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to get the most lively frame of soul; but must it cause you to doubt of your sincerity, when you cannot obtain this? Then will you never have a settled peace or assurance for many days together, for aught I know. I would ask you but this, Whether you are willing or unwilling of all that hardness, insensibleness, and dulness which you complain of? If you are willing of it, what makes you complain of it? If you are unwilling, is seems your will is so far sound; and it is the will that is the seat of the life of grace which we must try by. And was not Paul's case the same with yours, when he saith, “ The good which I would do, I do not; and when I would do good, evil is present with me;" Rom. vii. 19. I know Paul speaks not of gross sins, but ordinary infirmities. And I have told you before, that the liveliness and sensibility of the passions or affections, is a thing that the will, though sanctified, cannot fully command or excite at its pleasure. A sanctified man cannot grieve or weep
for sin when he will, or so much as he will. He cannot love, joy, be zealous, &c. when he will. He may be truly willing, and not able. And is not this your case? And doth not Paul make it the case of all Christians ? flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary one to the other, so that we cannot do the things that we would ;" Gal. v. 17. Take my counsel therefore in this, if you love not self-deceiving and disquietness. Search whether you can say unfeignedly, 'I would with all my heart have Christ and his quickening and sanctifying Spirit, and his softening grace, to bring my hard heart to tenderness, and my dull and blockish soul to a lively frame! O that I could attain it ? And if you can truly say thus, Bless God that hath given you saving sincerity; and then let all the rest of your dulness, and deadness, and hardheartedness be matter of daily sorrow to you,
spare not, so it be in moderation, but let it be no matter of doubting. Confess it, complain of it, pray against it, and strive against it; but do not deny God's grace in you for it.
And here let me mind you of one thing, That it is a very ill distemper of spirit, when a man can mourn for nothing, but what causeth him to doubt of his salvation. It is a great corruption, if when your doubts are resolved, and you are persuaded of your salvation, if then you cease all your humiliation and sorrow for your sin; for you must sorrow that you have in you such a body of death, and that which is so displeasing to God, and are able to please and enjoy him no more, though you were never so certain of the pardon of sin, and of salvation.
7. Lastly, Let me ask you one question more; What is the reason that you are so troubled for want of tears for your sin? Take heed lest there lie some corruption in this trouble that you do not discern. If it be only because your deadness and dulness is your sin, and you would fain have your soul in that frame, in which it may be fittest to please God and enjoy him; then I commend and encourage you in your trouble. But take heed lest you should have any conceit of a meritoriousness in your tears ; for that would be a more dangerous sin than your want of tears. And if it be for want of a sign of grace, and because a dry eye is a sign of an unregenerate soul, I have told you, it is not so, except where it only seconds an impenitent heart, and comes from, or accompanieth an unrenewed will, and a prevailing unwillingness to turn to God by Christ. Shew me, if you can, where the Scripture saith, He that cannot weep for sin, shall not be saved, or hath no true grace. Is not your complaint in this the very same that the most eminent Christians have used in all times? That most blessed, holy man, Mr. Bradford, who sacrificed his life in the flames against Romish abominations, was wont to subscribe his spiritual letters (indited by the breath of the Spirit of God) thus: “The most miserable, hardhearted sinner, John Bradford.'
Doubt 5. 'O but I am not willing to good, and therefore I fear that even my will itself is yet unchanged : I have such a backwardness and undisposedness to duty, especially secret prayer, meditation, and self-examination, and reproving and exhorting sinners, that I am fain to force myself to it against my will. It is no delight that I find in these duties that brings me to them, but only I use violence with myself, and am fain to pull myself down on my knees, because I know it is a duty, and I cannot be saved without it; but I am no sooner on my knees, but I have a motion to rise, or be short, and am weary of it, and find no great miss of duty when I do omit it.'
Answ. This shews that your soul is sick, when your meat goes so much against your stomach that you are fain to force it down: and sickness may well cause you to com
plain to God and man. But what is this to deadness! The dead cannot force down their meat, nor digest it at all. It seems by this, that you are sanctified but in a low degree, and your corruption remains in some strength ; and let that be your sorrow, and the overcoming of it be your greatest care and business : but should you therefore say
you are unsanctified? It seems that you have still the flesh lusting against the Spirit, that you cannot do the good you would. When you would pray with delight and unweariedness, the flesh draws back, and the devil is hindering you. And is it not so in too great a measure with the best on earth? Remember what Christ said to his own apostles, when they should have done him one of their last services, as to the attendance of his body on earth, and should have comforted him in his agony, they are all asleep. Again and again he comes to them, and findeth them asleep: Christ is praying and sweating blood, and they are still sleeping, though he warned them to watch and pray, that they enter not into temptation. But what doth God say to them for it? Why, he useth this same distinction between humiliation for sin, and doubting of sincerity and salvation, and he helps them to the former, and helps them against the latter. "Could ye not watch with me one hour ?" saith he. There he convinceth them of the sin, that they may be humbled for it. “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak,” saith he. There he utterly resisteth their doubtings, or preventeth them; shewing them wherein sincere grace consisteth, even in the spirit's willingness; and telling them that they had that grace; and then telling them whence came their sin, even from the weakness of the flesh.
