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more to enjoy it. For a man to be weary and give over prayer, just when the mercy is at hand! and to be weary and give over a holy life, when his labour and sufferings are almost at an end! How sad will this day be to thee, if death this night be sent to fetch away thy soul! Then whose will all those pleasures be, that thou soldest thy soul for? If thou knewest that thou hadst but a month or year to live, wouldst thou not have held out that one year? Thou knowest not that it shall be one week. This is like the sad story of a student at one of our Universities, who wanting money, and his father delaying to send it him, he staid so long, till at last he resolved to stay no longer, but steal for it rather than be without: and so went out, and robbed, and murdered the first man he met, who proved to be his father's messenger, that was bringing him the money that he robbed and killed him for: which when he perceived by a letter which he found in his pocket, he confessed it through remorse of conscience, and was hanged. When a few hours' patience more might have saved his innocency, and his life. And so is it with many a backsliding wretch, that is cut off, if not like Zimri and Cozbi in the act of their sin, yet quickly after; and enjoy the pleasure which they forsook their God for, but a little while.
Direct. IV. When you are awakened to see the terribleness of a relapsed state, presently return and fly to Christ, to reconcile your guilty souls to God, and make a stop and go not one step further in your sin, nor make any delays in returning to your fidelity.' It is too sad a case to be continued in. If thou darest delay yet longer, and wilfully sin again, thou art yet impenitent, and thy heart is hardened; and if the Lord have not mercy on thee, to recal thee speedily, thou art lost for ever.
Direct. v. Make haste away from the occasions of thy sin, and the company which ensnareth thee in it.' If thou knewest that they were robbers that intended to murder thee, thou wouldst be gone: if thou knewest that they had plague-sores running on them, thou wouldst be gone. And wilt thou not be gone, when thou knowest that they are the servants of the devil, that would infect thee with sin, and cheat thee of thy salvation? Say not, Is not this company lawful, and that pleasure lawful? &c. If it be like to en
tice thy heart to sin, it is unlawful to thee, whatever it is to others; it is not lawful to undo thy soul.
Direct. VI. Come off by sound and deep repentance, and shame thyself by free confession, and mince not the matter, and deal not gently with thy sin, and be not tender of thy fleshly interest, and skin not over the sore, but go to the bottom, and deceive not thyself with a seeming cure3. Many a one is undone, by repenting by the halves, and refusing to take shame to themselves by a free confession, and to engage themselves to a thorough reformation by an openly professed resolution. Favouring themselves and sparing the flesh, when the sore should be lanced and searched to the bottom, doth cause many to perish, while they supposed that they had been cured.
Direct. VII. Command thy senses, and at least forbear the outward acts of sin, while thy conscience considereth further of the matter.' The drunkard cannot say, that he hath not power to shut his mouth; let the forbidden cup alone; no one compelleth you; you can forbear it if you will. The same I may say of other such sins of sensuality. Command thy hand, thy mouth, thy eye, and guard these entrances and instruments of sin.
Direct. VIII. Engage some faithful friend to assist thee in thy watch.' Open all thy case to some one, that is fit to be thy guide or helper; and resolve that whenever thou art tempted to the sin, thou wilt go presently and tell them before thou do commit it; and entreat them to deal plainly with you; and give them power to use any advantages that may be for your good.
Direct. Ix. Do your first works, and set yourselves seriously to all the duties of a holy life: and incorporate yourselves into the society of the saints:' for holy employment and holy company, are very great preservatives against every sin.
Direct. x. Go presently to your companions in sin, and lament that you have joined with them, and earnestly warn and entreat them to repent; and if they will not, renounce their course and company, and tell them what God hath shewed you of the sin and danger. If really you will re
x Jam. v. 16. Neh. ix. 2, 3. Matt. iii. 6. Acts xix. 18.
y Matt. xxvi. 75. Luke xxii. 62.
turn, as with Peter you have fallen, so with Peter, go out and weep bitterly; and when you are converted, strengthen your brethren, and help to recover those that you have sinned with 2.
I have suited most of these Directions to those that relapse into sins of sensuality, rather than to them that fall into atheism, infidelity, or heresy; because I have spoken against these sins already; and the Directions there given, shew the way for the recovery of such.
Tit. 2. Directions for preventing Backsliding, or for Perse
Apostacy and backsliding is a state that is more easily prevented than cured: and therefore I shall desire those that stand, to use these following Directions, lest they fall.
