CHAP.  4.

Four particular directions for the avoiding this error. 
I. How the Law is to be pressed. 
II. How the Gospel to be preached. 
III. How Christ to be proposed. 
IV. How pardon to be assured. 
And ways to be used for the putting of these directions in practice.

Now thus to prepare, wound, afflict, and humble the soul that it may be fitted for Jesus Christ, and so for comfort upon good ground, let ministers, or whosoever meddle in matters of this nature, publicly or privately, use all warrantable means, let them press the law, promise mercy, propose Christ, &c., do what they will seasonably and wisely.' Let them improve all their learning, wisdom, discretion, mercifulness, experience, wit, eloquence, sanctified unto them for that purpose, so that the work be done.

I. In pressing the law, besides other dexterities and directions for managing their ministry in this point successfully by God's blessing, let them take notice of this particular, which may prove very available to begin this legal work. It is a principle attended with much success.

Pressing upon men's consciences with a zealous, discreet powerfulness their special, principal, fresh bleeding sins, is a notable means to break their hearts and bring them to remorse. That most heinous and bloody sin of killing Jesus Christ, in which they had newly imbrued their hands, pressed upon the consciences of Peter's hearers, breaks and tears their hearts in pieces (Acts ii, 23, 36, 37). So adultery, secretly intimated by Christ's words unto the woman of Samaria (John iv, 18), seems to have struck her to the heart (ver. 19). So the Jews having idolatry pressed upon their consciences by Samuel (1 Sam. vii, 6); the sin of asking a king (1 Sam. xii, 19); usury by Nehemiah (chap. v, 12); strange wives by Ezra (chap. x, 9), were thereupon mightily moved and much softened in their hearts, as appears in the cited places. Consider for this purpose that work upon David's heart by Nathan's [[120]] ministry, and Felix trembling when Paul struck him on the right vein.

The reasons why this more particular discovery and denouncing of judgment against a man's principal sin is like God assisting with the spirit of bondage to put such life into the work of the law, are such as these:‑

1. “The sword of the Spirit,” which is the word of God, being wielded by the hand of the Holy Ghost, and edged, as it were, with the special power of God's blessing for the cutting asunder of the iron sinews of a stubborn and stony heart, doth crush and conquer, strike through and break in pieces with an irresistible power, proportioned to the insolency or easiness of resistance. My meaning is this, as philosophers say of the lightning, that by reason of the easiness of the passage, weakness of resistance, porosity of the parts, it pierceth through the purse, scabbard, and bark, without any such scorching and visible hurt; but melts the money, the sword, rends and shivers the tree, because their substance and solidity doth more exercise and improve its activeness and ability: so this spiritual sword, though it strike at every sin, and passeth through “even. to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the Joints and marrow,” yet the hairy pate of the main corruption and master sin it wounds with a witness; it there tortures and teals in pieces with extraordinary anguish and smart, searching and sense; for that opposeth with the most flinty iron sinew, to blunt and deaden its edge if it were possible.

2. In consciences regularly and lightly wounded and awakened, sins are wont to bite and sting proportionably to their heinousness and the exorbitancy of their former sensual impressions. Some like a mastiff, some like a scorpion. some like a wolf in the evening. But understand, that spiritual anguish surpasseth immeasurably any corporal pain, therefore conceive of them with a vast disproportion. Now the darling delight or captain sin frighting the heart with greatest horror, and stinging with extremity proportionable to its former outrages upon conscience, doth by an accidental power (God blessing the business) give a great stroke to drive a man to deepest detestation of himself, to throw him down to the lowest step of penitent dejection, to render more eager his thirsty greediness after pardon and grace, and at length to terrify him out of his natural estate.

3. A man's principal and most prevailing sin is Satan's strongest hold. When he is in danger to be dislodged and driven by the power of the word out of the other parts of [[121]] the soul, as it were, and from possession of a man by all other sins, he retires hither as to his castle and most impregnable fort. And therefore if this be soundly beaten upon by the hammer and horror of the law, and battered about his ears, he will be quickly enforced to quit the place altogether.

