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feelings of sin, grace, duty, &c. In sensible zeal, grief, joy, &c. And do not know that the chief part lieth in the understanding's estimation, and the will's firm choice and resolution. And then they thiuk they decline in
grace, because they cannot weep, or joy so sensibly as before. Let me assure you of this as truth : 1. Young people have usually more vigour of affections than old ; because they have more vigour of body, and hot blood, and agile, active spirits; when the freezing, decayed bodies and spirits of old men must needs make an abatement of their fervour in all duties. 2. The like may be said of most that are weak and sickly in comparison of the strong and healthful. 3. All things affect men most deeply when they are new, and time weareth off the vigour of that affection. The first hearing of such a fight, or such a victory, or such a great man, or friend dead, doth much affect us; but so it doth not still. When you first receive any benefit, it more delighteth you than long after. So married people, or any other in the first change of their condition, are more affected with it than afterward. And indeed man's nature cannot hold up in a constant elevation of affections. Children are more taken with every thing that they see and hear than old men, because all is new to them, and all seems old to the other. 4. I have told you before that some natures are more fiery, passionate, and fervent than others are; and in such a little grace will cause a great deal of earnestness, zeal and passion. But let me tell you, that you may grow in these, and not grow in the body of your graces. Doubtless satan himself may do so much to kindle your zeal, if he do but see it void of sound knowledge, as he did in James and John when they would have called for fire from heaven, but they knew not what spirit they were of.
For the doleful case of Christ's churches in this age hath put quite beyond dispute that none do the devil's works more effectually, nor oppose the kingdom of Christ more desperately, than they that have the hottest zeal with the weakest judgments. And as fire is most excellent and necessary in the chimney, but in the thatch it is worse than the vilest dung; so is zeal most excellent when guided by sound judgment; but more destructive than profane sensuality when it is let loose and misguided
On the other side, you may decay much in feeling and fer
vour of affections, and yet grow in grace, if you do but grow in the understanding and the will. And indeed this is the common growth which Christians have in their age. Examine therefore whether you have this or no. not understand the things of the Spirit better than you formerly did ? Do you not value God, Christ, glory, and grace at higher rates than formerly? Are you not more fully resolved to stick to Christ to the death than formerly you have been? I do not think but it would be a harder work for satan to draw you from Christ to the flesh than heretofore. When the tree hath done growing in visible greatness, it groweth in rootedness. The fruit grows first in bulk and quantity, and then in mellow sweetness. Are not you less censorious, and more peaceable than heretofore ? I tell
you that is a more noble growth than a great deal of austere and bitter, youthful, censorious, dividing zeal of many will prove. Mark most aged, experienced Christians,
. that walk uprightly, and you will find that they quite outstrip the younger. 1. In experience, knowledge, prudence, and soundness of judgment. 2. In well-settled resolutions for Christ, his truth, and cause. 3. In a love of peace, especially in the church, and a hatred of dissentions, perverse contendings and divisions. If you can shew this growth, say not that you do not grow. 3. But suppose you do not grow, should
therefore deny the sincerity of your grace? I would not persuade any soul that they grow, when they do not. But if you do not, be humbled for it, and endeavour it for the future. Make it your desire and daily business, and spare not still. Lie not complaining, but rouse up your soul, and see what is amiss, and set upon neglected duties, and remove those corruptions that hinder your growth. Converse with growing Christians, and under quickening means; endeavour the good of other men's souls as well as your own; and then you will find that growth, which will silence this doubt, and do much more for
than that. Doubt 17. I am troubled with such blasphemous thoughts and temptations to unbelief, even against God, and Christ, and Scripture, and the life to come, that I doubt I have no faith.'
Answ. To be tempted is no sign of gracelessness, but to yield to the temptation ; not every yielding neither, but to
be overcome of the temptation. Most melancholy people, especially that have any knowledge in religion, are frequently haunted with blasphemous temptations. I have oft wondered that the devil should have such a power and advantage in the predominancy of that distemper. Scarce one person of ten, whoever was with me in deep melancholy, either for the cure of body or mind, but hath been haunted with these blasphemous thoughts; and that so impetuously and violently set on and followed, that it might appear to be from the devil; yea, even many that never seemed godly, or to mind any such thing before. I confess it hath been a strenghthening to my own faith, to see the devil such an enemy to the Christian faith ; yea, to the Godhead itself.
But perhaps you will say, 'It is not mere temptation from satan that I complain of; but it takes too much with my sinful heart. I am ready to doubt ofttimes whether there be a God, or whether his providence determine of the things here below; or whether Scripture be true, or the soul immortal,' &c.
