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the flesh, nor a doctor after the flesh, nor a bishop after the flesh. And, as for the followers of his personal ministry, they were poor; for unto the poor the gospel was preached: and those who received the glad tidings were babes in human knowledge; "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes; even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight." Let us then take all the encouragement which God has given us to be contented in our respective stations, even though it be in servitude; for Jesus was among men as one that serveth. As Christ himself then is entirely on our side of the question, let us evermore rejoice in this glorious pattern.
One reason for my writing this treatise is, because we are often tempted to believe that God takes no notice of our temporal concerns. As the thoughts of the salvation of our souls lie near our hearts, and as it is of the greatest importance, we think God will not forget that; but, as for our private concerns in life, we suppose that they are. beneath his notice and inspection. This latter is a temptation from the devil; and such I hope I shall make it appear in the following treatise.
Another reason why I have written this book is, that the word of God abounds with many similar circumstances of the divine providence of God; such as, changing the colour of Jacob's flocks and herds; the Lord making Abraham rich
in cattle; feeding the prophet by a raven; multiplying the widow's oil and meal; sending the apostles out without purse or scrip; feeding Israel in the wilderness with manna; and cutting off that rich glutton Nabal, in order to relieve poor hungry David. All these are striking instances of God's tender regard for the poor of his flock.
I shall only treat of what hath occurred in the course of my own experience, of which things many of you are living witnesses. And may God bless the work for the encouragement of his children's faith, patience, and watchfulness. To this end I shall descend to the most minute circumstances, in order to shew the narrow inspection of God into the affairs of those who put their trust in him.
I am aware of the reproach that will be cast upon such a work, as also upon the author; but this doth in no wise concern me: I only wish that I were as free from every sin as I am from the carnal fear of man; I believe I should then shortly preach up sinless perfection. If we preachers get proud, worldly, and lifeless, we generally fall into disesteem with the most lively Christians; and, if the presence of God doth not keep up our reputation among these righteous ones, we generally begin to undermine the reputation of those who cleave closer to God than ourselves; and endeavour to establish a character upon the ruins of other men's reputation; and, while we are carrying on this business, God sets others to undermine
ours; as ye mete, so shall it be measured to you again, Mark iv. 24. This is God's balance. And the wise man's appeal to conscience is, “Also take no heed unto all words that are spoken, lest thou hear thy servant curse thee; for oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others."
The first little treatise which I wrote was condemned by many, who at the same time never understood it; but God blessed it to several souls, to their happy deliverance; and if God sets his seal to it, we have no cause to look to the approbation of any other. When the Skeleton first appeared, the complaint was, that it was written in a bad spirit; the divinity was tolerable, but the spirit was bad. Sound divinity and zeal for God, flowing from a bad spirit, is like the old contradiction we read of, How can Satan cast out Satan? However, although there were many who condemned it in private, yet I rejoice; because several of them plundered the very bowels of it to preach in public. I should like to see a treatise upon the operations of the Holy Ghost, written by some of those who are infallible; and then I should know, according to their views, how far that blessed Spirit ought to go in his operations, and where he ought to stop, according to their decree. If Elijah was on earth, I believe he would be loaded with as many reproaches of uncharitableness as I have been. But why should I wonder at this, when Christ himself was accused by the doctors
of old of preaching and working under the influence of a bad spirit! They said that he cast out devils by Beelzebub the prince of devils. I would caution these infallible gentlemen, however, not to be too hasty in ascribing a work which God owns and blesses to the dictates of an evil spirit, lest haply they be found even to fight against God the Holy Ghost. I much question if they are very well acquainted with that blessed Spirit's tuition; for, if they were, they would not talk at that rate. Natural affections are often mistaken for the operations of the Spirit of God: but Christ sharply rebuked Peter for savouring the things of men more than the things of God. And I know that all the affections of nature are contra-distinguished from the influences or fruits of the Spirit, by one who is an infallible Judge. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again." The new man must come forth, and the old man must be crucified throughout.
I own that natural affections are some of the best rags of fallen nature; but, as they are natural, they must not be mistaken for, nor coupled with, the Holy Ghost. All mortality shall be swallowed up of life, when he who only hath immortality shall appear. Therefore make not that your celestial covering which is to be no more than your grave clothes. All these cloths and napkins must be wrapt together by themselves when Christ
mystical shall awake and sing; for we hope to be delivered from the whole body of sin and death; because it is under this we groan, being burthened. Some, indeed, have no brighter views of heaven than Mahomet in his alcoran. I speak this to their shame; for some professors are ready to repeat the old inquiry. How are the dead raised up? and with what Crop of natural affections do they come? To whom I answer, The old, the natural, grain must entirely die, that the new and spiritual harvest may take place. And that (the seed, which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain."
However, God hath blessed the Skeleton to many souls, which satisfies me. And, whether men approve or disapprove of the work, it matters not: for I find by history that the book of the Revelations, written by John the Divine, though it contains a certain and full prediction of all future events both in churches and states, and a concise recapitulation of all past occurrences, was almost universally rejected by infallible prelates in the primitive church of Christ, though Christ sent his angels to testify it to them, they being wise above what was written, though perhaps too ignorant to understand the writing; therefore it was kept out of the church as uncanonical. St. Jude's epistle too, appearing such a foe to universal charity, as well as to spots in their feasts of charity, and other counterfeit errors, and being expressive of so much zeal and warmth for God's