Page images
PDF
EPUB

which they are apt to look at too much already. But to such I answer, either those sins are mortified and forsaken, or not. If they be, then these are not the persons that I speak of, whose trouble is fed by continued sin. But I shall speak more to them anon. If not, then it seems for all their trouble of conscience, sin is not sufficiently laid to

heart yet.

[ocr errors]

The chiefest thing therefore that I intend in all this discourse, is this following advice to those that upon search do find themselves guilty in any of these cases.

As ever you would have peace of conscience, set yourselves presently against your sins. And do not either mistakingly cry out of one sore, when it is another that is your malady; nor yet spend your days in fears and disquietness of mind, and fruitless complainings, and in the mean time continue in wilful sinning. But resist sin more, and torment your minds less; and break off your sin and your terrors together.

In these words I tell you what must be done for your cure; and I warn you of two sore mistakes of many sad Christians hereabout. The cure lieth in breaking off sin, to the utmost of your power.

This is the Achan that disquieteth all. It is God's great mercy that he disquieteth you in sinning, and gives you not over to so deep a slumber and peace in sin, as might hinder your repentance and reformation. The dangerous mistakes here are these two.

1. Some do as the lapwing, cry loudest when they are furthest from the nest, and complain of an aching tooth, when the disease is in the head or heart. They cry out' O I have such wandering thoughts in prayer, and such a bad memory, and so hard a heart, that I cannot weep for sin, or such doubts and fears, and so little sense of the love of God, that I doubt I have no true grace.' When they should rather say, 'I have so proud a heart, that God is fain by these sad means to humble me. I am so high in mine own eyes, so wise in my own conceit, and so tender of

my own esteem and credit, that God is fain to make me base in my own eyes, and to abhor myself. I am so worldly and in love with earth, that it draws away my thoughts from God, dulls my love, and spoils all my duties. I am so sensual, that I venture sooner to displease my God than my flesh; I have so little compassion on the infirmities of my neighbours and servants, and other brethren, and deal so censoriously, churlishly, and unmercifully with them, that God is fain to hide his mercy from me, and speak to me as in anger, and vex me as in sore displeasure. I am so froward, peevish, quarrelsome, unpeaceable, and hard to be pleased, that it is no wonder if I have no peace with God, or in my own conscience; and if I have so little quietness who love and seek it no more,' Many have more reason, I say, to turn their complaints into this tune.

2. Another most common, unhappy miscarriage of sad Christians lieth here, That they will rather continue complaining and self-tormenting, than give over sinning, so far as they

might give it over if they would. I beseech you in the name of God, to know and consider what it is that God - requireth of you. He doth not desire your vexation but reformation. No further doth he desire the trouble of your mind, than as it tendeth to the avoiding of that sin which is the cause of it. God would have

you
less in

your

fears and troubles, and more in your obedience. Obey more, and disquiet your mind less. Will you take this counsel

presently, and see whether it will not do you more good than all the complaints and doubtings of your whole life have done. Set yourself with all your might against your pride, worldliness, and sensuality, your unpeaceableness and want of love and tenderness to your brethren; and whatever other sin your conscience is acquainted with. I pray you tell me, if you had gravel in your shoe, in your travel, would it not be more wisdom, to sit down and take off your shoe,

, and cast it out, than to stand still, or go complaining, and tell every one you meet of your soreness? If you

have a thorn in your foot, will you go on halting and lamenting ? or will you pull it out? Truly sin is the thorn in your conscience; and those that would not have such troubled consciences told of their sins for fear of increasing their distress, are unskilful comforters, and will continue the trouble while the thorn is in. As ever you would have peace then, resolve against sin to the utmost of your power. Never excuse it, or cherish it, or favour it more. Confess it freely. Thank those that reprove you for it. Desire those about you to watch over you, and to tell you of it, yea, to tell you of all suspicious signs that they see of it, though it be not evident. And if you do not see so much pride, worldliness, unpeace

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

ableness, or other sins in yourself, as your friends think they see in you, yet let their judgment make you jealous of your heart, seeing self-love doth oft so blind us that we cannot see that evil in ourselves which others see in us; nay, which all the town may take notice of. And be sure to engage your friends that they shall not smooth over your faults, or mince them, and tell you of them in extenuating language, which may hinder conviction and repentance, much less silence them, for fear of displeasing you ; but that they will deal freely and faithfully with you. And see that you

