THE Old Religion Demonstrated in its PRINCIPLES, And described in the LIFE and PRACTICE thereof.

Jerem. vi. 16.

Thus saith the Lord, stand ye in the ways and see, and ask for the Old Paths, where is the Good Way, and walk there­in, and ye shall find Rest for your Souls.

LONDON, Printed by J. M. for R. Royston, Book­Seller to His most Sacred Majesty, at the Angel in Amen-Corner, MDCLXXXIV.

THE EPISTLE TO THE Pious Reader.

Good Reader,

THou art here presented with a new Book con­cerning the Old Reli­gion. As therefore thou art not to expect thy curiosity should here be gratified with new Notions, (for I am not describing a new way to Heaven, but directing thee in the good old way which the holy Scri­ptures have marked out, and which [Page] wise and good men have all along walked in); so neither art thou to think thy self disappointed, if thou meetest not with a Discourse mo­dishly drest up, with all the fashion­able Ornaments of Wit and Elo­quence. For give me leave to tell thee, though that would have been acceptable to the humour of the Age, and perhaps might without any great difficulty have been complied with; yet it would neither have suited so well with the nature of the subject I am upon, nor especially have fitted the persons for whose sake this little Book was written.

That therefore which I here pretend, and which I hope thou wilt not fail of in the Papers before thee, is, First, A brief but plain [Page] and substantial proof of the grounds and fundamental Princi­ples of Religion in general. Se­condly, A discovery and confu­tation of several vulgar Opinions, which deform the beauty, and de­feat the efficacy of Christian Reli­gion in particular. And lastly, A clear description, a rational de­duction, and a serious inculcation of the most important duties of that Religion, wherein either the glory of God, our own comfort, or the peace and happiness of Mankind are principally concerned.

As for the management of these Points, though I have not given countenance to this Discourse by citation of Authors, nor either adorned the Text with fine Say­ings, [Page] nor the Margin with great Names; yet I hope thou wilt find a vein of sound Reason in it, and the spirit of the Gospel running quite through it. I assure thee I have dealt sincerely and conscientiously herein, I have impartially consulted the holy Scriptures, I have made use of the best understanding God hath given me, and I here set before thee (though not the product, yet) the result of many years observation, consideration, and experience. And so I leave it to Gods blessing, and thy candid acceptance. Farewel.

THE CONTENTS.

PART I. An Introduction to an holy and comfortable Life.
  • CHAP. I. THE wisdom of being religious. Page 1
  • CHAP. II. The reasonableness of Religion in general. p. 9
  • CHAP. III. Of the rewards of Religion in another World. p. 21
  • CHAP. IV. Of the great influ­ence and mighty efficacy of belie­ving Heaven and Hell, or re­wards [Page] and punishments in another World. p. 38
  • CHAP. V. Of the choice of a Re­ligion, or what particular Reli­gion a man should apply himself to. p. 55
  • CHAP. VI. More particular Di­rections for the setling a mans mind in Religion. p. 71
  • CHAP. VII. Cautions against some Opinions which are hindran­ces both of an holy and of a com­fortable life. p. 85
  • CHAP. VIII. Directions for the effectual prosecution of Religi­on. p. 139
PART II. The practice of holy and comfortable Living.
  • [Page]CHAP. I. OF Secret Devo­tion and parti­cularly of secret Prayer. p. 181
  • CHAP. II. Of several other in­stances of secret Devotion. p. 209
  • CHAP. III. Of private Devoti­on, or Family-Piety in general. p. 235
  • CHAP. IV. Of Family Duties in special. p. 254
  • CHAP. V. Of Family-Discipline, or by what means a Family may be brought to the observance of Re­ligion. p. 281
  • [Page] CHAP. VI. Of publick Piety and particularly in relation to the Church and publick Assembly of Christians. p. 301
  • CHAP. VII. Of Civil Piety, or how a man may and ought to pro­mote Gods honour, and the pub­lick good of the Parish, considered only as a Civil Society or Neigh­bourhood. p. 346

AN Introduction TO AN HOLY AND A Comfortable LIFE.

CHAP. I. The Wisdom of being Religious.

THE Holy Scripture (that Book of Books, and Trea­sury of Divine Wisdom) expresses it self thus concerning Religion,

[Page 2] Psal. III. V. 10. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and a good understanding have all they that keep his commandments.

Eccles. 12. 13. Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter, fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole (duty or business) of man.

St Luke 13. 23. Strive to enter in at the strait gate, for many shall seek to enter in, and shall not be able.

Phil. 2. 12. Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, &c.

2 Pet. 1. 10. Give diligence to make your calling and election sure.

St Mat. 6. 33. Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteous­ness, and all these things shall be ad­ded to you.

St John 6. 27. Labour not for the meat that perisheth, but for that meat which endureth to eternal life.

[Page 3] St Mat. 16. 26. What shall it profit a man if he should gain the whole world, and lose his own soul.

By all which, and abundance of other such like passages, it ap­pears, that Religion is as much our interest as our duty; and that Piety and Care of another World, are not only the Commands of God, and his impositions upon us, but the upshot and result of the best and truest Wisdom. For Wisdom doth not consist in scep­tical jealousies and suspicions, but in a determinate knowledge and resolution what is fit to be done; not in a superficial smattering of many things, but in a clear and distinct apprehension of the just nature, value, and moment of them; not in an endless hunting after curiosity, but to know where to stick and fasten; not in pilling a flint, or laborious beating out of unprofitable diffi­culties, [Page 4] but in applying a mans self to such things as are savoury and useful; not in tricks of wit, sophistry, or eloquence; and least of all in a jest or a repartee; but to discover what is fit to pro­pound to a mans self as his end and design, and by what means to attain it; to have great things in a mans thoughts, and to despise and scorn little and petty designs: in a word, to see a great way be­fore him, and to be well provi­ded for the future.

Now all this is verified in Re­ligion more than in any other thing in the whole World; for here a mans mind is taken up with the greatest thoughts and sublimest objects, God and Eter­nity; he takes care to secure the main stake, his own Soul; he im­ploys himself about things of the greatest moment and consequence; by inquiring about another [Page 5] World, he gives proof of the greatest foresight; in considering of it, he gives evidence of a sa­gacious temper; in resolving up­on it, he shews judgment; in pursuing it by the means appoint­ed, he demonstrates the com­mand he hath over himself, and that he is led by his reason, not ridden by his passions; and by persevering in this course, he ar­rives at true tranquillity of mind, the Crown and Glory of Wis­dom.

Accordingly we find by expe­rience, that commonly where-ever there is a grave, thoughtful, sedate, Person, such an one as is either fit to give or to take advice, he is seldom destitute of a sense of Re­ligion: But on the contrary, where-ever you see an incogitant shatter-brain'd fellow, that knows not himself enough to make him modest and civil, that hath not [Page 6] so much reason as to weigh an argument, nor so much Arithme­tick as to value any thing but what is present; that is so much under the power of his Senses, as scarcely to know whether he hath such a thing as a Spirit within him, or hath so much Drink a­bout him, that his head works nothing but yest and froth; here is a man cut out to be an Advocate for Scepticism or Atheism; this is the Person that will be captious against Religion, and malapert to­wards God Almighty.

But let such men enjoy their humour as long as they can, they will be sure sadly to repent, or rue it at last: and in the mean time, they only betray their own shame and folly, for their tongue will prove no slander to Reli­gion; the mighty concern of which, is not only declared by God Almighty, confirmed by our [Page 7] own reason, and justified by our experience, but also affectionate­ly recommended to us by all wise and good men; by those whose sagacity and discretion is such, that we have no reason to suspect they are deceived or imposed up­on themselves; and whose since­rity and integrity is such, that we can as little think they should have any design to impose upon us.

And therefore those Persons, who being either prevailed upon by the evil examples of the World, or discountenanced by the lewd sayings of such as we mentioned even now, and (declining the ways of Piety and Devotion) give themselves up to a loose and irreligious life, are in the first place errant Cowards towards men, whilest they are insolent towards God: And in the next place, they are false to the com­mon [Page 8] reason of mankind, which obliges men to provide for the fu­ture. In the third place, they are false to their own interest of self-preservation. And lastly, they are false and ingrateful to their best friends, whose counsels they forsake, and abandon them­selves to the conduct of the most silly and profligate Wretches.

But if any shall think to ex­cuse themselves from this cen­sure, by suggesting, that they look upon Devotion, as either the effect of a weak judgment, or of a melancholy and timo­rous constitution. I add, that this makes the matter so much worse, as that it involves them, not only in the guilt of all the former, but also of extream rude­ness and incivility towards the best of men.

To make all this more clear and convincing, and to lay the [Page 9] surer foundation of all that is to be said hereafter, we will now in the next place shew the grounds upon which Religion stands.

CHAP. II. The Reasonableness of Religion in general.

THAT which is meant by Religion (in the general notion of it) is nothing else but a due regard towards the Divine Majesty, a diligent care of ap­proving our selves to the supreme Being, the Creator and Gover­nour of the World: Or, which comes to the same effect, the prudent ordering a mans conver­sation in this World, so that he may erect his mind with comfor­table expectations of the favour [Page 10] of God and happiness in another World. Thus much we are taught by the Author to the He­bews, Chap. 11. 6. He that com­eth to God, must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him; in which few words, we may observe in the first place the matter or duty of Religion, exprest by diligent seek­ing of God; and secondly, the two Pillars, or (as I may say) Poles of it, namely, 1. the persua­sion of the Being of God, 2. the expectation of rewards from him; the former of which most properly contains the first rise and reason of Religion, and the latter the motives and inducements to pur­sue it.

If these two Pillars be united, they make so firm an arch, that no objection can shake the Build­ing; but if they be taken and considered singly, they are each [Page 11] of them of mighty strength for the upholding of Religion.

§. 2. As for the former, if (I say) we consider the nature of God only, that alone is able to possess us with an apprehension of the fitness and reasonableness of diligently seeking him.

It is true we cannot see the Divine Majesty as we may be­hold corporeal objects, because he is of a spiritual nature, and for the same reason we cannot see our own Souls. And it is true also, that we cannot fully comprehend him in our minds neither, because of his infinite perfections; yet we cannot so much as doubt whether there be any such Being or no, if we do but bethink our selves in this one thing, namely, how we our selves came to be? For, though it may be at the first blush of this question, we shall think it sufficient to say, we had our be­ginning [Page 12] from our immediate Pa­rents, and they in like manner successively from their Progeni­tors; yet when we proceed on in our inquiry so far as to consider and ask our selves, what it was which brought the whole race of mankind into Being? we shall then find our selves forced to ac­knowledge the hand of God in it.

Forasmuch as in the first place, it is certain that nothing could take a beginning without a cause, and in the next place, it is as cer­tain that this thing called man­kind, could not be the cause of it self, or produce it self; and then to impute it to chance, or to imagine that such an excellent Being as mankind is, wherein there is so much variety of Parts, and yet order and decency, and in short, so many instances of admirable art and wisdom in the very com­posure of his Body (setting [Page 13] aside his mind:) that this, I say, should be the product of blind chance, is more absurd than ei­ther of the former; therefore there must be a God, for none but a fool indeed can say, There is no God.

Now if we acknowledge a God, who gave beginning to our selves, and to all other things, we must also own him to be eternal, as being before all things, and the cause of them; and as such, he must needs, not only have in himself eminently all those per­fections, which are to be found in any part of his workmanship, but be also unlimited in his own perfections.

And this will inavoidably lead us to the acknowledgment of all, or most of those Attributes, which either the Holy Scripture ascribes to him, or which Religion is con­cerned in, namely, that he is a free Agent, that he is Omnipotent, [Page 14] that he is infinitely wise, that he is just, and that he is good, as will easily appear in particular.

First, He must needs be a free Agent, that is, such an one as acts not necessarily, or that is bound down by any fatal necessi­ty, or determined to this or that act, or object, or measure of act­ing by any thing without him, but wholly follows his own vo­luntary motion and choice, the counsel of his own will; the reason is plain, because he made things when nothing was before, and so there could be nothing to bound, limit, or determine him.

Secondly, He must needs be Powerful or Omnipotent, for the same reason, namely, because he gave being and beginning to things that were not at all; for we cannot conceive a greater in­stance of Power, than to bring something out of nothing.

[Page 15] Thirdly, He must be wise, both because we see he hath con­triv'd things according to the rules of exactest wisdom, insomuch, that the more we understand the Divine workmanship, the more we admire it; and also, because he hath imprinted some image of of his wisdom upon our selves.

Fourthly, We must acknow­ledge him just, as well because (by reason of his infinite power and wisdom) he can have no li­tle ends to biass him, as because he hath also made an impression of justice upon our minds.

Lastly, He must needs be good, not only because he is wise (as a­foresaid) but because he is infi­nitely happy and perfect, and so can fear nothing, can envy no­thing, can need nothing from a­ny other Being, but contrariwise, being infinitely full, must have a pleasure to diffuse and communi­cate [Page 16] himself to them.

§. 3. All these Doctrines con­cerning the Deity, flow from that one perswasion, that there is a God; and the influence of every of these upon Religion, is as great and apparent as the conse­quence of them from the acknow­ledgment of such a Being, was natural and necessary: so that a man may with as much reason de­ny any of the aforesaid Attributes to belong to the Divine Majesty, as (granting them to be in him, or belong to him) avoid the force of them upon his conscience, to incline him to regard this great God, i. e. to be Religious, which we will again shew particularly.

First, If the Divine Majesty be a free Agent, then it is certain all the good and all the evil which he doth to us, he doth by choice; and then we ought to be sensible of our obligations to him for the [Page 17] one, and humble our selves to him under the other. And then also, because we are convinced, that he hath mercy on whom he will have mercy, we know there is no tri­fling and dallying with such a Deity, but we ought to use all pos­sible means of propitiating him towards our selves.

Secondly, For the Divine Om­nipotency, the natural conse­quence of that is, that we fear him, and trust in him; for who is there that thinks of a God that made him out of nothing, and is therefore able to destroy him, and resolve him into nothing again when he pleases, who doth not think it the highest wisdom in the World that he shouldbe subject to him, pay him all possible ho­mage, tremble before him, and also think fit to trust and rely up­on his Almighty Power in all exi­gencies and difficulties?

[Page 18] Thirdly, The Divine Wisdom makes our obligations to Religion yet more strict and close; for it convinces our reason that we ought to submit to his Providen­ces whatsoever they are, and not to dispute his commands, nor doubt his promises, but hold him in the highest veneration and ad­miration that is possible for us to express; to be reverent towards him upon all occasions, to submit our wills to his; and especially in consideration that he must needs see and take notice of all our car­riage and behaviour, to live with as much caution in the greatest retirement and privacy, as when we are sensible that we are upon the greatest Theatre.

Fourthly, The apprehension of the Divine Justice and Integrity, not only assures us that he hates all sin, but that he hath no respect of Persons, but will judge the [Page 19] World in righteousness, and then who will grumble at any of his Providences, break any of his Laws, or do any unjust and base action, and that because it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, who always can, and in due time will right him­self?

Lastly, The consideration of Gods goodness, and that he is a Gracious and Benigne Majesty, cannot choose but mightily in­flame our hearts with love to him, and provoke us to serve him with all chearfulness; for who that believes him delighted to commu­nicate himself to the relief of all his Creatures, doth not think of him with pleasure, and comfort himself in him; or who can find in his heart to offend and abuse him, and not rather repent of all his former follies and ingratitudes, and resolve to sin no more? For [Page 20] as the Apostle hath said, the goodness of God leadeth to repen­tance.

So that in this one Principle (the belief that there is a God) we have a large foundation for Religion in general, which I have the rather insisted upon thus particularly, for the sake of those who are called, or call themselves Theists (because they pretend to be convinced of no more of the Articles of Religion, but only of this great point, the Being of a Deity:) these men, I say, if upon that single Principle they do not live religiously, are either men of no Conscience, and then it will be all one what their Principles are; or are men of no Principles at all, i. e. are Atheists rather than Theists, forasmuch as by what hath been said, it is apparent how pregnant that one Principle is of Virtue and Pi­ety, [Page 21] if it be sincerely believed, and rightly improved. But so much for that.

CHAP. III. Of the rewards of Religion in another World.

LET us now consider the o­ther Principle of Religion, viz. that God is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. This (as I intimated before) is properly the motive or induce­ment to the observance of the Di­vine Majesty; for it hath pleased him to conjoin our interest with his own, and he hath made the greatest part of our duty towards him to consist in such things as conduce to our own good, as well as to his glory; and to that pur­pose [Page 22] hath laid the foundation of Religion, by planting in us that principle of self-love, and self-preservation, which is insepara­ble from our natures, and by which he works upon us.

Concerning this point there­fore of the rewards of Religion, we will first consider the evidence of it, and when that is clear, we shall easily in the second place be convinced of the efficacy of it, to the purposes of making men devout.

The former of the two we will make way to the discovery of by this train of discourse.

1. We have shewed already that there is both justice and goodness in the Divine Nature, either of which severally, but most certainly both together in conjunction, afford ground of ex­pectation, that he will make a difference betwixt those that serve [Page 23] him, and those that serve him not. For seeing his power and greatness render him a fit object of Worship, and our dependance upon him as his Creatures, makes homage due from us to him: and seeing by his infinite Wisdom, he must needs be sensible how men carry themselves towards him; it cannot consist with his Justice to let those escape unpu­nished, who pay no observance to him; nor stand with his good­ness to suffer those to be unre­warded, that serve and honour him.

Indeed it must be acknowledg­ed, that this consideration of those Attributes will not amount to a proof of rewards in another World, because of that other At­tribute of his, viz. the Divine Li­berty or Freedom, upon account of which, he cannot be bound to exercise whatsoever act or in­stance [Page 24] either of justice or good­ness is possible; for that would make him a necessary Agent (an error which some men fall into unawares, whilest they are in pursuit of some extreams of opi­nions) it may therefore be consi­stent enough with those Attri­butes (barely considered, and looking no further) that he re­ward and punish only in this World: but that which follows inevitably, is, that some such thing as rewards and punishments there must be upon the account of mens carriage towards him, which is all I intend hitherto. But then I subjoin.

2. It is highly reasonable upon other accounts, to expect greater rewards of Virtue and Obedience, than what usually befall men in this World; as also severer punish­ments of Impiety and neglect of the Divine Majesty, partly be­cause [Page 25] of the unequal distribution of things in this Life, where the race is not always to the swift, nor the battel to the strong, &c. but good and bad events happen of­tentimes alike to all; wicked men are sometimes prosperous, and holy men unfortunate and mise­rable; by which intricacy of di­vine Providence, the Wisdom of God seems to lead us into an ex­pectation of another World, where amends shall be made for what is amiss here; partly also because the life of men is so short, and they so quickly go off the stage of this World, that neither the re­wards of Virtue would be conside­rable, nor the punishments of Im­piety formidable enough, if they were no more than what men could receive or suffer in this short Pilgrimage; but principally be­cause the good things of this World are so mean, and empty, [Page 26] and inconsiderable, that they af­ford no satisfaction to the great mind of a virtuous man. Riches, and honour, and pleasure, may perhaps fill and swell up a narrow sensual Soul, but a brave man can by no means be contented with them; and therefore it is mani­festly unworthy of the greatness and goodness of the Divine Ma­jesty, to give no better rewards to those that love and honour him, than what they are capable of in this Life.

3. There is no impossibility in the thing, that there should be another World besides this, and that we should live in it, either to reap the fruit of our serving of God, or to receive the just reward of our Impiety; all the reason of Mankind, nay all the wit, Scepti­cism and Sophistry together, can find no repugnancy and contra­diction in it; and therefore the [Page 27] concern of Religion is not inconsi­derable. If there were any im­possibility in it, it must lie in this, that men should live again after they are dead; but this is so far from implying a contradicti­on, that it is not at all difficult to him that believes an Almighty Power, which every one must ac­knowledge that owns a God; for why is it harder to restore a man to life again, than to make him at first out of nothing? so that he relapses into flat Atheism, that denies the possibility of that which we are now making way for the belief of.

