Page images
PDF
EPUB

will so

good or bad estate; and so of your duty also. Though you will not renounce your own understanding, and believe any man when you know he is deceived, or would deceive you, yet you

far

suspect your own reason, and value another's, as to have a special regard to every man's judgment in his own profession. If the physician tell you that your disease is not dangerous, or the lawyer that your cause is good, it will more comfort you than if another man should say as much. It may much stay your heart till you can reach to clear evidences and assurance, to have a pastor that is well acquainted with you, and is faithful and judicious, to tell you that he verily thinks that you are in a safe condition. 3. But the chief use of his advice is, not so much to tell you what he thinks of you, as to give you Directions how you may judge of yourself, and come out of your trouble: besides the benefit of his prayers to God for you.

4. Next let me tell you what men you must choose to opert your mind to: and they must be, 1. Men of judgment and knowledge, and not the ignorant, be they never so honest: else they may deceive you, not knowing what they do; either for want of understanding the Scripture, and the nature of grace and sin; or for want of skill to deal with both weak consciences, and deep, deceitful hearts. 2. They must be truly fearing God, and of experience in this great work. For a troubled soul is seldom well resolved and comforted merely out of a book, but from the book and experience both together. Carnal or formal men will but make a jest at the doubts of a troubled Christian ; or at least will give you such formal remedies as will prove no cure : either they will persuade you, as the Antinomians do, that

you should trust God with your soul, and never question your faith : or that you do ill to trouble yourself about such things: or they will direct you only to the comforts of general grace, and tell you only that God is merciful, and Christ died for sinners; which are the necessary foundations of our peace; but will not answer particular doubts of our own sincerity, and of our interest in Christ: or else they will make you believe that holiness of heart and life (which is the thing you look after) is it that troubleth you, and breeds all your scruples. Or else with the Papists, they will send you to your merits for comfort; or to some vindictive penance in fastings, pilgrimages, or the like; or to

a

[ocr errors]

some saint departed, or angel, or to the pardons or indulgences of the pope ; or to a certain formal, carnal devotion, to make God amends. 3. They must be men of downright faithfulness, that will deal plainly and freely, though not cruelly; and not like those tender, surgeons that will leave the cure undone for fear of hurting : meddle not with menpleasers and daubers, that will presently speak comfort to you as confidently as if they had known you twenty years, when perhaps they know little of your heart or case. Deal not with such as resolve to humour you. 4. They must be men of fidelity, and well tried to be such, that you must trust them with those secrets which you are called to reveal. 5. They must be men of great staidness and wisdom, that they may neither rashly pass their judgment, nor set you upon unsound, unwarrantable, or dangerous courses. 6. It is suspicious if they be men that are so impudent as to draw out your secrets, and screw themselves deeper into your privatest thoughts and ways than is meet: yet a compassionate minister, when he seeth that poor Christians do endanger themselves by keeping secret their troubles, or else that they hazard themselves by hiding the greatest of their sins, like Achan, Saul, or Ananias and Sapphira, and so play the hypocrites ; in these cases he may and must urge them to deal openly. 7. Above all be sure that those that you seek advice of, be sound in the faith, and free from the two desperate plagues of notorious false doctrine, and separating, dividing inclinations, that do but hunt about to make disciples to themselves. There are two of the former sort, and three of the latter, that I would charge you to take heed of (and yet all is but four.) 1. Among those that err from the faith, (next to pagans, Jews, and infidels, whether Ranters, Seekers, or Socinians, which I think few sober, godly men are so much in danger of, because of their extreme vileness,) I would especially have you avoid the Antinomians, being the greatest pretenders to the right comforting afflicted consciences in the world ; but upon my certain knowledge I dare say, they are notorious subverters of the very nature of the Gospel, and that free grace which they so much talk of, and the great dishonourers of the Lord Jesus, whom they seem so highly to extol. They are those mountebanks and quacksalvers that delude the world by vain ostentation, and kill more than they will cure.' 2. Next to them, take heed of Papists, who will go to Rome, to saints, to angels, to merits, to the most carnal, delusory means for comfort, when they should go to Scripture and to heaven for it.

