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see the duty which they love not to practise. And thus we cannot get them to try whether the things that we teach them be so.
For want of this it is that men deceive themselves, and think their case to be safe when it is miserable, because they will not try it by the word. This makes them rage, and be confident in their folly (Prov. xiv. 16.), and laugh and sing at the brink of hell, and swim as merrily down the stream to the devouring gulf as if no evil were near them. This makes them in the depth of misery to have no pity on themselves, and to do so little to escape it; though they have time, and means, and help at hand, yet there are not hearts in them to make use of them; yea, they run themselves daily further on the score; and all because we cannot get them to search the Scripture, and try whether sin be so small a matter, and whether this will not be bitterness in the end. Hence it is that they are so easily drawn by a temptation; and that they dislike a holy life, and have base thoughts of them that are most diligent for salvation, and are most precious in the eyes of God; and that they can even deride the way that they should walk in (Prov. 1. 20. Psal. i. 2.), because they will not search the Scripture, to see what it saith to these matters. The word is a light, and would do much to open their eyes, and win them over to God, if they would but come to it with a desire to know the truth. You think that the ungodly that are rich and great, are in a better condition than a godly man that is poor and despised. And why is this, but because you will not go into the sanctuary, and see in what a slippery place they stand, and what will be the end of these men? Psal. lxxiii. 16, 17. 22. In a word, this is the undoing of millions of souls. They are all their lifetime out of the way to heaven, and yet will not be persuaded to ask the way; but they run on and wink, and put it to the venture. Many a thousand are gone out of the world, before they ever spent the quantity of one day in trying by the Scripture whether their state were good, and their way were right. Nay, let their teachers tell them that they must be sanctified and take another course, they will differ from their teachers though they be never so wise or learned; and they will contradict them, and not believe or regard them. And yet we cannot get them to come to us, and put the case to a trial, and let the Scripture be the judge. Would
they but do this, they could never sure have such hard thoughts of their teachers, and be offended at their plainest, closest dealing. You would then say, 'I see now the minister says not this of himself, he speaks but that which God commandeth him; and if he would not deliver the message of the Lord, he were unworthy and unfit to be his ambassador. He were cruel to me if he would not pull me out of the fire, by the plainest, closest means;' Jude 23. He hated me if he would not rebuke me, but suffer sin upon me;' Lev. xix. 17. If he would please men he should not be the servant of Christ;' Gal. i. 10. 'I know it is no pleasure to him to trouble me, or to provoke me; but it would be his own destruction if he tell me not of my danger,' Ezek. iii. 18. ' And I have no reason to wish him to damn his own soul, and suffer me to do the like by mine; and all for fear of displeasing me in my sin.' These would be your thoughts if you would but try our words by the Scripture, and see whether we speak not the mind of God.
And sure it would go somewhat deeper in your hearts, and it would stick by you, and be more before your eyes, when you once understood that it is the word of God.
This then is my request to you, sirs, that the work of your conversion may not miscarry, that you would carry all that you hear to the Scripture, and search there, and see whether it be so or not, that so you may be put out of doubt, and may be at a certainty, and not stand wavering; and that your faith may be resolved into the authority of God, and so the work may be divine, and consequently powerful and prevailing, when the ground and motive are divine. If you be not satisfied in the doctrine which the minister delivereth to you, first search the Scripture yourselves; and if that will not do, go to him, and desire him to shew you his grounds for it in the word of God, and join with you in prayer for a right understanding of it. Do you question whether there be so severe a judgment, and a heaven, and a hell, as ministers tell you? Search the Scripture, in Matt. xxv. and 2 i. 8-10. John v. 29. Matt. xiii. Do you question whether a man may not be saved without conversion, regeneration, and holiness? Open your Bibles, and see what God saith, John iii. 3. 6. Matt. xviii. 3. 2 Cor. v. 17. Rom. viii. 9. Heb. xii. 14. Do you think a man may be saved without knowledge? Let Scripture judge; 2 Cor. iv. 3, 4.
John xvii. 3.
ved that doth
Hos. iv. 6. Do you think a man may be saas the most do, and goeth in the common way of the world? Search the Scripture and see; Matt. vii. 13. xx. 16. xxii. 14. Luke xii. 32. Do you think an unhumbled soul may be saved, that never was contrite and brokenhearted for sin? Try by Isa. lvii. 15. lxvi. 2. Psal. li. 17. Luke iv. 18. Matt. xi. 28. Do you think a man can be the servant of God, that liveth a fleshly life, and will keep his sin? Try by Rom. viii. 13. John iii. 12. Ephes. v. 6. 1 John iii. 9, 10. Do you doubt whether it be necessary to make so much ado to be saved, and to be so strict, and make religion our chiefest business? Try by Psal. i. 1—3. 1 Pet. iv. 18. Heb. xii. 14. Luke x. 42. Luke xiii. 24. Eph. v. 15, 16. Do you think a man can be saved that is a worldling, whose heart is more on earth than heaven? Try by 1 John ii. 15. Phil. iii. 19. Col. iii. 1. Luke xiv. 26. 33. Do you doubt whether you should serve God with your families, and instruct them, and pray with them? Try by Jos. xxiv. 15. Deut. vi. 6, 7. Dan. vi. 10, 11. Exod. xx. 10.