4. Nay, I adde further, this thing is so far from being impos­sible or incredible, that the consi­deration of the nature of our Souls renders it very probable, and makes us capable of such a con­dition; for it is plain, we have that in us which doth not altoge­ther [Page 28] depend upon our Bodies, but our Bodies upon it; that which gives life and motion to the Bo­dy, but receives neither from it; that which guides, governs, re­strains and contradicts the Body when it pleases, and which can act vigorously when the other is weak and languid, as we often­times observe the strange efforts of wit and reason, when the Bo­dy is almost worn out and at its last gasp. This being of a spiri­tual nature hath no contrary principles in its constitution, by the conflict of which it should be brought to dissolution, as the other hath. In a word, the Soul hath life in it self (though not from it self) and therefore cannot perish, unless either it should be suppo­sed to desert it self, or else that God by his Omnipotency should oppress and destroy it; which last thing there is no reason to [Page 29] suspect, since from the beginning of the World till now, he hath not put out of being any thing that ever he made; and we see in all the changes and revolutions of things, the least Atom of matter is not lost: and can it then seem credible, that a vital Spirit should utterly be extinct and perish when it leaves the bo­dy, or rather is deserted by it? and this will be further confirmed if we adde

5. He that made us, hath im­planted several things upon our natures which have relation to another Life, and another World, and which make it reasonable for us to expect it accordingly; such as not only a desire to live, which yet we know we cannot do long here below, but a sollicitude what shall come after, an inquisitive­ness and continual thoughtfulness for the future, extending it self [Page 30] infinitely beyond the stage of this short life; nay, some kind of ob­scure notion and anticipation of another World, which generally the best of men are most sensible of, and usually the more wise and holy any men are, the more they are under such apprehensions; and sure it would not consist with the goodness of God to permit such men to be the most deluded, especially he himself would not be guilty of putting a cheat upon them, which notwithstanding must be, if there were nothing at all in it of truth; forasmuch as this is not the peculiar phancy or opinion, either of the sanguine or of the melancholy constituti­on, but of all the bravest and worthiest men; and this is that which principally bears them up in adversity, and fortifies them against Death, and in the ap­proaches of it, sometimes ra­vishes [Page 31] and transports them.

Above all, there is such a thing as Conscience, which is common both to good and bad, and which chears and animates the one whensoever they do virtuously, though no humane Eye be wit­ness of the action, and when they expect no benefit of their per­formance in this World: And on the other side terrifies and af­frights the other, viz. wicked men, though no man be privy to their misdeeds, and this as it were binds them over to answer for them another day; now all these things being the hand-writing of our Creator upon our Souls, are more than probable Arguments of another World.

6. God hath declared there shall be such a state. He that created Mankind at first, hath as­sured them he will revive them after Death, and reward and pu­nish [Page 32] them in another World pro­portionably to their carriage to­wards himself in this. This comes home to the purpose, whereas all that which hath been said hitherto (how reasonable so­ever) depends upon the uncer­tain and fluctuating Discourses of men, (though it is very true, that wherever there hath been wisdom and virtue in conjunction, they have seldom failed to render this great point competently clear to those who had no other light.) But some are more stagger'd with a trifling objection, than convin­ced by a demonstration, and o­thers are not able to follow so long a train of consequences as is necessary to make out so great a Question. But now we come in­to the Day-light, and have divine Revelation for our guide, and Gods veracity for our assurance.

I confess I might have fallen [Page 33] upon this way of proof at first, and so have saved all the labour of what I have been saying hi­therto, but that I partly thought it useful to shew how far natural Theology would go in this busi­ness, and principally I took this method to the intent that this great Doctrine of Christianity might not seem strange to any one, but might be the more rea­dily entertained when it is pre­faced to, and usher'd in with so much probability of humane reason.

Now, I say, God Almighty hath himself assur'd us, that our labour shall not be in vain in the Lord, that Piety shall not go un­rewarded in another World, nor Impiety unpunished; this he hath innumerable times expresly affirmed in the Gospel, and with such circumstances, as may both best assure our judgments, and [Page 34] awaken our affections. He hath told us he will hold a solemn Judgment at the end of the World, at which all men shall appear and receive their Doom; he hath declared who shall be the Judge, and confirmed him to be so, by that wonderful instance of raising him from the Dead. He hath foretold the circum­stances, and the manner of pro­ceeding at that great day, he hath described (as well as words could admit it) the Joy and Glory that holy and good men shall thence­forth be put into the Everlasting possession of, and set out the tor­ments and anguish that shall be inflicted upon the Ungodly.

I shall not need to go about to aggrandize these things, since they are so vastly great and con­cerning that there is no way to despise them but by disbelieving them. But what colour or pre­tence [Page 35] can there be for that, after God hath said it, and sent his Son to declare this great news to the World?

Will men be so wretchedly ab­surd as to say still, it is impossible that men should live again after they are once dead? when there is plain matter of fact against this suggestion, which is beyond all the arguments in the World; for was not our Saviour most cer­tainly put to Death, and did he not also exhibit himself alive af­terwards to the Eyes and Ears, and very feeling of his Apostles and many others?

Will men say, Heaven is but a Dream, or a Romantick fancy? when there were so many Eye Witnesses of our Saviours Ascen­sion to Heaven, and that he was alive and in power there; there was that glorious proof, the de­scent of the Holy Ghost upon his [Page 36] Apostles on the famous day of Pentecost, according to his pro­mise made whilst he was upon Earth.

Will they say, God hath a mind to impose upon men? when he hath no ends to serve by it, when he can compass his designs with­out it; and when he hath it in his power to dissolve a World that would not comply with him, and make another in its stead.

Or, Will they say, that men impose upon one another, and there was never any such matters of fact as we have here supposed? But why do they not then disbe­live all History, all antient Re­cords, give the lie to all great actions, and abrogate all Faith a­mongst men; yea, although there be never so plain, never so nu­merous, so concurrent, and so disinteressed testimonies? all this, and more than this, they must [Page 37] do that deny the matters of fact we speak of; and if they do not do so, they must of necessity be­lieve another Life, an Hell and an Heaven.

And then, if those be believed, Piety will be the best Wisdom, and Religion the greatest Truth; Sin will then be the greatest Folly, and trifling with God and Reli­gion the most dangerous thing imaginable; but that we shall more particularly make out in the next Chapter.

CHAP. IV. Of the great influence and mighty force of believing Heaven and Hell, or rewards and punish­ments in another World.

THere are a sort of men, who (being too much in love with this World to have any great mind to the other) will pretend that the grounds to believe these things are not sufficient, and that there are, as the case stands, nei­ther incouragements enough to make a man Religious, nor Ar­guments powerful enough to re­strain Vice; because we are only prest upon by hopes and fears of hereafter, but nothing befals pre­sently. These men require, that for the countenance of Religion, there should be a present discri­mination [Page 39] between him that serves God, and him that despises him; that the Sinner should be taken and Executed in the very fact, and the good man Crowned upon the spot; or at least they think it not an unreasonable demand, that if it be the will of God that evil men should be reprieved, and good men kept in suspence till another World; yet he should give Mankind a view of what shall befal hereafter, that they might have a sight of Heaven and Hell, and so dispose themselves accordingly.

The former part of this phancy was taken notice of by Solomon, Eccles. 8. 11. Because Sentence a­gainst an evil work is not speedily executed, therefore the heart of man is fully set to do wickedly. The o­ther part of it is much like that of the Forlorn wretch in the Gos­pel, Luke 16. 30. who thought it [Page 40] reasonable to ask, that one might be sent from the dead to convince his relations of the reality of another World.

But all these men, as they do too palpably betray they have no love to Religion, nor no desire it should be true: so they evidently discover that they neither under­stand what satisfaction is fit for God to give in these matters, or for man to require; nor do they consider what the nature of Vir­tue and Religion will admit of, no nor do they understand them­selves so well as to know what motives will work upon men; nor lastly, have they applied their minds to take a just estimate of the value and efficacy of these motives of hopes and fear which it pleases God to set before them.

First, They do not consider what satisfaction in these matters [Page 41] it is fit for God to afford, or for men to require. It is not reason­able that the great God should gratify the humour and curiosity of his Creatures, nor that they should peremptorily prescribe to him. It is fit indeed for his good­ness to give us assurance in these important affairs; but he thinks good to satisfy our reasons, and we will have our senses convin­ced, which is as much as to say, we will not believe God but our own Eyes.

Secondly, They do not consi­der what evidence the nature of Virtue and Piety will admit of, that requires such inducements as may incourage good, and dis­courage evil, such as may pro­voke us to choose the one, and to avoid the other, not such as will over bear our choice and neces­sarily determine us. Religion re­quires. such Arguments as may [Page 42] improve humane nature, not su­persede or destroy it; and it is best promoted by such a state of things as wherein a man conflicts with some difficulties, exercises self-denial, modesty, humility, and trust in God. It consists in a prudent estimate of all circum­stances, a discretion and judg­ment to value things in reversion, and is worth nothing if there be no such ingredients in it, as Faith, and Patience, and a virtuous choice; all which there is no room for, if the rewards of it were wholly present, or exposed to our senses.

Thirdly, Nor do the men that talk at this rate so much as un­derstand themselves and their own hearts so well, as to know what would be sufficient to pre­vail with them. They phansy if they had the good luck to be Spectators of a Miracle actually [Page 43] wrought, it would unquestion­ably lead them to assent; and yet we see those that were Eye-wit­nesses of abundance of such, were never the better for them. They imagine that if they had seen the passages of our Saviours Life, Death and Resurrection, they should not have been incredu­lous; yet there were multitudes that all those things wrought no­thing upon. And assuredly as Abraham told the rich man in the last mentioned passage of St. Luke, if men hear not Moses and the Pro­phets, i. e. if they do not believe upon such satisfaction as God gives them, neither will they be­lieve upon such other as their cu­riosity or capricious humour de­mands, no not if one rose from the dead; for the same unwillingness which is in them to believe that Evidence which they have, will follow them still, and the same [Page 44] captious temper will except a­gainst their own demands, and find evasions if their very Eyes were gratified; for Faith cannot be extorted from men, nor can any thing make him believe that hath not a mind to it.

Lastly, Nor do they under­stand the force and efficacy of these inducements of hope and fear which God hath set before us; which is the thing I princi­pally consider in this place. If indeed the objects of these passi­ons, or the things expected in a­nother World were mean and in­considerable, there were then no reason to expect that they should have any great force upon the minds of men to prevail with them to despise a present World for the attainment of Heaven. Or (supposing the objects as great as we can) if the grounds of our hopes and fear were childish and [Page 45] vain, i. e. our fears were panick and unaccountable, and our hopes mere sanguine Dreams, and Ro­mantick phancies; then it were justly to be expected, that if Al­mighty God would oblige us to Religion, he should give us bet­ter Evidence. But if both the things to be fear'd or expected in another World are vastly great and concerning, if they prove to be real, and also the Evidence or assurance of their reality be rea­sonable too, then it is no less than madness, to run the hazard of them by neglect of Religion, whilest we fondly cavil to have our humour satisfied.

Now that these hopes and fears of rewards and punishments in another World are just and rea­sonable, and indeed as well groun­ded as hopes and fears can or ought to be, I have shewed al­ready, forasmuch as if there were [Page 46] more evidence than there is, they would cease to be hopes and fears, and would be the apprehensions of sense. And that the things thus hoped for, and feared, or expect­ed, are of so unspeakable mo­ment, as that if the evidence for them were less than it is, it would be all the wisdom in the World not to run the hazard of them, will easily appear by this short and faint representation.

That which good men hope for, and that which God Al­mighty promises them in the o­ther World, is no less than to be raised up again from the dead, and to live for ever and ever, with­out any pain, sickness, want or infirmity of Body; with minds secure from danger, free from temptation, void of care, incapa­ble of fear, errour or disorder, to­gether with serenity of Spirit, peace of Conscience, unspeaka­ble [Page 47] Joy, in the presence of the Divine Majesty, and the blessed Jesus, and in the Society of glo­rious Angels and good men made perfect, where also they shall partake of a felicity as great as divine Goodness could design, as his wisdom could contrive, and his power effect for their en­tertainment.

On the other side, that which God in the Holy Scripture gives wicked men ground to expect and fear, is, that they also shall be raised up again from the Grave, and then be exposed openly before all the World, their hypocrisy, lewdness, folly and in­gratitude being proved upon them; and they thereupon be condemn'd to utter darkness, to be for ever abandoned of God and good men, and to become the Company indeed, but the sport and triumph, of infernal Spirits, [Page 48] who shall make them the subjects of their malice and tyranny, and there live under the perpetual an­guish of their own Consciences; and in short, full of the wrath of the Almighty, which like Fire and Brimstone shall prey upon them and burn them without re­medy or remission of torment.

Who now can doubt whether these things are of mighty influ­ence upon the hearts and Consci­ences of men to incline them to Religion? For can any man be so void of all manly discretion, as to despise such an happiness as is promised to good men, or so de­stitute of all sense as to be con­tent to dwell with Everlasting burnings, which will be the por­tion of wicked men?

No wonder therefore if Felix (a loose and debauched man) trembled when St. Paul preached to him of righteousness, temperance [Page 49] and judgment to come, Acts 24. 25. and it would be strange and pro­digious fool-hardiness, if any man that lives without regard of God and Religion, should at any time happen to consider these things, and should not find a Convulsion within himself like that of Bel­shazzar, Dan. 5. 6. when he saw the fingers of an hand writing upon the wall against him, of whom the Text tells us, that thereupon his countenance was changed, his thoughts troubled him, the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against the other.

For certainly the least impres­sion, which the consideration of these things can make upon a man, is to render sin very uneasy to him, and to spoil his greatest jollities. Forasmuch as every time he knowingly or willfully commits it, he not only judges himself unworthy of eternal life, but [Page 50] defies God Almighty, and trea­sures up against himself wrath against the day of wrath. And the reflecti­on on this must needs make the prospect of death very terrible to him, when these things shall come into Plea, and when what before was only feared, must now be felt and undergone; and with­out a perpetual debauch, it will be hardly possible for him to a­void thinking of this unpleasant Subject, since while he hath his senses about him, he cannot but take notice how daily that unac­ceptable Guest makes his ap­proaches towards him.

And if Death be terrible to a man, it is certain thenceforward life cannot be very comfortable; for every accident will discom­pose him, every Disease is dread­ed by him, as the Harbinger of that King of terrors; his Spirits are convulsed, his Joys are blast­ed, [Page 51] his diversions afford him no relief; he sees reason to be afraid of every thing, and is tempted basely to flatter and humour eve­ry man, because every body hath it in his power to bring upon him the summ of all Calamities, that is, to kill him.

Against all this there is no pro­tection, no Sanctuary but in Re­ligion; if the Sinner flee not to that, he perishes, and which is worse, feels himself tormented before the time: this therefore he is mightily prest to do, by the terrors of another World. And although it is true, that it is not in the nature of fear (even of Hell it self,) to make a man generously good, because it only cramps his powers, and is not a principle of action, yet it is an instrument of caution, and if it be attended to, will make him less evil, wherein the first work of Religi­on, [Page 52] namely Reformation, be­gins.

And then so long as there is Hope also in the other Scale, it may happily not end there. The Apostle hath told us, the law (which was a Ministry of fear and death) made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did, by the which we draw nigh to God, Hebr. 7. 19.

For the hopes of that unspeak­able felicity and glory, which, as I shew'd before, doth await all good men in another World, is able to make a man forget flesh and infirmity, to despise danger and difficulty, and to raise him above himself, 2 Pet. 1. 4. Those great and precious promises which are propounded to us by the Gos­pel, do make a man partaker of a divine nature. For great hopes raise brave Spirits, and effect wonders.

[Page 53] The mere perswasion, that I have an immortal Soul, is of mighty efficacy to make me va­lue my self more, than to think my self made to eat and drink; and will not permit me to drown this divine particle in drink and debauches, nor exert it only in folly and buffonry; but will prompt me to cultivate this im­mortal part, to furnish it with wisdom and knowledge, that I may enjoy it the better in ano­ther World: To subdue my sen­sual inclinations, that I may learn betimes to live like an Angel, and to castigate my anger and wrath, and fury and malice, those un­sociable vices, that I may be fit for that peaceable conversation, and Everlasting Friendship in Heaven.

The thoughts of living for e­ver will not suffer a man to be fond of the present life, but will [Page 54] inable him to banish all servile fear, to defy danger, to flatter no bodies follies, to comply with no bodies vices, but to dare to be good in spight of an evil Age, and bad Examples. For what should cow him that hath this Armour of proof, and is every way in­vulnerable?

The contemplation of those in­estimable good things laid up for good men in Heaven, is not only able to restrain sensuality, rapine, injustice, treachery; but to make self-denial very easy, and to place a man so high above the vanities of this World, that he shall only look down upon the things them­selves with contempt and scorn, and upon the men that dote upon them with wonder and pity.

He that hath hopes given him of seeing and enjoying the blessed Jesus in Heaven, will according to the Apostle S. John 1. Epist. 3. 3. [Page 55] find himself powerfully obliged to purify himself as he is pure.

And to say no more, he that believes that God is, and that he is such a rewarder of those that dili­gently seek him, must needs find great inducements to seek and serve him accordingly.

CHAP. V. What particular Religion we should apply our selves to.

HAving in the premisses dis­covered the ground and foundation of Religion in general, and thereby made it appear to be so highly reasonable, that it is every mans wisdom and interest to comply with it; We now pro­ceed to inquire, what mode or [Page 56] profession of Religion in special, he ought to apply himself to, who is convinced of the necessity of it in the general.

And this is the rather to be done, because some men make the variety of Religions which they observe in the World, an argu­ment against them all; and be­cause there are so many forms of it that they cannot easily resolve which to addict themselves to, these men (as they think very wisely) pitch upon none, but fairly stand Neuters.

Now for prevention of this mischief, as well as to make way for the resolution of the great Question before us, let us consi­der these two things. First, that it is not only an impious, but a very foolish and frantick resolu­tion to stand off from all Religion, upon pretence that there are dif­ferences and disputes about it. For

[Page 57] 1. Men will not be content to go by that rule in other Cases, no man will conclude there is no such thing as meum and tuum, or right and wrong in their Civil interests, because they observe Lawyers to wrangle at the Bar, or to give different opinions in particular Cases; nor because Physicians often disagree in their Judgments of Diseases, will any discreet man refuse their assistance, and resolve to let his Disease take its course: this objection therefore of scepti­cal men, is but a mere pretence made use of to countenance their aversation to Religion, and not a real Maxime of Reason with them.

2. The ground of this objecti­on is foolishly or maliciously re­presented; for it is plain, that the main things of Religion are very little or nothing in dispute, but are confessed and agreed in by [Page 58] all. Or if there be some points of moment disputed, they are ge­nerally such as are speculative, not matters of practice. For who disputes whether God should be worshipped? whether a man should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present World? in such things as these, all discreet and well disposed men agree. Let the sceptical person therefore a­gree to these too, and practise them; or else let him be so inge­nuous as to acknowledge, it is only his unwillingness to comply with the rules of a good life, which makes him pretend to stumble at disputes.

3. It is to be considered, that even those who differ and dispute in several points, agree notwith­standing in this, that it is the wi­sest and safest course to come to a resolution in Religion, forasmuch as particular disputes about it, [Page 59] prove undeniably this in the gene­ral, that by confession of all Par­ties there is great moment in it; because there could be no reason why either the one side or the other should trouble themselves, and raise such heats about it, but that both are satisfied of the great consequence of the subject of the question, and the consideration of that is it which makes them be so nice, curious and critical, a­bout the very punctilioes of it. But,

Fourthly and lastly, It is espe­cially to be considered, that he that stands neutral, and holds off from all Religion upon pretence of the danger of mistake, upon account of the great variety of perswasions, runs into the most fatal mistake of all, and is of all men in the most desperate con­dition; for whatsoever becomes of other men, under a mistaken [Page 60] zeal or a false opinion, he is cer­tainly a lost man who hath no Zeal or Religion at all. For though it be certain, all perswasi­ons cannot be right, and there­fore some must miscarry; yet so long as there is a real foundation for Religion in general (as we have seen) it is evident the Scep­tist cannot be saved (whoever be damned) who entertains no per­swasion at all. Therefore as it is better uncertainly to erre, than certainly to perish; so it must needs be a wiser course to deter­mine our selves someway, not­withstanding the disputes, than gravely to doubt our selves into Hell by a phantastical neutra­lity.

