. Suppose they are mere Heathens, men that neither love nor fear, nor serve God, (a very possible case even in what we call a Christian country) still let as many servants as are under the yoke (for the service of these is a yoke indeed) count their own masters worthy of all honour¹. Tho’ they are unbelieving and unholy, yet in consideration of the place which God has assigned them, for his sake, and in obedience to his appointment, count them worthy of all the honour above described. Pay them all the reverence in your heart, and shew them all that outward respect, both in word and action, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed by those ungodly men, who would not fail to lay the blame of your neglect, on the religion which you profess. On the other hand, as many as have faithful masters, real believers in Christ, let not this administer any pretence, for less exactness in their duty. Let them not despise them, because they are brethren. Let them not on this account abate any thing of the inward reverence they owe, or of their outward respect and obedience. But rather do them service, observe the preceding directions with regard to them, more earnestly and exactly, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit: enjoying the same communion with God on earth, and looking for the same inheritance in heaven.

¹ 1 Tim. vi. 1.

17. But besides these general ones, there are several particular directions given by the apostle to all Christian servants. As 1. Be honest, not purloining, (Tit. ii. 10.) not secreting, or privately keeping back any thing for yourself: not taking, using, disposing, or giving away the least thing belonging to thy master, without his leave, without his knowledge and consent first asked and obtained. To do otherwise is no better than plain theft, and cuts off all the pretensions to honesty. Equally dishonest it is to hurt or waste any thing, or to let it be lost thro’ their carelessness or negligence. Whatever therefore your fellow-servants do, keep yourself pure: and let not the custom of the world, but the word of God be the rule of all your actions.

18. Secondly, Be true, not barely, tell no willful lie, either to your master or your fellow-servants, but let all your conversation be in simplicity, and godly sincerity. Even if you are overtaken in a fault, use no deceit, no equivocating or prevarication to hide it, or to excuse either yourself or any of your fellow-servants, or prevent anger that may ensue. Herein also St. Peter observes, Christ left you an example, that you might tread in his steps. He not only did, committed, no sin, but there was no guile found in his mouth. Let there be none found in yours: in spite of all temptations to the contrary, speak the truth from your heart, and whatever inconveniences spring herefrom, God will turn them all into blessings.

19. Thirdly, Be faithful: as St. Paul expresses it, shew all good fidelity, Tit. ii. 10. This is good, beautiful, honourable in all men. It ennobles the lowest station, and causes it to shine in the eyes of God and man. Be faithful, 1. With regard to your master’s goods. Preserving, yea, and increasing them to the uttermost of your power. Whatever is committed to your trust, whether within doors or without, so carefully preserve, that it be not lost, spoiled, or impaired under your hands. If you see any damage done to your goods, redress it yourself, if you can: if you can’t immediately make it known to your master, that he may find means of redressing it. And not only preserve, but do all that in you lies, to increase your master’s goods. The talents which were committed to the faithful servants, were by their industry increased to as many more. So that it is not sufficient, not to lessen your master’s substance, but you should labour to better it. Study his interest as you would your own, and promote it by all possible means. Regard not your pleasure, your ease, nor any thing but your conscience, in comparison of it. Be faithful, 2. With regard to his reputation. Conceal his faults and infirmities as far as possible. Some of these you can hardly avoid observing, being continually under his roof. But whatever you observe of this kind, keep it in your own breast. Let it go no farther; reveal it not to strangers, no, nor even to your fellow-servants. Never make either his supposed or real failings, the subject of your discourse. Beware you do not wound him behind his back, nor suffer others to do it in your presence. Endure no tatling or tale-bearing concerning him in the family, but prevent or stop it with all diligence. Whenever you can do it consistently with truth, and so far as you can, defend him. And in every point, be just as tender of his character as of your own. To this head may be referred faithfulness in keeping the secrets of your master. Many of these you cannot but know, by reason of the close connexion which is between you, your continually abiding so near together, and the many employments he has for you. All these therefore you are carefully to conceal, provided they tend not to the dishonour of God, or to the danger of the church or common-wealth, or indeed of any private person. For Jonathan is commended for discovering the mischief which Saul had secretly intended against David, 1 Sam. xx. 12. Be faithful, 3. with regard to his soul. With all plainness which your station allows, and yet with all respect and humility rebuke, and suffer not sin upon him. The time, the manner, and the other circumstances relating to this difficult task, God will give you to chuse aright, if your eye be single, and you seek his direction by earnest prayer.

‘19.’ omitted from text

20. Fourthly, Be patient. In your patience possessing your souls, steadily follow the preceding directions, and be thus subject, not only to the good and gentle masters, but also to the froward: to those who are neither good nor gentle, who have neither religion nor good-nature, that it may appear you do your service unto the Lord, and not unto men. But it may be proper in the mean time to observe, that the state of English servants, is widely different from the state of those to whom St. Paul and St. Peter wrote. Many of those, perhaps the greater part were slaves, who by the miserable constitution of their country, were the absolute property of their master, as much as were his sheep and oxen. Therefore it was not in their power to leave or change their master, but they were constrained to stay with them till death. Consequently, those directions were peculiarly necessary for those who were in such a situation: This is thank-worthy, if a man for conscience toward God, endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God, 1 Pet. ii. 19, 20. But to those who are born under an happier constitution, undoubtedly the first advice should be, If thou mayst be free, from a froward, ill-natured man, then use it rather. Do not bind yourself at all, if you can honestly avoid it (as you generally may) to any, who you have reason to believe is an unjust or an unmerciful man. And if you are bound to such an one already, yet if you should suffer wrongfully from him, if you do well, and suffer notwithstanding, it is by no means your duty to endure it. Rather it is your duty to appeal to the magistrate, who is the minister of God to thee for good, and to desire of him such a remedy, as the laws of your country allow. In this manner commit yourself and your cause to him that judgeth righteously. But even in this case, till you are free from the unrighteous man, remember the example Christ has left: Who when he was reviled, reviled not again, when he suffered, he threatened not. How much more should you tread in these his steps, with regard to things of smaller moment, with regard to those inconsiderable instances either of injustice or unkindness, which are to be expected almost in every family, and for which even our laws provide no remedy? Here undoubtedly you are called to suffer: and see that you do so with all meekness and gentleness. Not only when you are reviled, revile not again, but answer not again, Tit. ii. 10. Open not your mouth, unless silence might have the appearance of sullenness or disrespect: and then do it in as few words, as the matter will bear, and with all the softness you are master of.

‘steddily’ replaced with ‘steadily’

21. Before he closes the subject, St. Paul does not fail to remind you, what great encouragement you have, to persevere in all these duties of your station, whatever difficulties you meet with therein. For hereby you may adorn the gospel of God our Saviour in all things. So strong an expression is scarce to be found in all the writings of the apostle; when he speaks to persons of the highest rank, as he here uses to men of low degree. You therefore are peculiarly called of God, to be an honour to your profession, your general profession of Christians; to shew what manner of men they are who serve the Lord Christ: see then that you in particular walk circumspectly, accurately, exactly: that either your unbelieving masters may be won by your conversation, or at least believers confirmed and comforted.

22. Still further encouragement you have in knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: that inheritance reserved for you in heaven, which is of infinitely greater value, than any which your master now enjoys, or any which you can receive on earth. You know that the day is coming when your common Master will descend in the clouds of heaven: and you are assured, in that day, Whatsoever good thing a man hath done, while he was serving God in his generation, the same shall he receive from the Lord, whether he be bond or free: The same—That is, a reward proportionable thereto, in an additional degree of glory. Therefore, let nothing be wanting now. Work your work betimes, and in his time he will give you your reward. Now be honest, be true, be faithful, be patient. Now obey your masters with fear, yea, with fear and trembling. Do them service with singleness of heart, with good-will, with your whole soul. Do this for the honour of the gospel, for the glory of God your Saviour, for the present good of your own soul, and for the increase of your eternal inheritance.

An Extract from Mr. Law’s

Chap. I.

THE wisdom of mankind has, for several ages, been enquiring into the nature of man, and the nature of the world in which he is placed.

The wants and miseries of human nature, and the vanity of worldly enjoyments, have made it difficult for the wisest men to tell, what human happiness was, or wherein it consisted.

It has pleased the infinite goodness of God to satisfy our enquiries, by a revelation made to the world by his Son Jesus Christ.

This revelation has laid open the great secrets of providence from the creation of the world. It has explained the present state of things, and given man all the information that is necessary, both to give him rest here, and to lead him safely to everlasting happiness.

It is now only necessary that the poor wisdom of man do not exalt itself against God, that we suffer our eyes to be opened by him that made them, and our lives to be conducted by him, in whom we live, move and have our being.

II. As happiness is the sole end of all our labours, so this revelation aims at nothing else.

It gives us right notions of ourselves, of our true good and real evil; it shews us our true condition, both our greatness and meanness, our happiness and misery.

*Before this, man was a mere riddle to himself, and his condition full of darkness and perplexity; a restless inhabitant of a miserable disordered world, walking in a vain shadow and disquieting himself in vain.

*But this light has dispersed the anxiety of his vain conjectures. It has, by adding heaven to earth, and eternity to time, opened such a glorious view of things, as leads men, even in this world, to a peace of God which passeth all understanding.

III. *This revelation acquaints us, that we have a spirit within us, which was created after the divine image; that this spirit is now in a fallen condition; that the body in which it is placed is its sepulchre, where it is enslaved to fleshly thoughts, blinded with false notions of good and evil, and dead to all taste of its true happiness.

It teaches us, that the world in which we live, is also in a disordered, irregular state, and cursed for the sake of man; that it is no longer the paradise that God made it, but the remains of a drowned world, full of marks of God’s displeasure, and the sin of its inhabitants.

That it is a mere wilderness, a state of darkness, a vale of misery, where vice and madness, dreams and shadows, variously please and torment the short, miserable lives of men.

Devils also, and evil spirits have here their residence, promoting the works of darkness, and wandering up and down, seeking whom they may devour.

So that man, in his natural state, is like a person sick of variety of diseases, knowing neither his distemper nor his cure, and inclosed in a place where he can hear or see, or feel, or taste of nothing but what tends to enflame his disorders.

IV. *But Christianity puts an end to this state of things, blots out all the ideas of worldly wisdom, brings the world itself to ashes, and creates all anew. It calls man from an animal life and earthly societies, to be born again of the Holy Ghost, and be made a member of the kingdom of God.

It crushes into nothing the concerns of this life, condemns it as a state of vanity and darkness, and leads man to a happiness with God in the realms of light.

It proposes the purifying of our souls, enlivened with the divine spirit: it sets before us new goods and evils, and forms us to a glorious participation of the divine nature.

This is the one end of Christianity. It does not leave us to grovel on in the desires of the flesh, to cast about for worldly happiness, and wander in darkness and exile from God: but the sole design of it is, to lead us from all thoughts of rest here, to separate us from worldly tempers, to deliver us from the folly of our passions, the slavery of our own natures, the power of evil spirits, and unite us to God, the true fountain of real good. This is the mighty change which Christianity aims at, to reform our whole natures, renew our souls in the image of God, and make them the inhabitants of heavenly and immortal bodies.

V. The manner by which it changes our whole state is equally great and wonderful.

I am the way, the truth, and the life, saith our blessed Lord, no man cometh unto the Father but by me.

As all things were created by the Son of God, and without him was not any thing made that was made, so are all things redeemed and restored by the same divine person.

As nothing could come into being without him, so nothing can enter into a state of happiness but by him.

The dignity of this redemption at once confounds the pride, and relieves the misery of man. How fallen must he be from God, that should need so great a mediator! And, on the other hand, how full of comfort is the thought that so high a method, so stupendous a means should be taken to restore him to a state of peace and favour with God!

VI. *This is the true point of view, in which every Christian is to behold himself. He is to overlook the poor projects of this life, and consider himself as a creature, thro’ his natural corruption, falling into a state of endless misery; but by the mercy of God, redeemed to a condition of everlasting happiness.

All the precepts and doctrines of the gospel are founded on these two great truths, the deplorable corruption of human nature, and its new birth in Christ Jesus.

The one includes all the misery, the other all the happiness of man.

It is on these that the whole frame of Christianity is built, forbidding only such things as fasten us to the disorders of sin, and commanding only those duties which lead us into the liberty of the Sons of God.

So that if we think and act as Christians, we act suitably to these terms of our condition, fearing and avoiding all the motions of our corrupted nature, cherishing the secret inspirations of the Holy Spirit, opening our minds for the reception of the divine light, and pressing after all the perfections of our new birth.

All Christians are continually to behave themselves conformable to this double capacity. We are to fear and watch and pray, like men that are always on the brink of eternal death; and to believe and hope, labour and aspire, like Christians that are called to fight the good fight of faith, and lay hold on eternal life.

VII. This knowledge of ourselves makes human life a state of infinite importance, placed upon so dreadful a point betwixt two such eternities.

Well might our Saviour say to one that begged first to go and bury his father, Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.

For what is all the bustle and hurry of the world but dead shew, and its greatest actors but dead men, when compared with that real life to which the followers of Christ are redeemed?

Had we been made only for this world, worldly wisdom had been our highest wisdom; but seeing we are redeemed to an intirely contrary state, worldly wisdom is now our greatest foolishness.

It is now our only wisdom, to understand our new state, and conduct ourselves by the principles of our redemption.

VIII. The nature of our Christian calling is of that concern, as to deserve all our thoughts, and is indeed only to be perceived by great seriousness and attention of mind.

The Christian state is an invisible life, supported, not by sensible goods, but the spiritual graces of faith and hope: so that a man busied in earthly cares and enjoyments, perceives nothing of this great and heavenly calling.

The changes which Christianity make in the present state of things, are all invisible: its goods and evils, which are the only true standards of our actions, are not subject to the knowledge of our senses.

In God we live and move and have our being; but how unseen, how unfelt is all this!

Christ is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end of all things. The whole creation subsists in him and by him. No person is in any favour with God, but by this great Mediator. But how invisible, how unknown to all our senses is this state of things!

Christians are temples of the Holy Ghost, consecrated to God, members of Christ’s mystical body, of his flesh and his bones, receiving life, spirit and motion, from him their head.

But our senses see no farther than our parents and kindred according to the flesh, and fix our hearts to earthly friendships and relations. Well then may this life be deemed a state of darkness, since it thus clouds and covers all the true appearances of things, and keeps our minds insensible and unaffected with matters of such infinite moment.

IX. *Would we therefore know our true condition, we must search after a life that is hid with Christ in God. We must consider ourselves as parts of Christ’s mystical body, and as members of the kingdom of heaven. In vain do we consider the beauty and strength of our bodies, our alliances with men, and the distinctions of this world; for these things no more constitute the state of human life, than rich coffins or beautiful monuments constitute the state of the dead.

We justly pity the last poor efforts of human greatness, when we see a breathless carcase lying in state. It appears so far from any real honour, that it rather looks like ridiculing the misery of our nature. But were religion to form our judgments, the life of a proud, voluptuous, sensual man, tho’ shining in all the splendour of the world, would give us no higher an idea of human dignity, than a poor corpse laid in state.

