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help and counsel. As 1. The doubting, troubled Christian. 2. The declining, or backsliding Christian. 3. The poor. 4. The aged. 5. The sick. 6. And those that are about the sick and dying. Though these might seem to belong rather to the first Parta, yet because I would have those directions lie here together, which the several sorts of persons in families most need, I have chosen to reserve them rather to this place. The special duties of the strong, the rich, and the young and healthful, I omit, because I find the book grow big, and you may gather them from what is said before, on several such subjects. And the Directions which I shall first give to doubting Christians, shall be but a few brief memorials, because I have done that work already, in my“ Directions or Method for Peace of Conscience and Spiritual Comfort;" and much is here said before, in the Directions against Melancholy and Despair.
Direct. 1. Find out the special cause of your doubts and troubles, and bend most of your endeavours to remove that cause.' The same cure will not serve for every doubting soul, no, nor for every one that hath the very same doubts. For the causes may be various, though the doubts should be the same : and the doubts will be continued while the cause remaineth.
1. In some persons the chief cause is a timorous, weak, and passionate temper of body and mind; which in some (especially of the weaker sex) is so natural à disease, that there is no hope of a total cure; though yet we must direct and support such as we are able. These persons have so weak a head, and such powerful passions, that passion is their life; and according to passion (they judge of themselves, and of all their duties. They are ordinarily very high or very low ; full of joy, or sinking in despair ; but usually fear is their predominant passion. And what an enemy to quietness and peace .strong fear is, is easily observed in all that have it. Assuring evidence will not quiet such fearful minds, nor any reason satisfy them. The directions for these persons must be the same which I have before given against melancholy and despair. Especially that the preaching, and books, and means, which they make use of, be rather such as tend to inform the judgment, and
a See Part i. Chap. 7. Tit. 10. Of Despair.
settle the will, and guide the life, than such as by the greatest fervency tend to awaken them to such passions or affections which they are unable to manage.
2. With others the causes of their troubles is melancholy, which I have long observed to be the commonest cause, with those godly people that remain in long and grievous doubts; where this is the cause, till it be removed, other remedies do but little : but of this I have spoken at large before.
3. In others the cause is a habit of discontent, and peevishness, and impatiency; because of some wants or crosses in the world: because they have not what they would have, their minds grow ulcerated, like a body that is sick or sore, that carrieth about with them the pain and smart; and they are still complaining of the pain they feel ; but not of that which maketh the sore, and causeth the pain. The cure of these is either in pleasing them that they may have their will in all things (as you rock children and give them that which they cry for to quiet them); or rather to help to cure their impatiency, and settle their minds against their childish, sinful discontents (of which before).
4. In others the cause is error or great ignorance about the tenor of the covenant of grace, and the redemption wrought by Jesus Christ, and the work of sanctification, and evidences thereof; they know not on what terms Christ dealeth with sinners in the pardoning of sin, nor what are the infallible signs of sanctification: it is sound teaching, and diligent learning that must be the cure of these.
5. In others the cause is a careless life or frequent sinning, and keeping the wounds of conscience still bleeding : they are still fretting the sore, and will not suffer it to skin: either they live in railing and contention, or malice, or some secret lust, or fraud, or some way stretch and wrong their consciences : and God will not give his peace and comfort to them till they reform. It is a mercy that they are disquieted and not given over to a seared conscience, which is past feeling.
6. In others the cause of their doubts is, placing their religion too much in humiliation, and in a continual poring on their hearts, and overlooking or neglecting the high and chiefest parts of religion, even the daily studies of the love
of God, and the riches of grace in Jesus Christ, and hereby stirring up the soul to love and delight in God. When they make this more of their religion and business, it will bring their souls into a sweeter relish.
7. In others the cause is such weakness of parts and confusion of thoughts, and darkness of mind, that they are not able to examine themselves, nor to know what is in them: when they ask themselves any question, about their repentance or love to God, or any grace, they are fain to answer like strangers, and say, they cannot tell whether they do it or not. These persons must make more use than others, of the judgment of some able, faithful guide.
