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or walk in the paths that lead to life, I must first be freed and disentangled from these weights and incumbrances that clog and retard me in my spiritual course. I must have my heart cleansed and softened, humbled and converted to God, and all my transgressions purged and pardoned by the merits of my Redeemer. And then, being fully persuaded that there is no way for me to come to the joys of heaven, but by walking according to the strictest rules of holiness upon earth, I must endeavour for the future, by a thorough change and reformation of my life, to act in conformity to the divine will and pleasure in all things, and perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord; for the Most High has told me in his word, that without holiness no man shall see the Lord.
In order, therefore, to qualify myself for this happiness, it will be necessary for me to settle firm and steady resolutions to fulfil my duty, in all the several branches of it, to God, my neighbour, and myself; and to take care these resolutions be put in practice, according to the following method:-
I am resolved, by the grace of God, to walk by rule ; and therefore think it necessary to resolve upon rules to walk by.
AND this the rather, because I perceive the want of such rules has been the occasion of all or most of my miscarriages; for what other reason can I assign to myself for having trifled and sinned away so much time, as I have done in my younger years, but because I did not throughly resolve to spend it better? What is the reason I have hitherto lived so unserviceably to God, so unprofitably to others, and so sinfully against my own soul, but because I did not apply myself with that sincerity of resolution, diligence, and circumspection, as a wise man ought to have done, to discharge my duty in these particulars? I have indeed often resolved to bid. adieu to my sins and follies aud enter upon a new course
of life, but these resolutions being not rightly formed upon steady principles, the first temptation made way for a relapse, and the same bait that first allured me has no sooner been thrown in my way, but I have been as ready to catch at it again and as greedy to swallow it, as ever. At other times again I have acted without any thought or resolution at all; and then, though some of my actions might be good in themselves, yet being done by chance, without any true design or intention, they could not be imputed to me as good, but rather the quite contrary so that in this respect the want of resolution has not only been the occasion of my sinful actions, but the corruption of my good ones too. And shall I still go on in this same loose and careless manner, as I have formerly done? No; I now resolve with myself, in the presence of the most high and eternal God, not only in general to walk by rule, but to fix the rule I design to walk by; so that in all my thoughts, and words, and actions, in all places, companies, relations, and conditions, I may still have a sure guide at hand to direct me ; such a one as I can safely depend upon, without any danger of being deceived or misled, that is, the holy scriptures. And therefore
I am resolved, by the grace of God, to make the divine word the rule of all the rules I propose to myself.
As the will of God is the rule and measure of all that is good, so there is nothing deserves that name but what is agreeable and conformable thereto; and this will being fully revealed and contained in the holy scripture, it will be necessary for me, in directing my course over the ocean of this world, that I should fix my eye continually upon this star, steer by this compass, and make it the only land-mark, by which I am to be guided to my wished-for haven. I must not therefore have recourse to the inward workings of my own roving fancy, or the corrupt dictates of my own carnal reason. These are but blind guides, and will certainly lead me into the ditch of error, heresy, and irreligion, which, in these our
self-admiring days, so many poor souls have been plunged in. Alas! how many hath the impetuous torrent of blind zeal and erroneous conscience borne down into a will-worship, and voluntary subjection of themselves to the spurious offspring of their own deluded fancies! If the light that is within them doth but dictate any thing to be done, or rather, if the whimsy doth but take them that they must do thus or thus, they presently set about it, without ever consulting the sacred writings to see whether it is acceptable to God or displeasing to him. Whereas, for my own part, I know not how any thing should be worthy of God's accepting, that is not of God's commanding. I am sure the word of God is the good old way that will certainly bring me to my Father's house; for how should that way but lead me to heaven, which truth itself has chalked out for me? Not as if it were necessary, that every one of my resolutions should be contained, word for word in the holy scriptures. It is sufficient that they be implied in and agreeable thereto; so that though the manner of my expressions may not be found in the word of God, yet the matter of my resolutions may clearly be drawn from thence. But let me dive a little into the depth of my sinful heart. What is the reason of my thus resolving upon such an exact conformity to the will and word of God? Is it to work my way to heaven with mine own hands? to purchase an inheritance in the land of Canaan with the price of my own holiness and religion? or to swim over the ocean of this world into the haven of happiness, upon the empty bladders of my own resolutions? No:
I am resolved, that as I am not able to think or do any thing that is good without the influence of the divine grace, so I will not pretend to merit any favor from God upon account of any thing I do for his glory
AND indeed I may very well put this resolution amongst the rest; for should I resolve to perform my re solutions by mine own strength, I might as well resolve
never to perform them at all: for truth itself and mine own woful experience have convinced me, that I am not able of myself so much as to think a good thought; and how then shall I be able of myself to resolve upon rules of holiness according to the word of God, or to order my conversation according to these resolutions, without the concurrence of the divine grace? Alas! should the great God be pleased to leave me to myself to resolve upon what is agreeable to my corrupt nature, what 'strange kind of resolutions should I make? What should I resolve upon? Certainly only nothing but to gratify my carnal appetite with sensual and sinful pleasures, to indulge myself in riot and excess, to spend my time and ravel out my parts and talents in the revels of sin and vanity. But now to live soberly, righteously, and godly 'in this present world, to deny my own, that I may fulfil the will of God; alas! such resolutions as these would never so much as come into my thoughts, much less would they” discover themselves in my outward conversation.
But suppose I should be able to make good resolutions and fulfil them exactly in my life and actions, yet what should I do more than my duty? And what should I be esteemed of for doing that? Alas! this is so far from puffing me up, that I am verily persuaded, should I spend all my time, my parts, my strength, my gifts, for God, and all my estate upon the poor-should I water my couch continually with my tears, and fast my body into a skeleton should I employ each moment of my life in the immediate worship of my glorious Creator, so that all my actions, from my birth to my death, should be but one continued act of holiness and obedience—in a word, should I live like an angel in heaven, and die like a saint on earth, yet I know no truer, nor should I desire any better, epitaph to be engraven upon my tomb than this, Here lies an unprofitable servant. No, no; it is Christ, and Christ alone, that my soul must support itself upon. It is holiness indeed that is the way to heaven, but there is uone, none but Christ can lead me to it. As the worst of my sins are pardonable by Christ, so are the best of my duties damnable without him.
But if so, then whither tend my resolutious? Why so
strict, so circumspect a conversation? Why, it is to justify that faith before others, and mine own conscience, which, I hope, through Christ, shall justify my soul before God. And I believe farther, that the holier I live here, the happier I shall live hereafter; for though I shall not be saved for my works, yet I believe I shall be saved according to them. And thus, as I dare not expect to be saved by the performance of my resolutions without Christ's merit, so neither do I ever expect to be enabled to perform my resolutions, without his Spirit assisting me therein.
No; it is thyself, my God and my guide, that I wholly and solely depend upon. Oh! for thine own name's sake, for thy Son's sake, and for thy promise' sake, do thou both make me to know what thou wouldest have me to do, and then help me to do what thou wouldest have me to know! Teach me first what to resolve upon, and then enable me to perform my resolutions; that I may walk with thee in the ways of holiness here, and rest with thee in the joys of happiness hereafter.
RESOLUTIONS CONCERNING MY CONVERSATION IN GENERAL.
HAVING thus far determined in general to form resolutions for the better regulating of my life, I must now descend to particulars, and settle some rules with myself, to resolve my future life and conversation wholly into holiness and religion. I know this is a hard task to do, but I am sure it is no more than what my God and my Father has set me; why therefore should I think much to do it? Shall I grudge to spend my life for him, who did not grudge to spend his own blood for me? Shall not I so live, that he may be glorified on earth, who died, that I might be glorified in heaven? Especially considering, that if my whole life could be sublimated into holiness, and moulded into an exact conformity unto the will of the Most High, I should be happy beyond expression? Oh what a heaven should I then live on earth! What