For a sinner, when glorying in the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, is a more shocking sight of misery ridiculed, than any pageantry that can expose the dead.

X. We have an apostle’s authority to say, that he who liveth in pleasure is dead whilst he liveth.

This shews us, that when we enquire what our life is, we must think of something higher than the vigour of our blood, the gaiety of our spirits, or the enjoyment of sensual pleasures: since these, tho’ the allowed signs of living men, are often undeniable proofs of dead Christians.

When therefore we would truly know what our life or happiness is, we must look at nothing that is sensible or temporal. We may as well dig in the earth for wisdom as look at flesh and blood to see what we are, or at worldly enjoyments to find what we want, or at temporal evils to see what we have to fear.

We must therefore, if we would conceive our true state, our real good and evil, look farther than these dim eyes of flesh can carry our views. We must, with the eyes of faith, penetrate into the invisible world, the world of spirits, and consider our order and condition among them; a world which, as St. John speaks, hath no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it; for the glory of God doth lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. For it is there, among eternal beings, that we must take an eternal fellowship, or fall into a kingdom of darkness and everlasting misery.

XI. *Christianity is so noble in its ends, so extensive in its views, that it has no less subjects than these to entertain our thoughts.

It buries our bodies, burns the present world, triumphs over death by a general resurrection, and opens all into an eternal state.

It never considers us in any other respect than as fallen spirits, it disregards worldly distinctions, and proposes nothing to our fears but eternal misery, nothing to our hopes but an endless enjoyment of God.

This is the great, the important condition, in which Christianity has placed us, above our bodies, above the world, above death, to be present at the dissolution of all things, to see the earth in flames, and the heavens wrapt up like a scroll, to stand at the general resurrection, to appear at the universal judgment, and to live for ever, when all that our eyes have seen is passed away and gone.

XII. *Take therefore upon thee a temper suitable to this greatness of thy condition. Remember that thou art an eternal spirit; that thou art but for a few months or years in a state of flesh and blood, only to try whether thou shalt be for ever happy with God, or for ever miserable with the devil.

Thou wilt hear of other concerns and other greatness in this world. Thou wilt see every order of men, every family, every person pursuing some fancied happiness, as if the world had not only happiness, but a particular kind of happiness for all its inhabitants.

But when thou seest this, fancy thou sawest all the world asleep: the prince no longer a prince: the beggar no longer begging, but every man sleeping out of his proper state; some happy, others tormented, and all changing their condition, as fast as one foolish dream could succeed another.

When thou hast seen this, if thou wilt, thou mayst go to sleep too, thou mayst lie down and dream. And this is all; for be as happy as the world can make thee, all is but sleeping and dreaming: and what is still worse, it is like sleeping in a ship, when thou shouldst be pumping for life, or dreaming thou art a prince, when thou shouldst be redeeming thyself from slavery.

‘it’ replaced with ‘is’

XIII. This is no imaginary flight of a melancholy fancy, but the real nature of things.

*For if thou art that immortal nature, that fallen spirit which religion teaches us; if thou art to meet death, resurrection, and judgment, as the forerunners of an eternal state, what are all the little flashes of pleasure, the changing appearances of worldly happiness, but so many sorts of dreams?

*How canst thou talk of the advantage of fortune, the pleasures of food or apparel, without being in a dream?

Is the beggar asleep, when he fancies he is building himself fine houses? Is the prisoner in a dream, when he imagines himself in open fields and fine groves? And canst thou think thy immortal spirit is awake, while it is delighting itself in the shadows and bubbles of worldly happiness?

For if it be true, that man is upon his trial, if the trial is for eternity, if life is but a vapour, what is there that deserves a serious thought, but how to get well out of the world, and make it a right passage to our eternal state?

XIV. *It is the manner of some countries, in the burial of their dead, to put a staff and shoes and money in the sepulchre along with the corpse.

We see the folly and ignorance of such a poor contrivance to assist the dead: but if we did but understand what is life, we should see as much folly in the poor contrivances to assist the living.

For how many things do people labour after, break their rest and peace to get, which yet when gotten are of just as much real use to them, as a staff and shoes to a corpse under ground? They are always adding something to their life, which is only like adding another pair of shoes to a body in the grave.

Thou mayst hire more servants, new paint thy rooms, and put on richer apparel: and these will help thee to be happy, as golden staffs or painted shoes will help a dead man to walk.

XV. *If thou rememberest, that the whole race of mankind are a race of fallen spirits, that pass thro’ this world, as an arrow passeth thro’ the air, thou wilt soon perceive, that there is no wisdom or happiness, but in getting away to the best advantage.

If thou rememberest, that this life is but a vapour, that thou art in the body, only to be holy, humble, and heavenly-minded; that thou standest upon the brink of death, resurrection, and judgment, and that these great things will suddenly come upon thee like a thief in the night, thou wilt see a vanity in the things of this world, greater than any words can express.

Do but therefore know thyself as religion hath made thee known; do but see thyself in the light which Christ has brought into the world, and then thou wilt see that nothing concerns thee, but what concerns an everlasting spirit that is going to God; and that there are no enjoyments here that are worth a thought, but such as may adorn thee with that holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.

XVI. *This is the end of Christianity. It is not a school for the teaching of moral virtue. It is deeper and more divine in its designs: it implies an entire change of heart, a full dedication of ourselves, our souls and bodies unto God.

Our blessed Saviour came into the world, not to make any composition with it, but to put an end to the designs of flesh and blood, and to shew us, we must either renounce this world to become Sons of God, or by enjoying it, take our portion among damned spirits.

Christianity is a state of things that wholly regards eternity: it knows of no other goods and evils, but such as relate to another life.

It is a kingdom of heaven that has no other interests in this world, than as it takes its members out of it; and when the number of the elect is compleat, this world will be consumed with fire, as having no other reason for its existence, than the furnishing members for that blessed society, which is to last for ever.

I cannot here omit observing the folly of human wisdom, which, full of imaginary projects, pleases itself with its lasting establishments in a world doomed to destruction, and which is to last no longer than till a sufficient number is redeemed out of it.

Did we see a number of animals hastening to take up their apartments, and contending for the best places in a building that was to be beat down as soon as its old inhabitants were got safe out, we should see a contention full as wise as the wisdom of worldly ambition.

XVII. That Christianity implies a change of nature, is plain from the whole tenor of the gospel.

The Saviour of the world saith, That except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. We are told, that to as many as received him, to them he gave power to become the Sons of God; which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

These words plainly teach us, that Christianity implies an entire change of nature: that as our birth was to us the beginning of a new life, and brought us into a society of earthly enjoyments, so Christianity is another birth, that brings us into a condition as new as when we first saw the light.

We begin again to be, when we enter upon fresh terms of life, have new tempers, new hopes and fears, and an entire change of every thing that can be called good or evil.

This new birth is the very essence and soul of Christianity; it is the seal of the promises, the mark of our sonship, the earnest of our inheritance, and the sure proof of our acceptance with God.

XVIII. If we would know what a change our new life in Christ implies, let us consider what it is to be born of God.

Whosoever is born of God, saith the apostle, doth not commit sin. For his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil. And again, We know, that whosoever is born of God sinneth not, but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and the wicked one toucheth him not. 1 John iii. 10, v. 18.

The same apostle tells us, Whosoever is born of God overcometh the world. He overcometh all worldly desires and worldly fears. He is crucified unto the world and the world crucified unto him. He is dead to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. And he feareth not them that can kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do.

We must therefore examine into the state of our minds, and see whether we are thus changed in our natures, thus born again: whether we are so spiritual, as to have overcome the world: so holy, as that we cannot commit sin; since it is the undeniable doctrine of scripture, that this new birth is as necessary to salvation, as the believing in Jesus Christ.

XX. There is perhaps no duty more contrary to flesh and blood than the loving our enemies. But this is easy to those that are born of God.

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For take but away earthly goods and evils, and you take away all hatred and malice. For they are the only causes of those base tempers.

He therefore that hath overcome the world, hath overcome all the occasions of envy and ill nature, and can pity, pray for and forgive all his enemies, who want less forgiveness from him than he hath received from his heavenly Father.

Let us here awhile contemplate the height and depth of Christian holiness, and that godlike spirit which it implies! And this alone might convince us, that to be Christians, we must be born again: we must so change our very natures, as to have no desire in our souls, but that of being like God.

And till we rejoice and delight only in God, we cannot have this love to our fellow-creatures.

We may therefore learn from this, as well as from what was observed before, that Christianity does not consist in doing no harm, nor in doing good, (as it is called) nor yet in any particular moral virtues, as some idly suppose; but in an entire change of our hearts, of all our natural tempers, and a life wholly devoted to God.

XXI. The same doctrine is farther taught by our blessed Saviour, when speaking of little children, he saith, Suffer them to come unto me; for of such is the kingdom of God. Luke xviii. 16.

Now the peculiar condition of infants is such, that they have every thing to learn; they are to be taught by others what they are to hope and fear, and wherein their proper happiness consists.

And in this sense first we are to become as little children, to be as tho’ we had every thing to learn, and suffer ourselves to be taught, what we are to chuse, and what we are to avoid; to pretend to no wisdom of our own, but be ready to be taught of God, the only way of pursuing that happiness, which God in Christ proposes to us; and to accept it with such simplicity of mind as little children, who have nothing of their own to oppose to it.

XXII. But is this infant temper essential to Christianity? Does the kingdom of God consist only of those that have it? This is another undeniable proof that Christianity implies a new nature; such as having renounced the prejudices of life, the maxims of human wisdom, gives itself with a child-like submission and simplicity, to be entirely governed by the doctrines and Spirit of Christ.

Craft and policy, selfish cunning, proud abilities and vain endowments, have no admittance into this holy state of society with Christ in God.

The wisdom of this world, the intrigues of life, the designs of greatness and ambition, lead to another kingdom. He that follows Christ must be emptied of this vain furniture, and put on the meek ornament of infant and undesigning simplicity.

Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?

If we will partake of the wisdom of God, we must judge of this world and its most boasted gifts, as the wisdom of God judgeth of them; we must deem them foolishness, and with undivided hearts labour after one wisdom, one happiness, in being entirely devoted to God.

XXIII. This comparison of Christians to little children, may also remind us of a certain simplicity of behaviour, which is always the effect of a heart truly and entirely devoted to God.

As worldly men are therefore reserved, artful and deceitful, because they have many and secret ends to bring about; so they whose heart is wholly devoted to God, being wholly taken up with one great design, and having no little successes that they labour after, have no need of artifice or disguise; and so are naturally open, simple and undesigning in all the affairs of life.

XXIV. From all these considerations it appears, that Christianity implies a new nature, and a life entirely devoted to God.

Now if this be Christianity, it may serve to instruct two sorts of people:

First, Those who are content with an outward religion; whose Christianity lies in outward decency and regularity of life.

I don’t mean those that are insincere or hypocritical: but all those who are content with outward religion, with any thing short of that inward holiness, that newness of spirit which the gospel describes.

They should consider that charity, chastity, sobriety and justice may be practised without Christianity. A Jew, a Heathen may be (what you call) charitable and temperate: but to make these parts of Christianity, they must proceed from a heart truly turned to God, that is full of an infant simplicity, that is crucified with Christ, that is born again of the Spirit, that has overcome the world. Temperance or justice without this, may be the temperance of a Jew or a Heathen: but it is not Christian temperance or justice, till it proceeds from a Christian spirit. Could we do and suffer all that Christ himself did or suffered, yet if it was not all done in the same temper, in the Spirit of Christ, it would profit us nothing.

XXV. A Christian is sober, charitable and just, upon the same principles and with the same spirit that he receives the Holy communion; as acts of obedience to God, and as so many instances of a heart truly devoted to God.

A Christian is sober, not only so far as suits with a regular life, but so as becomes one who is born of the Holy Spirit, who dwelleth in God and God in him.

He is charitable, not only so far as suits with his natural temper, and with good esteem among men; but in such a measure as is suitable to the doctrines and spirit of the gospel.

For indeed, neither charity, nor temperance, nor justice, nor any other virtues (as they are called) are parts of Christian holiness, till they spring from holiness of heart, from the mind that was in Christ.

This is what cannot be too much considered by those whose religion has made no change in their hearts; who fancy themselves Christians, only because of the regularity of their lives, altho’ they have never experienced a renewal in the spirit of their minds, who pray without devotion, give alms without charity, and are Christians without the Spirit of Christianity.

XXVI. Secondly, This doctrine may serve to instruct those who are convinced, they have been hitherto strangers to religion.

Some people who begin to look toward religion, think they have done enough, when they have reformed the outward course of their lives; when they have left off their gross vices and follies, or are grown careful of some particular duties.

Thus a man who has been a drunkard many years, thinks he has made a sufficient change by becoming temperate: another imagines, he is in a very good and safe state, because he does not neglect the public worship, as he used to do: a lady fancies she lives enough to God because she has left off plays, and lives more at home than formerly.

But such people should consider, that Christianity does not consist in the fewness of our vices; no nor in any one particular virtue, nor yet in the outward amendment of our lives: but in such a thorough change of heart, as makes the love of God the spring and measure and rule of all our tempers and actions.

XXVII. It is a miserable error, to think we are Christians, because we are less vain or covetous, more sober and decent in our behaviour than we used to be. Yet this is the case with many, who think they are well, because they are not so bad as they were, because they are reformed from outward wickedness; not considering how entire a reformation of heart, as well as life, Christianity implies.

But let such people remember, that they who thus measure themselves by themselves are not wise. Let them remember that they are not disciples of Christ, till they have, like him, offered their whole soul and body as a reasonable living sacrifice to God; that they are not members of Christ’s mystical body, till they are united unto him by a new spirit; that they have not entered into the kingdom of God, till they have entered into an infant simplicity of heart, till they are so born of God as not to commit sin, so full of an heavenly Spirit as to have overcome the world.

Let them remember, He that is in Christ is a new creature, and that nothing short of this will avail before God, nothing less than the entire renewal of the soul in righteousness and all true holiness. Let them remember, that there is no religion that will stand us in any stead, but that which is the conversion of the heart to God, when all our tempers are holy, heavenly, divine, springing from a soul that is born again of the Spirit, and tends with one full bent to a perfection and happiness in the enjoyment of God.

XXVIII. Let us therefore look carefully to ourselves, and consider what manner of spirit we are of: let us not think our condition safe, because we are of this or that church or persuasion, or because we are strict observers of the outward offices of religion. For we can’t but see, these are marks that belong to more than belong to Christ. All are not his that prophesy, or even cast out devils, and work miracles in his name. Much less those who, with corrupt minds and worldly hearts, are only baptized in his name.

