CHAP.  5.

The second Malady of Conscience.
Three Considerations against Unsoundness, proposed for the Cure of this Malady;
and Three more against Unadvisedness.

YEA, but, may another say, I, in the case proposed, have cast myself, according to your counsel, upon Jesus Christ; and there by the mercy of God am 1 resolved to stick, come what will; and 'yet no comfort comes. What should I think of myself in this case I

I think in such a case it may be convenient, and that such an one hath thereupon some cause and calling seriously and impartially to search and try his spiritual state. For which purpose, ponder seriously upon such considerations as these; some of which may discover unsoundness, others unadvisedness.

1. It may be the party is not yet come in truth to that [[300]] sound humiliation, contrition, spiritual thirsting, resolution to sell all, &c., required by the reverend Author quoted before[1]: but only path passed over them overtly, not soundly; superficially, not sincerely; and then no marvel though no true and real comfort come. Inform thyself further in this point, that thou mayest more fully know my meaning in it, and be guided aright in a matter of so great weight[2].

2. Or it may be, howsoever he protest otherwise, and for all his partial legal terror and trouble of mind, his deceitful heart may still secretly harbour and hanker after some sweet sin, as pride, revenge, strange fashions, worldliness, lust, plays, gaming, good-fellowship, as it is called, &c.; from which it doth not heartily yield, resolve, and endeavour to make an utter and final cessation and divorce. And assuredly that false heart which regards and allows any wickedness in itself, howsoever it may be deluded with some Anabaptistical flashes, yet shall never be truly refreshed with “joy in the Holy Ghost.”

3. It may be, though there were some probable and plausible shows that the party was principally cast down and affected with the heavy weight of sin and horror of God's wrath for it; yet the true predominant cause of his heaviness, heart's grief, and bitterest complaint, was some secret earthly discontentment, the restless biting of some worldly sting: and in such cases, remove this, and you remove his pains; comfort him about his cross, and you set him were he was; and therefore, as in all this he continues a mere stranger in affection to the sweetness, amiableness, and excellency of Jesus Christ, so it is impossible that he should be acquainted with any sound spiritual comfort. But I will suppose all to be sincere and as it should be; let me advise thee then to take notice of thine own un-advisedness.

(1.) Thou art perhaps so full of the want of feeling, such a stranger to so much expected and desired joy and peace in believing, and by consequence so drowned in the unnecessary distractions and distempers of a sad heart, that thou utterly forgettest to give thanks and magnify God's singular and incomprehensible mercy for enlightening, convincing, and terrifying thy conscience, offering his Son, raising in thine heart an insatiable thirst after him, and giving thee spiritual ability to rest thy weary soul upon him; and who knows not that unthankfulness keeps many good things from us, and is an unhappy block in the way to [[301]] intercept and hinder the comfortable influence and current of God's favours and mercies from being showered down so frankly and plentifully upon his people? And he is more likely to be the more provoked in this case, because thou sufferest thine heart to be locked up and thy tongue tied, by Satan's cunning and cruel malice, from praising the glory of God's free grace, for such a work of wonder; I mean that mighty change of thine from nature to grace, in extolling of which, were all the hearts and tongues of all the men and angels in heaven and earth set on work industriously through all eternity, they would still come infinitely short of that which is due and deserved.

(2.) Or it may be, when someone of a thousand, upon thy complaint that no comfort comes, doth seriously labour to settle thine heart in peace, pressing upon thee for that purpose invincible and unanswerable arguments out of the word of truth; to open it wide, that overflowing rivers of evangelical joys, which may spring (to him that is advised aria believes the Prophets) abundantly even from the weakest faith to refresh and comfort it; telling thee, that as thine humbled soul, leaning upon Christ, draws much heavenly virtue, mortifying power, and sanctifying grace from him, so it may and ought also to draw abundance of spiritual-lightsomeness from that ever-springing fountain of life, &c.; — yet notwithstanding all this, thou sufferest some malicious counter-blasts and contrary suggestions of the devil to disperse and frustrate all these well-grounded and glorious messages; and therefore it is just with God that thou fare the worse at his hands, and fall short of thine expectation, because thou givest more credit to the father of lies than to the Lord of truth. Since thou spillest all the cordials that are tendered unto thee in the name of Christ by his faithful physicians, thou art deservedly destitute of comfort still. Many in such cases, while God's messenger, who can rightly declare his ways unto them, stands by, opening and applying the rich treasures of God's free mercy in the mystery of the gospel, and with present replies repelling Satan's cavils, are reasonably well cheered and revived; but when he is gone they very weakly and unworthily give way again to that foul lying fiend, to cast a discomfortable mist over the tender eye of their weak faith, and to domineer as he did before.