But then secondly, as it is a ve­ry dangerous and absurd resolu­tion to be of no Religion, for fear we should mistake the right; it is not much better on the other side, [Page 61] to be such Latitudinarians, as to think it indifferent what Religion a man be of, so long as he is zea­lous and devout in his way, un­less we could be assured, that the broad way was the way to Heaven, which is most certainly false.

I confess it is a very bad Reli­gion indeed which is not better than none at all, as the faintest hopes are better than utter despe­ration. And it is undoubtedly true, that without fervour and devotion in the prosecution of a mans perswasion, no Religion, be it never so good and Orthodox, will signify any thing. It is true also, that a man of a devout tem­per hath the ground of Piety, and a foundation for good institution to work upon; yet notwithstand­ing Religion speaks something more than to be in earnest, and Piety requires more than a good intention. For unless that honest [Page 62] temper be cultivated and impro­ved, it will bring forth nothing but wild fruit; that zeal must be governed and conducted by good principles, or it will betray a man to presumption, to super­stition, and to a thousand irregu­larities.

We are set to run a race to­wards Heaven, but in that case it is not only speed, but the keeping the exact course withal, that in­titles to the reward. He that runs wrong, the more hast he makes, the worse is his speed; for he hath the more to undo again.

Nor is this any reflection upon the Divine Majesty, who is infi­nitely good, and consequently very pitiful to the well-meant er­rors of Mankind; for it must be considered, that he is wise, and great, and just also, not so soft and fond as to be pleased with [Page 63] whatsoever is well meant to­wards him, or to be contented with whatever men phansy. No, he hath a mind and will of his own, and requires and expects those be complied withal by such as he rewards with Eternal Life.

Therefore the Question which we are now upon is very serious and necessary, viz. how amidst such variety of perswasions or forms of Religion as are in the World, a man may make a right choice, and know which of them in particular he ought to deter­mine himself upon.

But the assoiling of it cannot be difficult, forasmuch as if God will be served in his own way, it is evident, that he must have ta­ken some course or other for the discovery and interpreting of his mind and will to the Sons of men, to the intent that they may have [Page 64] a rule to govern their devoti­ons by.

Now it is plain, beyond dis­pute, that there are three and but three things which can with any colour of probability pretend to give us aim in this Case, viz. natural light, the Spirit, or the holy Scriptures; and therefore all the difficulty comes to this point, which of these three we are to follow and govern our selves by.

As for the first of the three, namely the light of nature, or natural reason; it is true, that this is able in some measure to discover to us that there is a God, and to assure us also of some of his Attributes and perfections, so as to lay a general foundation of Religion (as we have briefly shewed already) but it can nei­ther discover all the divine per­fections, because he is infinite and beyond our comprehension, [Page 65] nor much less penetrate the depths of his counsels, or the secrets of his will and pleasure, because (as we also noted before) he is a free Agent, and hath no necessary measures, but freely chuses as it pleases him.

And therefore as no man knows the mind of a man but the spirit of a man which is in him, so much less can any man know the mind of God till he be pleased to reveal it. Now the design of Religion be­ing to please and propitiate the divine Majesty to us, it is impos­sible any man should pretend to know what will fully do that by natural reason. Consequently not only the old Philosophers but the modern Theists, and that Sect of men called Quakers, who pretend to attain happiness by the natural notions of God, or the light within them; must mi­serably be bewildered whilest they [Page 66] follow so imperfect and uncertain a Guide.

As for the second, namely a private Spirit, there is no doubt but that the divine majesty could (if he had pleased) have conduct­ed men by immediate Revelation, and as it were led them by his own immediate hand from time to time, dictating his own will to their minds; and there is as little reason to question, but that sometimes in extraordinary Cases he hath done so in former times: but that this should be his ordi­nary and standing course, is not reasonable to think; not only be­cause we cannot now observe, that the best of men either have expe­rience of, or so much as pretend to any such thing, but because in the first place it is evident that such immediate Revelation could be of no further use than to that particular person to whom it was [Page 67] made, in regard it would be like the white stone, Rev. 2. 17. which no man knows what is written upon it, but he that receives it; and se­condly, because the very person himself that should pretend to it could not secure himself from il­lusion, but might easily mistake the Idols of his own phancy, or the very illusions of the Devil, for the dictates of the Divine Spirit (as we find by sad experience that many have done) unless there were withal a constant succession of Miracles to assure their minds that it was the divine impression: Therefore, forasmuch as those who pretend to the Spirit, can give no assurance of it, and natu­ral reason cannot pretend to dis­cover sufficiently the Divine Will; it remains, that only the Holy Scripture is that which must be our guide in the way to please God, and attain the Salvation ex­pected [Page 68] in another World.

The holy Scripture then is that provision God hath thought fit to make for our weakness and igno­rance. This is the transcript of the divine mind, a light that shi­neth in darkness, and by which divine wisdom designed to guide us through all the maze of dis­putes, and to resolve us of all the important questions that concern our eternal interest; and this is that which he hath so fitted to our use, that whosoever consults it with a mind free from prejudi­ces and anticipation, he shall not miss his way to Heaven.

Nor shall such a man as is dis­posed to receive the Kingdom of God as a little Child, i. e. comes with a mind willing to learn and be convinced, and with that tem­per applies himself to the holy Scripture, need either the pre­tended infallibility of a Pope, or [Page 69] the Authority of a Church to in­terpret it to him: For it is cer­tain God is as able to express his mind to us, as either of these are, whensoever he thought fit to do so; and where he resolved to be obscure, it is not to any purpose to consult them in the Case, who are no more privy to his secret counsels than we our selves are. And it is not consistent either with the goodness or wisdom of God, to order matters so, that he should be betray'd to any capital error (so as to indanger his Salvation) who applies himself to the holy Scripture, and comes qualified with an honest heart, and in the use of such ordinary means as are afforded for the understanding of them.

It is indeed not impossible, but that such a man, notwithstanding both the perfection and perspi­cuity of his rule, may erre in some [Page 70] smaller matters; but there is no reason to fear they should be ei­ther such as will abuse him in the great Doctrines of Faith, or the rules of a good Life; he can nei­ther mistake the Object of his wor­ship, nor the manner of it, nor in­danger the glory of God, or his own Salvation. For this will di­rect him to a Religion plain and easy, humble and peaceable, rea­sonable and hearty; a Religion that neither imposes an implicit Faith, nor countenances a bold presumption, that will make men devout without superstition, and holy without arrogance or pre­tending to merit at Gods hands; in a word, the holy Scripture im­partially consulted, will bring us to a Religion that shall neither consist of speculations, and be o­pinionative and fanatical on the one side, nor made up of external shew and pomp, as that of the [Page 71] Church of Rome on the other side, but such as that of the Church of England, which manifestly avoids both extreams.

CHAP. VI. More particular Directions for the setling a mans mind in Re­ligion.

ALthough it be never so cer­tain, that the holy Scrip­ture was both composed and pre­served by the providence of God, for mens guidance in the way to Heaven; and notwithstanding its great perspicuity and sufficien­cy in that case; yet (as I intima­ted before) prejudice of mind is able to defeat the ends of it: there­fore for the removal of that, it will be of great use that the [Page 72] following particulars be consi­dered.

First, He that would make a right use of the holy Scripture, and thereby discover the true li­neaments of Religion, let him make inquiry after the most an­tient and the most Catholick Reli­gion, and not indulge his curiosity so as to be taken either with no­velty, or singularity; for each of those will lead him aside, both from the truth of Religion in ge­neral, and from the Christian Religion in particular.

As for the former of these notes of Religion, viz. Antiquity, the oldest Religion must needs be as much the truer, as God is before the Devil; therefore the Prophet Jerem. 6. 16. directs the people to inquire for the good old way, and walk therein, and they should find rest to their souls; and for Christi­anity in particular, forasmuch as [Page 73] that depends upon Divine Reve­lation, it is impossible that After­ages should add any thing to it, or make improvement of it, with­out new revelation. Whilst God is of the same mind, Heaven of the same nature, and the Gospel of the same tenor, there can be no new Christianity.

Therefore let all new lights go for Ignes fatui, and mere meteors, that serve to no purpose but to bewilder men; he that seeks for true Christianity, let him neither content himself to look back to 41, or the last Age, as some do; nor 500. years backward to a dark Age, as others; but let him inquire for a Religion as old as Gospel, and observe in what Rules it was delivered, and in what Ex­amples it first shew'd it self in the World.

As for the other note of Religi­on, viz. Universality; It is cer­tain, [Page 74] the true Religion is the most truly Catholick. For it is evi­dent, that our Saviour intended but one Church, and one Reli­gion in all the World; and to that purpose he instituted Chri­stianity in such sort, that it should agree with all times and ages, fit all Countries and Climates, suit all Constitutions and conditions of men, and subsist under what­soever form of Government, or Civil polity it should meet with.

Those therefore who model Religion according to the peculi­ar fashion of some one Country, or frame a notion of it which re­quires a certain complexion and temper of Body; (as for instance, that make some austerities essen­tial to it, which all cannot com­ply with) or that describe a Re­ligion for the Cloyster, and not adequate to common Life; or that model it so, as that it must [Page 75] have the Civil Government sub­mitted to it, or it cannot subsist; or in a word, that confine it to narrow bounds, or Canton it into separate parties: none of these un­derstand the true genius of Chri­stianity, nor take the measures of Religion from the holy Scripture.

Secondly, He that would make a right choice of his Religion, must not take it upon publick Faith, or be determined by com­mon fame, or so much as regard the loud shouts and acclamations of the vulgar. For they are ge­nerally sworn Enemies to sober reason, as being moved more by heat than light, and governed by sense and phancy, and conse­quently cannot entertain any great esteem for a modest, sedate, manly and rational Religion, but on the contrary infinitely dote upon all the tricks of Superstition and Enthusiasm; and those two [Page 76] do so wholly govern them, that they receive no impression of Re­ligion where one or other of them doth not strike their imaginations.

As for Superstition, the won­derful efficacy of that upon com­mon minds, is so notorious, that nothing can be more. If they see a man so extreamly scrupulous, that he finds (as we say) a knot in a Bullrush; so squeamish and strait-laced, that he becomes a bur­den to himself and all about him; so infinitely full of doubts, and fears, and jealousies, that he scan­dalizes Religion by his imperti­nency, and renders God Almigh­ty a very unbenign and severe Majesty: such a man notwith­standing is apt to be cried up as a great Saint, although in greater matters perhaps he gives himself more liberty than other men.

Or if they observe a man pre­tend to great austerity and morti­fication [Page 77] by the carelessness of his habit, dejectedness of his Counte­nance, or other peculiarity of his garb, as wearing an hair shirt, or girt with a rope, especially if he also macerate himself with Fast­ing, or whip himself till the blood comes, or use any such severity towards himself, they are strange­ly affected with this pageant of Piety, and these things alone are security enough to them that he is an holy man, and of the best Religion.

Thus no doubt the Priests of Baal, who (as we read, 1 Kings 18. 26.) prayed from Morning to Mid-day, made horrible out­cries, and used antick postures, and amongst the rest, in a blind Zeal, cut themselves with Knives and Lancets, had a mighty vene­ration amongst the rabble of su­perstitious Israelites, insomuch that the Prophet Elijah, with all [Page 78] the holiness of his life, and very great austerity of conversation too, was not able to bear up with them.

And thus the Scribes and Pha­risees in our Saviours time, what by their demure and mortified looks, disfigured Faces, and out­ward appearance of Sanctimony; what by their broad phylacteries, and fringes of their Garments, be­set with sharp thorns to prick and vex them; what with long Pray­ers and frequent Fastings, and such other Artifices, they so led the people by the Nose, that all the wisdom, temper, goodness, nay Miracles of our Saviour were scarce sufficient to procure their attention to him.

And thus it will be also with Enthusiasm, that raises the admi­ration, and captivates the minds of the generality as much or more than superstition. If a man pre­tend [Page 79] to the Spirit, and to extra­ordinary Communications from the Divine Majesty; if he now and then either feel or can coun­terfeit raptures and transports, so that by turns he shall be some­times as it were snatcht up to the third Heaven, and at another time be cast down to Hell; and if in these fits he can talk non-sense confidently, can make vehement harangues against pride, forma­lity, or superstition; if he make shew of extraordinary Zeal and Devotion, and have the pride or insolency to speak ill of his Bet­ters, to slight all ordinary Forms and censure the Government; if he have either an horrible Voice, or an oily melting tone, an artifi­cial Countenance, a peculiar mo­tion of his Eyes, or especially hath the trick to resemble an Epilepsy in all this Legerdemain, then when he speaks evil of dignities, [Page 80] he shall be thought to have the zeal and spirit of Elias, but un­questionably the spirit of God is in him, and he is admired, if not adored, by inconsiderate people. When in the mean time, sound Doctrine, sober reason, wise con­versation, and grave Piety, shall signify nothing but form and car­nality with them.

For (as I intimated before) such things as I last named, com­mend themselves only to a sedate mind, and a considerative tem­per; but the other bear strongly upon the senses and the phancies of men, and so carry away the vulgar.

He therefore that would not have his devout intention abused, must not suffer the multitude to chuse his Religion for him, nor take it upon trust from publick fame and noise; for if he decide this case by the poll, he shall be [Page 81] sure to have shadow for sub­stance, and either imbrace a Re­ligion made up of paint and var­nish, or else one animated only by a spirit of Enthusiasm.

Thirdly, He that would make a right choice in Religion, and is content to follow the measures of the holy Scripture therein, must resolve with himself, not to seek for, or pitch upon such a way as will put him to the least pains, and give him the least trouble; but be willing to deny himself, and to conflict with any difficul­ty that he may save his Soul; for pretended easy Religions are like Mountebanks Cures, deceitful and palliative.

Some men have the folly to perswade themselves, that a Reli­gion consisting of mere Faith, without the trouble of a good Life will serve the turn; nay, that to be of a peculiar Party, Sect or [Page 82] Church will be sufficient; but then it is strange our Saviour should bid us strive to enter in at the strait gate: for it would be a wonder if any should miss of Hea­ven upon these terms; or if any be so sottish, they deserve to pe­rish without pity.

Others there are that entertain a conceit of getting to Heaven by the merits of other men, as by purchasing an Indulgence, or by hiring a Priest to say Prayers for the man when he is dead, that would not be at the trouble to pray for himself whilst he was a­live; or by getting a plenary ab­solution of all his sins at the last gasp, or some other such volup­tuous and compendious ways of Salvation.

He that seeks out such expedi­ents as these, argues that he hath some little love to himself, so far as to be loth to be damned, but [Page 83] that he hath none at all towards God or Virtue; and indeed de­monstrates, that he hath not so much as any worthy notion of God, or apprehension of the na­ture of the happiness of the other World. Nay, he gives evidence, that he is as much in love with his sins as with himself, and would have both saved toge­ther.

St. Paul assures us 2 Cor. 5. 10. that when we shall appear at the Judgment-seat of Christ, we shall receive our Doom, according to the things done in the body, whether good or evil; not according to what shall be done for us when we are out of the Body, much less ac­cording to what others have ei­ther officiously or mercenarily performed for us. All such me­thods are Cheats, the artifices of Hypocrisy, and constitute only a Religion for an Epicure, but are [Page 84] as far, as Hell is from Heaven, from the institutions of the Scri­pture.

It is true our Saviour saith, his yoke is easy, and his burthen light, but that is spoken either compara­tively to the burden of the Mo­saick Law, especially considered with the additional impositions of the Scribes and Pharisees, who as he tells us, laid heavy burdens upon others, but would not buckle under them themselves; or with respect to the great assistance and mighty incouragement which those men shall meet with that apply them­selves in earnest to Christianity. For certainly, if there had been no considerable difficulty in the Christian Religion, the first Les­son of it would not have been, that a man must deny himself. Nor would our Saviour have required us, that if our right eye or right hand offend us, we must pluck out the [Page 85] one, and cut off the other, that we may enter into Life.

CHAP. VII. Cautions against some opinions which are hindrances both of an Holy and of a Comfortable Life.

WHen a man hath setled his Principles, and made a good choice of his Profession of Religion, he is then in a fair way towards an Holy and a Comfort­able Life; yet there are several vulgar opinions, which if they be not carefully avoided will have an unhappy influence upon both, and therefore it is expedient he should be cautioned against them; especially such as those whereof [Page 86] I will here give a Catalogue in the particulars following.

To which I will premise this in the general, that although some of the opinions that shall be mentioned, may seem only mere speculations in the first view of them, and perhaps may go no further with some persons, whose singular probity and sincerity of heart may antidote them against the malignity of such tenets, yet in their own nature and the ge­nuine consequences of them, they are very dangerous, as shall now be made appear in particular.

1. Therefore let him that would make a due improvement of the Principles of Christianity, take care of allowing himself to pry too curiously into the secret counsels of God, or of marshalling too confidently the Decrees of E­lection and Reprobation, and es­pecially of arguing presumptu­ously [Page 87] concerning his own or other mens Salvation or Damnation from them.

There is no question with me but that God Almighty foreknew from all Eternity whatsoever should come to pass in after times; and let it be taken for granted al­so, that from the same Eternity he decreed with himself whatso­ever he would afterwards effect or permit; nay let us moreover sup­pose he hath expresly determined with himself who shall be saved and who shall be damned, and that so peremptorily, that only they shall be saved whom he hath so decreed to save, and those shall certainly be damned whom he hath past such a Decree upon. But what then? the proper and only reasonable use we can make of these suppositions, is to admire the Divine Eternity, Soveraignty, Power and Omniscience; here is [Page 88] neither matter for our curiosity nor for our reason to descant up­on: not for our curiosity, since it is plainly impossible to know, what the particular import of those Decrees is, or whom they concern; and less for our reason, since if we will argue any thing hence, it must be no better than deducing conclusions from un­known premisses.

The very prying into these Ca­binet Counsels (besides the folly and immodesty of it) tends to very ill purposes, for it certainly either blows men up with pre­sumption, or casts them headlong into desperation. The sanguine, and confident, and self-applaud­ing, are filled with vain hopes by these speculations; and the mo­dest, melancholy and despondent tempers, are inclined to despair by them.

But the arguing and drawing [Page 89] consequences of Salvation or Dam­nation from thence, contradicts the design of the whole Scripture, which charges us to work out our own salvation with fear and trem­bling, and to use diligence to make our calling and election sure; Nay it turns into ridicule all the Exhor­tations, threatnings and promises of the Gospel. For to what pur­pose doth God perswade us, when he hath irrevocably determined our fate with himself? It discou­rages all use of means, and all comfort in so doing, since it will be labour in vain: it baffles Con­science whensoever it either checks us for sin, or would com­fort us for doing virtuously; for what matter is it what Consci­ence saith, when God hath de­creed? it renders the solemnity of the great day of judgment a mere piece of empty pomp and pageantry, seeing mens Cases are [Page 90] all decided before-hand; nay it makes the very coming of our Sa­viour, his Life, Death, Propitia­tion and Intercession, to be illu­sory and insignificant things; for­asmuch as upon this supposition, men are saved or damned antece­dently to his undertaking.

Now if after all this, any man will be so desperately absurd and fool-hardy, as to say nevertheless Gods Decrees are irrevocable, and therefore the matter of fact is true, that if I be decreed to Sal­vation, I shall then be saved with­out more ado; and if I be decreed to be damned, I must perish, and there will be no help for it; it will be in vain to use means see­ing I shall but strive against the stream; my Doom is past, and I may bewail my hard fortune, but cannot reverse it. I would only further ask such a man this plain Question, viz. How he came to [Page 91] perswade himself that God Al­mighty hath decreed to save and damn men right or wrong (as we say) i. e. whether they re­pent and believe in Christ, Jesus or no. Forasmuch as it is evi­dent, that he that harbours such an opinion of the Divine Majesty contradicts the very notion of a God, and represents him to be the worst and most hateful Being imaginable; a Being that hath only power and will, but hath nei­ther love nor hatred, neither wisdom, justice nor goodness in him at all; that hath no esteem for Faith, Virtue or Piety, no sense of gratitude and ingenuity, nor any aversation to baseness and villany; but as if he were an un­moved, rigid Idol, is inflexible by any repentance, prayers, tears, addresses and importunities, and insensible of, and unprovoked by all the affronts and insolencies [Page 92] that can be done to him: to be sure he that can think thus of God, will easily believe him to have set a mean value upon the blood of his only Son; foras­much as he hath given him up to Death to no purpose upon the a­foresaid supposition. Now unless all this be true (which is impos­sible) there can be no colour nor foundation for such an horrid and barbarous opinion.

