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ing poverty ; begging without need; creeping to the cross, holy water, and holy bread, carrying palms, kneeling at altars, bearing candles, ashes; in baptism, crossing, conjuring out the devil, salting, spittle, oil; taking pardons, indulgencies, and dispensations of the pope ; praying for the dead, perambulations, serving God to merit heaven, or to ease souls in purgatory; doing works of supererogation, with multitudes the like. All these hath the devil added to God's worship, so zealous a worshipper of Christ is he, when he takes that way. Read Mr. Herbert's
Read Mr. Herbert's “ Church Militant of Rome," pp. 188-190. I could trace this deceiver yet further, and tell you wherein, when he could not hinder reformation in Luther's days, he would needs overdo in reforming! But O how sad an example of it have we before our eyes in England ! Never people on earth more hot upon reforming! Never any deeper engaged for it! The devil could not hinder it by fire and sword ; when he sees that, he will needs turn reformer, as I said before, and he gets the word, and cries down antichrist, and cries up reformation,
, till he hath done what we see! He hath made a Babel of our work, by confounding our languages; for though he will be for reformation too, yet his name is Legion, he is an enemy to the one God, one Mediator and Head, one faith, and one baptism, one heart, and one lip, and one way, unity is the chief butt that he shoots at. Is baptism to be reformed? Christ is so moderate a Reformer, that he only bids, Down with the symbolical, mystical rite of man's vain addition. But the serpent is a more zealous reformer. He saith, Out with express covenanting ; out with children; they are a corruption of the ordinance. And to others he says, Out with baptism itself. We might follow him thus through other ordinances. Indeed he so overdoes in his reforming, that he would not leave us a Gospel, a ministry, a magistracy to be for Christ, no, nor a Christ; (though yet he would seem to own a God, and the light of nature). All these with him are antichristian.
By this time I hope you see that this way of overdoing hath another author than many zealous people do imagine; and that it is the devil's common, successful trade; so that his agents in state-assemblies are taught his policy, 'When you have no other way of undoing, let it be by overdoing.' And the same way he takes with the souls of particular persons. If he see them troubled for sin, and he cannot keep them from the knowledge of Christ and free grace, he puts the name of free grace and Gospel-preaching upon Antinomian and libertine errors which subvert the very Gospel and free grace itself. If he see men convinced of this, and that it is neither common nor religious libertinism and sensuality that will bring men to heaven, then he will labour to make Papists of them, and to set them on a task of external formalities, or macerating their bodies with hurtful fastings, watchings, and cold, as if self-murder were the highest pitch of religion, and God had pleasure to see his people torment themselves! I confess it is very few that ever I knew to have erred far in austere usage of their bodies. But some I have, and especially poor, melancholy Christians, that are more easily drawn to deal rigorously with their flesh than others be. And such writings as lately have been published by some English Popish formalists, I have known draw men into this snare. I would have all such remember, 1. That God is a Spirit, and will be worshipped in spirit and in truth ; and such worshippers doth he seek. 2. That God will have mercy and not sacrifice; and that the vitals of religion are in a consumption, when the heat of zeal is drawn too much to the outside; and that placing most in externals, is the great character of hypocrisy, and is that pharisaical religion to which the doctrine and practice of the Lord Jesus was most opposite, as any that will read the Ġospel may soon see. 3. That God hath made our bodies to be his servants, and instruments of righteousness (Rom vi. 13.), and helpful and serviceable to our souls in welldoing. And therefore it is disobedience, it is injustice, it is cruelty to disable them, and causelessly to vex and torment them, much more to destroy them. You may see by sick men, by melancholy men, by madmen and children, how unfit that soul is to know, or love, or serve God, that hath not a fit body to work in and by. The serpent knows this well enough. If he can but get you by excessive fastings, watchings, labours, studies, or other austerities, especially sadness and perplexities of mind, to have a sick body, a crazed brain, or a short life, you will be able to do him but little hurt, and God but little service, besides the pleasure that he takes in your own vexation. Nay, he will hope to make a further advantage of your weakness, and to keep many a
soul in the snares of sensuality, by telling them of your miseries, and saying to them, ' Dost thou not see in such a man or woman, what it is to be so holy and precise? They will all run mad at last. If once thou grow so strict, and deny thyself thy pleasures, and take this precise course, thou wilt but make thy life a misery, and never have a merry day again.' Such examples as yours the devil will make use of that he may terrify poor souls from godliness, and represent the word and ways of Christ to them in an odious, and unpleasing, and discouraging shape. Doubtless that God who himself is so merciful to your body, as well as to your soul, would have you to be so too. He that provided so plentifully for its refreshment, would not have you refuse his provision. He that saith the righteous man is merciful to his beast, no doubt would not have him to be unmerciful to his own body. You are commanded to love your neighbours but as yourself; and therefore by cruelty and unmerciful dealing with your own body, you will go about to justify the like dealing with others. You durst not deny to feed, to clothe, to comfort and refresh the poor, lest Christ should
