The previous post in this series may be found here.
Upon a Pleasure Boat
A private house is often guilt by the same model which princes use for their palaces, the dimensions only being contracted with the observance of the same figure. And so a boat or vessel of pleasure, differing in its use and design, as well as in its blue from another ship, is yet by the skill in ingenuity of the artist exactly modeled after the mold or shape of the tallest ship of war and traffic; it having its rigging, sails, anchors, cable, false ports, and what not hat please the fancy and eye of the beholder?
But how many of these things are more for pomp and beauty than for use and necessity? When the vessel itself is made only to receive the caresses and blandishments of the sea and not to endure the hardship of a storm.
It is not an ark for necessity, as Moses’ was, not an ark for safety as Noah’s was, but a vessel for pleasure; and therefore a gentle breath that may swell the sails and the curling waters that may cause a little agitation; and a serene sky which may invite the fishes to sport, do much heighten the delight of the passengers; but loud winds and waves that roar, clouds which make the heavens with darkness, carry in them so may images of death and soon turn their pleasure into affrightments, and put them upon nothing more than an earnest longing and wishing for the safety of the shore.
But the resolute mariners in their ships, they both expect and prepare to wrestle with such difficulties: they ply their sails, they fathom the sea with their line, they have their hand on the helm, and their eye to Heaven; they let fall their anchors, and ride admit the tempest till it has spent its fury, with undaunted courage.
I have now methinks set forth in an allegory the temporary professor [one who merely claims to be a Christian] and the sound and real believer, the one having only the form and the other the power of godliness; the one serving himself and the other his God in the works of religion.
In the sunshine and prosperity of the Church, who spreads a fairer sail of profession than the temporary? Who seems more eager following Christ coast after coast than he? Who is more expressive of his joy and delight in approaching the ordinances; who more confident of boasting in his following Christ and dying with him — when others leave him — than he? And yet if but a cloud of a hand-breadth [1 Kings 18:44] arise in the firmament of the Church, who is more full of boding fears and repentings in himself than ever he went so far [who has more misgivings]?
If Christ be but apprehended and led away to the High Priest’s palace, to be there buffeted and spit upon, who more ready to say, I know not the man! Or, if it be needful, to renounce him with an oath?
Now the ground of all this is, because he makes his religion an art rather than a duty, and does rather inform and actuate it, than be informed and guided by it. He took it up not to honor God but to better himself by it; and therefore resolves, if he cannot be a gainer he will be no loser.
But how greatly differing from such a one is the true and real Christian, who enters into his religion as into a covenant of marriage which requires performances and not retractions; forethoughts of burdens as well as delights? He looked upon the Church of Christ, not as a pleasure boat — which is only for a pastime — but as a ship that must expect storms, but fear not a wreck because Christ is in it. And therefore he is resolved to withstand the corruptions of the times, to out-face the sins and scorns of men, to be valiant for a truth trampled upon, and not to be ashamed of a persecuted profession, and to bear up against the threats and malice of the most potent enemies with an unbended consistency.
Did not Peter and John thus against a synod of Pharisees? Paul against the contradictions of the Jews? Athanasius against the power of Constantius and the Arians? And Chrysostom against the pride and rage of Eudoxia?
He is not worthy of Christ who is allured to come only to come to him upon the expectations of pleasure, nor he that is kept from the fear of ensuing dangers.
Do thou, then, O blessed Savior
Make my heart upright in my coming to thee
And fix my confidence so on thee
That seas of trouble may never in the least separate me from thee
And if at any time I cry out like the timorous disciples,
Lord save me, I perish!
Do thou calm my fears —though not the storm—
That so I may possess my soul in patience
And believe that thou wilt either
Be my pilot to bring me safe to shore
Or be my plank, to save me from ruin and perishing.