*If religion has raised us into a new world; if it has filled us with new ends of life; if it has taken possession of our hearts, altered the whole turn of our minds, and changed the whole stream of our affections: if it has given us new joys and griefs, new hopes and fears; if all things in us are become new: if the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost given unto us, and this Spirit beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God: then are we Christians, not in name only, but in truth; then we do believe in the Holy Jesus, and we shall rejoice in the day of Christ, that we have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.


CHRISTIANITY requires a renouncing of the world, and all worldly tempers.

I. The Christian religion being to raise a new, spiritual, and, as yet, invisible world, and to place man among thrones, principalities and spiritual beings, is at entire enmity with this present corrupt state of flesh and blood.

It ranks the world, with the flesh and the devil, as an equal enemy to those glorious ends which it proposes.

Accordingly the gospel lays its foundation, in utterly renouncing those false goods and enjoyments, which feed the vanity and corruption of our nature, fill our hearts with foolish and wicked passions, and keep us separate from God, the only happiness of all spirits.

II. For not only the vices, the wickedness, and vanity of this world, but even its most lawful concerns, if unduly pursued, make men unable to enter into the true state of Christianity.

He who is busied in an honest calling, may, on that account, be finally rejected of God.

*For it is no more pardonable to be less affected to the things of God, for the sake of any worldly business, than for the indulgence of our pride, or any other sinful passion: every business of life being equally trifling, when compared with the one thing needful.

III. Men of serious business indeed generally censure those, who trifle away their time in vain and impertinent pleasures.

But they don’t consider that their own employments also are as vain as vanity itself: they don’t consider that any business or employment, if it has got hold of the heart, renders men as vain and odious in the sight of God, as any sensual gratification.

They may call it an honest care, a wise industry, or by any other plausible name. But it is a wisdom which can no more recommend itself to the eyes of God than the wisdom of an epicure.

*For it shews as wrong a turn of mind, and as great a contempt of the true good, to neglect any degrees of piety for the sake of business, as for any the most trifling pleasures of life.

IV. *The wisdom of this world indeed gives an importance and air of greatness to several ways of life, and ridicules others as vain and contemptible, which differ only in their kind of vanity. But the wisdom from above condemns all labour as equally fruitless, which hinders our labouring after everlasting life. For what can it signify whether a man forgets God in his farm, or in a shop, or at a gaming table? The world is full as important in its pleasures as in its cares; there is no more wisdom in the one than in the other. And the man who, by the cares and business of the world is made less affected to the things of God, is no wiser than he who takes his delight in running foxes and hares out of breath.

For there is no wisdom in any thing but religion. Nor is any way of life less vain than another, but as it is made serviceable to piety, and conspires with the designs of religion, to raise mankind to a participation and enjoyment of the divine nature.

V. Let those who are not at all ashamed to be devoted to the cares and business of the world, consider those states of life, which they own to be vain and foolish, and contrary to religion.

Some people have no other care, than how to give their palate fresh pleasure, and enlarge the happiness of tasting.

Others live to no other purpose, than to breed dogs, and attend the sports of the field.

Men of sober business, who seem to act the grave part of life, generally condemn these ways of life.

But why are they to be condemned? Produce but the true reason why any of these are vain and sinful, and the same reason will conclude against every way of life which is not wholly devoted to God.

VI. Let the man who is deep in worldly business, but shew the vanity and shame of a life devoted to pleasures, and the same reasons will shew the vanity and shame of a life filled with worldly cares. So that whosoever can condemn sensuality, ambition, or any way of life upon the principles of reason and religion, carries his own condemnation within his own breast, unless his life be entirely devoted to God.

VII. It is granted that some cares are made necessary by the necessities of nature. And the same also may be observed of some pleasures, as the pleasures of eating, drinking and rest. But if reason and religion do not limit these pleasures by the necessities of nature, we fall from rational creatures into drones, sots, gluttons, and epicures.

*In like manner our care after some worldly things is necessary. But if this care is not bounded by the just wants of nature, if it wanders into unnecessary pursuits, and fills the mind with false desires and cravings; if it wants to add an imaginary splendour to the plain demands of nature, it is vain and irregular; it is the care of an epicure, a longing for sauces and ragous, and corrupts the soul like any other sensual indulgence.

For this reason our Lord points so many of his doctrines at the common allowed employments of life, to teach us, that they may employ our minds as falsely and dangerously as any trifles whatever.

He teaches us, that even the necessaries of life should be sought with a kind of indifference, that so our souls may be truly sensible of greater wants, and disposed to hunger and thirst after enjoyments that will make us happy for ever.

VIII. But how unlike are Christians to Christianity! It commands us to take no thought, saying, what shall we eat, or what shall we drink? Yet Christians are restless and laborious, till they can eat in plate.

It commands us to be indifferent about raiment. But Christians are full of care and concern, to be cloathed in purple and fine linen. It enjoins us to take no thought for the morrow. Yet Christians think they have lived in vain, if they don’t leave estates at their death. And these call themselves disciples of that Lord, who saith, He that forsaketh not all that he hath, cannot be my disciple.

IX. It must not be said that these doctrines are not plainly enough taught in scripture, because the lives and behaviour of Christians are so contrary to them. For if the lives of Christians might be alledged against the doctrines of scripture, none of them would have lasted to this day.

It is one of the ten commandments, Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. And our Saviour has forbid swearing, yea, in the most solemn manner. Yet where more swearing than among Christians, and among such Christians as would think it hard to be reckoned a reproach to the Christian name?

The scripture says of Christians, that they are born of God, and have overcome the world. Can they then be reckoned of that number, who have not so much as overcome that flagrant sin, to which they have no temptation in nature?

Well therefore may the doctrines of heavenly-mindedness, and contempt of the world be disregarded, since they run counter to all the corruptions of flesh and blood, to all the pride and vanity of our nature.

X. But let those who are startled at these doctrines, deal faithfully with their own hearts, and ask themselves whether they should not have had the same dislike to them, had they lived in our Saviour’s days? Or whether they can find any one reason, why they should have been so spiritual and heavenly then, which is not as good and as strong a reason for their being as spiritual and heavenly now?

*Hath heaven or earth suffered any change since that time? Is the world become now more worth our notice, or heavenly treasure of less value than it was then? Or have we had another Saviour since, that has compounded things with this world, and helped us to an easier way to the next?

Yet, if an apostle was to raise from the dead, calling rich and great men to these doctrines, they would drive their coaches from such a preacher, rather than be saved at such a price.

XI. To set this great truth in a still clearer light, I will appeal a little even to the imagination of the reader.

Let it be supposed, that rich men are now enjoying their riches, and taking all the usual delights of plenty; that they are labouring for the meat that perisheth, contriving scenes of pleasure, and spending their estates in proud expences.

After this supposition let it be imagined, that we saw the Holy Jesus, who had not where to lay his head, with his twelve apostles, that had left all to follow him. Let us imagine, that we heard him call all the world, to take up the cross and follow him, promising, a treasure in heaven to such as would quit all for his sake, and rejecting all that would not comply therewith: denouncing woe and eternal death to all that lived in fulness, pomp and worldly delights. Let it be imagined, that we heard him commanding his disciples, to take no thought, saying, What shall we eat, or what shall we drink, or wherewithal shall we be cloathed? And giving this reason for it, After all these things do the Gentiles seek.

Let it be imagined, that we saw the first Christians taking up the cross, renouncing the world, and counting all things but dung that they might win Christ.

I do not now so immediately appeal to the judgment or reason of the reader. I leave it even with his imagination, that wild faculty, to determine, whether it be possible for these two different sorts of men, to be true disciples of the same Lord?

XII. *To proceed; Let us suppose that a rich man was to put up such a prayer as this to God:

“O Lord, I thy sinful creature, whom thou hast called to a lively hope of glory in Christ Jesus, beg of thee to grant me a thousand times more riches than I need, that I may be able to gratify myself and family in the delights of eating and drinking, state and grandeur. Grant that as the little span of life wears out, I may abound more and more in wealth; and that I may see and perceive all the best and surest ways of growing richer than any of my neighbours. This I humbly and fervently beg, in the name, &c.

Such a prayer as this should have had no place in this treatise; but in hope that proportionably as it offends the ear, it may amend the heart.

XIII. There is no one, I believe, but would be ashamed to put up such a prayer as this to God. Yet let it be well observed, that all are of the temper of this prayer, but those who have renounced the world.

We need not go among villains, and people of scandalous characters, to find those who desire a thousand times more than they want, who have an eagerness to be every day richer and richer, who catch at still new ways of gain; and scarce think any thing enough, except it equals or exceeds the estate of their neighbours.

I beg of such that they would heartily condemn the profane and unchristian spirit of the foregoing prayer, and that they would satisfy themselves, nothing can be more odious and contrary to religion.

But let them be assured also of this, that the same things which make an unchristian prayer, make an unchristian life.

For the reason why these things appear so odious in a prayer, is because they are so contrary to the spirit of religion. But is it not as bad to live contrary to the spirit of religion, as to pray contrary to it?

At least, must not that way of life be highly blameable, which is so shocking when put into the form of a prayer?

XIV. Need we any other conviction, that this manner of life is contrary to the spirit of Christianity, than this, that the praying according to it in Christ’s name, comes near to blasphemy?

Let it be considered how we should abominate a person, whom we knew to use such a prayer: and let that teach us, how abominable such a life must appear in the eyes of God! And with this addition of folly, that we call the prayer profane, but think the life that answers to it to be Christian.

From all this it is plain, that the present followers of Jesus Christ, have no more to do with worldly enjoyments, than those he chose while he himself was on earth; and that we are to have the same heavenly devotion to God, the same affection, as any of those he conversed with in the days of his flesh.

XV. Yet notwithstanding the scriptures are so express, men will not give up their pre-conceived opinions.

It will still be asked, Where can be the harm of getting or enjoying an estate?

Whether it be not a commendable thing, to provide an estate for one’s family?

And what people of birth and fortune are to do with themselves, if they are not to live up to their estates and qualities?

To the first question let it be answered, Take no thought, saying, what shall we eat, or what shall we drink, or wherewithal shall we be cloathed? For after all these things do the Gentiles seek.

Now, if to be careful and thoughtful, even about the necessaries of life, be a care that is here forbidden, and that because it is such a care as only becomes Heathens; surely to be careful and thoughtful how to raise an estate, and enrich one’s family, is a care that is sufficiently forbidden in Christians. And he that can yet think it lawful, to make this the care and design of his life, is too blind to be convinced by arguments. Our Saviour saith, Labour not for the meat that perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life. He commands us not to lay up for ourselves treasures on earth; he assures us that we cannot serve God and mammon.

Now these places have no meaning, if it is still lawful for Christians to heap up treasures, to labour for estates, and pursue designs of enriching their families.

XVI. I know it is easy to evade the force of these texts, and to make plausible harangues, upon the innocency of labouring to be rich, and the consistency of serving God and mammon.

I don’t question but the rich young man in the gospel could have made a very good apology for himself, and have shewn how reasonable and innocent a thing it was, for so good and so young a man to enjoy an estate.

The rich man in torments could have alledged how much good he did with his fortune; how many trades he encouraged with his purple and fine linen, and faring sumptuously every day; and how he conformed to the ends of society, by so spending his estate.

XVII. *But still the word of God shall not pass away. Having food and raiment, let us be therewith content. For they who will be rich fall into a temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. 1 Tim. vi. 8.

We may, perhaps, by some acuteness of reasoning, find out, that this still leaves us at our liberty, whether we will labour to be rich or not: that notwithstanding what the apostle says, of a snare, a temptation, and foolish lusts, yet we can pursue the means and desire the happiness of riches, without any danger to our virtue.

But if so, we are as prudent as those Christians, who think they can secure their virtue without watching and prayer, tho’ our Saviour has said, Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation.

And he that neglects watching and prayer, tho’ the appointed means of avoiding temptation, lives as much according to scripture, as he that is careful and desirous of riches, tho’ the declared occasions of sin, snares and destruction.

XVIII. If we could submit to the plain doctrines of scripture, it would never be asked what people of fortune are to do with themselves, if they are not to live up to the splendour and plenty of their estates?

The rich man in the gospel was a ruler, a young man, and a good man: if therefore there are any of his rank who are neither young nor good, it can hardly be thought, they have less to do to inherit eternal life.

And as for those who, like him, have kept the commandments of God from their youth, I dare not tell them, that they are not under a necessity of offering all their wealth to God, and of making their estates, however acquired, not the support of vain indulgences, but the relief of their brethren.

XIX. Suppose great people, by means of their wealth, could throw themselves into a deep sleep of pleasant dreams, which would last till death awaked them, would any one think it lawful for them to make such use of their riches?

And yet he that had done nothing but sleep and dream to the time of his death, might as well say, that he had been working out his salvation with fear and trembling, as he that has been living in luxury, splendour, and sensual gratifications.

The gospel has made no exception for dignity of birth, or difference in fortune; but has appointed the same straight gate, the common passage for all persons to enter into glory.

The distinctions of civil life have their use; but if any one thinks he may be less devoted to God, less afraid of the corruptions of pleasure and pride, because he is born of a rich family, he is as much mistaken as he that fancies he has a privilege to steal, because he was born of a Father that was poor.

XX. If the rich or great man can find out a course of pleasures, that support no wrong turn of mind, an indulgence which does not gratify sensuality, entertainments which feed no vain passions: if they can find out such instances of splendour and greatness, as shew they love God with all their hearts, and as gratify neither the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, nor the pride of life, religion has no command against such enjoyments.

But if this cannot be done, then the rich have no more permission to live in vain indulgences than the poor have to steal.

*And let it be always remembered, that if any distinction of life makes men forget that sin is their only baseness, and holiness their only honour; if any condition makes them less disposed to imitate the low, humble estate of their suffering Master; instead of being any real advantage, it is their curse, their snare and destruction.

XXI. I know it will still be objected, that a man is not necessarily proud, because he lives in shew and figure, any more than another is necessarily humble, because he lives in a low estate.

It is granted, that men may be of a temper contrary to the estate in which they live. But this is only true, of such as are in any state by force, and contrary to their desires and endeavours.

A man in a low estate may be proud, because he is in such a state by force; and is uneasy till he can raise himself out of it. If the same is true of him that lives in figure and pomp, that he is in this state by force, and is restless till he can lay it all aside, then we grant he may be humble.

But nothing is weaker than to say, because a man may be in a low estate per force, without lowliness of mind, therefore another may chuse to live in all the height of grandeur and vanity, without any height or vanity of mind.

A man may be an epicure in his temper, tho’ he is forced to live upon bread and water. But will you therefore say, another who lives on all sorts of dainties, and that by choice, may be no epicure?

If therefore they that live in pomp and shew, live therein out of choice, and are not willing to live otherwise, we must talk nonsense if we do not say their minds are as vain as the vanity of their state.

XXII. The necessity of renouncing the world, in whatever state of life we are, may be yet farther proved from those divine tempers which Christianity requires.

Christians are to love God with all their heart, with all their soul, with all their mind, and with all their strength.

Now it is absolutely impossible we should do this, unless we have renounced the world.

