CHAP.  2.

Use of the former Doctrine for the Unconverted, to take out the sting of sin by Repentance. 
One Reason why every Sinner doth not always feel that sting.


THE first use of the former doctrine is for counsel to the unconverted, that they would take the sting out of their sins, and prevent the desperateness and incurableness of this [[63]] horrible wound by a humble, sincere,’ universal turning unto the Lord “while it is called to-day.” For assuredly in. the meantime, all the sins they have heretofore committed in thought, word, or deed; at any time, in any place, with any company; or to which they have been any ways accessary, are already upon record before the pure eye of that high and everlasting Judge; written exactly by the hand of Divine justice in the book of their consciences with a pen of iron, with a claw of adamant, with the point of a diamond; or, if you can name anything which makes a stronger, deeper, and more lasting impression: and there they lie like so many lions asleep, and giants refreshing with wine, gathering much desperate poison and stinging points, that whensoever hereafter they shall be effectually and finally awakened by God’s angry hand, they may torment most ragingly, and tear their woeful souls in pieces everlastingly when there is none to help.

Now we may see and observe many times one little sin (at least in the world’s account, and conceit of carnal men) to plunge a guilty conscience into the depth of extremest horror, and a very hell upon earth; as I have heard of and known in many. One, for a sudden unadvised imprecation against her own soul, in case she did so or so; another, for a thought conceived of God, unworthy so great a majesty; another, for covetously keeping a thing found, and not restoring it, or not inquiring after the owner; another, for an adulterous project without any actual pollution; another, by concurring with a company of scoffing Ishmaels only once, and ere he was aware, by lifting up the hands and casting up the eyes in scorn of God’s people. Yet afterwards, they sadly revising these miscarriages in cool blood, some of them, some five or six years after, God being then pleased to represent them with terror, and their native stings, were cast into that affliction of conscience and confusion of spirit that their very bones were broken, their faces filled with ghastliness and fear, their bodies possessed with strange tremblings and languishing distempers, their very vital moisture turned into the drought of summer. In which dreadful perplexity they were in great danger of destroying themselves and of being swallowed up of despair. if the guilty sense then of one sin, when God sets it on and says unto it “Torment,” draws so many fiery points of stinging scorpions after it, charges upon the excellency of the understanding with such hideous darkness, rends the heart in pieces with such desperate rage, grinds into powder the arm and sinews of all earthly succour, melts, like dew before the sun, all those delights and pleasures which the [[64]] whole world offers or affords to comfort in such a case; in a word, makes a man so extremely miserable, that he would make away with himself, wishes with unspeakable grief that he had never been, that he might return into the abhorred state of annihilation, that he were any other creature, that he might lie hid world without end under some everlasting rock from the face of God; nay, that he were rather in hell than in his present horror; —I say, it being thus, what unquenchable wrath, what streams of brimstone, what restless anguish, what gnashing of teeth, what gnawing of conscience, what despairful roarings, what horrible torments, what fiery hells feeding upon his soul and flesh for ever, may every impenitent wretch expect, when the whole black and bloody catalogue of all his sins shall be marshalled and mustered up together at once against him? every one being sharpened with as much torturing fury as the infinite anger of Almighty God can put into it, after that lie bath accursedly with much incorrigible stubbornness outstood the day of his gracious visitation under this glorious sunshine of the gospel, wherein he either hath, or if he had been as provident for his immortal soul as anxious in caring for his rotten carcass might have enjoyed very powerful means all his life long: and yet all the while neglected so great salvation, forsook his own mercy, and so judged himself unworthy of everlasting life!

If a lesser sin many times press so heavy when the conscience is enlightened, how will thy poor soul tremble under the terrible and intolerable weight of all thy sins together I When all thy lies, all thy oaths, all thy filthy speeches and railings, all thy mad passions and impure thoughts, all thy good-fellow meetings, ale-house hauntings, and scoffings of God’s people, all the wrongs thou hast done, all the goods thou host got ill, all the time thou hast mispent; thy profanation of every sabbath, thy killing of Christ at every sacrament, thy non-proficiency at every sermon, thy ignorance, thy unbelief, thy worldliness, thy covetousness, thy pride, thy malice, thy lust, thy lukewarmness, impatience, innumerable swarms, vain-glory, self-love, the swarms of vain, idle, wandering, and wicked imaginations; in a word, all the pollutions, distempers, and estrangedness from God in thine heart; all the villanies, vanities, and rebellions of thy whole life;—I say, when all these shall be charged upon thy graceless soul by the implacable indignation of that highest Majesty, whose mercy, ministry, and long-suffering thou hast shamefully abused; whose anger, patience, and pure eye thou hast villainously provoked all thy life long, alas! what wilt thou do then? What “wings [[65]] of the morning” will then carry thee out of the reach of God’s revenging hand? What cave shall receive thee What mountain cant thou get by entreaty to fall upon thee? What darkest midnight or hellish dungeon shall hide thee from that wrath which thou shalt be neither able to abide nor to avoid? In this case I would not have thy heart in my breast one hour, for the riches, glory, and pleasures of ten thousand worlds.