It may be good counsel then, and often seasonable, to say unto those men of God who desire to drive the devil out of others in some sort, as the king of Syria said to his captains, “Fight neither with small nor great, save only with the king of Israel.” My meaning is, let them address the sharpest edge of their spiritual sword, yet as well with a holy charitable discretion as with resolute downright dealing, against those sins which bear greatest sway in them they have to deal with. Be it their covetousness, ambition, lust, drunkenness, lukewarmness, monstrousness of the fashion, sacrilege, oppression, usury, backsliding, murder, luxury, opposition to the good way, hatred of the saints, or what other sin soever they discover in them to minister greatest advantage to Satan, to keep them fastest in his clutches. No sin must be spared, but let the reigning sin be thrust at especially.

II. For opening of the most rich and orient mines of all those sweetest mercies folded up within the bowels of God's dearest compassions and of the mystery of his free grace and love through the Son of his love; upon purpose to invite and allure those that are without to come in; and to stir up our hearers to bring broken hearts, bruised spirits, bleeding souls unto the throne of grace, upon the same ground, but infinitely more gracious, that encouraged the servants of Benhadad to address themselves towards the king of Israel; “And his servants said unto him, Behold now, we have heard that the kings of the house of Israel are merciful kings: let us, I pray thee, put sackcloth on our loins, and ropes upon our heads, and go out to the king of Israel: peradventure he will save thy life” (1 Kings xx, 31). The most desperate rebels heretofore, upon present true remorse for their former rage in sin, resolving sincerely to stand on God's side for ever hereafter, may safely and upon good ground thus reason within themselves: Alas! we have done very villanously; we have served Satan a long time; we walk up and down as condemned men, ripe for destruction long ago; hell itself even groans for us; we may justly look every moment for a mittimus to cast us headlong into the dungeon of brimstone and fire; and yet we will try; we will go and throw down ourselves before the throne of grace in dust and ashes, and cry as the publican did unto the great God [[122]] of heaven; for he is a “merciful God, gracious, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin.” And then, not only peradventure, but most certainly, they shall be received to mercy, and he will save the life of their souls; for this point of preaching mercy only to hearten men to come in, and to nourish in them a hope of pardon in case of penitency, &c., see my Discourse of True Happiness. And I will only add and advise at this time this one thing of great importance in the point, that after a plentiful magnifying and amplifying the mercy of God, by its infiniteness, eternity, freeness, and incomparable excellency every way, wily upon purpose to assure the greatest sinners of most certain acceptation and pardon if they will presently turn with truth of heart from Satan to the living God, from all sin to his holy service; I say, that we then take heed and make sure as much as in us lies, hat no impenitent unbelieving wretch, none that goes on in his trespasses and sins, willingly and delightfully in any one sin, receive any comfort by any such discourse, as though as yet he had any part or interest at all in any one drop of all that boundless and bottomless sea of mercy; that were a means to nail him fast to his natural estate for ever. But only thence conceive, that if he will presently lay down arms against the Majesty of heaven, and come in with a truly penitent, humbled soul, thirsting heartily for Jesus Christ, and resolve unfeignedly to take his yoke upon him, there is no number or notoriousness of sins that can possibly hinder his gracious entertainment at God's mercy seat. For this end, let us tell all such, that though the mercies of God be infinite, yet they are dispensed according to his truth. Now the oracles of divine truth tell us, that those who shall find mercy are such as confess and forsake their sins. “Whoso confesseth and forsaketh his sins shall have mercy” (Prov. xxviii, 13). Those men who do not confess and forsake them shall have no mercy. That the parties to whom good tidings of mercy and comfort are to be preached, are the “poor, the broken- hearted, them that are bruised, those that labour and are heavy laden, all that mourn,” &e. (Luke iv, 18; Matt. xi, 28; Isa. lxi, 2, 3). I hat the man to whom the Lord looks graciously, is “even he that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at his word” (Isa. lxvi, 2). That whosoever by his free mercy through Christ “is born of God, doth not commit sin” (1 John iii, 9); I mean with allowance, purpose, perseverance. No sin reigns in such a one, &c. And yet, alas! how many miserable men will needs most falsely persuade themselves [[123]] and others that they have a portion in the mercies of God, and hug with extraordinary applause and embracement the formal flattering messages of men-pleasers and timeservers, to daub over such rotten hopes, who yet notwithstanding “go on still in their trespasses; who were never yet sensible of the burthen of their corruptions and spiritual beggary; never wounded in conscience, or troubled in mind to any purpose for their sins; never mourned in secret and sincerely for the abominations of their youth; could never yet find in their hearts to sell all for the buying of that one pearl of great price; nor ever yet so prized Jesus Christ as to leave their darling pleasures, though very base and abominable, to enjoy the unspeakable and glorious pleasures of his gracious kingdom? Nay, such as heartily serve some captain and commanding sin in heart, or life, or calling, as their own consciences, if they consult with them impartially in cool blood, can easily tell them; as lust, the world, ambition, the times, the fashion, their pleasures, their profits, their passions, their ease, self-love, pride, revenge, the dunghill delight of good fellowship, or the like.