A man that has his head and his heart full of worldly concerns, can no more love God with all his strength, than a man, who has his eyes on the ground, can be looking towards heaven with all the strength of his sight.

XXIII. It is certain, that we unavoidably love every thing in proportion as it appears to be our happiness: if it appears to be half our happiness, it will necessarily have half the strength of our love: and if it appears to be all our happiness, we shall love it with all our strength.

The Christian religion therefore, which requires the whole strength of our nature to love God, lays a just foundation in requiring us absolutely to renounce the happiness of the world; seeing it is impossible to have two happinesses, and but one love.

And indeed what can be more ridiculous than to fancy, that a man who is taken up with the enjoyments of the world, is at the same time loving God with all his soul and with all his strength?

Is it not as absurd as to suppose that a man, who is devoted to, and taken up with the sports of the field, is at the same time contemplating mathematical speculations, with the whole ardour of his mind?

XXIV. Another duty which proves the absolute necessity of thus renouncing the world, is, The love of our neighbour.

Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: if a man would know what this implies, let him look impartially into his own heart, and see what it is that he wishes to himself. Then let him turn all the same wishes to his neighbour, and he will feel the just measure of his duty.

This will also teach him, that the true love of his neighbour is as inconsistent with the love of the world, as duelling is inconsistent with meekness and the forgiveness of injuries.

XXV. *This love is a temper that suits only such beings as have one common undivided happiness, wherein they cannot be rivals to one another. Now this is the state of all Christians, who have as truly one common happiness as they have one common God. But if we put ourselves out of this state, and seek for happiness in the enjoyments of this life, we are as incapable of this love, as wolves and bears that live upon prey.

One common undivided happiness, being the only possible foundation for this love, if we seek any other happiness, if we don’t renounce all other pretensions, we cannot keep clear of such tempers as are utterly inconsistent with the loving our neighbour as ourselves.

But when we are governed by a happiness wherein none can make himself our rival, it will be no harder to love all men as ourselves, than to wish them the enjoyment of the same light, or the common air: which being goods that may be equally enjoyed by all, are not the occasions of envy.

XXVI. *It is plain our Saviour intended this brotherly love, to be the governing principle of our lives. But it cannot be so, unless we are content to make no more of this world, than a supply of our necessities, and to look for one only happiness in the enjoyment of God.

I don’t appeal to niggards and worldlings, to the proud and ambitious: let those who think themselves moderate in their worldly desires and enjoyments, deal faithfully with themselves and see whether their prosecution of their worldly affairs, permits them to love all men as themselves.

Perhaps they have not those bitter envyings and hatreds to which ambitious worldlings are subject. But still they have as certainly, in their degree, and in proportion to their love of the world, their envyings and hatreds, and want of sincere love, as other men.

XXVII. For a further proof of this, we need only look into the world, and see the spirit that appears among almost all Christians.

We need not go to wicked and loose people. Let us go into any virtuous family, and we shall find it has its particular friendships and hatreds, its envyings and evil speakings, and all founded in the interests of the world.

And this necessarily springs from hence, that all Christians are busy in attending to their worldly interests, intending only to keep clear of dishonest practices: that is, they use the world as far as honest Heathens or Jews would do, and consequently have such tempers as Jews and Heathens have.

For it is not only cheating and dishonesty, but the bare desire of worldly things, and the placing happiness in them, that lays the foundation of all these unchristian tempers; and divides Christians into more parties than there are families among them.

So that it is purely the engaging so far in the world as sober Christians do: it is their false satisfaction in so many things that they ought to renounce; it is their being too much alive to the world, that makes all, even those who are called religious, subject to tempers so contrary to the love of their neighbour.

Let this therefore teach us that we must renounce the world, if we would live and love like Christians.

XXVIII. By renouncing the world, I do not mean, retiring into a cloister. This would be like laying aside all use of cloaths, to avoid the vanity of dress.

There is a reasonable use of the world, which is as lawful as it is to eat and drink.

We may buy and sell; we may labour; we may provide for ourselves and our families; that is, so far as is needful for life and godliness. But farther we may not go.

The first step our desires take beyond things of necessity, ranks us among worldlings, and raises in our minds all those tempers, which disturb the minds of worldly men.

XXIX. You think yourself conformable to Christianity, because you are moderate in your desires. You don’t desire a large estate; you desire only a little finery, a little state, and to have things genteel about you.

Imagine now, that what you say, of moderate desires, and little fineries, had been said to our blessed Saviour when he was upon earth, calling men to renounce the world and deny themselves.

Your own conscience tells you, he would have rebuked the author of such a pretence with as much indignation as he rebuked Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan, for thou savourest not the things that be of God.

Now the spirit of Christianity is the same spirit that was in Christ when he was upon earth. And if we have reason to think that such a pretence would have been severely condemned by Christ, we have the same reason to be sure, it is as severely condemned by Christianity.

XXX. Had our blessed Saviour a little before he left the world, given estates to his apostles, with a permission for them to enjoy little fineries, and a moderate state in a genteel manner, he had undone all that he had said of the contempt of the world, and heavenly-mindedness. Such a permission had been a contradiction to the main doctrines which he had taught.

Had the apostles lived in a little state, and in moderate worldly delights, how could they have said, the world is crucified to me, and I unto the world?

And how blind and weak must we be, if we can think that we may live in a spirit and temper, which could not possibly be the spirit and temper of Christ and his apostles?

XXXI. *Another pretence for worldly care and labour after riches, is to provide for our families.

You want to leave fortunes to your children, that they may have their share in the figure and shew of the world. Now consider, do you do this on principles of religion, as the best thing you can do, either for yourself or them?

Can you then be said, to have chosen the one thing needful for yourself, or the one thing needful for them, who take such care to put them in a state of life, that is a snare and a temptation, and the most likely of all others, to fill their minds with foolish and hurtful lusts?

Is it your kindness toward them that puts you upon this labour? Consider therefore what this kindness is founded upon? Perhaps it is such a kindness as when tender mothers carry their daughters to plays and balls: such a kindness as when indulgent fathers support their sons in all the expence of their follies. Such kind parents may more properly be called the betrayers and murderers of their children.

You love your children, and therefore you would have them rich. It is said of our blessed Saviour, that he loved the young rich man that came unto him, and therefore he bid him sell all that he had. What a contrariety is here? The love which dwelleth in you, is as contrary to the love which dwelt in Christ as darkness is to light.

We have our Saviour’s express command, to love one another, as he loved us. And can you think you are following this love, when you are giving those things to your children, which he took away from his friends, and which he could not possibly have given them without contradicting the greatest part of his doctrines?

XXXII. *But suppose you succeed in your designs, and leave your children rich, what must you say to them when you are dying? Will you then tell them that you have the same opinion of the value of riches you ever had; that you feel the pleasure of remembring how much thought and care you have taken to acquire them? Will you tell them that you have provided for their ease and softness, their pleasure and indulgence and figure in the world; and that they cannot do better than to eat and drink and take their fill of such enjoyments as riches afford? This would be dying like an Atheist.

If you would die like a Christian, must you not endeavour to fill their minds with your dying thoughts? Must you not tell them that very soon the world will signify no more to them than it does to you? And that there is a vanity, a littleness in the things of this life, which only dying men feel as they ought?

Will you not tell them, that all your own failings, the irregularity of your life, the folly of your tempers, and your failure of Christian perfection, has been owing to wrong opinions of the value of worldly things? And that if you had always seen the world in the same light that you see it now, your life had been devoted to God, and you would have lived in all those holy tempers and heavenly affections in which you now desire to die?

Will you not tell them, that riches spent upon ourselves, either in the pleasures of ease and indulgence, in the vanity of dress, or in state and grandeur, are the bane and destruction of our souls, making us blindly content with dreams of happiness, till death awakes us into real misery?

From all this therefore it appears, that your kindness for your children is so far from being a good reason why you should so carefully labour to leave them rich, and in the enjoyment of the state and shew of the world; that if you die in a spirit of piety, if you love them as Christ loved his disciples, your kindness will oblige you to exhort them to renounce all such enjoyment of riches, as is contrary to those holy tempers and that heavenly affection which you now find to be the only good and happiness of human nature.


CHRISTIANITY calleth all men to a state of self-denial and mortification.

I. It would be strange to suppose, that mankind were redeemed by the sufferings of the Son of God, to live in ease and softness themselves, without any suffering or cross at all!

Are we not all to die? Does God then unmake and dash our very form into pieces; and can we think that a life of pleasure and self-indulgence can become us under such a sentence?

II. *If any man will come after me, saith Christ, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.

To shew that this belongs to all Christians, St. Luke saith, He said unto them All: St. Mark hath it thus; and when he had called the people unto him, with his disciples also, he said unto them.

Let us now suppose that Christian churches are full of fine, gay people, who spend their time in all the pleasures and indulgences which the spirit of the world can invent.

Can it be said of such, that they are denying themselves, and taking up their cross daily? May they not with as much regard to truth be said, to live in sackcloth and ashes? Or can they who live in all the scenes of pleasure be said, to be working out their salvation with fear and trembling? May they not as justly be said, to be walking bare-foot to Jerusalem?

III. Several instances of this self-denial and daily cross, are to be seen in the following words.

Ye have heard that it hath been said, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I say unto you, that you resist not evil; but whosoever will smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any man will sue thee at the law and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also: and whosoever shall compell thee to go with him a mile, go with him twain.

We are to deny ourselves then in not demanding an eye for an eye, or a tooth for a tooth. We are to take up our daily cross, by turning our cheek to the smiter, and suffering such ill usage as we could prevent by resistance.

We are to take up the cross of one injury after another, rather than revenge ourselves.

The words that deliver this doctrine are so plain and express, that they need no illustration: And it is as plain, that they equally belong to all Christians of all ages. The manner of our Saviour’s delivering them, puts it out of all question, that these were to be the perpetual marks of his followers.

Ye have heard that it hath been said, an eye for an eye, &c. But I say unto you that ye resist not evil.

It was not possible for our Lord to express himself in a more authoritative manner, or to shew us more plainly, that he was here acting as the great lawgiver of Christians, and delivering perpetual laws to all his disciples. Nor is it possible for any one to evade the literal meaning of these doctrines, but by such a way as must destroy the sense of any other part of scripture.

IV. If it could be shewn that we are not obliged by the plain doctrine of these passages, it might as well be shewn that the next doctrine, But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, does not oblige us in the plain and literal sense of the words.

For both the passages are supported by the same authority expressed in the same manner, I say unto you. These virtues are likewise necessary to one another: we cannot thus love and do good to our enemy, unless we are thus patient under sufferings, and deny ourselves all instances of anger and resentment at them.

V. If these doctrines seem grievous, they can only seem so to such as have wrong notions of human life.

Too many imagine this life to be something that is valuable for its own goods; and look upon religion as something that is added to it, to make a worldly life more easy, regular and happy: And so embrace religion only as it complies with the ease and order of that way of life in which they live.

Our Saviour has fully confuted this opinion, by teaching us, that there is but one thing needful. If then we can take his word, the grievousness of self-denial is struck off at once.

For what though meekness and patience may make us sufferers; yet if by such sufferings we lose only such things as are not needful for us, where is any ground for complaint?

VI. But farther, such sufferings not only do us no real hurt, but they are blessings and matter of solid joy.

Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil of you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven.

‘falsly’ replaced with ‘falsely’

Christ does not comfort us in this, as if it were an hard or melancholy state, which we must bear, because it is made easier by patience. But he looks at it in quite another view, not as needing comfort, but affording matter of congratulation.

What Christians then are they, who reckon those things among the hardships of religion, which Christ recommends to us as reasons of rejoicing, yea of being exceeding glad?

VII. The whole of the matter is this: if our sufferings, our injuries or hardships be such as we undergo, because we dare not depart from that meekness and patience, and charity, which Christ hath taught; because we had rather love our enemies than be revenged on them; rather suffer like Christ, and be full of his Spirit, than avoid sufferings by a contrary temper; such sufferings are our greatest gains.

Now, be these sufferings what they will, if they make us more like Christ, they have done more for us than all the prosperity in the world can do. And he that defends himself at the expence of any temper, that was the temper of Christ, has done himself an injury greater than the most powerful of his enemies can bring upon him.

And all this turns on one point, that there is but one thing needful, the salvation of our souls. It is this that changes the nature of all human things, and makes every thing good or evil, only so far as it promotes or hinders this one end of life. The salvation of the world is the only happiness of the world: and he that has secured his share in that, has secured to himself all the joy and gladness that can befal human nature.

A Christian therefore that is not content with salvation, that would add a worldly joy to the great things of religion, is more senseless than a man that would not be content to be saved from a shipwreck, unless he was carried off upon a cedar plank.

VIII. Before I proceed to other instances of self-denial, it may be proper to shew the reasonableness of it.

God is reason and wisdom itself. As sure therefore as there is a God, so sure it is that a religion from God has only reasonable commands. God can only will that reasonable creatures should be more reasonable, more perfect and like himself: and consequently can enjoin no duties but such as have this tendency; all his commands are founded on the necessities of our natures, and are only so many instructions to become more happy than we could be without them.

IX. *Now let us apply this. If a person were to walk upon a rope across some great river, and he was bid to deny himself the pleasure of walking in silver shoes, or looking about at the beauty of the waves, or listening to the noise of sailors: if he was commanded to deny himself the advantage of fishing by the way, would there be any thing unreasonable in such self-denial?

Straight is the gate, saith our Lord, and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life. Now, if Christians are to walk in a narrow way that leadeth to eternal life, it must be the part of a Christian to deny himself all those things which may stop him in, or lead him out of this narrow way. And if they think that pleasing their senses, and worldly indulgences, are consistent with their keeping in this narrow way, they think as reasonably as if the man upon the rope should think that he might safely use silver shoes, or stop in his way to catch fish.

X. The plain case is this: Christians are called from a state of sin and disorder, to a state of holiness and resemblance of the divine nature. If therefore there are any things or ways of life, that corrupt our minds, support our vanity, increase the disorder of our souls, or nourish sinful affections; all these are as necessarily to be avoided, as it is necessary to be holy.

If indeed (to instance in one point only) there are no indulgences in eating, that do us harm, then it might be said, fasting is of no use: But if there are, if all indulgences of this sort, inslave the soul, and give it a sensual taste, then we are as much obliged to abstain from what does us this harm, as we are obliged to pray for any thing which can do us good.

XI. Eating and drinking are the common supports of life. But as they are the supports of a corrupt life, the nourishment of a disordered body that weighs down the soul; whose appetites are in a state of enmity with the life and purity of the soul; it is necessary that we take care so to support the life of the body, as not to occasion the sickness and death of the soul.

The difference between the same man full and fasting, is often almost the difference of two persons; a man that in the morning finds himself fit for any meditation, is after a full meal changed into another creature, fit only for idle amusements or the yawnings of an animal.

He has not only created a dulness in his soul, but has perverted its taste: for he can be pleased with a romance, or impertinent history, while he has no relish for a book of devotion.

