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snatcheth up the part of another, and he oft misseth of profiting either; and yet this is the course that we must take.
And what a snare is this to us; as well as a grief! What if we should be so moved with compassion of your troubles, as to fit almost all our doctrine and application to you, what a fearsul guilt should we draw upon our own souls !
Nay, what a snare may you thus prove to the greater part of the congregation ! Alas, we have seldom past one, or two, or three troubled consciences in an auditory, (and perhaps some of their troubles be the fruit of such wilful sinning, that they have more need of greater, yet) should we now neglect all the rest of these poor souls, to preach only to you? O how many an ignorant hardhearted sinner comes before God every day! Shall we let such go away as they came, without ever a blow to awaken them and stir their hearts, when, alas, all that ever we can do is too little! When we preach you into tears and trembling, we preach them asleep! Could we speak words, it would scarce make them feel, when you through misapplication have gone home with anguish and fears. How few of all these have been pricked at the heart, and said, “ What shall we do to be saved ?" Have you no pity now on such stupid souls as these? I fear this one distemper of yours, that you cannot bear this rousing preaching, doth betray another and greater sin ; look to it, I beseech you, for I think I have spied out the cause of your trouble; are you not yourself too great a stranger to poor stupid sinners ? and come not among them? or pity them not as you should ? And do not your duty for the saving of their souls ; but think it belongs not to you but to others? Do you use to deal with servants and neighbors about you, and tell them of sin and misery, and the remedy, and seek to draw their hearts to Christ, and bring them to duty ? I doubt you do little in this; (and that is sad unmercifulness ;) for if you did, truly you could not choose but find such miserable ignorance, such senselessness and blockisbness, such hating reproof and unwillingness to be reformed, such love of this world, and slavery to the flesh, and and so little favor of Christ, grace, heaven, and the things of the Spirit, and especially such an unteachableness, untractableness (as thorns and briars) and so great a difficulty moving them an inch
from what they are, that you would have been willing ever after to have ministers preach more rousingly than they do, and you would be glad for their sakes, when you heard that which might awake them and prick them to the heart. Yea, if you had tried how hard a work it is to bring worldly, formal hypocrites to see their hypocrisy, or to come over to Christ from the creature, and to be in good earnest in the business of their salvation, you would be glad to have preachers search them to the quick, and ransack their hearts, and help them against their affected and obstinate sell-delusions.
Besides, you should consider that their case is far different from yours ; your disease is pain and trouble, they are stark dead : you have God's favor and doubt of it, they are his enemies and never suspect it: you want comfort, and they want pardon and life: if your disease should never here be cured, it is but going more sadly to heaven, but if they be not recovered by regeneration, they must lie forever in hell. And should we not then pity them more than you ; and study more for them; and preach more for them ; aud rather forget you in a sermon than them? Should you not wish us so to do? Should we more regard the comforting of one, than the saving of a hundred ? Nay more, we should not only neglect them, but dangerously hurt them, if we should preach too much to the case of troubled souls; for you are not so apt to misapply passages of terror, and to take their portion, as they are apt to apply to themselves such passages for comfort, and take your portion to themselvs.
I know some will say, that it is preaching Christ, and setting forth Ged's love, that will win them best, and terrors do but make unwilling, hypocritical professors. This makes me remember how I have heard some preachers of the times, blame their brethren for pot preaching Christ to their people, when they preached the danger of rejecting Christ, disobeying him, and resisting his Spirit. Do these men think that it is no preaching Christ (when we have first many years told men the fulness of his satisfaction, the freeness and general extent of his covenant or promise, and the riches of his grace, and the incomprehensibleness of his glory, and the truth of all) to tell them afterwards the danger of refusing, neglecting and disobeying him ; and of living after the flesh, and prefer
ing the world before him; and serving mammon, and falling off in persecution, and avoiding the cross, and yielding in temptation, and quenching the Spirit, and declining from their first love, and not improving their talents, and not forgiving and loving their brethren, yea, and enemies ? &c.