Neither bless thyself in the mean time because thou hast neither fear, foretaste, nor feeling of the wrath which is to come, the vengeance which hangs over thine head, and the horror which follows thee at the heels, for that is the very complement of thy misery and perfection of thy madness. To be sick, and senseless of it, is the sorest sickness. To have Satan pierce thy soul with so many sins one after another and to feel no smart, is a most desperate security. To have all this misery hanging over thee, and to be confident and fearless, is the “misery of miseries.”

The reasons why thou art at rest from their guilty rage in the meantime, and that so many sleeping lions, I mean all thine unpardoned sins, do not yet awake and stir, terrify and tear in pieces, are such as these:

1. Satan is subtle, so that he will not meddle much or molest thee extremely, until Ile be able to do thee an irrecoverable mischief. He is wont not to appear in his true likeness, and so terribly; not so much to disquiet and trouble any of his own, before he have them at some dead lift and desperate advantage, as under some extraordinary cross, great disgrace, grievous sickness; in time of some deep melancholy, unavoidable danger, universal confusion, when he conceives in all probability that they have outstood the clay of their visitation, hardened their hearts that they cannot repent, received the sentence of death against themselves; and at such other like times, when he hopes he shall be able to crush and confound them suddenly, utterly, and for ever. And then lie appears the devil indeed, and shows himself in his own colours. For he then infinitely endeavours with all cunning and cruel industry, after he bath wafted them awhile down the current of the times with as much carnal peace and pleasure as he could possibly, to cast them upon the rock of a most dreadful ruin, and swallow them up quick in the gulph of calamity and woe, of despair, self-destruction, everlasting perdition of body and soul. But you must know that in the meantime, until he can espy such an opportunity, he labours might and main to keep them in as merry a mood as may be. He lays about him by all ways and means he can, devise to [[66]] plot and provide for them, and that with great variety and curiosity, fresh successions and supplies continually of pleasures, contentments, the countenance and favours of the times, sensual satisfactions, all earthly prosperities. If he can help it, and have b:s will, they shall wallow still in all worldly felicity, and be attended upon with all the delights their hearts can desire. And all this to continue them with more easiness and irresistance in the broad way; and lest otherwise they should grow weary of his slavery, sensible of their gilded fetters, and so labour after liberty and enlargement from his hellish bondage; for he knows full well, that if they endured much hardship in his service, they might perhaps think of seeking after a new master; that want of comfort in the world, might draw their hearts to delight in the word; not finding happiness upon earth, might make them inquire after that which is in heaven; that crosses and crossing their courses being sanctified for that purpose, may haply help to break their hearts and bring them to remorse for sin, which he mainly fears, and opposeth with all the craft and power he can possibly, lest thereupon they break out of his fool’s paradise into the garden of grace; out of the warm sun into God’s blessing. In managing hi main policy for the more secure detainment of his vassals in the invisible chains of darkness and damnation, and in an everlasting distaste and disaffection to the good way; by holding up their hearts in his sinful service, and wooing them to go on quietly towards hell without any grumbling, he works many ways: —

(1.) He plots all he can to procure them success in their wicked enterprises and unlawful attempts, especially against the faithful ministers and people of God; for that doth infinitely confirm, harden, and encourage him in their profane courses and opposition to grace. Herein he doth many times mightily prevail by improving the opportunities and pressing the advantages which he gains by the executions of God’s justice and rebellions of his children. The sins even of his own people do many times provoke God’s just indignation against them, and enforce him to raise up their adversaries as scourges, and to give them success for the humiliation and chastisement of his chosen. See Psalm lxxxi, 12-15; Isa. x, 5, 6; Ezek. xxii, 19, 20. Whereupon Satan fills the hearts of the wicked so prevailing and conquering with a great deal of pride, self-applause, insolence, contempt of godliness, self-conceitedness of their own righteousness and worth, and so hardens them extraordinarily, and holds them with much obstinate resolution in the ways of death, and prejudice against the holy path. He helps [[67]] all he can to have them thrive and prosper by oppression, usury, simony, sacrilege, bribery, covetousness, cozening, Machiavelian tricks, &c., that so his service may seem more sweet and gainful unto them. To the effecting whereof be receives notable assistance and special advantage from the corruptions of the times and conscientious simplicity of the saints. For the first, these worst and ulcerous times, wherein so many vines, olive trees, and fig trees wither away in obscurity, and so many brambles brave it abroad in the world, tumbling themselves in the pleasures, splendour, and glory of the present; wherein so many brave “princes are walking as servants upon the earth;” and too many servants of luxury and pride are mounted on horseback; I say, they are the only season for Satan to gratify all his graceless ones, and to hoist them up by the common but accursed stairs and stirrups of bribing, baseness, temporizing, ill offices to humour greatness, and other such vile means and accommodations, into eminency in the world, and high rooms, where he keeps them in a golden captivity with great contentment, and locks them full fast in the scorner’s chair, with much security to their own sensual hearts, and notorious service to himself. Whereas, in deed and truth, to men that have eyes in their heads, the ascent is slippery, the top shaking, the downfall desperate. For the second, it is incredible to consider what a deal of advantage in worldly dealings the covetous devil, in a cruel and crafty worldling, doth suck out of the single-heartedness, plain dealing, and unsuspiciousness of conscientious men, for their rising and enriching, if God cross it not.

