CHAP. 1.

The First particular Malady set down, with a general Principle for the Cure of it.

COME now, as I promised, to some special cures and particular application of comfortable antidotes to divers spiritual maladies, of which Christians especially complain; to those terrors and temptations which are wont most to afflict sin-troubled and truly humbled souls.

1. I will suppose thou art effectually and savingly wrought upon by the preaching and power of the word; enlightened and convinced to acknowledge and feel thyself to be a most sinful and cursed wretch by nature; lost and forlorn, damned and utterly undone in thyself; &c.; and upon the opening of the glorious mystery of the gospel, and offer therein of the person and precious merits of Jesus Christ, for the present binding up of thy broken heart and endless blessedness, thou art ravished with extraordinary admiration and affection after that “hidden treasure and pearl of great price,” holding thyself happy that ever thou wast born, and made for ever if thou canst get possession of it; but a lost man if thou canst not get it, and an everlasting castaway. Most willing therefore art thou to “sell all that thou hast;” prizing it infinitely before the riches, glory, and pleasures of the whole earth. In which state thou hast a strong, direct, and special calling to fill thine hungry soul with Jesus Christ; to lay hold upon his [[282]] person, sufferings, promises, and all the rich purchases of his dearest blood as thine own for ever; to take him as thy “wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption;” that so “unspeakable joy, and full of glory,” “peace which passeth all understanding,” evangelical pleasures, which “neither eye hath seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man,” might abundantly flow into thine heart from the “fountain of all comfort.” But yet so it is, alledging that thou art the unworthiest upon earth, the vilest of men; no heart so hard as thine; thy sins far above ordinary; of an abominable and most abhorred strain; of a scarlet and crimson dye; for thou hast done so and so; sinned many and many a time against that divine, nay and even natural light, which stood in thy conscience like an armed man; persecuted the saints; lived in Sodom; and that which troubles thee most of all, for all these sins thy sorrow is very poor and scant, in no proportion to thy former heinous provocations: — I say upon these, and the like mistaken grounds, thou very unadvisedly professest, but against thine own soul, that as yet thou canst not, thou darest not, thou wilt not meddle with any mercy, apply any promise, or be persuaded that Jesus Christ belongs unto thee. What! such a vile, unworthy, abominable wretch as thou, to expect such glorious things, to come near so pure a God, to lay violent hands upon the Lord of life, and look for everlasting bliss! Alas! say what you will, sayest thou, as yet I cannot, I dare not, I will not. Whereupon thou wilfully, as it were, liest still upon the rack of much spiritual terror and trouble of mind; and, which is a miserable addition and mischief, for which thou mayest thank thyself, art all the while far more liable and liest much more open to Satan's most horrible injections, and cruellest temptations to self-destruction, despair, plunging again into former pleasures of good-fellowship, and the like.

It grieves the to consider how fearfully and falsely thou deceivest thine own heart in a point of so great importance, to thy much spiritual hurt and further horror. Why, this it is which maketh thee most welcome to Jesus Christ; because thou art so sensible of thy spiritual misery and beggary; because thou art so vile, so abominable, so unworthy and wretched in thine own conceit. “Those that be whole, need not a physician, but they that are sick. Christ came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mat. ix, 12, 13). And in this respect he is said to “justify the ungodly” (Rom. iv, 5); and to “die for the unjust” (1 Pet. iii, 18); and to seek those that find themselves lost: and [[283]] therefore that which thou makest thy greatest discouragement to come unto Christ, should be, and in truth is the greatest encouragement to cast thyself with confidence into the bosom of his love.

