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flesh's thriving would be his ruin. In these things the true Christion alone is in good sadness, and all the rest of the world but in jest. The Lord pity poor deluded souls! You may see by this one thing, how rare a thing true Christianity is among the multitude that take themselves for Christians; and how certain, therefore, it is that few shall be saved. Even this one point of true mortification and self-denial, is a stranger amongst the most of professors. O how sad a testimony of it are the actions of these late times, wherein so much hath been done for self, and safety, and carnal interests, and so little for Christ ! yea, and that after the deepest engagements of mercies and vows that ever lay on a people in the world. Insomuch, that through the just judgment of God, they are now given up to doubt, whether it be the duty of rulers to do any thing as rulers for Christ, or no; or whether they should not let Christ alone to do it himself. Well, this which is such a mystery to the unregenerate world, is a thing that every genuine Christian is acquainted with; for “they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts thereof;" and the world is dead to them, and they to the world ; Gal. v. 21.
Take this counsel therefore in all the several cases mentioned in the Direction.
1. In your preventing sin, and maintaining your innocency, if you cannot do it without denying your credit, and exposing yourself to disgrace; or without the loss of friends, or a breach in your estate, do it nevertheless : yea, if it would cost you your utter ruin in the world, thank God that put such an opportunity into your hand for extraordinary consolations. For ordinarily the martyrs' comforts exceed other men's, as much as their burden of duty and suffering doth. Cyprian is fain to write for the comfort of some Christians in his times, that at death were troubled that they missed of their hopes of martyrdom., So also if you cannot mortify any lust without much pinching the flesh, do it cheerfully ; for the dearer the victory costeth you,
the sweeter will be the issue and review.
2. The same counsel I give you also in your rising from sin. It is the sad condition of those that yield to a témptation, and once put their foot within the doors of satan, that they ensnare themselves so, that they must undergo thrice as great difficulties to draw back, as they needed to have
done beforehand for prevention and forbearance. Sin unhappily engageth the sinner to go on; and one sin doth make another seem necessary. O how hard a thing is it for him that hath wronged another by stealing, deceit, overreaching in bargaining or the like, to confess his fault, and ask him forgiveness, and to the utmost of his ability to make restitution! What abundance of difficulties will be in the way! It will likely cost him the loss of his credit, besides the breach in his estate, and perhaps lay him open to the rage of him that he hath wronged. Rather he will be drawn to cover his sin with a lie, or at least by excuses,
And so it is in many other sins. Now in any of these cases, when men indulge the flesh, and cannot find in their hearts to take that loss or shame to themselves, which a thorough repentance doth require, they do but feed the troubles of their soul, and hide their wounds and sores, and not ease them. Usually such persons go on in a galled, unpeaceable condition, and reach not to solid comfort. (I speak only of those to whom such confession or restitution is a duty.) And I cannot wonder at it: for they have great cause to question the truth of that repentance, and consequently the
, soundness of that heart, which will not bring them to a selfdenying duty, nor to God's way of rising from their sin. It seems at present the interest of the flesh is actually predominant, when no reason or conviction will persuade them to contradict it
· As ever you would have sound comfort then in such a case as this, spare not the flesh. When you have sinned, you must rise again or perish. If you cannot rise without fasting, without free confessing, without the utter shaming of ourselves, without restitution, never stick at it. This is your hour of trial : O yield not in the conflict. The dearer the victory costeth you, the greater will be your peace. Try it; and if you find it not so, I am mistaken. Yet if you have sinned so that the opening of it may more discredit the Gospel, than your confession will honour it, and yet your conscience is unquiet, and urgeth you to confess, in such a case be first well informed, and proceed warily and upon deliberation; and first open the case to
; some faithful minister or able Christian in secret, that you may have good advice.
3. The same counsel also would I give you in the performance of your duty. A magistrate is convinced he must
punish sinners, and put down alehouses, and be true to every just cause; but then he must steel his face against all men's reproaches, and the solicitations of all friends. A minister is convinced that he must teach from house to house, as well as publicly, if he be able; and that he must deal plainly with sinners according to their conditions ; yea, and require the chur h to avoid communion with them, if they be obstinate in evil after other sufficient means; but then he shall lose the love of his people, and be accounted proud, precise, rigid, lordly, and perhaps lose his maintenance. Obey God now; and the dearer it costeth
the more peace and protection, and the larger blessing may you expect from God : for you do, as it were, oblige God the more to stick to you; as you will take yourself obliged to own, and bear out, and reward those that hazard estate, and credit, and life for you. And if you cannot obey God in such a trial, it is a sad sign of a falsehearted hypocrite, except your fall be only in a temptation, from which you rise with renewed repentance and resolutions, which will conquer for the time to come. As Peter, who being left to himself for an example of human frailty, and that Christ might have no friend to stick by him when he suffered for our sin, yet presently wept bitterly, and afterwards spent his strength and time in preaching Christ, and laid down his life in martyrdom for him.
