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because of the scandalous ways of fome, whilft, in the mean, time, you wholly flight and over-look the holy and heavenly conversation of many others ? Are all that profess godliness loose and careless in their lives? No, fome are an ornament to their profession, and the glory of Christ: And why must the innocent be condemned with the guilty? Why the eleven, for one Judas?
Query 3. If you condemn religion because of the fcandalous lives of some that profess it, must you not then cast off all religion in the world, and turn down-right atheists ? Surely, this is the consequent of it: For what religion is there, but fome that profess it walk contrary to their profession? And then, as Conftantine told the Novation, you must set up a ladder, and go to heaven by yourself.
But, alas ! it is not our printed apologies for religion, but the visible reformations of its professors, that muft both falve its honour, and remove those fatal stumbling-blocks at which the blind world strikes, and falls into eternal perdition. . Now there are two ways by which this may be effected: First, By convincing the consciences of profeffors of their mis
, carriages, and the evil aggravations of them. Secondly, By medicating the heart, and cleansing the fountain whence they proceed. In the first of these, a worthy and eminent servant of Christ hath lately laboured, holding See Gospel. a clear gospel-glafs before the faces of professors, glass. which truly represents their spots and blemishes : if he that reads it will consider, apply, and practise, it shall doubtless turn to his salvation ; but, if it turn to no good account, to him that reads it, I know it shall turn to a testimony for him that wrote it. The second is a principal design of this small treatise, the subject whereof is exceeding weighty, and of daily use to the people of God, though the manner of handling it be attended with many defects and weaknesses : every one cannot be excellent, who yet may be useful.
I will exercise your patience no longer than whilst I tell you, 1. Why I publish it to the view of the world. 2. Why I direct it particularly to you.
First, For the publication of it, take this sincere and brief account, That as I was led to this subject by a special providence, so to the publịcation of it by a kind of necessity: the providence at first leading me to it, was this, A dear and choice friend of my intimate acquaintance being under much inward trouble, upon the account of some special heart-disorder, opened the case to me, and earnestly requested fonte rules and helps in that particular ; whilft I was bending my thoughts to that special case, divers other cases of like importance (some of which were dependant upon that consideration) occurred to my thoughts, and this feripture, which I have infifted upon, presented itself, as a fit foundation for the whole discourse; which þeing lengthened out to what you see, diyers friends requested me to transcribe for their use, divers of the cases here handled, and some others begged me to publith the whole, to which I was in a manner neceffitated, to save the pains oftranscribing, which to me is a very tedious, and tiresome werk: and just as I had almost finished the copy, an opportunity presented (and that fomewhat ftrangely) to make it public. So that from first to laft, I have been carried beyond my fisst intentions in this thing
Objeftion. If any fay, The world is even cloyed with books, and therefore though the discourse be necessary; yet the publi. cation is needless.
Solution 1. I answer, There are multitudes of books indeed, and of them many concern not themselves about roottruths, and practical godliness, but spend their strength upon impractical notions, and frivolous controversies; many also ftrike at root-truths, and endeavour to undermine the power of godliness; and some there are that nourish the root, and tend to clear and confirm, to prepare and apply the great truths of the gospel, that they may be bread for fouls to live and feed on: Now, though I could with that those who have handled the pen of the fcribe, had better employed their time and pains, than to obtrude such useless discourses upon the world ; yet for books of the latter rank, I say, that when husbandmen complain of too much corn, let Christians complain of too many such books.
2. And if you be so highly conceited of your own furniture and ability, that such books are needless to you ;
let them alone, they will do you no hurt, and other poor hungry . fouls will be glad of them, and bless God for what you despise and leave.
Objection. If it be said that several of the cases here handled touch not your condition, I answer,
Solution 1. That which is not your condition may be ano ther's condition. If you be placed in an easy, full and profperous ftate, and fo have no need of the helps here offered to support your hearts under pinching wants, others are forced to live by faith for every day's provision : If you be dandled
up. the knee of providence, fome of your brethren are under
its feet: If you have inward peace and tranquillity of spirit, and fo need not the counsels here given, to ward off those da sperate conclusions that poor afflicted souls are ready to draw upon themselves at such a time; yet it may be a word in season to them, and they may say as David to Abigail, " Blefed “ be thou of the Lord, and blefled be thy advice.”
