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CHAPTER VI.

THAT THE GRAND CAUSE OF MAN'S ETERNAL RUIN, OR WHY SO MANY ARE DAMNED, AND SO FEW SAVED BY CHRIST, IS FROM THEMSELVES.

"Why will ye die?" (Ezek. xxxiii. 11). The great cause why so many people die, and perish everlastingly, is because they will; every man that perisheth is his own butcherer or murderer. (Matt. xxii. 27. Hosea ix). This is the point we propose to prosecute at present.

Question. The question here will be, how men plot and perfect their own ruin.

Answer. By these four principal means, which are the four great rocks that most men are split upon; and great necessity lieth upon every man to know them; for when a powder plot is discovered, the danger is almost past. I say, there are these four causes of man's eternal overthrow, which I shall handle largely, and make use of every particular reason, when it is open and finished.

First. By reason of that bloody black ignorance of men, whereby thousands remain wofully ignorant of their spiritual estate, not knowing how the case stands between God and their souls, but thinking themselves to be well enough already, they never seek to come out of their misery till they perish in it.

Secondly. By reason of man's carnal security, putting the evil day from them, whereby they feel not their fearful thralldom, and so never groan to come out of the slavish bondage of sin and Satan.

Thirdly. By reason of man's carnal confidence, whereby they shift to save themselves by their own duties and performances, when they feel it.

Fourthly. By reason of man's bold presumption, whereby men scramble to save themselves by their own seeming faith, when they see an insufficiency in duties, and an unworthiness in themselves for God to save them.

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I will begin with the first reason, and discover the first train whereby men blow up themselves, which is this: they know not this misery, nor that fearful, accursed, forlorn state wherein they lie, but think and say they shall do as well as others; and therefore, when any friend persuadeth them to come out of it, and shows them the danger of remaining in such a condition, what is their answer? I pray you save your breath to cool your broth. Every vat shall stand on his own bottom. Let me alone; I hope I have a soul to save as well as you, and shall be as careful of it as you shall or can be. You shall not answer for my soul. I hope I shall do as well as the precisest of you all.

Hence, likewise, if the minister come home to them, they go home with hearts full of outcries against the man, and their tongue dipped in gall against the sermon. God be merciful unto us if all this be true! Here's harsh doctrine enough to make a man run out of his wits, and to drive me to despair. Thus they know not their misery, and not knowing, (they are lost and condemned creatures under the everlasting wrath of God), they never seek, pray, strive, or follow the means whereby they may come out of it, and so perish in it, and never know it till they awake with the flames of hell about their ears. They will acknowledge, indeed, many of them, that all men are born in a most miserable estate; but they never apply particularly that general truth to themselves, saying, I am the man; I am now under God's wrath, and may be snatched away by death every hour; and then I am undone and lost forever.

Now, there are two sorts of people that are ignorant of this their misery.

First. The common sort of profane, blockish, ignorant people.

Secondly. The finer sort of unsound, hollow professors, that have a peacock's pride, that think themselves fair and in very good estate, though they have but one feather on their crest to boast of.

I will begin with the first sort, and show you the reasons why they are ignorant of their misery; that is, for these four reasons:--

First. Sometimes because they want the saving means of knowledge. There is no faithful minister, no compassionate Lot, to tell them of fire and brimstone from heaven for their crying sins; there is no Noah to forewarn them of a flood; there is no messenger to bring them tidings of those armies of God's devouring plagues and wrath that are approaching near unto them; they have no pilot--poor forsaken creatures--to show them their rock; they have either no minister at all to teach them, either because the parish is too poor, or the church living 252 too great to maintain a faithful man, (the strongest asses carrying the greatest burdens commonly.) O, woful physicians! Sometimes they be profane, and can not heal themselves; and sometimes they be ignorant, and know not what to preach, unless they should follow the steps of Mr. Latimer's Frier; or, at the best, they shoot off a few popguns against gross sins; or if they do show men their misery, they lick them whole again with some comfortable, ill-applied sentences, (but I hope better things of you, my brethren,) the man's patron may haply storm else. Or else they say commonly, Thou hast sinned; comfort thyself, but despair not; Christ hath suffered; and thus skin over the wound, and let it fester within, for want of cutting it deeper. I say, therefore, because they want a faithful watchman to cry, Fire, fire, in that sleepy estate of sin and darkness wherein they lie, therefore whole towns, parishes, generations of men are burnt up, and perish miserably. (Lam. ii. 14.)

Secondly. Because they have no leisure to consider of their misery, when they have the means of revealing it unto them, as Felix. (Acts xxiv. 25.) Many a man hath many a bitter pill given him at a sermon, but he hath no leisure to chew upon it. One man is taken up with suits in law, and another almost eaten up with suretyship, and carking cares how to pay his debts, and provide for his own; another hath a great charge and few friends, and he saith the world is hard, and hence, like a mole, roots in the earth, week days and Sabbath days. The world thus calling them on one side, and lusts on another, and the devil on the other side, they have no leisure to consider of death, devil, God, nor themselves, hell, nor heaven. The minister cries and knocks without, but there is such a noise and lumber of tumultuous lusts and vain thoughts in their hearts and heads, that all good thoughts are sad, unwelcome guests, and are knocked down presently.

Thirdly. Because, if they have leisure, they are afraid to know it. Hence people cry out of ministers, that they damn all, and will hear them no more, and they will not be such fools as to believe all that such say: the reason is, they are afraid to know the worst of themselves; they are afraid to be cut, and therefore can not endure the chirurgeon; they think to be troubled in mind, as others are, is the very high road to despair; and therefore, if they do hear a tale, how one, after hearing of a sermon, grew distracted, or drowned or hanged himself, it shall be an item and a warning to them as long as they live, for troubling their hearts about such matters. Men of guilty consciences (hence) fly from the face of God, as prisoners from the judge, as 253 debtors from the creditor. But if the Lord of hosts can catch you, you must and shall feel with horror of heart that which you fear a little now.

Fourthly. Because, if they be free from this foolish fear, they can not see their misery, by reason that they look upon their estates through false glasses, and by virtue of many false principles in their minds, they cheat themselves.

"Which false principles are these principally; I will but name them.

First. They conceive God, that made them, will not be so cruel as to damn them.

Secondly. Because they feel no misery, (but are very well,) therefore they fear none.

Thirdly. Because God blesseth them in their outward estates, in their corn, children, calling, friends, &c., would God bless them so, if he did not love them?

Fourthly. Because they think sin to be no great evil,--for all are sinners,--so this can not mischief them.

Fifthly. Because they think God's mercy is above all his works, though sin be vile, yet conceiving God to be all mercy, all honey, and no justice, they think they are well.

Sixthly. Because they think Christ died for all sinners, and they confess themselves to be great ones.

Seventhly. Because they hope well, and so think to have well.

Eighthly. Because they do as most do, who, never crying out of their sins while they lived, and dying like lambs at last, they doubt not, for their parts, but, doing as such do, they shall die happily, as others have done.

Ninthly. Because their desires and hearts are good, as they think.

Tenthly. Because they do as well as God will give them grace, and so God is in the fault only if they perish.

These are the reasons and grounds upon which profane people are deceived.

Now, it followeth to show the grounds on which the finer sort miscarry.

Secondly. Hollow professors cheat and cozen their own souls. It is in our church as it is in an old wood, where there are many tall trees; yet cut them and search them deeply, they prove pithless, sapless, hollow, unsound creatures. These men twist their own ruin with a finer thread, and can juggle better than the common sort, and cast mists before their own eyes, and so cheat their own souls. It is a minister's first work to turn 254 men from darkness into this light, (Acts xxvi. 18,) and the Spirit's first work to convince men of sin. (John xvi. 9.) And therefore it is people's main work to know the worst at first of themselves.

Now, the cause of these men's mistaking is threefold.

First. The spiritual madness and drunkenness of their understanding.

Secondly. The false, bastard peace begot and nourished in the conscience.

Thirdly. The sly and secret distempers of the will.

First. There are these seven drunken distempers in the understanding or mind of man, whereby he cometh to be most miserably deceived.

First. The understanding's arrogancy. You shall never see a man mean and vile in his own eyes, deceived, (Ps. xxv. 9); but a proud man or woman is often cheated. Hence proud Haman thought surely he was the man whom the king would honor, when, in truth, it was intended for poor Mordecai. For pride having once overspread the mind, it ever hath this property--it makes a penny stand for a pound, a spark is blown up to a flame, it makes a great matter of a little seeming grace; and therefore the proud Pharisee, when he came to reckon with himself, he takes his poor counter,--that is, "I am not as other men, nor as this publican,"--and sets it down for one thousand pounds; that is, he esteems of himself as a very rich man for it; so many a man, because he hath some good thing in himself, as he is pitiful to the poor, he is a true man though a poor man; he was never given to wine or women; he magnifieth himself for this title, and so deceives and overreckons himself. There are your Bristow stones like diamonds, and many cheaters cozen country folks with them that desire to be fine, and know not what diamonds are; so many men are desirous to be honest, and to be reputed so, not knowing what true grace means. Therefore Bristow stones are pearls in their eyes. A little seeming grace shines so bright in their eyes, that they are half bewitched by it to think highly of themselves, although they be but glittering, seeming jewels in a swine's snout. A cab of doves' dung was sold in Samaria's time of famine at a great rate; a man living in such a place, where all about him are either ignorant, or profane, or civil, a little moral honesty (dung in respect of true grace) goes a great way, and is esteemed highly of, and he is as honest a man as ever lived. To a man that looks through a red glass, all things appear red; a man looking upon himself through some fair spectacles, through some one good thing which he hath 255 in himself, appears fair to him. It is said, (Luke xx. ult.,) "The Pharisees devoured widows' houses. Might not this racking of rents make them question their estates? No. Why? They for pretense made long prayers; so many men are drunk now and then, but they are sorry; they can not but sin, but their desires are good; they talk idly, but they live honestly; they do ill sometimes, but they mean well. Thus, when some good things are seen in themselves, pride puffs them up with an overweening conceit of it, and so they cozen their souls.

