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Richard Baxter and George Virtue

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Title: A Christian Directory (Volume 1 of 4)
       Christian Ethics

Author: Richard Baxter
        George Virtue

Release Date: December 15, 2012 [EBook #41633]

Language: English

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Soli Deo Gloria Publications
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The Practical Works of Richard Baxter in 4 Volumes
was lithographed from the 1846 edition
published in London by George Virtue.

Volume 1 of The Practical Works of Richard Baxter
ISBN 1-877611-13-1
The 4 volume set The Practical Works of Richard Baxter
ISBN 1-877611-37-9

Second printing 2000

THE
PRACTICAL WORKS
OF

RICHARD
BAXTER

with a preface, giving some account of the author,
and of this edition of his practical works
AN
ESSAY ON HIS GENIUS, WORKS, AND TIMES;
AND A PORTRAIT
IN FOUR VOLUMES
VOLUME 1
Soli Deo Gloria Publications
... for instruction in righteousness ...

A PREFACE,

GIVING

SOME ACCOUNT OF THE AUTHOR,

AND OF

THIS EDITION OF HIS PRACTICAL WORKS.

It is no vain boast, through a fondness of our own nation, but is generally owned by our protestant brethren beyond the seas, that there is no language in which there are more valuable treatises of practical divinity to be met with, than in ours. And perhaps upon the strictest search and comparison, as far as there is any occasion for a decisive judgment, it might be found that there are no writings of that kind among us that have more of a true christian spirit, a greater mixture of judgment and affection, or a greater tendency to revive pure and undefiled religion; that have been more esteemed abroad, or more blessed at home, for the awakening the secure, instructing the ignorant, confirming the wavering, comforting the dejected, recovering the profane, or improving such as are truly serious; than the Practical Works of this author. Many of them have been often reprinted, and are as generally spread through the kingdom as any tracts whatever. Others of them have been printed but once, and are not so commonly known as they deserve. Others are small, and might in time be as good as lost, if not preserved by being joined with the rest of his works. This collection of them is designed for the benefit of the present age, and of posterity; to be a standing monument in our libraries of the unwearied endeavours of one to promote serious godliness in the land; who under a mean education made mighty improvements; who in a crazy body had a most active soul; and in a private sphere had a noble public spirit, that would have filled the most eminent station with advantage. It is also intended for the advantage of ministers and students in divinity, who will here have, at an easy rate, such a treasure of practical divinity as no other part of the christian church can furnish with. And for a help to families, who will here find what may suit them, in all their different relations, capacities, and circumstances, and under that vast variety of providential dispensations in which they may need assistance.

That great man, Bishop Wilkins, was used to say of Mr. Baxter, That if he had lived in the primitive times he had been one of the fathers of the church. What then more fit than a collection of his works, that posterity may be taught to do him justice? It was a great attempt in a time of war; and the going through with it at such a time is a hopeful prognostic, that the God of peace hath blessed ends to serve by it; a subserviency to which cannot but be a matter of comfortable reflection.

It is usual to prefix to collections of this sort, some historical account of the author. This were perhaps as little needful in the case of Mr. Baxter, as of any other that could be mentioned, because of the large account of himself that he left prepared for the press, which has been published since his death in folio; an abridgement of which was afterwards drawn up in octavo, that has been as generally read by persons of all sentiments and persuasions as most narratives of that kind. But that the want of it may not be charged as an unpardonable omission, and that such as have not consulted either of those narratives, may know what sort of person he was that was the author of those works, which after having been long extant separately, are here published together, the following brief account of him is thought fit to be added.

He was a native of Shropshire, and came into the world, Nov. 12, 1615. His family was of some standing in that county, and had made some figure. John Baxter, Esq. in the time of Edward the Fourth, was thrice bailiff of Shrewsbury; and owned a whole street in that town, which with other estates went with a daughter to Mr. Barker, of Hammond, grandfather to Colonel Mildmaye's lady.[Pg i] His nephew Roger married a co-heiress of Richard Leighton, of Leighton, Esq. by whom descended to him several hundreds per annum, of which he was deprived after long law-suits with the heir male. His son William was reduced to the quality of a freeholder, of £60 per annum, but was married to Elizabeth the daughter of Roger Biest, of Atcham Grange, a gentleman of £400 per annum. His son Richard married the daughter of Richard Forrester, of Sutton, of the family of Sir William Forrester, of Watling-street in Shropshire, who was secretary to Bishop Bonner. His son Richard married one of the Adeneys, who were wealthy clothiers in Worcestershire; and he was the father of our Richard, whose fame spread itself throughout the kingdom.

The estate of the family was clogged with debts, which among other inconveniences that attended it, proved a great hinderance in his education. The schoolmasters of his youth, who were such as those parts of the country then afforded, were neither eminent for their learning, nor the strictness of their morals. His greatest help in grammar learning was under Mr. John Owen, master of the free-school at Wroxeter, with whom he continued till he had been some time the captain of his school, and was advanced as far as his assistance would forward him. His friends not being able to support the charge of an academical life, his master Mr. Owen recommended him to Mr. Richard Wickstead, who was chaplain to the council at Ludlow, with whom he spent a year and half. The main advantage he had while he was with him, lay in the free use of his library, which was valuable: and this advantage he improved to his utmost. Afterwards, he went through a course of philosophy, with the assistance of the learned Mr. Francis Garbett, then minister of Wroxeter, who conducted his studies, and much encouraged him: and he was making a hopeful progress, when on a sudden he was diverted.

Being about eighteen years of age, he was persuaded to make trial of a court life, as the most likely way to rise in the world. In order to it, he was sent up to Whitehall, to Sir Henry Herbert, master of the revels. He received him courteously, but could not prevail with him to stay: his inclinations were set quite another way; and Providence had other purposes to serve by him in the world. He returned down into the country, and followed his studies with indefatigable earnestness; and soon made such improvements as amazed those that knew how slender his helps were, and how difficult it is for a man to beat out his way himself. Though he never led an academical life, (which he much desired,) yet by the divine blessing upon his rare dexterity and diligence, his sacred knowledge (as Dr. Bates expressed it in his funeral sermon) was in that degree of eminence, as few in the University ever arrive to.

His early seriousness was remarkable. Dr. Bates tells us, that his father said with tears of joy to a friend, My son Richard I hope was sanctified from the womb; for when he was a little boy in coats, if he heard other children in play speak profane words, he would reprove them, to the wonder of them that heard him. As he grew up, he listened to the instructions and example of his father, and abhorred those profane sports which were common on the Lord's days, in the places where he lived; and while the rest were dancing, he was employed in religious exercises. He betimes loved his Bible, and was afraid of sinning. He loathed the company of scoffers; and loved religion the better for their reproaches. And yet corruption even in him had its sallies in childhood and youth, which he afterwards lamented with great concern and sorrow. But when he was fourteen years of age, upon his reading "Parsons of Resolution," as corrected by Bunny,[1] such impressions were made upon his spirit as never wore off to the day of his death. His bodily weakness kept him afterwards very solicitous about the state of his soul: he read all the practical treatises he could meet with, in order to his direction and satisfaction; and yet was long kept with the calls of approaching death as it were at one ear, and the questionings of a doubtful conscience at the other. The exercise of his spirit was very pressing for a great while; till at length it pleased God to quiet him, by giving him a probability of the safety of his state, though he had not an undoubted certainty. He observes of himself, that though for the greatest part of his life afterwards, he had no such degree of doubtfulness as was any great trouble to him, or procured any sinking, disquieting fears, yet he could not say that he had such a certainty of his own sincerity in grace, as excluded all doubts and fears to the contrary.

From the age of twenty-one, till near twenty-three, his weakness was so great, that he hardly thought it possible he should live above a year; yet being willing to do some good to ignorant and careless sinners before he died, he even then entered into the ministry, and was examined and ordained by the bishop of Worcester, who also gave him a licence to teach school at Dudley, where Mr. Richard Foley, of Stourbridge, had a little before erected a free-school, which he committed to his care.

He owns that when he received orders, he never had read over the Book of Ordination, nor half the Book of Homilies, nor considered the Book of Common Prayer with any exactness, nor weighed[Pg ii] sufficiently some controverted points in the Thirty-nine Articles: and yet having read Downham, and Sprint, and Burgess, he concluded they had the better of the nonconformists, with whom he then had no acquaintance; and being told that they were men of little learning, he concluded they were in the wrong; and having no scruples he freely subscribed as usually. But when after his settlement at Dudley, he came to read Ames's "Fresh Suit against Ceremonies," and other books on that side, he repented his rashness in subscribing so hastily, and grew dissatisfied as to some parts of conformity. He continued there preaching to a numerous auditory with good success for about three quarters of a year, and then removed to Bridgnorth, in Shropshire, where he became assistant to Mr. William Madstard. This removal was the more agreeable to him, because the place being privileged from all episcopal jurisdiction, except the triennial visitation of the archbishop, he was the less in danger of being put upon any part of conformity that he then scrupled. He never baptized with the sign of the cross, nor wore the surplice, (being not satisfied as to either,) and yet came into no trouble. At his first coming hither he was an instrument of the conversion of several to God and a holy life; but was not afterwards so successful here as in other places.

Soon after his settlement here, the et cætera oath put him upon a more close inspection into the English frame of church government, which he thought he had need to be well satisfied in, before he swore he would never consent to an alteration. He read Bucer de Gubernatione Ecclesiæ, Didoclavii Altare Damascenum, Parker de Politeia Ecclesiastica, and Baynes's Diocesan's Trial; and though upon the whole he saw no reason to believe all kind of episcopacy unlawful, he yet was far from so approving the English episcopacy, as to think it lawful to swear he would never consent to have it altered. And he observed upon this occasion, that that oath which was designed unalterably to subject the nation to diocesans, did but set many the more against them; and that instead of ruining the nonconformists, which was intended, it proved a great advantage to them, and inclined many to fall in with them.

The broils in Scotland quickly followed, that were occasioned by the imposing the Common Prayer Book, and English ceremonies. There were great tumults there, and the design was to subdue that nation by force: and at the same time there were great dissatisfactions in England upon the account of ship money, and other impositions that were reckoned illegal. The Scots entering into England, there was a form of prayer to be used against them in all churches, printed by the bishops, though there was no command of the king for it. Mr. Baxter would not use it, at which some were disturbed.

The long parliament upon its being opened, fell directly upon a reformation of church and state. Among other things that were determined, a committee was soon appointed to hear petitions and complaints against such as were scandalous among the clergy. Amongst other complainers the town of Kidderminster, in Worcestershire, had drawn up a petition against their vicar and his two curates as insufficient. The vicar was rather for compounding the business, than suffering the petition to be presented. The living was worth near £200 per annum, out of which he offered to allow £60 per annum to a sufficient preacher, to be chosen by fourteen trustees. They hereupon unexpectedly invited Mr. Baxter to give them a sermon; and upon hearing him, unanimously chose him to be their minister. He accepted their invitation, and settled among them, making this observation, That among all his changes he never went to any place he had before desired, designed, or thought of; but only to those places he never thought of till the sudden invitation did surprise him.

He spent two years at Kidderminster before the civil war broke out, and above fourteen years after, and yet never touched the vicarage house, though authorized by an order of parliament; but the old vicar lived there without molestation. He found the place like a piece of dry and barren earth; ignorance and profaneness as natives of the soil were rife among them: but by the blessing of Heaven upon his labour and cultivating, the face of paradise appeared there in all the fruits of righteousness. At first rage and malice created him much opposition; but it was soon over, and a special divine blessing gave his unwearied pains among that people an unexpected success.

On a day when they had in that town a yearly show, in which they walked about the streets with the painted forms of giants, he was one part of the game of the rabble. Having preached the doctrine of original sin, many railed at him, and represented him as saying that God hated and loathed infants. Thereupon he next Lord's day returned to the same doctrine again; and told them that if their children had no original sin, they had no need of Christ, or of baptism, or of renewing by the Holy Ghost. And after that, they were ashamed and silent. Another time one of the drunken beggars of the town reported, that Mr. Baxter was under a tree with a woman of ill fame. He got some that spread this report bound to their good behaviour; and then he that raised it confessed in court, that he saw Mr. Baxter in a rainy day stand on horseback under an oak in a thick hedge, and the woman mentioned standing for shelter on the other side the hedge, under the same tree, though he believed they saw not one another. They all asked Mr. Baxter forgiveness; and were released. At another time, when the parliament's order came down for demolishing all images of the Persons of the Trinity, the Virgin Mary, &c. in churches, or crosses in church-yards, the churchwarden of the town being about to take down a crucifix upon the cross in the church-yard, the drunken crew took the alarum, and ran with weapons to defend the crucifix. It being reported Mr. Baxter was the actor, they sought for him, and might probably enough have murdered him, had he come in their way. But as Providence ordered it he had taken a walk out of town; and in his return when the hurly-burly was over, he was surprised to hear some of[Pg iii] them curse him at their doors; and quickly understood how fairly he had escaped. The next Lord's day he told them publicly, that seeing they so requited him, as to seek his blood, he was willing to leave them, and save them from that guilt. Whereupon they appeared amazed and ashamed, and took on terribly, and after all were loth to part with him.

But notwithstanding such opposition, his unwearied labours in this town had amazing success. He preached twice every Lord's day before the civil war; afterwards once; and once every Thursday, besides occasional sermons in the lectures at Worcester, Shrewsbury, Dudley, Sheffnall, &c. On the Thursday evenings such as were so disposed met at his house, one of them repeated the sermon, and afterwards they propounded to Mr. Baxter any doubts they had about it, or any other case of conscience, which he resolved. On Mondays and Tuesdays in the afternoon, in every week, he and his assistant took fourteen families between them for private catechising and conference, spending about an hour with a family. Every first Wednesday in the month he had a meeting for parish discipline. Every first Thursday in the month there was a meeting of the neighbouring ministers for discipline, and amicable disputation about matters theological: and every Thursday in the month besides, he had several ministers at his house, after the lecture was over, with whom the afternoon was spent in profitable conversation, till the neighbours came in to repetition and conference.

He had an attentive, diligent auditory, that was very numerous. On the Lord's day there was no disorder to be seen in the town, but you might hear a hundred families singing psalms, and repeating sermons, as you passed along the streets. When he first came, there might be a family in a street that worshipped God, and called on his name; and when he came away there was not above a family on the side of a street that did not do it. Nay, in the most unlikely families, even inns and alehouses, usually some in each house seemed to be religious. He had six hundred communicants; and there were not above twelve of them, of whose sincerity in religion he had not hopes. There were few families in the whole town that refused to submit to his private catechising and personal conference; and few went away without some tears, or seemingly serious promises of a godly life.

The greatest enemies of serious religion in that town were carried off by the war. When that was over he had the favour of the government there. He had a great interest in the affections of the inhabitants, for which his practising physic among them gratis, gave him a great advantage; and he had much assistance in his work, from the zeal and diligence of those among them that were pious. Many were won upon by their exemplary conversation. Their unity and concord were remarkable. All were of one mind, and mouth, and way. The private meetings that were kept up amongst them, (which were under his oversight and guidance,) were also very helpful to promote serious religion. His stated income was not above £90 per annum, besides which he some years had 60 or £80 a year of the booksellers for his books, which being given away amongst the people, (except so much as was necessary for his comfortable subsistence,) made them the readier to listen to him. He took several of their children that had capacities from school, and sent them to the University, where he maintained them by his own and others' contributions, some of which afterwards proved useful ministers.

One of his main difficulties when he fixed in this town, was how to set up any thing of a true ecclesiastical discipline, without being satisfied with the shadow instead of the reality of it on one hand, or unchurching the parish church on the other. Upon mature consideration, he determined to take the parish for the church, if they were willing to own their church membership, and acknowledge him for their pastor. He desired all that were willing, to give in their names, or some other way to signify their consent; and the rest he desired to be silent. This kept many quiet that were not church members, because they knew they might come in if they would. He baptized all their children, (if desired,) upon their giving an account of their faith. If the father were a scandalous sinner, he made him openly confess his sin with seeming penitence, before he would baptize his child. If he refused it, he forbore till the mother came to present it; rarely, if ever, finding both father and mother so destitute of knowledge and faith, as, in a church sense, to be utterly incapable. Sir Ralph Clare, a noted cavalier, discovered the greatest dissatisfaction of any in the parish, with his method of proceeding. He would not communicate unless he would administer the sacrament to him kneeling, and upon a distinct day, and not with those that received it sitting. Mr. Baxter having openly told the parishioners, that if they scrupled sitting at the Lord's table, they should have the liberty of their own gesture, sent word to Sir Ralph, that if he could not upon reasoning be otherwise satisfied, he would give it him kneeling; but that as for doing it at a distinct stated time from the rest, it would make such a breach or schism as he could have no hand in. However, the generality acquiesced; and church discipline was kept up, though not without some difficulty. A young fellow given to excessive drinking, offering himself to communion, was told that he could not be admitted, without a humble, penitent confession, and promise of amendment. He thereupon confessed his sin, and promised to amend, but soon relapsed. He was oft admonished, and as often renewed the profession of his concern, and promises of amendment. But still persisting, Mr. Baxter warned him publicly, and prayed earnestly for him several days successively in the church, but he was not reclaimed. At last he declared him utterly unfit for church communion, and required all to avoid unnecessary conversation with him. Afterwards he grew extravagantly mad, would freely curse Mr. Baxter to his face; and once as he was going into the church laid violent hands on him, with a design to have murdered him. He continued[Pg iv] raging about a year, and then died of a fever, in great horror of conscience. Three or four more also were cast out; one for slandering, and the rest for drunkenness; and they were enraged and much the worse after it, and so were loud warnings to others. In short, so much of the presence of God did Mr. Baxter find accompanying him in his work, and so affectionate was his regard to the loving people of that place, that he would not willingly have changed his relation to them for any preferment in the kingdom, nor could he without force have been separated from them.

When the civil war broke out, he was dubious how to steer. He took the protestation which the parliament required, to defend the king's person, honour, and authority, the power and privileges of parliaments, the liberties of the subject, and the protestant religion, against the common enemy. And he joined with the magistrates of Kidderminster, in offering the same protestation to the people. A little after, the king's Declarations were read there in the market-place, and the commission of array was set on foot; upon which the rabble grew so riotous and furious, that he was advised to withdraw awhile from home. He retired to Worcester, and so to Gloucester, where he first met with the anabaptists; and after a month's absence he returned home, lest his absence should be interpreted either as the effect of fear on the account of some guilt, or as signifying his being against the king. At his return he found the drunken rabble very boisterous; and their common cry was this, We shall take an order with the puritans ere long. He did not think himself in safety if he stayed at home, and so he withdrew again. He preached at Alcester, on that Lord's day that was the day of Edge-hill fight; and was informed while he was preaching, by the noise of the cannon, that the armies were engaged. And the next day he went into the field of battle.

The soldiers on one side or the other still passing to and fro, and being ready to make a prey of whatsoever came before them, he determined to go to Coventry, and stay there till one side or other had got the victory, and the war was ended, which it was then thought would be in a very little time. The committee and governor of that city desired him to stay with them and lodge in the governor's house, and preach to the soldiers; which offer he readily accepted. He continued there a year, preaching once a week to the soldiers, and once on the Lord's day to the people, having nothing but his diet for his pains. Here he had the society of about thirty worthy ministers, who fled to the same place for safety, and among the rest, of Mr. Vines and Mr. Anthony Burgess. When his year expired, he found the war so far from being ended, that it had dispersed itself into almost all the land. He determined therefore to continue there another year; and in that time preached over all the controversies against the anabaptists, and against the separatists, and so kept the garrison sound. After the fight at Naseby, (not far from Coventry,) he went into the army to visit some of his old intimate friends. He stayed there a night, and got such intelligence as to their state as amazed him. He found plotting heads were designing to subvert both church and state. The sectaries were like to carry all before them, and were resolved to take down not only bishops, liturgies, and ceremonies, but all that did withstand them. This made him lament that the ministers had left the army, as they generally did, after Edge-hill fight. It made him also repent his refusing of Cromwell's invitation to be the pastor of his troop, when he first raised it; by which means he would have had an opportunity of dealing freely with those that afterwards headed much of the army, and were the forwardest in all the public changes. But he was told that it was not even yet too late to do service, if he would come into the army; and was invited by Colonel Whalley to be chaplain to his regiment. He returned to Coventry, and consulted the ministers that were there, and with their advice, (in order to do what in him lay to prevent the mischief that was threatened by the prevailing temper of the army,) he accepted the invitation.

When he came thither, Cromwell welcomed him but coldly. He set himself from day to day to discourse the officers and soldiers out of their mistakes, both religious and political. He found a few fiery, self-conceited men among them made all the noise and bustle, and carried about the rest as they pleased. Some of these became the laughing-stock of the soldiers before he left them. He marched with the army westward, and was at the taking of Bridgwater, and the siege of Bristol, and Sherborne Castle, and Exeter. He was also with Colonel Whalley before Banbury Castle, and at the siege of Worcester. He had full employment in opposing the sectaries in all places: and particularly he had at one place a dispute with them of a whole day's continuance. And by what success he met with, he found reason to apprehend, that if there had but been a competent number of ministers, each doing their part, the whole plot of the furious party might have been broken, and king, parliament, and religion preserved. But he was separated from the army by great weakness, occasioned by the loss of a gallon of blood at the nose; upon which, retiring to Sir Thomas Rouse's, he was taken up with daily medicines to prevent a dropsy, and was in continual expectation of death.

He did what he could to keep his people at Kidderminster free from a concern in the public changes. He kept them from taking the Covenant, as fearing it might be a snare to their consciences: nay, he prevented its being much taken in all that county. When the Engagement came out, he spake and preached against it, and dissuaded men from taking it. He had a whole day's disputation with Mr. Tombs, in his church at Bewdley, upon infant baptism; and thereby kept his people free from the spreading notions of those times. When the army was going against King Charles II. and the Scots, he wrote letters to several of the soldiers to tell them of their sin, and desired them at last to begin to know themselves. And instead of praying for their success in public, he freely inveighed against the[Pg v] forcing men to run to God upon such errands of blood and ruin; especially where brethren were concerned. He often and various ways declared against Cromwell's usurpation, when he had got the ascendant: he preached once before him after he was Protector, by means of the Lord Broghill and the Earl of Warwick: his text was 1 Cor. i. 10. The design of his sermon was to show how mischievous it was for politicians to maintain divisions in the church for their own ends. A little while after the Protector sent for him, and made a speech to him of an hour's length, about the providence of God in changing the government, and favouring that change by such great things done at home and abroad. Mr. Baxter freely told him, that the honest people of the land took their ancient monarchy to be a blessing; and desired to know how they had forfeited that blessing, and to whom the forfeiture was made. He with some passion replied, that there was no forfeiture, but God had changed it as it pleased him.

In the controversy about church government, which was then so hotly agitated, Mr. Baxter was all along against extremes. He neither fell in with the Erastian, nor episcopal, nor presbyterian, nor independent party entirely; but thought all of them had so much truth in common among them, as would have made these kingdoms happy, had it been unanimously and soberly reduced to practice, by prudent and charitable men. At the desire of the neighbouring ministers he drew up an agreement for church order and concord, containing only so much church order and discipline, as he apprehended the episcopal, presbyterian, and independent were agreed in, as belonging to the pastors of each particular church; which he afterwards published in a book called "Christian Concord:" and the ministers of those parts associated upon that bottom; not disputing with each other in order to an agreement in their opinions, but agreeing in the practice of what was owned by all.

Upon Oliver's becoming Protector, the extent of the toleration was the subject of many debates. The committee of parliament proposed that it should be extended to all that held the fundamentals of religion: hereupon it was queried which were the fundamentals of religion? and it was agreed that the members of the committee, who were fourteen in number, should each of them nominate a divine; and that they meeting together, should draw up a list of the fundamentals, to be as a test to the toleration. Mr. Baxter was upon this occasion nominated for one, (in the room of Archbishop Usher, who refused,) by the Lord Broghill, and took a journey accordingly to London. There he met Mr. Marshal, Mr. Reyner, Dr. Cheynel, Dr. Goodwin, Dr. Owen, Mr. Nye, Mr. Sydr. Sympson, Mr. Vines, Mr. Manton, and Mr. Jacomb, who were also nominated. Mr. Baxter was for offering to the parliament the creed, the Lord's prayer, and ten commandments, as the fundamentals of christianity: but the rest were not for so large a bottom, but were for having a greater number of fundamentals. If he did no other service among them, he at least prevented the running many things so high as might otherwise have been expected.

Truth and peace were the things he earnestly pursued all his days. He by writing treated with Dr. Brownrigg, bishop of Exeter, about concord with the diocesan party in this nation: and made also some proposals to Dr. Hammond to this purpose, a little before the Restoration of King Charles. By means of Mr. Lamb and Mr. Allen, two anabaptist ministers, whom he prevailed with to quit the way of separation, he dealt with the rest of the anabaptists, about communion with other churches. He treated with Mr. Nye about an agreement with the independents, in a moderate scheme; and he was often engaged in disputes with the papists also. And indeed it is amazing how one of so much weakness, who was constantly followed with divers bodily infirmities, should be capable of so much service.

He came to London just before the deposition of Richard Cromwell. He preached before the parliament the day before they voted for King Charles's return. He preached also before the lord mayor and aldermen of the city at St. Paul's, on the day of thanksgiving for Monk's success. And when the king was actually restored, he became one of his chaplains in ordinary, in conjunction with some others of his brethren of the same sentiments with him. He preached once before him in that capacity; and often waited on him with the rest of the ministers, in order to obtain by his means some terms of peace and union with the bishops and their adherents, who were many of them inclined to run things to extremity. He assisted at the Savoy conference as one of the commissioners, and then drew up a "Reformed Liturgy;" which some persons not very likely to be prejudiced in his favour, have thought to be the best of the kind they ever saw. He has under this head fallen under the censure of our late English historian, who, vol. iii. p. 235, makes this reflection: "He drew up an absolute form of his own, and styled it the 'Reformed Liturgy;' as if he had the modesty to think that the old Liturgy, compiled by a number of very learned confessors and martyrs, must now give place to a new form composed by a single man, and he by education much inferior to many of his brethren." But had this gentleman been so just as to have read the reasons which Mr. Baxter gave,[2] for his doing that which he represents as so assuming, he would have seen little occasion for his reflection. For the design of this Liturgy was not to jostle out the old one, where persons were satisfied with it, but to relieve those that durst not use the old one as it was, by helping them to forms taken out of the word of God. Or suppose we, that the old Liturgy had in the esteem of many fallen short of this new one; others are at a loss to discover why this should appear so preposterous, unless it be unaccountable for persons to prefer a Liturgy entirely Scriptural, to one that is made up of human phrases, and some of them justly enough exceptionable. It must be owned that the old Liturgy was framed by sundry confessors and martyrs, and upon that account it deserves[Pg vi] respect: and it was a great step in their day, for them to cast so many corruptions out of the public service as they did, at that time, when this Liturgy was drawn out of the several forms that were in use in this kingdom before. But it was but a pursuit of their design, to render the public service yet more Scriptural: and had they risen from the dead, there is good reason to believe they would generally have approved of it; and been so far from looking upon it as detracting from them, that they would have applauded it as a good superstructure upon their foundations. Suppose then he that drew up this "Reformed Liturgy," was by education much inferior to many of his brethren; it neither follows from thence that he must really be so much inferior to them in useful knowledge and valuable abilities, as this author would seem to intimate; nor can it justly be thence argued that his performance was contemptible; nor that there was any want of modesty neither, when his brethren put him upon the undertaking. And besides, they approving it when they perused it, and joining in the presenting it, made it their own; as sufficiently appears from the preface prefixed; and some of them had academical education, and great applause in the world too, and yet thought not Mr. Baxter at all their inferior.

He was also one of the three that managed the dispute at the end of the conference at the Savoy, and freely charged some things in the Liturgy as sinful, and contrary to the word of God. As, that ministers are obliged in baptism to use the transient image of the cross; that none be admitted to communion in the Lord's supper that dare not receive it kneeling, &c. The forementioned author speaking of this in his history, says, "That it seems very strange that he and his brethren should undertake to mention eight unlawful things in the Liturgy, when they could not affirm any one of those things to be in itself unlawful; but argued altogether upon the unlawful imposition of them, which they might as well have done by the same argument in eight hundred of other indifferent and most innocent matters." But if this gentleman had considered, that the unwarrantableness of keeping up such impositions in the church was the thing which Mr. Baxter and his brethren undertook to prove, in opposition to those who were zealous for retaining them, and how little in that case depends upon the simple unlawfulness of the things imposed, (abstracting from all circumstances in a metaphysical sense,) the strangeness of their proceeding would have disappeared. For though the same argument would have done in eight hundred indifferent things, (had there been so many so imposed,) yet it does not follow but that it would be good and valid in those eight things mentioned, in which they thought they should be bound up by the ecclesiastical constitution, (if they really must have been so confined,) while they could not discover their compliance to be lawful.

The same author also falls in with Bishop Morley, in representing Mr. Baxter as very perverse and disingenuous, by persisting in his denial of a certain proposition, after it had been turned and altered several ways. But had he thought fit to have considered what is suggested upon that head in the abridgement of his Life, which he had so often consulted, and quoted upon other occasions, he would have seen the aspersion wiped off, which he so freely repeats: and whether in so doing he has meted with the measure he would have used towards himself, upon occasion, is left to his second thoughts.

When the king's Declaration came out, Mr. Baxter was offered the bishopric of Hereford, and some of his brethren some other preferments in the church; but he refused acceptance, because of the uncertainty of the continuance of the terms of that Declaration, and so did several others: and Mr. Calamy and he were, by a majority of three voices, chosen by the city clergy to be their clerks in the convocation; but were by the bishop of London excused from sitting there. A continuance at Kidderminster was what he had most desired of any thing; and he did all that he was able in order to it; but Providence forced him another way.

While he was away from the town of Kidderminster, in great weakness, more likely to die than live, after his great loss of blood, the people renewed their articles against Mr. Danse, the old vicar, and his curate; and the committee sequestered the place, and left the profits in the hands of divers inhabitants to pay a preacher till it was disposed of. Mr. Baxter, though pressed, would not accept the vicarage, but continued to officiate among them as their minister. He would have taken no more out of the profits of the living than the £60 per annum which the vicar had before bound himself to pay him, but they made it £90. At length the people fearing some one should get a grant of the sequestration from the committee, went privately and got an order to settle Mr. Baxter in it; but never showed it him, till King Charles came out of Scotland towards Worcester, when they desired him to take and keep it, and save them harmless by it, if they were called to repay what they had received and disbursed. After this, the tithes were gathered in his name by some of his neighbours: but he gave them orders, that if any refused to pay that were poor, it should be forgiven them; but if they were able, what was due should be sought for with the help of the magistrates with damage; and that both his part and his damages should be given to the poor. When this was known, none that were able would do the poor so great a kindness as to refuse payment.

Upon King Charles's restoration the old vicar was restored. He had before lived unmolested in the vicarage house, and had £40 per annum duly paid him. Mr. Baxter would now very willingly have been his curate. Being often with my Lord Chancellor, he begged his favour about a settlement there, which he signified to him he preferred to a bishopric. Sir Ralph Clare was the great obstacle. He once told Mr. Baxter, in Bishop Morley's chamber, that of eighteen hundred communicants in the town, he had not above six hundred for him. To clear which he sent to Kidderminster, and in a day's time his[Pg vii] friends there got the hands of sixteen hundred of those eighteen hundred for him; which subscription being shown, made both the Bishop and Sir Ralph the more against his return thither. My Lord Chancellor wrote to Sir Ralph, but without effect. Mr. Baxter going down thither to make terms with the vicar, he would not suffer him to preach above twice or thrice. He could not be accepted, though he would have preached for nothing. It would not be allowed him so much as to administer the sacrament to the people, and preach a farewell sermon to them. Bishop Morley denied him the liberty of preaching in his diocess. He told him that he would take care the people should be no losers. And for awhile he sent the most acceptable preachers among them; and once took the pains to preach to them himself, but it was in a way of invective against Mr. Baxter and the presbyterians. Dr. Warmestry did the same once and again, but with little success. When Bishop Morley forbad him preaching in his diocess, he asked him leave but to preach in some small village among the ignorant, where there was no maintenance for a minister: and he told him, that they were better to have none than him. Mr. Baldwin the minister was present.

There being no further capacity of service in those parts, Mr. Baxter for some time preached up and down occasionally in the city, and at length was fixed a lecturer with Dr. Bates at St. Dunstan's in Fleet Street; and obtained Bishop Sheldon's licence, upon his subscribing a promise, not to preach against the doctrine of the church, or the ceremonies, in his diocess, as long as he used his licence. Here he had a crowded auditory; and the crowd unhappily drove him from his place of preaching. One day in the midst of sermon a little lime dust fell down in the belfry, which made people think the steeple and church were falling. All were presently in a confused haste to get away, and the noise of the feet in the galleries sounded like the fall of the stones. Some cast themselves from the galleries, because they could not get down-stairs; and the terror was universal: all made such haste to get out that they hindered one another. Mr. Baxter, when the hurry was a little over, with great presence of mind reassumed his discourse, with this remarkable passage, to compose the spirits of the people. "We are" (said he) "in the service of God, to prepare ourselves, that we may be fearless at the great noise of the dissolving world, when the heavens shall pass away, and the elements melt in fervent heat; the earth also and the works therein shall be burned up," &c. And when he had gone on a little while, a bench near the communion table breaking under the weight of those that stood upon it, renewed the fear and hurry, and made it rather worse than before. He was forced to preach the rest of his quarter at St. Bride's church, while St. Dunstan's was repairing. He preached also once every Lord's day at Black-friars, gratis; and a week-day lecture in Milk Street.

During this short interval of public liberty, those ministers that were not for episcopacy, Liturgy, and ceremonies, were represented as seditious, and loaded with calumnies and reproaches. Many of them were imprisoned, together with some sober gentlemen, in several counties, under pretence of their plotting against the government. Particularly a plot was hatched in Worcestershire. A packet was pretended to be found under a hedge, left there by a Scotch pedlar. In it there were letters from several ministers; and among the rest, one from Mr. Baxter; intimating, that he had provided a considerable body of men well armed, which should be ready against the time appointed. And indeed where men were taken up and imprisoned in distant counties, it was said to be for Baxter's plot. The noise of these plots in so many counties, paved the way for the Act of Uniformity, which gave all the ministers who could not conform no longer time than till Bartholomew day, 1662, when they were all cast out. Mr. Baxter preached his last sermon in public on the 25th of May before, at Black-friars. The reason of his forbearing preaching so soon, was partly because the lawyers did interpret a doubtful clause in the Act of Uniformity, as putting an end to the liberty of lecturers at that time; and partly because he would let all the ministers in the nation understand in time what his intentions were, lest any might be influenced to a compliance, upon a supposition that he intended to conform.

After this, if the ejected ministers did but meet to pray together it was a seditious conventicle. Dr. Bates and Mr. Baxter were desired to pray at a friend's house, for his wife that was sick of a fever, and had they been there they had been apprehended by a warrant from two justices. Finding therefore his public service at an end, he retired to Acton, in Middlesex; where he went every Lord's day to the public church, and spent the rest of the day with his family, and a few poor neighbours that came in to him. In the time of the plague, in 1665, he went to Mr. Hampden's, in Buckinghamshire; and returned back again to Acton when it was over. He stayed there as long as the Act against Conventicles was in force, and when it was expired, he had so many came to hear him, that he wanted room. Hereupon he by a warrant of two justices, was committed to New-Prison gaol for six months. But he got a Habeas Corpus, and was released; and removed to Totteridge, near Barnet. While he was there, Duke Lauderdale going into Scotland, signified to him a purpose there was of taking off the oath of canonical obedience, and all impositions of conformity, save only that it should be necessary to sit in presbyteries and synods with the bishops and moderators; and that he had the king's consent to offer him what place in Scotland he would choose, either a church, or a college, or a bishopric. But he excused himself from his weakness and indisposition, and the circumstances of his family.

After the Indulgence, in 1672, he returned to his preaching in the city. He was one of the Tuesday lecturers at Pinner's Hall; and had a Friday lecture at Fetter Lane; but on Lord's days he only preached occasionally. He afterwards preached in St. James's Market house, where on July 5, 1674, they had a marvellous deliverance. For a main beam, that had before been considerably weakened by[Pg viii] the weight of the people, gave such cracks, that three several times they ran out of the room, concluding it was falling. The next day taking up the boards they found that two rends in the beam were so great, that it was a wonder of Providence that the floor had not fallen, and the roof with it, to the destruction of multitudes. He was afterwards apprehended as he was preaching his Thursday lecture at Mr. Turner's; but soon released, because the warrant was not signed by a city justice, as it should have been, when he was apprehended for preaching in the city. In 1676, by the assistance of his friends, he built a new meeting-house in Oxenden Street, and when he had preached there but once, a resolution was taken to surprise him the next time, and to send him for six months to gaol upon the Oxford Act. But he being out of town, Mr. Seddon, a Derbyshire minister, preaching for him, was sent to the Gate-house in his room, though the warrant did not suit him; and he was forced to continue there three months, till he had a Habeas Corpus. He afterwards built another meeting-house in St. Martin's parish, but was forcibly kept out of it by constables and officers: and thereupon Mr. Wadsworth, in Southwark, dying, he upon the invitation of his people preached to them many months in peace. And when Dr. Lloyd succeeded Dr. Lamplugh, in St. Martin's parish, he offered him his chapel, in Oxenden Street, for public worship, and accepted it.[3]

Anno 1682. He was suddenly surprised in his house, by an informer with constables and officers, who served upon him a warrant, to seize on his person for coming within five miles of a corporation; and five more warrants in distraint for £195 for five sermons. He was going with them to a justice, though extremely bad as to his health, till meeting Dr. Cox, he forced him back to his bed, and went and took his oath before five justices that he could not go to prison without danger of death. The king being consulted, consented that his imprisonment should for that time be forborne. But they executed the warrants on the books and goods in the house, though he made it appear they were none of his; and they sold the bed he lay upon. Some friends paid down the money they were appraised at, and he repayed them. Being afterwards in danger of new seizures, he was forced to retire to private lodgings.

Anno 1684. He was again seized upon and carried to the sessions, when he was scarce able to stand, and bound in a bond of £400, to his good behaviour; and was told that this proceeding was only to secure the government against suspected persons. He was some time after carried again to the sessions-house in great pain, and forced to continue bound. He refused to stand bound, not knowing what they might interpret a breach of the peace. But his sureties would be bound, lest he should die in a gaol. He was carried thither a third time, and still bound; though for the most part he kept his bed.

Though he was thus treated all King Charles's reign, he yet prayed as heartily for him as any man; and he was often consulted about terms and measures for a union between the conformists and nonconformists, as to which he was ever free to give his sentiments. He was not for comprehension without indulgence; nor for a bare indulgence without the enlargement of the Act of Uniformity to a greater comprehension; but for the conjunction of both. He declared this when he was consulted by a person of honour, anno 1663. In the year 1668, Dr. Bates and he waited on the Lord Keeper Bridgman by desire, in order to a treaty about a comprehension and toleration, and were afterwards met by Dr. Wilkins and Mr. Burton, with whom they conferred. The thing they most differed about was re-ordination. At length by conference with Sir Matthew Hale, that point was thus adjusted, that there should be an admission into the ministry of the church of England, of such as had been before ordained according to this form of words: "Take thou legal authority to preach the word of God, and administer the holy sacraments in any congregation of England, where thou shalt be lawfully appointed thereunto." It was agreed the ceremonies should be left indifferent, and the Liturgy altered; and that there should be an indulgence of such as could not be comprehended. And a bill was drawn up by Judge Hale, to be presented to the parliament; but the high-church party made such an interest, that it was carried by a vote that no man should bring in a bill of this nature. He afterwards in the year 1673, upon the desire of the Earl of Orrery, drew up terms of union between the conformists and the[Pg ix] nonconformists, in order to their joint vigorous opposing popery. And the next year there was also an agreement upon like terms, between Dr. Stillingfleet and Dr. Tillotson, and Dr. Manton, Dr. Bates, Mr. Pool, and Mr. Baxter, and an act was proposed to be brought in the next session of parliament, in pursuance of the treaty; but Dr. Tillotson wrote word to Mr. Baxter, that as circumstances stood, such an act could not pass in either house, without the concurrence of a considerable part of the bishops, and his Majesty's countenance, which at that time he saw little reason to expect.

In the reign of King James II. Mr. Baxter was committed to the King's Bench prison by warrant from the Lord Chief Justice Jefferies, for his "Paraphrase on the New Testament," which was called a scandalous and seditious book against the government. On May 30, 1685, he was brought to his trial. The passages mentioned in the information, were his paraphrase on Matt. v. 19; Mark ix. 39; xi. 31; xii. 38-40; Luke x. 2; John xi. 57; Acts xv. 2: and a certain noted clergyman put into the hands of his enemies some accusations out of his paraphrase on Rom. xiii. &c. as against the king, to touch his life; but no use was made of them. Jefferies interrupted his council in pleading for him, and treated Mr. Baxter most scornfully and rudely. He had given judgment against him, June 29, when he was fined 500 marks, and to lie in prison till he paid it; and bound to his good behaviour for seven years. But the next year King James altering his measures, many of the dissenters that were imprisoned were released; and their fines were remitted: and among the rest, Mr. Baxter obtained his pardon by the mediation of the Lord Powis. His fine was remitted; and Nov. 24, Sir Samuel Astrey sent his warrant to the keeper of the King's Bench to discharge him. But he gave sureties for his good behaviour: his Majesty declaring for his satisfaction, that it should not in him be interpreted a breach of the good behaviour for him to reside in London, which was not allowable by the Oxford Act; and this was entered upon his bail-piece. He continued some time in the Rules; and in February following removed to a house in Charter-house Yard.

After his settlement there, he gave Mr. Sylvester (whom he peculiarly valued, and had a special intimacy with) and his flock, his pains, gratis, every Lord's day in the morning, and every other Thursday morning at a weekly lecture. And thus he continued for about four years and a half; rejoicing as much as any man at the happy revolution under the conduct of King William, though he appeared not much in public. And when he was quite disabled from public service by his growing weakness, he still continued to do good in his own hired house, where he opened his doors morning and evening every day, to all that would come to join with him in family worship; reading and expounding the Scriptures with great seriousness and freedom. At length his distempers took him off from this also, and confined him first to his chamber, and then to his bed. Under sharp pains, he was very submissive to the will of God; and when he was inclined to pray most earnestly for a release, he would check himself and say, "It is not fit for me to prescribe: Lord, when thou wilt, what thou wilt, how thou wilt." As his end drew near, being often asked by his friends, how it was with his inward man, he replied, "I bless God I have a well-grounded assurance of my eternal happiness, and great peace and comfort within." He gave excellent counsel to young ministers that visited him, earnestly prayed God to bless their labours, and expressed great hopes that God would do a great deal of good by them, and great joy that they were of moderate and peaceable spirits. Being at last asked how he did, his answer was, "Almost well;" and at length he expired, Dec. 8, 1691, and was a few days after interred in Christ Church, in London, whither his corpse was attended by a numerous company of persons of different ranks, and especially of ministers, some of them conformists, who paid him the last office of respect. There were two discourses made upon occasion of his funeral, one by Dr. Bates, and the other by Mr. Sylvester, which are both in print: the former may be met with in the Doctor's Works; and the latter at the end of Mr. Baxter's Life in folio.

His last will and testament bore date July 7, 1689. The preamble was something peculiar, and ran thus: "I Richard Baxter, of London, clerk, an unworthy servant of Jesus Christ, drawing to the end of this transitory life, having through God's great mercy the free use of my understanding, do make this my last will and testament, revoking all other wills formerly made by me. My spirit I commit, with trust and hope of the heavenly felicity, into the hands of Jesus my glorified Redeemer and Intercessor; and by his mediation into the hands of God my reconciled Father, the infinite, eternal Spirit, Light, Life, and Love, most great, and wise, and good, the God of nature, grace, and glory; of whom, and through whom, and to whom are all things; my absolute Owner, Ruler, and Benefactor, whose I am, and whom I (though imperfectly) serve, seek, and trust; to whom be glory for ever. Amen. To him I render most humble thanks, that he hath filled up my life with abundant mercy, and pardoned my sin by the merits of Christ, and vouchsafed by his Spirit to renew me, and seal me as his own; and to moderate and bless to me my long sufferings in the flesh, and at last to sweeten them by his own interest, and comforting approbation, who taketh the cause of love and concord as his own," &c. He ordered his books to be distributed by Mr. Matthew Sylvester and Mr. Roger Morrice among poor scholars, which was done accordingly. All that remained of his temporal estate, after a few legacies to his kindred, he disposed of for the benefit of the souls and bodies of the poor. And he left Sir Henry Ashhurst, Baronet, Rowland Hunt of Boraton, Esq., Mr. Thomas Hunt, merchant, Edward Harley, Esq., Mr. Thomas Cooke, merchant, Mr. Thomas Trench, merchant, and Mr. Robert Bird, gentleman, his executors.

[Pg x]

Few ever had more weakness to imbitter their lives than he; and yet this heightened and cherished the peculiar seriousness of his spirit. Few ever were more strongly tempted to infidelity; and yet, as Providence overruled it, that contributed in the issue to his greater establishment. He was tempted sorely to question the truth of the Scriptures, the immortality of the soul, and the life to come. This sort of temptations did not assault him in that way that is usual with melancholy persons, but with a show of sober reason. Hereupon he was forced to dig to the very foundations of religion, and seriously to examine the reasons of christianity, and to give a hearing to all that could be said against it; and his preaching and writings were upon this account the more useful. And he at last found that nothing is so firmly believed, as that which hath been some time doubted of.

He was a great observer of Providence, and in the course of his life met with many surprising deliverances. When he was seventeen years of age, riding on an unruly horse, who would often get the bit in his teeth, and run away with his rider, he was run away with in a very dangerous place. He was in a field of high ground, where there was a quick-set hedge on the side of him, that was the only fence; on the other side of which was a deep narrow lane, about a story's height below him. When the horse was running away with him, he turned aside on a sudden, and leaped over the hedge into the lane. He came to the ground before the horse, and yet received no hurt, thought it seemed marvellous how his feet could fall besides him. At another time, being about the same age, and at Ludlow Castle, in company of several idle gentlemen, he was learning to play at tables of the best gamester in the house. When his opposite had once so much the better, that it was a hundred to one, besides the difference of their skill, he still held on, though both he and the standers-by laughed at him for not giving up, and told him the game was lost: he was so confident of it as to offer a hundred to one; and actually did lay down ten shillings to sixpence. When the wager was laid, he told him there was no possibility of the game, but by one cast often: and it so fell out, that he had that same cast for several times successively, so that by that time a man could go four or five times about the room, his game was gone, which caused great admiration. He took the hint, feared that the devil had the ruling of the dice, and did it to entice him to be a gamester, and so gave him his ten shillings again, and resolved never more to play at tables whilst he lived. At another time, travelling from London into the country, about Christmas, in a very deep snow, he met on the road a loaded waggon, where he could not pass by but on the side of a bank: passing over which, all his horse's feet slipped from under him, and all the girts broke, so that he was cast just before the waggon wheel, which had gone over him, but that it pleased God the horses suddenly stopped, without any discernible cause, till he got out of the way. Often was he brought very low while he was at Kidderminster, so as to receive the sentence of death in himself, when his poor honest, praying neighbours there met together, and upon their fasting and earnest prayers, he hath been recovered. Once when he had been very low for three weeks together, and was unable to go abroad, on the very day that they prayed for him, which was on the Friday, he recovered so as to be able to preach to them, and administer the sacrament, on the Lord's day following. Another time he had a tumour rose on one of the tonsils of his throat, white and hard like a bone, above the hardness of any scirrhous tumour. He feared a cancer, and applied such remedies by the advice of the physician as were thought fittest, but without alteration; for it remained hard as at first. At the end of a quarter of a year, he was under some concern, that he had never praised God particularly for any of the deliverances he had formerly afforded him. And thereupon being speaking of God's confirming our belief of his word, by his fulfilling his promises, and hearing prayers, (as it is published in the second part of his "Saints' Rest,") he annexed some thankful hints as to his own experiences; and suddenly the tumour vanished, leaving no sign where it had been remaining; though he neither swallowed it down, nor spit it out, nor could ever tell what became of it. Another time having read in Dr. Gerhard the admirable effects of the swallowing a gold bullet upon his own father, in a case much like his, he got a gold bullet, between twenty and thirty shillings weight; and having taken it, he knew not how to be again delivered of it. He took clysters and purges for about three weeks, but nothing stirred it. And a gentleman having done the like, the bullet never came from him till he died, and it was cut out. But at last his neighbours set apart a day to fast and pray for him, and he was free from his danger in the beginning of that day. And at another time, being in danger of an ægilopse, he had also sudden relief by their prayers. At another time riding upon a great hot, mettled horse, as he stood upon a sloping pavement in Worcester, the horse reared up, and both his hinder feet slipped from under him; so that the full weight of the body of the horse fell upon his leg, which yet was only bruised, and not broken: when considering the place, the stones, and the manner of the fall, it was a wonder his leg was not broken in shivers. Another time as he sat in his study, the weight of his greatest folio books broke down three or four of the highest shelves, when he sat close under them; and they fell down on every side of him, and not one of them hit him, except one upon the arm. Whereas the place, the weight, and greatness of the books was such, and his head just under them, that it was a wonder they had not beaten out his brains, or done him an unspeakable mischief. One of the shelves just over his head having Dr. Walton's Polyglot Bible, all Austin's Works, the Bibliotheca Patrum, Marlorate, &c. At another time, viz. March 26, 1665, as he was preaching in a private house, a bullet came in at the window, and passed by him, but did no hurt. Such things as these he carefully took notice of, and recorded. And indeed his being carried through so much service and suffering too, under so much[Pg xi] weakness, was a constant wonder to himself, and all that knew him; and what he used himself often to take notice of, with expressions of great thankfulness.

There was scarce a man in England so consulted about cases of conscience as he was. He was applied to in matters of more than common concern and difficulty, by persons of all ranks and qualities. His "Directory" may give the world satisfaction how fit he was for that province: and had he kept an exact account of the various cases that had been proposed to him, with his solutions, we should have had yet fuller evidence.

He loved a retired life, but could not so conceal himself as not to be observed and much respected. My Lord Broghill, who was afterwards Earl of Orrery and Lord President of Munster, gave him many marks of his respect. Archbishop Usher used great freedom with him, and urged him to some of his writings. In the worst of times he had some even in King Charles's court that were very respectful to him. Duke Lauderdale was one of these: and let him be ever so ill a man himself, this must be said, that Mr. Baxter had sometimes an interest in him for the procuring good, and the avoiding mischief. While he lived at Acton, he had free conversation with his neighbour Sir Matthew Hale. And he manifested his respect to Mr. Baxter, by giving a high encomium of him both for piety and learning, before all the judges at the table at Serjeants' Inn, at the time when he was in prison upon the Oxford Act. My Lord Balcarres and his Lady had also a very great value for him. He had many letters full of respects from eminent divines in foreign parts. But there was no friend in the whole course of his life whom he more valued and respected, and by whom he was more beloved, than that noted citizen Henry Ashhurst, Esq. commonly called Alderman Ashhurst, who was the most exemplary person for sobriety, self-denial, piety, and humility, that London could glory of. In short, living and dying, he was as much respected by some, and as much slighted by others, as any man of the age.

Hardly any man was ever more calumniated and reproached than he. Dr. Boreman, of Trinity College, charged him in print with killing a man with his own hand in cold blood. Some years after, the same charge was brought against him in a coffee-house; but he that brought it being afterwards convinced, professed his sorrow, and asked his pardon. But Sir Roger L'Estrange published a story a little like it in his "Observator," and it was also inserted in the preface to the "Life of Dr. Heylin," and was lately inserted in a book entitled, "Ordination by mere Presbyters proved Void and Null, in a Conference between Philalethes and Pseudocheus." The story was this, that Mr. Baxter finding one Major Jennings in the war time among the bodies of the dead and wounded, looked on while Lieutenant Hurdman, that was with him, ran him through the body in cold blood. And that Mr. Baxter took off with his own hand the king's picture from about his neck, telling him as he was swimming in his gore, that he was a popish rogue, and that was his crucifix: which picture was kept by Mr. Baxter till it was got from him, but not without much difficulty, by one Mr. Somerfield who lived with Sir Thomas Rouse, who restored it to the true owner, who was supposed to be dead of his wounds: and this narrative was subscribed by Jennings himself, that it might pass for the more authentic.—Mr. Baxter, on the contrary, solemnly protested in print[4] upon occasion of the publication, that he knew not that he ever saw Major Jennings; that he never saw him or any other man wounded; that he never took such a picture from him, or saw who did it; nor was in the field when it was done; much less spoke any thing like the words reported: but that being at Longford House, while it was a garrison for the parliament, a soldier showed a small medal of gilt silver, bigger than a shilling; and said that he wounded Jennings, took his coat from his back, and the medal from his neck, which Mr. Baxter bought for eighteen pence, no one offering more: and that hearing afterwards he was living, he freely desired this Somerfield to give it him, supposing it was a mark of honour which might be useful to him. And this story was all the thanks that ever he had.

When he preached before King Charles, his Majesty sent the lord chamberlain to him to require him to print his sermon, and he accordingly printed it, and added in the title page, "by his Majesty's special command." Dr. Pierce afterward asserted to several, that he was none of the king's chaplain, and that he had no order from him for the printing of his sermon. And he could scarce preach a sermon, but he was represented as having some seditious design, covered over with innocent words.

He was vehemently aspersed by those that were fond of extremes on all hands. When the lecture was set up at Pinner's Hall, if he did but preach for unity and against division, or unnecessary withdrawing from each other, or against unwarrantable narrowing the church of Christ, it was presently said he preached against such and such persons. If he did but say that the will of man had a natural liberty, though a moral thraldom to vice; and that men might have Christ and life if they were but truly willing, though grace must make them willing; and that men have power to do better than they do; he was said to preach up Arminianism and free-will. And on the other hand, when he in public told the people, that they must not make the world believe that they were under greater sufferings than they really were, nor be unthankful for their peace; and that they ought when any hurt them, to love and forgive them, and see that they failed not of their duty to them; but should not forsake the owning and just defending by Scripture evidence, the truth opposed; some of the high-church party, in a printed account, told the world, that he bid the people resist, and not stand still and die like dogs: for the falsity of which he was forced to appeal to the many hundreds that heard him.

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Nay, he was aspersed even after his death. For it was reported that in the latter part of his life even till he died, he was in great doubt and trouble about a future state; that he inclined to think there was no future state at all, and ended his days under such a persuasion, to his no small trouble; he having written so many things to persuade persons to believe there was. Which was abundantly answered by Mr. Sylvester, in his preface prefixed to the "History of his Life and Times."

His love to the honest people of Kidderminster, who had the prime of his strength and the flower of his labours, was very remarkable. He told them, in the preface to the "Saints' Rest," that the offers of greater worldly accommodations, with five times the means that he received with them, was no temptation to him once to question whether he should leave them. But he was afterwards forced to leave them, by Bishop Morley, and Mr. Danse the old vicar. He did not part with them without mutual grief and tears. And when he went from them, he left Mr. Baldwin, to live privately among them, and oversee them in his stead; and he advised them to frequent the public church assemblies, in conjunction with their private helps, unless the public minister was utterly insufficient, or preached heresy, or in his application set himself against the ends of his office, by endeavouring to make a holy life seem odious. After parting from them, he wrote a letter to them but once a year, lest it should be the occasion of their suffering; and for fear lest if they did any thing that was displeasing, it should be represented as the effect of his suggestions. But in process of time even this honest and quiet people were exasperated. They were alienated from the prelates and their adherents, for running down Mr. Baxter and those of his mind, as deceivers. Repeating sermons in their houses they were laid in gaols with common malefactors, their goods were seized, and they were fined and punished again and again. At length they were hardly more angry with the bishops, than they were with Mr. Baxter himself, whom they censured upon his publishing the book called "The Cure of Church Divisions," as strengthening the hands of persecutors by persuading them of the lawfulness of communicating in their parish church, with a conformable minister in the Liturgy. But he still continued his care of them, and concern for them. And at length he became capable of helping them to a valuable, useful man, that would make it his business to promote serious religion among them. For Colonel John Bridges had sold the patronage of the living to Mr. Thomas Foley, upon condition that he should present Mr. Baxter next if he were capable of it; and if not, that he should present one with his consent. When the old vicar died, many thought that Mr. Baxter himself would have conformed. Archbishop Stern, of York, particularly, bid a minister take it on his word that he conformed, and was gone to his beloved Kidderminster. But Mr. Baxter had no such thoughts, though he would gladly have assisted them in getting a suitable person. But the people there refused to have any hand in bringing in another minister into the church, lest they should seem to consent to his conformity, or be obliged to own him in his office. They were not to be prevailed with to concur; and for that reason Mr. Baxter refused to meddle in the choice. When Mr. Foley had put in a valuable man to be their minister, Mr. Baxter wrote to them to join with him in prayers and sacrament, at that time when they had no opportunity for separate meetings. But their sufferings had so far alienated them from the church party, that they would not yield that his letter should be so much as read among them. However, Mr. Baxter kept up a peculiar respect to them, and concern for them, as long as he lived.

His works were various. Dr. Bates, in his funeral sermon, says that his books, for the number and variety of matter in them, make a library. They contain a treasure of controversial, casuistical, positive, and practical divinity; and the excellent Bishop Wilkins did not stick to say that he had cultivated every subject he handled. I will touch only upon those of his works that are here collected together in four volumes.

The first volume contains his "Christian Directory." The first part of it, which he calls "Christian Ethics," is perhaps the best body of practical divinity that is extant in our own or any other tongue. And though in the "Ecclesiastical Cases" there are some things that are not to every man's gust, (and no other could well be expected where there is so vast a variety,) yet he that will have the patience to read through, will find his pains rewarded by ample instruction.

The second volume contains, I. "The Reasons of the Christian Religion;" which book hath relieved many when under temptations to infidelity. II. "The Unreasonableness of Infidelity;" where a clear account is given of the nature of the witness of the Spirit to the truth of Christianity, and of the unpardonable sin committed in opposition to it. And a discourse is added about the arrogancy of reason in opposition to divine revelation, that is very proper for those who being for a freedom of thought would know how to keep it within due bounds, so as to prevent extravagance. III. "More Reasons for the Christian Religion;" which contains a vindication of the Holy Scriptures from the charge of contradictions; and some animadversions on my Lord Herbert "De Veritate." IV. His "Treatise of Conversion;" a set of plain sermons preached at Kidderminster, explaining the nature and the necessity, the benefits and hinderances, of a thorough change of heart and life. V. "A Call to the Unconverted;" which has been blessed by God with marvellous success in reclaiming persons from their impiety. Six brothers were once converted by reading it. Twenty thousand of them were printed and dispersed in little more than a year's time. It was translated into French and Dutch, and other European languages. And Mr. Eliot translated it into the Indian language; and Mr. Cotton Mather gives an account of a certain Indian prince, who was so affected with this book, that he sat reading it with tears in his eyes[Pg xiii] till he died, not suffering it to be taken from him. VI. "Now or Never;" in which all are seriously urged to improve the present time, in order to a hearty return to God through Jesus Christ. VII. "Directions and Persuasions to a Sound Conversion;" a book that has been useful to many souls, by preventing those mistakes in practical religion, which are often fatal. VIII. "A Saint or a Brute;" being some plain sermons preached to his people at Kidderminster, concerning the necessity and excellency of holiness. IX. "The Mischiefs of Self-Ignorance, and Benefits of Self-Acquaintance;" being some plain sermons preached at St. Dunstan's, in Fleet Street, to prevent persons from devouring others, while they did not know themselves. X. "A Right Method for Settled Peace of Conscience;" written for the benefit of a melancholy lady; a book by which many dejected christians have been revived. XI. "God's Goodness Vindicated;" an essay to clear up that darling attribute of the Deity about which melancholy persons often run into such unhappy mistakes. XII. "Directions to a Weak Christian how to Grow in Grace; with Characters of a Sound Christian;" well worth the perusal of such as desire to have right and clear notions of christianity.

The third volume contains, I. "The Saints' Everlasting Rest;" a book written in a very languishing condition, when in the suspense of life and death; and yet it has the signatures of a holy and vigorous mind. Multitudes will have cause to bless God for ever for this book. Among others, holy Mr. John Janeway was thereby converted.[5] II. "A Treatise of Self-Denial"; in which the nature and grounds of that capital part of our holy religion are opened and cleared. III. "Of Crucifying the World by the Cross of Christ;" an affecting caveat against worldliness. IV. "The Life of Faith;" which was an enlargement of the sermon preached before King Charles II., soon after his Restoration. Though there are many things to be met with here, that occur in his other writings, (a thing not to be avoided in one that wrote so much,) yet has the method in which they are here put together been advantageous to many. V. "The Divine Life;" in which there are three Treatises: viz. "Of the Knowledge of God," "Of Walking with God," and "Of Conversing with God in Solitude;" in which there is more solid and useful divinity than in some bulky volumes. VI. "The Divine Appointment of the Lord's day;" written for the satisfaction of some that were inclined to the seventh-day sabbath. VII. "Obedient Patience." VIII. "His Dying Thoughts;" in which though there are some peculiarities, and an account of some temptations, that it is amazing that such a man as Mr. Baxter should be at all troubled with; there yet are some as noble thoughts as to the happiness of the saints departed, and as to our blessed Saviour's transfiguration, and the improvableness of it, as can easily be met with.

The fourth and last volume contains, I. "Compassionate Counsel to Young Men;" which many have had cause to bless God for. II. "The Mother's Catechism;" designed for the instruction of children, and for the assistance of mothers in discharging their duty in that respect. III. "Catechising of Families;" a plain manual; familiarly opening the great essentials of religion in a catechetical way. IV. "The Poor Man's Family Book;" a book that hath been given away by many landlords to their tenants with good success. V. "Confirmation and Restoration," &c.; being an essay to revive the true primitive discipline, by bringing the baptized publicly to own their standing to the baptismal vow when they come to age; and proposing that such as fall into scandalous sins should be restored by a public profession of repentance. VI. "Gildas Salvianus, or the Reformed Pastor;" which perhaps contains the best model of a gospel minister that ever was published. We may indeed there meet with a free confession of ministerial faults; which confession some endeavoured to turn to his reproach: but the confessing and amending real faults, is a much more likely way to secure the honour of the sacred ministry, than either a denying them, or a seeking to cloak, extenuate, or cover them. VII. "The Vain Religion of the Formal Hypocrite;" where hypocrisy is freely detected and unmasked. VIII. "Cain and Abel;" in which the malignity of the enmity between the Seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, is proved to have discovered itself from the first. IX. "Knowledge and Love;" wherein conceited knowledge is exposed, and the excellency of divine love displayed. X. "Catholic Unity;" a sermon preached in St. Martin's Church, in which it is shown how greatly ungodliness tendeth to divisions, and godliness to the truest unity and peace. XI. "The True and only Way of Concord." XII. Sermons preached upon sundry particular occasions; with a few "Directions to Justices of Peace," &c.

I shall only add, that if the recommendations of others would have any influence upon the readers, or their characters of the author increase their esteem, few writers would have more advantage than Mr. Baxter. For besides that there are none of our practical divines whose works have been translated into more foreign languages, nor are read with more admiration abroad than his, there is no one who by the fittest judges has been more applauded.

Mr. Pitcaren, in his "Harmony of the Evangelists," p. 269, professes a great esteem for his learning, acuteness, and piety.

Mr. Wood, Professor of Divinity in the University of St. Andrews, in his answer to Mr. Lockier, represents Mr. Baxter as a most judicious, acute, and godly man.

The Honourable Robert Boyle, Esq. declared Mr. Baxter to be the fittest man of the age for a casuist because he feared no man's displeasure, nor hoped for any man's preferment.

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He was often quoted by some of the most celebrated divines of the church with respect; as by Bishop Patrick, Bishop Stillingfleet, Bishop Burnet, and Dr. Sherlock; as also by Mr. Hotchkis, and Mr. Wade, and others.

Sir William Morrice, in his book of the "Lord's Supper," p. 32, speaks of Mr. Baxter as one in the dust of whose feet (according to the Hebrew proverb) he should gladly roll himself; and notwithstanding some little difference in opinion, yet he could never have a quarrel with him. And he declares that he could only say as Phavorinus did of Adrian, It is not for me to contend with him who commands legions of notions and arguments. For me (says he) to throw a dart at him from Bellona's temple, (which was the denunciation of war,) were to show myself like one of the priests of that goddess, which were all fanatic, and used to tear their own flesh. I should be loth to transform the most favourable patron I have found, into the most formidable enemy I can meet with. And as he that thought it enough to eternize his memory, to inscribe upon his monument, his friendship he had with Sir Philip Sidney; so (says he) my tombstone could not have been ambitious of a more honourable epitaph, than Mr. Baxter's approbation.

Mr. Glanvil, in his "Philosophia Pia," p. 110, thus expresses himself concerning Mr. Baxter,—That worthy man I think is to be honoured much for his stout, rational, and successful opposition of the mischievous antinomian follies, when the current systematic divinity, then called orthodox, was very overgrown with them; and for his frequent asserting the reasonableness of religion, against the madness of spreading enthusiasm; for his earnest endeavours for the promotion of peace and universal charity, when it was held a great crime not to be fierce in the way of a sect. That he was a person worthy of great respect; and that he (viz. Mr. Glanvil) could scarce forbear affirming concerning him, as a learned doctor of the church of England did; viz. that he was the only man that spake sense in an age of nonsense.

Mr. Woodbridge, in his "Treatise of Justification," says, that Mr. Baxter was a man made on purpose to encounter with opposition for the sake of truth.

And Dr. Manton, upon occasion, declared in the hearing of several, that he thought Mr. Baxter came nearer the apostolical inspired writers, than any man in the age.

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It having been proposed to reprint the PRACTICAL WORKS of the excellent Mr. BAXTER, in Four Volumes; a design fitted to promote and propagate serious religion, not only in the present age, but to posterity: we whose names are subscribed, do most heartily recommend it to all ministers, gentlemen, and others, (to whom the interest of our Lord Jesus Christ is dear,) that they would to their utmost encourage so good a work.

Among all the great and useful projects of this kind that have been set on foot this age, perhaps there have been none so likely to reach all the desirable purposes this may be serviceable for. Here you have not only a few particular heads of christian faith and practice, but christianity itself, in its full extent and compass, most accurately handled, and at the same time with greatest plainness suited to the meanest capacities, and pressed home upon the consciences of readers with inimitable life and fervour. And how great an advantage must it be to have such a help at hand in families, to which you may have recourse upon all occasions, to clear your judgments in the great articles of religion, to ease your minds in the most perplexing cases of conscience, to engage and direct you in the several most important exercises of godliness! You need not fear any danger from hence of being influenced for or against any party of christians, as such. For in all his writings you will find the evidences of a large and truly christian spirit, too great to be confined to the narrow limits of one or other party; and that noble catholic temper is what he every where labours to infuse into his readers: a temper not only most pleasant to the persons themselves in whom it has place, but which at last must heal all the unhappy differences in the christian world, if ever God have so much mercy for us.

GEORGE HAMMOND,
ABRAHAM HUME,
SAMUEL STANCLIFF,
THOMAS DOOLITTLE,
RICHARD STRETTON,
JOHN QUICK,
MATTHEW SYLVESTER,
DANIEL WILLIAMS,
DANIEL BURGESS,
JOHN SPADEMAN,
SAMUEL POMFRET,
JOHN SHOWER,
TIMOTHY ROGERS,
THOMAS GOODWIN,
JOSHUA OLDFIELD,
BENJAMIN ROBINSON,
THOMAS COTTON,
WILLIAM TONG,
ROBERT FLEMING,
JOHN SHEFFIELD,
JOHN BILLINGSLEY,
DANIEL ALEXANDER,
ROBERT BILLIO,
THOMAS REYNOLDS,
EDMUND CALAMY,
SAMUEL BURY,
SAMUEL DOOLITTLE,
ZACH. MERRELL,
THOMAS FREKE,
WILLIAM HARRIS,
SAMUEL PALMER,
BENJAMIN GRAVENER,
MICHAEL POPE,
SAMUEL ROSEWEL.


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A

CHRISTIAN DIRECTORY:

OR, A SUM OF

PRACTICAL THEOLOGY,

AND

CASES OF CONSCIENCE.

DIRECTING CHRISTIANS, HOW TO USE THEIR KNOWLEDGE AND FAITH; HOW TO
IMPROVE ALL HELPS AND MEANS, AND TO PERFORM ALL DUTIES; HOW TO
OVERCOME TEMPTATIONS, AND TO ESCAPE OR MORTIFY EVERY SIN.

IN FOUR PARTS.

I. CHRISTIAN ETHICS, (OR PRIVATE DUTIES.)
II. CHRISTIAN ECONOMICS, (OR FAMILY DUTIES.)
III. CHRISTIAN ECCLESIASTICS, (OR CHURCH DUTIES.)
IV. CHRISTIAN POLITICS, (OR DUTIES TO OUR RULERS AND NEIGHBOURS.)

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ADVERTISEMENT.

Readers,

The book is so big that I must make no longer preface, than to give you this necessary, short account, I. Of the quality; II. And the reasons of this work.

1. The matter you will see in the contents: As Amesius's "Cases of Conscience" are to his "Medulla," the second and practical part of theology, so is this to a "Methodus Theologiæ" which I have not yet published. And, 1. As to the method of this, it is partly natural, but principally moral; that is, partly suitable to the real order of the matter, but chiefly of usefulness, secundum ordinem intentionis, where our reasons of each location are fetched from the end. Therefore unless I might be tedious in opening my reasons à fine for the order of every particular, I know not how to give you full satisfaction. But in this practical part I am the less solicitous about the accurateness of method, because it more belongeth to the former part, (the theory,) where I do it as well as I am able.

2. This book was written in 1664 and 1665 (except the Ecclesiastic Cases of Conscience, and a few sheets since added). And since the writing of it, some invitations drew me to publish my "Reasons of the Christian Religion," my "Life of Faith," and "Directions for Weak Christians;" by which the work of the two first chapters here is more fully done; and therefore I was inclined here to leave them out; but for the use of such families as may have this without the other, I forbore to dismember it.

3. But there is a great disproportion between the several parts of the book. 1. The First Part is largest, because I thought that the heart must be kept with greatest diligence, and that if the tree be good the fruit will be good; and I remember Paul's counsel, "Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee," 1 Tim. iv. 16. Nothing is well done by him that beginneth not at home: as the man is, so is his strength, and work. 2. The two first chapters are too coarse and tedious for those of the higher form, who may pass them over. But the rest must be spoken to; to whom that is unprofitable which is most suitable and pleasant to more exercised and accurate wits. The grand directions are but the explications of the essentials of christianity, or of the baptismal covenant, even of our relation-duties to God the Father, Son, (in several parts of his relation,) and of the Holy Ghost. The doctrine of Temptations is handled with brevity, because they are so numerous; lest a due amplification should have swelled the book too much; when a small part of their number maketh up so much of Mr. John Downame's great and excellent treatise, called, "The Christian Warfare." The great radical sins are handled more largely than seemeth proportionable to the rest, because all die when they are dead. And I am large about Redeeming Time, because therein the sum of a holy, obedient life is included.

4. If any say, Why call you that a Sum of Practical Theology which is but the directing part, and leaveth out the explication, reasons, various uses, marks, motives, &c.? I answer, 1. Had I intended sermonwise to say all that might well be said on each subject, it would have made many volumes as big as this. 2. Where I thought them needful, the explication of each duty and sin is added, with marks, contraries, counterfeits, motives, &c. And uses are easily added by an ordinary reader, without my naming them.

5. I do especially desire you to observe, that the resolving of practical cases of conscience, and the reducing of theoretical knowledge into serious christian practice, and promoting a skilful facility in the faithful exercise of universal obedience, and holiness of heart and life, is the great work of this treatise; and that where I thought it needful, the cases are reduced to express questions and answers. But had I done so by all, many such volumes would have been too little; and therefore I thought the directing way most brief and fit for christian practice; for if you mark them, you will find few directions in the book, which may not pass for the answer of an implied question or case of conscience; and when I have given you the answer in a direction, an ingenious reader can tell what question it is that is answered. And so, many hundred cases are here resolved, especially in the two first parts, which are not interrogatively named.

6. And I must do myself the right as to notify the reader, that this treatise was written when I was (for not subscribing, declaring, &c.) forbidden by the law to preach, and when I had been long separated far from my library and from all books, saving an inconsiderable parcel which wandered with me, where I went; by which means this book hath two defects: 1. It hath no cases of conscience, but what my bare memory brought to hand: and cases are so innumerable, that it is far harder, methinks, to remember them, than to answer them; whereby it came to pass that some of the ecclesiastical cases are put out of their proper place, because I could not seasonably remember them. For I had no one casuist but Amesius with me. But (after about twelve years' separation) having received my library, I find that the very sight of Sayrus, Fragoso, Roderiquez, Tolet, &c. might have helped my memory to a greater number. But perhaps these will be enough for those that I intend them for. 2. And by the same cause the margin is unfurnished of such citations as are accounted an ornament, and in some cases are very useful. The scraps inserted out of my few trivial books at hand being so mean, as that I am well content (except about Monarchy, Part IV.) that the reader pass them by as not worthy of his notice.

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And it is like that the absence of books will appear to the reader's loss in the materials of the treatise; but I shall have this advantage by it, that he will not accuse me as a plagiary. And it may be some little advantage to him, that he hath no transcript of any man's books, which he had before; but the product of some experience, with a naked, unbiassed perception of the matter or things themselves.

7. Note also, that the Third and Fourth Parts are very much defective of what they should contain, about the power and government of God's officers in church and state; of which no readers will expect a reason but strangers, whose expectations I may not satisfy. But as I must profess, that I hope nothing here hath proceeded from disloyalty, or disrespect to authority, government, unity, concord, peace, or order; or from any opposition to faith, piety, love, or justice; so if, unknown to me, there be any thing found here that is contrary or injurious to any one of these, I do hereby renounce it, and desire it may be taken as non scriptum.

II. The ends and uses for which I wrote this book are these: 1. That when I could not preach the gospel as I would, I might do it as I could. 2. That three sorts might have the benefit, as followeth.

1. That the younger and more unfurnished and unexperienced sort of ministers, might have a promptuary at hand, for practical resolutions and directions on the subjects that they have need to deal in. And though Sayrus and Fragoso have done well, I would not have us under a necessity of going to the Romanists for our ordinary supplies. Long have our divines been wishing for some fuller casuistical tractate: Perkins began well; Bishop Sanderson hath done excellently de juramento; Amesius hath exceeded all, though briefly. Mr. David Dickson hath put more of our English cases about the state of sanctification, into Latin, than ever was done before him. Bishop Jeremy Taylor hath in two folios but begun the copious performance of the work. And still men are calling for more, which I have attempted: hoping that others will come after, and do better than we all.

If any call it my pride, to think that any ministers or students are so raw as to need any thing that I can add to them, let him but pardon me for saying that such demure pleadings for a feigned humility, shall not draw me to a confederacy with blindness, hypocrisy, and sloth, and I will pardon him for his charge of pride.

It is long ago since many foreign divines subscribed a request, that the English would give them in Latin a Sum of our Practical Theology, which Mr. Dury sent over, and twelve great divines of ours wrote to Bishop Usher, (as Dr. Bernard tells you in his Life,) to draw them up a form or method. But it was never done among them all. And it is said, that Bishop Downame at last undertaking it, died in the attempt. Had this been done, it is like my labour might have been spared. But being undone, I have thus made this essay. But I have been necessitated to leave out much, (about conversion, mortification, self-denial, self-acquaintance, faith, justification, judgment, glory, &c.) because I had written of them all before.

2. And I thought it not unuseful to the more judicious masters of families, who may choose and read such parcels to their families, as at any time the case requireth. And indeed I began it rudely, with an intention of that plainness and brevity which families require; but finding that it swelled to a bigger bulk than I intended, I was fain to write my "Life of Faith," as a breviate and substitute, for the families and persons that cannot have and use so large a volume: presupposing, my "Directions for sound Conversion," for "Weak Christians," and for "Peace of Conscience," printed long ago.

3. And to private christians I thought it not in vain, to have at hand so universal a directory and resolution of doubts; not expecting that they remember all, but may, on every occasion, turn to such particulars as they most need.

But I must expect to be assaulted with these objections: and it is not only profane deriders and malignant enemies, that are used by Satan to vilify and oppose our service of God.

Object. I. You have written too many books already. Who do you think hath so little to do as to read them all? Is it not pride and self-conceitedness to think that your scribblings are worthy to be read? and that the world hath need of so much of your instructions, as if there were no wise men but you? You have given offence already by your writings; you should write less, and preach more.

Answ. 1. I have seldom, if ever, in all my ministry, omitted one sermon for all my writings. I was not able to live in London, nor ride abroad; but through God's mercy I seldom omitted any opportunities at home.

2. And if I preach the same doctrine that I write, why should not men be as angry with me for preaching it, as for writing it? But if it be good and true, why is it not as good preach by the press, to many thousands, and for many years after I am dead, as to preach to a parlour full for a few hours? Or why is not both as good as one?

3. I will not take the reverend objector to be ignorant, that writing, and publishing the word of God by it, is preaching it, and the most public preaching; and hath the example of the apostles and evangelists, as well as speaking. And one is no more appropriate to them than the other: though the extraordinaries of both be proper to them. And do you not perceive what self-condemning contradiction it is, at the same time to cry out against those that dissuade you from preaching, or hinder you, and tell you it is needless, and you are proud to think that the world needeth your preaching, and yet you yourselves to say the very same against your brethren's preaching by the press? I know an ignorant, illiterate sectary might say, Writing is no preaching; and you are called to preach, and not to write. But I must reverence you more than to suppose you so absurd. Other men forbid you but less public preaching, and you reproach me for more public preaching: that is the difference. How hard is it to know what spirit we are of! Did you think that you had been patrons of idleness, and silencers of ministers, while you declaim so much against it? Your pretence that you would have me preach more, is feigned. Are you sure that you preach ofter than I do? When I persuaded ministers heretofore to catechise and instruct all their parishes personally, family by family, you said it was more toil than was our duty. And now you are against much writing too; and yet would be thought laborious ministers.

And as to the number and length of my writings, it is my own labour that maketh them so, and my own great trouble, that the world cannot be sufficiently instructed and edified in fewer words. But, 1. Would not all your sermons set together be as long? And why is not much and long preaching blamable, if long writings be? 2. Are not the works of Augustine, and Chrysostom, much longer? Who yet hath reproached[Pg 5] Aquinas or Suarez, Calvin or Zanchy, &c. for the number and greatness of the volumes they have written? Why do you contradict yourselves by affecting great libraries? 3. When did I ever persuade any one of you to buy or read any book of mine? What harm will they do those that let them alone? Or what harm can it do you for other men to read them? Let them be to you as if they had never been written; and it will be nothing to you how many they are. And if all others take not you for their tutors, to choose for them the books that they must read, that is not my doing, but their own. If they err in taking themselves to be fitter judges than you what tendeth most to their own edification, why do you not teach them better? 4. Either it is God's truth, or error, which I write. If error, why doth no one of you show so much charity, as by word or writing to instruct me better, nor evince it to my face, but do all to others by backbiting? If truth, what harm will it do? If men had not leisure to read our writings, the booksellers would silence us, and save you the labour; for none would print them. 5. But who can please all men? Whilst a few of you cry out of too much, what if twenty or a hundred for one be yet for more? How shall I know whether you or they be the wiser and the better men?

Readers, you see on what terms we must do the work of God. Our slothful flesh is backward, and weary of so much labour: malignant enemies of piety are against it all. Some slothful brethren think it necessary to cloak their fleshly ease by vilifying the diligence of others. Many sects whom we oppose, think it the interest of their cause, (which they call God's cause,) to make all that is said against them seem vain, contemptible, and odious; which because they cannot do by confutation, they will do by backbiting and confident chat. And one or two reverend brethren have, by the wisdom described exactly, James iii. 15, 16, arrived at the liberty of backbiting and magisterial sentencing the works of others, (which they confess they never read,) that their reputation of being most learned, orthodox, worthy divines, may keep the chair at easier rates, than the wasting of their flesh in unwearied labours to know the truth, and communicate it to the world. And some are angry, who are forward to write, that the booksellers and readers silence not others as well as them.

Object. II. Your writings differing from the common judgment, have already caused offence to the godly.

Answ. 1. To the godly that were of a contrary opinion only. Sores that will not be healed, use to be exasperated by the medicine. 2. It was none but healing, pacificatory writings, that have caused that offence. 3. Have not those dissenters' writings more offended the godly that were against them? They have but one trick, to honour their denial, which more dishonoureth it, even by unsanctifying those that are not of their minds. 4. If God bless me with opportunity and help, I will offend such men much more, by endeavouring, further than ever I have done, the quenching of that fire which they are still blowing up; and detecting the folly and mischief of those logomachies by which they militate against love and concord, and inflame and tear the church of God. And let them know that I am about it. But some pastors, as well as people, have the weakness to think that all our preachings and writings must be brought under their dominion, and to their bar, by the bare saying that we offend the godly, that is, those of their opinion, which they falsely call by the name of scandal. 5. But I think they will find little controversy to offend them in this book.

Object. III. You shall take more leisure, and take other men's judgment of your writings before you thrust them out so hastily.

Answ. 1. I have but a little while to live, and therefore must work while it is day. Time will not stay. 2. I do show them to those that I take to be most judicious, and never refused any man's censure; but it is not many that have leisure to do me so great a kindness. But that I commit them not to the perusal of every objector, is a fault uncurable, by one that never had an amanuensis, and hath but one copy, usually. 3. And if I could do it, how should I be sure that they would not differ as much among themselves, as they do from me? And my writings would be like the picture which the great painter exposed to the censure of every passenger, and made it ridiculous to all, when he altered all that every one advised him to alter. And, to tell you the truth, I was never yet blamed by one side as not sufficiently pleasing them; but I was blamed also by the contrary side, for coming so near them: and I had not wit enough to know which party of the accusers was the wiser. And therefore am resolved to study to please God and conscience, and to take man-pleasing, when inconsistent, for an impossible and unprofitable work; and to cease from man whose breath is in his nostrils, whose thoughts all perish as he passeth off the judicature of his stage to the judicature of God.

Object. IV. Your Ecclesiastical Cases are dangerously reconciling, tending to abate men's zeal against error.

Answ. The world hath long enough escaped the danger of peace and reconciliation. It had been well if they had as long escaped the danger of your conceited, orthodox strife, which hath brought in confusion and all evil works. I take it to be a zeal effectively against love, and against unity, and against Christ, which, with the preachers of extremes, goeth under the name of a zeal against error, and for truth.

Object. V. Are all these numerous directions to be found in Scripture? Show us them in Scripture, or you trouble the church with your own inventions.

Answ. 1. Are all your sermons in the Scripture? and all the good books of your library in the Scripture? 2. Will you have none but readers in the church, and put down preachers? Sure it is the reader that delivereth all and only the Scripture. 3. Are we not men before we are christians? And is not the light and law of nature divine? And was the Scripture written to be instead of reason, or of logic, or other subservient sciences? Or must they not all be sanctified and used for divinity? 4. But I think that as all good commentaries, and sermons, and systems of theology, are in Scripture, so is the Directory here given, and is proved by the evidence of the very thing discoursed of, or by the plainest texts.

Object. VI. You confound your reader by curiosity of distinctions.

Answ. 1. If they are vain or false, shame them by detecting it, or you shame yourselves by blaming them, when you cannot show the error. Expose not yourselves to laughter by avoiding just distinction to escape confusion: that is, avoiding knowledge to escape ignorance, or light to escape darkness. 2. It is ambiguity and confusion that breedeth and feedeth almost all our pernicious controversies; and even those that bring in error by vain distinction, must be confuted by better distinguishers, and not by ignorant[Pg 6] confounders. I will believe the Holy Ghost, 2 Tim. ii. 14-16, that logomachy is the plague by which the hearers are subverted, and ungodliness increased; and that orthotomy, or right dividing the word of truth, is the cure. And, Heb. v. 15, discerning both good and evil, is the work of long and well exercised senses.

Object. VII. Is this your reducing our faith to the primitive simplicity, and to the creed? What a toilsome task do you make religion by overdoing? Is any man able to remember all these numberless directions?

Answ. 1. I pray mistake not all these for articles of faith. I am more zealous than ever I was for the reduction of the christian faith to the primitive simplicity; and more confident that the church will never have peace and concord, till it be so done, as to the rest of men's faith and communion. But he that will have no books but his creed and Bible, may follow that sectary, who, when he had burnt all his other books as human inventions, at last burnt the Bible, when he grew learned enough to understand, that the translation of that was human too.

2. If men think not all the tools in their shops, and all the furniture of their houses, or the number of their sheep, or cattle, or lands, nor the number of truths received by a learning intellect, &c. to be a trouble and toil, why should they think so of the number of helps to facilitate the practice of their duty? If all the books in your libraries make your studies or religion toilsome, why do you keep them? and do not come to the vulgar religion, that would hear no more but, Think well, speak well, and do well, or, Love God and your neighbour, and do as you would be done by. He that doth this truly, shall be saved. But there goeth more to the building of a house, than to say, Lay the foundation, and raise the superstructure: universals exist not but in individuals; and the whole consisteth of all the parts.

3. It is not expected that any man remember all these directions. Therefore I wrote them, because men cannot remember them, that they may, upon every necessary occasion, go to that which they have present use for, and cannot otherwise remember.

In sum, to my quarrelsome brethren I have two requests: 1. That instead of their unconscionable, and yet unreformed custom of backbiting, they would tell me to my face of my offences by convincing evidence, and not tempt the hearers to think them envious. And, 2. That what I do amiss they would do better: and not be such as will neither laboriously serve the church themselves, nor suffer others; and that they will not be guilty of idleness themselves, nor tempt me to be a slothful servant, who have so little time to spend; for I dare not stand before God under that guilt. And that they will not join with the enemies and resisters of the publication of the word of God.

And to the readers my request is, 1. That whatever for quantity or quality in this book is an impediment to their regular, universal obedience, and to a truly holy life, they would neglect and cast away. 2. But that which is truly instructing and helpful, they would diligently digest and practise; and I encourage them by my testimony, that by long experience I am assured, that this PRACTICAL RELIGION will afford both to church, state, and conscience, more certain and more solid peace, than contending disputers, with all their pretences of orthodoxness and zeal against errors for the truth, will ever bring, or did ever attain to.

I crave your pardon for this long apology: it is an age where the objections are not feigned, and where our greatest and most costly services of God are charged on us as our greatest sins; and where at once I am accused of conscience for doing no more, and of men for doing so much. Being really

A most unworthy servant of so good a Master,

RICHARD BAXTER.


[Pg 7]

A

CHRISTIAN DIRECTORY.


PART I.

CHRISTIAN ETHICS:

OR,
DIRECTIONS FOR THE ORDERING OF THE PRIVATE ACTIONS OF OUR HEARTS AND LIVES.
IN THE WORK OF HOLY SELF-GOVERNMENT, UNTO AND UNDER GOD.

THE INTRODUCTION.[6]

The eternal God having made man an intellectual and free agent, able to understand and choose the good, and refuse the evil; to know, and love, and serve his Maker, and by adhering to him in this life of trial, to attain to the blessed sight and enjoyment of his glory in the life to come, hath not been wanting to furnish him with such necessaries, without which these ends could not successfully be sought. When we had lost our moral capacity of pleasing him, that we might enjoy him, he restoreth us to it by the wonderful work of our redemption. In Christ he hath reconciled the world unto himself; and hath given them a general act of oblivion, contained in the covenant of grace, which nothing but men's obstinate and final unwillingness can deprive them of. To procure their consent to this gracious covenant, he hath "committed" to his ministers the "word of reconciliation;" commanding us "to beseech men, as in the stead of Christ, and as though God himself did beseech them by us, to be reconciled unto God," 2 Cor. v. 18-20; and to show them first their sin and misery, and proclaim and offer the true remedy, and to let them know, that all things are now ready, and by pleading their duty, their necessity, and their commodity, to compel them to come in, Matt. xxii. 4; Luke xi. 17, 23.

But so great is the blindness and obstinacy of men, that the greatest part refuse consent; being deceived by the pleasures, and profits, and honours of this present world; and make their pretended necessities or business the matter of their excuses, and the unreasonable reasons of their refusal, negligence, and delays, till death surprise them, and the door is shut; and they knock, and cry for mercy and admittance, when it is too late, Matt. xxv. 10-12.

Against this wilful negligence and presumption, which is the principal cause of the damnation of the ungodly world, I have written many books already.[7] But because there are many that profess themselves unfeignedly willing, not only to be saved, but also to be Christ's disciples; to learn of him, to imitate him, and be conformed to him, and to do the will of God, if they could but know it; I have determined, by God's assistance, to write this book for the use of such, and to give them from God's word those plain directions, which are suited to the several duties of their lives, and may guide them safely in their walk with God, to life eternal. Expect not here copious and earnest exhortations, for that work I have done already; and have now to do with such, as say they are made willing, and desire help against their ignorance, that skill and will may concur to their salvation. I shall labour to speak as plainly as I can, because I specially intend it for the ignorant; and yet to be competently exact in the directions, lest such readers lose the benefit by mistakes. And I must speak to many cases, because I speak to families,[Pg 8] where all are not in the same condition, and the same persons are not still the same. And therefore if I should not be brief in the particulars, I should be too long in the whole; and tediousness might deprive some readers of the benefit.

In families some are (too ordinarily) ungodly, in a carnal, unrenewed state; and some are godly, in a state of grace.[8] These are considerable as christians simply, with respect to God, or in their relations to others: these relations are either ecclesiastical, civil, or domestical (family relations).

Accordingly, my intended method is, 1. To direct ungodly, carnal minds, how to attain to a state of grace. 2. To direct those that have saving grace, how to use it; both in the contemplative and active parts of their lives; in their duties of religion, both private and public; in their duties to men, both in their ecclesiastical, civil, and family relations. And, by the way, to direct those that have grace, how to discern it, and take the comfort of it; and to direct them how to grow in grace, and persevere unto the end.

And if any reader should be discouraged at the number of duties and directions set before him, I entreat him to consider, 1. That it is God, and not I, that imposeth all these duties on you: and who will question his wisdom, goodness, or power to make laws for us and all the world? 2. That every duty and direction is a mercy to you; and therefore should not be matter of grief to you, but of thanks. They are but like the commands of parents to their children, when they bid them eat their meat, and wear their clothes, and go to bed, and eat not poison, and tumble not in the dirt; and cut not your fingers, and take heed of fire and water, &c. To leave out any such law or duty, were but to deprive you of an excellent mercy; you will not cut off or cast away any member of your body, any vein, or sinew, or artery, upon pretence that the number maketh them troublesome, when the diminishing of that number would kill or maim you. A student is not offended that he hath many books in his library; nor a tradesman that he hath store of tools; nor the rich at the number of his farms or flocks. Believe it, reader, if thou bring not a malignant quarrelsome mind, thou wilt find that God hath not burdened, but blessed thee with his holy precepts, and that he hath not appointed thee one unnecessary or unprofitable duty; but only such as tend to thy content, and joy, and happiness.[9]

O let it be the daily, earnest prayer of me and thee, that our hearts prove not false and unwilling to follow the directions which are given us, lest we condemn ourselves in the things which we allow. Your practice now will show, whether it be through want of will or skill, if henceforth you unfaithfully neglect your duty. If you are willing, obey now what is plainly taught you, and show by your diligence that you are willing.


CHAPTER I.

PART I.

Directions to unconverted, graceless Sinners, for the attaining of true saving Grace.[10]

If ungodly, miserable sinners were as few, as the devil and their self-love would make themselves believe,[11] I might forbear this part of my work as needless. For the whole need not the physician, but the sick. If you go into twenty families, and ask them all, whether any of them are in an unsanctified state, unrenewed and unpardoned, and under the wrath and curse of God? you will meet with few that will not tell you, they hope it is better with them than so; and though they are sinners, as all are, yet that they are repenting, pardoned sinners. Nay, there is scarce one of many of the most wicked and notoriously ungodly, but hope they are in a penitent, pardoned state. Even the haters of God will say they love him; and the scorners at godliness will say that they are not ungodly; and that it is but hypocrisy and singularity that they deride: and it were well for them, if saying so would go for proof, and he that will be their Judge would take their words. But God will not be deceived, though foolish men are wise enough to deceive themselves. Wickedness will be wickedness when it hath clothed itself with the fairest names: God will condemn it when it hath found out the most plausible pretences and excuses. Though the ungodly think to bear it out in pride and scorn, and think to be saved by their hypocritical lip-service, as soon as the most holy worshippers of the Lord, yet "shall they be like chaff which the wind driveth away: they shall not be able to stand in judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous," Psal. i. 4-6. And if God know better than foolish men, then certainly the flock is little to whom the "Father will give the kingdom," Luke xii. 32. And "wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it," Matt. vii. 13, 14. When Christ was asked, "Lord, are there few that be saved?" he answered, "Strive to enter in at the strait gate; for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able," Luke xiii. 23, 24. But, alas! we need no other information than common experience, to tell us whether the greatest part of men be holy, and heavenly, and self-denying; that seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and love God above all, and will forsake all they have for the sake of Christ: and undoubtedly none but such are saved; as you may see Heb. xxi. 14; Matt. vi. 20, 21, 33; Luke xiv. 33.

Seeing then the godly are so few, and the ungodly so many; and that God will take nothing for holiness that is not such indeed; and seeing it is so terrible a thing to any man that hath his wits about him, to live one day in an unconverted state, because he that dieth so, is lost for ever; methinks it should be our wisdom, to be suspicious of ourselves, and careful lest we be deceived in so great a business, and diligent in searching and examining our hearts, whether they are truly sanctified or not; because it can be no harm to make sure work for our salvation; whereas presumption, carelessness, and negligence, may betray us to remediless misery and despair.

