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must practise all these. O this seems a tedious course, you are never the nearer comfort for hearing these ; it must be by long and diligent practising them. Is it not a foolish patient that will come home from the physician, and say, 'I have heard all that he said, but I am never the better?' So you say, 'I have heard all that the minister said, and I have never the more comfort.' But have you done all that he bid you, and taken all the medicines that he gave you? Alas, the cure is most to be done by yourself (under Christ) when you come home. The minister is but the physician to direct you what course to take for the cure. And then as silly people run from one physician to another, hearing what all
and desirous to know what every man thinks of them, but thoroughly follow the advice of none, but perhaps take one medicine from one man, and one from another, and let most even of those lie by them in the box, and so perish more certainly than if they never meddled with any at all; so do most troubled souls hear what one man saith, and what another saith, and seldom thoroughly follow the advice of
any: but when one man's words do not cure them, they say, 'This is not the man that God hath appointed to cure me. And so another, and that is not the man: when they should rather say, 'This is not the way,' than, 'This is not the man.' This lazy complaining is not it that will do the work, but faithful practising the Directions given you.
But I know some will say, That it is near to Popish auricular confession, which I here persuade Christians to, and it is to bring Christians under the tyranny of the priests again, and make them acquainted with all men's secrets, and masters of their consciences.
Answ. 1. To the last I say to the railing devil of this age, no more but “ The Lord rebuke thee." If any minister have wicked ends, let the God of heaven convert him, or root him out of his church, and cast him among the weeds and briars. But is it not the known voice of sensuality and hell, to cast reproaches upon the way and ordinances of God? Who knoweth not that it is the very office of the ministry, to be teachers and guides to men in matters of salvation, and overseers of them ? and that they watch for their souls, as those that must give an account, and the people, therefore, bound to obey them? Heb. xiii. 7.17. Should not the shepherd know his sheep, and their stray
ings and diseases; how else shall be cure them? Should not the physician hear the patient open all his disease, yea, study to discover to the utmost every thing he knows; and all little enough to the cure ? A disease unknown is unlike to be cured; and a disease well known is half cured. Mr. Thomas Hooker saith truly, it is with many people as with some over-modest patients, who having a disease in some secret place, they will not for shame reveal it to the physician till it be past cure, and then they must lose their lives by their modesty : so do many by their secret and more disgraceful sins. Not that every man is bound to open all his sins to his pastor ; but those that cannot well be otherwise cured, he must; either if the sense of the guilt cannot be removed, and true assurance of pardon obtained : or else, if power against the sin be not otherwise obtained, but that it still prevaileth; in both these cases we must go to those that God hath made our directors and guides. I am confident many a thousand souls do long strive against anger, lust, flesh-pleasing, worldliness, and trouble of conscience to little purpose, who if they would but have taken God's way, and sought for help, and opened all their case to their minister, they might have been delivered in a good measure long ago. 2. And for Popish confession, I detest it. We would not persuade men that there is a necessity of confessing every sin to a minister, before it can be pardoned. Nor do we do it in a perplexed formality only at one time of the year; nor in order to Popish pardons or satisfactions ;
; but we would have men go for physic to their souls, as they do for their bodies, when they feel they have need. And let me advise all Christian congregations to practise this excellent duty more. See that you knock oftener at your pastor's door, and ask his advice in all your pressing necessities; do not let him sit quietly in his study for you; make him know by experience, that the tenth part of a minister's labour is not in the pulpit. If your sins are strong, and you have wounded conscience deep, go for his advice for a safe cure ; many a man's sore festers to damnation for want of this; and poor, ignorant and scandalous sinners have more need to do this than troubled consciences. I am confident, if the people of my congregation did but do their duty for the good of their own souls in private, seeking advice of their ministers, and opening their cases to them,
they would find work for ten ministers at least; and yet those two that they have, have more work than they are able to do already. Especially ministers in small country congregations, might do abundance of good this way; and their people are much to blame that they come not oftener to them for advice; this were the way to make Christians indeed. The devil knows this, and therefore so envies it, that he never did more against a design in the world; he hath got the maintenance alienated that should have maintained them, that so they may have but one minister in a congregation, and then among the greater congregations this work is impossible for want of instruments; yea, he is about getting down the very churches and settled ministry, if God will suffer him. He setteth his instruments to rail at priests and discipline, and to call Christ's yoke tyranny; because while the garden is hedged in, he is fain, with envy, to look over the hedge. What if a man (like those of our times) should come to a town that hath an epidemical pleurisy or fever, and say, 'Do not run like fools to these physicians, they do but cheat you, and rob your purses, and seek
, themselves, and seek to be lords of your lives.' It is possible some do so; but if by these persuasions the silly people should lose their lives, how well had their new preacher befriended them? Such friends will those prove at last to your souls, that dissuade you from obeying the guidance and discipline of your overseers, and dare call the ordinances of the Lord of glory tyrannical, and reproach those that Christ hath set over them. England will not have Christ by his officers rule over them, and the several congregations will not obey him. But he will make them know, before many years are past, that they refused their own mercy, and knew not the things that belong to their peace, and that he will be master at last in spite of their malice, and the proudest of his foes. If they get by this bargain of refusing Christ's government, and despising his ministers, and making the peace, unity, and prosperity of his church, and the souls of men, a prey to their proud misguided fancies and passions, then let them boast of the bargain when they have tried it. Only I would entreat one thing of them, not to judge too confidently till they have seen the end.