Secondly. The understanding's obstinacy; whereby the mind, having been long rooted in this opinion, that I am in a good estate, will not suffer this conceit to be plucked out of it. Now, your old rooted, yet rotten professors, having grown long in a good conceit of themselves, will not believe that they have been fools all their lifetime, and therefore now must pull down and lay the foundation again; and hence you shall have many say of a faithful minister, that doth convince and condemn them and their estate to be most woful. What shall such an upstart teach me? Doth he think to make me dance after his pipe, and to think that all my good prayers, my faith, my charity, have been so long abominable and vile before God? No silver can bribe a man to cast away his old traditional opinions and conceits, whereby he cheats himself, till Christ's blood do it. (1 Pet. i. 18.) And hence the woman of Samaria objected this against Jesus Christ, that their old "fathers worshiped in that mountain," and therefore it was as good a place as Jerusalem, the place of God's true worship. (John iv. 20.) Men grow crooked and aged with good opinions of themselves, and can seldom or never be set straight again. Hence such kind of people, though they would fain be taken for honest, religious Christians, yet will never suspect their estates to be bad themselves, neither can they endure that any other should search or suspect them to be yet rotten at the heart: and are not those wares and commodities much to be suspected, nay, concluded to be stark naught, which the seller will needs put upon the chapman without seeing or looking on them first? It is a strong argument we produce against the Papist's religion to be suspected to be bad, because they obtrude their opinions on their followers, to be believed without any hesitation or dispute about them, either before or after they have embraced them: certainly thy old faith, thy old prayers, thy old honesty, or form of piety, are counterfeit wares, that can not endure searching; because thou wilt not be driven from this conceit, I am in a good estate, I have been so long of this good mind, and therefore will not begin to doubt now. It is to be 256 feared that such kind of people, as I have much observed, are either notoriously ignorant, or have some time or other fallen into some horrible secret, grievous sins, as whoredom, oppression, or the like, the guilt of which, lying yet secretly on them, makes them fly from the light of God's truth, which should find them out, quarreling both against it and the ministers that preach it. (Rom. ii. 8.) And therefore, as it is with thieves when they have any stolen goods brought within doors, they will not be searched or suspected, but say, they are as honest men as themselves that come to search; for they fear, if they be found out, that they shall be troubled before the judge, and may hardly escape with their lives: so many old professors, when the minister comes to search them, they clap to the doors upon the man and truth too, and say, they hope to be saved as well as the best of them all: the reason is, they are guilty; they are loth to be troubled and cast down by seeing the worst of themselves, and think it is hard for them to go to heaven and be saved, if they have been in a wrong way all their lifetime. An honest heart will cry after the best means, "Lord, search me," (John iii. 20,) and open all the doors to the entertainment of the straitest, strictest truths.

Thirdly. The understanding's obscurity, or ignorance of the infinite exactness, glorious purity, and absolute perfection of the law of God; whence it cometh to pass that this burning lamp, or bright sun of God's law, being set and obscured in their minds, rotten glowworms of their own righteousness, doing some things according to the law of God, shines and glisters gloriously in their eyes, in the dark nighttime of dismal darkness, by doing of which they think to please God, and their estates are very good. "I was alive," saith Paul, (Rom. vii. 9,) "without the law;" and he gives the reason of it, because sin did but sleep in him, like a cutthroat in a house where all is quiet. Before the law came, he saw not that deadly secret score of corruption, and that litter of rebellion that was lurking in his heart, and therefore thought highly of himself for his own righteousness. The gospel is a glass to show men the face of God in Christ. (2 Cor. ii. ult.) The law is that glass that showeth a man his own face, and what he himself is. Now, if this glass be taken away, and not set before a deformed heart, how can a man but think himself fair? And this is the reason why civil men, formalists, almost every one, think better of themselves than indeed they are, because they reckon without their host; that is, they judge of the number, nature, and greatness of their sins by their own books, by their own reason; they look not God's debt book, God's exact laws over, and compare themselves 257 therewith; if they did, it would amaze the stoutest heart, and pluck down men's plumes, and make them say, Is there any mercy so great as to pass by such sins, and to put up such wrongs, and to forgive such sins and debts, one of which alone may undo me, much more so many?

Fourthly. The understanding's security or sleepiness, whereby men never reflect upon their own actions, nor compare them with the rule; although they have knowledge of the law of God, yet it is with them as it is with men that have a fair glass before them, but never beholding themselves in the glass, they never see their spots. This is the woe of most unregenerate men; they want a reflecting power, and light to judge of themselves by. (Jer. viii. 6). You shall have them think on a sermon. Here is for such a one, and such a one is touched here; when it may be the same sermon principally speaks of them; but they never say, This concerneth me; I was found out through the goodness of the Lord to-day, and surely the man spake unto none but unto me, as if somebody had told him what I have done. And hence you shall find out many lame Christians, that will yield to all the truths delivered in a sermon, and commend it too, but go away and shake off all truths that serve to convince them. And hence many men, when they examine themselves in general, whether they have grace or no, whether they love Christ or no, they think yes, that they do with all their hearts; yet they neither have this grace nor any other, whatever they think, because they want a reflecting light to judge of generals by their own particular courses. For tell these men that he that loves one another truly, will often think of him, speak of him, rejoice in his company, will not wrong him willingly in the least thing; now, ask them, if they love Christ thus. If they have any reflecting light, they will see where they have one thought of Christ, they have a thousand on other things. Rejoice! nay, they are weary of his company in word, in prayer. And that they do not only wrong him, but make a light matter of it when it is done. All are sinners, and no man can live without sin. Like a sleepy man, (fire burning in his bed straw,) he cries not out, when others happily lament his estate, that see afar off, but can not help him. (Is. xlii. 25). A man that is to be hanged the next day may dream over night he shall be a king. Why? Because he is asleep, he reflects not on himself. Thou mayest go to the devil, and be damned, and yet ever think and dream that all is well with thee. Thou hast no reflecting light to judge of thyself. Pray therefore that the Lord would turn your eyes inward, and do not let the devil and delusion shut you out of your own house, from seeing what court is kept there every day. 258 Fifthly. The understanding's impiety, whereby it lessens and vilifies the glorious grace of God in another; whence it comes to pass, that this deluded soul, seeing none much better than himself, concludes, If any be saved, I shall no doubt be one. (Is. xxvi. 10, 11). Men will not behold the majesty of God in the lives of his people; many a man being too light, yet desirous to go and pass for current, weighs himself with the best people, and thinks, What have they that I have not? what do they that I do not? And if he see they go beyond him, then he turns his own balance with his finger, and makes them too light, that so he himself may pass for weight.

And this vilifying of them and their grace, judging them to be of no other metal then other men, appears in three particulars.

First. They raise up false reports of God's people, and nourish a kennel of evil suspicions of them; if they know any sin committed by them, they will conclude they be all such; if they see no offensive sin in any of them, they are then reputed a pack of hypocrites if they are not so uncharitable, (having no grounds,) they prophesy they will hereafter be as bad as others, though they carry a fair flourish now.

Secondly. If they judge well of them, then they compare themselves to them, by taking a scantling only by their outside, and by what they see in them; and so, like children, seeing stars a great way off, think them no bigger nor brighter than winking candles. They stand afar off from seeing the inside of a child of God; they see not the glory of God filling that temple; they see not the sweet influence they receive from heaven, and that fellowship they have with their God; and hence they judge but meanly of them, because the outside of a Christian is the worst part of him, and his glory shines chiefly within.

Thirdly. If they see God's people do excel them, that they have better lives, better hearts, and better knowledge, yet they will not conclude that they have no grace, because it hath not that stamp, that honest men's money hath. But this prank they play; they think such and such good men have a greater measure and a higher degree of grace than themselves, yet they dare be bold to think and say their hearts are as upright, though they be not so perfect as others are; and so vilify the grace that shines in the best men, by making this gold to differ from their own copper, not essentially, but gradually, and hence they deceive themselves miserably; not but that one (star or) sincere Christian differs from another in glory; I speak of those men only that never were fixed in so high a sphere as true honesty dwells, yet 259 falsely father this bad conclusion, that they are upright for their measure, that they have not the like measure of grace received as others have.

Sixthly. The understanding's idolatry, whereby the mind sets up, and bows down to a false image of grace; that is, the mind, being ignorant of the height and excellency of true grace, takes a false scantling of it, and so imagines and fancies, within itself, such a measure of common grace to be true grace, which the soul easily having attained unto conceives it is in the estate of grace, and so deceives itself miserably. (Rom. x. 3). And the mind comes to set up her image thus:--

First. The mind is haunted and pursued with troublesome fears of hell; conscience tells him he has sinned, and the law tells him He shall die, and Death appears, and tells him he must shortly meet with him; and if he be taken away in his sins, then comes a black day of reckoning for all his privy pranks, a day of blood, horror, judgment, and fire, where no creature can comfort him. Hence saith he, Lord, keep my soul from these miseries: he hopeth it shall not prove so evil with him, but fears it will.

Secondly. Hereupon he desireth peace and ease, and some assurance of freedom from these evils. For it is a hell above ground ever to be on the rack of tormenting fears.

Thirdly. That he may have ease, he will not swagger his trouble away, nor drown it in the bottom of the cup, nor throw it away with his dice, nor play it away at cards, but desires some grace, (and commonly it is the least measure of it too.) Hereupon he desires to hear such sermons and read such books as may best satisfy him concerning the least measure of grace; for, sin only troubling him, grace only can comfort him soundly. And so, grace, which is meat and drink to a holy heart, is but physic to this kind of men, to ease them of their fears and troubles.

Hereupon, being ignorant of the height of true grace, he fancieth to himself such a measure of common grace to be true grace. As, if he feels himself ignorant of that which troubles him. So much knowledge will I then get, saith he. If some foul sins in his practice trouble him, these he will cast away, and so reforms. If omission of good duties molest him, he will hear better, and buy some good prayer book, and pray oftener. And if he be persuaded such a man is a very honest man, then he will strive to do as he doth; and now he is quieted.

When he hath attained unto this pitch of his own, now he thinks himself a young beginner, and a good one too; so that if he dieth, he thinks he shall do well; if he liveth, he thinks and hopes he shall grow better; and when he is come to his own 260 pitch, he here sets down his staff, as fully satisfied. And now, if he be pressed to get into the estate of grace, his answer is, That is not to be done now: he thanks God that care is past. The truth is (beloved) it is too high for him; his own legs could never carry him thither, all his grace coming by his own working, not by God Almighty's power. Let a man have false weights, he is cheated grievously with light gold. Why? Because his weights are too light, so these men have too light weights to judge of the weight of true grace; therefore light, clipped, cracked pieces cheat them. Hence you shall have those men commend pithless, sapless men, for very honest men as ever break bread. Why? They are just answerable to their weights. Hence I have not much wondered at them who maintain that a man may fall away from true grace; the reason lieth here: They set up to themselves such a common work of grace to be true grace, from which no wonder that a man may fall. Hence Bellarmine saith, That which is true grace, veritate essentiae, only, may be lost; not that grace which is true, veritate firmae soliditatis, which latter, being rightly understood, may be called special grace, as the other common grace. Hence also you shall have many professors hearing a hundred sermons never moved to grow better. Hence likewise you shall see our common preachers comfort every one, almost, that they see troubled in mind, because they think presently, they have true grace, now they begin to be sorrowful for their sins. It is just according to their own light weights.

For the Lord's sake take heed of this deceit. True grace (I tell you) it is a rare pearl, a glorious sun clouded from the eyes of all but them that have it, (Rev. ii. 17); a strange, admirable, almighty work of God upon the soul, which no created power can produce; as far different, in the least measure of it, from the highest degree of common grace, as a devil is from an angel; for it is Christ living, breathing, reigning, fighting, conquering in the soul. Down, therefore, with your idol grace, your idol honesty; true grace never aims at a pitch; it aspires only to perfection. (Phil. iii. 12, 13). And therefore Chrysostom calls St. Paul insatiabilis Dei cultor--a greedy, insatiable worshiper of the Lord Almighty.