This shews, that fasting has a nearer relation to all religious tempers than is generally thought; and that full feeding not only dulls the mind, but more particularly gives it a dulness towards the things of religion.

XII. *Indeed every indulgence of the body in eating and drinking, is adding to its power over the soul.

A man that makes every day a day of full and chearful meals, will by degrees make the happiness of every day depend upon it, and consider every thing with regard to it.

He will go to church or stay at home, as it suits with his dinner, and not scruple to tell you, that he generally eats too heartily to go to afternoon service.

Now such people are under a worse disorder than the jaundice, and have their sight more perverted than he that sees all things yellow.

For what discernment have they, who have more taste for the preparations of the kitchen, than for the comforts of the house of God: who chuse rather to make themselves unfit for divine service, than to baulk the pleasure of a full meal?

Can they think they have the Spirit of Christ who are thus enslaved to gluttony? Or can they be said, to have forsaken all to follow him, who will not so much as forsake half a meal for the worship of God?

XIII. I know it will be thought too severe to call that gluttony, because it is the practice of numbers of people of worth and reputation. But I hope they will turn their dislike of the name into a dislike of the thing: for ’tis as certainly gluttony as picking of pockets is stealing.

The sin of gluttony is the sin of over-eating. Now this may be difficult to state exactly in some cases. But he that owns he eats so much as renders him indisposed for the public worship of God, has determined against himself, and put his own case out of all question.

Men may fancy, they are only guilty of gluttony, who eat till they surfeit their bodies. They may think those only guilty of drunkenness, who drink till they have lost their senses. But there is a much surer rule to go by; whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. All therefore in eating and drinking that is not to the glory of God, is offered to something that is not the glory of God; it is offered to the corruption and sensuality of our natures. It is the sin of intemperance; and is indevotion too, when indulged at a time that keeps us from the public worship of God.

XIV. *Indeed a constant course of full feeding is the death of the soul, and every day that is a day of such happiness, is a day lost to religion.

When a man has rejoiced himself with full eating and drinking, he is like any other animal, disposed only to play or idleness. He has no more feeling of sin than he has of hunger, and can no more perceive himself to be a miserable fallen creature, than he can perceive himself to be a beggar.

For this course of sensual enjoyments, is as contrary to a true sense of sin, as it is contrary to a state of beggary and want; and a man in such happiness, can no more feel the weight of sin, than he can feel himself in the misery of poverty.

XV. I know some object, that fasting is not an universal duty; but fit for some particular cases, and particular constitutions.

To this I answer, if by fasting you mean an entire abstinence from food, for such a space of time, in this sense it is not an universal duty.

But this is quite a wrong notion of it. For the fasting whereof I speak is not any fixed degree of abstinence from all food: but, such an exercise of abstinence and self-denial as is proper to every one’s particular state.

Now in this sense fasting is as constant and universal a duty as repentance.

For as repentance is an universal duty, because the reason of it is common to all men; so is fasting, because sensuality, and fleshly lusts, is the universal corruption of all men.

It is no fixed degree of sorrow that is the common repentance of all men. It is no fixed form or length or hour of prayer, that is the common devotion of all men. Yet are these constant and universal duties.

In like manner, though fasting be subject to all the same variations, yet is it a constant and universal duty.

XVI. *Justus is a grave, sober man. He is very angry at those who neglect fasting. He thinks they know nothing of religion.

But presently after, Justus will tell you, that he never fasts but on Good Friday, and the 30th of January.

If Justus had lived before the murder of King Charles, he had had but one fast in the year. Yet in all likelihood he would then have stood up for the doctrine of fasting.

If a man was to be angry at those who neglect the service of the church, as people that know nothing of religion, and then tell you, that he himself never goes thither but on Good Friday, and the 30th of January, you would say, that he knew nothing of the nature of church service.

Now Justus shews the same ignorance of the nature of fasting.

If prayer and repentance and the service of the church, were not common acts of devotion, and necessary ways of worshipping God, they would not be necessary on Good Friday.

In like manner, unless fasting was a common and necessary part of religion, it would neither be necessary nor acceptable on those particular days.

For it is not the day that makes the duty to be necessary. But the day happens to be a proper occasion of exercising a necessary duty.

XVII. If Justus was to say, that he never repents but on those public days, he might as easily defend himself as when he says, he only fasts but at those times.

For, is there any benefit in fasting at those times? Does it add any thing to your piety and devotion? Does it calm your mind and put you into a better state for prayer, than when you take your usual meals? If it has not something of this effect, where is the use of it at any time? And if it has this effect, how comes it that you will have but one or two such days in the year? Why will you not thus assist your devotions, thus calm your mind, thus raise your heart, ’till the day comes on which King Charles was murdered? Is not this like staying till then before you repent?

XVIII. Farther; when the disciples of our Lord could not cast the evil spirit out of a man that was a lunatic, he not only tells them, it was for want of faith, but also gives them a very important instruction in those words, Howbeit this kind goeth not out, but by prayer and fasting. Matt. xvii. 21.

Now, does this look as if fasting were designed only for a day or two in the year? Is it ranked with prayer, as being equally prevalent with God? And is not this sufficient to teach us, that we must think of fasting as we think of prayer; that it is a proper way of devotion, a right method of applying to God? And if that prayer is most prevailing which is attended with fasting, it is proof enough surely, that fasting is to be a common part of our devotion.

Is it powerful enough, by the blessing of God, to cast out devils, and cure lunatics? And shall we neglect it, when we pray against the evil tempers which possess our hearts? Shall we not then pray to God in the most powerful prevailing manner that we can?

*If we were to fast without praying, would not this be a way of worship of our own invention? And if we pray and neglect fasting, is it not equally chusing a worship of our own? For he that has taught us the use and advantage of prayer, has also taught us the use and advantage of fasting. And has likewise joined them together, as having the same power with God.

XIX. *We may also observe, that the reason of self-denial and abstinence is perpetual, because we are perpetually united to a body, that is more or less fit to join with the soul in acts of holiness, according to the state it is in.

It is therefore absolutely necessary that we avoid every degree of indulgence, every kind of irregularity, that may make our bodies less active or less fit for the purpose of a holy life.

Christian temperance is no more that which passes for temperance in the sight of men, than Christian charity is that which passes for charity in the world.

A worldly man may think himself temperate, when he only abstains from such excesses as may make him fitter to enjoy a healthful sensuality.

But Christian temperance is of quite another kind, and for other ends. It is to keep the body in a state of purity and submission, and to preserve in the soul a divine and heavenly taste.

XX. It is out of all question, that there are some states of body fitter for virtue than others.

This is as certain as that gluttony and drunkenness dispose men to all sorts of sins, and give them a disrelish for all sorts of holiness. For as these vices have the utmost contrariety to religion, so every approach towards them is, in a certain degree, partaking of them.

A man that lives so as not to be called either a glutton or a drunkard, may yet be so near them, as to partake of those tempers which are the effects of gluttony and drunkenness.

*As a man may be vain and uncharitable, yet not so as to be remarkable for his vanity and uncharitableness, so he may be under the guilt and evil effects of eating and drinking, though not so as to be esteemed either a glutton or intemperate.

*So that a wise Christian will constantly practise such abstinence, as may not only secure him from sensuality in the sight of the world, but as best suits with a body which is the holy habitation of a soul devoted to God.

XXI. St. Paul saith, I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air. But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection, lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. 1 Cor. ix.

Let it be observed, that the apostle practised this self-denial, not only as a good and advisable thing, but as of the last necessity. It was not, as he was an apostle, and that he might be fitter for the miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost: but it was, to secure his salvation, and lest when he had preached to others, he should himself be a castaway.

*Let it be considered, that this apostle, who lived in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake, who was also full of signs and wonders, and mighty deeds, and who had been caught up into the third heavens; yet reckons all his virtues as insecure, and his salvation in danger, without this constantly continued course of universal self-denial. Nay he thought all his advancements in piety, without this, to be as vain a labour as beating the air.

So run I, says he, not as uncertainly; by which he plainly teacheth us, that he who does not thus run, who does not thus continually keep the body under, does run uncertainly, and fighteth to as little purpose as he that beateth the air.

An apostle preaching the gospel with signs and wonders, in the midst of distress and persecution, thought his own salvation in danger, without this subjection of his body. And shall we think it safe to feed to the full, and indulge our bodies in ease and plenty?

XXII. *There are no truths more plainly delivered in scripture than these two, the general corruption of human nature, and the absolute necessity of divine grace. Now these make the necessity of a continual self-denial plain and obvious to the meanest capacity; and extend it to all those things and enjoyments which either strengthen the corruption of our nature, or grieve the Holy Spirit of God, and cause him to depart from us.

Whoever reflects on these, will soon be convinced, that all those enjoyments are to be abstained from, which either support our natural corruption, or hinder the inspirations of the Holy Spirit.

He will find also, that this self-denial must extend itself to every day of our lives, unless he can find a day, which offers nothing suitable to the corruption of his nature, or nothing contrary to the good motions of the Holy Ghost.

XXIII. Most people acknowledge this in general: that we ought to avoid what strengthens our corruptions and grieves the Spirit of God: but then they think to abstain from gross sin is sufficient for this.

But let such consider, that a dropsy or a gangrene, is not only increased by drunkenness, but by every little indulgence that suits with it.

Now the corruption of our nature is an inbred distemper that possesses us in the manner of a dropsy or gangrene. If we give into notorious sins, it quite overcomes us, and we are straightway dead in sin.

*But tho’ we keep clear of great offences, yet if we indulge ourselves in little things that suit with the corruption of our nature, we certainly nourish a slow death, and destroy ourselves by degrees.

Our self-denial therefore must be as universal as the means of our corruption. It is to last as long as our disorder, and to extend itself to every thing that might increase it. And this for as plain a reason as a man in a dropsy is not only to abstain from drunkenness, but from every indulgence that increases his disorder.

XXIV. *Let it be farther considered, that the corruption of our nature is but faintly represented by comparing it to these distempers. For one in these distempers may have only some part affected; but the corruption of our nature is as extensive as our nature. It is the corruption of every faculty and every power. It is blindness in our understandings; it is self-love and perverseness in our wills, intemperance in our appetites. It is anger, lust, pride and revenge in our passions; it is falseness, hypocrisy, malice and hatred in our hearts. Now all this, and far more than this, makes the miserable corruption of human nature.

‘appeties’ replaced with ‘appetites’

So that it is as necessary that our lives be a state of regimen, contrary to this variety of disorders, as it is necessary for a man under a complication of distempers, to observe a course of regularity.

For seeing all ill tempers are increased by indulgence, and the more we yield to any, the stronger it grows, ’tis plain we must practise as many sorts of self-denial as we have ill tempers to contend with.

XXV. *When we speak of self-denial, we are apt to confine it to eating and drinking: but we ought to consider, that these are the easiest and smallest instances of it. Pride, vanity, self-love, covetousness, envy, and other inclinations of the like nature, call for a more constant and watchful self-denial, than the appetites of hunger and thirst.

*’Till therefore our self-denial is as universal as our corruption; ’till we deny ourselves all degrees of vanity and folly, as earnestly as we deny ourselves all degrees of drunkenness; till we reject all sorts of pride and envy, as we abhor all kinds of gluttony; till we watch and deny all irregular tempers, as we avoid all sorts of sensuality, we can no more be said to practise self-denial, that he can be said to be just, who only denies himself the liberty of stealing.

And till we do thus universally deny ourselves, our lives will be a ridiculous mixture of I know not what; sober and covetous, proud and devout, temperate and vain, regular in our forms of prayer, and irregular in our passions, circumspect in little modes of behaviour, and careless of tempers the most essential to piety.

XXVI. A little attention to that great principle of reason and religion, that God is our only good, will convince us still farther of the necessity of universal self-denial.

For what can be a greater self-denial, or more contradictory to all our natural sentiments, than to live and govern ourselves by a happiness that is to be had in God alone? A happiness which our senses, our old guides, neither see, nor feel, nor taste, nor perceive: a happiness which gives us neither figure, nor dignity, nor power, nor glory, among one another?

Look at man in his natural state, acting by the judgment of his senses, following the motions of his nature; and you will see him acting as if the world was full of infinite sorts of happiness.

He has not only a thousand imaginary pleasures, but has found out as many vexations; all which shew, that he thinks happiness is every where to be found. For no one is vexed at any thing, unless he thinks he is disappointed of some possible happiness.

A happiness therefore in God alone, is the greatest contradiction to all our natural tempers. Not only as it proposes a good which our senses cannot relish, but as it leads us from all those imaginary enjoyments on which our senses have fixed our hearts.

XXVII. If then we think of religion, without self-denial, we know nothing at all of it. For its whole nature is, to direct us by a light and knowledge and wisdom from God, which is all contrary to the darkness, ignorance and folly of our natures.

It is therefore altogether impossible for any man to enter into the spirit of religion, but by denying himself, by being divested of all his natural tempers and judgments, which have been formed by the blind motions of flesh and blood, and strengthened by the example and authority of the world. He cannot walk in the light of God, unless he reject the dreams of his senses, and the darkness of worldly wisdom.

*We may let our senses tell us, what we are to eat and drink, or when we are to sleep. We may let them teach us, how near we may draw to a fire, how great a burden we may carry, or into how deep a water we may go. In these things they are our proper guides.

But if we appeal to them to know the true good of man, or the proper happiness of our rational nature; if we ask them what guilt there is in sin, or what excellence there is in piety; if we consult them as guides in these matters, we act full as absurdly as if we were to try to hear with our eyes, or to see with our ears.

XXVIII. *While we forget this, all our judgments of things are corrupted by the grossness and errors of our senses.

We judge of every thing in the same manner as the child judges of his play things. It is by our senses alone we pass the judgment, tho’ we think we act with the reason of man.

The world is made up of fine sights, sports, shew and pageantry, which please and captivate the minds of men, because men have still the minds of children, and are just the same slaves to their senses that children are.

As children and men see the same colours in things, so children and men feel the same sensible pleasures, and are affected with external objects in the same manner.

But the misfortune is, that we laugh at the little pleasures, poor designs, and trifling satisfactions of children; while at the same time the wisdom and greatness of men, is visibly taken up with the same trifles.

A coach and six and an embroidered suit, shall make a great statesman as happy, as ever a go-cart and feather made a child.

Ask a child, what he thinks he would do with a great sum of money? Why, he would buy twenty little horses, he would have twenty fine coats, see all fine sights, and the like.

Now promise but a man a great estate, and you will raise all these same thoughts and designs in his mind.

And whence is this, but from hence, that men act with the same vanity of mind, are under the same poor guidance of their senses, are as ignorant of their true happiness, as great strangers to their own nature, as when they first set out in life.

And is not this a plain reason for self-denial? For to indulge ourselves in our natural tempers, is to grow old in the follies of childhood.

XXIX. *Let us take another view of the disorder of our nature, that we may see a still greater necessity of not walking according to it.