But before 1 come to speak more fully to the point, let me premise this principle:—

When a man is once sincerely humbled under God's mighty hand, with sight of sin and sense of divine wrath; so that now all his former wicked ways, pollutions, and provocations of God's pure eye, lie so heavy upon his heart, that he is truly weary, willing to be rid of them all, unfeignedly thirsting after the blood and righteousness of Christ; and therefore as well content to take upon him his sweet and easy yoke, to please him in new obedience for the time to come, as to partake of the merit of his passion for the present pardon of his sins: — I say then he must conceive that lie hath a sound, seasonable, and comfortable calling to lay fast hold upon Jesus Christ, and to be undoubtedly persuaded that he hath his part and portion in him. And besides that God's blessed word determines it, he may the rather assent unto it and the more boldly believe it, because he bath now found and feels by his own experience the practice of that double policy of the devil, so often discovered unto him heretofore by God's faithful messengers; to wit, that whereas he was a long time most industrious to keep his heart resolutely stubborn and unstirred against the might and piercing of the most powerful ministry, and when at any time he once perceived it to begin to work upon him, raised all possible opposition against his yielding; so now, when he is truly touched indeed and resolute to abandon his hellish slavery for ever, he labours might and main, with all restless cruelty and malice, to keep his conscience continually upon the rack. To this purpose he objects and urges to the utmost the heinousness of his former sins, the fierceness of God's wrath ( which he cunningly concealed before), the littleness of his sorrow, his unworthiness to meddle with any promise, and the like. And what is the reason, think you, that he who was so daubing before is now so downright? he that was so indulgent before is now so desperate; and for nothing but despair and damnation? It is easy to tell: for that foul fiend knows full well, if a poor soul in the supposed case and such a truly humbled state, shall but come now, when Christ calls him, and “set to his seal that God is true” (which not to do shall ever be an unmannerly madness, and wilful cruelty to a man's own conscience), he is then quite gone out of his kingdom of darkness, and an immortal soul is pulled out of his hellish paw for ever. This [[284]] is the true reason why he so rageth when he sees a weary soul make towards Jesus Christ for rest. I have often foretold you of Satan's method and malice in managing his temptations in this kind, that being forewarned ye may be fore-armed. He plots first, and prevails with most amongst us, to keep them from terror and trouble for sin: but if they be once happily wounded that way, then his next plot is to allay and take away the smart by outward mirth, or daub and draw over a skin only with unsound and superficial comfort. But if he find that it bleeds still, and will not be stanched but only by the blood of Christ, and that no earthly pleasure can any whit assuage the pain; then in the third place doth he cast about and contend with all cruelty to keep the poor soul in a perpetual sad, slavish trembling, that it may not dare to meddle with any comfort, or apply the promises; but cherishing the bruise, against the counsel of the prophets, bleed inwardly still. And this point he plies with more eagerness and fury, because the very next step, to wit, but even reaching out of this spiritual gulf and grief for sin towards the merciful hand of Christ holden out to help him up, is the next and immediate act by which a man is quite and for ever pulled out of his power and put into the paradise of grace.

Or in a word, and shorter, thus: — Though thou comest freshly out of a hell of heinous sins; and hitherto hast neither thought, nor spoke, nor done anything but abominably; yet if now with true remorse thou groanest under them all, as a heavy burthen, and sincerely longest for the Lord Jesus and newness of life, thou art bound presently, immediately after that act and unfeigned resolution of thy soul, to take Christ himself and all the promises of life as thine own for ever. All delays, demurs, exceptions. objections, pretexts, standing out, scruples, distrusts, and contradictions to the contrary, are dishonourable to God's mercy and free grace, disparagement to the promises, derogatory to the truth and tender-heartedness of Jesus Christ; an unnecessary detainment of the soul in terror, and only a gratification of that roaring lion, whose trade is to tear souls in pieces and torture them all he can. For as soon as we are poor in spirit, we are presently blessed (Mat. v, 3); as soon as we are weary of our sins, the hand of Christ is ready to take off the burthen (Mat. xi, 28); as soon as we thirst in the sense I have said, the “fountain of the water of life” is set wide open unto us (Rev. xxi, 6); as soon as we have got “contrite and humble spirits,” we become royal thrones for “the High and Lofty One that inhabiteth eternity” to dwell in for ever (Isa. lvii, 15).