8. But of all others, the commonest cause of uncertainty, is the weakness or littleness of grace; when it is so little as to be next to none at all, no wonder if it be hardly and seldom discerned: therefore
Direct. 11. ' Be not neglecters of self-examination, but labour for skill to manage aright so great a work; but yet let your care and diligence be much greater to get grace and use it, and increase it, than to try whether you have it already or not. For in examination, when you have once taken a right course to be resolved, and yet are in doubt as much as before, your overmuch poring upon these trying questions, will do you but little good, and make you but little the better, but the time and labour may be almost lost: whereas all the labour which you bestow in getting, and using and increasing grace, is bestowed profitably to good purpose; and tendeth first to your safety and salvation, and next that, to your easier certainty and comfort. There is no such way in the world to be certain that you have grace, as to get so much as is easily discerned and will shew itself, and to exercise it much that it may come forth into observation : when you have a strong belief you will easily be sure that you believe: when you have a fervent love to Christ and holiness, and to the Word, and ways, and servants of God, you will easily be assured that you love them. When you strongly hate sin and live in universal, constant obedience, you will easily discern your repentance and obedience. But weak grace will have but weak assurance and little consolation.
Direct. II. 'Set yourselves with all your skill and dili
gence to destroy every sin of heart and life, and make it your principal care and business to do your duty, and please, and honour God in your place, and to do all the good you can in the world: and trust God with your souls, as long as you wait upon him in his way. If you live in wilful sin and negligence, be not unwilling to be reproved and delivered! If you cherish your sensual, fleshly lusts, and set your hearts too eagerly on the world, or defend your unpeaceableness and passion, or neglect your own duty to God or man, and make no conscience of a true reformation, it is not any enquiries after signs of grace, that will help you to assurance. You may complain long enough before
while such a thorn is in your foot. Conscience must be better used before it will speak a word of sound, well-grounded peace to you. But when you set yourselves with all your care and skill to do your duties, and please your Lord, he will not let your labour be in vain : he will take care of your peace and comfort, while you take care of your duty : and in this way you may boldly trust him: only think not hardly and falsely of the goodness of that God whom you study to serve and please.
Direct. iv. 'Be sure whatever condition you are in, that you understand, and hold fast, and improve the general grounds of comfort, which are common to mankind, so far as they are made known to them : and they are three, which are the foundation of all our comfort. 1. The goodness and mercifulness of God in his very nature. 2. The sufficiency of the satisfaction or sacrifice of Christ. 3. The universality, and freeness, and sureness of the covenant or promise of pardon and salvation to all, that by final impenitence and unbelief do not continue obstinately to reject it:' (or to all that unfeignedly repent and believe.) (1.) Think not poorly and meanly of the infinite goodness of Godb: even to Moses he proclaimeth his name at the second delivery of the law, “ The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin-c" His
is over all his
xxv. 10. cxix. 64. CXXXVÜL.
b Psalm ciii. 8. 11. 17. lxxxix. ii. Ixxxvi. 5. 15. yiji. cxvi. 5.
c Exod. xxxiv. 6, 7.
works; it is great and reacheth to the heavens; it is firm and endureth
for ever ; " And he hath pleasure in those that hope in his mercyd. (2.) Extenuate not the merits and sacrifice of Christ; but know that never man was damned for want of a Christ to die and be a sacrifice for his sin, but only for want of repentance and faith in him. (3.) Deny not the universality of the conditional promise of pardon and salvation, to all that it is offered to, and will accept it on the offerer's terms. And if you do but feel these three foundations firm and stedfast under you, it will encourage every willing soul. The love of God was the cause of our redemption by Christ: redemption was the foundation of the promise or new covenant: and he that bui eth on this threefold foundation is safe.
Direct. v. When you come to try your particular title to the blessings of the covenant, be sure that you well understand the condition of the covenant; and look for the performance of that condition in yourselves, as the infallible evidence of your title; and know that the condition is nothing but an unfeigned consent unto the covenant.' Or such a belief of the Gospel, as maketh you truly willing of all the mercies offered in the Gospel, and of the duties required in order to those mercies. And that nothing depriveth any man that heareth the Gospel of Christ, and pardon, and salvation, but obstinate unwillingness or refusal of the mercy, and the necessary annexed duties. Understand this well, and then peruse the covenant of grace (which is, but to take God for your God and happiness, your Father, your Saviour, and your Sanctifier): and then ask your hearts, whether any thing be here that you are unwilling of; and unwilling of in a prevailing degree, when it is greater than your willingness: and if truly you are willing to be in covenant with your God, and Saviour, and Sanctifier upon these terms, know that your consent, or willingness, or acceptance of the mercy offered you, is your true performance of the condition of your title, and consequently the infallible evidence of your title; even as marriage consent is a title-condition to the person and privileges : and therefore if you find this, your doubts are answered: you have found
d Psalm cxlvii. 11. c. 5. xxxii, 18. lvii. 10. cviii. 4.
e John iii. 16.