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resting satisfied, still growing more fruitful; if thirty last year, desiring to bring forth sixty this.
This is the great point, and we ought to examine it; for much is sown and little brought forth. Our God hath done much for us; (what more could be done?) yet, when grapes were expected, wild grapes are produced. What becomes of all? Who grow to be more spiritual, more humble and meek, more like Christ, more self-denying, fuller of love to God and one to another? Some, but alas! how few. All the land is sown, and that plentifully, with the good seed; but what comes for the most part? Cockle, and no grain. Infelix lolium.
We would do all other things to purpose, and not willingly lose our end we would not trade and gain nothing, buy and sell, and live by the loss; we would not plow and sow, and reap nothing. How sensibly do we feel one ill year! And shall this alone be lost labour, which, well improved, were worth all the rest? Oh! how much more worth than all! Shall we do only the greatest business to the least purpose? Bethink yourselves, what do we here? Why come we here? If we still remain as proud and passionate, as self-willed as before, what will all great bargains, and good years, and full barns, avail within a while? That word, Thou fool, this night shall they fetch away thy soul, how terrible will it be !
We think we are wise in not losing our labour in other things; why, it is all lost, even where most is gained. What amounts it to, when cast up? Vanity and vexation of spirit, is the total sum. And in all our projecting and bustling, what do we but sow the wind, and reap the whirlwind, sow vanity, and reap vexation?
This seed alone, being fruitful, makes rich and happy, springs up to eternal life. Oh! that we were wise, that we would at length learn to hear every sermon as on the utmost edge of time, at the very brink of eternity! For any thing we know for ourselves, of any of us it may be really so. However, it is wise and safe to do as if it were so. Will you be
persuaded of this? It were a happy Sermon, if it could prevail for the more fruitful hearing of all the rest henceforward. We have lost too much of our little time; and thus, with the Apostle, I beseech you, I beseech you, receive not the grace of God in vain.
Now, that you may be fruitful, examine well your own hearts; pluck up, weed out, for there are still thorns. Some will grow, but he is the happiest man who hath the sharpest eye and the busiest hand, spying them out, and plucking them up. Take heed how you hear; think it not so easy a matter. Plough up, and sow not among thorns. Jer. iv. 3. And above all, pray, pray before, after, and in hearing. Dart up desires to God. He is the Lord of the harvest, whose influence doth all. The difference of the soil makes indeed the difference of success: but the Lord hath the privilege of bettering the soil. He who framed the heart, changes it when and how he will. There is a curse on all grounds naturally, which fell on the earth for man's sake, but fell more on the ground of man's own heart within him: Thorns and briers shalt thou bring forth. Now it is He that denounceth that curse, who alone hath power to remove it. He is both the sovereign owner of the seed, and the changer of the soil; He turns a wilderness into Carmel by His Spirit; and no ground no heart, can be good, till He change it.
And being changed, much care must be had still in manuring; for still that is in it, which will bring forth many weeds, is a mother to them, and but a step-mother to this seed. Therefore,
Consider it, if you think this concerns you. He that hath an ear to hear, as our Saviour closes, let him hear. The Lord apply your hearts to this work; and though discouragements should arise without, or within, and little present fruit appear, but corruption is rather stronger and greater, yet, watch and pray. Wait on; it shall be better. This fruit is to be brought forth with patience, as St. Luke hath it. And this seed, this word, the Lord calls by that very
name, the very word of His patience. Keep it, hide it in thy heart, and in due time it shall spring up. And this patience shall be put to it but for a little while. The day of harvest is at hand, when all who have been in any measure fruitful in grace, shall be gathered into glory.