And if this be false, as most cer­tainly it is, then we shall easily be led into this Scriptural Hypothe­sis of the divine Decrees, viz. that as he decreed from all Eternity to send his Son to be the Saviour of the World, so he then also determined that as many as should believe on him should be saved, and such as did not so, should be damned. And then, what if we find it to follow from the nature of Gods Omnisci­ence, that he must foreknow the [Page 93] individual persons that shall be sa­ved or damned, or from the na­ture of his determinations, that only such and no other can be sa­ved, namely, those he hath de­creed to it; yet then it will be evi­dently to no purpose to gaze up to Gods Decrees: for then what­ever hath been written in the Ar­chives of Heaven, it is certain it cannot contradict this, That if I believe and repent, and become a good and holy man, I shall be sa­ved, or otherwise I shall be damn­ed; and then all is plain before me: for in this case I have no­thing further to do, but to make use of the means of Grace which God affords me, and to look into my own heart and life for my E­vidences of Heaven.

Thus as the wise Persian, who sooner found the Sun to be upon the Horizon, by turning himself towards the Western Hills, than [Page 94] he that fixing his Eyes upon the East, expected to see the Sun it self: so we shall sooner find the beams of divine favour in the re­verse and reflection of them upon our own Souls, than by a pre­sumptuous prying into his secret purposes.

And the consideration of this truth will ingage men in all care and caution, in all diligence and humility, in the use of means, till they gradually improve into a state of holiness and comfort here, and to assurance of the Kingdom of Heaven hereafter.

And this is the course which the Apostle leads us to, 2 Tim. 2. 19. The foundation of God standeth sure, having his seal, the Lord knoweth who are his, and let him that nameth the name of Christ de­part from iniquity; as if he had said, ‘It is true indeed, God knows from Eternity whom he [Page 95] intends to save, and all such shall eventually be saved and none else, but our hope and comfort cannot be built up­on unknown principles, such as only are recorded in Heaven, but upon the counterpart of an holy life, or a conformity to those conditions which God hath expressed in his Gospel, as a Copy from the Original, kept in his own bosom.’

2. The next dangerous mistake which we ought carefully to a­void, is, concerning the Grace and holy Spirit of God. When men unreasonably expect that God should do all for them in the bu­siness of their Salvation, without their own indeavours, upon pre­tence that we can do nothing our selves, and therefore it is in vain to go about it; our part is only to wait Gods time of working, and when his holy Spirit moves, [Page 96] the business will be done without more ado, but in the mean time all our diligence is discharged as impertinent, and even our Pray­ers too (if this Doctrine be con­sistent with it self): for according to this opinion, if ever men come to Heaven, they must be dragged thither by Omnipotency, (as the Disciples of Mahumet expect to be by the hair of their heads.)

Now though it be undoubted­ly true, that all the good that is in us, is owing to the father of lights from whom every good and perfect gift cometh, forasmuch as he work­eth in us both to will and to do; and therefore we can never magnify grace enough, nor attribute too much to the holy Spirit (without making machines of our selves, and nonsense of the Gospel) yet it is as sure on the other hand, that God needs not that we should tell a lie for him, nor would have us [Page 97] slander his Creation for the ho­nour of Regeneration, since he doth not destroy the man when he makes a Christian. So far from it, that (as I have noted be­fore) he charges us to strive to enter in at the strait gate, and to use all our diligence to make our cal­ling and election sure, Which plain­ly implies, that he doth not in­tend to supersede our powers when he repairs our natures; and that although he made us with­out our own activity, yet he will not save us without our own in­deavours. And therefore the ho­ly Scripture always represents to us the way of Gods working good in our Souls, to be by exciting our Spirits, by assisting and strengthening our faculties, and by cooperating with us, not by over-bearing our capacity, and do­ing all for us without us; inso­much that that man who dreams [Page 98] of being carried to Heaven by Omnipotency, without his own concurrence, is so far from any incouragement from the Scrip­ture, to hope that ever he shall come there, that it is most cer­tain he shall never see that happy estate, unless it please the divine mercy to make him so early sen­sible of this fatal errour, that he may timely repent and pursue the right way thither. For he that expects to attain the Kingdom of Heaven by Miracle, it will be a Miracle indeed if he come thi­ther.

And this fond opinion is as mis­chievous as it is unscriptural, not only as it apparently deprives a man of all the comfortable refle­ctions of his own Conscience up­on whatsoever (by the grace of God) he hath obtained, foras­much as it equals the condition and character of the most slothful [Page 99] Epicure, with that of the most generous and industrious; but es­pecially as it disposes men to slight all the means of grace, and all the advantages of Gods Church, and that upon good reason: for if this opinion be true, they are all insignificant and collusory. It also tempts men to sin, and that without regret or remorse, under a pretence that they cannot help it; and in short, it perfectly be­trays them to their own lusts, and into the hands of the Devil, ma­king way for whatsoever tempta­tion he will think fit to make use of. For the man of this perswa­sion (that it is impossible to make resistance) is bound by his own principles, and to save himself useless trouble, to strike Sail and surrender upon the first assault or Summons.

3. A third dangerous opinion, which it is necessary to be cau­tioned [Page 100] against, is a mistaken no­tion of sins of infirmity; this at first mention of it may seem of kin to that which I last spoke of, but as I intend it, it is of a diffe­rent nature, viz. when men do not altogether discourage their own indeavours upon the pre­tence of natural impotency in ge­neral, but yet perswade them­selves that some certain sins in particular are so necessary to them, and unavoidable, that God will allow of them under the fa­vourable notion of infirmities, and pardon them without repen­tance.

It is very true, there are such things as pitiable infirmities, which the best of men cannot be altogether free from, and which infinite goodness therefore so far considers, as to make a vast dif­ference between them and wilful or presumptuous sins; pardoning [Page 101] the former upon a general repen­tance, whereas he requires a very particular repentance for, and re­formation of the latter. But the mischief (which I seek here to prevent) is when men cheat them­selves into a perswasion that some voluntary sin or other is necessary to them, and therefore must come under this estimate of infirmity, and consequently need neither be repented of nor forsaken; from whence it comes to pass, that or­dinarily the sin which hath been most customary and habitual to them, (because it easily besets them, and they find it not easy or plea­sant to them to forgoe it) is there­fore incouraged under the favour­able name of infirmity. For thus they say, every man hath his in­firmities, and this is mine; and so the mouth of Conscience is made up, as if a pardon of course were due to it, without the so­lemnity [Page 102] of Reformation.

They will allow such a case to be that which they must always complain of, but yet they never expect or desire to see it cured; for these sins are thought to be only like the Canaanites in the land, or some other remainder of those devoted and accursed Nations, which must never be quite rooted out, but be always as Thorns in the Eyes, and Goads in the sides of the true Israelites, i. e. tolera­ted but not extirpated.

But if this be not a very false notion, what was the meaning of our Saviour when he requires us to cut off our right hand, and to pluck out our right eye, when either of them offend us? That is, that if we will enter into life, we must part with the sin that is as plea­sant to us as our Eyes, as necessa­ry or convenient to us as our right hand, and as painful to part [Page 103] withal as either of them. Where­as if the aforesaid Doctrine of in­firmity take place with us, it will save all the pains and trouble of mortification, and keep the body of sin whole and intire, and yet put men in hopes they may go to Heaven notwithstanding; and no sin that we have a kindness to, but a man may enjoy it without danger. For thus, it shall be one mans infirmity to be drunk, ano­ther mans to swear, a third mans to be seditious or censorious; and in short, by the benefit of a soft word or distinction (together with a good opinion of a mans self) he may reconcile God and Mammon, Christ and Belial, Hell and Heaven.

But this cheat is too palpable, for the Plea of infirmity is only allowable in such Cases as these following; namely, when either ignorance or mis-information be­trays [Page 104] a man into errour, or he fails in the manner of doing that which was otherwise good for the matter of it, or a great fear over-powers him, or the sudden­ness of a temptation surprizes him before he was so much aware as to collect himself; or something of like nature to these, may be cal­led sins of infirmity. But assu­redly, that which a man knows to be a sin, and yet commits it, that which a man takes plea­sure in, and lives in the habitual practice of, can never be esteemed a meer pitiable infirmity; and therefore whosoever truly loves his own Soul, and is in earnest for Eternity, hath great reason to take care of this errour.

4. A fourth danger I would give warning against, is the mi­staken opinion about Conversion to God, which if it be rightly un­derstood, is a great, solemn and [Page 105] divine thing, and whereever it is truly accomplisht, is the happiest passage of a mans whole life, and the very Crisis of Eternity, viz. when either a man who (by un­happy Education or otherwise) was betray'd to evil and mischie­vous opinions, comes by the ad­vantage of better information and the grace of God, to be other­wise instructed and set right in his principles, or especially when one who was formerly of a lewd and flagitious life, is by the grace of the Gospel now brought to a sight of his sin, a sense of his dan­ger, and thereupon changes his whole course and becomes a new and holy man: Both these are (as I said) great, and solemn, and happy things, to be spoken of with all reverence, and consider­ed with joy and admiration.

But now there is a two fold mi­stake very common in this great [Page 106] affair, viz. when either such a Conversion (as we have now de­scribed) is looked upon as univer­sally necessary, and prescribed to all men, as the condition of their Salvation, or else (which is far worse) when the whole nature of the thing is mistaken, and con­version from sin to God, is made to be a mere momentaneous act, a kind of qualm or fit of Religion, and as such is relied upon, as suf­ficient to Salvation, without an habitual course of holy life subse­quent to it.

Both these last named are false and dangerous opinions, but the evil of the former of them lies in this, that it is apt to perplex the Consciences, and disturb the peace of very good men, viz. When those who by the blessing of God have been trained up in good principles, and by his grace not only preserved from a loose and [Page 107] debauched life, but ingaged also in a holy and virtuous course all along, shall notwithstanding have it preached to them, and prest upon them, that they also must be converted and born again, or else they shall never see the King­dom of God. This indeed was necessary and proper Doctrine from our Saviour to Nicodemus, and to the generality of the Jews, as well as from the Apostles to the Pagan World, who had been nursed up in Ignorance, Super­stition and Idolatry: But it was not preached to John the Baptist, nor to St. John the Apostle, nor to Timothy, who had known the holy Scriptures from a Child, 2 Tim. 3. 15. and who had been early in­gaged in an holy life, by the bles­sing of God upon the careful in­structions of his Grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice, 2 Tim. 1. 5. not can such Doctrine (without [Page 108] equal indiscretion and danger) be preached to several others now who are of that condition, that as our Saviour saith, they need no repentance.

But it is the latter of these opi­nions about Conversion, which I intend in this place principally to give caution against, viz. when a man who hath been formerly either of a sottish and careless, or of a notoriously debaucht and profligate life, shall be incouraged to think his peace is made with God from such time as he hath had a qualm come over his Con­science, and been put into a mood of seriousness and devotion, ha­ving been taught to date his Re­generation from hence.

The mischief of this mistake is very frequent and apparent, for that it tempts men to grow se­cure before they are safe, and it is very common and natural for [Page 109] such persons to grow careless of themselves upon a vain confi­dence in this kind of Conversion, as if now their work were done, without the trouble of bringing forth fruits worthy of repentance and amendment of life. Nay further, when perhaps such men have committed some such great sin, as (that were it not for this un­happy errour) would startle their Consciences, they are hereby (in­stead of applying themselves to God by hearty repentance) in­clined only fondly to look back, and to remember that such a time I was converted, and enter'd into a state of grace, and therefore all is well enough already; and from hence it comes to pass also, that nothing is more frequent than such mens falling from grace in this sense, that is, to apostatize from such hopeful beginnings; for indeed they were at most but [Page 110] beginnings, but being foolishly rested in, as if they had amoun­ted to the whole attainment of Christianity, they flatter men in­to security first, and betray them to shame afterwards.

And the falsity of this conceit is evident in this, that whereas it makes the great business of Eter­nity to lie in an instantaneous act, the transaction perhaps of a day or an hour, or a Sermon, the ho­ly Scripture quite contrary-wise represents it as the business of a mans whole life, and requires, that men not only set out well, but that they make a daily and gradual progression towards Hea­ven; forasmuch as it tells us, that otherwise he who hath begun in the spirit may end in the flesh, and that a man may return with the Dog to his vomit, &c. and then the latter end of such a man is worse than the beginning.

[Page 111] 5. Another mistake not infe­riour to any of the former, ei­ther in respect of errour or dan­ger, is about the power and au­thority of Conscience, viz. When men perswade themselves that all is right and true, which they are satisfied of in their Consciences, and that it is lawful for them to do whatsoever that dictates to them, or allows them in, as if Con­science were not a thing to be ru­led but to rule, and were invested with a kind of Soveraignty, so that it were a Law to it self, and to others also. If you reprove some mans opinion (instead of arguments for it) he tells you it is his Conscience, and that's e­nough; or if you blame some action of his life, he regards not your reprehensions, for, saith he, my Conscience smites me not for it, and therefore I am safe; or if you forewarn him of some [Page 112] counsels or undertakings as tend­ing to Sedition and publick di­sturbance, it is no matter, it is his Conscience, and he must pur­sue it.

The mischief of this is very in­tolerable, for by this means the most foolish and extravagant acti­ons are justified, and the male­factor rendered incorrigible, be­ing both hardened in his sin and in his sufferings, for (if it come to that) you cannot convince such men, for they have a testimony within them which is infallible, and in confidence of that, when­soever you bring an Argument which they cannot answer, they reject and defy it as a temptation of the Devil. If you rebuke them, you blaspheme the holy Spirit; if you go about to restrain them, you violate the most sacred Pre­rogative of Conscience, and are gulty of the only sacriledge [Page 113] which (in their opinion) can be committed, and which is worst of all, thus God is intitled to the very passions and follies of such men, and to all the extravagan­cies in the World: for if it be their Conscience, God must pa­tronize it, and bear the blame of all.

Now one would justly wonder what these men think this thing called Conscience to be, surely no less than some God Almighty within them, and so indeed seve­ral expressions of them seem to intimate. But certainly, if they thought Conscience to be nothing else but a mans own mind, or opi­nion, or perswasion, or practical Judgment (which certainly it is, and no more) they could not ei­ther in reason or modesty think fit that this should have such a paramount Authority as to bear all down before it, at least they [Page 114] could not imagine that their pe­culiar phancy or humour, their particular Education or Idiopa­thy, their ignorance or stubborn­ness, should be lawless and un­controulable. For if mens opini­ons or perswasions are infallible, what is instruction for? if the light within be sufficient, what is the light of holy Scripture for? if Conscience be a guide to it self, to what purpose are spiritual Guides provided by divine wis­dom for our conduct? and if that may not be restrained in its ex­travagancy, wherefore were Laws made, and Magistrates appointed? So that either this wild notion of the power of Conscience must be false, or else Instruction and E­ducation are useless, Magistracy and Ministry impertinent, and both Laws and Scripture of no effect. And if notwithstanding this notion be imbraced, it is [Page 115] plainly impossible, that such men should live either holily or com­fortably. Not holily, because Conscience thus left alone to it self, without guide or rule, will in all likelihood follow mens tem­per and inclination, and then a mans most beloved Lusts shall be the dictate of his Conscience. Not comfortably, because he that is destitute of a Law, and a guide to resolve him in difficulties, must needs (if he consider and be sen­sible of any thing at all) be per­plexed with perpetual disputes, and endless scrupulosity upon e­very undertaking.

But it will be pretended that there is no help for it, but when all is done, men must and will follow their own Consciences; forasmuch as Discourse, or Laws, or Scripture, signify nothing till they are applied by Conscience; they indeed may give aim, or may [Page 116] be of the nature of evidence in a Cause; but it is Conscience which collects the result, and he that complies not with that, is guilty of sin, whether the Evidence was well summed up or no. To this purpose some passages of Scrip­ture are usually misapplied: e. g. Let a man be perswaded in his own mind, Rom. 14. 5. That which is not of Faith is sin, Rom. 14. 23. and he that doubteth is damn'd, &c.

I do confess here is something of truth in this Plea, but blended with a great deal of errour, and here I verily believe lies the rise or occasion of the perswasion of the extravagant authority of Con­science. But when we consider wisely, the truth is no more but this, that a mans Conscience ought to go along with him in the acts of his Obedience to the Law, or that he ought to be per­swaded [Page 117] the thing is lawful to be done before he does it, otherwise he doth violence to himself, and condemns his own act. But it doth not follow, that therefore it is lawful to do whatsoever he is perswaded of in his Conscience, or that it is not his duty to do any thing but what he is so per­swaded of; for this abrogates all the Laws both of God and Man, and makes their Legislations to depend upon private consent. If therefore any man through igno­rance or prejudice, or any such cause, shall have his Conscience alienated from the Law, or dicta­ting otherwise to him; this as it cannot make a Law, so neither can it discharge him from the ob­ligation of one. All that this works, is, that it puts a man in­to so sad a case that he may sin both ways, that is, both in obey­ing and in disobeying; but be­cause [Page 118] he is brought into this strait by his own default, it is evident this cannot acquit his Conscience; for one sin is no discharge for another. That therefore which he hath now to do, is first to in­form his Conscience better, and then to comply with the rule.

And that this is the true state of this Case, will appear (beyond all exception) by the resolution of our Saviour himself in two pas­sages of the Gospel; the former Matt. 6. 23. if the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! Where first he supposes that the principles of a mans mind or Conscience may be very false and erroneous, and then pro­nounces, that he that is in such a Case is in a very deplorable con­dition; forasmuch as the errour of his Conscience will be sure to run him upon miscarriages of life, and the priviledge of its being his [Page 119] Conscience will not exempt him from the consequences of so doing.

The other passage is Joh. 16. 2. where he foretels his Disciples that they should fall into so un­happy times, and lie under such prejudices & misprisons with the World, that those that killed them, should think they did God good ser­vice. Now those that think they do good service, and perform a meritorious action in such a thing, most certainly follow their Con­sciences in so doing, and yet it is as certain, that this did not justify the fact; for then the Persecutors of Christianity and Murderers of the Apostles, must have been a very conscientious and commend­able sort of men: wherefore it is evident, that Conscience is no rule nor sufficient warranty for our actions.

6. In the sixth place let him [Page 120] who hath thoughts of attaining the happiness of the World to come, take care of entertaining an opinion of the impossibility of Religion according to the mea­sures of the holy Scripture. This is a common prejudice upon the minds of ignorant or cowardly people, for they phansy that a life according to the Laws of the Gospel, is rather a fine speculati­on, or a philosophical Hypothe­sis, than a necessary and practica­ble truth. They confess it would be a very good and commendable thing, if we could comply with the rules of our Saviour, but they look upon it as impossible, and so of no indispensable obligation. For they say, our natures are so corrupted by our fall, and there­by our faculties are so weak and impaired, that we are indeed no­thing but infirmity on the one side; and on the other, we are so [Page 121] beset with temptations, and the World, the Flesh and the Devil, are so much too strong for us, that we must sin, there is no a­voiding of it, and God must par­don, and there's an end of the business.

Now if such an opinion as this possess a man, it will prove im­possible that ever he should live holily. For if natural corruption have not infeebled us sufficiently, this cowardly conceit will be sure to do it effectually. For no man (in this case especially) is ever better than his design, nor rises higher than his aim or pro­jection (no more than water rises above its Fountain) nay, it is a thousand to one, but he that sets his mark low, will fall yet lower in his prosecution; and he that is cowed and dejected in his own mind, so as to think he shall ne­ver overcome the difficulties be­fore [Page 122] him, most certainly never will or can do it.

He only is like to prove a good Christian, that resolves with the true-hearted Israelites to despise difficulty and danger, and to conquer the good Land, whatso­ever it cost him; for such a man unites his strength, collects his Forces, and disheartens his Ene­mies as well as defies their oppo­sition; but the despondent cow­ardly Person, both infeebles him­self and incourages his Enemies; so that he can neither attempt, nor much less effect, any brave thing.

