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speak, so they pray, and even so they open their conditions. These look like saints, but are none. The third is, to see so many real saints, in whom the spirit of truth is, who yet, through the impetuous workings of their corruptions and neglecting the watch over their hearts, often fall into such scandalous practices, that they look like hypocrites, though they are not so.
These are three sad sights indeed, and "O that my head were waters, and mine eyes fountains of tears," that I might weep abundantly over them all!
For the first I would mourn heartily, considering that they, so continuing, must be damned eternally; 2 Thess. i. 8; 1 Cor. vi. 9.
For the second I would both weep and tremble, considering that they, so abiding, must be damned doubly; Matth. xxiv. 51.
And for the third I would weep no less than for any of the rest, because, though they themselves may and shall be saved, yet their example makes fast the bonds of death on both the former; Matth. xviii. 7; 2 Sam. xii. 13, 14.
Alas! that ever they should shed the blood of others' souls, for whom Christ shed his own blood! that ever they should be cruel to others, who have found Christ so kind to them! I know they dare not do it directly and intentionally, but so it proves eventually. Suffer me here to digress a little, and expostulate with these prejudiced and hardened souls; I will presently return to you again. O why do you deceive your own souls by other men's examples? Because they stumble and break their shins, will you fall and break your necks? I desire all such as harden themselves by these things, and take up a good opinion of their own deplorable condition, would soberly consider and answer these three queries—
Query 1.-Does religion in any way countenance or patronize the sinful practices of its professors? Or does it not rather impartially and severely condemn them? It is the glory of the Christian religion, that it is pure and undefiled; Jam. i. 27: no doctrine so holy; Psal. xix. 8: nor does any make more provision for a holy life; Tit. ii. 11, 12. There is indeed a case wherein we may charge the evil practices of men upon their principles, but that
is when their practices naturally flow from and necessarily follow their principles: as, for example, if I see a Papist sin boldly, I may charge it upon his principles, for they set pardons to sale, and so make way for looseness; if I see an Arminian slight the grace of God, and proudly advance himself, I may cry shame upon his principles which directly lead to it: but can I do so where such practices are condemned and provided against by their own avowed principles, who commit them?
Query 2.-Is it not a most irrational thing to rail at religion on account of the scandalous ways of some, whilst, in the mean time, you wholly slight and overlook the holy and heavenly conversation of many others? Are all that profess godliness loose and careless in their lives? No; some 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 scandalous lives of some who profess it, must you not then cast off all religion in the world, and turn downright atheists? Surely this is the natural consequence; for what religion is there, but some that profess it walk contrary to their profession? And then, as Constantine told the Novatian, 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 reformation of its professors, that must both save its honor, 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 professors of their miscarriages, and the evil aggravations of them; secondly, by healing the heart, and cleansing the fountain whence they proceed. The second of these is a principal design of this small treatise, the subject whereof is exceedingly weighty and of daily use to the people of God, though the manner of handling it may 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, first, why I publish it to the view of the world; secondly, why I direct it particularly to you.
For the publication of it, take this sincere and brief account, that as I was led to this subject by a special providence, so I was led to the publication 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 on account of some special heart-disorder, opened the case to me, and earnestly requested some rules and helps in that particular. Whilst I was bending my thoughts to this particular case, divers other cases of like importance occurred to my thoughts, and this scripture, which I have insisted on, presented itself, as a fit foundation for the whole discourse; which being lengthened out to what you see, divers friends requested me to transcribe for their use some of the cases here handled, and some others begged me to publish the whole, to which I was in a manner necessitated, to save the pains of copying, which to me is a very tedious and tiresome work: and just as I had almost finished the copy, an opportunity offered to make it public. So that from first to last I have been carried beyond my first intentions in this thing.
If any say, "The world is even cloyed with books, and therefore though the discourse be necessary, yet the publication is needless," I answer, There are indeed multitudes of books, but many of them concern not themselves about fundamental truths and practical godliness, but spend their strength on impractical notions and frivolous controversies; many also strike at fundamental 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 souls to live and feed on. Now, though I could wish that those who have handled the pen of the scribe, had better employed their time and pains, than to obtrude such useless discourses on the world; yet as to books of the latter rank, I will say, that when husbandmen complain of too much corn, then let Christians complain of too many such books. And if you be so highly conceited of your own ability, that such
books are needless to you; if you let them alone, they will do you no hurt, and other poor hungry souls will be glad of them, and bless God for what you despise and leave.
If it be said that several of the cases here handled touch not your condition, I answer, that that which is not your condition, may be another's condition. If you are placed in an easy, full, and prosperous state, and so 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 are dandled upon the knee of providence, some of your brethren are under its feet. If you have inward peace and tranquillity of spirit, and so need not the counsels here given, to ward off those desperate conclusions which poor afflicted souls are ready to draw against themselves at such a time; yet it may be a word in season to them, and they may say as David to Abigail, "Blessed be thou of the Lord,
and blessed be thy advice."
That too may be your condition shortly, which is not your condition at present. Say not thy mountain stands strong, thou shalt never be moved: there are changes in the right-hand of the Most High; and then those truths which are little more esteemed now than hedge-fruits, will be as apples of gold in pictures of silver. In Jer. xxxiii. 10, 11, the prophet 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 the publication of this work. As for the dedication of it to you, I was induced thereto by the consideration 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 entrusted 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 so do all the mutual duties of it.
. The consideration of my constrained absence from you also weighed with me, I would not that personal absence should by insensible degrees untwist, as it usually does,
the cord of friendship; and therefore I have endeavoured, as absent friends are accustomed to do, to preserve and strengthen it by this small remembrance. It was Vespasian's answer to Apollonius, when he desired access for two philosophers, "My doors are always open to philosophers, but my very breast is open to thee." I cannot say with him, my doors are open for the free access of friends, being by a sad providence shut against myself; but this I can say, my very breast is still open to you; you are as dear to me as ever.
Another inducement, and indeed the chief, was the perpetual usefulness and necessity of these truths for you; and I know that few of you have such happy memories as to retain, and I cannot be always with you to inculcate, these things, but "litera scripta manet." I was willing to leave this with you as a legacy, as a testimony of sincere love for and care over you. This may counsel and direct you when I cannot. Ι may be rendered useless to you by a civil or natural death, but this will outlive me; and O that it may serve your souls, when I am silent in the dust!
To hasten now to a conclusion; I have only these three requests 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 slight these requests—
Above all other studies in the world, study your own hearts: waste not a minute more of your precious time about frivolous controversies. It is reported even of Bellarmine, that he turned with loathing from the study of school-divinity, because it wanted the sweet juice of piety. I had rather it should be said of you, as one said of 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, labored 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 impressions of gospel-truths feelingly and powerfully conveyed to your hearts, than only to understand them by a bare