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prayers of his saints will be fully turned against them; and his elect shall cry to him night and day, till he avenge them speedily, by making these his enemies to lick the dust, and dashing them in pieces like a potter's vessel, because they would not that he should reign over them: and then they shall know whether Christ be not King of kings, and Lord of lords.
Perhaps you may think I digress from the matter in hand; but as long as I speak but for my Lord Christ, and for doing good, I cannot think that I am quite out of my way. But to return nearer to those for whose sakes I chiefly write, this is that sum of my advice; Study with all the understanding you have, how to do as much good, while you have time, as possibly you can, and you shall find that (without any Popish or Pharisaical self-confidence) to be the most excellent art for obtaining spiritual peace, and a large measure of comfort from Christ.
To that end use seriously and daily to bethink yourself, what way of expending your time and wealth, and all your talents, will be most comfortable for you to hear of, and review at judgment. And take that as the way most comfortable now. Only consult not with flesh and blood; make not your flesh of your counsel in this work, but take it for your enemy; expect its violent, unwearied opposition; but regard not any of its clamours or repinings. But know, as I said before, that your most true, spiritual comforts are a prize that must be won, upon the conquest of the flesh. I will only add to this, the words of the blessed Drs Sibbs (a man that was no enemy to free-grace, nor unjust patron of man's works), in his preface to his “Soul's Conflict :” “ Christ is first a King of righteousness, and then of peace. The righteousness that works by his Spirit brings a peace of sanctification; whereby though we are not freed from sin, yet we are enabled to combat with it, and to get the victory over it. Some degree of comfort follows every good action, as heat accompanies fire, and as beams and influences issue from the sun. Which is so true, that very heathens upon the discharge of a good conscience, have found comfort and peace answerable; this is a reward before our reward." Again, “In watchfulness and diligence we sooner meet with comfort, than in idle complaining.” Again, pp. 44, 45.“ An unemployed life is a burden to itself. God is a pure Act;
always working; always doing. And the nearer our soul
. comes to God, the more it is in action, and the freer from disquiet. Men experimentally feel that comfort in doing that which belongs unto them, which before they longed for and went without.” And in his preface to the “ Bruised Reed :" “ There is no more comfort to be expected from Christ than there is care to please him. Otherwise, to make him an abettor of a lawless and a loose life, is to transform him into a fancy ; nay, into the likeness of him, whose works he came to destroy; which is the most detestable idolatry of all. One way whereby the Spirit of Christ prevaileth in his, is to preserve them from such thoughts : yet we see people will frame a divinity to themselves, pleasing to the flesh, suitable to their own ends; which being vain in the substance, will prove likewise vain in the fruit, and a building upon the sands.” So far Dr. Sibbs. It seems there were libertines and Antinomians then, and will be as long as there are any carnal, unsanctified professors.
Direct. XXVI. Having led you thus far towards a settled peace, my next Direction shall contain a necessary caution, lest you run as far into the contrary extreme, viz. 'Take heed that you neither trouble your own soul with needless scruples, about matters of doctrine, of duty, or of sin, or about your own condition. Nor yet that you do not make yourself more work than God hath made you, by feigning things unlawful, which God hath not forbidden; or by placing your religion in will-worship, or in an over curicus insisting on circumstantials, or an over rigorous dealing with your body.'
This is but the exposition of Solomon, "Be no: over wise, and be not righteous overmuch;" Eccles. vii. 16. A man cannot serve God too much, formally and strictly considering his service; much less love him too much. But we may do too much materially intending thereby to serve God, which though it be not true righteousness, yet teing intended for righteousness, and done as a service of Goi, or obedience to him, is here called overmuch righteousress. I know it is stark nadness in the profane, secure world, to think that the doing of no more than God hath commarded us, is doing too much, or more than needs; as if God had bid us do more than needs, or had made such laws as few of the foolish rulers on earth would make. This is plainly to
blaspheme the Most High, by denying his wisdom and his goodness, and his just government of the world; and to blasphème his holy laws, as if they were too strict, precise, and made us more to do than needs; and to reproach his sweet and holy ways, as if they were grievous, intolerable, and unnecessary. Much more is their madness, in charging the godly with being too pure, and too precise, and making too great a stir for heaven, and that merely for their godliness and obedience; when, alas, the best do fall so far short of what God's word, and the necessity of their own souls do require, that their consciences do more grievously accuse them of negligence, than the barking world doth of being too precise and diligent. And yet more mad are the world, to lay out so much time, and care, and labour, for earthly vanities, and to provide for their contemptible bodies for a little while; and in the mean time to think, that heaven and their everlasting happiness there, and the escaping of eyerlasting damnation in hell, are matters not worth so much ado, bu, may be had with a few cold wishes, and that it is but folly to do so much for it as the godly do. That no labour should be thought too much for the world, the flesh, and the devil, and every little is enough for God. And that these vretched souls are so blinded by their own lusts, and só bevitched by the devil into an utter ignorance of their own hearts, that they verily think, and will stand in it, that for all this they love God above all, and love heavenly things better than earthly, and therefore shall be saved.