And then take heed that you fall not into the hands of separating dividers of Christ's church. The most notorious and dangerous of them are of these three sorts. 1. The last mentioned, the Papists: they are the most notorious schismatics and separatists that ever God's church did know on earth. For my part, I think their schism is more dangerous and wicked than the rest of their false doctrine. The unmerciful, proud, self-seeking wretches, would, like the Donatists, make us believe that God hath no true church on earth but they; and that all the Christians in Ethiopia, Asia, Germany, Hungary, France, England, Scotland, Ireland, Belgia, and the rest of the world, that acknowledge not their pope of Rome to be head of all the churches in the world, are none of Christ's churches, nor ever were. Thus do they separate from all the churches on earth, and confine all religion and salvation to themselves, who so notoriously depart from Christ's way of salvation. Indeed the extreme diligence that they use in visiting the sick, and soliciting all men to their church and way, is plainly to get themselves followers; and they are everywhere more industrious to enlarge the pope's kingdom than Christ's. So far are they from studying the unity of the Catholic church, which they so much talk of, that they will admit none to be of that church, nor to be saved, but their own party, as if indeed the pope had the keys of heaven. Indeed they are the most impudent sectaries and schismatics on earth. 2. The next to them are the Anabaptists, whose doctrine is not in itself so dangerous as their schism, and gathering disciples so zealously to themselves. And so strange a curse of God hath followed them hitherto, as may deter any sober Christian from rash adventuring on their way. Even now when they are higher in the world than ever they were on earth, yet do the judicious see God's heavy judgment upon them, in their congregations and conversation. 3. Lastly, Meddle not with those commonly called Separatists, for they will make a prey of you for the increase of their party. I do not mean that you should separate from these two last, as they do from us, and have nothing to do with them, nor

a

acknowledge them Christians : but seek, not their advice, and make them not of your counsel. You will do as one that goes to a physician that hath the plague, to be cured of a cut finger, if you go for your comfort to any of these seducers. But if you have a pastor that is sound in the main .

a doctrines of religion, and is studious of the unity and peace of the church, such a man you may use, though in many things mistaken ; for he will not seek to make a prey of you by drawing you to his party ; let him be Lutheran, Calvinist, Arminian, Episcopal, Independent, or Presbyterian, so he be sound in the main, and free from division. Thus I have shewn you the qualifications of these men, that you must seek advice of.

2. Let me next add this ; Let them be rather pastors : than private men, if it may be; and rather your own pastors than others, if they are fit. For the first consider, l. It is their office to be guides of Christ's disciples under him, and to be spiritual physicians for the curing of souls. And experience telleth us (and sadly of late) what a curse followeth those that step beyond the bounds of their calling by invading this office, and that God blesseth means to them that keep within his order; 1 Thess. v. 12, 13. Heb. xiii. 7.17. Not but that private men may help you in this, as a private neighbour may give you a medicine to cure your disease ? but you will not so soon trust them in any weighty case as you will the physician. 2. Besides, ministers have made it the study of their lives, and therefore are liker to under stand it than others. As for those that think long study no more conducible to the knowledge of the Scriptures, than if men studied not at all, they may as well renounce reason, and dispute for preeminency of beasts above men, as renounce study, which is but the use of reason. pears how considerately these men speak themselves, and whence it comes, and how much credit a sober Christian should give them! Let them read Psalm i. 2,3. Heb. y. 11-14. 1 Tim. iv. 13-16. and 2 Tim. ii. 15. and then let them return to their wits. Paul commands Timothy, though he was from his youth acquainted with the Scriptures, “ “Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them, that thy profiting may appear to all.” How much need have we to do so now? 3. Also ministers are usually most experienced in this work; and wisdom requires you no more

But it ap

to trust your soul, than you would do your body, with an unexperienced man.

2. And if it may be (he being fit) let it be rather your own pastor than another: 1. Because it belongeth to his peculiar place and charge, to direct the souls of his own congregation. 2. Because he is likelier to know you, and to fit his advice to your estate, as having better opportunity than others to be acquainted with your conversation.

5. Next consider, in what manner you must open your grief, if you would have cure. 1. Do it as truly as you can: Make the matter neither better nor worse than it is. Especially take heed of dealing like Ananias, pretending to open all (as he did to give all) when you do but open some common infirmities, and hide all the most disgraceful distempers of your heart, and sins of your life. The vomit of confession must work to the bottom, and fetch up that hidden sin, which is it that continueth your calamity. Read Mr. T. Hooker in his “ Soul's Preparation,” concerning this confession, who shews you the danger of not going to the bottom.

2. You must not go to a minister to be cured merely by good words, as wizards do by charms; and so think that all is well when he hath spoken comfortably to you. But you must go for directions in your own practice, that so the cure may be done by leisure when you come home. Truly most even of the godly that I have known, do go to a minister for comfort, as silly people go to a physician for physic. If the physician could stroke them whole, or give them a pennyworth of some pleasant stuff that would cure all in an hour, then they would praise him. But alas, the cure will not be done, 1. Without cost. 2. Nor without time and patience. 3. Nor without taking down unpleasing medicines; and so they let all alone. So you come to a minister for advice and comfort, and you look that his words should comfort you before he leaves you, or at least, some short, small direction to take home with you. But he tells you, if you will be cured you must more resolve against that disquieting corruption and passion; you must more meekly submit to reproof; you must walk more watchfully and conscionably with God and men ; and then you must not give ear to the tempter, with many the like. He gives you, as I have done

I here, a bill of thirty several Directions, and tells you, you

« PreviousContinue »