Zeal an Essential Virtue of a Christian

Preached in April 1740 during the Second Great Awakening, this sermon is available at The Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University. Edwards' original manuscript can be seen and studied at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The first page is pictured here:

The entire sermon has been reproduced below with a few minor aesthetic edits for an online environment.

Zeal an Essential Virtue of a Christian


Titus 2:14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.


What I now intend from these words leads me especially to observe three things in 'em:


1. A certain virtue or good quality, viz. a being zealous of good works.


2. We may take notice that this virtue is mentioned as part of the description of those that belong to Christ's invisible church. The people that are redeemed by Christ from all iniquity, and that Christ purifies to himself and that are his peculiar people, are deciphered by this: that they are zealous of good works. This is here mentioned as a main part of their character, and that by which they are distinguished from others.


3. I would observe how much Christ has done that his people might be endowed with this virtue. He gave himself for them to this end. So great a regard had he to such a qualification in his chosen people, so much did he seek to have a people of such a character, that he gave himself, offered up himself a sacrifice to divine justice to make way for their being possessed of it.


Therefore the doctrine that I would now observe from the words is this:


Doctrine.


Zeal is an essential virtue of a Christian.


This is evident from the text because, in the text, it is mentioned as what belongs to [the] description of a true Christian and part of his distinguishing character; and also because 'tis mentioned as a virtue that Christ purchased for all his elect and, not only so, but one great and main thing that he aimed at in that sacrifice which he made of himself whereby they were purchased.


Zeal is a word often used, and persons are often spoken of as being zealous persons, and very commonly 'tis understood, in an ill sense. And such an idea is very commonly annexed to the word as carries in it weakness and pride, superstition and anger. And probably most persons have no distinct notion of what is meant by it, and the notion that they have is a disadvantageous one. The word is so often used to signify some weak and improper heat and vehemence of mind that it scarcely adds anything to the goodness of any person's character, in the eyes of most, to hear it said of him that he is a zealous man, but rather detracts from it.


But yet we, from time to time, find zeal recommended in Scripture and spoken of as a Christian qualification; and whatever disadvantageous notions persons may have of zeal through the abuse of words, yet that zeal which the Scripture recommends is indeed a noble and excellent qualification. To be zealous in this sense is to be one of an amiable and divine character, and 'tis one thing wherein the excellency of pure Christian virtue does very much appear. To be a zealous man in the Scripture sense of the word is an excellent character of anyone; it has nothing unlovely or unsuitable in it, and is not only very commendable but essential in a true Christian.


To clear up this point, I would:


I. Describe this virtue, or show what it is.

II. Give the reasons why it is to be looked upon as an essential qualification of a Christian.


1. I would show what is true Christian zeal.


Christian zeal is a fervent disposition, an affection of mind in prosecuting that which is for God's glory and in opposing those things that are against it. This affection or disposition of mind is called zeal principally from its fervor or ardency, whereby 'tis like an inward heat or flame in the soul. It might have [been] defined more briefly: a fervent disposition or affection of mind in pursuing the glory of God. For God's pleasure and glory are the principal object of the exercises of this virtue, and, next to that, the means of pleasing and glorifying God, either the prosecution of those things that lead to, or the removal of the hindrances of it.


But to give a more clear and distinct notion of this excellent quality of mind, I would more particularly describe it by showing what affections are exercised in it, and the manner of their exercise, and the acts in which this virtue exerts itself. As to the—


First, viz. the affections in which true Christian zeal has its seat, or which are exercised in it:


1. That affection that is principal in this virtue is love. Zeal is an inward heat or fervency of spirit, and love is the flame whence that heat comes. This is the fire that fills the soul with that holy fervor that is called zeal. Love to God and Christ, divine love, is the foundation of all those other affections that are exercised in Christian zeal. Divine love is an active principle. It is fire from heaven [and] may be compared to an holy flame kindled in the soul by a beam from thence. No man is truly zealous without it. It is the spirit that animates and actuates the truly zealous man. He that is zealous from any other principle than love, his zeal is no Christian zeal; it is of a spurious kind. It is nothing amiable; it is a vice and not a virtue. The Psalmist expressed a great love to God when he said, Psalms 119:139, “My zeal hath consumed me, because mine enemies have forgotten thy words.” And so did Phinehas in that act of which God speaks in Numbers 25:11-13, “he was zealous for my sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy. Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace: and he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel.”


