« ZurückWeiter »
sin, by such a wronging and hurting your own body. Such Popish religiousness shews, that men have very low and carnal conceits of God. Was it not a base wickedness in them that offered their children in sacrifice, to think that God would be pleased with such cruelty? Yea, were it not to have directed us to Christ, he would not have accepted of the blood of bulls and goats; it is not sacrifice that he desires. He never was bloodthirsty, nor took any pleasure in the creature's suffering. How can you think then that he will take pleasure in your consuming and destroying your own bodies? It is as unreasonable as to imagine, that he delights to have men cut their own throats, or hang themselves; for pining and consuming one's self is self-murder as well as that. Yet I know no man should draw back from a painful or hazardous work, when God calls him to it, for fear of destroying the flesh; but do not make work or suffering for yourselves. God will lay as much affliction on you as you need, and be thankful if he will enable you to bear that ; but you have no need to add more. If yourselves make the suffering, how can you with any encouragement, beg strength of God to bear it? And if you have not strength, what will you do? Nay, how can you pray for deliverance from God's afflictings, when you makc more of
your own ? And thus I have shewed you the danger of overdoing, and what hindrance it is to a settled peace, both of church (state) and soul; though perhaps it may not condemn a particular soul so certainly (in most parts of it) as doisg too little will.
5. The next part of my Direction (first expressed) is, That you avoid causeless scruples, about doctrines, duties, sins, or your own
These are also engines of the enemy, to batter the peace, and comfort of your soul; he knows that it is cheerful obedience, with a confidence of Christ's merits and mercies that God accepteth ; and therefore if he cannot hinder a poor soul from setting upon duty, he will hinder him if he can, by these scruples, from a cheerful and prosperous progress. First, If he can, he will take in scruples about the truth of his religion, and shewing him the many opinions that are in the world, he will labor to bring the poor Christian to a loss.
Or else he will assault him by the men of some particular scct, to draw him to that party, and so by corrupting his judg
ment, to break his peace; or at least to trouble his head, and divert his thoughts from God, by tedious disputes. The Papists will tell him, that they are the only true Catholic church as if they had got a monopoly or patent for religion, and had confined Christ to themselves who are such notorious abusers of him ; and as if all the churches of Greece, Ethiopia, and the rest of the world, were unchurched by Christ, to humor Master Pope, though they be far more in number, and many of them sounder in doctrine than the Romanists are. Those of other parties will do the like, cach one to draw him to their own way. And the devil would make him believe that there are as many religions as there are odd opinions, when alas, the Christian religion is one, and but one, consisting, for the doctrinals, in those fundamentals contained in our creed. And men's lesser erroneous opinions are but the scabs that adhere to their religion. Only the church of Rome is a very leper, whose infectious disease doth compel us to avoid her company. (As for any sort of men that deny the fundamentals, I will not call them by the name of Christians.) So also in duties of worship, satan will be castiog in scruples. If they should hear the word, he will cause them to be scrupling the calling of the minister, or something in his doctrine to discourage them. If they should dedicate their children to Christ in the baptismal covenant, he will be raising scruples about the lawsulness of baptizing infants. When they should solace their souls at the Lord's supper, or other communion of the church, he will be raising scruples about the fitness of every one that they are to join with, and whether it be lawful to join with such an ignorant man, or such a wicked man; or whether it be a true church, or rightly gathered, or governed, or the minister a true minister, and twenty the like. When they should join with the church in singing of God's praises, he will move one to scruple singing David's psalms ; another to scruple singing among the ungodly; another singing psalms that agree not to every man's condition; another, because our translation is bad, or our metre defective, and we might have better. When men should spend the Lord's day in God's spiritual worship, he causeth one to scruple, whether the Lord's day be of divine institution. Another he drives into the other extreme, to scruple almost every thing that is not worship. Whether they may provide their meat on that day (when yet it is a solemn day of thanksgiving, and they scruple not much more on other thanksgiving-days) or whether they may so much as move a stick out of the way. Others he moves to trouble themselves with scruples, as what hour the day begins and ends, and the like. Whereas, if they, 1. Understood that worldly rest is commanded but as help to spiritual worship. 2. And that they must employ as much of that day in. God's work as they do of other days in their callings, and rest in the night as at other times, and that God looks to time for work's sake, and not at the work for the time's sake ; this would cast out most of their scruples. The like course Satan takes with Christians in reading, praying in secret, or in their families, teaching their families, reproving sinners, teaching the ignorant, meditation, and all other duties, tou long lo mention the particular scruples which he thrusts into men's heads, much more to resolve them, which would require a large volume alone.