And here then let me discover a notable depth of Satan, whereby he cloth baffle and blindfold his slaves most grossly. You know full well and hear often the common cry of all carnal men, especially under any conscientious ministry, against preaching of judgment, and for preaching of mercy. (See the causes why they cannot approve downright dealings and powerful application of the law, in my Discourse of True Happiness.) But what do you think is the reason that they gape so greedily after preaching of mercy. Not that they can endure the preaching of it, as I now have taught, and as it only ought to those that are without; to wit, to have first the dearness, the sweetness, the freeness, the full glory of God's immeasurable mercy revealed unto them, only as a motive and encouragement to come in, but ever at the close and conclusion to be made to understand and know certainly, that not so much as one drop of all that bottomless depth of mercy and bounty in Jesus Christ doth as yet belong unto them, lying in any state of unregenerateness, or in in any kind of hypocrisy, whilst they “regard any wickedness in their heart,” and are not willing to “pluck out their right eyes and cut off their right hands;” I mean, to make an everlasting divorce from their former dearest sensual delights and sins of their bosom: for only “they who confess and forsake their sins shall have mercy” (Prov. xxviii, 13). This way of preaching mercy would nettle and gall them as much perhaps as [[124]] pressing of judgment. Nay, why not more? Proportionably to that which divines hold, that the privation and loss of heavenly joys and the beatific presence of God is far more bitter than the torments of sense and positive pains of hell. But to tell you their true meaning and their very hearts: their aim in so complaining and calling for mercy from our ministry is to have it so and in such a manner proposed and preached, that they may thence collect and conceive, that they are in state good enough to go to heaven as they are, though in truth they be mere strangers to the life of God and only strictness of the saints; were never truly humbled with sight of sin and sense of wrath, nor experimentally acquainted at all with the mystery of the new birth; that they may conclude and say within themselves, Howsoever some ministers of the purer and preciser strain fright us continually with nothing but judgment, terror, damnation, and will not suffer us to be quiet, no not so much as in one sin, yet it is our good hap sometimes to meet with some merciful men who will help us to heaven without so much ado, and upon easier terms. In a word, they would if possible have just so much mercy as might assure and warrant them to carry securely their sins in their bosom to heaven with them; to live as they list in this life, and to die the death of the righteous; which is a conceit most ridiculous, absurd, and more than utterly impossible. What a hateful trick then is this, and horrible imposture, which they suffer Satan to put upon them.