When we see people drunk, or in a violent passion, we own they are so long in a state of delusion, thinking, saying, and doing irregular things, by the mere force of their blood and spirits. Here we all see the power of our bodies over our reason; and never suppose a man capable of judging or acting wisely, so long as he is under the violence of passion, or heated by drink.

Now this is more or less the constant, natural state of all mankind; who are by bodily impressions, and the agitations of the blood and spirits, in the same kind of delusion, as men that are drunk, or in a passion, tho’ not always in the same degree.

Sometimes the disorder is more violent than at others. But it never ceases. Men are always in some passion or other; and this, even when it is not to that degree, as to be visible to others, yet occasions the same weakness of mind, the same disordered imagination, and the same wrong apprehension of the nature of things.

A silent envy, a secret vanity, which no body sees, disorders our judgments in the same manner as more violent passions.

You may increase the vanity or envy, till it end in distraction, as it sometimes happens. But then you may be sure, it disordered our understanding in some degree, long before it came to madness. All men therefore while, in a natural state, resemble those who are drunk, or in a violent passion; having some passion or other that affects their spirits and disorders their judgment, in the same manner tho’ not in the same degree.

XXX. *Another circumstance of drunkenness is this, that it gives us a taste peculiar to it, so as to leave a dulness and indisposition towards any thing else. An habitual drunkard has no pleasure like that confused heat of thoughts that arises from inflamed blood. The repeating this so often has given him a turn of mind that relishes nothing but what relates to intemperance.

Now this is naturally the state of all people, in some respect or other. There is something has got hold of them, and given them a taste for it, in the same manner that drinking has formed the taste of a drunkard. All people are not intemperate; but all are under some habit that affects the mind in the same manner as intemperance.

Some people have indulged themselves so long in dressing, others in play, others in sports of the field, others only in little gossiping stories, that they are as much slaves to these, as the intemperate man to liquor.

Now we readily own, that a man who has enslaved himself to drinking, has thereby rendered himself incapable of being a reasonable judge of other happiness; but then we do not enough consider, that we are hurt in the same manner by any thing else that has taken hold of us, and given us a temper and turn of mind peculiar to it.

It is to as little purpose to talk of the happiness of religion, to one that is fond of dress, or play or sports, as to a drunkard; for the pleasures of these particular kinds, make him as deaf to all either proposals of happiness, and as incapable of judging of them.

*A lady abominates a sot, as a creature that has only the shape of a man: but then she does not consider, that perhaps, drunken as he is, he can be more content with the want of liquor, than she can with the want of fine cloaths. And if this be her case, she only differs from him, as one intemperate man differs from another.

Thus it appears, whether we consider the nature, circumstances or effects of drunkenness, that all mankind are more or less in the same state of weakness and disorder.

Hence also appears the absolute necessity of denying our natural tempers and inclinations, and giving ourselves up without reserve to the light and wisdom of God; since by our natural corruption and slavery to the body, we are always under the power of its blind motions, and since all our inclinations and judgments, are only the judgments of heated blood, drunken spirits and disordered passions.

XXXI. Every one sees people in the world, whom he takes to be incapable of sober judgments and wise reflections, because he sees they are full of themselves, blinded with prejudices, violent in their passions, wild and extravagant in their imaginations.

Now when we see these, we should reflect that we see ourselves; for we as certainly see a true representation of ourselves, when we look at such people, as we see a true picture of our state when we see a man in the agonies of death.

You are not dying as this man is; but still he shews you your own true picture. He shews you that your life is in the midst of death, that you have in you the seeds of sickness and mortality, and that you are only at a little uncertain distance from those who are lying upon their last beds.

In like manner, you are not, it may be, in the same height of passion that another man is. You are at some uncertain distance from his state. But if you fancy you are not corrupted with self-love, not weakened by prejudices, not vain in your imaginations, not disordered in your tempers, because you are not in that extremity of disorder wherein some other people are; you think as absurdly, as if you imagined yourself to be immortal, because you are not in the agonies of death.

When therefore you see the violence of other mens passions, the folly of their tempers, and vanity of their minds, remember that you see so many plain reasons for denying yourself, and resisting your own nature, which has in it the seeds of all the same evil tempers.

XXXII. From all this we may learn, (as was observed above) that abstinence as to eating and drinking, is but a small part of Christian self-denial: it being full as dangerous to indulge any evil temper, as to live in gluttony and intemperance.

*You think it shameful to be an epicure, or to be fond of liquor. You are very right: but then proceed a step further, and think it as shameful to be fond of dress, or delighted with yourself, or to be fond of dainties: and that it is as great a sin, to please any corrupt temper, as to please your palate. Remember, that blood heated with any passion, is like blood heated with liquor, and that the grossness of gluttony is no greater a contrariety to religion, than the politeness of pride or vanity.

I have been the longer on this subject, trying to represent the weakness and corruption of our nature, because so far only as we see this, can we see the necessity of denying ourselves. This would be needless, if we were wise and good; but if we see that our whole nature is in a disorder, that our light is darkness, our wisdom foolishness, our judgments as gross and blind as our appetites; that our senses govern us as they govern children; that our hearts are taken up with gewgaws and trifles; that the state of our souls is a state of error and delusion, like that of drunkenness and passion.

If we see ourselves in this true light, we shall see the great reason of Christian self-denial, of renouncing our whole selves, that we may see all things in God; that our hearts may be moved by a motion from him, and our wills and inclinations wholly directed by the light and wisdom of his Spirit.


THE necessity of divine grace, another general ground of self-denial.

I. I come now to another great doctrine of our religion, namely, the absolute necessity of divine grace: which is another constant reason for universal self-denial.

The invisible assistance of God’s Spirit, by which we are disposed to that which is good, and made able to perform it, is a confessed doctrine of Christianity.

Our natural life is preserved by some union with God, who is the fountain of life to all the creation; to which union we are altogether strangers. We find that we are alive; but how or by what influence from God our life is supported, is a secret into which we cannot enter. It is the same thing with relation to our spiritual life; it arises from some invisible union with God, or divine influence, which in this state we cannot comprehend. Our blessed Saviour saith: The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.¹ This shews us how ignorant we are of the manner of the operations of the Holy Spirit. We may feel its effects, as we may perceive the effects of the wind, but are as much strangers to the manner of its coming upon us, as we are to that exact point, from whence the wind begins to blow, or where it will cease.

¹ John iii. 8.

II. The Spirit of God is like the nature of God, too high for our conceptions, whilst we are in these dark houses of clay. But our blessed Saviour has in some degree helped our conceptions by the manner of his giving the Holy Spirit to the disciples; and he breathed on them, and said unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost. By this we are taught to conceive of the communications of the Holy Spirit, with some likeness to breath, or wind; that its influences come upon us in some manner, like to a gentle breathing of the air. Representations of this kind are only made in compliance with the weakness of our apprehensions; which, not being able to conceive things as they are in their own nature, must be instructed, by comparing them to such things as our senses are acquainted with. Thus the wisdom and knowledge, that is revealed from God, is compared to light; not because light is a true representation of the wisdom of God; but because it serves best to represent it to our low capacities. In like manner, the influences of the Holy Spirit, are set forth by breathing upon us; not because breath, or air, or wind, are true representations of the gifts of the Spirit, but because they are the properest representations that as yet fall within our knowledge.

III. But that which is most necessary for us to know, and of which we are sufficiently informed in scripture, is the absolute necessity of this divine assistance.

We are used to consider those only as inspired persons, who are called by God to some extraordinary designs. In this sense there have been but few inspired persons; but inspiration, as it signifies an invisible operation, or assistance of God’s Holy Spirit, is the privilege of all Christians: in this sense they are all inspired persons. Know ye not, saith St. Paul, that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you? St. John likewise, Hereby know we that he dwelleth in us, by the Spirit, which he hath given us. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, are the Sons of God, and if any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.¹ From these, and many other passages it is plain, that the life which we now live, is a life in and by the Spirit of God; and that they are only Sons of God, who are led by this Spirit. Now this doctrine plainly proves the necessity of a constant self-denial; for it must be necessary that we deny ourselves all those tempers, and ways of life, which may make God withhold his grace from us; and likewise all those enjoyments and indulgences, which may make us less able and less disposed to improve and co-operate with those degrees of divine grace that are communicated to us.

¹ Rom. viii. 11.

IV. And seeing we are none of Christ’s, if the Spirit of Christ be not in us; seeing we are only so far Christians, as we are renewed by the Holy Ghost; nothing can be more necessary than that we consider all our tempers, pleasures, cares, designs and ways of life, whether they be such as suit with the wisdom and heavenly guidance of the Holy Spirit. This doctrine shews us to ourselves in a new point of view, and may serve to teach us several truths, which we should otherwise not so readily apprehend.

When we are left to consider our duty with relation to the express commandments of God, there are many ways of life, which we think ourselves at liberty to follow, because they seem to be no plain breach of any express commandment. But we are to look to a farther rule, and to consider our pleasures and cares, our designs and endeavours, not only whether they are contrary to the letter of the law, but whether they are according to the Spirit of God; for if they are contrary to the Spirit of God, they are as truly to be avoided, as if they were contrary to some express commandment. For we are assured by scripture, that they only are the Sons of God, who are led by the Spirit of God; and none can be said to be led by the Spirit of God, but they whose lives are according to it, whose actions, cares, and pleasures, hopes and fears, are such as may be said to be guided by the Holy Ghost.

V. We are therefore to consider ourselves as inspired persons, that have no knowledge or wisdom, but what comes from God; and this wisdom will no longer dwell with us, than we act conformably thereto. So that we must not deceive ourselves in saying, where is the harm of such indulgences, or such vanities and idle amusements? But must consider, whether they are such as are conformable to a life that is to be directed by the Holy Ghost. In this manner must we examine all our ways of life, as well our cares as our pleasures. For unreasonable cares, and unreasonable pleasures, are equally contrary to the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, and equally separate us from him. People often think their designs and diversions innocent, because they are not sinful in their nature. But they should also consider, whether they are not vain and foolish, and unsuitable to the condition of a Christian. For a life of folly and vanity, and trifling designs, is no more living by the Spirit of God, than a life of gross sins is keeping the commandments. So that the safest rule to judge of our actions by, is to consider them with relation to that Spirit, by which we are to be guided. Is this design or this diversion according to the wisdom of the Spirit of God? Am I in these things improving the secret inspiration of the Holy Ghost? Am I here governed by a wisdom from above? Are these ways such as I can truly say, that I am led into them by the Spirit of God? Do I allow myself in them, because they serve to set forth the glory of God? Are they good proofs that the Spirit of God dwelleth in me; and that by thus sowing to the Spirit, I shall of the Spirit reap everlasting life? This is the rule by which Christians are to regulate their thoughts, words, and actions; for we are called by God to act by the motions of his Holy Spirit, and to make no other use of ourselves, or the world we are in, than such as is conformable to that dignity of life and state of glory to which we are called. The Spirit of our religion is to be the spirit of our lives, the constant principle of all our tempers and inclinations, which is to render us reasonable, and wise and holy in all our progress through the world.

VI. *’Tis acknowledged by all, that a life of intemperance and debauchery, makes us dead and senseless of religion: but then it is not enough considered that the vanity of the mind, an understanding busied in trifles, an impertinent course of life, will as certainly produce the same effect. If our understanding is full of foolish imaginations, if we are devoted to trifles, religion can gain no entrance. A man may be so earnest in picking straws, as to have no leisure to think of his salvation; nor any more inclination to it, than one that is constantly in drink.

Thus poor amusements, vain arts, useless sciences, impertinent learning, false satisfaction, a wrong turn of mind, a state of idleness, or any the vainest trifles of life, may keep men at as great a distance from true religion, as the debaucheries of intemperance.

VII. *Titius is temperate and regular: but then he is so great a mathematician, that he does not know when Sunday comes: he sees people going to church as he sees others going to market; he goes on studying, measuring, and calculating, and may as well be called a merchant as a Christian.

All doctrines of religion are disagreeable to Philo; he avoids them as he avoids party: now what is the reason of it? It is not because he is debauched and intemperate. But he is a virtuoso, devoted to polite literature. His soul is extended to all the curiosities in the world, and thinks all time to be lost that is not spent in the search of shells, urns, inscriptions, and broken pieces of pavements. This makes the concerns of eternity seem small things in his eyes, fit only for the enquiry of narrow, little, and unpolite souls.

Eusebius would read prayers twice a day in his parish; he would be often with the poor and sick, and spend much time in charitable visits; he would be wholly taken up with the care of souls, but that he is busy in studying the old grammarians, and would fain reconcile some differences amongst them before he dies.

VIII. Lycia might be pious; but that she is too easy, gay, and chearful, to admit of care of any kind. She can no more repent, than she can be out of temper, and must be the same sparkling, chearful creature in the church, as in the play-house. She might be capable of understanding the misery of human nature, and the necessity of the comforts of religion; but that she is so happy every time she is dressed.

Matrona is old, and has been these fifty years eating and drinking, sleeping and waking, dressing and undressing, paying and receiving visits. She has no prophaneness; and, if she has no piety, it is owing to this, that she never had a spare half-hour to think about it. She envies her daughters, because they will dress and visit when she is dead.

*Publius goes to church sometimes, and reads the scripture; but he knows not what he reads or prays, his head is so full of politics. He is so angry at Kings and Ministers of State, that he has no time or disposition to call himself to account. He has the history of all parliaments, elections, prosecutions, and impeachments, and dies with little or no religion, through a constant fear of popery.

Siccus has been all his life long building and pulling down, making canals and ditches, raising walls and fences. People call him a good man, because he employs the poor: Siccus might have been a religious man, but that he thought building was the chief happiness of a rational creature. He is all the week amongst dirt and mortar, and stays at home on Sundays to view his contrivances. He will die more contentedly, if his death does not happen whilst some wall is in building.

IX. I have mentioned these several characters to shew, that it is not only prophaneness, debauchery, and open vices, that keep men from the impressions of true religion; but that the mere play-things of life, impertinent studies, vain amusements, false satisfactions, idle dispositions, will produce the same effect. A wrong turn of mind, impertinent cares, a succession of the poorest trifles, if they take up our thoughts, leave no more room for true piety than gross sensuality.

X. We see even in worldly matters, that if we propose any thing to a man, when he is in the pursuit of something else, he hardly hears or understands us; we must stay for a season of more leisure and indifference, till his thoughts and passions are at rest.

Now this holds much stronger in matters of religion. Its doctrines are neither heard nor understood, because it always finds us in the pursuit of something else. It matters not what this something else is; the mind is equally employed wrong, and so not in a condition to like, or at leisure to listen to any other happiness. If you were to propose the same truths to a man in another state, when weariness or disappointment has made him give up all designs, or when sickness or the approach of death shews him that he must act no longer in them, they would have quite another effect upon him; then the great things of religion appear great indeed. He feels their whole weight, and is amazed he did not see them always in the same manner. Now it is the great end and design of self-denial to put a stop to the follies of life, that our souls may quietly consider, and fully comprehend the truths which come from God; that our hearts being at liberty from a croud of foolish thoughts, may be ready to obey and co-operate with the inspirations of that Spirit, which is to lead and quicken us in all holiness; that death and judgment, heaven and hell, may make as deep impressions upon our minds in the middle of our lives, as at our last hour; that we may be as wise and prudent as sick and dying men, and live with such apprehensions as most people die with; that we may see the vanity of the world, the misery of sin, the greatness of eternity, and the want of God, as they see it who stand upon the brink of another world.