And how should you dare to deny the same to yourself? How will you answer God for the neglect of all that service which you should have done him, and might, if you had not disabled your bodies and mind? He requireth that you delight yourself in him. And how can you do that when you habituate both mind and body to a sad, dejected, mournful garb? The service that God requires, is “ To serve him with cheerfulness in the abundance that we possess ;" Deut. xxviii. 47. If you think that I here contradict what I said in the former Directions, for pinching the flesh, and denying its desires, you are mistaken. I only shew you the danger of the contrary extreme. God's
God's way lieth between both. The truth is (if you would be resolved how far you may please or displease the flesh) the flesh being ordained to be our servant and God's servant, must be used as a servant. You will give your servant food, and raiment, and wholesome lodging, and good usage, or else you are unjust, and he will be unfit to do your work. But so far as he would master you, or disobey you, you will correct him, or keep him under. You will feed your horse, or else he will not carry you; but if he grow unruly, you must tame him. It is a delusory formality of
Papists, to tie all the countries to one time and measure of fasting, as Lent, Fridays, &c. When men's states are so various that many (though not quite sick) have more need of a restoring diet; and those that need fasting, need it not all at once, not in one measure, but at the time, and in the measure, as the taming of their flesh requireth it. As if a physician should proclaim that all his patients should take physic such forty days every year, whether their disease be plethoric or consuming, from fulness or from abstinence, and whether the disease take him at that time of the year, or another. And remember that you must not under pretences of saving the body, disable it to serve God. You will not lay any such correction on your child ur servant as shall disable them from their work, but such as shall excite them to it. And understand that all your afflicting your body must be either preventive, as keeping the fire from the thatch, or medicinal and corrective, and not strictly vindictive ; for that belongs to your Judge. Though in a subordination to the other ends, the smart or suffering for its fault, is one end, and so it is truly penal or vindictive, as all chastisement is. And so Paul saith, “Behold what re
“ venge,” &c. 2 Cor. vii. 11. but not as mere judicial revenge is. Remember therefore, though you must so far tame your body as to bring it into subjection, that you perish not by pampering; yet not so far as to bring it to weakness, and sickness, and unfitness for its duty. Nor yet must you dare to conceit that you please God, or satisfy him for your sin, by such a wronging and hurting your own body. Such Popish religiousness shews, that men have very low and carnal conceits of God. Was it not a base wickedness in them that offered their children in sacrifice, to think that God would be pleased with such cruelty? Yea,
it not to have directed us to Christ, he would not a have accepted of the blood of bulls and goats; it is not sacrifice that he desires. He never was bloodthirsty, nor took any pleasure in the creature's suffering. How can you think then that he will take pleasure in your consuming and destroying your own bodies? It is as unreasonable as to imagine, that he delights to have men cut their own throats, or hang themselves ; for pining and consuming oneself is self-murder as well as that. Yet I know no man should draw back from a painful or hazardous work, when God calls him to it, for
fear of destroying the flesh; but do not make work or suffering for yourselves. God will lay as much affliction on you as you need, and be thankful if he will enable you to bear that; but you have no need to add more. If yourselves make the suffering, how can you with any encouragement, beg' strength of God to bear it? And if you have not strength, what will you do? Nay, how can you pray
for deliverance from God's affictings, when you make more of your own? And thus I have shewed you the danger of overdoing, and what hindrance it is to a settled peace, both of church (state) and soul; though perhaps it may not condemn a particular soul so certainly in most parts of it) as doing too little will.
5. The next part of my Direction (first expressed) is, That you avoid causeless scruples, about doctrines, duties, sins, or your own state.
These are also engines of the enemy, to batter the peace, and comfort of your soul; he knows that it is cheerful obedience, with a confidence of Christ's merits and mercies that God accepteth; and therefore if he cannot hinder a poor soul from setting upon duty, he will hinder him if he can, by these scruples, from a cheerful and prosperous progress. First, If he can, he will take in scruples about the truth of his religion, and shewing him the many opinions that are in the world, he will labour to bring the poor Christian to a loss. Or else he will assault him by the men of some particular sect, to draw him to that party, and so by corrupting his judgment, to break his peace; or at least to trouble his head, and divert his thoughts from God, by tedious disputes. The Papists will tell him, that they are the only true Catholic church (as if they had got a monopoly or patent for religion, and had confined Christ to themselves) who are such notorious abusers of him. And as if all the churches of Greece, Ethiopia, and the rest of the world, were unchurched by Christ, to humour Master Pope, though they be far more in number, and many of them sounder in doctrine than the Romanists are. Those of other parties will do the like, each one to draw him to their own way. And the devil would make him believe that there are as many religions as there be odd opinions, when alas, the Christian religion is one, and but one, consisting, for the doctrinals, in those fundamentals contained in our creed.