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Direct. XXII. My next Direction is this, .Spend more of your time and care about your duty than about your comforts : and for the exercise and increase of your graces, than for the discovery of them : and when you have done all that you can for assurance and comfort, you shall find that it will very much depend on your actual obedience.'
This Direction is of as great importance as any that I have yet given you ; but I shall say but little of it, because I have spoke of it so fully already in my Book of Rest, Part iïi. Chap. 8–11. My reasons for what I here assert are these : 1. Duty goeth in order of nature and time, before comfort, as the precept is before the promise : comfort is part of the reward, and therefore necessarily supposeth the duty. 2. Grace makes men both so ingenious and divine, as to consider God's due as well as their own; and what they should do, as well as what they shall have, still remembering that our works cannot merit at God's hands. 3. As we inust have grace before we can know we have it, so ordinarily we must have a good measure of grace, before we can so clearly discern it as to be certain of it. Small things, I have told you, are next to none, and hardly discernible by weak eyes. When all ways in the world are tried, it will be found that there is no way so sure for a doubting soul to be made certain of the truth of his graces, as to keep them in action and get them increased. And it will be found that there is no one cause of Christians doubting of the truth of their faith, love, hope, repentance, humility, &c. so great or so common as the small degree of these graces. Doth not the very language of complaining Christians shew this? One saith, “I have no faith ; I cannot believe ; I have no love to God; I have no delight in duty. Another saith, 'I cannot mourn for sin, my heart was never broken ; I cannot patiently bear an injury; I have no courage in opposing sin, &c. If all these were not in a low and weak degree, men could not so ordinarily think they had none. A lively, strong, working faith, love, zeal, courage, &c. would shew themselves, as do the highest towers, the greatest mountains, the strongest winds, the greatest flames, which will force an observance by their greatness and effects. 4. Consider also that it is more pleasing to God to see his people study him and his will directly, than to spend the
first and chiesest of their studies about the attaining of comforts to themselves. 5. And it is the nature of grace to tend first and chiefly toward God; and but secondarily to be the evidence of our own happiness. We have faith given us principally that we might believe, and live by it in daily applications of Christ : we have repentance, that it might break us off from sin, and bring us back to God; we have love, that we might love God and our Redeerer, his saints, and laws, and ways; we have zeal, that we might be quickened in all our holy duties ; and we have obedience, to keep us in the way of duty. The first thing we have to do with these graces, is to use them for those holy ends which their nature doth express : and then the discerning of them that we may have assurance, followeth after this both in time and dignity. 6. And it is a matter of far greater concernment to ourselves to seek after the obtaining of Christ and grace, than after the certain knowledge that we have them. You may be saved though you never get assurance here, but you cannot be saved without Christ and grace. God hath not made assurance the condition of your salvation. It tends indeed exceedingly to your comfort, and a precious mercy it is; but your safety lieth not on it. It is bettero t go sorrowful and doubting to heaven, than comfortably to hell. First therefore ask what is the condition of salvation and the way to it, and then look that you do your best to perform it, and to go that way, and then try your performance in its season. 7. Besides, as it is a work of far greater moment, so also of quicker dispatch, to believe and love Christ truly, than to get assurance that you do truly believe and love him. You may believe immediately, (by the help of God's grace,) but getting assurance of it may be the work of a great part of your life. Let me therefore entreat this one thing of
you feel the want of any grace, you would not presently bend all your thoughts upon the inquiry, whether it be true or no; but rather say to yourself, 'I see trying is a great and difficult, a long and tedious work : I may be this many years about it, and possibly be unresolved still. If I should conclude that I have no grace, I may be mistaken ; and so I may if I think that I have it. I may inquire of friends and ministers long, and yet be left in doubt; it is therefore my surest way to seek presently to obtain it, if I have it not, and to increase it if I have it. And I am certain none of that labor will be lost; to get more is the way to know I have it.'
