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A SETTLED PEACE OF CONSCIENCE,
It must be understood, that the case here to be resolved is not, How an unhumbled, profane sinner, that never was convinced of sin and misery, should be brought to a settled peace of conscience. Their carnal peace must first be broken, and they must be so far humbled, as to find the want and worth of mercy, that Christ and his consolations may not seem contemptible in their eyes. It is none of my business now, to give any advice for the furthering of this conviction or humiliation. But the case in hand is, •How a sinner may attain to a settled peace of conscience, and some competent measure of the joy of the Holy Ghost, who hath been convinced of sin and misery, and long made a profession of holiness, but liveth in continual doubtings of their sincerity, and fears of God's wrath, because of an exceeding deadness of spirit, and a want of that love to God, and delight in him, and sweetness in duty, and witness of the Spirit, and communion with God, and the other like evidences which are found in the saints.' How far the party is right or wrong in the discovery of these wants, I now meddle not. Whether they judge rightly or wrongly, the Directions may be useful to them. And though I purposely meddle not with the unhumbled, that feel not the want of Christ and mercy, yet most that falls may be useful to all that profess the Christian faith. For I shall study so to avoid the extremes in my doctrinal directions, as may conduce to your escaping the desperate extremes of ungrounded comforts, and causeless terrors in your own spirit.
Of my directions, the first shall be only general, and the rest more particular. And all of them I must entreat you, 1. To observe the order and method, as well as the matter; and that you would practise them in the same order as I place them. 2. And to remember that it is not only comfortable words, but it is directions for your own practice, which here I prescribe you ; and therefore that it is not the bare reading of them that will cure you; but if you mean to have the benefit of them, you must bestow more time in practising them, than I have done in penning them; yea, you must make it the work of your life. And let not that startle you, or seem tedious to you, for it will be no more grievous a work to a well-tempered soul, than eating or drinking, or sleep, or recreation is to an healthful body; and than it is to an honest woman to love and delight in her husband and her children, which is no grievous task.
Direction I. Get as clear a discovery as you can of the true cause of your doubts and troubles; for if you should mistake in the cause, it would much frustrate the most excellent means for the cure.'
The very same doubts and complaints, may come from several causes in several persons, and therefore admit not of the same way of cure. Sometimes the cause begins in the body, and thence proceedeth to the mind; sometimes it begins in the mind, and thence distempereth the body. Sometimes in the mind, it is most, or first, from worldly crosses, and thence proceedeth to spiritual things. And of spiritual matters, sometimes it begins upon scruples or differences in religion, or points of doctrine ; sometimes and most commonly, from the sense of our own infirmities; sometimes it is only from ordinary infirmities; sometimes from some extraordinary decays of inward grace; sometimes from the neglect of some weighty duty ; and sometimes from the deep wounds of some heinous, secret, or scandalous sin ; and sometimes it is merely from the fresh discovery of that which before we never did discern; and sometimes from the violent assault of extraordinary temptations. Which of these is your own case, you must be careful to find out, and to apply the means for cure accordingly. Even of true Christians, the same means will not fit all. The difference of natures, as well as of actual cases, must be considered. One hath need of that tender handling, which would undo another; and he again hath need of that rousing which another cannot bear. And therefore understand, that when I have given you all the directions that I can, I must, in the end hereof, advise you to take the counsel of a skilful minister, in applying and making use of them : for it is in this, as in the case of physic, when we have written the best books of receipts, or for methodical cures; yet we must advise people to take heed how they use them, without the advice of a learned and faithful physician; for medicines must not be only fitted to diseases, but to bodies: that medicine will kill one man, which will cure another of the same distemper; such difference there may be in their age, strength, complexion, and other things. So is it much in our present case. And therefore, as when all the physic books in the world are written, and all receipts known, yet will there be still a necessity of physicians : so when all discoveries and directions are made in divinity, there will still be a necessity of a constant standing ministry. And as ignorant women and empirics do kill ofttimes more than they cure, though they have the best receipts, for want of judgment and experience to use them aright; so do ignorant teachers and guides by men's souls, though they can say the same words as a judicious pastor, and repeat the same texts of Scripture. Not that I mean, that such can do no good : ye3, much no doubt, if they will humbly, compassionately, and faithfully improve their talents within the verge of their own calling; which if they go beyond, ordinarily a remarkable judgment followeth their best labors; both to the churches, and particular souls that make use of them. And therefore because (if my conjectural prognostics fail not, as I daily pray they may) we are like to be more tried and plagued in this way, than ever were any of our forefathers, since Adam's days, till now : and seeing this is the hour of our temptation, wherein God is purposely separating the chaff, and discovering to the world the dangers of injudicious, misguided zeal; I shall therefore both first and last advise you, as ever you would have a settled peace of conscience, keep out of the hand of vagrant and seducing mountebanks, under what names, or titles, or pretences soever they may assault you. Especially suspect all that bestow as much pains to win you to their party, as to win you to Christ.
