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To my much valued, beloved, and honoured Friends, Colonel John BRIDGES, with Mrs. MARGARET BRIDGES, his wife, and Mr. THOMAS FOLEY, with Mrs. Anne Foley,
Though in publishing our writings, we intend them for the good of all : yet custom, not without reason, doth teach us, sometimes to direct them more especially to some. Though one only had the original interest in these papers, yet do I now direct them to you all, as not knowing how in this to separate you. You dwell together in my estimation and affection : one of you a member of the church, which I must teach, and legally the patron of its maintenance and minister : the other, a special branch of that family, which I was first indebted to in this county. You lately joined in presenting to the parliament, the petition of this county for the Gospel and a faithful ministry. When I only told you of my intention, of sending some poor scholars to the university, you freely and jointly offered your considerable annual allowance thereto, and that for the continuance of my life, or their necessities there. I will tell the world of this, whe
you will or no ; not for your applause, but for their imitation ; and the shame of many of far greater estates, that will not be drawn to do the like. The season somewhat aggravates the goodness of your works. When satan hath a design to burn up those nurseries, you are watering God's plants; when the greedy mouth of sacrilege is gaping for their maintenance, you are voluntarily adding for the supply of its defect. Who knows how many souls they may win to Christ (if God shall send them forth into his
harvest) whom you have thus assisted? And what an addition to your comfort this may be ? When the Gospel is so undermined, and the ministry so maligned, and their maintenance so envied, you have, as the mouth of this county, appeared for them all. What God will yet do with us, we cannot tell ; but if he will continue his Gospel to us, you may have the greater comfort in it. If he will remove it, and forsake a proud, unworthy, false-hearted people, yet may you have the comfort of your sincere endeavours ; you (with the rest that sincerely furthered it) may escape the gnawings of conscience, and the public curse and reproach which the history of this age may fasten upon them, who after all their engagements in blood and covenants, would either in ignorant fury, or malicious subtlety, or base temporizing cowardice, oppugn or undermine the Gospel, or in perfidious silence look on whilst it is destroyed. But because it is not the work of a flatterer that I am doing, but of a friend, I must second these commendations with some caution and counsel, and tell yourselves of your danger and duty, as I tell others of your exemplary deeds. Truly, the sad experiences of these times, have much abased my confidence in man, and caused me to have lower thoughts of the best than sometime I have had. I confess I look on man, as such a distempered, slippery and inconstant thing, and of such a natural mutability of apprehensions and affections, that as I shall never more call any man on earth my friend, but with a supposition that he may possibly become mine enemy; so I shall never be so confident of any man's fidelity to Christ, as not withal to suspect that he may possibly forsake him. Nor shall I boast of any man's service for the Gospel, but with a jealousy that he may be drawn to do as much against it (though God, who knows the heart, and knows his own decrees, may know his sincerity, and foreknow his perseverance). Let me therefore remember you, that had you expended your whole estates, and the blood of your hearts for Christ and his Gospel, he will not take himself beholden to you. He oweth you no thanks for your deepest engagements, highest adventures, greatest cost, or utmost endeavours. You are sure beforehand that
shall be no losers by him : your seeming hazards increase your security: your losses are your gain : your giving is your receiving : your expenses are your revenues : Christ returns
the largest usury. The more you do and suffer for him, the more you are beholden to him. I must also remember
you, that you may possibly live to see the day, when it will cost you dearer to shew yourselves faithful to the Gospel, ordinances and ministers of Christ, than now it doth ; and that many have shrunk in greater trials, that past through lesser with resolution and honour. Your defection at the last, would be the loss of all your works and hopes. “ If any man draw back (Christ saith) his soul shall have no pleasure in him.” Even those that have endured the great fight of affliction, being reproached and made a gazing stock, and that having taken joyfully the spoiling of their goods, in assurance of a better and enduring substance, have yet need to be warned that they cast not away their confidence, and draw not back to perdition, and lose not the reward for want of patience and perseverance ; Heb. x. 22. to the end. That you may escape this danger and be happy for ever, take this advice. 1. Look carefully to the sincerity of your hearts, in the covenant-closure with Christ. See that you take him with the happiness he hath promised for your all. Take heed