2. From love to God arises a desire that he may be glorified. One way in which love is exercised in zeal, is desire that this God that is so beloved may be pleased, that his will may be done, that his commands may be obeyed, that his name may be glorified, that he may be feared, that he may be loved, that men may be holy as he is holy and that his kingdom may be advanced, and that everything that is against these things may be removed. The Apostle joins vehement desire and zeal together in 2 Corinthians 7:11, “yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal.”


3. There is in zeal an aversion to what is contrary to God's command and glory. From that love, which is the principal thing in Christian zeal and the foundation of all the rest that is in it, arises hatred. There is both love and hatred exercised in zeal, the love of God and hatred of sin; hatred of those things that God hates, a hatred of what is against the interest and reputation of religion and opposes the flourishing of Christ's kingdom.


4. Another affection that is exercised in Christian zeal is a spirit of jealousy for God. Zeal and jealousy in the original of the New Testament are the same word. He that has a spirit of true Christian zeal is jealous for the cause of Christ. If it at any time be injured, a spirit of jealousy is excited in him. And when the interest of religion is touched, his heart is touched and he is shocked and alarmed.


5. Another affection that is exercised in true zeal is courage, a spirit of fortitude in enervating the difficulties that are in the way of doing God's will and the enemies that oppose his glory.


Second. As to the manner wherein these affections are exercised in true zeal, it is with ardor or fervency of spirit. That divine love which is the main thing in Christian zeal is a powerful principle. 'Tis a fire kindled in the soul by the active sunbeams of the sun of righteousness. That desire that there is, that God's will should be done and his name glorified, is no faint but an ardent desire. That hatred there is to sin in Christian zeal, and the aversion there is to whatever is against God's glory, has a vehemence [in] it. That jealousy by which they are jealous for the Lord of hosts is also an ardent affection that alarms the soul and awakens its active principles. There is also a fervor of and in those, [a] holy fortitude and courage that is exercised in the heart of him that is zealous with a truly Christian zeal.


Third. As to the acts in which this virtue exerts itself: in one word, it is in pursuing the glory of God. 'Tis not all holy fervency of spirit that is properly intended by zeal, but it is a holy fervor of mind as it relates to practice only, or the pursuit of the glory of God, as those things that are well-pleasing to him. And therefore 'tis a being “zealous of good works,” as the expression is in the text. There are many examples of true love to God and fervent love to God that don't properly come within the signification of this term; as for instance, love to God as exercised in delight and complacence and contentment in him, in rejoicing in a view of glory, of his glory, or communion with him and tasting the sweetness of his love. These things are not properly called zeal. But 'tis love with respect to that exercise of it that there is in pursuing his glory that is called zeal.


So 'tis not all truly gracious and ardent desires after God {that are properly called zeal, and so 'tis not all truly gracious and ardent desires} after the enjoyment of God {that are properly called zeal}; but 'tis an ardent desire to do something whereby God may be pleased and honored. So the hatred of sin and the jealousy for God's honor that is properly comprehended in zeal is exercised in opposing sin and that which is opposite to God's glory. So the courage and fortitude that is in zeal relates to action, that action that is in pursuing God's glory.


And these acts that zeal is exercised in are of two kinds:


1. A prosecuting that which tends to promote God's glory, as when a person exercises a fervency of spirit in doing good works, in loving and glorifying God ourselves, or to promote such things in others. Which appears in an ardent disposition of mind in promoting not only the worship of God but also the good of men. So the zeal of the Corinthians, argued in their deeds of charity (2 Corinthians 9:2). [And the] good of men's souls; so here Epaphras, Colossians 4:12-13. In one word, [zeal appears in] a fervency of spirit that good may be done for God's and Christ's sake, either to do it ourselves or to promote others' doing of it, whether this good be what immediately respects the honor of God, or nextly concerns the good.