And the same conceit of im­possibility will as certainly ren­der our Spirits uncomfortable as remiss; because after all the pre­tence a man can make for his cowardice and remissness, he can­not but observe the strain of the whole Scripture to be against [Page 123] him; and surely that man cannot enjoy himself very well under those attainments, which God and his own Conscience condemn as mean and unworthy.

But after all, the ground of this opinion is as false as it is mischie­vous; for in the first place, the holy Scripture assures us of some persons, and particularly of Za­chary and Elizabeth, Luk. 1. 6. That they walked in all the commandments of the Lord blameless, and were both righteous before God, and yet they were the Children of the same Adam, and exposed to all the temptations, ill examples, and dif­ficulties with other men. Besides, the aforesaid opinion, under a pre­tence of modesty, and an humble acknowledgment of humane weakness, reflects very dishonour­ably both upon the wisdom and goodness of God, when it im­putes to the great Law-giver of [Page 124] the World, such over-sight and severity, as to prescribe such Laws as were not fitted to the capaci­ties of those that were to be sub­ject to them, and to be judged by them; unto which adde, that it puts an intolerable slight upon the power of Faith, and (which is more) upon the very grace of God also, as if neither of them could carry us through all the dif­ficulties we should be exposed to. Upon all which considerations (and several such other which need not here be mentioned) this opinion of the impossibility of Religion appears to be very bad, and such as ought by all means to be avoided by him that would lead an holy and comfortable Life.

7. And yet there is another o­pinion, which is both as common and as dangerous as any of the former; against which therefore [Page 125] I will give caution in the seventh and last place, viz. when though perhaps Religion shall not be uni­versally pronounced to be impos­sible, yet it shall be thought to be only the peculiar business, or especially to belong to some cer­tain sorts or conditions of men, but not to be the general calling, the necessary and indispensable duty of all men. Under this pre­tence, serious and constant devo­tion is looked upon as appropriate to the Cloyster, where men live retired from the World, and are thought to have nothing else to do; or to be the imployment of Churchmen, whose peculiar Pro­fession it is; or for old and Bed­ridden persons, who are fit for no­thing else, but a Prayer-Book; or at least for men fallen into ad­versity, who have no other thing to retire to, and to suppor them­selves withal, but the contempla­tions [Page 126] of another World. But for men of callings and business, or for those that are in the flower of youth, and warmth of blood, in health and prosperity, these are thought to have allowances due to them, at least for the pre­sent, and the more solemn consi­deration of Religion must be ad­journed to another time. If in the mean while such as these go to Church, and perhaps now and then say their Prayers, it is as much as is to be expected; for their business is pretended to be too great, or their temptations and avocations too many, or at least their spirits are too light and brisk to permit them to be strict­ly devotional, or to make Religi­on their business.

Thus men make vain Apolo­gies, but doth God Almighty al­low of them, hath he made any such exceptions or distinctions? no [Page 127] certainly, he hath made Religion every mans duty, and hath char­ged us first to seek the Kingdom of God and his righteousness; he hath equally imposed this task upon Prince and Peasant, Clergy and Laity, rich and poor, Master and Servant, young and old, the af­flicted and the prosperous, the man of business as well as those of leisure and retirement. He that hath an absolute soveraignty over the World, that hath right to our homage and attendance, that hath laid infinite obligations upon us to love and obey him; he that hath considered and forecast all our circumstances, businesses, dif­ficulties, temptations and excu­ses; he that observes our carri­age and behaviour towards him­self, he that cannot be deceived, will not be mocked, and is no accepter of persons: He, I say, hath made no such exceptions or [Page 128] exemptions in this great concern of Religion; and therefore they cannot be mentioned without great unreasonableness, nor reli­ed upon without horrible dan­ger.

If indeed Eternity were the pe­culiar concern of a certain sort and condition of men only; or if old men only died, and none else; or if rich men can be con­tented that only poor men shall go to Heaven, then the other sorts of men may excuse them­selves from devotion: but other­wise it is the greatest absurdity that can be to hope for the end without the means.

What though old men must dy, yet will not young men quickly come to be, old men too, at least if they do not die first?

And what if men of retired lives have more leisure for Devo­tion, and more time to spend in [Page 129] it, yet is any man so hard put to it, but that he may (if he will) spare some time for his Soul and Eternity?

What if it be acknowledged that Churchmen have peculiar obligations upon them to recom­mend Religion to others, yet it is certain, that the necessity of practising it, is common to others with themselves; forasmuch as there is no duty of it peculiar to them, unless it be to be exemplary in all.

It is true, poor men, and men in adversity, are justly accusable of intolerable sottishness, if they who are frown'd upon by the World, do not seek to repair their unhappiness by the favour of God and the hopes of another World. But it is as true, that rich men and those in prosperity, are as justly to be upbraided with disin­genuity, and base ingratitude, if [Page 130] they be not devout towards him that hath dealt so bountifully with them.

Besides all this, there is no cal­ling or condition of men, but un­der it they may (if they have a heart to it) very affectionately at­tend upon Religion, consistently enough with all other lawful bu­siness or occasions. Almighty Wisdom hath not so ill contrived the state of this World, that there should be any necessity that bu­siness should supplant Religion, or Religion intrench upon busi­ness; nor if things be rightly considered, are these two kind of affairs so contrary, or doth Devo­tion take up so much time, or so much exhaust mens spirits, but with a good zeal and a little fore­cast, both may be carried on to­gether. Or if it were otherwise, and that the care of our Souls would indeed weary our Bodies, [Page 131] or the securing of Heaven would disorder, and a little incommode our secular interests; yet neither is Life so certain, nor the present World so considerable, nor Hea­ven so mean and contemptible an interest, as that a man should not be willing to put himself to some trouble for the latter as well as for the former.

And as there wants not reason for this course, so neither are Ex­amples wanting in this kind, where men that might have made such excuses, as aforesaid (as justly as any persons whatsoever) have notwithstanding quitted and disdained them all, and applied themselves remarkably to the ser­vice of God and Devotion. For if riches, and the variety of World­ly cares and business which usu­ally attend them, were a just ex­cuse from attendance upon Reli­gion, then Job might have claim­ed [Page 132] exemption, who was the rich­est man in all the East, and yet the devoutest too. His thousands of Sheep, and Oxen, and Camels, his abundance of Servants, his numerous Family, and the care of all these, did not tempt him to the intermission of one dayes Devotion.

If either the temptations and pleasures of Youth, or the volup­tuousness of a Court, or the mul­titude of Examples of prophane­ness, or the cares of a prime Mi­nister of State, or the jealousies of a Favourite, could all together have amounted to a just dispen­sation from the strictness of Re­ligion: then Daniel who was in all those circumstances might have pleaded it, and upon that account might have retrencht his Conscience, and intermitted his praying three times a day, especi­ally when he knew his Enemies, [Page 133] watcht advantage against him in this particular.

If the general licence of Soul­diers, the temptations such men are exposed to, the necessities they often are prest with, or the sud­den avocations they must be sub­ject to, could make a tolerable apology for profaneness, or an excuse for Irreligion, then Corne­lius, Acts 10. had been excused from praying to God continually, and serving the Lord with all his house.

Nay, lastly, if either the state and grandeur, or the Prerogative of a Soveraign Prince, if the im­punity of a King, or the glory and affluence of a Kingdom; nay, if either interest of State, or weight of affairs, the Cares and Policies of Government, had been all toge­ther sufficient to make a dispen­sation from the strict obligations of Religion, then David might [Page 134] have pretended to it, in abate­ment of his duty to God, and of his constant and ardent Devo­tions.

But all these holy men consi­dered, that God was a great Ma­jesty, not to be trifled with, and an impartial Judge, without re­spect of persons, that Eternity was of more consequence than the present Life, and Heaven bet­ter than this World; and they were so far from thinking an E­ternal Interest to be inconsistent with the management of tempo­ral affairs, that contrarywise they believed there was no such effe­ctual way to succeed in the latter as by a diligent prosecution of the former.

But as for those who being convinced of the absolute necessi­ty of Religion, and of the inexcu­sableness of a total and final o­mission of it, would notwithstand­ing [Page 135] make it to be only the busi­ness of old Age, or a Sickbed; these (although by the folly and sloth of men, they have too ma­ny followers in their opinion, yet certainly) are the most absurd and inexcusable of all. Forasmuch as in order to the making such an Hypothesis passable with their own Consciences, they must not only suppose several very uncer­tain things, which no wise man can have the confidence or ra­ther madness to presume upon; but the very supposition it self im­plies divers other things so base and disingenuous, as no good man can be guilty of.

First, they make very bold and desperate suppositions, as for Ex­ample, that they shall live to old Age, and die by a leisurely and lingring sickness. That God will then accept of mens return and repentance (who never stopt in [Page 136] their carriere of sin and the World, till Death arrested them.) That God will give them repen­tance what time they prefix to him, or that they can repent when they will. That they shall be fit for the most weighty affairs when they are at the last gasp, and the most important of all business can be transacted when their strength and spirits are ex­hausted. And to say no more, that it is fit and tolerable for a man to leave that to be last dis­charged, which if any accident prevent him in, he is everlasting­ly ruined. All these things must be taken for granted by him that shall venture to put off the busi­ness of his Soul to the last act of his Life, every one of which are at the best uncertain, and for the most part false, and therefore to build upon them is extream pre­sumption.

[Page 137] Secondly, If the foundation of such a course were not rotten and unsafe, yet that which is built upon it is base and dis-ingenuous; for the man who upon any consi­derations whatsoever can content himself to put off the things wherein Gods Honour and his Souls Welfare are concerned to the very last, proclaims he hath an unreasonable love and admira­tion of this World, for the sake of which he postpones Religion, and that he hath no real kindness for, or good opinion of the ways of God, in that he puts the care of that business as far off, as possi­bly he can; and indeed that he would not mind God or his Soul at all, if it were not for mere ne­cessity and fear of damnation. Now whether this then can be a reasonable course, or he be a Can­didate of the Kingdom of Hea­ven that governs himself by these [Page 138] measures, it is too easy to judge. Wherefore let the man who hath entertained any principles of Re­ligion, and hath any value for his Soul, and care of Eternity, ut­terly abominate and avoid this last named, as well as all the fore­mentioned prejudices or opini­ons.

And having so done, let him then attend to the more positive and direct advices in the follow­ing Chapter.

CHAP. VIII. Directions for an effectual prose­cution of Religion.

HE that is resolved to be a Christian in earnest, will find it necessary (in the prosecu­tion of his design) to attend to the six following Directions.

1. Let such a man be sure al­ways to keep himself strictly so­ber, by which I mean, not only that he avoid the extremity of a debauch, but that he indulge not himself so liberal an use of Wine and strong Drink, as that he shall come too near the confines of in­temperance, especially in the ge­neral habit of his Life; or that he take care that through facility or carelesness he comply not with [Page 140] the too common practice in this particular. Forasmuch as it is evident, that the approving a mans self to God, and the taking care of Eternity, are such weigh­ty and important affairs, that they must needs require the great­est composure of thoughts, and the utmost intention of our minds; and can neither be wor­thily taken in hand, nor much less pursued as they ought, in such a light and jolly humour as the custom of tipling doth ordinarily put men into; for that relaxes a mans thoughts, and fills his spirit with froth and levity; it renders the mind of a man so airy and trifling, that he becomes trans­ported with a jest, and diverted by every impertinence; it ba­nishes sollicitude, and puts him besides his guard of caution and circumspection; a mans head in such a case is impatient of weigh­ty [Page 141] considerations, incapable of grave deliberations; his thoughts are fluctuating and uncertain, he comes to no stable resolution, nor can he make any constant pro­gress; and surely such a temper cannot make a fit soil for Religi­on to take root in, or to thrive upon.

Besides, intemperance doth not only disturb the reason of the mind, but also weakens and de­presses it, and exalts phancy in the room of it; which fills a man with wild, loose, and incoherent Ideas: And which is still worse, it raises the brutal passions also, both irascible and concupiscible, and thereby makes work for re­pentance and mortification; which must needs become a very hard task to perform, when the same causes which have made it neces­sary, have therewithal impaired those powers that should accom­plish [Page 142] it; and therefore this course is utterly inconsistent with a de­sign of Religion.

Moreover, besides the evil of intemperance it self, it exposes a man to a thousand temptations, and puts him at the very mercy of the Devil, forasmuch as he that is under the power of drink, is not only out of Gods keeping, but out of his own also; he hath quenched Gods Spirit whilest he inflamed his own, he hath de­prived himself of Gods Providence by going out of his way, and he is not perfectly in possession of his own mind, and therefore surely is in a dangerous condition.

To which adde, that whereas sobriety and watchfulness use al­ways to be accounted inseparable Companions; it is apparent, that he who neglects the former, can never be able to maintain the lat­ter; and consequently the intem­perate [Page 143] man cannot be fit for Pray­er and Meditation, and other great exercises of Piety. Upon all which accounts our Saviour S. Luke 21. 34. charges those that will be his Disciples to take heed to themselves, lest at any time their hearts be over-charged with surfeit­ing and drunkenness, &c.

2. In the second place, let the man who designs to prosecute Re­ligion effectually, take care of in­temperance of mind, as well as of that of the body; and with equal heed, avoid intoxication by wild opinions, as he would do a surfeit of meats and drinks. The Prophet Isaiah complains of the people of the Jews, Isai. 29. 9. That they were drunken but not with Wine, they staggered but not with strong drink; and the Apostle ex­horts men to be sober minded: so that it seems there is a kind of spiritual drunkenness, which dis­guises [Page 144] mens minds as much as the other brutal custom disorders their outward person. Of this there are a great many instances, but two most remarkable, viz. opiniatre and scrupulosity: I mean by the former, when men have no setled judgment in Reli­gion, but allow themselves an endless inquisitiveness in matters of opinion, and are always hunt­ing after novelty: By the other I understand a captious or squeam­ish humour of Conscience, under which men perpetually vex both themselves and others with unrea­sonable fears and jealousies.

As for the former of these, it is notoriously the humour of some men to be always doubting, dis­puting, and gazing after new light, as if all mankind had been imposed upon till now, and the old way were not the good way, but every new invention, or up­start [Page 145] notion contained some ad­mirable mystery in it; therefore they think it necessary to try all things before they can hold fast that which is best, and indeed surfeit on the forbidden Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil, as if it were the same with the Tree of Life. And if perhaps they fall not into any of those dangerous opinions which I gave caution against in the for­mer Chapter, yet it is by chance if they do not; for they having no judgment of discern the dif­ference of things, no ballast to poise and settle them, are driven up and down with every wind of Doctrine; they are of the opini­on of the last Book they read, or the last man they discoursed with, for always the newest and freshest opinion is the best; and so (as they say of the Chameleon) they take their colour from the [Page 146] next object. This temper is a mighty disparagement to di­vine truth, for it looks as if there were no certain way of satisfacti­on to the minds of men, but that they must always seek and never find, and endlesly dispute but could never come to a resolution: and it is so intolerable an impedi­ment of the life and practice of Religion, that it is many times more harmless to be setled in some bad opinions, than to be thus unsetled, and to dispute e­very thing. For besides that this course draws off the spirits of men, and spends their best heat upon unprofitable notions, and so takes them off from studying their own hearts, examining their Consciences, and diligent attend­ance to their ways and actions; it raises passion, nourishes pride, foments divisions, and in a word, turns Christianity into vain Jang­lings. [Page 147] Whereas a truly sober Christian is readier to believe than to dispute in divine things, and more careful to practise old rules than to devise new models; he studies the Scripture sincerely, not for objections but for resolu­tion; he lives up to what he knows, and prays God to direct him where he is uncertain; and so is led by the Divine Grace in a plain path towards Heaven. The Novellist or great Disputer con­trariwise, being unresolved of his way, makes no hast in his Jour­ney, and cannot very earnestly practise any thing to day, be­cause he cannot tell what opinion he shall be of to morrow.

And then for the other instance of intemperance of mind, namely scrupulosity. When men have such headstrong and ungovernable, or such shy and squeamish Consci­ences, that they boggle at every [Page 148] thing which doth not just fit their peculiar phancy and hu­mour, though they can give no reasonable account of their jea­lousy or aversation, but only they dislike and are offended with such and such (indifferent) things, they know not why, their Con­science takes check at them, and there is no more to be said in the Case. Now such as these can by no means be reputed sober men, who (like as we say of Drunkards) see double, and consequently fear where no fear is, or who are terrified by their own idle phan­cies, their brains being clouded and darkened by the crude steams of riot and excess. This temper however in some cases it may be pitiable, is notwithstanding very mischievous, not only as it di­sturbs the Peace of the Church and of Mankind, by rendering those who are under the power [Page 149] of it, busy and pragmatical, cen­sorious and uncharitable towards all that are not just of their own mode and size, but (which is far worse) it misrepresents the Di­vine Majesty, as if he were a cap­tious Deity, who watched mens haltings, to take advantage a­gainst them, as having more mind to damn than to save them. By which means it discourages men from Religion, as if it were the most anxious and uncomfortable thing in the World; and conse­quently of all this, it extreamly hinders proficiency in virtue; for he that is always jealous of his way, will often make halts, or have a very uncomfortable pro­gress.

On the other side, he that is likely to make a good Christian, satisfies himself of the Divine Goodness and Candour in in­terpreting the actions of his Crea­tures, [Page 150] and being conscious of his own sincerity, in following close­ly the rule of the Scripture, where it is plain, thinks himself at li­berty where that is silent, and takes the direction of his Spiri­tual Guides where it is obscure, and then goes chearfully and vi­gorously on his way towards Heaven.

3. Next to regard of Sobriety both of body and mind, let the man who designs the other World, take heed that the pre­sent World grow not too much upon him, and distract or over­burden him in his Journey to­wards Heaven: and the diligence and circumspection in this point ought to be the greater, in regard this World is placed near us, and therefore is apt to seem great to our sight, and the other (though incomparably greater) being at a distance from us, is apt to seem [Page 151] little and contemptible. Besides, it is the chief aim of the Devil to make the present World seem much more beautiful and valua­ble than it is, that by its blan­dishments he may soften us, by its allurements debauch us, or at least by the care and concerns of it distract us and take off our edge to better things.

It is certain also, that he whose affections are eagerly ingaged up­on secular interests, can never be ingenuous and free enough to have a right understanding of the true and real difference of things, nor conscientious enough to stand by that truth which he under­stands; for he can never be stea­dy in any principles, but must turn with every Tide, and sail with every Wind, as it shall make for his purpose: Besides, it is plain, that our Souls are too nar­row to hold much of this World, [Page 152] and yet to afford room for any great share of Heaven together with it. Therefore our Saviour hath said, ye cannot serve God and Mammon, and accordingly in his first Sermon on the Mount, Matt. 6. 24, 25, 26. to the intent that his Doctrine of the Kingdom of Heaven might take place in the hearts of his Disciples and hear­ers, he very emphatically and largely cautions them against ad­miration of the World, and too eager pursuit of it. And in the aforementioned passage, Luk. 21. v. 34. to his admonition against over-charging themselves with surfeiting and drunkenness, he subjoins the cares of this life, inti­mating, that those two kinds of Vices (as opposite as they may seem to each other) agree in their malignant influence upon Religi­on: neither indeed are they so contrary in their natures as they [Page 153] seem to be; for as Drunkenness is nothing but a liquid Covetous­ness, so on the other side, Cove­tousness is a kind of dry thirst or drunken insatiable humour; and it is so much the more dangerous and incurable than the other, as it is the less infamous, merely because it doth not presently dis­cover it self by such odd and ridi­culous symptomes as the other doth.

To avoid this therefore, let the man we speak of, consider con­stantly with himself the shortness and uncertainty of the present life, by which he will easily be apprehensive of how much more consequence it is to provide for Eternity, than for that little a­bode we are to make in that state wherein the things of this World are of any use to us.

Let him also observe the suc­cess of things, and he will easily [Page 154] conclude, that much more of our prosperity is owing to the provi­dence of God, than to our own forecast and indeavours; and con­sequently, that it is a better pro­vision for our Children and Poste­rity, to leave them under the blessing of God, than in great possessions.