2. That may be your condition shortly, which is not your condition at present : say not, thy mountain stands strong, thou fhalt never be moved : 'there are changes in the right-hand of the Most High; and then those truths which are little more esteemed than hedge-fruits, will be as apples of gold in pictures of flyer. In Jer. xxxiii
. 10, 11. the prophet there teaches the Jews (who then dwelt in their own houses) how to defend their religion in Babylon, and what they should say to the Chaldeans there, and therefore that verse is written in Chaldee. So much for the reasons of its publication. Next, for the dedication of it to you, I was induced thereto by the consideration,
1. Of the relation I have to you above all the people in the world : I look upon my gifts as yours, my time as yours, and all the talents I am intrusted with, as yours : it is not with you as with a woman whose husband is dead, and so is freed from the law of her husband, the relation still continues, and to do all the mutual duties of it,
2. By the confideration of my necesitated absence from you, I would not that personal absence should by insensible degrees untwist (as ufually it doth) the cord of friendship, and therefore I have endeavoured (as absent friends use to do) to preferve and strengthen it by this small remembrance. It was Ve. fpafian's answer to Apollonius, when he defired access for two philosophers, ! My doors (faid Vefpafian) are always open to
philosophers, but my very breast is open to thee.' ' I cannot lay with him, my doors are open for the free access of friends, being by a fad providence shut againft myself; but this I can say, my very breast is still open to you ; you are as dear tp me
3. Another indacement and indeed the main) was the per petual usefulness and necessity of these truths for you, which you will have continual need of: And I know few of you have fuch bappy memories to retain, and I cannot be always with jou to inculcate these things, but litera fcripta manet. I was willing to leave this with you as a legacy, as a testimony of Încere love for, and care over you: this may counsel and direst you when I cannot: I may be rendered useless to you by:
a civil or natural death ; but this will out-live me, and oh that it may ferve your souls when I am filent in the dust.
To hasten now to a conclusion, I have only these three. re- ; quests to you, which I earnestly beseech, you not to deny me; yea, I charge you, as ever you hope to appear with comfort before the great Shepherd, do not dare to fight these requests.
1. Above all other studies in the world, study your own hearts: waste not a minute more of your precious time about frivolous and fapless controversies. It is reported even of Bellarmine (how truly I examine not) * Quod a studiis fcholafticae theologiae averteretur fere nauseabundus, quoniam succo carebant liquidae pietatis, (i. e.) he turned with loathing from the study of school-divinity, because it wanted the sweet juice of piety; I had rather it should be faid of you, as one faid of 1 Swinkfeldius, (“He wanted a regular head, but not an honest « heart”) than that you should have regular heads, and irregular hearts. My dear flock, I have according to the grace given me, laboured in the course of my ministry among you, to feed: you with the heart-strengthening bread of practical doctrine ; and I do assure you, it is far better you should have the sweet and saving impreffions of gospel-truths feelingly and powerfully conveyed to your hearts, than only to understand them by a bare ratiocination, or dry syllogistical inference. Leave trifling studies to such as have time lying on their hands, and know not how to employ it: remember you are at the door of eternity, and have other work to do; those hours you spend upon heart-work in your closets, are the golden spots of all your time, and will have the sweetest influence. up to your last hour, Never forget these sermons I preached to you upon that subject, from 2 Kings xx. 2, 3. Heart-work is weighty, and difficult work; an error there, may cost you your souls : I may fay of it, as Augustine speaks of the doctrine of the Trinity, Nihilo facilius aut periculofius erratur ; A man can err in nothing more easily or more dangerously. Othen study your hearts.
2. My next request is, That you will carefully look to your conversmions, and be accurate in all your ways, hold forth the word of life': be sure by the strictness and holiness of your lives, to settle yourselves in the very consciences of your mies. Remember that your lives must be produced in the great day, to judge the world, 1 Cor. vi. 2. Othen, what manner of perfons ought you to be ! you have many eyes over you ;
* Fuligartus in vita Bellarm.
the omniscient eye of God, that searches heart and reins, Rev. ii. 23. the vigilant eye of Satan, Job i. 7, 8. the envious eyes of enemies, that curiously observe you, Psal. v. 8. the quick and observant eye of conscience, which none of your actions escape; Rom. ix. I.
O then be precise, and accurate, in all manner of conversation; keep up the power of godliness in your closets and families, and then you will not let it fall in your more public employments and converses in the world! I have often tola you, that it is the honour of the gospel, that it makes the best parents and children, the best masters and servants, the best husbands and wives in the world.
1 My third and last request is, that you pray for me: I hope I can say, and I am sure some of you have acknowledged, that I came at first among you, as the return and answer of
your prayers :
and indeed so it should be, fee Luke x. 2. I am pera fuaded also, I have been carried on in my work by your prayers; it is sweet when it is so ; fee Eph. vi. 18, 19. And I hope by your prayers to receive yet a farther benefit, even that which is mentioned, Heb. xiii. 18, 19. Philem. ver. 22. And truly it is but equal you should pray for me, I have often prayed for you : let the pulpit, family, and closet witness for me; and God forbid I should fin against the Lord in cealing to pray
Yea, friends, your own interest may persuade to it: what mercies you obtain for me, redound to your own advantage ; if God preserve me, it is for your use and service : the more gifts and graces a minister hath, the better for them that shall wait on his miniftry; the more God gives in to me, the more I shall be able to give out to you. I will detain you no longer, but to entreat you to accept this small testification of my great love, and have recourse to it, according as the exigencies of your condition shall require : read it consideringly, and obediently; judge it not by the dress and style, but by the weight and favour of what you read. It is a good rule of Bernard, In legendis libris, non quaeramus fcientiam fed faporem, (i. e.) In reading books, regard not fo much the science, as the favour. That it may prove the favour of life unto life to you, and all those into whose hands it shall come, is the hearty desire of
Your loving, and faithful pastorg From my study at Ley in Slapton, 08. 7. 1667.