2. It appears in a fervency of spirit in opposing those thing that are against God's honor. So it was that Phinehas manifested his zeal when he took the javelin, for which God did so greatly reward him [Numbers 25:7-13]. So also Christ's zeal was exercised when he drove the buyers and sellers. Matthew 21:12-13, “And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, and said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.” And also when he looked round about 'em with anger.


Having thus shown what true zeal is, I proceed now, in the—


II. [Second] place, [to show] that [zeal] is an essential virtue of a Christian—


insomuch that, not only is true zeal a noble attainment of a Christian, but he that is not a zealous Christian is not allowed in Scripture to be any true Christian. For,


First, this is the qualification principally by which true Christians are distinguished from those that are lukewarm. The Scripture distinguishes mankind into three sorts: those that are cold, who are those that have no appearance or show of religion and are not to be looked upon as visible Christians; and those that are hot, i.e. those that are true Christians, that are fervent in spirit, serving the Lord, that have within them that holy ardor and engagedness of mind in religion that has been spoken of; and those that are lukewarm, that is, those that make a profession of religion and have some show of religion, but are not thorough in it, are cold, dull, and lifeless, are an indifferent sort of professor, have no great concern about the honor of God and interest of religion, who are not true Christians and never will be accepted of Christ as some of his if they continue. For we may observe that, of those three, those that are most abominable to Christ are those that are lukewarm, that ben't zealous Christians. Revelation 3:15-16, “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth.” The lukewarm Christians are more hateful to Christ than the openly profane, than the very heathen that make no pretenses to religion. Christ declares expressly that he had rather men should be quite cold than only lukewarm. “I would,” says he, “that thou were cold or hot.” As the stomach nauseates lukewarm water more than either cold or hot, so doth Christ abominate lukewarm Christians that are destitute of Christian zeal in religion.


Second. This is one thing wherein the power of godliness appears and wherein it differs from the form of it. These two are spoken of by the Apostle in 2 Timothy 3:5, the one as being peculiar to true Christians, the other common to hypocrites with them.


Sincere grace is a powerful principle in the soul, and the power of it appears partly in the nature of its actings. It is no dull, inactive, ineffectual thing. There is an holy ardency and vigor in the actings of grace. It is a kind of inward spiritual fire in the soul, and therefore when a man is converted and God pours out his Holy Spirit upon him, he is said in Scripture language to be baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire. There is an inexpressible ardor of soul when true grace is in exercise, so that the hearts of the saints do as it were burn within them. Luke 24:32, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?”


And this holy ardor that is in the exercises of true grace rises not in men by contemplation and enjoyment, but has respect to practice. It seeks the glory of God. It struggles after those means that tend to promote it and against those things that do oppose. And so it has the nature of zeal.


He that experiences the power of godliness at times finds within himself breathings and longings of soul— not only after more of a sight of God and more of an enjoyment of him but also holiness and conformity to God— such as have a strength and such a peculiar sort of inward vigor as other desires have not. They sometimes cause the soul to pant after God, and occasion a vehement struggle against sin.


And even in them that have comparatively small degrees of grace, yet God is wont sometimes so far to quicken the principle as to let the powerful nature of it appear in some measure.


There is something in the vigor of the actings of true grace that is inimitable and inexpressible, that does properly show that there is an omnipotent agent at work in the soul of a godly man. This makes true Christians zealous in prosecuting those things that tend to God's glory and opposing what is against, whereas others, that have only the form of godliness without the power of it, are indifferent, lifeless and lukewarm with respect to these things.


Third. An indifferent and lukewarm spirit does in no wise become the nature of divine objects. Divine objects are infinitely great, immensely surpassing all temporal things in their importance and excellency. When God gives men true grace and rightly disposes their hearts with respect to divine things, he will give 'em such kind of dispositions and affections towards them as do in some measure become their nature and importance. Hence Christ says, he that loves father and mother more than him is not worthy {of him}; he that loves son or daughter {more than him is not worthy of him}; he that takes up {not his cross, and followeth not after him, is not worthy of him}; that is, he that has no other affection towards him than such an one as falls below, or at least is not above, his affection to any temporal objects or enjoyments, his affection and respect is in no wise becoming its object and so will never be accepted [Matthew 10:37-38]. And therefore he says elsewhere that he that comes to him and hates not his father, {and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, cannot be his disciple} (Luke 14:26).