Seventhly. The understanding's error is another cause of man's ruin. And that is seen principally in these five things, these five errors or false conceits:

First. In judging some trouble of mind, some light sorrow for sin, to be true repentance; and so, thinking they do repent, hope they shall be saved. For sin is like sweet poison; while a man is drinking it down by committing it, there is much pleasure 261 in it; but after the committing of it, there is a sting in it, (Prov. xxiii. 31, 32); then the time cometh when this poison works, making the heart swell with grief; sorry they are at the heart, they say, for it; and the eyes drop, and the man that committed sin with great delight now cries out with grief in the bitterness of his soul, O that I, beast that I am, had never committed it! Lord, mercy, mercy! (Prov. v. 3, 4, 11, 12). Nay, it may be they will fast, and humble and afflict their souls voluntarily for sin; and now they think they have repented, (Is. lviii. 3), and hereupon when they hear that all that sin shall die, they grant this is true indeed, except a man repent, and so they think they have done already. This is true; at what time soever a sinner repents, the Lord will blot out his iniquity: but this repentance is not when a man is troubled somewhat in mind for sin, but when he cometh to mourn for sin as his greatest evil, and if he should see all his goods and estate on a light fire before him; and that not for some sins, but all sins, little and great; and that not for a time, for a fit and away, (a land flood of sorrow), but always like a spring never dry, but ever running all a man's lifetime.

Secondly. In judging the striving of conscience against sin to be the striving of the flesh against the spirit; and hence come these speeches from carnal black mouths; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. And hence men think, they, being thus compounded of flesh and spirit, are regenerate, and in no worse estate than the children of God themselves. As sometime I once spake with a man, that did verily think that Pilate was an honest man, because he was so unwilling to crucify Christ; which unwillingness did arise only from the restraint of conscience against the fact. So, many men judge honestly, yet simply, upon such a ground of themselves: they say, they strive against their sins, but, Lord be merciful unto them, they say, the flesh is frail. And hence Arminius gives a diverse interpretation of the seventh chapter to the Romans from ordinary divines; concerning which Paul speaks in the person of an unregenerate man, because he observed divers graceless persons (as he saith himself) having fallen, and falling commonly into sins against conscience, to bring that chapter in their own defense and comfort, because they did that which they allowed not, (ver. 15.) and so it was not they, but sin that dwelled in them.

And so many among us know they should be better, and strive that they may grow better, but, through the power of sin, cannot; conscience tells them they must not sin, their hearts and lusts say they must sin; and here, forsooth, is flesh and spirit. 262 O, no, here is conscience and lust only by the ears together; which striving, Herod, Balaam, Pilate, or the vilest reprobate in the world may have. Such a war argueth not any grace in the heart, but rather more strength of corruption, and more power of sin in the heart; as it is no wonder if a horse run away when he is loose; but when his bit and his bridle are in his mouth, now to be wild, argueth he is altogether untamed and subdued. Take heed, therefore, of judging your estate to be good, because of some backwardness of your hearts to commit some sins, though little sins; for thy sins may be, and it is most certain are, more powerful in thee than in others that have not the like strugglings, because they have not such checks as thou hast to restrain thee. Know, therefore, that the striving of the spirit against the flesh is against sin because it is sin; as a man hates a toad, though he be never poisoned by it; but the striving of thy conscience against sin is only against sin because it is a troubling or a damning sin. The striving of the spirit against the flesh is from a deadly hatred of sin. (Rom. vii. 15). But thy striving of conscience against sin is only from a fear of the danger of sin. For Balaam had a mind to curse the Israelites, for his money's sake; but if he might have had a house full of silver and gold, (which is a goodly thing in a covetous eye,) it is said, he durst not curse them.

Thirdly. In judging of the sincerity of the heart, by some good affection in the heart. Hence many a deluded soul reasons the case out thus with himself: Either I must be a profane man, or a hypocrite, or an upright man. Not profane, I thank God; for I am not given to whoring, drinking, oppression, swearing; nor hypocrite, for I hate these shows, I can not endure to appear better without than I am within; therefore I am upright. Why? O, because my heart is good; my affections and desires within are better than my life without; and whatever others judge of me, I know mine own heart, and the heart is all that God desires. And thus they fool themselves. (Prov. xxviii. 26). This is one of the greatest causes and grounds of mistake amongst men that think best of themselves: they are not able to put a difference between the good desires and strong affections that arise from the love of Jesus Christ.

Self-love will make a man seek his own good and safety; hence it will pull a man out of his bed betimes in the morning, and call him up to pray; it will take him and carry him into his chamber toward evening, and there privately make him seek, and pray, and tug hard for pardon, for Christ, for mercy: Lord, evermore give us of this bread! But the love of Christ makes 263 a man desire Christ and his honor for himself, and all other things for Christ. It is true, the desires of sons in Christ by faith are accepted ever; but the desires of servants, men that work only for their wages out of Christ, are not.

Fourthly. In judging of God's love to them, by aiming some times at the glory of God. Is this possible, that a man should aim at God's glory, and yet perish? Yes, and ordinarily too: a man may be liberal to the poor, maintain the ministry, be forward and stand for good things, whence he may not doubt but that God loves him: but here is the difference--though a wicked man may make God's glory in some particular things his end, yet he never makes it, in his general course, his utmost and last end. A subtle apprentice may do all his master's work, but he may take the gain to himself, or divide it betwixt his master and himself, and so may be but a knave, as observant as he seems to be: so a subtle heart (yet a villainous heart) may forsake all the world, as Judas did, may bind himself apprentice to all the duties God requires outwardly at his hands, and so do good works; but what is his last end? It is that he might gain respect or place, or that Christ may have some part of the glory, and he another. Simon Magus would give any money sometimes that he could pray so well, know so much, and do as others do; and yet his last end is for himself: but "how can you believe, if you seek not that glory that comes from God?" saith Christ. There is many seek the honor of Christ; but do you seek his honor only? Is it your last end, where you rest and seek no more but that? If thou wouldest know whether thou makest Christ's glory thy last end, observe this rule:--

If thou art more grieved for the eclipse of thine own honor, and for thine own losses, than for the loss of God's honor, it is an evident sign thou lovest it not, desirest it not as thy chiefest good, as the last end, for thy summum bonum, and therefore dost not seek God's honor in the prime and chiefest place. Sin troubled Paul more than all the plagues and miseries of the world. Indeed, if thy name be dashed with disgrace, and thy will be crossed, thy heart is grieved and disquieted: but the Lord may lose his honor daily by thine own sins, and those that be round about thee, but not a tear, not a sigh, not a groan to behold such a spectacle: as sure as the Lord lives, thou seekest not the Lord's name or honor as thy greatest good.

Fifthly. In judging the power of sin to be but infirmity: for if any thing trouble an unregenerate man, and makes him call his estate into question, it is sin, either in the being or power of it. Now, sin in the being ought not, must not, make a man question his estate, because the best have that left in them that 264 will humble them, and make them live by faith; therefore the power of sin only can justly thus trouble a man. Now, if a man do judge of this to be only but infirmity, which the best are compassed about withal, he can not but lie down securely and think himself well. And if this error be settled in one that lives in no one known sin, it is very difficult to remove; for let the minister cast the sparks of hell in their faces, and denounce the terror of God against them, they are never stirred. Why? Because they think. Here is for you that live in sin, but as for themselves, although they have sins, yet they strive against them, and so can not leave them; for we must have sin as long as we live here, they say. Now, mark it, there is no surer sign of a man under the bloody reign and dominion of his lusts and sins, than this--that is, to give way to sin, (though never so little. and common,) nor to be greatly troubled for sin, (for they may be a little troubled,) because they can not overcome sin. I deny not but the best do sin daily; yet this is the disposition of Paul, and every child of God--he mourneth not the less, but the more for sins; though he can not quite subdue them, cast them out, and overcome them. As a prisoner mourns the more that he is bound with such fetters he can not break, so doth every one truly sensible of his woful captivity by sin. This is the great difference between a raging sin a man will part withal, and a sin of infirmity a man can not part withal: a sin of infirmity is such a sin as a man would, but can not part with it, and hence he mourns the more for it; a raging sin is such a sin as a man, haply by virtue of his lashing conscience, would sometimes part withal, but can not, and hence mourns the less for it, and gives way to it. Now, for the Lord's sake, take heed of this deceit; for I tell you, those sins you can not part withal, if you groan not day and night under them, (saying, Lord, help me, for I am weary of myself and my life,) will certainly undo you. You say, you can not but speak idly, and think vainly, and do ill, as all do sometimes; I tell you, those sins shall be everlasting chains to hold you fast in the power of the devil, until the judgment of the great day.

And thus much of the understanding's corruption, whereby men are commonly deluded. Now followeth the second.

Secondly. In regard of the false, bastard peace begot in the conscience. Why should the camp tremble when scouts are asleep? or give false report when the enemies are near them? Most men think they are in a safe estate, because they were never in a troubled estate; or if they have been troubled, because they have got some peace and comfort after it. Now, this false peace is begot in the heart by these four means:--

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  1. By Satan.
  2. By false teachers.
  3. By a false spirit.
  4. By a false application of true promises.

I. By Satan, whose kingdom shall fall if it should be divided, and be always in a combustion; hence he laboreth for peace. (Luke xi. 24), "When the strong man keepeth the palace, his goods are in peace;" that is, when Satan, armed with abundance of shifts and carnal reasonings, possesseth men's souls, they are at peace. Now, look as masters give their servants peace, even so the devil.

  1. By removing all things that may trouble them; and,--

  2. By giving unto them all things that may quiet and comfort them, as meat, drink, rest, lodging, &c., so doth Satan deal with his slaves and servants.

First. By removing those sins which trouble the conscience; for a man may live in a sin, and yet never be troubled for that sin; for sin against the light of conscience only troubles the conscience. As children that are tumbling and playing in the dust, they are not troubled with all the dust, nay, they take pleasure to wallow in it; but only with that (whether it be small or great) that lights in their eyes. And hence that young man came boasting to Christ that he had kept all the commandments from his youth; but went away sorrowful, because that dust, that sin he lived in with delight before, fell into his eyes, and therefore he was troubled. Now, mark the plot of the devil, when he can make a man live, and wallow, and delight in his sins, and so serve him; and yet will not suffer him to live in any sin against conscience, whereby he should be troubled, and so seek to come out of this woful estate, he is sure this man is his own; and now a poor deluded man himself goes up and down, not doubting but he shall be saved. Why? Because their conscience (they thank God) is clear, and they know of no one sin they live in, they know nothing by themselves that may make them so much as suspect their estate is bad. (Matt. ix. 13), "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance;" that is, such a one as in his own opinion is fish-whole; every sin being a child of God's sickness, he is never without some kind of sorrow; but some sins only being a natural man's sickness, they being removed, he recovers out of his former sorrow, and grows well again, and thinks himself sound: the Lord Jesus never came to save such, therefore Satan keeps possession of them. For the Lord's sake, look to this subtlety: many think themselves in a good estate, because they know not the particular sin they live 266 in; whereas Satan may have stronger possession of such as are bound with his invisible fetters and chains, when those that have their pinching bolts on them may sooner escape.