I do not here suppose the reader to have any such acquaintance with his heart, or care of his salvation, or obedient willingness to be taught and ruled by Jesus Christ, as is proper to those that are truly sanctified; for it is ungodly persons that now I am speaking to. And yet, if I should not suppose them to have some capacity and disposition to make use of the directions which I give them, I might as well pass them by, and spare my labour. I tell thee therefore, reader, what it is that I presuppose in thee, and expect from thee, and I think thou wilt not judge me unreasonable in my suppositions and expectations.

Presupposed, That thou art a man.

1. I suppose thee to be a man, and therefore that thou hast reason and natural free will, (that is, the natural faculty of choosing and refusing,) which should keep thy sensitive appetite in obedience; and that thou art capable of loving and serving thy Creator, and enjoying him in everlasting life.

That thou knowest this: and what a man is.

2. I suppose that thou knowest thyself to be a man; and therefore that thy sensitive part, or flesh, should no more rule thee, or be ungoverned by thee, than the horse should rule the rider, or be unruled by him: and that thou understandest that thou art made on purpose to love and serve thy Maker, and to be happy in his love and glory for ever. If thou know not this much, thou knowest not that thou art a man, or else knowest not what a man is.

That thou hast self-love and a desire to be happy.

3. I suppose thee to have a natural self-love, and a desire of thy own preservation and happiness; and that thou hast no desire to be miserable, or to be hated of God, or to be cast out of his favour and presence into hell, and there to be tormented with devils everlastingly: yea, I will suppose that thou art not indifferent whether thou dwell in heaven or hell, in joy or torment; but would fain be saved and be happy; whether thou be godly or ungodly, wise or foolish, I will be bold to take all this for granted: and I hope in all this I do not wrong thee.

That thou madest not thyself: and that the first cause of all the being, power, wisdom, and goodness of all the creatures, hath (formally or eminently) more than all they. And therefore that there is a God.

4. I suppose thee to be one that knowest that thou didst not make thyself;[12] nor give thyself that power or wisdom which thou hast; and that he that made thee and all the world, must needs be before all the world; and that he is eternal, having no beginning (for if ever there had been a time when there was nothing, there never would have been any thing; because nothing can make nothing); and I suppose thou dost confess that all the power, and wisdom, and goodness of the whole creation set together, is less than the power, and wisdom, and goodness of the Creator; because nothing can give more than it hath to give. I suppose, therefore, that thou dost confess that there is a God; for to be the eternal, infinite Being, and the most powerful, wise, and good, and the first cause of all created being, and power, and wisdom, and goodness, this (with the subsequent relations to the creature) is to be GOD. If thou wilt deny that there is a God, thou must deny that thou art a man, and that there is any man, or any being.

That the Creator of all is the Lord or Owner of all; the Ruler of the rational creature; and the Benefactor and End of all.

5. I suppose thou knowest that God, who gave a being unto all things, is by this title of creation, the absolute Owner or Lord of all: and that he that made the reasonable creatures, with natures to be governed, in order to a further end, is by that title, their supreme Governor; and therefore hath his laws commanding duty, and promising reward, and threatening punishment; and therefore will judge men according to these laws, and will be just in judgment,[Pg 9]
[Pg 10]
and in his rewards and punishments. And that he that freely gave the creature its being, and all the good it hath, and must give it all that ever it shall have, is the Father or most bountiful Benefactor to his creatures. Surely I screw thee not too high in supposing thee to know all this; for all this is no more than that there is a God. For he is not God, if he be not the Creator, and therefore our Owner, our Ruler, and Benefactor, our absolute Lord, our most righteous Governor, and our most loving Father, or Benefactor.

That this God must be obeyed and loved.

6. I suppose therefore that thou art convinced, that God must be absolutely submitted to, and obeyed before all others in the world, and loved above all friends, or pleasures, or creatures whatsoever. For to say, He is my Owner, is to say, I must yield myself to him as his own; to say, I take him for my supreme Governor, is to say, that I will absolutely be ruled by him; and to say, I take him as my dearest Father or chief Benefactor, is to say, that I am obliged to give him my dearest love, and highest thanks: otherwise you do but jest, or say you know not what, or contradict yourselves, while you say, He is your God.

That nothing is to be preferred before him.

7. I suppose that thou art easily convinced, that in all the world there is no creature that can show so full a title to thee as God; or that hath so great authority to govern thee, or that can be so good to thee, or do so much for thee, as God can do, or hath done, and will do, if thou do thy part; and therefore that there is nothing to be preferred before him, or compared with him in our obedience or love: nor is there any that can save us from his justice, if we stand out against him.

That he that ruleth the world by hopes and fears of another life, doth not rule them by deceit and lies, and that he hath rewards and punishments hereafter.

8. I suppose that as thou knowest God is just in his laws and judgments,[13] so that he is so faithful that he will not, and so all-sufficient that he need not, deceive mankind, and govern them by mere deceit: this better beseems the devil, than God: and therefore that as he governeth man on earth by the hopes and fears of another life, he doth not delude them into such hopes or fears; and as he doth not procure obedience by any rewards or punishments in this life, as the principal means, (the wicked prospering, and the best being persecuted and afflicted here,) therefore his rewards or punishments must needs be principally hereafter in the life to come. For if he have no rewards or punishments, he hath no judgment; and if he have no judgment, he hath no laws (or else no justice); and if he have no laws, (or no justice,) he is no governor of man (or not a righteous governor); and if he be not our governor, (and just,) he is not our God; and if he were not our God, we had never been his creatures, nor had being, or been men.

That man being bound to love and obey God above all, is bound to do nothing in vain, and that we cannot be losers by his service.

9. I suppose thou knowest that if God had not discovered what he would do with us in the life to come, yet man is highliest bound to obey and love his Maker, because he is our absolute Lord, our highest Ruler, and our chief Benefactor; and all that we are to have is from him. And that if man be bound to spend his life in the service of his God, it is certain that he shall be no loser by him, no, not by the costliest obedience that we can perform; for God cannot appoint us any thing that is vain; nor can he be worse to us than an honest man, that will see that we lose not by his service. Therefore that God for whom we must spend and forsake this life, and all those pleasures which sensualists enjoy, hath certainly some greater thing to give us, in another life.

That no infidel can say, He is sure there is no life to come.

10. I may take it for granted at the worst, that neither thyself, nor any infidel in the world, can say that you are sure that there is not another life for man, in which his present obedience shall be rewarded, and disobedience punished. The worst that ever infidel could say was, that he thinketh there is no other life. None of you dare deny the possibility of it, nor can with any reason deny the probability. Well, then, let this be remembered while we proceed a little further with you.

That you are sure of the brevity and vanity of this life: and that the probability or possibility of an endless joy or misery, should command all the care and diligence of a rational creature, against all that can be set against it.

11. I suppose or expect that you have so much use of sense and reason, as to know the brevity and vanity of all the glory and pleasures of the flesh; and that they are all so quickly gone, that were they greater than they are, they can be of no considerable value. Alas, what is time! How quickly gone, and then it is nothing! and all things then are nothing which are passed with it! So that the joys or sorrows of so short a life, are no great matter of gain or loss.

I may therefore suppose that thou canst easily conclude, that the bare probability or possibility of an endless happiness, should be infinitely preferred before such transitory vanity, even the greatest matters that can be expected here; and that the probability or possibility of endless misery in hell, should engage us with far greater care and diligence to avoid it, than is due for the avoiding any thing that you can think to escape by sinning; or any of the sufferings of this momentary life. If you see not this, you have lost your reason; that the mere probability or possibility of a heaven and hell, should much more command our care and diligence, than the fading vanities of this dreaming, transitory life.

Therefore that a holy life is every man's duty, were it but on the account of such a possibility or probability; and therefore that really there is such a joy and misery hereafter; because God doth not make our faculties in vain, nor make us to follow deceits and lies.

12. Well, then, we have got thus far in the clearest light. You see that a religious, holy life, is every man's duty, not only as they owe it to God as their Creator, their Owner, Governor, and Benefactor; but also, because as lovers of ourselves, our reason commandeth us to have ten thousandfold more regard of a probable or possible joy and torment which are endless, than of any that is small and of short continuance. And if this be so, that a holy life is every man's duty, with respect to the life that is to come, then it is most evident, that there is such a life to come indeed, and that it is more than probable or possible, even certain. For if it be but man's duty to manage this life, by the hopes and fears of another life, men it must follow, that either there is such a life to come, or else that God hath made it man's duty to hope, and fear, and care, and labour, and live in vain: and that he himself doth tantalize and cheat his creatures, and rule the world by motives of deceit, and make religion and obedience to our Maker to be a life of folly, delusion, and our loss. And he that believeth this of God, doth[Pg 11] scarce believe him to be God. Though I have mentioned this argument in another treatise, I think it not unmeet here to repeat it for thy benefit.

That all the matters of this transitory life are to be estimated as they refer to the life to come.

13. And seeing I suppose thee to be convinced of the life to come, and that man's happiness and misery is there, I must needs suppose that thou dost confess, that all things in this life, whether prosperity or adversity, honour or dishonour, are to be esteemed and used as they refer to the life to come. For nothing is more plain, than that the means are to have all their esteem and use in order to their end. That only is good in this life, which tendeth to the happiness of our endless life; and that is evil indeed in this life, that tendeth to our endless hurt, and to deprive us of the everlasting good. And therefore no price or motive should hire us to sin against God, and to forfeit or hinder our endless happiness.

That no man can love God too much, nor make too sure of his salvation.

14. I may suppose, if thou have reason, that thou wilt confess that God cannot be too much loved, nor obeyed too exactly, nor served too diligently (especially by such backward sinners, that have scarce any mind to love or worship him at all); and that no man can make too sure of heaven, or pay too dear for it, or do too much for his salvation, if it be but that which God hath appointed him to do. And that you have nothing else that is so much worth your time, and love, and care, and labour. And therefore though you have need to be stopped in your love, and care, and labour for the world, because for it you may easily pay too dear, and do too much; yet there is no need of stopping men in their love, and care, and labour for God and their salvation; which is worth more than ever we can do, and where the best are apt to do too little.

That this life is given us for trial and preparation to the life to come.

15. I also suppose thee to be one that knowest, that this present life is given us on trial,[14] to prepare for the life that shall come after; and that as men live here, they shall speed for ever; and that time cannot be recalled when it is gone, and therefore that we should make the best of it while we have it.

That man's thoughts should be serious and frequent about his future state.

16. I suppose thee also to be easily convinced, that seeing man hath his reason and life for matters of everlasting consequence, his thoughts of them should be frequent and very serious, and his reason should be used about these things, by retired, sober deliberation.

That you can tell, or may do, which way your hearts and diligence are bent, whether most for this life, or for that to come.

17. And I suppose thee to be a man, and therefore so far acquainted with thyself, as that thou mayst know, if thou wilt, whether thy heart and life do answer thy convictions, and whether they are more for heaven or earth; and therefore that thou art capable of self-judging in this case.

Perhaps you will say, that while I am directing you to be holy, I suppose you to be holy first; for all this seemeth to go far towards it. But I must profess that I see not any thing in all these suppositions, but what I may suppose to be in a heathen; and that I think all this is but supposing thee to have the use of thy reason, in the points in hand. Speak freely: Is there any one of all these points that thou canst or darest deny? I think there is not. And therefore if heathens and wicked men deny them in their practice, that doth but show that sin doth brutify them, and that, as men asleep, or in a crowd of business, they have not the use of the reason which they possess, in the matters which their minds are turned from.

That most among us profess to believe in Christ, and confess the gospel to be true, &c.

18. Yea, one thing more I think I may suppose in all or most that will read this book; that you take on you also to believe in Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost the Sanctifier, and that the Scriptures are the word of God. And if you do so indeed, I may then hope that my work is in a manner done, before I begin it: but if you do it but opinionatively and uneffectually, yet God and man may plead with you the truths which you profess.

Having told you what I presuppose in you, I proceed now to the directions. But I again entreat and charge thee, reader, as thou lovest thy soul, and wouldst not be condemned for hypocrisy and sloth, that thou dost not refuse to put in practice what is taught thee, and show thereby, that whatever thou pretendest, thou art not willing to do thy part for thy own salvation, no not in the most reasonable, necessary things.[15]

Direction I. If thou be truly willing to be sanctified and a child of God, remain not in a state of ignorance; but do thy best to come into the light, and understand the word of God, in the matters of salvation.

If knowledge be unnecessary, why have we understanding?[16] and wherein doth a man excel a beast? If any knowledge at all be necessary, certainly it must be the knowledge of the greatest and most necessary things: and nothing is so great and necessary as to obey thy Maker, and to save thy soul. Knowledge is to be valued according to its usefulness. If it be a matter of as great concernment to know how to do your worldly business, and to trade and gather worldly wealth, and to understand the laws, and to maintain your honour, as it is to know how to be reconciled unto God, to be pardoned and justified, to please your Creator, to prepare in time for death and judgment, and an endless life, then let worldly wisdom have the pre-eminence. But if all earthly things be dreams and shadows, and valuable only as they serve us in the way to heaven, then surely the heavenly wisdom is the best. Alas, how far is that man from being wise, that is acquainted with all the punctilios of the law, that is excellent in the knowledge of all the languages, sciences, and[Pg 12] arts, and yet knoweth not how to live to God, to mortify the flesh, to conquer sin, to deny himself, nor to answer in judgment for his fleshly life, nor to escape damnation! As far is such a learned man from being wise, as he is from being happy.

Two sorts among us do quietly live in damning ignorance. First, abundance of poor people, who think they may continue in it, because they were bred in it; and that because they are not book-learned, therefore they need not learn how to be saved; and because their parents neglected to teach them when they were young, therefore they may neglect themselves ever after, and need not learn the things they were made for. Alas, sirs, what have you your lives, your time, and reason for? Do you think it is only to know how to do your worldly business? Or is it to prepare for a better world? It is better that you knew not how to eat, or drink, or speak, or go, or dress yourselves, than that you know not the will of God, and the way to your salvation. Hear what the Holy Ghost saith, 2 Cor. iv. 3, 4, "But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them." Darkness is unsafe and full of fears; the light is safe and comfortable. A man in ignorance is never like to hit his way: nor can he know whether he be in or out; nor what enemy or danger he is near. It is the devil that is the prince of darkness, and his kingdom is a kingdom of darkness, and his works are works of darkness. See Eph. vi. 12.; Col. i. 13; 1 John ii. 11; Luke xi. 34, 35. Grace turneth men from darkness to light, Acts xxvi. 18, and causeth them to cast off the works of darkness, Rom. xiii. 12; because we are the children of light and of the day, and not of darkness or of night, 1 Thess. v. 5. They that were sometimes darkness, are light in the Lord, when they are converted, and must walk as the children of the light, Eph. v. 8. In the dark the devil and wicked men may cheat you, and do almost what they list with you. You will not buy your wares in the dark, nor travel, nor do your work in the dark: and will you judge of the state of your souls in the dark? and do the work of your salvation in the dark? I tell you the devil could never entice so many souls to hell, if he did not first put out the light, or put out their eyes. They would never so follow him by crowds, to everlasting torments, by daylight, and with open eyes. If men did but know well what they do when they are sinning, and whither they go in a carnal life, they would quickly stop, and go no further. All the devils in hell could never draw so many thither, if men's ignorance were not the advantage of temptations.

Another sort among us that are ignorant of the things of God, are sensual gentlemen, and scholars, that have so much breeding as to understand the words, and speak somewhat better than the ruder sort, but indeed never knew the nature, truth, and goodness of the things they speak of:[17] they are many of them as ignorant of the nature of faith, and sanctification, and the working of the Holy Ghost in planting the image of God upon the soul, and of the saints' communion with God, and the nature of a holy life, as if they had never heard or believed, that there is such a thing as any of these in being. Nicodemus is a lively instance in this case: a ruler in Israel, and a Pharisee, and yet knew not what it was to be born again. And the pride of these gallants maketh their ignorance much harder to be cured, than other men's; because it hindereth them from knowing and confessing it. If any one would convince them of it, they say with scorn, as the Pharisees to Christ, John ix. 40, "Are we blind also?" Yea, they are ready to insult over the children of the light, that are wise to salvation, because they differ from the loose or hypocritical opinions of these gentlemen, in some matters of God's worship; of which their worships are as competent judges, as the Pharisees of the doctrine of Christ, or as Nicodemus of regeneration, or as Simon Magus, or Julian, or Porphyry, of the gifts of the Holy Ghost. These honourable, miserable men, will bear no contradiction or reproof: who dare be so unmannerly,[Pg 13] disobedient, or bold, as to tell them that they are out of the way to heaven, and strangers to it (that I say not, enemies); and to presume to stop them in the way to hell, or to hinder them from damning themselves, and as many others as they can? They think this talk of Christ, and grace, and life eternal, if it be but serious, (and not like their own, in form, or levity, or scorn,) is but the troublesome preciseness of hypocritical, humorous, crack-brained fellows: and say of the godly, as the Pharisees, John vii. 47-49, "Are ye also deceived? Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him? But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed."

Well, gentlemen or poor men, whoever you be that savour not the things of the Spirit, Rom. viii. 5-7, 13, but live in ignorance of the mysteries of salvation, be it known to you, that heavenly truth and holiness are works of light, and never prosper in the dark; and that your best understanding should be used for God and your salvation, if for any thing at all. It is the devil and his deceits that fear the light. Do but understand well what you do, and then be wicked if you can; and then set light by Christ and holiness if you dare! O come but out of darkness into the light, and you will see that which will make you tremble to live ungodly and unconverted another day: and you will see that which will make you with penitent remorse lament your so long neglect of heaven, and wonder that you could live so far and so long beside your wits, as to choose a course of vanity and bestiality in the chains of Satan, before the joyful liberty of the saints: and, though we must not be so uncivil as to tell you where you are, and what you are doing, you will then more uncivilly call yourselves, "exceedingly mad and foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures," as one did that thought himself before as wise and good as any of you, Acts xxvi. 11; Tit. iii. 3. Live not in a sleepy state of ignorance, if ever you would have saving grace.

Direct. II. Especially labour first to understand the true nature of a state of sin and a state of grace.

It is like you will say, that all are sinners; and that Christ died for sinners; and that you were regenerate in your baptism; and that for the sins that since then you have committed, you have repented of them, and therefore you hope they are forgiven.[18]

But stay a little, man, and understand the matter well as you go; for it is your salvation that lieth at the stake. It is very true that all are sinners: but it is as true, that some are in a state of sin, and some in a state of grace; some are converted sinners, and some unconverted sinners; some live in sins inconsistent with holiness, (which therefore may be called mortal,) others have none but infirmities which consist with spiritual life (which in this sense may be called venial); some hate their sin, and long to be perfectly delivered from it, and others so love it, as they are loth to leave it. And is there no difference, think you, between these?

It is as true also, that Christ died for sinners: (or else where were our hope?) but it is true also, that he died to "save his people from their sins,"[19] Matt. i. 21, and "to bring them from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God," Acts xxvi. 18, and "to redeem us from all iniquity, and purify to himself a peculiar people zealous of good works," Tit. ii. 14, and "that except a man be born again, and converted, and become as a little child, (in humility and beginning the world anew,) he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven," John iii. 3, 5; Matt. xviii. 3, and that even he that died for sinners, will at last condemn the workers of iniquity, and say, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire," Matt. xxv. 41, "I never knew you," Matt. vii. 23.

It is very true, that you were sacramentally regenerate in baptism, and that he that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved, and all that are the children of promise, and have that promise sealed to them by baptism, are regenerate. The ancients taught that baptism puts men into a state of grace; that is, that all that sincerely renounce the world, the devil, and the flesh, and are sincerely given up to God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, according to the covenant of grace, and profess and seal this by their baptism, shall be pardoned, and made the heirs of life. But as it is true, that baptism thus saveth, so is it as true,[20] that it is not the "outward washing only the filth of the flesh" that will suffice, but the "answer of a good conscience towards God," 1 Pet. ii. 21; and that "no man can enter into the kingdom of God, that is not born of the Spirit, as well as of water," John iii. 5; and that Simon Magus and many another have had the water of baptism, that never had the Spirit, but still remain in the "gall of bitterness, and bond of iniquity, and had no part nor lot in that business, their hearts being not right in the sight of God," Acts viii. 13, 21, 23. And nothing is more sure, than that "if any man have not the Spirit of Christ (for all his baptism) he is none of his," Rom. viii. 9; and that if you have his Spirit, you "walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit;" and are "not carnally but spiritually minded," and are "alive to God," and as "dead to the world," Rom. viii. 1, 5-8, 10, 13, 14. Whether all that were baptized are such as these, when they come to age, judge you.

It is true also, that if you truly repent, you are forgiven: but it is as true, that true repentance is the very conversion of the soul from sin to God, and leaveth not any man in the power of sin. It is not for a man when he hath had all the pleasure that sin will yield him, to wish then that he had not committed it, (which he may do then at an easy rate,) and yet to keep the rest that are still pleasant and profitable to his flesh; like a man that casts away the bottle which he hath drunk empty, but keeps that which is full; or as men sell off their barren kine, and buy milch ones in their stead: this kind of repentance is a mockery, and not a cure for the soul. If thou have true repentance, it hath so far turned thy heart from sin, that thou wouldst not commit it, if it were to do again, though thou hadst all the same temptations; and it hath so far turned thy heart to God and holiness, that thou wouldst live a holy life, if it were all to do again, though thou hadst the same temptations as afore against it (because thou hast not the same heart). This is the nature of true repentance; such a repentance indeed is[Pg 14] never too late to save; but I am sure it never comes too soon.

Mark, now, I beseech you, what a state of sin, and what a state of holiness is.

He that is in a state of sin, hath habitually and predominantly a greater love to some pleasures, or profits, or honours of this world, than he hath to God, and to the glory which he hath promised; he preferreth, and seeketh, and holdeth (if he can) his fleshly prosperity in this world, before the favour of God and the happiness of the world to come. His heart is turned from God unto the creature, and is principally set on things on earth. Thus his sin is the blindness, and madness, and perfidiousness, and idolatry of his soul, and his forsaking of God, and his salvation, for a thing of nought. It is that to his soul, which poison, and death, and sickness, and lameness, and blindness are to his body: it is such dealing with God, as that man is guilty of to his dearest friend or father, who should hate him and his company, and love the company of a dog or toad much better than his; and obey his enemy against him: and it is like a madman's dealing with his physician, who seeks to kill him as his enemy, because he crosseth his appetite or will, to cure him. Think of this well, and then tell me, whether this be a state to be continued in. This state of sin is something worse than a mere inconsiderate act of sin, in one that otherwise liveth an obedient, holy life.

On the other side, a state of holiness is nothing else but the habitual and predominant devotion and dedication of soul, and body, and life, and all that we have, to God;[21] and esteeming, and loving, and serving, and seeking him, before all the pleasures and prosperity of the flesh; making his favour, and everlasting happiness in heaven, our end, and Jesus Christ our way, and referring all things in the world unto that end, and making this the scope, design, and business of our lives. It is a turning from a deceitful world to God; and preferring the Creator before the creature, and heaven before earth, and eternity before an inch of time, and our souls before our corruptible bodies, and the authority and laws of God, the universal Governor of the world, before the word or will of any man, how great soever; and a subjecting our sensitive faculties to our reason, and advancing this reason by Divine revelation; and living by faith, and not by sight: in a word, it is a laying up our treasure in heaven, and setting our hearts there, and living in a heavenly conversation, setting our affections on the things above, and not on the things that are on earth; and a rejoicing in hope of the glory to come, when sensualists have nothing but transitory, brutish pleasures to rejoice in.

This is a state and life of holiness: when we persuade you to be holy, we persuade you to no worse than this; when we commend a life of godliness to your choice, this is the life that we mean, and that we commend to you. And can you understand this well, and yet be unwilling of it? It cannot be. Do but know well what godliness and ungodliness, what grace and sin are, and the work is almost done.

Direct. III. To know what a life of holiness is, believe the word of God, and those that have tried it; and believe not the slanders of the devil and of ungodly men, that never tried or knew the things which they reproach.

Reason cannot question the reasonableness of this advice. Who is wiser than God? or who is to be believed before him? And what men are liker to know what they talk of, than such as speak from their own experience? Nothing more familiar with wicked men, than to slander and reproach the holy ways and servants of the Lord. No wisdom, no measure of holiness or righteousness, will exempt the godly from their malice; otherwise, Christ himself at least would have been exempted, if not his apostles and other saints, whom they have slandered and put to death. Christ hath foretold us what to expect from them. John xv. 18-21, "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also."

The truth is, wicked men are the seed and children of the devil, and have his image, and obey him, and think, and speak, and do as he would have them; and the godly are the seed and members of Christ, and bear his image, and obey him: and do you think that the devil will bid his children speak well of the ways or followers of Christ? I must confess, till I had found the truth of it by experience, I was not sensible how impudent in belying, and cruel in abusing the servants of Christ, his worldly, malicious enemies are.[22] I had read oft how early an enmity was put between the woman's and the serpent's seed, and I had read and wondered, that the first man that was born into the world did murder his brother for worshipping God more acceptably than himself; "because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous," 1 John iii. 12. I had read the inference, ver. 13, "Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you;" but yet I did not so fully understand, that wicked men and devils are so very like, and so near of kin, till the words of Christ, John viii. 44, expounded by visible demonstrations, had taught it me. Indeed the apostle saith, 1 John iii. 12, that Cain was of that wicked one, that is, the devil: but Christ saith more plainly, "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do: he was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him: when he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar, and the father of it." Here note, that cruel murdering and lying are the principal actions of a devil; and that as the father of these, he is the father of the wicked, who are most notoriously addicted to these two courses against the most innocent servants of the Lamb. How just it is that they dwell together hereafter, that are here so like in disposition and action: even as the righteous shall[Pg 15] dwell with Christ, who bore his image, and imitated his holy, suffering life.

I conclude, then, that if thou wilt never turn to God and a holy life, till wicked men give over belying and reproaching them, thou mayst as well say, that thou wilt never be reconciled to God, till the devil be first reconciled to him; and never love Christ, till the devil love him, or bid thee love him; or never be a saint, till the devil be a saint, or will give thee leave; and that thou wilt not be saved, till the devil be willing that thou be saved.

Direct. IV. That thy understanding may be enlightened, and thy heart renewed, be much and serious in reading the word of God, and those books that are fitted to men in an unconverted state, and especially in hearing the plain and searching preaching of the word.

There is a heavenly light, and power, and majesty in the word of God, which in the serious reading or hearing of it, may pierce the heart, and prick it, and open it, that corruption may go out, and grace come in. "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple: the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart," Psal. xix. 7, 8. Moreover, "by them it is that we are warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward," ver. 11. The eunuch was reading the Scripture, when Philip was sent to expound it to him for his conversion, Acts viii. The preaching of Peter did prick many thousands to the heart to their conversion, Acts ii. 37. The heart of Lydia was opened to attend to the preaching of Paul, Acts xvi. 14. "The word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit," Heb. iv. 11. These "weapons are mighty through God, to the pulling down of strong holds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ," 2 Cor. iv. 5. Hast thou often read and heard already, and yet findest no change upon thy heart? Yet read and hear again and again: ministers must not give over preaching, when they have laboured without success; why then should you give over hearing or reading? As the husbandman laboureth, and looketh to God for rain, and for the blessing, so must we, and so must you. Look up to God: remember it is his word, in which he calleth you to repentance, and offereth you mercy, and treateth with you concerning your everlasting happiness: lament your former negligence and disobedience, and beg his blessing on his word, and you shall find it will not be in vain.

And the serious reading of books which expound and apply the Scriptures, suitable to your case, may, by the blessing of God, be effectual to your conversion. I have written so many to this use myself, that I shall be the shorter on this subject now, and desire you to read them, or some of them, if you have not fitter at hand; viz. A Call to the Unconverted;—A Treatise of Conversion;—Now or Never;—Directions for a sound Conversion;—A Saint or a Brute;—A Treatise of Judgment;—A Sermon against making light of Christ;—A Sermon of Christ's Dominion;—Another of his Sovereignty, &c.

Direct. V. If thou wouldst not be destitute of saving grace, let thy reason be exercised about the matters of thy salvation, in some proportion of frequent, sober, serious thoughts, as thou art convinced the weight of the matter doth require.

1 Cor. xiii. 5; Psal. iv. 4-7; 1 Cor. xi. 28.

To have reason is common to all men, even the sleepy and distracted: to use reason is common to all that have their senses awake, and fit to serve their minds: to use reason in the greatest matters, is proper to wise men, that know for what end God made them reasonable.[23] Inconsiderate men are all ungodly men; for reason not used is as bad as no reason, and will prove much worse in the day of reckoning. The truth is, though sinners are exceeding blind and erroneous about the things of God, yet all God's precepts are so reasonable, and tend so clearly to our joy and happiness, that if the devil did not win most souls by silencing reason, and laying it asleep, or drowning its voice with the noise and crowd of worldly business, hell would not have so many sad inhabitants. I scarce believe that God will condemn any sinner that ever lived in the world, that had the use of reason; no, not the heathens that had but one talent, but he will be able to say to them, as Luke xix. 22, "Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest," &c. To serve God and labour diligently for salvation, and prefer it before all worldly things, is so reasonable a thing, that every one that repenteth of the contrary course, doth call it from his heart an impious madness. Reason must needs be for God that made it. Reason must needs be for that which is its proper end and use. Sin, as it is in the understanding, is nothing but unreasonableness; a blindness and error; a loss and corruption of reason in the matters of God and our salvation. And grace, as in the understanding, doth but cure this folly and distraction, and make us reasonable again; it is but the opening of our eyes, and making us wise in the greatest matters. It is not a more unmanly thing to love and plead for blindness, madness, and diseases, and to hate both sight, and health, and wit, than it is to love and plead for sin, and to hate and vilify a holy life.

Grant me but this one thing, that thou wilt but soberly exercise thy reason about these great, important questions; Where must I abide for ever? What must I do to be saved? What was I created and redeemed for? and I shall hope that thy own understanding, as erroneous as it is, will work out something that will promote thy good. Do but withdraw thyself one hour in a day from company and other business, and consider but as soberly and seriously of thy end and life, as thou knowest the nature and weight of the matter doth require, and I am persuaded thy own reason and conscience will call thee to repentance, and set thee, at least, in a far better way than thou wast in before. When thou walkest alone, or when thou wakest in the[Pg 16] night, remember soberly that God is present, that time is hasting to an end, that judgment is at hand, where thou must give account of all thy hours, of thy lusts, and passions, and desires; of all thy thoughts, and words, and deeds; and that thy endless joy or misery dependeth wholly and certainly on this little time. Think but soberly on such things as these, but one hour in a day or two, and try whether it will not once recover thee to wit and godliness; and folly and sin will vanish away before the force of considering reason, as the darkness vanisheth before the light. I entreat thee now as in the presence of God, and as thou wilt answer the denial of so reasonable a request at the day of judgment, that thou wilt but resolve to try this course of a sober, serious consideration, about thy sin, thy duty, thy danger, thy hope, thy account, and thy everlasting state: try it sometimes, especially on the Lord's days; and do but mark the result of all; and whither it is that such sober consideration doth point or lead thee? whether it be not towards a diligent, holy, heavenly life? If thou deny me thus much, God and thy conscience shall bear witness, that thou thoughtest thy salvation of little worth, and therefore mayst justly be denied it.

Would it not be strange that a man should be penitent and godly, that never once thought of the matter with any seriousness in his life? Can so many and great diseases of soul be cured, before you have once soberly considered that you have them, and how great and dangerous they are, and by what remedies they must be cured? Can grace be obtained and exercised, while you never so much as think of it? Can the main business of our lives be done without any serious thoughts; when we think it fit to bestow so many upon the trivial matters of this world? Doth the world and the flesh deserve to be remembered all the day, and week, and year? and doth not God and thy salvation deserve to be thought on one hour in a day, or one day in a week? Judge of these things, but as a man of reason. If thou look that God, who hath given thee reason to guide thy will, and a will to command thy actions, should yet carry thee to heaven like a stone, or save thee against or without thy will, before thou didst ever once soberly think of it, thou mayst have leisure in hell to lament the folly of such expectations.

Direct. VI. Suffer not the devil by company, pleasure, or worldly business, to divert or hinder thee from these serious considerations.

The devil hath but two ways to procure thy damnation. The one is, by keeping thee from any sober remembrance of spiritual and eternal things; and the other is, if thou wilt needs think of them, to deceive thee into false, erroneous thoughts. To bring to pass the first of these, (which is the most common, powerful means,) his ordinary way is by diversion;[24] finding thee still something else to do; putting some other thoughts into thy mind, and some other work into thy hand; so that thou canst never have leisure for any sober thoughts of God: whenever the Spirit of God knocks at thy door, thou art so taken up with other company, or other business, that thou canst not hear, or wilt not open to him. Many a time he hath been ready to teach thee, but thou wast not at leisure to hear and learn. Many a time he secretly jogged thy conscience, and checked thee in thy sin, and called thee aside to consider soberly about thy spiritual and everlasting state, when the noise of foolish mirth and pleasures, or the bustles of encumbering cares and business, have caused thee to stop thy ears, and put him off, and refuse the motion. And if the abused Spirit of God depart, and leave thee to thy beloved mirth and business, and to thyself, it is but just; and then thou wilt never have a serious, effectual thought of heaven, perhaps, till thou have lost it; nor a sober thought of hell, till thou art in it; unless it be some despairing, or some dull, ineffectual thought.

O therefore, as thou lovest thy soul, do not love thy pleasure or business so well as to refuse to treat with the Spirit of God, who comes to offer thee greater pleasures, and to engage thee in a more important business. O lay by all, to hear awhile what God and conscience have to say to thee. They have greater business with thee, than any others that thou conversest with. They have better offers and motions to make to thee, than thou shalt hear from any of thy old companions. If the devil can but take thee up a while, with one pleasure one day, and another business another day, and keep thee from the work that thou camest into the world for, till time be gone, and thou art slipt unawares into damnation, then he hath his desire, and hath the end he aimed at, and hath won the day, and thou art lost for ever.

It is like thou settest some limits to thy folly, and purposest to do thus but a little while: but when one pleasure withereth, the devil will provide a fresh one for thee; and when one business is over, which causeth thee to pretend necessity, another, and another, and another will succeed, and thou wilt think thou hast such necessity still, till time is gone, and thou see, too late, how grossly thou wast deceived. Resolve, therefore, that whatever company, or pleasure, or business would divert thee, that thou wilt not be befooled out of thy salvation, nor taken off from minding the one thing necessary. If company plead an interest in thee, know of them whether they are better company than the Spirit of God and thy conscience;—if pleasure would detain thee, inquire whether it be more pure and durable pleasures, than thou mayst have in heaven, by hearkening unto grace;—if business still pretend necessity, inquire whether it be a greater business than to prepare thy soul and thy accounts for judgment, and of greater necessity than thy salvation. If not, let it not have the precedency: if thou be wise, do that first that must needs be done; and let that stand by that may best be spared. What will it profit thee to win all the world, and lose thy soul? At least, if thou durst say that thy pleasure and business are better than heaven, yet might they sometimes be forborne, while thou seriously thinkest of thy salvation.

Direct. VII. If thou wouldst be converted and saved, be not a malicious or peevish enemy to those that would convert and save thee: be not angry with them that tell thee of thy sin or duty, as if they did thee wrong or hurt.

God worketh by instruments: when he will convert a Cornelius, a Peter must be sent for, and willingly heard. When he will recall and save a sinner, he hath usually some public minister or private friend, that shall be a messenger of that searching and convincing truth, which is fit to awaken them, enlighten them, and recover them. If God furnish these his instruments with compassion to your souls, and willingness to instruct you, and you will take them for your enemies, and peevishly quarrel with them, and contradict them, and perhaps reproach[Pg 17] them, and do them a mischief for their good will, what an inhuman, barbarous course of ingratitude is this! Will you be angry with men for endeavouring to save you from the fire of hell? Do they endeavour to make any gain or advantage by you? or only to help your souls to heaven? Indeed, if their endeavours did serve any ambitious design of their own, to bring the world (as the pope and his clergy would do) under their own jurisdiction, you had reason then to suspect their fraud. But the truth is, Christ hath purposely appointed his greatest church-officers to be but ministers, even the servants of all, to rule and save men as volunteers, without any coercive power, by the management of his powerful word upon their consciences; and to beseech and entreat the poorest of the flock, as those that are not lords over God's heritage, nor masters of their faith, but their servants in Christ, and helpers of their joy; that so whenever we deliver our message to them, they may see that we exercise not dominion over them, and aim at no worldly honours, or gain, or advantage to ourselves, but at the mere conversion and saving of their souls. Whereas, if he had allowed us to exercise authority as the kings of the gentiles, and to be called gracious lords, and to encumber ourselves with the affairs of this life, our doctrine would have been rejected by the generality of the world, and we should always have come to them on this great disadvantage, that they would have thought we sought not them, but theirs; and that we preached not for them, but for ourselves, to make a prize of them.[25] as the Jesuits, when they attempt the conversion of the Indians, do still find this their great impediment, the princes and people suppose them to pretend the gospel, but as a means to subjugate them and their dominions to the pope; because they tell them that they must be all subject to the pope, if they will be saved. Now when Christ hath appointed a poor, self-denying, entreating ministry, against whom you can have none of these pretences, to stoop to your feet, with the most submissive entreaties, that you would but turn to God and live, you have no excuse for your own barbarous ingratitude, if you will fly in their faces, and use them as your enemies, and be offended with them for endeavouring to save you. You know they can hold their tithes and livings by smoothing, and cold, and general preaching, as well as by more faithful dealing (if not better): you know they can get no worldly advantage by dealing so plainly with you: you know that they hazard by it their reputation with such as you; and they cannot be ignorant that it is like to expose them to your ill will and indignation.

And they are men as well as you, and therefore, undoubtedly, desire the good will and the good word of others, and take no pleasure to be scorned or hated: undoubtedly they break through much temptations and reluctancy of the flesh, before they can so far deny themselves as to endeavour your salvation on such terms: and seeing it is all for you, methinks you should be their chief encouragers; if others should oppose them, you should be for them, because they are for you. If I go with a convoy to relieve a besieged garrison, I shall expect opposition from the enemy that besiegeth them; but if the besieged themselves shall shoot at us, and use us as enemies for venturing our lives to relieve them, it is time to be gone, and let them take what they get by it.

Perhaps you think that the preacher, or private admonisher, is too plain with you;[26] but you should consider that self-love is like to make you partial in your own cause, and therefore a more incapable judge than they. And you should consider that God hath commanded them to deal plainly, and told them that else the people's blood shall be required at their hands, Isa. lviii. 1; Ezek. xviii. And that God best knoweth what medicine and diet is fittest for your disease; and that the case is of such grand importance (whether you shall live in heaven or hell for ever?) that it is scarce possible for a minister to be too plain and serious with you: and that your disease is so obstinate, that gentler means have been too long frustrate, and therefore sharper must be tried; else why were you not converted by gentler dealing until now? If you fall down in a swoon, or be ready to be drowned, you will give leave to the standers-by to handle you a little more roughly than at another time, and will not bring your action against them for laying hands on you, or ruffling your silks or bravery; if your house be on fire, you will give men leave to speak in another manner, than when they modulate their voices into a civil and complimenting tone.

It may be you think that they are censorious in judging you to be unconverted, when you are not; and to be worse and in more danger than you are, and speaking harder of you than you deserve. But it is you that should be most suspicious of yourselves, and afraid in so great a matter of being deceived. A stander-by may see more than a player: I am sure he that is awake may know more of you, than you of yourselves when you are asleep.

But suppose it were as you imagine; it is his love that mistakingly attempteth your good: he intendeth you no harm: it is your salvation that he desireth; it is your damnation that he would prevent. You have cause to love him, and be thankful for his good-will, and not to be angry with him, and reproach him for his mistakes. He is none of those that brings you into the inquisition, and would fine, or imprison, or banish, or burn, or hang, or torment you, in order to convert and save you: the worst he doth, is but to speak those words, which, if true, you are deeply concerned to regard; and if mistaken, can do you no hurt, unless you are the cause yourself. If it be in public preaching, he speaketh generally by descriptions, and not by nomination; no more of you, than of others in your case; nor of you at all, if you are not in that case. If he speak privately to you, there is no witness but yourself; and therefore it is no matter of disgrace. Never, for shame, pretend that thou art willing to be converted and saved, when thou hatest those that would promote it; and art angry with every one that tells thee of thy case, and couldst find in thy heart to stop their mouths, or do them a mischief.

Direct. VIII. If thou art willing indeed to be converted, do thy best to discover that yet thou art unconverted, and in a lost and miserable state.

Who will endeavour to cure a disease which he thinks he hath not? or to vomit up the poison which he thinks he never took, or taketh to be no poison? or to come out of the ditch, that thinks he is not in it? or who will turn back again, that will not believe but he is in the right way? Who will labour to be converted, that thinks he is converted already? Or who will come to Christ as the physician of his soul, that thinks he is not sick, or is cured already? The common cause that men live and die without the grace of repentance, sanctification, and justification,[Pg 18] which should save them, is because they will not believe but that they have it, when they have it not; and that they are penitent, and justified, and sanctified already. It is not my desire to make any of you think worse of your condition than it is; but if you will not know what it is, you will not be fit for recovering grace, nor use the means for your own recovery: you think it is so sad a conclusion, to find yourselves in a state of condemnation, that you are exceeding unwilling to know it or confess it.

But I beseech you consider but these two things: first, either it is true that you are in so miserable a state, or it is not true: if it be not true, the closest trial will but comfort you, by discovering that you are sanctified already; but if it be true, then do you think it will save you to be ignorant of your danger? Will it cure your disease, to believe that you have it not? Will thinking well of yourselves falsely, prove that you are well indeed?[27] Is it the way to grace, to think you have it, when you have it not? Will it bring you to heaven, to think that you are going thither, when you are in the way to hell? Nay, do you not know, that it is the principal temptation of the devil, to keep men from a state of repentance and salvation, to deceive them thus, and persuade them that they are in such a state already? Judge soberly of the case. Do you think if all the impenitent, unconverted sinners in the world were certain that they are indeed in a graceless state, in which if they died, they were past all hope, that they would not quickly look about them, and better understand the offers of a Saviour, and live in continual solicitude and fear, till they found themselves in a safer state? If you were sure yourselves, that you must yet be made new creatures, or be damned, would it not set you on work to seek more diligently after grace than ever you have done? The devil knoweth this well enough; that he could scarce keep you quiet this night in his snares, but you would be ready to repent and beg for mercy, and resolve on a new life, before to-morrow, if you were but sure that you are yet in a state of condemnation. And therefore he doth all he can to hide your sin and danger from your eyes, and to quiet you with the conceit, that though you are sinners, yet you are penitent, pardoned, and safe.

Well, sirs, there can be no harm in knowing the truth. And therefore will you but try yourselves, whether you are unsanctified or not? You were baptized into the name of the Holy Ghost as your Sanctifier; and if now you neglect or mock at sanctification, what do you but deride your baptism, or neglect that which is its sense and end? It doth not so much concern you to know that you live the life of nature, as to know whether sanctification have made you spiritually alive to God.

And let me tell you this to your encouragement, that we do not call you to know that you are unconverted, and unpardoned, and miserable, as men that have no remedy, but must sit down in despair, and be tormented with the fore-knowledge of your endless pains before the time. No; it is but that you may speedily and thankfully accept of Christ, the full remedy, and turn to God, and quickly get out of your sin and terror, and enter into a life of safety and of peace. We desire not your continuance in that life which tendeth to despair and horror: we would have you out of it, if it were in our power, before to-morrow; and therefore it is that we would have you understand what danger you are in, that you may go no further, but speedily turn back, and seek for help. And I hope there is no hurt, though there be some present trouble, in such a discovery of your danger as this is.

Well, if you are but willing to know, I shall help you a little to know what you are.

Marks of an unconverted state.

1. If you are persecutors, or haters, deriders of men, for being serious and diligent in the service of God, and fearful of sinning, and because they go not with the multitude to do evil, it is a certain sign that you are in a state of death: yea, if you love not such men, and desire not rather to be such yourselves, than to be the greatest of the ungodly. See Gal. iv. 29; Acts xxvi. 11; 1 Tim. i. 13; 1 Pet. iv. 2-5; Psal. xv. 4; 1 John iii. 8-15; John xiii. 35; Psal. lxxxiv. 10.

2. If you love the world best, and set your affections most on things below, and mind most earthly things; nay, if you seek not first God's kingdom, and the righteousness thereof; and if your hearts be not in heaven, and your affections set on the things that are above; and you prefer not your hopes of life eternal before all the pleasures and prosperity of this world, it is a certain sign that you are but worldly and ungodly men. See this in Matt. vi. 19-21, 33; Phil. iii. 18-20; Col. iii. 1-4; Psal. lxxiii. 25; 1 John ii. 15-17; James i. 27; Luke xii. 20, 21; xvi. 25.

3. If your estimation, belief, and hopes, of everlasting life through Christ, be not such, as will prevail with you to deny yourselves, and forsake father, and mother, and the nearest friends; and house, and land, and life, and all that you have, for Christ, and for these hopes of a happiness hereafter, you are no true christians, nor in a state of saving grace. See Luke xiv. 26, 33; Matt. x. 37-39; xiii. 21, 22.

4. If you have not been converted, regenerated, and sanctified by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, making you spiritual, and causing you to mind the things of the Spirit above the things of the flesh. If this Spirit be not in you, and you walk not after it, but after the flesh; making provision for the flesh, to satisfy its desires, and preferring the pleasing of the flesh before the pleasing of God, it is certain that you are in a state of death. See Matt. xviii. 3; John iii. 3, 5, 6; Heb. xii. 14; Rom. viii. 1, 5-13; xiii. 13, 14; Luke xvi. 19, 25; xii. 20, 21; Heb. xi. 25, 26; 2 Cor. iv. 16-18; v. 7; Rom. viii. 17, 18.

5. If you have any known sin which you do not hate, and had not rather leave it than keep it, and do not pray, and strive, and watch against it, as far as you know and observe it; but rather excuse it, plead for it, desire it, and are loth to part with it, so that your will is habitually more for it than against it, it is a sign of an impenitent, unrenewed heart. 1 John iii. 3-10, 24; Gal. v. 16, 19-25; Rom. vii. 22, 24; viii. 13; Luke xiii. 3, 5; Matt. v. 19, 20; 2 Tim. ii. 19; Psal. v. 5; Luke xiii. 27.

6. If you love not the word, as it is a light discovering your sin and duty, but only as it is a general truth, or as it reproveth others: if you love not the most searching preaching, and would not know how bad you are, and come not to the light, that your deeds may be manifest, it is a sign that you are not children of the light, but of the darkness, John iii. 19-21.

7. If the laws of your Creator and Redeemer be not of greatest power and authority with you, and the will and word of God cannot do more with you, than the word or will of any man; and the threatenings and promises of God be not more prevalent with you, than the threats or promises of any men, it is a sign that you take not God for your God, but in[Pg 19] heart are atheists and ungodly men. Luke xix. 27; Matt. vii. 21-23, 26; Dan. iii. 16-18; vi. 5, 10; Jer. xvii. 5, 6; Luke xii. 4; Acts v. 29; Psal. xiv. 1, &c.

8. If you have not, in a deliberate covenant or resolution, devoted and given up yourselves to God as your Father and felicity, to Jesus Christ as your only Saviour, and your Lord and King, and to the Holy Ghost as your Sanctifier, to be made holy by him, desiring that your heart and life should be perfectly conformed to the will of God, and that you might know him, and love him, and enjoy him more; you are void of godliness and true christianity; for this is the very covenant which you make in baptism, which you call your christening. Matt. xxviii. 19, 20; 2 Cor. viii. 5; 1 Cor. vi. 17; John i. 10-12; Gal. iv. 6; Rom. viii. 14, 15.

I have now plainly showed you, and fully proved, from the word of God, by what infallible signs an ungodly man may know that he is ungodly, if he will. May you not know whether it be thus with you, if you are willing to know? May you not know, if you will, whether your desire and design of life be more for this world or that to come? and whether heaven or earth be preferred and sought first? and whether your fleshly prosperity and pleasure, or your souls, be principally cared for and regarded? May you not know, if you will, whether you love or loathe the serious worshippers of God?[28] and whether you had rather be delivered from your sins or keep them? and whether your wills be more against them, or for them? and whether you love a holy life or not? and whether you had rather be perfect in holiness and obedience to God, or be excused from it, and please the flesh? and whether you had rather be such a one as Paul, or as Cæsar? a persecuted saint in poverty and contempt, or a persecuting conqueror or king? May you not know, if you will, whether you love a searching ministry, that telleth you of the worst, and would not deceive you? May you not know, whether you are resolvedly devoted and given up to God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as your Father and felicity, your Saviour and your Sanctifier; and whether the scope, design, and business of your lives is more for God, or for the flesh, for heaven, or earth; and which it is that bears the sway, and which it is that comes behind, and hath but the leavings of the other, or only so much as it can spare? Certainly these are things so near you, and so remarkable in your hearts, that you may come to the knowledge of them if you will. But if you will not, who can help it?

What a sottish cavil is it then of those ignorant men, that ask us, when we tell them of these things, Whether ever we were in heaven? or ever saw the book of life? and how we can tell who shall be saved, and who shall be damned? If it were about a May-game this jesting were more seasonable; but to talk thus distractedly about the matters of salvation and damnation, and to make such a jest of the damning of souls, is a kind of foolery that hath no excuse. What though we never were in heaven? and never saw the book of life? dost thou think I never saw the Scriptures? Why, wretched sinner, dost thou not know, that Christ came down from heaven, to tell us who they be that shall come thither, and who they be that shall be shut out? And did he not know what he said? Is God the Governor of the world, and hath he not a law by which he governeth them? and can I not tell by the law, who they be that the Judge will condemn or save? What else is the law made for, but to be the rule of life, and the rule of judgment? Read Psal. i. and xv.; Matt. v. vii. and xxv., and all the texts which I even now cited, and see in them whether God hath not told you who they be that shall be saved, and who they be that shall be condemned? nay, see whether this be not the very business of the word of God? And do you think that he hath written in vain? But some men have loved ignorance and ungodliness so long, till the Spirit of grace hath cast them off, and left them to the sottishness of their carnal minds, so that "they have eyes and see not, and ears and hear not, and hearts and understand not." But those that are willing and diligent to know their sin and duty, in order to their recovery, God will not let them search in vain, nor hide the remedy from their eyes.

Direct. IX. When you have found yourselves in a state of sin and death, understand and consider what a state that is.

It may be you will think it a tolerable condition, and linger in it, as if you were safe; or delay your repentance, as if it were a matter of no great haste; unless you open your eyes, and look round about you, and see in how slippery a place you stand. Let me name some instances of the misery of an unregenerate, graceless state, and then judge of it as the word of God directs you.

1. As long as you are unconverted, you must needs be loathsome and abominable to God.[29] His holy nature is unreconcilable to sin, and would be unreconcilable to sinners, if it were not that he can cleanse and purify them. Did you know what sin is, and know God's holiness, you would understand this much better. Your own averseness to God, and your dislike of the holiness of his laws and servants, might tell you what thoughts he hath of you. "He hateth all the workers of iniquity," Psal. v. 5. Indeed he taketh you for his enemies, and as such he will handle you, if you be not converted. I know many persons that are most deeply guilty, especially men of honour and esteem in the world, would scorn to have this title given to themselves; but verily God is not fearful of offending them, nor so tender of their defiled honour, as they are of their own, or as they expect the preacher should be. If those be the king's enemies that refuse his government and set up another, then those are the enemies of God, and of the Redeemer, and of the Holy Ghost, that set up the base concupiscence of their flesh, and the honour and prosperity of this world, and the will of man, and refuse the government of God their Creator and Redeemer, and refuse the sanctifying teachings and operations of the Holy Ghost. Read Luke xix. 27.

Some think it strange that any men should be called "haters of God;" and I believe you will find it hard to meet with that man that will confess it by himself, till converting grace or hell constrain him. And indeed if God himself had not charged men with that sin, and called them by that name, we should scarce have found belief or patience when we had endeavoured to convince the world of it. Entreat[Pg 20] but the worst of men to repent of hating God, and try how they will take it. Yet they may read that name in Scripture, Rom. i. 30; Psal. lxxxi. 15; Luke xix. 14. Did not the Jews hate Christ, think you, when they murdered him? and when they hated all his followers for his sake? Matt. x. 22; Mark xiii. 13. And doth not Christ say, "that they shall be hated for his sake, not only of the Jews, but also of all nations, and all men," Matt. xxiv. 9; x. 22; even by the "world," John xvii. 14; xv. 17-19, &c. And this was a hating "both Christ and his Father," John xv. 23, 24. But you will say, it is not possible that any man can hate God. I answer, how then came the devils to hate him? Yea, every ungodly man hateth God: indeed no man hateth him as good, or as merciful to them; but they hate him as holy and just, as one that will not let them have the pleasure of sin, without damning them; as one engaged in justice to cast them into hell, if they die without conversion; and as one that hath made so pure and precise a law to govern them, and convinceth them of sin, and calls them to that repentance and holiness which they hate. Why did the world hate Christ himself? He tells you, John vii. 7, "The world cannot hate you, but me it hateth, because I testify against it, that the works thereof are evil." John iii. 19, "This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." Nay, it is a wonder of blindness, that this God-hating world and age should not perceive that they are God-haters, while they hate his servants to the death, and implacably rage against them, and hate his holy ways and kingdom, and bend all their power and interest in most of the kingdoms of the world, against his interest and his people upon earth: while the devil fighteth his battles against Christ through the world, by their hands, they will yet confess the devil's malice against God, but deny their own; as if he used their hands without their hearts. Well! poor, wretched worms! instead of denying your enmity to him, lament it, and know that he also taketh you for his enemies, and will prove too hard for you when you have done your worst. Read Psal. ii. and tremble, and submit. This is especially the case of persecutors and open enemies; but in their measure also of all that would not have him to reign over them. And therefore Christ came to reconcile us unto God, and God to us; and it is only the sanctified that are reconciled to him. See Col. i. 21; Phil. iii. 18; 1 Cor. xv. 25; Rom. v. 10. "The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God; nor indeed can be," Rom. viii. 7. Mark that text well.

2. As long as you are unsanctified, you are unjustified and unpardoned: you are under the guilt of all the sins that ever you committed: every sinful thought, word, and deed, of which the least deserveth hell, is on your score, to be answered for by yourself: and what this signifieth, the threatenings of the law will tell you. See Acts xxvi. 18; Mark iv. 12; Col. i. 14. There is no sin forgiven to an impenitent, unconverted sinner.

Rom. viii. 9.

3. And no wonder, when the unconverted have no special interest in Christ. The pardon and life that is given by God, is given in and with the Son: "God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son: he that hath the Son, hath life; and he that hath not the Son, hath not life," 1 John v. 10-12. Till we are members of Christ, we have no part in the pardon and salvation purchased by him: and ungodly sinners are not his members. So that Jesus Christ, who is the hope and life of all his own, doth leave thee as he found thee: and that is not the worst; for,

4. It will be far worse with the impenitent rejecters of the grace of Christ, than if they had never heard of a Redeemer. For it cannot be, that God having provided so precious a remedy for sinful, miserable souls, should suffer it to be despised and rejected, without increased punishment. Was it not enough that you had disobeyed your great Creator, but you must also set light by a most gracious Redeemer, that offered you pardon, purchased by his blood, if you would but have come to God by him? Yea, the Saviour that you despised shall be himself your Judge, and the grace and mercy which you set so light by, shall be the heaviest aggravation of your sin and misery. For "how shall you escape, if you neglect so great salvation?" Heb. ii. 3. "And of how much sorer punishment" (than the despisers of Moses' law) "shall they be thought worthy, who have trodden under foot the Son of God," &c. Heb. x. 29.

5. The very prayers and sacrifice of the wicked are abominable to God (except such as contain their returning from their wickedness). So that terror ariseth to you from that which you expect should be your help. See Prov. xv. 8; xxi. 27; Isa. i. 13.

6. Your common mercies do but increase your sin and misery (till you return to God): your carnal hearts turn all to sin; Tit. i. 15, "Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled, and unbelieving, is nothing pure: but even their mind and conscience is defiled."

7. While you are unsanctified, you are impotent, and dead to any holy, acceptable work: when you should redeem your time, and prepare for eternity, and try your states, or pray, or meditate, or do good to others, you have no heart to any such spiritual works: your minds are biassed against them, Rom. viii. 7. And it is not the excusable impotency of such, as would do good, but cannot: but it is the malicious impotency of the wicked, (the same with that of devils,) that cannot do good, because they will not; and will not, because they have blind, malicious, and ungodly hearts, which makes their sin so much the greater, Tit. i. 16.

8. While you have unsanctified hearts, you have at all times the seed and disposition unto every sin; and if you commit not the worst, it is because some providence restraining the tempter hindereth you. No thanks to you that you do not daily commit idolatry, blasphemy, theft, murder, adultery, &c. It is in your hearts to do it, when you have but temptation and opportunity; and will be, till you are renewed by sanctifying grace.

9. Till you are sanctified you are heirs of death and hell,[30] even under the curse, and condemned already in point of law, though judgment have not passed the final sentence. See John iii. 18, 19, 36. And nothing is more certain, than that you had been damned and undone for ever, if you had died before you had been renewed by the Holy Ghost; and that yet this will be your miserable portion, if you should die unsanctified. Think, then, what a life you have lived until now? and think what it is to live any longer in such a case, in which if you die, you are certain to be damned. Conversion may save[Pg 21] you, but unbelief and self-flattery will not save you from this endless misery, Heb. xii. 14; ii. 3; Matt. xxv. 46.

10. As long as you are unsanctified, you are hasting to this misery: sin is like to get more rooting; and your hearts to be more hardened, and at enmity with grace; and God more provoked; and the Spirit more grieved; and you are every day nearer to your final doom, when all these things will be more sensibly considered, and better understood, 2 Tim. iii. 13; 2 Pet. ii. 3.

Thus I have given you a brief account of the case of unrenewed souls, and but a brief one, because I have done it before more largely. (Treatise of Conversion.)

Direct. X. When you have found out how sad a condition you are in, consider what there is in sin to make you amends or repair your loss, that should be any hinderance to your conversion.

Certainly you will not continue for nothing (if you know it to be nothing) in so dangerous and doleful a case as this. And yet you do it for that which is much worse than nothing, not considering what you do. Sit down sometimes, and well bethink you, what recompence the world or sin will make you, for your God, your souls, your hopes, and all, when they are lost and past recovery? Think what it will then avail or comfort you, that once you were honoured, and had a great estate; that once you fared of the best, and had your delicious cups, and merry hours, and sumptuous attire, and all such pleasures. Think whether this will abate the horrors of death, or put by the wrath of God, or the sentence of your condemnation; or whether it will ease a tormented soul in hell? If not, think how small, and short, and silly a commodity and pleasure it is, that you buy so dear; and what a wise man can see in it, that should make it seem worth the joys of heaven, and worth your enduring everlasting torments. What is it that is supposed worth all this? Is it the snare of preferment? Is it vexing riches? Is it befooling honours? Is it distracting cares? Is it swinish luxury or lust? Is it beastly pleasures? Or what is it else that you will buy at so wonderful dear a rate? O lamentable folly of ungodly men! O foolish sinners! unworthy to see God! and worthy to be miserable! O strangely corrupted heart of man, that can sell his Maker, his Redeemer, and his salvation, at so base a price!

Direct. XI. And when you are casting up your account, as you put all that sin and the world will do for you in the one end of the scales, so put into the other the comforts both of this life, and of that to come, which you must part with for your sins.

Search the Scriptures, and consider how happy the saints of God are there described. Think what it is, to have a purified, cleansed soul; to be free from the slavery of the flesh and its concupiscence; to have the sensitive appetite in subjection unto reason, and reason illuminated and rectified by faith; to be alive to God, and disposed and enabled to love and serve him; to have access to him in prayer, with boldness and assurance to be heard; to have a sealed pardon of all our sins, and an interest in Christ, who will answer for them all and justify us; to be the children of God, and the heirs of heaven; to have peace of conscience, and the joyful hopes of endless joys; to have communion with the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit, and to have that Spirit dwelling in us, and working to our further holiness and joy; to have communion with the saints; and the help and comfort of all God's ordinances, and to be under his many precious promises, and under his protection and provision in his family, and to cast all our care upon him; to delight ourselves daily in the remembrance and renewed experiences of his love, and in our too little knowledge of him, and love to him, and in the knowledge of his Son, and of the mysteries of the gospel; to have all things work together for our good, and to be able with joy to welcome death, and to live as in heaven in the foresight of our everlasting happiness. I would have orderly here given you a particular account of the privileges of renewed souls, but that I have done so much in that already in my "Treatise of Conversion," and "Saints' Rest." This taste may help you to see what you lose, while you abide in an unconverted state.

Direct. XII. When you have thus considered of the condition you are in, consider also whether it be a condition to be rested in one day.

If you die unconverted, you are past all hope; for out of hell there is no redemption:[31] and certain you are to die ere long; and uncertain whether it will be this night, Luke xii. 20. You never lay down with assurance that you should rise again; you never went out of doors with assurance to return; you never heard a sermon with assurance that you should hear another; you never drew one breath with assurance that you should draw another: a thousand accidents and diseases are ready to stop your breath, and end your time, when God will have it so. And if you die this night in an unregenerate state, there is no more time, or help, or hope. And is this a case then for a wise man to continue in a day, that can do any thing towards his own recovery? Should you delay another day or hour, before you fall down at the feet of Christ, and cry for mercy, and return to God, and resolve upon a better course? May I not well say to thee, as the angels unto Lot, Gen. xix. 15, 17, 22, "Arise, lest thou be consumed: escape for thy life; look not behind thee."

Direct. XIII. 'When thou art resolved, past thy waverings and delays, give up thyself entirely and unreservedly to God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as thy happiness, thy Saviour, and thy Sanctifier, in a hearty consent to the covenant of grace.'

This is thy christianity; thy espousals with Christ. It is sacramentally done in baptism; but till it be personally owned, and heartily renewed by men at age, they have no reason to be numbered with adult believers, nor to dream of a part in the blessings of the covenant. It is pity it is not made a more serious, solemn work, for men thus to renew their covenant with God. (For which I have written in a "Treatise of Confirmation," but hitherto in vain.) However, do it seriously thyself: it is the greatest and weightiest action of thy life.

To this end, peruse well the covenant of grace which is offered thee in the gospel: understand it well. In it God offereth, notwithstanding thy sins, to be thy reconciled God and Father in Christ, and to accept thee as a son, and an heir of heaven.

The Son offereth to be thy Saviour, to justify thee by his blood and grace, and teach thee, and govern thee as thy Head, in order to thy everlasting happiness. The Holy Spirit offereth to be thy Sanctifier, Comforter, and Guide, to overcome all the enmity of the devil, the world, and the flesh, in order to the full accomplishment of thy salvation; nothing is expected of thee, in order to thy title to the benefits of this covenant, but deliberately, unfeignedly, entirely[Pg 22] to consent to it, and to continue that consent, and perform what thou consentest to perform, and that by the help of the grace which will be given thee. See, therefore, that thou well deliberate of the matter, but without delays; and count what thou shalt gain or lose by it. And if thou find that thou art like to be a loser in the end, and knowest of any better way, even take it, and boast of it, when thou hast tried the end; but if thou art past doubt, that there is no way but this, despatch it resolutely and seriously.

And take heed of one thing, lest thou say, Why, this is no more than every body knoweth, and than I have done a hundred times, to give up myself in covenant to God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Dost thou know it, and yet hast thou not done it? Or hast thou done it with thy lips, and not unfeignedly with thy heart? Lament it as one of thy greatest sins, that thou hast thus provokingly dallied with God; and admire his mercy, that he will yet vouchsafe to enter into covenant with one, that hath hypocritically profaned his covenant. If thou hadst ever seriously thus covenanted and given up thyself to God, thou wouldst not have neglected him by an ungodly life, nor lived after to the devil, the world, and the flesh, which were renounced. I tell you, the making of this christian vow and covenant with God in Christ, is the act of greatest consequence of any in all thy life, and to be done with the greatest judgment, and reverence, and sincerity, and foresight, and firm resolution, of any thing that ever thou dost. And if it were done sincerely, by all that do it ignorantly, for fashion, only with the lips, then all professed christians would be saved; whereas now, the abusers of that holy name and covenant will have the deepest place in hell. Write it out on thy heart, and put thy heart and hand to it resolvedly, and stand to thy consent, and all is thine own: conversion is wrought when this is done.

Direct. XIV. In present performance of thy covenant with God, away with thy former sinful life; and see that thou sin wilfully no more; but as far as thou art able, avoid the temptations which have deceived thee.

God will never be reconciled to thy sins: if he be reconciled to thy person, it is as thou art justified by Christ, and sanctified by the Spirit: he entertaineth thee as one that turneth with repentance from sin to him. If thou wilfully or negligently go on in thy former course of sin, thou showest that thou wast not sincerely resolved in thy covenant with God.

I know infirmities and imperfections will not be so easily cast off, but will cleave to thee in thy best obedience, till the day of thy perfection come. But I speak of gross and wilful sin; such as thou canst forbear, if thou be but sincerely, though imperfectly, willing.[32]

Hast thou been a profane swearer or curser, or used to take God's name in vain, or used to backbiting, slandering, lying, or to ribald, filthy talk? It is in thy power to forbear these sins, if thou be but willing. Say not, I fall into them through custom before I am aware; for that is a sign that thou art not sincerely willing to forsake them. If thou wert truly penitent, and thy will sincerely opposite to these sins, thou wouldst be more tender and fearful to offend, and resolved against them, and make a greater matter of them, and abhor them, and not commit them, and say, I did it before I was aware; no more than thou wouldst spit in the face of thy father, or curse thy mother, or slander thy dearest friend, or speak treason against the king, and say, I did it through custom before I was aware. Sin will not be so played with by those that have been soundly humbled for it, and resolved against it.

Hast thou been a drunkard, or tippler, spending thy precious hours in an ale-house, prating over a pot, in the company of foolish, tempting sinners? It is in thy power, if thou be truly willing, to do so no more. If thou love and choose such company, and places, and actions, and discourse, how canst thou say thou art willing to forsake them, or that thy heart is changed? If thou do not love and choose them, how canst thou commit them, when none compels thee? No one carrieth thee to the place; no one forceth thee to sin; if thou do it, it is because thou wilt do it, and lovest it. If thou be in good earnest with God, and wilt be saved indeed, and art not content to part with heaven for thy cups and company, away with them presently, without delay.

Hast thou lived in wantonness, fornication, uncleanness, gluttony, gaming, pastimes, sensuality, to the pleasing of thy flesh, while thou hast displeased God? O bless the patience and mercy of the Lord, that thou wast not cut off all this while, and damned for thy sin before thou didst repent! And, as thou lovest thy soul, delay no longer; but make a stand, and go no further, not one step further in the way which thou knowest leads to hell. If thou knowest that this is the way to thy damnation, and yet wilt go on, what pity dost thou deserve from God or man?

If thou have been a covetous worldling, or an ambitious seeker of honour or preferment in the world, so that thy gain, or rising, or reputation, hath been the game which thou hast followed, and hath taken thee up instead of God and life eternal; away now with these known deceits, and hunt not after vanity and vexation. Thou knowest beforehand what it will prove when thou hast overtaken it, and hast enjoyed all that it can yield thee; and how useless it will be as to thy comfort or happiness at last.

Surely, if men were willing, they are able to forbear such sins, and to make a stand, and look before them, to prevent their misery: therefore God thus pleads with them, Isa. i. 16-18, "Wash you, make you clean, put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do well," &c. Isa. lv. 2, 3, "Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live, and I will make an everlasting covenant with you." Ver. 6, 7, "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found; call ye upon him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." Christ supposeth that the foresight of judgment may restrain men from sin, when he saith, "Sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee," John v. 14, and viii. 11. Can the presence of men restrain a fornicator; and the presence of the judge restrain a thief, yea, or the foresight of the assizes? And shall not the presence of God, with the foresight of judgment and damnation, restrain thee? Remember, that impenitent sin and damnation are conjoined. If you will cause one, God will cause the other. Choose one, and you[Pg 23] shall not choose whether you shall have the other. If you will have the serpent, you shall have the sting.

Direct. XV. If thou have sincerely given up thyself to God, and consented to his covenant, show it, by turning the face of thy endeavours and conversation quite another way, and by seeking heaven more fervently and diligently than ever thou soughtest the world, or fleshly pleasures.

Holiness consisteth not in a mere forbearance of a sensual life, but principally in living unto God. The principle or heart of holiness is within, and consisteth in the love of God, and of his word, and ways, and servants, and honour, and interest in the world, and in the soul's delight in God, and the word and ways of God, and in its inclination towards him, and desire after him, and care to please him, and lothness to offend him. The expression of it in our lives, consisteth in the constant, diligent exercise of this internal life, according to the directions of the word of God. If thou be a believer, and hast subjected thyself to God, as thy absolute Sovereign, King, and Judge, it will then be thy work to obey and please him, as a child his father, or a servant his master, Mal. i. 6. Do you think that God will have servants, and have nothing for them to do? Will one of you commend or reward your servant for doing nothing, and take it at the year's end for a satisfactory answer or account, if he say, I have done no harm? God calleth you not only to do no harm, but to love and serve him with all your heart, and soul, and might. If you have a better master than you had before, you should do more work than you did before. Will you not serve God more zealously than you served the devil? Will you not labour harder to save your souls than you did to damn them? Will you not be more zealous in good, than you were in evil? "What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life," Rom. vi. 21, 22. If you are true believers, you have now laid up your hopes in heaven, and therefore will set yourselves to seek it, as worldlings set themselves to seek the world. And a sluggish wish, with heartless, lazy, dull endeavours, is no fit seeking of eternal joys. A creeping pace beseemeth not a man that is in the way to heaven; especially who went faster in the way to hell. This is not running as for our lives. You may well be diligent and make haste, where you have so great encouragement and help, and where you may expect so good an end, and where you are sure you shall never, in life or death, have cause to repent of any of your just endeavours; and where every step of your way is pure, and clean, and delectable, and paved with mercies, and fortified and secured by divine protection; and where Christ is your conductor, and so many have sped so well before you, and the wisest and best in the world are your companions. Live then as men that have changed their master, their end, their hopes, their way, and work. Religion layeth not men to sleep, though it be the only way to rest. It awakeneth the sleepy soul to higher thoughts, and hopes, and labours, than ever it was well acquainted with before. "He that is in Christ, is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new," 2 Cor. v. 17. You never sought that which would pay for all your cost and diligence till now; you never were in a way that you might make haste in, without repenting of your haste, till now. How glad should you be that mercy hath brought you into the right way, after the wanderings of such a sinful life![33] And your gladness and thankfulness should now be showed, by your cheerful diligence and zeal. As Christ did not raise up Lazarus from the dead, to do nothing, or live to little purpose (though the Scripture giveth us not the history of his life); so did he not raise you from the death of sin, to live idly, or to be unprofitable in the world. He that giveth you his Spirit, to be a principle of heavenly life within you, expecteth that you stir up the gift that he hath given you, and live according to that heavenly principle.

Direct. XVI. Engage thyself in the cheerful, constant use of the means and helps appointed by God, for thy confirmation and salvation.

He can never expect to attain the end, that will not be persuaded to use the means. Of yourselves you can do nothing. God giveth his help, by the means which he hath appointed and fitted to your help. Of the use of these, I shall treat more fully afterwards; I am now only to name them to thee, that thou mayst know what it is that thou hast to do.[34]

1. That you must hear or read the word of God, and other good books which expound it and apply it, I showed you before. The new-born christian doth incline to this, as the new-born child doth to the breast; 1 Pet. ii. 1, 2, "Laying aside all malice, and guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, as new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby." Psal. i. 2, 3, the blessed man's "delight is in the law of the Lord, and therein doth he meditate day and night."

2. Another means is the public worshipping of God in communion with his church and people. Besides the benefit of the word there preached, the prayers of the church are effectual for the members; and it raiseth the soul to holy joys, to join with well ordered assemblies of the saints, in the praises of the Almighty. The assemblies of holy worshippers of God, are the places of his delight, and must be the places of our delight. They are most like to the celestial society, that sound forth the praises of the glorious Jehovah, with purest minds and cheerful voice. "In his temple doth every one speak of his glory," Psal. xxix. 9. In such a choir, what soul will not be rapt up with delight, and desire to join in the concert and harmony? In such a flame of united[Pg 24] desires and praises, what soul so cold and dull that will not be inflamed, and with more than ordinary facility and alacrity fly up to God?

3. Another means is private prayer unto God. When God would tell Ananias that Paul was converted, he saith of him, "Behold, he prayeth," Acts ix. 11. Prayer is the breath of the new creature. The spirit of adoption given to every child of God is a spirit of prayer, and teacheth them to cry, "Abba, Father," and helpeth their infirmities; when they know not what to pray for as they ought, and when words are wanting, it (as it were) intercedeth for them with groans, which they cannot express in words, Gal. iv. 6; Rom. viii. 15, 26, 27. And God knoweth the meaning of the Spirit in those groans. The first workings of grace are in desires after grace, provoking the soul to fervent prayer, by which more grace is speedily obtained. "Ask," then, "and ye shall have; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you," Luke xi. 9.

4. Another means to be used is confession of sin; not only to God, (for so every wicked man may do, because he knoweth that God is already acquainted with it all, and this is no addition to his shame: he so little regardeth the eye of God, that he is more ashamed when it is known to men,) but in three cases confession must be made also to man. 1. In case you have wronged man, and are thus bound to make him satisfaction: as if you have robbed him, defrauded him, slandered him, or borne false witness against him. 2. In case you are children or servants, that are under the government of parents or masters, and are called by them to give an account of your actions: you are bound then to give a true account. 3. In case you have need of the counsel or prayers of others, for the settling of your consciences in peace: in this case, you must so far open your case to them, as is necessary to their effectual help for your recovery; for if they know not the disease, they will be unfit to apply the remedy. In these cases, it is true, that "he that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but he that confesseth and forsaketh them, shall have mercy," Prov. xxviii. 13.

5. Another means to be used, is the familiar company and holy converse with humble, sincere, experienced christians. The Spirit that is in them, and breatheth and acteth by them, will kindle the like holy flames in you. Away with the company of idle, prating, sensual men, that can talk of nothing but their worldly wealth, or business, or their reputations, or their appetites and lusts; associate yourselves with them that go the way to heaven, if you resolve yourselves to go in it. O what a deal of difference will you find between these two sorts of companions! The one sort, if you have any thoughts of repentance, would stifle them, and laugh you out of the use of your reason, into their own distracted mirth and dotage: and if you have any serious thoughts of your salvation, or any inclinations to repent and be wise, they will do much to divert them, and hold you in the power and snares of Satan, till it be too late: if you have any zeal, or heavenly-mindedness, they will do much to quench it, and fetch down your minds to earth again. The other sort will speak of things of so great weight and moment, and that with seriousness and reverence, as will tend to raise and quicken your souls; and possess you with a taste of the heavenly things which they discourse of; they will encourage you by their own experiences, and direct you by that truth which hath directed them, and zealously communicate what they have received: they will pray for you, and teach you how to pray: they will give the example of holy, humble, obedient lives, and lovingly admonish you of your duties, and reprove your sins. In a word, as the carnal mind doth savour the things of the flesh, and is enmity against God, the company of such will be a powerful means to infect you with their plague, and make you such, if you were escaped from them; much more to keep you such, if you are not escaped: and as they that are spiritual, do mind the things of the Spirit, so their converse tendeth to make you spiritually-minded, as they are, Rom. viii. 7, 8. Though there are some useful qualities and gifts in some that are ungodly, and some lamentable faults in many that are spiritual; yet experience will show you so great a difference between them in the main, in heart and life, as will make you the more easily believe the difference that will be between them in the life to come.

6. Another means is serious meditation on the life to come, and the way thereto; which though all cannot manage so methodically as some, yet all should in some measure and season be acquainted with it.

7. The last means is, to choose some prudent, faithful guide and counsellor for your soul,[35] to open those cases to which are not fit for all to know, and to resolve and advise you in cases that are too hard for you: not to lead you blindfold after the interest of any seduced or ambitious men, nor to engage you to his singular conceits, against the Scripture or the church of God; but to be to your soul, as a physician to your body, or a lawyer to your estates, to help you where they are wiser than you, and where you need their helps.

Resolve now, that instead of your idle company and pastime, your excessive cares and sinful pleasures, you will wait on God in the seasonable use of these his own appointed means; and you will find, that he hath appointed them not in vain, and that you shall not lose your labour.

Direct. XVII. That in all this you may be sincere, and not deceived by a hypocritical change, be sure that God be all your confidence, and all your hopes be placed in heaven; and that there be no secret reserve in your hearts, for the world and flesh; and that you divide not your hearts between God and the things below, nor take up with the religion of a hypocrite, which giveth God what the flesh can spare.

When the devil cannot keep you from a change and reformation, he will seek to deceive you with a superficial change and half reformation, which goeth not to the root, nor doth recover the heart to God, nor deliver it entirely to him. If he can by a partial, deceitful change, persuade you that you are truly renewed and sanctified, and fix you there that you go no further, you are as surely his, as if you had continued in your grosser sins. And, of all other, this is the most common and dangerous cheat of souls, when they think to halve it between God and the world, and to secure their fleshly interest of[Pg 25] pleasure and prosperity, and their salvation too; and so they will needs serve God and mammon.

The full description of a false conversion, and of a hypocrite.

This is the true character of a self-deceiving hypocrite.[36] He is neither so fully persuaded of the certain truth of the Scripture and the life to come, nor yet so mortified to the flesh and the world, as to take the joys of heaven for his whole portion, and to subject all his worldly prosperity and hopes thereunto, and to part with all things in this world, when it is necessary to the securing of his salvation: and therefore he will not lose his hold of present things, nor forsake his worldly interest for Christ, as long as he can keep it. Nor will he be any further religious, than may stand with his bodily welfare; resolving never to be undone by his godliness; but in the first place to save himself, and his prosperity in the world, as long as he can: and therefore he is truly a carnal, worldly-minded man; being denominated from what is predominant in him. And yet, because he knoweth that he must die, and for aught he knows, he may then find, against his will, that there is another life which he must enter upon; lest the gospel should prove true, he must have some religion: and therefore he will take up as much as will stand with his temporal welfare, hoping that he may have both that and heaven hereafter; and he will be as religious as the predominant interest of the flesh will give him leave. He is resolved rather to venture his soul, than to be here undone: and that is his first principle. But he is resolved to be as godly as will stand with a worldly, fleshly life: that is his second principle. And he will hope for heaven as the end of such a way as this: that is his third. Therefore he will place most of his religion in those things which are most consistent with worldliness and carnality, and will not cost his flesh too dear; as in being of this or that opinion, church, or party, (whether papist, protestant, or some smaller party,) in adhering to that party and being zealous for them, in acquiring and using such parts and gifts, as may make him highly esteemed by others; and in doing such good works as cost him not too dear; and in forbearing such sins as would procure his disgrace and shame, and cost his flesh dearer to commit them, than forbear them; and such other as his flesh can spare: this is his fourth principle. And he is resolved, when trial calleth him to part with God and his conscience, or with the world, that he will rather let go God and conscience, and venture upon the pains hereafter, which he thinks to be uncertain, than to run upon a certain calamity or undoing here; at least, he hath no resolution to the contrary, which will carry him out in a day of trial: this is his fifth principle. And his sixth principle is, That yet he will not torment himself, or blot his name, with confessing himself a temporizing worldling, resolved to turn any way to save himself. And therefore he will be sure to believe nothing to be truth and duty that is dangerous; but will furnish himself with arguments to prove that it is not the will of God; and that sin is no sin: yea, perhaps, conscience and duty shall be pleaded for his sin: it shall be out of tenderness, and piety, and charity to others, that he will sin; and will charge them to be the sinners that comply not, and do not wickedly as well as he. He will be one that shall first make a controversy of every sin which his flesh calls necessary, and of every duty which his flesh counts intolerably dear; and then, when it is a controversy, and many reputed wise, and some reputed good, are on his side, he thinks he is on equal terms with the most honest and sincere: he hath got a burrow for his conscience and his credit: he will not believe himself to be a hypocrite, and no one else must think him one, lest they be uncharitable; for then the censure must fall on the whole party; and then it is sufficient to defend his reputation of piety to say, Though we differ in opinion, we must not differ in affection, and must not condemn each other for such differences (a very great truth where rightly applied.) But what is it, O hypocrite, that makes thee differ in cases where thy flesh is interested, rather than in any other? and why wast thou never of that mind till now that thy worldly interest requireth it? and how cometh it to pass, that thou art always on the self-saving opinion? and whence is it that thou consultest with those only that are of the opinion which thou desirest should be true, and either not at all, or partially and slightly, with those that are against it? Wast thou ever conscious to thyself, that thou hast accounted what it might cost thee to be saved, and reckoned on the worst, and resolved in the strength of grace to go through all? Didst thou ever meddle with much of the self-denying part of religion, or any duties that would cost thee dear? May not thy conscience tell thee, that thou never didst believe that thou shouldst suffer much for thy religion; that is, thou hadst a secret purpose to avoid it?

O sirs! take warning from the mouth of Christ, who hath so oft and plainly warned you of this sin and danger! and told you how necessary self-denial, and a suffering disposition is, to all that are his disciples; and that the worldly, fleshly principle, predominant in the hypocrite, is manifest by his self-saving course: he must take up his cross, and follow him in a conformity to his sufferings, that will indeed be his disciple. We must suffer with him, if we will reign with him, Rom. viii. 17, 18. Matt. xiii. 20-22, "He that received the seed in stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it, yet hath he not the root in himself, but dureth for a while; for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns, is he that heareth the word, and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful." If thou have not taken heaven for thy part, and art not resolved to let go all that would keep thee from it, I must say to thy conscience, as Christ to one of thy predecessors, Luke xviii. 22, "Yet lackest thou one thing," and such a one, as thou wilt find of flat necessity to thy salvation. And it is likely some trying time, even in this life, will detect thine hypocrisy, and make thee "go away sorrowful," for thy riches' sake, as he, ver. 23. If godliness with contentment seem not sufficient gain to thee, thou wilt make thy gain go instead of godliness; that is, thy gain shall be next thy heart, and have the precedency which godliness should have, and thy gain shall choose thee thy religion, and overrule thy conscience, and sway thy life.

O sirs! take warning by the apostates, and temporizing[Pg 26] hypocrites, that have looked behind them, and, with Demas, for the world forsaken their duty, and are set up by justice as pillars of salt, for your warning and remembrance. And as ever you would make sure work in turning to God, and escape the too late repentance of the hypocrite, see that you go to the root, and resign the world to the will of God,—and reckon what it may cost you to be followers of Christ,—and look not after any portion, but the favour of God and life eternal,—and see that there be no secret reserve in your hearts for your worldly interest or prosperity,—and think not of halving it between God and the world, nor making your religion compliant with the desires and interest of the flesh. Take God as enough for you, yea, as all, or else you take him not as your God.

Direct. XVIII. If you would prove true converts, come over to God, as your Father and felicity, with desire and delight, and close with Christ, as your only Saviour, with thankfulness and joy; and set upon the way of godliness with pleasure and alacrity, as your exceeding privilege, and the only way of profit, honour, and content: and do it not as against your wills, as those that had rather do otherwise if they durst, and account the service of God an unsuitable and unpleasant thing.

You are never truly changed, till your hearts be changed; and the heart is not changed, till the will or love be changed. Fear is not the man; but usually is mixed with unwillingness and dislike, and so is contrary to that which is indeed the man. Though fear may do much for you, it will not do enough: it is oft more sensible than love, even in the best, as being more passionate and violent; but yet there is no more acceptableness in all, than there is will or love.[37] God sent not soldiers, or inquisitors, or persecutors, to convert the world by working upon their fear, and driving them upon that which they take to be a mischief to them: but he sent poor preachers, that had no matter of worldly fears or hopes to move their auditors with; but had authority from Christ to offer them eternal life; and who were to convert the world by proposing to them the best and most desirable condition, and showing them where is the true felicity, and proving the certainty and excellency of it to them, and working upon their love, desire, and hope: God will not be your God against your wills, while you esteem him as the devil, that is only terrible and hurtful to you, and take his service for a slavery, and had rather be from him, and serve the world and the flesh, if it were not for fear of being damned. He will be feared as great, and holy, and just; but he will also be loved as good, and holy, and merciful, and every way suited to be the felicity and rest of souls. If you take not God to be better than the creature, (and better to you,) and heaven to be better for you than earth, and holiness than sin, you are not converted; but if you do, then show it by your willingness, alacrity, and delight. Serve him with gladness and cheerfulness of heart, as one that hath found the way of life, and never had cause of gladness until now. If you see your servant do all his work with groans, and tears, and lamentations, you will not think he is well pleased with his master and his work. Come to God willingly with your hearts, or you come not to him indeed at all. You must either make him and his service your delight, or at least your desire; as apprehending him most fit to be your delight, so far as you enjoy him.

Direct. XIX. Remember still that conversion is the turning from your carnal selves to God; and therefore that it engageth you in a perpetual opposition to your own corrupt conceits and wills, to mortify and annihilate them, and captivate them wholly to the holy word and will of God.

Think not that your conversion despatcheth all that is to be done in order to your salvation. No, it is but the beginning of your work, that is, of your delight and happiness; you are but engaged by it to that which must be performed throughout all your lives; it entereth you into the right way, not to sit down there, but to go on till you come to the desired end. It entereth you into Christ's army, that afterwards you may there win the crown of life; and the great enemy that you engage against, is yourselves. There will still be a law in your members, rebelling against the law that the Holy Ghost hath put into your minds: your own conceits and your own wills are the great rebels against Christ, and enemies of your sanctification. Therefore it must be your resolved daily work to mortify them, and bring them clean over to the mind and will of God, which is their rule and end. If you feel any conceits arising in you that are contrary to the Scripture, and quarrel with the word of God, suppress them as rebellious, and give them not liberty to cavil with your Maker, and malapertly dispute with your Governor and Judge; but silence it, and force it reverently to submit. If you feel any will in you contrary to your Creator's will, and that there is something which you would have or do, which God is against, and hath forbid you, remember now how great a part of your work it is, to fly for help to the Spirit of grace, and to destroy all such rebellious desires. Think it not enough, that you can bear the denial of those desires; but presently destroy the desires themselves. For if you let alone the desires, they may at last lay hold upon their prey, before you are aware: or if you should be guilty of nothing but the desires themselves, it is no small iniquity; being the corruption of the heart, and the rebellion and adultery of the principal faculty, which should be kept loyal and chaste to God. The crossness of thy will to the will of God, is the sum of all the impiety and evil of the soul; and the subjection and conformity of thy will to his, is the heart of the new creature, and of thy rectitude and sanctification. Favour not therefore any self-conceitedness or self-willedness, nor any rebelliousness against the mind and will of God, any more than you would bear with the disjointing of your bones, which will be little for your ease or use, till they are reduced to their proper place.

Direct. XX. Lastly, Be sure that you renounce all conceit of self-sufficiency or merit in any thing you do, and wholly rely on the Lord Jesus Christ, as your Head, and Life, and Saviour, and Intercessor with the Father.

Remember that "without him ye can do nothing," John xv. 5. Nor can any thing you do be acceptable to God, any other way than in him, the beloved Son, in whom he is well pleased. As your persons had never been accepted but in him, no more can any of your services. All your repentings, if you had wept out your eyes for sin, would not have satisfied the justice of God, nor procured you pardon and justification, without the satisfaction and merit of Christ. If he had not first taken away the sins of the world, and reconciled them so far to God, as to procure and tender them the pardon and salvation contained in his covenant, there had been no place for your repentance, nor faith, nor prayers, nor endeavours, as[Pg 27] to any hope of your salvation. Your believing would not have saved you, nor indeed had any justifying object, if he had not purchased you the promise and gift of pardon and salvation to all believers.

Objection. But perhaps you will say, That if we had loved God, without a Saviour, we should have been saved; for God cannot hate and damn those that love him. To which I answer, You could not have loved God as God, without a Saviour: to have loved him as the giver of your worldly prosperity, with a love subordinate to the love of sin and your carnal selves, and to love him as one that you imagine so unholy and unjust, as to give you leave to sin against him, and prefer every vanity before him, this is not to love God, but to love an image of your own fantasy; nor will it at all procure your salvation. But to love him as your God and happiness, with a superlative love, you could never have done without a Saviour. For, 1. Objectively; God being not your reconciled father, but your enemy, engaged in justice to damn you for ever, you could not love him as thus related to you, because he could not seem amiable to you; and therefore the damned hate him as their destroyer, as the thief or murderer hates the judge. 2. And as to the efficiency; your blinded minds and depraved wills could never have been restored so far to their rectitude, as to have loved God as God, without the teaching of Christ, and the renewing, sanctifying work of his Spirit. And without a Saviour, you could never have expected this gift of the Holy Ghost. So that your supposition itself is groundless.

Indeed conversion is your implanting into Christ, and your uniting to him, and marriage with him, that he may be your life, and help, and hope. "He is the way, the truth, and the life: and no man cometh to the Father, but by him," John xiv. 6. "God hath given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son: he that hath the Son, hath life; and he that hath not the Son, hath not life," 1 John v. 11, 12. "He is the Vine, and we are the branches: as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, so neither can we, except we abide in him: he that abideth not in Christ, is cast forth as a branch, and withered, to be burned," John xv. 4-6. All your life and help is in him, and from him: without Christ, you cannot believe in the Father, as in one that will show you any saving mercy, but only as the devils, that believe him just, and tremble at his justice. Without Christ, you cannot love God, nor have any lively apprehensions of his love. Without Christ, you can have no hope of heaven, and therefore no endeavours for it. Without him, you cannot come near to God in prayer, as having no confidence, because no admittance, acceptance, or hope. Without him, how terrible are the thoughts of death! which in him we may see as a conquered thing: and when we remember that he was dead, and is now alive, and the Lord of life, and hath the keys of death and hell, with what boldness may we lay down this flesh, and suffer death to undress our souls! It is only in Christ that we can comfortably think of the world to come; when we remember that he must be our Judge, and that in our nature, glorified, he is now in the highest, Lord of all; and that he is "preparing a place for us, and will come again to take us to himself, that where he is, there we may be also," John xiv. 3. Alas! without Christ, we know not how to live an hour; nor can have hope or peace in any thing we have or do; nor look with comfort either upward or downward, to God, or the creature; nor think without terrors of our sins, of God, or of the life to come. Resolve, therefore, that as true converts, you are wholly to live upon Jesus Christ, and to do all that you do by his Spirit and strength; and to expect all your acceptance with God upon his account. When other men are reputed philosophers, or wise, for some unsatisfactory knowledge of these transitory things, do you desire to know nothing but a crucified and glorified Christ: study him, and take him (objectively) for your wisdom. When other men have confidence in the flesh, and in their show of wisdom, in will-worship, and humility, after the commandments and doctrines of men, (Col. ii. 20-23,) and would establish their own righteousness, do you rejoice in Christ your righteousness; and set continually before your eyes his doctrine and example, as your rule: look still to Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith, who contemned all the glory of the world, and trampled upon its vanity, and subjected himself to a life of suffering, and made himself of no reputation, but "for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame," and underwent the contradiction of sinners against himself. Live so, that you may truly say, as Paul, Gal. ii. 20, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."

Having given you these directions, I most earnestly beseech you to peruse and practise them, that my labour may not rise up as a witness against you, which I intend for your conversion and salvation. Think on it, whether this be an unreasonable course, or an unpleasant life, or a thing unnecessary? and what is reasonable, necessary, and pleasant, if this be not?

And if you meet with any of those distracted sinners, that would deride you from Christ and your salvation, and say, this is the way to make men mad,[38] or, this is more ado than needs; I will not stand here to manifest their brutishness and wickedness, having largely done it already, in my book called, "A Saint or a Brute," and "Now or Never," and in the third part of the "Saints' Rest:" but only I desire thee, as a full defensative against all the pratings of the enemies of a holy, heavenly life, to take good notice but of these three things.

1. Mark well the language of the holy Scriptures, and see whether it speak not contrary to these men; and bethink thee whether God or they be wiser, and whether God or they must be thy judge?

2. Mark, whether these men do not change their minds,[39] and turn their tongues when they come to die? Or think whether they will not change their minds, when death hath sent them into that world where there is none of these deceits? And think whether thou shouldst be moved with that man's words, that will shortly change his mind himself, and wish he had never spoke such words?

3. Observe well, whether their own profession do not condemn them; and whether the very thing that they hate the godly for, be not that they are serious in practising that which these malignants themselves profess as their religion? And are they not then notorious hypocrites,[40] to profess to believe in God, and[Pg 28] yet scorn at those that "diligently seek him?" Heb. xi. 6; to profess faith in Christ, and hate those that obey him? to profess to believe in the Holy Ghost as the sanctifier, and yet hate and scorn his sanctifying work? to profess to believe the day of judgment, and everlasting torment of the ungodly, and yet to deride those that endeavour to escape it? to profess to believe that heaven is prepared for the godly, and yet to scorn at those that make it the chief business of their lives to attain it? to profess to take the holy Scripture for God's word and law, and yet to scorn those that obey it? to pray after each of the ten commandments, "Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law," and yet to hate all those that desire and endeavour to keep them? What impudent hypocrisy is joined with this malignity! Mark, whether the greatest diligence of the most godly be not justified by the formal profession of those very men that hate and scorn them? The difference between them is, that the godly profess christianity in good earnest, and when they say what they believe, they believe as they say; but the ungodly customarily, and for company, take on them to be christians when they are not, and by their own mouths condemn themselves, and hate and oppose the serious practice of that which they say they do themselves believe.