2 COR. vii. 1.
Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
Ir is a thing both of unspeakable sweetness and usefulness, for a Christian often to consider the excellency of that estate to which he is called. It cannot fail to put him upon very high resolutions, and carry him on in the Divine ambition of behaving daily more suitably to his high calling and hopes. Therefore, these are often set before Christians in the Scriptures, and are pressed here by the Apostle upon a particular occasion, the avoidance of near combinements with unbelievers. He mentions some choice promises which God makes to His own people, and speaks of their near relation to, and communion with, Himself; and upon these, he enlarges and raises the exhortation to the universal endeavour of all holiness, and that as aiming at the very top and highest degree of it.
In the words are, 1. The thing to which he would persuade. II. The motive.
I. The thing is, holiness in its full extension and intention. Purging ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, and perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
The purging out of filthiness, and the perfecting of holi
ness, express those two parts of renewing grace, mortification and vivification, as usually they are distinguished. But I conceive they are not so truly different parts, as a different notion of the same thing, the decrease of sin and the increase of grace, being truly one thing, as are the dispelling of darkness and the augmenting of light. So here, the one is rendered as the necessary result, yea, as the equivalent of the other, as the same thing indeed: purging from filthiness, and, in so doing, perfecting holiness; perfecting holiness, and, in so doing, purging from filthiness. By perfection is meant a growing, progressive advance towards perfection.
The words, without straining, give us as it were the several dimensions of holiness. The breadth-cleansing from all filthiness; the length, parallel to man's composition, running all along through his soul and body,—from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit; the height-perfecting holiness; the depth, that which is the bottom whence it rises up,-a deep impress of the fear of God, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
Let us cleanse ourselves.] It is the Lord who is the sanctifier of His people; He purges away their dross and tin, He pours clean water, according to His promises; yet, doth He call to us to cleanse ourselves. Even, having such promises, let us cleanse ourselves. He puts a new life into us, and causes us to act, and excites us to excite it and call it up into act in the progress of sanctification. Men are strangely inclined to a perverse construction of things. Tell them that we are to act and work, and to give all diligence, then they would fancy a doing in their own strength, and be their own saviours. Again, tell them that God works all our works in us, and for us, then they would take the ease of doing nothing if they cannot have the praise of doing all, they will sit still with folded hands, and use no diligence at all. But this is the corrupt logic of the flesh, its base sophistry. The Apostle reasons just contrary, Phil. ii. 12. It is God that worketh in us, both to will and do;-therefore, would a carnal heart say, we need not work, or at least, may work
very carelessly. But he infers, Therefore let us work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, that is, in the more humble obedience to God, and dependence on Him; not obstructing the influence of His grace, and by sloth and negligence provoking Him to withdraw or abate it. Certainly, many in whom there is truth of grace, are kept low in the growth of it, by their own slothfulness, sitting still, and not bestirring themselves, and exercising the proper actions of that spiritual life by which it is entertained and advanced.
From all filthiness.] All kinds of sinful pollutions. Not as men commonly do, reform some things, and take to themselves dispensations in others, at least in some one peculiar sin, their mistress, their Herodias, or their Delilah: no parting with that; yea, they rather forego many other things, as a kind of composition for the retaining of it.
Of flesh and spirit.] The whole man must be purified and consecrated to God; not only refined from the gross outward acts of sin, but from the inward affection to it, and from the secret motions of it, that so the heart, like a weaned child, (Psal. cxxxi. 2.) go not after it, which when restrained from the outward commission of sin, it may do, and very often does; as the Israelites lusted after the flesh pots, their hearts remained in Egypt still, though their bodies were brought out. This, then, is to be done; affection to sin is to be purged out. That is, we are to cleanse the ground; not only to lop off the branches, but to dig about, and loosen and pluck up the root. Though still fibres of it will stick, yet we ought still to be finding them out, and plucking them up.
Further, this applies not only to the inner part of all sins, but to some sins that are almost or wholly inward, that hang not so much on the body, nor are acted by it; those filthinesses of the spirit which are less easily discerned than those of the flesh, and, as more hardly discerned, so, when discerned, more hardly purged out: pride, self-love, unbelief, curiosity, &c., which, though more retired and refined sins, yet, are