Direct. II. ·Make as full a discovery as you can, how much of the trouble of your mind doth arise from your melancholy and bodily distempers, and how much from discontenting afflictions in your worldly estate, or friends, or name, and according to your discovery make use of the remedy.'
I put these two causes of trouble here together in the beginning, because I will presently disiniss them; and apply the rest of these directions only to those troubles that are raised from sins and wants in grace.
1. For melancholy, I have by long experience found it to have so great and common a hand in the fears and troubles of mind, that I meet with not one of many, that live great troubles and fears for any long time together; but melancholy is the main seat of them; though they feel nothing in their body, but all in their mind. I would have such persons make use of some able godly physician, and he will help them to discern how much of their trouble comes from melancholy. Where this is the cause, usually the party is fearful of almost every thing; a word, or a sudden thought will disquiet them. Sometimes they are sad, and scarce know why: all comforts are of no continuance with them; but as soon as you have done comforting them, and they be never so well, satisfied, yet the trouble returns in a few days or hours, as soon as the dark and troubled spirits return to their former force: they are still addicted to musing and solitariness, and thoughts will run in their minds, that they cannot lay them by : if it go any thing far, they are almost always assaulted with temptations to blasphemy, to doubt whether there be a God, or a Christ, or the scriptures be true; or whether there be a heaven or a hell; and oft tempted to speak some blasphemous words against God; and this with such
importunity, that they can hardly forbear; and ofttimes they are tempted to make away themselves. When it goes so far, they are next the loss of the use of reason, if it be not prevented.
Now to those that find that melancholy is the cause of their troubles, I would give this advice. 1. Expect not that rational, spiritual remedies, should suffice for this cure: for you may as well expect that a good sermon, or comfortable words, should cure the falling sickness, or palsy, or a broken head, as to be a sufficien cure to your melancholy fears; for this is as real a bodily disease as the other; only because it works on the spirits and fantasy, on which words of advice do also work, therefore such words, and scripture and reason, may somewhat resist it, and may palliate or allay some of the effects at the present; but as soon as time hath worn off the force and effects of these reasons, the distemper presently returns.
For the humor hath the advantage; (1.) Of continual presence. (2.) Of a more necessary, natural, and sensible way of working. As if a man be in an easy lethargy, you may awake him so long as you are calling on him aloud; but as soon as you cease, he is asleep again. Such is the case of the melancholy in their own sorrows; for it is as natural for melancholy to cause fears and disquietness of mind, as for phlegm in a lethargy to cause sleep.
Do not therefore, lay the blame on your books, friends, counsels, instructions (no nor all on your soul) if these troubles be not cured by words: but labor to discern truly how much of your trouble comes this way, and then fix in your mind in all your inquiries, reading, and hearing, that it is the other part of your trouble which is truly rational, and not this part of it which is from melancholy, that these means were ordained to remove (though God may also bless them extraordinarily to do both.) Only constant importunate prayer is a fit and special means for the curing of all.
2. When you have truly found out how much of your disquietness proceeds from melancholy, acquit your soul from that part of it; still remember in all your self-examinations, self-judgings, and reflections on your heart, that it is not directly to be charged with those sorrows that come from your spleen ; save only remotely, as all other diseases are the fruits of sin ; as a lethargic duulness is the