Secondly. By giving the soul liberty to recreate itself in any sinful course, wherein the eye of conscience may not be pricked and wounded. Servants, when they are put always to work, and never can go abroad, are weary both of work and master; that master pleaseth them that giveth them most liberty. To be pent up all the day long in doing God's work, watching, praying, fighting against every sin, this is a burden, this is too strict; and because that they can not endure it, they think the Lord looks not for it at their hands. Now, Satan gives men liberty in their sinful courses; and this liberty begets peace, and this peace makes them think well of themselves. (2 Pet. ii. 19.) There are many rotten professors in these days, that, indeed, will not open their mouths against the sincere-hearted people of God; yet they walk loosely, and take too much liberty in their speeches, liberty in their thoughts, liberty in their desires and delights, liberty in their company, in their pastimes, and that sometimes under a pretense of Christian liberty; and never trouble themselves with these needless controversies: To what end, or in what manner, do I use these things? Whereas the righteous man feareth alway, considering there is a snare for him in every lawful liberty: May not I sin in my mirth, in my speaking, in my sleeping? O, this liberty that the devil gives, and the world takes, besots most men with a foolish opinion that all is well with them.

Thirdly. By giving the soul good diet, meat and drink enough, what dish he likes best. Let a master give liberty, yet his servant is not pleased, unless he have meat, and drink, and food; so there is no wicked man under heaven, but as he takes too much liberty in the use of lawful things, so he feedeth his heart with some unlawful secret lust, though all the time he live in it, it may be, it is unknown to him. (Luke xvi.) Dives had his dish, his good things, and so sang himself asleep, and bade his soul take his ease and rest; yea, observe this: diet is poisoned in itself, but ever commended to the soul as wholesome, good, and lawful. They christen sin with a new name, as popes are at their election; if he be bad, they call him sometimes Pius; if a coward, Leo, etc. So covetousness is good husbandry; company-keeping, good neighborhood; lying to save their credit from cracking, but a handsome excuse; and hence the soul goes peaceably on, and believes he is in a good estate.

Fourthly. By giving the soul rest and sleep, that is, cessation 267 sometimes from the act of sin; hence they are hardly persuaded that they live in sin, because they cease sometimes from the act of sin; as no man doth always swear, nor is he always drunk, nor always angry. They think only their falls, in these or the like sins, are slips and foils which the best men may have sometimes, and yet be a dear child of God. O, Satan will not always set men at his work; for if men should always have their cups in their hands, and their queans in their arms; if a covetous man should always root in the earth, and never pray, never have good thoughts, never keep any Sabbath; if a man should always speak idly, and never good word drop from him, a man's conscience would never be quiet, but shaking him up for what he doth; but by giving him respite for sinning for a time, Satan getteth stronger possession afterward; as Matt. xii. 43. When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, it returns worse. Samson's strength always remained, and so doth sin's strength in a natural man, but it never appears until temptation come.

Fifthly. By giving the soul fair promises of heaven and eternal life, and fastening them upon the heart. Most men are confident their estate is good; and though God kills them, yet will they trust in him, and can not be beaten from this. Why? O, Satan bewitcheth them; for as he told Evah by the serpent, she should not die, so doth he insinuate his persuasions to the soul, though it live in sin, he shall not die, but do well enough as the precisest. Satan gives thus good words, but woful wages--the eternal flashes of hell.

II. By false teachers, who, partly by their loose examples, partly by their flattering doctrines in public, and their large charity in private, daubing up every one, (especially he that is a good friend unto them,) for honest and religious people; and if they be but a little troubled, applying comfort presently, and so healing them that should be wounded, and not telling them roundly of their Herodias, as John Baptist did Herod. Hereupon they judge themselves honest, because the minister will give them the beggarly passport; and so they go out of the world, and die like lambs, wofully cheated. (Matt. xxiv. 11). Look abroad in the world and see what is the reason so many feed their heart with confidence they shall be saved, yet their lives condemn them, and their hearts acquit them. The reason is, such and such a minister will go to the alehouse, and he never prays in his family, and he is none of these precise, hot people, and yet as honest a man as ever lives, and a good divine, too. Ahab was miserably cheated by four hundred false prophets. Whilst the minister is of a loose life himself, he will wink at others and 268 their faults, lest in reproving others he should condemn himself, and others should say unto him, "Physician, heal thyself." Thieves of the same company will not steal from one another, lest they trouble thereby themselves. And hence they give others false cards to sail by, false rules to live by; their unconscionable large charity is like a gulf that swalloweth ships, (souls I mean,) tossed with tempests and not comforted. (Is. liv. 7, 8). And hence all being fish that cometh to their net, all men think so of themselves.

III. A false spirit. This is a third cause that begets a false peace. As there is a true "Spirit that witnesseth to our spirits that we are the sons of God," (Rom. viii. 15), so there is a false spirit, just like the true one, witnessing that they are the sons of God, (1 John iv. 1). We are bid to try the spirits. Now, if these spirits were not like God's true Spirit, what need trial? As, what need one try whether dirt be gold, which are so unlike each other? And this spirit I take to be set down, Matt. xxiv. 23. Now, look as the true Spirit witnesseth, so the false spirit, being like it, witnesseth also.

First. The Spirit of God humbles the soul; so before men have the witness of the false spirit, they are mightily cast down and dejected in spirit, and hereupon they pray for ease, and purpose to lead new lives, and cast away the weapons, and submit. (Ps. lxvi. 3).

Secondly. The Spirit of God in the gospel reveals Jesus Christ and his willingness to save; so the false spirit discovereth Christ's excellency, and willingness to receive him, if he will but come in. It fareth with this soul as with surveyors of lands, that take an exact compass of other men's grounds, of which they shall never enjoy a foot. So did Balaam. (Num. xxiv. 5, 6). This false spirit showeth them the glory of heaven and God's people.

Thirdly. Hereupon the soul cometh to be affected, and to taste the goodness and sweetness of Jesus Christ, as those did, (Heb. vi.); and the soul breaks out into a passionate admiration: O that ever there should be any hope for such a vile wretch as I am, and have been! and so joys exceedingly, like a man half way rapt up into heaven.

Fourthly. Hereupon the soul, being comforted after it was wounded, now calleth God my God, and Christ my sweet Saviour; and now it doubts not but it shall be saved. Why? Because I have received much comfort after much sorrow and doubting, (Hos. viii. 2, 3); and yet remains a deluded, miserable creature still. But here mark the difference between the witness of each spirit. The false spirit makes a man believe he is in the state of grace, and 269 shall be saved, because he hath tasted of Christ, and so hath been comforted, and that abundantly. But the true Spirit persuades a man his estate is good and safe, because he hath not only tasted, but bought this Christ, as the wise merchant in the gospel, that rejoiced he had found the pearl, but yet stays not here, but sells away all, and buys the pearl. Like two chapmen that come to buy wine; the one tastes it, and goeth away in a drunken fit, and so concludes it is his; so a man doth, that hath the false spirit; but the true-spirited man doth not only taste, but buys the wine, although he doth not drink it all down when he cometh to taste it; yet he having been incited by tasting to buy it, now he calls it his own. So a child of God tasting a little of God, and a little of Christ, and a little of the promises at his first conversion, although he tastes not all the sweetness that is in God, yet he forsakes all for God, for Christ, and so takes them lawfully as his own.

Again: the false spirit, having given a man comfort and peace, suffers a man to rest in that state; but the true Spirit, having made the soul taste the love of the Lord, stirreth up the soul to do and work mightily for the Lord. Now the soul crieth out. What shall I do for Christ, that hath done wonders for me? If every hair on my head were a tongue to speak of his goodness, it were too little. (Neh. viii. 10), "The joy of the Lord is our strength." (Ps. li. 12), "Uphold me with thy free spirit;" or, as the Chaldean paraphrase hath it, thy "kingly spirit; "the spirit of adoption in God's child is no underling, suffering men to lie down, and cry. My desires are good, but flesh is frail. No, it is a kingly spirit, that reigns where it liveth.

IV. False applying of true promises is the last cause of false peace. And when a man hath God's Spirit within, and God's hand and promise (as he thinks) for his estate, now he thinks all safe. This did the Jews; they said, "We have Abraham to our Father;" and so reputed themselves safe, God having made them promise. "I will be a God of thee and of thy seed." But here is a difference between a child of God's application of them and a wicked man's. The first applieth them so to him, as that he liveth upon them, and nothing but them; and to whom doth the dug belong, but to the child that lives upon it? The other lives upon his lusts, and creatures, and yet catcheth hold on the promise. By these four means is begot a bastard, false peace.

Thus much of the second cause of man's deceiving himself--false peace in the conscience.

Now followeth the third.

III. The corruptions and distempers of the will, which is the 270 third cause why men deceive themselves; which are many. I will only name three.

First. When the will is resolved to go on in a sinful course, and then sets the understanding a-work to defend it. Whence it fareth with the soul as with a man that cometh to search for stolen goods, who, having received a bribe beforehand, searcheth every where but where it is, and so the man is never found out to be what he is. So a man having tasted the sweetness of a sinful course, (which pleasure bribes him,) he is contented to search into every corner of his heart, and to try himself, as many do, except there where his darling lust lies; he sits upon that, and covers it willingly from his own eyes, as Rachel did upon stolen gods, and so never finds out himself. (John iii. 20). A man that hath a mind to sleep quietly, will cause the curtains to be drawn, and will let some light come in, but shuts out all that, or so much as may hinder him from sleeping; so a man, having a mind to sleep in some particular sinful course at his ease, will search himself, and let some light come into his mind.

And hence many profane persons, that know much, (their opinions are orthodox, their discourse savory,) yet do they know little of themselves, and of those sins and lusts that haunt them, which they must part with; because this light troubleth them, it hinders them from sleeping in their secure estate, and therefore they draw the curtain here. Hence many men, that live in those sins of the grossest usury, finding the gain, and tasting the sweet of that sin, will read all books, go to all those ministers they suppose that hold it lawful, and so pick up and gather reasons to defend the lawfulness of the sin, and so, because they would not have it to be a sin, find out reasons whereby they think it no sin; but the bottom is this--their will hath got the bribe, and now the understanding plays the lawyer; and hence men live in the most crying sins, and are sure to perish, because they will not know they are in an error.

Secondly. When the will sets the understanding a-work to extenuate and lessen sin; for many, when they see their sins, yet make it small by looking at the false end of their optic glass; they think such small matters never make any breach between the Lord and their souls. Hence they say, The best man sins seven times a day; and who can say, My heart is clean? What is the reason that a child of God hath little peace, many times after commission of small sins? O, it is because they see the horrible nature of the least sin; small wrongs against so dear, so great a friend as the Lord is, it cuts their hearts; yet a carnal heart is never troubled for great sins, because they make a light matter of them.

