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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 have 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 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 inalicious 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 laborers, 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 upfit to desire people to open their secrets to them ; in confessing their sins and corrupt inclinations, and opening their wants; and indeed any ingenuous man will be backward to pry into the secrets of oth
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
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 pi
lot of the ship should let the mariners govern the ship by the major vote, and run all on shelves, and drown themselves and hiin, 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 dependence 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 can. 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.
Lastly, Remember this, that it is not enough that you once opened your case to your pastor, but do it as often as necessity urgeth you to call for his advice; though not on every light occasion. Live in such dependence on the advice and guidance of your pastor (under Christ) for your soul, as you do on the advice of the physician for your body. Read Mal. ii. 7. And let ministers read 6, 8, 9. Direct. XXXII. • As ever you would live in
peace fort, and well pleasing unto God, be sure that you understand and deeply consider wherein the height of a christian life, and the greatest part of our duty doth consist; to wit, In a loving delight VOL. 1.
in God, and a thankful and cheerful obedience to his will; and then make this your constant aim, and be still aspiring after it, and let all other affections and endeavors be subservient unto this.'
This one rule well practised, would do wonders on the souls of poor Christians, in dispelling all their fears and troubles, and helping not only to a settled peace, but to live in the most comfortable state that can be expected upon earth. Write therefore these two or three words deep in your understandings and memory; that the life which God is best pleased with, and we should be always endeavoring, is, a loving delight in God through Christ ; and a thankful and cheerful obedience to him. I do not say, that godly sorrows, and fears, and jealousies are no duties; but these are the great duties, to which the rest should all subserve. Misapprehending the state of duty, and the very nature of a Christian life, must needs make sad distempers in men's hearts and conversa. tions. Many Christians look upon brokenheartedness, and much grieving, and weeping for sin, as if it were the great thing that God delighteth in, and requireth of them; and therefore they bend all their endeavors this way; and are still striving with their hearts to break them more, and wringing their consciences to squeeze out some tears; and they think no sermon, no prayer, no meditation, speeds so well with them, as that which can help them to grieve or weep. I am far from persuading men against humiliation and godly sorrow, and tenderness of heart. But yet I must tell you, that this is a sore error that you lay so much upon it, and so much overlook that great and noble work and state to which it tendeth. think that God hath any pleasure in your sorrows as such? Doth it do him good to see you dejected, afflicted and tormented ? Alas,
is only as your sorrows do kill your sins, and mortify your fleshly lusts, and prepare for your peace and joys, that God regards them. Because God doth speak comfortably to troubled, drooping spirits, and tells them that he delighteth in the contrite, and loveth the humble, and bindeth up the brokenhearted; therefore men misunderstanding him, do think they should do nothing, but be still breaking their own hearts. Whereas God speaks it but partly to shem his hatred to the proud, and partly to shew his tender compassions to the humbled, that they might not be overwhelmed or despair.
But, O Christians, understand and consider, that all your sorrows are but preparatives to your joys; and that it is a higher and sweeter work that God calls you to, and would have you spend your time and strength in. (1.) The first part of it is love : a work that is wages to itself. He that knows what it is to live in the love of God, doth know that Christianity is no tormenting and discontented life. (2.) The next part is, “Delight in God, and in the hopes and forethoughts of everlasting glory." Psal. xxxvii. 4, “ Delight thyself in the Lord, and he shall give thee the desires of thy heart.” This is it that you should be bending your studies and endeavors for, that your soul might be able to delight itself in God. (3.) The third part is thankfulness and praise. Though I say not as some, that we should be moved by no sears or desires of the reward (that is, of God,) but act only from thankfulness (as though we had all that we expect already) yet let me desire you to take special notice of this truth; that thankfulness must be the main principle of all Gospel-obedience. And this is not only true of the regenerate after faith, but even the wicked themselves, who are called to repent and believe, are called to do it in a glad and thankful sense of the mercy offered them in Christ. All the world being fallen under God's wrath and deserved condemnation, and the Lord Jesus having become a sacrifice and ransom for all, and so brought all from that legal necessity of perishing which they were under, the Gospel which brings them the news of this, is glad tidings of great joy to them; and the very justifying act which they are called to, is, thankfully to accept Christ as one that hath already satisfied for their sins, and will save them, if they accept him, and will follow his saving counsel, and use his saving means; and the saving work which they must proceed in, is, thankfully to obey that Redeemer whom they believe in. So that as general redemption is the very foundation of the new world and its government, so thankfulness for this redemption is the very life of justifying faith and Gospel obedience. And therefore the denial of this universal redemption (as to the price and satisfaction) doth both disable wicked men (if they receive it) from coming to Christ by true justifying faith (which is, the thankful acceptance of Christ as he is offered with his benefits : and this thankfulness must be for what he hath