PART II.

The Temptations whereby the devil hindereth Men's Conversion; with the proper Remedies against them.

The most holy and righteous Governor of the world hath so restrained Satan and all our enemies, and so far given us free-will, that no man can be forced to sin against his will; it is not sin if it be not (positively or privatively) voluntary. All our enemies in hell or earth cannot make us miserable without ourselves; nor keep a sinner from true conversion, and salvation, if he do it not himself; no, nor compel him to one sinful thought, or word, or deed, or omission, but by tempting and enticing him to be willing: all that are graceless, are wilfully graceless. None go to hell, but those that choose the way to hell, and would not be persuaded out of it: none miss of heaven, but those that did set so light by it, as to prefer the world and sin before it, and refused the holy way that leadeth to it. And surely man, that naturally loveth himself, would never take so mad a course, if his reason were not laid asleep, and his understanding were not woefully deluded: and this is the business of the tempter, who doth not drag men to sin by violence, but draw and entice them by temptations. I shall therefore take it for the next part of my work, to open these temptations, and tell you the remedies.

Temptation I. The first endeavour of the tempter, is, in general, to keep the sinner asleep in sin: so that he shall be as a dead man, that hath no use of any of his faculties; that hath eyes and seeth not, and ears but heareth not, and a heart that understandeth not, nor feeleth any thing that concerneth his peace. The light that shineth upon a man asleep, is of no use to him; his work lieth undone; his friends, and wealth, and greatest concernments are all forgotten by him, as if there were no such things or persons in the world: you may say what you will against him, or do what you will against him, and he can do nothing in his own defence. This is the case that the devil most laboureth to keep the world in; even in so dead a sleep, that their reason and their wills, their fear and hope, and all their powers, shall be of no use to them: that when they hear a preacher, or read the Scripture or good books, or see the holy examples of the godly, yea, when they see the grave, and know where they must shortly lay, and know that their souls must stay here but a little while; yet they shall hear, and see, and know all this, as men asleep, that mind it not, as if it concerned not them at all; never once soberly considering and laying it to heart.[41]

Direct. I. For the remedy against this deadly sin, 1. Take heed of sleeping opinions, or doctrines and conceits which tend to the lethargy of security. 2. Sit not still, but be up and doing: stirring tends to shake off drowsiness. 3. Come into the light: live under an awakening minister and in wakening company, that will not sleep with you, nor easily let you sleep: agree with them to deal faithfully with you, and promise them to take it thankfully. 4. And meditate oft on wakening considerations. Think whether a sleepy soul beseem one in thy dangerous condition. Canst thou sleep with such a load of sin upon thy soul? Canst thou sleep under the thundering threatenings of God, and the curse of his law; with so many wounds in thy conscience, and ulcers in thy soul? If thy body were sick, or in the case of Job, yea, if thou hadst but an aching tooth, it would not let thee sleep; and is not the guilt of sin a thing more grievous? If thorns, or toads and adders, were in thy bed, they would keep thee waking; and how much more odious and dangerous a thing is sin! If thy body want but meat, or drink, or covering, it will break thy sleep; and is it nothing for thy soul to be destitute of Christ and grace? A condemned man will be easily kept awake; and if thou be unregenerate, thou art already condemned, John iii. 18, 3, 5. Thou sleepest in irons, in the captivity of the devil, among the walking judgments of God, in a life that is still expecting an end, in a boat that is swiftly carried to eternity, just at the entrance of another world; and that world will be hell, if grace awake thee not: thou art going to see the face of God, to see the world of angels or devils, and to be accompanied with one of them for ever; and is this a place or case to sleep in? Is thy bed so soft? thy dwelling so safe? God standeth over thee, man, and dost thou sleep? Christ is coming, and death is coming, and judgment coming, and dost thou sleep? Didst thou never read of the foolish virgins, that slept out their time, and knocked and cried in vain when it was too late, Matt. xxv. 5. Thou mightest wiselier sleep on the pinnacle of a steeple in a storm, than have a soul asleep in so dangerous a case as thou art in. The devil is awake, and is rocking thy cradle! How busy is he to keep off ministers, or conscience, or any that would awake thee! None of thine enemies are asleep; and yet wilt thou sleep, in the thickest of thy foes? Is the battle a sleeping time, or thy race a sleeping time, when heaven or hell must be the end? While he can keep thee asleep, the devil can do almost what he list with thee. He knows that thou hast now no use of thy eyes, or understanding, or power to resist him: the learnedest doctor in his sleep is as unlearned actually as an idiot, and will dispute no better than an unlearned man: this makes many learned men to be ungodly; they are asleep in sin. The[Pg 29] devil could never have made such a drudge of thee, to do his work against Christ and thy soul, if thou hadst been awake. Thou wouldst never have followed his whistle to the ale-house, the play-house, the gaming-house, and to other sins, if thou hadst been in thy wits, and well awake. Read Prov. vii. 23, 24. I cannot believe that thou longest to be damned, or so hatest thyself, as to have done as thou hast done, to have lived a godless, a graceless, a prayerless, and yet a merry, careless life, if thy eyes had been opened, and thou hadst known, and feelingly known, that this was the way to hell. Nature itself will hardly go to hell awake. But it is easy to abuse a man that is asleep. Thou hast reason; but didst thou ever awake it to one hours' serious consideration of thy endless state and present case? Oh dreadful judgment, to be given over to the spirit of slumber! Rom. xi. 8. Is it not high time now to awake out of sleep? Rom. xiii. 11; when the light is arisen and shines about thee! when others that care for their souls, are busy at work! when thou hast slept out so much precious time already! Many a mercy, and perhaps some ministers, have been as candles burnt out to light thee while thou hast slept. How oft hast thou been called already! "How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard?" Prov. vi. 9, 10. Yet thou hast thundering calls and alarms to awake thee. God calls, and ministers call; mercies call, and judgments call; and yet wilt thou not awake? "The voice of the Lord is powerful; full of majesty; breaketh the cedars; shaketh the wilderness:" and yet cannot it awake thee? Thou wilt not sleep about far smaller matters; at meat, or drink, or in common talk, or market. But O! how much greater business hast thou to keep thee awake! Thou hast yet an unholy soul to be renewed; and an ungodly life to be reformed; an offending God to be reconciled to; and many thousand sins to be forgiven! Thou hast death and judgment to prepare for; thou hast heaven to win, and hell to scape! Thou hast many a needful truth to learn, and many a holy duty to perform; and yet dost thou think it time to sleep? Paul, that had less need than thou, did watch, and pray, and labour, day and night, Acts xx. 31; 1 Thess. iii. 10. O that thou knewest how much better it is to be awake. While thou sleepest, thou losest the benefit of the light, and all the mercies that attend thee: the sun is but as a clod to a man asleep; the world is as no world to him; the beauty of heaven and earth are nothing to him; princes, friends, and all things are forgotten by him! So doth thy sleep in sin make nothing of health and patience, time and help, ministers, books, and daily warnings. O what a day hast thou for everlasting, if thou hadst but a heart to use it! What a price hast thou in thine hand! Sleep not out thy day, thy harvest time, thy tide time, Prov. x. 5. "They that sleep, sleep in the night," 1 Thess. v. 7. "Awake, and Christ will give thee light," Rom. xiii. 12; Eph. v. 14. "Awake to righteousness, and sin not," 1 Cor. xv. 34. O when thou seest the light of Christ, what a wonder will it possess thee with, at the things which thou now forgettest! What joy will it fill thee with! and with what pity to the sleepy world! But if thou wilt needs sleep on, be it known to thee, sinner, it shall not be long. If thou wilt wake no sooner, death and vengeance will awake thee. Thou wilt wake when thou seest the other world, and seest the things which thou wouldst not believe, and contest before thy dreadful Judge! "Thy damnation slumbereth not," 2 Pet. ii. 3. There are no sleepy souls in heaven or hell, all are awake there: and the day that hath awakened so many, shall waken thee. Watch, then, if thou love thy soul, lest thy Lord come "suddenly and find thee sleeping. What I say to one, I say to all, Watch," Mark xiii. 34-37.

Tempt. II. If Satan cannot keep the soul in a sleepy, careless, inconsiderate forgetfulness, he would make the unregenerate soul believe, that there is no such thing as regenerating grace; but that it is a fancied thing, which no man hath experience of; and he saith, as Nicodemus, "How can these things be?" John iii. 9. He thinks that natural conscience is enough.

Direct. II. But this may easily be refuted by observing, that holiness is but the very health and rectitude of the soul; and is no otherwise supernatural, than as health to him that is born a leper. It is the rectitude of nature, or its disposition to the use and end that it was made for. Though grace be called supernatural, 1. Because it is not born with us; and 2. Corrupted nature is against it; 3. And the end of it is the God of nature, who is above nature; 4. And the revelation and other means are supernatural (as Christ's incarnation, resurrection, &c.): yet both nature, and Scripture, and experience tell you, that man is made for another life, and for such works which he is utterly unfit for, till grace have changed and renewed him, as it doth by many before your eyes. See 2 Cor. v. 17; Gal. vi. 15; Gal. iv. 19; John iii. 3, 5, 6; Matt. xviii. 3; 1 Pet. i. 23.

Tempt. III. But, saith the tempter, if supernatural grace be necessary, yet it may be born in you. Infants have no sin; Christ saith, "Of such is the kingdom of God: Abraham is your Father; yea, God," John viii. 39, 41. You are born of christian parents.

Direct. III. See the full proof of original sin in all infants, in my "Treatise of the Divine Life," part I. chap. xi. xii. Grace may indeed be put betimes into nature, but comes not by nature.[42] "Except you be born again, you cannot enter into the kingdom of God," John iii. 3, 5. "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away: behold, all things are become new," 2 Cor. v. 17. But how vain is it for him to boast that he was born holy, who finds himself at the present unholy! Show that you have a holy, heavenly heart and life, and then you are happy, whenever it was wrought.

Tempt. IV. But, saith the tempter, baptism is the laver of regeneration: you are baptized, and therefore you are regenerated. The ancients taught that all sins were washed away in baptism, and grace conferred.

Direct. IV. Answ. The ancients by baptism meant the internal and external acts conjunct, the soul's delivering up itself to God in the covenant, and sealing it by baptism, Matt, xxviii. 19, 20: and so it includeth conversion, and true repentance, and faith: and all that are thus baptized are pardoned, justified and holy. But they that have only sacramental regeneration, or the external ordinance, are not for that in a state of life; for Christ expressly saith, that "except you are born of the Spirit," as well as "water, you cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven," John iii. 5, 6. And Peter told Simon Magus, after he was baptized, that he was "yet in the gall of bitterness, and bond of iniquity," Acts viii. 13. It is not the "putting away the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience," 1 Pet. iii. 21. Christ cleanseth his church "by the washing of water by the word," Eph. v. 26. But if you had been cleansed in baptism, if at present you are unclean and unholy, can you be saved so?

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Tempt. V. When this faileth, the tempter would persuade them, that godliness is nothing but a matter of mere opinion or belief: to believe all the articles of the faith, and to be no papist nor heretic, but of true religion, and to be confident of God's mercy through Christ; for "he that believeth shall be saved," Mark xvi. 16.

Direct. V. To this you must answer, that it will not save a man, that his religion is true, unless he be true to it. Read James ii. against such a dead faith. Saving faith is the hearty entertainment of Christ as our Lord and Saviour, and the delivering up of the soul to him to be sanctified and ruled, as well as pardoned. "Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth." "He that knoweth his master's will and doth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes," Luke xii. 47. It is sad that men should think to be saved by that which will condemn them; by being of a right opinion, and a wrong conversation; by believing their duty, instead of doing it; and then presuming that Christ forgiveth them, and that their state is good. Opinion and presumption are not faith.

Tempt. VI. But, saith the tempter, holiness is the excellency of holy persons; but vulgar, unlearned people may be saved, without such high matters, which are above them.

Direct. VI. But God telleth you, that "without holiness none shall see him," Heb. xii. 14. The unlearned may be saved, but the ungodly cannot, Psal. i. 6. Holiness is to the soul, as life to the body: he that hath it not, is dead; though all have not the same degree of health: sin is sin, and hated of God, in learned or unlearned. All men have souls that need regenerating at first: and as all bodies that live, must live on the earth, by the air, and food, &c.; so all souls that live, do live upon the same God, and Christ, and heaven, by the same word and Spirit; and all this may be had by the unlearned.

Tempt. VII. But, saith the tempter, God is not so unmerciful as to damn all that are not holy: this is but talk to keep men in awe; and not to be believed.

Direct. VII. But if God's threatenings be necessary to keep men in awe, then are they necessary to be executed. For God needs not awe men by a lie. He best knows to whom he will be merciful, and how far. Did you never read, Isa. xxvii. 11, "It is a people of no understanding: therefore he that made them will not have mercy on them, and he that formed them will show them no favour." And Psal. lix. 5, "Be not merciful to any wicked transgressors." Is he not just, as well as merciful? Exod. xxxiv. 6, 7. Do you not see that men are sick, and pained, and die, for all that God is merciful? And do not merciful judges condemn malefactors? Are not angels made devils by sin for all that God is merciful? The devil knoweth this to his sorrow. "And if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell," 2 Pet. ii. 4, will he be unjust for you?

Tempt. VIII. But Christ died for all; and God will not punish him and you both for the same fault.

Direct. VIII. Christ died so far for all that have the gospel, as to procure and seal them a free and general pardon of all their sins, if they will repent and take him for their Saviour, and so to bring salvation to their choice. But will this save the ungodly obstinate refusers? Christ died to sanctify, as well as to forgive, Eph. v. 27, and to "purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works," Tit. ii. 14; and to "destroy the works of the devil," 1 John iii. 8; and to bring all men under his dominion and government, Rom. xiv. 9; Luke xix. 27. "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, the same is none of his," Rom. viii. 9.

Tempt. IX. No man can be certain of his salvation; but all must hope well: and to raise doubts in men's hearts, whether they shall be saved or no, will not help them, but puzzle them, and cast them into despair.

Direct. IX. But is there so little difference between a child of God and of the devil, and between the way to heaven and the way to hell, that they cannot be known asunder? Hath not Christ taught us plainly how to know them? Psal. i. and xv.; 1 John iii; and bid us "give diligence to make our calling and election sure?" 2 Pet. i. 10. If all men must hope that they shall be saved, then most must hope for that which they shall never have: but it is no hope of God's making, which deceiveth men. Should so great a matter as our everlasting joy or misery be cast out of our care, and ventured so regardlessly in the dark? When is it that we have life, and time, and all for to make it sure? And what hurt can it do you, to find out the truth of your own condition? If you are indeed unregenerate and unholy, discover it now in time, and you have time to be recovered. You must despair of being saved without conversion; but that preventeth absolute, final despair. Whereas if you find not out your case till time is past, then hope is past, and the devil hath you in endless desperation, where he would.

Tempt. X. If this prevail not, the devil will seek to carry it by noise instead of reason; and will seek to keep you in jovial, merry, voluptuous company, that shall plead by pots, and plays, and pleasures; and shall daily make a jest of godliness, and speak of the godly with scorn, as a company of fanatic hypocrites.

Direct. X. But consider, that this is but the rage of fools, that speak of what they never understood. Did they ever try the way they speak against? Are they to be believed before God himself? Will they not eat their words, at last, themselves? Will their merry lives last always? Do they die as merrily as they live? and bring off themselves as well as they promised to bring off you? See Prov. xiii. 20; xxviii. 7; Eph. v. 7, 11. He that will be cheated of his salvation, and forsake his God, for the ranting scorns of a distracted sinner, is worthy to be damned.

Tempt. XI. Next he telleth them, that a godly life is so hard and tedious, that if they should begin, they should never endure to hold on, and therefore it is in vain to try it.

Direct. XI. But this pretence is compounded of wickedness and madness. What but a wicked heart can make it so hard a thing to live in the love of God, and holiness, and in the hope and seeking of eternal life? Why should not this be a sweeter and pleasanter life, than drinking, and roaring, and gaming, and fooling away time in vain; or than the enjoying of all the delights of the flesh? There is nothing but a sick, distempered heart against it, that nauseateth that which in itself is most delightful. When grace hath changed your hearts, it will be easy. Do you not see that others can hold on in it, and would not be as they were for all the world? And why may not you? God will help you: it is the office of Christ and the Spirit to help you: your encouragements are innumerable. The hardness is most at first; it is the longer the easier. But what if it were hard? Is it not necessary? Is hell easier, and to be preferred before it? And will not heaven pay for all your cost and labour? Will you set down in desperation, and resolve to let your salvation go, upon such silly bug-bear words as these?

Tempt. XII. Next the devil's endeavour will be, to find them so much employment with worldly cares, or hopes, or business, that they shall find no leisure to be serious about the saving of their souls.

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Direct. XII. But this is a snare, though frequently prevalent, yet so irrational, and against so many warnings and witnesses, even of all men in the world, either first or last, at conversion or at death, that he who, after all this, will neglect his God and his salvation, because he hath worldly things to mind, is worthy to be turned over to his choice, and have no better help or portion in the hour of his necessity and distress. Of this sin I have spoken afterward, chap. iv. part 6.

Tempt. XIII. Lest the soul should be converted, the devil will do all that he can to keep you from the acquaintance and company of those whose holiness and instructions might convince and strengthen you; and especially from a lively, convincing minister; and to cast you under some dead-hearted minister and society.

Direct. XIII. Therefore, if it be possible, though it be to your loss or inconvenience in the world, live under a searching, heavenly teacher; and in the company of them that are resolved for heaven. It is a dead heart indeed that feeleth not the need of such assistance, and is not the better for it when they have it. If ever you be fair for heaven, and like to be converted, it will be among such helps as these.

Tempt. XIV. But one of the strongest temptations of Satan is, by making their sin exceeding pleasant to them, for the gain, or honour, or fleshly satisfaction; and so increasing the violence of their sensual appetite and lust, and making them so much in love with their sin, that they cannot leave it. Like the thirst of a man in a burning fever, which makes him cry for cold drink, though it would kill him; the fury of the appetite conquering reason. So we see many drunkards, fornicators, worldlings, that are so deeply in love with their sin, that come on it what will, they will have it, though they have hell with it.

Direct. XIV. Against this temptation I desire you to read what I have said after, chap. iv. part 7, chap. iii. direct. 6, 8. Oh that poor sinners knew what it is that they so much love! Is the pleasing of the flesh so sweet a thing to you? and are you so indifferent to God, and holy things? Are these less amiable? Do you foresee what both will be at last? Will your sin seem better than Christ, and grace, and heaven, when you are dying? O be not so in love with damning folly, and the pleasure of a beast, as for it to despise the heavenly wisdom and delights!

Tempt. XV. Another great temptation is, the prosperity of the wicked in this life; and the reproach and suffering which usually falls upon the godly. If God did strike every notorious sinner dead in that place, as soon as he had sinned, or struck him blind, or dumb, or lame, or inflicted presently some such judgment, then many would fear him, and forbear their sin; but when they see no men prosper so much as the most ungodly, and that they are the persecutors of the holy seed, and that sentence against an evil work is not speedily executed, then are their hearts set in them to do evil, Eccles. viii. 11.

Direct. XV. But alas, how short is the prosperity of the wicked! Read Psal. lxxiii. and xxxvii. Delay is no forgiveness: they stay but till the assize: and will that tempt you to do as they? How unthankfully do sinners deal with God! If he should kill you and plague you, that would not please you: and yet if he forbear you, you are imboldened by it in your sin. Thus his patience is turned against him; but the stroke will be the heavier when it falls. Dost thou think those men will always flourish? Will they always domineer and revel? Will they always dwell in the houses where they now dwell, and possess those lands, and be honoured and served as now they are? Oh how quickly and how dreadfully will the case be changed with them! Oh could you but foresee now what faces they will have, and what heavy hearts, and with what bitter exclamations they will at last cry out against themselves for all their folly, and wish that they had never been deceived by prosperity, but rather had the portion of a Lazarus! If you saw how they are but fatted for the slaughter, and in what a dolorous misery their wealth, and sport, and honours will leave them, you would lament their case, and think so great a destruction were soon enough, and not desire to be partners in their lot.

Tempt. XVI. Another temptation is, their own prosperity: they think God, when he prospereth them, is not so angry with them as preachers tell them: and it is a very hard thing in health and prosperity, to lay to heart either sin or threatenings, and to have such serious, lively thoughts of the life to come, as men that are wakened by adversity have; and specially men that are familiar with death. Prosperity is the greatest temptation to security, and delaying repentance, and putting off preparation for eternity. Overcome prosperity, and you overcome your greatest snare.

Direct. XVI. Go into the sanctuary, yea, go into the church-yard, and see the end; and judge by those skulls, and bones, and dust, if you cannot judge by the fore-warnings of God, what prosperity is.[43] Judge by the experience of all the world. Doth it not leave them all in sorrow at last? Woe to the man that hath his portion in this life! O miserable health, and wealth, and honour, which procureth the death, and shame, and utter destruction of the soul! Was not he in as prosperous a case as you, Luke xvi. that quickly cried out in vain for a drop of water to cool his tongue? There is none of you so senseless as not to know that you must die. And must you die? must you certainly die? and shall that day be no better prepared for? Shall present prosperity make you forget it, and live as if you must live here for ever? Do you make so great difference between that which is, and that which will be, as to make as great a matter of it as others when it comes, and to make no more of it when it is but coming? O man, what is an inch of hasty time? How quickly is it gone! Thou art going hence apace, and almost gone! Doth God give thee the mercy of a few days or years of health to make all thy preparations in for eternity, and doth this mercy turn to thy deceit, and dost thou turn it so much contrary to the ends for which it was given thee? Wilt thou surfeit on mercy, and destroy thy soul with it? Sense feeleth and perceiveth what now is, but thou hast reason to foresee what will be? Wilt thou play in harvest, and forget the winter?

Tempt. XVII. Another great temptation to hinder conversion is, the example and countenance of great ones that are ungodly. When landlords and men in power are sensual, and enemies to a holy life, and speak reproachfully of it, their inferiors, by the reverence which they bear to worldly wealth and greatness, are easily drawn to say as they: also, when men reputed learned and wise are of another mind: and especially when subtle enemies speak that reproach against it, which they cannot answer.

Direct. XVII. To this I spake in the end of the first part of this chapter. No man is so great and wise as God. See whether he say as they do in his[Pg 32] word. The greatest that provoke him can no more save themselves from his vengeance, than the poorest beggars. What work made he with a Pharaoh! and got himself a name by his hard-heartedness and impenitency! He can send worms to eat an arrogant Herod, when the people cry him up as a god! Where are now the Cæsars and Alexanders of the world? The rulers and Pharisees believed not in Christ, John vii. 48; wilt not thou therefore believe in him? The governor of the country condemned him to die; and wilt thou condemn him? "The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us," Psal. ii. 2, 3; wilt thou therefore join in the conspiracy? When "he that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision—He will break them with an iron rod, and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel, unless they be wise, and kiss the Son, and serve the Lord with fear, before his wrath be kindled and they perish," Psal. ii. 4, 9-12. If thy landlord, or great ones, shall be thy god, and be honoured and obeyed before God and against him, trust to them, and call on them in the hour of thy distress, and take such a salvation as they can give thee. Teach not God what choice to make, and whom to reveal his mysteries to: he chooseth not always the learned scribe, nor the mighty man. Christ himself saith, Matt. xi. 25, "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 to babes: even so, Father; for so it seemeth good in thy sight!" If this reason satisfy you not, follow them, and speed as they. If they are greater and wiser than God, let them be your gods.[44] 1 Cor. i. 26-28, "You see your calling, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world, to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world, to confound the things that are mighty; and base things of the world, and the things that are despised, hath God chosen, and things that are not, to bring to nought things that are." It is another kind of greatness, honour, and wisdom which God bestoweth on the poorest saints, than the world can give. Worldlings will shortly be aweary of their portion. In your baptism you renounced the world with its pomps and vanity; and now do you deify what you then defied?

Tempt. XVIII. Another temptation is to draw on the sinner into such a custom in sin, and long neglect of the means of his recovery, till his heart is utterly hardened.

Direct. XVIII. Against this, read after, chap. iv. part 2, against hardness of heart.

Tempt. XIX. Another temptation is, to delay repentance, and purpose to do it hereafter.

Direct. XIX. Of this I entreat you to read the many reasons which I have given to shame and waken delayers, in my book of "Directions for a Sound Conversion."

Tempt. XX. The worst of all is, to tempt them to flat unbelief of Scripture and the life to come.

Direct. XX. Against this, read here chap. iii. direct. 1, chap. iv. part 1, and my "Treatise against Infidelity."

Tempt. XXI. If they will needs look after grace, he will do all he can to deceive them with counterfeits, and make them take a seeming half conversion for a saving change.

Direct. XXI. Of this read my "Directions for Sound Conversion," and the "Formal Hypocrite," and "Saints' Rest," part 3. c. 10.

Tempt. XXII. If he cannot make them flat infidels, he will tempt them to question and contradict the sense of all those texts of Scripture which are used to convince them, and all those doctrines which grate most upon their galled consciences; as, of the necessity of regeneration, the fewness of them that are saved, the difficulty of salvation, the torments of hell, the necessity of mortification, and the sinfulness of all particular sins. They will hearken what cavillers can say for any sin, and against any part of godliness; and with this they wilfully delude themselves.

Direct. XXII. But if men are resolved to join with the devil, and shut their eyes, and cavil against all that God speaketh to them to prevent their misery, and know not, because they will not know; what remedy is left, or who can save men against their wills? "This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil. He that doth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved," John iii. 19, 20. In Scripture, "some things are hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable, wrest to their own destruction," 2 Pet. iii. 16. Of particulars read the end of my "Treatise of Conversion."

Tempt. XXIII. Yea, Satan will do his worst to make them heretics, and teach them some doctrine of licentiousness suitable to their lusts. It is hard being wicked still against conscience in the open light. This is kicking against the pricks; too smarting work to be easily borne; therefore the devil will make them a religion which shall please them and do their sins no harm. Either a religion made up of loose opinions, like the familists, ranters, libertines, and antinomians, and the Jesuits too much; or else made up of trifling formalities, and a great deal of bodily exercise, and stage actions, and compliments, as much of the popish devotion is: and a little will draw a carnal heart to believe a carnal doctrine. It is easier to get such a new religion, than a new heart. And then the devil tells them that now they are in the right way, and therefore they shall be saved. A great part of the world think their case is good, because they are of such or such a sect or party, and of that which (they are told by their leaders) is the true church and way.

Direct. XXIII. But remember, that whatever law you make to yourselves, God will judge you by his own law. Falsifying the king's coin is no good way to pay a debt, but an addition of treason to your former misery. It is a new and a holy heart and life, and not a new creed, or a new church or sect, that is necessary to your salvation. It will never save you to be in the soundest church on earth, if you be unsound in it yourselves, and are but the dust in the temple that must be swept out: much less will it save you, to make yourselves a rule, because God's rule doth seem too strict.

Tempt. XXIV. Another way of the tempter is, to draw men to take up with mere convictions, instead of true conversion. When they have but learnt that it is but necessary to salvation, to be regenerate, and have the Spirit of Christ, they are as quiet, as if this were indeed to be regenerate, and to have the Spirit. As some think they have attained to perfection, when they have but received the opinion that perfection may here be had; so abundance think they have had sanctification and forgiveness, because now they see that they must be had, and without sanctification there is no salvation: and thus the knowledge of all grace and duty shall go with them for the grace and[Pg 33] duty itself; and their judgment of the thing, instead of the possession of it: and instead of having grace, they force themselves to believe that they have it.

Direct. XXIV. But remember God will not be mocked: he knoweth a convinced head from a holy heart. To think you are rich, will not make you rich: to believe that you are well, or to know the remedy, is not enough to make you well. You may dream that you eat, and yet awake hungry, Isa. xxix. 8. All the land or money which you see, is not therefore your own. To know that you should be holy, maketh your unholiness to have no excuse. Ahab did not escape by believing that he should return in peace. Self-flattery in so great and weighty a case, is the greatest folly. "If you know these things, happy are ye if ye do them," John xiii. 17.

Tempt. XXV. Another great temptation is, by hiding from men the intrinsic evil and odiousness of sin. What harm, saith the drunkard, and adulterer, and voluptuous sensualist, is there in all this, that preachers make so great ado against it? what hurt is this to God or man, that they would make us believe that we must be damned for it, and that Christ died for it, and that the Holy Ghost must mortify it? "Wherefore," say the Jews, Jer. xvi. 10, "hath God pronounced all this great evil against us? or what is our iniquity? or what is our sin that we have committed?" He that knoweth not God, knoweth not what sin against God is; especially when the love of it and delight in it blindeth them.

Psal. xl. 12. Psal. li.

Direct. XXV. Against this I entreat you to ponder on those forty intrinsical evils in sin, which I have after named, chap. iii. direct. 8, and the aggravations. If the devil can but once persuade you, that sin is harmless, all faith, all religion, all honesty, and your souls and all are gone. For then, all God's laws and government must be fictions; then, there is no work for Christ as a Saviour, or the Spirit as a Sanctifier, to do; then, all ordinances and means are troublesome vanities, and godliness and obedience deserve to be banished from the earth, as unnecessary troublers of mankind; then, may this poison be safely taken and made your food. But oh how mad a conceit is this! How quickly will God make the proudest know, what harm it was to refuse the government of his Maker, and set up the government of his beastly appetite and misguided will! and that sin is bad, if hell be bad.

Tempt. XXVI. The devil also tempteth them to think, that though they sin, yet their good works are a compensation for their bad, and therefore they pray, and do some acts of pharisaical devotion, to make God amends for what they do amiss.

See Prov. xxviii. 9; Prov. xv. 26, 8; Prov. xxi. 27; Isa. i. 13, 14.

Direct. XXVI. Against this consider, that if you had never so many good works, they are all but your duty, and make no satisfaction for your sin. But what good works can you do, that shall save a wicked soul? and that God will accept without your hearts? Your hearts must be first cleansed, and yourselves devoted and sanctified to God: for an evil tree will bring forth evil fruit: first make the tree good, and the fruit will be good. It is the love of God, and the hatred of sin, and a holy and heavenly life, which are the good works that God chiefly calleth for; and faith, and repentance, and conversion in order to these. And will God take your lip-labour, or the leavings of your flesh by way of alms, while the world and fleshly pleasure have your hearts? Indeed, you do no work that is truly good. The matter may be good; but you poison it with bad principles and ends. "The carnal mind is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be; but is enmity to God," Rom. viii. 6, 7.

Tempt. XXVII. Some are tempted to think, that God will not condemn them because they are poor and afflicted in this life, and have their sufferings here: and that he that condemneth the rich for not showing mercy to the poor, will himself show them mercy.

Direct. XXVII. Hath he not showed you mercy? And is it not mercy which you vilify and refuse? even Christ, and his Spirit, and holy communion with God? or must God show you the mercy of glory, without the mercy of grace? which is a contradiction. Strange! that the same men that will not be entreated to accept of mercy, nor let it save them, are yet saying, that God will be merciful and save them.

See Heb. xi. 6, 7, 9, 10

And for your poverty and suffering, is it not against your will? you cannot deny it: and will God save any man for that which is against his will? You would have riches, and honour, and pleasure, and your good things in this life, as well as others, if you could tell how: you love the world as well as others, if you could get more of it. And to be carnal and worldly for so poor a pittance, and to love the world when you suffer in it, doth make you more inexcusable than the rich. The devils have suffered more than you, and so have many thousand souls in hell; and yet they shall be saved never the more. If you are poor in the world, but rich in faith and holiness, then you may well expect salvation, James ii. 5. But if your sufferings make you no more holy, they do but aggravate your sin.

Tempt. XXVIII. Also the devil blindeth sinners, by keeping them ignorant of the nature and power of holiness of heart and life. They know it not by any experience; and he will not let them see it and judge of it in the Scripture, where it is to be seen without any mixed contraries; but he points them only to professors of holiness, and commonly to the weakest and the worst of them, and to that which is worst in them, and showeth them the miscarriages of hypocrites, and the falls of the weaker sort of christians, and then tells them, This is their godliness and religion; they are all alike.

Direct. XXVIII. But it is easy to see, how these men deceive and condemn themselves. This is as if you should plead that a beast is wiser than a man, because some men are drunk, and some are passionate, and some are mad. Drunkenness and passions, which are the disturbances of reason, are no disgrace to reason, but to themselves: nor were they a disgrace themselves, if reason which they hinder were not honourable. So no man's sins are a disgrace to holiness, which condemneth them: nor were they bad themselves, if holiness were not good, which they oppose. It is no disgrace to the daylight or sun, that there is night and darkness: nor were darkness bad, if light were not good. Will you refuse health, because some men are sick? nay, will you rather choose to be dead, because the living have infirmities? The devil's reasoning is foolisher than this! Holiness is of absolute necessity to salvation. If many that do more than you, are as bad as you imagine, what a case then are you in, that have not near so much as they! If they that make it their greatest care to please God, and be saved, are as very hypocrites as the devil would persuade you, what a hopeless case then are you in, that come far short of them! If so, you must do more than they,[Pg 34] and not less, if you will be saved; or else out of your own mouths will you be condemned.

Tempt. XXIX. Another way of the tempter is, by drawing them desperately to venture their souls; come on them what will, they will put it to the venture, rather than live so strict a life.

Direct. XXIX. But, O man, consider what thou dost, and who will have the loss of it! and how quickly it may be too late to recall thy adventure! What should put thee on so mad a resolution? Is sin so good? is hell so easy? is thy soul so contemptible? is heaven such a trifle? is God so hard a master? is his work so grievous, and his way so bad? doth he require any thing unreasonable of you? hath God set you such a grievous task, that it is better venture on damnation than perform it? You cannot believe this, if you believe him to be God. Come near, and think more deliberately on it, and you will find you might better run from your food, your friend, your life, than from your God, and from a holy life, when you run but into sin and hell.

Tempt. XXX. Another great temptation is, in making them believe that their sins are but such common infirmities as the best have: they cannot deny but they have their faults; but are not all men sinners? They hope that they are not reigning, unpardoned sins.

Direct. XXX. But, oh how great a difference is between a converted and an unconverted sinner! between the failings of a child and the contempt of a rebel! between a sinner that hath no gross or mortal sin, and hateth, bewaileth, and striveth against his infirmities; and a sinner that loveth his sin, and is loth to leave it, and maketh light of it, and loveth not a holy life. God will one day show you a difference between these two, when you see that there are sinners that are justified and saved, and sinners that are condemned.


Tempt. I. But here are many subordinate temptations, by which Satan persuades them that their sins are but infirmities: one is, because their sin is but in the heart, and appeareth not in outward deeds: and they take restraint for sanctification.

Direct. I. Alas! man, the life and reign of sin is in the heart; that is its garrison and throne: the life of sin lieth in the prevalence of your lusts within, against the power of reason and will. All outward sins are but acts of obedience to the reigning sin within; and a gathering tribute for this, which is the king. For this it is that they make provision, Rom. xiii. 14. On this all is consumed, James iv. 3. Original sin may be reigning sin (as a king may be born a king). Sin certainly reigneth, till the soul be converted and born again.

Tempt. II. The devil tells them it is but an infirmity, because it is no open, gross, disgraceful sin: it is hard to believe that they are in danger of hell, for sins which are accounted small.

Direct. II. But do you think it is no mortal, heinous sin, to be void of the love of God and holiness? to love the flesh and the world above him? to set more by earth than heaven, and do more for it? However they show themselves, these are the great and mortal sins. Sin is not less dangerous for lying secret in the heart. The root and heart are usually unseen. Some kings (as in China, Persia, &c.) keep out of sight for the honour of their majesty. Kings are the spring of government; but actions of state are executed by officers. When you see a man go, or work, you know that it is something within which is the cause of all. If sin appeared without, as it is within, it would lose much of its power and majesty. Then ministers, and friends, and every good man would cast a stone at it; but its secrecy is its peace. The devil himself prevaileth by keeping out of sight. If he were seen, he would be less obeyed. So it is with the reigning sins of the heart. Pride and covetousness may be reigning sins, though they appear not in any notorious, disgraceful course of life. David's hiding his sin, or Rachel her idol, made them not the better. It is a mercy to some men, that God permitteth them to fall into some open, scandalous sin, which may tend to humble them, who would not have been humbled nor convinced by heart-sins alone. See Jer. iv. 14; Hosea vii. 6, 7. An oven is hottest when it is stopped.

Tempt. III. Satan tells them, they are not unpardoned, reigning sins, because they are common in the world. If all that are as bad as I must be condemned, say they, God help a great number.

Direct. III. But know you not that reigning sin is much more common than saving holiness? and that the gate is wide, and the way is broad, that leadeth to destruction, and many go in at it? Salvation is as rare as holiness; and damnation as common as reigning sin, where it is not cured. This sign therefore makes against you.

Tempt. IV. But, saith the tempter, they are such sins as you see good men commit: you play at the same games as they: you do but what you see them do; and they are pardoned.

Direct. IV. You must judge the man by his works, and not the works by the man. And there is more to be looked at, than the bare matter of an act. A good man and a bad may play at the same game, but not with the same end, nor with the same love to sport, nor so frequently and long to the loss of time. Many drops may wear a stone: many stripes with small twigs may draw blood. Many mean men in a senate have been as great kings: you may have many of these little sins set all together, which plainly make up a carnal life. The power of a sin is more considerable than the outward show. A poor man, if he be in the place of a magistrate, may be a ruler. And a sin materially small, and such as better men commit, may be a sin in power and rule with you, and concur with others which are greater.

Tempt. V. But, saith the tempter, they are but sins of omission, and such are not reigning sins.

Direct. V. Sins of omission are always accompanied with some positive, sensual affection to the creature, which diverteth the soul, and causeth the omission. And so omission is no small part of the reigning sin. The not using of reason and the will for God, and for the mastering of sensuality, is much of the state of ungodliness in man. Denying God the heart and life, is no small sin. God made you to do good, and not only to do no harm: else a stone or corpse were as good a christian as you; for they do less harm than you. If sin have a negative voice in your religion, whether God shall be worshipped and obeyed or not, it is your king: it may show its power as well by commanding you not to pray, and not to consider, and not to read, as in commanding you to be drunk or swear. The wicked are described by omissions: such as "will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts," Psal. x. 4. Such as "know not God, and call not on his name," Jer. x. 25. That have "no truth, or mercy, or knowledge of God," Hos. iv. 1. That "feed not, clothe not, visit not" Christ in his members, Matt. xxv.; that hide their talents, Matt. xxv. Indeed, if God have not your heart, the creature hath it; and so it is omission and commission that go together in your reigning sin.

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Tempt. VI. But, saith the tempter, they are but sins of ignorance, and therefore they are not reigning sins: at least you are not certain that they are sins.

Direct. VI. And indeed do you not know that it is a sin to love the world better than God? and fleshly pleasure better than God's service? and riches better than grace and holiness? and to do more for the body than for the soul, and for earth than for heaven? Are you uncertain whether these are sins? And do you not feel that they are your sins? You cannot pretend ignorance for these. But what causeth your ignorance? Is it because you would fain know, and cannot? Do you read, and hear, and study, and inquire, and pray for knowledge, and yet cannot know? Or is it not because you would not know, or think it not worth the pains to get it; or because you love your sin? And will such wilful ignorance as this excuse you? No; it doth make your sin the greater. It showeth the greater dominion of sin, when it can use thee as the Philistines did Samson, put out thy eyes, and make a drudge of thee; and conquer thy reason, and make thee believe that evil is good and good is evil. Now it hath mastered the principal fortress of thy soul, when thy understanding is mastered by it. He is reconciled indeed to his enemy, who taketh him to be a friend. Do you not know, that God should have your heart, and heaven should have your chiefest care and diligence; and that you should make the word of God your rule, and your delight, and meditation day and night? If you know not these things, it is because you would not know them: and it is a miserable case to be given up to a blinded mind! Take heed, lest at last you commit the horridest sins, and do not know them to be sins. For such there are that mock at godliness, and persecute christians and ministers of Christ, and know not that they do ill; but think they do God service, John xvi. 2. If a man will make himself drunk, and then kill, and steal, and abuse his neighbours, and say, I knew not that I did ill, it shall not excuse him. This is your case. You are drunken with the love of fleshly pleasure and worldly things, and these carry you so away, that you have neither heart nor time to study the Scriptures, and hear, and think what God saith to you, and then say that you did not know.

Tempt. VII. But, saith the tempter, it cannot be a mortal reigning sin, because it is not committed with the whole heart, nor without some struggling and resistance: dost thou not feel the Spirit striving against the flesh? and so it is with the regenerate, Gal. v. 17; Rom. vii. 20-23. The good which thou dost not do, thou wouldst do; and the evil which thou dost, thou wouldst not do; so then it is no more thou that dost it, but sin that dwelleth in thee. In a sensual unregenerate person, there is but one party, there is nothing but flesh; but thou feelest the combat between the flesh and the Spirit within thee.

What resistance of sin may be in the ungodly.

Direct. VII. This is a snare so subtle and dangerous, that you have need of eyes in your head to escape it. Understand therefore, that as to the two texts of Scripture, much abused by the tempter, they speak not at all of mortal reigning sin, but of the unwilling infirmities of such as had subdued all such sin, and walked not after the flesh, but after the Spirit; and whose wills were habitually bent to good; and fain would have been perfect, and not have been guilty of an idle thought, or word, or of any imperfection in their holiest service, but lived up to all that the law requireth: but this they could not do, because the flesh did cast many stops before the will in the performance. But this is nothing to the case of one that liveth in gross sin, and an ungodly life, and hath strivings and convictions, and uneffectual wishes to be better and to turn, but never doth it. This is but sinning against conscience, and resisting the Spirit that would convert you; and it maketh you worthy of many stripes, as being rebellious against the importunities of grace. Sin may be resisted where it is never conquered; it may reign nevertheless for some contradiction. Every one that resisteth the king, doth not depose him from his throne. It is a dangerous deceit to think that every good desire that contradicteth sin, doth conquer it, and is a sign of saving grace. It must be a desire after a state of godliness, and an effectual desire too. There are degrees of power: some may have a less and limited power, and yet be rulers. As the evil spirits that possessed men's bodies, were a legion in one, and but one in others, yet both were possessed; so is it here. Grace is not without resistance in a holy soul; there are some remnants of corruption in the will itself, resisting the good; and yet it followeth not that grace doth not rule. So is it in the sin of the unregenerate. No man in this life is so good as he will be in heaven, or so bad as he will be in hell; therefore none is void of all moral good. And the least good will resist evil, in its degree, as light doth darkness. As in these cases:

1. There is in the unregenerate a remnant of natural knowledge and conscience. Some discoveries of God and his will there are in his works: God hath not left himself without witness. See Acts xiv. 17; xvii. 27; Rom. i. 19, 20; ii. 7-9. This light and law of nature governed the heathens; and this in its measure resisteth sin, and assisteth conscience.

2. When supernatural extrinsic revelation in the Scripture, is added to the light and law of nature, and the ungodly have all the same law as the best; it may do more.

3. Moreover, an ungodly man may live under a most powerful preacher, that will never let him alone in his sins, and may stir up much fear in him, and many good purposes, and almost persuade him to be a true christian; and not only to have some ineffectual wishings and strivings against sin, but to do many things after the preacher, as Herod did after John, and to escape the common pollutions of the world, 2 Pet. ii. 20.

4. Some sharp affliction, added to the rest, may make him seem to others a true penitent: when he is stopped in his course of sin, as Balaam was by the angel, with a drawn sword, and seeth that he cannot go on but in danger of his life; and that God is still meeting him with some cross, and hedging up his way with thorns (for such mercy he showeth to some of the ungodly); this may not only breed resistance of sin, but some reformation. When the Babylonians were planted in Samaria they feared not God, and he sent lions among them; and then they feared him, and sent up some kind of service to him, performed by a base sort of priests; "they feared the Lord, and served their own gods," thinking it was safest to please all, 2 Kings xvii. 25, 32, 33. Affliction maketh bad men likest to the good.

5. Good education and company may do very much: it may help them to much knowledge, and make them professors of strict religion; and constant companions with those that fear sin, and avoid it; and therefore they must needs go far then, as Joash did all the days of Jehoiada, 2 Chron. xxiv. 2. As plants and fruits change with the soil by transplantation, and as the climate maketh some blackmoors and some white; so education and converse have so great a power on the mind, that they come next to grace, and are oft the means of it.

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6. And God giveth to many, internally, some grace of the Spirit, which is not proper to them that are saved, but common or preparatory only. And this may make much resistance against sin, though it do not mortify it. One that should live but under the convictions that Judas had when he hanged himself, I warrant him, would have strivings and combats against sin in him, though he were unsanctified.

7. Yea, the interest and power of one sin may resist another: as covetousness may make much resistance against sensuality and pride of life, and pride may resist all disgraceful sin.

Tempt. VIII. But, saith the tempter, it is not unpardoned sin, because thou art sorry and dost repent for it when thou hast committed it; and all sin is pardoned that is repented of.

Direct. VIII. All the foresaid causes which may make some resistance of sin in the ungodly, may cause also some sorrow and repenting in them. There is repenting and sorrow for sin in hell. All men repent and are sorry at last; but few repent so, as to be pardoned and saved. When a sinner hath had all the sweetness out of sin that it can yield him, and seeth that it is all gone, and the sting is left behind, no marvel if he repent. I think there is scarce any drunkard, or whoremonger, or glutton, (that is not a flat infidel,) but he repenteth of the sin that is past, because he hath had all out of it that it can yield him, and there is nothing left of it that is lovely: but yet he goeth on still, which showeth that his repentance was unsound. True repentance is a thorough change of the heart and life; a turning from sin to a holy life, and such a sorrow for what is past as would not let you do it if it were to do again. If you truly repent, you would not do so again, if you had all the same temptations.

Tempt. IX. But, saith the tempter, it is but one sin, and the rest of thy life is good and blameless; and God judgeth by the greater part of thy life, whether the evil or the good be most.

Direct. IX. If a man be a murderer, or a traitor, will you excuse him, because the rest of his life is good, and it is but one sin that he is charged with? One sort of poison may kill a man; and one stab at the heart, though all his body else be whole: you may surfeit on one dish: one leak may sink a ship. James ii. 10, "Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, is guilty of all." See Ezek. xviii. 10, 11. Indeed God doth judge by the bent of thy heart, and the main drift and endeavour of thy life. But canst thou say, that the bent of thy heart, and the main endeavour of thy life, is for God, and heaven, and holiness? No: if it were, thou wert regenerate; and this would not let thee live in any one beloved, chosen, wilful sin. The bent of a man's heart and life may be sinful, earthly, fleshly, though it run but in the channel of one way of gross sinning: as a man may be covetous, that hath but one trade; and a whoremonger, that hath but one whore; and an idolater, that hath but one idol. If thou lovedst God better, thou wouldst let go thy sin; and if thou love any one sin better than God, the whole bent of thy heart and life is wicked: for it is not set upon God and heaven, and therefore is ungodly.

Tempt. X. But, saith the tempter, it is not reigning, unpardoned sin, because thou believest in Jesus Christ; and all that believe, are pardoned, and justified from all their sin.

Direct. X. He that savingly believeth in Christ, doth take him entirely for his Saviour and Governor; and giveth up himself to be saved, sanctified, and ruled by him. As trusting your physician, implieth that you take his medicines, and follow his advice, and so trust him; and not that you trust to be cured while you disobey him, by bare trusting: so is it as to your faith and trust in Christ; it is a belief or trust, that he will save all those that are ruled by him in order to salvation. "He is the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him," Heb. v. 9. If you believe in Christ, you believe Christ: and if you believe Christ, you believe "that except a man be converted, and born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven," John iii. 3, 5; Matt. xviii. 3; and that he that is "in Christ, is a new creature; old things are past away, and all is become new," 2 Cor. v. 17; and that "without holiness none shall see God," Heb. xii. 14; and that "no fornicator, effeminate, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, extortioners, murderers, liars, shall enter into, or have any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ," 1 Cor. vi. 9, 10; Eph. v. 4-6; Rev. xxi. 27; xxii. 14, 15. If you believe Christ, you must believe that you cannot be saved unless you be converted. It is the devil, and not Christ, that telleth you, you may be pardoned and saved in an unholy, unregenerate state: and it is sad, that men should believe the devil, and call this a believing in Christ, and think to be saved for so believing; as if false faith and presumption pleased God! Christ will not save men for believing a lie, and believing the father of lies before him; nor will he save all that are confident they shall be saved. If you think you have any part in Christ, remember Rom. viii. 9, "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, the same is none of his."[45]


CHAPTER II.

DIRECTIONS TO YOUNG CHRISTIANS OR BEGINNERS IN RELIGION, FOR THEIR ESTABLISHMENT AND SAFE PROCEEDING.[46]

Before I come to the common directions for the exercise of grace, and walking with God, containing the common duties of christianity, I shall lay down some previous instructions, proper to those that are but newly entered into religion (presupposing what is said in my book of directions to those that are yet under the work of conversion, to prevent their miscarrying by a false superficial change).

Direct. I. Take heed lest it be the novelty or reputation of truth and godliness, that takes with you, more than the solid evidence of their excellency and necessity; lest when the novelty and reputation are gone, your religion wither and consume away.

It is said of John and the Jews by Christ, "He was a burning and a shining light, and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light," John v. 35. All men are affected most with things that seem new and strange to them. It is not only the infirmity of children, that are pleased with new clothes, and new toys and games; but even to graver, wiser persons, new things are most affecting, and commonness and custom dulls delight. Our habitations, and possessions, and honours, are most pleasing to us at the first; and every condition of life doth most affect us at the first: if nature were not much for novelty, the publishing of news-books would not have been so gainful[Pg 37] a trade so long, unless the matter had been truer and more desirable. Hence it is that changes are so welcome to the world, though they prove ordinarily to their cost. No wonder then, if religion be the more acceptable, when it comes with this advantage. When men first hear the doctrine of godliness, and the tidings of another world, by a powerful preacher opened and set home, no wonder if things of so great moment affect them for a time: it is said of them that received the seed of God's word as into stony ground, that "forthwith it sprung up," and they "anon with joy received it," Matt. xiii. 5, 20; but it quickly withered for want of rooting. These kind of hearers can no more delight still in one preacher, or one profession, or way, than a glutton in one dish, or an adulterer in one harlot: for it is but a kind of sensual or natural pleasure that they have in the highest truths; and all such delight must be fed with novelty and variety of objects. The Athenians were inquisitive after Paul's doctrine as novelty, though after they rejected it, as seeming to them incredible: Acts xvii. 19-21, "May we know what this new doctrine whereof thou speakest is? For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean. For all the Athenians and strangers which were there, spent their time in nothing else, but to tell or hear some new thing."

To this kind of professors, the greatest truths grow out of fashion, and they grow weary of them, as of dull and ordinary things: they must have some new light, or new way of religion that lately came in fashion: their souls are weary of that manna that at first was acceptable to them, as angels' food. Old things seem low, and new things high to them; and to entertain some novelty in religion, is to grow up to more maturity: and too many such at last so far overthrive their old apparel, that the old Christ and old gospel are left behind them.

The light of the gospel is speedilier communicated, than the heat; and this first part being most acceptable to them, is soon received; and religion seemeth best to them at first. At first they have the light of knowledge alone; and then they have the warmth of a new and prosperous profession: there must be some time for the operating of the heat, before it burneth them; and then they have enough, and cast it away in as much haste as they took it up. If preachers would only lighten, and shoot no thunderbolts, even a Herod himself would hear them gladly, and do many things after them; but when their Herodias is meddled with, they cannot bear it. If preachers would speak only to men's fancies or understandings, and not meddle too smartly with their hearts, and lives, and carnal interests, the world would bear them, and hear them as they do stage-players, or at least as lecturers in philosophy or physic. A sermon that hath nothing but some general toothless notions in a handsome dress of words, doth seldom procure offence or persecution: it is rare that such men's preaching is distasted by carnal hearers, or their persons hated for it. "It is a pleasant thing for the eyes to behold the sun," Eccles. xi. 7; but not to be scorched by its heat. Christ himself at a distance as promised, was greatly desired by the Jews: but when he came, they could not bear him; his doctrine and life were so contrary to their expectations. Mal. iii. 1-3, "The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come into his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts. But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap." Many when they come first (by profession) to Christ, do little think that he would cast them into the fire, and refine them, and purge away their dross, and cast them anew into the mould of the gospel, Rom. vi. 17. Many will play a while by the light, that will not endure to be melted by the fire. When the preacher cometh once to this, he is harsh and intolerable, and loseth all the praise which he had won before, and the pleasing novelty of religion is over with them. The gospel is sent to make such work in the soul and life, as these tender persons will not endure: it must captivate every thought to Christ, and kill every lust and pleasure which is against his will; and put a new and heavenly life into the soul: it must possess men with deep and lively apprehensions of the great things of eternity; it is not wavering dull opinions, that will raise and carry on the soul to such vigorous, constant, victorious action, as is necessary to salvation. When the gospel cometh to the heart, to do this great prevailing work, then these men are impatient of the search and smart, and presently have done with it. They are like children, that love the book for the gilding and fineness of the cover, and take it up as soon as any; but it is to play with, and not to learn; they are weary of it when it comes to that. At first many come to Christ with wonder, and will needs be his servants for something in it that seemeth fine; till they hear that the Son of man hath not the accommodation of the birds or foxes; and that his doctrine and way hath an enmity to their worldly, fleshly interest, and then they are gone. They first entertained Christ in compliment, thinking that he would please them, or not much contradict them; but when they find that they have received a guest that will rule them, and not be ruled by them, that will not suffer them to take their pleasure, nor enjoy their riches, but hold them to a life which they cannot endure, and even undo them in the world, he is then no longer a guest for them. Whereas if Christ had been received as Christ, and truth and godliness deliberately entertained for their well-discerned excellency and necessity, the deep rooting would have prevented this apostasy, and cured such hypocrisy.

But, alas! poor ministers find by sad experience, that all prove not saints that flock to hear them, and make up the crowd; nor "that for a season rejoice in their light," and magnify them, and take their parts. The blossom hath its beauty and sweetness; but all that blossometh or appeareth in the bud, doth not come to perfect fruit: some will be blasted, and some blown down; some nipped with frosts, some eaten by worms; some quickly fall, and some hang on till the strongest blasts do cast them down: some are deceived and poisoned by false teachers; some by worldly cares, and the deceitfulness of riches, become unfruitful and are turned aside; the lusts of some had deeper rooting than the word; and the friends of some had greater interest in them than Christ, and therefore they forsake him to satisfy their importunity: some are corrupted by the hopes of preferment, or the favour of man; some feared from Christ by their threats and frowns, and choose to venture on damnation to scape persecution: and some are so worldly wise, that they can see reason to remit their zeal, and can save their souls and bodies too; and prove that to be their duty, which other men call sin (if the end will but answer their expectations): and some grow weary of truth and duty, as a dull and common thing, being supplied with that variety which might still continue the delights of novelty.

Yet mistake not what I have said, as if all the affection furthered by novelty, and abated by commonness[Pg 38] and use, were a sign that the person is but a hypocrite. I know that there is something in the nature of man, remaining in the best, which disposeth us to be much more passionately affected with things when they seem new to us, and are first apprehended, than when they are old, and we have known or used them long. There is not, I believe, one man of a thousand, but is much more delighted in the light of truth, when it first appeareth to him, than when it is trite and familiarly known; and is much more affected with a powerful minister at first, than when he hath long sat under him. The same sermon that even transported them at the first hearing, would affect them less, if they had heard it preached a hundred times. The same books which greatly affected us at the first or second reading, will affect us less when we have read them over twenty times. The same words of prayer that take much with us when seldom used, do less move our affections when they are daily used all the year. At our first conversion, we have more passionate sorrow for our sin, and love to the godly, than we can afterwards retain. And all this is the case of learned and unlearned, the sound and unsound, though not of all alike. Even heaven itself is spoken of by Christ, as if it did participate of this, when he saith, that "joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, that need no repentance," Luke xv. 7, 10. And I know it is the duty of ministers to take notice of this disposition in their hearers, and not to dull them with giving them still the same, but to profit them by a pleasant and profitable variety: not by preaching to them another Christ, or a new gospel: it is the same God, and Christ, and Spirit, and Scripture, and the same heaven, the same church, the same faith, and hope, and repentance, and obedience, that we must preach to them as long as we live; though they say, we have heard this a hundred times, let them hear it still, and bring them not a new creed. If they hear so oft of God, and Christ, and heaven, till by faith, and love, and fruition, they attain them as their end, they have heard well. But yet there is a grateful variety of subordinate particulars, and of words, and methods, and seasonable applications, necessary to the right performance of our ministry, and to the profiting of the flocks: though the physician use the same apothecary's shop, and dispensatory, and drugs, yet how great a variety must he use of compositions, and times, and manner of administration.

But for all this, though the best are affected most with things that seem new, and are dulled with the long and frequent use of the same expressions, yet they are never weary of the substance of their religion, so as to desire a change. And though they are not so passionately affected with the same sermons, and books, or with the thoughts or mention of the same substantial matters of religion, as at first they were; yet do their judgments more solidly and tenaciously embrace them, and esteem them, and their wills as resolvedly adhere to them, and use them, and in their lives they practise them, better than before. Whereas, they that take up their religion but for novelty, will lay it down when it ceaseth to be new to them, and must either change for a newer, or have none at all.[47]

And as unsound are they that are religious, only because their education, or their friends, or the laws, or judgment of their rulers, or the custom of the country, hath made it necessary to their reputation: these are hypocrites at the first setting out, and therefore cannot be saved by continuance in such a carnal religiousness as this. I know law, and custom, and education, and friends, when they side with godliness, are a great advantage to it, by affording helps, and removing those impediments that might stick much with carnal minds. But truth is not your own, till it be received in its proper evidence; nor your faith divine, till you believe what you believe, because God is true who doth reveal it; nor are you the children of God, till you love him for himself; nor are you truly religious, till the truth and goodness of religion itself be the principal thing that maketh you religious. It helpeth much to discover a man's sincerity, when he is not only religious among the religious, but among the profane, and the enemies, and scorners, and persecutors of religion: and when a man doth not pray only in a praying family, but among the prayerless, and the deriders of fervent constant prayer: and when a man is heavenly among them that are earthly, and temperate among the intemperate and riotous, and holdeth the truth among those that reproach it and that hold the contrary: when a man is not carried only by a stream of company, or outward advantages, to his religion, nor avoideth sin for want of a temptation, but is religious though against the stream, and innocent when cast (unwillingly) upon temptations; and is godly where godliness is accounted singularity, hypocrisy, faction, humour, disobedience, or heresy; and will rather let go the reputation of his honesty, than his honesty itself.

Direct. II. Take heed of being religious only in opinion, without zeal and holy practice; or only in zealous affection, without a sound, well grounded judgment; but see that judgment, zeal, and practice be conjunct.

Of the first part of this advice, (against a bare opinionative religion,) I have spoken already, in my "Directions for a Sound Conversion." To change your opinions is an easier matter than to change the heart and life. A holding of the truth will save no man, without a love and practice of the truth. This is the meaning of James ii. where he speaketh so much of the unprofitableness of a dead, unaffected belief, that worketh not by love, and commandeth not the soul to practice and obedience. To believe that there is a God, while you neglect him and disobey him, is unlike to please him. To believe that there is a heaven, while you neglect it, and prefer the world before it, will never bring you thither. To believe your duty, and not to perform it, and to believe that sin is evil, and yet to live in it, is to sin with aggravation, and have no excuse, and not the way to be accepted or justified with God. To be of the same belief with holy men, without the same hearts and conversations, will never bring you to the same felicity. "He that knoweth his master's will and doth it not," shall be so far from being accepted for it, that he "shall be beaten with many stripes." To believe that holiness and obedience is the best way, will never save the disobedient and unholy.

And yet if judgment be not your guide, the most zealous affections will but precipitate you; and make you run, though quite out of the way, like the horses when they have cast the coachman or the riders.[Pg 39][48] To ride post when you are quite out of the way, is but laboriously to lose your time, and to prepare for further labour. The Jews that persecuted Christ and his apostles, had the testimony of Paul himself, that they had a "zeal of God, but not according to knowledge," Rom. x. 2. And Paul saith of the deceivers and troublers of the Galatians, (whom he wished even cut off,) that they did zealously affect them, but not well, Gal. iv. 17. And he saith of himself, while he persecuted christians to prison and to death, "I was zealous towards God as ye are all this day," Acts xxii. 3, 4. Was not the papist, St. Dominick, that stirred up the persecution against the christians in France and Savoy, to the murdering of many thousands of them, a very zealous man? And are not the butchers of the Inquisition zealous men? And were not the authors of the third Canon of the General Council at the Lateran, under Pope Innocent the third, very zealous men, who decreed that the pope should depose temporal lords, and give away their dominions, and absolve their subjects, if they would not exterminate the godly, called heretics? Were not the papists' powder-plotters zealous men? Hath not zeal caused many of latter times to rise up against their lawful governors? and many to persecute the church of God, and to deprive the people of their faithful pastors without compassion on the people's souls? Doth not Christ say of such zealots, "The time cometh, when whosoever killeth you, will think he doth God service," John xvi. 2; or offereth a service (acceptable) to God. Therefore Paul saith, "It is good to be zealously affected always in a good matter," Gal. iv. 18; showing you that zeal indeed is good, if sound judgment be its guide. Your first question must be, Whether you are in the right way? and your second, Whether you go apace? It is sad to observe what odious actions are committed in all ages of the world, by the instigation of misguided zeal! And what a shame an imprudent zealot is to his profession! while making himself ridiculous in the eyes of the adversaries, he brings his profession itself into contempt, and maketh the ungodly think that the religious are but a company of transported brain-sick zealots; and thus they are hardened to their perdition. How many things doth unadvised affection provoke well-meaning people to, that afterwards will be their shame and sorrow.

Labour therefore for knowledge, and soundness of understanding; that you may know truth from falsehood, good from evil; and may walk confidently, while you walk safely; and that you become not a shame to your profession, by a furious persecution of that which you must afterwards confess to be an error; by drawing others to that which you would after wish that you had never known yourselves. And yet see that all your knowledge have its efficacy upon your heart and life; and take every truth as an instrument of God, to reveal himself to you, or to draw your heart to him, and conform you to his holy will.

Direct. III. Labour to understand the true method of divinity, and see truths in their several degrees and order; that you take not the last for the first, nor the lesser for the greater. Therefore see that you be well grounded in the catechism; and refuse not to learn some catechism that is sound and full, and keep it in memory while you live.[49]

Method, or right order, exceedingly helpeth understanding, memory, and practice.[50] Truths have a dependence on each other; the lesser branches spring out of the greater, and those out of the stock and root. Some duties are but means to other duties, or subservient to them, and to be measured accordingly; and if it be not understood which is the chief, the other cannot be referred to it. When two things materially good come together, and both cannot be done, the greater must take place, and the lesser is no duty at that time, but a sin, as preferred before the greater. Therefore it is one of the commonest difficulties among cases of conscience, to know which duty is the greater, and to be preferred. Upon this ground, Christ healed on the sabbath day, and pleaded for his disciples rubbing the ears of corn, and for David's eating the shew-bread, and telleth them, that "the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath, and that God will have mercy, and not sacrifice."

Divinity is a curious, well-composed frame. As it is not enough that you have all the parts of your watch or clock, but you must see that every part be in its proper place, or else it will not go, or answer its end; so it is not enough that you know the several parts of divinity or duty, unless you know them in their true order and place. You may be confounded before you are aware, and led into many dangerous errors, by mistaking the order of several truths; and you may be misguided into heinous sins, by mistaking the degrees and order of duties; as, when duties of piety and charity seem to be competitors; and when you think that the commands of men contradict the commands of God; and when the substance and the circumstances or modes of duty are in question before you as inconsistent; or when the means seemeth to cease to be a means, by crossing of the end: and in abundance of such cases, you cannot easily conceive what a snare it may prove to you, to be ignorant of the methods and ranks of duty.

Object. If that be so, what man can choose but be confounded in his religion; when there be so few that observe any method at all, and few that agree in method, and none that hath published a scheme or method so exact and clear, as to be commonly approved by divines themselves? What then can ignorant christians do?

Answ. Divinity is like a tree that hath one trunk,[51] and thence a few greater arms or boughs, and thence a thousand smaller branches; or like the veins, or nerves, or arteries in the body, that have first one or few trunks divided into more, and those into a few more, and those into more, till they multiply at last into more than can easily be seen or numbered. Now it is easy for any man to begin at the chief trunk, and to discern the first divisions, and the next, though not to comprehend the number and order of all the extreme and smaller branches. So is it in divinity: it is not very hard to begin at the unity of the eternal God-head, and see there a Trinity of Persons, and of primary attributes, and of relations; and to arise to the principal attributes and works of God as in these relations, and to the relations of man to God, and to the great duties of these relations, to discern God's covenants and chiefest laws, and the duty of man in obedience thereto, and the judgment of God in the execution of his sanctions; though yet many particular truths be not understood. And he that beginneth, and proceedeth as[Pg 40] he ought, doth know methodically so much as he knoweth; and he is in the right way to the knowledge of more: and the great mercy of God hath laid so great a necessity on us to know these few points that are easily known, and so much less need of knowing the many small particulars, that a mean christian may live uprightly, and holily, and comfortably, that well understandeth his catechism, or the creed, Lord's prayer, and ten commandments; and may find daily work and consolation in the use of these.

A sound and well composed catechism studied well and kept in memory, would be a good measure of knowledge, to ordinary christians, and make them solid and orderly in their understanding, and in their proceeding to the smaller points, and would prevent a great deal of error and miscarriage, that many by ill teaching are cast upon, to their own and the churches' grief! Yea, it were to be wished, that some teachers of late had learnt so much and orderly themselves.

Direct. IV. Begin not too early with controversies in religion: and when you come to them, let them have but their due proportion of your time and zeal: but live daily upon these certain great substantials, which all christians are agreed in.

1. Plunge not yourselves too soon into controversies: For, (1.) It will be exceedingly to your loss, by diverting your souls from greater and more necessary things: you may get more increase of holiness, and spend your time more pleasingly to God, by drinking in deeper the substantials of religion, and improving them on your hearts and lives.

(2.) It will corrupt your minds, and instead of humility, charity, holiness, and heavenly-mindedness, it will feed your pride, and kindle faction and a dividing zeal, and quench your charity, and possess you with a wrangling, contentious spirit, and you will make a religion of these sins and lamentable distempers.

(3.) And it is the way to deceive and corrupt your judgments, and make you erroneous or heretical, to your own perdition and the disturbance of the church: for it is two to one, but either you presently err, or else get such an itch after notions and opinions that will lead you to error at the last. Because you are not yet ripe and able to judge of those things, till your minds are prepared by those truths that are first in order to be received. When you undertake a work that you cannot do, no wonder if it be ill done, and must be all undone again, or worse.

Perhaps you will say, that you must not take your religion upon trust, but must "prove all things, and hold fast that which is good."

Answ. Though your religion must not be taken upon trust, there are many controverted smaller opinions that you must take upon trust, till you are capable of discerning them in their proper evidence. Till you can reach them yourselves, you must take them on trust, or not at all. Though you must believe all things of common necessity to salvation with a divine faith; yet many subservient truths must be received first by a human faith, or not received at all, till you are more capable of them. Nay, there is a human faith necessarily subservient to the divine faith, about the substance of religion; and the officers of Christ are to be trusted in their office, as helpers of your faith. Nay, let me tell you, that while you are young and ignorant, you are not fit for controversies about the fundamentals of religion themselves. You may believe that there is a God, long before you are fit to hear an atheist proving that there is no God. You may believe the Scripture to be the word of God, and Christ to be the Saviour, and the soul to be immortal, long before you will be fit to manage or study controversies hereupon. For nothing is so false or bad, which a wanton or wicked wit may not put a plausible gloss upon; and your raw unfurnished understandings will scarce be able to see through the pretence, or escape the cheat. When you cannot answer the arguments of seducers, you will find them leave a doubting in your minds; for you know not how plain the answer of them is, to wiser men. And though you must prove all things, you must do it in due order, and as you are able; and stay till your furnished minds are capable of the trial. If you will needs read before you know your letters, or pretend to judge of Greek and Hebrew authors, before you can read English, you will but become ridiculous in your undertaking.

2. When you do come to smaller controverted points, let them have but their due proportion of your time and zeal. And that will not be one hour in many days, with the generality of private christians. By that time you have well learned the more necessary truths, and practised daily the more necessary duties, you will find that there will be but little time to spare for lesser controversies. Opinionists that spend most of their time in studying and talking of such points, do steal that time from greater matters, and therefore from God, and from themselves. Better work is undone the while. And they that here lay out their chiefest zeal, divert their zeal from things more necessary, and turn their natural heat into a fever.

3. The essential necessary truths of your religion, must imprint the image of God upon your hearts, and must dwell there continually, and you must live upon them as your bread, and drink, and daily necessary food: all other points must be studied in subserviency to those: all lesser duties must be used as the exercise of the love of God or man, and of a humble heavenly mind. The articles of your creed, and points of catechism, are fountains ever running, affording you matter for the continual exercise of grace: it is both plentiful and solid nourishment of the soul, which these great substantial points afford. To know God the Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier, the laws and covenant of God, and his judgment, and rewards and punishments, with the parts and method of the Lord's prayer, which must be the daily exercise of our desires, and love, this is the wisdom of a christian; and in these must he be continually exercised.

You will say perhaps that the apostle saith, Heb. vi. 1, "Leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works," &c.

Answer 1. By "leaving" he meaneth not passing over the practice of them as men that have done with them, and are past them; but his leaving at that time to discourse of them, or his supposing them taught already: though he lay not the foundation again, yet he doth not pluck it up. 2. By "principles" he meaneth the first points to be taught, and learnt, and practised: and indeed regeneration and baptism is not to be done again: but the essentials of religion which I am speaking of, contain much more: especially to "live in the love of God, which Paul calls the more excellent way," 1 Cor. xii. and xiii. 3. Going on to perfection, is not by ceasing to believe and love God, but by a more distinct knowledge of the mysteries of salvation, to perfect our faith, and love, and obedience.

The points that opinionists call higher, and think to be the principal matter of their growth, and advancement in understanding, are usually but some[Pg 41] smaller, less necessary truths, if not some uncertain, doubtful questions. Mark well 1 Tim. i. 4; vi. 4; 2 Tim. ii. 23; Tit. iii. 9, compared with John xvii. 3; Rom. xiii. 8-10; 1 Cor. xiii.; 1 John iii.; 1 Cor. i. 23; xv. 1-3; ii. 2; Gal. vi. 14; James ii.; iii. 1.

Direct. V. Be very thankful for the great mercy of your conversion: but yet overvalue not your first degrees of knowledge or holiness, but remember that you are yet but in your infancy, and must expect your growth and ripeness as the consequent of time and diligence.

You have great reason to be more glad and thankful for the least measure of true grace, than if you had been made the rulers of the earth; it being of a far more excellent nature, and entitling you to more than all the kingdoms of the world. See my sermon called "Right Rejoicing," on those words of Christ, "Rejoice not that the spirits are subject to you; but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven," Luke x. 20. Christ will warrant you to rejoice, though enemies envy you, and repine both at your victory and triumph. If there be "joy in heaven in the presence of the angels" at your conversion, there is great reason you should be glad yourselves. If the prodigal's father will needs have the best robe and ring brought forth, and the fat calf killed, and the music to attend the feast, that they may eat and be merry, Luke xv. 23, there is great reason that the prodigal son himself should not have the smallest share of joy; though his brother repine.

Fear is a cautelous preserving grace.

But yet, take heed lest you think the measure of your first endowments to be greater than it is.[52] Grace imitateth nature, in beginning, usually, with small degrees, and growing up to maturity by leisurely proceeding. We are not new-born in a state of manhood, as Adam was created. Though those texts that liken the kingdom of God to a grain of mustard seed, and to a little leaven, Matt. xiii. 31, 33, be principally meant of the small beginnings and great increase of the church or kingdom of Christ in the world; yet it is true also of his grace or kingdom in the soul. Our first stature is but to be "new-born babes desiring the sincere milk of the word, that we may grow by it," 1 Pet. ii. 2. Note here, that the new birth bringeth forth but babes, but growth is by degrees, by feeding on the word. The word is received by the heart, as seed into the ground, Matt. xiii. And seed useth not to bring forth the blade and fruit to ripeness in a day.

Yet I deny not, but that some men (as Paul) may have more grace at their first conversion, than many others have at their full growth. For God is free in the giving of his own, and may give more or less as pleaseth himself. But yet in Paul himself, that greater measure is but his smallest measure, and he himself is capable of increase to the last. And so great a measure at first is as rare, as his greater measure, at last, in its full growth, is rare, and scarce to be expected now.

And if God should give a great measure of holiness at first, to any now, as possibly he may, yet their measure of gifts is never great at first, unless they had acquired or received them before conversion. If grace find a man of great parts and understanding, which by study and other helps he had attained before, no wonder if that man, when his parts are sanctified, be able in knowledge the first day; for he had it before, though he had not a heart to use it. But if grace find a man ignorant, unlearned, and of mean abilities, he must not expect to be suddenly lifted up to great understanding and high degrees of knowledge by grace. For this knowledge is not given, now, by sudden infusion, as gifts were, extraordinarily, in the primitive church. You need no other proof of this but experience, to stop the mouth of any gainsayer. Look about you, and observe whether those that are men of knowledge, did obtain it by infusion, in a moment? or whether they did not obtain it by diligent study, by slow degrees? though I know God blesseth some men's studies more than others. Name one man that ever was brought to great understanding, but by means and labour, and slow degrees; or that knoweth any truth, in nature, or divinity, but what he read, or heard, or studied for, as the result of what he read or heard. The person that is proudest of his knowledge, must confess that he came to it in this way himself.

How the Spirit doth illuminate.

But you will ask, What then is the illumination of the Spirit, and enlightening the mind, which the Scripture ascribeth to the Holy Ghost? Hath not our understanding need of the Spirit for light, as well as the heart or will for life?

Answ. Yes, no doubt; and it is a great and wonderful mercy: and I will tell you what it is. 1. The Holy Spirit, by immediate inspiration, revealed to the apostles the doctrine of Christ, and caused them infallibly to indite the Scriptures. But this is not that way of ordinary illumination now. 2. The Holy Spirit assisteth us in our hearing, reading, and studying the Scripture, that we may come, by diligence, to the true understanding of it; but doth not give us that understanding, without hearing, reading, or study. "Faith cometh by hearing," Rom. x. 17. It blesseth the use of means to us, but blesseth us not in the neglect of means. 3. The Holy Spirit doth open the eyes and heart of a sinner, who hath heard, and notionally understood the substance of the gospel, that he may know that piercingly, and effectually, and practically, which before he knew but notionally, and ineffectually; so that the knowledge of the same truth is now become powerful, and, as it were, of another kind. And this is the Spirit's sanctifying of the mind, and principal work of saving illumination; not by causing us to know any thing of God, or Christ, or heaven, without means; but by opening the heart, that, through the means, it may take in that knowledge deeply, which others have but notionally, and in a dead opinion; and, by making our knowledge clear, and quick, and powerful, to affect the heart, and rule the life. 4. The Holy Spirit sanctifieth all that notional knowledge which men had before their renovation. All their learning and parts are now made subservient to Christ, and to the right end, and turned into their proper channel. 5. And the Holy Ghost doth, by sanctifying the heart, possess it with such a love to God, and heaven, and holiness, and truth, as is a wonderful advantage to us, in our studies for the attaining of further knowledge. Experience telleth us, how great a help it is to knowledge, to have a constant love, delight, and desire to the thing which we would know. All these ways the Spirit is the enlightener of believers.

The not observing this direction, will have direful effects; which I will name, that you may see the necessity of avoiding them.

The danger of overvaluing your young abilities or graces.

1. If you imagine that you are presently men of great understanding, and abilities, and holiness, while you are young beginners, and but new-born babes, you are entering into "the snare and[Pg 42] condemnation of the devil," even into the odious sin of pride; yea, a pride of those spiritual gifts which are most contrary to pride; yea, and a pride of that which you have not, which is most foolish pride. Mark the words of Paul, when he forbids to choose a young beginner in religion to the ministry, 1 Tim. iii. 6: "Not a novice, (that is, a young, raw christian,) lest being lifted up (or besotted) with pride, he fall into the condemnation of the devil." Why are young beginners more in danger of this than other christians? One would think their infancy should be conscious of its own infirmity. But Paul knew what he said. It is, (1.) Partly because the suddenness of their change; coming out of darkness into a light which they never saw before, doth amaze them, and transport them, and make them think they are almost in heaven, and that there is not much more to be attained. Like the beggar that had a hundred pounds given him, having never seen the hundredth part before, imagined that he had as much money as the king. (2.) And it is partly because they have not knowledge enough to know how many things there are that yet they are ignorant of.[53] They never heard of the Scripture difficulties, and the knots in school divinity, nor the hard cases of conscience: whereas, one seven years' painful studies, will tell them of many hundred difficulties which they never saw; and forty or fifty years' study more, will clothe them with shame and humility, in the sense of their lamentable darkness. (3.) And it is also because the devil doth with greatest industry lay this net to entrap young converts, it being the way in which he hath the greatest hope.

2. Your hasty conceits of your own goodness or ability, will make you presumptuous of your own strength, and so to venture upon dangerous temptations, which is the way to ruin. You will think you are not so ignorant, but you may venture into the company of papists, or any heretics or deceivers, or read their books, or be present at their worship. And I confess you may escape; but it may be otherwise, and God may leave you, to "show you all that was in your hearts," as it is said of Hezekiah, 2 Chron. xxxii. 21, 25, 26.

3. And your overvaluing your first grace, will make you too secure, when your souls have need of holy awfulness and care, to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling," Phil. ii. 12; and to "serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear, as knowing that he is a consuming fire," Heb. xii. 28, 29. And security is the forerunner of a fall.

4. It will make you neglect the due labour and patience in the use of means, for further knowledge and increase of grace, while you think you are so well already.[54] And so you will be worse than those that are ever learning, and never come to any ripe knowledge; for you will think that you are fit to be teachers, when you have need to be taught that which you will not submit to learn. And then, "when for the time ye ought to have been teachers, you will have need to be catechised, or taught again which be the first principles of the oracles of God, as having need of milk, and not of strong meat." Mark here, how the Holy Ghost maketh time and exercise necessary to such growth as must enable you to be teachers, Heb. v. 12-14. Therefore he addeth, "but strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age; those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." Mark here, how wisdom and strength is to be expected.

5. This over-hasty conceit of your own ability, will tempt you to run into controversies, and matters that you are not fit for; and so divert you from necessary and seasonable studies.

6. It will make you over-confident of all your own opinions, and stiff in all your own conceits; too like him, Prov. xiv. 16, "The fool rageth and is confident." How many and many a time have I heard a man that understood not what he talked of, and could scarce speak sense, to plead for his opinion so confidently, as to scorn or pity the wisest contradicter, when his ignorance, and phrenetic confidence and rage, did make him a real object of pity, to men of ordinary understandings. There is a kind of madness in this disease, that will not leave you wit enough to know that you are mad.

7. It will make you also very censorious of others: this ignorant pride will make you think other men's knowledge to be ignorance, if they be not just of your fond opinions; and other men's graces to be none, if they be not of your mind and way. None are so ready as such to censure those that are better than themselves, or that they have no acquaintance with, as being but civil, moral men, or being erroneous or deluded. It is a very loathsome thing, to hear an ignorant, self-conceited fellow to talk of those that are a hundred times wiser and much better than himself, as magisterially, with a proud compassion or contempt, as if he were indeed the wise man, that knoweth not what he saith.

8. And it will make you rebellious against your governors and teachers, and utterly unteachable, as despising those that should instruct and rule you.[55] You will think yourselves wiser than your teachers, while you are but in the lowest form. It is such that James speaks to, Jam. iii. 1, "My brethren, be not many masters, (or teachers,) knowing that ye shall receive the greater condemnation." And that whole chapter, well worth your studying, is spoke to such.

9. And thus it will entangle you in heretical opinions, to which there is no greater preparatory, than pride-possessing, half-witted young beginners in religion.

10. And so it will make you troublers of the church, contending unpeaceably for that which you understand not.

11. And it tendeth to hypocrisy, making you give thanks for that which you never had; as puffed up with a knowledge that is not enough to keep you humble, and wanting the charity which would edify yourselves and others, 1 Cor. viii. 1.

12. And it tendeth to delude you in point of assurance of salvation; taking your own over-valuing self-esteem for true assurance; which is not ordinarily to be expected, till grace be come to strength.

13. Lastly, It tendeth to corrupt your apprehensions of the nature of christianity itself; while you will judge of it in others according to your own overvalued measure: when, if you knew it as it is in the heart and practice of the sober, wise, humble, charitable, peaceable, mortified, heavenly believer, you would see that it hath a higher glory than any that is manifested by you.

I have named to you all these sad effects of over-valuing your beginnings in religion, that as you love[Pg 43] your souls, you may avoid them. I take it to be a matter of exceeding great moment, for your safety and perseverance, that while you are infants in grace, you know yourself to be such; that you may keep your form, and learn first the lessons that must first be learned, and "walk humbly with your God, and obey those that are over you in the Lord," Heb. xiii. 7, 17; 1 Thess. i. 5, 12, and may wait on the Spirit, in the use of means, and may not rejoice the tempter, by corrupting all that you have received, and imitating him, in falling from your state of hope.

Direct. VI. Be not discouraged at the difficulties and oppositions which will rise up before you, when you begin resolvedly to walk with God.

Against discouragements in trials.

As discouragements keep off multitudes from religion, so they are great temptations to many young beginners to turn back, and as the Israelites in the wilderness, ready to wish themselves again in Egypt. Three sorts of discouragements arise before them. 1. Some from the nature of the work. 2. Some from God's trials. 3. And some from the malice of the devil and his instruments: or all these.

1. It cannot be expected but that infants and weaklings should think a little burden heavy, and an easy work or journey to be wearisome. Young beginners are ordinarily puzzled, and at a loss, in every trade, or art, or science. Young scholars have a far harder task, than when they are once well entered: learning is wondrous hard and unpleasant to them, at the first; but when they are once well entered, the knowledge of one thing helps another, and they go on with ease. So a young convert, that hath been bred up in ignorance, and never used to prayer, or to heavenly discourse, nor to hear or join with any that did, will think it strange and hard at first. And those that were used to take their pleasure, and fulfil the desires of the flesh, and perhaps to swear, and talk filthily, or idly, or to lie, will find, at first, some difficulty to overcome their customs, and live a mortified, holy life: yet grace will do it, and prevail. Especially in point of knowledge, and ability of expression, be not too hasty in your expectation, but wait with patience, in a faithful, diligent use of means, and that will be easy and delightful to you afterwards, which before discouraged you with its difficulties.

2. And God himself will have his servants, and his graces, tried and exercised by difficulties. He never intended us the reward for sitting still; nor the crown of victory, without a fight; nor a fight, without an enemy and opposition. Innocent Adam was unfit for his state of confirmation and reward, till he had been tried by temptation. Therefore the martyrs have the most glorious crown, as having undergone the greatest trial. And shall we presume to murmur at the method of God?

3. And Satan, having liberty to tempt and try us, will quickly raise up storms and waves before us, as soon as we are set to sea; which make young beginners often fear, that they shall never live to reach the haven. He will show thee the greatness of thy former sins, to persuade thee that they shall not be pardoned. He will show thee the strength of thy passions and corruptions, to make thee think they will never be overcome. He will show thee the greatness of the opposition and suffering which thou art like to undergo, to make thee think thou shall never persevere. He will do his worst to meet thee with poverty, losses, crosses, injuries, vexations, persecutions, and cruelties, yea, and unkindness from thy dearest friends, as he did by Job, to make thee think ill of God, or of his service. If he can, he will make them thy enemies that are of thine own household.[56] He will stir up thy own father, or mother, or husband, or wife, or brother, or sister, or children, against thee, to persuade or persecute thee from Christ: therefore Christ tells us, that if we hate not all these, that is, cannot forsake them, and use them as men do hated things, when they would turn us from him, we cannot be his disciples, Luke xiv. 26; Matt. x. Look for the worst that the devil can do against thee, if thou hast once lifted thyself against him, in the army of Christ, and resolvest, whatever it cost thee, to be saved. Read Heb. xi. But how little cause you have to be discouraged, though earth and hell should do their worst, you may perceive by these few considerations.

(1.) God is on your side, who hath all your enemies in his hand, and can rebuke them, or destroy them in a moment. Oh what is the breath or fury of dust or devils, against the Lord Almighty! "If God be for us, who can be against us?" Rom. viii. 31. Read often that chapter, Rom. viii. In the day when thou didst enter into covenant with God, and he with thee, thou didst enter into the most impregnable rock and fortress, and house thyself in that castle of defence, where thou mayest (modestly) defy all adverse powers of earth or hell. If God cannot save thee, he is not God. And if he will not save thee, he must break his covenant. Indeed, he may resolve to save thee, not from affliction and persecution, but in it, and by it. But in all these sufferings you will "be more than conquerors, through Christ that loveth you:" that is, it is far more desirable and excellent to conquer by patience, in suffering for Christ, than to conquer our persecutors in the field, by force of arms. O think on the saints' triumphant boastings in their God. Psal. xlvi. 1-3, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble: therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea." Psal. lvi. 1-5, when his "enemies were many" and "wrested his words daily," and "fought against him, and all their thoughts were against him," yet he saith, "What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. In God will I praise his word; in God have I put my trust: I will not fear what flesh can do unto me." Remember Christ's charge, Luke xii. 4, "Fear not them that can kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom you shall fear: fear him, which after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, fear him." If all the world were on thy side, thou might yet have cause to fear; but to have God on thy side, is infinitely more.

(2.) Jesus Christ is the Captain of thy salvation, Heb. ii. 10, and hath gone before thee this way himself, and hath conquered for thee; and now is engaged to make thee conqueror: and darest thou not go on where Christ doth lead the way? He was perfected through suffering himself, and will see that thou be not destroyed by it. Canst thou draw back, when thou seest his steps, and his blood?[57]

(3.) Thou art not to conquer in thy own strength,[Pg 44] but by the Spirit of God, and the power of that grace which is sufficient for thee, and his strength which appeareth most in our weakness, 2 Cor. xii. 9. And "you can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth you," Phil. iv. 13. "Be of good cheer, he hath overcome the world," John xvi. 33.

(4.) All that are in heaven have gone this way, and overcome such oppositions and difficulties as these:[58] they were tempted, troubled, scorned, opposed, as well as you; and yet they now triumph in glory. "These are they that come out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb: therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them," Rev. vii. 14. And all that ever come to heaven (at age) are like to come this way. And doth not the company encourage you? and the success of those that have overcome before you? Will you have the end, and yet refuse the way?

(5.) Consider how much greater difficulties ungodly men go through to hell. They have stronger enemies than you have: the devil and wicked men are your enemies; but God himself is theirs, and yet they will go on. Men threaten but death to discourage you, and God threateneth damnation to discourage them; and yet they go on, and are not discouraged. And will you be more afraid of man, than sinners are of God? and of death or scorns, than they are of hell?

(6.) Yea, and you yourselves must cast your souls on these greater evils, if by discouragement you turn from the way of godliness. You must run into hell for fear of burning; and upon everlasting death, to escape a temporal death, or less: you will choose God for your enemy, to escape the enmity of man; and how wise a course this is, judge you; when if you do but see that your ways please God, he can "make your enemies be at peace with you," if he see it for your good, Prov. xvi. 7. If you will fear, fear him that can damn the soul.

(7.) Lastly, Remember what abundance of mercies you have to sweeten your present life, and to make your burden easy to you: you have all that is good for you in this life, and the promise of everlasting joy; for godliness thus "is profitable to all things," 1 Tim. iv. 8. What abundance of mercy have you in your bodies, estates, friends, names, or souls, which are the greatest! What promises and experiences to refresh you! What liberty of access to God! A Christ to rejoice in, a heaven to rejoice in! and yet shall a stony or a dirty way discourage you more than these shall comfort you?

The sum of all is, your work will grow easier and sweeter to you, as your skill and strength increase. Your enemies are as grasshoppers before you; the power of the Almighty is engaged by love and promise for your help; and do you pretend to trust in God, and yet will fear the face of man? Isa. l. 6-10, "I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting: for the Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded, therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed. He is near that justifieth me; who will contend with me? Let us stand together: who is mine adversary? let him come near to me. Behold, the Lord God will help me: who is he that shall condemn me? Lo, they all shall wax old as a garment; the moth shall eat them up." Isa. li. 7, 8, "Hearken to me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be afraid of their revilings: for the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool: but my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation." He is no soldier for Christ, that will turn back for fear of scorns, or of any thing that man can do against him.

And consider whether heaven should be easilier come to? They are things of unspeakable glory that you strive for; and they are unworthily despised, if any thing be thought too good to part with for them, or any labour, or difficulties, or sufferings too great to undergo to procure them.

Direct. VII. If it be in your power, live under a judicious, faithful, serious, searching, powerful minister;[59] and diligently attend his public teaching, and use his private counsel for more particular directions and application, for the settling and managing the affairs of your souls; even as you take the advice of physicians for your health, and of lawyers for your estates, and tutors for your studies.

I give this direction only to those that may enjoy so great a mercy if they will. Some live where no such minister is. Some are children, or servants, or wives, that are bound and cannot remove their habitations, or enjoy such liberty, by reason of the unwillingness and restraint of others. Some are so poor, that they cannot remove their dwelling for such advantages. And some are so serviceable in their places, that they may be bound to stay under a very weak minister, that they may do good to others, where they have best opportunity. But let him that can be free, and possess so great a mercy, accept it thankfully, though to his cost. As Christ said in another case, "Every man cannot receive the saying; but he that can receive it, let him."

There is abundance of difference between a[Pg 45] weak, unskilful, unexperienced, dead-hearted, formal teacher, and such a one as is described in the direction. Some that are senseless or indifferent in such matters as these themselves, would persuade you to be so too, and look first in your settlement to your bodily conveniences, and be content with such a teacher as accidentally you are cast upon. And they will tell you, that the work of grace dependeth not on the preachers' gifts, but on the gift and blessing of the Spirit of God: the formalists and the enthusiasts concur in this, though from different principles: but though God can frustrate the fittest means, and can work without means, or by that which is least fitted to the end, yet it is his ordinary way to work by means, and that for the soul as well as for the body; and to work most by the aptest means. And I am sure it is the duty of every teacher, to preach in the fittest manner that he can for the people's edification; and not to do God's work deceitfully, and ineptly, because God can bless the unfittest means: and it is the people's duty to attend upon the best they can enjoy, though God can equally work by the weakest or by none. As that pretence will not excuse the contemners of God's ordinances, that upon every little business stay at home, and attend upon no ministry at all; no more will it excuse them, that refuse that help which is most suited to their edification, and take up with a worse, when they might have better. We are not to neglect duty upon a presumptuous expectation of miraculous or extraordinary works: when we can have no better, we may hope for the greater benefit from the weakest; but not when it is the choice of our own presumptuous, irreligious hearts. God can make Daniel and his companions to thrive better by eating pulse, than others that fed at the table of the king: and rather than sin against God, we must cast ourselves on him for unusual supplies, or leave all to his will. But few would therefore be persuaded causelessly to live on pulse, when they may have better. And one would think this truth should have no contradiction, especially from those men, that are apt to obscure and extenuate the Spirit's operations on the soul, and to confess no grace, but what consisteth in a congruous ordination of means and circumstances. When their doctrine layeth all a man's hopes of salvation upon this congruity of means and circumstances, should they afterwards teach men to undervalue or neglect the fittest, and wilfully cast their souls upon the most unfit and unlikely means? But ungodliness first resolveth what to speak against, before it resolveth what to say; and will contradict God's word, though it contradict its own; and will oppose holiness, though by a self-opposing.

But the spiritual relish and experience of the godly, is a very great preservative to them against such deluding reasonings as these. It is harder for a sophister of greatest subtilty or authority, to persuade him that hath tasted them, that sugar is bitter, or wormwood sweet, than to persuade him to believe it, that never tasted them: and it is hard to make a healthful man believe it is best for him to eat but once a week, or best to live on grass or snow. I doubt not but those that now I speak to, have such experience and perception of the benefit of a judicious and lively ministry, in comparison of the ignorant, cold, and lifeless, that no words will make them indifferent herein. Have you not found the ministry of one sort enlighten, and warm, and quicken, and comfort, and strengthen you, much more than of the other? I am sure I have the common sense and experience of the faithful on my side in this, which were enough of itself against more than can be said against it. Even new-born babes in Christ have in their new natures a desire (not to senseless or malicious pratings, but) to the rational sincere milk, (το λογικον αδολον γαλα,) that they may grow by it, and to perform to God a rational service, Rom. xii. 1.

And it must needs be a very proud and stupid heart that can be so insensible of its own infirmity, sinfulness, and necessity, as to think the weakest, dullest minister may serve their turns, and that they are able to keep up their life, and vigour, and watchfulness, and fruitfulness, with any little ordinary help. I cannot but fear such men know not what the power and efficacy of the word upon the heart and conscience meaneth; nor what it is to live a life of faith and holiness, and to watch the heart, and walk with God. If they did, they could not but find so much difficulty herein, and so much backwardness and unskilfulness in themselves hereto, as would make them feel the necessity of the greatest helps; and it could not be but they must feel the difference between a clear and quickening sermon, and an ignorant, heartless, dead discourse, that is spoken as if a man were talking in his sleep, or of a matter that he never understood, or had experience of.