XI. This is the great and happy work of self-denial, to awaken us into a true knowledge of ourselves, and shew us who, and where, and what we are. Till then our life is but a sleep, a dream, a mere succession of shadows; and we act with as little reason as a child that is pleased with blowing about a feather. We must therefore not only deny our wicked inclinations, but also all our follies, impertinences, and vain satisfactions: for, as plain and known sins harden and corrupt, so impertinences and vain satisfactions delude and blind our hearts, and render them insensible of our real misery, or true happiness.

XII. We are true members of the kingdom of God; when the kingdom of God is within us; when the spirit of religion is the spirit of our lives; when seated in our hearts, it diffuses itself into all our motions; when it is the principle of all our thoughts and desires, the spring of all our hopes and fears; when we like and dislike, seek and avoid, mourn and rejoice, as becomes those who are born again of God. And this is the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, to give us a new understanding, a new judgment, temper, taste, and relish, new desires, and new hopes and fears. But so far as we nourish any foolish passion, indulge any vanity of mind or corruption of heart; so far we resist the graces of God’s Holy Spirit, and render ourselves indisposed to relish and improve his secret inspiration.

XIII. Christians are therefore not only to consider themselves, as men that are to act by a principle of reason, but as spiritual beings who have a higher principle of life within them, and are to live by the wisdom and instructions of the Spirit of God.

As reasonable men would do every thing that tended to strengthen or improve their reason, so Christians ought to practise every thing that can strengthen or preserve their union with the Spirit of God. For as a man without reason has but the figure of a man; so a Christian without the Spirit of God, has but the form of a Christian. Here therefore we must fix all our care, and concern, that we may remove all hindrances of divine grace; that we may be truly spiritual in all our ways and designs, and indulge no tempers that may lessen our union with the Spirit of God.

XIV. Some persons will perhaps refrain from grief, when they find that it hurts their eyes; they will avoid passion and anger if it ends in pains of the head; but they would do well to consider that these tempers are to be abstained from, upon much greater accounts. Passion may disorder our bodies, waste our spirits, and leave pains in our heads; but it leaves greater marks of injury in our better parts, as it throws us into a state of madness, and banishes the Holy Spirit of peace, and gentleness, and prepares us for the suggestions of the spirit of darkness. Grief may hurt our eyes, but it much more hurts our souls, as it sinks them into a state of gloom and darkness, which expels and quenches the Spirit of God; for light may as well unite with darkness, as the Spirit of God dwell with the gloomy dulness and horror of stupid grief. What I have observed of these two passions, ought to be concluded of every other passion and temper; we are to consider it as it suits with, or resists that new Spirit, by whose motions we are to be preserved in a state of holiness.

XV. Now seeing this newness of spirit is the whole of religion; we must fear and avoid all irregularity of spirit, every unreasonable temper, because it hurts us in our principal part, and makes us less capable of the graces, and less obedient to the motions of God’s Holy Spirit. We must labour after a state of peace, and thankfulness, free from the folly of vain hopes, idle fears, and false anxieties, that our souls may be disposed to rejoice in the comforts, and advance in the graces of the Holy Ghost.

XVI. And with what care and exactness we are at all times to conduct ourselves, is fully set forth in the following words: Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers; and grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby you are sealed unto the day of redemption.¹ That we may not here mistake what is meant by corrupt communication, the apostle adds; but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. So that it is a conversation that does not edify, and profit the hearers, that the apostle condemns as corrupt. And let it be observed that the apostle does not prohibit this kind of conversation because it is useless, and impertinent; but for a reason of the utmost consequence, that we may not grieve the Holy Spirit of God. This shews us that we Christians are to govern ourselves by no less a rule, than a conformity to the Spirit of God; that we are not only to deny ourselves vain and foolish actions, but also idle and unedifying discourse, and conduct ourselves in all our behaviour, with such a spirit of wisdom and purity as may make the Holy Ghost delight to dwell in us. Such a wisdom as is not occasionally exercised in this or that place, or at set times; but is always in being, and constantly disposing us to thoughts, words and actions suitable to it.

¹ Ephes. iv. 29.

XVII. A man may be said to have some regard for religion, who is regular at places of divine worship; but he cannot be reckoned of a religious spirit, till it is his Spirit in every place and on every occasion, till he lives and breathes by it, and thinks, and speaks, and acts according to its motions.

A man may frequent meetings for mirth; but yet, if when he is out of them, he gives himself to peevishness, chagrin and dulness, no one will say such a man is of a chearful spirit. It is easy to make the application: if we are only attendants at places of religion; if when we are out of those places, we are of another spirit, I don’t say proud or covetous, but vain and foolish: if our actions are silly, and our conversation trifling and impertinent, our tempers vain and worldly, we are no more of a religious spirit, than a dull peevish man is of a chearful spirit, because he is regular at some set meetings for mirth.

XVIII. *Religion is not ours till we live by it; till it is the religion of our thoughts, words and actions; till it goes with us into every place; sits uppermost on every occasion; and forms and governs our hopes and fears, our cares and pleasures. He is the religious man who watches and guards his Spirit, and endeavours to be always in the temper of religion; who worships God in every place: who is as fearful of foolish thoughts, irregular tempers, and vain imaginations at one time as at another; who is as wise and heavenly at home, or in the field, as in the house of God. For when once religion has got possession of a man’s heart, and is become as it ought to be, his ruling temper; it is as agreeable to such a one in all places, and at all times, to speak and act according to its directions, as ’tis agreeable to the ambitious man, to act according to the motions of ambition. We must therefore take it for granted, that if we are not religious in our conversation, or common temper, we are not religious in our hearts; we may have a formality of religion at certain times and places, but we are not of a religious spirit.

XIX. We see every body speaking and conversing according to their spirit and temper: the covetous, the ambitious, the vain and self-conceited, have each of them their proper language suitable to their spirit and temper; they are the same persons in all places, and always talk like themselves. If therefore we could meet with persons of a truly religious spirit, we should find them like men of other tempers, the same persons in all places, and always talking and acting like themselves. We should find them living by one temper, and conversing with men with the same spirit that they converse with God; not one thing in one place, and another in another; not formal and grave at a funeral, and mad and frantic at a feast; not listening to wisdom at church, and delighting in folly at home; not angry with one foolish thing, and as much pleased at another; but steady and uniform in the same wise and religious temper.

XX. Farther, as we are not of a religious spirit, till it orders all our conversation; so it is to be observed, that if our conversation is vain and foolish, it keeps us in a state incapable of religion, by grieving the Holy Spirit. And as we can do nothing without the Spirit of God, as he is our breath, our life, our light, and our strength; so, if we live in such a way as grieves and removes this Holy Spirit from us, we are as branches that are broke off from the tree, and must perish in the deadness and corruption of our nature. Let this therefore teach us to judge rightly of the sin and danger of vain, unedifying and corrupt communication; it is not the sin of idleness or negligence only; it is not a pardonable infirmity; it is not a little mistake in spiritual wisdom; but it is a sin that stands between us and the tree of life; that opposes our whole happiness, as it grieves and separates the Holy Spirit from us. Let this also teach some people the reason why they are so dead and senseless of religion: they are not guilty of gross sins; they have an aversion to cheating and falseness; but at the same time have no more feeling or sense of religion than mere reprobates. Now the reason of it is this; they live in such an impertinence of conversation; their communication is so constantly upon silly and vain subjects; and they are so fond of those who have the talent of conversing in the same manner, that they render themselves unfit for the residence of the Holy Spirit. We don’t seem to apprehend, either how much good or how much evil there is in conversation; I believe it may be affirmed that the greatest instructions, and the greatest corruptions proceed from it. For mens common conversation and ordinary life teach much more effectually than any thing they say or do at set times or occasions.

When a clergyman preaches, he is for the most part considered as doing that which all clergymen do, whether good or bad. But if he is the same wise and virtuous man in his communication, that he is in the pulpit; if his speech be always seasoned with salt, that it may minister grace unto the hearers; if the common actions of his life be visibly governed by a spirit of piety: such a one will be heard with reverence on the Sunday for what he says and does all the week. And on the contrary, if a clergyman, when he comes out of the pulpit, is but like other men; as irregular in his tempers; as trifling in his conversation; as eager in his diversions; and as vain in his designs; he will mightily lessen his power over the hearts of his hearers.

A father now and then gives his son virtuous advice, and the son perhaps would be much the better for it; but that he never hears him talk virtuously, but when he is giving him advice; this makes him think, that he is then only acting the part of a father; as when he is buying him cloaths, or putting him out to an employment. Whereas if he saw his father’s ordinary life and conversation to be under the rules of religion; and his every day temper, a temper of piety; ’tis very likely that he would be won into an imitation of it.

XXI. It is our communication, our ordinary temper and common life, that affects other people, that either hardens them in sin, or awakens them to a sense of piety. Let therefore all clergymen, and masters and mistresses of families look carefully to themselves; let them consider, that if their ordinary life, their communication be vain, impertinent, and unedifying, they are not only in a corrupt state of heart, but are guilty of corrupting and perverting the hearts of those that belong to them. Let them not think that they have sufficiently discharged their duty, by seeing that those who relate to them, have their proper instructions; for it is next to impossible for such instructions to have their proper effect against the example of those we converse with. If a clergyman plays, and drinks, and sports with his flock in the week days: let him not wonder if he preaches them asleep on Sundays. If a father is intemperate; if he swears, and converses foolishly with his friends; let him not wonder that his children cannot be made virtuous. It is therefore the necessary duty of all Christians, in all states of life, to look carefully to their ordinary behaviour, that it be not the means of poisoning and corrupting the hearts of those they converse with. They must consider, that all the follies and impertinences of their ordinary life and conversation have the guilt of destroying souls; and that the blood of those whom their follies have destroyed, will be required at their hands.

XXII. A mistress whose conversation is a daily proof to her maids, that she is governed by a spirit of piety in all she says and does: whose life is a continual visible labour to work out her salvation with fear and trembling, is a blessing to all that stand about her. She communicates happiness even to those who are born of her servants; they will be educated in piety, because their parents learnt what piety was in waiting on such a mistress.

XXIII. A good-natured, drinking, sleeping, playing, swearing master, is a curse to those who tend upon him; they are led into all irregularities, by following his steps, and are sent into the world hardened in follies, and insensible of religion, by having lived with such a master. This ought carefully to be considered by all Christians, as a mighty encouragement to strictness of behaviour; that as a holy conversation intitles us to a reward for other peoples virtues; so an evil communication makes us liable to a punishment for other mens sins. For we can neither live well nor ill to ourselves alone; but must of necessity do either good or harm to others by our manner of conversation. This is one great reason why a vain corrupt communication does so grieve the Holy Spirit; because it is so infecting an evil, and does so corrupt the manners of those we converse with.


THE necessity of divine grace, obligeth all Christians to a constant purity and holiness of conversation; wherein is shewn the great danger and impiety of reading vain and impertinent books.

I. I have shewn that the necessity of divine grace is a mighty argument for an universal exactness of life and conversation. I come now to speak farther to that remarkable branch of it: Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace to the hearers; and grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed to the day of redemption. Now if we are to let no corrupt communication proceed out of our mouth, that we may not grieve the holy Spirit of God; it follows that we are to deny ourselves the entertainment of corrupt, impertinent, and unedifying books. For if vain and idle words are not to proceed out of our mouths, we must be under the same necessity of not letting them come into our hearts.

II. If we would know what books are to be avoided as corrupt and grieving the Holy Spirit, we must look back to the rule of our communication; for as that communication is there said to be corrupt that does not edify and minister grace to the hearers; so must we look upon all those books as corrupt, which do not edify and minister grace to the readers. Now this book-entertainment is as certainly forbidden by the apostle, as cheating is forbidden by the eighth commandment: for if I am not to say foolish and impertinent things myself, because such a communication grieves the Holy Spirit of God; I am as certainly forbid the reading the corrupt and impertinent sayings of other people.

The books which mostly corrupt our hearts, and fill us with a spirit of folly, are such as almost all the world allow themselves to read; I mean books of wit and humour, romances, plays, and other productions of the poets. Thus a grave orthodox old gentleman, if he hears that his niece is very good, and delights in reading, will fill her closet with volumes of plays and poems on several occasions, on purpose to encourage her to spend her time well. There is not perhaps a more surprising infatuation in the conduct of Christians, than this.

III. There is a proper time for every thing that is lawful to be done: now, can you tell when it is proper for a Christian to meditate upon these books?

There is a time when our hearts are more than ordinarily raised towards God; when we feel the joys and comforts of religion, and enjoy a peace that passes all understanding. Now I suppose reason will not allot this time for the diversion of such books.

There is a time, when either thro’ the neglect of duty, remorse of mind, worldly vexations, bodily tempers, or the absence of God’s Spirit, we sink into dejection and dulness, grow burthensome to ourselves, and can hardly think of any thing with satisfaction. Now if reason is to judge, this is of all times the most improper for such entertainment. For if there is any time more proper than another to think upon God, ’tis when we are in heaviness.

When we are sick it is time to fly to the physician; when we are weary, it is a proper time to rest: now there is the same fitness in having recourse to God and religion, when we are under any dejection of mind. For it is not more the sole property of light to dispel darkness, than it is the sole property of religion to relieve all uneasiness. Is any one afflicted, says the apostle, let him pray. Now this we are to look upon, not only as a wise advice of something that is very good to be done; but as a strict command that leaves no choice of doing any thing in the stead of it.

It is as absolute a command as if he had said, Hath any one sinned, let him repent. For an application to God is as much the one thing to be done in the hour of trouble, as repentance is the one thing to be done in time of sin.

IV. You seem to make times of dulness the occasion of reading those books, by saying that you only read them to divert your spirits. But that which you take to be a reason for reading them, is a strong objection against it. For it is never so improper to read those books, as when you want to have your spirits raised, or your mind made easy to itself. For it is the highest abuse you can put upon yourself, to look for ease and quiet in any thing, but in right apprehensions of God’s providence. And it is a sin against the whole nature of religion, not to make it the whole measure and reason of all your peace and enjoyment in every occurrence of life.

If you must amuse yourself with a volume of plays, because you are laid up with a broken leg, or have lost a friend, you are as far from wisdom as a child that is to be made quiet with a rattle, and as far from religion as those who worship idols; nay, to seek to such things for relief and refreshment, is like applying to the devil in distress. A man that drinks drams every time he is dull or uneasy, is a wise, prudent, and sober man, if compared to the Christian that in seasons of dejection has recourse to wanton wit, and prophane rant: he destroys the purity of his mind much more effectually, than the other destroys the health of his body.