And in consequence of these perswasions, he will not be temp­ted to grasp too much business, so as to hinder him in devotion, but will rather consider his own strength, viz. how much care and labour he can undergo, with­out depression of his Spirit, or de­basing his mind; and will weigh the dangers and temptations of the World against the pleasures and all urements of riches.

This will also incline him pru­dently to methodize his affairs, and to put that business which seems necessary, into the best or­der, [Page 155] that so it may take its due place in subordination to his greater concerns, and not sup­plant or interfere with them.

To which purpose also, if he have any considerable matters to dispose of, he will think it con­venient to set his House in order as well as his business, and have always his Will made, not only, that thereby he may be the more effectually admonished of his mor­tality, and be provided against the surprizal of Death, but that in the mean time he may have the less sollicitude upon his spirit, and may the more singly and un­distractedly apply himself to his main business. And then

4. In the fourth place let him attend to the counsel of Jesus the Son of Syrach, Ecclus. 2. 1. My Son, if thou come to serve the Lord, prepare thy soul for temptation, that is, as if he had said,

Whensoe­ver [Page 156] thou undertakest a course of Religion, be not so fond as to imagine thou shalt be able to accomplish it without sweat and difficulty, or so secure as to think of obtaining the Crown without a conflict, but expect to meet with temptations of seve­ral kinds, and arm thy self ac­cordingly; especially in thy first entrance on such a course, thou must look for the sharpest en­counters, for thy Enemies are not so soon vanquisht as defied, nor are they either so fair and ci­vil as to give thee scope to harden and fortify thy self in thy enter­prize, or so imprudent as to slip the opportunity of thy weak­ness and security together. Be­ginnings in all such cases are at­tended with the greatest ha­zards and difficulties. The De­vil rages most at first, out of in­dignation to suffer the prey to [Page 157] be taken out of his mouth, whereas when he is past hopes of recovering it, he hath more wit than to labour in vain, and will not so much trouble himself to tempt when he sees no likeli­hood of success, but he is more resolute than quickly to despair or give over his siege upon the first denial of his Summons. No he will storm and batter thee night and day, and cast in all his bombs and fiery darts to af­fright and compel thee to a sur­render. And for the flesh it is certain, that the first checks which are given to sensual incli­nations, are harshest, and go most against the grain, because they have used to take their full scope and swinge; indeed when a man hath accustomed them to denial in their importunities, they by degrees and in time grow tame, and submit to the [Page 158] yoke of reason, as fire is extin­guish'd by being supprest, or as a violent torrent that is turned in­to a new Chanel, and restrained its antient course, at first rages, and foams and swells against those new banks, though at length it ceases its tumult, and runs along quietly within its boundaries. It is not one over­throw will dishearten the old man, he must be baffled and van­quisht over and over before he will cease to rebel, nor must you think to find virtue easy till you have accustomed your self to it; for nothing but custom can intirely subdue custom, wherefore (till that is introdu­ced) you must never be secure but always upon your guard. And then as for the World, the first rejection of that out of a mans heart is performed with as great difficulty as any of the [Page 159] former; when a man hath once cast over-board that luggage which otherwise was likely to have sunk him, it's possible he may be glad of the exchange, and despise what before he ad­mired; but it is a great matter to be convinced of the necessity of unburdening the Vessel, and a long dispute before men are wil­ling to lose any thing for Hea­ven. It requires a great sagaci­ty to see the empty Pageantry of the World, so as to slight fame, applause, riches, ease and plea­sure; a hard piece of self-denial to abridge himself of the liber­ty other men take; a great ma­stery of a mans self to be deaf to all the charms, and insensible of all the caresses of the World, and in a word, to keep a mans Eyes and thoughts steadily fixed upon another life.

Therefore there is great rea­son [Page 160] that a man should count up­on difficulty in the undertaking of Religion, lest when it comes upon him unforeseen, he turn recreant, and come off with shame and loss.

Besides all this there is some­thing more which (I apprehend) the Wise man intended in the a­foresaid advice, namely, that he that resolves to be a virtuous man, must fortify his mind, as well a­gainst the perswasions, examples, and discouragements of his less considerate Friends and acquain­tance, as against the bitter scoffs and reproaches of his Enemies, that neither the insensible insinua­tions of the one dissolve him into lukewarmness and remissness, nor the rough attacks of the other sink his spirits, and shake his re­solution.

Opposition from each of these he must expect to meet with: [Page 161] from the former, out of folly, or else in their own defence, that such a man's zeal may not reproach their negligence; from the other, out of malice and as assailants, that they may reak their spight upon God and his holy ways; and therefore he ought to be provi­ded for both.

Against the soft insinuations of injudicious persons, he must be provided, by being girt about with truth, and have on the breastplate of righteousness, as the Apostle advi­ses, Eph. 6. 14. that is, he must establish his heart in an undoubt­ed belief of the truth on his side, by considering the authority of God, the Example of our Savi­our, and other holy men, and hence be able to render a reason of the hope that is in him with meek­ness and fear; and if this do not ease him of their fond importuni­ties, he must then put on some [Page 162] degree of morosity, and resolve with David, 2 Sam. 6. 22. that if this be to be vile, he will yet be more vile.

Against the rude treatments of lewd and malicious men, he must as the same Apostle advises, Eph. 6. 16, 17. take the shield of faith, whereby he shall repel all the fiery darts of the wicked, and for an hel­met the hope of salvation; and in contemplation of the Objects of both those, he will be able gene­rously to contemn all obloquy and reproach, as disdaining to be hectored out of Salvation.

In a word, for altogether he must always remember, that self­denial is the first Lesson of Chri­stianity, and that he that hath not so learnt it, as to take up his Cross and follow Christ, cannot be his Disciple.

5. In the fifth place, let the Candidate of the Kingdom of [Page 163] Heaven take care that he do not precipitate himself into tempta­tion; for as on the one side we ought to behave our selves stout­ly and bravely, when it pleases God to lay it upon us, so on the other side, ought we to be as cau­tious and timorous of drawing it upon our selves; the first of which is seldom separate from the last; for he that knows how to en­counter a danger, will not ordina­rily thrust himself into it; and usually those who are so stupid and fool-hardy, as to run them­selves into difficulties, shew as little courage and conduct in con­flicting with them, as they did discretion in the adventure upon them; and no wonder, seeing in such a case they put themselves out of Gods protection, trusting to themselves, and then they can­not in reason expect other than to be deserted by his grace in such [Page 164] unwarrantalbe enterprizes.

Let the piously disposed man therefore not be so fond as to try experiments upon himself, lest he buy his knowledge of his own weakness at the cost of too great an hazard. Let him not go too near sin, in confidence that he can divide by an hair, and come off clever enough. For instance, let him not nibble at an Oath, nor mince the matter of profaneness, nor drink to the highest pitch of sobriety, nor go to the utmost ex­tremity of justice in his dealings; for he knows not the deceitfulness of his own heart, nor considers the slippery ground he stands up­on, that will thus venture to the very brink of his liberty.

Nor let him provoke Enemies to himself by intemperate zeal, as if a good man should not meet with opposition enough without his own procuring, nor the World [Page 165] had malice enough unless he in­flamed and exasperated it; espe­cially, let him not thrust himself into lewd Company, in confi­dence of his own integrity and stability: for he hath no suffici­ent apprehension of the power and malice of the Devil, who by any of the aforesaid imprudences tempts him to tempt himself; nay, nor doth he seem to hate and abominate sin so absolutely as he ought to do, that loves the Vicinage and Neighbourhood of it. What the wise man therefore advises, Prov. 5. 8. concerning the whorish woman, is very ap­plicable to this Case, Remove thy way far from her, and come not near the door of her house; and so also he saith of flagitious men, chap. 4. 14, 15. Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men, avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away; for he [Page 166] that goes ordinarily to the brink of a Precipice, is in great danger sometime or other to fall in, and he that nibbles at the bait, will one time or other be taken with the hook.

6. Sixthly and lastly, as a dis­creet man, and concerned for E­ternal Life, ought not to be over­daring and confident in his ap­proaches towards sin and danger, so neither ought he on the other hand to be timorous and strait-la­ced in things eminently and un­questionably good; whether it be in instances of devotion towards God, or of self-denial and mortifi­cation of himself, or in acts of Cha­rity towards others; for in all these, there is such a scope and latitude, as that a brave and no­ble spirit of Christianity, may and will distinguish it self from a nar­row and stingy temper in the dis­charge of them.

[Page 167] For Example, such a man as we speak of, neither will nor ought to confine his Devotions to such strict and precise measures, as that he that falls short of them will be guilty of an omission of his duty; but will contrarywise find in his heart to spend some­thing more than ordinary of his time in Prayers and Meditation, and such other acts of immediate worship. He will not stick to apply somewhat more than the just tenth or tythe of his increase, to the incouragement of Religion; nor will he grudge to deny him­self, upon weighty occasions, some of that pleasure which at other times he can allow himself with­out sin: or if occasion be, he will give alms, not only out of the superfluity of his estate, but to the utmost of his ability, perhaps beyond his convenience; for these things though (generally consi­dered) [Page 168] they are not matters of express duty, yet do they not cease to be good, merely because they are not commanded, so long as the species and kind of them is commanded; and besides, such extraordinary expressions of obe­dience to a general command, are very fit to demonstrate our love to God, our gratitude for his un­speakable bounty towards us, and our value of the Kingdom of Heaven, seeing that by such in­stances especially, we shew, that we love the Lord our God with all our heart, and soul, and strength; and that we think nothing too dear for the assuring our selves of Eternal Life.

And though it would not be expresly a sin to omit any one of the instances of the several kinds aforesaid, yet it must be a palpa­ble argument of a narrow heart towards God, to yield no such [Page 169] instances at all, and cannot but proceed from very culpable super­stition to be afraid of so doing; nay more, for a man to be barren of such fruits, and careless of such performances, is a great point of folly and imprudence towards our selves, in respect of the comfort which our hearts might receive by such generosity; for although by no after act of ours (how ex­cellent soever) it be possible for us, to make any proper amends to the Divine Majesty, for our former offences and omissions, yet by such expressions as these (we speak of) we shew our selves sen­sible of those miscarriages, and that we are under remorse for them, and we give proof, that we truly love God, though we have offended him, and desire to obtain his favour by the most cost­ly oblations. Upon all which ac­counts it seems very adviseable, [Page 170] that he who sets his Face towards Heaven, should indeavour to open and inlarge his heart this way, and not suffer himself to be cramp­ed and contracted by any odd opi­nions to the contrary.

Whereas therefore some men seem to fansie a frugal way of Religion, and accordingly inquire for the minimum quod sic (as we say) or the lowest degree of sa­ving grace, as if Heaven and Hell were divided by an hair, and they would be at the trouble of no more piety than would just carry them out of danger; They are to be admonished that they seek after impossibilities and con­tradictions; for it is in truth as if they should say, they would have fire without heat, Religion without Devotion, Piety without Affection, Holiness without Zeal, or that they desire to fear God, but have no inclination to love him.

[Page 171] To speak plainly, the lowest degree of goodness is never sought after but in an ill temper of mind, and by a cowardly and hypocritical heart, nor can it be found with comfort; for the es­sence of grace is no more disco­verable without the fruits, than a body without its accidents; and therefore there are but two ways of obtaining true comfort in our Souls, viz. either by our daily proficiency, or by our extraordi­nary fervency. First, By daily proficiency we discover the life of grace in our hearts, as we discern a plant to be alive because we see it grows. Secondly, By extraor­dinary fervency, as when perhaps a man hath not had time to give proof of himself by a long course of growing daily better and bet­ter, he may yet demonstrate a vi­tal principle of good in his Soul, by such generous efforts of zeal as [Page 172] we have been speaking of; in con­sideration of which, it is there­fore not only sordid and ingrate­ful towards God, but very un­comfortable to our selves to in­quire for the mere essence of grace, and to stand upon strict and precise terms of duty.

But perhaps these men think a pretence of modesty will counte­nance them against any imputa­tion of cowardize or hypocrisy, for they will say they are conten­ted with the lowest seat in Hea­ven, and so they may arrive at that state, they are ambitious of no more. Silly men! as if it were a culpable ambition to indeavour to be very good! as if supreme hap­piness could be modestly or re­misly desired! or that he either understood or truly desir'd Hea­ven, who would modestly com­plement, others to enter before him! No, no; the chiefest good [Page 173] is desirable for it self, and the na­tural manner of desiring it, is to do it without measure and bounds, and it is impossible it should be otherwise; he there­fore that hath these modest desires of Heaven, is either a stark hy­pocrite, or hath no true notion of that state at all.

Besides, if it were or could be possible for a man to be modest and good in this sense, I mean to love Heaven but moderately, and yet to comethere, notwithstanding it could not be without great fol­ly and danger, for a man to set himself too low a mark in so high a concern; for (as I observed be­fore) we see it is almost constant with men to shoot below their aim, and nothing more ordinary than for their practice to fall short of their speculations; and therefore every man that would not miscarry in his design, takes [Page 174] care to direct himself high e­nough; accordingly in this great affair of Religion, he that yields to such a faint-hearted temper, un­der the notion of modesty, will not only never be very good, but scarcely ever be tolerable or good at all; for if his projections be mean, his performances will be worse, in regard the deceitful­ness of his own heart, the relu­ctancy of the flesh, and the temp­tations of the Devil, will be sure to get some ground upon him; and when abatements are made for all such disadvantages, what a pittiful dwarfish sanctity will this over modesty arrive to at last?

But yet after all this, some per­haps will be found so silly as to think, or so disingenuous as to pre­tend to a suspicion, at least, that such extraordinary works as we have been now recommending, may sa­vour [Page 175] of merit or supererogation; very likely, if any man could be so absurd as to attribute any such thing to them; but surely he that takes his measures of things from the holy Scripture, will be in lit­tle danger of such a gross mistake, especially whilest we are expresly told by our Saviour, that when we have done all that we can, we are still but unprofitable servants; for can a mortal man oblige his Maker? can infinite perfection become a Debtor to Dust and Ashes? But forasmuch as God requires and deserves that we should love him with all our Soul, and heart, and strength; it is impossible we should love him too much, but great danger we should love him too little: it cannot therefore choose but be the wisest and sa­fest course to incline to the side of God Almighty, and to favour his interest against the sensuality, [Page 176] deadness and deceitfulness of our own hearts.

O but (may some man say) will it not at least be will-worship to affect uncommanded instances of love to God and zeal of his glory? I answer, it is possible that such a thing may be, if these things be done with neglect of those expres­sions of love and zeal which God hath particularly appointed; for this looks as if a man pretended to be wiser than God himself, and so would undertake to choose for him, what he should be pleased with. But now, if neither his appointments in special be super­seded by these voluntary perform­ances, nor these voluntary per­formances be unagreeable to those standing and general rules he hath given us, there can be no danger that divine goodness should ill in­terpret them, especially since there can be no imaginable reason [Page 177] why he that was pleased with a free-will-offering under the Law, should be offended with the like under the Gospel; where above all things he requires a free, chearful, generous and reasonable service.

Wherefore let the man who re­ally believes there will be rewards of well-doing in another World, and is resolved to obtain them, be always ready to every good work, and chearfully imbrace the oppor­tunity wherein he may perform a costly or a difficult service; and let him take care that no traditi­on of men, nor superstitious con­ceit of his own head, neither the example of other mens careless lives, nor the too natural remiss­ness of his own heart, prevail up­on him to neglect such instances, whereby the glory of God may be most advanced, and his own Com­fort assured.

PART II. THE PRACTICE OF Holy and Comfortable LIVING.

Jer. 6. 16.‘Thus saith the Lord, stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.’

THE PRACTICE OF Holy and Comfortable LIVING.
CHAP. I. Of secret Devotion, between God and a Mans own Soul, and particularly of Prayer.

HItherto in the former part of this little Book, we principally designed these four things, First, To discover the foundations of Religion in ge­neral, [Page 182] and from thence to de­monstrate the reality, impor­tance and necessity of it. Second­ly, To settle mens judgments and determine them in the choice of their profession of Religion in particular. Thirdly, To give caution against certain common but dangerous mistakes, which might otherwise undermine and disappoint the ends and purposes of Religion. Fourthly and lastly, To lay down some general di­rections necessary to be premised in order to the effectual prosecu­tion of a religious design, and all this we comprized under the title of An Introduction.

But now we come to build up­on those foundations, and more particularly and plainly to draw out the lines of an holy and com­fortable Life.

Here therefore it may seem ex­pedient that we should in the [Page 183] first place consider the extent and whole compass of Religion, to the intent that it may not be ta­ken for such a narrow and stingy thing as the generality of men re­present it, namely to shew, that it is not a mere scuffle about opi­nion, nor a canting with peculiar phrases, neither a clubbing into a distinct party under the notion of a Church or select Society, nor yet the formal acting of a part with the observance of abundance of nice Rites, Ceremonies and Punctilio's; that it is not a thing which looks beautifully, and pro­mises fairly in publick, but is for­gotten or laid aside at home, nor is it immured in a Closet, and never sufferd to take the air in Con­versation; to say no more, that it is not mere morality, nor mere devotion, but both these in Con­junction, together with all that is brave and noble, and wise and [Page 184] good; all that can better the minds and tempers, and lives of men, and all that can improve the state of the World; all this is within the Verge of Religion, especially the Christian Religion.

For so the Apostle intimates, Phil. 4. 8. Finally Brethren, what­soever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, (or grave), what­soever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely (or friendly), whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think of these things, i. e. Count them branches of Christia­nity, for true Religion is nothing less, nothing, I mean of no nar­rower extent than a wise and worthy conduct and manage of a mans self in all those Relations we stand in, namely towards God, our Neighbour, and our selves.

This I take to be the true notion [Page 185] and the just Province of Religion, but I can neither think it possible to handle all the parts of so vast a subject in this short Treatise, nor indeed do I apprehend the discoursing of them all to be e­qually necessary to those for whose use I principally intend these Papers. Therefore omit­ting (but not excluding) all o­ther branches of Religion, I will here only speak of these three things.

First, Of secret Devotion, or those acts of Piety which are transacted only between Almigh­ty God and a Mans own Soul.

Secondly, Of private Piety, or the exercises of Religion in every particular Family.

Thirdly, Of the more publick acts of Religion, and concerning a mans governing himself so as to consult the honour and service of God in the Parish wherein he lives.

[Page 186] I begin with the first, viz. of secret or Closet Devotion.

That this is an essential branch of true Religion, and a necessary and universal duty, appears by the command of our Saviour, Mat. 6. 6. When thou prayest, enter into thy Closet, and when thou hast shut the door, pray to thy father who is in secret, &c. in which words it is not our Saviours meaning to forbid or put a slight upon all but Closet Devotion; for he himself frequently prayed publickly and taught his Disciples so to do; nor though he speak of a Closet, doth he intend to confine this duty to the strict formalities of a Closet, but that it may be done in the Fields, or in any recess or place of secrecy whatsoever, as he him­self practised; nor lastly, though he use the word Prayer only, doth he make that strictly taken to be the whole office of secret Piety; [Page 187] for it is usual in the Scripture, and in common speech also, to express all the acts of immediate worship by the name of Prayer, whether they be Praises, or Ado­rations, or Confessions, or Thanks­giving, or Meditation or Self-Ex­amination; all therefore which our Saviour here intended, was to represent the necessity of secret Devotion as well as publick, and to press that upon his Disciples which the hypocrisy and ostenta­tion of the Pharisees had laid a­side, because in truth they sought not Gods glory but their own.

And this is further recommen­ded to us by the universal pra­ctice of all good men in all Ages and Countries of the World, and of whatsoever opinion or perswa­sion otherwise. There have per­haps been those who under some pretence or other have neglected Family worship, and those also [Page 188] who have been abased by some scruples into an omission of pub­lick worship; but I verily think that none but flat Atheists, or gross Hypocrites (which are much the same thing) could ever dis­pense with themselves in the common and habitual neglect of secret worship; for a man can­not believe there is a God, or much less have any worthy ap­prehensions of him, but it natu­rally puts him upon some act or other of adoration towards him.