Alas, how apt are the best to cool, if they be not kept warm by a powerful ministry! How apt to lose the hatred of sin, the tenderness of conscience, the fervency in prayer, the zeal and fulness in edifying discourse, and the delights and power of heavenly meditations, which before we had! How apt is faith to stagger if it be not powerfully underpropt by the helpers of our faith! How hardly do we keep up the heat of love, the confidence of hope, the resolution and fulness of obedience, without the help of a powerful ministry! Nay, how hardly do we do our part in these, in any tolerable sort, even while we have the clearest, liveliest helps, that are ordinarily to be had! And can any that are not blind and proud, imagine that they are so holy and good, that they are above the necessity of such assistance, and that the weakest breath is enough to kindle the fire of holy love and zeal, and keep them in the fear and obedience of God? Alas, we are under languishing weakness, and must be dieted with the best, or we shall soon decay; we are cripples, and cannot go or stand without our crutches. And there must be some savour of the Spirit in him that will be fit to make us spiritual, and some savour of faith and love in him that would kindle faith and love in us; and he must speak clearly and convincingly that will be understood, and will prevail with such as we; and he must speak feelingly, that would make us feel, and speak seriously, that would be much regarded by us, and would make us serious.

6. And ministers are not set up only for public preaching, but for private counsel also, according to our particular needs.[60] As physicians are not only to read you instructions for the dieting and curing of[Pg 46] yourselves, but to be present in your sickness to direct you in the particular application of remedies; and as lawyers are to assist you in your particular cases to free your estates from encumbrances, and preserve or rescue them from contentious men; choose therefore some able minister to be your ordinary counsellor in the matters of God. And let him be one that is humble, faithful, experienced, and skilful, that hath leisure, ability, and willingness to assist you.

As infants in a family are unable to help themselves, and need the continual help of others, and therefore God hath put into the hearts of parents a special love to them, to make them diligent and patient in helping them; so is it in the family of Christ; most christians, by far, are young or weak, in understanding and in grace; it is long before you will be past the need of others' help, if ever in this life. If you feel not this your infirmity and need, it is so much the greater. God will have no men to be self-sufficient; we shall all have need of one another, that we may be useful to one another; and God may use us as his messengers and instruments of conveying his mercies to each other; and that even self-love may help us to be sociable, and to love one another: and our souls must receive their part of mercy, by this way of communication, as well as our bodies: and therefore, as the poor, above all men, should not be against charity and communicating, that need it most; so young christians that are weak and unexperienced, above all others, should be most desirous of help, especially from an able, faithful guide.

But be sure you deal sincerely, and cheat not yourselves, by deceiving your counsellor, and hiding your case. To do so by your lawyer, is the way to lose your suit; and to do so by your physician, is the way to lose your life; and to do so with your pastor and soul-counsellor, is the way to lose your souls. And let the judgment of your pastor or judicious friend about the state of your souls be much regarded by you, though it be not infallible. How far such must be trusted, I am afterward to open to you, with other of your duties belonging to you in this relation. I now only proceed to general advice.

Direct. VIII. Keep right apprehensions of the excellency of charity and unity among believers, and receive nothing hastily that is against them; especially take heed lest under pretence of their authority, their number, their soundness, or their holiness, you too much addict yourselves to any sect or party, to the withdrawing of your special love and just communion from other christians, and turning your zeal to the interest of your party, with a neglect of the common interest of the church; but love a christian as a christian, and promote the unity and welfare of them all.[61]

Use often to read and well consider the meaning and reason of those many urgent passages in Scripture, which exhort all christians to unity and love.[62] Such as John xi. 52; xvii. 11, 21-23; 1 Cor. iii. 10, 17; xii. throughout; 2 Cor. xi. 13; 1 Thess. v. 12, 13; Phil. ii. 1-3; 1 Pet. iii. 8; Rom. xvi. 17; 1 Cor. i. 10; iii. 3; xi. 18. And John xiii. 35; Rom. xii. 9, 10; xiii. 10; 2 Cor. xiii. 11; Gal. v. 6, 13, 22; Col. i. 4; 1 Thess. iv. 9; 1 John iii. 11, 14, 23; iv. 7, 11, 16, 19-21. Surely if the very life of godliness lay not much in unity and love, we should never have had such words spoken of it, as here you find. Love is to the soul, as our natural heat is to the body: whatever destroyeth it, destroyeth life; and therefore cannot be for our good. Be certain, that opinion, course, or motion, tends to death, that tends to abate your love to your brethren, much more which under pretence of zeal, provoketh you to hate and hurt them. To divide the body is to kill it or to maim it; dividing the essential, necessary parts, is killing it; cutting off any integral part, is maiming it. The first can never be an act of friendship, which is the worst that an enemy can do: the second is never an act of friendship, but when the cutting off a member which may be spared is of absolute necessity to the saving of the whole man, from the worse division between soul and body. By this judge what friends dividers are to the church, and how well they are accepted of God.

He that loveth any christian aright, must needs love all that appear to him as christians. And when malice will not suffer men to see christianity in its profession, and credible appearance in another, this is as well contrary to christian love, as hating him when you know him to be a true christian. Censoriousness (not constrained by just evidence) is contrary to love, as well as hatred is.

There is a union and communion with christians as such: this consisteth in having one God, one Head, one Spirit, one faith, one baptismal covenant, one rule of holy living, and in loving and praying for all, and doing good to as many as we can. This is a union and communion of mind, which we must hold with the catholic church through the world. And there is a bodily local union and communion, which consisteth in our joining in body, as well as mind, with particular congregations: and this, as we cannot hold it with all, nor with any congregation, but one at once; so we are not bound to hold it with any, that will drive us from it, unless we will commit some sin:[63] statedly we must hold it with the church which regularly we are joined to, and live with; and occasionally we must hold it with all others, where we have a call and opportunity, who in the substance worship God according to his word, and force us not to sin in conformity to them. It is not schism to lament the sins of any church, or of all the churches in the world: the catholic church on earth consists of sinners. It is not schism to refuse to be partaker in any sin of the purest church in the world: obedience to God is not schism. It is not schism that you join not bodily with those congregations where you dwell not, nor have any particular call to join with them; nor that you choose the purest and most edifying society, rather than one that is less pure and profitable to you; cæteris paribus, supposing you are at liberty: nor that you hold not bodily communion with that church, that will not suffer you to do it, without sinning against God; nor that you join not with the purest churches, when you are called to abide with one less pure.

But it is worse than schism to separate from the universal church: to separate from its faith is apostasy to infidelity. To separate from it in some one or few essential articles, while you pretend to hold to Christ the Head, is heresy: to separate from it in Spirit, by refusing holiness, and not loving such as are truly holy, is damning ungodliness or wickedness: to differ from it by any error, of judgment or life, against the law of God, is sin. To magnify[Pg 47] any one church or party, so as to deny due love and communion to the rest, is schism. To limit all the church to your party, and deny all or any of the rest to be christians, and parts of the universal church, is schism by a dangerous breach of charity; and this is the principal schism that I here admonish you to avoid. It is schism also to condemn unjustly any particular church, as no church; and it is schism to withdraw your bodily communion from a church that you were bound to hold that communion with, upon a false supposition that it is no church, or is not lawfully to be communicated with. And it is schism to make divisions or parties in a church, though you divide not from that church. Thus I have (briefly) told you what is schism.

1. One pretence for schism is (usurped) authority, which some one church may claim to command others that owe them no subjection. Thus pride, which is the spirit of hell, having crept into the church of Christ, and animated to usurpations of lordship and dominion, and contending for superiority, hath caused the most dangerous schisms in the church, that it was ever infested with. The bishop of Rome (advantaged by the seat and constitution of that empire) having claimed the government of all the christian world, condemneth all the churches that will not be his subjects; and so hath made himself the head of a sect, and of the most pernicious schisms that ever did rend the church of Christ: and the bishop of Constantinople, and too many more, have followed the same method in a lower degree, exalting themselves above their brethren, and giving them laws, and then condemning and persecuting them that obey them not. And when they have imposed upon other churches their own usurped authority and laws, they have laid the plot to call all men schismatics and sectaries, that own not their tyrannical usurpation, and that will not be schismatics and sectaries with them: and the cheat lieth in this, that they confound the churches' unity with their pretended authority, and schism with the refusal of subjection to them. If you will not take them for your lords, they cry out that you divide from the church: as if we could hold communion with no churches, but those whose bishops we obey. Communion with other churches is maintained by faith and charity, and agreement in things necessary, without subjection to them. As we may hold all just communion with the churches in Armenia, Arabia, Russia, without subjection to their bishops; so may we with any other church besides that of which we are members. Division or schism is contrary to unity and concord, and not to a usurped government: though disobedience to the pastors which God hath set over us is a sin, and dividing from them is a schism. Both the pope and all the lower usurpers should do well first to show their commission from God to be our rulers, before they call it schism to refuse their government. If they had not made better advantage of fire and sword, than of Scripture and argument, the world would but have laughed them to scorn, when they had heard them say, All are schismatics that will not be our subjects: our dominion and will shall be necessary to the unity of the church. The universal church indeed is one, united under one head and governor: but it is only Jesus Christ who is that head, and not any usurping vicar or vice-christ. The bishops of particular churches are his officers; but he hath deputed no vicar to his own office, as the universal head. Above all sects, take heed of this pernicious sect, who pretend their usurped authority for their schism, and have no way to promote their sect, but by calling all sectaries that will not be sectaries and subjects unto them.

2. Another pretence for schism is the numbers of the party. This is another of the papists' motives; as if it were lawful to divide the church of Christ, if they can but get the greater party. They say, We are the most, and therefore you should yield to us: and so do others, where by the sword they force the most to submit to them. But we answer them, As many as they are, they are too few to be the universal church. The universal church, containing all true, professing christians, is much more than they. The papists are not a third part, if a fourth, of the whole church. Papists are a corrupted sect of christians: I will be against dividing the body of Christ into any sects, rather than to be one of that sect or dividing party, which is the greatest.

3. Another pretence for schism is the soundness or orthodoxness of a party. Almost all sects pretend that they are wiser and of sounder judgment than all the christian world besides: yea, those that most palpably contradict the Scriptures, (as the papists in their half-communion and unintelligible service,) and have no better reason why they so believe or do, but because others have so believed and done already.

But, (1.) the greatest pretenders to orthodoxness are not the most orthodox: (2.) and if they were, I can value them for that in which they excel, without abating my due respect to the rest of the church. (3.) For the whole church is orthodox in all the essentials of christianity, or else they were not christians: and I must love all that are christians with that special love that is due to the members of Christ, though I must superadd such esteem for those that are a little wiser or better than others, as they deserve.

4. The fourth pretence for schism, is the holiness of the party that men adhere to. But this must make but a gradual difference, in our esteem and love to some christians above others: if really they are most holy, I must love them most, and labour to be as holy as they; but I must not therefore unjustly deny communion, or due respect, to other christians that are less holy; nor cleave to them as a sect or divided party, whom I esteem most holy. For the holiest are most charitable, and most against the divisions among christians, and tenderest of their unity and peace.

The sum of this direction is: 1. Highly value christian love and unity. 2. Love those most that are most holy, and be most familiar with them, for your own edification: and if you have your choice, hold local personal communion with the soundest, purest, and best qualified church. 3. But entertain not hastily any odd opinion of a divided party; or, if you do hold it as an opinion, lay not greater weight on it than there is cause. 4. Own the best as best, but none as a divided sect; and espouse not their dividing interest. 5. Confine not your special love to a party; especially for agreeing in some opinions with you; but extend it to all the members of Christ. 6. Deny not local communion, when there is occasion for it, to any church that hath the substance of true worship, and forceth you not to sin. 7. Love them as true christians and churches, even when they thus drive you from their communion.

It is a most dangerous thing to a young convert, to be insnared in a sect: it will, before you are aware, possess you with a feverish, sinful zeal for the opinions and interest of that sect; it will make you bold in bitter invectives and censures, against those that differ from them; it will corrupt your church communion, and fill your very prayers with partiality and human passions; it will secretly bring[Pg 48] malice, under the name of zeal, into your minds and words: in a word, it is a secret but deadly enemy to christian love and peace. Let them that are wiser, and more orthodox and godly, than others, show it as the Holy Ghost directeth them: James iii. 13-18, "Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying (or zeal) and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion (or tumult) and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above, is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality (or wrangling) and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace."

Direct. IX. Take heed lest any persecution or wrong from others, provoke you to any unwarrantable passions and practices, and deprive you of the charity, meekness, and innocency of a christian; or make you go beyond your bounds, in censuring, reviling, or resisting your rulers, who are the officers of God.

Persecution and wrongs are called temptations in Scripture, because they try you, whether you will hold your integrity.[64] As many fall in such trials, through the fear of men, and the love of the world, and their prosperity; so when you seem most confirmed against any sinful compliance, there is a snare laid for you on the other side, to draw you into passions and practices that are unwarrantable.

Those that are tainted with pride, uncharitableness, and schism, will itch to be persecuting those that comply not with them in their way; and yet, while they do it, they will most cry out against pride, uncharitableness, and schism themselves. This is, and hath been, and will be too ordinary in the world. You may think that schism should be far from them, that seem to do all for order and unity. But never look to see this generally cured, when you have said and done the best you can: you must, therefore, resolve, not only to fly from church division yourselves, but also to undergo the persecutions or wrongs of proud or zealous church dividers. It is great weakness in you, to think such usage strange: do you not know that enmity is put, from the beginning, between the woman's and the serpent's seed? And do you think the name or dead profession of christianity doth extinguish the enmity in the serpent's seed? Do you think to find more kindness from proud, ungodly christians, than Abel might have expected from his brother Cain?[65] Do you not know that the Pharisees (by their zeal for their pre-eminence, and traditions, and ceremonies, and the expectation of worldly dignity and rule from the Messiah) were more zealous enemies of Christ than the heathens were? and that the carnal members of the church are oft the greatest persecutors of the spiritual members? "As then he that was born after the flesh, did persecute him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now," (and will be,) Gal. iv. 29. It is enough for you, that you shall have the inheritance, when the sons of the bondwoman shall be cast out. It is your taking the ordinary case of the godly for a strange thing, that makes you so disturbed and passionate, when you suffer: and reason is down, when passion is up. It is by overwhelming reason with passion and discontent, that "oppression maketh" some "wise men mad," Eccles. vii. 7; for passion is a short, imperfect madness. You will think in your passion, that you do well, when you do ill; and you will not perceive the force of reason, when it is never so plain and full against you. Remember, therefore, that the great motive that causeth the devil to persecute you is not to hurt your bodies, but to tempt your souls to impatience and sin: and if it may be said of you as of Job, chap. i. 22, "In all this Job sinned not," you have got the victory, and are "more than conquerors," Rom. viii. 37-39.

Doth it seem strange to you, that "few rich men are saved," when Christ telleth you it is "so hard," as to be "impossible with men?" Luke xviii. 27; Mark x. 27. Or is it strange, that rich men should be the ordinary rulers of the earth? Or is it strange, that the wicked should hate the godly, and the world hate them that are "chosen out of the world?" What of all this should seem strange? Expect it as the common lot of the faithful, and you will be better prepared for it.

See therefore that you "resist not evil," (by any revengeful, irregular violence,) Matt. v. 39. "Let every soul be subject to the higher powers, and not resist, lest they receive damnation," Rom. xiii. 1-3. Imitate your Lord, that "when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not, but committed all to him that judgeth righteously; leaving us an ensample, that ye should follow his steps," 1 Pet. ii. 21, 23. An angry zeal against those that cross and hurt us is so easily kindled and hardly suppressed, that it appeareth there is more in it of corrupted nature than of God. We are very ready to think that we may "call for fire from heaven" upon the enemies of the gospel; but "you know not what manner of spirit ye are then of," Luke ix. 55. But Christ saith unto you, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven," Matt. v. 44, 45. You find no such prohibition against patient suffering wrong from any. Take heed of giving way to secret wishes of hurt to your adversaries, or to reproachful words against them: take heed of hurting yourself by passion or sin, because others hurt you by slanders or persecutions. Keep you in the way of your duty, and leave your names and lives to God. Be careful that you keep your innocency, and in your patience possess your souls, and God will keep you from any hurt from enemies, but what he will cause to work for your good. Read Psal. xxxvii. "Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noon-day. Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in anywise to do evil," ver. 5-8.

Direct. X. When you are repenting of or avoiding any extreme, do it not without sufficient fear and caution of the contrary extreme.

[Pg 49]

Extremes in religion.

In the esteem and love of God, your ultimate end, you need not fear overdoing: nor any where, when impediments, and backwardness or impotency, do tell you that you can never do too much. But sin lieth on both sides the rule and way: and nothing is more common, than to turn from one sin to another, under the name of duty or amendment. Especially this is common in matter of opinion. Some will first believe, that God is nothing else but mercy, and after, take notice of nothing but his justice. First, they believe that almost all are saved, and afterwards, that almost none: first, that every profession is credible, and next, that none is credible without some greater testimony: first, that Christ satisfied for none at all that will not be saved, and next, that he died for all alike: first, that none are now partakers of the Holy Spirit; and next, that all saints have the Spirit, not only to illuminate and sanctify them, by transcribing the written word upon their hearts; but also to inspire them with new revelations, instead of Scripture: first, they think that all that papists hold and do, must be avoided; and after, that there needed no reformation at all. Now, they are for legal bondage, and anon for libertinism: to-day, for a liberty in religion to none, that agree not with them in every circumstance; and to-morrow, for a liberty for all: this year, all things are lawful to them; and the next year, nothing is lawful, but they scruple all that they say or do. One while, they are all for a worship of mere show and ceremony; and another while, against the determination of mere circumstances of order and decency, by man. One while, they cry up nothing but free grace; and another while, nothing but free will. One while, they are for a discipline stricter than the rule; and another while, for no discipline at all. First, for timorous compliance with evil; and afterwards, for boisterous contempt of government. Abundance of such instances we might give you.

The remedy against this disease, is, to proceed deliberately, and receive nothing and do nothing rashly and unadvisedly in religion. For, when you have found out your first error, you will be affrighted from that into the contrary error. See that you look round about you; as well to the error that you may run into on the other side, as into that which you have run into already. Consult also with wise, experienced men; and mark their unhappiness, that have fallen on both sides; and stay not to know evil by sad experience. True mediocrity is the only way that is safe; though negligence and lukewarmness be odious, even when cloaked with that name.

For modesty in your first opinions.

Direct. XI. Let not your first opinions, about the controverted difficulties in religion, where Scripture is not very plain, be too peremptory, confident, or fixed; but hold them modestly with a due suspicion of your unripe understandings, and with room for further information, supposing it possible, or probable, that upon better instruction, evidence, and maturity, you may, in such things, change your minds.

I know, the factions that take up their religion on the credit of their party, are against this direction: thinking that you must first hit on the right church, and then hold all that the church doth hold; and therefore change your mind in nothing which you this way receive. I know, also, that some libertines and half believers would corrupt this direction, by extending it to the most plain and necessary truths; persuading you to hold christianity itself but as an uncertain, probable opinion.

But, as God's foundation standeth sure, so we must be surely built on his foundation. He that believeth not the essentials of christianity, as a certain, necessary revelation of God, is not a christian, but an infidel. And he that believeth not all that which he understandeth in the word of God, believeth nothing on the credit of that word. Indeed faith hath its weakness, on those that are sincere; and they are fain to lament the remnants of unbelief, and cry, "Lord, increase our faith; help thou our unbelief." But he that approveth of his doubting, and would have it so, and thinks the revelation is uncertain, and such as will warrant no firmer a belief, I should scarcely say, this man is a christian. Christianity must be received as of divine, infallible revelation. But controversies about less necessary things, cannot be determined peremptorily, by the ignorant or young beginners, without hypocrisy, or a human faith going under the name of a divine. I am far from abating your divine belief of all that you can understand in Scripture, and implicitly of all the rest in general. And I am far from diminishing the credit of any truth of God. But the reasons of this direction are these:

1. When it is certain that you have but a dark, uncertain apprehension of any point, to think it is clear and certain, is but to deceive yourselves by pride. And, to cry out against all uncertainty, as scepticism, which yet you cannot lay aside, is but to revile your own infirmity, and the common infirmity of mankind, and foolishly to suppose that every man can be as wise and certain, when he list, as he should be. Now reason and experience will tell you, that a young, unfurnished understanding, is not like to see the evidence of difficult points, as, by nearer approach and better advantage, it may do.

2. If your conclusions be peremptory, upon mere self-conceitedness, you may be in an error for aught you know; and so you are but confident in an error. And then how far may you go in seducing others, and censuring dissenters, and come back when you have done, and confess that you were all this while mistaken yourselves!

3. For a man to be confident that he knoweth what he knoweth not, is but the way to keep him ignorant, and shut the door against all means of further information. When the opinion is fixed by prejudice and conceit, there is no ready entrance for the light.

4. And, to be ungroundedly confident, so young, is not only to take up with your teacher's word, instead of a faith and knowledge of your own, but also to forestall all diligence to know more: and so you may lay by all your studies, save only to know what those men hold, whose judgments are your religion: too popish and easy a way to be safe.

5. If you must never change your first opinions or apprehensions, how will you grow in understanding? Will you be no wiser at age, than you were in childhood, and after long study and experience, than before? Nature and grace do tend to increase.

Indeed, if you should be never so peremptory in your opinions, you cannot resolve to hold them to the end: for light is powerful, and may change you whether you will or no: you cannot tell what that light will do, which you never saw. But prejudice will make you resist the light, and make it harder for you to understand.

I speak this upon much experience and observation. Our first unripe apprehensions of things will certainly be greatly changed, if we are studious and of improved understandings. Study the controversies about grace and free-will, or about other such points of difficulty, when you are young, and it is two to one that ripeness will afterward make them quite[Pg 50] another thing to you. For my own part, my judgment is altered from many of my youthful, confident apprehensions: and where it holdeth the same conclusion, it rejecteth abundance of the arguments, as vain, which once it rested in. And where I keep to the same conclusions and arguments, my apprehension of them is not the same, but I see more satisfying light in many things, which I took but upon trust before. And if I had resolved to hold to all my first opinions, I must have forborne most of my studies, and lost much truth, which I have discovered, and not made that my own, which I did hold; and I must have resolved to live and die a child.

The sum is, Hold fast the substance of religion, and every clear and certain truth, which you see in its own evidence: and also reverence your teachers; especially the universal church, or the generality of wise and godly men; and be not hasty to take up any private opinion; and especially to contradict the opinion of your governors and teachers, in small and controverted things. But yet, in such matters, receive their opinions but with a human faith, till indeed you have more, and therefore, with a supposition, that time and study is very like to alter your apprehensions; and with a reserve, impartially to study and entertain the truth, and not to sit still just where you were born.

What to do when controversies do divide the church.

Direct. XII. If controversies occasion any divisions where you live, be sure to look first to the interest of common truth and good, and to the exercise of charity. And become not passionate contenders for any party in the division, or censurers of the peaceable, or of your teachers, that will not overrun their own understandings, to obtain with you the esteem of being orthodox or zealous men; but suspect your own unripe understandings, and silence your opinions till you are clear and certain; and join rather with the moderate and the peacemakers, than with the contenders and dividers.

You may easily be sure that division tendeth to the ruin of the church, and the hinderance of the gospel, and the injury of the common interest of religion.[66] You know it is greatly condemned in the Scriptures. You may know that it is usually the exercise and the increase of pride, uncharitableness, and passion; and that the devil is best pleased with it, as being the greatest gainer by it. But, on the other side, you are not easily certain which party is in the right: and if you were, you are not sure that the matter will be worth the cost of the contention: or if it be, it is to be considered, whether the truth is not like to get more advantage by managing it in a more peaceable way, that hath no contention, nor stirreth up other men so much against it, as the way of controversy doth. And whatever it prove, you may and should know, that young christians, that want both parts, and helps, and time, and experience to be thoroughly seen in controversies, are very unfit to make themselves parties; and that they are yet more unfit to be the hottest leaders of these parties, and to spur on their teachers, that know more than they. If the work be fit for another to do, that knoweth on what ground he goeth, and can foresee the end, yet certainly it is not fit for you. And therefore forbear it till you are more fit.

I know those that would draw you into such a contentious zeal, will tell you, that their cause is the cause of God, and that you desert him and betray it, if you be not zealous in it: and that it is but the counsel of flesh and blood which maketh you pretend moderation and peace: and that it is a sign that you are hypocrites, that are so lukewarm, and carnally comply with error: and that the cause of God is to be followed with the greatest zeal and self-denial. And all this is true, if you but be sure that it is indeed the cause of God; and that the greater works of God be not neglected on such pretences; and that your zeal be much greater for faith, and charity, and unity, than for your opinions. But upon great experience, I must tell you, that of the zealous contenders[67] in the world, that cry up "The cause of God, and truth," there is not one of very many, that understandeth what he talks of; but some of them cry up the cause of God, when it is a brat of a proud and ignorant brain, and such as a judicious person would be ashamed of. And some of them are rashly zealous, before they have parts or time to come to any judicious trial. And some of them are misguided by some person or party, that captivateth their minds. And some of them are hurried away by passion and discontent. And many of the ambitious and worldly are blinded by their carnal interests. And many of them, in mere pride, think highly of an opinion, in which they are somewhat singular, and which they can, with some glorying, call their own, as either invented by them or that, in which they think they know more than ordinary men do. And abundance, after long experience, confess that to have been their own erroneous cause, which they before entitled the cause of God. Now when this is the case, and one crieth, Here is Christ, and another, There is Christ; one saith, This is the cause of God, and another saith, That is it; no man that hath any care of his conscience, or of the honour of God and his profession, will leap before he looketh where he shall alight; or run after every one that will whistle him with the name or pretence of truth or a good cause. It is a sad thing to go on many years together in censuring, opposing, and abusing those that are against you, and in seducing others, and misemploying your zeal, and parts, and time, and poisoning all your prayers and discourses, and in the end to see what mischief you have done for want of knowledge, and with Paul to confess, that you were mad in opposing the truth and servants of God, though you did it in a zeal of God through ignorance. Were it not much better to stay till you have tried the ground, and prevent so many years' grievous sin, than to escape by a sad repentance, and leave behind you stinking and venomous fruit of your mistake? and worse, if you never repent yourselves. Your own and your brethren's souls are not so lightly to be ventured upon dangerous, untried ways. It will not make the truth and church amends, to say at last, I had thought I had done well. Let those go to the wars of disputing, and contending, and censuring, and siding with a sect, that are riper, and[Pg 51] better understand the cause: wars are not for children. Do you suspend your judgment till you can solidly and certainly inform it, and serve God in charity, quietness, and peace; and it is two to one, but you will live to see the day, that the contenders that would have led you into their wars, will come off with so much loss themselves, as will teach them to approve your peaceable course, or teach you to bless God that kept you in your place and duty.

In all this I deny not, but every truth of God is to be valued at a very high rate; and that he that shall carry himself in a neutrality, when faith or godliness is the matter in controversy, or shall do it merely for his worldly ends, to save his stake by temporizing, is a false-hearted hypocrite, and at the heart of no religion. But withal I tell you, that all is not matter of faith or godliness that the autonomian-papist, the antinomian-libertine, or other passionate parties shall call so: and that as we must avoid contempt of the smallest truth, so we must much more avoid the most heinous sins which we may commit for the defending of an error: and that some truths must be silenced for a time, though not denied, when the contending for them is unseasonable, and tendeth to the injury of the church. If you were masters in the church, you must not teach your scholars to their hurt, though it be truth you teach them. And if you were physicians, you must not cram them, or medicate them to their hurt. Your power and duty is not to destruction, but to edification. The good of the patient is the end of your physic. All truth is not to be spoken, nor all good to be done, by all men, nor at all times. He that will do contrary, and take this for a carnal principle, doth but call folly and sin by the name of zeal and duty, and set the house on fire to roast his egg, and with the Pharisees, prefer the outward rest of their sabbath, before his brother's life or health. Take heed what you do when God's honour, and men's souls, and the church's peace are concerned in it.

And let me tell you my own observation. As far as my judgment hath been able to reach, the men that have stood for pacification and moderation, have been the most judicious, and those that have best understood themselves, in most controversies that ever I heard under debate among good christians: and those that furiously censured them as lukewarm or corrupted, have been men that had least judgment, and most passion, pride, and foul mistakes in the points in question.

Nay, I will tell you more of my observation, of which these times have given us too much proof. Profane and formal enemies on the one hand, and ignorant, self-conceited wranglers on the other hand, who think they are champions for the truth, when they are venting their passions and fond opinions, are the two thieves, between whom the church hath suffered, from the beginning to this day. The first are the persecutors, and the other the dividers and disturbers of the church. Mark what the Holy Ghost saith in this case, 2 Tim. ii. 23, 24, "But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men." Phil. ii. 14, 15, "Do all things without murmurings and disputings: that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom ye shine, as lights in the world." 1 Tim. vi. 3-6, "If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds," &c. So 1 Tim. i. 4, 5, "Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying, which is in faith: now the end of the commandment is charity, out of a pure heart, and a good conscience, and faith unfeigned."

Yet I must here profess, that if any false-hearted, worldly hypocrite, that resolveth to be on the saving side, and to hold all to be lawful that seemeth necessary to his safety or preferments, shall take any encouragement from what I have here said, to debauch his conscience, and sell his soul, and then call all those furious zealots that will not be as false to God as he, let that man know, that I have given him no cloak for so odious a sin, nor will he find a cover for it at the bar of God, though he may delude his conscience, and bear it out by his carnal advantages before the world.

Direct. XIII. Know that true godliness is the best life upon earth, and the only way to perfect happiness. Still apprehend it therefore, and use it as the best; and with great diligence resist those temptations which would make it seem to you a confounding, grievous, or unpleasant thing.

Godliness what.

There are all things concurrent in a holy life, to make it the most delectable life on earth, to a rational, purified mind, that is not captivated to the flesh, and liveth not on air or dung. The object of it is the eternal God himself, the infallible truth, the only satisfactory good; and all these condescending and appearing to us, in the mysterious, but suitable glass of a Mediator; redeeming, reconciling, teaching, governing, sanctifying, justifying, and glorifying all that are his own. The end of it is the pleasing and glorifying of our Maker, Redeemer, and Sanctifier; and the everlasting happiness of ourselves and others. The rule of it is the infallible revelation of God, delivered to the church by his prophets, and his Son, and his apostles, and comprised in the Holy Scriptures, and sealed by the miracles and operations of the Holy Ghost that did indite them. The work of godliness is a living unto God, and preparing for everlasting life, by foreseeing, foretasting, seeking, and rejoicing in that endless happiness which we shall have with God; and by walking after the Spirit, and avoiding the filthiness, delusions, and vexations of the world and the flesh. The nature of man is not capable of a more noble, profitable, and delectable life, than this which God hath called us to by his Son. And if we did but rightly know it, we should follow it with continual alacrity and delight. Be sure, therefore, to conceive of godliness as it is, and not as it is misrepresented by the devil and the ungodly. Read what I have written of this in my "A Saint or a Brute."

As long as a man conceiveth of religion as it is, even the most sweet and delectable life, so long he will follow it willingly and with his heart, and despise the temptations and avocations of fleshly gain and pleasure. He will be sincere, as not being only drawn by other men, or outward advantages, nor frightened into it by a passion or fearfulness, but loving religion for itself, and for its excellent ends: and then he will be cheerful in all the duties, and under all the sufferings and difficulties of it; and he will be most likely to persevere unto the end. We cannot expect that the heart or will should be any more for God and godliness, than the understanding practically apprehendeth them as good. Nay, we must always perceive in them a transcendent goodness, above all that is to be found in a worldly life; or[Pg 52] else the appearing goodness of the creature, will divert us, and carry away our minds. We may see in the very brutes, what a power apprehension hath upon their actions. If your horse be but going to his home or pasture, how freely will he go through thick and thin! but if he go unwillingly, his travel is troublesome and slow, and you have much ado to get him on. It will be so with you in your way to heaven.

It is therefore the principal design of the devil, to hide the goodness and pleasantness of religion from you; and to make it appear to you as a terrible or tedious life. By this means it is that he keeps men from it; and by this means he is still endeavouring to draw you back again, and frustrate your good beginnings and your hopes. If he can thus misrepresent religion to your understandings, he will suddenly alienate your wills, and corrupt your lives, and make you turn to the world again, and seek for pleasure some where else, and only take up with some heartless lip-service, to keep up some deceitful hope of being saved. And the means which Satan useth to these ends are such as these:

How Satan would make religion seem to be a confounding, unpleasant thing—By difficulties.

1. He will do his work to overwhelm you with appearing doubts and difficulties, and bring you to a loss, and to make religion seem to you a confounding and not a satisfying thing. This is one of his most dangerous assaults upon the weak and young beginners. Difficulties and passions are the things which he makes use of to confound you, and put you out of a regular, cheerful seeking of salvation. When you read the Scriptures, he will mind you of abundance of difficulties in all you read or hear. He will show you seeming contradictions; and tell you that you will never be able to understand these things. He will cast in thoughts of unbelief and blasphemy, and cause you, if he can, to roll them in your mind: if you cast them not out with abhorrence, but dispute with the devil, he hopes to prove too hard at least for such children and unprovided soldiers as you: and if you do reject them, and refuse to dispute it with him, he will sometimes tell you that your cause is naught, or else you need not be afraid to think of all that can be said against it; and this way he gets advantage of you to draw you to unbelief: and if you scape better than so, at least he will molest and terrify you with the hideousness of his temptations; and make you to think you are forsaken of God, because such blasphemous thoughts have been so often in your minds: and thus he will one while tempt you to blasphemy, and another while affright and torment you with the thoughts of such temptations.

So also in the study of other good books, he will tempt you to fix upon all that seems difficult to you, and there to confound and perplex yourselves: and in your meditations, he will seek to make all to tend but to confound and overwhelm you; keeping still either hard or fearful things before your eyes; or breaking and scattering your thoughts in pieces, that you cannot reduce them to any order, nor set them together, nor make any thing of them, nor drive them to any desirable end. So in your prayers he would fain confound you, either with fear, or with doubtful and distracting thoughts about God, or your sins, or the matter or manner of your duty, or questioning whether your prayers will be heard. And so in your self-examination, he will still seek to puzzle you, and leave you more in darkness than you began, and make you afraid of looking homeward, or conversing with yourselves; like a man that is afraid to lie in his own house when he thinks it haunted with some apparitions. And thus the devil would make all your religion to be but like the unwinding of a bottom of yarn, or a skein of silk that is ravelled; that you may cast it away in weariness or despair.

Your remedy against this dangerous temptation is, to remember that you are yet young in knowledge, and that ignorance is like darkness, that will cause doubts, and difficulties, and fears; and that all these will vanish as your light increaseth: and therefore you must wait in patience, till your riper knowledge fit you for satisfaction. And in the mean time, be sure that you take up your hearts most with the great, fundamental, necessary, plain, and certain points, which your salvation is laid upon, and which are more suited to your state and strength. If you will be gnawing bones, when you should be sucking milk, and have not patience to stay till you are past your childhood, no marvel if you find them hard, and if they stick in your throats, or break your teeth. See that you live upon God in Christ, and love and practise what you know, and think of the excellency of so much as is already revealed to you. You know already what is the end that you must seek, and where your happiness consisteth; and what Christ hath done to prepare it for you, and how you must be justified, and sanctified, and walk with God. Have you God, and Christ, and heaven to think on, and all the mercies of the gospel to delight in, and will you lay by these as common matters, or overlook them, and perplex yourselves about every difficulty in your way? Make clean work before you as you go, and live in the joyful acknowledgment of the mercies which you have received, and in the practice of the things you know, and then your difficulties will vanish as you go on.

By various sects.

2. Another of Satan's wiles is, to confound you with the noise of sectaries, and divers opinions in religion: while the popish sect tell you, that if you will be saved, you must be of their church; and others say, you must be of theirs: and when you find that the sects are many, and their reasonings such as you cannot answer, you will be in danger either to take up some of their deceits, or to be confounded among them all, not knowing which church and religion to choose.[68]

But here consider, that there is but one universal church of christians in the world, of which Christ is the only King and Head, and every christian is a member. You were sacramentally admitted into this catholic church by baptism, and spiritually by your being "born of the Spirit." You have all the promises of the gospel, that if you believe in Christ you shall be saved; and that all the living members of this church are loved by Christ as members of his body, and shall be presented unspotted to the Father, by him who is the Saviour of his body, Eph. 23-27, 29; "and that by one Spirit we are all baptized or entered into this one body," 1 Cor. xii. 12, 13. If then thou hast faith, and love, and the Spirit, thou art certainly a christian, and a member of Christ, and of this universal church of christians. And if there were any other church, but what are the parts of this one, then this were not universal, and Christ must have two bodies. Thou art not saved for being a member of the church of Rome, or Corinth, or Ephesus, or Philippi, or Thessalonica, or of any other such; but for being a member of the universal[Pg 53] church or body of Christ, that is, a christian. And as thou art a subject of the King, and a member of this kingdom, whatever corporation thou be a member of, (perhaps sometime of one, and sometime of another,) so thou art a subject of Christ, whatever particular church thou be of; for it is no church, if they be not christians, or subjects of Christ. For one sect then to say, Ours is the true church, and another to say, Nay, but ours is the true church, is as mad as to dispute, whether your hall, or kitchen, or parlour, or coal-house, is your house; and for one to say, This is the house, and another, Nay, but that, when a child can tell them, that the best is but a part, and the house containeth them all: and for the papists, that take on them to be the whole, and deny all others to be christians and saved, except the subjects of the pope of Rome, it is so irrational, antichristian a fiction and usurpation, and odious, cruel, and groundless a damnation, of the far greatest part of the body of Christ, that it is fitter for detestation than dispute. And if such a crack would frighten the world out of their wits, no doubt but other bishops also would make use of it, and say, All are damned that will not be subject to us. But if you would see the folly and mischief of popery, both in this and other points, I refer you to my treatise of the "Catholic Church," and my "Key for Catholics," and my "Safe Religion," and my "Disputations against Johnson," and my "Winding-sheet for Popery."

By scrupulosity.

3. Another temptation to confound you in your religion, is, by filling your heads with practical scrupulosity; so that you cannot go on for doubting every step whether you go right; and when you should cheerfully serve your Master, you will do nothing but disquiet your minds with scruples, whether this or that be right or wrong. Your remedy here, is not by casting away all care of pleasing God, or fear of sinning, or by debauching conscience; but by a cheerful and quiet obedience to God, so far as you know his will, and an upright willingness and endeavour to understand it better; and a thankful receiving the gospel pardon for your failings and infirmities. Be faithful in your obedience; but live still upon Christ, and think not of reaching to any such obedience, as shall set you above the need of his merits, and a daily pardon of your sins. Do the best you can to know the will of God and do it: but when you know the essentials of religion, and obey sincerely, let no remaining wants deprive you of the comfort of that so great a mercy, as proves your right to life eternal. In your seeking further for more knowledge and obedience, let your care be such as tendeth to your profiting, and furthering you to your end, and as doth not hinder your joy and thanks for what you have received: but that which destroyeth your joy and thankfulness, and doth but perplex you, and not further you in your way, is but hurtful scrupulosity, and to be laid by. When you are right in the main, thank God for that, and be further solicitous so far as to help you on, but not to hinder you. If you send your servant on your message, you had rather he went on his way as well as he can, than stand scrupling every step whether he should set the right or left foot forward; and whether he should step so far, or so far at a time, &c. Hindering scruples please not God.

By setting you on overdoing by your own inventions.

4. Another way to confound you in your religion is, by setting you upon overdoing by inventions of your own. When a poor soul is most desirous to please God, the devil will be religious, and set him upon some such task of voluntary humility, or will-worship, as the apostle speaks of, Col. ii. 18, 20-23; or set him upon some insnaring unnecessary vows or resolutions, or some popish works of conceited supererogation, which is that which Solomon calleth, being "righteous over-much," Eccles. vii. 16. Thus many have made duties to themselves, which God never made for them; and taketh that for sin, which God never forbad them. The popish religion is very much made up of such commandments of their own, and traditions of men. As if Christ had not made us work enough, men are forward to make much more for themselves. And some that should teach them the laws of Christ, do think that their office is in vain, unless they may also prescribe them laws of their own, and give them new precepts of religion. Yea, some that are the bitterest enemies to the strict observance of the laws of God, as if it were a tedious, needless thing, must yet needs load us with abundance of unnecessary precepts of their own. And thus religion is made both wearisome and uncertain, and a door set open for men to enlarge it, and increase the burden at their pleasure. Indeed popery is fitted to delude and quiet sleepy consciences, and to torment with uncertainties the consciences that are awaked.

And there is something in the corrupted nature of man, that inclineth him to some additions and voluntary service of his own inventions, as an offering most acceptable unto God. Hence it is that many poor christians do rashly entangle their consciences with vows of circumstances and things unnecessary, as to give so much, to observe such days or hours in fasting and prayer, not to do such or such a thing that in itself is lawful, with abundance of such things, which perhaps some change of providence may make accidentally their duty afterwards to do, or disable them to perform their vows; and then these snares are fetters on their perplexed consciences, perhaps as long as they live. Yea, some of the antinomians teach the people, that things indifferent are the fittest matter of a vow; as to live single, to possess nothing, to live in solitude, and the like: indeed all things lawful when they are vowed, must be performed; but it is unfit to be vowed if it be not first profitable and best, for ourselves or others; and that which is best is not indifferent, it being every man's duty to choose what is best. Vows are to bind us to the performance of that which God had bound us to by his laws before; they are our expression of consent and resolution by a self-obligation to obey his will; and not to make new duties of religion to ourselves, which else would never have been our duty.

To escape these snares, it is necessary that you take heed of corrupting your religion by burdens and mixtures of your own devising. You are called to obey God's laws, and not to make laws for yourselves. You may be sure that his laws are just and good, but yours may be bad and foolish. When you obey him, you may expect your reward and encouragement from him: but when you will obey yourselves, you must reward yourselves. You may find it enough for you to keep his laws, without devising more work for yourselves; or feigning duties which he commanded not, or sins which he forbad not. Be not rash in making vows; let them reach but unto necessary duties; and let them have their due exceptions when they are about alterable things: or if you are entangled by them already, consult with the most judicious, able, impartial men, that you may come clearly off without a wound. There is a great deal of judgment and sincerity necessary in your counsellors, and a great deal of submission and self-denial in yourselves, to bring you safely out of such a snare. Avoid sin, whatever you do; for sinning is not the way to your deliverance. And for the time[Pg 54] to come, be wiser, and lay no more snares for yourselves; and clog not yourselves with your own inventions, but cheerfully obey what God commandeth you, who hath wisdom and authority sufficient to make you perfect laws. "Christ's yoke is easy, and his burden light," Matt. xi. 30, and "his commandments are not grievous," 1 John v. 3. But if your mixtures and self-devised snares are grievous to you, blame not God, but yourselves that made them.

By overwhelming fears and sorrows.

5. Another of Satan's ways to make religion burdensome and grievous to you, is by overwhelming you with fear and sorrow. Partly by persuading that religion consisteth in excess of sorrow, and so causing you to spend your time in striving to trouble and grieve yourselves unprofitably, as if it were the course most acceptable to God; and partly by taking the advantage of a timorous, passionate nature; and so making every thought of God, or serious exercise of religion, to be a torment to you, by raising some overwhelming fears; for "fear hath torment," 1 John iv. 18. In some feminine, weak, and melancholy persons, this temptation hath so much advantage in the body, that the holiest soul can do but little in resisting it; so that though there be in such a sincere love to God, his ways and servants, yet fear so playeth the tyrant in them, that they perceive almost nothing else. And it is no wonder if religion be grievous and unpleasant to such as these.

But, alas! it is you yourselves that are the causes of this, and bring the matter of your grievance with you. God hath commanded you a sweeter work. It is a life of love, and joy, and cheerful progress to eternal joy, that he requireth of you; and no more fear or grief than is necessary to separate you from sin, and teach you to value and use the remedy. The gospel presenteth to you such abundant matter of joy and peace, as would make these the very complexion and temperature of your souls, if you received them as they are propounded. Religious fears, when they are inordinate and hurtful, are sinful, and indeed against religion; and must be resisted as other hurtful passions. Be better acquainted with Christ and his promises, and you will find enough in him to pacify the soul, and give you confidence and holy boldness in your access to God, Heb. iv. 16; Eph. iii. 12; Heb. x. 19. The spirit which he giveth, is not the spirit of bondage, but the spirit of adoption, of love and confidence, Rom. viii. 15; Heb. ii. 15.

By unmortified lusts.

6. Another thing that maketh religion seem grievous, is retaining unmortified sensual desires. If you keep up your lusts, they will strive against the gospel, and all the works of the Spirit which strive against them, Gal. v. 17. And every duty will be so far unpleasant to you as you are carnal, because it is against your carnal inclination and desire. Away, therefore, with your beloved sickness, and then both your food and your physician will be less grievous to you. "Mortify the flesh, and you will less disrelish the things of the Spirit. For the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to his law, nor can be," Rom. viii. 7, 8.

By actual sin.

7. Another cause of confounding and wearying you, is the mixture of your actual sins, dealing unfaithfully with God, and wounding your consciences, by renewing guilt, especially of sins against knowledge and consideration. If you thus keep the bone out of joint, and the wound unhealed, no marvel if you are loth to work or travail. But it is your sin and folly that should be grievous to you, and not that which is contrary to it, and would remove the cause of all your troubles. Resolvedly forsake your wilful sinning, and come home by "repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ," Acts xx. 21, and then you will find, that when the thorn is out, your pain will cease, and that the cause of your trouble was not in God or religion, but in your sin.

By ignorance of the tenor of the gospel.

8. Lastly, To make religion unpleasant to you, the tempter would keep the substance of the gospel unknown or unobserved to you: he would hide the wonderful love of God revealed in our Redeemer, and all the riches of saving grace, and the great deliverance and privileges of believers, and the certain hopes of life eternal: and the kingdom of God, which consisteth in righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, shall be represented to you as consisting in errors only, or in trifles; in shadows and shows, and bodily exercise which profiteth little, 1 Tim. iv. 8. If ever you would know the pleasures of faith and holiness, you must labour above all to know God as revealed in his infinite love in the Mediator, and read the gospel as God's act of oblivion, and the testament and covenant of Christ, in which he giveth you life eternal: and in every duty draw near to God as a reconciled Father, the object of your everlasting love and joy. Know and use religion as it is, without mistaking or corrupting it, and it will not appear to you as a grievous, tedious, or confounding thing.

Direct. XIV. Be very diligent in mortifying the desires and pleasures of the flesh; and keep a continual watch upon your senses, appetite, and lusts; and cast not yourselves upon temptations, occasions or opportunities of sinning, remembering that your salvation lieth on your success.

The lusts of the flesh, and the pleasures of the world, are the common enemies of God and souls, and the damnation of those souls that perish. And there is no sort more liable to temptations of this kind, than those that are in the flower of their youth and strength. When all the senses are in their vigour, and lust and appetite are in their strength and fury, how great is the danger! and how great must your diligence be if you will escape! The appetite and lust of the weak and sick, are weak and sick as well as they; and therefore they are no great temptation or danger to them. The desire and pleasure of the senses do abate, as natural strength and vigour doth abate: to such there is much less need of watchfulness; and where nature hath mortified the flesh, there is somewhat the less for grace to do. There needs not much grace to keep the aged and weak from fornication, uncleanness, excessive sports and carnal mirth: and gluttony and drunkenness also are sins which youth is much more liable to. Especially some bodies that are not only young and strong, but have in their temperature and complexion a special inclination to some of these, as lust, or sport, or foolish mirth, there needeth a great deal of diligence, resolution, and watchfulness for their preservation. Lust is not like a corrupt opinion, that surpriseth us through a defect of reason, and vanisheth as soon as truth appeareth; but it is a brutish inclination, which though reason must subdue and govern, yet the perfectest reason will not extirpate, but there it will still dwell. And as it is constantly with you, it will be stirring when objects are presented by the sense or fantasy to allure. And it is like a torrent, or a headstrong horse, that must be kept in at first, and is hardly restrained if it once break loose and get the head. If you are bred up in temperance and modesty, where there are no great temptations to gluttony, drinking, sports, or wantonness, you may think a while that your natures have little or none of this concupiscence, and so may walk without a guard: but when[Pg 55] you come where baits of lust abound, where women, and plays, and feasts, and drunkards are the devil's snares, and tinder, and bellows, to inflame your lusts, you may then find to your sorrow, that you had need of watchfulness, and that all is not mortified that is asleep or quiet in you. As a man that goeth with a candle among gunpowder, or near thatch, should never be careless, because he goeth in continual danger; so you that are young, and have naturally eager appetites and lusts, should remember that you carry fire and gunpowder still about you, and are never out of danger while you have such an enemy to watch.

And if once you suffer the fire to kindle, alas! what work may it make, ere you are aware! James i. 14, 15, "Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." Little knoweth the fish, when he is catching or nibbling at the bait, that he is swallowing the hook which will lay him presently on the bank. When you are looking on the cup, or gazing on alluring beauty, or wantonly dallying and pleasing your senses with things unsafe, you little know how far beyond your intentions you may be drawn, and how deep the wound may prove, how great the smart, or how long and difficult the cure. As you love your souls, observe Paul's counsel, 2 Tim. ii. 22, "Flee youthful lusts." Keep at a full distance: come not near the bait. If you get a wound in your consciences, by any wilful, heinous sin, O what a case will you be in! How heartless unto secret duty! afraid of God, that should be your joy; deprived of the comforts of his presence, and all the pleasure of his ways! How miserably will you be tormented, between the tyranny of your own concupiscence, the sting of sin, the gripes of conscience, and the terrors of the Lord! How much of the life of faith, and love, and heavenly zeal, will be quenched in a moment! I am to speak more afterwards of this; and therefore shall only say, at present, to all young converts that care for their salvation, "Mortify the flesh," and "always watch, and avoid temptations."

Direct. XV. Be exceeding wary, not only what teachers you commit the guidance of your souls unto, but also with what company you familiarly converse;[69] that they be neither such as would corrupt your minds with error, or your hearts with viciousness, profaneness, lukewarmness, or with a feverish, factious zeal: but choose, if possible, judicious, holy, heavenly, humble, unblamable, self-denying persons, to be your ordinary companions, and familiars; but especially for your near relations.

It is a matter of very great importance, what teachers you choose, in order to your salvation.[70] In this the free grace of God much differenceth some from others: for, as poor heathens and infidels have none that know more, than what the book of nature teacheth (if so much); so in the several nations of christians, it is hard for the people to have any, but such as the sword of the magistrate forceth on them, or the stream of their country's custom recommendeth to them. And it is a wonder, if pure truth and holiness be countenanced by either of these. But, when and where his mercy pleaseth, God sendeth wise and holy teachers, with compassion and diligence to seek the saving of men's souls; so that none but the malignant and obstinate are deprived of their help.

Ambitious, proud, covetous, licentious, ungodly men, are not to be chosen for your teachers, if you have your choice. In a nation where true religion is in credit, and hath the magistrate's countenance, or the major vote, some graceless men may join with better, in preaching and defending the purity of doctrine and holiness of life: and they may be very serviceable to the church herein; especially in expounding and disputing for the truth. But even there, more experienced, spiritual teachers are much more desirable: they will speak most feelingly, who feel what they speak; and they are fittest to bring others to faith and love, who believe, and love God and holiness themselves. They that have life, will speak more lively than the dead. And in most places of the world, the ungodliness of such teachers makes them enemies to the truth which is according to godliness: their natures are at enmity to the life and power of the doctrine which they should preach: and they will do their worst to corrupt the magistrates, and make them of their mind: and, if they can but get the sword to favour them, they are, usually, the cruellest persecutors of the sincere. As it is notorious among the papists, that the baits of power, and honour, and wealth, have so vitiated the body of their clergy, that they conspire to uphold a worldly government and religion; and, in express contradiction to sense and reason, and to antiquity, and the judgment of the church, and to the holy Scriptures, they captivate the ignorant and sensual to their tyranny and false worship, and use the seduced magistrates and multitude, to the persecuting of those that will not follow them to sin and to perdition. Take heed of proud and worldly guides.

And yet it is not every one that pretendeth piety and zeal, that is to be heard, or taken for a teacher. But, 1. Such as preach, ordinarily, the substantial truths which all christians are agreed in. 2. Such as make it the drift of their preaching, to raise your souls to the love of God, and to a holy, heavenly life, and are zealous against confessed sins. 3. Such as contradict not the essential truths, by errors of their own; nor the doctrine of godliness, by wicked, malicious applications. 4. Such as drive not on any ambitious, tyrannical designs of their own, but deny themselves, and aim at your salvation. 5. Such as are not too hot in proselyting you to any singular opinion of their own: it being the prediction of Paul to the Ephesians, Acts xx. 30, "Of your ownselves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them." 6. Such as are judicious with holy zeal, and zealous with judgment. 7. Such as are of experience in the things of God, and not young beginners, or novices in religion. 8. Such as bear reference to the judgments of the generality of wise and godly men, and are tender of the unity of the church; and not such as would draw you into a sect or party, to the contempt of other christians; no, not to a party that hath the favour of rulers and the people, to promote them. 9. Such as are gentle, peaceable, and charitable; and not such as burn with hellish malice against their brethren, nor with an ungodly, or cruel, consuming zeal. 10. Such as live not sensually and[Pg 56] wickedly, contrary to the doctrine which they preach; but show by their lives, that they believe what they say, and feel the power of the truths which they preach.

And your familiar companions have great advantage to help or hinder your salvation, as well as your teachers.[71] The matter is not so great, whom you meet by the way, or travel with, or trade and buy and sell with, as whom you make your intimate or familiar friends. For such have both the advantage of their interest in your affections, and also the advantage of their nearness and familiarity; and, if they have but also the advantage of higher abilities than you, they may be powerful instruments of your good or hurt. If you have a familiar friend, that will defend you from error, and help you against temptations, and lovingly reprove your sin, and feelingly speak of God, and the life to come, inditing his discourse from the inward power of faith, and love, and holy experience; the benefit of such a friend may be more to you, than of the learnedest or greatest in the world. How sweetly will their speeches relish of the Spirit, from which they come! How deeply may they pierce a careless heart! How powerfully may they kindle in you a love and zeal to God and his commandments! How seasonably may they discover a temptation, prevent your fall, reprove an error, and recover your souls! How faithfully will they watch over you! How profitably will they provoke, and put you on; and pray with you fervently when you are cold; and mind you of the truth, and duty, and mercy, which you forget! It is a very great mercy to have a judicious, solid, faithful companion in the way to heaven.

But if your ears are daily filled with froth and folly, with ribaldry or idle stories, with oaths and curses, with furious words or scorns and jeers against the godly, or with the sophistry of deceivers, is it likely this should leave a pleasant or wholesome relish on your minds? Is it likely that the effect should not be seen, in your lean or leprous hearts and lives, as well as the effects of an infected or unwholesome air or diet will be seen upon your diseased bodies? He is ungodly, that liketh such company best: and he is proud and presumptuous, that will unnecessarily cast himself upon it, in confidence that he shall receive no hurt: and he is careless of himself, that will not cautiously avoid it: and few that long converse with such, come off without some notable loss; except when we live with such, as Lot did in Sodom, grieving for their sin and misery, or as Christ conversed with publicans and sinners, with a holy zeal and diligence to convert and save them, or as those that have not liberty, who bear that which they have not power to avoid.

Among the rest, your danger is not least from them that are eager to proselyte you to some party or unsound opinion: that they think they are in the right, and that they do it in love, and that they think it necessary to your salvation, and that truth or godliness are the things which they profess, all this makes the danger much the greater to you, if it be not truth and godliness indeed, which they propose and plead for. And none are in more danger than the ungrounded and unexperienced, that yet are so wise in their own esteem, as to be confident that they know truth from error when they hear it, and are not afraid of any deceit, nor much suspicious of their own understandings. But of this before.

The like danger there is of the familiar company of lukewarm ones, or the profane.[72] At first you may be troubled at their sinful or unsavoury discourse, and make some resistance against the infection; but before you are aware, it may so cool and damp your graces, as will make your decay discernible to others. First, you will hear them with less offence; and then you will grow indifferent what company you are in; and then you will laugh at their sin and folly; and then you will begin to speak as they; and then you will grow cold and seldomer in prayer and other holy duties; and if God prevent it not, at last your judgments will grow blind, and you will think all this allowable.

But of all bad company, the nearest is the worst. If you choose such into your families, or into your nearest conjugal relations, you cast water upon the fire; you imprison yourselves in such fetters as will gall and grieve you, if they do not stop you; you choose a life of constant, close, and great temptations: whereas, your grace, and comfort, and salvation, might be much promoted by the society of such as are wise and gracious, and suitable to your state. To have a constant companion to open your heart to, and join with in prayer, and edifying conference, and faithfully help you against your sins, and yet to be patient with you in your frailties, is a mercy which worldlings neither deserve nor value.

Direct. XVI. Make careful choice of the books which you read. Let the holy Scriptures ever have the pre-eminence; and next them, the solid, lively, heavenly treatises, which best expound and apply the Scriptures; and next those, the credible histories, especially of the church, and tractates upon inferior sciences and arts: but take heed of the poison of the writings of false teachers, which would corrupt your understandings; and of vain romances, play-books, and false stories, which may bewitch your fantasies, and corrupt your hearts.

As there is a more excellent appearance of the Spirit of God in the holy Scriptures, than in any other book whatever, so it hath more power and fitness to convey the Spirit, and make us spiritual, by imprinting itself upon our hearts. As there is more of God in it, so it will acquaint us more with God, and bring us nearer him, and make the reader more reverent, serious, and divine. Let Scripture be first and most in your hearts and hands, and other books be used as subservient to it. The endeavours of the devil and papists to keep it from you, doth show that it is most necessary and desirable to you. And when they tell you, that all heretics plead the Scriptures, they do but tell you, that it is the common rule or law of christians, which therefore all are fain to pretend; as all lawyers and wranglers plead the law of the land, be their cause never so bad, and yet the laws must not be therefore concealed or cast aside: and they do but tell you, that in their concealment or dishonouring the Scriptures, they are worse than any of those heretics. When they tell[Pg 57] you that the Scriptures are misunderstood, and abused, and perverted to maintain men's errors, they might also desire that the sun might be obscured, because the purblind do mistake, and murderers and robbers do wickedly by its light; and that the earth might be subverted, because it bears all evil-doers; and highways stopped up, because men travel in them to do evil; and food prohibited, because it nourisheth men's diseases. And when they have told you truly of a law or rule (whether made by pope or council) which bad men cannot misunderstand, or break, or abuse and misapply, then hearken to them, and prefer that law, as that which preventeth the need of any judgment.

The writings of divines are nothing else but a preaching the gospel to the eye, as the voice preacheth it to the ear. Vocal preaching hath the pre-eminence in moving the affections, and being diversified according to the state of the congregations which attend it: this way the milk cometh warmest from the breast. But books have the advantage in many other respects: you may read an able preacher, when you have but a mean one to hear. Every congregation cannot hear the most judicious or powerful preachers; but every single person may read the books of the most powerful and judicious. Preachers may be silenced or banished, when books may be at hand: books may be kept at a smaller charge than preachers: we may choose books which treat of that very subject which we desire to hear of; but we cannot choose what subject the preacher shall treat of. Books we may have at hand every day and hour; when we can have sermons but seldom, and at set times. If sermons be forgotten, they are gone. But a book we may read over and over till we remember it; and if we forget it, may again peruse it at our pleasure, or at our leisure. So that good books are a very great mercy to the world. The Holy Ghost chose the way of writing, to preserve his doctrine and laws to the church, as knowing how easy and sure a way it is of keeping it safe to all generations, in comparison of mere verbal tradition, which might have made as many controversies about the very terms, as there be memories or persons to be the preservers and reporters.

Books are (if well chosen) domestic, present, constant, judicious, pertinent, yea, and powerful sermons; and always of very great use to your salvation; but especially when vocal preaching faileth, and preachers are ignorant, ungodly, or dull, or when they are persecuted, and forbid to preach.

You have need of a judicious teacher at hand, to direct you what books to use or to refuse. For among good books there are some very good that are sound and lively: and some are good, but mean, and weak, and somewhat dull: and some are very good in part, but have mixtures of error, or else of incautelous, injudicious expressions, fitter to puzzle than edify the weak. I am loth to name any of these latter sorts (of which abundance have come forth of late); but to the young beginner in religion, I may be bold to recommend (next to a sound catechism) Mr. Rutherford's Letters, Mr. Robert Bolton's Works, Mr. Perkins's, Mr. Whateley's, Mr. Ball, of Faith, Dr. Preston's, Dr. Sibbs's, Mr. Hildersham's, Mr. Pink's Sermons, Mr. Joseph Rogers's, Mr. Rich. Rogers, Mr. Richard Allen's, Mr. Gurnall's, Mr. Swinnock's, Mr. Joseph Simonds's. And to establish you against popery, Dr. Challoner's Credo Eccles. Cathol., Dr. Field, of the Church, Dr. White's Way to the Church, with the Defence, Bishop Usher's Answer to the Jesuit, and Chillingworth, with Drelincourt's Summary. And for right principles about redemption, &c. Mr. Truman's Great Propitiation, and of Natural and Moral Impotency; and Mr. William Fenner, of Wilful Impenitency, Mr. Hotchkis, of Forgiveness of Sin. To pass by many other excellent ones, that I may not name too many.

To a very judicious, able reader, who is fit to censure all he reads, there is no great danger in the reading the books of any seducers: it doth but show him how little and thin a cloak is used, to cover a bad cause. But, alas! young soldiers, not used to such wars, are startled at a very sophism, or at a terrible threatening of damnation to dissenters, (which every censorious sect can use,) or at every confident, triumphant boast, or at every thing that hath a fair pretence of truth or godliness. Injudicious persons can answer almost no deceiver which they hear: and when they cannot answer them, they think they must yield, as if the fault were not in them, but in the case; and as if Christ had no wiser followers, or better defenders of his truth, than they. Meddle not therefore with poison, till you better know how to use it, and may do it with less danger, as long as you have no need.

As for play-books, and romances, and idle tales, I have already showed in my "Book of Self-Denial," how pernicious they are, especially to youth, and to frothy, empty, idle wits, that know not what a man is, nor what he hath to do in the world. They are powerful baits of the devil, to keep more necessary things out of their minds, and better books out of their hands, and to poison the mind so much the more dangerously, as they are read with more delight and pleasure: and to fill the minds of sensual people with such idle fumes, and intoxicating fancies, as may divert them from the serious thoughts of their salvation: and (which is no small loss) to rob them of abundance of that precious time, which was given them for more important business; and which they will wish and wish again at last, that they had spent more wisely. I know the fantastics will say, that these things are innocent, and may teach men much good (like him that must go to a whore-house to learn to hate uncleanness, and him that would go out with robbers to learn to hate thievery): but I shall now only ask them as in the presence of God, 1. Whether they could spend that time no better? 2. Whether better books and practices would not edify them more? 3. Whether the greatest lovers of romances and plays, be the greatest lovers of the book of God, and of a holy life? 4. Whether they feel in themselves that the love of these vanities doth increase their love to the word of God, and kill their sin, and prepare them for the life to come? or clean contrary? And I would desire men not to prate against their own experience and reason, nor to dispute themselves into damnable impenitency, nor to befool their souls by a few silly words, which any but a sensualist may perceive to be mere deceit and falsehood. If this will not serve, they shall be shortly convinced and answered in another manner.

Direct. XVII. Take heed that you receive not a doctrine of libertinism as from the gospel; nor conceive of Christ as an encourager of sin; nor pretend free grace for your carnal security or sloth; for this is but to set up another gospel, and another Christ, or rather the doctrine and works of the devil, against Christ and the gospel, and to turn the grace of God into wantonness.

Because the devil knoweth that you will not receive his doctrine in his own name, his usual method is to propound and preach it in the name of Christ, which he knoweth you reverence and regard. For if Satan concealed not his own name and hand in every temptation, it would spoil his game; and the[Pg 58] more excellent and splendid is his pretence, the more powerful the temptation is.[73] They that gave heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, no doubt thought better of the spirits and the doctrines, especially seeming strict, (for the devil hath his strictnesses,) "as forbidding to marry, and abstinence from meats which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving," 1 Tim. iv. 1, 3. But the strictnesses of the devil are always intended to make men loose. They shall be strict as the Pharisees in traditions and vain ceremonies, and building the tombs of the prophets, and garnishing the sepulchres of the righteous, that they may hate and murder the living saints that worship God in spirit and in truth. Licentiousness is the proper doctrine of the devil, which all his strictness tendeth to promote. To receive such principles is pernicious; but to father them upon Christ and the gospel, is blasphemous.

The libertines, antinomians, and autonomians of this age, have gathered you too many instances. The libertine saith, "The heart is the man; therefore you may deny the truth with your tongue, you may be present at false worship, (as at the mass,) you need not suffer to avoid the speaking of a word, or subscribing to an untruth or error, or doing some little thing; but as long as you keep your hearts to God, and mean well, or have an honest mental reservation, and are forced to it by others, rather than suffer, you may say, or subscribe, or swear any thing which you can yourselves put a lawful sense upon in your own minds, or comply with any outward actions or customs to avoid offence and save yourselves."

The antinomians tell you, that "The moral law is abrogated, and that the gospel is no law; (and if there be no law, there is no governor nor government, no duty, no sin, no judgment, no punishment, no reward); that the elect are justified before they are born, or repent, or believe; that their sin is pardoned before it is committed; that God took them as suffering and fulfilling all the law in Christ, as if it had been they that did it in him: that we are justified by faith only in our consciences: that justifying faith is but the believing that we are justified: that every man must believe that he is pardoned, that he may be pardoned in his conscience; and this he is to do by a divine faith, and that this is the sense of the article, 'I believe the forgiveness of sins,' that is, that my sins are forgiven; and that all are forgiven that believe it: that it is legal and sinful to work or do any thing for salvation: that sin once pardoned need not be confessed and lamented, or at least, we need not ask pardon of sin daily, or of one sin oft: that castigations are no punishments; and yet no other punishment is threatened to believers for their sins; and consequently that Christ hath not procured them a pardon of any sin after believing, but prevented all necessity of pardon; and therefore they must not ask pardon of them, nor do any thing to obtain it: that fear of hell must have no hand in our obedience, or restraint from sin. And some add, that he that cannot repent or believe, must comfort himself that Christ repented and believed for him (a contradiction)."[74] Many such doctrines of licentiousness the abusers of grace have brought forth.

And the sect which imitateth the father of pride in affecting to be from under the government of God, and to be the law-givers and rulers of themselves and all others, (which I therefore call the autonomians,) are licentious and much more. They equally contend against Christ's government, and for their own: they fill the world with wars and bloodshed, oppression and cruelty, and the ears of God with the cries of the martyrs and oppressed ones; and all that the spiritual and holy discipline of Christ may be suppressed, and seriousness in religion made odious, or banished from the earth, and that themselves may be taken for the centre, and pillars, and lawgivers of the church, and the consciences of all men may be taught to cast off all scruples or fears of offending God, in comparison of offending them; and may absolutely submit to them; and never stick at any feared disobedience to Christ: they are the scorners and persecutors of strict obedience to the laws of God, and take those that fear his judgments, to be men affrighted out of their wits; and that to obey him exactly (which, alas! who can do, when he hath done his best) is but to be hypocritical or too precise: but to question their domination, or break their laws, (imposed on the world, even on kings and states, without any authority,) this must be taken for heresy, schism, or a rebellion, like that of Korah and his company. This Luciferian spirit of the proud autonomians hath filled the christian world with bloodshed, and been the greatest means of the miseries of the earth, and especially of hindering and persecuting the gospel, and setting up a pharisaical religion in the world: it hath fought against the gospel, and filled with blood the countries of France, Savoy, Rhætia, Bohemia, Belgia, Helvetia, Polonia, Hungary, Germany, and many more; that it may appear how much of the Satanical nature they have, and how punctually they fulfil his will.

And natural corruption containeth in it the seeds of all these damnable heresies: nothing more natural to lapsed man, than to shake off the government of God, and to become a lawgiver to himself, and as many others as he can; and to turn the grace of God into wantonness. Therefore the profane, that never heard it from any heretics but themselves, do make themselves such a creed as this, that "God is merciful, and therefore we need not fear his threatenings, for he will be better than his word: it belongeth to him to save us, and not to us, and therefore we may cast our souls upon his care, though we care not for them ourselves. If he hath predestinated us to salvation, we shall be saved; and if he have not, we shall not; whatever we do, or how well soever we live. Christ died for sinners, and therefore though we are sinners, he will save us. God is stronger than the devil, and therefore the devil shall not have the most: That which pleaseth the flesh, and doth God no harm, can never be so great a matter, or so much offend him, as to procure our damnation. What need of so much ado to be saved, or so much haste to turn to God, when any one that at last doth but repent, and cry God mercy, and believe that Christ died for him, shall be saved? Christ is the Saviour of the world, and his grace is very great and free, and therefore God forbid that none should be saved but those few that are of strict and holy lives, and make so much ado for heaven. No man can know who shall be saved, and who shall not; and therefore it is the wisest way, to do nobody any harm, and to live merrily, and trust God with our souls, and put our salvation upon the venture: nobody is saved for his own works or deservings; and therefore our lives[Pg 59] may serve the turn as well as if they were more strict and holy." This is the creed of the ungodly; by which you may see how natural it is to them to abuse the gospel, and plead God's grace to quiet and strengthen them in their sin, and to embolden themselves on Christ to disobey him.

But this is but to set Christ against himself; even his merits and mercy against his government and Spirit; and to set his death against the ends of his death; and to set our Saviour against our salvation; and to run from God and rebel against him, because Christ died to recover us to God, and to give us repentance unto life; and to sin, because he died to save his people from their sins, "and to purify a peculiar people to himself zealous of good works," Matt. i. 21; Tit. ii. 14. "He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil," 1 John iii. 8; John viii. 44.

Direct. XVIII. Watch diligently both against the more discernible decays of grace, and against the degenerating of it into some carnal affections, or something counterfeit, and of another kind. And so also of religious duties.

We are no sooner warmed with the celestial flames, but natural corruption is inclining us to grow cold; like hot water, which loseth its heat by degrees, unless the fire be continually kept under it. Who feeleth not that as soon as in a sermon, or prayer, or holy meditation, his heart hath got a little heat, as soon as it is gone, it is prone to its former earthly temper, and by a little remissness in our duty, or thoughts, or business about the world, we presently grow cold and dull again. Be watchful, therefore, lest it decline too far. Be frequent in the means that must preserve you from declining: when faintness telleth you that your stomach is emptied of the former meat, supply it with another, lest strength abate. You are rowing against the stream of fleshly interest and inclinations; and therefore intermit not too long, lest you go faster down by your ease, than you get up by labour.

How grace may degenerate.

The degenerating of grace, is a way of backsliding, very common, and too little observed. It is, when good affections do not directly cool, but turn into some carnal affections somewhat like them, but of another kind: as, if the body of a man, instead of dying, should receive the life or soul of a beast, instead of the reasonable, human soul. For instance: 1. Have you believed in God, and in Jesus Christ, and loved him accordingly? You shall seem to do so still as much as formerly, when your corrupted minds have received some false representation of him; and so it is indeed another thing that you thus corruptly believe and love. 2. Have you been fervent in prayer? You shall be fervent still; if Satan can but corrupt your prayers, by corrupting your judgment or affections, and get you to think that to be the cause of God, which is against him; and that to be against him, which he commandeth; and those to be the troublers of the church, which are its best and faithfullest members: turn but your prayers against the cause and people of God by your mistake, and you may pray as fervently against them as you will. The same I may say of preaching, and conference, and zeal: corrupt them once, and turn them against God, and Satan will join with you for zealous and frequent preaching, or conference, or disputes. 3. Have you a confidence in Christ and his promise for your salvation? Take heed lest it turn into carnal security, and a persuasion of your good estate upon ill grounds, or you know not why. 4. Have you the hope of glory? Take heed lest it turn into a careless venturousness of your soul, or the mere laying aside of fear and cautelous suspicion of yourselves. 5. Have you a love to them that fear the Lord? Watch your hearts, lest it degenerate into a carnal or a partial love. Many unheedful young persons of different sexes, at first love each other with an honest, chaste, and pious love; but imprudently using too much familiarity, before they were well aware it hath turned into a fleshly love, which hath proved their snare, and drawn them further into sin or trouble. Many have honoured them that fear the Lord, who insensibly have declined to honour only those of them that were eminent in wealth and worldly honour, or that were esteemed for their parts or place by others, and little honoured the humble, poor, obscure christians, who were at least as good as they: forgetting that the "things that are highly esteemed among men, are abomination in the sight of God," Luke xvi. 15; and that God valueth not men by their places and dignities in the world, but by their graces and holiness of life. Abundance that at first did seem to love all christians, as such, as far as any thing of Christ appeared in them, have first fallen into some sect, and over-admiring their party, and have set light by others as good as them, and censured them as unsound, and then withdrawn their special love, and confined it to their party, or to some few; and yet thought that they loved the godly as much as ever, when it was degenerate into a factious love. 6. Are you zealous for God, and truth, and holiness, and against the errors and sins of others? Take heed lest you lose it, while you think it doth increase in you. Nothing is more apt to degenerate than zeal: in how many thousands hath it turned from an innocent, charitable, peaceable, tractable, healing, profitable, heavenly zeal, into a partial zeal for some party, or opinions of their own; and into a fierce, censorious, uncharitable, scandalous, turbulent, disobedient, unruly, hurting, and destroying zeal, ready to wish for fire from heaven, and kindling contention, confusion, and every evil work. Read well James iii. 7. So if you are meek or patient, take heed lest it degenerate into stupidity or contempt of those you suffer by. To be patient is not to be merely insensible of the affliction; but by the power of faith to bear the sense of it, as overruled by things of greater moment.

How apt men are to corrupt and debase all duties of religion, is too visible in the face of the far greatest part of the christian world. Throughout both the eastern and the western churches, the papists, the Greeks, the Armenians, the Abassines, and too many others, (though the essentials of religion through God's mercy are retained, yet,) how much is the face of religion altered from what it was in the days of the apostles! The ancient simplicity of doctrine is turned into abundance of new or private opinions, introduced as necessary articles of religion: and, alas, how many of them false! So that christians, being too proud to accept of the ancient test of christianity, cannot now agree among themselves what a christian is, and who is to be esteemed a christian; and so they deny one another to be christians, and destroy their charity to each other, and divide the church, and make themselves a scorn by their divisions to the infidel world: and thus the primitive unity, charity, and peace is partly destroyed, and partly degenerate into the unity, charity, and peace of several sects among themselves. The primitive simplicity in government and discipline, is with most turned into a forcible secular government, exercised to advance one man above others, and to satisfy his will and lusts, and make him the rule of other men's lives, and to suppress the power and spirituality of religion in the world. The primitive[Pg 60] simplicity of worship is turned into such a mask of ceremony, and such a task of formalities and bodily exercise, that if one of the apostolical christians should come among them, he would scarce think that this is the same employment which formerly the church was exercised in, or scarce know religion in this antic dress. So that the amiable, glorious face of christianity, is so spotted and defiled, that it is hidden from the unbelieving world, and they laugh at it as irrational, or think it to be but like their own: and the principal hinderance of the conversion of heathens, Mahometans, and other unbelievers, is the corruption and deformity of the churches that are near them, or should be the instruments of their conversion. And the probablest way to the conversion of those nations, is the true reformation of the churches, both in east and west: which, if they were restored to the ancient spirituality, rationality, and simplicity of doctrine, discipline, and worship; and lived in charity, humility, and holiness, as those whose hearts and conversations are in heaven, with all worldly glory and honour as under their feet; they would then be so illustrious and amiable in the eyes even of heathens and other infidels, that many would flock into the church of Christ, and desire to be such as they: and their light would so shine before these men, that they would see their good works, and glorify their heavenly Father, and embrace their faith.

The commonest way of the degenerating of all religious duties, is into this dead formality, or lifeless image of religion. If the devil can but get you to cast off the spirituality and life of duty, he will give you leave to seem very devout, and make much ado with outward actions, words, and beads; and you shall have so much zeal for a dead religion, or the corpse of worship, as will make you think that it is indeed alive. By all means take heed of this turning the worship of God into lip-service. The commonest cause of it is, a carnality of mind (fleshly men will think best of the most fleshly religion); or else a slothfulness in duty, which will make you sit down with the easiest part. It is the work of a saint, and a diligent saint, to keep the soul itself both regularly and vigorously employed with God. But to say over certain words by rote, and to lift up the hands and eyes, is easy: and hypocrites, that are conscious that they are void of the life and spirituality of worship, do think to make all up with this formality, and quiet their consciences, and delude their souls with a handsome image. Of this I have spoken more largely in a book called, "The Vain Religion of the Formal Hypocrite."

Yet run not here into the contrary extreme, as to think that the body must not worship God as well as the soul, or that the decent and edifying determination of the outward circumstances of religion, and the right ordering of worship, is a needless thing, or sinful; or that a form of prayer in itself, or when imposed, is unlawful: but let the soul and body of religion go together, and the alterable adjuncts be used, as things alterable, while the life of holiness is still kept up.

Direct. XIX. Promise not yourselves long life, or prosperity and great matters in the world, lest it entangle your hearts with transitory things, and engage you in ambitious or covetous designs, and steal away your hearts from God, and destroy all your serious apprehensions of eternity.

Our own experience, and the alterations which the approach of death makes upon the most, doth sensibly prove, that the expectation of a speedy change, and reckoning upon a short life, doth greatly help us in all our preparation, and in all the work of holiness through our lives. Come to a man that lieth on his death-bed, or a prisoner that is to die to-morrow, and try him with discourse of riches, or honours, or temptations to lust, or drunkenness, or excess; and he will think you are mad, or very impertinent, to tell him of such things. If he be but a man of common reason, you shall see that he will more easily vilify such temptations, than any religious persons will do, in their prosperity and health. Oh how serious are we in repenting and perusing our former lives, and casting up our accounts, and asking, What we shall do to be saved, when we see that death is indeed at hand, and time is at an end, and we must away! Every sentence of Scripture hath then some life and power in it; every word of exhortation is savoury to us; every reproof of our negligence and sin is then well taken; every thought of sin, or Christ, or grace, or eternity, goes then to the quick. Then time seems precious; and if you ask a man whether it be better spent in cards and dice, and plays and feastings, and needless recreations and idleness, or in prayer, and holy conference, and reading and meditating on the word of God and the life to come, and the holy use of our lawful labours; how easily will he be satisfied of the truth, and confute the cavils of voluptuous time-wasters! Then his judgment will easilier be in the right, than learning or arguments before could make it.[75] In a word, the expectation of the speedy approach of the soul into the presence of the eternal God, and of our entering into an unchangeable, endless life of joy or torment, hath so much in it to awaken all the powers of the soul, that if ever we will be serious, it will make us serious, in every thought, and speech, and duty. And therefore, as it is a great mercy of God, that this life, which is so short, should be as uncertain, and that frequent dangers and sicknesses call to us to look about us, and be ready for our change; so usually the sickly, that look for death, are most considerate: and it is a great part of the duty of those that are in youth and health, to consider their frailty, and the shortness and uncertainty of their lives, and always live as those that wait for the coming of their Lord. And we have great reason for it, when we are certain it will be ere long; and when we have so many perils and weaknesses to warn us, and when we are never sure to see another hour; and when time is so swift, so quickly gone, so unrecoverable, and nothing when it is past. Common reason requireth such to live in a constant readiness to die.

But if youth or health do once make you reckon of living long,[76] and make you put away the day of your departure, as if it were far off; this will do much to deceive and dull the best, and take away the power of every truth, and the life of every good thought and duty, and all will be apt to dwindle into customariness and form. You will hardly keep the faculties of the soul awake, if you do not still think of death and judgment as near at hand. The greatest certainty of the greatest change, and the greatest joy or misery for ever, will not keep our stupid hearts awake, unless we look at all as near, as well as certain. This is plain in the common difference[Pg 61] that we find among all men, between their thoughts of death in health, and when they see indeed that they must presently die. They that in health could think and talk of death with laughter, or lightly, without any awakening of soul, when they come to die are oftentimes as much altered, as if they had never heard before that they are mortal. By which it is plain, that to live in the house of mirth is more dangerous than to live in the house of mourning; and that the expectation of long life is a grievous enemy to the operations of grace, and the safety of the soul.

And it is one of the greatest strengtheners of your temptations to luxury, ambition, worldliness, and almost every sin. When men think that they shall have many years' leisure to repent, they are apt the more boldly to transgress: when they think that they have yet many years to live, it tempteth them to pass away time in idleness, and to loiter in their race, and trifle in all their work, and to overvalue all the pleasures, and honours, and shadows of felicity that are here below. He that hath his life in his house or land, or hath it for inheritance, will set more by it, and bestow more upon it, than if he thought he must go out of it the next year. To a man that thinks of living many years, the favour of great ones, the raising of his estate, and name, and family, and the accommodations and pleasing of his flesh, will seem great matters to him, and will do much with him, and will make self-denial a very hard work.

Therefore, though health be a wonderful great mercy, as enabling him to duty that hath a heart to use it to that end; yet it is by accident a very great danger and snare to the heart itself, to turn it from the way of duty. The best life for the soul, is that which least endangereth it by being over pleasing to the body, and in which the flesh hath the smallest interest, to set up and plead against the Spirit. Not but that the largest stock must be accepted and used for God, when he trusteth us with it; for when he setteth us the hardest work, we may expect his greatest help. But a dwelling as in tents, in a constant unsettledness, in a movable condition, having little, and needing little, never feeling any thing in the creature to tempt us to say, "Soul, take thy rest;" this is to most the safest life, which giveth us the freest advantages for heaven.

Take heed therefore, as you love your souls, of falling into the snare of worldly hopes, and laying designs for rising, and riches, and pleasing yourselves in the thoughts and prosecution of these things, for then you are in the readiest way to perdition; even to idolatrous worldliness, and apostasy of heart from God, and opening a door to every sin that seems but necessary to your worldly ends, and to odious hypocrisy for a cloak to all this, and to quiet your guilty minds with something that is like religion. When once you are saying, with worldly security, as he, Luke xii. 17-19, "I will pull down my barns, and build greater, and there will I bestow all my fruits and goods; and I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years, take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry;" you are then befooling yourselves, and near being called away as fools by death, ver. 20, 21. And when, without a sense of the uncertainty of your lives, you are saying, as those in James iv. 13, 14, "To-day or to-morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy, and sell, and get gain, whereas you know not what will be on the morrow;" you forget what your lives are, that they are "a vapour appearing a little while, and then vanishing away," ver. 14. "Boast not thyself therefore of to-morrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth," Prov. xxvii. 1.

Direct. XX. See that your religion be purely divine, and animated all by God, as the beginning, the way, and the end; and that first upon thy soul, and then upon all that thou hast or dost, there be written "HOLINESS TO THE LORD;" and that thou corrupt not all with an inordinate hypocritical respect to man.

To be holy is to be divine, or devoted to God, and appropriated to him, and his will, and use; and that our hearts and lives be not common and unclean.[77] To be godly, is to live to God, as those that from their hearts believe that he is God indeed, and that "he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him," that he is "our God all-sufficient, our shield and exceeding great reward," Heb. xi. 6; Gen. xv. 1; xvii. 1; and that "of him, and through him, and to him are all things," that all may give the glory for ever unto him, Rom. xi. 36. As God is infinitely above all creatures, so living upon God, and unto God, must needs advance us above the highest sensual life; and therefore religion is transcendently above all sciences or arts. So much of God as is in you and upon you, so much you are more excellent than the highest worldly perfection can advance you to. God should be the First, and Last, and All in the mind, and mouth, and life of a believer. God must be the principal matter of your religion. The understanding and will must be exercised upon him. When you awake you should be still with him, Psal. cxxxix. 8. Your meditations of him should be sweet, and you should be glad in the Lord, Psal. civ. 34. Yet creatures, under him, may be the frequent, less principal matter of your religion; but still as referred unto him. God must be the author of your religion: God must institute it, if you expect he should accept it and reward it. God must be the rule of your religion, as revealing his will concerning it in his word. God must be the ultimate end of your religion; it must be intended to please and glorify him. God must be the continual motive and reason of your religion, and of all you do: you must be able truly to fetch your reason from heaven, and to say, I do it because it is his will; I do it to please, and glorify, and enjoy him. God must be taken as the Sovereign Judge of your religion, and of you, and of all you do; and you must wholly look to his justification and approbation, and avoid whatever he condemneth. Can you take God for your Owner, your Sovereign, your Saviour, your sufficient Protector, your Portion, your All? If not, you cannot be godly, nor be saved: if his authority have not more power upon you, than the authority of the greatest upon earth, you are atheistical hypocrites, and not truly religious, whatever you pretend. If "holiness to the Lord" be written upon you, and all that is yours, you are devoted to him as his own peculiar ones. If your names be set upon your sheep, or plate, or clothes, you will say, if another should take them, They are mine; do you not see my mark upon them? Slavery to the flesh, the world, and the devil, is the mark that is written upon the ungodly (upon the foreheads of the profane, and upon the hearts[Pg 62] of hypocrites and all); and Satan, the world, and the flesh have their service. If you are consecrated to God, and bear his name and mark upon you, tell every one that would lay claim to you, that you are his, and resolved to live to him, to love him, to trust him, and to stand or fall to him alone. Let God be the very life, and sense, and end of all you do.

When once man hath too much of your regard and observation, that you set too much by his favour and esteem, or eye him too much in your profession and practice; when man's approbation too much comforteth you, and man's displeasure or dispraise doth too much trouble you; when your fear, and love, and care, and obedience are too much taken up for man; you so far withdraw yourselves from God, and are becoming the servants of men, and friends of the world, and turning back to bondage, and forsaking our Rock and Portion, and your excellency; the soul of religion is departing from you, and it is dying and returning to the dust. And if once man get the pre-eminence of God, and be preferred and set above him in your hearts or lives, and feared, trusted, and obeyed before him, you are then dead to God, and alive to the world; and as men are taken for your gods, you must take up with such a salvation as they can give you. If your alms and prayer are done to be seen of men, and to procure their good thoughts and words; if you get them, make your best of them; "for verily," your Judge hath said unto you, "you have your reward," Matt. vi. 1-3.

Not that man is absolutely to be contemned or disregarded.[78] No; under God, your superiors must be obeyed; you must do wrong to none, and do good to all, as far as in you lieth; you must avoid offence, and give good example, and, under God, have so much regard to men, as to become all things to all men for their salvation. But if once you set them above their rank, and turn yourselves to an inordinate dependence on them, and make too great a matter of their opinion or words concerning you, you are losing your godliness or divine disposition, and turning it into man-pleasing and hypocrisy. When man stands in competition with God, for your first and chief regard, or in opposition to him, or as a sharer in co-ordination with him, and not purely in subordination to him, he is to be numbered with things to be forsaken. Even good men, whom you must love and honour, and whose communion and help you must highly value, yet may be made the object of your sin, and may become your snare. Your honouring of them, or love to them, must not entice you to desire inordinately to be honoured by them, nor cause you to set too much by their approbation. If you do, you will find that while you are too much eyeing man, you are losing God, and corrupting your religion at the very heart. And you may fall among those, that, how holy soever, may have great mistakes in matters of religion, tending to much sin, and may be somewhat censorious against those that are not of their mind; and so the retaining of their esteem, and the avoiding of their censures, may become one of the greatest temptations of your lives. And you will find that man-pleasing is a very difficult and yet unprofitable task. Love Christ as he appeareth in any of his servants, and be followers of them as they are followers of Christ, and regard their approbation as it agreeth with Christ's: but O see that you are able to live upon the favour of God alone, and to be quieted in his acceptance, though man despise you; and to be pleased so far as God is pleased, though man be displeased with you; and to rejoice in his justification, though men condemn you with the odiousest slanders and the greatest infamy, and cast out your names as evil-doers. See that God be taken as enough for you, or else you take him not as your God; even as enough without man, and enough against man; that you may be able to say, "If God be for us, who can be against us? Who is he that condemneth? It is God that justifieth," Rom. viii. 31, 33, 34. "Do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be a servant of Christ," Gal. i. 10. Jer. xvii. 5-8, "Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh.[79]—Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit." Isa. ii. 22, "Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?"

Having given you these directions, I must tell you in the conclusion, that they are like food, that will not nourish you by standing on your table, or like physic, that will not cure you by standing in the box: they must be taken and digested, or you will find none of the benefit. It is not the reading of them that will serve the turn to so great use, as the safe proceeding and confirmation of beginners or novices in religion: it will require humility to perceive the need of them; and labour to learn, digest, and practise them. Those slothful souls, that will refuse the labour, must bear the sad effects of their negligence: there is not one of all these directions, as to the matter of them, which can be spared. Study them, understand them, and remember them, as things that must be done. If either a senselessness of your necessity, or a conceit that the spirit must do it without so much labour and diligence of your own, do prevail with you, to put off all these with a mere approbation, the consequent may be sadder than you can yet foresee. Though I suppose you to have some beginnings of grace, I must tell you, that it will be comparatively a sad kind of life, to be erroneous, and scandalous, and troublesome to the church, or full of doubts, and fears, and passions, and to be burdensome to others and yourselves! Yea, it is reason that you be very suspicious of your sincerity, if you desire not to increase in grace, and be not willing to use the means which are necessary to your increase. He is not sincere, that desireth not to be perfect; and he desireth not sincerely, who is not willing to be at the labour and cost, which is necessary to the obtaining of the thing desired. I beseech you, therefore, as you love the happiness of prudent, strong, and comfortable christians, and would escape the misery of those grievous diseases, which would turn your lives into languishing, unserviceableness, and pain; that you seriously study these directions, and get them into your minds, and memories, and hearts; and let the faithful practice of them be your greatest care, and the constant employment of your lives.


[Pg 63]

CHAPTER III.

THE GENERAL GRAND DIRECTIONS FOR WALKING WITH GOD, IN A LIFE OF FAITH AND HOLINESS: CONTAINING THE ESSENTIALS OF GODLINESS AND CHRISTIANITY.

I am next to direct you in that exercise of grace, which is common to all christians. Habits are for use: grace is given you, not only that you may have it, but also that you may use it. And it is fit that we direct you how to use it, before we direct you how to know that you have it; because it is grace in exercise that you must discern; and habits are not perceived in themselves, but by their acts; and the more lively and powerful the exercise is, the more easily is grace perceived: so that this is the nearest and surest way to a certainty of our own sincerity:—he that useth grace most and best, hath most grace; and he that hath most, and useth it most, may most easily be assured that he hath it in sincerity and truth.

In these directions, I shall begin with those great internal duties, in which the very life of all religion doth consist; and the general practice of these principles and graces: and all these generals shall be briefly set together, for the easiness of understanding and remembering them. And then I shall give you such particular directions, as are needful, in subordination to those generals.

For a well-grounded faith.

Grand Direct. I. Labour to understand well the nature, grounds, reason, and order of faith and godliness; and to believe upon such grounds, so well understood, as will not suffer you to stagger, or entertain a contrary belief.

Ignorance and ungrounded or ill-grounded persuasions in matters of religion, are the cause that abundance of people delude themselves, with the empty name and dead profession of a faith and religion which they never were indeed possessors of. I know there are low degrees of knowledge, comparatively, in many that are true believers; and that there may be much love and holiness, where knowledge is very small or narrow, as to the objective extent of it; and that there is a knowledge that puffeth up, while charity edifieth; and that in many that have the narrower knowledge, there may be the fastest faith and adherence to the truth, which will conquer in the time of trial. But yet I must tell you, that the religion which you profess, is not, indeed, your own religion, if you know not what it is, and know not in some measure the true grounds and reasons why you should be of that religion. If you have only learned to say your creed, or repeat the words of christian doctrine, while you do not truly understand the sense; or if you have no better reasons why you profess the christian faith, than the custom of the country, or the command of princes or governors, or the opinion of your teachers, or the example of your parents, friends, or neighbours; you are not christians indeed. You have a human belief or opinion, which objectively is true; but subjectively in yourselves, you have no true, divine belief. I confess, there may be some insufficient, yea, and erroneous reasons, which a true believer may mistakingly make use of, for the proof of certain fundamental truths; but then that same man hath some other reason for his reception of that truth, which is more sound: and his faith is sound, because of those sound, infallible principles, though there be a mixture of some other reasons that are unsound. The true believer buildeth on the rock, and giveth deep rooting to the holy seed, Matt. vii. 24; xiii. 5-8. Though some deluded men may tell you, that faith and reason are such enemies, that they exclude each other as to the same object; and that the less reason you have to prove the truth of the things believed, the stronger and more laudable is your faith; yet, when it cometh to the trial, you will find, that faith is no unreasonable thing; and that God requireth you to believe no more, than you have sufficient reason for, to warrant you, and bear you out; and that your faith can be no more, than is your perception of the reasons why you should believe; and that God doth suppose reason, when he infuseth faith, and useth reason in the use of faith. They that believe, and know not why, or know no sufficient reason to warrant their belief, do take a fancy, an opinion, or a dream, for faith. I know that many honest-hearted christians are unable to dispute for their religion, or to give to others a satisfactory account of the reasons of their faith or hope; but yet they have the true apprehension of some solid reasons in themselves; and they are not christians they know not why: and though their knowledge be small as to the number of propositions known, yet it doth always extend to all that is essential to Christianity and godliness, and they do not believe they know not what; and their knowledge is greater intensively, and in its value and operation, than the knowledge of the learnedst ungodly man in the world.

Though I may not here digress, or stay so long, as largely to open to you the nature, grounds, reason, and method of faith and godliness which I am persuading you to understand, yet I shall first lay before you a few propositions, which will be useful to you when you are inquiring into these things, and then a little open them unto you.

Prop. 1. A life of godliness is our living unto God as God, as being absolutely addicted to him.

2. A life of faith is a living upon the unseen, everlasting happiness as purchased for us by Christ, with all the necessaries thereto, and freely given us by God.

3. The contrary life of sense and unbelief, is a living, in the prevalency of sense or flesh, to this present world, for want of such believing apprehensions of a better, as should elevate the soul thereto, and conquer the fleshly inclination to things present.