Tell me true, if thou wert in doubt and distress about thy temporal state, tenure of thy lands, soundness of thy title-deeds, wouldst thou advise with and take counsel from a fool, a knave, and an enemy; or wouldst thou make choice of an honest, wise, understanding friend? I doubt [[302]] not of thine answer. And wilt thou then so far disparage divine truth, gratify hell, and hurt thine own heart, as in that weightiest point of thy spiritual state to consult and resolve with the devil, a liar, a murderer, a sworn enemy to God's glory and thy soul's good; and neglect God himself, blessed for ever, speaking unto thee out of his word, by that minister, which in such a case durst not falsify or flatter thee for a world for gold! Shall many thousands of worldly wise men give credit very readily and roundly to “daubers with untempered mortar,” upon a false and rotten foundation, to the most certain and eternal ruin of their souls; and shall not a humble, an upright-hearted man, believe the prophet upon good ground, that the bones which the heavy burthen of sin hath broken may rejoice? God forbid.

(3.) Nay, but suppose the party be truly humbled, very thankful, resolute against all sin, labour to believe the prophets, &c. and yet no comfort come. I say then there is one other duty expected at thy hands, right precious and pleasing unto God, and that is waiting; by which God would,

1. Set yet a sharper edge and eagerness, more hungering and thirsting, greater longing and panting after the ravishing sweetness of his comfortable presence, with which melting, earnest, crying dispositions, he is very much delighted.

2. Cause us with peace and patience to submit unto and depend upon his merciful wisdom in disposing and appointing times and seasons for our deliverances and refreshings. For he well knows that very point and period of time, first, when his mercy shall be most magnified; secondly, his children's hearts most seasonably comforted and kindly enlarged to pour out themselves in thankfulness; thirdly, his and our spiritual enemies most gloriously confounded.

3. Quicken and set on work with extraordinary fervency the spirit of prayer, fright us further from sin for the time to come; fit us for a more fruitful improvement of all offers and opportunities to do our souls good; to make more of “joy and peace in believing “when we enjoy it; and to declare to others in like extremity God's dealings with us for their support, &c.

We must learn then to expect and be content with God's season; and hold up our hearts in the meantime with such considerations as these: “First, we perform a very acceptable service, and a Christian duty, right pleasing unto I and much prevailing with God, by waiting. See Isa. xl, I 31; xlix, 23; lxiv, 4; and Lam. iii, 25. Secondly, By our [[203]] patient dependence upon God in this kind, we may mightily increase and multiply our comfort when his time is come. For he is wont to recompense abundantly at last his longer tarrying with excess of joy, and overflowing expressions of his love. Thirdly, we. must ever remember, that all the while he exerciseth us with waiting, that season is not yet come, which in his merciful wisdom he holds the meetest to magnify the glory of his mercy most, and most wisely to advance our spiritual good. Fourthly, and that which is best of all, if the true convert, resting his weary soul upon the Lord Jesus and promises of life, should be taken away before he attain his desired comfort, he shall be certainly saved, and undoubtedly crowned with everlasting blessedness; for “blessed are all they that wait for him (Isa. xxx, 18). A man is saved by believing; and not by joy and peace in believing.” Salvation is an inseparable companion of faith; but joy and peace accompany it as a separable accident; as that which may be removed from it; yea, there is cause why it should be removed. The light would never be so acceptable, were it not for the usual intercourse of darkness.

Take here notice upon this occasion, that as a truly humbled soul receiving Christ in the sense I have said, bath power given him thereby to become the Son of God; so he doth draw also from that glorious object of faith, so full of all amiableness, excellency, and sweetness—

1. Sometimes, by the mercy of God, a very sensible, stirring, and ravishing joy, “unspeakable and full of glory;” which though it be many times very short, yet is unutterably sweet.

2. If not so, yet an habitual calmness of conscience, if I may so call it; which though we do not mark it so much, or magnify God's mercy for it as we ought, yet it makes us differ as far by a comfortable freedom from many slavish, guilty twitches, and an universal contentedness in all our courses and passages through this vale of tears, from the world's dearest and most admired favourite, as the highest region of the air from the restless and raging sea: especially if that unhappily happy wretch have a waking conscience.

3. Or at least ever a secret heavenly vigour, whereby the soul is savingly supported in what state soever, though it be under the continued pressures of most hideous temptations; the tithe of the terror whereof would make many a worldling make way with himself, because he wants this stay. And suppose they should continue unto the last gasp; even unto thine ending hour, nay entrance into heaven; [[304]] yet thy spiritual state is not thereby prejudiced, but thy salvation is still most sure; and thy first taste of those eternal joys shall be the sweeter, by how much thy former temptations and trials have been the sorer: for we must ever hold fast this blessed tiuth, that we are justified by casting ourselves upon Christ, not by comfort; by faith, not by feeling; by trusting the sure word of God, not by assurance.

[1] Rogers of Dedham, on Faith.

[2] Ibid. cap. ii, and v.