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because, let the people be ever so few or injudicious, he is to offer it to the Lord. He will not keep up any thing of the mind of God that may be profitable to souls, for God is his party.
2. It is necessary to give a man a sense of the weight of the work, and the worth of souls, without which he cannot be a good minister. 2 Cor. v. 9, 10. It is a weighty work. "For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish. To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other, the savour of life unto life: and who is sufficient for these things?" But it will sit light on men that are not exercised to godliness, for how can we have a sense of the worth of the souls of others, if we keep not up the sense of the worth of our own souls?
3. It is very necessary to fit a man to suffer for truth. The Lord sometimes calls ministers to seal the truths which they have preached, with their blood. Such days have been, and yet may be. And a good minister must say, "None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God." But alas! how will we be able for this, if we feel not the power of truth on our own souls. The exercise of godliness has carried out some to suffer for Christ, when they could speak little for him; while many learned heads but ungodly hearts, have betrayed him.
4. It is necessary to give a man insight into the mind of God. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will shew them bis covenant." Heavenly truths appear certainly in another lustre to the exercised soul than to others. And the interruption of this exercise, will make the great things of God's law appear even as a strange thing to them, who before have tasted the sweetness of them. When the heart is sealed, the Bible will be found sealed too. If they be not sensible of it in the time, they will be sensible of it after the vail is taken away. An exercised heart is one of the best commentaries on the Bible, when the soul, upon the reading of it, can say, "As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of our God."
5. To make a man one that has interest in the court of heaven. I intend not to put the exercise of godliness in the room of Christ's intercession. But sure it is, that the prayers of those who are favourites of heaven, have much influence. It is of importance to think how the prophet, to convince the priests that God was displeased with them, puts them to try their interest in the court of heaven, Mal. i. 9, “And I pray you beseech God, that he will be gracious unto us this hath been by your means: will he regard your persons? saith the Lord of Hosts."
Lastly, It is most necessary to fit us for the performance of the several duties of our calling, whether in preaching, administering the sacraments, visiting families, or the sick. Our great business is to bring souls to Christ, and to preach his unsearchable riches; and the law itself must be preached still, in view to Christ, as the only way to union with God, and communion with him, and as the alone fountain of true holiness; and not to feed people with barren discourses of Christless morality. This is a great work: the apostle calls for prayers for his help in it, Col. iv. 3, 4. Much need of personal acquaintance with him, for that end. For God to reveal his Son in us, that we may preach him among the people. Alas! What hopes can we have, that the word should have 'weight with others, if it have none with ourselves. That is a stinging word, But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings." If they did not turn, but would go to hell, they should go with a witness. To speak powerfully in the demonstration of the Spirit, this is necessary. The heart makes the best oratory. If lusts live at peace in our own bosoms, then preaching against them in others, we will hear a voice from within to cool our zeal, saying, as David," deal gently with the young man for my sake." But if a man be exercised in combating his own lusts, it will put an edge on his own zeal, when he comes to his own weak side. It is exercise unto godliness that makes a man speak seasonably, and to the cases of the people; and he that is most exercised about his own heart, bids fairest for opening up the hearts of others; for as face answereth to face in water, so doth the heart of one Christian to that of another. And for this very cause, are matters of exercise laid in to ministers. "God," says Paul, "comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.
Let us then, my brethren, study the exercise of godliness. Let this be our great work, if we would either save our own souls, or the souls of others. This will be our only comfort in a dying hour, "that in simplicity and in godly sincerity, not by fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, holding forth the word of life;" and this will be our comfort, when we must leave our pulpits to others, and go to the tribunal of our Master. The crown of glory will be sure to such wrestlers. But
doubly miserable will we be, if while we preach to others, we ourselves be castaways.
To you, the people, I would say: 1. Embrace godliness, and be exercised unto it. It belongs to you as well as to us. You have no dispensation to be vile more than we. Ungodliness will ruin you eternally; "for without holiness no man shall see the Lord." Study to be a lively people. A dead people will do much to make a dead minister. Many a time the minister comes out to the people, in bands laid on for their sake.
2. Take kindly whatsoever is said or done by us for the advancing of godliness. It is your good the Lord's servants will seek. And true wisdom would learn you to love him best, that crosseth your corruptions most, whether in doctrine or discipline.
We are dying ministers, preaching to dying people. Other persons will shortly get our pulpits, and your seats. Let this be our joint exercise while we live, and then we will not be afraid to die.