4. Though man in innocency, needing no Redeemer, might live to God without faith in a Redeemer; yet lapsed man is not only unable to redeem himself, but also unable to live to God without the grace of the Redeemer. It was not only necessary that he satisfy God's justice for us, that he may pardon and save us without any wrong to his holiness, wisdom, or government; but also that he be our teacher by his doctrine and his life, and that he reveal from heaven the Father's will, and that objectively in him we may see the wonderful condescending love and goodness of a reconciled God and Father, and that effectually he illuminate, sanctify, and quicken us by the operations of his word and Spirit, and that he protect and govern, justify and glorify us; and be the Head of restored man, as Adam was the root of lapsed man, and as the lapsed spirits had their head: and therefore we must wholly live upon him as the Mediator between God and man, and the only Saviour by merit and by efficacy.

5. Faith is a knowledge by certain credible testimony or revelation from God by means supernatural or extraordinary.

6. The knowledge of things naturally revealed (as the cause by the effect, &c.) is in order before[Pg 64] the knowledge or belief of things revealed supernaturally.

7. It is matter of natural revelation that there is a God;[80] that he is infinite in his immensity and eternity, in his power, wisdom, and goodness; that he is the First Cause and ultimate End of all things; that he is the Preserver and overruling Disposer of all things, and the supreme Governor of the rational world, and the great Benefactor of all mankind, and the special favourer and rewarder of such as truly love him, seek him, and obey him: also that the soul of man is immortal; and that there is a life of reward or punishment to come, and that this life is but preparatory unto that: that man is bound to love God his Maker, and serve him, with all his heart and might; and to believe that this labour is not vain: that we must do our best to know God's will, that we may do it. This, with much more, (of which some part was mentioned, chap. 1,) is of natural revelation, which infidels may know.

8. There is so admirable a concord and correspondency of natural divinity with supernatural, the natural leading towards the supernatural, and the supernatural falling in so meet where the natural endeth, or falls short, or is defective, that it greatly advantageth us in the belief of supernatural divinity.[81] Nay, as the law of nature was exactly fitted to man in his natural innocent state; so the law and way of grace in Christ is so admirably and exactly fitted to the state of lapsed man for his recovery and salvation, that the experience which man hath of his sin and misery, may greatly prepare him to perceive and believe this most suitable gospel or doctrine of recovery. And though it may not be called natural, as if it were fitted to innocent nature, or as if it were revealed by natural ordinary means, yet it may be so called, as it is exactly suited to the restoration of lapsed miserable nature; even as Lazarus his restored soul, though supernaturally restored, was the most natural associate of his body; or as bread, or milk, or wine, though it should fall from heaven, is in itself the most natural food for man.

9. The same things in divinity which are revealed naturally to all, are again revealed supernaturally in the gospel; and therefore may and must be the matter both of natural knowledge and of faith.

10. When the malicious tempter casteth in doubts of a Deity, or other points of natural certainty, it so much discrediteth his suggestions, as may help us much to reject them when withal he tempteth us to doubt of the truth of the gospel.

11. There are many needful appurtenances to the objects of a divine faith, which are the matter of a human faith. (Of which more anon.)

12. Christ, as Mediator, is the way, or principal means to God, as coming to restore man to his Maker. And so faith in Christ is but the means to bring us to the love of God, though in time they are connexed.

13. Knowledge and faith are the eye of the new creature, and love is the heart; there is no more spiritual wisdom, than there is faith; and there is no more life, or acceptable qualification, or amiableness, than there is love to God.

14. All truths in divinity are revealed in order to a holy life; both faith and love are the principles and springs of practice.

15. Practice affordeth such experience to a believing soul, as may confirm him greatly in the belief of those supernatural revelations, which he before received without that help.

16. The everlasting fruition of God in glory being the end of all religion, must be next the heart, and most in our eye, and must objectively animate our whole religion, and actuate us in every duty.

17. The pleasing of God being also our end, and both of these (enjoying him and pleasing him) being in some small foretastes attainable in this life, the endeavour of our souls and lives must be by faith to exercise love and obedience; for thus God is pleased and enjoyed.

18. All things in religion are fitted to the good of man, and nothing to his hurt: God doth not command us to honour him by any thing which would make us miserable; but by closing with and magnifying his love and grace.[82]

19. But yet it is his own revelation by which we must judge what is finally for our good or hurt; and we may not imagine that our shallow or deceivable wit is sufficient to discern without his word, what is best or worst for us; nor can we rationally argue from any present temporal adversity or unpleasing bitterness in the means, that "This is worst for us, and therefore it is not from the goodness of God:" but we must argue in such cases, "This is from the goodness and love of God, and therefore it is best."

20. The grand impediment to all religion and our salvation, which hindereth both our believing, loving, and obeying, is the inordinate sensual inclination to carnal self and present transitory things, cunningly proposed by the tempter to insnare us, and divert and steal away our hearts from God and the life to come. The understanding of these propositions will much help you in discerning the nature and reason of religion.

To use Christ and live upon him as our Mediator.

Grand Direct. II. Diligently labour in that part of the life of faith, which consisteth in the constant use of Christ as the means of the soul's access to God, acceptance with him, and comfort from him: and think not of coming to the Father, but by him.

To talk and boast of Christ is easy, and to use him[Pg 65] for the increase of our carnal security, and boldness in sinning: but to live in the daily use of Christ to those ends of his office, to which he is by us to be made use of, is a matter of greater skill and diligence, than many self-esteeming professors are aware of. What Christ himself hath done, or will do, for our salvation, is not directly the thing that we are now considering of; but what use he requireth us to make of him in the life of faith. He hath told us, that his flesh is meat indeed, and his blood is drink indeed; and that except we eat his flesh and drink his blood, we have no life in us. Here is our use of Christ, expressed by eating and drinking his flesh and blood, which is by faith.[83] The general parts of the work of redemption, Christ hath himself performed for us without asking our consent, or imposing upon us any condition on our parts, without which he would not do that work: as the sun doth illustrate and warm the earth whether it will or not, and as the rain falleth on the grass without asking whether it consent, or will be thankful; so Christ, without our consent or knowledge, did take our nature, and fulfil the law, and satisfy the offended Lawgiver, and merit grace, and conquer Satan, death, and hell, and became the glorified Lord of all: but for the exercise of his graces in us, and our advancement to communion with God, and our living in the strength and joys of faith, he is himself the object of our duty, even of that faith which we must daily and diligently exercise upon him: and thus Christ will profit us no further than we make use of him by faith. It is not a forgotten Christ that objectively comforteth or encourageth the soul; but a Christ believed in, and skilfully and faithfully used to that end. It is objectively (principally) that Christ is called our wisdom, 1 Cor. i. 30. The knowledge of him, and the mysteries of grace in him, is the christian or divine philosophy or wisdom, in opposition to the vain philosophy which the learned heathens boasted of. And therefore Paul determined to know nothing but Christ crucified, that is, to make ostentation of no other knowledge, and to glory in nothing but the cross of Christ, and so to preach Christ as if he knew nothing else but Christ. See 1 Cor. i. 23; ii. 2; Gal. vi. 14. And it is objectively that Christ is said to dwell in our hearts by faith, Eph. iii, 17. Faith keepeth him still upon the heart by continual cogitation, application, and improvement: as a friend is said to dwell in our hearts, whom we continually love and think of.

Christ himself teacheth us to distinguish between faith in God, (as God,) and faith in himself (as Mediator): John xiv. 1, "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God;" (or, believe ye in God?) "believe also in me." These set together are the sufficient cure of a troubled heart.[84] It is not faith in God as God, but faith in Christ as Mediator, that I am now to speak of; and that not as it is inherent in the understanding, but as it is operative on the heart and in the life: and this is not the smallest part of the life of faith, by which the just are said to live. Every true christian must in his measure be able to say, with Paul, Gal. ii. 20, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." The pure Godhead is the beginning and the end of all; but Christ is "the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature; and by him all things were created that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers, all things were created by him and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things do consist. And he is the head of the body, the church; who is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; that in all things he might have the pre-eminence," Col. i. 16-19. "In him it is that we who were sometime far off, are made nigh, even by his blood: for he is our peace, who hath reconciled both Jew and gentile unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: and came and preached peace to them that were far off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have an access by one Spirit unto the Father: so that now we are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God," Eph. ii. 13, 14, 16-19. "In him" it is that "we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in him," Eph. iii. 12. "He is the way, the truth, and the life: and no man cometh to the Father, but by him," John xiv. 6. It is "by the blood of Jesus that we have boldness" (and liberty) "to enter into the holiest: by a new and living way which he hath consecrated for us through the vail, that is to say, his flesh." Because "we have so great a Priest over the house of God, we may draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith," &c. Heb. x. 19-22. "By him it is that we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and boast in hope of the glory of God," Rom. v. 1, 2. So that we must have "all our communion with God through him."

Supposing what I have said of this subject in my "Directions for a Sound Conversion," Direct. 5, (which I hope the reader will peruse,) I shall here briefly name the uses which we must make of Christ by faith, in order to our holy converse with God:[85] but I must tell you that it is a doctrine which requireth a prepared heart, that hath life within to enable it to relish holy truth, and to dispose it to diligence, delight, and constancy in practice. A senseless reader will feel but little savour in it, and a sluggish reader that suffereth it to die as soon as it hath touched his ears or fantasy, will fall short of the practice and the pleasure of this life. He must[Pg 66] have faith that will live by faith: and he must have the heart and nature of a child, that will take pleasure in loving, reverent, and obedient converse with a father.

1. The darkness of ignorance and unbelief is the great impediment of the soul that desireth to draw near to God. When it knoweth not God, or knoweth not man's capacity of enjoying him, and how much he regardeth the heart of man; or knoweth not by what way he must be sought and found; or when he doubteth of the certainty of the word which declareth the duty of the hopes of man: all this, or any of this, will suppress the ascending desires of the soul, and clip its wings, and break the heart of its holy aspirings after God, by killing or weakening the hopes of its success.

Here then make use of Jesus Christ, the great Revealer of God and his will to the blinded world, and the great Confirmer of the divine authority of his word. Life and immortality are brought more fully to light by the gospel, than ever they were by any other means. Moses and the prophets did bring with their doctrine sufficient evidence of its credibility. But Christ hath brought both a fuller revelation, and a fuller evidence to help belief. An inspired prophet, which proveth his inspiration to us, is a credible messenger: but when God himself shall come down into flesh, and converse with man, and teach him the knowledge of God, and the way to life, and tell him the mysteries of the world to come, and seal his testimony with unquestionable proofs, who will not learn of such a Teacher? and who will deny belief to such a Messenger, except absurd, unreasonable men? Remember, then, when ignorance or unbelief would hinder your access to God, that you have the ablest Teacher and the surest Witness to acquaint you with God in all the world. If God had sent an angel from heaven, to tell you what he is, and what he requireth of you, and what he will do for you, would it not be very acceptable to you? But he hath done much more; he hath sent his Son:[86] the Deity itself hath appeared in flesh: he that hath seen God, and he that is God, hath come among men to acquaint them with God. His testimony is more sure and credible than any angel's. Heb. i. 1-3, "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in times past to the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken to us by his Son." John i. 18, "No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." We have "neither heard the voice of God, nor seen his shape," John v. 37. "No man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God; he hath seen the Father," John vi. 46. "No man knoweth the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him," Matt. xi. 27. What more can we desire, that is short of the sight of the glory of God, than to have him revealed to us by a messenger from heaven, and such a messenger as himself has seen him, and is God himself? Plato and Plotinus may describe God to us according to their dark conjectures; something we may discern of him by observing his works; but Christ hath declared what he saw, and what he knew, beyond all possibility of mistake. And lest his own testimony should seem questionable to us, he hath confirmed it by a life of miracles, and by rising from the dead himself, and ascending visibly to heaven; and by the Holy Ghost, and his miraculous gifts, which he gave to the messengers of his gospel. Had it been no more than his resurrection from the dead, it had been enough to prove the utter unreasonableness of unbelief.

2. It is also a great impediment to the soul in its approach to God, that infinite distance disableth us to conceive of him aright. We say, as Elihu, Job xxxvi. 26, "Behold, God is great, and we know him not." And, indeed, it is impossible that mortal man should have any adequate apprehensions of his essence. But in his Son he hath come down to us, and showed himself in the clearest glass that ever did reveal him. Think of him therefore as he appeared in our flesh; as he showed himself in his holiness and goodness to the world. You may have positive thoughts of Jesus Christ; though you may not think that the Godhead was flesh, yet may you think of it as it appeared in flesh. It may quiet the understanding to conceive of God as incarnate, and to know that we cannot yet know him as he is, or have any adequate conceptions of him. These may delight us till we reach to more.

3. It hindereth the soul's approach to God, when the infinite distance makes us think that God will not regard or take notice of such contemptible worms as we: we are ready to think that he is too high for our converse or delight. In this case the soul hath no such remedy, as to look to Christ; and see how the Father hath regarded us, and set his heart upon us, and sent his Son to seek and save us. Oh wonderful, astonishing condescension of eternal love! Believe that God assumed flesh to make himself familiar with man; and you can never question whether he regard us, or will hold communion with us.

4. It hindereth our comfortable access to God, when we are deterred by the glory of his infiniteness and majesty. As the eye is not able to gaze upon the sun, unless it be overshadowed; so the soul is afraid of the majesty of God, and overwhelmed by it, when it should be delighted in it. Against this there is no such remedy, as to behold God appearing to us in his Son, where his majesty is veiled, and where he approacheth us familiarly in our nature, to invite us to him with holy confidence and reverent boldness. Christ did not appear in a terrible form: women durst discourse with him; beggars, and cripples, and diseased people durst ask his help; sinners durst eat with him: the proud contemned him, but the lowly were not frightened from him. He "took upon him the form of a servant, and made himself of no reputation," that he might converse familiarly with the meanest, and those of no reputation. Though we may not debase the Godhead, to imagine that it is humbled in glory, as it was on earth, in the flesh of Christ; yet this condescension is unspeakable encouragement to the soul to come with boldness unto God, that was frighted from him.

5. When the guilt of sin affrighteth us from God, and we are thinking that God will not accept such great offenders as we have been, then Christ is our remedy, who hath paid our debt, and borne our stripes, and procured and sealed us a pardon by his blood.[87] Shall pardoned sins drive us from him that pardoneth them? He hath justified us by his righteousness. The curse and damnation are terrible indeed; but he hath taken them away, and given us a free discharge.

6. The infirmities also of our souls in duty, are oftentimes a great discouragement to us, in our approaches[Pg 67] to the most holy, jealous God. To find so little knowledge of God, so little love to him, such cold desires, such wandering and distracted thoughts, such dull requests: it is hard to have lively and thankful apprehensions of God's acceptance of such defective, lame meditations or prayers; but we are apt to think that he will abhor both them and us, and that he can take no pleasure in them, yea, that it is as good not pray at all. Here faith hath full relief in Christ: two things it can say from him to encourage the fearful soul: (1.) That our acceptance with the Father is through the merits of his Son; and he is worthy, though we are unworthy. If we have but the worthiness of faith, and repentance, and sincere desire, Christ hath the worthiness of perfect holiness and obedience for us. We go not to the Father in our own names, but in his; and whatever we ask the Father in the name of Christ according to his will, he will give it us, John xvi. 23; xiv. 13; xv. 16. (2.) That all the infirmities of our souls and services are forgiven us through Christ: he hath undertaken to answer for them all, and to justify us from all such accusations. By faith thou mayst, as it were, hear Christ thus speaking for thine encouragement: Go boldly, poor sinner, into my Father's presence: fear not the guilt of thy sins, nor the imperfection of thy prayers; as long as thou truly repentest of them, and desirest to be delivered from them, and trustest in me, I am thy worthiness; my righteousness is perfect without spot; I have taken all thy faults and failings upon me; I have undertaken to answer for all the imperfections of thy holy things: sincerity is thy endowment; perfection is mine: trust me in the performance of the trust which I have undertaken.

7. Sometimes, the soul that would draw near to God, is overwhelmed with grief and terror, so that the sense of sin, and danger, and misery do even distract men, and cast them into an agony; so that they say with David, Psal. lxxvii. 2-4, "My soul refused to be comforted, I remembered God and was troubled; I complained: and my spirit was overwhelmed. Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so troubled that I cannot speak." Yea, they think they feel God thrust them from him, and tell them that he hath utterly forsaken them. In this case, faith must look to Christ, and remember that he was in an agony when he prayed, and in greater agony than ever you were, so that he sweat even drops of blood; and yet in that agony he prayed more earnestly, Luke xxii. 44. He himself once cried out upon the cross, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" and yet he was the beloved of the Father, and is now at his right hand in glory: and all this he did that we might not be forsaken. He hath removed the enmity: he hath reconciled us to God. By grief he passed himself to joy, and he will wipe away his servants' tears, and cause their griefs to end in joy.

8. Sometimes, the soul that would draw near to God, is molested with a storm of hideous temptations, and even confounded with a swarm of disordered, perplexed thoughts. Satan assaulteth it with temptations to despair, temptations to horrid blasphemous thoughts, temptations to entangle, intermit, corrupt, or pervert the duty which they are about; so that the soul is discouraged, overwhelmed, and broken with the inward assaults, and troubles, and distractions which it undergoeth. In this case faith hath a Saviour suitable to our relief. It can look to him that was tempted in all points like as we are, without sin, and is now such a High Priest as can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; and therefore we may come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need, Heb. iv. 14-16. "In all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful High Priest, in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people: for he himself having suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted," Heb. ii. 17, 18. He submitted not only to be tempted by Satan, but tempted in a wilderness, where he had no man to comfort him; and to be tempted to the most horrid blasphemy and wickedness, even to fall down and worship the devil himself: and he suffered the tempter violently to carry him to the pinnacle of the temple, Matt. iv. What should we think of ourselves, if we had been used thus? Should we not think that God had utterly forsaken us? He suffered himself to be tempted also by men; by the abuses and reproaches of his enemies; by the desertion of his followers; by the carnal counsel of Peter, persuading him to put by the death which he was to undergo. And he that made all temptations serve to the triumph of his patience, and conquering power, will give the victory also to his grace, in the weakest soul.

9. It would be the greatest attractive to us to draw near to God, and make the thoughts of him pleasant to us, if we could but believe that he dearly loveth us, that he is reconciled to us, and taketh us for his children, and that he taketh pleasure in us, and that he resolveth for ever to glorify us with his Son; and that the dearest friend that we have in the world, doth not love us the thousandth part so much as he. And all this in Christ, is clearly represented to the eye of faith. All this is procured for believers by him; and all this is given to believers in him: in him God is reconciled to us: he is our Father, and dwelleth among us, and in us, and walketh in us, and is our God, 2 Cor. vi. 16-18. Light and heat are not more abundant in the sun, than love is in Jesus Christ. To look on Christ, and not perceive the love of God, is as to look on the sun, and not to see and acknowledge its light. Therefore whenever you find your hearts averse to God, and to have no pleasure in him, look then to Jesus, and observe in him the unmeasurable love of God: that "you may be able to comprehend with all the saints, what is the breadth and length, and depth and height, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fulness of God," Eph. iii. 18, 19. Love and goodness are that to the will, which delicious sweetness is to the sensitive appetite. Draw near then and taste the feast of love which God hath prepared and proposed by his Son. Dost thou not see or feel the love of God? Come near, and look upon God incarnate; upon a crucified Christ; upon the covenant sealed in his blood; upon all the benefits of his redemption; upon all the privileges of the saints; and upon the glory purchased, possessed, and promised by him: put thy hand into his wounded side, and be not faithless, but believing; and then thou wilt cry out, "My Lord, and my God."

10. So also, when the soul would fain perceive in itself the flames of love to God, it is the beholding of Christ by faith, which is the striking of fire, and the effectual means of kindling love. And this is the true approach to God, and the true communion and converse with him: so far as we love him, so far we draw near him, and so far we have true communion with him. Oh what would the soul of a believer give, that it could but burn in love to God, as oft as in prayer, or meditation, or conference, his name and attributes are mentioned or remembered! For this, there is no such powerful means, as believingly to look on Christ, in whom such glorious love appeareth, as will draw forth the love of all that by a lively faith discern it. Behold the love that God hath manifested[Pg 68] by his Son, and thou canst not but love him who is the spring of this transcendent love. In the law God showeth his frowning wrath; and therefore it breedeth the "spirit of bondage unto fear:" but in Christ God appeareth to us not only as loving us, but as love itself; and therefore as most lovely to us, giving us the spirit of adoption, or of filial love, by which we fly and cry to him as our Father.

11. The actual undisposedness and disability of the soul, to prayer, meditation, and all holy converse with the blessed God, is the great impediment of our walking with him; and against this our relief is all in Christ. He is filled with the Spirit, to communicate to his members: he can quicken us when we are dull: he can give us faith when we are unbelieving: he can give us boldness when we are discouraged: he can pour out upon us the Spirit of supplication, which shall help our infirmities, when we know not what to pray for as we ought. Beg of him, then, the spirit of prayer: and look to his example, who prayed with strong cries and tears, and continued all the night in prayer, and spake a parable to this end, that we should always pray, and not wax faint, Luke xviii. 1. Call to him, and he that is with the Father will reach the hand of his Spirit to you, and will quicken your desires, and lift you up.

12. Sometimes, the soul is hearkening to temptations of unbelief, and doubting whether God observe our prayers, or whether there is so much to be got by prayer as we are told. In such a case faith must look to Christ, who hath not only commanded it, and encouraged us by his example; but also made us such plentiful promises of acceptance with God, and the grant of our desires. Recourse to these promises will animate us to draw nigh to God.

13. Sometimes, the present sense of our vileness, who are but dust and despicable worms, doth discourage us, and weaken our expectations from God. Against this, what a wonderful relief is it to the soul, to think of our union with Christ, and of the dignity and glory of our Head! Can God despise the members of his Son? Can he trample upon them that are as his flesh and bone? Will he cut off, or forsake, or cast away the weakest parts of his body?

14. Sometimes, the guilt of renewed infirmities or decays doth renew distrust, and make us shrink; and we are like the child in the mother's arms, that feareth when he loseth his hold, as if his safety were more in his hold of her, than in her hold of him. Weak duties have weak expectations of success. In this case, what an excellent remedy hath faith, in looking to the perpetual intercession of Christ. Is he praying for us in the heavens, and shall we not be bold to pray, and expect an answer? O remember that he is not weak, when we are weak; and that it concerneth us, that he prayeth for us: and that we have now an unchangeable Priest, who is able to save them to the uttermost, or to perpetuity, "that come (sincerely) to God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them," Heb. vii. 24, 25. If you heard Christ pray for you, would it not encourage you to pray, and persuade you that God would not reject you? Undoubtedly it would.

15. Sometimes, weak christians, that have not gifts of memory or utterance, are apt to think that ministers indeed, and able men, are accepted of God, but that he little valueth such as them. It is here a great encouragement to the soul, to think that Jesus, our great High Priest, doth make all his children priests to God. They are "a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that they should show forth the praises of him that hath called them out of darkness into his marvellous light: an holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ," 1 Pet. ii. 5, 9. Even their "broken hearts and contrite spirits, are a sacrifice which God will not despise," Psal. li. 17. He knoweth the meaning of the Spirit's groans, Rom. viii. 26, 27.

16. The strength of corruptions which molest the soul, and are too often struggling with it, and too much prevail, doth greatly discourage us in our approach to that God that hateth all the workers of iniquity. And here faith may find relief in Christ, not only as he pardoneth us, but as he hath conquered the devil and the world himself, and bid us be of good cheer, because he hath conquered, and hath all power given him in heaven and earth, and can give us victorious grace, in the season and measure which he seeth meetest for us. We can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth us. Go to him then by faith and prayer, and you shall find that his grace is sufficient for you.

17. The thoughts of God are the less delightful to the soul, because that death and the grave do interpose, and we must pass through them before we can enjoy him: and it is unpleasing to nature, to think of a separation of soul and body, and to think that our flesh must rot in darkness. But against this, faith hath wonderful relief in Jesus Christ. "Forasmuch as we were partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same, that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage," Heb. ii. 14, 15. Oh what an encouragement it is to faith, to observe that Christ once died himself, and that he rose from the dead, and reigneth with the Father: it being impossible that death should hold him. And having conquered that which seemed to conquer him, it no more hath dominion over him, but he hath the keys of death and hell. We may now entertain death as a disarmed enemy, and say, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" Yea, it is sanctified by him to be our friend, even an entrance into our Master's joy: it being best for us to depart and be with Christ, Phil. i. 23. And, therefore, death is become our gain, ver. 21. Oh what abundance of strength and sweetness may faith perceive from that promise of Christ, John xii. 26, "If any man serve me, let him follow me, and where I am, there shall also my servant be." As he was dead, but now liveth for evermore, so hath he promised, that "because he liveth, therefore shall we live also," John xiv. 19. But of this, I have written two treatises of death already.

18. The terror of the day of judgment, and of our particular doom at death, doth make the thoughts of God less pleasing and delectable to us. And here, what a relief is it for faith to apprehend that Jesus Christ must be our Judge! And will he condemn the members of his body? Shall we be afraid to be judged by our dearest Friend?—by him that hath justified us himself already, even at the price of his own blood?

19. The very strangeness of the soul to the world unseen, and to the inhabitants and employments there, doth greatly stop the soul in its desires, and in its delightful approaches unto God. Had we seen the world where God must be enjoyed, the thoughts of it would be more familiar and sweet. But faith can look to Christ, and say, My Head is there: he seeth it for me; he knoweth what he possesseth, prepareth, and promiseth to me; and I will quietly rest in his acquaintance with it.

20. Nay, the Godhead itself is so infinitely above[Pg 69] us, that, in itself, it is inaccessible; and it is ready to amaze and overwhelm us, to think of coming to the incomprehensible Majesty: but it emboldeneth the soul, to think of our glorified nature in Christ, and that, even in heaven, God will everlastingly condescend to us in the Mediator. For the mediation of redemption and acquisition shall be ended, (and thus he shall deliver up the kingdom to the Father,) yet it seems that a mediation of fruition shall continue: for Christ said to his Father, "I will that they also whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory," John xvii. 24. We shall "rejoice," when the "marriage of the Lamb is come," Rev. xix. 7. "They are blessed that are called to his marriage supper," ver. 9. "The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple and the light of the new Jerusalem," Rev. xxi. 22, 23. Heaven would not be so familiar, or so sweet to my thoughts, if it were not that our glorified Lord is there, in whose love and glory we must live for ever.

O christian, as ever thou wouldst walk with God in comfortable communion with him, study and exercise this life of faith, in the daily use and improvement of Christ, who is our life, and hope, and all.

To believe in the Holy Ghost, and live upon his grace.

Grand Direct. III. Understand well what it is to believe in the Holy Ghost; and see that he dwell and operate in thee, as the life of thy soul, and that thou do not resist or quench the Spirit, but thankfully obey him.

Each person in the Trinity is so believed in by christians, as that in baptism they enter distinctly into covenant with them: which is, to accept the mercies of, and perform the duties to, each person distinctly.[88] As to take God for our God is more than to believe that there is a God, and to take Christ for our Saviour is more than barely to believe that he is the Messiah; so to believe in the Holy Ghost, is to take him for Christ's agent or advocate with our souls, and for our Guide, and Sanctifier, and Comforter, and not only to believe that he is the third person in the Trinity. This therefore is a most practical article of our belief.

If the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost be the unpardonable sin, then all sin against the Holy Ghost must needs have a special aggravation by being such. And if the sin against the Holy Ghost be the greatest sin, then our duty towards the Holy Ghost is certainly none of our smallest duties. Therefore the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, and our duty towards him, and sin against him, deserve not the least or last place in teaching, learning, and most serious consideration.

Two sorts do most dangerously sin against or abuse the Holy Ghost. The first is the profane, who through custom and education can say, "I believe in the Holy Ghost," and say, that "he sanctifieth them and all the elect people of God;" but hate or resist all sanctifying works and motions of the Holy Ghost, and hate all those that are sanctified by him, and make them the objects of their scorn, and deride the very name of sanctification, or at least the thing.[89]

The second sort are the enthusiasts, or true fanatics, who advance, extol, and plead for the Spirit, against the Spirit; covering their greatest sins against the Holy Ghost, by crying up, and pretending to the Holy Ghost.[90] They plead the Spirit in themselves against the Spirit in their brethren, yea, and in almost all the church: they plead the authority of the Spirit in them, against the authority of the Spirit in the holy Scriptures; and against particular truths of Scripture; and against several great and needful duties which the Spirit hath required in the word; and against the Spirit in their most judicious, godly, faithful teachers. But can it be the Spirit that speaks against the Spirit? Is the Spirit of God against itself? Are we "not all baptized by one Spirit (and not divers or contrary) into one body?" 1 Cor. xii. 12, 13. But it is "no marvel, for Satan to be transformed into an angel of light, or his ministers into the ministers of Christ, and of righteousness, whose end shall be according to their works," 2 Cor. xi. 13-15. The Spirit himself therefore hath commanded us, that we "believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they be of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world," 1 John iv. 1. "Yea, the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils," 1 Tim. iv. 1. Therefore take heed that you neither mistake nor abuse the Holy Spirit.

1. The doctrine concerning the Holy Ghost, to be believed, is briefly this: (1.) That the Holy Ghost, as given since the ascension of Christ, is his agent on earth, or his advocate with men (called by him the Paraclete): instead of his bodily presence, which for a little space he vouchsafed to a few, being ascended, he sendeth the Holy Spirit as better for them, to be his agent continually to the end, and unto all, and in all that do believe, John xvi. 7, 8. (2.) This Holy Spirit, so sent, infallibly inspired the holy apostles and evangelists, first to preach, and then to write the doctrine of Christ, contained (as indited by him) in the holy Scriptures; perfectly imprinting therein the holy image of God, John xv. 26; xvi. 13; Gal. iii. 1-4; Heb. ii. 3, 4. (3.) The same Spirit in them, sealed this holy doctrine, and the testimony of these holy men, by many miracles and wonderful gifts, by which they did actually convince the unbelieving world, and plant the churches. (4.) The same Spirit (having first by the apostles given a law or canon to the universal church, constituting its offices and the duty of the officers, and the manner of their entrance) doth qualify and dispose men for the stated, ordinary ministerial work, (which is to explain and apply the foresaid Scriptures,) and directeth those that are to ordain and choose them (they being not wanting on their part); and so he appointeth pastors to the church, Eph. iii. 2-4, 8, 13. (5.) The same Spirit assisteth the ministers (thus sent in their faithful use of the means) to teach and apply the holy Scriptures according to the necessities of the people, the weight of the matter, and the majesty of the word of God. (6.) The same Spirit doth by this word (heard or read) renew and sanctify the souls of the elect; illuminating their minds, opening and quickening their hearts, prevailing with, changing, and resolving their wills, thus writing God's word, and imprinting his image[Pg 70] by his word upon their hearts, making it powerful to conquer and cast out their strongest, sweetest, dearest sins, and bringing them to the saving knowledge, love, and obedience of God in Jesus Christ, Acts xxvi. 18; John xiv. 16, 26. (7.) The same Holy Spirit assisteth the sanctified in the exercise of this grace, to the increase of it, by blessing and concurring with the means appointed by him to that end: and helpeth them to use those means, perform those duties, conquer temptations, oppositions, and difficulties, and so confirmeth and preserveth them to the end. (8.) The same Spirit helpeth believers, in the exercise of grace, to feel it, and discern the sincerity of it in themselves, in that measure as they are meet for, and in those seasons when it is fittest for them. (9.) The same Spirit helpeth them hereupon to conclude that they are justified and reconciled to God, and have right to all the benefits of his covenant. (10.) Also, he assisteth them actually to rejoice in the discerning of this conclusion. For though reason of itself may do something in these acts, yet so averse is man to all that is holy, and so many are the difficulties and hinderances in the way, that to the effectual performance, the help of the Spirit of God is necessary.

By this enumeration of the Spirit's operations, you may see the errors of many detected, and many common questions answered. 1. You may see their blindness, that pretend the Spirit within them, against Scripture, ministry, or the use of God's appointed means: when the same Spirit first indited the Scripture, and maketh it the instrument to illuminate and sanctify our souls. God's image is, (1.) Primarily, in Jesus Christ his Son. (2.) Derivatively, by his Spirit, imprinted perfectly in the Holy Scriptures. (3.) And by the Scripture, or the holy doctrine of it, instrumentally impressed on the soul. So that the image of God in Christ, is the cause of his image in his holy word or doctrine, and his image in his word, is the cause of his image on the heart. So a king may have his image, (1.) Naturally, on his son, who is like his father. (2.) Expressively, in his laws, which express his wisdom, clemency, and justice. (3.) And effectively, on his subjects and servants, who are by his laws reduced to a conformity to his mind. As a man may first cut his arms or image on his seal, and then by that seal imprint it on the wax; and though it be perfectly cut on the seal, it may be imperfectly printed on the wax; so God's image is naturally perfect in his Son, and regularly or expressively perfect on the seal of his holy doctrine and laws; but imperfectly on his subjects, according to their reception of it in their several degrees.

Therefore it is easy to discern their error, that tell men the light or Spirit within them, is their rule, and a perfect rule, yea, and that it is thus in all men in the world; when God's word and experience flatly contradict it, telling us that infidels and enemies of God, and all the ungodly, are in darkness, and not in the light; and that all that speak not according to this word, (the law and testimony,) have "no light in them;" and therefore no "perfect light to be their rule," Isa. viii. 20. The ministry is sent, to bring them from darkness to light: therefore, they had not a sufficient light in them before, Acts xxvi. 17, 18. "Woe to them that put darkness for light, and light for darkness!" Isa. v. 20: telling the children of darkness, and the haters of the light, that they have a perfect light and rule within them, when God saith, "They have no light in them." See 1 John i. 4-8. "He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even till now," 1 John ii. 9-11. The light within a wicked man, is "darkness" and "blindness," and therefore not his rule, Matt. vi. 23; Eph. v. 8. Even the light that is in godly men, is the knowledge of the rule, and not the rule itself at all, nor ever called so by God. Our rule is perfect; our knowledge is imperfect: for Paul himself saith, "We know in part; but when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away: now we see through a glass darkly," 1 Cor. xiii. 9, 10, 12. "The gospel is hid to them that are lost," being "blinded by Satan," 2 Cor. iv. 3, 4.

There is an admirable, unsearchable concurrence of the Spirit, and his appointed means, and the will of man, in the procreation of the new creature, and in all the exercises of grace, as there is of male and female in natural generation; and of the earth, the sun, the rain, the industry of the gardener, and the seminal virtue of life and specification, in the production of plants with their flowers and fruits. And as wise as it would be to say, it is not the male but the female, or not the female but the male that generateth; or to say, it is not the earth but the sun, or not the sun but the rain, or not the rain but the seminal virtue, that causeth plants with flowers and fruits: so wise is it to say, it is not the Spirit but the word and means, or it is not the word and means but the Spirit, or it is not the reason, and will, and industry of man, but the Spirit: or, if we have not wisdom enough to assign to each cause its proper interest in the effect, that therefore we should separate what God hath conjoined, or deny the truth of the causation, because we comprehend not the manner and influence—this is but to choose to be befooled by pride, rather than confess that God is wiser than we.

2. You may here discern also, how the Spirit assureth and comforteth believers: and how palpably they err, that think the Spirit comforteth or assureth us of our salvation without the use of its evidencing grace. The ten things mentioned above, is all that the Spirit doth herein. But to expect his comforts without any measure of discerning his graces, which can only rationally prove our right to the blessings of the promise, this is to expect that he should comfort a rational creature not as rational, but darkly cause him to rejoice he knoweth not why: and that he should make no use of faith to our comfort: for faith resteth understandingly upon the promise, and expecteth the performance of it to those that it is made to, and not to others. Indeed there is a common encouragement and comfort, which all men, even the worst, may take from the universal, conditional promise: and there is much abatement of our fears and troubles that may be fetched from probabilities and uncertain hopes of our own sincerity and interest in the promise. But to expect any other assurance or comfort from the Spirit, without evidence, is but to expect immediate revelations or inspirations to do the work, which the word of promise and faith should do. The soul's consent to the covenant of grace, and fiducial acceptance of an offered Christ, is justifying, saving faith: every man hath an object in the promise and offer of the gospel for this act, and therefore may rationally perform it. (Though all have not hearts to do it.) This may well be called, faith of adherence; and is itself our evidence, from which we must conclude, that we are true believers: the discerning of this evidence, called by some, the reflex act of faith, is no act of faith at all, it being no believing of another, but the act of conscience, knowing what is in ourselves. The discerning and concluding that we are the children of God, participateth of faith and conscientious knowledge, which gave us the premises of such a conclusion.

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3. You may hence perceive also how we are said to be "sealed" by the Spirit, Eph. i. 13; Rom. viii. 9; Eph. iv. 30: even as a man's seal doth signify the thing sealed to be his own; so the "Spirit of holiness in us," is God's seal upon us, signifying that we are his, 2 Tim. ii. 19. Every one that "hath the Spirit," is sealed by having it: and that is his evidence, which, if he discern, he may know that he is thus sealed.

4. Hereby also you may see what the "earnest and first-fruits of the Spirit" is, 2 Cor. i. 22: the Spirit is given to us by God, as the earnest of the glory which he will give us. To whomsoever he giveth the spirit of faith, and love, and holiness, he giveth the seed of life eternal, and an inclination thereto, which is his earnest of it.

5. Hereby also you may see how the Spirit witnesseth that we are the children of God. The word "witness" is put here principally for evidence: if any one question our adoption, the witness or evidence which we must produce to prove it, is the "Spirit of Jesus sanctifying us," and dwelling in us: this is the chief part (at least) of the sense of the text, Rom. viii. 16. Though it is true, that the same Spirit witnesseth by (1.) Showing us the grace which he hath given us; (2.) And by showing us the truth of the promise made to all believers; (3.) And by helping us from those promises to conclude with boldness, that we are the children of God; (4.) And by helping us to rejoice therein.

II. I have been the longer (though too short) in acquainting you with the office of the Holy Ghost, (supposing your belief that he is the third person in the Trinity,) because it is an article of grand importance, neglected by many that profess it, and because there are so many and dangerous errors in the world about it. Your great care now must be, 1. To find this Spirit in you, as the principle of your operations: and, 2. To obey it, and follow its motions, as it leadeth you up to communion with God. Of the first I have spoken in the first chapter. For the second, observe these few directions.

Direct. I. Be sure you mistake not the Spirit of God and its motions, nor receive, instead of them, the motions of Satan, or of your passions, pride, or fleshly wisdom.—It is easy to think you are obeying the Spirit, when you are obeying Satan and your own corruptions against the Spirit. By these fruits the Spirit of God is known. 1. The Spirit of God is for heavenly wisdom, and neither for foolishness nor treacherous craftiness, Psal. xix. 7; xciv. 8; Jer. iv. 22; 1 Cor. ii. 4-7. 2. The Spirit of God is a Spirit of love, delighting to do good; its doctrine and motions are for love, and tend to good; abhorring both selfishness and hurtfulness to others, Gal. v. 21, 22. 3. He is a Spirit of concord, and is ever for the unity of all believers; abhorring both divisions among the saints, and carnal compliances and confederacies with the wicked, 1 Cor. xii.; Eph. iv. 3-6, 13; 1 Cor. i. 10; iii. 3; Rom. xvi. 17, 18. 4. He is a Spirit of humility and self-denial, making us, and our knowledge, and gifts, and worth, to be very little in our own eyes;[91] abhorring pride, ambition, self-exalting, boasting, as also the actual debasing of ourselves by earthliness or other sin, Matt. xviii. 3; Eph. iv. 2. 5. He is a Spirit of meekness, and patience, and forbearance; abhorring stupidity, and inordinate passion, boisterousness, tumult, envy, contention, reviling, and revenge, Matt. xi. 28, 29; Eph. iv. 2; James iii.; 1 Pet. ii. 20-23; Gal. v. 20; Rom. xii. 18-20; Eph. iv. 31; Col. iii. 8. 6. He is a Spirit of zeal for God, resolving men against known sin, and for known truth and duty; abhorring a furious, destroying zeal, and also an indifferency in the cause of God; and a yielding compliance with that which is against it, Gal. iv. 18; Numb. xxv. 11, 13; Titus ii. 14; James iii. 15, 17; Luke ix. 55; Rev. iii. 16. 7. He is a Spirit of mortification, crucifying the flesh, and still contending against it, and causing men to live above all the glory, and riches, and pleasures of the world: abhorring both carnal licentiousness and sensuality, and also the destroying and disabling of the body, under pretence of true mortification, Rom. viii. 1, 13; Gal. v. 17; Rom. xiii. 13, 14; 1 Cor. ix. 27; 2 Pet. ii. 19; Col. ii. 18, 21, 23. 8. The Spirit of Christ contradicteth not the doctrine of Christ in the holy Scripture, but moveth us to an exact conformity thereto, Isa. viii. 20. This is the sure rule to try pretences and motions of every spirit by: for we are sure that the Spirit of Christ is the author of that word; and we are sure he is not contrary to himself. 9. The motions of the Spirit do all tend to our good, and are neither ludicrous, impertinent, or hurtful finally: they are all for the perfecting of sanctification, obedience, and for our salvation. Therefore unprofitable trifles, or despair, and hurtful distractions and disturbances of mind, which drive from God, unfit for duty, and hinder salvation, are not the motions of the Spirit of God, 2 Tim. i. 7; Rom. viii. 15; Isa. xi. 2; Gal. v. 22; Zech. xii. 10; 1 Pet. iv. 14; 2 Cor. iii. 6. 10. Lastly, The Spirit of God subjecteth all to God, and raiseth the heart to him, and maketh us spiritual and divine, and is ever for God's glory, 1 John iv. 5, 6; 1 Cor. vi. 11, 17, 20; Eph. ii. 18, 22; Phil. iii. 3, 19, 20; 1 Pet. i. 2; iv. 6. Examine the texts here cited, and you will find that by all these fruits the Spirit of God is known from all seducing spirits, and from the fancies or passions of self-conceited men.

Direct. II. Quench not the Spirit, either by wilful sin or by your neglecting of its offered help.—It is as the spring to all your spiritual motions; as the wind to your sails: you can do nothing without it. Therefore reverence and regard its help, and pray for it, and obey it, and neglect it not. When you are sure it is the Spirit of God indeed, that is knocking at the door, behave not yourselves as if you heard not. 1. Obey him speedily: delay is a present, unthankful refusal, and a kind of a denial. 2. Obey him thoroughly: a half-obedience is disobedience. Put him not off with Ananias and Sapphira's gift; the half of that which he requireth of you. 3. Obey him constantly: not sometimes hearkening to him, and more frequently neglecting him; but attending him in a learning, obediential course of life.

Direct. III. Neglect not those means which the Spirit hath appointed you to use, for the receiving of its help, and which he useth in his holy operations.—If you will meet with him, attend him in his own way, and expect him not in by-ways where he useth not to go. Pray, and meditate, and hear, and read, and do your best, and expect his blessing. Though your ploughing and sowing will not give you a plentiful harvest without the sun, and rain, and the blessing of God, yet these will not do it neither, unless you plough and sow. God hath not appointed a course of means in nature or morality in vain, nor will he use to meet you in any other way.

Direct. IV. Do most when the Spirit helpeth you most.—Neglect not the extraordinary measures of his assistance: if he extraordinarily help you in prayer, or meditation, improve that help, and break not off so soon as at other times (without necessity): not that you should omit duty till you feel his help;[Pg 72] for he useth to come in with help in the performance, and not in the neglect of duty: but tire not out yourself with affected length, when you want the life.

Direct. V. Be not unthankful for the assistance he hath given you.—Deny not his grace: ascribe it not to nature: remember it to encourage your future expectations: unthankfulness and neglect are the way to be denied further help.

Quest. But how shall I know whether good effects be from the means, or from my reason and endeavour, and when from the Spirit of God?

Answ. It is as if you should ask, How shall I know whether my harvest be from the earth, or sun, or rain, or God, or from my labour? I will tell you how. They are all con-causes: if the effect be there, they all concur; if the effect be wanting, some of them were wanting. It is foolish to ask, which is the cause, when the effect is not produced but by the concurrence of them all. If you had asked, which cause did fail, when the effect faileth? there were reason in that question; but there is none in this. The more to blame those foolish atheists, that think God or the Spirit is not the cause, if they can but find that reason and means are in the effect. Your reason, and conscience, and means would fall short of the effect, if the Spirit put not life into all.

Obj. But I am exceedingly troubled and confounded with continual doubts about every motion that is in my mind, whether it be from the Spirit of God, or not.

Answ. The more is your ignorance, or the malice of Satan causing your disquiet. In one word, you have sufficient direction to resolve those doubts, and end those troubles. Is it good, or evil, or indifferent, that you are moved to? This question must be resolved from the word of God, which is the rule of duty. If it be good, in matter, and manner, and circumstances, it is from the Spirit of God (either its common or special operation): if it be evil or indifferent, you cannot ascribe it to the Spirit. Remember that the Spirit cometh not to you, to make you new duty which the Scripture never made your duty, and so to bring an additional law; but to move and help you in that which was your duty before. (Only it may give the matter, while Scripture giveth the obligation by its general command.) If you know not what is your duty, and what not, it is your ignorance of Scripture that must be cured: interpret Scripture well, and you may interpret the Spirit's motions easily. If any new duty be motioned to you, which Scripture commandeth not, take such motions as not from God (unless it were by extraordinary, confirmed revelation).

For the true and orderly impression of God's attributes on the heart.

Grand Direct. IV. Let it be your chiefest study to attain to a true, orderly, and practical knowledge of God, in his several attributes and relations; and to find a due impression from each of them upon your hearts, and a distinct, effectual improvement of them in your lives.

Because I have written of this point more fully in another treatise, "Of the Knowledge of God, and Converse with Him," I shall but briefly touch upon it here, as not willing to repeat that which there is delivered: Only, let me briefly mind you of these few things: 1. That the true knowledge of God is the sum of godliness, and the end of all our other knowledge, and of all that we have or do as christians.[92] As Christ is a teacher that came from God, so he came to call and lead us unto God; or else he had not come as a Saviour. It is from God that we fell by sin, and to God that we must be restored by grace. To save us, is to restore us to our perfection, and our happiness; and that is to restore us unto God.

2. That the true knowledge of God is powerful and effectual upon the heart and life: and every attribute and relation of God, is so to be known, as to make its proper impress on us: and the measure of this saving knowledge, is not to be judged of, by extensiveness, or number of truths concerning God which we know, so much as by the clearness, and intensiveness, and the measure of its holy effects upon the heart.

3. This is it that denominateth both ourselves, and all our duties, holy: when God's image is thus imprinted on us; and we are like him by the new birth, as children to their father; and by his knowledge, both our hearts and lives are made divine; being disposed unto God, devoted to him and employed for him; he being our life, and light, and love.

4. This is the sum of the covenant of God with man, "I will be thy God, and thou shalt be my people." And the other parts of the covenant, "that Christ be our Saviour, and the Holy Ghost our Sanctifier," are both subservient unto this; there being now no coming unto God, but as reconciled in Christ our Mediator, and by the teaching and drawing of the Holy Ghost. To be our God, is to be to us an absolute Owner, a most righteous Governor, and a most bountiful Benefactor or Father; as having created us, redeemed and regenerated us; and this according to his most blessed nature, properties, and perfections.

5. It is not only a loose and inconstant effect of your particular thoughts of God, that is the necessary impress of his attributes (as to fear him, when you remember his greatness and justice): but it must be a habit or holy nature in you, every attribute having made its stated image upon you; and that habit or image being in you, a constant principle of holy, spiritual operations. A habit of reverence, belief, trust, love, &c. should be, as it were, your nature.

6. Not that the knowledge of God in his perfections, should provoke us to desire his properties and perfections: for to have such an aspiring desire to be gods, were the greatest pride and wickedness. But only we must desire, (1.) To be as like God, in all his communicable excellencies, as is agreeable to our created state and capacity. (2.) And to have as near and full communion with him, as we can attain to and enjoy.

7. The will of God, and his goodness, and holiness, are more nearly propounded to us, to be the rule of our conformity, than his power, and his knowledge. Therefore his law is most immediately the expression of his will; and our duty and goodness lie in our conformity to his law; being holy as he is holy.

Because I may not stand on the particulars, I shall give you a brief, imperfect scheme of that of God, which you must thus know.

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See these practically opened and improved, in the First Part of my "Divine Life." The more full explication of the attributes, fit for the more capacious, is reserved for another tractate.

For the right improvement of the knowledge of all these attributes of God, I must refer you to the fore-mentioned treatise. The acts which you are to exercise upon God are these: 1. The clearest knowledge you can attain to.[93] 2. The firmest belief. 3. The highest estimation. 4. The greatest admiration. 5. The heartiest and sweetest complacency or love. 6. The strongest desire. 7. A filial awfulness, reverence, and fear. 8. The boldest quieting trust and confidence in him. 9. The most fixed waiting, dependence, hope, and expectation. 10. The most absolute self-resignation to him. 11. The fullest and quietest submission to his disposals. 12. The humblest and most absolute subjection to his governing authority and will, and the exactest obedience to his laws. 13. The boldest courage and fortitude in his cause, and owning him before the world in the greatest sufferings. 14. The greatest thankfulness for his mercies. 15. The most faithful improvement of his talents, and use of his means, and performance of our trust. 16. A reverent and holy use of his name and word: with a reverence of his secrets; forbearing to intrude or meddle with them. 17. A wise and cautelous observance of his providences, public and private; neither neglecting them, nor misinterpreting them; neither running before them, nor striving discontentedly against them. 18. A discerning, loving, and honouring his image in his children, notwithstanding their infirmities and faults; without any friendship to their faults, or over-magnifying or imitating them in any evil. 19. A reverent, serious, spiritual adoration and worshipping him, in public and private, with soul and body, in the use of all his holy ordinances; but especially in the joyful celebration of his praise, for all his perfections and his mercies. 20. The highest delight and fullest content and comfort in God that we can attain: especially a delight in knowing him, and obeying and pleasing him, worshipping and praising him; loving him, and being beloved of him, through Jesus Christ; and in the hopes of the perfecting of all these in our everlasting fruition of him in heavenly glory.

All these are the acts of piety towards God; which[Pg 74] I lay together for your easier observation and memory: but some of them must be more fully opened, and insisted on.

Of self-resignation to God as our Owner.

Grand Direct. V. Remember that God is your Lord or Owner: and see that you make an absolute resignation of yourselves, and all that you have, to him as his own; and use yourselves and all accordingly; trust him with his own; and rest in his disposals.

Of this I have already spoken in my "Sermon of Christ's Dominion," and in my "Directions for a sound Conversion;" and therefore must but touch it here. It is easy, notionally, to know and say that God is our Owner, and we are not our own; but if the habitual, practical knowledge of it were as easy, or as common, the happy effects of it would be the sanctification and reformation of the world. I shall first tell you what this duty is, and how it is to be performed; and then, what fruits and benefits it will produce, and what should move us to it.

I. The duty lieth in these acts: 1. That you consider the ground of God's propriety in you; (1.) In making you of nothing, and preserving you. (2.) In redeeming you by purchase. (3.) In regenerating you, and renewing you for himself.[94] The first is the ground of his common natural propriety in you and all things. The second is the ground of his common gracious propriety in you and all men, as purchased by Christ, Rom. xiv. 9; John xiii. 3. The third is the ground of his special gracious propriety in you, and all his sanctified, peculiar people. Understand and acknowledge what a plenary dominion God hath over you, and how absolutely and wholly you are his. 2. Let it exceedingly please you, to think that you are wholly his: it being much better for you, as to your safety, honour, and happiness, than to be your own, or any's else. 3. As God requireth it in his covenant of grace, that he have his right, by your consent, and not by constraint; so you must thankfully accept the motion, and with hearty and full consent of will, resign yourselves to him, as his own, even as his creatures, his ransomed ones, and his regenerate children, by a covenant never to be violated. 4. You must carefully watch against the claim and reserves of carnal selfishness; lest while you confess you are God's, and not your own, you should secretly still keep possession of yourselves against him, or re-assume the possession which you surrendered. 5. You must use yourselves ever after as God's, and not your own.

II. In this using yourselves as wholly God's, consisteth both your further duty, and your benefits. 1. When God's propriety is discerned and consented to, it will make you sensible how you are obliged to employ all your powers of soul and body to his service; and to perceive that nothing should be alienated from him, no creature having any co-ordinate title to a thought of your hearts, or a glance of your affection, or a word of your mouths, or a minute of your time. The sense of God's propriety must cause you to keep constant accounts between God and you; and to call yourselves to a frequent reckoning, whether God have his own, and you do not defraud him; whether it be his work that you are doing, and for him that you think, and speak, and live? And all that you have, will be used as his, as well as yourselves; for no man can have any good thing that is more his own, than he is his own himself.

2. Propriety discerned, doth endear us in affection to our owner. As we love our own children, so they love their own fathers. Our very dogs love their own master better than another. When we can say with Thomas, "My Lord, and my God," it will certainly be the voice of love. God's common propriety in us, as his created and ransomed ones, obligeth us to love him with all our heart; but the knowledge of his peculiar propriety, by regeneration, will more effectually command our love.

3. God's propriety perceived, will help to satisfy us of his love and care of us: and will help us to trust him in every danger; and so take off our inordinate fear, and anxieties, and caring for ourselves.[95] The apostle proveth Christ's love to his church from his propriety, Eph. v. 29, "No man ever yet hated his own flesh." God is not regardless of his own. As we take care of our cattle, to preserve them, and provide for them, more than they do for themselves, for they are more ours than their own; so God is more concerned in the welfare of his children, than they are themselves, they being more his than their own. Why are we afraid of the wrath and cruelty of man? Will God be mindless and negligent of his own? Why are we over-careful and distrustful of his providence? Will he not take care of his own, and make provision for them? "God, even our own God, shall bless us," Psal. lxvii. 6. God's interest in his church, and cause, and servants, is an argument which we may plead with him in prayer, 1 Chron. xvii. 21, 22, and with which we may greatly encourage our confidence: Isa. xlviii. 9, 11, "For my name's sake will I defer mine anger, and for my praise will I refrain for thee, that I cut thee not off. For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it: for how should my name be polluted? and I will not give my glory to another." Isa. xliii. 1, 2, "But now, thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel; Fear not: for I have redeemed thee; I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee," &c. If God should neglect our interest, he will not neglect his own.

4. God's propriety in us discerned, doth so much aggravate our sin against him, that it should greatly restrain us, and further our humiliation and recovery when we are fallen: Lev. xx. 26, "Ye shall be holy unto me: for I the Lord am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine." Ezek. xvi. 8, "I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, and thou becamest mine, saith the Lord," when he is aggravating Jerusalem's sin. 1 Cor. vi. 19, 20, "Ye are not your own: for ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." Justice requireth, that every one have his own.

5. It should silence all murmurings and repinings against the providence of God, to consider that we are his own. Doth he afflict you? and are you not his own? Doth he kill you? are you not his own? As a Ruler, he will show you reason enough for it in your sins; but as your absolute Lord and Owner, he need not give you any other reason than that he may do with his own as he list. It is not possible that he can do any wrong to that which is absolutely his own. If he deny you health, or wealth, or friends, or take them from you; he denieth you, or taketh from you, nothing but his own. Indeed, as a Governor and a Father, he hath secured the faithful of[Pg 75] eternal life: otherwise, as their Owner, he could not have wronged them, if he had made the most innocent as miserable as he is capable to be. Do you labour, and beat, and kill your cattle, because they are your own (by an imperfect propriety)? and dare you grudge at God for afflicting his own, when their consciences tell them, that they have deserved it and much more?

Sins against God's dominion.

And that you may not think that you have resigned yourselves to God entirely, when you do but hypocritically profess it, observe: 1. That man is not thus resigned to God, that thinketh any service too much for God, that he can do. 2. Nor he that thinketh any cost too great for God that he is called to undergo. 3. Nor he that thinketh that all is won (of his time, or wealth, or pleasure, or any thing) which he can save or steal from God: for all is lost that God hath not. 4. Nor he that must needs be the disposer of himself, and his condition and affairs, and God must humour him, and accommodate his providence to his carnal interest and will, or else he cannot bear it, or think well of it. 5. Remember that all that is bestowed in sin upon God's enemies, is used against him, and not as his own. 6. And that he that hideth his talent, or useth it not at all, cannot be said to use it for God. Both idleness and alienating the gifts of God, are a robbing him of his own.

III. To help you in this work of self-resignation, often consider: 1. That if you were your own, you were most miserable. You could not support, preserve, or provide for yourselves: who should save you in the hour of temptation and distress? Alas! if you are humbled christians, you know so much of your own insufficiency, and feel yourselves such a daily burden to yourselves, that you have sure enough of yourselves ere now: and beg of God, above all your enemies, to save you from yourselves; and of all judgments, to save you from being forsaken of God, and given up to yourselves. 2. Remember that none in the world hath sufficient power, wisdom, and goodness, to take the full care and charge of you, but God; none else can save you, or sanctify you, or keep you alive one hour: and therefore it is your happiness and honour that you are his. 3. His right is absolute, and none hath right to you but he; none else did create you, redeem you, or regenerate you. 4. He will use you only in safe and honourable services, and to no worse an end, than your endless happiness. 5. What you deny him, or steal from him, you give to the devil, the world, and the flesh; and do they better deserve it? 6. You are his own in title, whether you will or not; and he will fulfil his will upon you. Your consent and resignation is necessary to your good, to ease you of your cares, and secure you from present and eternal misery.

Of subjection to God as our supreme Governor.

Grand Direct. VI. Remember that God is your sovereign King, to rule and judge you; and that it is your rectitude and happiness to obey and please him. Labour therefore to bring your souls and bodies into the most absolute subjection to him, and to make it your delight and business sincerely and exactly to obey his will.

Having resigned yourselves absolutely to God as your Owner, you are next to subject yourselves absolutely to God as your Governor or King. How much of our religion consisteth in this, you may see in the nature of the thing, in the design of the law and word of God, in the doctrine and example of Jesus Christ, in the description of the last judgment, and in the common consent of all the world. Though love is the highest work of man, yet it is so far from discharging us from our subjection and obedience, that it constraineth us to it most powerfully and most sweetly, and must itself be judged of by these effects.[96] "If ye love me, keep my commandments. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me. If any man love me, he will keep my words, and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not, keepeth not my sayings," John xiv. 15, 21, 23, 24. "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you," chap. xv. 10, 14. "If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them," chap. xiii. 17. "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous," 1 John v. 3. "He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandment, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he is in him, ought himself also to walk, even as he walked. If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doth righteousness is born of him," chap. ii. 4-6, 29. "Whosoever abideth in him, sinneth not: whosoever sinneth, hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin, is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin: for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doth not righteousness, is not of God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight," chap. iii. 6-10, 22. "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in by the gates into the city," Rev. xxii. 14.

I set together these testimonies of the Scripture, that the stream of divine authority may carry you to a lively sense of the necessity of obedience.

I shall here first tell you what this full subjection is, and then I shall direct you how to attain it.

Subjection what.

I. As in God there is first his relation of our King, and then his actual government of us, by his laws and judgment; so in us, there is first our relation of subjects to God, and then our actual obedience. We are subjects by divine obligation, before we consent (as rebels are); but our consent or self-obligation is necessary to our voluntary obedience, and acceptation with God. Subjection is our stated obligation to obedience. This subjection and habit of obedience, is then right and full, 1. When the sense of God's authority over us is practical, and not notional only. 2. And when it is deep rooted and fixed, and become as a nature to us: as a man's intention of his end is, that hath a long journey to go, which carrieth him on to the last step: or as a child's subjection to his parents, or a servant's to his master, which is the habit or principle of his daily course of life. 3. When it is lively, and ready to put the soul upon obedience. 4. When it is constant, keeping the soul in a continual attendance upon the will of God. 5. When it hath universal respect to all his commandments. 6. When it is resolute, powerful,[Pg 76] and victorious against temptations to disobedience. I. When it is superlative, respecting God as our supreme King, and owning no authority against him, nor any but what is subordinate to him. 8. When it is voluntary, pleasant, cheerful, and delectable to us to obey him to the utmost of our power.

How to bring the soul into subjection to God.

II. To bring the soul to this full subjection and obedience to God, is so difficult, and yet so reasonable, so necessary, and so excellently good, that we should not think any diligence too great, by which it is to be attained. The directions that I shall give you, are, some of them to habituate the mind to an obediential frame, and some of them, also, practically to further the exercise of obedience in particular acts.

Direct. I. Remember the unquestionable, plenary title that God hath, to the government of you, and of all the world.—The sense of this will awe the soul, and help to subject it to him, and to silence all rebellious motions. Should not God rule the creatures which he hath made? Should not Christ rule the souls which he hath purchased? Should not the Holy Ghost rule the souls which he hath regenerated and quickened?

Direct. II. Remember that God is perfectly fit for the government of you, and all the world.—You can desire nothing reasonably in a governor, which is not in him. He hath perfect wisdom, to know what is best: he hath perfect goodness, and therefore will be most regardful of his subjects' good, and will put no evil into his laws. He is almighty, to protect his subjects, and see to the execution of his laws. He is most just, and therefore can do no wrong, but all his laws and judgments are equal and impartial. He is infinitely perfect and self-sufficient, and never needed a lie, or a deceit, or unrighteous means to rule the world; nor to oppress his subjects to attain his ends. He is our very end, and interest, and felicity; and therefore hath no interest opposite to our good, which should cause him to destroy the innocent. He is our dearest Friend and Father, and loveth us better than we love ourselves; and therefore we have reason confidently to trust him, and cheerfully and gladly to obey him, as one that ruleth us in order to our own felicity.

Direct. III. Remember how unable and unfit you are to be governors of yourselves.—So blind and ignorant; so biassed by a corrupted will; so turbulent are your passions; so incessant and powerful is the temptation of your sense and appetite; and so unable are you to protect or reward yourselves, that methinks you should fear nothing in this world more, than to be given up to "your own heart's lusts, to walk in your own (seducing) counsels," Psal. lxxxi. 11, 12. The brutish appetite and sense hath got such dominion over the reason of carnal, unrenewed men, that for such to be governed by themselves, is for a man to be governed by a swine, or the rider to be ruled by the horse.

Direct. IV. Remember how great a matter God maketh of his kingly prerogatives, and of man's obedience.—The whole tenor of the Scripture will tell you this. His precepts, his promises, his threatenings, his vehement exhortations, his sharp reproofs, the sending of his Son and Spirit, the example of Christ and all the saints, the reward prepared for the obedient, and the punishment for the disobedient—all tell you aloud, that God is far from being indifferent whether you obey his laws or not. It will teach you to regard that, which you find is so regarded of God.

Direct. V. Consider well of the excellency of full obedience, and the present benefits which it bringeth to yourselves and others.—Our full subjection and obedience to God, is to the world and the soul as health is to the body. When all the humours keep their due temperament, proportions, and place, and every part of the body is placed and used according to the intent of nature, then all is at ease within us: our food is pleasant; our sleep is sweet; our labour is easy; and our vivacity maketh life a pleasure to us: we are useful in our places, and helpful to others that are sick and weak. So is it with the soul that is fully obedient: God giveth him a reward, before the full reward: he findeth that obedience is a reward to itself; and that it is very pleasant to do good. God owneth him, and conscience speaketh peace and comfort to him; his mercies are sweet to him; his burdens and his work are easy; he hath easier access to God than others. Yea, the world shall find, that there is no way to its right order, unity, peace, and happiness, but by a full subjection and obedience to God.

Direct. VI. Remember the sad effects of disobedience, even at present, both in the soul and in the world.—When we rebel against God, it is the confusion, ruin, and death of the soul, and of the world. When we disobey him, it is the sickness or disordering of the soul, and will make us groan; till our bones be set in joint again, we shall have no ease: God will be displeased, and hide his face; conscience will be unquiet; the soul will lose its peace and joy; its former mercies will grow less sweet; its former rest will turn to weariness; its duty will be unpleasant; its burden heavy. Who would not fear such a state as this?

Direct. VII. Consider, that when God doth not govern you, you are ruled by the flesh, the world, and the devil.—And what right or fitness they have to govern you, and what is their work, and final reward, methinks you should easily discern. "If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die," Rom. viii. 13. "And if ye sow to the flesh, of the flesh ye shall reap corruption," Gal. vi. 8. It will strike you with horror, if, in the hour of temptation, you would but think: I am now going to disobey my God, and to obey the flesh, the world, or the devil, and to prefer their will before his will.

Direct. VIII. Turn your eye upon the rebellious nations of the earth, and upon the state of the most malignant and ungodly men; and consider, that such madness and misery as you discern in them, every wilful disobedience to God doth tend to, and partaketh of in its degree.—To see a swinish drunkard in his vomit; to hear a raging bedlam curse and swear; or a malignant wretch blaspheme and scorn at a holy life: to hear how foolishly they talk against God, and see how maliciously they hate his servants, one would think should turn one's stomach against all sin for ever. To think what beasts or incarnate devils many of the ungodly are; to think what confusion and inhumanity possess most of those nations that know not God, one would think should make the least degree of sin seem odious to us, when the dominion and ripeness of it are so odious.

Direct. IX. Mark what obedience is expected by men, and what influence government hath upon the state and affairs of the world, and what the world would be without it.—And sure this will make you think honourably and delightfully of the government of God. What would a nation be without government, but like a company of thieves and lawless murderers? or like the pikes in a pond, that first eat up the other fish, and then devour one another, the greater living upon the less. Bears and wolves would live more quietly together, than ungoverned[Pg 77] men (except those few that are truly subject to the government of God). Government maintaineth every man in his propriety; and keepeth lust and madness from breaking out; and keepeth peace and order in the world. What would a family be without government? Children and servants are kept by it in their proper place and work. Think then how necessary and excellent is the universal government of God.

Direct. X. Think well of the endless rewards and punishments, by which God will procure obedience to his laws, or vindicate the honour of his government, on the disobedient.—That the world may see that he giveth sufficient motives for all that he requireth, he will reward the obedient with everlasting blessedness, and punish the rebels with endless misery. You shall not say that he bids you work for nothing. Though you can give him nothing but his own, and therefore can merit nothing of him, in point of commutative justice; yet, as he is a Governor and a Father, he will put so wide a difference between the obedient and the rebellious, that one shall be judged to everlasting joy, with a "Well done, good and faithful servant," and the other, to "everlasting punishment," Matt. xxv. Is there not enough in heaven, in a life of endless joys with God, to make obedience lovely to you, and to make sin loathsome? Is there not enough in hell, to deter you from disobedience, and drive you unto God? God will rule, whether you will or not. Consent to be obedient, or he will punish you without asking your consent.


More special directions for obedience.

The directions for the nearer exciting of your obedience, and confirming your full subjection, are these:

Direct. I. Keep still the face of your souls upon God, and in the sense of his greatness, and of his continual presence, and of his particular providence.—And this will keep you in an obediential frame. You will easily then perceive, that so great a God cannot be disobeyed, without great iniquity and guilt. And, that a God that is continually with you, must be continually regarded. And, that a God that exactly observeth and mindeth the thoughts and words of every man, should by every man be exactly minded and observed. This will help you to understand the meaning of the tempter, when you perceive that every temptation is an urging of you to offend, for nothing, so great a God, that is just then observing what you do.

Direct. II. Always remember whither you are going; that you are preparing for everlasting rest and joy, and must pass through the righteous judgment of the Lord; and that Christ is your Guide and Governor, but to bring you safely home, as the Captain of your salvation; and that sin is a rejecting of his help, and of your happiness.—Think not that God doth rule you as a tyrant, to your hurt or ruin, to make his own advantage of you; or by needless laws, that have no respect to your good and safety; but think of him, as one that is conducting you to eternal life, and would now guide you by his counsel, and afterwards take you to his glory. Think that he is leading you to the world of light, and life, and love, and joy, where there are rivers of pleasure, and fulness of delight for evermore, that you may see his face, and feel his love, among a world of blessed spirits; and not be weeping and gnashing the teeth, with impious, impenitent souls. And is not such a government as this desirable? It is but like the government of a physician, to save his patient's life. Or like your government of your children, which is necessary to their good, that cannot feed or rule themselves. Or like a pilot's governing the ship, which is conveying you to possess a kingdom: if the mariners obey him, they may safely arrive at the desired port; but if they disobey him, they are all cast away and perish. And should such a government as this is seem grievous to you? or should it not be most acceptable, and accurately obeyed?

Direct. III. Still think, what dangers, difficulties, and enemies you must pass through to this rest, and that all your safety dependeth upon the conduct and assistance of your Guide.—And this will bring over self-love to command your strict obedience. You are to pass through the army of your enemies; and will you here disobey the Captain of your salvation? or would you have him leave you to yourselves? Your disease is mortal, and none but Jesus Christ can cure it; and if he cure it not, you are lost for ever. No pain of gout or stone is comparable to your everlasting pain; and yet will you not be obedient to your Physician? Think, when a temptation comes, If there were a narrow bridge over the deepest gulf or river, and all my friends and happiness lay on the further side, and I must needs go over whether I will or not; if Christ would take me by the hand and lead me over, would I be tempted to refuse his help, or to lose his hand? or if he should offer to lose me, and leave me to myself, should I not tremble, and cry out, as Peter, "Lord, save me," Matt. xiv. 30, or as the disciples, "Save, Master, we perish?" And should I not then hold him fast, and most accurately obey him, when he is leading me to life eternal, that I may escape the gulf of endless misery?

Direct. IV. Remember still, how bad, and blind, and backward, and deceitful, and weak you are yourselves, and therefore what need you have of the greatest watchfulness, lest you should disobey your Pilot, and lose your Guide, before you are aware.—O what a heart have we to watch! A lazy heart, that will be loitering or sitting down, when we should be following our Lord. A foolish heart, that will let him go, while we play with every play-fellow in our way. A cowardly heart, that will steal away, or draw back in danger, when it should follow our General. A treacherous heart, that will give us the slip, and deceive us, when we seemed surest of it. A purblind heart, that even when it followeth Christ, our Guide, is hardly kept from missing the bridge, and falling into the gulf of misery. Think well of these, and you will obey your Governor.

Direct. V. Forget not the fruits of your former obedience and disobedience, if you would be kept in an obedient frame.—Remember that obedience hath been sweetest afterward; and that you never yet found cause to repent or be ashamed of it. Remember that the fruit of sin was bitter, and that when your eyes were opened, and you saw your shame, you would fain have fled from the face of God; and that then it appeared another thing to you, than it seemed in the committing. Remember what groans and heart's grief it hath cost you; and into what fears it brought you of the wrath of God; and how long it was before your broken bones were healed; and what it cost both Christ and you. And this will make the very name and first approach of sin, to cast you into a preventing fear. A beast that hath once fallen into a gulf or quick-sand, will hardly be driven into the same again: a fish that was once stricken and escaped the nook, will fear and fly from it the next time: a bird that hath once escaped the snare, or the talons of the hawk, is afterwards afraid of the sight or noise of such a thing. Remember where you fell, and what it cost you, and what you escaped which it might have cost you, and you will obey more accurately hereafter.

Direct. VI. Remember that this is your day of[Pg 78] trial, and what depends upon your accurate obedience. God will not crown untried servants. Satan is purposely suffered to tempt you, to try whether you will be true to God or not. All the hope that his malice hath of undoing you for ever, consisteth in his hope to make you disobedient to God. Methinks these considerations should awaken you to the most watchful and diligent obedience. If you were told beforehand, that a thief or cut-purse had undertaken to rob you, and would use all his cunning and industry to do it, you would then watch more carefully than at another time. If you were in a race to run for your lives, you would not go then in your ordinary pace. Doth God tell you before, that he will try your obedience by temptation, and as you stand or fall, you shall speed for ever; and will not this keep you watchful and obedient?

Direct. VII. Avoid those tempting and deluding objects, which are still enticing your hearts from your obedience; and avoid that diverting crowd and noise of company or worldly business, which drowns the voice of God's commands.—If God call you into a life of great temptations, he can bring you safely through them all; but if you rush into it wilfully, you may soon find your own disability to resist. It is dangerous to be under strong and importunate temptations, lest the stream should bear us down; but especially to be long under them, lest we be weary of resisting. They that are long solicited, do too often yield at last: it is hard to be always in a clear, and ready, and resolute frame: few men have their wits, much less their graces, always at hand, in a readiness to use. And if the thief come when you are dropped asleep, you may be robbed before you can awake. The constant drawings of temptation, do ofttimes abate the habit of obedience, and diminish our hatred of sin and holy resolutions, by slow, insensible degrees, before we yield to commit the act. And the mind that will be kept in full subjection, must not be so diverted in a crowd of distracting company or business, as to have no time to think on the motives of his obedience. This withdrawing of the fuel may put out the fire.

Direct. VIII. If you are unavoidably cast upon strong temptation, take the alarm; and put on all the armour of God, and call up your souls to watchfulness and resolution, remembering that you are now among your enemies, and must resist as for your lives.—Take every temptation in its naked, proper sense, as coming from the devil, and tending to your damnation by enticing your hearts from your subjection unto God: suppose you saw the devil himself in his instruments offering you the bait of preferment, or honour, or riches, or fleshly lust, or sports, or of delightful meats, or drinks, to tempt you to excess; and suppose you heard him say to you plainly, Take this for thy salvation; sell me for this thy God, and thy soul, and thy everlasting hopes; commit this sin, that thou mayst fall under the judgment of God, and be tormented in hell with me for ever. Do this to please thy flesh, that thou mayst displease thy God, and grieve thy Saviour: I cannot draw thee to hell, but by drawing thee to sin; and I cannot make thee sin against thy will; nor undo thee, but by thy own consent and doing: therefore I pray thee consent and do it thyself, and let me have thy company in torments. This is the naked meaning of every temptation: suppose therefore you saw and heard all this, with what detestation then would you reject it! with what horror would you fly from the most enticing bait! If a robber would entice you out of your way and company, with flattering words, that you might fall into the hands of his companions, if you knew all his meaning and design beforehand, would you be enticed after him? Watch therefore, and resolve when you know beforehand the design of the devil, and what he intendeth in every temptation.

Direct. IX. Be most suspicious, fearful, and watchful about that, which your flesh doth most desire, or finds the greatest pleasure in.—Not that you should deny your bodies all delight in the mercies of God: if the body have none, the mind will have the less: mercy must be differenced from punishment; and must be valued and relished as mercy: mere natural pleasing of the senses is in itself no moral good or evil. A holy improvement of lawful pleasure, is a daily duty: inordinate pleasure is a sin: all is inordinate which tendeth more to corrupt the soul, by enticing it to sin, and turning it from God, than to fit and dispose it for God and his service, and preserve it from sinning. But still remember, it is not sorrow but delight that draweth away the soul from God, and is the flesh's interest which it sets up against him. Many have sinned in sorrows and discontents; but none ever sinned for sorrows and discontents: their discontents and sorrows are not taken up and loved for themselves; but are the effects of their love to some pleasure and content, which is denied them, or taken from them. Therefore, though all your bodily pleasures are not sin, yet, seeing nothing but the pleasures of the flesh and carnal mind is the end of sinners, and the devil's great and chiefest bait, and this only causeth men's perdition, you have great reason to be most afraid of that which is most pleasing to your flesh, and to the mind as it is corrupt and carnal: escape the delusions of fleshly pleasure, and you escape damnation. You have far more cause to be afraid of prosperity, than of adversity; of riches, than of poverty; of honour, than of obscurity and contempt; of men's praises and applause, than of their dispraises, slanders, and reproach; of preferment and greatness, than of a low and mean condition; of a delicious, than of less tempting meats and drinks; of curious, costly, than of mean, and cheap, and plain attire. Let those that have hired out their reason to the service of their fleshly lusts, and have delivered the crown and sceptre to their appetites, think otherwise. No wonder if they that have sold the birthright of their intellects to their senses, for a mess of pottage, for a whore, or a high place, or a domineering power over others, or a belly-full of pleasant meats or liquors, do deride all this, and think it but a melancholy conceit, more suitable to an eremite or anchorite, than to men of society and business in the world. As heaven is the portion of serious believers and mortified saints alone, so it shall be proper to them alone to understand the doctrine and example of their Saviour, and practically to know what it is to deny themselves, and forsake all they have, and take up their cross and follow Christ, and by the Spirit to mortify the deeds of the body, Luke xiv. 26-29, 33; Rom. viii. 5-7, 13; Col. iii. 1-4. Such know that millions part with God for pleasures, but none for griefs: and that hell will be stored with those that preferred wealth, and honour, and sports, and gluttony, drink and filthy lusts, before the holiness and happiness of believers; but none will be damned for preferring poverty, and disgrace, and abstinence, hunger and thirst, and chastity before them. It must be something that seemeth good, that must entice men from the chiefest good: apparent evil is no fit bait for the devil's hook. Men will not displease God, to be themselves displeased; nor choose present sorrows instead of everlasting joys; but for the pleasures of sin for a season many will despise the endless pleasures.

Direct. X. Meet every motion to disobedience[Pg 79] with an army of holy graces; with wisdom, and fear, and hatred, and resolution, with love to God, with zeal and courage; and quench every spark that falls upon your hearts before it breaks out into a flame.—When sin is little and in its infancy, it is weak and easily resisted; it hath not then turned away the mind from God, nor quenched grace, and disabled it to do its office. But when it is grown strong, then grace grows weak, and we want its help, and want the sense of the presence, and attributes, and truths of God, to rebuke it. O stay not till your hearts are gone out of hearing, and straggled from God beyond the observance of his calls. The habit of obedience will be dangerously abated, if you resist not quickly the acts of sin.

Direct. XI. Labour for the clearest understanding of the will of God, that doubtfulness about your duty do not make you flag in your obedience, and doubtfulness about sin do not weaken your detestation and resistance, and draw you to venture on it.—When a man is sure what is his duty, it is a great help against all temptations that would take him off: and when he is sure that a thing is sinful, it makes it the easier to resist. And, therefore, it is the devil's method to delude the understanding, and make men believe that duty is no duty, and sin is no sin; and then no wonder if duty be neglected, and sin committed: and therefore he raiseth up one false prophet or other to say to Ahab, "Go, and prosper;" or to say, There is no hurt in this; to dispute for sin, and to dispute against duty. And it is almost incredible how much the devil hath got, when he hath once made it a matter of controversy. Then every hypocrite hath a cloak for his sin, and a dose of opium for his conscience, when he can but say, It is a controversy; some are of one mind, and some of another, you are of that opinion, and I am of this: especially if there be wise and learned on both sides; and yet more, if there be religious men on both sides; and more yet, if he have an equal number on his side; and most of all, if he have the major vote (as error and sin have commonly in the world). If Ahab have but four hundred lying, flattering prophets to one Micaiah, he will think he may hate him, reproach him, and persecute him without any scruple of conscience. If it be made a controversy whether bread be bread, and wine be wine, when we see and taste it; some will think they may venture to subscribe or swear that they hold the negative, if their credit, or livings, or lives lie upon it; much more if they can say, It is the judgment of the church. If it be once made a controversy, whether perjury be a sin, or whether a vow materially lawful bind, or whether it be lawful to equivocate, or lie with a mental reservation for the truth, or to do the greatest evil, or speak the falsest thing with a true and good intent and meaning, almost all the hypocrites in the country will be for the sinful part, if their fleshly interest require it; and will think themselves wronged, if they are accounted hypocrites, liars, or perjured, as long as it is but a point of controversy among learned men. If it be once made a controversy, whether an excommunicate king become a private man, and it be lawful to kill him, and whether the pope may absolve the subjects of temporal lords from their allegiance, (notwithstanding all their oaths,) and if such learned men as Suarez, Bellarmine, Perron, &c. are for it, (to say nothing of Santarellus, Mariana, &c.) you shall have a Clement, a Ravilliac, a Faux, yea, too great choice of instruments, that will be satisfied to strike the blow. If many hold it may or must be done, some will be found too ready to do it: especially if an approved general council (Lateran. sub Innoc. III. Can. 3.) be for such papal absolution. We have seen at home how many will be imboldened to pull down government, to sit in judgment on their king, and condemn him, and to destroy their brethren, if they can but say, that such and such men think it lawful. If it were but a controversy once whether drunkenness, whoredom, swearing, stealing, or any villany be a sin or not, it would be committed more commonly, and with much less regret of conscience. Yea, good men will be ready to think that modesty requireth them to be less censorious of those that commit it, because in controverted cases they must suspect their own understandings, and allow something to the judgment of dissenters. And so all the rules of love, and peace, and moderation, which are requisite in controversies that are about small and difficult points, the devil will make use of, and apply them all to the patronage of the most odious sins, if he can but get them once to have some learned, wise, religious offenders. And from our tenderness of the persons we easily slide to an indulgent tenderness in censuring the sin itself: and good men themselves, by these means, are dangerously disabled to resist it, and prepared to commit it.

Direct. XII. Take heed lest the devil do either cast you into the sleep of carnal security, or into such doubts, and fears, and perplexing scruples, as shall make holy obedience seem to you an impossible or a tiresome thing. When you are asleep in carelessness, he can use you as he list; and if obedience be made grievous and ungrateful to you, your heart will go against it, and you will go but like a tired horse, no longer than you feel the spur: you are half conquered already, because you have lost the love and pleasure of obedience; and you are still in danger lest difficulties should quite tire you, and weariness make you yield at last. The means by which the tempter effecteth this, must afterward be spoken of, and therefore I shall omit it here.

By the faithful practice of these directions obedience may become, as it were, your nature, a familiar, easy, and delightful thing; and may be like a cheerful servant or child, that waiteth for your commands, and is glad to be employed by you. Your full subjection of your wills to God, will be as the health, and ease, and quietness of your wills: you will feel that it is never well or easy with you, but when you are obedient and pleasing to your Creator's will. Your "delight will be in the law of the Lord," Psal. i. 2. It will be sweeter than honey to you, and better than thousands of gold and silver; and this not for any by-respect, but as it is the "law of God;" a "light unto your feet," and an infallible guide in all your duty. You will say with David, Psal. cxix. 16, 24, 35, 47, 70, 77, 174, "I will delight myself in thy statutes; I will not forget thy word. Thy testimonies are my delight and my counsellors. Make me to go in the path of thy commandments, for therein do I delight." And as Psal. xl. 8, "I delight to do thy will, O my God, yea, thy law is within my heart." And, O "blessed is the man that feareth the Lord; that delighteth greatly in his commandments," Psal. cxii. 2.


Learning as disciples of Christ our Teacher.

Grand Direct. VII. Continue as the covenanted scholars of Christ, the Prophet and Teacher of his church, to learn of him by his Spirit, word, and ministers, the farther knowledge of God, and the things that tend to your salvation; and this with an honest, willing mind, in faith, humility, and diligence; in obedience, patience, and peace.

Though I spake before of our coming to God by Jesus Christ, as he is the way to the Father; it is[Pg 80] meet that we distinctly speak of our relation and duty to him, as he is our Teacher, our Captain, and our Master, as well as of our improving him as Mediator immediately unto God. The necessity of believers, and the office and work of Christ himself, doth tell us how much of our religion doth consist in learning of him as his disciples. Acts vii. 37, "A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me, him shall you hear." This was the voice that came out of the cloud in the holy mount, Matt. xvii. 5, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him." Therefore is the title of disciples commonly given to believers. And there is a twofold teaching which Christ hath sent his ministers to perform; both mentioned in their commission, Matt. xxviii. 19, 20. The one is, to "teach the nations;" as to make disciples of them, by persuading them into the school of Christ, which containeth the teaching of faith and repentance, and whatever is necessary to their first admission, and to their subjecting themselves to Christ himself as their stated and infallible Guide. The other is the teaching them further to know more of God, "and to observe all things whatsoever he commandeth them." And this last is it we are now to speak of, and I shall add some sub-directions for your help.

Directions for Learning of Christ, as our Teacher.
How to learn of Christ.

Direct. I. Remember who it is that is your Teacher: that he is the Son of God, that knoweth his Father's will, and is the most faithful, infallible Pastor of the church.—There is neither ignorance, nor negligence, nor ambition, nor deceit in him, to cause him to conceal the mind of God. There is nothing which we need to know, which he is not both able and willing to acquaint us with.

Direct. II. Remember what it is that he teacheth you, and to what end.—That it is not how to sin and be damned, as the devil, the world, and the flesh would teach you; nor how to satisfy your lusts, or to know, or do, or attain the trifles of the world: but it is how to be renewed to the image of God, and how to do his will and please him, and how to be justified at his bar, and how to escape everlasting fire, and how to attain everlasting joys: consider this well, and you will gladly learn of such a Teacher.

Direct. III. Let the book which he himself hath indited by his Spirit, be the rule and principal matter of your learning.—The holy Scriptures are of divine inspiration: it is them that we must be judged by, and them that we must be ruled by, and therefore them that we must principally learn. Men's books and teachings are but the means for our learning this infallible word.

Direct. IV. Remember that as it is Christ's work to teach, it is yours to hear, and read, and study, and pray, and practise what you hear.—Do your part, then, if you expect the benefit. You come not to the school of Christ to be idle. Knowledge droppeth not into the sleepy dreamer's mouth. Dig for it as for silver, and search for it in the Scriptures as for a hidden treasure: meditate in them day and night. Leave it to miserable fools, to contemn the wisdom of the Most High.

Direct. V. Fix your eye upon himself as your pattern, and study with earnest desire to follow his holy example, and to be made conformable to him.—Not to imitate him in the works which were proper to him as God, or as Mediator; but in his holiness, which he hath proposed to his disciples for their imitation. He knew how effectual a perfect example would be, where a perfect doctrine alone would be less regarded. Example bringeth doctrine nearer to our eye and heart; it maketh it more observable, and telleth us with more powerful application, Such you must be, and thus you must do. The eye maketh an easier and deeper impression on the imagination and mind, than the ear doth; therefore Christ's example should be much preached and studied. It will be a very great help to us, to have still upon our minds the image of the holy life of Christ; that we be affected, as if we always saw him doing the holy actions which once he did. Paul calls the Galatians "foolish," and "bewitched," that "obeyed not the truth, when Christ had been set forth as crucified among them evidently before their eyes," Gal. iii. 1. Papists think that images serve well for this turn: but the records of Scripture, and the living images of Christ whom they persecute and kill, are far more useful. How much example is more operative than doctrine alone, you may perceive by the enemies of Christ, who can bear his holy doctrine, when they cannot bear his holy servants, that practise that doctrine before their eyes. And that which most stirs up their enmity, hath the advantage for exciting the believer's piety.

Let the image of Christ, in all his holy examples, be always lively written upon your minds. 1. Let the great ones of the world remember, that their Lord was not born of such as bore rule, or were in worldly pomp and dignity, but of persons that lived but meanly in the world (however they were of the royal line); how he was not born in a palace, but a stable, and laid in a manger, without the attendance or accommodations of the rich.

2. Remember how he subjected himself unto his reputed father, and his mother, to teach all children subjection and obedience, Luke ii. 51.

3. And how he condescended to labour at a trade, and mean employment in the world; to teach us that our bodies, as well as our minds, must express their obedience, and have their ordinary employment; and to teach men to labour and live in a calling; and to comfort poor labourers, with assurance that God accepteth them in the meanest work, and that Christ himself lived so before them, and chose their kind of life, and not the life of princes and nobles, that live in pomp, and ease, and pleasure.

4. Remember how he refused not to submit to all the ordinances of God, and to fulfil all righteousness, and to be initiated into the solemn administration of his office by the baptism of John, Matt. iii. 15-17, which God approved, by sending down upon him the Holy Ghost: to teach us all to expect his Spirit in the use of his ordinances.

5. Remember how he voluntarily began his work, with an encounter with the tempter in the wilderness, upon his fasting; and suffered the tempter to proceed, till he moved him to the most odious sin, even to worship the devil himself: to teach us that God loveth tried servants, and expecteth that we be not turned from him by temptations; especially those that enter upon a public ministry, must be tried men, that have overcome the tempter: and to comfort tempted christians, who may remember, that their Saviour himself was most blasphemously tempted to as odious sins as ever they were; and that to be greatly tempted, without consenting or yielding to the sin, is so far from being a sin in itself, that it is the greatest honour of our obedience; and that the devil, who molesteth and haunteth us with his temptations, is a conquered enemy, whom our Lord in person hath overcome.

6. Remember how earnestly and constantly he preached; not stories, or jingles, or subtle controversies, but repentance, and faith, and self-denial, and obedience. So great was his love to souls, that,[Pg 81] when he had auditors, he preached, not only in the temple and synagogues, but on mountains, and in a ship, and any other convenient place; and no fury of the rulers or Pharisees could silence him, till his hour was come, having his Father's commission. And even to particular persons, he vouchsafed, by conference, to open the mysteries of salvation, John iii. and iv.; to teach us to love and attend to the plain and powerful preaching of the gospel, and not to forbear any necessary means for the honour of God, and the saving of souls, because of the enmity or opposition of malicious men, but to "work while it is day, seeing the night is coming when none can work," John ix. 4.

7. Remember how compassionate he was to men's bodies, as well as to their souls; going up and down with unwearied diligence, doing good; healing the blind, and lame, and deaf, and sick, and possessed: and how all his miracles were done in charity, to do good; and none of them to do hurt; so that he was but living, walking LOVE and MERCY. To teach us to know God, in his love and mercy; and to abound in love and mercy to our brethren; and to hate the spirit of hurtfulness, persecution, and uncharitableness; and to lay out ourselves in doing, good; and to exercise our compassion to the bodies of men, as well as to their souls, according to our power.

8. Remember how his zeal and love endured the reproach, and resisted the opposition of his friends, who went to lay hold on him as if he had been beside himself, Mark iii. 20, 21: and how he bid Peter "Get behind me, Satan; thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things of God, but those of men," when in carnal love and wisdom he rebuked him for resolving to lay down his life, saying, "Be it far from thee, this shall not be unto thee," Matt. xvi. 22, 23. To teach us to expect that carnal love and wisdom in our nearest friends, will rise up against us in the work of God, to discourage us both from duty and from sufferings; and that all are to be shaken off, and counted as the instruments of Satan, that would tempt us to be unfaithful to our trust and duty, and to favour ourselves by a sinful avoiding of the sufferings which God doth call us to undergo.

9. Remember how through all his life he despised the riches of the world, and chose a life of poverty, and was a companion of the meanest, neither possessing nor seeking sumptuous houses, or great attendance, or spacious lands, or a large estate. He lived in a visible contempt of all the wealth, and splendour, and greatness of the world: to teach us how little these little things are to be esteemed; and that they are none of the treasure and portion of a saint; and what a folly it is to be fond of such snares, and diversions, and temptations which make the way to heaven to be to us as a needle's eye.

10. Observe, how little he regardeth the honour and applause of men; Phil. ii. 7-9, how "he made himself of no reputation, but took upon him the form of a servant," refusing to be "made a king," or to have a "kingdom of this world," John vi. 15. Though he told malignant blasphemers how greatly they sinned in dishonouring him, yet did he not seek the honour of the world: to teach us how little the thoughts or words of ignorant men do contribute to our happiness, or are to be accounted of; and to turn our eyes from the impertinent censures of flesh and blood, to the judgment of our Almighty Sovereign, to whom it is that we stand or fall.

11. Remember also how little he made provision for the flesh, and never once tasted of any immoderate, sinful pleasure. How far was he from a life of voluptuousness and sensuality! Though his avoiding the formal fastings of the Pharisees, made them slander him as a "gluttonous person," and "a wine-bibber," Matt. xi. 19, as the sober christians were called carnivori, by those that thought it unlawful to eat flesh; yet so far was he from the guilt of any such sin, that never a desire of it was in his heart. You shall never find in the gospel that Christ spent half the morning in dressing him, choosing rather to shorten his time for prayer, than not to appear sufficiently neatified, as our empty, worthless, painted gallants do: nor shall you ever read that he wasted his time in idle visitations, or cards, or dice, or in reading romances, or hearing stage-plays: it was another kind of example that our Lord did leave for his disciples.

12. Mark also, how far Christ was from being guilty of any idle, or lascivious, or foolish kind of talk; and how holy and profitable all his speeches were: to teach us also to speak as the oracles of God, such words as tend to edification, and to administer grace unto the hearers, and to keep our tongues from all profane, lascivious, empty, idle speeches.

13. Remember, that pride, and passion, are condemned by your pattern. Christ bids you "Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest unto your souls," Matt. xi. 28, 29. Therefore he resolveth that "except" men "be converted and become as little children, they shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven," Matt, xviii. 3. Behold therefore the Lamb of God, and be ashamed of your fierce and ravenous natures.

14. Remember that Christ your Lord and pattern did humble himself to the meanest office of love, even to wash the feet of his disciples: not to teach you to wash a few poor men's feet, as a ceremony once a year, and persecute and murder the servants of Christ the rest of the year, as the Roman Vice-Christ doth; but to teach us, that if he their Lord and Master washed his disciples' feet, we also should stoop as low in any office of love, for one another, John xiii. 14.

15. Remember also that Christ your pattern spent whole nights in prayer to God;[97] so much was he for this holy attendance upon God: to teach us to "pray always and not wax faint," Luke xviii. 1. And not to be like the impious God-haters, that love not any near or serious addresses unto God, nor those that use them, but make them the object of their cruelty or scorn.

16. Remember also that Christ was against the Pharisees' outside, hypocritical, ceremonious worship, consisting in lip-labour, affected repetitions, and much babbling; their "Touch not, taste not, handle not," and worshipping God in vain, according to their traditions, "teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." He taught us a serious, spiritual worship: not "to draw nigh to God with our mouth, and honour him with our lips, while our hearts are far from him;" but to "worship God who is a Spirit, in spirit and truth," Matt. xv. 6-9; John iv. 23, 24; Matt. xxiii.

17. Christ was a sharp reprover of hypocritical, blind, ceremonious, malicious Pharisees; and warneth his disciples to take heed of their leaven. When they are offended with him, he saith, "Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up: let them alone, they be blind leaders of the blind," &c. Matt. xv. 12-14. To teach us to take heed of autonomous, supercilious, domineering, formal hypocrites, and false teachers, and to difference between the shepherds and the wolves.

