Page images


their troubles, I would give this advice. 1. Expect not that rational, spiritual remedies, should suffice for this cure : for you may as well expect that a good sermon, or comfortable words, should cure the falling sickness, or palsy, or a broken head, as to be a sufficient cure to your melancholy fears; for this is as real a bodily disease as the other; only because it works on the spirits and fantasy, on which words of advice do also work, therefore such words, and Scripture and reason, may somewhat resist it, and may palliate or allay some of the effects at the present; but as soon as time hath worn off the force and effects of these reasons, the distemper presently returns.

For the humour hath the advantage; 1. Of continual presence. 2. Of a more necessary, natural, and sensible way of working. As if a man be in an easy lethargy, you may awake him so long as you are calling on him aloud; but as soon as you cease, he is asleep again. Such is the case of the melancholy in their sorrows; for it is as natural for melancholy to cause fears and disquietness of mind, as for phlegm in a lethargy to causè sleep.

Do not therefore lay the blame on your books, friends, counsels, instructions (no nor all on your soul) if these troubles be not cured by words : but labour to discern truly how much of your trouble comes this way, and then fix in your mind in all your inquiries, reading, and hearing, that it is the other part of your trouble which is truly rational, and not this part of it which is from melancholy, that these means were ordained to remove (though God may also bless them extraordinarily to do both). Only constant importunate prayer is a fit and special means for the curing of all.

2. When you have truly found out how much of your disquietness proceeds from melancholy, acquit your soul from that part of it; still remember in all your self-examinations, self-judgings, and reflections on your heart, that it is not directly to be charged with those sorrows that come from your spleen; save only remotely, as all other diseases are the fruits of sin; as a lethargic dulness is the deserved fruit of sin; but he that should charge it immediately on his soul, should wrong himself, and he that would attempt the cure, must do it on the body.

3. If you would have these fears and troubles removed, apply yourself to the proper cure of melancholy. 1. Avoid


[ocr errors]

all passion of sorrow, fear, and anger, as much as you can ; and all occasions, and discontents and grief. 2. Avoid much solitariness, and be most commonly in some cheerful company. Not that I would have you do as the foolish sinners of the world do, to drink away melancholy, and keep company with sensual, vain, and unprofitable persons, that will draw you deeper into sin, and so make your wound greater instead of healing it, and multiply your troubles when you are forced to look back on your sinful loss of time. But keep company with the more cheerful sort of the godly. There is no mirth like the mirth of believers, which faith doth fetch from the blood of Christ, and from the promises of the word, and from experiences of mercy, and from the serious fore-apprehensions of our everlasting blessedness. Converse with men of strongest faith, that have this heavenly mirth, and can speak experimentally of the joy of the Holy Ghost; and these will be a great help to the reviving of your spirit, and changing your melancholy habit, so far as without a physician it may be expected. Yet sometimes it may not be amiss to confer with some that are in your own case, that you may see that your condition is not singular. For melancholy people, in such distresses, are ready to think, that never any was in the case as they are in; or at least, never any that were truly godly. When you hear people of the most upright lives, and that truly fear God, to have the same complaints as you have yourself, it may give you some hopes that it is not so bad as you before did imagine. However be sure that you avoid solitariness as much as you well can. 3. Also take heed of too deep, fixed, musing thoughts; studying and serious meditating be not duties for the deeply melancholy (as I shall shew nuore in the following directions); you must let those alone till you are better able to perform them, lest by attempting those duties which you cannot perform, you shall utterly disable yourself from all : therefore I would advise you, by all means, to shake and rouse yourself out of such musings, and suddenly to turn your thoughts away to something else. 4. To this end, be sure that you avoid idleness and want of employment; which as it is a life not pleasing to God, so is it the opportunity for melancholy thoughts to be working, and the chiefest season for satan to tempt you. Never let the devil find you unemployed, but see that you

[ocr errors]

go cheerfully about the works of your calling, and follow it with diligence; and that time which you redeem for spiritual exercises, let it be most spent in thanksgiving, and praises, and heavenly conference.

These things may do much for prevention, and abating your disease, if it be not gone too far; but if it be, you were best have recourse to the physician, and expect God's blessing in the use of means ; and you will find, when your body is once cured, the disquietness of your mind will vanish of itself.