But here a question or objection may arise, which I will now take occasion to speak something to. The


Objection is this: viz. How can it be necessary that men, in order to a being true Christians, should love God above all things else in the world, when we are so often taught that true Christians have so little grace and so much corruption? We are often taught that grace in this life is but an infant state, that grace is but as a spark, faith but as a grain of mustard seed, but that men carry about with them a load of sin, a body of sin and death. His corruption, which is so great, inclines him to love the world and make that his happiness, and, if there be so much of it and so little grace, how can it be that all truly godly men should love God more than the world?


I answer:


Answer 1. 'Tis from the nature of the Object loved rather than the degree of the principle in the lover. The Object beloved is of supreme excellency, of a loveliness immensely above all. Worthy he is to be chosen, pursued, and cleaved to, and delighted in, far above all. And he that truly loves him, loves him as seeing this superlative, seeing of it as superlative, and as being convinced that it is far above all. Though a man has but a faint discovery of the glory of God, yet if he has any true discovery of him, so far as he is discovered he sees this; he is sensible that he is worthy to be loved far above all. The Spirit of God is a Spirit of truth, and if he makes any true discovery of God it must be a discovery of him as lovely above all. If such an excellency is not discovered, there is no divine excellency discovered, for the notion of divine excellency is superlative, supreme excellency.


Now that wherein a godly man may be said to love God above all seems to be no more than what immediately and necessarily follows from a sight of this supreme excellency. Though it may be a comparatively faint discovery, yet 'tis a convincing discovery. Hence God must be above all in his esteem: for to be convinced that he is more excellent than all, is in fact to esteem him above all.


And so He must be above all in his choice, for the choice follows the esteem. And hence also it will follow that God is above all in his purpose and resolutions. He cleaves to the Lord with purpose of heart and so, in the sense of the scripture, with his whole heart.


Though there may be but little of the principle of love, yet the principle that there is, being built on such a conviction, will be of this nature, viz. to prize God above all. There may be an endless variety of degrees of the principle, but the nature of the object is unalterable. Therefore if there be a discovery of the object, whether in a greater or lesser degree, if that discovery be true and agreeable to the nature of the object, the nature of the principle that is the effect of the discovery will answer the nature of the object. And so it will evermore be the nature of it to prize God above all, though there may be but little of such a principle.


2. Another way whereby grace is predominant in the soul of a saint, is by virtue of that covenant of grace and the promises of God on which Christian grace relies, and which engages God's strength and assistance to be on its side and to help it against its enemy, which would otherwise be overpowered.


Where God infuses grace, he will give it a predominancy by his upholding of it and time after time giving it the victory, when it seemed for a time to be overborne and ready to be swallowed. This is not owing to our strength but the strength of God, who won't forsake the work of his hands, and will carry on his work when he has begun it, and always causeth us to triumph in Christ Jesus, who is the author and has undertaken to be the finisher of our faith.


I conclude with a


Fourth and last reason why zeal is an essential virtue of a Christian, viz. that that affection that is short of this don't agree with the work that a Christian has to do. The work that a Christian is called to is the work of a soldier; 'tis a warfare. He is not called to sleep but to conflict with principalities and powers and the rulers of the darkness of this world, with spiritual wickedness in high places. He is called to take heaven by violence and to obtain the prize by conquest.


And therefore 'tis absolutely necessary that he should want the spirit of a soldier. A lukewarm soldier is never like to obtain the victory; he won't take strong cities and win crowns and kingdoms.


The Scripture tells us of no other way of getting to heaven but by running, and fighting, and obtaining of it as it were by conquest.


And therefore there is no other disposition or spirit that will carry us there but a spirit of zeal, an inward ardency of mind to excite us to acquit ourselves like men in the race and in the battle. Though God will assist those that trust in him and overcome difficulties for them, yet he won't assist the lukewarm and indifferent, but the fervent, the vigorous and active; nor will he assist any so but that they shall have occasion and exercise for their vigor and zeal. He by his assistance will carry men to heaven though all opposing, but he won't carry 'em so that they shall [have] no occasion to run; nor will he so fight for them but that their faith and zeal shall be tried in the battle.