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18. Though Christ seems cautelously to avoid the owning of the Romans' usurpation over the Jews, yet rather than offend them he payeth tribute himself, Matt. xvii. 25-27, and biddeth them "render to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's, and to God the things that are God's," Matt. xxii. 21. The Pharisees bring their controversy to him hypocritically, "Whether it be lawful to give tribute to Cæsar, or not?" (For that Cæsar was a usurper over them, they took to be past controversy.) And Christ would give them no answer that should insnare himself, or encourage usurpation, or countenance their sedition: teaching us much more to pay tribute cheerfully to our lawful governors, and to avoid all sedition and offence.

19. Yet is he accused, condemned, and executed among malefactors, as aspiring to be "King of the Jews," and the judge called, "none of Cæsar's friend," if he let him go: teaching us to expect that the most innocent christians should be accused, as enemies to the rulers of the world, and mistaken governors be provoked and engaged against them, by the malicious calumnies of their adversaries; and that we should, in this unrighteous world, be condemned of those crimes of which we are most innocent, and which we most abhor, and have borne the fullest testimonies against.

20. The furious rout of the enraged people deride him by their words and deeds, with a purple robe, a sceptre of reed, a crown of thorns, and the scornful name of "King of the Jews;" they spit in his face, and buffet him, and then break jests upon him; and in all this "being reviled he reviled not again, but committed all to him that judgeth righteously," 1 Pet. ii. 21-23. Teaching us to expect the rage of the ignorant rabble, as well as of deluded governors; and to be made the scorn of the worst of men; and all this without impatience, reviling, or threatening words; but quieting ourselves in the sure expectation of the righteous judgment, which we and they must shortly find.

21. When Christ is urged at Pilate's bar to speak for himself, he holds his peace: teaching us to expect to be questioned at the judgment-seat of man; and not to be over-careful for the vindicating of our names from their most odious calumnies, because the judgment that will fully justify us is sure and near.

22. When Christ is in his agony, his disciples fail him; when he is judged and crucified, they "forsook him and fled," Matt. xxvi. 56: to teach us not to be too confident in the best of men, nor to expect much from them in a time of trial, but to take up our comfort in God alone, when all our nearest friends shall fail us.

23. Upon the cross he suffereth the torments and ignominy of death for us, praying for his murderers: "leaving us an example that we should follow his steps," 1 Pet. ii. 21; and that we think not life itself too dear to part with, in obedience to God, and for the love of Christ and one another, 1 John iii. 16; and that we forgive and pray for them that persecute us.

24. In all this suffering from men, he feels also so much of the fruit of our sin upon his soul, that he crieth out, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" to teach us, if we fall into such calamity of soul, as to think that God himself forsaketh us, to remember for our support, that the Son of God himself before us, cried out, "My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" and that in this also we may expect a trial, to seem of ourselves forsaken of God, when our Saviour underwent the like before us.

I will instance in no more of his example, because I would not be tedious. Hither now let believers cast their eyes: if you love your Lord, you should love to imitate him, and be glad to find yourselves in the way that he hath gone before you. If he lived a worldly or a sensual life, do you do so: if he was an enemy to preaching, and praying, and holy living, be you so: but if he lived in the greatest contempt of all the wealth, and honours, and pleasures of the world, in a life of holy obedience to his Father, wholly preferring the kingdom of heaven, and seeking the salvation of the souls of others, and patiently bearing persecution, derision, calumnies, and death, then take up your cross, and follow him in joyfully to the expected crown.

Direct. VI. If you will learn of Christ, you must learn of his ministers, whom he hath appointed under him to be the teachers of his church.—He purposely enableth them, inclineth them, and sendeth them to instruct you: not to have dominion over your faith, but to be your spiritual fathers, and "the ministers by whom you believe, as God shall give" (ability and success) "to every one" as he pleases; "to plant and water," while "God giveth the increase; to open men's eyes, and turn them from darkness to light;" and to be "labourers together with God, whose husbandry and building you are;" and to be "helpers of your joy." See 2 Cor. ii. 4; Acts xxvi. 17, 18; 1 Cor. iii. 5-9; iv. 15. Seeing therefore Christ hath appointed them, under him, to be the ordinary teachers of his church, he that "heareth them," (speaking his message,) "heareth him," and he "that despiseth them, despiseth him," Luke x. 16. And he that saith, I will hear Christ, but not you, doth say in effect to Christ himself, I will not hear thee, nor learn of thee, unless thou wilt dismiss thy ushers, and teach me immediately thyself.

Direct. VII. Hearken also to the secret teachings of his Spirit, and your consciences, not as making you any new law or duty, or being to you instead of Scriptures or ministers; but as bringing that truth into your hearts and practices, which Scriptures and ministers have first brought to your eyes and ears.—If you understand not this, how the office of Scripture and ministers differ from the office of the Spirit and your consciences, you will be confounded, as the sectaries of these times have been, that separate what God hath joined together, and plead against Scripture or ministers under pretence of extolling the Spirit, or the light within them. As your meat must be taken into the stomach, and pass the first concoction, before the second can be performed, and chylification must be before sanguification; so the Scripture and ministers must bring truth to your eyes and ears, before the Spirit or conscience bring them to your hearts and practice. But they lie dead and uneffectual in your brain or imagination, if you hearken not to the secret teachings of the Spirit and conscience, which would bring them further. As Christ is the principal Teacher without, and ministers are but under him; so the Spirit is the principal teacher within us, and conscience is but under the Spirit, being excited and informed by it. Those that learn only of Scriptures and ministers, (by hearing or reading,) may become men of learning and great ability, though they hearken not to the sanctifying teachings of the Spirit, or to their consciences. But it is only those that hearken first to the Scriptures and ministers, and next to the Spirit of God, and to their consciences, that have an inward, sanctifying, saving knowledge, and are they that are said to be taught of God. Therefore, hearken first with your ears, what Christ hath to say to you from without; and then hearken daily and diligently with your hearts, what the Spirit and conscience say within.[Pg 83] For it is their office to preach over all that again to your hearts, which you have received.

Direct. VIII. It being the office of the present ordinary ministry, only to expound and apply the doctrine of Christ already recorded in the Scriptures, believe not any man that contradicteth this recorded doctrine, what reason, authority, or revelation soever he pretend. Isa. viii. 20, "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to these, it is because there is no light in them." No reason can be reason indeed that is pretended against the reason of the Creator and God of reason. Authority pretended against the highest authority of God, is no authority: God never gave authority to any against himself; nor to deceive men's souls; nor to dispense with the law of Christ; nor to warrant men to sin against him; nor to make any supplements to his law or doctrine. The apostles had their "power only to edification, but not to destruction," 1 Cor. x. 8; 2 Cor. xiii. 10. There is no revelation from God that is contrary to his own revelation, already delivered as his perfect law and rule unto the church; and therefore none supplemental to it. If an "apostle or an angel from heaven (per possibile vel impossibile) shall evangelize to us besides what is evangelized," and we "have received," he must be held "accursed," Gal. i. 6-8.

Direct. IX. Come not to learn of Christ with self-conceitedness, pride, or confidence in your prejudice and errors; but as little children, with humble, teachable, tractable minds. Christ is no teacher for those that in their own eyes are wise enough already: unless it be first to teach them to "become fools" (in their own esteem, because they are so indeed) "that they may be wise," 1 Cor. iii. 18. They that are prepossessed with false opinions, and resolve that they will never be persuaded of the contrary, are unmeet to be scholars in the school of Christ. "He resisteth the proud, but giveth more grace unto the humble," 1 Pet. v. 5. Men that have a high conceit of their own understandings, and think they can easily know truth from falsehood, as soon as they hear it, and come not to learn, but to censure what they hear or read, as being able presently to judge of all, these are fitter for the school of the prince of pride, and father of lies and error, than for the school of Christ. Except conversion make men as little children, that come not to carp and cavil, but to learn, they are not "meet for the kingdom of Christ," Matt. xviii. 3; John iii. 3, 5. Know how blind and ignorant you are, and how dull of learning, and humbly beg of the heavenly Teacher, that he will accept you, and illuminate you: and give up your understandings absolutely to be informed by him, and your hearts to be the tables in which his Spirit shall write his law; believing his doctrine upon the bare account of his infallible veracity, and resolving to obey it; and this is to be the disciples of Christ indeed, and such as shall be taught of God.

Direct. X. Come to the school of Christ with honest, willing hearts, that love the truth, and fain would know it, that they may obey it; and not with false and biassed hearts, which secretly hinder the understanding from entertaining the truth, because they love it not, as being contrary to their carnal inclinations and interest. The word that was received into honest hearts, was it that was as the seed that brought forth plentifully, Matt. xiii. 23. When the heart saith unfeignedly, "Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth; teach me to know and do thy will;" God will not leave such a learner in the dark. Most of the damnable ignorance and error of the world, is from a wicked heart, that perceiveth that the truth of God is against their fleshly interest and lusts, and therefore is unwilling to obey it, and unwilling to believe it, lest it torment them, because they disobey it. A will that is secretly poisoned with the love of the world, or of any sinful lusts and pleasures, is the most potent impediment to the believing of the truth.

Direct. XI. Learn with quietness and peace in the school of Christ, and make not divisions, and meddle not with others' lessons and matters, but with your own. Silence, and quietness, and minding your own business, is the way to profit. The turbulent wranglers that are quarrelling with others, and are religious contentiously, in envy and strife, are liker to be corrected or ejected, than to be edified. Read James iii.

Direct. XII. Remember that the school of Christ hath a rod; and therefore learn with fear and reverence, Heb. xii. 28, 29; Phil. ii. 12. Christ will sharply rebuke his own, if they grow negligent and offend: and if he should cast thee out and forsake thee, thou art undone for ever. "See," therefore, "that ye refuse not him that speaketh: for if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we, if we refuse him that is from heaven," Heb. xii. 25. "For how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation; which at first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs, and wonders, and divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?" Heb. ii. 3, 4. "Serve the Lord therefore with fear, and rejoice with trembling: kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the kindling of his wrath," Psal. ii. 11, 12.


To obey Christ as Physician in his healing work, and his spirit in its cleansing, mortifying work.

Grand Direct. VIII. Remember that you are related to Christ as the Physician of your souls, and to the Holy Ghost as your Sanctifier. Make it therefore your serious study, to be cured by Christ, and cleansed by his Spirit, of all the sinful diseases and defilements of your hearts and lives.

Though I did before speak of our believing in the Holy Ghost, and using his help for our access to God, and converse with him; yet I deferred to speak fully of the cleansing and mortifying part of his work of sanctification till now; and shall treat of it here, as it is the same with the curing work of Christ, related to us as the Physician of our souls: it being part of our subjection and obedience to him, to be ruled by him, in order to our cure. And what I shall here write against sin, in general, will be of a twofold use. The one is, to help us against the inward corruptions of our hearts, and for the outward obedience of our lives, and so to further the work of sanctification, and prevent our sinning. The other is, to help us to repentance and humiliation, habitual and actual, for the sins which are in us, and which we have already at any time committed.

The general directions for this curing and cleansing of the soul from sin, are contained, for the most part, in what is said already: and many of the particular directions also may be fetched from the sixth direction before-going. I shall now add but two general directions, and many more particular ones.

Direct. I. The two general directions are these: 1. Know what corruptions the soul of man is naturally defiled with: and this containeth the knowledge of those faculties, that are the seat of these corruptions, and the knowledge of the corruptions that have tainted and perverted the several faculties.

Direct. II. 2. Know what sin is, in its nature or intrinsic evil, as well as in the effects.

[Pg 84]

How the several faculties of the soul are corrupted and diseased.
In what cases sound understanding may be ignorant.

1. The parts or faculties to be cleansed and cured, are both the superior and inferior. (1.) The understanding, though not the first in the sin, must be first in the cure: for all that is done upon the lower faculties, must be by the governing power of the will: and all that is done upon the will, according to the order of human nature, must be done by the understanding. But the understanding hath its own diseases, which must be known and cured. Its malady in general is ignorance; which is not only a privation of actual knowledge, but an undisposedness also of the understanding to know the truth. A man may be deprived of some actual knowledge, that hath no disease in his mind that causeth it: as in a case that either the object be absent, and out of reach, or that there may be no sufficient revelation of it, or that the mind be taken up wholly upon some other thing, or in case a man shut out the thoughts of such an object, or refuse the evidence, which is the act of the will, even as a man that is not blind, may yet not see a particular object, 1. In case it be out of his natural reach; 2. Or if it be night, and he want extrinsic light; 3. Or in case he be wholly taken up with the observation of other things; 4. Or in case he wilfully either shut or turn away his eyes.

How the understanding can be the subject of sin?

It is a very hard question to resolve, how far and wherein the diseases of the understanding may be called sin? Because the understanding is not a free, but a necessitated faculty; and there can be no sin, where there is no liberty. But to clear this, it must be considered, 1. That it is not this or that faculty that is the full and proper subject of sin, but the man: the fulness of sin being made up of the vice of both faculties, understanding and will, conjunct. It is properer to say, The man sinned, than, The intellect or will sinned, speaking exclusively as to the other. 2. Liberium arbitrium, free choice, is belonging to the man, and not to his will only, though principally to the will. 3. Though the will only be free in itself, originally, yet the intellect is free by participation, so far as it is commanded by the will, or dependeth on it for the exercise of its acts. 4. Accordingly, though the understanding, primitively and of itself, be not the subject of morality, of moral virtues or of moral vices, which are immediately and primarily in the will; yet participatively its virtues and vices are moralized, and become graces or sins, laudable and rewardable, or vituperable and punishable, as they are imperate by the will, or depend upon it.

Consider then, the acts, and habits, and disposition of the understanding; and you will find, That some acts, and the privation of them, are necessary, naturally, originally, and unalterably; and these are not virtues or sinful at all, as having no morality. As, to know unwillingly, as the devils do, and to believe when it cannot be resisted, though they would; this is no moral virtue at all, but a natural perfection only. So, 1. To be ignorant of that which is no object of knowledge, or which is naturally beyond our knowledge, as of the essence of God, is no sin at all. 2. Nor, to be ignorant of that which was never revealed, when no fault of ours hindered the revelation, is no sin. 3. Nor, to be without the present, actual knowledge or consideration of one point, at that moment when our thoughts are lawfully diverted, as in greater business, or suspended, as in sleep. 4. But to be ignorant, wilfully, is a sin, participatively in the intellect, and originally in the will. 5. And to be ignorant for want of revelation, when ourselves are the hinderers of that revelation, or the meritorious cause that we want it, is our sin: because, though that ignorance be immediately necessary, and hypothetically, yet originally and remotely it is free and voluntary.

So, as to the habits and disposition of the intellect; it is no sin to want those, which man's understanding in its entire and primitive nature was without. As, not to be able to know without an object, or to know an unrevealed or too distant object, or actually to know all things knowable, at once. But there are defects or ill dispositions, that are sinfully contracted; and though these are now immediately natural[98] and necessary, yet being originally and remotely voluntary or free, they are participatively sinful. Such is the natural man's disability or undisposedness to know the things of the Spirit, when the word revealeth them. This lieth not in the want of a natural faculty to know them, but, 1. Radically in the will. 2. And thence in contrary, false apprehensions which the intellect is prepossessed with, which resisting the truth, may be called, its blindness or impotency to know them. And 3. In a strangeness of the mind to those spiritual things which it is utterly unacquainted with.

Note here, 1. That the will may be guilty of the understanding's ignorance, two ways: either, by positive averseness prohibiting or diverting it from beholding the evidence of truth; or, by a privation and forbearance of that command or excitation which is necessary to the exercise of the acts of the understanding. This last is the commonest way of the sin in the understanding; and that may be truly called voluntary which is from the will's neglect of its office, or suspension of its act, though there be no actual volition or nolition.

2. That the will may do more in causing a disease in the understanding, than it can do in curing it. I can put out a man's eyes, but I cannot restore them.

3. That yet for all that, God hath so ordered it in his gracious dispensation of the grace of the Redeemer, that certain means are appointed by him, for man to use, in order to the obtaining of his grace, for his own recovery: and so, though grace cure not the understanding of its primitive, natural weakness, yet it cureth it of its contracted weakness, which was voluntary in its original, but necessary, being contracted. And, as the will had a hand in the causing of it, so must it have, in the voluntary use of the aforesaid means, in the cure of it. So much to show you how the understanding is guilty of sin.

The operations and maladies of the intellect.

Though no actual knowledge be so immediate as to be without the mediation of the sense and fantasy, yet supposing these, knowledge is distinguished into immediate and mediate. The immediate is when the being, quality, &c. of a thing, or the truth of a proposition, is known immediately in itself by its proper evidence. Mediate knowledge is when the being of a thing, or the truth of a proposition, is known by the means of some other intervenient thing or proposition, whose evidence affordeth us a light to discern it.

The understanding is much more satisfied when it can see things and truths immediately in their proper evidence. But when it cannot, it is glad of any means to help it.

The further we go in the series of means, (knowing one thing by another, and that by another, and so on,) the more unsatisfied the understanding is, as apprehending a possibility of mistake, and a[Pg 85] difficulty in escaping mistake in the use of so many media.

When the evidence of one thing in its proper nature showeth us another, this is to know by mere discourse or argument.

When the medium of our knowing one thing is the credibility of another man's report that knoweth it, this is (though a discourse or argument too, yet) in special, called, belief; which is strong or weak, certain or uncertain, as the evidence of the reporter's credibility is certain or uncertain, and our apprehension of it strong or weak.

In both cases, the understanding's fault is either an utter privation of the act, or disposition to it; or else a privation of the rectitude of the act. When it should know by the proper evidence of the thing, the privation of its act is called ignorance or nescience, and the privation of its rectitude is called error (which differ as not seeing, and seeing falsely.) When it should know by testimony, the privation of its act is simple unbelief, or not believing, and the privation of its rectitude is either disbelief, when they think the reporter erreth, or misbelief, when it believeth a testimony that is not to be believed.

So that you see by what is said, that the diseases of the mind to be cured, are, 1. Mere ignorance. 2. Error; thinking truth to be falsehood, and falsehood truth. 3. Unbelief. 4. Disbelief. And 5. Misbelief.

Rom. viii. 5-7.

But as the goodness is of chief regard in the object, so the discerning of the truth about good and evil, is the chiefest office of the understanding. And therefore its disesteem of God, and glory, and grace, and its misesteem of the fleshly pleasure, and worldly prosperity, wealth, and honour, is the principal malady of the mind.

(2.) The diseases of the will, are in its inclination, and its acts. 1. An inordinate inclination to the pleasing of the fleshly appetite and fantasy, and to all carnal baits and temporal things, that tend to please it, and inordinate acts of desire accordingly. 2. An irrational backwardness to God, and grace, and spiritual good, and a refusal or nolition in act accordingly. These are in the will, 1. Because it is become much subject to the sensitive appetite, and hath debased itself, and contracted, by its sinful acts, a sensual inclination, the flesh having the dominion in a corrupted soul. 2. Because the intellect being also corrupted, ofttimes misleadeth it, by overvaluing transient things. 3. Because the will is become destitute (in its corrupted state) of the power of divine love, or an inclination to God and holy things, which should countermand the seduction of carnal objects. 4. And the understanding is much destitute of the light that should lead them higher. 5. Because the rage of the corrupted appetite is still seducing it. Mark therefore, for the right understanding of this, our greatest malady:

1. That the will never desireth evil, as evil, but as a carnal or a seeming good. 2. Nor doth it hate good as good, but as a seeming evil, because God and grace do seem to be his enemies, and to hurt him, by hindering him of the good of carnal pleasure which he now preferreth. 3. Nay, at the same time that he loveth evil as it pleaseth the flesh, he hath naturally, as a man, some averseness to it, so far as he apprehendeth it to be evil: and when he hateth God and holiness as evil, for hindering him of his carnal pleasure, he naturally loveth them, so far as he apprehendeth them to be good. So that there is some love to God and good, and some hatred to evil, in the ungodly; for while man is man, he will have naturally an inclination to good as good, and against evil as evil. 4. But the apprehension of sensitive good is the strongest in him, and the apprehension of spiritual good is weakest; and therefore the will receiving a greater impress from the carnal appetite and mind, than from the weak apprehensions of spiritual good, is more inclined to that which indeed is worst; and so things carnal have got the dominion, or chief commanding interest, in the soul. 5. Note also, that sin receiveth its formality, or moral evil, first in the will, and not in the intellect or sensitive appetite: for it is not sin till it be positively or privately, immediately or mediately, voluntary. But the first motions to sin are not in the will, but in the sensitive appetite; though there, at first, it be not formally sin. 6. Note, that neither intellect, object, appetite, or sense, necessitate naturally the will to sin, but it remaineth the first in the sin and guilt.

It is a matter of great difficulty to understand how sin first entered into the innocent soul; and it is of great importance, because an error here is of dangerous consequence. Two sorts seem to me to make God so much the necessitating cause of Adam's first sin, (and so of all sin,) as that it was as naturally impossible for Adam to have forborne it, according to their doctrine, as to have conquered God: 1. Those that assert the Dominican, immediate, physical, pre-determining pre-motion (which no created power can resist). 2. And those that say the will acts as necessitated by the intellect in all its acts (and so is necessitated in all its omissions); and that the intellect is necessitated by objects (as, no doubt it is, unless as its acts are sub imperio voluntatis); and all those objects are caused and disposed of by God. But it is certain that God is not the cause of sin; and therefore this certainty overruleth the case against these tenets.

At present it seemeth to me, that sin entered in this method: 1. Sense perceiveth the forbidden thing. 2. The appetite desireth it. 3. The imagination thinketh on its desirableness yet further. 4. The intellect conceiveth of it (truly) as good, by a simple apprehension. 5. The will accordingly willeth it by a simple complacency or volition. Thus far there was no sin. But, 6. The will here adhered to it too much, and took in it an excess of complacency, when it had power to do otherwise: and here sin begun. 7. And so when the cogitations should have been called off; 8. And the intellect should have minded God, and his command, and proceeded from a simple apprehension to the comparing act, and said, The favour of God is better, and his will should rule, it omitted all these acts, because the will omitted to command them; yea, and hindered them. 9. And so the intellect was next guilty of a non-renuo,—I will not forbid or hinder it (and the will accordingly). 10. And next of a positive deception, and the will of consent unto the sin, and so it being "finished, brought forth death."

If you say, the will's first sinful adhesion in the sixth instance, could not be, unless the intellect first directed it so to do; I deny that, because the will is the first principle in men's actions quoad exercitium, though the intellect be the first as to specification. And therefore the will could suspend its exercise and its excitation of the mind. In all this I go upon common principles: but I leave it to further inquiry; 1. How far the sensitive appetite may move the locomotive faculty without the will's command, while the will doth not forbid? And whether reason be not given man, as the rider to the horse, not to enable him to move, but to rule his motion: so that as the horse can go if the rider hinder not, so the sensitive appetite can cause the actions of eating, drinking, thinking, speaking sensually, if reason do but drop asleep, or not hinder. 2. And so whether in the first sin (and ordinarily) the sensitive appetite,[Pg 86] fantasy, and passion be not the active mover, and the rational powers first guilty only by omitting their restraining government, which they were able to have exercised? 3. And so, whether sin be not (ordinarily) a brutish motion, or a voluntary unmanning of ourselves, the rational powers in the beginning being guilty only of omission or privation of restraint; but afterwards brought over to subserve the sensitive appetite actively? 4. And so, whether the will, which is the principium actus quoad exercitium, were not the first in the omission? The intellect having before said, This must be further considered, the will commanded not that further consideration, when it could and should?

However, if it be too hard for us to trace our own souls in all their motions, it is certain that the will of man is the first subject of moral good and evil; and uncertainties must not make us deny that which is certain.

The reader who understandeth the importance and consequence of these points, I am sure, will pardon me for this interposition of these difficult controverted points (which I purposely avoid where I judge them not very needful in order to the defence or clearing of the plainer common truths): and as for others, I must bear their censure.

The degree of sinfulness in the will lieth in a stiffness and obstinacy, a tenaciousness of deceitful temporal good, and an eagerness after it; and stubborn averseness to spiritual good, as it is against that temporal fleshly good. This is the will's disease.[99]

(3.) The sinfulness of the memory is in its retentiveness of evil, or things hurtful and prohibited; and its looseness and neglect of better, spiritual, necessary things. If this were only as things present have the natural advantage to make a deeper impress upon the fantasy, and things unseen and absent have the disadvantage, it were then but a natural, innocent infirmity; or if in sickness, age, or weakness, all kind of memory equally decay. But it is plain, that if the Bible be open before our eyes, and preaching be in our ears, and things unseen have the advantage of their infinite greatness, and excellency, and concernment to us, yet our memories are like walls of stone to any thing that is spiritual, and like walls of wax, on which you may write any thing, of that which is secular or evil. Note here, also, that the faultiness of the memory is only so far sinful as it is voluntary: it is the will where the sin is as in its throne, or chiefest subject. Because men love carnal things, and love not spiritual things, therefore it is that they mind, and understand, and remember the one, and not the other. So that it is but as imperate, and participatively, that the memory is capable of sin.

(4.) The sinfulness of the imagination consisteth in its readiness to think of evil, and of common earthly things, and its unaptness to think of any thing that is holy and good; and when we do force ourselves to holy thoughts, they are disorderly, confused, unskilfully managed, with great averseness.—Here also voluntariness is the life of the sin.

(5.) The sin of the affections, or passions, consisteth in this:—That they are too easily and violently moved by the sensitive interest and appetite; and are habitually prone to such carnal, inordinate motions, running before the understanding and will, (some of them,) and soliciting and urging them to evil; and resisting and disobeying the commands of reason and the will: but dull and backward to things spiritually good, and to execute the right dictates of the mind and will.

(6.) The sin of the sensitive appetite consisteth in the inordinate rage or immoderateness to its object, which causeth it to disobey the commands of reason, and to become the great inciter of rebellion in the soul; violently urging the mind and will to consent to its desires. Materially this dependeth much on the temper of the body; but formally this also is so far sinful as (positively or privately, mediately or immediately) it is voluntary. To have an appetite simply to the object of appetite is no sin; but to have a diseased, inordinate, unruly appetite, is a sin, not primarily in itself considered, but as it is voluntary, as it is the appetite of a rational free agent, that hath thus disordered the frame of its own nature.

(7.) The sin of the exterior parts, tongue, hand, eyes, feet, &c. is only in act, and not in habit, or at least, the habits are weak and subject to the will. And it is in the execution of the sinful desires of the flesh, and commands of the will, that the same consisteth. These parts also are not the primary subject of the guilt, but the will, that either positively puts them upon evil, or doth not restrain them when it ought; and so they are guilty but participatively and secondarily, as the other imperate faculties are: it is not good or evil merely as it is the act of tongue or hand, but as it is the act of the tongue, or hand of a rational free agent (agreeable or disagreeable to the law). If a madman should speak blasphemy, or should kill, or steal, it were no further sin, than as he had voluntarily contracted the ill disposition which caused it while he had the use of reason. If a man's hand were held and forced by another to do mischief utterly against his will, it is the sin of the chief agent, and not of the involuntary instrument. But no force totally excuseth us from guilt, which leaveth the act to our rational choice. He that saith, Take this oath, or I will kill thee, or torment thee, doth use force as a temptation which may be resisted, but doth not constrain a man to swear: for he leaveth it to his choice whether he will swear, or die, or be tormented; and he may and ought to choose death rather than the smallest sin. The will may be tempted, but not constrained.

Direct. II. 2. Labour clearly to understand the evil of sin, both intrinsical in itself, and in its aggravations and effects.—When you have found out where it is, and wherein it doth consist, find out the malignity and odiousness of it. I have heard some christians complain, that they read much to show them the evil of sin in its effects, but meet with few that show them its evil in itself sufficiently. But, if you see not the evil of sin in itself, as well as in the effects, it will but tempt you to think God unjust in over-punishing it; and it will keep you from the principal part of true repentance and mortification; which lieth in hating sin, as sin. I shall therefore show you, wherein the intrinsical malignity of sin consisteth.

1. Sin is (formally) the violation of the perfect, holy, righteous law of God.

2. It is a denial or contempt of the authority, or governing power, of God: as if we said, Thou shalt not be our Governor in this.

3. It is a usurping the sovereign power to ourselves of governing ourselves, in that act: for when we refuse God's government, we set up ourselves in his stead; and so make gods of ourselves as to ourselves, as if we were self-sufficient, independent, and had right hereto.

4. It is a denying or contempt of the wisdom of God, as if he had unwisely made us a law which is unmeet to rule us.

5. It is a setting up of our folly in the place of God's wisdom, and preferring it before him; as if[Pg 87] we were wiser to know how to govern ourselves, and to know what is fittest and best for us now to do, than God is.

6. It is a contempt of the goodness of God, as he is the maker of the law: as if he had not done that which is best, but that which may be corrected or contradicted, and there were some evil in it to be avoided.[100]

7. It is a preferring our naughtiness before his goodness, as if we would do it better, or choose better what to do.

8. It is a contempt or denial of the holiness and purity of God, which sets him against sin, as light is against darkness.

9. It is a violation of God's propriety or dominion, robbing him of the use and service of that which is absolutely and totally his own.

10. It is a claiming of propriety in ourselves, as if we were our own, and might do with ourselves as we list.

11. It is a contempt of the gracious promises of God, by which he allured and bound us to obedience.

12. It is a contempt of the dreadful threatenings of God, by which he would have restrained us from evil.

13. It is a contempt or denial of the dreadful day of judgment, in which an account must be given of that sin.

14. It is a denying of God's veracity, and giving him the lie: as if he were not to be believed in all his predictions, promises, and threats.

15. It is a contempt of all the present mercies, (which are innumerable and great,) by which God obligeth and encourageth us to obey.

16. It is a contempt of our own afflictions, and his chastisements of us, by which he would drive us from our sins.

17. It is a contempt of all the examples of his mercies on the obedient, and his terrible judgments on the disobedient, (men and devils,) by which he warned us not to sin.

18. It is a contempt of the person, office, sufferings, and grace of Jesus Christ, who came to save us from our sins, and to destroy the works of the devil; being contrary to his bloodshed, authority, and healing work.

19. It is a contradicting, fighting against, and in that act prevailing against the sanctifying office and work of the Holy Ghost, that moveth us against sin, and to obedience.

20. It is a contempt of holiness, and a defacing, in that measure, the image of God upon the soul, or a rejecting it: a vilifying of all those graces which are contrary to the sin.

21. It is a pleasing of the devil, the enemy of God and us, and an obeying him before God.

22. It is the fault of a rational creature, that had reason given him to do better.

23. It is all willingly done and chosen by a free agent, that could not be constrained to it.[101]

24. It is a robbing God of the honour and pleasure which he should have had in our obedience; and the glory which we should bring him before the world.

25. It is a contempt of the omnipresence and omniscience of God, when we will sin against him before his face, when he stands over us, and seeth all that we do.

26. It is a contempt of the greatness and almightiness of God, that we dare sin against him who is so great, and able to be avenged on us.

27. It is a wrong to the mercifulness of God, when we go out of the way of mercy, and put him to use the way of justice and severity, who delighteth not in the death of sinners, but rather that they obey, repent, and live.

28. It is a contempt of the attractive love of God, who should be the end, and felicity, and pleasure of the soul. As if all that love and goodness of God were not enough to draw or keep the heart to him, and to satisfy us and make us happy; or, he were not fit to be our delight. And it showeth the want of love to God; for if we loved him rightly we should willingly obey him.

29. It is a setting up the sordid creature before the Creator, and dung before heaven, as if it were more worthy of our love and choice, and fitter to be our delight; and the pleasure of sin were better for us than the glory of heaven.

30. In all which it appeareth, that it is a practical atheism, in its degree; a taking down God, or denying him to be God: and a practical idolatry, setting up ourselves and other creatures in his stead.

31. It is a contempt of all the means of grace, which are all to bring us to obedience, and keep us or call us from our sins: prayer, sacraments, &c.

32. It is a contempt of the love and labours of the ministers of Christ; a disobeying them, grieving them, and frustrating their hopes and the labours of their lives.

33. It is a debasing of reason, the superior faculty of the soul, and a setting up of the flesh or inferior faculties, like setting dogs to govern men, or the horse to rule the rider.

34. It is a blinding of reason, and a misusing the noblest faculties of the soul, and frustrating them of the use and ends which they were made for: and so it is the disorder, monstrosity, sickness, or death of the soul.[102]

35. It is, in its measure, the image of the devil upon the soul, who is the father of sin: and therefore the most odious deformity of the soul; and this where the Holy Ghost should dwell, and the image and delight of God should be.

36. It is the moral destruction not only of the soul, but of the whole creation, so far as the creatures are appointed as the means to bring or keep us unto God: for the means, as a means, is destroyed when it is not used to its end. A ship is useless if no one be carried in it. A watch, as such, is useless, when not used to show the hour of the day. All the world, as it is the book that should teach us the will of God, is cast by, when that use is cast by. Nay, sin useth the creature against God which should have been used for him.

37. It is a contradicting of our own confessions and professions; a wronging of our consciences; a violation of our covenants and self-obligations to God.

38. It is a preferring of time before eternity, and regarding things of a transitory nature, and a moment's pleasure, before that which never shall have end.

The perverting and confusion of societies.

39. It is a making a breach in the harmony and order of the world: as the dislocation or deformity of a particular[Pg 88] member, is the trouble and deformity of all the body, because the comeliness and welfare of the whole, containeth the comeliness, proportion, and welfare of all the parts. And as the dislocation or breaking of one part in a watch or clock, is against the use of all the engine; so every man being a part of the kingdom of God, doth by sin make a breach in the order of the whole; and also giveth an ill example to other parts, and makes himself unserviceable to the body; and dishonoureth the whole body with the blot of rebellion; and lets in judgment on the world; and kindleth a consuming fire in the place where he liveth; and is cruel and injurious to others.

40. Sin is not only a preferring the body before the soul, but it is also an unmercifulness or cruelty against ourselves, both soul and body, and so is contrary to the true use of the indelible principle of self-love; for it is a wounding and abusing the soul and defiling the body in this life, and casting both on the wrath of God, and into the flames of hell hereafter, or a dangerous venturing them into the way of endless damnation and despair, and a contempt of those insufferable torments. All these parts of malignity and poison are intrinsical to sin, and found in the very nature of it.

The common aggravations of sin being written of by many, and easily gathered from what is said of the nature of it, I shall briefly name only a few.

1. The infinite perfection of God in all those blessed attributes and relations, which sin is against, is the greatest aggravation of sin.

2. The inconceivable glory of heaven, which is despised, is a great aggravation of sin.

3. So is the greatness of the torments of hell, which sinners despise and venture on.

4. So is the great opposition that God hath made against sin, having said and done so much against it, and declared himself to hate nothing else immediately in the world.

5. The clearness of evidence against it, the nothingness of all that can be said for it, is also a great aggravation of it.

6. So is the fulness, and fitness, and power of all the means in creatures, providences, and Scriptures, that is vouchsafed the world against it.

7. So is the experience and warning of all ages, the repentings of the converted, and the disowning it by almost all when they come to die. Wonderful! that the experience of the world for above five thousand years, will teach them no more effectually to avoid so mortal, pernicious a thing.

8. The nearness to us also is an aggravation: it is not a distant evil, but in our bowels, in our very hearts; we are bound so strictly to love ourselves, that it is a great aggravation to do ourselves so great a mischief.

9. The constant inhesion of sin is a great aggravation: that it is ever with us, lying down and rising up, at home and abroad; we are never free from it.

10. That it should poison all our common mercies, and corrupt all our duties, is an aggravation. But we shall take up some of these anon.

The special aggravations of the sins of God's own children are these:[103]

1. They sin against a nearer relation than others do; even against that God that is their Father by the new birth, which is more heinous than if a stranger did it.

2. They are Christ's own members: and it is most unnatural for his members to rebel against him, or do him wrong.

3. They sin against more excellent operations of the Spirit than others do, and against a principle of life within them.

4. They sin against the differencing grace, which appeared in their conversion. God took them out of a world of sinners, whom he passed by when he could as well have sanctified them: and should they so quickly thus requite him?

5. They sin against the pardon and justification which they have already received. Did God so lately forgive them all their former debts, so many, so great and heinous sins, and that so freely to them, when the procurement was so dear to Christ? and should they so soon forget, or so ill requite, so great a mercy?

6. They sin against a more serious covenant, which at their conversion they entered into with God, than other men do.

7. They sin against all the heart-breaking or humbling sorrows, which they have tasted of at their conversion, and since. They have known more of the evil of sin than others, in their sad experience of its sting.

8. They sin against more knowledge than other men: they have known more what sin is, and what Christ is, and what the will of God is, than others: and therefore deserve to be beaten with many stripes.

9. They have oftener confessed sin than others, and spoke odiously of it, as the vilest thing, and aggravated it to God and man.

10. Their many prayers against it, and all their labour in hearing, and reading, and sacraments, and other means, do aggravate it.

11. They make a greater profession of strict obedience, and therefore sin against their own profession.

12. They have renewed their promises of obedience to God, in prayer, at sacraments, and at other times, much more than others.

13. They have had more experience than others of the goodness of obedience, and of the comforts and benefits that attend it, in the favour of God, and communion with him therein.

14. Their sins are aggravated by all the reproofs and exhortations which they have used to others, to tell them how unreasonable and bad it is to provoke the Lord.

15. They sin under greater hopes of glory than others do; and provoke that God with whom they hope to live for ever.

16. The high titles of love and praise which God doth give them in his word, do aggravate their sin. That he should call them his treasure, his peculiar people, his jewels, and the apple of his eye, his sons and daughters, and a holy people, and priests to God, and boast of them as a people more excellent than their neighbours; and after this they should sin against him.

17. They have had audience with God, the answer of prayers, and many a deliverance and mercy in this life, which others have not; which aggravate their sins, as being thus contemned, and as obliging them more to God than others.

18. They dishonour God more than any others by their sins. His honour lieth not so much upon the actions of the ungodly, as on those that are nearest to him.

19. They harden the wicked more than such sins in other men would do. They cause them to blaspheme, and reproach the godly for their sakes, and say, These are your religious men! You see now what their strictness is. And they hinder the conversion and salvation of others: they grieve the[Pg 89] godly, and wrong the church and cause of God, much more than the sins of others do.

20. Lastly, They please the devil more than the sins of other men. How busy is he to have drawn a Job to sin! and how would he have boasted against God, and his grace, and his servants, if he had prevailed, when he boasted so much before, in the false presumption of his success! as if he could make the godly forsake God, and be as bad as others, if he have leave to tempt them.

I shall next give you some particular directions, besides those foregoing, to help you to think of sin as it is, that you may hate it; for your cleansing and cure consist in this: so far as you hate sin it is mortified, and you are cured of it. And therefore, as I have anatomized it, that you may see the hatefulness of it, I shall direct you to improve this for your cure.


How to hate sin.

Direct. I. Labour to know God, and to be affected with his attributes, and always to live as in his sight.—No man can know sin perfectly, because no man can know God perfectly. You can no further know what sin is than you know what God is, whom you sin against; for the formal malignity of sin is relative, as it is against the will and attributes of God. The godly have some knowledge of the malignity of sin, because they have some knowledge of God that is wronged by it. The wicked have no practical, prevalent knowledge of the malignity of sin, because they have no such knowledge of God. They that fear God will fear sinning; they that in their hearts are bold irreverently with God, will, in heart and life, be bold with sin: the atheist, that thinketh there is no God, thinks there is no sin against him. Nothing in the world will tell us so plainly and powerfully of the evil of sin, as the knowledge of the greatness, wisdom, goodness, holiness, authority, justice, truth, &c. of God. The sense of his presence, therefore, will revive our sense of sin's malignity.

Direct. II. Consider well of the office, the bloodshed, and the holy life of Christ.—His office is to expiate sin, and to destroy it. His blood was shed for it: his life condemned it. Love Christ, and thou wilt hate that which caused his death. Love him, and thou wilt love to be made like him, and hate that which is so contrary to Christ. These two great lights will show the odiousness of darkness.

Direct. III. Think well both how holy the office and work of the Holy Ghost is, and how great a mercy it is to us.—Shall God himself, the heavenly light, come down into a sinful heart, to illuminate and purify it? and yet shall I keep my darkness and defilement, in opposition to such wonderful mercy? Though all sin against the Holy Ghost be not the unpardonable blasphemy, yet all is aggravated hereby.

Direct. IV. Know and consider the wonderful love and mercy of God, and think what he hath done for you; and you will hate sin, and be ashamed of it.—It is an aggravation which makes sin odious even to common reason and ingenuity, that we should offend a God of infinite goodness, who hath filled up our lives with mercy. It will grieve you if you have wronged an extraordinary friend: his love and kindness will come into your thoughts, and make you angry with your own unkindness. Here look over the catalogue of God's mercies to you, for soul and body. And here observe that Satan, in hiding the love of God from you, and tempting you under the pretence of humility to deny his greatest, special mercy, doth seek to destroy your repentance and humiliation also, by hiding the greatest aggravation of your sin.

Direct. V. Think what the soul of man is made for, and should be used to, even to love, obey, and glorify our Maker; and then you will see what sin is, which disableth and perverteth it.—How excellent, and high, and holy a work are we created for and called to! And should we defile the temple of God? and serve the devil in filthiness and folly, where we should entertain, and serve, and magnify our Creator?

Direct. VI. Think well what pure and sweet delights a holy soul may enjoy from God, in his holy service; and then you will see what sin is, which robbeth him of these delights, and preferreth fleshly lusts before them.—O how happily might we perform every duty, and how fruitfully might we serve our Lord, and what delight should we find in his love and acceptation, and the foresight of everlasting blessedness, if it were not for sin; which bringeth down the soul from the doors of heaven, to wallow with swine in a beloved dunghill!

Direct. VII. Bethink you what a life it is which you must live for ever, if you live in heaven; and what a life the holy ones there now live; and then think whether sin, which is so contrary to it, be not a vile and hateful thing.—Either you would live in heaven, or not. If not, you are not those I speak to. If you would, you know that there is no sinning; no worldly mind, no pride, no passion, no fleshly lust or pleasures there. Oh, did you but see and hear one hour, how those blessed spirits are taken up in loving and magnifying the glorious God in purity and holiness, and how far they are from sin, it would make you loathe sin ever after, and look on sinners as on men in bedlam wallowing naked in their dung. Especially, to think that you hope yourselves to live for ever like those holy spirits; and therefore sin doth ill beseem you.

Direct. VIII. Look but to the state and torment of the damned, and think well of the difference betwixt angels and devils, and you may know what sin is.—Angels are pure; devils are polluted: holiness and sin do make the difference. Sin dwells in hell, and holiness in heaven. Remember that every temptation is from the devil, to make you like himself; as every holy motion is from Christ, to make you like himself. Remember when you sin, that you are learning and imitating of the devil, and are so far like him, John viii. 44. And the end of all is, that you may feel his pains. If hell-fire be not good, then sin is not good.

Direct. IX. Look always on sin as one that is ready to die, and consider how all men judge of it at the last.—What do men in heaven say of it? and what do men in hell say of it? and what do men at death say of it? and what do converted souls, or awakened consciences, say of it? Is it then followed with delight and fearlessness as it is now? is it then applauded? will any of them speak well of it? Nay, all the world speaks evil of sin in the general now, even when they love and commit the several acts. Will you sin when you are dying?

Direct. X. Look always on sin and judgment together.—Remember that you must answer for it before God, and angels, and all the world; and you will the better know it.

Direct. XI. Look now but upon sickness, poverty, shame, despair, death, and rottenness in the grave, and it may a little help you to know what sin is.—These are things within your sight or feeling; you need not faith to tell you of them. And by such effects you might have some little knowledge of the cause.

Direct. XII. Look but upon some eminent, holy persons upon earth, and upon the mad, profane, malignant world; and the difference may tell you[Pg 90] in part what sin is.—Is there not an amiableness in a holy, blameless person, that liveth in love to God and man, and in the joyful hopes of life eternal? Is not a beastly drunkard or whoremonger, and a raging swearer, and a malicious persecutor, a very deformed, loathsome creature? Is not the mad, confused, ignorant, ungodly state of the world a very pitiful sight? What then is the sin that all this doth consist in?

Though the principal part of the cure is in turning the will to the hatred of sin, and is done by this discovery of its malignity; yet I shall add a few more directions for the executive part, supposing that what is said already has had its effect.

Direct. I. When you have found out your disease and danger, give up yourselves to Christ as the Saviour and Physician of souls, and to the Holy Ghost as your Sanctifier, remembering that he is sufficient and willing to do the work which he hath undertaken.—It is not you that are to be saviours and sanctifiers of yourselves (unless as you work under Christ). But he that hath undertaken it, doth take it for his glory to perform it.

Direct. II. Yet must you be willing and obedient in applying the remedies prescribed you by Christ, and observing his directions in order to your cure.—And you must not be tender, and coy, and fine, and say, This is too bitter, and that is too sharp; but trust his love, and skill, and care, and take it as he prescribeth it, or giveth it you, without any more ado. Say not, It is grievous, and I cannot take it: for he commands you nothing but what is safe, and wholesome, and necessary, and if you cannot take it, you must try whether you can bear your sickness, and death, and the fire of hell! Are humiliation, confession, restitution, mortification, and holy diligence, worse than hell?

Direct. III. See that you take not part with sin, and wrangle not, or strive not against your Physician, or any that would do you good.—Excusing sin, and pleading for and extenuating it, and striving against the Spirit and conscience, and wrangling against ministers and godly friends, and hating reproof, are not the means to be cured and sanctified.

Direct. IV. See that malignity in every one of your particular sins, which you can see and say is in sin in general.—It is a gross deceit of yourselves, if you will speak a great deal of the evil of sin, and see none of this malignity in your pride, and your worldliness, and your passion and peevishness, and your malice and uncharitableness, and your lying, backbiting, slandering, or sinning against conscience for worldly commodity or safety. What self-contradiction is it for a man in prayer to aggravate sin, and when he is reproved for it, to justify or excuse it! for a popish priest to enter sinfully upon his place, by subscribing or swearing the Trent Confession, and then to preach zealously against sin in the general, as if he had never committed so horrid a crime! This is like him that will speak against treason, and the enemies of the king, but because the traitors are his friends and kindred, will protect or hide them, and take their parts.

Direct. V. Keep as far as you can from those temptations which feed and strengthen the sins which you would overcome.—Lay siege to your sins, and starve them out, by keeping away the food and fuel which is their maintenance and life.

Direct. VI. Live in the exercise of those graces and duties which are contrary to the sins which you are most in danger of.—For grace and duty are contrary to sin, and killeth it, and cureth us of it, as the fire cureth us of cold, or health of sickness.

Direct. VII. Hearken not to weakening unbelief and distrust, and cast not away the comforts of God, which are your cordials and strength.—It is not a frightful, dejected, despairing frame of mind, that is fittest to resist sin; but it is the encouraging sense of the love of God, and thankful sense of grace received (with a cautelous fear).

Direct. VIII. Be always suspicious of carnal self-love, and watch against it.—For that is the burrow or fortress of sin; and the common patron of it; ready to draw you to it, and ready to justify it. We are very prone to be partial in our own cause; as the case of Judah with Tamar, and David when Nathan reproved him in a parable, show. Our own passions, our own pride, our own censures, or backbitings, or injurious dealings, our own neglects of duty, seem small, excusable, if not justifiable things to us; whereas we could easily see the faultiness of all these in another, especially in an enemy: when yet we should be best acquainted with ourselves, and we should most love ourselves, and therefore hate our own sins most.

Direct. IX. Bestow your first and chiefest labour to kill sin at the root; to cleanse the heart, which is the fountain; for out of the heart cometh the evils of the life.—Know which are the master-roots; and bend your greatest care and industry to mortify those: and they are especially these that follow; 1. Ignorance. 2. Unbelief. 3. Inconsiderateness. 4. Selfishness and pride. 5. Fleshliness, in pleasing a brutish appetite, lust, or fantasy. 6. Senseless hardheartedness and sleepiness in sin.

Direct. X. Account the world and all its pleasures, wealth, and honours, no better than indeed they are, and then Satan will find no bait to catch you.—Esteem all as dung with Paul, Phil. iii. 8; and no man will sin, and sell his soul, for that which he accounteth but as dung.

Direct. XI. Keep up above in a heavenly conversation, and then your souls will be always in the light, and as in the sight of God, and taken up with those businesses and delights which put them out of relish with the baits of sin.

Direct. XII. Let christian watchfulness be your daily work; and cherish a preserving, though not a distracting and discouraging fear.

Direct. XIII. Take heed of the first approaches and beginnings of sin. Oh how great a matter doth a little of this fire kindle! And if you fall, rise quickly by sound repentance, whatever it may cost you.

Direct. XIV. Make God's word your only rule; and labour diligently to understand it.

Direct. XV. And in doubtful cases, do not easily depart from the unanimous judgment of the generality of the most wise and godly of all ages.

Direct. XVI. In doubtful cases be not passionate or rash, but proceed deliberately, and prove things well, before you fasten on them.

Direct. XVII. Be acquainted with your bodily temperature, and what sin it most inclineth you to, and what sin also your calling or converse doth lay you most open to, that there your watch may be the stricter. (Of all which I shall speak more fully under the next Grand Direction.)

Direct. XVIII. Keep in a life of holy order, such as God hath appointed you to walk in. For there is no preservation for stragglers that keep not rank and file, but forsake the order which God commandeth them.—And this order lieth principally in these points: 1. That you keep in union with the universal church. Separate not from Christ's body upon any pretence whatever. With the church as regenerate, hold spiritual communion, in faith, love, and holiness: with the church as congregate and[Pg 91] visible, hold outward communion, in profession and worship. 2. If you are not teachers, live under your particular, faithful pastors, as obedient disciples of Christ. 3. Let the most godly, if possible, be your familiars. 4. Be laborious in an outward calling.

Direct. XIX. Turn all God's providences, whether of prosperity or adversity, against your sins.—If he give you health and wealth, remember he thereby obligeth you to obedience, and calls for special service from you. If he afflict you, remember that it is sin that he is offended at, and searcheth after; and therefore take it as his physic, and see that you hinder not, but help on its work, that it may purge away your sin.

Direct. XX. Wait patiently on Christ till he have finished the cure, which will not be till this trying life be finished.—Persevere in attendance on his Spirit and means; for he will come in season, and will not tarry. "Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord: his going forth is prepared as the morning, and he shall come unto us as the rain: as the latter and former rain upon the earth," Hos. vi. 3. Though you have oft said, "There is no healing," Jer. xiv. 19; "he will heal your backslidings, and love you freely," Hos. xiv. 4. "Unto you that fear his name, shall the Sun of righteousness arise, with healing in his wings," Mal. iv. 2: "and blessed are all they that wait for him," Isa. xxx. 18.

Thus I have given such directions as may help for humiliation under sin, or hatred of it, and deliverance from it.


Our warfare under Christ against the tempter.

Grand Direct. IX. Spend all your days in a skilful, vigilant, resolute, and valiant war against the flesh, the world, and the devil, as those that have covenanted to follow Christ the Captain of your salvation.

The flesh is the end of temptation,[104] for all is to please it, Rom. xiii. 14, and therefore is the greatest enemy; the world is the matter of temptation; and the devil is the first mover, or efficient of it: and this is the trinity of enemies to Christ and us, which we renounce in baptism, and must constantly resist. Of the world and flesh I shall speak chap. 4. Here I shall open the methods of the devil. And first I shall prepare your understanding, by opening some presupposed truths.

1. It is presupposed, that there is a devil. He that believeth not this, doth prove it to others, by showing how grossly the devil can befool him. Apparitions, witchcrafts, and temptations are full proofs of it to sense; besides what Scripture saith.

2. It is supposed that he is the deadly enemy of Christ and us.[105] He was once an angel, and fell from his first estate by sin, and a world of evil spirits with him; and it is probable his envy against mankind might be the greater, as knowing that we were made to succeed him and his followers, in their state of glory: for Christ saith, that we shall "be equal with the angels," Luke xx. 36. He showed his enmity to man in our innocency, and by his temptation caused our fall and misery. But after the fall, God put an enmity into the nature of man against devils, as a merciful preservative against temptation: so that as the whole nature of man abhorreth the nature of serpents, so doth the soul abhor and dread the diabolical nature. And, therefore, so far as the devil is seen in a temptation now, so far it is frustrated; till the enmity in nature be overcome by his deceits: and this help nature hath against temptation, which it seems our nature had not before the fall, as not knowing the malice of the devil against us.

There is a natural enmity to the devil himself put into all the woman's natural seed: but the moral enmity against his sinful temptations and works, is put only into the spiritual seed by the Holy Ghost (except what remnants are in the light of nature). I will be brief of all this and the next, having spoken of them more largely in my "Treatise against Infidelity," Part iii.

The devil's names do tell us what he is.[106] In the Old Testament he is called, 1. The "serpent," Gen. iii. 2. The Hebrew word, translated "devils," in Lev. xvii. 7, and Isa. xiii. 21, signifieth hairy, as satyrs are described; and sometimes he-goats; because in such shapes he oft appeareth. 3. He is called "Satan," Zech. iii. 1. 4. "An evil spirit," 1 Sam. xviii. 10. 5. "A lying spirit," 1 Kings xxii. 22; for he "is a liar, and the father of it," John viii. 44. 6. His offspring is called "a spirit of uncleanness," Zech. xiii. 2. 7. And he (or his spawn) is called "a spirit of fornication," Hos. iv. 12; that is, idolatry. 8. "A perverse spirit, causing staggering and giddiness as a drunken man," Isa. xix. 14.

In the New Testament, 1. He is sometimes called simply "a spirit," Mark ix. 20, 26; Luke ix. 39; x. 20. 2. Sometimes, πνευματα ακαθαρτα, "unclean spirits," Luke vi. 18; as contrary to the Holy Spirit; and that from their nature and effects. 3. And after, δαιμομιον, "demons," a word taken in a good sense in heathen writers, but not in Scripture; because they worshipped devils under that name, (unless perhaps Acts xvii. 18; 1 Tim. iv. 1.) And, δαιμων with respect to their knowledge, and, as some think, to the knowledge promised to Adam, in the temptation. 4. Πειραζων, "the tempter," Matt. iv. 5. "Satan," Matt. iv.; 1 Pet. v. 8. 6. Εχθρος, "an enemy," Matt. xiii. 28, 39. 7. "The strong man armed," Matt. xii. 8. "Angels," 1 Cor. vi. 3; 2 Pet. ii. 4. "Angels which kept not their first state," Jude 6. 9. "A spirit of divination," Acts xvi. 16. 10. "A roaring lion," 1 Pet. v. 8. 11. "A murderer," John viii. 44. 12. "Belial," 2 Cor. vi. 15. 13. "Beelzebub," Matt. xii. the "god of flies." 14. "The prince of this world," John xii. 21, from his power over wicked men. 15. "The god of this world," 2 Cor. iv. 5, because the world obey him. 16. "The prince of the power of the air," Eph. ii. 2. 17. "The ruler of the darkness of this world," Eph. vi. 12. "Principalities and powers." 18. "The father of the wicked," John viii. 44. 19. "The dragon, and the old serpent," Rev. xii. 20. Διαβολος, "the calumniator," or "false accuser," often. 21. Ὁ πονηρος "the evil one," Matt. xxiii. 19. 22. "An evil spirit," Acts xix. 15. 23. Απολλυων, "the destroyer," and "Abaddon," the "king of the locusts," and "angel of the bottomless pit," Rev. ix. 11, (unless that speak of antichrist).

3. He is too strong an enemy for lapsed sinful man to deal with of himself. If he conquered us in innocency, what may he do now? He is dangerous, (1.) By the greatness of his subtlety. (2.) By the greatness of his power. (3.) By the greatness of his malice. And hence, (4.) By his constant diligence, watching when we sleep, Matt. xiii. 25; and "seeking night and day to devour," 1 Pet. v. 8; Rev. xii. 4.

4. Therefore Christ hath engaged himself in our cause, and is become the "Captain of our salvation,"[Pg 92] Heb. ii. 10.[107] And the world is formed into two armies, that live in continual war: the devil is the prince and general of one, and his angels and wicked men are his armies: Christ is the King and General of the other, and his angels (Heb. ii. 14) and saints are his army. Between these two armies are the greatest conflict in the world.

5. It is supposed also, that this war is carried on, on both sides, within us, and without us; by inward solicitations, and outward means, which are fitted thereunto.

6. Both Christ and Satan work by officers, instruments, and means. Christ hath his ministers to preach his gospel, and pull down the kingdom of Satan. And Satan hath his ministers to preach licentiousness and lies, and to resist the gospel and kingdom of Christ, 1 Cor. iii. 5; iv. 1; 2 Cor. xi. 15; Acts xiii. 8-10. Christ hath his church, and the devil hath his synagogue. Christ's soldiers do every one, in their places, fight for him against the devil. And the devil's soldiers do every one, in their places, fight against Christ. The generals are both unseen to mortals; and the unseen power is theirs; but their agents are visible. The soldiers fight not only against the generals, but against one another; but it is all, or chiefly, for the generals' sakes. It is Christ that the wicked persecute in his servants, Acts ix. 4; and it is the devil whom the godly hate and resist in the wicked.

But yet here are divers notable differences. 1. The devil's servants do not what they do in love to him, but to their own flesh; but Christ's servants do what they do in love to him, as well as to themselves. 2. The devil's army are cheated into arms and war, not knowing what they do; but Christ doth all in the open light, and will have no servants but those that deliberately adhere to him, when they know the worst. 3. The devil's servants do not know that he is their general; but Christ's followers do all know their Lord. 4. The devil's followers disown their master and their work; they will not own that they fight against Christ and his kingdom, while they do it: but Christ's followers own their Captain, and his cause, and work; for he is not a master to be ashamed of.

7. Both Christ and Satan work persuasively, by moral means, and neither of them by constraint and force. Christ forceth not men against their wills to good, and Satan cannot force them to be bad; but all the endeavour is to make men willing; and he is the conqueror that getteth and keepeth our own consent.

8. Their ends are contrary, and therefore their ways are also contrary. The devil's end is, to draw man to sin and damnation, and to dishonour God; and Christ's end is, to draw man from sin to holiness and salvation, and to honour God. But Christ maketh known his end, and Satan concealeth his end from his followers.

9. There is somewhat within the good and bad for the contrary part to work upon; and we are, as it were, divided in ourselves, and have somewhat in us that is on both sides. The wicked have an honourable acknowledgment of God, and of their greatest obligation to him; a hatred to the devil; a love of themselves; a willingness to be happy, and an unwillingness to be miserable; and a conscience which approveth of more good than they do, and condemneth much of their transgression. This is some advantage to the persuasions of the ministers of Christ to work upon; and they have reason capable of knowing more.

The soldiers of Christ have a fleshly appetite, and the remnants of ignorance and error in their minds, and of earthliness, and carnality, and averseness to God in their wills, with a nearness to this world, and much strangeness to the world to come. And here is too much advantage for Satan to work on by his temptations.

10. But it is the predominant part within us, and the scope of our lives, which showeth which of the armies we belong to. And thus we must give up our names and hearts to Christ, and engage under his conduct against the devil, and conquer to the death, if we will be saved. Not to fight against the bare name of the devil; for so will his own soldiers, and spit at his name, and hang a witch that makes a contract with him: but it is to fight against his cause and work, which is by fighting against the world and the flesh, and for the glory of God.

The method.

In opening to you this holy war, I shall, First, Shew you what we must do on the offensive part. Secondly, What on the defensive part. And here I shall show you, I. What it is that the tempter aimeth at as his end. II. What matter or ground he worketh upon. III. What are his succours and assistance. IV. What kind of officers and instruments he useth. V. What are his methods and actual temptations, 1. To actual sin, 2. Against our duty to God.

First, Our offensive arms are to be used, 1. Against the power of sin within us; and all its advantages and helps: for while Satan ruleth and possesseth us within, we shall never well oppose him without. 2. Against sin in others, as far as we have opportunity. 3. Against the credit and honour of sin in the world: as the devil's servants would bring light and holiness into disgrace, so Christ's servants must cast disgrace and shame upon sin and darkness. 4. Against all the reasonings of sinners, and their subtle fallacies, whereby they would deceive. 5. Against the passions and violent lusts which are the causes of men's other sins. 6. Against the holds and helps of sin, as false teachers, profane revilers, ignorance, and deceit. Only take heed that on this pretence we step not out of our ranks and places, to pull down the powers of the world by rebellions: "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal," 2 Cor. x. 4.

Secondly, As to our defence, I. The ends of the tempter which must be perceived, are these: In general, his aim is at our utter ruin and damnation, and to draw us here to dishonour God as much as he can. But, especially, his aim is to strengthen the great heart sins, which are most mortal, and are the root, and life, and spawners of the rest: especially these: 1. Ignorance, which is the friend and cloak to all the rest. 2. Error, which will justify them. 3. Unbelief, which keeps off all that should oppose them. 4. Atheism, profaneness, unholiness, which are the defiance of God and all his armies. 5. Presumption, which emboldeneth them, and hides the danger. 6. Hardness of heart, which fortifieth them against all the batteries of grace. 7. Hypocrisy, which maketh them serve him as spies and intelligencers in the army of Christ. 8. Disaffection to God and his ways and servants, which is the devil's colours. 9. Unthankfulness, which tends to make them unreconcilable and unrecoverable. 10. Pride, which commandeth many regiments of lesser sins. 11. Worldliness, or love of money and wealth, which keepeth his armies in pay. 12. Sensuality, voluptuousness, or flesh-pleasing, which is the great commander of all the rest.[108] For selfishness is the devil's[Pg 93] lieutenant-general, which consisteth chiefly in the three last named, but especially in pride and sensuality. Some think that it is outward sins that bring all the danger; but these twelve heart sins, which I have named to you, are the twelve gates of the infernal city, which Satan loveth above all the rest.

II. The matter and grounds of his temptations are these: 1. The devil first worketh upon the outward sense, and so upon the sensitive appetite: he showeth the cup to the drunkard's eye, and the bait of filthy lust to the fornicator, and the riches and pomp of the world to the covetous and proud. The glutton tasteth the sweetness of the dish which he loveth. Stage-plays, and tempting sports, and proud attire, and sumptuous buildings, and all such sensual things, are the baits by which the devil angleth for souls. Thus Eve first saw the fruit, and then tasted, and then did eat. Thus Noah, and Lot, and David sinned. Thus Achan saith, Josh. vii. 21, "I saw (the garments, silver, and gold) I coveted them, and I took them." The sense is the door of sin.

2. The tempter next worketh on the fantasy or imagination, and prints upon it the loveliest image of his bait that possibly he can, and engageth the sinner to think on it, and to roll it over and over in his mind, even as God commandeth us to meditate on his precepts.

3. Next he worketh by these upon the passions or affections: which fantasy having inflamed, they violently urge the will and reason; and this according to the nature of the passion, whether fear or hope, sorrow or joy, love or hatred, desire or aversion; but by none doth he work so dangerously as by delight, and love, and desire of things sensual.

4. Hence he proceedeth to infect the will, (upon the simple apprehension of the understanding,) to make it inordinately cleave to the temporal good, and to neglect its duty in commanding the understanding to meditate on preserving objects, and to call off the thoughts from the forbidden thing: it neglecteth to rule the thoughts and passions according to its office and natural power.

5. And so he corrupteth the understanding itself, first to omit its duty, and then to entertain deceit, and to approve of evil: and so the servant is put into the government, and the commanding powers do but serve it. Reason is blinded by sensuality and passion, and becomes their servant, and pleads their cause.

By all this it appeareth, 1. That Satan's first bait is ordinarily some sensible or imaginary good, set up against true spiritual good. 2. That his first assault of the reason and will is to tempt them into a sluggish neglect and neutrality, to omit that restraint of sense, thought, and passion, which was their duty. 3. And that, lastly, he tempteth them into actual compliance and committing of the sin: and herein, 1. The bait which he useth with the understanding is still "some seeming truth." And, therefore, his art and work is to colour falsehood, and make it seem truth; for this is the deceiving of the mind: and therefore for a sinner to plead his mistake for his excuse, and say, I thought it had been so or so; I thought it had been no sin, or no duty; this is but to confess, and not to excuse: it is but as much as to say, My understanding sinned with my will, and was deceived by the tempter and overcome. 2. And the bait which he useth with the will is always some appearing good: and self-love and love of good is the principle which he abuseth, and maketh his ground to work upon; as God also useth it in drawing us to good.

III. The succours and auxiliaries of the devil, and his principal means, are these: 1. He doth what he can to get an ill tempered body on his side; for as sin did let in bodily distempers, so do they much befriend the sin that caused them. A choleric temper will much help him to draw men to passion, malice, murder, cruelty, and revenge. A sanguine and bilious temper mixed, will help him to draw men to lust, and filthiness, and levity, and wantonness, and time-wasting pleasures: a sanguine temper mixed with a pituitous, much helpeth him to make men blockish, and regardless, and insensible of the great concernments of the soul. A phlegmatic temper helpeth him to draw people to drowsy sluggishness, and to an idle, slothful life, and so to ill means to maintain it, and to a backwardness to every work that is good. A healthful temper much helpeth him to draw people to gluttony, drunkenness, lust, ambition, covetousness, and neglect of life eternal: a sickly temper helpeth him to tempt us to peevishness and impatience: and a melancholy temper helpeth him in all the temptations mentioned but even now.

2. He useth his greatest skill to get the greatest fleshly interest on his side: so that it may be a matter of great pleasure, great advancement, and honour, and applause, or great commodity to a man, if he will sin; or a matter of great suffering, and great disgrace, and great loss to him that will not sin, or that will be holy and obedient to God: for fleshly interest being the common matter of all his temptations, his main business is to greaten this as much as may be.

3. He maketh very great advantage of the common customs of the country that men live in: this carrieth away thousands and millions at once. When the common vote and custom are for sin, and against Christ and holiness, particular persons think themselves excused, that they are no wiser or better than all the country about them. And they think they are much the safer for sinning in so great a crowd, and doing but as most men do; and he that contradicteth them cometh on great disadvantage in their eye, when he is to oppose an army of adversaries, and seemeth to think himself wiser than so many.

4. Also he is exceeding industrious to get education on his side; he knoweth how apt men are to retain the form which they were moulded or cast into at first: if he get the first possession, by actual as well as original sin, he is not easily cast out. Especially when education doth conspire with common custom, it delivereth most of the people and kingdoms of the earth into his hands.

5. Also he is industrious to get the approved doctrine of the teachers of the people on his side. If he can get it to pass once for a revelation or command of God, he will quickly conquer conscience by it, and take down all resistance: he never doth war more successfully against God, than when he beareth the name of God in his colours, and fighteth against him in his own name. Mahometans, Jews, papists, and all heretics are the trophies and monuments of his victories by this way. Mischief is never so much reverenced, nor proceedeth so successfully, as when it is made a religion! When the devil can charge men to do his business in the name of God, and upon pain of damnation, he hath got the strongest weapons that ever he can make use of. His ordinary bait is some fleshly pleasure; but he goeth high indeed when he presumeth to offer the everlasting pleasures; he tempted Christ with all the kingdoms and glory of the world; but he tempteth many millions of souls with the offers of the kingdom of heaven itself. For he will offer it to them that he is endeavouring to keep from it, and make it the bait to draw men from it into the way to hell.

6. He is exceeding diligent to get the wealth and[Pg 94] prosperity of the world on his side; that he may not seem to flatter his servants with empty promises, but to reward them with real felicity and wealth. And then he would make the sinner believe that Christ is the deceiver, and promiseth a kingdom which none of them ever saw, and which he will not give them; but that he himself will not deceive them, but make good his promises even in this life without delay: for they see with their eyes the things which he promiseth, and they shall have them presently in possession, to secure them from deceit.

7. He is exceeding industrious to get common fame and reputation on his side; that he may be able to keep his cause in credit, and to keep the cause of Christ and holiness in disgrace. For he knoweth how exceeding prone men are to fall into the way of honour and esteem, and which most men praise; and how loth they are to go in the way which is hated and evil spoken of by the most of men.

8. He is very diligent to get the sword and government of kingdoms, and states, and countries, and cities, and corporations into his hands, or on his side; for he knoweth the multitude of the ignorant and vulgar people are exceeding prone to be of the religion of those that are able to help or hurt them, and to follow the stronger side; and that the will and example of the ruler is as the first sheet or stamp, which all the rest are printed after. Therefore he will do his worst, to give the greatest power to the most ungodly: if the Turk be the emperor, the most of the vulgar are like quickly to be Turks: if a papist be their king, the most of them are likely to be papists. Look into the present state of the heathen, infidel, Mahometan, papal, and profane parts of the world, and into the history of all ages past, and you will see with grief and admiration, how much the devil hath got by this.

9. Also he is very desirous to get our society and companions on his side; who are near us, and have frequent opportunities to do us good or hurt. For he knoweth by long and great experience how powerfully they draw, and how frequently they speed.

10. And he is very industrious to get our friends that have power over us, and greatest interest in us, on his side. For then he hath won our out-works already.

11. Lastly, he is desirous sometimes to get the name and appearance of virtue and piety on his side; that those that are to do his work, may have a winning carriage, and so a venerable name, and the cloak of virtue may serve his turn for the promoting of the destruction of piety itself.

IV. By what hath been said, you may understand what kind of officers and instruments the tempter useth. 1. He commonly useth men that are themselves first deceived and corrupted, as fit instruments to deceive and corrupt others. These will carry it on with confidence and violence; the employment seemeth natural to them, they are so fit for it: they will be willing to make other men of their mind, and to have the company of others in their way. A drunkard is fit to make a drunkard; and a filthy fornicator to entice another into the sin; and a gamester to make a gamester; and a wanton time-waster to draw another to waste his time in wantonness and foolish sports: an ambitious or proud person is fit to kindle that fire in others; a swearer is fittest to make a swearer; and so of many other sins.

2. The devil usually chooseth for his instruments men that have no great tenderness of conscience, or fear of sinning or of hurting souls. He would have no such cowards in his army, as men fearing God are as to his ends: it must be men that will venture upon hell themselves, and fear not much the loss of their own souls; and therefore must not be too tender or fearful of destroying others. Butchers and soldiers must not be chosen out of too tender or loving a sort of people; such are not fit to go through his work.

3. He usually chooseth instruments that are most deeply engaged in his cause; whose preferment, and honour, and gain, and carnal interest shall be to them, as nature is to a dog, or wolf, or fox, or other ravenous creature: who think it a loss, or danger, or suffering to them, if others be not hindered in good, or made as bad as they. Thus Demetrius and the other craftsmen that lived upon the trade, are the fittest to plead Diana's cause, and stir up the people against the apostles, Acts xix. 24, 38, 39. And the Jews were the fittest instruments to persecute Christ, who thought that if they "let him alone, all men would believe on him, and the Romans would come and take away both their place and nation; and that it was expedient for them that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not," John xi. 48, 49. And Pilate was the fittest instrument to condemn him, who feared that he should else be taken to be none of Cæsar's friend. And Pharaoh was the fittest instrument to persecute the Israelites, who was like to lose by their departure.

4. When he can he chooseth such instruments as are much about us, and nearest to us, who have opportunity to be often speaking to us, when others have no opportunity to help us: the fire that is nearest to the wood or thatch is liker to burn it than that which is far off: nearness and opportunity are very great advantages.

5. If it be possible, he will choose such instruments as have the greatest abilities to do him service: one man of great wit, and learning, and elocution, that is nimble in disputing, and can make almost any cause seem good which he defendeth, or bad which he opposeth, is able to do more service for the devil than a hundred idiots.

6. If possible, he will choose the rulers of the world to be his instruments; that shall command men, and threaten them with imprisonment, banishment, confiscation, or death, if they will not sin: as the king of Babylon did by the three witnesses and Daniel, Dan. iii. and vi. and all persecutors have done in all ages, against the holy seed. For he knoweth, that (though not with a Job, yet with a carnal person) "skin for skin, and all that a man hath will he give for his life." And therefore, they that have the power of life, and liberty, and estate, have carnal men by the handle that will rule them.

7. He maketh the rich his instruments; that, having the wealth of the world, are able to reward and hire evil-doers; and are able to oppress those that will not please them. Landlords and rich men can do the devil more service than many of the poor: they are the Judases that bear the bag. As the ox will follow him that carrieth the hay, and the horse will follow him that carrieth the provender, and the dog will follow him that feedeth him, and the crow will be where the carrion is; so carnal persons will follow and obey him that bears the purse.

8. The devil, if he can, will make those his instruments, whom he seeth we most esteem and reverence; persons whom we think most wise and fit to be our counsellors: we will take that from these, which we would suspect from others.

9. He will get our relations, and those that have our hearts most, to be his instruments. A husband, or a wife, or a Delilah, can do more than others; and so can a bosom friend, whom we dearly love: when all their interest in our affections is made over[Pg 95] for the devil's service, it may do much. Therefore we see that husbands and wives, if they love entirely, do usually close in the same religion, opinion, or way, though when they were first married they differed from each other.

10. As oft as he can, the devil maketh the multitude his instrument; that the crowd and noise may carry us on, and make men valiant, and put away their fear of punishment.

11. He is very desirous of making the ambassadors of Christ his prisoners, and to hire them to speak against their Master's cause: that in Christ's name they may deceive the silly flock, "speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them," Acts xx. 30. Sometimes by pretence of his authority and commission; making poor people believe, that not to hear them, and obey them in their errors, is to be disobedient rejecters of Christ: (and thus the Romish party carry it.) Sometimes by their parts and plausible, persuasive speeches: and sometimes by their fervency, frightening people into error. And by these two ways most heretics prevail. None so successfully serveth Satan, as a false or bribed minister of Christ.

12. He is exceeding desirous to make parents themselves his instruments for their children's sin and ruin; and, alas, how commonly doth he succeed! He knoweth that parents have them under their hands in the most ductile, malleable age; and that they have a concurrence of almost all advantages: they have the purse and portion of their children in their power; they have the interest of love, and reverence, and estimation; they are still with them, and can be often in their solicitings; they have the rod, and can compel them. Many thousands are in hell, through the means of their own parents: such cruel monsters will they be to the souls of any others, that are first so to their own. If the devil can get the parents to be cursers, swearers, gamesters, drunkards, worldlings, proud, deriders or railers at a holy life, what a snare is here for the poor children!

V. In the method of Satan, the next thing is to show you how he labours to keep off all the forces of Christ, which should resist him and destroy his work, and to frustrate their endeavours, and fortify himself. And among many others, these means are notable:

1. He would do what he can to weaken even natural reason, that men may be blockish and incapable of good. And it is lamentable to observe how hard it is to make some people either understand or regard. And a beastly kind of education doth much to this: and so doth custom in sensual courses; even turn men into brutes.

2. He doth what he can to hinder parents and masters from doing their part, in the instructing and admonishing of children and servants, and dealing wisely and zealously with them for their salvation: either he will keep parents and masters ignorant and unable, or he will make them wicked and unwilling, and perhaps engage them to oppose their children in all that is good; or he will make them like Eli, remiss and negligent, indifferent, formal, cold, and dull; and so keep them from saving their children's or servants' souls.

3. He doth all that possibly he can to keep the sinner in security, presumption, and senselessness, even asleep in sin; and to that end to keep him quiet and in the dark, without any light or noise which may awake him; that he may live asleep, as without a God, a Christ, a heaven, a soul, or any such thing to mind. His great care is to keep him from considering: and therefore he keeps him still in company, or sport, or business, and will not let him be oft alone, nor retire into a sober conference with his conscience, or serious thoughts of the life to come.

4. He doth his best to keep soul-searching, lively ministers out of the country, or out of that place; and to silence them, if there be any such; and to keep the sinner under some ignorant or dead-hearted minister, that hath not himself that faith, or repentance, or life, or love, or holiness, or zeal, which he should be a means to work in others; and he will do his utmost to draw him to be a leader of men to sin.

5. He doth his worst to make ministers weak, to disgrace the cause of Christ, and hinder his work, by their bungling and unsuccessful management, that there may be none to stand up against sin, but some unlearned or half-witted men, that can scarce speak sense, or will provoke contempt or laughter in the hearers.

6. He doth his worst to make ministers scandalous, that when they tell men of their sin and duty, they may think such mean not as they speak, and believe not themselves, or make no great matter of it; but speak for custom, credit, or for their hire. And that the people, by the wicked lives of the preachers, may be emboldened to disobey their doctrine, and to imitate them, and live without repentance.

7. He will labour to load the ablest ministers with reproaches and slanders, which thousands shall hear, who never hear the truth in their defence: and so making them odious, the people will receive no more good by their preaching, than from a Turk, or Jew, till the very truth itself for itself prevail. And to this end especially he doth all that he can to foment continual "divisions in the church;" that while every party is engaged against the other, the interest of their several causes may make them think it necessary to make the chief that are against them seem odious or contemptible to the people, that so they may be able to do their cause and them no harm: and so they disable them from serving Christ and saving souls, that they may disable them to hurt themselves, or their faction, or their impotent cause.

8. He doth what he can to keep the most holy ministers under persecution; that they may be as the wounded deer, whom all the rest of the herd will shun; or like a worried dog, whom the rest will fall upon; or that the people may be afraid to hear them, lest they suffer with them; or may come to them only as Nicodemus did to Christ, by night.

9. Or if any ministers or godly persons warn the sinner, the devil will do what he can that they may be so small a number in comparison of those of the contrary mind; that he may tell the sinner, Dost thou think these few self-conceited fellows are wiser than such, and such, and all the country? Shall none be saved but such a few precise ones? "Do any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believe in him? But this people that knoweth not the law are cursed," John vii. 48, 49; that is, as Dr. Hammond noteth, "This illiterate multitude are apt to be seduced, but the teachers are wiser."

10. The devil doth his worst to cause some falling out, or difference of interest or opinion, between the preacher or monitor, and the sinner; that so he may take him for his enemy. And how unapt men are to receive any advice from an enemy, or adversary, experience will easily convince you.

11. He endeavoureth that powerful preaching may be so rare, and the contradiction of wicked cavillers so frequent, that the sermon may be forgotten, or the impressions of it blotted out, before they can hear another to confirm them, and strike the nail home[Pg 96] to the head; and that the fire may go out before the next opportunity come.

12. He laboureth to keep good books out of the sinner's hands, or keep him from reading them, lest he speed as the eunuch, Acts viii. that was reading the Scripture as he rode in his chariot on the way. And instead of such books he putteth romances, and play-books, and trifling, or scorning, contradicting writings into his hands.

13. He doth what he can to keep the sinner from intimate acquaintance with any that are truly godly; that he may know them no otherwise than by the image which ignorant or malicious slanderers or scorners do give of such; and that he may know religion itself but by hearsay, and never see it exemplified in any holy, diligent believers. A holy christian is a living image of God, a powerful convincer and teacher of the ungodly; and the nearer men come to them, the greater excellency they will see, and the greater efficacy they will feel. Whereas in the devil's army, the most must not be seen in the open light, and the hypocrite himself must be seen, like a picture, but by a side light, and not by a direct.

14. Those means which are used, the devil labours to frustrate, (1.) By sluggish heedlessness and disregard. (2.) By prejudice, and false opinions which prepossess the mind. (3.) By diversions of many sorts. (4.) By pre-engagements to the contrary interest and way; so that Christ comes too late for them. (5.) By worldly prosperity and delights. (6.) By ill company. (7.) And by molesting and frighting the sinner, when he doth but take up any purpose to be converted; giving him all content and quietness in sin, and raising storms and terrors in his soul when he is about to turn.

The Methods of Christ against the Tempter.

Before I proceed to Satan's particular temptations, I will show you the contrary methods of Christ in the conduct of his army, and opposing Satan.

I. Christ's ends are, ultimately, the glory and pleasing of his Father and himself, and the saving of his church, and the destroying the kingdom of the devil; and next, the purifying his peculiar people, and calling home all that are ordained to eternal life.

But more particularly, he looketh principally at the heart, to plant there, 1. Holy knowledge. 2. Faith. 3. Godliness, or holy devotedness to God, and love to him above all. 4. Thankfulness. 5. Obedience. 6. Humility. 7. Heavenly-mindedness. 8. Love to others. 9. Self-denial, and mortification, and contentment. 10. Patience. And in all these, 1. Sincerity; 2. Tenderness of heart; 3. Zeal, and holy strength and resolution. And withal to make us actually serviceable, and diligent in our Master's work, for our own and others' salvation.

II. Christ's order in working is direct, and not backward, as the devil's is. He first revealeth saving truth to the understanding, and affecteth the will by showing the goodness of the things revealed; and these employ the thoughts, and passions, and senses, and the whole body, reducing the inferior faculties to obedience, and casting out by degrees those images which had deceived and prepossessed them.

The matter which Christ presenteth to the soul, is, 1. Certain truth from the Father of lights, set up against the prince and kingdom of darkness, ignorance, error, and deceit. 2. Spiritual and everlasting good, even God himself, to be seen, and loved, and enjoyed for ever, against the tempter's temporal, corporal, and seeming good. Christ's kingdom and work are advanced by light: he is for the promoting of all useful knowledge; and therefore, for clear and convincing preaching, for reading the Scriptures in a known tongue, and meditating in them day and night, and for exhorting one another daily; which Satan is against.

III. The means by which he worketh against Satan, are such as these: 1. Sometimes he maketh use of the very temper of the body as a preparative; and (being Lord of all) he giveth such a temperature as will be most serviceable to the soul; as a sober, deliberate, meek, quiet, and patient disposition. But sometimes he honoureth his grace by the conquest of such sins, as even bodily disposition doth entertain and cherish.

2. Sometimes by his providence he withdraweth the matter of temptations, that they shall not be too strong for feeble souls: but sometimes his grace doth make advantage of them all, and leave them for the magnifying of its frequent victories.

3. Sometimes he giveth his cause the major vote among the people, so that it shall be a matter of dishonourable singularity not to be a professed christian; and sometimes, but exceeding rarely, it is so with the life of godliness and practice of christianity also. But ordinarily, in the most places of the world, custom and the multitude are against him, and his grace is honoured by prevailing against these bands of Satan.

4. He maketh his ministers his principal instruments, qualifying, disposing, and calling them to his work, and helping them in it, and prospering it in their hands.

5. He maketh it the duty of every christian to do his part to carry on the work; and furnisheth them with love, and compassion, and knowledge, and zeal in their several measures.

6. He giveth a very strict charge to parents to devote their children, with themselves, to God; encouraging them with the promise of his accepting and blessing them; and commandeth them to teach them the word of God with greatest diligence, and to bring them up in the nurture and fear of God.

7. He giveth princes and magistrates their power, to promote his kingdom, and protect his servants, and encourage the good, and suppress iniquity, and further the obedience of his laws; though, in most of the world, they turn his enemies, and he carrieth on his work without them, and against their cruel persecuting opposition.

8. His light detecteth the nakedness of the devil's cause, and among the sons of light, it is odious, and a common shame. And as "wisdom is justified of her children," so the judgment of holy men condemning sin, doth much to keep it under in the world.

9. His providence usually casteth the sinner that he will do good to, into the bosom and communion of his holy church, and the familiar company and acquaintance of the godly, who may help him by instruction, affection, and example.

10. His providence fitteth all conditions to their good; but especially helpeth them by seasonable, quickening afflictions. These are the means which ordinarily he useth. But the powerful inward operations of his Spirit, give efficacy to them all.

Temptations to particular Sins, with Directions for Preservation and Remedy.

In chap. i. part 2, I have opened the temptations which hinder sinners from conversion to God: I shall now proceed to those which draw men to particular sins. Here Satan's art is exercised, 1. In fitting his baits to his particular use. 2. In applying them thereto.

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Tempt. I. The devil fitteth his temptations to the sinner's age. The same bait is not suitable to all. Children he tempteth to excess of playfulness, lying, disobedience, unwillingness to learn the things that belong to their salvation, and a senselessness of the great concernment of their souls. He tempteth youth to wantonness, rudeness, gulosity, unruliness, and foolish inconsiderateness. In the beginning of manhood he tempteth to lust, voluptuousness, and luxury; or if these take not, to designs of worldliness and ambition. The aged he tempteth to covetousness, and unmovableness in their error, and unteachableness and obstinacy in their ignorance and sin. Thus every age hath its peculiar snare.

Direct. I. The remedy against this is, 1. To be distinctly acquainted with the temptations of your own age; and watch against them with a special heedfulness and fear. 2. To know the special duties and advantages of your own age, and turn your thoughts wholly unto those. Scripture hath various precepts for the various ages; study your own part. The young have more time to learn their duty, and less care and business to divert them; let them therefore be taken up in obedient learning. The middle age hath most vigour of body and mind; and therefore should do their Master's work with the greatest vigour, activity, and zeal. The aged should have most judgment, and experience, and acquaintedness with death and heaven; and therefore should teach the younger, both by word and holy life.

Tempt. II. The tempter also fitteth his temptations to men's several bodily tempers, (as I showed, p. 93.) The hot and strong he tempteth to lust. The sad and fearful he tempteth to discouragement and continual self-vexations; and to the fear of men and devils. Those that have strong appetites, to gluttony and drunkenness. Children, and women, and weak-headed people, to pride of apparel and trifling compliment. And masculine, wicked unbelievers, to pride of honour, parts, and grandeur, and to an ambitious seeking of rule and greatness. The meek and gentle he tempteth to a yieldingness unto the persuasions and will of erroneous and tempting persons. And those that are more stiff, to a stubborn resistance of all that should do them good. He found it most suitable to tempt a Saul to malice; David by a surprise to lust; Absalom to ambition; Peter to fearfulness, and after to compliance and dissimulation, to avoid the offence and displeasure of the weak; Luther to rashness; Melancthon to fearfulness; Carolostadius to unsettledness; Illiricus to inordinate zeal; Osiander to self-esteem; (if historians have given them their due.) One shoe fitteth not every foot.

Direct. II. Let your strictest watch be upon the sins of your temperature. Far greater diligence and resolution is here necessary, than against other sins. And withdraw the fuel, and strive against the bodily distempers themselves. Fasting and labour will do much against lust, which idleness and fulness continually feed. And so the rest have their several cures. Know also what good your temper doth give you special advantage for; and let it be turned unto that, and still employed in it.

Tempt. III. The tempter suiteth his temptations to your estates, of poverty or riches. The poor he tempteth to murmur and be impatient under their wants, and distress themselves more with griefs and cares; and to think that their sufferings may save them without holiness, and that necessary labour for their bodies may excuse them from much minding the concernments of their souls; and either to censure and hate the rich through envy, or to flatter them for gain. The rich he tempteth to an idle, time-wasting, voluptuous, fleshly, brutish life; to excess in sleep, and meat, and drink, and sport, and apparel, and costly ways of pride, and idle discourse, and visits, and compliments; to love the wealth and honours of the world, and live in continual pleasing of the flesh, to fare deliciously every day, and to waste their time in unprofitableness, without a constant calling; and to be unmerciful to the poor, and to tyrannize over their inferiors; Prov. xxx. 8, 9; Luke xvi.

1 Tim. vi. 9.

Direct. III. Here also observe regardfully where your danger lieth, and there keep a continual watch. Let the poor remember, that if they be not rich in grace, it is long of themselves; and if they be, they have the chiefest riches, and have learnt in all estates to be content: and have great cause to be thankful to God that thus helpeth them against the love and pleasures of the world. Let the rich remember, that they have not less to do than the poor, because they have more committed to their trust; nor may they ever the more satisfy the inordinate desires of the flesh. But they have more to do, and more dangers to fear and watch against, as they have more of their Master's talents to employ, and give account for at the last.

Tempt. IV. The devil suiteth his temptations to men's daily work and business. If it be low, to be ashamed of it through pride; if it be high, to be proud of it; if it be hard, to be weary and unfaithful in it, or to make it take up all their minds and time; if it be about worldly things, he tempteth them to be tainted by it with a worldly mind; if they labour for themselves, he tempteth them to overdo; if for others, he tempteth them to deceitful, unfaithful negligence and sloth. If they are ministers, he tempteth them to be idle, and unfaithful, and senseless of the weight of truth, the worth of souls, the brevity of time, that so their sin may be the ruin or the loss of many. If rulers, the devil useth his utmost skill to cause them to espouse an interest contrary to the interest of truth and holiness; and to cast some quarrel against Christ into their minds, and to persuade them that his interest is against theirs, and that his servants are their enemies.

Direct. IV. See that your work be lawful, and that God have called you to it, and then take it as the service which he himself assigneth to you, and do it as in his sight, and as passing to his judgment, in obedience to his will: and mind not so much whether it be hard or easy, low or high, as whether you are faithful in it. And if it be sanctified to you, by your intending all to the pleasing of God, remember that he loveth and rewardeth that servant that stoopeth to the lowest work at his command, as much as him that is employed in the highest. Do all for God, and walk in holiness with him, and keep out selfishness, (the poison of your callings,) and observe the proper danger of your places, and keep a constant watch against them.

Tempt. V. The devil suiteth his temptations to our several relations. Parents he tempteth to be cold and regardless of the great work of a wise and holy education of their children. Children he tempteth to be disobedient, unthankful, void of natural affection, unreverent dishonourers of their parents. Husbands he tempteth to be unloving, unkind, impatient with the weaknesses of their wives; and wives to be peevish, self-willed, proud, clamorous, passionate, and disobedient. Masters he tempteth to use their servants only as their beasts, for their own commodity, without any care of their salvation and God's service; and servants he tempteth to be carnal, untrusty, false, slothful, eye-servants, that take more care to hide a fault, than not to commit it.[Pg 98] Ministers and magistrates he tempteth to seek themselves, and neglect their charge, and set up their own ends instead of the common good; or to mistake the common good, or the means that tendeth to it. Subjects and people he tempteth to dishonour and murmur against their governors, and to censure them unjustly, and to disobey them, and rebel; or else to honour, and fear, and serve them more than God, and against God.

Direct. V. Here learn well the duties and dangers of your own relations, and remember that it is much of your work to be faithful and excellent in your relations. And mind not so much what other men owe to you, as what you owe to God and them. Let masters, and ministers, and magistrates first study and carefully practise their own duties, and yet they must next see that their inferiors do their duties, because that is their office: but they must be more desirous that God be first served, and more careful to procure obedience to him, than that they be honoured or obeyed themselves. Children, servants, and subjects must be taken up in the well-doing of their proper work; remembering that their good or hurt lieth far more upon that, than upon their superiors' dealings with them, or usage of them. As it is your own body, and not your superior's, which your soul doth animate, nourish, and use, and which you have the continual sense and charge of; so it is your own duty, and not your superiors', which you have to do and to answer for, and therefore most to mind and talk of.

Tempt. VI. The tempter also suiteth his temptations to our advantages, and hopes of rising or thriving in the world: he seeth which is our rising or thriving way; and there he layeth his snares, accommodated to our designs and ends, making some sinful omission or commission seem necessary thereto. Either Balaam must prophesy against the people of God, or else God must keep him from honour, by keeping him from sin, Numb. xxiv. 11. If once Judas be set on, What will you give me? the devil will teach him the way to gain: his way is necessary to such sinful ends.

Direct. VI. Take heed therefore of overvaluing the world, and being taken with its honour, pleasure, or prosperity; take heed, lest the love of earthly things engage you in eager desires and designs to grow great or rich. For if once your heart have such a design, you are gone from God: the heart is gone, and then all will follow as occasion calls for it. Understand these scriptures: Prov. xxiii. 4, "Labour not to be rich." Prov. xxviii. 20, 22, "He that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent.—He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye." 1 Tim. vi. 6, 9, "But they that will be rich fall into temptations and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition: for the love of money is the root of all evil. But godliness with contentment is great gain." Jer. xlv. 5, "Seek not great matters for yourselves." Be dead, to the world: fear more the rising than the falling way. Love that condition best, which fitteth thee for communion with God, or maketh thee the most profitable servant to him; and hate that most, which is thy greatest hinderance from these, and would most enslave thee to the world.

Tempt. VII. The tempter suiteth his temptations to our company: if they have any error or sin, or are engaged in any carnal enterprise, he will make them snares to us, and restless until they have insnared us. If they love us not, he will make them continual provocations, and set before us all their wrongs, and provoke us to uncharitableness and revenge. If they love us, he will endeavour to make their love to us to be the shoeing-horn or harbinger of their errors and evil ways, to draw us to their imitation. He findeth something in all our company, to make the matter of some temptation.

Direct. VII. Converse most with God: let faith make Christ and angels your most regarded and observed company; that their mind and presence may more affect you than the mind and presence of mortal men. Look not at any man's mind, or will, or actions, without respect to God who governeth, and to the rule by which they should all be suited, and to the judgment which will open and reward them as they are. Never see man without seeing God: see man only as a creature dependent on his Maker's will. And then you will lament and not imitate him when he sinneth; and you will oppose (and Christ saith "hate," Luke xiv. 26) and not be seduced by him, when he would draw you with him to sin and hell: had Adam more observed God than Eve he had not been seduced by his helper. Then you will look on the proud, and worldly, and sensual, as Solomon on the slothful man's vineyard, Prov. xxiv. 30-32, "I saw and considered it well, I looked on it, and received instruction." You would not long for the plague or leprosy, because it is your friend's disease.

Tempt. VIII. The tempter maketh advantage of other men's opinions or speeches of you, or dealings by you; and by every one of them would insnare you in some sin. If they have mean thoughts of you, or speak despising or dishonouring words of you, he tempteth you by it to hate them, or love them less, or to speak contemptuously of them. If they applaud you, he tempteth you by it to be proud; if they wrong you, he tempteth you to revenge; if they enrich you, or are your benefactors, he would make their benefits a price to hire you to some sin, and make you pay as dear for them as your salvation cometh to. If they scorn you for religion, he would make you ashamed of Christ and his cause; if they admire you, he would draw you by it to hypocrisy. If they threaten you, he would draw you to sin by fear, as he did Peter; if they deal rudely with you, he tempteth you to passion, and to requite them with the like, and even to distaste religion itself, if men professing religion be against you, or seem to do you any wrong. Thus is every man a danger to his brother.