(2.) He draws them, by all the baits he can devise, to all the incentives and preservatives of carnal contentment, as to taverns, ale-houses, play-houses, brothels, gaming houses, to May- games, morrice dances, to cards, to dice, to dancing, to feasts, wakes, misrules, drinking .matches, revellings, and a world of such sinful haunts, bedlam fooleries, and good-fellow meetings, wherein he is mightily furthered by wicked men’s impatience of solitariness, and their enraged eagerness of carrying with them to hell as many as may be. For the first, “Though a good man,” as Solomon saith, “be satisfied from himself,” dare full well, and desires full often to be alone, because the bird of

the bosom sings sweetly to his soul in solitariness, yet all the sons and daughters of pleasure have no pleasure at all, nay ordinarily are most loth to be by themselves. Solitariness puts them in gloomy fear, makes them extremely melancholy and weary of themselves. They would rather be anywhere, in any company,. any ways employed [[68]] than alone. Mistake me not, they can walk by themselves to feed upon contemplative filth, speculative wantonness, and adulteries of the heart; to plot revenge, preferment, enlargement of their estate; to renew upon their sensual hearts their youthful pleasures; but to be alone purposely to deal with God and their own consciences about their spiritual state they abhor, they cannot endure; it is to them a torture, a rack, the very beginning of hell; and that is the reason, to decline the stings of guiltiness and torment before their time, why they have so often recourse unto the arm of flesh for refreshing, to the mirth and madness of wine, pleasures, and many other fugitive follies; that they cast themselves into such knots of good-fellowship, appoint so many set matches of jovial meetings, and hunt after such variety of the times entertainment (as they call it), which they account the very life of their life, and without which they would rather be underground than above it. For the second, hear how swaggeringly they cry unto their companions in iniquity, to make haste with them towards hell. “Come with us, let us lay wait for blood, let us lurk privily for the innocent without cause; let us swallow them up alive, as the grave, and whole, as those that go down into the pit; we shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our houses with spoil. Cast in thy lot among us, let us all have one purse.” (Prov. i, 11-14.) “Come on, therefore, let us enjoy the good things that are present, and let us speedily use the creatures as in youth. Let us fill ourselves with costly wine and ointments, and let no flower of the spring pass by us. Let us crown ourselves with rose-buds before they be withered. Let none of us go without his part of our voluptuousness. Let us leave tokens of our joyfulness in every place; for this is our portion, and our lot is this.” And in all these cursed conventicles of good-fellowship, and furious combinations for profaneness and against piety, the devil himself is ever present amongst them as their chief director; and there disposeth, inclines, manageth and accommodates all opportunities, circumstances, occurrents, men’s several corruptions, and pregnancy of their wicked wits, to make their meetings as merry as may be, and to put all possible sensual sweetness into their carnal delights;

(3.) Lastly, that which is principally for my purpose, besides that like a crafty juggler he casts a mist before the eyes of his slaves, and like a false merchant puts a counterfeit gloss upon the face of sin, he also hides away the sting from them, and withholds the horror until afterward. Every sin in its own nature ever looks fouler than the devil himself. Oh that the ugly, fearful, and filthy shape of it could be seen [[69]] with bodily eyes, that thereby it might provoke all men to a mortal and immortal hate and detestation of it! The sting is pointed with the keen unquenchable wrath of God; the horror is heated with the very fire of hell; and yet ordinarily Satan takes care by his craft and industry that these never appear, until he thinks that in all probability the sight of them will sink their souls into irrecoverable woe.

The not feeling then of their spiritual misery is so far from making them not miserable, that it ministers occasion to the devil’s malice, mightily to aggravate their misery both present and future.