Application.


Use I. Of Examination:


If it be thus, this should put persons on examining themselves whether or no they are possessed of this virtue. Have you a fervency of spirit for God's being served and honored? Have you a holy ardor of soul to prosecute those things that tend to advance the interest of religion, and in opposing those things that are against it? Do you find within you ardent desires that true holiness may be promoted in your own soul, that sin may be weakened and mortified there, and that grace may flourish, that you may be a more holy, humble, heavenly Christian, may be of a more excellent spirit, and may walk more closely with God? And do you also experience fervent desires that true religion, real Christian piety of heart and conversation, may flourish among others in the place where you live, in the land and in the world?


And are you one that is jealous for the Lord of hosts? Does that which wounds the interest of religion touch the apple of your eye? Are you grieved for the men that sin against God?


Have you an aversion of spirit against such things that wound the church of God and detract from the honor of Christ's name in the world? And have you a spirit of courage and fortitude to bear and go through difficulties for God?


Or does not the epithet of lukewarm properly belong to you? Are you not of a very indifferent spirit about the interest of religion, not much concerned whether it flourishes or not, not much moved at the sight of its wounds nor much pleased when you see or hear anything of its prosperity; not much concerned at religion's being at a low ebb in your own heart any otherwise than only as it makes you something afraid whether your hope be right, and so whether your soul won't miscarry at last, but otherwise feel no fervent desires after any increase of holiness in your heart or conversation?


When anything is proposed that has a tendency to advance religion, don't you find a cold and backward or, at least, a very indifferent spirit on such occasions?


Are you not one in whom there commonly prevails a spirit of objecting against those things that tend to the good of Christ's church by any expense or difficulty with them?


And particularly inquire whether or no you are a man that is of a spirit to prefer the interests of religion above your own private interest. How often and how plainly has Christ told us that this is necessary, that we should love him above father or mother {wife or children, brethren or sisters, and our own lives also}, yea, should hate {father and mother, wife and children, brethren and sisters, and our own lives also}, should sell {all that we have}? These sayings of Christ signify something. They are neither false nor mere insignificant sentences, words without a meaning, or carrying no such thing in them as they seem to signify. One would wonder how it is possible for men that have a vastly greater regard for their private, temporal interest, for the flourishing of their efforts for the upholding and advancing their reputation, for maintaining their interest among men and gaining these and those worldly designs, than they have for the flourishing of the kingdom of Christ or the credit and interest of religion— I say one would wonder how such make it out to maintain their hope and opinion of themselves as true Christians with such scriptures as these just now mentioned staring of 'em in the face.


But men will do anything with the Scripture to uphold a false hope. They will twist and use it as if it were a nose of wax, turn it any way that suits 'em, put the most violent glosses upon it rather than let go a false hope. This is the manner of lukewarm Christians and those professors that are destitute of a true zeal for good works.


It may be many will be ready to say that they are not lukewarm but are zealous persons, and so be ready to conclude that the character of that peculiar people which Christ has purchased to himself belongs to them.


But it is not sufficient that you can determine that you are a zealous person, but you must inquire whether your zeal be a truly Christian zeal.


'Tis not all zealous persons that are truly Christians, nor is it all those that are zealous with a religious zeal. The Jews, that were the enemies of Christ and the apostles, as the apostle Paul bears record of them, had a “zeal of God,” i.e. a religious zeal (Romans 10:2). And the Apostle himself, while he was a persecuter, had such a zeal, as he says of himself, Acts 22:3, “I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city of Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous towards God, as ye all are this day.”


So Saul of old, though he was a wicked man, yet in some things was very zealous. He manifested a great zeal against witchcraft. And so it is said of him, 2 Samuel 21:2, that Saul sought to slay the Gibeonites in his zeal for the children of Israel and Judah. So Jehu boasted of his zeal, 2 Kings 10:16. He says to Jehonadab, the son of Rechab, “Come with me and see my zeal for the Lord.”


Therefore I would mention some things by which a true Christian zeal may be known, and whereby it is distinguished from a false zeal.


