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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 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 quick
, ening 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. 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
man can truly say, 'I would be glad to have Christ (as he is offered) but cannot; yet this gladness, consent, or willingness which I mention, is the effect of the special work of the Spirit, and was not in your power before you had it; nor is it yet so in your power as to believe, without God's further helping you. But he that hath made you willing, will not be wanting to maintain your willingness. Though I will say to any man, You may have Christ if you will; yet I will say to no man, You can be willing of yourself, or without the spe
of God. Nay, let me further ask; Have you not darkened, buried, or weakened your graces, instead of exercising and increasing them, even then when you complained for want of assurance of them? When
found a want of faith and love, have not you weakened them more, and so made them less discernible? Have you not fed your unbelief, and disputed for your doubtings, and taken Satan's part against yourself; and (which is far worse) have you never, through these doubtings, entertained hard thoughts of God, and presented him to your soul, as unwilling to shew you mercy, and in an unlovely, dreadful, hideous shape, fitter to affright you from him, than to draw you to him and likelier to provoke your hatred than your love? If you have not done thus, I know too many troubled souls that have. And if you have, you have taken a very unlikely way to get assurance. If you would have been certain that you loved God in sincerity, you should have labored to love him more, till you had been certain; and that you might do so, you should have kept better thoughts of God in your mind. You will hardly love him while
think of him as evil, or at least as hurtful to you. Never forgot this rule which I lay you down in the beginning, that He that will ever love God, must apprehend him to be good. And the more large and deep are our apprehensions of his goodness, the more will be our love. For such as God appears to be to men's fixed conceivings, such will their affections be to him. For the fixed, deep conceptions, or apprehensions of the mind, do lead about the soul, and guide the life.
I conclude therefore with this important and importunate request to you, that, Though it be a duty necessary in its time and place, to examine ourselves concerning our sincerity, in our several graces
and duties to God; yet be sure that the first and far greater part of your time, and pains, and care, and inquiries, be for the getting and increasing of your grace, than for the discerning it; and to perform your duty rightly, than to discern your right performance. And when you conser with ministers, or others, that may teach you, see that you ask ten times at least, . How should I get or increase my faith, my love to Christ, and to his people?' for once that you ask, How shall I know that I believe or love? Yet so contrary
· hath been, and still is, the practice of most Christians among us in this point, that I have heard it twenty times asked, · How shall I know that I truly love the brethren ?' for once that I have heard it demanded, “How should I bring my heart to love them better? And the like I may say of love to Christ himself.
I should next have spoken of the second part of the Direction, How much our assurance and comfort will still depend on our actual obedience. But this will fall in; in handling the two or three next following Directions.
Direct. XXIII. My next advice is this, "Think not those doubts and troubles of mind, which are caused and continued by wilful disobedience, will ever be well healed but by the healing of that disobedience; or that the same means must be used, and will suffice to the cure of such troubles; which must be used, and will suffice to cure the troubles of a tender conscience, and of an obedient Christian, whose trouble is merely through mistakes of their condition.'
I will begin with the latter part of this Direction. He that is troubled upon mere mistakes, may be quieted upon the removal of them. If he understood not the universal extent of Christ's satisfaction, or of the covenant or conditional grant of Christ and life in him; and if upon this he be troubled, as thinking that he is not included, the convincing him of his error may suffice to the removal of his trouble. If he be troubled through his mistaking the nature of true faith, or true love, or other graces, and so think that he hath them not, when he hath them, the discovery of his error may be the quieting of his soul. The soul that is troubled upon such mistakes, must be tenderly dealt with. Much more they that are disquieted by groundless fears, or too deep apprehensions of the wrath
or justice of God, of the evil of sin, and of their unworthiness, and
bear. The sense of his own sinful folly and misery is burden enough. If God should add to this his frowns and terrors, and should spurn at a poor sinner that lies prostrate at his feet, in tears or terrors, who then should be able to stand before him, or to look him in the sace? But he will not break the bruised reed; he will not make heavier the burden of a sinner. He calls them to come to him for ease and rest, and not to oppress them, or kill them with terrors. We have not a king like Rehoboam, that will multiply our pressures; but one whose office it is to break our yokes, and loose our bonds, and set us free. When he was a preacher himself on earth, you may gather what doctrines he preached by his text, which he chose at one of his first public sermons; which, as you may find in Luke iv. 18, 19. was this, “ The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted; to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised ; to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” O if a poor, bruised, wounded soul, had
a but beard this sermon from his Saviour's own mouth, what heartmeltings would it have caused ? What pangs of love would it have raised in him ? You would sure have believed then that the Lord is gracious, when all (that heard him) bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words that proceeded out of his mouth ;" Luke iv. 22. I would desire no more for the comfort of such a soul, than to see such a sight, and feel such a feeling as the poor penitent prodigal did, when he found himself in the arms of his father, and felt the kisses of his mouth, and was surprised so unexpectedly with such a torrent of love. The soul that hath once seen and felt this, would never sure have such hard and doubtful thoughts of God, except through ignorance they knew not whose arms they were that thus embraced them, or whose voice it was that thus bespoke them; or unless the remembrance of it were gone out of their minds. You see then what is God's own language to humbled penitents, and what is the method of his dealings with them; and such must be the language and dealing of his ministers : they must not wound when Christ would heal; nor