So perhaps many a poor servant, or hard labourer, hath scarce any time, except the Lord's day, to pray or read. Let such pinch the flesh a little the more (so they do not overthrow their health) and either work the harder, or fare the harder, or be clothed the more meanly, or especially break a little of their sleep, that they may find some time for these duties; and try whether the peace and comfort will not re
s compense it. Never any man was a loser for God. So private Christians cannot conscionably discharge the great plain duty of reproof and exhortation, joyingly, yet plainly telling their friends and neighbours of their sins, and danger, and duty, but they will turn friends into foes, and possibly set all the town on their heads. But is it a duty, or is it not? If it be, then trust God with the issue, and do your work, and see whether he will suffer you to be losers.
For my part I think, that if Christians took God's word before them, and spared the flesh less, and trusted them
selves and all to Christ alone, and did not baulk all the troublesome and costly part of religion, and that which most crosseth the interest of the flesh, it would be more ordinary with them to be filled with the joys of the Holy Ghost, and walk in that peace of conscience which is a continual feast; and to have such full and frequent views both of the sincerity of their evidencing graces, and of God's reconciled face, as would banish their doubts and fears, and be a greater help to their certainty of salvation, than much other labour doth prove. If you finch not the fiery furnace, you shall
. have the company of the Son of God in it. If you flinch not the prison and stocks, you may be able to sing as Paul and Silas did. If you refuse not to be stoned with Stephen, you may perhaps see heaven opened as he did. If these comforts so dear bought, that you will rather venture without them; let me tell you, you may
your course, but the end will convince you to the very heart, of the folly of your choice. Never then complain for want of comfort ; remember you might have had it, and would not. And let me give you this with you ; You will shortly find, though worldly pleasures, riches and honours, were some slight salves to your molested conscience here, yet there will no cure nor ease for it be found hereafter. Your
hours will then all be gone, and your worldly delights forsake you in distress; but these solid comforts which you judged too dear, would have ended in the everlasting joys of glory. When men do flinch God and his truth in straits, and juggle with their consciences, and will take out all the honourable, easy, cheap part of the work of Christ, and make a religion of that by itself, leaving out all the disgraceful, difficult, chargeable, self-denying part; and hereupon call themselves Christians, and make a great show in the world with this kind of religiousness, and take themselves injured if men question their honesty and uprightness in the faith ; these men are notorious self-deceivers, mere hypocrites; and in plain truth, this is the very true description by which damnable hypocrites are known from sound Christians. The Lord open men's eyes to see it in time while it may be cured! Yea, and the nearer any true Christian doth come to this sin, the more doth he disoblige God, and quench the spirit of comfort, and darken his own evidences, and destroy his peace of conscience, and create unavoidable troubles to hix
spirit, and estrangedness betwixt the Lord Jesus and his own soul. Avoid this, therefore, if ever you will have peace.
Direct. XXV. My next advice shall be somewhat near of kin to the former. If you would learn the most expeditious way to peace and settled comfort, Study well the art
' of doing good; and let it be your every day's contrivance, care and business, how you may lay out all that God hath trusted you with, to the greatest pleasing of God, and to your most comfortable account.'
Still remember (lest any Antinomian should tell you that this savours of Popery, and trusting for peace to our own works ;)
1. That you must not think of giving any of Christ's honour or office to your best works. You must not dream that they can do any thing to the satisfaction of God's justice for your sins; nor that they have any proper merit in them, so as for their worth to oblige God to reward you; nor that you must bring them as a price to purchase Christ and heaven; nor that you have any righteousness or worthiness in yourself and works, which the law of works will so denominate or own.
But only you must give obedience its due under Christ; and so you honour Christ himself, when those that detract from obedience to him, do dishonour him; and you must have an evangelical worthiness and righteousness (so called, many and many times over in the Gospel) which partly consisteth in the sincerity of your obedience and good works; as the condition of continuing your state of justification, and right to eternal life.
2. Remember I have given you many arguments before, to prove that you may take comfort from your good works and gracious actions.
3. If any further objections should be made against this, read considerately and believingly, Matt. xxv.
vii. throughout, or the former only; and I doubt not but you will be fully resolved. But to the work.
Those men that study no other obedience than only to do no (positive) harm, are so far from true comfort, that they have yet no true Christianity; I mean such as will be saving to them. Doing good is a high part of a Christian's obedience, and must be the chief part of his life. The heathen could tell him that asked him, how men might be like to God; the one way was, To do good to all. That is be