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like questions, and then take their judgment (with the cautions before expressed) of your spiritual state. Hear what they will tell you of it. Might not this course convince thee of thy miserable state, that never hadst any such evidences as these to shew! and might it not awaken thee in time, to bethink thee of a safer course? Go to any faithful minister in the world, and tell him the plain truth, that yet thou art a secret fornicator, or drunkard, or pot-companion, or flesh-pleaser in some sensual way; or if thou sinnest not so grossly, that yet thou art a formal hypocrite, and hast a secret enmity to those that are most seriously religious, and live the most heavenly lives, and that thou art thyself a stranger to all the aforesaid passages of sanctification: and I dare assure thee that he will tell thee, if thou art thus indeed, thou art in the "gáll of bitterness, and the bond of iniquity," and must be speedily renewed, and sanctified, and justified, or thou art undone for ever. I tell thee, there is not a man that is worthy the name of a minister in all the world, but will pass this judgment on the condition of thy soul. And yet wilt thou bear it out with a senseless heart, a seared conscience, and a brazen face; and still live as carelessly. all were well with thee! What is thy soul of no more worth? Is it so small a matter with thee, what becometh of thee? Or is the judgment of able, faithful ministers, in the way of their own office, of no more regard with thee? What not when all the aforesaid requisites concur! They shew thee the plain word of God against thee; and that his threatening contains the virtual sentence of thy condemnation: they are by office the interpreters of the law of God to you; it hath been the study of their lives: the matters in question are such as they have had experience of in themselves, and others: they have judged as hardly of themselves, and of their own case, as now they do of yours, when theirs was the same as yours is now. Do they pronounce you miserable, as being strangers to the Spirit of Christ? So they did by themselves, when they saw their sin; and therefore they are impartial: they have had before them multitudes, (alas too many) in your case: and you will regard the judgment of a physician, that hath had many hundreds in hand that had the same disease as you. They are men that are not willing to deceive you. They deny themselves, in telling you of your danger: they know that smoother words would
please you better; and they have natures that desire men's love and favour, rather than displeasure and ill-will. They are more impartial than you are, and have not your selfinterest and passion to blind them: they are not abused in their judgment by the temptations of evil company, or of worldly, fleshly things, as you are; for these temptations more hinder us from judging ourselves than other men: They are the messengers of Christ, appointed to give to each their portion; and should not their judgment be regarded, in the business committed to their trust? And it is not one man or two, or a hundred only, that are of this mind. Open thy case to all the judicious, faithful ministers in the land, or in the world, and open it truly, and they will all tell thee, that If thou die without converting, sanctifying grace, thou art lost for ever;' and that all the world cannot save thee from the everlasting wrath of God. Try as many of them as you will, and see if all of them tell you not the same thing. And is all this nothing to thee, presumptuous sinner, that in the judgment of all the most able, faithful ministers of Christ, thy soul should be in a state of death? Art thou wiser than all the best and wisest, in the matters of their own profession? If all the physicians in the country should tell thee, that Thou hast a disease that will certainly be thy death, unless thou take some one effectual medicine in time,' I think thou wouldst not slight their judgment, and say, they are too censorious, that thou knowest thy condition better than they? I think it would affright thee to seek after the remedy. And why should not the judgment of the faithful ministers, about the state of thy soul, be so far regarded, as to awaken thee to a more careful inquiry, and stir up a preventing and remedying fear? If the judgment of Christ's officers be not regardable, then there is no matter of terror in excommunication; nor no matter of comfort in ministerial absolution.
O the madness of a hardened sinner! that when he sheweth by the fruits of an ungodly life, that he is a stranger to sanctification, and liveth in the sins which the Scripture threateneth damnation to, and hath no evidence of true conversion to shew, will yet be confident of pardon and salvation, let God and all his ministers say what they will against it! and will rather be offended with his spiritual physicians, for telling him of the danger of his state, and rail at them
as if they did him wrong, than he will see his danger and prevent his misery! Let such a one hear the word of God, if he have ears to hear, "Lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood, and it come to pass when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst: The Lord will not spare him, but then the anger of the Lord, and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven. And the Lord shall separate him unto evil," &c. (Deut. xxix. 18—21.)