Acts of publick worship are to the Soul as exercise is to the Bo­dy, it may live and subsist, though not long and healthfully without it; but secret Devotion is like the motion of the heart and lungs, without which a man is presently choaked up and destroy'd; if his heart do not move towards God, and as it were by circulation re­turn in praises, all those benefits [Page 189] which it continually receives from him, it is stifled by reple­tion; and if by Prayer he do not breathe out his griefs, and as it were ventilate his spirits, he is strangled by his own melancholy: for the publick performance of re­ligious offices cannot make a sup­ply in these Cases, because every man hath his secret sins to confess to God, which it is ordinarily unsafe to make other men privy to, and his peculiar infirmities and temptations, his griefs and burdens, which it is in vain to lay open to men, seeing only God can relieve them; and every man hath received sundry personal mercies and savours from the hands of God, in answer of his Prayers, which require a perso­nal acknowledgment to the Di­vine Goodness. And the open­ing of a mans heart in any of these Cases is commonly attended with [Page 190] such affections and passionate ex­pressions, as would be indecent to the Eyes of men, though they are very becoming towards God, in respect of which last thing, we find, 1 Sam. 1. 13. Hannah was thought to be drunk, by the holy and wise man Eli the Priest, when yet, as the truth appear'd after­wards, he saw in her only the devout symptoms of a sorrowful Spirit.

Besides, these acts of secret worship are very necessary in or­der to publick worship, both as they dispose and fit a mans heart for it before he enters upon it, by composing the thoughts and rai­sing the affections; and as they make application of it after­wards, pressing home upon the Conscience, the instructions there received, and improving and con­firming into a stable resolution, those good affections and inclina­tions [Page 191] which were stirred up by it; insomuch, that that man will either have no mind to Gods pub­lick service, or no suitable tem­per in it, or be little the better after it, that hath not first fitted and prepared his heart for it by secret Devotion. And herein lies the true reason, as well of the la­mentable unprofitableness as of the common irreverence of pub­lick performances; because men rush into Gods House without the due Preface of secret preparation, and they turn their backs upon God when they depart from the Church, never attending to, or improving those good motions which the spirit of God had kind­led in them.

Moreover, these devout offices of Religion, though they are by no means to supplant and super­sede the publick (as we have in­timated already, and shall demon­strate [Page 192] at large by and by) yet in some respects they are more ac­ceptable to God than the other; forasmuch as they are founded upon an acknowledgment of his Omniscience, and demonstrate the great and intimate sense we have of the Divine Majesty, and consequently of this they give the greatest assurance to our own hearts, of our sincerity, and so are the most comfortable: for pub­lick Devotion may possibly have a great alloy of secular interest, and may owe it self in a great measure to the authority of Laws, or to publick fame and reputati­on; but he that worships God in secret, where and when no Eye is privy but only that of God Al­mighty, is secure to himself, that he can have no mean or sinister end in so doing, nothing can move him to this but the mere reve­rence of God, and therefore our [Page 193] Saviour in the forementioned pas­sage, Mat. 6. 6. lays an Empha­sis upon those words, thy father which is in secret, and adds this incouragement of such addresses to God, thy father which seeth in secret will reward thee openly.

Upon all which considerations let the man who either values Gods glory, or his own improve­ment, Peace and Comfort, or indeed who makes any pretence to Religion, strictly make Con­science of, and constantly pra­ctise secret Devotion. The na­ture, extent, manner, instances and circumstances whereof, I am now further to explain in the fol­lowing particulars.

1. And I begin with that which is so universally acknow­ledged, and so principal a part of Divine Worship, that (as I noted before) it is ordinarily put for the whole, I mean Prayer to God, [Page 194] touching the secret exercise whereof, let the good Christian take these following Directions.

First, Let him not fail Night and Morning (at least) solemnly and devoutly to pray to God: Di­vers holy men we read of, who according to the greatness of their zeal, or urgency of the occasion for it, have prescribed to them­selves stricter measures than this; particularly, David saith he would worship God seven times in a day, and Daniels custom was to do it three times a day, Dan. 6. 10. as seems also to have been that of the Primitive Christians; but less than twice a day I cannot find to a­gree with the practice of any good men, unless either sickness disa­bled them, or some very extraor­dinary occasion diverted them: and it is wondrously fit and deco­rous, that we, who owe our whole time to God, should pay [Page 195] him the tribute of devoting those critical periods of it (I mean Eve­ning and Morning) to him, espe­cially in consideration of the pe­culiar circumstances these two points of time are attended with, namely in the Evening, having finished the course of that day, and reflecting upon our infirmi­ties in it, we cannot but observe by how many failings we have justly incurred Gods displeasure, if he should severely animadvert upon us; and therefore have great cause to deprecate his anger, and to make our peace with him: and we must needs also be sensible both how many dangers we have escaped, by his Providence, and how many instances of blessing we have received from his good­ness, and therefore have reason to praise and magnify his name; nd especially being then also to betake our selves to sleep, when [Page 196] above all times we are out of our own keeping, and are exposed to a thousand dangers from thieves, from malicious men, from vio­lent Elements of Wind, Fire and Water, from the enterprizes of evil spirits, and frightful Dreams, and our own foolish Imaginati­ons, in which and sundry other respects, no man knows what a night may bring forth, and in con­sideration of which, he is a stu­pidly secure, and fool-hardy per­son, that doth not think it highly to be his interest, by peculiar ad­dresses, to recommend himself and all his concerns to the watch­ful Eye of Providence, which nei­ther slumbers nor sleeps.

And in the Morning, having not only by the guard of holy An­gels been preserved from all those dangers which might have sur­prized us in the dark, and when our senses were so lockt up that [Page 197] we could not help our selves, but refreshed and recruited in all our powers by that admirable divine Opiate, sleep; nothing less can become us than to consecrate a­new all these restored powers to our Creator and Preserver, by hearty Adorations. Besides this, we are then sensible that we are now entring upon a new scene of business, where we shall be expo­sed to innumerable accidents, dan­gers, difficulties, and temptati­ons, none of which we are match for without divine assistance, and have therefore need to implore his grace and good providence before we encounter them, so that it is not timidity or superstitious fear, but just wisdom not to dare either to go to Bed, or to set our foot out of doors, till we have recom­mended our selves to Almighty God by Prayer. And by so do­ing (as aforesaid) we maintain [Page 198] the juge sacrificium, and (in Gods gracious interpretation are said to) pray continually, and to con­secrate our whole time to him; and besides, we keep up a lively and constant sense of him upon our hearts.

Secondly, Let him be sure that these duties be done fervently as well as constantly and frequently, not formally and customarily, without life and feeling of what a man is about, or with wandring thoughts and distracted affections, but with the greatest vigour and intention of mind that is possible; for if a mans heart be flat and re­miss in these special approaches to God, he will be sure to be much worse, and even loose and Athe­istical upon other occasions; for these secret duties are the special instruments and exercises of rai­sing our hearts towards Heaven, and as it were the nicking up of [Page 199] our Watch to that cue in which we would have it go.

In the more publick offices of Religion the credit and reputati­on of it is principally concerned, and therefore they ought to be performed with all gravity and solemnity, but the very life and soul of piety lies in these secret duties, and therefore they ought to be discharged with the quick­est sense and most inflamed affe­ctions; insomuch that a man must not think he hath acquitted himself when he hath repeated such, or so many Prayers, until he find also his heart warmed, and his temper of mind raised and improved by them; to this pur­pose therefore, let him in the en­trance upon these retirements place himself under the Eye of God, and be apprehensive of the immediate presence of the Divine Majesty, that this may give check [Page 200] to all levity of spirit and wander­ing of thoughts, and make him grave and reverential; let him al­so all along be sensible of the great value and necessity of those things which he either begs of God, or returns thanks for; that this may render him ardent in his desires, and affectionate in his praises, and whilest he perseveres in these duties, let him join with them, reading and meditation, not only to fix his mind, but to prevent barrenness, and to impreganate and inrich his Souls with divine no­tions and affections. To this end,

Thirdly, Let him take care that he tempt not himself to flatness by an affected length of these ho­ly duties; for though it be a sign of an indevout temper to be too compendious and concise in them, as if we grudged the time spent in Gods Service; and although it be also irreverent towards God [Page 201] to be so short and abrupt, as if we briefly dictated to him what we would have done; yet it is to be guil­ty of the same fault, to be imper­tinently tedious with him, as if he could not understand us without many words, or would be wrought upon by tedious importunity.

Besides all this, it is to be con­sidered, that often, when the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak, and that our bodies cannot always corre­spond with our minds: now in such a case to affect the prolong­ing of our Devotions, is to lose in the intention what we get in the extension of them; for it will be sure either to make us go un­willingly to our duty, or to per­form it very superficially; in ei­ther of which circumstances it is not likely we should be pleasing to God, or be able to make any comfortable reflections after­wards upon such performance.

[Page 202] The measures of Devotion therefore are not expresly prescri­bed by God, but are to be deter­mined by a prudent respect to the peculiar constitution of the person, the condition of his af­fairs, and the extraordinariness of the occasion; and to go about to exceed these bounds, is an ar­gument of intemperate zeal, which is never acceptable to God, and is so far injurious to a mans self, that it manifestly hinders what it pretends to promote. To these I add,

Fourthly, Let not the devout man be very curious or sollicitious about the from or expressions of his secret duties; I mean, whe­ther his Prayers be read out of a Book, or be the present concep­tions of his own mind, so long as they are offered up from an un­derstanding Soul, and an humble and affectionate heart, for these [Page 203] are all the things that God looks at, and wherein his honour is di­rectly concerned; and therefore as he hath no value for eloquence of speech on the one hand, so nei­ther hath he for strength of me­mory, or for pregnancy and va­riety of phancy on the other; but only (as I said) that we wor­ship him with our understand­ing, and do not like Parrots, ut­ter words whereof we have no sense or notion; that we bring an humble and contrite spirit, as sen­sible of the infinite distance be­tween him and us, and an heart seriously affected with his presence and the nature and value of the things we are conversant about.

It is true, that a composed form is most sutable to publick worship, where (as I noted be­fore) the dignity and credit of Religion is concern'd, and that perhaps in private duties, our pre­sent [Page 204] conceptions may most please and affect our selves; but our ac­ceptance with God (especially in these secret duties) depends nei­ther upon the one nor the other, but upon those inward dispositi­ons of the Soul aforesaid.

Wherefore let no man cheat himself into an opinion that those heats of phancy or transports of affection which sometimes hap­pen in conceived Prayer, are in­stances of real and extraordinary devotion; or that because the use of a form or Book may perhaps be destitute of such flights, there­fore those duties are dead and for­mal: forasmuch as those services may be most acceptable to God which are less pleasant to our selves; since it is not those sudden flashes but a constant and even servour of piety which he hath regard to. And this leads me to another advice, namely,

[Page 205] Fifthly, Let the pious man think himself obliged to pray with­out ceasing, and that he is never to lay aside or intermit the regular course of a daily devotion upon any pretence whatsoever, but es­pecially not upon the absurd pre­text of awaiting the motion of the spirit; for although it be true, that the Spirit of God ceases not to move men to their duty, the way of the Spirit of God is not to move sensibly, and to make violent impressions upon us; and therefore he that suspends the performance of his duty till he is so jogged and stirred up to it, will never pray at all: and in­deed what reason can there be to expect such a thing, or what need of it in the case of a known duty? if it were the will of God to put us upon some extraordinary ser­vice, then it were reasonable to expect some special mandate or [Page 206] impulse upon our spirits from him, which might both warrant the enterprize, and quicken us in the prosecution; but in ordinary duties, the motion of the holy spirit in the Scripture, is and ought to be sufficient, and he that will not be stirred up by that, doth but pretend to wait for a spirit in excuse of his own Athe­ism, Unbelief, or intolerable slothfulness; and in so doing lays himself open to an evil spirit, whose design it is to check and withdraw men from Religion, and this is matter of sad and com­mon experience, that from wait­ing for the motion of the spirit, men very usually grow first to frequent omissions, then to care­lessness of their duty, and at last to a total neglect of it.

Therefore let not any man slight a regular and methodical Devotion, as a meer formal and [Page 207] customary thing, since this is the very attainment of Piety, when that which is matter of duty be­comes also in a good sense custo­mary and habitual; and he that out of such a temper performs the duties of Religion constantly and reverently, gives far greater proof of sincere Christianity, than he that seems to himself to do them with greater heat and transport, but needs from time to time to be jogged and provoked to the per­formance.

Sixthly, To all these I adde in the last place, that it is very ad­visable, though not absolutely ne­cessary, that in these secret Devo­tions, a man should (where it may be done with privacy, and without oftentation or such other impediment) pray vocally and audibly; for although God knows our hearts, and observes all our thoughts, and the motions of our [Page 208] affections before we express them, and therefore needs not that we should interpret our minds to him by words, yet it is fit we should imploy all the powers and capacities we have in his service; our Bodies as well as our Souls, and our Lips as well as our hearts. Besides, though we cannot affect God with the tone and accents of our Speech, yet we often times affect our own hearts the more, and raise them a note higher in concord with the elevation of our Voices: but that which I princi­pally intend is this, viz. by the harmony of our tongue and voice, our hearts are as it were charm­ed into the greater composure and intention upon that we are about. And so whereas it is the usual complaint, especially of melan­choly and thoughtful persons, that their hearts are apt to rove and wander in these secret duties [Page 209] of Religion, by this means we have it very much in our power to keep them from extravagancy, and at once to make our Devoti­ons the less tedious to our selves, and the more acceptable to God.

CHAP. II. Of several other instances of secret Devotion.

THough Prayer be the most general duty of Religion, the common instrument of all Pi­ety, and the most immediate ad­dress to God; yet it is a great mi­stake to make it the only instance of secret Devotion, for there are several others of great moment, amongst which I reckon in the next place,

2. Study and Meditation; not [Page 210] only to direct and assist our Pray­ers (of which I said something before) but especially to cultivate and improve our own minds, that we may be wiser, and conse­quently both more capable of do­ing God better service in this World, and also fitter for the So­ciety of Angels and the Conver­sation of the spirits of just men made perfect in the other World. For we are to consider, that God Al­mighty hath set a mighty value upon our Souls, in redeeming them by no less a price than the blood of his only Son; and there­fore we should be intolerably in­grateful towards him, if we be­stow no cost upon them, but live as if we were mere matter and body, and take care only to please and gratify our senses, and in the mean time abandon our minds to folly and ignorance, to sloth and superstition. We are to consider [Page 211] also, that the same infinite good­ness hath by the same purchace deliver'd us from the fear of Eter­nal Death, which otherwise would have kept us in perpetual bond­age, and so have contracted our spirits, and rendered our very selves so inconsiderable to our selves, that no man could have had the heart to take any care of himself, but would be tempted to have lived like a beast because he expected to die like one, or worse; but now that we are made to hope for immortality, and to live for ever and ever, there is great reason a man should spare no cost, no labour and pains about him­self, since he may reap the fruit and enjoy the comfort of so doing in the better enjoyment of him­self a thousand Ages hence, and to all Eternity. Moreover the same Divine Goodness hath designed us to a glorious estate of happi­ness [Page 212] in his own Kingdom of Hea­ven, a state of intellectual plea­sure, and the most sublimed in­gredients of felicity, which a dull, sottish, and sensual Soul can never be capable of perceiving, if he were placed in the midst of them, and therefore he is more than brutish that doth not dispose himself so, that he may be meet, to partake of that inheritance with the Saints in light.

To all this we are to consider, that the general apostafy of man­kind hath weaken'd our natures, clouded our understanding, and disorder'd all our powers; and to­gether herewith the foolish opini­ons and traditions of the World have abused and deceived us yet more and more, so that we must be most silly and unhappy Crea­tures, if we do not indeavour to deliver and disingage our selves from both these Calamities. And [Page 213] the case is not totally irreparable in respect of either of these mis­chiefs, if we be not wanting to our selves; for to the intent that we might in some measure reco­ver our selves, it hath pleased God to give us time to consider in privacy and retirement from the noise of the World, that we may recollect our selves; he hath set before us his works and pro­vidence to meditate upon, we have his holy Scriptures to in­lighten our minds, and guide us out of the perplexed state of things we enjoy, the publick mi­nistry and abundance of good Books to help us to understand those Scriptures, and above all we are assured of the assistances of his holy spirit against the weakness and confusion of our own understandings.

So that as there is great reason and great necessity that we [Page 214] should apply our selves to study and meditation; so we have as great incouragement to hope for success in so doing: for by appli­cation of our selves to the means aforesaid, we may not only rid our selves of that wildness and ferity which is ordinarily upon our natures, but outgrow vulgar opinion and tradition, and come to be able to make a true esti­mate of things set before us; we may greaten our spirits so as to despise those little things which silly men dote upon; we may free our minds of childish fears and unaccountable superstitions; we may understand the true rea­son of Religion, the loveliness of virtue, and in a word, have wor­thier notions of God, and clearer apprehensions of the World to come.

And although it be acknow­ledged that all men are not alike [Page 215] capable of these improvements, either by reason of the weakness of their minds, or the unhappy constitution of their bodies, or the perplexed condition of their outward affairs; yet certainly God Almighty hath by the means aforesaid put it into every mans power to be wiser than he is if he would but apply himself to the use of them, and therefore let the devout man be sure to make the experiment.

To further him the more wherein, let him to all the consi­derations foregoing adde these two following. First, That for­asmuch as he was made in Gods Image, it is no less than a con­tempt of the Divine Majesty to have no regard to the cultivating and adorning that part of himself wherein he especially resembles his Maker; and consequently it will appear to him to be a very fit [Page 216] and proper instance of worship towards God to improve his own Soul; and therefore it is here just­ly placed amongst the expressions of Devotion. Secondly, Let him consider, that the great game of Eternity is but once to be plaid, and that there is no retrieving of our neglects and carelessness af­terwards; therefore there is all the reason in the World that we should play it intently and wa­rily: my meaning is, that there­fore we ought to redeem time from folly and sensuality, and ap­ply it to the advantage of our Souls; and he that doth so, and begs Gods blessing upon it, will undoubtedly find his mind inlar­ged, his life more regular, and his spirit more comfortable, which are all the chief ends of Devo­tion.

3. The next instance of secret Devotion (for I am not curious [Page 217] in what order I place them) shall be the exercise of Faith in God and dependance upon him, in pursuance of an acknowledgment that he alone governs the World, and the framing a mans heart to take notice of him, to have re­course to him, and stay it self up­on him in all exigencies, and acci­dents and passages whatsoever, that he may impute nothing to chance, fate or the stars, but pos­sess himself with a deep and set­led apprehension of the great in­terest of God in all revolutions or occurrences.

This is a point of great and re­al honour to the Divine Majesty, as it sets God always before us, and places him continually in our Eye, as it brings us to an intire resignation of our selves to his dis­pose and puts us into a constant gravity and a reverence towards him, as it provokes us to address [Page 218] our selves to him upon all occasi­ons, to pray to him, to trust in him, to walk humbly and thank­fully before him. And it is of mighty advantage to our selves, as it strengthens and fortifies our weak spirits by the contemplati­on of that mighty providence we are under, and that we are pro­tected by a wise, and good, and powerful Being, whom nothing can be too hard for, and who is liable to no surprize or mistake, as it assures us, that nothing be­fals without him, and therefore every thing is ordained for wise ends, and shall be turned to good in the conclusion; this also ina­bles us to be contented in every condition, secure against all fears, and to arrive at such an evenness of spirit, that we shall not be tost with every accident, hurried by every emergency, but possess our selves in patience and tranquility.

[Page 219] And consequently this must needs be a very worthy enter­tainment of our retirements, and such as deserves and requires the application of our minds to it, that we may be under the power of this perswasion, and be able to answer to our selves the atheisti­cal objections against it, to give some account of the intricacy and obscure passages of Providence, without (some skill in) which it will be very difficult, if not im­possible, to walk either piously or comfortably; but by this ex­ercise we hold continual conver­sation with God, we live and walk with him, he is always at hand to us, to awe us, to support and comfort us, and our hearts become not only a Temple where we solemnly offer up our services at set times to him, but an Altar where the holy fire never goes out, but sends up constantly the sweet [Page 220] odours of Prayers and Praises to him.