There is a zeal that is no virtue at all but rather a vice, though it puts on a religious mask. There is a zeal that does no good, but is a mischievous principle. It renders men very uncomfortable to those about them and greatly wounds the interest of religion instead of promoting it, and makes persons sometimes even ridiculous in their behavior.


First. A true Christian zeal is a zeal according to knowledge. Every true grace has its foundation in light. What is counterfeit has its foundation in darkness. In false zeal there is heat but without light, which a certain author says is like hell fire. But Christian zeal is fire from heaven. 'Tis a holy flame in which light and heat, burning and shining, go together. 'Tis first kindled in the soul by a ray of light shining down from heaven into the heart.


The false zeal of the Jews is said not to be according to knowledge. False zeal is without light in several respects. It is without any spiritual knowledge of God, and oftentimes is founded on mistakes and delusions and is directed without discretion. A false zeal is often for those things that ben't worthy to be the objects or matter of zeal. 'Tis often for those things that are evil, being falsely supposed to be good. So is the zeal of the papists and of Mohametans, and so was the zeal of the Jews of old. They were exceeding zealous of the traditions of their fathers.


Sometimes men's zeal is spent on trifles, things of such little importance that they are not worthy of their zeal. So was the zeal of the Pharisees, who were so zealous about their philactering and tithing mint, anise, and cumin, and the mere circumstantials of religion, while they neglected the weightier matters of the law.


A true zeal is about those things that are in themselves good. Galatians 4:18, “'Tis good to be zealously affected always in a good thing.”


'Tis the truth, and not errors that are falsely supposed to be truths. 'Tis a zeal for good works and not superstitious practice. It is guided by the doctrines and precepts of the Word of God and it is chiefly exercised about those things that are of the greatest importance, and proportionably less about things of lesser importance.


A true zeal is no rash, inconsiderate zeal. It seeks an end that is good and worthy to be pursued and it is employed in pursuing that end by suitable and proper means. Proverbs 8:12, “I wisdom dwell with prudence.” Psalms 112:5, “a good man will guide his affairs with discretion.” Not but that a godly man that has really a Christian zeal may, in the exercise of his zeal, be subject to some mistakes. But yet this evermore is predicable of true zeal: that it has its foundation in light and is guided by spiritual wisdom, making the instructions and directions of the Word of God its rule.


Second. A man rightly zealous exercises his zeal in the first place against his own sins. He is zealous to oppose sin in others, to oppose what is against the kingdom of God in the world. But his zeal don't begin there; it begins at home and is employed against the enemies of God and the opposers of the interest of religion in his own heart. He is one that has seen himself to be an enemy to God and has treated himself as such an one. He is zealous to suppress and mortify those vile and abominable dispositions which he sees in him. He sees great occasion for zeal in what he sees of his own wickedness, which very much employs it and makes a great deal of work for his zeal.


This is that zeal that [God] so directs the church of Laodicea to. Revelation 3:19, “Be zealous therefore, and repent.” That zeal that is exercised in repentance of sin is exercised against men's own sins, in opposing and renouncing them. So it was such a zeal that the Apostle commends the Christian Corinthians for. 2 Corinthians 7:10-11, “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge!”


When men are full of zeal and indignation against the sins of others and at the same time have but little to do at home, find little to employ their zealous opposition against them; and while they seem strenuous in speech and behavior to oppose others' iniquities and all the while indulge themselves in the same things as others as bad, and are careless and quiet in their own wickedness: their zeal will serve to no other purpose but their condemnation. Their great Judge shall condemn them as those that are self-condemned, Romans 2:1-03, “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?” And v. Romans 2:21.


Third. A truly Christian zeal is such as is attended with humility. This naturally follows from what was but now mentioned of zeal's being exercised in the first place against our own sins.


A true zeal is not a proud or an ostentatious zeal. They that are possessed of it don't fiercely oppose those things that they account evil in others from a disposition to exalt themselves, and depreciate others, and set themselves off as much better than they. They don't zealously oppose them out of a proud conceit of their own judgment and fondness for their own ways, as though it were a great crime for anyone to presume to differ from them or to take any liberties that they are denied.