III. In proposing of Christ, let the man of God set out as much as he can possibly the excellency of his person, the invaluable preciousness of his blood, the riches of his heavenly purchases, the gracious sweetness of his invitations, the generality and freeness of his offers (Mark xvi, 16; Matt. xi, 28; John vii, 37; Revel. xxii, 17); the glorious privileges he brings with him, reconciliation to God, adoption, forgiveness of sins, justification, righteousness, wisdom, sanctification, redemption, &c. Possession of all things, “For all things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas; or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come, all are yours, and ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's” (1 Cor. iii, 22, 23). Let him tell his hearers that the blood of Christ is called the “blood of God” (Acts xx, 28), and therefore of infinite merit and invaluable price. It sprang out of his human nature, and therefore finite in its own nature, and lost upon the ground. But the person that shed it being the Son of God, did set upon it such an excellency and eternity of virtue and value, that the infiniteness of its merit, and in estimableness of its worth, lasts everlastingly. It [[125]] will be as fresh and effectual to wash away the sins of the last man that shall be called upon earth, as it was those of the penitent thief, who saw it with his bodily eyes gushing out of his blessed side upon the cross, or the first man who did first savingly apprehend that first promise, “The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head.” Let him assure them it is so sovereign, that in a truly broken, humbled, and thirsty soul, it turneth the most scarlet and crimson sins into snow and wool; that upon compunction and coming in, it washed away that horrible and bloody guilt from the souls of them that spilt it (Acts ii). Let them know also, in how high a degree and heinously they offend from time to time, who refuse to take Jesus Christ offered most freely, and without exception of any person, every sabbath, every sermon, either in plain and direct terms, or impliedly at the least. Oh I little do people think who sit under our ministry unwrought upon by the word, what a grievous and fearful sin they commit and carry home from the house of God, day after day, in “neglecting so great salvation, in forsaking their own mercy, and in judging themselves unworthy of everlasting life;” I mean, by choosing upon a free offer of his soul-saving blood, to cleave rather to a lust (horrible indignity!) than to Jesus Christ blessed for ever; rather to wallow in the mire and mud of earthly pelf, in the filth and froth of swinish pleasures, in idleness, pride, worldliness, uncleanness, drunkenness, strange fashions, scorning professors, contempt of the power of godliness, railing against religion, revelling, tic. than abandoning these filthy harlots to take the Son of God for their dear and everlasting husband. This not believing, this refusing Christ, this not taking him in the manner and sense as I have said, is such a sin, though not so thought upon and taken to heart, that divines speak of it as of a most transcendent sin, the greatest sin, the sin of sins, the only sin, as it were, from such places as these:—“But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth, and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burnt up their city” ( Matt. xxii, 7). He means those who were invited to the “ Son's marriage, and made light of it.” “He that believeth not is condemned already, because he bath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John iii, 18). When the Comforter is come “he will convince the world of sin; because they believe not on me.” lie means this sin alone, saith Austin. As though not believing on the Son of God were the only sin. It is indeed the main and master sin, because, as the same father speaks truly, “this remaining, the guilt of all other sins abides upon the soul: this removed, all other sins are remitted.”

[[126]] Nay, and besides the horribleness and heinousness of the sin, what height and perfection of madness is it? That whereas a man but renouncing his base, rotten, transitory, sinful pleasures, followed continually at the heels with vengeance and horror, and only taking Jesus Christ, in whom are bidden and heaped up the fulness of grace and treasures of all perfection, might have thereupon (to say nothing of the excellency of his person, purchases of his passion, and possession of the most blessed Deity) a full and free discharge thereby at the hands of so happy a husband, from every moment of the everlastingness of hellish torments, and a deed presently sealed with his own heart's blood, for an undoubted right to every minute of the eternity of heavenly joys; yet should in cool blood most wickedly and willingly, after so many entreaties, invitations, importunity only for the good of his poor immortal soul, refuse the change! Heaven and earth may be astonished; angels and all creatures may justly stand amazed at this prodigious sottishness and monstrous madness of such miserable men! The world is wont to call God's people precise fools, because they are willing to sell all they have for that one pearl of great price; to part with profits, or pleasures, preferments, their right hand, their right eye, everything, anything, rather than to leave Jesus Christ. But who do you think now are the true and great fools of the world; and who are likeliest one day to groan for anguish of spirit, and say within themselves, “This was he whom we had sometimes in derision, and a proverb of reproach? We fools accounted his life madness, and his end to be without honour. Now is he numbered among the children of God, and his lot is among the saints; therefore have we erred from the way of truth, and the light of righteousness hath not shined unto us; and the sun of righteousness hath not rose upon us. We wearied ourselves in the way of wickedness and destruction. Yea, we have gone through deserts where there lay no way. But as for the way of the Lord, we have not known it. What bath pride profited us, or what good bath riches with our vaunting brought us I All these things are passed away like a shadow, and as a post that hasteth by.”