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Thirdly. Willful ignorance of the horrible wrath of God. Hence men rush on in sin as the horse into the battle. Hence men never fear their estates, because they know not God's wrath hanging over them. Coldest snakes, when they are frozen with cold, never sting nor hurt; one may carry a nest of them in his bosom; but bring them to the fire, then they hiss and sting: so sin, when it is brought near God's wrath, (that devouring fire,) it makes men cry out of themselves, Then I am undone! O, I am a lost creature! But being not thus heated, sin never makes a man cry out of himself.

These are the causes why men are ignorant of their woful, miserable estate; which ignorance is the first rock, or the first powder plot, that spoils thousands.

Yet there are three more dangerous, because more secret.

Now followeth the second reason of man's ruin. By reason of man's carnal security, whereby men can not be affected with, nor so much as have hearts to desire to come out of their misery when they know it; for, if a man's mind understand his misery, yet if the heart be hard or sleepy, and not affected, loaded, wounded, humbled, and made to groan under it, he will never greatly care to come out of it. (Is. xxix. 9, 10). Now, this is the estate of many a soul; he doth know his misery, but by reason of the sleepy, secure, senseless spirit of slumber, he never feels it, nor mourns under it, and so comes not out of it.

Now the reasons of this security are these:--

Because God pours not out the full measure of his wrath upon men, because he kindles not the pile of wrath that lies upon men, it is reserved, and concealed, not revealed from Heaven; and so long, let God frown, ministers threaten, and smaller judgments drop, yet they will never seek shelter in Jesus Christ, but sleep in their sins, until God rain down floods of horror, blood, fire; until God's arrows stick in men's hearts, they will never seek out of themselves unto Jesus Christ. (Eccl. viii. 11). So long as God's plagues were upon Pharaoh, he giveth fair words, and Moses must be sent to pray for him; but when God's hand is taken away, now Pharaoh's heart is hardened: so long as God's sword is in his scabbard, men have such stout hearts that they will never yield; God must wound, and cut deep, and stab, and thrust to the very heart, else men will never yield, never awaken, till God's fists be about men's ears, and he is dragging them to the stake; men will never awake and cry for a pardon and deliverance of their woful estate.

Secondly. Because if they do in part feel, and so fear God's wrath, they put away the evil day far from them; they hope 272 they shall do better hereafter, and repent some other time, and therefore they say. Soul, eat, drink, follow thy sports, cups, queans; thou hast a treasure of time which shall not be spent in many years, (Is. xxii. 12, 13); that look as it is with the wax, let it be of never so pliable a disposition, and the fire never so hot, yet if it be not brought near the fire, and be held in the fire, it never melts, but still remains hard; so it is here. Let a man or woman have never so gentle or pliable a nature, and let God's wrath be never so hot and dreadful in their judgments, yet if they make not the day of wrath present to them, if they see it not ready every moment to light upon their hearts, they are never melted, but they remain hard hearted, secure, sleepy wretches, and never groan to come out of their woful estate; and this is the reason why many men, that have guilty consciences, though they have many secret wishes and purposes to be better, yet never cry out of themselves, nor ever seek earnestly for mercy, till they lie upon their death beds; and then, O the promises they ply God with! Try me, Lord, and restore me once more to my health and life again, and thou shalt see how thankful I will be! because that now they apprehend wrath and misery near unto them. (Heb. iii. 13.)

Thirdly. Because they think they can bear God's wrath, though they do conceive it near at hand, even at the very doors; men think not that hell is so hot, nor the devil so black, nor God so terrible as indeed he is. And hence we shall observe the prophets present God's wrath as a thing intolerable before the eyes of the people, that thereby they might quench all those cursed conceits of being able to bear God's wrath. (Nahum i. 9). And hence we shall have many men desperately conclude they will have their swing in sin, and if they perish, they hope they shall be able to bear it; it is but a damning they think, and hence they go on securely. O, poor wretches! the devil scares and fears all the world, and at God's wrath the devils quake, and yet secure men fear it not, they think hell is not so terrible a place.

Fourthly. Because they know no better an estate. Hence, though they feel their woful and miserable condition, yet they desire not to come out of it. Although men find hard lodging in the world, hard times, hard friends, hard hearts, yet they make a shift with what they find in this miserable inn, until they come to hell; for such a man, pursued by outward miseries, or inward troubles, there stays; O, miserable man, that makes shift till he come to hell! They may hear of the happy estate of God's people, but not knowing of it experimentally, they stay where they are. (Job iv. 14).

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Take a prince's child, and bring it up in a base house and place, it never aspires after a kingdom or crown; so men hatched in this world, knowing no better an estate, never cast about them to get a better inheritance than that they scramble for here. Wives mourn for the long absence of their beloved husbands, because they know them and their worth. God may absent himself from men weeks, months, years, but men shed not one tear for it, because they never tasted the sweetness of his presence. It is strange to see men take more content in their cups and cards, pots and pipes, dogs and hawks, than in the fellowship of God and Christ, in word, in prayer, in meditation; which ordinances are burdens and prison unto them. What is the reason of it? Is there no more sweetness in the presence of God's smiling in Christ than in a filthy whore? Yes; but they know not the worth, sweetness, satisfying goodness of a God. Some sea fish, (say they,) if once they come into fresh water, will never return again, because they now taste a difference between those brackish and sweet waters: so is it here; if men did but once taste the happiness of God's people, they would not for a thousand worlds be one half hour in their wild, loose sea again.

Fifthly. Because, if they do know a better estate, yet their present pleasures, their sloth, doth so bewitch them, and God's denials, when they seek unto him, do so far discourage them, that they sleep still securely in that estate. A slothful heart, bewitched with present ease, and pleasures, and delights, considering many a tear, many a prayer must it make, many a night must it break its sleep, many a weary step must it take towards heaven and Christ, if ever it come there, grows discouraged, and deaded, and hard-hearted in a sleepy estate, and had rather have a bird in the hand than two in the bush; Israelites wished that they were at their onions and garlic again in Egypt. Was there no Canaan? Yes; but they wished so because there were walls built up to heaven, and giants, sons of Anak, in the land, difficulties to overcome. O, slothful hearts! Secondly. Because God sometimes put them to straits, and denied them what they sought for, they were of such a waspish, testy, sullen spirit, that, because the Lord had them not always on his knees, they would run away; so many a man meets with sorrow enough in his sinful, dropsy, drunken estate; he hears of Heaven, and a better estate, yet why goes he to his lusts and flesh pots again? O, because there are so many difficulties, and blocks, and hinderances in his way; and because they pray and find not ease, therefore they eat, drink, laugh, sport, and sleep in their miserable estate still. (Matt. vii. 14). Therefore men walk in the broad way, 274 because the other way to life is strait and narrow; it is a plague, a burden, a prison, to be so strict; men had rather sit almost an hour in the stocks than be an hour at prayer; men had rather be damned at last than sweat it out and run through the race to receive a crown; and hence men remain secure.

Sixthly. Because of the strange, strong power of sin, which bears that sway over men's souls that they must serve it, as prisoners stoop to their jailers, as soldiers that have taken their pay, their pleasure of sin, must follow it as their captain, though they go marching on to eternal ruin; nay, though doomsday should be to-morrow, yet they must and will serve their lusts. As the Sodomites, when they were smitten with blindness, which tormented their eyes as though they had been pricked with thorns, (for so the Hebrew word signifies,) even when destruction was near, they groped for the door. Men can not but sin, though they perish for sin; hence they remain secure.

Seventhly. Despair of God's mercy: hence, like Cain, men are renegades from the face of God; men think they shall never find mercy when all is done; hence they grow desperately sinful; like those Italian senators, that, despairing of their lives, when upon submission they had been promised their lives, yet, being conscious of their villainy, made a curious banquet, and at the end of it every man drank up his glass of poison, and killed himself; so men feeling such horrible hard hearts, and being privy to such notorious sins, they cast away lives, and heaven, and soul for lost, and so perish wofully, because they lived desperately, and so securely.

Eighthly. Because men nourish a blind, false, flattering hope of God's mercy: hence many knowing and suspecting that all is naught with them, yet having some hope they may be in a good estate, and God may love them, hence they lie down securely, and rest in their flattering hope. Hence observe, those people that seldom come to a conclusion, to a point, that either they are in the state of grace or out of it, that never come to be affected, but remain secure in their condition, they commonly grow to this desperate conclusion: that they hope God will be merciful unto them; if not, they can not help it; like the man that had on his target the picture of God and the devil; under the first he wrote, Si tu non vis, if thou wilt not; under the other he wrote, Ipse rogitat, here is one will.

Ninthly. Because men bring not their hearts under the hammer of God's word to be broken, they never bring their consciences to be cut. Hence they go on still securely with festered consciences. Men put themselves above the word, and their 275 hearts above the hammer; they come not to have the minister to humble them, but to judge of him, or to pick some pretty fine thing out of the word, and so remain secure sots all their days: for if ever thy heart be broken, and thy conscience be awaked, the word must do it; but people are so sermon-trodden, that their hearts, like footpaths, grow hard by the word.

Tenthly. Because men consider not of God's wrath daily, nor the horrible nature of sin; men chew not these pills: hence they never come to be affected nor awakened.

Awaken, therefore, all you secure creatures; feel your misery, that so you may get out of it. Dost thou know thine estate is naught, and that thy condemnation will be fearful, if ever thou dost perish? and is thine heart secretly secure, so damnably dead, so desperately hard, that thou hast no heart to come out of it? What! no sigh, no tears? Canst thou carry all thy sins upon thy back, like Samson the gates of the city, and make a light matter of them? Dost thou see hell fire before thee, and yet wilt venture? Art thou worse than a beast which we can not beat nor drive into the fire if there be any way to escape? O, get thy heart to lament and mourn under thy miseries; who knows then but the Lord may pity thee? But O, hard heart! thou canst mourn for losses and crosses, burning of goods and houses, yet though God be lost, and his image burnt down, and all is gone, thou canst not mourn. If thine heart were truly affected, the pillow would be washed with thy tears, and the wife in thy bosom would be witness of thy heart-breakings in midnight for those sins which have grieved the Spirit of God many a time; thou couldst not sleep quietly nor comfortably without assurance. If you were sick to death, physicians should hear how you do; and if you were humbled, we should have you in the bitterness of your spirit cry out, "What shall we do?" But know it, thou must mourn here or in hell. If God broke David's bones for his adultery, and the angels' backs for their pride, the Lord, if ever he saves thee, will break thine heart too.

Question. But thou wilt say. How shall I do to get mine heart affected with my misery?

Answer. 1. Take a full view of thy misery. 2. Take special notice of the Lord's readiness and willingness to receive thee yet unto mercy; for two things harden the heart: 1. False hope, whereby a man hopes he is not so bad as indeed he is. 2. No hope, whereby a man, when he sees himself so notoriously bad, thinks there is no willingness in the Lord to pardon or receive such a monster of men to mercy; and, if neither the hammer 276 can break thy stony heart, nor the sunshine of mercy melt it, thou hast a heart worse than the devil, and art a spectacle of the greatest misery, 1. In regard of sin. 2. In regard of God's wrath.