Direct. VIII. Discern in all men what there is of God to be your help, and that make use of; and what there is of Satan, sin, and self, and that take heed of. Look upon every man as a helper and a tempter; and be prepared still, to draw forth his help, and resist his temptation. And remember, that man is but the instrument; it is Satan that tempteth you, and God that trieth you, by that man! Saith David of Shimei, "The Lord hath bidden him;" that is, he is but God's rod to scourge me for my sin, as my son himself is. As Satan was his instrument in trying Job, not by God's effecting, but permitting the sin: observe God and Satan in it, more than men.

Tempt. IX. His temptations also are suited to our fore-received opinions and thoughts. If you have but let in one lustful thought, or one malicious thought, he can make great advantage of that nest-egg to gather in more; as a little leaven to leaven the whole lump: he can roll it up and down, and do much to hatch it into a multitude. If you are but tainted with any false opinion, or prejudice against your teacher, your ruler, or your brother, he can improve it to such increase, and raise such conclusions from it, and more from them, and reduce them all to practice, as shall make observers with astonishment say, Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!

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Direct. IX. Take heed what thoughts you first admit into your mind; and especially cherish and approve none but upon very good trial and examination. And if they prove corrupt, sweep clean your fantasy and memory of them, that they prove not inhabitants, and take not up their lodgings in you, or have not time to spawn and breed. And fill up the room with contrary thoughts, and useful truth, and cherish them daily, that they may increase and multiply; and then your hearts will be like a well-peopled kingdom, able to keep their possession against all enemies.

Tempt. X. Also he fitteth his temptations to your natural and acquired parts. That if you are weak, he may either discourage you; or (which is more usual and dangerous) make you think better of them than they are, and to think you know much, when it is next to nothing; and to make you wise in your own eyes, and easily to receive an error, and then to be confident in it: not to discern between things that differ; but to be deceived into false zeal, and false ways, by the specious pretences and shows of truth; and then to be zealous for the deceiving of others. Also that you may be a dishonour to truth and godliness, by your weakness and ill management of good causes; and may give them away through your unskilfulness to the adversary. If you are of stronger wits and parts, the tempter will draw you to despise the weak; to take common gifts for special grace; or to undervalue holiness and humility, and overvalue learning and acuteness: he will tempt you (dangerously) to loathe the simplicity of christianity and of the Scriptures, as to style and method; and to be offended at the cross of Christ. So that such persons are usually in greater danger of infidelity, heresy, pride, and insolent domineering over the flock of Christ, than vulgar christians that have lower parts.

Direct. X. Labour to be well acquainted with yourselves. If you are weak, know your weakness, that you may be humble, and fearful, and seek for strength and help. If you are comparatively strong, remember how weak the strongest are; and how little it is that the wisest know. And study well the ends and use of knowledge; that all you know may be concocted into love and holiness; and use it as remembering that you have much to give account of.

Tempt. XI. Moreover the tempter will fetch advantage against you, from your former life and actions. If you have gone out of the way to heaven, he would harden you by custom, and make you think it such a disgrace or trouble to return, as that it is as good go on, and put it to the venture. If you have done any work materially good, while your heart and course of life is carnal and worldly, he would quiet you in your sinful, miserable state, by applauding the little good that you have done. If a good man have erred or done ill, he will engage his honour in it, and make him study to defend it, or excuse it, lest it prove his shame; and tempt men, as he did David, to hide one sin with another. If he get hold of one link, he will draw on all the chain of sin.

Direct. XI. Take heed therefore what you do; and foresee the end. Let not the devil get in one foot: try your way, before you enter it. But if you have erred, come off, and that thoroughly and betimes, whatever it cost; for be sure it will cost more to go on. And if he would make a snare of the good that you have done, remember that this is to turn it into the greatest evil; and that there must be a concurrence and integrity of good to make you acceptable, and to save you: heart and life must be good to the end.

Tempt. XII. Lastly, he fitteth his temptations to the season. He will take the season just when an evil thought is likest to take with you; and when the winds and tide do serve him: that will take at one time (when a man hath his wits and heart to seek) which would be abhorred at another. In afflicting times he will draw you to deny Christ, with Peter, or shift for yourselves by sinful means; in prosperous times he will tempt you to security, worldliness, and forgetfulness of the night and winter which approacheth: the timing his temptations is his great advantage.

Direct. XII. Dwell as with God, and you dwell as in eternity, and will see still that as time, so all the pleasure, and advantages, and dangers, and sufferings of time, are things of themselves of little moment. Keep your eye upon judgment and eternity, where all the errors of time will be rectified, and all the inequalities of time will be levelled, and the sorrows and joys that are transitory will be no more; and then no reasons from the frowns or flatteries of the times will seem of any force to you. And be still employed for God, and still armed and on your watch, that Satan may never find you disposed to take the bait.

The Tempter's Method in applying his prepared Baits.

Tempt. I. The devil's first work is, to present the tempting bait in all its alluring, deceiving properties; to make it seem as true as may be to the understanding, and as good and amiable as may be to the will. To say as much as can be said for an evil cause; he maketh his image of truth and goodness as beautiful as he can: sin shall be sugared, and its pleasure shall be its strength, Heb. xi. 25. Sin shall have its wages paid down in hand, 2 Pet. ii. 15. He will set it out with full-mouthed praises: O what a fine thing it is to be rich, and please the flesh continually! to have command, and honour, and lusts, and sports, and what you desire! Who would refuse such a condition that may have it? All this will I give thee, was the temptation which he thought fit to assault Christ himself with. And he will corrupt the history of time past, and tell you that it went well with those that took his way, Jer. xliv. 17. And for the future, he will promise them, that they shall be gainers by it (as he did Eve) and shall have peace, though they please their flesh in sinning: see Deut. xxix. 19.

Direct. I. In this case, first inquire what God saith of that which Satan so commendeth. The commendations and motions of an enemy are to be suspected. God is most to be believed. 2. Then consider not only whether it be good, but how long it will be good; and what it will prove at the end; and how we shall judge of it at the parting; and withal consider what it tendeth to; whether it tend to good or evil; and whether it be the greatest good that we are capable of. And then you will see, that if there were no good, or appearance of good in it, it could do a voluntary agent no hurt, and were not fit to be the matter of a temptation: and you will see that it is temporal good set up to deceive you of the eternal good, and to entice you into the greatest evil and misery. Doth the devil show thee the world, and say, "All this will I give thee?" Look to Christ, who showeth thee the glory of the world to come, with all things good for thee in this world, and saith more truly, "All this will I give thee." The world and hell are in one end of the balance, and pardon, holiness, and heaven are in the other. Which now wilt thou prefer? If the devil have more to give thee and bid for thee than Christ, let him take thee.

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Tempt. II. The tempter laboureth to keep God, and Christ, and heaven out of sight, that they darken not the splendour of his bait; and to hide those potent reasons from them, by which they might easily repel the temptation; so that though they are well known and sure, and Scripture be full of them, they shall none of them be ready at hand to use, when the temptation cometh; so that to them they shall be all as nothing: and this he doth by unbelief and inconsiderateness.

Direct. II. Live by faith. See that God the Father, the Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit, dwell within you, and take up your hearts, and your hopes be placed all on heaven, and that these be your very life and business; and then you will always have that at hand which may repel the tempter. A heart taken up with God and Christ, conversing in heaven, is always fortified, and prepared to meet every temptation with abhorrence. Let your souls be still possessed with as constant apprehensions of the evil of sin, the danger of sinning, the presence, authority, and holiness of God, the wrong that sin doth him, the hurt it doth ourselves and others, and what it did to Jesus Christ, as you have of the danger of fire, and water, and poison; and then the tempter will not speed.

Tempt. III. It is the great care of the devil to keep out of sight, that he be not seen himself in the temptation. As the angler keepeth himself behind the bush, and the fowler hideth himself from the birds, or else they would fear, and fly, and escape; so doth the devil use all his art, to hide himself from the sinner's observation; that the deluded soul shall little think that the devil is so near him, and hath so great a hand in the business. If the ambitious or covetous worldling saw the devil offer him the bait, and heard him say, "All this will I give thee;" he would have the smaller list to take the bait. If the devil appeared to the whoremonger, and brought him his whore, and encouraged him to his filthiness, it would cool his lust: or if he appeared to the drunkard, and presented him the cup, he would have but little list to drink. If the proud and the malicious saw the devil at their backs, rejoicing in their sin, and putting them on, it might affright them half into their wits. Therefore the great endeavour of the devil is, to persuade men that it is not he that makes the motion to them: it is such a friend, or such a neighbour, or gentleman, or minister, or wise man; it is not the devil! till the fish is caught, and the bird is in the net, and then the author of all appeareth, to kill them, and carry them away without any concealment.

Direct. III. Mark but the tendency and the manner of the temptations, and you may perceive the author. Who else is it that is so much against God, and against your everlasting happiness? Who else is it that would so abuse your reason, to prefer things temporal before things eternal, and the brutish pleasures of a corruptible flesh before the interest of immortal souls? Who else so contradicteth all the word of God? Read God's warnings, and he will tell you who it is. Take every temptation then (whoever be the messenger) as if thou sawest the devil standing by, and making the motion to thee, and heardest himself exhort thee to the sin. Suppose you saw him conducting you to the whore-house, the play-house, the ale-house, and making you entertainment as the master of the game. How then would you take it? and what would you do? Would you go, and be angry at the precise preacher that would hinder you? and would you take the devil's part? No, nature hath possessed you with a fear of him, and an enmity to him: use it for your safety. It cannot be good for you that comes from him. He hath a fouler face to appear to you in, than ever yet you saw, when you have done his work, and are where he would have you. O know with whom you have to do.

Tempt. IV. The tempter is most careful also to hide from men the nature and tendency of the temptation itself; that they shall not know that it is a temptation when they are tempted, but shall have nothing in sight but the bait which they desire. The angler doth not only hide himself from the fish, but also his rod, and line, and hook, as much as he can. The fowler covereth his nets, so that either the fish and bird shall not see the snare, or shall not know what it is, and what it is there laid for: so when the bait of pleasure, and honour, and wealth is presented by the devil, to the fornicator, gamester, proud, or covetous, they shall not see what the devil is doing now, and what a game he is playing for their souls! They shall not perceive the connexion that there is between the pleasure and the sin, and the sin and the threatening, and the threatening and the judgment, and the judgment and the everlasting punishment. When Judas was bargaining with the Pharisees, he knew not that the devil was in him driving on the match.

Direct. IV. Be wise and suspicious: blindness or fool-hardiness will lead you into the snare. Be wise, that you may know the tendency of every thing that is presented to your thoughts, and may be able to perceive a danger. Be suspicious and cautelous, that you make a sufficient trial, and go upon sure grounds, and avoid the very appearance of evil: when it is hell that you fear, come not too near. Play not as the fly about the candle: salvation is necessary; but preferment, or wealth, or liberty, or credit, or life itself are not necessary to you! Prove all things. Flatter not yourselves into the snares by foolish hopes, and judging of things as the flesh would have them to be, rather than as they are. If no danger appear, turn up all coverings, and search and see that none be hidden. The devil hath his gunpowder plots, and mines, which may blow you up before you are aware. Not only lawfulness and indifferency, but great good is the pretence for greatest evil.

Tempt. V. It is the tempter's care to bring the tempting object near enough, or draw the sinner near enough to it. The net must come to the fish, or the fish to the net. The distant fire will not burn the wood. The devil's chief confidence is in the sensitive appetite, which worketh strongliest at hand. If he get the drunkard into the ale-house, and show him the cup, he hath half conquered him already; but if he be scrupulous and modest, some one shall drink a health, or importune him, and put the cup into his hand. The thief, with Achan, shall see the bait, and the sight will work a covetous desire. The glutton shall have the tempting dishes before him, and be at a table which by variety of delicious food is fitted to become his snare; whereas if he had nothing set before him, but the poor man's simple food which hath nothing in it fit to tempt him, he might easily have escaped. The fornicator shall have his beautiful dirt brought near him, and presented to him in a tempting dress; for at a sufficient distance there had been little danger. The ambitious person shall have preferment offered him, or brought so fair to his hand, that with a little seeking it may be attained. The fearful coward shall be threatened with the loss of estate or life, and hear the report of the cannons, guns, and drums of Satan. Peter is half conquered when he is got among questioning company in the high priest's hall. Thus David, thus[Pg 101] Lot, thus ordinarily sinners are drawn into the snare.

Direct. V. As ever you would preserve your innocency and your souls, fly as far from tempting objects as you can: I say, as you can, without distrusting God in the neglect of a certain duty. A wife, or a servant, that are bound, cannot fly; nor must we leave undone our certain duty upon an uncertain danger, which may otherwise be avoided; but keep off from the temptation at as great a distance as you can: the safest course is the best when your souls lie at the stake: if it be not necessary, plead not the lawfulness of what you do, when it is a temptation to that which is unlawful. You say, it is lawful to wear such curious ornaments, and set out yourselves in the neatest dress; but is it lawful to be proud or lustful, or to consume your time unprofitably? If not, tempt not yourselves or others to it. Keep away from the place where the snare is laid. Look first to the end before thou meddle with the beginning. Why should I eat that which I know I cannot digest, but must cast it up again? And why should I taste that which I must not eat? And why should I desire to have that set before me, and to look upon that which I must not taste? Come not near if thou wouldst not be taken. What dost thou at the ale-house with a cup before thee, if thou wouldst not be drawn to excess of drink? If thou be subject to excess in eating, make not thy own table thy temptation. Fly from the temptation as thou wouldst do from hell, or from the devil himself. See not the bait of lust, or come not near, if thou be inclinable to lust: saith Solomon, "Remove thy way far from her, and come not near the door of her house," Prov. v. 8. "For her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death, her steps take hold on hell," ver. 4, 5. "Her house inclineth to death, and her paths unto the dead. None that go to her return again, neither take they hold of the paths of life," chap. ii. 18, 19. "Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death," chap. vii. 27. "Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: and as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him, Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant. But he knoweth not that the dead are there: and that her guests are in the depths of hell," chap. ix. 16-18. "Lust not after her beauty in thy heart, neither let her take thee with her eye-lids.—Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burnt? Can one go upon hot coals and his feet not be burnt?" chap. vi. 25, 27, 28. Remember that you pray daily, "Lead us not into temptation:" and if you will run into it yourselves, are not your prayers hypocritical and an abuse of God? If you would be saved from sin, you must be saved in God's way; and that is, by flying from temptations; and not drawing near, and gazing on forbidden objects, and tempting yourselves: even as God's holy means must be used by all that would come to holiness and heaven; so the devil's must be avoided by him that would escape sin and hell. But if you cannot remove far enough from the snare, then double your fear, and watchfulness, and resolution: fly with Joseph, Gen. xxxix. 12, from the sin, if you cannot go out of the house. How carefully should every foot be placed, when we know that every step we tread is among snares! Rule your senses if you cannot remove the bait: make Job's covenant with your eyes, that you look not on that which would allure, Job xxxi. 1. Let every sense have a constant watch.

Tempt. VI. The next great work of the tempter is, to give us the fairest opportunities to sin, and to remove all impediments, and show men encouraging hopes and invitations. He will show the thief which way he may steal; and show the covetous man which way he may thrive, and deceive, and overreach; and the ambitious man which way he may rise; and the fornicator how he may obtain his desire, and sin unknown; and then he tells them how easy it is; now no one seeth you; you may do it without fear or shame. It is the devil's great care to take all things out of the way that would affright, or hinder sinners; that they may have full opportunity to invite them. Therefore he is very desirous that public impediments should be all removed; especially in a godly magistrate and minister, and that the common disgrace of sinning may be taken off, and if it may be, turned against religion, or fall on them that are the greatest adversaries to sin.

Psal. ci. 3.

Direct. VI. It is therefore a principal part of your wisdom and watchfulness, to avoid the opportunities of sinning, and keep out as many impediments as may be in your own way. It is a most foolish and sinful thing in some men, who think it a brave thing to have power to do hurt, though they pretend that they abhor the doing of it. He that saith he hateth oppression, yet would have a power to oppress; to have all men at his will and mercy he thinks is brave: so they that would not be gluttonous would have a tempting table still before them, presuming that their own will is a sufficient preservative against the sin: so they that would not be insnared with lust, have yet a desire to appear as comely, and lovely, and desirable as may be, and to be as much beloved, that they may have other affections at command; and also to have opportunity offered them, that they may sin if they will. And is thy will so well established, mortified, and unchangeable, as to be so far trusted? O foolish sinner! that no better knowest thyself; nor observest thy danger; nor perceivest that this very desire to have the power to do evil showeth a degree of the evil in thy heart, and that thou art not yet so far from it as thou must be, if thou wouldst be safe. Contrive thyself (if thou be wise and love thyself) into the greatest difficulty of sinning that thou canst. Make it impossible, if it may be done. The power is for the act. Desire not to be able to sin, if thou wouldst not sin; not that natural power to do good should be destroyed because it is also a power to do evil, but cast as many blocks in the way of thy sinning as thou canst, till it amount to a moral impossibility. Desire the strictest laws and governors, and to be still in the eye of others, and contrive it that thou mayst have no hope of secrecy. Contrive it so that it may be utter shame and loss to thee if thou sin. If thou be tempted to fornication, never be private with her or him that is thy snare. If thou be tempted to deceive and rob those that trust thee, avoid the trust; or if ever thou have done it, restore and confess, that shame may preserve thee.

Tempt. VII. Next the tempter importunately soliciteth our thoughts or fantasies to feed upon the tempting thing: that the lustful person may be thinking on the objects of his lusts; and the ambitious man thinking on his desired honour; and the covetous man of his desired wealth, his house, or lands, or gainful bargains; and the malicious man be thinking of all the real or imaginary wrongs which kindle malice.

Direct. VII. Keep a continual watch upon your thoughts. Remember that this is the common entrance of the greatest sins; and if they go no further, the Searcher of hearts will judge thee for the adultery, murder, and other sins of thy heart. But especially see that your thoughts be so employed[Pg 102] on better things, that sin may never find them vacant.

Tempt. VIII. The tempter also is diligent to keep the end from the sinner's eye, and to persuade him that there is no danger in it, and that it will be as good at last as at first. He cannot endure a thought, a word of death or judgment, unless he can first fortify the sinner by some presumptuous hope, that his sins are pardoned, and his case is good: either he will make them believe him, that there is no such danger to the soul as should deter them; or else he keepeth them from thinking of that danger. He is loth a sinner should so much as look into a grave, or go to the house of mourning, and see the end of all the living, lest he should lay it to heart, and thence perceive what worldly pleasure, wealth, and greatness is, by seeing where it leaveth sinners. If one do but talk of death or judgment, and the life to come, the devil will stir up some scorn, or weariness, or opposition against such discourse. If a sinner do but bethink himself in secret, what will become of him after death, the devil will either allure him, or trouble him, and never let him rest, till he have cast away all such thoughts as tend to his salvation. He cannot endure when you see the pomp and pleasure of the world, that you should think or ask, How long will this endure? and what will it prove in the latter end?

Psal. i.; xv.; Matt. xxv.

Direct. VIII. Go to the holy Scriptures, and see what they foretell concerning the end of godliness and sin: God knoweth better than the devil, and is more to be believed. You may see in the word of God, what will become of saints and sinners, godly and ungodly, at the last, and what they will think and say when they review their present life; and what Christ will say to them, and how he will judge them, and what will be their reward for ever. This is the infallible prognostication where you may foresee your endless state. In this glass continually foresee the end. Never judge of any thing by the present gust alone. Ask not only how it tasteth, but how it worketh, and what will be the effects: remember that God's law hath inseparably conjoined holiness and heaven, and sin unrepented of and hell; and seeing these cannot be separated indeed, let them never be separated from each other in your thoughts. Otherwise you will never understand Christ or Satan. When Christ saith, "Wilt thou deny thyself, and take up the cross and follow me?" his meaning is, shall I heal thy carnal, worldly heart and life, and bring thee by grace to the sight of God in endless glory? You will never understand what prayer, and obedience, and holy living mean, if you see not the end, even heaven conjoined to them. When the devil saith to the glutton, Eat also of this pleasant dish; and to the drunkard, Take the other cup; and to the fornicator, Take thy pleasure in the dark; and to the voluptuous, Go to the play-house, or the gaming-house; come, play at cards or dice; his meaning is, Come, venture upon sin, and fear not God's threatenings, and refuse his word, and Spirit, and grace, that I may have thy company among the damned, in the fire which never shall be quenched. This is the true English of every temptation. Open thy ears then, and whenever the devil or any sinner tempteth thee to sin, hear him as if he said, I pray thee, leap into the flames of hell.

Tempt. IX. If the tempter cannot quickly draw men to the sin, he will move them at least to abate their resolution against it, and to deliberate about it, and hear what can be said, and enter into a dispute with Satan or some of his instruments; telling them, that it is a sign of falsehood which will not endure the trial, and that we must prove all things. And while the sinner is deliberating and disputing, the venom is working itself into his veins, and sense is secretly undermining and betraying him, and deceiving his mind, bribing his reason, and seducing his will: just as an enemy will treat with those that keep a garrison, that, during the treaty, he may send in spies, and find out their weakness, and corrupt the soldiers; so doth the devil with the sinner.

Gal. i. 16.

Direct. IX. Remember that it is Christ, and not Satan, that you are to hear. Truth is strong, and can bear the trial, before any competent judge; but you are weak, and not so able to judge as you may imagine. Ignorant, unskilful, and unsettled persons are easily deceived, be the cause never so clear. If it be a cause untried by you, it is not untried by all the godly, nor unknown to him that gave you the holy Scriptures. If it be fit to be called in question and disputed, take the help of able godly teachers or friends, and hear what they can say: matters of endless life or death are not rashly to be ventured on. But if it be a thing past dispute, in which you have been already convinced and resolved, reject the tempter, and tell him, that you owe him not so much service, as to dispute with him whether you should care for your salvation? Else there will be no end, till you are betrayed and undone: innocent Eve is deceived when once it comes to a dispute. Be not like Balaam, that tempted God, and would not be satisfied with his answer.

Tempt. X. Also the tempter overcometh very many, by making them presumptuously confident of their own strength: saying, Thou art not so weak as not to be able to bear a greater temptation than this. Canst thou not gaze on beauty, or go among vain and tempting company, and yet choose whether thou wilt sin? It is a child indeed that hath no more government of themselves. Cannot thy table, thy cup, thy house, thy lands, be pleasing and delectable, but thou must needs over-love them, and turn them to sin?

Direct. X. O know thy own weakness, the treacherous enemy which thou still carriest about thee, who is ready to open the back-door to the devil! Remember that flesh is on the tempter's side, and how much it can do with thee before thou art aware. Remember what an unsettled wretch thou art, and how many a good purpose formerly hath come to nothing, and how oft thou hast sinned by as small a temptation. Remember that without the Spirit of Christ, thou canst do nothing, nor stand against any assault of Satan; and that Christ giveth his Spirit and help in his own way, and not to those that tempt him to forsake them, by thrusting themselves into temptations. Shall ever mortal man presume upon his own strength, after the falls of an Adam, a Noah, a Lot, a David, a Solomon, a Hezekiah, a Josiah, a Peter? and after such ruins of multitudes of professors, as our eyes have seen? "All these things happened unto them for ensamples, and they are written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall," 1 Cor. x. 11, 12.

Tempt. XI. It is a great project of the devil, and successful with many, to draw them to venture on the sin, by showing them first the effectual remedy, the abundant mercy of God, the sufficient satisfaction made by Christ, the full, and free, and universal promise; that these are sufficient to cleanse the soul of any sin, therefore you need not fear.

Rom. ix.
Heb. x. 26-29. 2 Thess. i. 10.

Direct. XI. But God is just, as well as merciful;[Pg 103] and there are "vessels of wrath," as well as vessels of mercy. Judge how God will use his mercy, and who shall have it, by his own word: for he knoweth better than you, to whom, and how far to show mercy. Is the tempter himself saved, for all God is merciful? And the gospel hath far sorer punishment than the law, to the abusers of grace. Christ is the most dreadful Judge to the wicked, as well as the tenderest Saviour to his own. There is enough in his grace to save the penitent: but if you will sin upon presumption that grace will save you, you have small reason to think that you are penitent, or ever will be, without a very merciful change. How many can you name that ever were converted and forgiven, that lived wilfully in sin, because the remedy was sufficient? I doubt not but many such have been recalled; but this is not the way to hope: it is a terrible thing to sin deliberately and wilfully, because of the greatness of mercy, or the sufficiency of the death of Christ! No man but the penitent convert is saved by Christ; and this is clean contrary to penitence and conversion. Christ doth not as mountebanks, that wound a man, to show people how quickly their balsams can cure him; or make a man drink a toad, to show the power of their antidotes: but he cureth the diseases which he findeth, (in believers,) but causeth none.

Tempt. XII. Also the tempter telleth the sinner, how certain, and easy, and speedy a remedy he hath in his own power: it is but repenting, and all sin is pardoned.

James ii. 19.

Direct. XII. 1. Is it in thy power? If so, the greater is thy sin, that sinnest more when thou shouldst repent: if it be easy, what an inexcusable wretch art thou that wilt not do it, but go on! 2. But repentance is the gift of God, 2 Tim. ii. 25, 26; and is he like to give it to them that wilfully abuse him in expectation of it? 3. As easy as it is, it is but a few that truly repent and are forgiven, in comparison of those that go on and perish. 4. The easiest repentance is so bitter, that it is far easier to forbear the sin: it is better not wound yourselves, than have the best salve, if you were sure of it. 5. The repentance which is caused by mere fears of death and hell, without the power of heavenly love to God and holiness, is but the repentance of the damned, and never procureth pardon of sin: the devil hath such a repentance, as well as such a faith, which will not save him.

Tempt. XIII. Satan also imboldeneth the sinner, by telling him how many have repented and sped well, that sinned as bad or worse than this. He tells him of Noah, and Lot, and David, and Peter, and the thief on the cross, and Paul a persecutor, yea, and Manasseh, &c.

Direct. XIII. But consider whether any of those did thus sin, because that others had escaped that sinned before them. And think of the millions that never repented, and are condemned, as well as of the few that have repented. Is repentance better than sin? Why then will you sin? Is sin better than repentance? Why then do you purpose to repent? Is it not base ingratitude to offend God wilfully, because he hath pardoned many offenders, and is ready to forgive the penitent? And should a man of reason wilfully make work for his own repentance, and do that which he knoweth he shall wish with grief that he had never done? If some have been saved that fell into the sea, or that fell from the top of steeples, or that drunk poison, or were dangerously wounded, will you therefore cast yourself into the same case, in hope of being saved?

Tempt. XIV. The tempter persuadeth the sinner that it cannot be that God should make so great a matter of sin, because the thoughts of a man's heart, or his words or deeds, are matter of no great moment, when man himself is so poor a worm; and whatever he doth, it is no hurt to God: therefore you need not make such a matter of it.

Direct. XIV. If God so much regard us as to make us, and preserve us continually, and to become our Governor, and make a law for us, and judge us, and reward his servants with no less than heaven, then you may easily see that he so much regardeth us, as to observe whether we obey or break his laws. He that so far careth for a clock or watch, as to make it and wind it up, doth care whether it go true or false. What do these men make of God, who think he cares not what men do? Then he cares not if men beat you, or rob you, or kill you, for none of this hurteth God. And the king may say, if any murder your friends, or children, why should I punish him? he hurt not me. But justice is to keep order in the world, and not only to preserve the governor from hurt. God may be wronged, though he be not hurt. And he will make you pay for it, if you hurt others; and smart for it, if you hurt yourself.

Tempt. XV. The tempter laboureth to extenuate the sin, and make it seem a little one; and if every little sin must be made such a matter of, you will never be quiet.

Direct. XV. But still remember, 1. There is deadly poison in the very nature of sin, as there is in a serpent, be he never so small. The least sin is worse than the greatest pain that ever man felt; and would you choose and say, it is little? The least sin is odious to God, and had a hand in the death of Christ, and will damn you if it be not pardoned; and should such a thing be made light of? And many sins counted small may have great aggravations, such as the knowing, deliberate, wilful committing of them is. To love a small sin, is a great sin; especially to love it so well, that the remembrance of God's will and love, of Christ, and heaven, and hell, will not suffice to resolve you against it. Besides, a small sin is the common way to greater: "When lust hath conceived, it brings forth sin, and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death," James i. 14, 15. "Behold how great a matter a little fire kindleth," chap. iii. 5. The horrid sins of David and Peter had small beginnings. Mortal sicknesses seem little matters at the first. Many a thousand have sinned themselves to hell, that began with that which is accounted small.

Tempt. XVI. Also the devil draweth on the sinner, by promising him that he shall sin but once, or but a very few times, and then do so no more: he tells the thief, and the fornicator, that if they will do it but this once, they shall be quiet.

Direct. XVI. But, O consider, 1. That one stab at the heart may prove incurable. God may deny thee time or grace to repent. 2. That it is easier to forbear the first time than the second; for one sin disposeth the heart unto another. If you cannot deny the first temptation, how will you deny the next? When you have lost your strength, and grieved your helper, and strengthened your enemy and your snare, will you then resist better wounded, than now when you are whole?

Tempt. XVII. But when the devil hath prevailed for once with the sinner, he makes that an argument for a second: he saith to the thief, and drunkard, and fornicator, it is but the same thing that thou hast done once already; and if once may be pardoned, twice may be pardoned; and if twice, why not thrice; and so on.

Direct. XVII. This is to let the devil get in a[Pg 104] foot. A spark is easier quenched than a flame; but yet remember that the longer the worse: the oftener you sin, the greater is the abuse of the Spirit of God, and the contempt of grace, and the wrong to Christ, and the harder is repentance; and the sharper if you do repent, because the deeper is your wound. Repent therefore speedily, and go no further, unless you would have the devil tell you next, It is now too late.

Tempt. XVIII. The tempter maketh use of the greater sins of others, to persuade men to venture upon less. Thou hearest other men curse, and swear, and rail, and dost thou stick at idle talk? How many in the world are enemies to Christ, and persecute his ministers and servants, and dost thou make so great a matter of omitting a sermon, or a prayer, or other holy duty?

Direct. XVIII. As there are degrees of sin, so there are degrees of punishment: and wilt thou rather choose the easiest place in hell than heaven? How small soever the matter of sin be, thy wilfulness, and sinning against conscience, and mercies, and warnings, may make it great to thee. Are great sinners so happy in thy eyes, that thou wouldst be as like them as thou darest?

Tempt. XIX. Also he would imbolden the sinner, because of the commonness of the sin, and the multitude that commit either that or worse, as if it were not, therefore, so bad or dangerous.

Direct. XIX. But remember, that the more examples you have to take warning by, the more inexcusable is your fall. It was not the number of angels that fell, that could keep them from being devils and damned for their sin: God will do justice on many as well as on one. The sin is the greater, and therefore the punishment shall not be the less. Make the case your own: will you think it a good reason for any one to abuse you, beat you, rob you, because that many have done so before? He should rather think, that you are abused too much already, and therefore he should not add to your wrongs. If when many had spit in Christ's face or buffeted him, some one should have given him another spit or blow, as if he had not enough before, would you not have taken him to be the worst and cruellest of them all? If you do as the most, you will speed as the most.

Tempt. XX. It is a dangerous temptation when the devil proposeth some very good end, and maketh sin seem the fittest, or the necessary means to accomplish it: when he blindeth men so far as to think that it is necessary to their salvation, or to other men's, or to the welfare of the church, or progress of the gospel, or the pleasing of God, then sin will be committed without regret, and continued in without repentance; on this account it is that heresy, and will-worship, and superstition are kept up: Col. ii. 18, 21-23, "Having a show of wisdom in will-worship, and humility, and neglecting the body." It is for God that much of the wickedness of the world is done against God: it is for the church and truth that papists have murdered and persecuted so many.

Direct. XX. Remember that God needeth no sinful means to attain his ends: he will not be beholden to the devil to do his work; he would not have forbad it, if he would have had you done it. He is never at such a loss, but he can find right means enough to perform his work by: it is a great part of our wisdom which our salvation lieth on, to choose and use right means, when we are resolved on a right end. It is a horrible injury against God to entitle him to sin, and make it seem necessary to his ends and honour. Good ends will not justify evil actions. What sin so odious that hath not had good ends pretended for it? Even Christ was murdered as a malefactor for good ends, at least pretended, even to vindicate God's honour from blasphemy, and Cæsar from injury, and the nation from calamity. And his disciples were killed that God might be served by it, and pestilent troublers of the world taken away, John xvi. 2; Acts xxiv. 5; xvii. 6.

Tempt. XXI. He would make us presume because we are God's children, and special grace cannot be wholly lost, and we have found that once we had grace, therefore we may venture as being safe.

Direct. XXI. But many thousands shall be damned, that once thought they had the truth of grace. It is a hard controversy among learned and godly men, whether some in a state of saving grace do not fall from it and perish; but it is past controversy, that they shall perish that live and die impenitently in wilful sin. To plead truth of grace for encouragement in sin, is so much against the nature and use of grace, as may make you question the truth of it. You can be no surer that you have true grace, than you are sure that you hate all known sin, and desire to be free from it. Christ teacheth you how to answer such a horrid temptation, Matt. iv. 6, 7, "If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge over thee"—"Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." Sonship, and promises, and truth of grace, are incongruous arguments to draw you to sin, and heinous aggravations of sin so committed.

Tempt. XXII. The devil oft most dangerously imitateth the Holy Ghost, and comes in the shape of an angel of light: he will be for knowledge in the gnostics; for unity and government in the papists; for mortification in the friars; for free grace and tenderness of our brethren's consciences in the libertines; for peace and mutual forbearance in the Socinians; for zeal, self-denial, and fearlessness of men, and pretended revelations and spirituality, in the quakers. He will be against heresy, schism, error, disobedience, hypocrisy, pretendedly, in haters and persecutors of holiness and reformation; and when he will seem religious, he will be superstitious, and seem to outgo Christ himself.

Direct. XXII. Keep close to Christ, that you may know his voice from the voice of strangers; and get holy wisdom to try the spirits, and to discern between the things that differ: let the whole frame of truth and godliness be in your head and heart, that you may perceive when any would make a breach in any part of it. The devil setteth up no good but in order to some evil. Therefore, examine whither it tendeth; and not only what it is, but what use he would have you make of it. And love no evil, because of any good that is pretended for it; and dislike or reject no good, because of any evil use that is by others made of it. And whatever doctrine is brought you, try it thus: 1. Receive none that is against the certain nature, attributes, and honour of God. 2. Nor any that is against the light or law of nature. 3. Nor any that is against the Scripture. 4. Nor any that is against holiness of heart and life. 5. Nor any against charity and justice to men. 6. Nor any (about matters to be ordered by men) that is against order; nor any against government and the peace of church and state. 7. Nor any that is against the true unity, peace, and communion of saints. 8. Nor any that is certainly inconsistent with great and certain truths. Thus try the spirits, whether they be of God.

Tempt. XXIII. The tempter usually draweth men to one extreme, under pretence of avoiding another; causing men to be so fearful of the danger[Pg 105] on one side, as to take no heed of that on the other side.

Direct. XXIII. Understand all your danger; and mark the latitude or extent of God's commands; and watch on every side: and you must know in what duties you are in danger of extremes and in what not. In those acts of the soul that are purely rational, about your ultimate end, you cannot do too much; as in knowing God, and loving him, and being willing and resolved to please him. But passions may possibly go too far, even about God, especially fear and grief; for they may be such as nature cannot bear without distraction, death, or hinderance of duty: but few are guilty of this. But towards the creature, passions may easily exceed: and in external actions towards God or man there may be excess. But especially in point of judgment, it is easy to slide from extreme into extreme. And you must know in every duty you do, and every sin which you avoid, and every truth you receive, what is the contrary or extreme to that particular truth, or sin, or duty; and keep it in your eye. If you do not thus watch, you will reel like a drunken man from side to side, and never walk uprightly with God. You will turn from prodigality to covetousness, from cruel persecution to libertinism, or from libertinism to persecuting cruelty; from hypocritical formality to hypocritical pretended spirituality, or from enthusiasms and faction to dead formality. But of this I have spoken at large, chap. v. part II. "Direction to Students."

Tempt. XXIV. On the contrary, the tempter usually pleadeth moderation and prudence against a holy life, and accurate zealous obedience to God; and would make you believe that to be so diligent in duty and scrupulously afraid of sin, is to run into an extreme, and to be righteous over-much, and to make religion a vexatious or distracting thing, and that it is more ado than needs.

Direct. XXIV. This I have answered so oft, that I shall here say but this: that God cannot be too much loved; nor heaven too much valued, nor too diligently sought or obeyed; nor sin and hell be too much avoided: nor doth any man need to fear doing too much, where he is sure when he hath done his best to do too little. Hearken what men say of this at death.

Tempt. XXV. The tempter would persuade us that one sin is necessary to avoid another; and that of two evils you must choose the less, as if there were no other way. Thus James and John did by sinful, uncharitable zeal, desire to punish sin, Luke ix. 54. Peter would sinfully fight against the sinful Jews, Matt. xxvi. 52. Thus he bids men lie, to avoid some dishonour to God and religion; and persecute, to preserve the unity of the church, and keep out sin; and commit a lesser sin themselves to escape a greater.

Direct. XXV. This is to abuse God, as if he had made that necessary which he forbids, and had not provided you lawful means enough to use against every sin. This is wilfully to do that which you pretend you are unwilling to do, even to sin. Of two evils avoid both, but be sure you consent to neither.

Tempt. XXVI. He pleadeth christian liberty to entice to sin, especially to sensuality. Hath not Christ purchased you liberty to use the creatures? all things are yours. No men but the godly have just title to them.

Direct. XXVI. He never purchased us liberty to abuse the creature, as poison to hurt ourselves; to hinder mortification, and strengthen our enemy, and our snare, and to steal away our hearts from God. It is a liberty from sin, and not a liberty to sin, that Christ hath purchased us.

Tempt. XXVII. He pleadeth the necessity of wife, children, estate, life, &c. Necessity makes it lawful.

Direct. XXVII. There is no necessity of sinning. He cannot be Christ's disciple, that thinks it more necessary to save his life, or provide for wife and children, than to obey his Lord, Luke xiv. 26, 33. God must be trusted with these.

Tempt. XXVIII. But, saith the tempter, it is natural to lust, to love honour, ease, pleasure, &c.; therefore it is no sin.

Direct. XXVIII. Nature is corrupted and sinful; and it is natural to you to be rational, and to rule your sense and appetite by reason, and not to do what lust or appetite desireth. Else man is but a beast.

Tempt. XXIX. But, saith the tempter, authority commandeth it; it is your parent's or master's will, and you must obey.

Direct. XXIX. There is no power, but from God; therefore none against him or above him. They must be obeyed in all things lawful, but not in sin. They cannot save you nor themselves from the wrath of God.

Tempt. XXX. But, saith the tempter, you have promised or vowed that you will do it, and are not at liberty.

Direct. XXX. The vow of a lawful thing must be kept; but if you vow to sin, it is another sin to perform it, and to wrong God or man because you have vowed to wrong him.

Tempt. XXXI. But, saith the tempter, it is a controversy, and many learned and good men think it is no sin.

Direct. XXXI. You have the more reason to be fearful and cautelous, when you see that the case is so obscure, and the snare so subtle, and are sure that many learned and good men on one side or other are deceived before you. Remember God is your King and Judge; who will not take it for an excuse for sin, that learned or good men did it, or defended it. Consult not with flesh and blood, but with God.

Tempt. XXXII. But, saith the tempter, will you be singular, and be pointed or hooted at by all.

Direct. XXXII. In doctrine I will not be singular from the holy catholic church of God; in worship I will not in singularity or schism separate from the communion of saints: but in doctrine I will be singular from infidels and heretics; and in a holy life I will be singular from the ungodly, and profane, and sensual; lest if I do as they, to avoid their scorns, I speed as they.

Tempt. XXXIII. But you are weak, and you cannot help it, till God will give you grace to do it.

Direct. XXXIII. Therefore I must not be wilful, and negligent, and rash, and do that evil which I may forbear, nor resist and refuse that grace, and help, and mercy without which I can do nothing.

Tempt. XXXIV. But you repent, and ask God forgiveness through Christ, every night, for the sins of the day.

Direct. XXXIV. Repenting is a sorrowful turning of the heart from sin to God. You repent not if you turn not. To mock God with such hypocritical praying and repenting is itself a heinous sin. Will you take it for repenting, if a man that spits in your face and beateth you, shall do it every day, and ask you forgiveness at night, and purpose to do it still, because he asked forgiveness.

Tempt. XXXV. But every man sinneth daily: you do but as the best men in the world do.

Direct. XXXV. No true christian that is justified hath any sin but what he hateth more than loveth,[Pg 106] and would fain be rid of, and striveth against in the use of holy means. He hath no beloved sin which he would not part with, but had rather keep than leave.

Tempt. XXXVI. But those that seem strict and godly are hypocrites, and secretly as bad as you.

Direct. XXXVI. This is just like the devil, the accuser of those that are sanctified and justified by Christ, the father of malice and lies; to charge that on them, which he confesseth is secret and he cannot prove. So he said of Job, that if he were touched in his estate or body, he would forsake his godliness; but he was found a liar. But be it how it will, I am sure I must be holy or I shall not see God, and if "I live after the flesh I shall die," Heb. xii. 14; Rom. viii. 9, 13; and other men's misery will be no ease to me.

Tempt. XXXVII. But, saith the tempter, if you will not sin, come but near it, and do that which is lawful.

Direct. XXXVII. Indeed we must not run into a contrary extreme, under pretence of flying far enough from sin; but if you keep out of other sin, you cannot go too far from any. To be near sin, is to be near God's wrath, and near that which tendeth to hell fire. And to come near it is the common way of coming to it. He that could wish he might do it, is infected at the heart already. Keep a tender conscience, and a constant sense of the danger of sinning.

Tempt. XXXVIII. It is a great snare, when sin is got into credit, 1. By putting fair names upon it, calling luxury and gluttony keeping a good house, and a good table; tippling is called drinking a cup with a friend; lust and filthiness are called love; worldliness is called thriftiness and good husbandry; idleness and loss of time are called the leisure of a gentleman; slothfulness is called a not being too worldly; time-wasting sports are called recreations; pride is called decency and handsomeness; proud revenge is called honour and gallantry; Romish cruelty, and persecution, and wasting the church, are called keeping up order, obedience, and unity; disobedience to superiors is called not fearing man; church divisions are called strictness and zeal. 2. Especially if a sin be not in disgrace among the stricter sort, it greatly prepareth men to commit it: as breaking the Lord's day, beyond sea, in many reformed churches: and at home, spiritual pride, censoriousness, backbiting, disobedience, and church divisions are not in half that disgrace among many professors of strictness, as they deserve, and as swearing, &c. are.

Direct. XXXVIII. Remember, that whatever be the name or cloak, God judgeth righteously, according to the truth; names may deceive us, but not our Judge. And sin is still in disgrace with God, however it be with men. Remember, the comelier the paint and cover are, the greater is the danger, and the more watchful and cautelous we should be. It is not imperfect man, but the perfect law of God, which must be our rule. The great success of this temptation should deter us from entertaining it. What abundance of mischief hath it done in the world!

Tempt. XXXIX. Sometimes, the devil tempteth men to some heinous sin, that, if he prevail not, at least he may draw them into a less. As cheating charterers will ask twice the price of their commodity, that, by abating much, they may make you willing to give too much. He that would get a little, must ask a great deal. He will tempt you to drunkenness, and if he draw you but to tippling or time-wasting, he hath got something. If he tempt you to fornication, and he get you but to some filthy thoughts, or immodest, lascivious talk or actions, he hath done much of that which he intended. If he tempt you to some horrid cruelty, and you yield but to some less degree, or to some unjust or uncharitable censures, you think you have conquered, when it is he that conquereth.

Direct. XXXIX. Remember, that the least degree of sin is sin, and "death the wages of it," Rom. vi. 23. Think not that you have escaped well, if your hearts have taken any of the infection, or if you have been wounded any where, though it might have been worse. If the tempter had tempted you no further but to a lustful, malicious, or proud thought or word, you would perceive that if he prevail, he conquereth: so may you when he getteth this much, by a shameless asking more.

Tempt. XL. He tempteth us sometimes, to be so fearful and careful against one sin, or about some one danger, as to be mindless of some other, and lie open to his temptation. Like a fencer, that will seem to aim all at one place, that he may strike you in another while you are guarding that. Or like an enemy, that giveth all the alarm at one end of the city, that he may draw the people thither, while he stormeth in another place. So Satan makes some so afraid of worldliness, that they watch not against idleness; or so fearful of hardheartedness, and deadness, and hypocrisy, that they watch not against passion, neglect of their callings, or dejectedness; or so fearful of sinning or being deceived about their salvation, that they fear not the want of love, and joy, and thankfulness for all the mercy they have received, nor the neglect of holy praise to God.

Direct. XL. Remember, that as obedience must be entire and universal, so is Satan's temptation against all parts of our obedience; and our care must extend to all if we will escape. It would cure your inordinate fear in some one point, if you extended it to all the rest.

Tempt. XLI. Sometimes, by the suddenness of a temptation, he surpriseth men before they are aware.

Direct. XLI. Be never unarmed nor from your watch; especially as to thoughts, or sudden passions, or rash words, which are used to be committed for want of deliberation.

Tempt. XLII. Sometimes, he useth a violent earnestness, especially when he getteth passion on his side. So that reason is borne down; and the sinner saith, I could not forbear.

Direct. XLII. But remember, that the very eager unruliness of your passion is a sin itself: and that none can compel you to sin: and that reason must deliberate and rule; or else any murder or wickedness may have the excuse of urgent passions.

Tempt. XLIII. Sometimes he useth the violence of men: they threaten men, to frighten them into sin.

Direct. XLIII. But are not God and his threatenings more to be feared? Do men threaten imprisonment, or death, or ruin? And doth not God threaten everlasting misery? And can he not defend you from all that man shall threaten, if it be best for you? See the portion of the fearful, Rev. xxi. 8.

Tempt. XLIV. Sometimes variety of temptations distracteth men, that they do not look to all at once.

Direct. XLIV. Remember, that one part of the city unguarded, may lose the whole in a general assault.

Tempt. XLV. Sometimes he ceaseth, to make us secure, and lay by our arms, and then surpriseth us.

Direct. XLV. Take heed of security, and Satan's ambushments. Distinguish between cessation and conquest. You conquer not every time that you have rest and quietness from temptation. Till the[Pg 107] sin be hated, and the contrary grace or duty in practice, you have not at all overcome: and when that is done, yet trust not the devil or the flesh; nor think the war will be shorter than your lives, for one assault will begin where the former ended. Make use of every cessation but to prepare for the next encounter.

Tempt. XLVI. He will tempt you to take striving for overcoming; and to think, because you pray and make some resistance, that sin is conquered; and because your desires are good, all is well.

Direct. XLVI. But all that fight do not overcome. "If a man strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully," 1 Tim. ii. 5. "Many will seek to enter and shall not be able," Luke xiii. 24.

Tempt. XLVII. He followeth the sinner with frequency and importunity, till he weary him, and make him yield.

Direct. XLVII. 1. Remember that Christ is as importunate with thee to save thee, as the devil can be to damn thee; and which then should prevail? 2. Be you as constant in resistance; be as oft in prayer and other confirming means. Do as Paul, 2 Cor. xii. 7, 8, who prayed thrice, (as Christ did in his agony,) when the prick in the flesh was not removed. 3. Tempt not the tempter, by giving him encouragement. A faint denial is an invitation to ask again. Give him quickly a flat denial, and put him out of hope, if you would shorten the temptation.

Tempt. XLVIII. Lastly, the devil would sink the sinner in despair, and persuade him now it is too late.

Direct. XLVIII. Observe his design, that it is but to take off that hope which is the weight to set the wheels of the soul a going. In all he is against God and you. In other sins he is against God's authority: in this he is against his love and mercy. Read the gospel, and you will find that Christ's death is sufficient; the promise is universal, full, and free; and that the day of grace is so far continued till the day of death, and no man shall be denied it that truly desireth it. And that the same God that forbiddeth thy presumption, forbiddeth also thy despair.

Temptations to draw us off from Duty.

Tempt. I. The greatest temptation against duty is, by persuading men that it is no duty. Thus in our days we have seen almost all duty cast off by this erroneous fancy. One saith, That the holy observation of the Lord's day is not commanded of God in Scripture. Another saith, What Scripture have you for family prayer, or singing psalms, or baptizing infants, or praying before and after sermon, or for your office, ordination, tithes, churches, &c. Another saith, That church government and discipline are not of divine institution. Another saith, That baptism and the Lord's supper were but for that age. And thus all duty is taken down, instead of doing it.

Direct. I. Read and fear, Matt. v. 19, "Whosoever shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." Denying duty is too easy a way of evading obedience to serve turn. Denying the laws that bind you to public payments will not save you from them; but for all that, if you deny, you must be distrained on. And God will make it dearer to you, if you put him to distrain on you for duty. Must he go to law with you for it? He will quickly show you law for it, and prove that it was your duty. Open your doubts to able men, and you will hear more evidence than you know; but if pride and false-heartedness blind you, you must bear your punishment.

Tempt. II. Saith the tempter, It is a duty to weak ones, but not for you: you must not be still under ordinances, in the lower form: every day must be a sabbath to you, and every bit a sacrament, and every place as a church: you must live above ordinances in Christ.

Direct. II. We must live above Mosaical ordinances, Col. ii. 18, 21; but not above Christ's ordinances: unless you will live above obedience and above the government of Christ.[109] Hath not Christ appointed the ministry, and church helps, "till we all come to a perfect man?" Eph. iv. 13; and promised to "be with them to the end of the world?" Matt. xxviii. 20. It is befooling pride that can make you think you have no need of Christ's instituted means.

Tempt. III. But thou art unworthy to pray or receive the sacrament: it is not for dogs.

Direct. III. The wilful, impenitent refusers of grace, are unworthy. The willing soul, that fain would be what God would have him, hath an accepted worthiness in Christ.

Tempt. IV. But while you doubt, you do it not in faith; and therefore to you it is sin.

Direct. IV. But is it not a greater sin to leave it undone? Will doubting of all duty excuse you from it? Then you have an easy way to be free from all! Do but doubt whether you should believe in God, or Christ, or love him, or live a godly life, and it seems you think it will excuse you. But if you doubt whether you should feed your child, you deserve to be hanged for murdering it, if you famish it. If you doubt of duty, it is duty still, and you are first bound to lay by your doubts. But things indifferent, left to your choice, must not be done with a doubting conscience: it was of such things that Paul spake.

Tempt. V. The devil puts somewhat still in the way, that seemeth necessary, to thrust out duty.

Direct. V. God hath not set you work which he alloweth you no time for. Is all your time spent in better things? Is it not your carnal mind that makes you think carnal things most needful? Christ saith, "One thing is needful," Luke x. 42. "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you," Matt. vi. 33. Had you that love and delight in holiness as you should, you would find time for it. An unwelcome guest is put off with any excuse. Others, as poor as you, can find time for duty, because they are willing. Set your business in order, and let every thing keep its proper place, and you may have time for every duty.

Tempt. VI. But you are so unable and unskilful to pray, to learn, that it is as good never meddle with it.

Direct. VI. Set yourselves to learn, and mark those that have skill; and do what you can. You must learn by practice. The unskilfullest duty is better than none. Unworded groans come oft from the Spirit of God, and God understandeth and accepteth them, Rom. viii. 26, 27.

Tempt. VII. It will be so hard and long to learn, that you will never overcome it.

Direct. VII. Willingness and diligence have the promise of God's help. Remember, it is a thing that must be done. When your own disuse and sin hath made it hard, will you put God and your souls off with that as an excuse? If you had neglected to teach your child to speak or go when it is young, should he therefore never learn? Will you despair,[Pg 108] and let go all your hope on this pretence? or will you hope to be saved without prayer and other holy duty? How foolish are both these! Sick men must eat, though their stomachs be against it; they cannot live else.

Tempt. VIII. But thou findest thou art but the worse for duty, and never the better for it.

Direct. VIII. Satan will do what he can to make it go worse with you after than before. He will discourage you if he can, by hindering your success, that he may make you think it is to no purpose: so, many preachers, because they have fished long and catched nothing, grow cold and heartless, and ready to sit down and say, as Jer. xx. 9, "I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name." So in prayer, sacrament, reproof, &c. the devil makes great use of this, What good hath it done thee? But patience and perseverance win the crown. The beginning is seldom a time to perceive success: the carpenter is long at work before he rear a house; nature brings not forth the plant or birth the first day. Your life-time is your working time. Do your part, and God will not fail on his part. It is his part to give success; and dare you accuse him, or suspect him? There is more of the success of prayer to be believed than to be felt. If God have promised to hear he doth hear, and we must believe it whether we feel it or not. Prayers are often heard long before the thing is sent us that we prayed for: we pray for heaven, but shall not be there till death. If Moses's message to Pharaoh ten times seem lost, it is not lost for all that. What work would ever have been done, if on the first conceit of unsuccessfulness it had been given off? Be glad that thou hast time to plough and sow, to do thy part, and if God will give thee fruit at last.

Tempt. IX. But, saith the tempter, it goeth worse with thee in the world, since thou settest thyself to read, and pray, and live obediently; thou hast been poorer, and sicker, and more despised since, than ever before: Jer. xx. 8, Thou art "a derision daily, every one mocketh thee." This thou gettest by it.

Direct. IX. He began not well, that counted not that it might cost him more than this to be a holy christian. If God in heaven be not enough to be thy portion, never serve him, but find something better if thou canst. He that cannot lose the world cannot use it as he ought. If thou hadst rather be at the devil's finding and usage than at God's, thou art worthy to speed accordingly. Nay, if thou think thy soul itself worse, remember that we are not worst when we are troubled most: physic makes sick, when it works aright.

Tempt. X. Satan filleth many with abundance of scruples about every duty, that they come to it as sick persons to their meat, with a peevish, quarrelling disposition. This aileth, and that aileth it; something is still amiss, that they cannot get it down; this fault the minister hath in praying or preaching; or the other circumstance is amiss, or the other fault is in the company that join with them: and all is to turn them off from all.

Direct. X. But do you mend the matter by casting off all, or by running into greater inconveniences? Is not their imperfect prayer and communion better than your idle neglect of all, or unwarrantable division? It is a sign of an upright heart to be most about heart-observation, and quarrelsome with themselves; and the mark of hypocrites to be most quarrelsome against the manner of other men's performances, and to be easily driven by any pretences from the worship of God and communion of saints.

Tempt. XI. The devil will set one duty against another: reading against hearing; praying against preaching; private against public; outward and inward worship against each other; mercy and justice, piety and charity, against each other; and still labour to eject the greater.

Direct. XI. The work of God is an harmonious and well-composed frame: if you leave out a part you spoil the whole, and disadvantage yourselves in all the rest; place them aright, and each part helpeth and not hindereth another; plead one for another, but cast by none.

Tempt. XII. The commonest and sorest temptation is by taking away our appetite to holy duties, by abating our feeling of our own necessity: when the soul is sleepy and feeleth no need of prayer, or reading, or hearing, or meditating, but thinks itself tolerably well without it; or else grows sick and is against it, and troubled to use it; so that every duty is like eating to a sick stomach, then it is easy to tempt it to neglect or omit many a duty: a little thing will serve to put it by, when men feel no need of it.

Direct. XII. O keep up a lively sense of your necessities: remember still that time is short, and death is near, and you are too unready. Keep acquaintance with your hearts and lives, and every day will tell you of your necessities, which are greatest when they are least perceived.

Tempt. XIII. The tempter gets much by ascribing the success of holy means to our own endeavour, or to chance, or something else, and making us overlook that present benefit, which would greatly encourage us: as when we are delivered from sickness or danger upon prayer, he tells you so you might have been delivered if you had never prayed. Was it not by the physician's care and skill, and by such an excellent medicine? If you prosper in any business, Was it not by your own contrivance and diligence?

Direct. XIII. This separating God and means, when God worketh by means, is the folly of atheists. When God heareth thy prayer in sickness or other danger, he showeth it by directing the physician or thyself to the fittest means, and blessing that means; and he is as really the cause, and prayer the first means, as if he wrought thy deliverance by a miracle. Do not many use the same physician, and medicine, and labour, and diligence, who yet miscarry? Just observation of the answers of prayer might do much to cure this. All our industry may say as Peter and John, Acts iii. 12, "Why look ye so earnestly on us, as if by our own power or holiness we had done this?" when God is glorifying his grace, and owning his appointed means.

Tempt. XIV. Lastly, the devil setteth up something else in opposition to holy duty, to make it seem unnecessary. In some he sets up their good desires, and saith, God knoweth thy heart without expressing it; and thou mayst have as good a heart at home as at church. In some he sets up superstitious fopperies of man's devising, instead of God's institution. In some he pretendeth the Spirit against external duty, and saith, The Spirit is all; the flesh profiteth nothing. Yea, in some he sets up Christ himself against Christ's ordinances, and saith, It is not these, but Christ, that profits you.

Direct. XIV. This is distracted contradiction: to set Christ against Christ, and the Spirit against the ordinances of the Spirit. Is it not Christ and the Spirit that appointed them? Doth he not best know in what way he will give his grace? Can you not preserve the soul and life, without killing the body? Cannot you have the water, and value the cistern or spring, without cutting off the pipes that must convey it? O wonderful! that Satan could make men[Pg 109] so mad, as this reasoning hath showed us that many are in our days. And to set up superstition or pretend a good heart against God's worship, is to accuse him that appointed it of doing he knew not what, and to think that we are wiser than he! and to show a good heart by disobedience, pride, contempt of God and of his mercies!

Temptations to frustrate holy Duties, and make them ineffectual.

The devil is exceeding diligent in this: 1. That he may make the soul despair, and say, Now I have used all means in vain, there is no hope. 2. To double the sinner's misery by turning the very remedy into a disease. 3. To show his malice against Christ, and say, I have turned thy own means to thy dishonour.

Consider, therefore, how greatly we are concerned to do the work of God effectually. Means well used are the way to more grace, to communion with God, and to salvation; but ill used, they dishonour and provoke him, and destroy ourselves, like children that cut their fingers with the knife, when they should cut their meat with it.

Tempt. I. Duty is frustrated by false ends: as, 1. To procure God to bear with them in their sin (whereas it is the use of duty to destroy sin). 2. To make God satisfaction for sin (which is the work of Christ). 3. To merit grace (when the imperfection merits wrath). 4. To prosper in the world and escape affliction, Jam. iv. 3 (and so they are but serving their flesh, and desiring God to serve it). 5. To quiet conscience in a course of sin (by sinning more in offering the sacrifice of fools, Eccles. v. 1, 2). 6. To be approved of men (and verily they have their reward, Matt. vi. 5). 7. To be saved when they can keep the world and sin no longer (that is, to obtain that the gospel may all be false and God unjust).

Direct. I. First see that the heart be honest, and God, and heaven, and holiness most desired, else all that you do will want right ends.

Tempt. II. When ignorance or error make men take God for what he is not, thinking blasphemously of him, as if he were like them, and liked their sins, or were no lover of holiness, they frustrate all their worship of him.

Direct. II. Study God in his Son, in his word, in his saints, in his works: know him as described before, chap. iii. direct. iv. And see that your wicked corrupted hearts, or wilful forgetting him, blind not your understandings.

Tempt. III. To come to God in ourselves and out of Christ, and use his name but customarily, and not in faith and confidence.

Direct. III. Know well your sin, and vileness, and desert, and the justice and holiness of God; and then you will see that if Christ reconcile you not, and justify you not by his blood, and do not sanctify and help you by his Spirit, and make you sons of God, and intercede not for you, there is no access to God, nor standing in his sight.

Tempt. IV. The tempter would have you pray hypocritically, with the tongue only, without the heart: to put off God in a few customary words, with seeming to pray (as they do the poor, James ii. with a few empty words) either in a form of words not understood, or not considered, or not felt and much regarded; or in more gross hypocrisy, praying for the holiness which they will not have, and against the sin which they will not part with.

Direct. IV. O fear the holy, jealous, heart-searching God, that hateth hypocrisy, and will be worshipped seriously in spirit and truth, and will be sanctified of all that draw near him, Lev. x. 3; and saith, they "worship him in vain, that draw nigh him with the lips, when the heart is far from him," Matt. xv. 8, 9. See God by faith, as present with thee, and know thyself, and it will awaken thee to seriousness. See Heb. iv. 13; Hos. viii. 12, 13.

Tempt. V. He would destroy faith and hope, and make you doubt whether you shall get any thing by duty.

Direct. V. But, 1. Why should God command it, and promise us his blessing if he meant not to perform it? 2. Remember God's infiniteness, and omnipresence, and all-sufficiency: he is as verily with thee, as thou art there: he upholdeth thee: he showeth by his mercies, that he regardeth thee; and by his regarding lower things: and if he regard thee, he doth regard thy duties. It is all one with him to hear thy prayers, as if he had never another creature to regard and hear. Believe then, and hope and wait upon him.

Tempt. VI. Sometimes the tempter will promise you more by holy duty, than God doth, and make you expect deliverance from every enemy, want, and sickness, and speedier deliverance of soul, than ever God promised; and all this is, to make you cast away all as vain, and think God faileth you, when you miss your expectations.

Direct. VI. But God will do all that he promiseth, but not all that the devil or yourselves promise. See what God promiseth in his word. That is enough for you. Make that and no more the end of duties.

Tempt. VII. The tempter usually would draw you from the heart and life of duty, by too much ascribing to the outside: laying too much on the bare doing of the work, the giving of the alms, the hearing of the sermons, the saying the words, the handsome expression, order, manner; which in their places are all good, if animated with spirit, life, and seriousness.

Direct. VII. Look most and first to the soul in duty, and the soul of duty. The picture of meat feedeth not; the picture of fire warmeth not; fire and shadows will not nourish us: God loveth not dead carcasses instead of spiritual worship: we regard not words ourselves, further than they express the heart. Let the outer part have but its due.

Tempt. VIII. He tempteth you to rest in a forced, affected, counterfeit fervency, stirred up by a desire to take with others.

Direct. VIII. Look principally at God and holy motives, and less at men, that all your fire be holy, fetched from heaven.

Tempt. IX. He would keep you in a lazy, sluggish coldness, to read, and hear, and pray as asleep, as if you did it not.

Direct. IX. Awake yourselves with the presence of God, and the great concernment of what you are about, and yield not to your sloth.

Tempt. X. He would make you bring a divided, distracted heart to duty, that is half about your worldly business.

Direct. X. Remember God is jealous, your business with him is great, much lieth on it; call off your hearts, and let them not stay behind: all the powers of your souls are little enough in such a work, Ezek. xxxiii. 31.

Tempt. XI. Ignorance, unskilfulness, and unacquaintedness with duty, is a great impediment to most.

Direct. XI. Learn by study joined with practice. Be not weary, and difficulties will be overcome.

Tempt. XII. Putting duty out of its place, and neglecting the season that is fittest, makes it oft done slightly.

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Direct. XII. Redeem time, and despatch other business, that idleness deprive you not of leisure; and do all in order.

Tempt. XIII. Neglecting one duty is the tempter's snare to spoil another. If he can keep you from reading, you will not understand well what you hear. If he keep you from meditating, you will not digest what you hear or read. If he keep you from hearing, you will want both matter and life for prayer, and meditation, and conference. If he keep you from godly company, you will be hindered in all, and in the practice: no one is omitted, but you are disadvantaged by it in all the rest.

Direct. XIII. Observe how one duty helpeth another, and take all together each one in its place.

Tempt. XIV. Sometimes the tempter doth call you off to other duty, and puts in unseasonable motions to that which in its time is good; he interrupts prayer by meditation, he sets seeming truth against love, and peace, and concord.

Direct. XIV. Still know which duties are greatest, and which is the due season for each, and do all in order.

Tempt. XV. He spoileth duty, by causing you to do it only as a duty, and not as a means for the good of your own souls; or only as a means, and not as a duty. If you do it only as duty, then you will not be quickened to it by the ends and benefits, nor carried by hope, nor fit all to the end, nor be so fervent or vigorous in it, as the sense of your own good would make you be. And if you do it only as a means, and not as a duty, then you will give over or faint, when you want or question the success: whereas, the sense of both would make you vigorous and constant.

Direct. XV. Keep under the sense of God's authority, that you may feel yourselves bound to obey him, whatever be the success; and may resolve to wait in an obedient way. And withal, admire his wisdom in fitting all duties to your benefit, and commanding you nothing but what is for your own or others' good, or to his honour: and mark the reason and tendency of all, and your own necessity.

Tempt. XVI. The tempter hindereth you in duty, as well as from duty, by setting you a quarrelling with the minister, the words, the company, the manner, the circumstances; that these things may divert your thoughts from the matter, or distract your mind with causeless scruples.

Direct. XVI. Pray and labour for a clear judgment, and an upright, self-judging, humble heart, which dwelleth most at home, and looketh most at the spiritual part, and affecteth not singularity.

Tempt. XVII. The tempter spoileth duty by your inconstancy; while you read or pray so seldom, that you have lost the benefit of one duty, before you come to another, and cool by intermissions.

Direct. XVII. Remember that it is not your divertisement, but your calling, and is to your soul as eating to your bodies.

Tempt. XVIII. Sometimes Satan corrupteth duty by men's private passions, interest, and opinions, making men, in preaching and praying, to vent their own conceits and spleen, and inveigh against those that differ from them, or offend them, and profane the name and work of God; or proudly to seek the praise of men.

Direct. XVIII. Remember that God is most jealous in his worship, and hateth hypocritical profaneness above all profaneness. Search your hearts, and mortify your passions; and especially selfishness, remembering that it is a poisonous and insinuating sin, and will easily hide itself with a cloak of zeal.

Tempt. XIX. False-hearted reservedness is a most accursed corrupter of holy duty; when the soul is not wholly given up to God, but sets upon duty from some common motive; as, because it is in credit, or to please some friend, purposing to try it awhile, and leave it if they like it not.

Direct. XIX. Fear God, thou hypocrite, and halt not between two opinions. If the Lord be God, obey and serve him with all thy heart; but if the devil and the flesh be better masters, follow them, and let him go.

Tempt. XX. Lastly, The tempter hindereth holy duty much, by wandering thoughts, and melancholy perplexities, and a hurry of temptations, which torment and distract some christians, so that they cry out, I cannot pray, I cannot meditate; and are weary of duty, and even of their lives.

Direct. XX. This showeth the malice of the tempter, and thy weakness; but, if thou hadst rather be delivered from it, it hindereth not thy acceptance with God. Read for this, what I have said chap. v. part 2. at large; especially in my Directions to the Melancholy.

I have been forced to put off many things briefly here, which deserved a larger handling; and I must now omit the discovery of those temptations, by which Satan keepeth men in sin, when he hath drawn them into it. 2. And those by which he causeth declining in grace, and apostasy. 3. And those by which he discomforteth true believers; because else this direction would swell to a treatise; and most will think it too long and tedious already, though the brevity which I use, to avoid prolixity, doth wrong the matter through the whole. Acquaintance with temptations is needful to our overcoming them.


For serving Christ our Master in good works.

Grand Direct. X. Your lives must be laid out in doing God service, and doing all the good you can, in works of piety, justice, and charity, with prudence, fidelity, industry, zeal, and delight; remembering that you are engaged to God, as servants to their lord and master; and are intrusted with his talents, of the improvement whereof you must give account.

The next relation between Christ and us, which we are to speak of, (subordinate to that of King and subjects,) is this of Master and servants. Though Christ saith to the apostles, John xv. 15, "Henceforth I call you not servants, but friends;" the meaning is not that he calleth them not servants at all, but not mere servants, they being more than servants, having such acquaintance with his counsels as his friends. For he presently, verse 20, bids them "Remember that the servant is not greater than his lord." And John xiii. 13, "Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am." And Matt. xxiii. 8, "One is your Master, Christ; and all ye are brethren:" so ver. 10. And the apostles called themselves the "servants of Jesus Christ," Rom. i. 1; and 1 Cor. iv. 1; Phil. i. 1: and "of God," Tit. i. 1, &c.

What it is to be Christ's servants.

He is called our Master, and we his servants, because he is our Rector, ex pleno dominio, with absolute propriety; and doth not give us laws to obey, while we do our own work, but giveth us his work to do, and laws for the right doing of it: and it is a service under his eye, and in dependence on him for our daily provisions, as servants on their lord. God hath work for us to do in the world; and the performance of it he will require. God biddeth his sons "Go work to day in my vineyard," Matt. xxi. 28; and expecteth that they do it, ver. 31. His "servants" are as "husbandmen," to whom "he intrusteth his vineyard,[Pg 111] that he may receive the fruit," ver. 33, 34, 41, 43. "Faithful servants shall be made rulers over his household," Matt. xxiv. 45, 46. Christ delivereth to his servants his talents to improve, and will require an account of the improvement at his coming, Matt. xxv. 14. Good works, in the proper, comprehensive sense, are all actions internal and external, that are morally good; but in the narrower acceptation, they are works, not only formally good, as acts of obedience in general, but also materially good, such as a servant doth for his master, that tend to his advantage, or the profit of some other, whose welfare he regardeth. Because the doctrine of good works is controverted in these times, I shall first open it briefly, and then give you the directions.

1. Nothing is more certain, than that God doth not need the service of any creature; and that he receiveth no addition to his perfection or felicity from it; and, consequently, that on terms of commutative justice, (which giveth one thing for another, as in selling and buying,) no creature is capable of meriting at his hands.

2. It is certain, that on the terms of the law of works, (which required perfect obedience as the condition of life,) no sinner can do any work so good, as in point of distributive, governing justice, shall merit at his hands.

3. It is certain, that Christ hath so fulfilled the law of works, as to merit for us.

4. The redeemed are not masterless, but have still a Lord, who hath now a double right to govern them. And this Governor giveth them a law: and this law requireth us to do good works, as much as we are able, (though not so terribly, yet) as obligingly as the law of works: and by this (of Christ) we must be judged: and thus we must be judged according to our works: and to be judged is nothing else but to be justified or condemned. Such works therefore are rewardable according to the distributive justice of the law of grace, by which we must be judged. And the ancient fathers, who (without any opposition) spoke of good works as meritorious with God, meant no more, but that they were such as the righteous Judge of the world will reward according to the law of grace, by which he judgeth us. And this doctrine being agreed on as certain truth, there is no controversy with them, but whether the word merit was properly or improperly used: and that both Scripture and our common speech alloweth the fathers' use of the word, I have showed at large in my "Confession."

5. Christ is so far from redeeming us from a necessity of good works, that he died to restore us to a capacity and ability to perform them, and hath new-made us for that end. Tit. ii. 14, "He gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." Eph. ii. 10, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."

6. Good works opposed to Christ, or his satisfaction, merit, righteousness, mercy, or free grace in the matter of justification or salvation, are not good works, but proud self-confidence and sin. But good works, in their due subordination to God's mercy, and Christ's merits and grace, are necessary and rewardable.

7. Though God need none of our works, yet that which is good materially pleaseth him, as it tendeth to his glory, and to our own and others' benefit, which he delighteth in.

8. It is the communicating of his goodness and excellencies to the creature, by which God doth glorify himself in the world; and in heaven, where is the fullest communication, he is most glorified. Therefore the praise which is given to the creature, who receiveth all from him, is his own praise. And it is no dishonour to God, that his creature be honoured, by being good, and being esteemed good: otherwise God would never have created any thing, lest it should derogate from himself; or he would have made them bad, lest their goodness were his dishonour; and he would be most pleased with the wicked, and least pleased with the best, as most dishonouring him. But madness itself abhorreth these conceits.

9. Therefore, as an act of mercy to us, and for his own glory, (as at first he made all things very good, so) he will make the new creature according to his image, which is holy, and just, and good, and will use us in good works; and it is our honour, and gain, and happiness to be so used by him. As he will not communicate light to the world without the sun (whose glory derogateth not from his honour); so will he not do good works in the world immediately by himself only, but by his servants, whose calling and daily business it must be, as that which they are made for, as the sun is made to give light and heat to inferior things, Eph. ii. 10. "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven," Matt, v. 16. Christ was far from their opinion that think all good works that are attributed to good men are dishonourable to God.[110]

10. He is most beholden to God, that is most exercised in good works. The more we do, the more we receive from him: and our very doing itself is our receiving; for it is he that "giveth us both to will and to do," by his operation in us, Phil. ii. 13; even "he, without whom we can do nothing," John xv. 5.

11. The obligation to good works, that is, to works of piety, justice, and charity, is essential to us as servants of the Lord. We are practical atheists, if we do not works of piety to God: we are rebels against God, and enemies to ourselves, and unmeet for human society, if we do not the works which are good for ourselves, and for others, if we have ability and opportunity. This is our fruit which God expecteth; and if we bear it not, he will hew us down, and cast us into the fire.

12. Though doing no hurt will not serve turn, without doing good, yet it is not the same works that are required of all, nor in the same degree, but according to every man's talent and opportunities, Matt. xxv. 14, 15, &c.

13. God looketh not only nor principally at the external part of the work, but much more to the heart of him that doth it; nor at the length of time, but at the sincerity and diligence of his servants. And therefore, though he is so just, as not to deny the reward which was promised them, to those that have borne the burden and heat of the day; yet he is so gracious and bountiful, that he will give as much to those that he findeth as willing and diligent, and would have done more if they had had opportunity, Matt. xx. 12-15. You see in all this, what our doctrine is about good works, and how far those papists are to be believed, who persuade their ignorant[Pg 112] disciples, that we account them vain and needless things.

Directions for faithful serving Christ, and doing good.

Direct. I. Be sure that you have that holiness, justice, and charity within, which are the necessary principles of good works.—For "a good tree will bring forth good fruit, and an evil tree evil fruit. Make the tree good, and the fruit good. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart, bringeth forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart, bringeth forth evil things." As out of the heart proceed evil works, Matt. xv. 19, 20, so out of the heart must good works come, Matt. vii. 16-20. Can the dead do the works of the living? or the unholy do the works of holiness? or the unrighteous do the works of justice? or the uncharitable do the works of charity? Will he do good to Christ in his members on earth, who hateth them? Or will he not rather imprison them, than visit them in prison; and rather strip them of all they have, than feed and clothe them? Or if a man should do that which materially is good, from pride, or other sinful principles, God doth not accept it, but taketh all sacrifice but as carrion that is offered to him without the heart.

Direct. II. Content not yourselves to do some good extraordinarily on the by, or when you are urged to it; but study to do good, and make it the trade or business of your lives.—Having so many obligations, and so great encouragements, do what you do with all your might. If you would know whether you are servants to Christ, or to the flesh, the question must be, which of these have the main care and diligence of our lives; for as every carnal act will not prove you servants to the flesh, so every good action will not prove you the servants of Christ.

Direct. III. Before you do any work, consider whether you can truly say, it is a service of God, and will be accepted by him. See therefore that it be done, 1. To his glory, or to please him. 2. And in obedience to his command.—Mere natural actions, that have no moral good or evil in them, and so belong not to morality, these belong not to our present subject; as being not the matter of rational (or at least of obediential) choice. Such as the winking of the eye, the setting of this foot forward first, the taking of this or that meat, or drink, or instrument, or company, or action, when they are equal, and it is no matter of rational (or obediential) choice, &c. But every act that is to be done deliberately and rationally, as matter of choice, must be moralized, or made good, by doing it, 1. To a right end; and, 2. According to the rule. "Whether we eat, or drink, or whatsoever we do, (that is matter of rational choice,) must be done by us to the glory of God," 1 Cor. x. 31. All works tend not alike to his glory; but some more immediately and directly, and others remotely; but all must ultimately have this end. Even servants that labour in their painful work, must "do it as to the Lord, and not (only, or ultimately) to men; not with eye-service as men-pleasers, but as the servants of Christ," from whom they must have their greatest reward or punishment, Eph. vi. 5-8; Col. iii. 22-25. All the comforts of food, or rest, or recreation, or pleasure which we take, should be intended to fit us for our Master's work, or strengthen, cheer, and help us in it. Do nothing, deliberately, that belongs to the government of reason, but God's service in the world; which you can say, he set you on.

Direct. IV. Set not duties of piety, justice, or charity against each other, as if they had an enmity to each other; but take them as inseparable, as God hath made them.—Think not to offer God a sacrifice of injury, bribery, fraud, oppression, or any uncharitable work. And pretend not the benefit of men, or the safety of societies or kingdoms, for impiety against the Lord.[111]

Direct. V. Acquaint yourselves with all the talents which you receive from God, and what is the use to which they should be improved.—Keep thus a just account of your receivings, and what goods of your Master's is put into your hands. And make it a principal part of your study, to know what every thing in your hand is good for to your Master's use; and how it is that he would have you use it.

Direct. VI. Keep an account of your expenses; at least, of all your most considerable talents; and bring yourselves daily or frequently to a reckoning, what good you have done, or endeavoured to do. Every day is given you for some good work. Keep therefore accounts of every day (I mean, in your conscience, not in papers). Every mercy must be used to some good: call yourselves therefore, to account for every mercy, what you have done with it for your Master's use. And think not hours and minutes, and little mercies, may be past without coming into the account. The servant that thinks he may do what he list with shillings and pence, and that he is only to lay out greater sums for his master's use, and lesser for his own, will prove unfaithful, and come short in his accounts. Less sums than pounds must be in our reckonings.

Direct. VII. Take special heed that the common thief, your carnal self, either personal or in your relations, do not rob God of his expected due, and devour that which he requireth.—It is not for nothing that God calleth for the first-fruits. "Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the first-fruits of all thine increase: so shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst forth with new wine," Prov. iii. 9, 10. So Exod. xxiii. 16, 19; xxxiv. 22, 26; Lev. ii. 12, 14; Nehem. x. 35; Ezek. xx. 40; xliv. 30; xlviii. 14. For if carnal self might first be served, its devouring greediness would leave God nothing. Though he that hath godliness with contentment hath enough, if he have but food and raiment, yet there will be but enough for themselves and children, where men have many hundreds or thousands a year, if once it fall into this gulf. And indeed, as he that begins with God hath the promise of his bountiful supplies, so he whose flesh must first be served, doth catch such an hydropic thirst for more, that all will but serve it: and the devil contriveth such necessities to these men, and such uses for all they have, that they have no more to spare than poorer men; and they can allow God no more but the leavings of the flesh, and what it can spare, which commonly is next to nothing.) Indeed though holy uses in particular were satisfied with first-fruits and limited parts, yet God must have all, and the flesh (inordinately or finally) have none. Every penny which is laid out upon yourselves, and children, and friends, must be done as by God's own appointment, and to serve and please him. Watch narrowly, or else this thievish carnal self will leave God nothing.

Direct. VIII. Prefer greater duties (cæteris paribus) before lesser; and labour to understand which is the greater, and to be preferred.—Not that any real duty is to be neglected: but we call that by[Pg 113] the name of duty which is materially good, and a duty in its season; but formally, indeed, it is no duty at all, when it cannot be done without the omission of a greater. As for a minister to be praying with his family, or comforting one afflicted soul, when he should be preaching publicly, is to do that which is a duty in its season, but at that time is his sin. It is an unfaithful servant that is doing some little char, when he should be saving a beast from drowning, or the house from burning, or doing the greater part of his work.

Direct. IX. Prudence is exceeding necessary in doing good, that you may discern good from evil, discerning the season, and measure, and manner, and among divers duties, which must be preferred.—Therefore labour much for wisdom, and if you want it yourself, be sure to make use of theirs that have it, and ask their counsel in every great and difficult case. Zeal without judgment hath not only entangled souls in many heinous sins, but hath ruined churches and kingdoms, and under pretence of exceeding others in doing good, it makes men the greatest instruments of evil. There is scarce a sin so great and odious, but ignorant zeal will make men do it as a good work. Christ told his apostles, that those that killed them, should think they did God service. And Paul bare record to the murderous, persecuting Jews, "that they had a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge," Rom. x. 2. The papists' murders of christians under the name of heretics, hath recorded it to the world, in the blood of many hundred thousands, how ignorant, carnal zeal will do good, and what sacrifice it will offer up to God.[112]

Direct. X. In doing good, prefer the souls of men before the body, cæteris paribus. To convert a sinner from the error of his way is to save a soul from death, and to cover a multitude of sins, Jam. v. 20.—And this is greater than to give a man an alms. As cruelty to souls is the most heinous cruelty, (as persecutors and soul-betraying pastors will one day know to their remediless woe,) so mercy to souls is the greatest mercy. Yet sometimes mercy to the body is in that season to be preferred (for every thing is excellent in its season). As if a man be drowning or famishing, you must not delay the relief of his body, while you are preaching to him for his conversion; but first relieve him, and then you may in season afterwards instruct him. The greatest duty is not always to go first in time; sometimes some lesser work is a necessary preparatory to a greater; and sometimes a corporal benefit may tend more to the good of souls than some spiritual work may. Therefore I say still, that prudence and an honest heart are instead of many directions: they will not only look at the immediate benefit of a work, but to its utmost tendency and remote effects.

Direct. XI. In doing good, prefer the good of many, especially of the church or commonwealth, before the good of one or few.[113]—For many are more worth than one; and many will honour God and serve him more than one: and therefore both piety and charity require it. Yet this also must be understood with a cæteris paribus; for it is possible some cases of exception may be found. Paul's is a high instance, that "could have wished himself accursed from Christ" for the sake of the Jews, as judging God's honour more concerned in all them than in him alone.

Direct. XII. Prefer a durable good that will extend to posterity, before a short and transitory good.—As to build an alms-house is a greater work than to give an alms, and to erect a school than to teach a scholar; so to promote the settlement of the gospel and a faithful ministry is the greatest of all, as tending to the good of many, even to their everlasting good. This is the pre-eminence of good books before a transient speech, that they may be a more durable help and benefit. Look before you with a judicious foresight; and as you must not do that present good to a particular person, which bringeth greater hurt to many; so you must not do that present good to one or many, which is like to produce a greater and more lasting hurt. Such blind reformers have used the church, as ignorant physicians use their patients, who give them a little present ease, and cast them into a greater misery, and seem to cure them with a dose of opium or the Jesuit's powder, when they are bringing them into a worse disease than that which they pretend to cure. Oh when shall the poor church have wiser and foreseeing helpers!

Direct. XIII. Let all that you do for the church's good be sure to tend to holiness and peace; and do nothing under the name of a good work, which hath an enmity to either of these.—For these are to the church as life and health are to the body; and the increase of its welfare is nothing else but the increase of these. Whatever they pretend, believe none that say they seek the good and welfare of the church, if they seek not the promoting of holiness and peace: if they hinder the powerful preaching of the gospel, and the means that tendeth to the saving of souls, and the serious, spiritual worshipping of God, and the unity and peace of all the faithful; and if they either divide the faithful into sects and parties, or worry all that differ from them, and humour them not in their conceits;—take all these for such benefactors to the church, as the wolf is to the flock, and as the plague is to the city, or the fever to the body, or the fire in the thatch is to the house. "The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle," &c. "But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth: this wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish; for where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work," Jam. iii. 14-18.

Direct. XIV. If you will do the good which God accepteth, do that which he requireth; and put not the name of good works upon your sins, nor upon unnecessary things of your own invention; nor think that any good must be accomplished by forbidden means.—None know what pleaseth God so well as himself. Our ways may be right in our own eyes, and carnal wisdom may think it hath devised the fittest means to honour God, when he may abominate it, and say, Who required this at your hand? And if we will do good by sinning, we must do it in despite of God, who is engaged against our sins and us, Rom. iii. 8. God needeth not our lie to his glory: if papists think to find at the last day their foppish ceremonies, and superstition, and will-worship, their "touch not, taste not, handle not," to be reckoned to them as good works; or if Jesuits or enthusiasts think to find their perjury, treasons, rebellions, or conspiracies numbered with good works; or the persecuting of the preachers and faithful professors of godliness to be good works; how lamentably will they find their expectations disappointed!

Direct. XV. Keep in the way of your place and calling, and take not other men's works upon you[Pg 114] without a call, under any pretence of doing good.—Magistrates must do good in the place and work of magistrates; and ministers in the place and work of ministers; and private men in their private place and work; and not one man step into another's place, and take his work out of his hand, and say, I can do it better: for if you should do it better, the disorder will do more harm than you did good by bettering his work. One judge must not step into another's court and seat, and say I will pass more righteous judgment. You must not go into another man's school, and say, I can teach your scholars better; nor into another's charge or pulpit, and say, I can preach better. The servant may not rule the master, because he can do it best; no more than you may take another man's wife, or house, or lands, or goods, because you can use them better than he. Do the good that you are called to.

Direct. XVI. Where God hath prescribed you some particular good work or way of service, you must prefer that before another which is greater in itself.—This is explicatory or limiting of Direct. viii. The reason is, because God knoweth best what is pleasing to him, and "obedience is better than sacrifice." You must not neglect the necessary maintenance of wife and children, under pretence of doing a work of piety or greater good; because God hath prescribed you this order of your duty, that you begin at home (though not to stop there). Another minister may have a greater or more needy flock; but yet you must first do good in your own, and not step without a call into his charge. If God have called you to serve him in a low and mean employment, he will better accept you in that work, than if you undertook the work of another man's place, to do him greater service.

Direct. XVII. Lose not your resolutions or opportunities of doing good by unnecessary delays.—Prov. iii. 27, 28, "Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it. Say not unto thy neighbour, Go, and come again, and to-morrow I will give; when thou hast it by thee."—Prov. xxvii. 1, "Boast not thyself of to-morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth." It is two to one, but delay will take away thine opportunity, and raise such unexpected diversions or difficulties as will frustrate thine intent, and destroy the work. Take thy time, if thou wilt do thy service: it is beautiful in its season.

Direct. XVIII. Yet present necessity may make a lesser work to be thy duty, when the greater may better bear delay.—As to save a man's life in sickness or danger, when you may after have time to seek the saving of his soul. Not only works of mercy may be thus preferred before sacrifice, but the ordinary conveniences of our lives; as to rise, and dress us, and do other business, may go before prayer, when prayer may afterwards be done as well or better, and would be hindered if these did not go before.

Direct. XIX. Though, cæteris paribus, the duties of the first table are to be preferred before those of the second, yet the greater duties of the second table must be preferred before the lesser duties of the first.—The love of God is a greater duty than the love of man (and they must never be separated); but yet we must prefer the saving a man's life, or the quenching a fire in the town, before a prayer, or sacrament, or observation of a sabbath. David ate the shew-bread, and the disciples rubbed out the corn on the sabbath day, because the preserving of life was a greater duty than the observing of a sabbath, or a positive ceremonial law. And Christ bids the Pharisees, "Go, learn what this meaneth,—I will have mercy, and not sacrifice:" the blood of our brethren is an unacceptable means of pleasing God, and maintaining piety, or promoting men's several opinions in religion.

Direct. XX. Choose that employment or calling (so far as you have your choice) in which you may be most serviceable to God.—Choose not that in which you may be most rich or honourable in the world; but that in which you may do most good, and best escape sinning.

Is doing good or avoiding sin to be most looked at in our choice of callings.

Quest. But what if in one calling I am most serviceable to the church, but yet have most temptations to sin? And in another I have least temptations to sin, but am least serviceable to the church, (which is the ordinary difference between men in public places and men in solitude,) which of these should I choose?

Answ. 1. Either you are already engaged in your calling, or not; if you are, you must have greater reasons to desert it than such as might require you at first not to choose it. 2. Either the temptations to sin are such as good men ordinarily overcome, or they are extraordinarily great. You may more warrantably avoid such great ones as you are not like to overcome than small or ordinary ones. 3. Either you are well furnished against these temptations, or not: if not, you must be more cautelous in approaching them; but if you are, you may trust God the boldlier to help you out. 4. Either they are temptations to ordinary human frailties in the manner of duty, or temptations to more dangerous sin: the first will not so much warrant you to avoid doing good for to escape them as the latter will. 5. The service that you are called to (being supposed great and necessary to be done by somebody) is either such as others will do better, or as well, if you avoid it, or not. If the church or common good receive no detriment by your refusal, you may the more insist on your own preservation; but if the necessities of the church or state, and the want of fitter instruments, or any apparent call of God, do single you out for that service, you must obey God, whatever the difficulties and temptations are: for no temptations can necessitate you to sin; and God that calleth you, can easily preserve you: but take heed what you thrust yourselves upon.

A calling may be changed.

Quest. But may I change my calling for the service of the church, when the apostle bids every man abide in the calling in which he was called? 1 Cor. vii. 20.

Answ. The apostle only requireth men to make no unlawful change (such as is the forsaking of a wife or husband) nor no unnecessary change, as if it were necessary (as in the case of uncircumcision): but in the next words he saith, "Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather." He bids every man abide with God in the place he is called to, but forbids them not to change their state when they are called to change it, ver. 24. He speaks more of relations (of single persons and married, servants and free, &c.) than of trades or offices: and yet no doubt but a single person may be married, and the married must be separated; and servants may be free. No man must take up or change any calling without sufficient cause to call him to it; but when he hath such cause, he sinneth if he change it not. The apostles changed their callings, when they became apostles; and so did multitudes of the pastors of the church in every age. God no where forbids men to change their employment for the better, upon a sufficient cause or call.

Who excused from a calling.

Direct. XXI. Especially be sure that you live not[Pg 115] out of a calling, that is, such a stated course of employment, in which you may best be serviceable to God.—Disability indeed is an unresistible impediment. Otherwise no man must either live idly, or content himself with doing some little chars, as a recreation, or on the by; but every one that is able, must be statedly and ordinarily employed in such work, as is serviceable to God, and the common good. Quest. But will not wealth excuse us? Answ. It may excuse you from some sordid sort of work, by making you more serviceable in other; but you are no more excused from service and work of one kind or other, than the poorest man; unless you think that God requireth least where he giveth most. Quest. Will not age excuse us? Answ. Yes, so far as it disableth you; but no further. Object. But I am turned out of my calling. Answ. You are not turned out of the service of God: he calleth you to that, or to another. Quest. But may not I cast off the world, that I may only think of my salvation? Answ. You may cast off all such excess of worldly cares or business as unnecessarily hinder you in spiritual things; but you may not cast off all bodily employment and mental labour in which you may serve the common good. Every one that is a member of church or commonwealth, must employ their parts to the utmost for the good of the church and commonwealth: public service is God's greatest service. To neglect this, and say, I will pray and meditate, is as if your servant should refuse your greatest work, and tie himself to some lesser, easy part. And God hath commanded you some way or other to labour for your daily bread, and not live as drones on the sweat of others only. Innocent Adam was put into the garden of Eden to dress it; and fallen man must "eat his bread in the sweat of his brow," Gen. iii. 19; and he that "will not work must be forbidden to eat," 2 Thess. iii. 6, 10, 12. And indeed it is necessary to ourselves, for the health of our bodies, which will grow diseased with idleness; and for the help of our souls, which will fail if the body fail: and man in flesh must have work for his body as well as for his soul. And he that will do nothing but pray and meditate, it is like will (by sickness or melancholy) be disabled ere long either to pray or meditate: unless he have a body extraordinarily strong.

Direct. XXII. Be very watchful redeemers of your time, and make conscience of every hour and minute, that you lose it not, but spend it in the best and most serviceable manner that you can.—Of this I intend to speak more particularly anon; and therefore shall here add no more.

Direct. XXIII. Watchfully and resolutely avoid the entanglements and diverting occasions by which the tempter will be still endeavouring to waste your time and hinder you from your work.—Know what is the principal service that you are called to, and avoid avocations: especially magistrates and ministers, and those that have great and public work, must here take heed. For if you be not very wise and watchful, the tempter will draw you, before you are aware, into such a multitude of diverting care or business, that shall seem to be your duties, as shall make you almost unprofitable in the world: you shall have this or that little thing that must be done, and this or that friend that must be visited or spoken to, and this or that civility that must be performed: so that trifles shall detain you from all considerable works. I confess friends must not be neglected, nor civilities be denied; but our greatest duties having the greatest necessity, all things must give place to them in their proper season. And therefore, that you may avoid the offence of friends, avoid the place or occasions of such impediments; and where that cannot be done, whatever they judge of you, neglect not your most necessary work; else it will be at the will of men and Satan, whether you shall be serviceable to God or not.

Direct. XXIV. Ask yourselves seriously, how you would wish at death and judgment that you had used all your wits, and time, and wealth; and resolve accordingly to use them now.—This is an excellent direction and motive to you for doing good, and preventing the condemnation which will pass upon unprofitable servants. Ask yourselves, Will it comfort me more at death or judgment, to think, or hear, that I spent this hour in plays or idleness, or in doing good to myself or others? How shall I wish then I had laid out my estate, and every part of it? Reason itself condemneth him that will not now choose the course which then he shall wish that he had chosen, when we foresee the consequence of that day.

Direct. XXV. Understand how much you are beholden to God, (and not he to you,) in that he will employ you in doing any good; and how it is the way of your own receiving; and know the excellency of your work and end, that you may do it all with love and pleasure.—Unacquaintedness with our Master, and with the nature and tendency of our work, is it that maketh it seem tedious and unpleasant to us: and we shall never do it well, when we do it with an ill will, as merely forced. God loveth a cheerful servant, that loveth his Master and his work. It is the main policy of the devil to make our duty seem grievous, unprofitable, undesirable, and wearisome to us: for a little thing will stop him that goeth unwillingly and in continual pain.