Is none of this Gospel ? nor preaching Christ? Yea, is not repentance itself (except despairing repentance) proper to the Gospel, seeing the law excludeth it, and all manner of hope ? Blame me not, reader, if I be zealous against these men, that not only know no better what preaching Christ is, but in their ignorance reproach their brethren for not preaching Christ, and withal condemn Christ himself and all his apostles. Do they think that Christ himself knew not what it was to preach Christ ? Or that he set us a pattern too low for our imitation? I desire them soberly to read Matt. v. vi. vii. x. xxv. Rom. viii. iv. from the first verse to the fourteenth. Rom. ii. Heb. ii. iv. v. x. and then tell me whether we preach as Christ and his apostles did. But to the objection ; I answer, 1. We do set forth God's love, and the fullness of Christ, and the sufficiency of his death and satisfaction for all, and the freeness and extent of his offer and promise of mercy, and his readiness to welcome returning sinners : this we do first (mixing with this the discovery of their natural misery by sin, which must be first known;) and next we shew them the danger of rejecting Christ and his office. 2. When we find men settled under the preaching of free grace, in a base contempt or sleepy neglect of it, preserring the world and their carnal pleasures and ease, before all the glory of heaven, and riches of Christ and grace, is it not time for us to say, “ How shall ye escape, if ye neglect so great salvation ?” Heb. ii. 3. “And of how much sorer punishment shall he be thought worthy, that treads under foot the blood of the covenant ?” Heb. x. 26. When men grow careless and unbelieving, must we not say,
“ Take heed Jest a promise being left of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it?" Heb. iv. 1. 3. Hath not Christ led us, commanded us, and taught us this way? “ Except ye repent, ye shall all perish,', was his doctrine ; Luke xii. 3. 5. " Go into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature :” (what is that Gospel ?) “ He that believeth shall be saved, and he believeth not shall be
dained ;" Mark xvi. 16. 6 Those mine enemies that would not I should reign over them, bring hither and slay them before me ;" Luke xix 27. Doth any of the apostles speak more of hell-fire, and the worm that never dieth, and the fire that never is quenched, than Christ himself doth ? And do not his apostles go the same way ; even Paul, the great preacher of faith? (2 Thess. i. 7-9. ii. 12, &c.) What more common? Alas, what work should we make, if we should stroke and smooth all men with Antinomian language? It were the way to please all the sensual, profane multitude, but it is none of Christ's way to save their souls. I am ready to think that these men would have Christ preached as the Papists would have him prayed to; 10 say, "Jesu, Jesu, Jesu,' nine times together, and this oft over, is their praying to him ; and to have Christ's name oft in the preacher's mouth, some men think is the right preaching Christ.
Let me now desire you hereafter, to be glad to hear ministers awaken the profane and dead-hearted hearers, and search all to the quick, and misapply nothing to yourself; but if you think any passage doth nearly concern you, open your mind to the minister privately, when he may satisfy you more fully, and that without doing hurt to others : and consider what a strait ministers are in, that have so many of so different conditions, inclinations, and conversations to preach to:
Direct. XXIX. Be sure you forget not to distinguish between causes of doubting of your sincerity, and causes of mere humiliation, repentance, and amendment; and do not raise doubtings and fears, where God calleth you but to humiliation, amendment, and fresh recourse to Christ.'
This rule is of so great moment to your peace, that you will have daily use for it, and can never maintain any true settled peace without the practice of it. What more common than for poor Christians to pour out a multitude of complaints of their weaknesses, and wants, and miscarriages; and never consider all the while that there may be cause of sorrow in these, when yet there is no cause of doubting of their sincerity. I have shewed before, that in gross falls and great backslidings, doubtings will arise, and sometimes our fears and jealousies may not be without cause ; but it is not ordinary infirmities, nor every sin which might have been avoided, that is just cause of doubting ; nay, your very humiliation must no further be endeavored than it tends to your recovery, and to the honoring of mercy : for it is possible that you may exceed in the measure of your griefs. You must therefore first be resolved, wherein the truth of saving grace doth consist, and then in all your failings and weaknesses first know, whether they contradict sincerity in itself, and are such as may give just cause to question your sincerity: if they be not (as the ordinary infirmities of believers are not,) then you may and must be humbled for them, but you may not doubt of your salvation for them. I told you before by what marks you may discern your sincerity; that is, wherein the nature of saving faith and holiness doth consist ; keep that in your eye, and as long as you find that sure and clear, let nothing make you doubt of your right to Christ and glory. But, alas! how people do contradict the will of God in this! When you have sinned, God would have you bewail your folly and unkind dealing, and fly to mercy through Christ, and this you will not do; but he would not have you torment yourselves with fears of damnation, and questioning his love, and yet this you will do. You may discern by this, that humiliation and reformation are sure of God, man's heart is so backward to it; and that vexations, doubts and fears in true Christians that should be comfortable, are not of God, man's nature is so prone to them (though the ungodly that should fear and doubt, are as backward to it.)
I think it will not be unseasonable here to lay down the particular doubts that usually trouble sincere believers, and see how far they may be just, and how far unjust and causeless; and most of them shall be froin my own former experience ; and such as I have been most troubled with myself, and the rest such as are incident to true Christians, and too usual with them.
Doubt. 1. I have often heard and read in the best divines, that grace is not born with us, and therefore Satan hath always possession before Christ, and keeps that possession in peace, till Christ come and bind him and cast him out; and that this is so great a work that it cannot choose but be observed, and forever remembered by the soul where it is wrought ; yea, the several steps and