Answ. This is a very great sin, and you ought to bewail and abhor it, and, in the name of God, make not light of it, but look to it betime. But yet let me tell you, that some degree of this blasphemy and infidelity may remain with the truest saving faith. The best may say, “Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief.” But I will tell you my judgment, When your unbelief is such as to be a sign of a graceless soul in the state of damnation : if your doubtings of the truth of Scripture and the life to come, be so great that you will not let go the pleasures and profits of sin, and part with all, if God call you to it, in hope of that glory promised, and to escape the judgment threatened, because you look upon the things of the life to come but as uncertain things; then is
your belief no saving belief; but your' unbelief is prevalent. But if for all your staggerings, you see so much probability of the truth of Scripture and the life to come, that you are resolved to venture (and part with, if called to it) all worldly hopes and happiness for the hope of that promised glory, and to make it the chiefest business of your life to attain it, and do deny yourself the pleasures of sin for that end; this is a true saving faith, as is evident by its victory; notwithstanding all the infidelity, Atheism, and blasphemy that is mixed with it.
But again, let me advise you to take heed of this heinous sin, and bewail and detest the very least degree of it. It is dangerous when the devil strikes at the very root, and heart, and foundation of all your religion. There is more sinfulness and danger in this than in many other sins. . And therefore let it never be motioned to your soul without abhorrence. Two ways the devil hath to move it. The one is by his immediate inward suggestions; these are bad enough. The other is by his accursed instruments; and this is a far more dangerous way; whether it be by books, or by the words of men. And yet if it be by notorious, wicked men, or fools, the temptation is the less ; but when it is by men of cunning wit, and smooth tongues, and hypocritical lives (for far be that wickedness from me, as to call them godly, or wise, or honest), then it is the greatest snare that the devil hath to lay. O just and dreadful God! Did I think one day that those that I was then praying with, and rejoicing with, and that went up with me to the house of God in familiarity, would this day be blasphemers of thy sacred name, and deny the Lord that bought them, and deride thy holy word as a fable, and give up themselves to the present pleasures of sin, because they believe not thy promised glory? O righteous and merciful God, that hast preserved the humble from this condemnation, and hast permitted only the proud and sensual professors to fall into it, and hast given them over to hellish conversations according to the nature of their hellish opinions, that they might be rather a terror to others than a snare ? I call their doctrine and practice hellish, from its original, because it comes from the father of lies, but not that there is any such opinion or practice in hell.
He that tempts others to deny the godhead, the Christian faith, the Scripture, the life to come, doth no whit doubt of any one of them himself, but believes and trembles. O fearful blindness of the professors of religion, that will hear, if not receive these blasphemies from the mouth of an apostate professor, which they would abhor if it came immediately from the devil himself. With what sad complaints and trembling do poor sinners cry out (and not without cause), ʻO I am haunted with such blasphemous temptations, that I am afraid lest God should suddenly destroy me, that ever such thoughts should come into iny heart.' But if an instrument of the devil come and plead
against the Scripture or the life to come, or Christ himself, they will hear him with less detestation. The devil knows that familiarity will cause us to take that from a man, which we would abhor from the devil himself immediately. I intend not to give you now a particular preservation against each of these temptations. Only let me tell you, that this is the direct way to infidelity, apostacy, and the sin against the Holy Ghost; and if by any seducers the devil do overcome you herein, you are lost for ever, and there will be no more sacrifice for your sin, but a' fearful expectation of judgment, and that fire which shall devour the adversaries of Christ.
Doubt 18. 'I have so great fear of death, and unwillingness to be with God, that I am afraid I have no grace: for if I had Paul's spirit, I should be able to say with him, “I desire to depart and to be with Christ," whereas now, no news would be to me more unwelcome.'
Answ. There is a loathness to die that comes from a desire to do God more service; and another that comes from an apprehension of unreadiness, when we would fain have more assurance of salvation first; or would be fitter to meet our Lord.
Blame not a man to be somewhat backward, that knows it must go with him for ever in heaven or hell, according as he is found at death. But these two be not so much a loathness to die, as a loathness to die now
at this time. 3. There is also in all men living, good and bad, a natural abhorrence and fear of death. "God hath put this into men's nature (even in innocency) to be his great means of governing the world, No man would live in order, or be kept in obedience, but for this. He that cares not for his own life, iş master of another's. Grace doth not root out this abhorrence of death, no more than it unmanneth us; only it restrains it from excess, and so far overcometh the violence of the passion, by the apprehensions of a better life beyond death, that a believer may the more quietly and wil lingly submit to it. Paul himself desireth not death, but the life which followeth it. “He desireth to depart and be with Christ;" that is, he had rather be in heaven than on earth, and therefore he is contented to submit to the penal sharp passage. God doth not command you to desire death itself, nor forbid you fearing it as an evil to nature, and