In vain will we press men to bring forth fruit to God, while they are not married to Christ, and there is no marriage with Christ, without dying to the law. Rom. vii. 4. Dare any look God in the face with their best works, but through the vail of the flesh of Christ? Will we press men to conformity to God, and not send them for it to Jesus, "who is the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person," whom he sent down from heaven, that men beholding him by faith, "might be transformed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the spirit of the Lord." An eternal barrenness will be on our souls, if influences of grace for duty, come not from heaven; and the falling dew shall sooner make its way through the flinty rock, than influences of grace come from God to us, but through him whom the Father hath constituted the head of influences. "For it pleased the Father, that in him should all fulness dwell." There can be no good fruit but what grows on this vine, John xv. 1-6. Let men otherwise exercise themselves to the greatest strictness and mortification, it will be found at length, not exercise to godliness, but to ungodliness; "seeing he that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father who sent him." Amen.
Yarrow, March 18, 1711.
A HEART EXERCISED UNTO GODLINESS NECESSARY TO MAKE A GOOD CHRISTIAN.
1 TIMOTHY iv. 7,
Exercise thyself rather unto godliness.
EXERCISE unto godliness is now almost worn out of the world. Many casting off the very bodily exercise in religion; few, very few, keeping up the heart exercise of it; and it is our work to strive against the stream. This is all the apology I shall make to you, for preaching upon a text that several of you heard me upon, elsewhere, not long ago. There it was my business, to stir up myself, and my brethren in the ministry, to the exercise of godliness, in order to make us good ministers; and now I am to stir you up to it, in order to make you good Christians.
The apostle gives us here a short, but substantial description of the Christian life. It is an exercise, it is not a name. People must not think to take on a profession of religion, as men set their foot in a boat, and sit there at their own ease, till they be set ashore. Persons may reach hell in this way, but they will not arrive at heaven. For time runs with a rapid course, and sleep we, or wake we, carries us swiftly down the stream to eternity.
Again, Christianity is not an easy exercise, but such as wrestlers or runners used, exerting all their might and skill to gain the victory. We are not to expect two summers in one year, or rest here, and in heaven also. We are also reminded, that Christianity is heart-soul-exercise, for it is opposed to bodily exercise. It is not the saying of a prayer, reading a chapter, hearing a sermon, giving every one their due, and the like. Though the tongue cry to God, as if it would rend the clouds, and the eyes should help it forward with a flood of tears, the hands should deal among the poor all that a man hath, and his mouth should keep shut to macerate his body with fasting, the knees should become hard as horns with praying, and after all this, the feet should carry away the skeleton to be burned for religion: yet if there be no more, and that of another kind, it is all but vile bodily exercise, that will leave the soul ruined and undone at the latter end. For," says Paul, “though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body
to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." As if he had said, if my soul within me, burn not as clear in sincere love to God, as my body in the flame, I will but go out of one fire here, into another in hell. So then true religion is an inward thing.
Once more, the Christian life is a heart exercise to the most noble end, even to godliness. It is not to get a name; nay, it is not to get just as much grace as may keep people out of hell, which is the utmost bounds of the ambition of some; and by this they declare that godliness hath never yet touched them at the heart. But it is godliness, a conformity to God in the whole man. This is the scope of their exercise; this only will satisfy the holy ambition, with which the Spirit of the Lord hath fired their hearts.
DOCTRINE. The true Christian life is heart exercise to godliness. For illustrating this, I shall,
I. Shew some weighty truths imported in this.
II. Some things in which the exercise to godliness consists. I am then,
I. To shew some weighty truths imported in this.
1. Habitual godliness is absolutely necessary to salvation. For as a man cannot wrestle, that wants the power of his arms; so neither can a man lead the Christian life, who is not a Christian indeed. "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." There must be a new nature, ere there be a new life pleasing to God; for a new life with an old heart, is but superficial, and mere bodily exercise. One dead in sin will never exercise himself to godliness.
2. No person goes to heaven sleeping. The Christian life is an exercise. They have much to do, the Christian race is to run, there are many enemies to wrestle with, and the kingdom of heaven to be taken by violence. Most men look as if they expected heaven would drop into their mouth, while lying on the bed of sloth. It is not our exercise, indeed, that procures heaven, but it is a rest procured not for loiterers but labourers.
3. They must have true courage that shall come to heaven. "He that overcometh shall inherit all things, and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful and unbelieving shall have their part in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." True Christians must be like Caleb and Joshua among the spies, having their foreheads steeled to encounter difficulties. It is only overcomers that carry away the crown. The Christian may have sharp exercise in wrestling. Like Jacob, he may
have to wrestle with God himself, Genesis xxxii. 24-30. The soul hath hard exercise in the field of divine trials, as in the case of a