Thus if you will in all these weighty matters but go to the Scriptures, and see whether it say as your teachers say, you might soon be resolved, and that by the surest authority in the world. If you think that your ministers may be deceived, I hope you will confess that God cannot be deceived. If you think that your ministers are passionate, or self-conceited, or speak out of ill-will to you, I hope you dare not say so by the Lord; he owes you no ill-will, nor speaks a word but what is most sure. If you think us partial, sure God is impartial. What better judge can you have now, than he that is infallible, and must judge you all at the last? If any Papist put it into your head to ask, 'Who shall be judge of the sense of Scripture?' I answer, Who shall be judge of the Judge of all the world? The law is made to judge you, and not to be judged by you. None can be the proper judges of the sense of a law but the maker of it; though others must judge their cases by the law. Your work is to discern it, and understand and obey it; and our work is to help you to understand it; but it is neither our work nor yours to be the proper, or absolute judges of it. At least where it speaks plain it needs no judge.
Come then to the word in meekness and humility, with a teachable frame of spirit, and a willingness to know the
truth, and a resolution to stand to it, and yield to what shall be revealed to you, and beg of God to shew you his will, and lead you into the truth; and you will find that he will be found of them that seek him.
Direct. III. If you would not have the work of your conversion miscarry, my next advice is this:
'See that you be much in the serious consideration of the truths which you understand, betwixt God and you in secret.'
I have often spoken of this heretofore; but because I apprehend it to be a work of exceeding great concernment, I shall be longer on it again than on the rest.
The greatest matters in the world will not work much upon him that will not think of them. Consideration opens the ear that was stopped, and the heart that was shut up; it sets the powers of the soul at work, and awakeneth it from the sleep of incogitancy and security. The thoughts are the first actings of the soul, that set at work the rest. Thinking on the matters that must make us wise, and do the work of God on the heart, is that which lieth on us to do in order to our conversion. By Consideration a sinner makes use of the truth, which before lay by, and therefore could do nothing. By Consideration he taketh in the medicine to his soul, which before stood by, and could not work. By Consideration a man makes use of his reason, which before was laid asleep, and therefore could not do its work. When the master is from home, the scholars will be at play. When the coachman is asleep, the horses may miss the way, and possibly break his neck and their own. If the ploughman go his way, the oxen will stand still, or make but bad, unhandsome work. So when reason is laid asleep, and out of the way, what may not appetite do? and what may not the passions do? and what may not temptations do with the soul? A wise man, when he is asleep, hath as little use of his wisdom as a fool. A learned man when he is asleep can hardly dispute with an unlearned man that is awake. A strong man that is never so skilful at his weapons, is scarce able in his sleep to deal with the weakest child that is awake. Why all the powers of your soul are, as it were, asleep, till Consideration awake them, and set them on work. And what the better are you for being men, and having reason, if you have not the use of your reason when you need it? As
men are inconsiderate because they are wicked, so are they the more wicked because they are inconsiderate. The keenest sword, the greatest cannon, will do no execution against an enemy, while they lie by and are not used. There is a mighty power in the word of God, and the example of Christ, to pull down strong holds, and conquer the strongest lusts and corruptions. But they will not do this while they are forgotten and neglected. Will heaven entice the man that thinks not of it? Will hell deter the man that thinks not of it? Why is it that all the reasoning in the world will do no more good on a man that is deaf, than if you said nothing? but because the passage to his thoughts and understanding is stopt up. And if you have eyes and see not, and ears and hear not, and wilfully cast it out of your thoughts, what good can any thing do to you that is spoken? It is not holding your mouth that will nourish you, if you will not let it down: not taking it into your stomach, if you will not keep it, but presently cast it up again; but it must be kept till it be digested and distributed. So it is not the most excellent truths in the world that will change your hearts, if you let them not down to your hearts, and keep them not there by meditation, till they are digested and turned into spiritual life. The plaster must be laid upon the sore if you would be cured. The wound and sickness is at your heart; and if you will not take in the word to your heart, where the sickness is, I know not how you should expect a cure. The soul will not be charmed into holiness by the bare hearing or saying over a few good words; as wizards use to cure diseases, or seem to cure them. It must be truth at the heart that must change the heart. And if you will not think on it, and think on it again, how can you expect it should come at your hearts?
You say you would gladly have Christ and grace, and are ready to lay the blame on God, because he doth not give it you, and say, 'We cannot convert ourselves :' but would you have the Spirit come in, while you hold the door against him? He knocks, and desireth you to open and let him in, and you wish him to come in; but you bolt the door, and no entreaty will procure you to open it. It is Consideration of the saving doctrine of the Gospel that openeth the heart, and giveth it entertainment. Set yourselves therefore on purpose to this work, and open the doors of your heart which are now shut, and let the King of glory come in. Who will