Direct. XXVI. Expect your reward from God alone, and look for unthankfulness and abuse from men, or wonder not if it befall you.—If you are not the servants of men, but of God, expect your recompence from him you serve. You serve not God indeed, if his reward alone will not content you, unless you have also man's reward. "Verily you have your reward," if, with the hypocrite, you work for man's approbation, Matt. vi. 2, 5. Expect, especially if you are ministers or others that labour directly for the good of souls, that many prove your enemies for your telling them the truth; and that if you were as good as Paul, and as unwearied in seeking men's salvation, yet the more you love, the less you will (by many) be loved: and those that he could have wished himself accursed from Christ to save, did hate him, and persecute him, as if he had been the most accursed wretch: a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among the people, and one that turned the world upside down, were the names they gave him; and wherever he came, "bonds and imprisonment did attend him;" and slandering, and reviling, and whipping, and stocks, and vowing his death, are the thanks and requital which he hath from those, for whose salvation he spared no pains, but did spend and was spent. If you cannot do good upon such terms as these, and for those that will thus requite you, and be contented to expect a reward in heaven, you are not fit to follow Christ, who was worse used than all this, by those to whom he showed more love than any of his servants have to show. "Take up your cross, and do good to the unthankful, and bless them that curse you, and love them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you, if you will be the children of God," Matt. v.

Direct. XXVII. Make not your own judgments or consciences your law, or the maker of your duty; which is but the discerner of the law of God, and of the duty which he maketh you, and of your own obedience or disobedience to him.—There is a dangerous error grown too common in the world, that[Pg 116] a man is bound to do every thing which his conscience telleth him is the will of God; and that every man must obey his conscience, as if it were the lawgiver of the world; whereas, indeed, it is not ourselves, but God, that is our lawgiver. And conscience is not appointed or authorized to make us any duty, which God hath not made us; but only to discern the law of God, and call upon us to observe it: and an erring conscience is not to be obeyed, but to be better informed, and brought to a righter performance of its office.

In prosecution of this direction, I shall here answer several cases about doubting.

Quest. I. What if I doubt whether a thing be a duty and good work or not? must I do it while I doubt? Nay, what if I am uncertain whether it be duty or sin?

Answ. I. In all these cases about an erring or doubting conscience, forget not to distinguish between the being of a duty and the knowledge of a duty: and remember, that the first question is, Whether this be my duty? and the next, How I may discern it to be my duty? And that God giveth it the being by his law, and conscience is but to know and use it: and that God changeth not his law, and our duty, as oft as our opinions change about it. The obligation of the law is still the same, though our consciences err in apprehending it otherwise. Therefore, if God command you a duty, and your opinion be that he doth not command it, or that he forbids it, and so that it is no duty, or that it is a sin, it doth not follow that indeed God commands it not because you think so: else it were no error in you; nor could it be possible to err, if the thing become true, because you think it to be true. God commandeth you to love him, and to worship him, and to nourish your children, and to obey the higher powers, &c. And do you think you shall be discharged from all these duties, and allowed to be profane, or sensual, or to resist authority, or to famish your children, if you can but be blind enough to think that God would have it so? 2. Your error is a sin itself: and do you think that one sin must warrant another? or that sin can discharge you from your duty, and disannul the law? 3. You are a subject to God, and not a king to yourself; and therefore, you must obey his laws, and not make new ones.

Quest. II. But is it not every man's duty to obey his conscience?

Answ. No: it is no man's duty to obey his conscience in an error, when it contradicteth the command of God. Conscience is but a discerner of God's command, and not at all to be obeyed strictly as a commander; but it is to be obeyed in a larger sense, that is, to be followed wherever it truly discerneth the command of God. It is our duty to lay by our error, and seek the cure of it, till we attain it, and not to obey it.

Quest. III. But is it not a sin for a man to go against his conscience?

Answ. Yes: not because conscience hath any authority to make laws for you; but because interpretatively you go against God. For you are bound to obey God in all things; and when you think that God commandeth you a thing, and yet you will not do it, you disobey formally, though not materially. The matter of obedience is the thing commanded: the form of obedience is our doing the thing, because it is commanded; when the authority of the commander causeth us to do it. Now you reject the authority of God, when you reject that which you think he commandeth, though he did not.

Quest. IV. Seeing the form of obedience is the being of it, and denominateth, which the matter doth not without the form, and there can be no sin which is not against the authority of God, which is the formal cause of obedience, is it not then my duty to follow my conscience?

Answ. 1. There must be an integrity of causes, or concurrence of all necessaries to make up obedience, though the want of any one will make a sin. If you will be called obedient, you must have the matter and form, because the true form is found in no other matter; you must do the thing commanded, because of his authority that commandeth it. If it may be called really and formally obedience, when you err, yet it is not that obedience which is acceptable; for it is not any kind of obedience, but obedience in the thing commanded, that God requireth. 2. But indeed as long as you err sinfully, you are also wanting in the form as well as the matter of your obedience, though you intend obedience in the particular act. It is not only a wilful opposing, and positive rejecting the authority of the commander, which is formal disobedience; but it is any privation of due subjection to it; when his authority is not so regarded as it ought to be; and doth not so powerfully and effectually move us to our duty as it ought. Now this formal disobedience is found in your erroneous conscience; for if God's authority had moved you as it should have done, to diligent inquiry and use of all appointed means, and to the avoiding of all the causes of error, you had never erred about your duty. For if the error had been perfectly involuntary and blameless, the thing could not have been your particular duty, which you could not possibly come to know.

Quest. V. But if it be a sin to go against my conscience, must I not avoid that sin by obeying it? Would you have me sin?

Answ. You must avoid the sin, by changing your judgment, and not by obeying it; for that is but to avoid one sin by committing another. An erring judgment is neither obeyed nor disobeyed without sin; it can make you sin, though it cannot make you duty; it doth insnare, though not oblige. If you follow it, you break the law of God in doing that which he forbids you. If you forsake it and go against it, you reject the authority of God, in doing that which you think he forbids you. So that there is no attaining to innocence any other way, but by coming first to know your duty, and then to do it. If you command your servant to weed your corn, and he mistake you, and verily think, that you bid him pull up the corn, and not the weeds; what now should he do? Shall he follow his judgment, or go against it? Neither, but change it, and then follow it; and to that end inquire further of your mind, till he be better informed: and no way else will serve the turn.

Quest. VI. Seeing no man that erreth doth know or think that he erreth, (for that is a contradiction,) how can I lay by that opinion, or strive against it, which I take to be the truth?

Answ. It is your sin, that you take a falsehood to be a truth. God hath appointed means for the cure of blindness and error, as well as other sins; or else the world were in a miserable case. Come into the light, with due self-suspicion, and impartiality, and diligently use all God's means, and avoid the causes of deceit and error, and the light of truth will at once show you the truth, and show you that before you erred. In the mean time sin will be sin, though you take it to be duty, or no sin.

Quest. VII. But seeing he that knoweth his master's will and doth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes; and he that knoweth it not, with few; is it not my duty chiefly to avoid the many stripes, by[Pg 117] avoiding sinning against my conscience or knowledge?

Answ. 1. Your duty is to avoid both; and if both were not sinful, they would not both be punished with stripes. 2. Your conscience is not your knowledge when you err, but your ignorance. Conscience, as it signifieth the faculty of knowing, may be said to be conscience when it erreth; as reason is reason, in the faculty, when we err. And conscience, as to an erring act, may be called conscience, so far as there is any true knowledge in the act: as a man is said to see, when he misjudgeth of colours, or to reason, when he argueth amiss. But, so far as it erreth, it is no conscience in act at all; for conscience is science, and not nescience. You sin against your knowledge when you sin against a well-informed conscience, but you sin in ignorance when you sin against an erring conscience. 3. And if the question be not, what is your duty, but, which is the smaller sin, then it is true, that, cæteris paribus, it is a greater sin to go against your judgment, than to follow it. But yet, other imparities in matter and circumstances may be an exception against this rule.

Quest. VIII. But it is not possible for every man presently to know all his duty, and to avoid all error about his duty. Knowledge must be got in time. All men are ignorant in many things: should I not then in the mean time follow my conscience?

Answ. 1. Your ignorance is culpable, or not culpable. If it be not culpable, the thing which you are ignorant of is not your duty. If culpable, (which is the case supposed,) as you brought yourself to that difficulty of knowing, so it will remain your sin till it be cured; and one sin will not warrant another. And all that time you are under a double command; the one is, to know, and use the means of knowledge; and the other is, to do the thing commanded. So that how long soever you remain in error you remain in sin, and are not under an obligation to follow your error, but first to know, and then to do the contrary duty. 2. And as long as you keep yourselves in a necessity, or way of sinning, you must call it sin as it is, and not call it duty. It is not your duty to choose a lesser sin before a greater; but to refuse and avoid both the lesser and the greater. And if you say you cannot, yet, remember, that it is only your sin that is your impotency, or your impotency is sinful. But it is true, that you are most obliged to avoid the greatest sin: therefore, all that remaineth in the resolving of all such cases, is but to know, of two sins, which is the greatest.

Quest. IX. What if there be a great duty, which I cannot perform without committing a little sin? or, a very great good, which I cannot do but by an unlawful means; as, to save the lives of many by a lie?

Answ. 1. It is no duty to you, when you cannot do it without wilful sin, be it never so little. Deliberately to choose a sin, that I may perform some service to God, or do some good to others, is to run before we are called, and to make work for ourselves which God never made for us; and to offer sin for a sacrifice to God; and to do evil that good may come of it; and abuse God, and reject his government, under pretence of serving him. "The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord: how much more, when he bringeth it with a wicked mind?" Prov. xxi. 27; xv. 8. "He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination," Prov. xxviii. 9. "Be more ready to hear, than to offer the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil," Eccles. v. 1. 2. If you will do good by sinning, you must do good in opposition to God: and how easily can he disappoint you, and turn it into evil! It is not good indeed, which must be accomplished by sin. The final good is never promoted by it; and all other good is to be estimated by its tendency to the end. You think that good which is not so, because you judge by the present feeling of your flesh, and do not foresee how it stands related to the everlasting good.

Quest. X. Seeing then that I am sure beforehand that I cannot preach, or hear, or pray, or do any good action without sin, must I not, by this rule, forbear them all?

Answ. No; because your infirmities in the performance of your duty, which you would avoid and cannot, are not made the condition of your action, but are the diseases of it. They are not chosen and approved of. The duty is your duty notwithstanding your infirmities, and may be accepted of; for you cannot serve God in perfection till you are perfect; and to cast away his service is a far greater sin, than to do it imperfectly. But you may serve him without such wilful, chosen sin, if not in one way, yet in another. The imperfection of your service is repented of while it is committed; but so is not your approved, chosen sin. For a man to make a bargain against God, that he will commit a sin against him, though the action be the same which he hath often done before in pardonable weakness; this is to turn it to a presumptuous, heinous sin. If he do it for worldly gain or safety, he selleth his obedience to God for trifles. If he do it to serve God by, he blasphemeth God; declaring him to be evil, and a lover of sin, or so impotent as not to be able to do good, or attain his ends by lawful means. It is most dangerous to give it under our hands to the devil, that we will sin, on what pretence soever.

Quest. XI. What if I am certain that the duty is great, and uncertain whether the thing annexed to it be a sin or not? Must I forbear a certain duty for an uncertain sin? or forbear doing a great and certain good, for fear of a small, uncertain evil?

Answ. 1. The question de esse must go before the question de apparere. Either that which you say you are uncertain of is indeed a sin, or it is none. If it be no sin, then you are bound both to search till you know that it is no sin, and not to forbear your duty for it. But if really it be a sin, then your uncertainty of it is another sin; and that which God bindeth you to, is to forsake them both. 2. Your question containeth a contradiction: you cannot be certain that it is a duty at all to you, any further than you are certain whether the condition or means be lawful or a sin. What if an auditor in Spain or Italy say, I am certain that it is a duty to obey my teachers; but I am uncertain whether their doctrines of the mass, purgatory, and the rest, have any untruth or sin in them; therefore, I must not forbear certain obedience for uncertain sin. Or if a priest among them say, I am certain that it is a duty to preach God's word, but I am not certain that the Trent Articles, which I must swear or subscribe, are sinful or false; therefore I must not leave a great and certain duty for an uncertain sin. The answer to them both is easy. 1. It is your sin that you are uncertain of the sinfulness of those things, which God hath forbidden: and God biddeth you first to search the Scriptures, and cure that error. He made his law before your doubts arose, and will not change it because you doubt. 2. You contradict yourselves by a mistake. You have no more certainty that you should obey your teachers in these particulars, than you have that the things which they teach or command you are not against that law of God. You are certain that you must obey them in all things not forbidden by God, and within the reach of their[Pg 118] office to require. And you are as certain that it is unlawful to obey them against the law of God, and that God must be obeyed before man. But whether you must obey them in this particular case, you cannot be certain, while you are uncertain whether it be forbidden of God. And the priest must be as uncertain whether it be any duty of his at all, to preach God's word, as he is uncertain of the lawfulness of the Trent oath or subscription, unless he can do it without. If a subject say, I am certain, that to govern the kingdom well is a great, good work and duty, but I am uncertain whether to depose the king if he govern not well, and set up myself, be a sin; therefore, the certain good must overrule the uncertain evil. I give him the same answer: 1. It is your sin to be uncertain whether rebellion be a sin; and God bindeth you to lay by the sin of your judgment, and not to make it a shoeing-horn to more. 2. You are sure that governing well is a good work; but you should be as sure, that it is no duty of yours, nor good work for you to do, as you are sure that you are but a private man and a subject, and never called to do the good of another's office. A private man may say, I am sure preaching is a good work; but I am not sure that a private, unordained man may not statedly separate himself to do it. But he can be no surer that it is a duty to him, than he is that he is called to it.

Quest. XII. Well, suppose my ignorance be my sin, and suppose that I am equally uncertain of the duty and of the sin annexed, yet if I have done all that I am able, and remain still unresolved, and after my most diligent inquiry am as much in doubt as ever, what should I then do?

Answ. 1. If you had by any former sin so forfeited God's assistance, as that he will leave you to your blindness, this altereth not his law and your obligations, which are still the same (to learn, understand, and practise). 2. But if you are truly willing to understand, and practise, and use his means, you have no cause to imagine that he will thus forsake you; undoubtedly he appointeth you no means in vain. If you attain not sufficient resolution to guide you in your duty, it is either because your hearts are false in the inquiry, and biassed, or unwilling to know the truth, or do it; or because you use not the true appointed means for resolution, but in partiality or laziness neglect it.

Quest. XIII. Suppose still my ignorance be my sin; which is the greater sin, to neglect the good work, or to venture on the feared evil that is annexed? I am not conscious of any unfaithfulness, but human frailty, that keepeth me from certainty. And no man is so perfect as to have no culpable ignorance, and to be certain in every point of duty. Therefore I must with greatest caution avoid the greatest sin, when I am out of hope of avoiding all. On one side, it is a common rule that I must do nothing against conscience, (no, not a doubting conscience,) though I must not always do what it biddeth me. "For he that doubteth is condemned if he eat: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin," Rom. xiv. 23. On the other side, if all duty be omitted which conscience doubteth of, I may be kept from almost every duty.

Answ. The heart is so deceitful that you have great cause to watch, lest human frailty be pretended, for that error, which a corrupted, biassed, partial mind, or wilful laziness, is the cause of. Diligent study, and inquiry, and prayer, with a sincere desire to know the truth, may succeed, at least, to so much satisfaction, as may keep your minds in quietness and peace, and give you comfort in your way, and preserve you from all such sin as is inconsistent with this your safety and acceptance with God. But yet it is true that human frailty will occasion in the best uncertainties in some particular cases; and though God make it not our duty of two sins to choose the less, but to refuse both, yet he maketh it our duty more diligently to avoid the greater than the less. And ofttimes the case is so sudden that no inquiry can be made: and therefore I confess a christian should know which sins are greatest and to be most avoided. At present I shall lay down these following rules, premising this, that where accidents and circumstances which make sins great or small are to be compared, they are ofttimes so numerous and various, that no rules can be laid down beforehand, that will serve all turns, no more than in law and physic, any law books or physic books will serve all cases without a present experienced judicious counsellor: present prudence and sincerity must do most.

Rule I. In things altogether indifferent, nothing must be done that conscience doubteth of, because there is a possibility or fear of sinning on the one side, but none on the other; and in that case it is a certain sin to venture on a feared sin. But then it is supposed that the thing be indifferent as clothed with all its circumstances, and that there be no accident that taketh away its indifferency.

Rule II. In case the thing be really unlawful, and I think it to be lawful, but with some doubting, but am clear that the forbearing it is no sin; there the sin is only in the doing it; because all is clear and safe on the other side.

Rule III. There are many sins which are always and to all persons in all cases sins, and not doubted of by any without gross unfaithfulness or negligence; and here there is no room for any doubting whether we must do that good which cannot be done without that sin, it being certain that no such good can be a duty. As, to commit idolatry, to blaspheme God, to deny Christ, to deny the Scriptures, to hate, or reproach, or oppose a holy life, to be perjured, to approve or justify the sin of others, &c. It can be no duty which cannot be done without the wilful yielding to or committing these or any known sin.

Rule IV. There are some duties so great, and clear, and constant to all, that none but a profligate or graceless conscience (or one that is fearfully poisoned with sin) can make a doubt of it deliberately: these therefore come not within the case before us.

Rule V. If moral evil be compared only with natural good, or moral good with natural evil, there is no doubt to be made of the case: the least sin having more evil in it than the prosperity or lives of millions of men have good (considered in themselves as natural good); and the least duty to God having more good in it than the death of millions of men (as such) hath evil. For the good of duty and the evil of sin are greatened by their respect to God, and the other lessened as being good or evil only unto men, and with respect to them.

Rule VI. Where I am in an equal degree uncertain of the duty to be omitted, and of the sin to be committed, it is a greater sin to venture doubtfully upon the committing of a positive sin that is great, (in case it prove a sin,) than upon the omitting a duty which (in case it prove a duty) is less; and on the contrary, it is worse to venture on the omitting of a great duty, than on the committing of a small, positive sin. As, suppose my own or my neighbour's house be on fire, and I am in doubt whether I may take another man's water to quench it against his will; or if my own, or my child's, or neighbour's life be in danger by famine, and I doubt whether I may take another man's apples, or pears, or ears of corn, or his bread, against his will, to save my own life or another's. Really, the thing is already made[Pg 119] lawful or unlawful (which I now determine not) by the law of God; but in my unavoidable uncertainty, (if I be equally doubtful on both sides,) it is a far greater sin (if it prove a sin) to omit the saving of the house or life, than to take another man's water, or fruit, or bread, that hath plenty (if this prove the sin). So if king and nobles were in a ship, which would be taken and all destroyed by pirates, unless I told a lie, and said, they are other persons; if I were equally in doubt which course to take, to lie or not, (though sin have more evil than all our lives have good,) yet a sinful omitting to save all their lives is a greater sin than a sinful telling of such a lie. Suppose I am in doubt, whether I may lawfully save an ox, or ass, or a man's life, by labour on the sabbath day? or David had doubted, whether he might eat the consecrated shew-bread in his necessity? it is clear, that the sinful neglect of a man's life is worse than the sinful violation of a sabbath, or the sinful use of the consecrated bread. If I equally doubt, whether I may use a ceremony, or disorderly, defective form of prayer, and whether I should preach the gospel to save men's souls, where there are not others enough to do it; it is clear, that sinfully to use a ceremony, or disorderly form of prayer, is, cæteris paribus, a lesser sin than sinfully to neglect to preach the gospel and to save men's souls. On the other side, suppose I dwelt in Italy, and could not have leave to preach the gospel there, unless I would subscribe to the Trent Confession, or the canon 3d of Concil. Lateran sub Innocent III.; one of which requireth men to swear for transubstantiation, and to interpret the Scriptures only according to the unanimous consent of the fathers (who never unanimously consented in any exposition of the greatest part of the Scriptures at all); the other decreeth the pope's deposing temporal lords, and disobliging their subjects from their allegiance. On the one side, I doubt, whether by subscribing I become not guilty of justifying idolatry, perjury, and rebellion, and making myself guilty of the perjury of many thousand others: on the other side, I doubt, whether I may disobey my superiors who command me this subscription, and may forbear preaching the gospel, when yet I apprehend that there are others to preach it, and that my worth is not so considerable as that there should be any great loss in putting me out and putting in another; and God needeth not me to do him service, but hath instruments at command; and that I know not how soon he may restore my liberty, or that I may serve him in another country, or else in sufferings at home; in such a case the sinful justifying of perjury or rebellion in whole countries is a far greater sin than the sinful omission of my preaching: for he that justifieth perjury destroyeth the bonds of all societies, and turneth loose the subjects against their sovereigns. Or if I, being a minister, were forbidden to preach the gospel where there is necessity, unless I will commit some sin; if I doubt on one side whether I should disobey my superiors, and on the other whether I should forbear my calling, and neglect the souls of sinners; it is a lesser sin, cæteris paribus, to disobey a man sinfully, than to disobey God, and to be cruel to the souls of men to their perdition sinfully. Or if I have made a vow, and sworn that I will cast away a penny or a shilling, and I am in doubt on one side whether I be not bound to keep it as a vow, and on the other whether it be not a sin to keep it, because to cast away any of my talents is a sin; in this case, the sinful casting away of a penny or a shilling is not so great a sin as sinful perjury. If Daniel and the three witnesses had been in equal doubt, whether they should obey the king or pray to God, (as Dan. vi.) and renounce the bowing to his idol, (Dan. iii.) the sinful forbearance of prayer as then commanded, and the sinful bowing to the idol had been a greater sin than a sinful disobeying the king's command in such a case, if they had mistaken.

Rule VII. If I cannot discern whether the duty to be omitted, or the sin to be committed, be materially and in other respects the greater, then that will be to me the greater of the sins which my doubting conscience doth most strongly suspect to be sin, in its most impartial deliberation. For if other things be equal, certainly the sinning against more or less conviction or doubting must make an inequality. As, if I could not discern whether my subscription to the Trent Confession, or my forbearing to preach, or my preaching though prohibited, were the greater sin, in case they were all sinful; but yet I am most strongly suspicious of sinfulness in the subscription, and less suspicious of sinfulness in my forbearing in such a case to preach, and least of all suspicious of sinfulness in my preaching though prohibited: in this case to subscribe sinfully is the greatest sin, and to forbear sinfully to exercise my office is the next, and to preach unwarrantably is the least.

Rule VIII. If I could perceive no difference in the degrees of evil in the omission and the commission, nor yet in the degrees of my suspicion or doubting, then that is the greater sin which I had greater helps and evidence to have known, and did not.

Rule IX. If both greater material evil be on one side than on the other, and greater suspicion or evidence of the sinfulness also, then that must needs be the greater sin.

Rule X. If the greatness of the material evil be on one side, and the greatness of the suspicion and evidence be on the other, then the former (if sin) will be materially and in itself considered the worst; but the latter will be formally the greater disobedience to God. But the comparison will be very difficult. As, suppose that I swear to God that I will cast away a shilling, or that I will forbear to pray for a week together; here I take perjury to be a greater sin than my casting away a shilling, or forbearing to pray a week: but when I question whether the oath should be kept or not, I have greater suspicion that it should not than that it should, because no oath must be the bond of the least iniquity. Here, if the not keeping it prove a sin, I shall do that which is the greater sin in itself if I keep it not; but I shall show more disobedience in keeping it, if it be not to be kept.

Rule XI. If it be a double sin that I suspect on one side, and but a single one on the other, it maketh an inequality in the case. As, suppose that in my father's family there are heretics and drunkards, and I swear that in my place and calling I will endeavour to cast them out. My mother approveth my vow; my father is against it, and dischargeth me of it because I did it not by his advice. On one side, I doubt whether I am bound, or may act against my father's will: on the other side, I as much doubt whether I am not perjured, and disobedient to my mother, if I do it not, and whether I disobey not God, that made it my duty to endeavour the thing in my place and calling before I vowed it.

Rule XII. There is a great deal of difference between omitting the substance of a duty for ever, and the delaying it, or altering the time, and place, and manner. For instance, that which will justify or excuse me for shortening my prayer, or for praying but once a day, or at noon rather than in the morning, or for defect in method, or fervency, or expressions, may not justify or excuse me for denying, renouncing,[Pg 120] or long forbearing prayer. And that which may excuse an apostle for not preaching in the temple or synagogues, or not having the emperor's or the high priest's allowance or consent, or for not continuing in one city or country; would not excuse them if they had renounced their callings, or totally, as to all times, and places, and manner of performance, have ceased their work for fear of men.

Rule XIII. If the duty to be omitted and the sin to be committed seem equal in greatness, and our doubt be equal as to both, it is commonly held safer to avoid the commission more studiously than the omission. For which there are many reasons given.

Rule XIV. There is usually much more matter for fear and suspicion, cæteris paribus, of sins to be committed, than of duties to be omitted, when the commission is made necessary to the doing of the duty. Both because it is there that the fear beginneth: for I am certain that the good work is no duty to me, if the act be a sin which is its necessary condition. Therefore, so far as I suspect the act to be sinful, I must needs suspect the duty to be no duty to me at that time: it is not possible I should be rationally more persuaded that the duty is my duty, than that the condition is no sin. If it were the saving of the lives of all men in the country, I could no further take it to be my duty, than I take that to be no sin by which it must be done, it being a thing past controversy, that we must not sin for the accomplishment of any good whatsoever. And also because the sin is supposed to be always sin, but few duties are at all times duties: and the sin is a sin to every man, but the duty may be another man's duty, and not mine. For instance: Charles V. imposeth the Interim upon Germany: some pastors yielded to it; others refused it, and were cast out. Those that yielded pleaded the good of the churches, and the prevention of their utter desolation, but yet confessed that if the thing imposed were sinful, it was not their duty to do it for any good whatsoever, but to seek the good of the church as well as they could without it. The other that were cast out argued, that so far as they were confident the Interim was sinful, they must be confident that nothing was their duty that could not be done without it, and that God knew best what is good for his church, and there is no accomplishing its good by sin and God's displeasure; and that they did not therefore forsake their ministry, but only lose the ruler's licence; for they resolved to preach in one place or other till they were imprisoned, and God can serve himself by their imprisonment or death, as well as by their preaching. And while others took their places that thought the Interim lawful, the churches were not wholly destitute; and if God saw it meet, he could restore their fuller liberties again: in the mean time, to serve him, as all pastors did for three hundred years after Christ, without the licence of the civil magistrate, was not to cast away their office. Another instance: the zealous papists in the reign of Henry III. in France, thought that there was a necessity of entering the League, and warring against the king, because religion was in danger, the preservation whereof is an unquestionable duty. The learned and moderate lawyers that were against them said, that there being no question but the king had the total sovereignty over them, they were sure it was a sin to resist the higher powers, and therefore no preservation of religion could be a duty or lawful to them which must be done by such a certain sin: sin is not the means to save religion or the commonwealth.

Rule XV. When a thing is not prohibited and sinful simply in itself, but because of some accidental or consequential evil that it tendeth to, there a greater accidental or consequential good may preponderate the evil, and make the thing become no sin, but a duty. It is a matter of exceeding difficulty to discern ofttimes whether a thing be simply and absolutely forbidden, or only by accident and alterably, and to discern which accident doth preponderate. There are so many observations that should here be taken in, and so much of a man's life and peace is concerned in it, that it deserveth a treatise by itself. And therefore I shall not meddle with it any further here, lest an insufficient tractate be worse than none, in a case where error is so easy and perilous.

Rule XVI. As to the danger of the sinner himself, there is a great deal of difference between an error and sin of human frailty, when the service of God, and true obedience, and the common good, is sincerely intended, and an error and sin of false-heartedness and sloth, when selfishness is the secret spring of the error, and carnal interest the real end, though God and his service be pretended. And usually the concomitants will show something of this to others. For instance; two magistrates and two ministers submit to some questioned imposition, all pretend that the glory of God, and his service, is it that prevaileth with them to submit. The one of the magistrates faithfully serves God afterward with his authority, and showeth thereby that he meant sincerely: the other doth no good in his place, and showeth his hypocrisy. One of the ministers preacheth zealously, and privately laboureth as one that thirsteth for the saving of souls: the other preacheth formally, and coldly, and heartlessly, and never converteth a soul, and neglecteth the work which he pretended was his end.


For loving God as our Father, our Benefactor, and our end.

Grand Direct. XI. Let it be most deeply engraven on thy heart, that God is infinitely good and amiable; thy grand Benefactor and Father in Christ; the end of all that thou art and hast; and the everlasting rest and happiness of thy soul: see therefore that thy inflamed heart be entirely and absolutely offered up unto him by the mediation of his Son, to love him, to trust him, to delight in him, to be thankful to him, to glorify him, and through faith to long for the heavenly glory, where all this will be perfectly done for ever. And first let us speak of love.

I did in the first direction persuade you to lay a good foundation in faith and knowledge. In the second I directed you how to live upon Christ. In the third, how to believe practically in the Holy Ghost. In the fourth I directed you to the orderly and practical knowledge of all the attributes of God. In the fifth, how to know God practically in his first grand relation, as he is your Owner. In the sixth, how to know him practically in his second grand relation, as he is your King or Governor; and in subordination to his governing relation. In the seventh I directed you in your relation of disciples to Christ your Teacher. And in the eighth I directed you in your relation of patients to Christ your Physician, and the Holy Ghost as your Sanctifier. In the ninth I directed you in your relation of soldiers to Christ the Captain of your salvation. In the tenth I directed you in the relation of servants to Christ your Master. And now being past those subordinate relations (to the second), I proceed to direct you in your third grand relation to God as your Benefactor, Father, and Felicity. And because there are divers great duties in this general, I shall first begin with this of love; and afterwards speak distinctly of the rest.

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Directions for loving God as our Father and Felicity.

Here I shall first give you these general preparatives (and then give you directions for the exercise of holy love). 1. You must understand the nature of love to God. 2. You must understand the differences of this love. 3. You must understand the reasons of it. 4. And the contraries of it. 5. And the counterfeits of it.

God is not loved as a particular good, but as the universal good.

I. For the understanding its nature observe these things: 1. It is not the love of a particular good, but of the infinite, Universal Good. The creature is a particular good, and our love to it is a particular, limited love, confined as to a point. God is the Universal Good, and our love to him is not limited by the object, but by the narrowness and imperfection of our faculties themselves. As suppose you had variety of candles in your room, and you had diamonds and other refulgent things; you love each of these with a particular love, for their splendour and usefulness; and you more easily observe and feel the motion of this confined love. But light itself, as light, you love with a more universal love; which is greater, but not so sensibly observed. (Not as we speak of notional universals in logic, which have no existence but in particulars; but of the natural, transcendent, infinite good, eternally existent, and arbitrarily appearing in some created particles.) As the love of an infinite light would differ from the love of a candle, and the love of an infinite heat from the love of a fire, and the love of infinite wisdom itself from the love of a wise man, and the love of infinite goodness itself from the love of a good man; so doth the love of God from the love of a particular, created good.

Whether God may be the object of passionate love.

2. Our love to God is not ordinarily so passionate as our love to creatures; because the nearness and sensibleness of the creature promoteth such sensible operations. But God is not seen, or felt, or heard, but believed in by faith, and known by reason. And the narrowness of the creature making resistances, stops, and difficulties, occasioneth a turbulent passionateness of love; when the infiniteness of God hath no such occasion. Our love to creatures is like the running of a stream in a channel that is too narrow for it, where stops and banks do make it go on with a roaring violence; but our love to God is like the brook that slideth into the ocean, where it is insensibly devoured. Therefore our love to God must principally be perceived, not in violent passions, but in, 1. A high estimation of him. 2. In the will's adhering to him. 3. And in the effects (to be mentioned anon). Yet when a passionate love is added to these, it may be the most excellent significatively and effectively. Some philosophers think that God cannot at all be loved with a passionate love, because he is a pure, immaterial Being, and therefore cannot be the object of a material act or motion, such as our passions are; and, therefore, that it is some idol of the imagination that is so loved. But, 1. If they mean that his pure essence, in itself, is not the immediate object of a passion, they may say the same of the will itself; for man (at least in flesh) can have no other volition of God, but as he is apprehended by the intellect. And if by an idol they mean the image of God in the mind, gathered from the appearances of God in creatures, man in flesh hath no other knowledge of him; for here we know him but darkly, enigmatically, and as in a glass, and have no formal, proper conception of him in his essence. So that the rational powers themselves do no otherwise know and will God's essence, but as represented to us in a glass. 2. And thus we may also love him passionately; it being God in his objective being as apprehended by the intellect that we both will and passionately love. The motion of the soul in flesh may raise passions, by the instrumentality of the corporeal spirits, towards an immaterial object; which is called the object of those passions, not merely as passions, but as the passions of a rational agent; it being more nearly or primarily the object of the intellect and will, and then of the passions, as first apprehended by these superior powers. A man may delight in God; or else, how is he our felicity? and yet, we know of no delight which is not passion. A man may love his own soul with a passionate love; and yet it is immaterial. When I passionately love my friend, it is his immaterial soul, and his wisdom, and holiness, which I chiefly love.

What of God is the object of our love.

3. It is not only for his excellencies and perfections in himself, nor only for his love and benefit to us, that grace doth cause a sinner to love God; but it is for both conjunctly; as he is good, and doth good, especially to us, in the greatest things.

What is the motive of our first love to God.

4. Our first special love to God, is orderly and rationally to be raised, the belief of his goodness in himself, and his common love and mercy to sinners, manifested in his giving of his Son for the world, and giving men the conditional promise of pardon and salvation, and offering them Christ and life eternal, and all this to us as well as others: and not to be caused by the belief or persuasion of his special, peculiar, electing, redeeming, or saving love to us above others, that have the same invitations and offers. It is the knowledge of common love and mercy, and not of special love and mercy, as already possessed, that is appointed to be the motive of our first special love to God. (Yet there is in it an apprehension that he is our only possible felicity, and that he will give us a special interest in his favour, if we return by faith in Christ unto him.) For, 1. Every man is bound to love God with a special love: but every man is not specially beloved by him: and no man is bound to love God as one that specially loveth him but those that indeed are so beloved by him; for else they were bound to believe a falsehood, and to love that which is not; and grace should be an error and deceit. The object is before the act. God's special love must in itself be before its revelations; and as revealed it must go before our belief of it; and as believed it must go before our loving it, or loving him as such, or for it. 2. The first saving faith is inseparably conjunct with special love; for Christ is believed in and willed, as the way or means to God as the end (otherwise it is no true faith). And the volition of the end (which is love) is in order of nature before the choice or use of the means as such: and if we must love God as one that specially loveth us, in our first love, then we must believe in him as such by our first faith: and if so, it must be to us a revealed truth. But (as it is false to most that are bound to believe, so) it is not revealed to the elect themselves: for if it be, it is either by ordinary or extraordinary revelation. If by ordinary, either by Scripture directly, or by evidences in ourselves which Scripture maketh the characters of his love. But neither of these; for Scripture promiseth not salvation to named, but described persons; and evidence of special love there is none, before faith, and repentance, and the first love to God. And extraordinary revelation from heaven, by inspiration or angel, is not the ordinary begetter of faith; for faith is the belief of God, speaking to us (now) by[Pg 122] his written word. So that where there is no object of love, there can be no love; and where there is no revelation of it to the understanding, there is no object for the will; and till a man first believe and love God, he hath no revelation that God doth specially love him. Search as long as you will, you will find no other. 3. If the wicked were condemned for not loving a false or feigned object, it would quiet their consciences in hell when they had detected the deceit, and seen the natural impossibility and contradiction. 4. The first love to God is more a love of desire, than of possession; and therefore it may suffice to raise it, that we see a possibility of being for ever happy in God, and enjoying him in special love, though yet we know not that we possess any such love. The nature of the thing proclaimeth it most rational and due, that we love the infinite Good, that hath done so much by the death of his Son, to remove the impediments of our salvation; and is so far reconciled to the world in his death, as by a message of reconciliation, to entreat them to accept of Christ, and pardon, and salvation freely offered them, 2 Cor. v. 19, 20; and is himself the offered happiness of the soul. He that dare say, that this much hath not an objective sufficiency to engage the soul in special love, is a blind undervaluer of wonderful mercy. 5. The first special grace bringeth no new object for faith or love, but causeth a new act upon the formerly revealed object.

5. But our love to God is greatly increased and advantaged afterwards by the assurance or persuasion of his peculiar, special love to us. And therefore all christians should greatly value such assurance, as the appointed means of advancing them to greater love to God.

6. As we know God here in the glass of his Son, and word, and creatures, so we most sensibly love him here, as his goodness appeareth in his works, and graces, and his word, and Son.

7. The nearer we come to perfection, the more we shall love God for himself and his infinite natural goodness and perfections, not casting away the respects of his goodness and love as to ourselves, but highliest regarding himself for himself, as carried to him above ourselves.

II. Though love in its own nature be still the same, and is nothing but the rational appetite of good; or the will's volition of good apprehended by the understanding; the first motion of the will to good, arising from that natural inclination to good, which is the nature of the will, and the pondus animæ, the poise of the soul; or from healing grace which repaireth the breach that is made in nature; yet love in regard of the state of the lover, and the way of its imperate acting, is thus differenced. 1. Either the lover is in the hopeful pursuit of the thing beloved, and then it is desiring, seeking love. 2. Or he is, or seemeth to be, denied, destitute, and deprived of his beloved (in whole or in part); and then it is a mourning, lamenting love. 3. Or he enjoyeth his beloved, and then it is enjoying, delighting love. 1. The ordinary love which grace causeth on earth is a predominancy of seeking, desiring love, encouraged by some little foretastes of enjoying, delighting love, and, in a great measure, attended with mourning, lamenting love. 2. The state of deserted, dark, declining, relapsing, and melancholy, tempted christians, is a predominance of mourning, lamenting love, assisted with some help of seeking, desiring love; but destitute of enjoying, delighting love. 3. The state of the glorified is perfection of enjoying, delighting love alone. And all the rest are to bring us unto this.[114]

III. The reasons why love to God is so great, and high, and necessary a thing, and so much esteemed above other graces, are: 1. It is the motion of the soul that tendeth to the end; and the end is more excellent than all the means as such. 2. The love, or will, or heart is the man; where the heart or love is, there the man is: it is the fullest resignation of the whole man to God, to love him as God, or offer him the heart. God never hath his own fully till we love him. Love is the grand, significant, vital motion of the soul; such as the heart, or will, or love is, such you may boldly call the man. 3. The love of God is the perfection and highest improvement of all the faculties of the soul, and the end of all other graces, to which they tend, and to which they grow up, and in which they terminate their operations. 4. The love of God is that spirit or life of moral excellency in all other graces in which (though not their form, yet) their acceptableness doth consist, without which they are to God as a lifeless carrion is to us. And to prove any action sincere and acceptable to God, is to prove that it comes from a willing, loving mind, without which you can never prove it. 5. Love is the commander of the soul, and therefore God knoweth that if he have our hearts, he hath all, for all the rest are at its command; for it is, as it were, the nature of the will, which is the commanding faculty; and its object is the ultimate end which is the commanding object. Love setteth the mind on thinking, the tongue on speaking, the hands on working, the feet on going, and every faculty obeyeth its command. 6. The obedience which love commandeth, participateth of its nature, and is a ready, cheerful, sweet obedience, acceptable to God, and pleasant to ourselves. 7. Love is a pure, chaste, and cleansing grace; and most powerfully casteth out all creature pollution from the soul:[115] the love of God doth quench all carnal, sinful love; and most effectually carrieth up the soul to such high delights, as causeth it to contemn and forget the toys which it before admired. 8. The love of God is the true acknowledging and honouring him as good. That blessed attribute, his goodness, is denied, or despised, by those that love him not. The light of the sun would not be valued, honoured, or used by the world, if there were no eyes in the world to see it. And the goodness of God is to them that love him not, as the light to them that have no eyes. If God would have had his goodness to be thus unknown or neglected, he would never have made the intellectual creatures. Those only give him the glory of his goodness that truly love him. 9. Love (in its attainment) is the enjoying and delighting grace: it is the very content and felicity of the soul: both as it maketh us capable to receive the most delightful communications of God's love to us; and as it is the soul's delightful closure with its most amiable felicitating object. 10. Love is the everlasting grace, and the work[Pg 123] which we must be doing in heaven for ever. These are the reasons of love's pre-eminence.

IV. The love of creatures hath its contraries on both extremes, in the excess and in the defect; but the love of God hath no contrary in excess: for Infinite Goodness cannot possibly be loved too much (unless as the passion may possibly be raised to a degree distracting or disturbing the brain). The odious vices contrary to the love of God are, 1. Privative; not loving him. 2. Positive; hating him. 3. Opposite; loving his creatures in his stead: all these concur in every unsanctified soul. That they are all void of the true love of God, and taken up with creature love, is past all doubt; but whether they are all haters of God, may seem more questionable. But it is as certain as the other; only the hatred of God in most doth not break out into that open opposition, persecution, or blasphemy, as it doth with some that are given up to desperate wickedness; nor do they think that they hate him. But the aversation of the will is the hatred of God; and if men had not a great aversation to him, they would not forsake him, and refuse to be converted to him, notwithstanding all the arguments of love that can be used to allure them. Displacency, nolition, and aversation are hatred.

If you think it impossible that men can hate God, whom they confess to be infinitely good, consider for the true understanding of this hatred, 1. That it is not as good that they hate him; 2. and it is not God simply in himself considered; 3. and therefore it is not all in God; 4. and it is not the name of God; 5. but it is, 1. God as he seemeth unsuitable to them, and unfit for their delight and love: which seeming is caused by their carnal inclination to things of another nature, and the sinful perverting of their appetites, and the blindness and error of their minds. 2. And it is God as he is an enemy to their carnal concupiscence; whose holy nature is against their unholiness, and hateth their sin, and his laws forbid them the things which they most love and take delight in: and so they hate God, as a madman hateth his keeper and physician, and takes them for his enemies; and as a hungry dog doth hate him that keepeth him from the meat which he loveth, or would take it out of his mouth. 3. And they hate God, as one who by his holiness, justice, and truth is engaged to condemn them for their sin, and so (consequently to their sin) is their enemy that will destroy them (unless they forsake it): when their wills are enslaved to their sins, and they cannot endure to be forbidden them, and yet see that God will damn them in hell-fire if they cast them not away: this filleth them with displacency against God, as holy and just. 4. And then, consequently, they hate him in the rest of his attributes: as his omniscience, that he always seeth them; his omnipresence, that he is always with them; his omnipotency, that he is irresistible and able to punish them: his very mercy as expressed to others, when they must have no part in it; yea, his very immutability, eternity, and being, as he is to continue an avenger of their iniquity: so that the wicked in despair do wish that there were no God; and in prosperity, they wish he were not their Governor and Judge, or were unholy and unjust, allowing them to do what they list without account or punishment. Thus God is hated by the wicked according to the measure of their wickedness, and carnal interest, and concupiscence which he is against. Where you may note, 1. that the hatred of God beginneth at the sensual love of things temporal which he forbiddeth; 2. that the wicked great ones of the world, and those that have the strongest concupiscence, are usually the greatest haters of God, as having the greatest adverse interest, and being most in love with the things which he prohibiteth and will condemn.

V. The counterfeit of love to God is something that seemeth like it, and yet is consistent with prevalent hatred, or privation of true love, and maketh self-deceiving hypocrites. 1. One is when so much of God is loved as men think hath no opposition to their lusts and carnal interest (as his mercy and readiness to forgive); and then they think that they truly love God, though they hate his holiness and other attributes. 2. Another counterfeit is, to love God upon mistakes, imagining that he is of the sinner's mind, and will bear with him and not condemn him, though he continue sensual and ungodly: this is not indeed to love God, but something contrary to God. If men's fantasies will take God to be like the devil, a friend to sin, and no friend to holiness, and false in his threatenings, &c. and thus will love him; this is so far from being indeed the love of God, that it is an odious blaspheming of him. 3. Another counterfeit is, to love God only for his temporal mercies, as because he preserveth and maintaineth them, when yet he is resisted when he would give them things spiritual. 4. Another is, when the opinionative approbation of the mind, and honouring God with the lips and knee, are mistaken for true love. In a word, whatever love of God respecteth him not as God indeed, and is not superlative, but is subservient to creature love, is but a counterfeit.

VI. The directions for the exercise of the love of God are these:

Direct. I. Consider well, that the love of our Creator, Redeemer, and Regenerator, is the very end for which we are created, redeemed, and regenerate; and how just it is that God should have the end of such excellent works, and that by neglecting or opposing the love of God, which is the end, we neglect or oppose the works of creation, redemption, and regeneration themselves.—Let us plead these works of God with our hearts, and say,—1. O sluggish soul! dost thou forget the use for which thou wast created, and for which thou wast endowed with rational faculties? Dost thou repent that thou art a man, and refuse the employment of a man? What is the means or instrument good for, but its proper end, and use, and action? God made the sun to shine, and it shineth; he made the earth to support us and bear fruit, and it doth accordingly: and he made thee to love him, and wilt thou refuse and disobey? How noble and excellent is thy employment in comparison of theirs! Is the fruit of the earth, or the labour of thy beast, or the service of any inferior creature, so sweet and honourable a work as thine, to know and love thy bountiful, glorious Creator? How happy is thy lot! how blessed is thy portion in comparison of theirs! And dost thou forsake thy place, and descend to more ignoble objects, as if thou hadst rather been some silly, sordid animal? If thou hadst not rather be a beast than a man, why choosest thou the love and pleasures of a beast, and refusest the love and pleasures of a man? Is creation, and the image of God in a rational, free soul, a thing thus to be contemned for nothing? What is the sun good for, if it should yield no light or heat? And what art thou good for more than the beasts that perish, if thou know not and love not thy Creator? If God should offer to unman thee, and turn thee into a horse or dog, thou wouldst think he thrust thee into misery; and yet thou canst voluntarily and wilfully unman thyself, and take it as thy ease and pleasure. If death came this night to dissolve thy nature, it would not please thee; and yet thou canst daily destroy thy nature, as to its use and end, and not lament it! It were better I had never been a man, nor[Pg 124] never had a heart or love within me, if I use it not in the holy love of my Creator. It is true, I have a body that is made to eat, and drink, and sleep; but all this is but to serve my soul in the love of him that giveth me all. Life is not for meat, or drink, or play; but these are for life, and life for the higher ends of life.

2. Look unto thy Redeemer, drowsy soul! and consider for what end he did redeem thee: Was it to wander a few years about the earth, and to sleep, and sport awhile in flesh? Or was it to crucify thee to the world, and raise thee up to the love of God? He came down to earth from love itself, being full of love, to show the loveliness of God, and reconcile thee to him, and take away the enmity, and by love to teach thee the art of love. His love constrained him to offer himself a sacrifice for sin, to make thee a priest thyself to God, to offer up the sacrifice of an inflamed heart in love and praise; and wilt thou disappoint thy Redeemer, and disappoint thyself of the benefits of his love? The means is for the end; thou mayst as well say, I would not be redeemed, as to say, I would not love the Lord.

3. And bethink thyself, O drowsy soul, for what thou wast regenerated and sanctified by the Spirit? Was it not that thou mightst know and love the Lord? What is the Spirit of adoption that is given to believers, but a Spirit of predominant love to God? Gal. iv. 6. Thou couldst have loved vanity, and doted on thy fleshly friends and pleasures, without the Spirit of God: it was not for these, but to destroy these, and kindle a more noble, heavenly fire in thy breast, that the Spirit did renew thee. Examine, search, and try thyself, whether the Spirit hath sanctified thee or not. Knowest thou not, that if "any man have not the Spirit of Christ, the same is none of his?" 2 Cor. xiii. 5; Rom. viii. 9. And if Christ and his Spirit be in thee, thy love is dead to earthly vanity, and quickened and raised to the most holy God. Live then in the Spirit, if thou have the Spirit: to walk in the Spirit is to walk in love. Hath the regenerating Spirit given thee on purpose a new principle of love, and done so much to excite it, and been blowing at the coals so oft, and shall thy carnality or sluggishness yet extinguish it? As thou wouldst not renounce or contemn thy creation, thy redemption, and regeneration, contemn not and neglect not the love of thy Creator, Redeemer, and Regenerator, which is the end of all.

Direct. II. Think of the perfect fitness of God to be the only object of thy superlative love; and how easy and necessary it should seem to us to do a work so agreeable to right reason and uncorrupted nature; and abhor all temptations which would make God seem unsuitable to thee.—O sluggish and unnatural soul! should not an object so admirably fit allure thee? Should not such attractive goodness draw thee? Should not perfect amiableness win thee wholly to itself? Do but know thyself and God, and then forbear to love him if thou canst! Where should the fish live, but in the water? And where should birds fly, but in the air? God is thy very element: thou diest and sinkest down to brutishness, if thou forsake him or be taken from him. What should delight the smell, but odours? or the appetite, but its delicious food? or the eye, but light, and what it showeth? and the ear, but harmony? and what should delight the soul, but God? If thou know thyself, thou knowest that the nature of thy mind inclineth to knowledge; and by the knowledge of effects, to rise up to the cause; and by the knowledge of lower and lesser matters, to ascend to the highest and greatest. And if thou know God, thou knowest that he is the cause of all things, the Maker, Preserver, and Orderer of all, the Being of beings, the most great, and wise, and good, and happy; so that to know him, is to know all; to know the most excellent, independent, glorious Being, that will leave no darkness nor unsatisfied desire in thy soul. And is he not then most suitable to thy mind? If thou know thyself, then thou knowest that thy will, as free as it is, hath a natural, necessary inclination to goodness. Thou canst not love evil as evil; nor canst thou choose but love apprehended goodness, especially the chiefest good, if rightly apprehended. And if thou know God, thou knowest that he is infinitely good in himself, and the cause of all the good that is in the world, and the giver of all the good thou hast received, and the only fit and suitable good to satisfy thy desires for the time to come. And yet, shall it be so hard to thee to love, so agreeably to perfect nature, so perfect, and full, and suitable a good? even Goodness and Love itself, which hath begun to love thee? Is any of the creatures which thou lovest so suitable to thee? Are they good, and only good, and perfectly good, and unchangeably and eternally good? Are they the spring of comfort, and the satisfying happiness of thy soul? Hast thou found them so? or dost thou look to find them best at last? Foolish soul! canst thou love the uneven, defective, troublesome creature, if to some one small, inferior use it seemeth suitable to thee? and canst thou not love Him, that is all that rational love can possibly desire to enjoy? What though the creature be near thee, and God be infinitely above thee? He is nearer to thee than they. And though in glory he be distant, thou art passing to him in his glory, and wilt presently be there. Though the sun be distant from thee, it communicateth to thee its light, and heat, and is more suitable to thee than the candle that is nearer thee. What though God be most holy, and thou too earthly and unclean? is he not the fitter to purify thee, and make thee holy? Thou hadst rather, if thou be poor, have the company and favour of the rich that can relieve thee, than of beggars that will but complain with thee. And if thou be unlearned or ignorant, thou wouldst have the company of the wise and learned that can teach thee, and not of those that are as ignorant as thyself. Who is so suitable to thy desires, as he that hath all that thou canst wisely desire, and is willing and ready to satisfy thee to the full? Who is more suitable to thy love, than he that loveth thee most, and hath done most for thee, and must do all that ever will be done for thee, and is himself most lovely in his infinite perfections? O poor, diseased, lapsed soul! if sin had not corrupted, and distempered, and perverted thee, thou wouldst have thought God as suitable to thy love, as meat to thy hunger, and drink to thy thirst, and rest to thy weariness, and as the earth and water, the air and sun, are to the inhabitants of the world! O whither art thou fallen? and how far, how long, hast thou wandered from thy God, that thou now drawest back from him as a stranger to thee, and lookest away from him as an unsuitable good?

Direct. III. Imagine not God to be far away from thee, but think of him as always near thee and with thee, in whose present love and goodness thou dost subsist.—Nearness of objects doth excite the faculties: we hear no sound, nor smell any odour, nor taste any sweetness, nor see any colours, that are too distant from us. And the mind being limited in its activity, neglecteth, or reacheth not things too distant, and requireth some nearness of its object, as well as the sense; especially to the excitation of affections and bodily action. A distant danger[Pg 125] stirreth not up such fears, nor a distant misery such grief, nor a distant benefit such pleasure, as that which is at hand. Death doth more deeply affect us, when it seemeth very near, than when we think we have yet many years to live. So, carnal minds are so drowned in flesh, and captivated to sense, that they take little notice of what they see not, and therefore think of God as absent, because they see him not: they think of him as confined to heaven, as we think of a friend that is in the East Indies, or at the antipodes, who is, if not out of mind as well as out of sight, yet too distant for us delightfully to converse with.—Remember always, O my soul, that none is so near thee as thy God. A Seneca could say, of good men, that God is with us, and in us. Nature taught heathens, that in him we live, and move, and have our being. Thy friend may be absent, but God is never absent from thee; he is with thee, when, as to men, thou art alone. The sun is sufficient to illuminate but one part of the earth at once; and therefore must leave the rest in darkness. But God is with thee night and day; and there is no night to the soul, so far as it enjoyeth him. Thy life, thy health, thy love, and joy, are not nearer to thee than thy God: he is now before thee, about thee, within thee, moving thee to good, restraining thee from evil, marking and accepting all that is well, disliking and opposing all that is ill. The light of the sun doth not more certainly fill the room, and compass thee about, than God doth with his goodness. He is as much at leisure to observe thee, to converse with thee, to hear and help thee, as if thou wert his only creature: as the sun can as well illuminate every bird and fly, as if it shined unto no other creature. Open the eye of faith and reason, and behold thy God! Do not forget him, or unbelievingly deny him, and then say, He is not here. Do not say, that the sun doth not shine, because thou winkest. O do not quench thy love to God, by feigning him to be out of reach, and taken up with other converse! Turn not to inferior delights, by thinking that he hath turned thee off to these: and love him not as an absent friend; but as the friend that is always in thy sight, in thy bosom, and in thy heart; the fuel that is nearest to the flames of love.

Direct. IV. All other graces must do their part in assisting love, and all be exercised in subservience to it, and with an intention, directly or remotely, to promote it.—Fear and watchfulness must keep away the sin that would extinguish it, and preserve you from that guilt which would frighten away the soul from God. Repentance and mortification must keep away diverting and deceiving objects, which would steal away our love from God. Faith must show us God as present, in all his blessed attributes and perfections. Hope must depend on him, for nearer access and the promised felicity. Prudence must choose the fittest season, and means, and helps from our special approaches to him, and teach us how to avoid impediments. And obedience must keep us in a fit capacity for communion with him. The mind that is turned loose to wander after vanity the rest of the day, is unfit in an hour of prayer or meditation, to be taken up with the love of God. It must be the work of the day, and of our lives, to walk in a fitness for it, though we are not always in the immediate, lively exercise of it. To sin wilfully one hour, and be taken up with the love of God the next, is as unlikely, as one hour to abuse our parents, and provoke them to correct us, and the next to find the pleasure of their love; or one hour to fall and break one's bones, and the next to run and work as pleasantly as we did before.

And we must see that all other graces be exercised in a just subserviency to love; and none of them degenerate into noxious extremes, to the hinderance of this, which is their proper end. When you set yourselves to repent and mourn for sin, it must be from love, and for love: that by ingenuous lamentation of the injuries you have done to a gracious God, you may be cleansed from the filth that doth displease him, and being reconciled to him in Christ, may be fit to return to the exercises and delights of love. When you fear God, let it be with a filial fear, that comes from love, and is but a preservative or restorative for love. Avoid that slavish fear, as a sin, which tendeth to hatred, and would make you fly away from God. Love casteth out this tormenting fear, and freeth the soul from the spirit of bondage. The devil tempteth melancholy persons to live before God, as one that is still among bears or lions that are ready to devour him; for he knoweth how much such a fear is an enemy to love. Satan would never promote such fears, if they were of God, and tended to our good. You never found him promoting your love or delight in God! But he careth not how much he plungeth you into distracting terrors. If he can, he will frighten you out of your love, and out of your comforts, and out of your wits. A dull and sluggish sinner he will keep from fear, lest it should awaken him from his sin; but a poor, melancholy, penitent soul he would keep under perpetual terrors: it is so easy to such to fear, that they may know it is a sinful, inordinate fear; for gracious works are not so easy. And resist also all humiliation and grief, that do not, immediately or remotely, tend to help your love. A religion that tendeth but to grief, and terminateth in grief, and goeth no further, hath too much in it of the malice of the enemy, to be of God. No tears are desirable, but those that tend to clear the eyes from the filth of sin, that they may see the better the loveliness of God.

Direct. V. Esteem thy want of love to God (with the turning of it unto the creature) to be the heart of the old man; thy most comprehensive, odious sin: and observe this as the life of all thy particular sins, and hate it above all the rest.—This is the very death and greatest deformity of the soul; the absence of God's image, and Spirit, and objectively of himself.—I never loathe my heart so much, as when I observe how little it loveth the Lord. Methinks all the sins that ever I committed, are not so loathsome to me, as this want of love to God. And it is this that is the venom and malignity of every particular sin. I never so much hate myself, as when I observe how little of God is within me, and how far my heart is estranged from him. I never do so fully approve of the justice of God, if it should condemn me, and thrust me for ever from his presence, as when I observe how far I have thrust him from my heart. If there were any sin, which proceeded not from a want of love to God, I could easilier pardon it to myself, as knowing that God would easilier pardon it. But not to love the God of love, the fountain of love, the felicity of souls, is a sin, unfit to be pardoned to any till it be repented of, and partly cured; Christ will forgive it to none that keep it; and when it is incurable, it is the special sin of hell, the badge of devils and damned souls. If God will not give me a heart to love him, I would I had never had a heart. If he will give me this, he giveth me all. Happy are the poor, the despised, and the persecuted, that can but live in the love of God! O miserable emperors, kings, and lords, that are strangers to this heavenly love, and love their lusts above their Maker! Might I but live in the fervent[Pg 126] love of God, what matter is it in what country, or what cottage, or what prison I live? If I live not in the love of God, my country would be worse than banishment, a palace would be a prison; a crown would be a miserable comfort, to one that hath cast away his comfort, and is going to everlasting shame and woe.—Were we but duly sensible of the worth of love, and the odiousness and malignity that is in the want of it, it would keep us from being quiet in the daily neglect of it, and would quicken us to seek it, and to stir it up.

Direct. VI. Improve the principle of self-love, to the promoting of the love of God, by considering what he hath done for thee, and what he is, and would be to thee.—I mean not carnal, inordinate self-love, which is the chiefest enemy of the love of God; but I mean that rational love of happiness, and self-preservation, which God did put into innocent Adam, and hath planted in man's nature as necessary to his government. This natural, innocent self-love, is that remaining principle in the heart of man, which God himself doth still presuppose in all his laws and exhortations; and which he taketh advantage of in his works and word, for the conversion of the wicked, and the persuading of his servants themselves to their obedience. This is the common principle in which we are agreed with all the wicked of the world, that all men should desire and seek to be happy, and choose and do that which is best for themselves; or else it were in vain for ministers to preach to them, if we were agreed in nothing, and we had not this ground in them to cast our seed into, and to work upon. And if self-love be but informed and guided by understanding, it will compel you to love God, and tell you that nothing should be so much loved. Every one that is a man must love himself; we will not entreat him, nor be beholden to him for this: and every one that loveth himself, will love that which he judgeth best for himself: and every wise man must know, that he never had nor can have any good at all, but what he had from God. Why do men love lust, or wealth, or honour, but because they think that these are good for them? And would they not love God, if they practically knew that he is the best of all for them, and instead of all?—Unnatural, unthankful heart! canst thou love thyself, and not love him that gave thee thyself, and gives thee all things? Nature teacheth all men to love their most entire and necessary friends: do we deserve a reward by loving those that love us, when publicans will do the like? Matt. v. 46. Art thou not bound to love them that hate thee, and curse, and persecute thee? ver. 44, 45. What reward then is due to thy unnatural ingratitude, that canst not love thy chiefest Friend? All the friends that ever were kind to thee, and did thee good, were but his messengers to deliver what he sent thee. And canst thou love the bearer, and not the Giver? He made thee a man, and not a beast. He cast thy lot in his visible church, and not among deluded infidels, or miserable heathens, that never heard, unless in scorn, of the Redeemer's name. He brought thee forth in a land of light, in a reformed church, where knowledge and holiness have as great advantage as any where in all the world; and not among deluded, ignorant papists, where ambition must have been thy governor, and pride and tyranny have given thee laws, and a formal, ceremonious image of piety must have been thy religion. He gave thee parents that educated thee in his fear, and not such as were profane and ignorant, and would have restrained and persecuted thee from a holy life. He spoke to thy conscience early in thy childhood, and prevented the gross abominations which else thou hadst committed. He bore with the folly and frailties of thy youth. He seasonably gave thee those books, and teachers, and company, and helps, which were fittest for thee; and blest them to the further awakening and instructing of thee, when he passed by others, and left them in their sins. He taught thee to pray, and heard thy prayer. He turned all thy fears and groans to thy spiritual good. He pardoned all thy grievous sins: and since that, how much hath he endured and forgiven! He gave thee seasonable and necessary stripes, and brought thee up in the school of affliction; so moderating them, that they might not disable or discourage thee, but only correct thee, and keep thee from security, wantonness, stupidity, and contempt of holy things, and might spoil all temptations to ambition, worldliness, voluptuousness, and fleshly lust. By the threatenings of great calamities and death, he hath frequently awakened thee to cry to Heaven; and by as frequent and wonderful deliverances, he hath answered thy prayers, and encouraged thee still to wait upon him. He hath given thee the hearty prayers of many hundreds of his faithful servants, and heard them for thee in many a distress. He hath strangely preserved thee in manifold dangers. He hath not made thee of the basest of the people, whose poverty might tempt them to discontent; nor set thee upon the pinnacle of worldly honour, where giddiness might have been thy ruin, and where temptations to pride, and lust, and luxury, and enmity to a holy life, are so violent that few escape them. He hath not set thee out upon a sea of cares and vexations, worldly businesses and encumbrances; but fed thee with food convenient for thee, and given thee leisure to walk with God. He hath not chained thee to an unprofitable profession, nor used thee as those that live like their beasts, to eat, and drink, and sleep, and play, or live to live; but he hath called thee to the noblest and sweetest work; when that hath been thy business, which others were glad to taste of as a recreation and repast. He hath allowed thee to converse with books, and with the best and wisest men, and to spend thy days in sucking in delightful knowledge: and this is not only for thy pleasure, but thy use; and not only for thyself, but many others. O how many sweet and precious truths hath he allowed thee to feed on all the day, when others are diverted, and commonly look at them sometimes afar off! O how many precious hours hath he granted me, in his holy assemblies, and in his honourable and most pleasant work! How oft hath his day, and his holy uncorrupted ordinances, and the communion of his saints, and the mentioning of his name and kingdom, and the pleading of his cause with sinners, and the celebrating of his praise, been my delight! O how many hundreds that he hath sent, have wanted the abundant encouragement which I have had! When he hath seen the disease of my despondent mind, he hath not tried me by denying me success, nor suffered me, with Jonah, according to my inclination to overrun his work; but hath enticed me on by continued encouragements, and strewed all the way with mercies: but his mercies to me in the souls of others, have been so great, that I shall secretly acknowledge them, rather than here record them, where I must have respect to those usual mercies of believers, which lie in the common road to heaven. And how endless would it be to mention all! All the good that friends and enemies have done me! All the wise and gracious disposals of his providence; in every condition, and change of life, and change of times, and in every place wherever he brought me! His every day's renewed mercies! His support under all my languishings and weakness;[Pg 127] his plentiful supplies; his gracious helps; his daily pardons; and the glorious hopes of a blessed immortality which his Son hath purchased, and his covenant and Spirit sealed to me! O the mercies that are in one Christ, one Holy Spirit, one holy Scripture, and in the blessed God himself! These I have mentioned, unthankful heart, to shame thee for thy want of love to God. And these I will leave upon record, to be a witness for God against thy ingratitude, and to confound thee with shame, if thou deny thy love to such a God. Every one of all these mercies, and multitudes more, will rise up against thee, and shame thee, before God and all the world, as a monster of unkindness, if thou love not him that hath used thee thus.

Here also consider what God is for your future good, as well as what he hath been hitherto; how all-sufficient, how powerful, merciful, and good. But of this more anon.

Direct. VII. Improve the vanity and vexation of the creature, and all thy disappointments, and injuries, and afflictions, to the promoting of thy love to God.—And this by a double advantage: First, by observing that there is nothing meet to divert thy love, or rob God of it; unless thou wilt love thy trouble and distress! Secondly, that thy love to God is the comfort by which thou must be supported under the injuries and troubles which thou meetest with in the world; and therefore to neglect it, is but to give up thyself to misery.—Is it for nothing, O my soul, that God hath turned loose the world against thee? that devils rage against thee; and wicked men do reproach and slander thee, and seek thy ruin; and friends prove insufficient, and as broken reeds? It had been as easy to God, to have prospered thee in the world, and suited all things to thy own desires, and have strewed thy way with the flowers of worldly comforts and delights; but he knew thy proneness to undo thyself by carnal loves, and how easily thy heart is enticed from thy God; and therefore he hath wisely and mercifully ordered it, that thy temptations shall not be too strong, and no creature shall appear to thee in an over amiable, tempting dress. Therefore he hath suffered them to become thy enemies: and wilt thou love an enemy better than thy God? what! an envious and malicious world; a world of cares, and griefs, and pains; a weary, restless, empty world? How deep and piercing are its injuries! How superficial and deceitful is its friendship! How serious are its sorrows! What toyish shows and dreams are its delights! How constant are its cares and labours! How seldom and short are its flattering smiles! Its comforts are disgraced by the certain expectation of succeeding sorrows: its sorrows are heightened by the expectations of more: in the midst of its flatteries, I hear something within me saying, Thou must die: this is but the way to rottenness and dust: I see a winding-sheet and a grave still before me: I foresee how I must lie in pains and groans, and then become a loathsome corpse. And is this a world to be more delighted in than God? What have I left me for my support and solace, in the midst of all this vanity and vexation, but to look to him that is the all-sufficient, sure, never-failing good? I must love him, or I have nothing to love but enmity or deceit. And is this the worst of God's design, in permitting and causing my pains and disappointments here? It is but to drive my foolish heart unto himself, that I may have the solid delights and happiness of his love. O then let his blessed will be done! Come home, my soul, my wandering, tired, grieved soul! Love, where thy love shall not be lost: love Him that will not reject thee, nor deceive thee; nor requite thee as the world doth, with injuries and abuse: despair not of entertainment, though the world deny it thee. The peaceable region is above. In the world thou must have trouble, that in Christ thou mayst have peace. Retire to the harbour, if thou wouldst be free from storms. God will receive thee, when the world doth cast thee off, if thou heartily cast off the world for him.—Oh what a solace is it to the soul, to be driven clearly from the world to God, and there to be exercised in that sacred love, which will accompany us to the world of love!

Direct. VIII. Labour for the truest and fullest conceptions of the goodness and excellencies of God, which are his amiableness; and abhor all misrepresentations of him as unlovely.—That which is apprehended as unlovely cannot be loved; and that which is apprehended as evil, is apprehended as unlovely. Therefore, it is the grand design of Satan to hide God's goodness, and misrepresent him as evil: not to deny him to be good in himself, for in that he hath no hope to be believed; but to persuade men that he is not good to them, or to make them forget or overlook his goodness. Not to persuade them that God is evil in himself; but that he is evil to them, by restraining them from their beloved sins, and hating them as sinners, and resolving to damn them if they go on impenitently. This, which is part of the goodness of God, he maketh them believe is evil, by engaging them in a way and interest, which he knoweth that God is engaged against, and enticing them under the strokes of his justice. And he tempteth believers themselves to poor, diminutive, unworthy thoughts of the goodness and mercifulness of God, and to continual apprehensions of his wrath and terrors. And if he can make them believe that God is their enemy, and think of him only as a consuming fire, how little are they like to love him! If christians knew how much of the devil's malice against God and them doth exercise itself in this, to make God appear to man unlovely, they would more studiously watch against such misrepresentations, and fly from them with greater hatred.[116] Not that we must first, by the advice of arrogant reason, and self-love, as some do, draw a false description of goodness and amiableness in our minds, and make that the measure of our judgment of God, his nature, attributes, and decrees; nor take his goodness to be only his suitableness to our opinions, wills, and interest. But we must take out from the word and works of God, that true description of his goodness which he hath given of himself, and expunge out of our conceits whatsoever is contrary to it. Think of God's goodness in proportion with his other attributes.—O my soul, how unequally hast thou thought of God! Thou easily believest that his power is omnipotence, and that, his knowledge is omniscience; but of his goodness, how narrow and poor are thy conceivings! as if it were nothing to his power and knowledge. How oft hast thou been amazed in the consideration of his greatness, and how seldom affected with the apprehensions of his goodness! Thou gratifiest him that would have thee believe and tremble as he doth himself, and not[Pg 128] him that would have thee believe and love. How oft hast thou suffered the malicious enemy to accuse God to thee, and make thee believe that he is a hater of man, and hateful to a man, or a hater of thee, that he might make thee hate him! How oft hast thou suffered him to draw in thy thoughts a false representation of thy dearest Lord, and show him to thee as in that unlovely shape! How oft have thy conceptions dishonoured and blasphemed his love and goodness, while thou hast seemed to magnify his knowledge and his power! Think of him now as love itself, as fuller of goodness than the sea of water, or the sun of light. Love freely and boldly, without the stops of suspicions and fears, where thou art sure thou canst never love enough; and if all the love of men and angels were united in one flame, they could never love too much, or come near the proportion of the glorious goodness which they love! Cast thyself boldly into this ocean of delights. Though the narrowness of thy own capacity confine thee, yet, as there are no bounds in the object of thy love, let not false, unbelieving thoughts confine thee. Oh that I were all eye, to see the glorious amiableness of my God! Oh that I were all love, that I might be filled with his goodness! Oh that all the passions of my soul were turned into this holy passion! Oh that all my fears, and cares, and sorrows, were turned into love! and that all the thoughts that confusedly crowd in upon me and molest me, were turned into this one incessant thought, of the infinite goodness of my God! Oh that all my tears and groanings, yea, and all my other mirth and pleasures, were turned into the melodious songs of love! and that the pulse, and voice, and operations of love, were all the motion of my soul! Surely in heaven it will be so, though it is not to be expected here.

Direct. IX. The great means of promoting love to God, is duly to behold him in his appearances to man, in the ways of nature, grace, and glory. First, therefore, learn to understand and improve his appearances in nature, and to see the Creator in all his works, and by the knowledge and love of them to be raised to the knowledge and love of him.—Though sin hath so disabled us to the due improvement of these appearances of God in nature, that grace must restore us, before we can do it effectually and acceptably; yet objectively nature is still the same in substance, and affordeth us much help to the knowledge and love of God. He knoweth nothing of the world aright, that knoweth not God in it, and by it. Some note that the greatest students in nature are not usually the best proficients in grace; and that philosophers and physicians are seldom great admirers of piety; but this is to judge of the wise by the foolish, and to impute the ignorance and impiety of some, to others that abhor it. Doubtless he is no philosopher, but a fool, that seeth not and admireth not the Creator in his works. Indeed if a man do wholly give himself to know the shape and form of letters, and to write them curiously, or cut them in brass or stone, or to print them, and not to understand their significations or use, no wonder if he be ignorant of the arts and sciences, which those letters well understood would teach him; such a man may be called an engraver, a scrivener, a printer, but not a scholar: and no better can the atheist be called a philosopher or learned man, that denieth the most wise Almighty Author, while he beholdeth his works, when the nature and name of God is so plainly engraven upon them all. It is a great part of a christian's daily business, to see and admire God in his works, and to use them as steps to ascend by to himself. Psal. cxi. 2-4, "The works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein. His work is honourable and glorious: and his righteousness endureth for ever. He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered." Psal. cxliii. 5, "I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands." Psal. lxxvii. 12, "I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings." Psal. xcii. 4, 6, "For thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy work; I will triumph in the works of thy hands. A brutish man knoweth not; neither doth a fool understand this." As the praising of God's works, so the observing of God in his works, is much of the work of a holy soul. Psal. cxlv. 3-7, 10, 17, "Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts. I will speak of the glorious honour of thy majesty, and of thy wondrous works. And men shall speak of the might of thy terrible acts; and I will declare thy greatness. They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness, and shall sing of thy righteousness. All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord; and thy saints shall bless thee. The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works." Rom. i. 19, 20, "That which may be known of God is manifest to them; for God hath showed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse." If we converse in the world as believers or rational creatures ought, we should as oft as David repeat those words, Psal. cvii. "O that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wondrous works to the children of men! And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing. They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; these see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep," ver. 21-24. But this is a subject fitter for a volume (of physics theologically handled) than for so short a touch. What an excellent book is the visible world for the daily study of a holy soul! Light is not more visible to the eye in the sun, than the goodness of God is in it and all the creatures to the mind. If I love not God, when all the world revealeth his loveliness, and every creature telleth me that he is good, what a blind and wicked heart have I! O wonderful wisdom, and goodness, and power which appeareth in every thing we see! in every tree, and plant, and flower; in every bird, and beast, and fish; in every worm, and fly, and creeping thing; in every part of the body of man or beast, much more in the admirable composure of the whole; in the sun, and moon, and stars, and meteors; in the lightning and thunder, the air and winds, the rain and waters, the heat and cold, the fire and the earth, especially in the composed frame of all, so far as we can see them set together; in the admirable order and co-operation of all things; in their times and seasons, and the wonderful usefulness of all for man. O how glorious is the power, and wisdom, and goodness of God, in all the frame of nature! Every creature silently speaks his praise, declaring him to man, whose office is, as the world's high priest, to stand between them and the great Creator, and expressly offer him the praise of all. Psal. viii. 3-6, 9, "When I consider the heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; what is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion[Pg 129] over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet. O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!" "Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and declare his wondrous works to the children of men!" "The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord," Psal. xxxiii. 5-9. Read Psal. lxv. Thus love God as appearing in the works of nature.

Direct. X. Study to know God as he appeareth more clearly to sinners in his goodness in the works of grace; especially in his Son, his covenant, and his saints, and there to love him, in the admiration of his love.—Here love hath made itself an advantage of our sin and unworthiness, of our necessities and miseries, of the law and justice, and the flames of hell. The abounding of sin and misery hath glorified abounding grace; that grace which fetcheth sons for God from among the voluntary vassals of the devil, which fetcheth children of light out of darkness, and living souls from among the dead, and heirs for heaven from the gates of hell; and brings us as from the gallows to the throne. 1. A believing view of the nature, undertaking, love, obedience, doctrine, example, sufferings, intercession, and kingdom of Jesus Christ, must needs inflame the believer's heart with an answerable degree of the love of God. To look on a Christ and not to love God, is to have eyes and not to see, and to overlook him while we seem to look on him. He is the liveliest image of Infinite Goodness, and the messenger of the most unsearchable, astonishing love, and the purchaser of the most invaluable benefits that ever were revealed to the sons of men. Our greatest love must he kindled by the greatest revelations and communications of the love of God. And "greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends," John xv. 13. That is, men have no dearer and clearer a way to express their love to their friends; but that love is aggravated indeed, which will express itself as far for enemies. "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. And if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life," Rom. v. 8, 10. Steep, then, that stiff and hardened heart in the blood of Christ, and it will melt: come near, with Thomas, and by the passage of his wounds get near unto his heart, and it will change thy unkind, unthankful heart into the very nature of love. Christ is the best teacher of the lesson of love that ever the world had; who taught it not only by his words, but by his blood, by his life, and by his death: if thou canst not learn it of him thou canst never learn it. Love is the greatest commander of love, and the most effectual argument that can insuperably constrain us to it: and none ever loved at the measure and rates that Christ hath loved. To stand by such a fire is the way for a congealed heart to melt, and the coldest affections to grow warm. A lively faith still holding Christ, the glass of infinite love and goodness, before our faces, is the greatest lesson in the art of love.

2. Behold God also in his covenant of grace, which he hath made in Christ. In that you may see such sure, such great and wonderful mercies, freely given out to a world of sinners, and to yourselves among the rest, as may afford abundant matter for love and thankfulness to feed on while you live. There you may see how loth God is that sinners should perish; how he delighteth in mercy; and how great and unspeakable that mercy is. There you may see an act of pardon and oblivion granted upon the reasonable condition of believing, penitent acceptance, to all mankind; the sins that men have been committing many years together, their wilful, heinous, aggravated sins, you may there see pardoned by more aggravated mercy; and the enemies of God reconciled to him, and condemned rebels saved from hell, and brought into his family, and made his sons. Oh what an image of the goodness of God is apparent in the tenor of his word and covenant! Holiness and mercy make up the whole—they are expressed in every leaf and line! The precepts, which seem too strict to sinners, are but the perfect rules of holiness and love, for the health and happiness of man. What loveliness did David find in the law itself! and so should we, if we read it with his eyes and heart: it was sweeter to him than honey; he loved it above gold, Psal. cxix. 127; and, ver. 97, he crieth out, "O how I love thy law! it is my meditation all the day." And must not the Lawgiver then be much more lovely, whose goodness here appeareth to us? "Good and upright is the Lord; therefore will he teach sinners in the way," Psal. xxv. 8. "I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved: my hands also will I lift up to thy commandments, which I have loved; and I will meditate in thy statutes," Psal. cxix. 47, 48. How delightfully then should I love and meditate on the blessed Author of this holy law! But how can I read the history of love, the strange design of grace in Christ, the mystery which the angels desirously pry into, the promises of life to lost and miserable sinners, and not feel the power of love transform me? "Behold, with what love the Father hath loved us, that we should be called the sons of God," 1 John iii. 1. How doth God shed abroad his love upon our hearts, but by opening to us the superabundance of it in his word, and opening our hearts by his Spirit to perceive it? Oh when a poor sinner that first had felt the load of sin, and the wrath of God, shall feelingly read or hear what mercy is tendered to him in the covenant of grace, and hear Christ's messengers tell him, from God, that all things are now ready; and therefore invite him to the heavenly feast, and even compel him to come in, what melting love must this affect the sinner's heart with! When we see the grant of life eternal sealed to us by the blood of Christ, and a pardoning, justifying, saving covenant, so freely made and surely confirmed to us, by that God whom we had so much offended, oh what an incentive is here for love!

When I mention the covenant I imply the sacraments, which are but its appendants or confirming seals, and the investing the believer solemnly with its benefits. But in these God is pleased to condescend to the most familiar communion with his church, that love and thankfulness might want no helps. There it is that the love of God in Christ applieth itself most closely to particular sinners; and the meat or drink will be sweet in the mouth, which was not sweet to us on the table at all. Oh how many a heart hath this affected! How many have felt the stirrings of that love, which before they felt not, when they have seen Christ crucified before their eyes, and have heard the minister, in his name and at his command, bid them "take," and "eat," and "drink;" commanding them not to refuse their Saviour, but take him and the benefits of his blood as their own; assuring them of his good-will and readiness to forgive and save them.

3. Behold also the loveliness of God in his holy ones, who bear his image, and are advanced by his love and mercy. If you are christians indeed, you are taught of God to love his servants, and to see an excellency in the saints on earth, and make them the[Pg 130] people of your delight, Psal. xvi. 1, 2; 1 Thess. iv. 9. And this must needs acquaint you with the greater amiableness, in the most holy God, that made them holy. Oh how oft have the feeling and heavenly prayers of lively believers excited those affections in me which before I felt not! How oft have I been warmed with their heavenly discourse! How amiable is that holy, heavenly disposition and conversation which appeareth in them! Their faith, their love, their trust in God, their cheerful obedience, their hatred of sin, their desire of the good of all, their meekness and patience; how much do these advance them above the ignorant, sensual, proud, malignant, and ungodly world! How good then is that God that makes men good! And how little is the goodness of the best of men, compared to his unmeasurable goodness! Whenever your converse with holy men stirs up your love to them, rise by it presently to the God of saints, and let all be turned to him that giveth all to them and to you.

And as the excellency of the saints, so their privilege and great advancement, should show you the goodness of God, that doth advance them. As oft as thou seest a saint, how poor and mean in the world soever, thou seest a living monument of the abundant kindness of the Lord. Thou seest a child of God, a member of Christ, an heir of heaven. Thou seest one that hath all his sins forgiven him, and is snatched as a brand out of the fire, and delivered from the power of Satan, and translated into the kingdom of Christ. Thou seest one for whom Christ hath conquered the powers of hell; and one that is freed from the bondage of the flesh; and one that, of the devil's slave, is made a priest, to offer up the sacrifices of praise to God. Thou seest one that hath the Spirit of God within him; and one that hath daily intercourse with heaven, and audience with God, and is dearly beloved by him in Christ. Thou seest in flesh a companion of angels, and one that hath the divine nature, and must shortly be above the stars in glory, and must be with Christ, and must love and magnify God for ever. And is not the amiableness of God apparent, in such mercy bestowed upon sinful man? And should we not now begin to admire him in his saints, and glorify him in believers, who will come with thousands of his angels, to be glorified and admired in them at the last? 2 Thess. 1. 10. Oh the abundant deliverances, preservations, provisions, encouragements, which all his servants receive from God! Who ever saw the just forsaken, even while they think themselves forsaken? "For the Lord loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved for ever. The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide. Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace," Psal. xxxvii. 25, 28, 31, 37. "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints," Psal. cxvi. 15. "Ye that love the Lord, hate evil: he preserveth the souls of his saints; he delivereth them out of the hand of the wicked. Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart," Psal. xcvii. 10, 11. "O love the Lord all his saints! for the Lord preserveth the faithful, and plentifully rewardeth the proud doer," Psal. xxxi. 23.

Direct. XI. Insist not so much on your desires after vision, as to undervalue the lower apprehensions of faith; but love God by the way of faith, as in order to the love of intuition.

We are exceeding apt to be over-desirous of sight; and to take nothing as an object fit to affect us, which sense perceiveth not. When we have the surest evidence of the truth of things unseen, it hardly satisfieth us, unless we may see or feel. And hereupon, our love to God is hindered; while we think of him as if he were not, or take the apprehensions of faith as if they were uncertain, and little differed from a dream. Yea, it proveth the ground of most dangerous temptations to infidelity itself. While we take that knowledge which we have of God, in the way of faith, the love and communion which is exercised thereby, to be as nothing; we are next tempted to think, that there is no true knowledge of God, and communion with him, to be attained. And when we have been searching and striving long, and find that we can reach no more, we are tempted to think, that the soul of man is made but as the beasts, for present things, and is incapable of those higher things which are revealed in the gospel; and that if it were indeed a life to come, and man were made to enjoy his God, we should get nearer to him than we are, and know him more, and love him better.—But is it nothing, O presumptuous soul, to see God in a glass, in order to a nearer sight? Is it nothing to have the heavenly Jerusalem described and promised to thee, unless thou see it and possess it? Wilt thou travel to no place, but what thou seest all the way? Wouldst thou have no difference betwixt earth and heaven? What canst thou have more in heaven, than immediate intuition? Wouldst thou have no life of trial, in the obedience of faith, before the life of fruition and reward? Or canst thou think that a life of sight and sense is fit for trial and preparation, to show who is meet for the rewarding life? Unthankful soul! Compare thy state with that of brutes: is it nothing for thee to know thy Maker in the works of his creation and providence, and in the revelations of grace, and the belief of promised immortality, unless thou presently see him in his glory; when these thy fellow-creatures know him not at all? Compare thyself now, with thyself as heretofore, in the days of thy ignorance and carnality. Hadst thou then any such knowledge of God, as thou now undervaluest? or any such communion with him, as thou now accountest next to none? When the light first shined in thine eyes, and thou hadst first experience of the knowledge of God, thou thoughtest it something, and rejoicedst in the light: if then thou couldst have suddenly attained but to so much as thou hast now attained, wouldst thou have called it nothing? Would it not have seemed a greater treasure to thee, than to have known both the Indies as thine own? O be not unthankful for the little which thou hast received, when God might have shut thee out in that darkness which the greatest part of the world lieth in, and have left thee to thyself, to have desired no higher knowledge, than such as may feed thy fancy, and pride, and lust. Art thou so far drowned in flesh and sense, as to take intellectual apprehensions for dreams, unless thy sense may see and feel? Wilt thou take thy soul, thyself for nothing, because thou art not to be seen or felt? Shall no subjects honour and obey their king, but they that have seen his court and him? Desire the fullest and the nearest sight, the purest and the strongest love; and desire and spare not the life where all this will be had: but take heed of being too hasty with God, and unthankful for the mercies of the way. Know better the difference betwixt thy travel and thy home; and know what is fit for passengers to expect. Humbly submit to an obedient waiting in a life of faith; and make much of the testament of Christ, till thou be at age to possess the inheritance. Thou must live, and love, and run, and fight, and conquer, and suffer by faith, if ever thou wilt come to see and to possess the crown.

Direct. XII. It is a powerful means to kindle the love of God in a believer, to foresee by faith the[Pg 131] glory of heaven, and what God will be there to his saints for ever.[117]—And thus to behold God in his glory, is the use of grace. Though the manner of knowing him thus by faith, be far short of what we there expect, yet it is the same God and glory that now we believe, which then we must more openly behold. And therefore, as that apprehension of love will inconceivably excel the highest which can be here attained; so the forethoughts of that doth excel all other arguments and means to affect us here; and will raise us as high as means can raise us. The greatest things, and greatest interest of our souls, being there, will greatly raise us to the love of God, if any thing will do it: to foresee how near him we shall be ere long; and what a glorious proof we shall have of his good will; and how our souls will be ravished everlastingly with his love! To think what hearts the blessed have that see his glory, and live with Christ! how full of love they are! and what a delight it is to them thus to love! must needs affect the heart of a believer.—Lift up thy head, poor drowsy sinner! look up to heaven, and think where thou must live for ever! Think what the holy ones of God are doing! Do they love God, or do they not? Must it not then be thy life and work for ever? And canst thou forbear to love him now, that is bringing thee to such a world of love? Thou wouldst love him more, that would give thee security to possess a kingdom which thou never sawest, than him that giveth thee but some toy in the hand. And let it not seem too distant to affect thee: the time is as nothing till thou wilt be there: thou knowest not but thou mayst be there this night. There thou shalt see the Maker of the worlds, and know the mysteries of his wondrous works. There thou shalt see thy blessed Lord, and feel that love which thou readest of in the gospel, and enjoy the fruits of it for ever. There thou shalt see him that suffered for thee, and rose again, whom angels see and worship in his glory. Thou shalt see there a more desirable sight, than those that saw him heal the blind, and lame, and sick, and raise the dead; or those that saw him in his transfiguration; or those that saw him on the cross, or after his resurrection; or than Stephen saw when he was stoned; or Paul when he was converted; yea, more than it is like he saw when he was in his rapture, in the third heavens! O who can think believingly on the life which we must there shortly live, the glory which we must see, the love which we must receive, and the love which we must exercise, and not feel the fire begin to flame, and the glass in which we see the Lord become a burning-glass to our affections!—Christ and heaven are the books which we must be often reading; the glasses in which we must daily gaze, if ever we will be good proficients and practitioners in the art of holy love.

Direct. XIII. Exercise your souls so frequently and diligently in this way of love, that the method of it may be familiar to you, and the means and motives still at hand, and you may presently be able to fall into the way, as one that is well acquainted with it, and may not be distracted and lost in generals, as not knowing where to fix your thoughts.—I know no methods alone will serve to raise the dead, and cause a carnal, senseless heart to love the Lord. But I know that many honest hearts, that have the spirit of love within them, have great need to be warned, that they quench not the Spirit; and great need to be directed how to stir up the grace which is given them: and that many live a more dull, or distracted, uncomfortable life, than they would do, if they wanted not skill and diligence. The soul is most backward to this highest work, and therefore hath the greater need of helps: and the best have so much need as that it is well if all will serve to keep up loving and grateful thoughts of God upon their minds. And when every trade, and art, and science, requireth diligence, exercise, and experience, and all are bunglers at it at the first, can we reasonably think that we are like to attain any high degrees, with slight, and short, and seldom thoughts?

Direct. XIV. Yet let not weak-headed or melancholy persons set themselves on those methods or lengths of meditation, which their heads cannot bear; lest the tempter get advantage of them, and abate their love, by making religion seem a torment to them; but let such take up with shorter, obvious meditations, and exercise their love in an active, obediential way of living.—That is the best physic that is fitted to the patient's strength and case: and that is the best shoe that is meetest for the foot, and not that which is the biggest or the finest. It is a great design of Satan, to make all duties grievous and burdensome to us; and thereby to cast us into continual pain, and fear, and trouble, and so destroy our delight in God, and consequently, our love. Therefore pretend not to disability for carnal unwillingness and laziness of mind; but yet mar not all by grasping at more than you are able to bear. Take on you as you are able, and increase your work, if God increase your strength. If a melancholy person crack his brain with immoderate, unseasonable endeavours, he will but disable himself for all.

Direct. XV. Keep clear, and hold fast the evidences of thy sincerity, that thou mayst perceive thy interest in the love of God, and resist the temptations which would hide his love to thee, and cause thee to doubt of it, or deny it.—Satan hath not his end when he hath troubled thee, and robbed thee of thy peace and comfort; it is worse that he is seeking to effect by this: his malice is more against God, than against thee; and more against God and thee, in this point of love, than in any other grace or duty. He knoweth that God esteemeth this most; and he knoweth if he could kill thy love, he kills thy soul. And he knoweth how natural it is to man, to love those that love him, and hate those that hate him, be they never so excellent in themselves. And therefore, if he can persuade thee into despair, and to think that God hateth thee, and is resolved to damn thee, he will not despair of drawing thee to hate God. Or if he do but bring thee to fear that he loveth thee not, he will think accordingly to abate thy love. I know that a truly gracious soul keepeth up its love, when it loseth its assurance; and mourneth, and longeth, and seeketh in love, when it cannot triumph and rejoice in love: but yet there are some prints left on the heart, of its former apprehensions of the love of God: and such souls exceedingly disadvantage themselves as to the exercises of love, and make it a work of wondrous difficulty. Oh! it will exceedingly kindle love, when we can see God's surest love-tokens in our hearts, and look to the promises, and say, They are all mine; and think of heaven, as that which shall certainly be our own: and can say with Thomas, "My Lord, and my God:" and with Paul, that "The life which I live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, that loved me, and gave himself for me." Denial of our grace[Pg 132] may seem to be humility, but it tendeth to extinguish love and gratitude.

But, you will say, I must avoid soul-delusion and pharisaical ostentation on the other side; and few reach assurance; how then should we keep up the love of God?

Signs of the love of God.

Answ. 1. Though I am not come to the point of trying and discerning grace, I shall give you this much help in the way, because it is so useful to the exercises of love. (1.) If you have not enjoying, delighting love, yet try whether you have not desiring, seeking love. Love appeareth as truly in desiring and seeking good as in delighting in it. Poor men show their love of the world, by desiring and seeking it, as much as rich men do in delighting in it. What is it that you most desire and seek? (2.) Or if this be so weak that you scarce discern it, do you not find a mourning and lamenting love? You show that you loved your money, by mourning when you lose it; and that you loved your friend by grieving for his death, as well as by delighting in him while he lived. If you heartily lament it as your greatest unhappiness and loss, when you think that God doth cast you off, and that you are void of grace, and cannot serve and honour him as you would, this shows you are not void of love. (3.) If you feel not that you love him, do you feel that you would fain love him, and that you love to love him? If you do so, it is a sign that you do love him? When you do not only desire to find such an evidence of salvation in you, but when you desire love itself, and love to love God. Had you not rather have a heart to love him perfectly, than to have all the riches in the world? Had you not rather live in the love of God, if you could reach it, than to live in any earthly pleasure? If so, be sure he hath your hearts. The will is the love, and the heart; if God have your will he hath your heart and love. (4.) What hath your hearts if he have them not? Is there any thing that you prefer and seek before him, and that you had rather have than him? Can you be content without him, and let him go, in exchange for any earthly pleasure? If not, it is a sign he hath your hearts. You love him savingly if you set more by nothing else than by him. (5.) Do you love his holy image in his word? Do you delight and meditate in his law? Psal. i. 2. Is it in your hearts? Psal. xl. 8. Or do you pray, "Incline my heart unto thy testimonies?" Psal. cxix. 36. If you love God's image in his word, (the wisdom and holiness of it,) you love God. (6.) Do you love his image on his children? If you love them for their heavenly wisdom and holiness, you so far love God. He that loveth the candle for its light, doth love the light itself and the sun: he that loveth the wise and holy, for their wisdom and holiness, doth love wisdom and holiness themselves. The word and the saints being more in the reach of our sensible apprehensions, than God himself is, we ordinarily feel our love to them, more sensibly than our love to God; when indeed it is God, in his word and servants, that we love, 1 John iii. 14; Psal. xv. 4. (7.) Though for want of assurance you feel not the delights of love, have you not a heart that would delight in it, more than in all the riches of the world, if you could but get assurance of your interest? Would it not comfort you more than any thing, if you could be sure he loveth you, and could perfectly love him and obey him? If so, it is not for want of love that you delight not in him, but for want of assurance. So that if God have thy heart, either in a delighting love, or a seeking and desiring, or a lamenting, mourning love, he will not despise it or reject it. "He is nigh to them that be of a broken heart," Psal. xxxiv. 18. "A broken and contrite heart is his sacrifice, which he will not despise," Psal. li. 17. The "good Lord will have mercy on every one that prepareth their hearts to seek him, though they do it not according to the preparation of the sanctuary," 2 Chron. xxx. 18, 19. By these evidences, you may discern the sincerity of love in small degrees: and so you may make love the occasion of more love, by discerning that goodness of God which is manifested to you in the least.

2. But suppose you cannot yet attain assurance; neglect not to improve that goodness and mercy of God which he revealeth to you in the state that you are in. Love him, but as Infinite Goodness should be loved, who "so loved the world as to give his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life," John iii. 16. Love him, as the most blessed and merciful God, who made you and all things, and hath given to the world a universal pardon, on condition of their penitent acceptance, and offereth them everlasting life, and all this purchased by the blood of Christ. Love him, as one that offereth you reconciliation, and entreateth you to be saved: and as one that delighteth not in the deat