First. In regard of sin. Thou hast sinned, and that grievously, against a great God. Thou makest no great matter of this: no; but, though it be no load to thee, it is load on the Lord's heart, (Is. i. 24), and time will come he will make the whole sinful world, by rivers of fire and blood, to know what an evil it is; for,--

  1. In every sin thou dost strike God, and fling a dagger at the heart of God. 2. In every sin thou dost spite against God; for, if there were but one only thing wherein a man could do his friend a displeasure, was not here spite seen if he did that thing? Now tell me, hath not the Lord been a good friend unto thee? Tell me, wherein hath he grieved thee? and tell me, in what one thing canst thou please the devil, and do God a displeasure, but by sin? Yet, O hard heart, thou makest nothing of it. But consider, thirdly, in every sin thou dost disthrone God, and settest thyself above God; for, in every sin, this question is put. Whose will shall be done, God's will or man's? Now, man by sin sets his own will above the Lord's, and so kicks God (blessed forever, adored of millions of saints and angels) as filth under his feet. What, will this break your hearts?

Consider, then, of God's wrath, the certainty of it, the unsupportableness of it,--how that, dying in thy sins and secure estate, it shall fall; for, when men cry, Peace, peace, then cometh sudden destruction at unawares. Pray, therefore, to God to reveal this to thee, that thine heart may break under it. Secondly, consider the Lord's mercy and readiness to save thee, who hath prepared mercy, and entreats thee to take it, and waiteth every day for thee to that end.

The third reason of man's ruin is that carnal confidence, whereby men seek to save themselves, and to scramble out of their miserable estate by their own duties and performances, when they do feel themselves miserable. The soul doth as those (Hos. v. 13) men when they be wounded and troubled: they never look after Jesus Christ, but go to their own waters to heal themselves, like hunted harts when the arrow is in them. (Rom. ix. 31, 32).

For the opening of this point, I shall show you these two things:-- 1. Wherein this resting in duties appears. 2. Why do men rest in themselves?

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First. This resting in duties appears in these eleven degrees:--

(1). The soul of a poor sinner, if ignorantly bred and brought up, rests confidently in superstitious vanities. Ask a devout Papist how he hopes to be saved; he will answer, by his good works. But inquire, further, What are these good works? Why, for the most part, superstitious ones of their own inventions, (for the crow thinks her own bird fairest,) as whipping themselves, pilgrimage, fasting, mumbling over their Paternosters, bowing down to images and crosses.

(2). Now, these being banished from the church and kingdom, then men stand upon their titular profession of the true religion, although they be devils incarnate in their lives. Look up and down the kingdom; you shall see some roaring, drinking, dicing, carding, whoring, in taverns and blind alehouses; others belching out their oaths, their mouths ever casting out, like raging seas, filthy, frothy speeches; others, like Ismaels, scoffing at the best men; yet these are confident they shall be saved. Why, (say they,) they are no Papists; hang them, they will die for their religion, and rather burn than turn again, by the grace of God. Thus the Jews boasted they were Abraham's seed; so our carnal people boast: Am not I a good Protestant? Am not I baptized? Do I not live in the church? and therefore, resting here, hope to be saved. I remember a judge, when one pleaded once with him for his life, that he might not be hanged because he was a gentleman; he told him that therefore he should have the gallows made higher for him: so when thou pleadest, I am a Christian and a good Protestant, (yet thou wilt drink, and swear, and whore, neglect prayer, and break God's Sabbath,) and therefore thou hopest to be saved; I tell thee thy condemnation shall be greater, and the plagues in hell the heavier.

(3). If men have no peace here, then they fly to, and rest in, the goodness of their insides. You will have many a man, whom, if you follow to his chamber, you shall find very devout; and they pray heartily for the mercy of God, and forgiveness of sins; but follow them out of their chambers, watch their discourses, you shall find it frothy and vain, and now and then powdered with faith and troth, and obscene speeches. Watch them when they are crossed, you shall see them as angry as wasps, and swell like turkeys, and so spit out their venom like dragons. Watch them in their journeys, and you shall see them shoot into an alehouse, and there swill and swagger, and be familiar with the scum of the country for profaneness, and half drunk, too, sometimes. Watch them on the Lord's day; take 278 them out of the church once, and set aside their best clothes, and they are then the same as at another time; and, because they must not work nor sport that day, they think they may with a good conscience sleep the longer on the morning. Ask, I now, such men how they hope to be saved, seeing their lives are so bad; they say, though they make not such shows, they know what good prayers they make in private; their hearts, they say, are good. I tell ye, brethren, he that trusteth to his own heart and his good desires, and so resteth in them, is a fool. I have heard of a man that would haunt the taverns, and theaters, and whore houses at London all day; but he durst not go forth without private prayer in a morning, and then would say, at his departure, Now, devil, do thy worst; and so used his prayers (as many do) only as charms and spells against the poor, weak, cowardly devil, that they think dares not hurt them, so long as they have good hearts within them, and good prayers in their chambers; and hence they will go near to rail against the preacher as a harsh master, if he do not comfort them with this--that God accepts of their good desires.

(4). If their good hearts can not quiet them, but conscience tells them they are unsound without, and rotten at core within, then men fall upon reformation; they will leave their whoring, drinking, cozening, gaming, company-keeping, swearing, and such like roaring sins; and now all the country saith he is become a new man, and he himself thinks he shall be saved; (2 Pet. ii. 20); they escape the pollutions of the world, as swine that are escaped and washed from outward filth; yet the swinish nature remains still; like mariners that are going to some dangerous place, ignorantly, if they meet with storms, they go not backward, but cast out their goods that endanger their ship, and so go forward still; so many a man, going toward hell, is forced to cast out his lusts and sins; but he goeth on in the same way still for all that. The wildest beasts, (as stags,) if they be kept waking from sleep long, will grow tame; so conscience giving a man no rest for some sins he liveth in, he groweth tame: he that was a wild gentleman before remains the same man still, only he is made tame now; that is, civil and smooth in his whole course; and hence they rest in reformation, which reformation is, commonly, but from some troublesome sin, and it is because they think it is better following their trade of sin at another market; and hence some men will leave their drinking and whoring, and turn covetous, because there is more gain at that market; sometimes it is because sin hath left them, as an old man.

(5). If they can have no rest here, they get into another starting 279 hole: they go to their humiliations, repentings, tears, sorrows, and confessions. They hear a man can not be saved by reforming his life, unless he come to afflict his soul too; he must sorrow and weep here, or else cry out in hell hereafter. Hereupon they betake themselves to their sorrows, tears, confession of sins; and now the wind is down, and the tempest is over, and they make themselves safe. (Matt. xi. 1). They would have repented; that is, the heathen, as Beza speaks, when any wrath was kindled from Heaven, they would go to their sackcloth and sorrows, and so thought to pacify God's anger again; and here they rested. So it is with many a man; many people have sick fits and qualms of conscience, and then they do as crowds, that give themselves a vomit by swallowing down some stone when they are sick, and then they are well again; so when men are troubled for their sins, they will give themselves a vomit of prayer, a vomit of confession and humiliation. (Is. lviii. 5). Hence many, when they can get no good by this physic, by their sorrows and tears, cast off all again; for, making these things their God and their Christ, they forsake them when they can not save them. (Matt. iii. 14). More are driven to Christ by the sense of the burden of a hard, dead, blind, filthy heart than by the sense of sorrows, because a man rests in the one, viz., in sorrows, most commonly, but trembles and flies out of himself when he feels the other. Thus men rest in their repentance; and therefore Austin hath a pretty speech which sounds harsh, that repentance damneth more than sin; meaning that thousands did perish by resting in it; and hence we see, among many people, if they have large affections, they think they are in good favor; if they want them, they think they are castaways, when they can not mourn nor be affected as once they were, because they rest in them.

(6). If they have no rest here, then they turn moral men; that is, strict in all the duties of the moral law, which is a greater matter than reformation or humiliation; that is, they grow very just and square in their dealings with men, and exceeding strict in the duties of the first table toward God, as fasting, prayer, hearing, reading, observing the Sabbath: and thus the Pharisees lived, and hence they are called "the strict sect of the Pharisees." Take heed you mistake me not; I speak not against strictness, but against resting in it; for except your righteousness exceed theirs, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. You shall find these men fly from base persons and places, like the pest houses, commend the best books, cry down the sins of the time, and cry against civil or moral men, (the 280 eye sees not itself,) and cry up zeal and forwardness. Talk with him about many moral duties that are to be done toward God or man, he will speak well about the excellency and necessity of it, because his trade and skill, whereby he hopes to get his living and earn eternal life, lieth there; but speak about Christ, and living by faith in him and from him, and bottoming the soul upon the promises, (pieces of evangelical righteousness,) he that is very skillful in any point of controversy is as ignorant almost as a beast, when he is examined here. Hence, if ministers preach against the sins of the time, they commend it for a special sermon, (as it haply deserves, too); but let him speak of any spiritual, inward, soul-working points, they go away and say he was in their judgment confused and obscure; for their part they understood him not. (Beloved.) pictures are pretty things to look on, and that is all the goodness of them; so these men are, (as Christ looked on and loved the natural young man in the gospel,) and that is all their excellency. You know, in Noah's flood, all that were not in the ark, though they did climb and get to the top of the tallest mountains, they were drowned; so labor to climb never so high in morality, and the duties of both tables, if thou goest not into God's ark, the Lord Jesus Christ, thou art sure to perish eternally.

(7). If they have no rest here in their morality, they grow hot within, and turn marvelous zealous for good causes and courses; and there they stay and warm themselves at their own fire: thus Paul (Phil. iii. 6) was zealous, and there rested. They will not live, as many do, like snails in their shells, but rather than they will be damned for want of doing, they are content to give away their estate, children, any thing almost, to get pardon for the sin of their soul. (Micah vi. 7).

(8). If they find no help from hence, but are forced to see and say, when they have done all, they are unprofitable servants, and they sin in all that which they do, then they rest in that which is like to evangelical obedience; they think to please God by mourning for their failings in their good duties, desiring to be better, and promising for the time to come to be so, and therein rest. (Deut. v. 29).

(9). If they feel a want of all these, then they dig within themselves for power to leave sin, power to be more holy and humble, and so think to work out themselves, in time, out of this estate, and so they dig for pearls in their own dunghills, and will not be beholding to the Lord Jesus; to live on him in the want of all; they think to set up themselves out of their own stock, without Jesus Christ, and so, as the prophet Hosea speaks, (xiv. 3, 4), 281 think to save themselves, by their riding on horses, that is, by their own abilities.

(10). If they feel no help here, then they go unto Christ for grace and power to leave sin and do better, whereby they may save themselves; and so they live upon Christ, that they may live of themselves; they go unto Christ, they get not into Christ, (Ps. lxxviii. 34, 35), like hirelings that go for power to do their work, that they may earn their wages. A child of God contents himself with, and lives upon, the inheritance itself the Lord in his free mercy hath given him. But now we shall see many poor Christians that run in the very road the Papists devoutly go to hell in.