And on the other side, is there any soul among you, that in doubts and troubles, hath opened his case to the faithful ministers of Christ, and their judgment is, that your state is safe? Is this the judgment, not only of the weakest, but the wisest; not only of strangers, but of those that know you best; not only of one or two, but of all, or most of the judicious ministers that ever you opened your case to; even of the most honest and impartial, that would not flatter you nor deceive you? Yea, and perhaps, when desertions, or melancholy, or passion, or ignorance, do make you unmeet to judge of yourselves. And doth all this seem nothing to you; or a small matter? It is not nothing; it is not small. I confess it is no ground of certainty: they are but men: it is a human testimony; but yet it is a testimony that may weigh down many of your own surmises, and take off much of your distressing fears, and may give much ease to troubled souls, while they are seeking after surer knowledge. It is a ground of comfort, not to be despised, or made light of. Till you can come to see your evidences yourselves, and to be acquainted with the indwelling Spirit as your witness, you may much quiet your minds, and take much comfort, in this judgment and witness of the servants of the Lord, that have a spirit of discerning, and have that grace which acquainteth them with the nature of grace in others, and that have been long exercised in the discerning of men's states. It is possible an hypocrite (especially one that wilfully giveth them a false relation of himself) may deceive them; but it is probable that it is not one of many they are deceived in, when they know or have a good description of
the person. If in a lawsuit, all the ablest lawyers tell you that your cause is good, it is possible they may be deceived, but it is not likely. If in a fever, all the ablest physicians tell you the danger is past, it is possible yet that they may be all deceived: but yet I think you would take some comfort in such a testimony; so should you here. Though the judgment of ministers be not infallible, it may be much better than your own, though about yourselves; and it may be set against the jealousies and fears of a disquiet soul, and against abundance of the molesting suggestions of the
I do not by all this draw you to lay too much on man; I advance them not too high, and make them not lords of your faith, but helpers of your joy. I draw you not to any deceitful course, nor into any way of danger to your souls. I bid you not fully and finally rest in the judgment of man; I bid you not neglect any means to come to fuller knowledge, and certainty of your own sincerity. I bid you not forbear any means that tend to the getting of true grace. you have it, and know it not, the same means (for the most part) may increase it, which you use to get it: and if you have it not, when it is thought you have it, the means may work it, that are intended to increase it. Do all that you can to repent, believe, and love God, and live to him, whether you ever did these before or not. But yet let the judgment of your faithful pastors, the officers and experienced servants of the Lord, keep off despondency and despair, that would disable you from the use of the means, and would weaken your hands, and make you sit down in unprofitable complaints, and give up all as hopeless. Let their judgment quiet you in the way of duty; lean on them in the dark, till you come into the light. Yea, be glad that you have so much encouragement and hope, from those that are by Christ appointed to subserve the Spirit, in the comforting as well as the sanctifying work, and to shew to man his uprightness, and to say to the righteous, "It shall be well with him." (Isa. iii. 10.) I tell you, all the wealth of the world is not worth even this much ground of comfort: Live upon this much, till by diligent attendance, and waiting on the Spirit of grace and comfort, you can get higher.
2. The second extrinsic hindrance of Self-knowledge is
prosperity, and the flattery that usually attendeth it. The one disposeth men to be deceived, and the other putteth the hood over their eyes, and tells them the falsehoods which deceive them.
When men prosper in the world, their minds are lifted up with their estates; and they can hardly believe that they are indeed so ill, while they feel themselves so well; and that so much misery is joined with so much content and pleasure. They cannot taste the bitterness of their sin, and God's displeasure, while the sweetness of worldly delights and honours is in their mouths. The rich man in Luke xvi, it is likely would have given a man but an unwelcome entertainment, that had come to tell him that within a few days or years he should lie in hell, and not be able to get a drop of water to cool his tongue! What need we doubt of that, when his five brethren, that he left on earth behind him, would not be persuaded (to know their danger of those flames, and to use the necessary means to escape them), though one had come to them from the dead! (Luke xvi. 31.) You plead against their feeling, when you tell them of their misery, when they feel prosperity. Their fleshly appetite and sense, which is in them the reigning faculty, doth tell them they are well and happy: and that which must confute this, and tell them that they are miserable, must be an inward sense of the sin and diseases of their souls, and a foreseeing faith that must look before them unto eternity, and fetch its proofs from the word of God, and fetch its motives from another world: And, alas, they have no such inward sense, nor no such faith as can prevail against their sensual feeling. And therefore it is a matter of lamentable difficulty, to make a prospering sinner well acquainted with his misery. He is drunken with fleshly pleasures and contentments: and when the drink is in a man's head, you can hardly make him sensible of his misery, though he be a beggar, or a prisoner, or were to die within a week. The devil is therefore willing to reach his servants as full a cup of prosperity as he can, that their drunkenness may keep them from the true use of their reason for if they once come to themselves, they will come home to God. When misery brought the prodigal to himself, he resolveth presently of going to his father. (Luke xv.) The bustle of his worldly business, and the chattering, vain discourse that