Nay, and yet further, besides the extraordinariness of the iniquity and folly in refusing Christ freely offered, it shall most certainly be hereafter plagued with extremest tormenting fury, and most desperate gnashing of teeth. For with what infinite horror and restless anguish will this thought rend a man's heart in pieces, and gnaw upon his conscience, when he considers in hell, that Ile hath lost heaven for a lust; and whereas he might at every sermon had even the [[127]] Son of God to be his husband for the very taking; and have lived with him for ever in unspeakable bliss, yet neglecting so great salvation, must now, crying out therefore continually against himself as the most raging madman that ever breathed, lie in unquenchable flames without remedy, ease, or end! It is the highest honour that can be imagined, and a mystery of greatest amazement that ever was, that the Son of God should make suit unto sinful souls to be their husband. And yet so it is; “he stands at the door and knocks;” if you will give him entrance, he will bring himself and heaven into your hearts. “We are Christ's ambassadors, as though God did beseech you by us. We pray you in Christ's stead to be reconciled to God.” We are Christ's spokesmen, if I may so speak, to woo and win you unto him. Now what can you say for yourselves that you stand out Why come you not in? If the devil would give you leave to speak out and in plain terms, one would say, I had rather be damned than leave my drunkenness; another, I love the world better than Jesus Christ; a third, I will not part with my easy and gainful trade of usury for the “treasure hid in the field;” and so on: so that in truth you must needs all confess, that you hereby “judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life; “ that you are wilful murderers of your own souls; that you commit such a wickedness, that all the creatures in heaven and earth cry shame upon you for it. Nay, and if you go on without repentance, you may expect that the gnawings of conscience for this one sin of refusing Christ may perhaps be equal to the united horrors of all the rest.

What is the matter, L wonder, that you will not entertain the match? If we stand upon honour and noble family, he that makes love and suit unto our souls “hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (Rev. xix, 16). If upon beauty, hear how he is described: “My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand. His head is as the most fine sold, his locks are bushy, and black as a raven. His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set. His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers: his lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh. His hands are as gold rings set with the beryl: his belly is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires. His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold: his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars. His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely” (Cant. v, 10-16). Now you must understand, that the Spirit of God, by these outward beauties and excellencies, labours in [[128]] some measure to shadow out and represent unto us the incomparable excellency of inward graces, the dignity, the glory, the spiritual fairness of Jesus Christ, that we may know that he is wholly and altogether lovely, delightful, and precious. If our hearts are set upon ease and contentment, he can lead us to “fulness of joy and pleasures at God's right hand for evermore.” If we desire honourable alliance, he will bring us to “an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which arc written in heaven; and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect.” If we stand upon wealth, we shall have all things with him, which is a large possession. If we respect love, “greater love hash no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends “ (John xv, 13): and he, “being the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person,” came down from his bosom, the well-spring of immortality and bliss, the fulness of joy and unapproachable light, into a house of flesh upon this base and miserable earth. Ile passed through a life full of all manner of vexations, miseries, persecutions, indignities, slanders, speaking against of sinners, &c. He was so prodigiously slandered that they said he had a devil (John viii. 48); whereas “the fulness of the Godhead dwelt in him bodily” (Col. ii, 9). He was cunningly hunted long, and at last violently haled by a pack of hell-hounds to a cruel and bloodly death, which for the extremity and variety of pains, for the enraged spite of the executioners, for the innocency and excellency of the person suffering, the like never was, shall, or can be endured. His passions were such, so bitter and insupportable, that they would have made any mere creature to have sunk down under the burthen of them to the bottom of hell. He was tortured extremely, and suffered grievous things both in body and soul, from heaven, earth, and hell. His blessed body was given up as an anvil to be beaten upon by the violent and villainous hands of wretched miscreants, without all measure or mercy, until they had left no one part free from some particular and special torment. His skin and flesh were rent with scourges, his hands and feet pierced with nails, his head with thorns, his very heart with a spear point. All his senses, all his parts, indeed his whole sacred body, was made a rueful spectacle to angels and to men, of all the most base and barbarous usage which malice could devise and cruelty execute. Yet all this was but a shadow of his suffering; the substance of his suffering was the agony of his soul. Give me any affliction save the affliction of the mind; “for the spirit of a man,” saith Solomon, “will [[129]] sustain all his other infirmities; but a wounded spirit who can bear? “ Yet his soul, though he was the Prince of glory, and Lord of heaven and earth, upon the cross was even as a scorched heath, without so much as any drop of comfort either from heaven or earth. The grievous weight of all the sins of all his children, the least of which had been enough to have pressed them down into the bottom of hell, lay now heavy upon him. The powers of darkness were let loose to afflict him. He wrestled even with the fierce wrath of his Father, and all the forces of the infernal kingdom, with such anguish of heart, that in the garden it wrung out of his precious body a sweat “as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground,” with such agony of spirit, that upon the cross he cried, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” And the measure of all these sufferings and sorrows was so past all measure, that all the creatures, save sinful men only, both in heaven and earth, seemed to be amazed and moved with them. The sun in the heavens drew in his beams, unwilling as it were to see the spotless blood of the Son of God spilt as water upon the ground. The earth itself shrunk and trembled under it. The very rocks rent asunder, as if they had sense and feeling of his intolerable, and, save by himself, unconquerable pains. The whole frame of nature seemed astonished at the mournful complaint of the Lord of the whole world. These, and far more than these, or than can be expressed, our blessed Saviour, being Son of the Most high God, endured for no other end but to ransom us from the bondage of Satan and of hell, in a thirsting desire of saving all penitent sinners, and to offer himself freely a most glorious and everlasting husband to all those who with broken and believing hearts cast themselves into his bosom. Such admirable and unutterable perfections, beauties, endowments, sufferings, and inflamed affections as these in the heavenly suitor unto our sinful souls, doth mightily aggravate the heinous and horrible sin of refusing him.