you, that when
But perhaps you will say, “How should I get more grace? That is a business of greater difficulty than so.' I answer, Understand what I told you before, that as the beginning of grace is in your understanding, so the heart and life of it is in your will; and the affections and passionate part are but the fruits and branches. If therefore your grace be weak, it is chiefly in an unwillingness to yield to Christ, and bis word and Spirit. Now, how should an unwilling soul be made willing? Why thus, 1. Pray constantly as you are able, for a willing mind, and yielding, inclinable heart to Christ. 2. Hear constantly those prcachers that bend their doctrine to inform your understanding of the great necessity and excellency of Christ, and grace, and glory ; and to persuade the will with the most forcible arguments. A persuading, quickening ministry, that helps to excite your graces, and draw up your heart to Christ, is more useful than they that spend most of their time to persuade you of your sincerity, and give you comfort. 3. But especially lay out your thoughts more in the most serious considerations of those things which tend to breed and feed those particular
you would have increased. Objects and moving reasons kept much upon the mind by serious thoughts, are the great engine appointed both by nature and by grace, to turn about the soul of man. Thoughts are to your soul, as taking in the air, and meat and drink to your body. Objects considered, do turn the soul into their own nature. Such as are the things that you most think and consider of (I mean in pursuance of them,) such will you be yourself. Consideration, frequent serious consideration, is God's great instrument to convert the soul, and to confirm it; to get grace, and to keep it, and increase it. If any soul perish for want of grace, it is ten to one it is mainly for want of frequent and serious consideration. That the most of us do languish under such weaknesses, and attain to small degrees of grace, is for want of sober, frequent consideration. We know not how great things this would do, if it were but faithfully managed. This then is my advice, when you feel so great a want of faith and love (for those be
the main graces for trial and use,) that you doubt whether you have any or none, lay by those doubting thoughts awhile, and presently go and set yourself to consider of God's truth, goodness, amiableness, and kindheartedness to miserable, unworthy sinners; think what he is in himself, and what he is to you, and what he hath done for you, and what he will do for you if you will but consent. And then think of the vanity of all the childish pleasures of this world ; how soon, and in how sad a case they will leave us; and what silly, contemptible things they are, in comparison of the everlasting glory of the saints! By that time you have warmed your soul a little with such serious thoughts, you will find your faith and love revive, and begin to stir and work within you; and then you will feel that you have faith and love. Only remember what I told you before, that the heart and soul of saving faith and love (supposing a belief that the Gospel is true,) is all in this one act of willingness and consent to have Christ as he is offered. Therefore if you doubt of your faith and love, it is your own willingness that you doubt of, or else you know not what you do. Now methinks, if you took but a sober view of the goodness of God, and the glory of heaven on one side, and of the silly, empty, worthless world on the other side; and then ask your heart which it will choose; and say to yourself, O my soul, the God of glory offers thee thy choice of dung and vanity for a little time, or of the unconceivable joys of heaven for ever : which wilt thou choose ?' I say,
methinks the answer of
your soul should presently resolve you, that you do believe, and that you love God above this present world! For if you can choose him before the world, then you are more willing of him than the world : and if he have more of your will, for
ain that he hath more of your faith and love. Use, therefore, instead of doubting of
doubting of your faith, to believe till you put it out of doubt. And if yet you doubt, study God and Christ, and glory yet better, and keep those objects by consideration close to your heart, whose nature is to work the heart to faith and love. For certainly objects have a mighty power on the soul; and certainly God, and Christ, and grace, and glory, are mighty objects; as able to make a full and deep impression on man's soul, as any in the world ; and if they work not, it is not through any imperfection in them, but because they be not well apVOL. 1.
plied, and by consideration held upon the heart, that they may work. Perhaps you will say, that meditation is too hard a work for you, and that your memory
is so weak that
you want matter to meditate upon; or if you do meditate
or if you do meditate on these, yet you feel no great motion or alteration on your heart. To this I answer; if you want matter, take the help of some book that will afford you matter; and if you want life in meditation, peruse the most quickening writings you can get. If you have not better at hand, read over (and seriously consider as you read it,) those passages in the end of my Book of Rest, which direct you in the exercises of these graces, and give you some matter for your meditation to work upon: and remember, that if you can increase the resolved choice of your will, you increase your love, though you feel not those affectionate workings that you desire.
Let me ask you now whether you have indeed taken this course in your doubtings? If not, how unwisely have you done.
done. Doubting is no cure, but actual believing and loving is a cure. If faith and love were things that you would fain get, but cannot, then you had cause enough to fear, and to lie down and rise up in trouble of mind from one year to another. But it is no such matter; it is so far from being beyond your reach or power to have these graces, though you would, that they themselves are nothing else but your very willingness; at least your willingness to have Christ, is both your faith and love. It may be said therefore to be in the power of your will, which is nothing else but that actual willingness which you have already. If therefore you are unwilling to have him, what makes you complain for want of the sense of his presence, and the assurance of his love, and the graces of his Spirit, as you frequently do? It is strange to me, that people should make so many complaints to God and men, and spend so many sad hours in fears and trouble, and all for want of that which they would not have. If you be not willing, be willing now. If you say you cannot, do as I have before directed you. One hour's sober, serious thoughts of God and the world, of Christ and satan, of sin and holiness, of heaven and hell, and the differences of them, will do very much to make you willing. Yet mistake me not; though I say you may have Christ if you will, and faith and love if you will, and no