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fallibly argue, God hath made a grant to every sinful man, of pardon and salvation through Christ's sacrifice, if they will but repent and believe in Christ ; but I am a sinful man, therefore God hath made this grant of pardon and salvation to me.'
Direct. XXXI. *If God do bless you with an able, faithful, prudent, judicious pastor, take him for your guide under Christ in the way to salvation ; and open to him your case, and desire his advice in all your extraordinary, pressing necessities, where you have found the advice of other godly friends to be insufficient; and this not once or twice only, but as often as such pressing necessities shall return. Or if your own pastor be more defective for such a work, make use of some other minister of Christ, who is more meet.'
Here I have these several things to open to you. 1. That it is your duty to seek this Direction from the guides of the church. 2. When and in what cases you should do this. 3. To what end, and how far. 4. What ministers they be that you should choose thereto. 5. In what manner you must open your case, that you may receive satisfaction.
1. The first hath two parts, (1.) That you must open your case. (2.) And that to your pastor. (1.) The devil hath great advantage while you keep his counsel; two are better than one; for if one of them fall, he hath another to help bim. It is dangerous, resisting such an enemy alone. An uniting of forces oft procureth victory. God giveth others knowledge, prudence, and other gifts for our good ; that so every member of the body may have need of another, and each be useful to the other. An independency of Christian upon Christian, is most unchristian ; much more of
people on their guides. It ceaseth to be a member, which is separated from the body; and to make no use of the body or fellow members, is next to separation from them. Sometimes bashfulness is the cause, sometimes self-confidence (a far worse cause ;) but whatever is the cause of Christians smothering their doubts, the effects are oft sad. The disease is oft gone so far, that the cure is very difficult, before some bashful, or proud, or tender patients will open their disease. The very opening of a man's grief to a
faithful friend, doth oft ease the heart of itself. (2.) And that this should be done to your pastor, I will shew you anon.
2. But you inust understand well when this is your duty. (1.) Nconserv small infirmity, which accompanies Christians in their daily más hful conversation. Nor yet in every lesser doubt, which may be otherwise resolved. It is a folly and a wrong to physicians to run to them for every cut finger or prick with a pin. Every neighbor can help you in this. (2.) Nor except it be a weighty case indeed, go not first to a minister. But first study the case yourself, and seek God's direction : if that will not serve, open your case to your nearest bosom friend that is godly and judicious. (3.) And in these two cases always go to your pastor. In case more private means can do you no good, then God calls you to seek further. If a cut finger so fester that ordinary means will not cure it, you must go to the physician. If the case be weighty and dangerous; for then none but the moi e prudent advice is to be trusted. If you be struck with a dangerous disease, I would not have you delay so long, nor wrong yourself so much, as to stay while you tamper with every woman's medicine, but go presently to the physician. So if you either fall into any grievous sin, or any terrible pangs of conscience, or any great straits and difficulties about matters of doctrine or practice, go presently to your pastor for advice. The devil, and pride, and bashfulness, will do their utmost to hinder you; but see that they prevail not.
3. Next consider to what end you must do this. Not, (1.) Either to expect that a minister can of himself create peace in you ; or that all your doubts should vanish as soon as ever you have opened your mind. Only the great Peace-maker, the Prince of peace, can create peace in you : ascribe not to any the office of the Holy Ghost, to be your effectual comforter. To expect more from man than belongs to man, is the way to receive nothing from him, but to cause God to blast to you the best endeavors. (2.) Nor must you resolve to take all merely from the word of your pastor, as if he were infallible: nor absolutely to judge of yourself as he judgeth. For he may be too rigorous, or more commonly too charitable in his opinion of you : there may be much of your disposition and conversation unknown to him, which may hinder his right judging.
But, (1.) You must use your pastor as the ordained instrument and messenger of the Lord Jesus and his Spirit, appointed to speak a word in season to the weary, and to shew to man his righteousnes, and to strengthen the weak hands and feeble knees; Spid more, to bind and loose on earth, as Christ doth b. heaven. As Christ and his Spirit do only save the principal place, and yet ministers save souls in subordination to them as his instruments ; Acts xxvi. 17, 18. 1 Tim. iv. 15, 16.