Thus, and in this manner, would I have the men of God to magnify, enlarge, and represent to the hearts of their hearers all the excellences of Jesus Christ, with the worth, merit, and efficacy of his blood. To set out to the utmost they can possibly, the glory of the gospel, with all the riches of mercy, goodness, and free grace, revealed and offered therein, &c. So that they tell them withal that Jesus Christ takes none but such as are willing to take upon them his yoke; that he gives himself to none but such as are ready to sell all, in the sense 1 have said, that they may enjoy his blessed self. That the glorious grace of the gospel [[130]] shines savingly to none but such as “deny ungodliness and worldly lusts; and live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Tit. ii, 11, 12). That those, whose souls are cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ from all sin, are only such as walk in the light, as God is in the light; who make conscience of detesting and declining all sins and works of darkness discovered to them by the light of God's holy book, and sincerely set their hearts and hands with love and careful endeavour to every duty enjoined therein. In a word, that as that fountain opened to the house of David for sin and for uncleanness (1 mean the blood of that immaculate lamb, Jesus Christ, the holy and the righteous) cloth turn all the sins, even the very scarlet and crimson, of a truly broken heart, and every true mourner in Zion, into snow and wool, so it will never wash away the least sinful stain from the proud heart of any unhumbled pharisee.

That hereby no strangers unto the love and life of godliness may be deceived by appropriating unto themselves any of these glorious things, which are only proper to the sealed fountain, but only conceive of them as excellent motives to cause them to come in, I would have the preaching of Christ fill the soul of every true hearted Nathanael every time with “unspeakable and glorious joy,” with all those evangelical pleasures, which neither “eye hath seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man.” But I would have it only make every unregenerate man sensible of what infinite blessedness he bereaves himself by continuing a rebel; that thereupon he may be moved to make haste out of his present hell into this new heaven, so fairly opened and freely offered unto him.