2. The second part of this direction, was, that you take notice how much of your disquietness may proceed from outward crosses ; for it is ordinary for these to lie at the root, and bring the heart into a disquiet and discontent, and then trouble for sin doth follow after. Alas, how oft have I seen that verified of the apostle ; 2 Cor. vii. 10. "The sorrow of the world worketh death.” How many, even godly people have I known, that through crosses in children, or friends, or losses in their estates, or wrongs from men, or perplexities, that through some unadvisedness they were cast into, or the like, have fallen into mortal diseases, or into such a fixed melancholy, that some of them have gone besides themselves; and others have lived in fears and doubting ever after, by the removal of the disquietness to their consciences ? How sad a thing is it, that we should thus add to our own afflictions ? And the heavier we judge the burden, the more we lay on! As if God had not done enough, or would not sufficiently afflict us. We may more comfortably bear that which God layeth on us, than that which we immediately lay upon ourselves! Crosses are not great or small, according to the bulk of the matter, but according chiefly to the mind of the sufferer. Or else, how could holy men“ rejoice in tribulation, and be exceeding glad that they are accounted worthy to suffer for Christ ?" Reproaches, wrongs, losses, are all without you; unless you open them the door wilfully yourself, they cannot come into the heart. God hath not put the joy or grief, of your heart in any other man's power, but in your own.

It is you therefore that do yourselves the greatest mischief. God afflicts your body, or men wrong you in your state or name (a small hurt if it go no further) and therefore you will afflict your soul! But a sadder thing yet is it to consider of, that men fearing God

should so highly value the things of the world. They who in their covenants with Christ, are engaged to renounce the world, the flesh, and the devil : they that have taken God in Christ for their portion, for their all; and have resigned themselves and all that they have to Christ's dispose! Whose very business in this world, and their Christian life, consisteth so much in resisting the devil, mortifying the flesh, and overcoming the world, and it is God's business in his inward works of grace, and his outward teachings, and sharp afflictions, and examples of others, to convince them of the vanity and vexation of the world, and thoroughly to wean them from it; and yet that it should be so high in their estimation, and sit so close to their hearts, that they cannot bear the loss of it without such discontent, disquiet, and distraction of mind; yea, though when all is gone, they have their God left them, they have their Christ still, whom they took for their treasure ; they have opportunities for their souls, they have the sure promise of glory, yea, and a promise, that “all things shall work together for their good ;" yea, and for that one thing that is taken from them, they have yet an hundred outward mercies remaining, that yet even believers should have so much unbelief! and have their faith to seek, when they should use it, and live by it! And that God should seem so small in their eye, as not to satisfy or quiet them, unless they have the world with him ; and that the world should still seem so amiable, when God hath done so much to bring it into contempt! Truly this (and more) shews that the work of mortification is very imperfect in professors, and that we bend not the force of our daily strivings and endeavours that way. If Christians did bestow but as much time and pains in mortifying the flesh, and getting down the interest of it in the soul, that Christ's interest may be advanced, as they do about controversies, external duties, formalities, tasks of devotion, and self-tormenting fears, O what excellent Christians should we then be! And how happily would most of our disquiet be removed! Alas, if we are so unfit to part with one outward comfort now, upon the disposal of our Father's providence, how should we forsake all for Christ? O what shall we do at death, when all must be parted with ! As ever therefore you would live in true Christian peace, set more by Christ, and less by the world, and all things in it; and hold all that you possess so loosely, that it may not be grievous to you when you must leave them.

So much for the troubles that arise from your body and outward state. All the rest shall be directed for the curing of those troubles that arise immediately from more spiritual


Direct. III. · Be sure that you first lay sound apprehensions of God's nature in your understanding, and lay them deeply.'

This is the first article of your creed, and the first part of “ life eternal, to know God!" His substance is quite past human understanding; therefore never make any attempt to reach the knowledge of it, or to have any positive conceivings of it, for they will be all but idols, or false conceptions; but his attributes are manifested to our understandings. Well, consider, that even under the terrible law, when God proclaims to Moses his own name, and therein his nature, Exod. xxxiv. 6, 7. the first and greatest part is, “ The Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin. And he hath sworn,“ That he hath no pleasure in the death of a sinner, but rather that he return and live." Think not therefore of God's mercifulness, with diminishing, extenuating thoughts, nor limit it by the bounds of our frail understandings ; For the heavens are not so far above the earth, as his thoughts and ways are above ours. Still remember that you must have no low thoughts of God's goodness, but apprehend it as bearing proportion with his power. As it is blasphemy to limit his power, so it is to limit his goodness. The advantages that your soul will get by this right knowledge, and estimation of God's goodness, will be these.

1. This will make God appear more amiable in your eyes, , and then you will love him more readily and abundantly. And love, 1. Is effectually consolatory in the very working; so much love, usually so much comfort, (I mean this love of complacency; for a love of desire there may be without comfort). 2. It will breed persuasions of God's love to you again, and so comfort. 3. It will be an unquestionable evidence of true grace, and so comfort.

The affections follow the understanding's conceptions. If you think of God as one that is glad of all advantages

« PreviousContinue »