« PreviousContinue »
comfortable estate of most professors, except those who by melancholy or very great ignorance, are so weak in their intellectuals, as that they are incapable of making any true discovery of their condition, and of passing a right judgment upon themselves thereupon. Lest I should make sad any soul that God would not
I have sad, let me desire you to observe, 1. That I say but of most professors, not all; for I doubt not but God may hide his face for some time from some of the holiest and wisest of believers, for several and great reasons. 2. Do but well
, . observe most of the humble, obedient Christians, that you know to lie under any long and sad distress of mind, and you will find that they are generally of one of the two forementioned sorts: either so ignorant as not to know well what faith is, or what the conditions of the covenant are, or what is the extent of the promise, or the full sufficiency of Christ's satisfaction for all sinners, or what are the evidences by which they may try themselves: or else they are melancholy persons, whose fancy is still molested with these perturbing vapours, and their understandings so clouded and distempered, that reason is not free.
And so common is this latter, that in my observation of all the Christians that have lived in any long and deep distress of mind, six, if not ten for one, have been deeply melancholy; except those that feed their troubles by disobedience. So that besides these ignorant and melancholy persons, and disorderly, declining Christians, the number of wounded spirits I think is very small, in comparison of the rest. Indeed it is usual for many at, or shortly after, their first change, to be under trouble and deep fears; but that is but while the sense of former sin is fresh upon their hearts. The sudden discovery of so deep a guilt, and so great a danger, which a man did never know before, must needs amaze and affright the soul : and if that fear remain long, where right means are either not known, or not used for the cure, it is no wonder; and sometimes it will be long, if the rightest means be used. But for those that have been long in the profession of holiness, and yet lie, or fall again under troubles of soul (except those before excepted), I would have them make a diligent search, whether God do not observe either some fleshly interest encroach
upon his right, or some actual sin to be cherished in their hearts or conversations.
And here let me tell you, when you are making this search, what particulars they be which I would have you to be most jealous of. 1. The former sort, which I call contrary carnal interest, encroaching on Christ's right, are they that you must look after with far more diligence than your actual sins. (1.) Because they are the far greatest and most dangerous of all sins, and the root of all the rest : for as God is the end and chief good of every saint, so these sins do stand up against him, as our end and chief good, and carry away the soul by that act which we call simply willing, or complacency, and so these interests are men's idols, and resist God's very sovereignty and perfect goodness; that is, they are against God himself as our God. Whereas those which I now call actual sins, as distinct from these, are but the violation of particular precepts, and against God's means and laws directly, and but remotely, or indirectly against his Godhead : and they have but that act of our will, which we call election, consent or use, which is proper to means, and not to the end. (2.) Because, as these sins are the most damnable, so they lie deepest at the heart, and are not so easily discovered. It is ordinary with many, to have a covetous, worldly, ambitious heart, even damnably such, that yet have wit to carry it fairly without; yea, and seem truly religious to themselves and others. (3.) Because these sins are the most common: for though they reign only in hypocrites and other unsanctified ones, yet they dwell too much in all men on earth.
If you now ask me what these sins are, I answer, They are as denominated from the point or term from which men turn, all comprised in this one, unwillingness of God,' or the turning of the heart from God, or not loving God. But as we denominate them from the term or object to which they run, they are all comprised in this one, carnal self-love, or turning to, and preferring our carnal self before God: and as it inclineth to action, all, or most of it, is comprehended in this one word, 'Fleshpleasing. But because there are a
' trinity of sins in this unity, we must consider them distinctly. Three great objects there are, about which this sin of fleshpleasing is exercised : 1. Credit or honour. 2. Profit or riches. 3. Sensual pleasure, more strictly so called, consisting in the more immediate pleasing of the senses ; whereas the two first do more remotely please them, by laying in provision to that end; otherwise all three are in the general but fleshpleasing. The three great sins therefore that do most directly fight against God himself in his sovereignty, are, 1. Pride or ambition. 2. Worldliness, or love of riches. 3. Sensuality, voluptuousness, or inordinate love of pleasures. There are in the understanding indeed other sins, as directly against God as these, and more radical; as, 1. Atheism, denying a God. 2. Polytheism, denying our God to be the alone God, and joining others with him. 3. Idolatry,"owning false Gods. 4. Infidelity, denying Jesus Christ our Lord Redeemer. 5. Owning: false Saviours and prophets, in his stead, or before him, as do the Mahometans. 6. Joining other Redeemers and Saviours with him, as if he were not the alone Christ. 7. Denying the Holy Ghost, and denying credit to his holy and miraculous testimony to the Christian faith, and blasphemously ascribing all to the devil; which is the sin against the Holy Ghost. 8. Owning and believing in devils, or lying spirits instead of the Holy Ghost; as the Montanists, Mahometans, Ranters, Familists do. 9. Owning and adjoining devils, or lying spirits, in co-ordination or equality with the Holy Ghost, and believing equally his doctrine and theirs ; as if he were not sole and sufficient in his work. All these are sins directly against God himself, and if prevalent, most certainly damning ; three against the Father, three against the Son, and three against the Holy Ghost. But these be not they that I need now to warn you of. These are prevalent only in pagans, infidels, and blasphemers. Your troubles and complaints shew that these are not predominant in you. It is therefore the three forementioned sins of the heart or will, that I would have you carefully to look after in your troubles, to see whether none of them get ground and strength in you.