Now I would entreat all such Christians to consider, how little they please God, and how much they please Satan, and how much they break their own peace, and the peace of the churches. If you send a man on a journey, would you like him better that would stand questioning and scrupling every step he goes, whether he set the right foot before? Or whether he should go in the footpath or in the road? Or him that would cheerfully go on, not thinking which foot goeth forward; and rather step a little beside the path, and in again, than to stand scrupling when he should be going? If you send reapers into your harvest, which would you like better, him that would stand scrupling how many straws he sbould cut down at once, and at what height; and with fears of cutting them too high or too low, too many at once, or too few, should do you but little work? Or him that should do his work cheerfully, as well as he can? Would you not be angry at such childish, unprofitable diligence or curiosity, as is a hindrance to your work? And is it not so with our Master? There was but one of those parties in the right that Paul spoke to ; Rom. xiv. xv. And yet he not only persuades them to bear with one another, and not to judge one another, but to receive the weak in faith, and not to doubtful disputatious; but he bids them, “Let every man be fully
persuaded in his own mind.” How? Can he that erreth be fully persuaded in his error? Yes, he may go on boldly and confidently, not troubling himself with demurs in his duty, as long as he took the safer side in his doubt. Not that he should encourage any to venture on sin, or to neglect a due inquiry after God's mind. But I speak against tormenting scruples, which do no work, but binder from it, and stay us from our duty.
The same I say against scruples about your sins ; Satan will make you believe that every thing is a sin, that he may disquiet you, if he cannot get you to believe that nothing almost is sin, that he may destroy you. You shall not put a bit in your mouth, but he will move a scruple, whether it were not too good, or too much. You shall not clothe yourself, but he will move you to scruple the lawfulness of it. You shall not come into any company, but he will afterwards vex you about every word you spoke, lest you sinned.
The like I may say also about your condition, but more of that
Direct. XXVII. · When God hath once shewed you a certainty, or but a strong probability of your sincerity and his especial love, labor to fix this so deep in your apprehension and memory, that it may serve for the time to come, and not only for the present. And leave not your soul too open to changes, upon every new apprehension, nor to question all that is past upon every jealousy; except when some notable declining to the world, and the flesh, or a committing of gross sins, or a wilfulness or carelessness in other sins that you may avoid, do give you just cause of questioning your sincerity, and bringing your soul again to the bar, and your estate to a more exact review.'
Some Antinomian writers and preachers you shall meet with, who will persuade you, whatsoever sins you fall into, never more to question your justification or salvation. I have said enough before to prove their doctrine detestable. Their reason is, because God changeth not as we change, and justification is never lost. To which I answer, 1. God hated us while we were workers of iniquity ; Psal. xi. 5. v. 5. and was angry with us when we were children of wrath ; Ephes. 1-3. and afterwards he laid by that hatred and wrath ; and all this without change. If we cannot reach to apprehend how God's unchangeableness can stand with the fullest and most frequent expressions of him in Scripture, must we therefore deny what those expressions do contain? As Austin saith, “Shall we deny that which is plain, because we cannot reach that which is obscure and difficult?' 2. But if these men had well studied the Scriptures, they might have kuown that the same man that was yesterday hated as an enemy, may to day be reconciled and loved as a son, and that without any change in God; even as it falls out within the reach of our knowledge: for God ruleth the world by his laws; they are his moral instruments; by them he condemneth ; by them he justifieth, so far as he is said in this life, before the judgment day, to do it, (unless there be any other secret act of justification with him, which man is not able now to understand.) The change is therefore in our relations, and in the moral actions of the laws. When we are unbelievers, and impenitent, we are related to God as enemies, rebels, unjustified and unpardoned ; being such as God's law condemneth and pronounceth enemies, and the law of grace doth not yet justify or pardon; and so God is, as it were, in some sense obliged, according to that law which we are under, to deal with us as enemies, by destroying us; and this is God's hating, wrath, &c. When we repent, return, and believe, our relation is changed; the same law that did condemn us, is relaxed and disabled, and the law of grace doth now acquit us; it pardoneth us, it justifieth us, and God by it: and so God is reconciled to us, when we are such as according to his own law of grace he is, as it were, oblige to forgive and to do good to, and to use as sons. Is not all this apparently without any change in God? Cannot he make a law that shall change its moral action according the change of the actions or inclinations of sinners? And this without any change in God? And so, if it should be that a justified man should fall from God, from Christ, from sincere faith or obedience, the law would condemn him again, and the law of grace would justify him no more (in that state,) and all this without any change in God. 3. If this Antinomian argument would prove any thing, it would prove justification before, and so without, Christ's satisfaction, because there is no change in God. 4. The very point, That no justified man shall ever fall from Christ, is not so clear and fully revealed in Scripture, and past all doubt from the