There is a sort of zeal that is the fount of pride and is most hot and fierce in the proudest men. Such a zeal there was of old in the proud Pharisees, and such a zeal there is in the proud, persecuting, Romish clergy.


But a true Christian zeal, even when most warm and most engaged, is attended with humility and is in no wise inconsistent with it. It is attended with no self-exaltation but, on the contrary, a low self-depression.


Fourth. A true zeal is not inconsistent with a spirit of love and meekness. A false zeal is commonly a spiteful zeal, attended with prejudice against men's persons and a fierceness and wrathful heat of spirit.


But it is far otherwise with a true zeal. As was said before, love to God is the main thing in it, the principal affection that is in exercise. 'Tis the very flame whence that kind of heat that is in zeal arises, and from love to God naturally arises, and Christian love to men. And therefore there is nothing in true zeal inconsistent with a spirit of love, no bitterness or heat of spirit of a contrary nature to a fervent, hearty Christian charity. True zeal is not against men but against sin— their sin earnestly opposed but their persons fervently loved.


Herein it greatly differs from a persecuting zeal, such as the apostle Paul had while a Pharisee. Philippians 3:6, “Concerning zeal, persecuting the church of God.” A true zeal is attended with meekness, not with high, unchristian resentments. It stirs not up persons to a fierce way of pursuing its end. The weapons of its warfare are not carnal but spiritual. They are not reproachful reflections and angry speeches but fervent prayers and earnest, but yet meek, endeavors to suppress iniquity and to promote holiness.


Men may be thus zealous and yet not the less like lambs in meekness, not the less like the blessed Jesus, the Lamb of God who, though he was meek and lowly of heart, yet manifested a fervent zeal against the sin of men.


Use II may be Of Exhortation:


To exhort persons to be zealous in religion. Don't content yourself with a dead form of religion, when your heart is but little engaged in it, under a notion that your first work is right. A right first work always has this effect: it leaves in persons an abiding principle of holy zeal in religion. The first work is only kindling up the fire in the soul, which fire is like the fire in the altar that came from heaven that never goes out, and not only never goes out but increases.


He that is converted is said to be baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire. That principle of grace that is then imparted to him is of the nature of fire in this respect: that as when you put a little fire into the midst of much fuel, the fire will increase, it will kindle more and more till the whole be in a flame.


'Tis with spiritual heat as 'tis with spiritual light— it increases more and more. Christ himself has taught us that “the kingdom of heaven is like a leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened” (Matthew 13:33). 'Tis so not only with the kingdom of God in this world, but also the kingdom of God in heaven. Though grace may at first be but as a little leaven, yet by degrees it will leaven the whole lump.


As 'tis said of him that is born of God, that his seed abideth in him [1 John 3:9]; so may it be said of that holy fire from heaven put into his soul in conversion, that it abides in him and doubtless will be felt in the effects of it in the heart from time to time.


A dead form of godliness without the power of it, a lifeless attendance on the externals without zeal, will be wholly unprofitable and vain. It can serve to no other purpose but only to nourish a false comfort and establish the soul in carnal security. The comfort that such lukewarm Christians have is like to last them but a little while; it won't avail 'em on a deathbed, when the soul shall go naked out of the world to appear before its great Judge.


But further to stir you up to seek this virtue, consider particularly:


First. How dishonorable to God is a cold and indifferent spirit in his service. How unbecoming is it of God's infinite greatness and glorious perfections, and that absolute right which God hath to us and to the utmost that our nature is capable of in his service. How unsuitable is such a spirit in those that have been the subjects of so much of God's goodness as we have been, and that hope to be saved by the dying love of Christ. How dishonorably do they behave themselves towards a Being of infinite glory and mercy, who are commonly backward to do much to put themselves to much difficulty in his service, and whose manner it is to give way to an objecting spirit, having their hearts more earnestly and zealously going out after their farms and merchandise than after Christ and his benefits, being much more concerned what they shall eat, {or what they shall drink, or for their bodies, what they put on [Matthew 6:25]}, than that Christ's kingdom may be advanced in the world.