And for all you tender-conscienced Christians, whom by the ministry the Lord hath begotten or confirmed to himself,
as ever you will shew yourselves thankful for so great a mercy, as ever you will hold that you have got, or grow to more perfection, and attain that blessed life to which Christ hath given you his ministers to conduct you; see that you stick close to a judicious, godly, faithful ministry, and make use of them while you have them. Have you strong lusts, or deep wounds in conscience, or a heavy burden of doubtings or distress? Seek their advice. God will have his own ordinance and officers have the chief instrumental hand in your cure. The same means ofttimes in another hand shall not do it. Yet I would have you make use of all able private Christians' help also.
I will tell you the reason why our ministers have not urged this so much upon you, nor so plainly acquainted their congregations with the necessity of opening your case to your minister, and seeking his advice.
1. Some in opposition to Popery have gone too far on the other extreme; perhaps sinning as deeply in neglect, as the Papists do in formal excess. It is a good sign that an opinion is true, when it is near to error. For truth is the very next step to error. The small thread of truth runs between the close adjoining extremes of error.
2. Some ministers knowing the exceeding greatness of the burden, are loath to put themselves upon it. This one work, of giving advice to all that ought to come and open their case to us, if our people did but what they ought to do for their own safety, would itself, in great congregations, be more than preaching every day in the week. What then is all the rest of the work ? And how can one man, yea, or five, do this to five thousand souls? And then when it lieth undone, the malicious reproachers rail at the ministers, and accuse the people of unfitness to be church-members; which howsoever there be some cause of, yet not so much as they suggest; and that unfitness would best be cured by the diligence of more labourers, which they think to cure, by removing the few that do remain.
3. Also some ministers seeing that they have more work than they can do already, think themselves incapable of more, and therefore that it is vain to put their people on it, to seek more.
4. Some ministers are over-modest, and think it to be unfit to desire people to open their secrets to them; in con
fessing their sins and corrupt inclinations, and opening their wants; and indeed any ingenuous man will be backward to pry into the secrets of others. But when God hath. made it our office, under Christ, to be physicians to the souls of our people, it is but bloody cruelty to connive at their pride and carnal bashfulness, or hypocritical covering of their sins, and to let them die of their disease rather than we will
them to disclose it. 5. Some ministers are loath to tell people of their duty in this, lest it should confirm the world in their malicious conceit, that we should be masters of men's consciences, and would lord it over them. This is as much folly and cruelty, as if the master and pilot of the ship should let the mariners govern the ship by the major vote, and run all on shelves, and drown themselves and him, and all for fear of being thought lordly and tyrannical, in taking the government of the ship upon himself, and telling the mariners that it is their duty to obey him.
6. Most godly ministers do tell people in general, of the necessity of such a dependance on their teachers, as learners in the school of Christ should have on them that are ushers under him the chief master; and they do gladly give advice to those that do seek to them: but they do not so particularly and plainly acquaint people with their duty, in'opening to them the particular sores of their souls.
It is also the policy of the devil, to make people believe that their ministers are too stout, and will not stoop to a compassionate hearing of their case ; especially if ministers. carry themselves strangely, at too great a distance from their people. I would earnestly entreat all ministers therefore to be as familiar, and as much with their people as they
Papists and other seducers, will insinuate themselves into their familiarity, if we be strange. If you teach them not in their houses, these will creep into their houses, and lead them captive. I persuade others of my brethren to that which myself am disabled from performing; being by constant weakness (besides unavoidable business) confined to: my chamber. But those that can perform it, will find this a most necessary and profitable work. And let not poor people believe the devil, who tells them that ministers are so proud, only to discourage them from seeking their advice. Go try them once before you believe it.