First. The Papist will confess his misery, that he is (and all men are) by nature a child of wrath, and under the power of sin and Satan.

Secondly. They hold Christ is the only Saviour.

Thirdly. That this salvation is not by any righteousness in a Christ, but righteousness from a Christ, only by giving a man power to do, and then dipping men's doings in his blood, he merits their life. Thus the wisest and devotest of them profess, as I am able to manifest; just so do many Christians live. First. They feel themselves full of sin, and are sometimes tired and weary of themselves, for their vile hearts, and they find no power to help themselves. Secondly. Hereupon hearing that only Christ can save them, they go unto Christ to remove these sins that tire them, and load them, that he would enable them to do better than formerly. Thirdly. If they get these sins subdued and removed, and if they find power to do better, then they hope they shall be saved: whereas thou mayest be damned, and go to the devil at the last, although thou dost escape all the pollutions of the world, and that not from thyself and strength, but from the knowledge of Jesus Christ. (2 Pet. ii. 20.) I say, woe to you forever if you die in this estate; it is with our Christians in this case as it is with the ivy, which clasps and groweth about the tree, and draws sap from the tree, but it grows not one with the tree, because it is not ingraffed into the tree; so many a soul cometh to Christ, to suck juice from Christ to maintain his own berries, (his own stock of grace): alas! he is but ivy, he is no member or branch of this tree, and hence he never grows to be one with Christ. 2. Now, the reasons why men rest in their duties are these:--

First. Because it is natural to a man out of Christ to do so. Adam and all his posterity were to be saved by his doing: "Do this and live"; work, and here is thy wages; win life, and wear it. 282 Hence all his posterity seeks to this day to be saved by doing; like father, like son. Now, to come out of all duties truly to a Christ, hath not so much as a coat in innocent, much less corrupted nature; hence men seek to themselves. Now, as it is with a bankrupt, when his stock is spent, and his estate cracked, before he will turn prentice, or live upon another, he will turn peddler of small wares, and so follow his old trade with a less stock: so men naturally follow their old trade of doing, and hope to get their living that way; and hence men, having no experience of trading with Christ by faith, live of themselves. Samson, when all his strength was lost, would go to shake himself as at other times: so when men's strength is lost, and God and grace are lost, yet men will go and try how they can live by shifts and working for themselves still.

Secondly. Because men are ignorant of Jesus Christ and his righteousness; hence men can not go unto him, because they see him not; hence they shift as well as they can for themselves by their duties. (John iv. 14). Men seek to save themselves by their own swimming, when they see no cable cast out to help them.

Thirdly. Because this is the easiest way to comfort the heart, and pacify conscience, and to please God, as the soul thinks; because by this means a man goes no farther than himself.

Now, in forsaking all duties, a soul goeth to heaven quite out of himself, and there he must wait many a year, and that for a little, it may be. Now, if a fainting man have aqua vitae at his bed's head, he will not knock up the shopkeeper for it. Men that have a balsam of their own to heal them will not go to the physician.

Fourthly. Because by virtue of these duties a man may hide his sin, and live quietly in his sin, yet be accounted an honest man, as the whore in Prov. vii. 15, 16, having performed her vows, can entice without suspicion of men or check of conscience: so the scribes and Pharisees were horribly covetous, but their long prayers covered their deformities, (Matt, xxiii. 14); and hence men set their duties at a higher rate than they are worth, thinking they shall save them because they are so useful to them. Good duties, like new apparel on a man pursued with hue and cry of conscience, keep him from being known.

Take heed of resting in duties; good duties are men's money, without which they think themselves poor and miserable; but take heed that you and your money perish not together. (Gal. v. 3). The paths to hell are but two. The first is the path of sin, which is a dirty way. Secondly, the path of duties, which (rested in) is but a clearer way. When the Israelites were 283 in distress, (Judg. x. 14), the Lord bids them go to the gods they served: so when thou shalt lie howling on thy death bed, the Lord will say, God unto the good prayers and performances you have made, and the tears you have shed. O, they will be miserable comforters at that day.

Objection. But I think thou wilt say, no true Christian man hopes to be saved by his good works and duties, but only by the mercy of God and merits of Christ.

Answer. It is one thing to trust to be saved by duties, another thing to rest in duties. A man trusts unto them when he is of this opinion, that only good duties can save him. A man rests in duties when he is of this opinion, that only Christ can save him, but in his practice he goeth about to save himself. The wisest of the Papists are so at this day, and so are our common Protestants. And this is a great subtlety of the heart, that is, when a man thinks he can not be saved by his good works and duties, but only by Christ: he then hopeth, because he is of this opinion, that when he hath done all he is an unprofitable servant; (which is only an act or work of the judgment informed aright); that, therefore, because he is of this opinion, he shall be saved.

But because it is hard for to know when a man rests in duties, and few men find themselves guilty of this sin, which ruins so many, I will show two things:

  1. The signs of a man's resting in duties.

  2. The insufficiency of all duties to save men; that so those that be found guilty of this sin may not go on in it.

First. For the signs whereby a man may certainly know, when he rests in his duties, which if he do, (as few professors especially but they do,) he perisheth eternally.

First. Those that yet never saw they rested in them, they that never found it a hard matter to come out of their duties. For it is most natural for a man to stick in them, because nature sets men upon duties; hence it is a hard matter to come out of resting in duties. For two things keep a man from Christ:--

  1. Sin. 2. Self. Now, as a man is broken off from sin by seeing and feeling it, and groaning under the power of it, so is a man broken from himself. For men had rather do any thing than come unto Christ, there is such a deal of self in them; therefore, if thou hast no experience, that at no time thou hast rested too much in thy duties, and then didst groan to be delivered from these entanglements, (I mean not from the doing of them,--this is familism and profaneness,--but from resting in the bare performance of them,) thou dost rely upon thy duties to this day.

These rest in duties, that prize the bare performance of duties 284 wonderfully; for those duties that carry thee out of thyself unto Christ make thee to prize Christ. Now, tell me, dost thou glory in thyself? Now I am somebody. I was ignorant, forgetful, hardhearted; now I understand, and remember better, and can sorrow for my sins: if thou dost rest here, thy duties never carried thee farther than thyself. Dost thou think, after that thou hast prayed with some life. Now I have done very well, and now thou dost verily think (meaning for thy duties) the Lord will save thee, though thou never come to Christ, and sayest, as he in another case, "Now I hope the Lord will do good to me, seeing I have got a priest into my house." (Judg. xvii. 13). Dost thou enhance the price of duties thus, that thou dost dote on them? Then I do pronounce from God, thou dost rest in them. "These things" (saith Paul) "I counted gain," (that is, before his conversion to Christ, he prized them exceedingly,) but "now I account them loss." And this is the reason why a child of God, commonly, after all his prayers, tears, and confessions, doubts much of God's love toward him; whereas another man, that falleth short of him, never questions his estate; the first sees much rottenness and vileness in his best duties, and so judgeth meanly of himself; the other, ignorant of the vileness of them, prizeth them, and esteemeth highly of them; and setting his corn at so high a price, he may keep them to himself; the Lord never accepteth them, nor buyeth them at so high a rate.

Thirdly. Those that never came to be sensible of their poverty and utter emptiness of all good; for so long as a man hath a penny in his purse, that is, feels any good in himself, he will never come a-begging unto Jesus Christ, and therefore rests in himself. Now, didst thou never feel thyself in this manner poor, viz., I am as ignorant as any beast, as vile as any devil. Lord, what a nest and litter of sin and rebellion lurk in my heart! I once thought at least my heart and desires were good, but now I feel no spiritual life. O dead heart! I am the poorest, vilest, basest, and blindest creature that ever lived. If thou dost not thus feel thyself poor, thou never camest out of thy duties; for when the Lord bringeth any man to Christ, he brings him empty, that so he may make him beholding to Christ for every farthing token.

Fourthly. Those that gain no evangelical righteousness by duties, rest in duties; I say, evangelical righteousness, that is more prizing of acquaintance with, desire after, loving and delighting in union with the Lord Jesus Christ; for a mortal man may grow in legal righteousness, (as the stony and thorny ground seed sprang up, and increased much, and came near unto maturity), 285 and yet rest in duties all this while. For as it is with tradesmen, they rest in their buying and selling, though they make no gain of their trading. Now Jesus Christ is a Christian's gain, (Phil. i. 21); and hence a child of God asks himself after sermon, after prayer, after sacrament, What have I gained of Christ? Have I got more knowledge of Christ, more admiring of the Lord Jesus? Now, a carnal heart, that rests in his duties, asketh only what he hath done, as the Pharisee: "I thank God I am not as other men; I fast twice a week, I give alms," and the like; and thinks verily he shall be saved, because he prays, and because he hears, and because he reforms, and because he sorrows for his sins; that is, not because of the gaining of Christ in a duty, but because of his naked performance of the duty; and so they are like that man that I have heard of, that thought verily he should be rich, because he had got a wallet to beg: so men, because they perform duties, think verily they shall be saved. No such matter: let a man have a bucket made of gold; doth he think to get water because he hath a bucket? No, no; he must let it down into the well, and draw up water with it: so must thou let down all thy duties into Christ, and draw light and life from his fullness, else, though thy duties be golden duties, thou shalt perish without Christ. When a man hath bread in his wallet, and got water in his bucket, he may boldly say, So long as these last, I shall not famish; so mayest thou say, when thou hast found and got Christ, in the performance of any duty. So long as Christ's life lasteth, I shall live; as long as he hath any wisdom or power, so long shall I be directed and enabled in well doing.

Fifthly. If thy duties make thee sin more boldly, thou dost then rest in duties; for these duties, which carry a man out of himself unto Christ, ever fetch power against sin; but duties that a man rests in arm him and fence him in his sin. (Is. i. 14.) A cart that hath no wheels to rest on can hardly be drawn into the dirt; but one that hath wheels cometh loaded through it: so a child of God that hath no wheels, no duties, to rest upon, can not willingly be drawn into sin; but another man, though he be loaden with sin, (even sometimes against his conscience,) yet having duties to bear him up, goeth merrily on in a sinful course, and makes no bones of sin. When we see a base man revile a great prince, and strike him, we say, Surely, he durst not do it unless he had somebody to bear him out in it, that he rests and trusts unto so when we see men sin against the great God, we conceive, certainly, they durst not do it, if they had not some duties to bear them out in it, and to encourage them in their way, that they trust unto.

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For, take a profane man: what makes him drink, swear, cozen, game, whore? Is there no God to punish? Is there no hell hot enough to torment? Are there no plagues to confound him? Yes. Why sinneth he so then? O, he prayeth to God for forgiveness, and sorroweth, and repents in secret, (as he saith,) and this bears him up in his lewd pranks.