Second. How men are wont to resent coldness and indifference in those that profess friendship to them. That, lukewarm Christians manifest towards God. If there be any that have professed an high esteem of us, and have gone so far as to profess a preference of us in their affections to all others in the world: but when it comes to a trial, and we stand in particular need of their help, we commonly find 'em very dull and backward, loath [to] put themselves anything out of their way to help us, more regarding their own slothful ease a great deal than our good; and we find that when our name suffers, they seem too easy to see it reproached and trampled on, can stand by and behold it and be very little moved; and find that they fail us time after time when we stand in special need of them by reason of our suffering circumstances in one respect or another; and when we earnestly desire their good offices find that they are difficultly persuaded, are from time to time full of their excuses and objections: will men much value such friends and have any great regard to their high professions of love and friendship? Yea, won't common prudence teach them to have no dependence at all on them? And won't men abhor such false friends as these and nauseate their flattering pretenses? Men love warm and hearty friends that will stand by them and not fail them in time of need, that will be ready to exert themselves for their sakes; but detest those of a contrary character. Such friends as these, men are wont to value; but those of a contrary character they are wont to abhor. How much more cause is there that God should abhor dull, backwards, lukewarm professors of friendship to him, who is infinitely more worthy that we should love him with all our hearts and all our souls and all our strength than men can be of the love one of another. No wonder that God is ready to spew such kind of lukewarm friends out of his mouth.


Third. Let us consider what a shame it will be if we are lukewarm in God's service, considering how zealous men commonly are in serving themselves and in the pursuit of the world. The way in which men commonly serve Mammon is not to serve it with backwardness and indifferency, [but] with great warmth and zeal. In this affair, the world in general acts as though it was alive. Such is the zeal of mankind in pursuing their worldly good, that the world is kept exceeding busy by it by sea and land.


Men ben't only willing to do some small things for6 their worldly interest, but they are so zealous that great things are done. Great things are done by particular persons. Men's zeal for the world prompts 'em to many great enterprises, and one after another.


And great things are done by states and kingdoms. Bloody wars are engaged in; multitudes venture their lives, and run upon the points of the swords of their enemies and go up before the mouths of their cannon, and much blood is spilt. The world is kept as it were in a continual tumult with this sort of zeal, yea, and often has been turned upside down by it. And though it has often cost men dear, yet they are not weary, but still continue their pursuit.


They don't only show their zeal for the world by their activity and labor in the pursuit of it, but by exercising their wit and invention. How many ways are devised by men to get the world? How many schemes are laid? How are [projects] multiplied? They labor hard in the day time and the night is, much of it, spent in contriving. This is the subject of man's study alone, and this is what they consult about and enter in plots and combinations about one with another. How do men unite their strength and wit to this end, that they may get much of the world.


Men are not wont to seek the world only by fits and starts, but they are constant and continual in it. They don't esteem their whole lives too long to be spent in laboring and striving after it.


They don't do it only during some remarkable seasons, but at all times.


Times of great concerning and striving about the things of religion commonly are of short continuance, and then they die away. But the world always continues in a great stir about the things of the world. This is constant. There is no need of ministers earnestly preaching, crying aloud, laboring and spending their strength to bring it to pass. Men need nothing to stir 'em up; they fall onto it of themselves by the strong propensity of their own natures. Times of remarkable stirring about the things of religion are not to be found at all but in a few places. 'Tis but here and there a people in whom any such thing is ever to be found. And in those places where there sometimes are such stirrings, they are but rare. They come once in a great while and then quickly cease. But {there is always a great stir about the things of the world}.


Men show their zeal for the world by their hearts being so tender with respect to things {of the world}, so quick to feel {their importance}, so easily moved {by them}, so jealous {for them and} apt to be alarmed [about them]. And by pressing forward without discouragement, [they] never give out, whatever difficulties and disappointments {they may find in their way}. Now what a shame [it] will be if the servants of Mammon [are so zealous] and you [are so loath to pursue the things of religion]. Yea, let the consideration of your lives' engagedness after the world stir you. Consider how earnest you are.


Seeing it is thus, how can you expect to [be] owned as a true disciple, a faithful servant of Jesus Christ, if you are lukewarm, dull, and backward, full of excuses and objections in Christ's service?

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