1. Inquire carefully into your humility. It is not for nothing that Christ hath said so much of the excellency and necessity of this grace; when he bids us learn of him to be meek and lowly; when he blesseth the meek and poor in spirit: when he setteth a little child in the midst of them, and telleth them, except they become as that child, they 'could not enter into the kingdom of heaven: when he stoopeth to wash and wipe his disciples' feet, requiring them to do so by one another. How oft doth the Holy Ghost
press this upon us ? Commanding us, to submit ourselves to one another, and not to mind high things; but to condescend to men of low estate ; Rom. xii. 16. and not to be wise in our own esteem, but in honour prefer others before ourselves; Rom. xii. 10. How oft hath God professed to resist and take down the proud, and to give grace to the humble, and dwell with them? Search carefully, therefore, lest this sin get ground upon you. For though it may not be so predominant and raging as to damn you, yet may it cause God to afflict you, and hide his face from you, and humble you by the sense of his displeasure, and the concealment of his love. And though one would think that doubting, troubled souls should be always the most humble and freest from pride, yet sad experience hath certified me, that much pride may dwell with great doubtings and distress of mind. Even some of the same souls that cry
out of their own unworthiness, and fear lest they shall be firebrands of hell, yet cannot endure a close reproof, especially for any disgraceful sin, nor bear a disparaging word, nor love those, nor speak well of them, who do not value them, nor endure to be crossed or contradicted in word or deed, but must have all go their way, and follow their judgment, and say as they say, and dance after their pipe, and their hearts rise against those that will not do it; much more against those that speak or do any thing to the diminishing of their reputation : they cannot endure to be low, and passed by, and overlooked, when others are preferred before them, or to be slighted and disrespected, or their words, or parts, or works, or judgments to be contemned or disparaged. Nay, some are scarce able to live in the same house, or church, or town, in love and peace, with any but those that will humour and please them, and speak them fair, and give them smooth and stroking language, and forbear crossing, reproving, and disparaging them. Every one of these singly is an evident mark and fruit of pride; how much more all jointly. I seriously profess it amazeth me to consider, how heinously most professors are guilty of this sin! even when they know it to be the devil's own sin, and the great abomination hated of God, and read and hear so much against it as they do, and confess it so oft in their prayers to God, and yet not only inwardly cherish it, but in words, actions, gestures, apparel, express it and passionately
defend these discoveries of it. The confusions and distractions in church and state are nothing else but the proper fruits of it; so are the contentions among Christians, and the unpeaceableness in families ; “for only from pride cometh contention,” saith Solomon; Prov. xiii. 10. For my part, when I consider the great measure of pride, selfconceitedness, self-esteem, that is in the greatest part of Christians that ever I was acquainted with, (we of the ministry not excepted,) I wonder that God doth not afflict us more, and bring us down by foul means, that will not be brought down by fair. For my own part, I have had as great means to help me against this sin, as most men living ever had ; first, in many years' trouble of mind, and then in near twenty years' languishing, and bodily pains, having been almost twenty times at the grave's mouth, and living near it continually; and lastly, and above all, I have had as full a sight of it in others, even in the generality of professors, and in the doleful state of the church and state, and heinous, detestable abominations of this age, which one would think should have fully cured it. And yet if I hear but either an applauding word from any of fame on one side, or a disparaging word on the other side, I am fain to watch my heart as narrowly as I would do the thatch of my house when fire is put to it, and presently to throw on it the water of detestation, resolution, and recourse to God. And though the acts through God's great mercy be thus restrained, yet the constancy of these inclinations assures me, that there is still a strong and deep root. I beseech you therefore, if you would ever have settled peace and comfort, be watchful against this sin of pride, and be sure to keep it down, and get it mortified at the very heart.
2. The next sin that I would have you be specially jealous of, is covetousness, or love of the profits or riches of the world. This is not the sin of the rich only, but also of the poor: and more heinous is it in them, to love the world inordinately, that have so little of it, than in rich men, that have more to tempt them, though dangerous in both. Nor doth it lie only in coveting that which is another's, or in seeking to get by unlawful means; but also in overvaluing and overloving the wealth of the world, though lawfully gotten. He that loveth the world, that is, above Christ and holiness,) the love of the Father is not in him, (that is,