CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN: A LIFE OF GODLINESS
Against the former directions many things may be objected by both carnal cavillers and so by weak Christians.
Response to Those Who Cavil
Of the first sort is that there needs be no other directions to be prescribed besides God’s Word. To which there needs no other answer but that by this same reasoning all preaching is needless – which if it [the preaching] be as it should is out of Scripture.
The Aid of Christians
But there is great need of such directions as this to be penned, by reason of the great weakness which are in Christians, some being slow of capacity, others short of memory, others very soon unsettled for want of a good direction, [some] are ashamed or willing to open their griefs [to others], or else have no fit man to show them onto: so that besides other great harm which follows the want of direction, they are deprived of much communion with the Lord, and the comfort that arises from it.
Is This Too Much to Ask?
It is further objected, that no such direction can be observed daily.
But if it were impossible, why does the prophet call them blessed that follow such a course (Psalm 1:2) and affirms so much of himself (Psalm 119:97).
Many such examples also we have among us, even in this age, who do not make themselves strangers onto God, to hear from him, or to send on to him now and then; but to walk within daily as all are commanded to do. Nay, many there are who of experience have found this way not only possible, but easy to them and full of comfort — who should indeed be patterns for other (for the best professors are the best teachers): Neither can any idle professor look for such ease and comfort is the painful Christian [the Christian who uses great effort] that has been taught by long experience.
The Godly Life Does not Destroy Pleasure
It will be said that howsoever it be possible, yet it is very toilsome and inconvenient, depriving men of pleasure and hindering labor.
But the truth is there is no pleasure our comfort in the world like onto it: that is the sentence of the Holy Ghost. Psalm 119:99-100; Proverbs 8:11. Neither is this meant of serving God at [only limited] times, but continually, even all the day long. Psalm 119:10, 23, 97.
And whosoever has any knowledge and experience by practice, what reward there is in serving God, does justify this to be true: For why also should so many Christians part with all sinful pleasures which they might enjoy with others, and spend so much time and pain in God’s service, if it were so irksome?
It is not indeed a pleasure to all; but [only] to the upright in heart; it is the only delight, Though in this life there be some resistance; nay, it [godliness] seasons and sweetens all earthly liberties, also making them truly pleasant to the godly (which two others are mixed either with burdensome tediousness for hidden poison).
Godliness Does not Hinder Work
Neither would this hinder his labor and thrift; for all good thrift, Christian gaining and lawful prospering in this world, you arise from hence. Even when a man goes to the work of his calling [his labor or profession] he’s calling with a mind at peace with God, commending his affairs to God’s providence, aims at his [God’s] glory, looks at his [God’s] promise, and so waits for a blessing: And for lack of this, many in great toil and pain find no success nor blessing of God. And others that seem to prosper have their wealth but is Judas had his sop, and the Israelites their quails, to become their bane and poison.
- Godliness Does not Hinder Society
- As causeless also is there fear who say that the following of this direction would break off all society and friendship among men. For [a life of godliness] would break off none but evil fellowship –such as it were to be wished were abandoned [by] all society of Christians, which if it seems strange, it will be only to such as the apostle Peter speaks of his first epistle, 4:4 (the “Gentiles” who think it strange that Christians no longer participate in public wicked actions).
- Encouragement to Weak Christians
- But it is fit to satisfy the doubts which weak Christians are likely to propound.
- First, how they may attain and keep this course? For the answer whereas, thus much:
- There must be an earnest desire wrought by the consideration of the necessity of it.
- There must be a strife against untowardness and sloth.
- All earthly affections must be moderated and not clog us.
- There must in faith be expectation of fruit far above the labor.
- It will be good that the first the doubts which arise be imparted to others of experience; and that the preceding be marked [carefully considered] that those things which are lacking may be supplied, and good things continued. This if we do, the matter will not seem so difficult and tedious on to us. Neither our lawful callings any hindrances onto this Christian course.For holy exercises and lawful business, a heavenly mind and earthly dealing may very well stand together.
- Some are also troubled with the crosses that they shall meet withal in the world.
- But they need not be troubled so is to go back, but rather to set forward thereby.
- The end of all this is that such as received the gospel and that have not been careful thus daily and perpetually to walk with God:
- If it was of ignorance, they must not be discouraged, but only show that ignorance was the case, by amending now upon knowledge.
- If it was of evil conscience against their knowledge, their sin is the greater, especially if they have fallen from the first live. Therefore time it is that they should return and seek peace with God, maintaining the same by carefully watching over themselves throughout the day, that the offend in nothing.