But yet extremes there are in the service of God, which all wise Christians must labour to avoid. It is a very great question among divines, Whether the common rule in ethics, that virtue is ever in the middle between two extremes, be sound, as to Christian virtues; Amesius saith no. The case .s not very hard, I think, to be resolved, if but use these three distinctions: 1. Between the acts of the nere rational faculties, understanding and will, called elici: acts, and the acts of the inferior faculties of soul and body, called imperate acts. 2. Between the acts that are about the end immediately, and those that are about the means. 3. Between the intention of an act, and the objective extension, and comparison of object with object. And so I say, 1. The end (that is, God and salvation) cannot be too fully known, or too much loved, with a pure, rational
love of complacency, nor too much sought by the acts of the soul, as purely rational : for the end being loved and sought for itself, and being of infinite goodness, must be loved and sought without measure or limitation, it being impossible here to exceed. Prop. 2. The means, while they are not misapprehended, but taken as means, and materially well understood, cannot be too clearly discerned, nor too rightly chosen, nor too resolutely prosecuted. Prop. 3. It is too possible to misapprehend the means, and to place them instead of the end, and so to overlove them. Prop. 4. The nature of all the means consisteth in a middle or mean be tween two extremes, materially; both which extremes are sin : so that it is possible to overdo about all the means, as to the matter of them, and the extent of our acts. Though we cannot love God too much, yet it is possible to preach, hear, pray, read, meditate, confer of good too much: for one duty may shut out another, and a greater may be neglected by our overdoing in a lesser; which was the Pharisees' sin in sabbath resting. Prop. 5. If we be never so right in the extension of our acts, yet we may go too far in the intention of the imperate acts or passions of the soul, and that both on the means and end; though the pure acts of knowing or willing cannot be too great towards God and salvation, yet the passions and acts commonly called sensitive may. A man may think on God not only too much, (as to exclude other necessary thoughts,) but too intensely, and love and desire too passionately: for there is a degree of thinking or meditating, and of passionate love and desire, which the brain cannot bear, but it will cause madness, and quite overthrow the use of reason, by overstretching the organs, or by the extreme turbulency of the agitated spirits. Yet I never knew the man, nor ever shall do, I think, that was ever guilty of one of these excesses; that is, of loving or desiring God so passionately, as to distract him. But I have often known weak-headed people, (that be not able to order their thoughts,) and many melancholy people, guilty of the other; that is, of thinking too much, and too seriously and intensely on good and holy things, whereby they have overthrown their reason, and been distracted. And here I would give all such weak-headed, melancholy persons this warng ing, that whereas in my Book of Rest, I so much press a constant course of heavenly meditation, I do intend it only
for sound heads, and not for the melancholy, that have weak heads, and are unable to bear it. That may be their sin, which to others is a very great duty; while they think to do that which they cannot do, they will but disable themselves for that which they can do. I would therefore advise those melancholy persons whose minds are so troubled, and heads weakened, that they are in danger of overthrowing their understandings, (which usually begins in multitudes of scruples, and restlessness of mind, and continual fears, and blasphemous temptations, where it begins with these, distraction is at hand, if not prevented,) that they forbear meditation, as being no duty to them, though it be to others; and instead of it be the more in those duties which they are fit for, especially conference with judicious Christians, and cheerful and thankful acknowledgment of God's mercies. And thus have I shewed you how far we may possibly exceed in God's service. Let me now a little apply it.
It hath ever been the devil's policy to begin in persuading men to worldliness, fleshpleasing, security, and presumption, and utter neglect of God and their souls, or at least preferring their bodies and worldly things, and by this means he destroyeth the world. But where this will not take, but God awaketh men effectually, and casteth out the sleepy devil, usually he fills men's heads with needless scruples, and next setteth them on a religion not commanded, and would make poor souls believe they do nothing, if they do not more than God hath commanded them. When the devil hath no other way left to destroy religion and godliness, he will pretend to be religious and godly himself, and then he is always over-religious and over-godly in his materials. All overdoing in God's work is undoing; and whoever you meet with that would overdo, suspect him to be either a subtle, destroying enemy, or one deluded by the destroyer. O what a tragedy could I here shew you of the devil's acting! And what a mystery in the hellish art of deceiving could I open to you! And shall I keep the devil's counsel ? No: O that God would open the eyes of his poor desolate churches at last to see it!
The Lord Jesus in wisdom and tender mercy, establisheth a law of grace, and rule of life, pure and perfect, but simple and plain ; laying the condition of man's salvation more in the honesty of the believing heart, than in the strength of