« EelmineJätka »
AN EXHORTATORY PREFACE
TO THE CHRISTIAN READER.
OUT of infallible rules and long experience, have I gathered up this true Character of a Christian: a labour, some will think, which might have been well spared.
Every man professes, both to know and act this part. Who is there, that would not be angry, it but a question should be made, either of his skill or interest ? Surely, since the first name given at Antioch, all the believing world hath been ambitious of the honour of it: how happy were it, if all, that are willing to wear the livery, were as ready to do the service!
But, it falls out here, as in the case of all things that are at once honourable and difficult, every one affects the title, few labour for the truth of the atchievement.
Having, therefore, leisure enough to look about me, and finding the world too prone to this worst kind of hypocrisy, I have made this true draught ; not more for direction, than for trial. Let no man view these lines as a stranger; but, when he looks in this glass, let him ask his heart, whether this be his own face : yea, rather, when he sees this face, let him erumine his heart, whether both of then agree with their pattern : and where he finds his failings, las who shall not?) let him strive to amend them; and never give over, while he is any way less fair than his copy.
In the mean time, I would it were less easy, by these rules, to judge even of others, besides ourselves ; or, that it were uncharitable to say, there are many Professors, few Christians. If words and forms might carry it, Christ would have clients enough : but if ho. liness of disposition and uprightness of carriage must be the proof, woe is me! In the midst of the land, among the people, there is an the shaking of an olive-tree; and as the gleaning grapes, where the vintage is done ; Isa. xxiv. 13.
For where is the man, that hath obtained the mastery of his corrupt affections, and to be the lord of his unruly appetite? that hath his heart in heaven, while his living carcase is stirring here upon earth? that can see the Invisible, and secretly enjoy that Saviour, to whom he is spiritually united ? that hath subdued his will and reason to his belief? that fears nothing, but God; lotes nothing, but goodness ; haies nothing, but sin ; rejoiceth in none, but true blessings? whose faith triumphs over the world ; whose hope is anchored in heaven ; whose charity knows no less bounds than God and men ; whose humility represents him as vile to himself, as he is honourable in the reputation of God? who is wise heaven-ward, however he passes with the world; who dares be no other than just, whether he win or lose ; who is frugally liberal, discreetly courageous, holily temperate ? who is ever a thrifty manager of his hours, so dividing the day betwixt his God and his vocation, that neither shall find fault with a just neglect, or an unjust partiality ? whose recreations are harmless, honest, warrantable ; such as may refresh nature, riot debauch it? whose diet is regulated by health, not by pleasure; as one, whose table shall be no altar to his belly, nor snare to his soul ? who, in his seasonable repose, lies down, and awakes with God; caring only to relieve his spirits, not to cherish sloth? whose carriage is meek, gentle, compliant, beneficial in whatsoever station ; in magistracy, unpartially just ; 'in the ministry, conscionably faithful; in the rule of his family, wisely provident, and religiously exemplary? shortly, who is a discreet and loving yoke-fellow, a tender and pious parent, a duteous and aroful son, an humble and obsequious servant, an obedient and loyal subject? whose heart is constantly settled in the main truths of Christian Religion, so as he cannot be removed? in litigious points, neither too credulous, nor too peremptory? whose discourse is such, as may be meet for the expressions of a tongue, that belongs to a sound, godly, and charitable heart? whose breast continually burns with the heavenly fire of a holy devotion ? whose painful sufferings are overcome with patience, and cheerful resolutions? whose conflicts are attended with undaunted courage, and crowned with a happy victory? lastly, whose death is not so full of fear and anguish, as of strong consolations in that Saviour, who hath overcome and sweetened it ; nor of so much dread fulness in itself, as of joy in the present expectation of that blessed issue of a glorious immortality, which instantly succeeds it ?
Such is the Christian, whom we do here characterize, and commend to the world both for trial and imitation. Neither know I which of these many qualifications can be missing in that soul, who lays a just claim to Christ, his Redeemer.
Take your hearts to task therefore, my dear brethren, into whose hands soever these lines shall come ; and, as you desire to have peace at the last, ransack them thoroughly : not contenting yourselves with a perfunctory and fashionable oversight, which will one day leave you irremediably miserable ; but so search, as those, that resolve not to give over, till you find these gracious dispositions in your bosoms, which I have here described to you. So shall we be, and make each other happy, in the success of our holy labours : which the God of Heaven bless in both our hands, to his own glory, and our mutuat comfort in the day of the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.