. of looking after another felicity; or cherishing other hopes ; or esteeming too highly any thing below. Be jealous, and very jealous, lest your hearts should clase deceitfully with Christ, maintaining any secret reserve for your bodily safety; either resolving not to follow him, or not resolving to follow him through the most desolate distressed condition that he shall lead you in. Count what it. may cost you to get the crown; study well his precepts of mortification and self-denial. There is no true hopes of the glory to come, if you cannot cast over-board all worldly hopes, when the storm is such that you must hazard the one. have thought that Christ was most dear to them, and that the hopes of heaven were their chiefest hopes, who have left Christ, though with sorrow, when he bid them let go all? ? 2. Every day renew your apprehensions of the truth and worth of the promised felicity, and of the delusory vanity of all things here below : let not heaven lose with you its attractive force, through your forgetfulness or unbelief. He is the best Christian that knows best why he is a Christian, and he will most faithfully seek and suffer, that best knows for what he doth it. Value not wealth and honour above that rate, which the wisest and best experienced have put
O how many
upon them, and allow them no more of your affections than they deserve. A mean wit may easily discover their emptiness. Look on all present actions and conditions with a remembrance of their end. Desire not a share in their
prosperity, who must pay as dear for it as the loss of their souls. Be not ambitious of that honour which must end in confusion nor of the favour of those that God will call enemies. How speedily will they come down, and be levelled with the dust, and be laid in the chains of darkness, that now seem so happy to the purblind world, that cannot see the things to come ? Fear not that man must shortly tremble before that God whom all must fear. 3. Be more solicitous for the securing of your consciences and salvation, than of your honours or estates : in every thing that you are put upon, consult first with God and conscience, and not with flesh and blood. It is your daily and most serious care and watchfulness that is requisite to maintain your integrity, and not a few careless thoughts or purposes, conjunct with a minding of earthly things. 4. Deal faithfully with every truth which you receive. Take heed of subjecting it to carnal interests : if once you have affections that can master your understandings, you are lost, and know it not. 'For when you have a resolution to cast off any duty, you will first believe it is no duty: and when you must change your judgment for carnal advantages, you will make the change seem reasonable and right: and evil shall be proved good when you have a mind to follow it. 5. Make Gospel-truths your own, by daily humble studies, arising to such a soundness of judgment, that you may not need to take too much upon trust, lest if your guides should miscarry, you miscarry with them. Deliver not up your understanding in captivity to any. 6. Yet do not over-value your own understandings. This pride hath done that in church and state, which all discerning men are lamenting. They that know but little, see not what they want, as well as what they have; nor that imperfection in their knowledge, which should humble them, nor that difficulty in things which should make them diligent and modest. 7. Apprehend the necessity and usefulness of Christ's officers, order, and ordinances, for the prosperity of his church : pastors must guide you, though not seduce you, or lead you blindfold. But choose (if you may) such as are judicious and not ignorant, not rash but sober, not
formal, but serious and spiritual ; not of carnal, but heavenly conversations : especially avoid them that divide and follow parties, and seek to draw disciples to themselves, and can sacrifice the church's unity and peace to their proud humours or carnal interests. Watch carefully that no weaknesses of the minister, do draw you to a disesteem of the ordinances of God; nor any of the sad miscarriages of professors, should cause you to set less by truth or godliness. Wrong not Christ more, because other men have so wronged him. Quarrel more with your own unfitness and unworthiness in ordinances, than with other men's. It is the frame of your own heart that doth more to help or hinder your comforts, than the quality of those you join with. To these few directions, added to the rest in this book, I shall subjoin my hearty prayers, that you may receive from that Gospel, and ministry which yon have owned, such stability in the faith, such victory over the flesh and the world, such apprehensions of the love of God in Christ, such direction in every strait and duty, that you may live uprightly, and die peaceably, and reign gloriously. Amen.
Your servant in the faith
and Gospel of Christ,
May 9, 1653.