distaste them not, and discountenance not their plain dealing, lest you discourage them, and deprive your soul of so great a benefit. Think best of those as your greatest friends, who are least friends to your sin, and do most for your recovery from it. If you say, 'Alas, I am not able to mortify my sins. It is nor in my power,' I answer, 1. I speak not of a perfect conquest; nor of a freedom from every passion or infirmity. 2. Take heed of pretending disability when it is unwillingness. If you were heartily willing, you would be able to do much, and God would strengthen you. Cannot you resist pride, worldliness, and sensuality, if you be willing? Cannot you forbear most of the actual sins you commit, and perform the duties that you omit, if you be willing ? (though not so well as you would perform them.) Yea, let me say thus much, lest I endanger you by sparing you. Many a miserable hypocrite doth live in trouble of mind and complaining, and after all perish for their wilful disobedience. Did not the rich young man go far before he would break off with Christ? And when he did leave him, he went away sorrowful. And what was the cause of his sorrow? Why, the matter was, that he could not be saved without selling all, and giving it to the when he had great possessions. It was not that he could not be rid of his sin, but that he could not have Christ and heaven without forsaking the world. This is the case of unsanctified persons that are enlightened to see the need of Christ, but are not weaned from worldly profits, honours and pleasures; they are perhaps troubled in mind (and I cannot blame them), but it is not that they cannot leave sinning, but that they cannot have heaven without leaving their delights and contentments on earth. Sin as sin they would willingly leave; for no man can love evil as evil. But their

poor,

[ocr errors]

fleshly profits, honours, and pleasures they will not leave, and there is the stop; and this is the cause of their sorrows and fears. For their own judgment cries out against them, “ He that loveth the world, the love of the Father is not in him. If ye live after the flesh ye shall die. God resisteth

. the proud.". This is the voice of their informed understandings. And conscience seconds it, and saith,“ Thou art the man.' But the flesh cries louder than both these,' Wilt thou leave thy pleasures? Wilt thou undo thyself? Wilt thou be made a scorn or laughing-stock to all ? Or rather it strongly draws and provoketh, when it hath nothing to say. No wonder if this poor sinner be here in a strait, and live in distress of mind. But as long as the flesh holds so fast, that all this conviction and trouble will not cause it to lose its hold, the poor soul is still in the bonds of iniquity. The case of such an hypocrite, or half Christian, is like the case of the poor Papist, that having glutted himself with flesh in the Lent, was in this strait, that either he must vomit it up, and so disclose his fault, and undergo penance; ar else he must be sick of his surfeit, and hazard his life. But he resolveth rather to venture on the danger, than to bear the penance.

Or their case is like that of a proud woman, that hath got on a strait garment, or pinching shoe, and because she will not be out of the fashion, she will rather choose to bear the pain, though she halt or suffer at every step. Or like the more impudent sort of them, who will endure the cold, and perhaps hazard their lives, by the nakedness of their necks, and breasts, and arms, rather than they will control their shameless pride. What cure now should a wise man wish to such people as these? Surely, that the shoe might pinch a little harder, till the pain might force them to cast it off. And that they might catch some cold that would pay them for their folly (so it would but spare their lives), till it should force them to be ashamed of their pride, and cover their nakedness. Even so when disobedient hypocrites do complain that they are afraid they have no grace, and afraid God doth not pardon them, and will not save them, I should tell them, if I knew them, that I am afraid so too ; and that it is not without cause, and desire, that their fears were such as might affright them from their disobedience, and force them to cast away their wilful sinning. I have said the more on this point, because I know

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

if this advice do but help you to mortify your sin, the best and greatest work is done, whether you get assurance and comfort or no; and withal, that it is the most probable means to this assurance and comfort.

I should next have warned you of the other extreme, viz. needless scruples; but I mean to make that a peculiar Direction by itself, when I have first added a little more of this great means of peacema sound obedience.

Direct. XXIV. My next advice for the obtaining of a settled peace of comfort, is this, 'Take heed that you content not yourself with a cheap course of religion, and such a serving of God, as costeth you little or nothing. But in your abstaining from sin, in your rising out of sin, and in your discharge of duty, incline most to that way which is most self-denying, and displeasing to the flesh, (so you be sure it be a lawful way). And when you are called out to any work which will stand you in extraordinary labour and cost, you must be so far from shrinking and drawing your neck out of the yoke, that you must look upon it as a special price that is put into your hand, and singular advantage and opportunity for the increase of your comforts.'

This rule is like the rest of the Christian doctrine, which is not thoroughly understood by any way but experience. Libertines and sensual professors that never tried it, did never well understand it. I could find in my heart to be large in explaining and applying it, but that I have been so large beyond my first intentions in the former Directions, that I will cut off the rest as short as I well can.

Let none be so wickedly injurious to me, as to say, I speak or think of any merit, properly so called, in any the most costly work of man. Fasten not that on me, which I both disclaim, and desire the reader to take heed of. But I must tell you these two things.

1. That a cheap religion is a far more uncertain evidence of sincerity, than a dear. It will not discover so well to a man's soul, whether he prefer Christ before the world, and whether he take him and his benefits for his portion and treasure.

2. That a cheap religion is not usually accompanied with any notable degree of comforts, although the person be a sincere-hearted Christian.

Every hypocrite can submit to a religion that will cost

a

« PreviousContinue »