2. I have shewed you that as every man's will is but partly sanctified (as to the degree of holiness) and so far as it is imperfect, it will be unwilling; so that there is something in the duties of secret prayer, meditation and reproof, which makes most men more backward to them than other duties. The last doth so cross our fleshly interests; and the two former are so spiritual, and require so pure and spiritual a soul, and set a man so immediately before the living God, as if we were speaking to him face to face, and have nothing of external pomp to draw us, that it is no wonder, if while there is flesh within us, we are backward to them! Especially while we are so unacquainted with God, and
while strangeness and consciousness of sin doth make us draw back: besides that, the devil will more busily hinder us here than anywhere.
3. The question, therefore, is not, Whether you have an unwillingness and backwardness to good : for so have all. Nor yet, Whether you have any cold ineffectual wishes : for so have the ungodly. But, Whether your willingness be not more than your unwillingness : and in that, 1. It must not be in every single act of duty; for a godly man may be actually more unwilling to a duty at this particular time, than willing, and thereupon may omit it: but it must be about your habitual willingness, manifested in ordinary, actual willingness. 2. You must not exclude any of those motives which God hath given you to make you willing to duty. He hath commanded it, and his authority should move you.
He hath threatened you, and therefore fear should move you; or else he would never have threatened. He hath made promises of reward, and therefore the hope of that should move you. And therefore you may perceive here, what a dangerous mistake it is to think that we have no grace, except our willingness to duty be without God's motives, from a mere love to the duty itself, or to its effect. Nay, it is a dangerous Antinomian mistake to imagine, that it is our duty to be willing to good, without these motives of God; I say, To take it so much as for our duty, to exclude God's motives, though we should not judge of our grace by it. For it is but an accusation of Christ and his
( law) who hath ordained these motives of punishment and reward, to be his instruments to move the soul to duty. Let me therefore put the right question to you, Whether all God's motives laid together and considered, the ordinary prevailing part of your will, be not rather for duty than against it? This you will know by your practice. For if the prevailing part be against duty, you will not do it; if it be for duty, you will ordinarily perform it, though you cannot do it so well as you would. And then you may see that your backwardness and remaining unwillingness must still be matter of humiliation and resistance to you, but not matter of doubting. Nay, thank God that enableth you to pull down yourself on your knees when you are unwilling; for what is that but the prevailing of your willingness against your unwillingness ? Should your unwillingness once pre
vail, you would turn your back upon the most acknowledged duties.
Doubt 6. 'But I am afraid that it is only slavish fear of hell, and not the love of God, that causeth me to obey; and if it were not for this fear, I doubt whether I should not quite give over all. And perfect love casteth out fear.'
Answ. I have answered this already. Love will not be perfect in this life. In the life to come it will cast out all fear of damnation; and all fear that drives the soul from God, and all fear of men, (which is meant in Rev. xxi.8. where the fearful and unbelievers are condemned; that is, those that fear men more than God). And that 1 John iv. 17, 18. speaketh of a tormenting fear, which is it that I am persuading you from, and consisteth in terrors of soul, upon an apprehension that God will condemn you. But it speaketh not of a filial fear, nor of a fear lest we should by forsaking God, or by yielding to temptation, lose the crown of life, and so perish ; as long as this is not a tormenting fear, but a cautelous, preserving, preventing fear. Besides the text plainly saith, “ It is that we may have boldness in the day of judgment, that love casteth out this fear;" and at that day of judgment, love will have more fully overcome it. It is a great mistake to think that filial fear is only the fear of temporal chastisement, and that all fear of hell is slavish. Even filial fear is a fear of hell; but with this difference. A son (if he know himself to be a son) hath such a persuasion of his father's love to him, that he knows he will not cast him off, except he should be so vile as to renounce his father; which he is moderately fearful or careful, lest by temptation he should be drawn to do, but not distrustfully fearful, as knowing the helps and mercies of his father. But a slavish fear, is, when a man having no apprehensions of God's love, or willingness to shew him mercy, doth look that God should deal with him as a slave, and destroy him whenever he doth amiss. It is this slavish tormenting fear which I spend all this writing against. But yet a great deal, even of this slavish fear, may be in those sons, that know not themselves to be sons.
But suppose you were out of all fear of damnation; do not belie your own heart, and tell me, Had you not rather be holy than unholy; pleasing to God than displeasing? And would not the hope of salvation draw you from sin to duty,