IV. Besides pressing the law, promising mercy, proposing Christ, &c. to stir men in their natural states, to make them entertain thoughts of coming in, to humble them in the sight of the Lord under the heavy burthen of all their sins, assure them also of pardon, in case they will leave Satan's service, and so prepare them for Christ; let God's ministers lay hold upon all warrantable ways which they shall find and feel out of their ministerial experience and holy wisdom to be available and prevail for that purpose: so that the work be done in truth, and that they do not, like the devil's daubers, 'deceive them to the eternal ruin and damnation of their souls, by telling them that they have Christ already. and are safe enough for salvation, whereas indeed as yet there is no such matter.

Such points as these are wont to make attentive natural men to startle in their seats, to look about them something [[131]] more than ordinarily, — to wit, to divide the precious from the vile; to distinguish that one true happy state of grace from all states of unregenerateness, and all kinds of hypocrisy; to tell them out of the book of God, how far a man may go in general graces and doing many things, and yet come short of heaven; to deliver marks of sincere professors, of a saving faith, of true repentance, of a sound conversion. But I would have this done with a great deal of spiritual wisdom and heavenly understanding, with much godly discretion and caution; lest thereby, either the formal professor may be encouraged, or the weakest Christian disheartened. To discourse of the fewness and scarcity of those which shall be saved, and that even under the light and within the sound of the gospel; “many are called, but few chosen” (Matt. xx, 16). Consider the parable of the sower, Matt. xiii. There is but one good soil upon which the word falls prosperously; but three reprobate grounds, as it were, upon which it is lost as water upon the ground. Thus let the men of God acquaint themselves with such points as they conceive the likeliest and most pregnant to pierce their hearers' hearts, and come closest to their consciences, that so by the help of God they may pull them out of hell.

And there are some places also in the book of God, which being rightly handled and powerfully applied, seem to have a special keenness to strike at and cut asunder the iron sinews of the most obstinate heart, and of more aptness to serve for the rousing and awaking of mere civil men, formal professors, pharisees, and foolish virgins out of their desperate slumber of spiritual self-deceit. Such as these: “And it come to pass, when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, 1 shall have peace, though 1 walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst: the Lord will not spare him, but then the anger of the Lord and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven” (Deut. xxix, 19, 20). “God shall wound the hairy scalp of such a one as goeth on still in his trespasses (Psalm lxviii, 21). “Because 1 have called and ye refused, 1 have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded, Sec. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer: they shall seek ins early, but they shall not find me” (Prov. i, 24, 28). “He that being often reproved, hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy” (Prov. xxix, 1). “In thy filthiness is lewdness; became I have purged thee, and thou [[132]] wast not purged, thou shalt not be purged from thy filthiness any more, till I have caused my fury to rest upon thee” (Ezek. xxiv, 13). “If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear!” (1 Pet. iv, 18.) “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin” (1 John iii, 9). “Love the brotherhood” (1 Pet. ii, 17).

“Without holiness no man shall see the Lord” (Heb. xii, 14). “The devils also believe and tremble” (James ii, 19). “Strive to enter in at the strait gate; for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in and shall not be able” (Luke xiii, 24). “And whosoever shall not receive you, &c. “Verily, I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city “ (Matt. x, 14, 15). “And from the days of John the Baptist, until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matt. xi, 12). “And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others!” (Matt. v, 47.) “I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. v, 20). These fellows represented to the eye of the world a goodly and glorious show of freedom from gross sins: “I am not,” saith the pharisee, Luke xviii, 11, “as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers,” &c; of works; first, of righteousness, “I give tithes of all that I possess.” Secondly, of piety, “lie went up to pray.” Thirdly, of mercy, besides fasting and prayer, they gave alms (Matt. vi); and yet Christ speaks thus peremptorily to his hearers: “Except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the scribes and pharisees, &c. ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” He saith not simply, ye shall not enter; but ye shall “in no case” enter. And yet how many who come short of these will be very angry, if the ministers tell them that they shall certainly corns short of the kingdom of heaven.

I have done with daubing and plaistering over rotten hearts with plausible persuasions, that they shall not be damned: I mean that most cruel and accursed trade of “strengthening with lies the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way, by promising him life” (Ezek. xiii, 22), whereby thousands are sent hoodwinked to hell (more is the pity!) even in this blessed time of the gospel: and I come now to another error about comforting afflicted consciences.