Take a moral man: he knows he hath his failings, and his sins, as the best have, and is overtaken sometimes as the best are: why doth he not remove these sins then? He confesseth them to God every morning when he riseth. Why is he not more humbled under his sin then? The reason is, he constantly observeth morning and evening prayer, and then he craves forgiveness for his failings, by which course he hopes he makes his peace with God; and hence he sinneth without fear, and ariseth out of his falls into sin without sorrow. And thus they see and maintain their sins by their duties, and therefore rest in duties.

Sixthly. Those that see little of their vile hearts by duties, rest in their duties; for if a man be brought nearer to Christ, and to the light, by duties, he will spy out more motes; for the more a man participates of Christ, his health, and life, the more he feeleth the vileness and sickness of sin. As Paul when he rested in duties before his conversion, before that the law had humbled him, he was alive; that is, he thought himself a sound man, because his duties covered his sins, like fig leaves. Therefore ask thine own heart if it be troubled sometimes for sin, and if after thy praying and sorrowing thou dost grow well, and thinkest thyself safe, and feelest not thyself more vile. If it be thus, I tell thee, thy duties be but fig leaves to cover thy nakedness, and the Lord will find thee out, and unmask thee one day; and woe to thee if thou dost perish here.

Secondly. Therefore behold the insufficiency of all duties to save us; which will appear in these three things which I speak, that you may learn hereafter never to rest in duties--:

First. Consider, thy best duties are tainted, poisoned, and mingled with some sin, and therefore are most odious in the eyes of a holy God, (nakedly and barely considered in themselves); for, if the best actions of God's people be filthy, as they come from them, then, to be sure, all wicked men's actions are much more filthy and polluted with sin; but the first is true--"All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags;" for as the fountain is so is the stream; but the fountain of all good actions (that is, the heart) is mingled partly with sin, partly with grace; therefore every action participates of some sin, which sins are daggers at God's heart, even when a man is praying and begging for his life; therefore there is no hope to be saved by duties.

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Secondly. Suppose thou couldest perform them without sin; yet thou couldst not hold out in doing so. (Is. xl. 6), "All flesh and the glory thereof is but grass." So thy best actions would soon wither if they were not perfect; and if thou canst not persevere in performing all duties perfectly, thou art forever undone, though thou shouldest do so for a time, live like an angel, shine like a sun, and, at thy last gasp, have but an idle thought, commit the least sin, that one rock will sink thee down even in the haven, though never so richly laden; one sin, like a penknife at the heart, will stab thee; one sin, like a little firestick in the thatch, will burn thee; one act of treason will hang thee, though thou hast lived never so devoutly before, (Ezek. xviii. 24); for it is a crooked life when all the parts of the line of thy life be not straight before Almighty God.

Thirdly. Suppose thou shouldest persevere; yet it is clear thou hast sinned grievously already; and dost thou think thine obedience for the time to come can satisfy the Lord for all those rents behind, for all those sins past? as can a man that pays his rent honestly every year satisfy hereby for the old rent not paid in twenty years? All thy obedience is a new debt, which can not satisfy for debts past. Indeed, men may forgive wrong and debts, because they be but finite; but the least sin is an infinite evil, and therefore God must be satisfied for it. Men may remit debts, and yet remain men; but the Lord having said, "The soul that sinneth shall die," and his truth being himself, he can not remain God, if he forgive it without satisfaction. Therefore duties are but rotten crutches for a soul to rest upon.

But to what end should we use any duties? Can not a man be saved by his good prayers, nor sorrows, nor repentings? What should we pray any more then? Let us cast off all duties, if all are to no purpose to save us; as good play for nothing as work for nothing.

Though thy good duties can not save thee, yet thy bad works will damn thee. Thou art, therefore, not to cast off the duties, but the resting in these duties. Thou art not to cast them away, but to cast them down at the feet of Jesus Christ, as they did their crowns, (Rev. iv. 10, 11), saying. If there be any good or graces in these duties, it is thine, Lord; for it is the prince's favor that exalts a man, not his own gifts: they came from his good pleasure.

But thou wilt say. To what end should I perform duties, if I can not be saved by them?

For these three ends:--

First, To carry thee to the Lord Jesus, the only Saviour. (Heb. 288 vii. 25). He only is able to save (not duties) all that come unto God (that is, in the use of means) by him. Hear a sermon to carry thee to Jesus Christ; fast and pray, and get a full tide of affections in them to carry thee to the Lord Jesus Christ; that is, to get more love to him, more acquaintance with him, more union with him; so sorrow for thy sins that thou mayest be more fitted for Christ, that thou mayest prize Christ the more; use thy duties as Noah's dove did her wings, to carry thee to the ark of the Lord Jesus Christ, where only there is rest. If she had never used her wings, she had fallen into the waters; so, if thou shalt use no duties, but cast them all off, thou art sure to perish. Or, as it is with a poor man that is to go over a great water for a treasure on the other side, though he can not fetch the boat, he calls for it; and, though there be no treasure in the boat, yet he useth the boat to carry him over to the treasure. So Christ is in heaven, and thou on earth; he doth not come to thee, and thou canst not go to him; now call for a boat; though there is no grace, no good, no salvation, in a pithless duty, yet use it to carry thee over to the treasure--the Lord Jesus Christ. When thou comest to hear, say, Have over Lord by this sermon; when thou comest to pray, say, Have over Lord by this prayer to a Saviour. But this is the misery of people. Like foolish lovers, when they are to woo for the lady, they fall in love with her handmaid that is only to lead them to her; so men fall in love with, and dote upon, their own duties, and rest contented with the naked performance of them, which are only handmaids to lead the soul unto the Lord Jesus Christ.

Secondly. Use duties as evidences of God's everlasting love to you when you be in Christ; for the graces and duties of God's people, although they be not causes, yet they be tokens and pledges of salvation to one in Christ: they do not save a man, but accompany and follow such a man as shall be saved, (Heb. vi. 9). Let a man boast of his joys, feelings, gifts, spirit, grace, if he walks in the commission of any one sin, or the omission of any one known duty, or in the slovenly, ill-favored performance of duties, this man, I say, can have no assurance without flattering himself. (2 Pet. i. 8, 9, 10). Duties, therefore, being evidences and pledges of salvation, use them to that end, and make much of them therefore; as a man that hath a fair evidence for his lordship, because he did not purchase his lordship, will he therefore cast it away? No, no; because it is an evidence to assure him that it is his own; and so, to defend him against all such as seek to take it from him, he will carefully preserve the same; so, because duties do not save thee, wilt 289 thou cast away good duties? No; for they are evidences (if thou art in Christ) that the Lord and mercy are thine own. "Women will not cast away their love tokens, although they are such things as did not purchase or merit the love of their husbands; but because they are tokens of his love, therefore they will keep them safe.

That God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ may be honored by the performance of these duties, therefore use them. Christ shed his blood that he might purchase unto himself a people zealous of good works, (Tit. ii. 14), not to save our souls by them, but to honor him. O, let not the blood of Christ be shed in vain! Grace and good duties are a Christian's crown; it is sin only makes a man base. Now, shall a king cast away his crown, because he bought not his kingdom by it. No; because it is his ornament and glory to wear it when he is made a king. So I say unto thee. It is better that Christ should be honored than thy soul saved; and, therefore, perform duties, because they honor the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus use thy duties, but rest not in duties; nay, go out of duties, and match thy soul to the Lord Jesus; take him for better and for worse; so live in him and upon him all thy days.

Fourthly. By reason of man's headstrong presumption, or false faith, whereby men seek to save themselves by catching hold on Christ, when they see an insufficiency in all duties to help them, and themselves unworthy of mercy; for this is the last and most dangerous rock that these times are split upon. Men make a bridge of their own to carry them to Christ. I mean, they look not after faith wrought by an omnipotent power, which the eternal Spirit of the Lord Jesus must work in them, but they content themselves with a faith of their own forging and framing; and hence they think verily and believe that Christ is their sweet Saviour, and so doubt not but they are safe, when there is no such matter; but even as dogs they snatch away children's bread, and shall be shut out of doors (out of heaven hereafter forever) for their labor.

All men are of this opinion, that there is no salvation but by the merits of Jesus Christ; and because they hold fast this opinion, therefore they think they hold fast Jesus Christ in the hand of faith, and so perish by catching at their own catch, and hanging on their own fancy and shadow. Some others catch hold of Christ before they come to feel the want of faith and ability to believe, and catching hold on him, (like dust on a man's coat, whom God will shake off, or like burs and briers, cleaving to one's garment, which the Lord will trample under foot,) now say 290 they, they thank God, they have got comfort by this means, and though God killeth them, yet they will trust unto him. (Micah iii. 11).

It is in this respect a harder matter to convert a man in England than in the India, for there they have no such shifts and forts against our sermons; to say they believe in Christ already, as most amongst us do, we can not rap off men's fingers from catching hold on Christ before they are fit for him; like a company of thieves in the street, you shall see a hundred hands scrambling for a jewel that is fallen there, that have least, nay, nothing to do with it. Every man saith, almost, I hope Christ is mine; I put my whole trust and confidence in him, and will not be beaten from this. What! must a man despair? must not a man trust unto Christ? Thus men will hope and trust, though they have no ground, no graces to prove they may lay hold and claim unto Christ. This hope, scared out of his wits, damns thou sands; for I am persuaded, if men did see themselves Christ less creatures, as well as sinful creatures, they would cry out, "Lord, what shall I do to be saved?"

This faith is a precious faith. (2 Pet. i. 2.) Precious things cost much, and we set them at a high rate; if thy faith be so, it hath cost thee many a prayer, many a sob, many a salt tear. But ask most men how they come by their faith in Christ, they say very easily; when the lion sleeps, a man may lie and sleep by it; but when it awakens, woe to that man that doth so: so while God is silent and patient, thou mayest befool thyself with thinking thou dost trust unto God; but woe to thee when the Lord appears in his wrath, as one day he will; for by virtue of this false faith, men sinning take Christ for a dishclout to wipe them clean again, and that is all the use they have of this faith. They sin indeed, but they trust unto Christ for his mercy, and so lie still in their sins: God will revenge with blood, and fire, and plagues, this horrible contempt from heaven.

Hence many of you trust to Christ, as the apricot tree, that leans against the wall, but it is fast rooted in the earth; so you lean upon Christ for salvation, but you are rooted in the world, rooted in your pride, rooted in your filthiness still. Woe to you if you perish in this estate; God will hew you down as fuel for his wrath, whatever mad hope you have to be saved by Christ. This, therefore, I proclaim from the God of heaven:--

  1. You that never felt yourselves as unable to believe as a dead man to raise himself, you have as yet no faith at all.

  2. You that would get faith, first must feel your inability to believe: and fetch not this slip out of thine own garden; it must

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[continue]come down from Heaven to thy soul, if ever thou partakest thereof.

Other things I should have spoken of this large subject, but I am forced here to end abruptly; the Lord lay not this sin to their charge who have "stopped my mouth, laboring to withhold the truth in unrighteousness." And blessed be the good God, who hath stood by his unworthy servant thus long, enabling him to lead you so far as to show you the rocks and dangers of your passage to another world.

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