Direct. 1. Be well grounded in the nature and reasons of your religion. For it is not the highest zeal and resolu→ tion that will cause you to persevere, if your judgments be not furnished with sufficient reasons, to confute gainsayers, and evidence the truth, and tell you why you should persevere. I speak that with grief and shame which cannot be concealed: the number of Christians is so small that are well seen in the reasons and methods of Christianity, and are able to prove what they hold to be true, and to confuté opposers, that it greatly afflicteth me to think, what work the atheists and infidels would make, if they once openly play their game, and be turned loose to do their worst! If they deride and oppose the immortality of the soul, and the life to come, and the truth of the Scriptures, and the work of re-. demption, and office of Christ; alas, how few are able to withstand them, by giving any sufficient reason of their hope? We have learnt of the Papists, that he hath the strongest faith that believeth with least reason; and we have been (truly) taught that to deny our foundations, is the horrid crime of infidelity: and therefore because it is so horrid a crime to deny or question them, we thought we need not study to prove them: and so most have taken their foundation upon trust (and indeed are scarce able to bear
z Luke xxii. 32.
the trial of it), and have spent their days about the superstructure, and in learning to prove the controverted, less necessary points. Insomuch, that I fear there are more that are able to prove the points which an Antinomian, or an Anabaptist do deny, than to prove the immortality of the soul, or the truth of Scripture, or Christianity; and to dispute about a ceremony, or form of prayer, or church government, than to dispute for Christ against an infidel. So that their work is prepared to their hands, and it is no great victory to overcome such raw, unsettled souls.
Direct. 11. Get every sacred truth which you believe, into your very hearts and lives; and see that all be digested into holy love and practice.' When your food is turned into vital nutriment, into flesh and blood, it is not cast up by every thing that maketh you sick, and turneth your stomachs; as it may be before it is concocted, distributed and incorporated. Truth that is but barely known, is but like meat that is undigested in the stomach: but truth, which is turned into the love of God, and of a holy life, is turned into a new nature; and will not so easily be let go.
Direct. 111. Take heed of doctrines of presumption and security, and take heed lest you fall away, by thinking it so impossible to fall away, that you are past all danger3.' The covenant of grace doth sufficiently encourage you to obey and hope, against temptations to despair and casting off the means: but it encourageth no man to presume or sin, or to cast off means as needless things. Remember that if ever you will stand, the fear of falling must help you to stand and if ever you will persevere, it must be by seeing the danger of backsliding, so far as to make you afraid, and quicken you in the means which are necessary to prevent it. It is no more certain that you shall persevere, than it is certain that you shall use the means of persevering: and one means is, by seeing your danger, to be stirred up to fear and caution to escape it. Because it is my meaning in this Direction, to save men from perishing by security upon the abuse of the doctrine of perseverance, I hope none will be offended that I lay down these antidotes.
a Virtutem Chrysippus amitti posse, Cleanthes vero non posse ait: ille posse amitti per ebrietatem et atram bilem ; ille non posse ob firmas ac stabiles comprehensiones, &c. See Diog. Laert. lib. vij. sect. 89.
1. Consider, that the doctrine of perseverance hath nothing in it to encourage security. The very controversies about it, may cause you to conclude, that a certain sin is not to be built upon a controverted doctrine. Till Augustine's time, it is hard to find any ancient writers, that clearly asserted the certain perseverance of any at all. Augustine and Prosper maintain the certain perseverance of all the elect, but deny the certain perseverance of all that are regenerated, justified, or sanctified: for they thought that more were regenerate and justified than were elect, of whom some stood (even all the elect) and the rest fell away: so that I confess, I never read one ancient Father, or Christian writer, that ever maintained the certainty of the perseverance of all the justified, of many hundred, if not a thousand years after Christ. And a doctrine, that to the church was so long unknown, hath not that certainty, or that necessity, as to encourage you to any presumption or security. The churches were saved many hundred years without believing it.
2. The doctrine of perseverance is against security, because it uniteth together the end and the means: for they that teach, that the justified shall never totally fall from grace, do also teach, that they shall never totally fall into security, or into any reigning sin. For this is to fall away from grace. And they teach that they shall never totally fall from the use of the necessary means of their preservation; nor from the cautious avoiding of the danger of their souls: God doth not simply decree that you shall persevere; but that you shall be kept in perseverance by the fear of your danger, and the careful use of means; and that you shall persevere in these, as well as in other graces. Therefore if you fall to security and sin, you fall away from grace, and shew that God never decreed or promised, that you should never fall away.
3. Consider how far many have gone that have fallen away the instances of our times are much higher than any I can name to you out of history. Men that have seemed to walk humbly and holily, fearing all sin, blameless in their lives, zealous in religion, twenty or thirty years together, have fallen to deny the truth, or certainty of the Scriptures, the Godhead of Christ, if not Christianity itself. And many