James v. 20. So Christ and the Spirit are, as principal causes, the only comforters; but his ministers are comforters under him. (2.) And that which you must expect from them are these two things. 1. You must expect those fuller discoveries of God's will than you are able to make yourself, by which you may have assurance of your duty to God, and of the sense of Scripture, which expresseth how God will deal with you : that so a clearer discovery of God's mind may resolve your doubts. 2. In the mean time, till you can come to a full resolution, you may and must somewhat stay yourself on the very judgment of your pastor : not as infallible, but as a discovery of the probability of your good or bad estate; and so of your duty also. Though you will not renounce your own understanding, and believe any man when you know he is deceived, or would deceive you, yet you would so far suspect your own reason and value another's, as to have a special regard to every man's judgment in his own profession. If the physician tell you that your disease is not dangerous, or the lawyer that your cause is good, it will more comfort you than if another man should say as much. It may much stay your heart till you can reach to clearer evidences and assurance, to have a pastor that is well acquinted with you, and is faithful and judicious, to tell you that he verily thinks that you are in a safe condition. (3.) But the chief use of his advice is, not so much to tell you what he thinks of you, as to give you Directions how you may judge of yourself, and come out of your trouble : besides the benefit of his prayers to God for you.
4. Next let me tell you what men you must choose to open your mind to: and they must be, (1.) Men of judgment and knowledge, and not the ignorant, be they never so honest : else they may deceive you, not knowing what they do ; either for want of understanding the Scripture, and the nature of grace and sin; or for want of skill to deal with both weak consciences, and deep, deceitful hearts. (2.) They must be truly searing God, and of experisce in this great work. For a troubled soul is seldom well resolved and comforted merely out of a book, but from the book and experience both together. Carnal or formal men will but make a jest at the doubts of a troubled Christian ; or at least will give you such formal remedies as will prove no cure : either they will persuade you, as the Antinomians do, that you should trust God with your soul, and never question your faith : or that you do ill to trouble yourself about such things : or they will direct you only to the comforts of general grace, and tell you only that God is merciful, and Christ died for sinners; which are the necessary foundations of our peace; but will not answer particular doubts of our own sincerity, and of our interest in Christ : or else they wil make you believe that holiness of heart and life (which is the thing you look after) is it that troubleth you, and breeds all your scruples. Or else with the Papists, they will send you to your merits for comfort; or to some vindictive penance in fastings, pilgrimages, or the like; or to some saint departed, or angel, or to the pardons or indulgences of the pope ; or to a certain formal, carnal devotion, to make God amends. (3.) They must be men of downright faithfulness, that will deal plainly and freely, though not cruelly; and not like those tender surgeons that will leave the cure undone for fear of hurting : meddle not with men-pleasers and daubers, that will presently speak comfort to you as confidently as if they had known you twenty years, when perhaps they know little of your heart or case. Deal not with such as resolve to humor you. (4.) They must be men of fidelity, and well tried to be such, that you must trust them with those secrets which you are called to reveal. (5.) They must be men of great staidness and wisdom, that they may neither raslly pass their judgment, not set you upon unsound, unwarrantable, or dangerous courses. (6.) It is suspicious if they be men that are so impudent as to draw out your secrets, and screw themselves deeper into your privatest thoughts and ways than is meet : yet a compassionate minister, when he seeth that poor Christians do entangle themselves by keeping secret their troubles, or else that they hazard themselves by hiding the greatest of their sins, like Achan, Saul, or Ananias and Sapphira, and so play the hypocrites; in these cases he may and must urge them to deal openly. (7.) Above all be sure that those that you seek advice of, be sound in the faith, and free from the two desperate plagues of notorious false doctrine, and separating, dividing inclin. ations, that do but hunt about to make disciples to themselves. There are two of the former sort, and three of the latter, that I would charge you to take heed of (and yet all is but four.) 1. Among those that err from the faith, (next to pagans, Jews, and infidels, whether Ranters, Seekers, or Socinians, which I think few sober, godly men are so much in danger of, because of their extreme vileness,) I would especially have you avoid the Antinomians, being the greatest pretenders to the right comforting afflicted consciences in the world; but upon my certain knowledge I dare say, they are notorious subverters of the very nature of the Gospel, and that free grace which they so much talk of, and the great dishonorers of the Lord Jesus, whom they seem so highly to extol. They are those mountebanks and quacksalvers that delude the world by vain ostentation, and kill more than they will cure. 2. Next to them, take heed of Papists, who will go to Rome, to saints, to angels, to merits, to the most carnal, delusory means for comfort, when they should go to Scripture and to heaven for it.
And then take heed that you fall not into the hands of separating dividers of Christ's church. The most notorious and dangerous of them are of these three sorts. 1. The last mentioned, the Papists : they are the most notorious schismatics and separatists that ever God's church did know on earth. For my part, I think their schism is more dangerous and wicked than the rest of their false doctrine. The unmerciful, proud, self-seeking wretches, would, like the Donatists, make us believe that God hath no true church on earth but they ; and that all the Christians in Ethiopia, Asia, Germany, Hungary, France, England, Scotland, Ireland, Belgia, and the rest of the world, that acknowledge not their pope of Rome to be head of all the churches in the world, are none of Christ's churches, nor ever were. Thus do they separate from all the churches on earth, and confine all religion and salvation to Vol. I.