Do you think that in great distresses, it is proper to seek comfort in God; but that in little troubles, any thing that can divert is as well? Nay, surely if God is our sufficient comfort in great distresses, he must be our best relief in those that are smaller. Unless it can be said, that the truths of religion are able to make us bear martyrdom with content, but not great enough to make us easy in little trials.

V. Besides, to seek for relief in foolish books, is not only applying to a false remedy, but is also destroying the chief power of religion. For as religion has no power over us but as it is our happiness; so far as we neglect, or refuse to make use of its comforts, so far we destroy its power over us. For it can no otherwise be the ordinary care of our lives, than by being our ordinary happiness and consolation in all the changes of life. A Christian therefore is to make his Christianity his comfort, not only in times of great trial and sufferings, but in all the lesser vexations of life, that by this means every little occasion of grief or disquiet may be an occasion of his being more affected with religion, and more sensible of its true comforts.

VI. On the contrary, if men will make themselves happy as children are made happy, not by considering the nature of things, but by a change of amusements, they must also expect to have the vexations of children, and be, like them, laughing and crying at they know not what, all the days of their life: for children are only easily vexed because they are easily pleased; and it is certain that they who can be pleased with things of no value must in the same degree be liable to be displeased at them. And as this is the true state of childhood: so whosoever is in this state, whatever his age may be, his office, or his dignity in life, is yet as truly in the state and folly of childhood, as he that is but four years old. Take an instance or two: a child whose heart is half broken at some misfortune, may perhaps be made easy with a picture of a huntsman and a pack of hounds; but if you would comfort the father that grieves for his eldest son, the hounds must all be alive; they must cry, and run, and follow a hare; and this will make the father as easy as the picture did the child.

A mother comforts her little girl with a pack of cards that are finely painted: by and by she wants to be comforted herself: some great calamity has happened to her. Now you must not think to comfort her with painted cards, or building houses with them; her grief is too great, and she has been too long a mother to be pleased with such things. It is only serious ombre that can dry her eyes, and remove sorrow from her heart.

VII. I might easily multiply instances of this kind; but these are sufficient to shew us, that persons of age and authority often differ only from children, as one child may differ from another. This is the true reason why human life is so full of complaint; why it is such a mixture of ridiculous pleasures, and vain disquiets, namely, because we live in an entire ignorance of the nature of things, never considering why we are pleased with this, or displeased with that, nor any more appeal to religion to direct our judgments, than children appeal to reason to form their tempers. For if we will only play, or lull ourselves into repose, as children are rocked to sleep, it is not to be wondered at, if like them we cry as soon as we are awake: and the reason why people, seemingly religious, are subject to the same dulness and peevishness, to the same vexations and variety of griefs that other people are, is this, because they make no more use of their religion on those occasions, than other people: they don’t so much as intend to keep themselves easy, thankful and chearful, by making religion the measure and standard of all their thoughts and judgments, in all the common chances of life, any more than those do, who have no thoughts about religion.

VIII. Suppose a person had lame feet, and bad eyes, and that he had an oil, that was an infallible cure for them both, when applied to both; if you saw him only using it for his eyes, you would not wonder that it had not cured his feet; you would know that his anointing his eyes could only cure his eyes; and that there was no ground to expect that his feet should be any better, till he anointed his feet: and all this for this plain reason, because things, however good in themselves, can have no farther effect than as they are applied. Now it is just thus in religion. If a man places it only in public worship, he attends public worship; it operates so far. But why must you wonder, that he is not of a wise, virtuous, and religious temper, in all the actions of his ordinary life? Is not this wondering why the oil has not cured a man’s feet, when he has never applied it to them, but only to his eyes?

IX. *When the regular churchman as plainly makes religion the measure of his ordinary life, as he makes it the rule of his going to church; when he as directly uses it to this purpose, as a man anoints his eyes, who would be cured by anointing them; then you will see him as different in his ordinary life from other people, as different in his pleasures and griefs, in his cares and concerns, as he is different from them in forms and regularity of worship. But till men do this; till they apply the principles of religion to all the actions of ordinary life; till they make it the measure of all their daily tempers, their joys and fears; till they think there is as much piety in being wise and holy in their common tempers, as in being devout at church; as much sin in being vainly pleased and foolishly vexed, as in neglecting the divine service; till they thus directly apply religion to common life, as a man applies a remedy to the part he would have cured; it is no more to be expected that it should make them religious in common life, than that an oil applied to our eyes should cure our feet.

It is our ordinary life, which we think is thus left to ourselves, that makes religion so insignificant in the world: it lies by like a remedy that is unapplied; it has no effect because it is used only as a formal thing that has its duties at set times and occasions: whereas it should be used and considered as the rule and reason of all our judgments and actions; as the measure of all our cares and pleasures; as the life of our life, the spirit of our spirit, and the very form and essence of all our tempers. It is to be in us, like a new reason and judgment of our minds; that is to reason and judge of every thing we do, and to preside over and govern all the motions of our hearts. Is any one merry, saith the apostle, let him sing psalms: Is any afflicted, let him pray. This is religion in the apostle’s account; it is not only an attendance at the public worship, but it is the ruling habit of our minds; something that devotes us wholly to God, that allows of no mirth in our common life, but a mirth proper for the brethren of Christ, a mirth that can express itself in praise and thanksgiving, that allows of no other cure for grief or vexation than what is to be had from recourse to God. And indeed what can be more absurd, than for a Christian ever to act in any other consideration than as a Christian? He is senseless to a degree of madness when he indulges a thought, or a motion of his heart; when he either takes a pleasure, or relieves a grief; where he cannot say I do this as a Christian, as suitable to that state in which Christianity has placed me.

X. *We reckon a man sufficiently mad that fancies himself a king, and governing his subjects, at the same time that he is tied on a bed of straw: now a Christian repeats every day, I believe the forgiveness of sin, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting; he thanks God for the redemption of Jesus Christ, for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. Yet at the same time, in this state of greatness, he fancies himself in a thousand wants and miseries: he cries and labours, and toils for a happiness, that has no existence but in his own imagination; he fancies himself a being that is to be made happy with sauces and ragous, with painted cloaths and shining diamonds, he is grieved and fretted like a child at the loss of a feather; and must be diverted, as they are, with shows and plays, and imaginary scenes of rant and nonsense. Now is not such a one mad? Does he not know as little of his state, as the man in straw who fancies himself a king? But for a Christian, in times of dulness or vexation, to seek relief in foolish amusements, in the loose, wild discourses of plays, when he should acquaint himself with God, and be at peace, is a degree of madness that exceeds all others; it is acting as contrary to the nature of things, as if a man that had lost the use of his limbs, should chuse to comfort his lameness with painted shoes, when he might have the use of his feet restored. For the consolations of religion relieve uneasiness and trouble, as a lame man is relieved when his limbs are restored; they conquer grief, not by cheating and deluding the weakness of our minds, but as the resurrection conquers death, by restoring us to a new and glorious life.

XI. From these reflections I hope it sufficiently appears, that the reading vain and impertinent books is no matter of indifferency; but that it is justly to be reckoned amongst our greatest corruptions; that it is as unlawful as malice and evil speaking; and is no more to be allowed in any part of our life.

Reading, when it is an exercise of the mind, upon wise and pious subjects, is, next to prayer, the best improvement of our hearts; it enlightens our minds, collects our thoughts, calms and allays our passions, and begets in us wise and pious resolutions; it is a labour that does so much good to our minds, that it ought never to be employed amiss; it enters so far into our souls that it cannot have a little effect upon us. Reading and meditation is that to our souls, which food and nourishment is to our bodies; so that we cannot do ourselves either a little good, or little harm, by the books that we read.

XII. But perhaps you think it is a dull task to read only religious and moral books: but when God is your happiness; when you are not afraid of the joys of eternity, you will think it a dull task to read any other books. Don’t fancy therefore that your heart is right, tho’ you had rather read books upon other subjects; for it is there that you are to charge your dullness: religion has no hold of you; the things of eternity are not the concerns of your mind; it is dull and tiresome to you to be wise and pious; and that makes it a dull task to read only books that treat upon such subjects. When it is the care of your soul to be humble, holy, pious, and heavenly minded; when you know any thing of the guilt and misery of sin, or feel a real desire of salvation, you will find religious books to be the greatest feast and joy of your mind.

XIII. You perhaps will say that you have so much spare time for reading, that you think you need not employ it at all in reading good books. It may be so; you may have also more time than you need devote to offices of charity; but will you thence conclude, that you may then do things contrary to charity, and indulge yourself in spight and mischief?

*If you have every day more time than you can employ in reading, meditation and prayer; if this time hangs upon your hands, and cannot be turned to any advantage; let me desire you to go to sleep or pick straws; for it is much better to do this, than to have recourse to corrupt and impertinent books. Time lost in sleep, or in picking straws, is better lost than in such exercises of the mind. Consider farther, that idle and spare time calls for the greatest care and watchfulness; so that to have recourse then to evil and impertinent books, is like inviting the devil because you are alone. If you could read ill books when you are in haste, or in a hurry of other matters, it would do you much less harm than to read them because your time hangs upon your hands. That very season which you take to be an excuse for such reading, is the strongest argument against it, because evil thoughts and vain subjects have twice the effect, and make double impressions when they are admitted at times of leisure and idleness.

XIV. Consider again to what a miserable state you are reduced, when you are forced to have recourse to foolish books to get rid of your time. Your fortune perhaps has removed you from the necessity of labouring for your bread; you have been politely educated in softness; you have no trade or employment to take up your time; and so are left to be devoured by corrupt passions and pleasures. Whilst poor people are at hard labour; whilst your servants are drudging in the meanest offices of life; you, oppressed with idleness and indulgence, are relieving yourself with foolish and impertinent books; feeding and delighting a disordered mind with romantic nonsense, and poetic follies. If this be the effect of riches and fortune, only to expose people to the power of disordered passions, and give them time to corrupt their hearts with madness and folly, well might our Lord say, Woe unto you that are rich!

*When you see a poor creature drudging in the meanest offices of life, and glad of the dirtiest work to get his bread, you are apt to look upon him as a miserable wretch; it raises a mixture of pity and contempt in you; but remember, that every time you see such a person, you see a more reasonable creature than yourself, and one that is much more nobly employed than you are. He is acting conformably to the state of human life, and bearing a hard part with patience; he is doing a work which, mean as it is, will be looked upon as done unto the Lord; whilst you, idling in softness and pleasures, are unable to bear your time, unless it be stolen away from you by folly and impertinence. Fancy that you saw a patient Christian, old, broken and crooked, with carrying burthens all his life; fancy that you saw another Christian lolling in state and softness, and making every day a day of vanity and foolish reading; which of them do you think is most likely to die in the hands of good angels, and be carried into Abraham’s bosom?

XV. *But, after all, what a vain imagination is it to think that you have any such thing as spare time? Is there any time for which you are not accountable to God? Is there any time which God has so left to your own disposal that you may sacrifice it to the indulgence of vain tempers, and the corruption of your heart? You can no more shew this than you can shew, that all your time is your own. To talk, therefore of spare time, is to talk of something that never did nor ever will belong to any Christian. You may have a spare time from this or that labour, or necessity, you may abate or change any particular exercise, you may take this or that refreshment; you have all these spare times from particular actions, but you have no spare time that releases you from the laws of Christianity, or that leaves you at liberty not to act by the principles of religion and piety.

*You have spare time to refresh yourself: but this is to be governed by the same wisdom, as the time that is spent in cares and labours. For your recreations and pleasures are only lawful as far as they are directed by the same wisdom with your cares and labours. If therefore the providence of God has placed you above the necessity of labouring for your livelihood, you must not think that you have so much spare time to spend, as you please, but that you are certainly called to some other labour. Great part of the world is doomed to toil and slavery; they have it not in their power to chuse any other way of life, and their labour is therefore an acceptable service to God, because it is such as their state requires. Happy are you therefore, if you knew your happiness, who have it in your power to be always doing the best things; who, free from labour and hardships, are at liberty to chuse the best ways of life, to study all the arts of self-improvement, to practise all the ways of doing good, and to spend your time in all the noblest instances of piety, humility, charity and devotion! Bless God then, not because you have spare time, for that you have none, but that you have time to employ in the best ways that you can find; that whilst others are oppressed with burdens, and worn out with slavery, you have time to think upon the greatest and best of things; to enlighten your mind, to correct the disorder of your heart, to study the laws of God, to contemplate the wonders of his providence, to convince yourself of the vanity of the world, and to delight your soul with the great and glorious things which God has prepared for those that love him. This is the happiness of being free from labour and want, not to have spare time to squander away in vanity and impertinence, but to have spare time to spend in the study of wisdom, in the exercise of devotion, in the practice of piety, in all the ways and means of doing good and exalting our souls to a state of Christian perfection.

XVI. *It is a doctrine of scripture, and highly agreeable to reason, That unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required. Consider therefore that a life of leisure and freedom from want and hardships is as much as can well be given you in this world, as it is giving you an opportunity of living wholly to God, and making all the parts of your life useful to the best purposes. As sure therefore as it is a state, that has so many advantages that furnishes you with so many means of being eminent in piety, so sure it is, that it is a state from which God expects fruits that are worthy of it. Had it been your lot to labour in a mine, or serve under some cruel master, you must have served as unto God; and in so doing you had finished the work which God had given you. But as you are free from all this, you must look upon yourself as God’s servant, as called to chuse that way of labouring and spending your time, which may most promote that which God desires to be promoted. God has given you liberty to chuse, but it is only that you may have the blessedness of chusing the best ways of spending your time. Though therefore you are at liberty from servile and mean labour, yet you are under a necessity of labouring in all good works, and making all your time, and fortune, and abilities serviceable to the best ends of life. You have no more time that is your own, than he has that is to live by constant labour; the only difference betwixt you and him is this, that he is to be diligent in a poor, slavish labour, that oppresses the body, and dejects the mind; but you in a service that is perfect freedom, that renders your body a fit temple for the Holy Ghost, and fills your soul with such light, and peace, and joy, as is not to be found in any other way of life.

XVII. Do you think that a poor slave would displease God by refusing to act in that painful drudgery that is fallen to his share? And do you think that God will not be more displeased with you, if you refuse to act your full part in the best of labours, or neglect that happy business of doing good, which your state of life has called you to? Is it expected that poor people should make a right use of their condition, and turn all their labour into a service unto God? And do you think you are not obliged to make a proper improvement of your condition, and turn all your rest, and ease, and freedom from labour, into service unto God? Tell me therefore no more that you indulge yourself in idle amusements, in vain, corrupt, and unedifying books, because you have spare time? For it is absolutely false to say that you have any such thing; it is saying, that because God has given you spare time from servile labour, time for all the instances of a holy and heavenly life; therefore you presume to throw it away in idleness and impertinence.

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