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less he can find deliverance and safety in that man whom God hath appointed as a refuge from storm and from rain. He becomes a refuge to us by means of his church, his word, and his sacraments : so that if we fail not to take due advantage of these, we may then be assured (upon the best grounds) that our winter is past, the rain over and gone: for there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus: who are found in him, not having their own righteousness which is of the law, but the righteousness which is of God by faith.
XXI. It is also his duty to be very careful, that the roots of Christian Graces, which God hath planted in his heart, be cherished and improved every day. No ill weeds must be suffered to prevail so far as to defile and overpower the conscience; nor any thorns and briars of worldly cares choak the word of God, and render it unfruitful. His garden must not lie without order or culture, like that of the sluggard, lest God, in just judgment, should withhold the dew of his grace, and forbid the true light to shine any more upon
it for ever. XXII. When he imitates the cheerfulness of the birds in singing psalms and spiritual songs of thanksgiving to the Father of lights; he should make proper distinctions, and consider which will agree best with the state of his own heart, the melody of a saint, or the sighs and lamentations of a sinner. If his conscience should inform him, that he can have no just title to reckon himself among the number of the just, or rather of the justified; it will not well become such an one to be thankful. It must indeed argue a monstrous degree of carelessness or assurance, for a man to be forward in praising and magnifying VOL. II.
the name of God, on account of that mighty salvation, in which he himself is not like to have any share. Let him, therefore, who singeth in the church, sing with the spirit and with the understanding, and upon the grounds of Faith, Hope, Charity, and a good Conscience: without which, how loud soever his voice may sound here below, it will never be heard in the choir of saints and angels above.
XXIII. In his conversation with men, he should be meek, gentle, merciful, and compassionate; conforming himself to the spirit and temper of the dove. If there is continual clamour, railing, wrath, and evil-speaking in a family, it is a sign that the gospel of peace hath not been received in it. It is either not there, or it is without its influence; and it is hard to say, which of these cases is the worst; If any man hath not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his: and certainly he is without the spirit, if he is without its fruit.
In his private conferences with God and his own heart, his devotion should partake much of resignation, huíniliation, and all the softer expressions of contrition, like to the mournings of the turtle; rather than of heat, zeal, anger, and indignation, even allowing sin itself to be the object of these emotions.
XXIV. All men being sinners by nature, the fruits of repentance are to be brought forth by all. Every believer, when called to the gospel, is made a branch of that fig-tree, which is to bear the fruits of repentance; and Christ, to whom all things are naked, and open, will be coming from time to time seeking fruit on this fig-tree. If God receiveth from us only the service of the lips, this may be taken as a sign that the tree hath some leaves upon it; and thus far the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees extended. But unless the righteousness of a Christian shall exceed theirs, he must expect to be cut down, as they were, and suffered no longer to encumber the ground of the sacred vineyard.
XXV. The last thing suggested to us is the necessity of communion with Jesus Christ, as the only root of spiritual life and perfection: concerning which, it is our duty to guard against all the incroachments of natural religion, falsely so called; not attributing to human nature any independent principle either of wisdom or sanctification. For as surely as the vine-branch can have no powers independent of the root, so surely cannot the Christian think, act, or live, as such, but so far only as he derives his abilities from the stock upon which he is engrafted.
Nor are we to suppose, as some do, who allow the necessity of this communion, that a mere act of the mind is sufficient to advance us into a state of membership with the true vine. If this were the case, then might the church be reduced to a single individual, a church in one person: But, on the contrary, many things are necessary to be done, which no man can do for himself: and therefore Christ established a' visible society upon earth, investing some of its members with different powers and offices, all serving to the same end; that is, all concurring to lead individuals through the means
grace to the possession of glory. As the vineyard doth not plant, and prune, and cultivate itself, but submits to him whom the owner hath appointed to dress it; so the Christian must submit to the institutions of Christ; and to those persons by whom they are administered. It might be one reason why the vine in particular is selected upon this occasion, because it yields so striking an example of the salutary effects of obedience and dependence. It is a weak and trailing plant, given to excessive irregularity and luxuriance, and therefore cannot prosper without some helping hand to direct, restrain, adjust, and support it in its proper station.
If the church then, as the Scripture speaks, is the body of Christ, and communion with Christ is communion with his church; every prudent person, who values the welfare of his own soul, will avoid that wild high-flying *, self-governing spirit, which makes as light of all institutions, as if they were the inventions of a worldly policy, instead of being what they really are, the ordinances of Christ himself, for the life, growth, and final salvation of his own members. Happy are they, who are wise enough to escape all those errors concerning this great subject, which may now so easily be infused by the prejudices of education, or the fashionable doctrines of a careless and ignorant age, whose chief religion seems to consist in preaching peace to all sorts of people, under all sorts of circumstances.
XXVI. But it is possible for a man to avoid the presumptuous innovations of Socinians, and other infidels, and to be a branch duly and orderly inserted into the true yine ; and yet, after all, to be so worthless and unprofitable in his conversation, as to be altogether dry and fruitless. The end of such a branch is to be cut off and cast into the fire. The negligence of men in authority may permit a dead branch to remain upon the tree: but there is a time coming, when God shall descend from heaven to behold and visit this vine. What is now amiss, will then be rectified, without respect of persons. For which great day of visitation and inquisition may God Almighty by his grace prepare all those who diligently seek it! AMEN.
* The word high-flying hath been frequently applied to those who set authority high, either in the church or in the state ; but they who set themselves above hotlı, have the better title to it.