4. Another exercise of secret Devotion is to premeditate our conversation, and so to forecast the occurrences of life, that we may conduct our selves both with safety to our Souls, and to the best advantage of our spiritual in­terests; forasmuch as he that lives ex tempore (as we say) and unpremeditately, will neither be able to avoid the dangers which will be sure to encounter him, nor to improve the opportunities which may offer themselves to him.

In our converse in this World we must expect temptations from the Devil, allurements from sen­sual objects, provocations from the folly or malice of evil men, vexations by unhappy accidents, and above all abundance of evil examples to debauch and corrupt [Page 221] us; and that man will most cer­tainly be surprized by some or all of these, that doth not forecast them: and arm himself against them, and therefore a wise man will not adventure to go abroad and take in the infectious air of the World, till he hath antidoted himself against the danger, by the advantages of retirement, and the secret exercises of Devotion.

To this purpose he will before he goes out of his Closet, not on­ly consider the common Calami­ties of the World, the reigning sins of the Age, but the especial difficulties of his calling and pro­fession, and the peculiar infirmi­ties of his own temper; and withal will forethink and prepare himself against such efforts as by reason of any of these may be made upon him.

If he can foresee that he shall unavoidably fall into evil Com­pany, [Page 222] he will first indeavour to warm and affect his heart with the quicker sense of Religion, that he may not only take no hurt himself, but (if it be possible) im­print some sense of good upon those he converses with.

If any thing be likely to hap­pen that will strike him with me­lancholy, he will first go to God by Prayer for strength and con­stancy of mind, and indeavour to fix his heart so intently upon ano­ther World, as that the occur­rences of this may not discom­pose him.

If he be likely to meet with that which may provoke him to anger, he will compose himself to as great a coolness as possibly he can, that no passage may in­flame him.

If any allurement to sensuality present it self, he will consider how he may retreat into grave [Page 223] Company, or earnest business, that so he may decline that which is not easily to be withstood.

And on the other side concern­ing opportunities of doing or re­ceiving good; forasmuch as every wise man is sensible that the sea­sons of things are no more in his power than the time of his life is, that no enterprize succeeds well which is not nicked with a fit sea­son, and that it is impossible to recal it when it is slipped by; therefore the pious man will fore­think what may offer themselves probably in such circumstances as he stands in, lest he should over­look them when they present, and so he lose an advantage of doing glory to God, or good to men, and of promoting the interest of his own Soul, and accordingly will dispose his heart in secret to apprehend them, and to improve them; he examines his capacity, [Page 224] and stirs up his attention, and projects the means, either how he may reap some benefit by good and wise Company, or how he may seasonably interpose a word on Gods behalf in common Con­versation, or how he may do some good thing that will turn to account another day.

5. But if either by the neglect of such opportunities as aforesaid, the pious man omit the doing of some good he might have done, or by security of conversation he fall into any of those dangers he ought to have watcht against, then there is a fifth great work for private Devotion, for in this case there lies a double care upon him; first, that he slight not his danger, and secondly, that he despair not of remedy, but be both deeply sensible of his mis­carriage, and also rise again with indignation and resolution.

[Page 225] First, That he slight not his fault (as generally men do by the plea of Example, or the pretence of humane infirmity) and so har­den himself in his sin, but feel a deep remorse, and conceive a mighty displeasure against him­self for it.

Secondly, That on the other side he aggravate not his guilt to such a degree as to preclude re­pentance by despairing of the di­vine mercy, but presently flee to the grace of the Gospel, and im­plore Gods Pardon, with setled purposes never to offend in the like kind again.

Now neither of these are done as they ought to be, but in retire­ment, viz. when a man hath op­portunity of dealing impartially between God and his own Soul, and therefore (especially because the occasions of them often hap­pen) are justly reckonable as a [Page 226] part of Closet Devotion, and ac­cordingly they are represented by the holy Psalmist, Psal. 4. 4. Stand in awe and sin not, commune with your own hearts in your chamber, and be still, &c.

Wherefore let every man that hath any sense of God upon him be throughly perswaded to set some time apart for this purpose, that he may romage his own heart, and find out all the evils of his life; and when he hath disco­vered any particular guilt upon his Soul, let him not forsake his Closet, and depart out of Gods presence till he have affected him­self with deep sorrow and con­trition for his sin, and prostrated himself at the throne of grace with strong and earnest cries for par­don, and until he have confirmed his heart in a resolution of watch­fulness and more strict obedience for the time to come.

[Page 227] And let him do this often, that he may not run up too big a score, and so either his heart be­come hardened through the deceitful­ness of sin, or his Conscience be so affrighted with the greatness of his guilt, that like a Bankrupt he be tempted to decline looking into his accounts, because he can have no comfortable prospect of them, or run away from God in a fit of desperation, instead of running to him by repentance.

Let him, I say, do this often, not by chance or unwillingly, but frequently and periodically (set times being appointed for it) and though I would be loth to impose a burden upon the Consciences of men, yet I think it ordinarily ve­ry adviseable, that this be done once a month, viz. whilest a man hath his past actions and carriage in remembrance, and can take a just account of himself; but espe­cially [Page 228] it is very fit to do it against the time of the administration of the Holy Sacrament, and then would be extraordinarily proper and seasonable: for these two things, Self-examination and par­taking of the Lords Supper, do marvellously suit and answer to each other; the former preparing a mans heart for that sacred so­lemnity, and that holy solemnity sealing to him the pardon of those sins he hath discovered and re­pented of in secret.

But whether this work of self­reflection and ransacking a mans own heart in secret be absolutely necessary to be done at certain times and periods, it is wonder­fully useful, that it be seriously and conscientiously practised some time or other; forasmuch as on the one side it is not conceivable how a man should be able to maintain an holy and comfortable [Page 229] Life without it; so on the other hand it seems equally impossible that he should continue to be an evil man who habitually and sin­cerely practises it: for as there is no way so effectual to preserve an estate from being squandred away extravagantly, as the keep­ing constant and strict accounts of receits and expences, so there is no method more powerful to restrain sin than this of self-exa­mination; the very searching in­to our hearts jogs and awakens Conscience, and that being row­sed, will be a faithful Monitor of all that was done amiss, the mere prospect of which will make a man very uneasy, by the fears and horrors that attend it; the consideration of the silly motives upon which a man was induced to sin, will fill him with ingenu­ous shame and indignation, and the easiness (which he cannot but [Page 230] find) of withstanding such moti­ons, by the grace of God will provoke him to a resolution of a­mendment; in a word, the sight and knowledge of the Disease is a great step to the Cure, and an heart well searched is half heal­ed. But this leads me to another instance of great affinity with what we have now been speaking of, and which shall be the last ex­cercise of secret Devotion which I will here make mention of, viz.

6. Trial of our proficiency and growth in grace, this is of great importance; forasmuch as (we have seen before) the truth of grace is scarcely any otherway discernible but by its progress, and in that it makes men daily better and better, for the essences of things are indiscernible, and a man may endlesly dispute with himself whether such or such a [Page 231] thing be a sign of grace, and of spiritual life in him, till he puts all out of controversy by the fruits and improvement of such a vital principle; and therefore it is ex­treamly necessary, if we will ar­rive at spiritual comfort, that we make experiment of our selves in this particular, which can no o­therwise be done than by retire­ment into the Cabinet of our hearts, and the diligent compa­ring our selves both with our selves and with the rules of the Gospel.

The common estimation of the World is a very fallacious and improper measure of divine life, and as the Apostle tells us, it is a small thing to be judged of men one way or other, but if our hearts condemn us not, then have we confi­dence towards God; for they being privy to our ends and designs and to all our circumstances as well [Page 232] as to matter of fact, cannot nor will not deceive us, if they be se­cretly examined, and therefore must be impartially consulted, if we would indeed know our selves, and be able to prejudge our own condition.

Now the testimony which our hearts can give us of our spiritual improvement, is not to be groun­ded upon the increased length of our Prayers, nor merely from the passion and earnestness of them; for the former of these may be the effect of hypocrisy, and the latter may proceed from some pe­culiar temper of body or outward accident; nor upon our affectio­nate hearing of Sermons, for the stony ground received the seed with joy as well as the good ground; nor yet upon a more than ordinary scrupulosity of Conscience (espe­cially in smaller matters) for this may proceed from Ignorance, Su­perstition [Page 233] or Hypocrisy. But the safest decision of this great case, whether we grow in grace or no, is to be made by examining our hearts in such points as these fol­lowing, viz. Whether we be more constant in all the duties of Reli­gion than formerly? Whether we be more exact and regular in our lives daily? Whether our hearts be more in Heaven than they were wont, and that we have ar­rived at a greater contempt of the World? Whether we are more dead to temptation, especially in the case of such sins as agree with our constitution and circumstan­ces? Whether affliction be more easy than it used to be, and we can better submit to the yoke of Christ? Whether we are more conscientious of secret sins, and such as no Eye of man can take notice of and upbraid us for? Whether we are more sagacious in [Page 234] apprehending, and more careful of improving opportunities of doing good than heretofore? In a word, Whether we are grown more meek, more humble and o­bedient to our Superiours, &c.

If upon due inquiry, oru hearts can answer affirmatively for us in such points as these, then we may comfortably conclude, that we have not received the grace of God in vain, which being of un­speakable consequence to us to be substantially resolved of, self-ex­amination in the aforesaid parti­culars (as the only way to arrive at it) ought to have its share in our Closet Devotions.

CHAP. III. Of Family-Piety in general.

THough the consideration of Gods Almighty Power, Wisdom, Goodness, and his other perfections, together with our dependance upon him, and obnox­iousness to him, be the first rea­son and ground of religion (as we have already shewed) and so the Divine Majesty is the imme­diate and principal object of it; yet notwithstanding this is not so to be understood, as if the obli­gations of Religion extended no further than to acts of worship or address to God: for it is as much our duty to manage our selves well towards others for Gods sake, as towards him for his [Page 236] own sake. And therefore (as hath been intimated heretofore) true Piety in its just dimensions com­prizes no less than a worthy dis­charge of our selves in all those relations Divine Providence hath placed us in.

Now next to our obligations to our Creator and Preserver, and next to our concern for the better part of our selves, our own Souls, a man stands related to his Fami­ly so nearly, that he is wanting in both the former that is negli­gent of this.

Almighty Wisdom and Good­ness pronounced it not fit for man to be alone, and therefore the first provision he made against the un­comfortable state of solitude, was to enter him into the Society of a Family; partly, that in so near a station, they might mutually re­lieve and help one another in dif­ficulties, entertain one another [Page 237] by Discourse, and improve one a­nothers reason; partly, that in this Conjunction they might for­tify one anothers Spirits against all ill accidents, or the enterpri­zes of wicked and malicious Spi­rits more powerful than them­selves; but principally, that they might mutually provoke and in­flame one anothers hearts to ad­miration, love and reverence of their great Creator.

And this end is so great and the injunction of it so strict, that e­very man in this Society stands charged with the Soul of another, and is accountable for it, at least so far, that he cannot be excusa­ble that doth not indeavour to bring those with whom he so in­timately converses, and upon whom he hath so many opportu­nities, to a sense and regard of God and Religion. And this es­pecially concerns those that are [Page 238] heads of Families; forasmuch as by virtue of their place they have always been accounted, not only Kings and Governours, but also Prophets and Priests within their peculiar sphere and province.

Accordingly we find it to have been the constant care and pra­ctice of all good men in all Ages, to train up those of their Families in the knowledge of the true God, and the exercises of true Religion: particularly God himself testifies of Abraham, Gen. 18—19. that he knew he would command his children and his houshold after him that they keep the way of the Lord, &c.

And Job 1. 5. we find it to have been the continual care of that holy man to sanctify his Chil­dren and Family, and daily to intercede with God for them by Sacrifice.

Deut. 6. 6. it is an express in­junction upon the Children of Is­rael, [Page 239] that they not only keep the laws of God in their own hearts, but that they should teach them diligent­ly to their Children, and talk of them when they sate in their houses, and when they walked by the way, &c. that is, that they should convey and imprint a sense of God and his Religion upon the minds of those they familiarly conversed with.

And so great is the authority and influence of Governours of Families, and so powerful is good example in this particular, that Josh. 24. 15. Joshua undertakes for his Family, that they should serve the Lord, whether other peo­ple would do so or no.

David often declares his zeal for the maintenance of Religion in his Family, so far, that he re­solves those persons should be ex­cluded his House that made no Conscience of God, and most re­markably, [Page 240] 1 Chr. 28. 9. he gives this solemn charge to his Son So­lomon, Thou Solomon my Son, know thou the God of thy Father, and serve him with a perfect heart, and with a willing mind; for the Lord searcheth all hearts, and understand­eth all the imagination of the thoughts: if thou seek him he will be found of thee, but if thou forsake him he will cast thee off for ever.

And for the times of the New Testament there is abundant evi­dence, that it was the constant practice of all those who had a sense of Religion in their hearts, to set it up in their Families also, of which the testimonies are so many, and so ready at hand, that it is needless here to recite them; and the success was commonly answerable to the indeavour: from whence it comes to pass that Acts 10. 2. it is said of Cornelius, that he was not only a devout man [Page 241] and prayed to God always, but that he feared the Lord with all his house, i. e. his Example, Prayers and in­struction prevailed upon all those that were under the influence of them, to bring them to (at least) a profession of piety also; upon which account it is further obser­vable, that generally when any Governour of a Family imbraced the Christian Faith, and was con­verted to that Religion, it is said that such an one believed and all his house, or he and all his house were baptized, namely, because truly good men did not fail by their example and endeavours to bring those over to the same Re­ligion which themselves were heartily perswaded of, and ac­cordingly we see it often come to pass in these times wherein we live, that several persons very heartily bless God that his provi­dence disposed them into such or [Page 242] such pious Families wherein the foundation of their eternal happi­ness hath been laid, by the means of the instructive and exemplary devotion which they have there been under the advantages of; up­on consideration of all which rea­sons, examples and incourage­ments, and several others which might with great ease have been added, let no good Christian be of so monastick a spirit as to ex­tend his care no farther than his own Cell, and to think he hath acquitted himself well enough when he hath discharged the offi­ces of his Closet, and hath kept Religion glowing in his own heart; but think it his duty to take care that his light shine quite through his House, and that his zeal warm all his Family.

In order to which we will here consider these three things. First, Of the several members which [Page 243] usually a Family consists of, and which are concern'd in its disci­pline. Secondly, The several duties of piety which especially become and concern a Family. And thirdly, By what means the members of a Family may be brought to comply with all those duties.

1. First, The ordinary relati­ons of a Family (especially as it signifies those which dwell or converse together under the same roof) are Husband and Wife, Pa­rent and Children, Master and Servant, Friend and Friend; and all these I take to be comprized in those several passages of the Acts of the Apostles, where it is said, that such a man and all his house were converted or baptized, for there are great interests of Religion which intercede between every of these; as for the relation of Hus­band and Wife, as it is the nearest [Page 244] and strictest that can be, so con­sequently it is of mighty impor­tance to their mutual comfort, and a wonderful indearment of affe­ctions, when both the relatives are animated with the same spirit of Religion, and promote the eter­nal interest of one another: As it is vastly mischievous and unhap­py when those who are insepara­bly yoked together, draw divers ways, one towards Heaven, and the other towards Hell; in re­spect of which danger the Apostle advises those who are free not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers, 2 Cor. 6. 14. for saith he, what fel­lowship hath righteousness with un­righteousness? what communion hath light with darkness? what concord hath Christ with Belial? and what part hath he that believeth, with an infidel? Yet because it is possible, that light may prevail against darkness, therefore when such an [Page 245] unequal Society is contracted, he doth not think it a sufficient ground for separation; for saith he, 1 Cor. 7. 16. What knowest thou, O Wife, but thou maist save thy Hus­band? or what knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy Wife? especially since by the piety of one of the Parents, the Children are sanctified and placed under the advantages of the Covenant of grace, as he there adds, v. 14.

And seeing it is possible for one of these relatives to be so great a blessing to the other, there is mighty reason they both should endeavour it, out of self-love as well as charity and conjugal af­fection, since it is both very diffi­cult to go to Heaven alone, and also equally easy and comfortable, when those in this relation join hearts and hands in the way thi­ther.

As for the relation of Parents [Page 246] and Children, that is also very near and intimate, and conse­quently their interest and happi­ness is bound up together; for as it is a mighty advantage to have holy Parents, in regard the Poste­rity of such persons ordinarily fare the better to many Genera­tions, as is assured in the second Commandment, and therefore there is a double obligation upon Parents to be good and virtuous, not only for the sake of their own Souls, but also for the sake of their Children; so on the other hand, it is no less glory and comfort to Parents to have good and pious Children, and therefore they are strictly charged to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; and indeed he is worse than an Infidel, nay worse than a Brute, that can be content to bring them up to Hell and the Devil; for they are part of our [Page 247] selves, and a man that considers any thing, can as well be willing to be damned himself, as that they should be so if he can help it. Now that there is much in their power this way, appears by that charge of the Apostle last named, as also by the observation of Solo­mon, Prov. 22. 6. Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it; for Children in their young and ten­der years are like Wax, yielding and pliable to whatsoever form we will put them into, but if we miss this opportunity it will be no easy matter to recover them to good afterwards, when they are debauched by evil principles, confident of their own opinions, headstrong by the uncontrouled use of liberty, and hardened by the custom of sinning. And there­fore it is observable, that far the most part of good men and wo­men [Page 248] are such as had the founda­tions of piety laid in their youth, and very few are to be found who were effectually reclaimed after­wards.

But whilest Children wholly depend upon their Parents, and their natures are soft and pliant, when as yet they have not the hardiness to rebel, nor the confi­dence to dispute the commands of their Fathers; so long they may by the grace of God easily be wrought upon to good, and which is very remarkable, the in­fluence of the mother is especially considerable in this case: for so we find not only that King Le­muel, Prov. 31. 1. remembred the Lessons which his mother taught him, but as I have noted before, Timothy was seasoned with grace, by the instructions of his Mother Eunice, and his Grandmother Lois, 2 Tim. 1. 5. and many other [Page 249] instances there are of the success­fulness of the Mothers pious in­deavours. But where Parents neg­lect their duty, usually the Chil­dren perish, and their blood will be required at the hands of care­less Parents: and which is more, there is commonly this dreadful token of divine vengeance in this World, that those who are care­less of their duty both towards God, and towards their Children in this particular, feel the sad effects of it in the undutifulness, contumacy, and rebellion of those Children against themselves after­wards, as if God permitted them to revenge his quarrel.

In the next place, as for the re­lation of Master and Servants, it is a mighty mistake to think they are meerly our slaves to do our will, and that nothing is due from us to them but what is expresly bargain'd for, since they are or [Page 250] ought to be Gods Servants as well as ours, and must do him service as well as us, and they are put under our protection, and placed in our Families, that they may be instructed in his pleasure, and have the liberty to serve him, of whom the whole family of heaven and earth is called. So that properly speak­ing, we and they are common Ser­vants to one great Master, only in different ranks, as the one part (after the manner of Stewards) is allowed to have Servants un­der them, and the other must do the inferiour business, but still they are Gods Servants more properly than ours, and must therefore have not only (as I said) liberty and leisure to serve our common Master, but also in­structions from us and incourage­ment so to do: and he that denies them any of these, might as just­ly deny them their. Bread or their [Page 251] Wages; nay more, he that for­gets to pray for them too, remem­bers himself but by halves, for­asmuch as his interest is concern­ed, not only in their health and prosperity, but in their virtue and piety; for it is evident, that the better men they are, the bet­ter Servants they will prove. So St. Paul tells Philemon in his Epi­stle to him, that he would be a gainer by Onesimus's Conversion, for that he would be so much a more profitable servant hence­forth as he was now become a better man, such persons being not only the most faithful and trusty, but by so much the more industrious as they are the more conscientious: Besides, that it is well known that Divine Provi­dence often blesses a Family for the sake of a pious Servant, as God blessed Labans substance for the sake of Jacob, and the House [Page 252] and all the affairs of Potiphar for the piety of Joseph. So that in short, he loves himself as little as he loves God, who doth not indea­vour that his Servants should be sincerely religious. And though it's true, it is not altogether in his power to make them so, or to put grace into their hearts, yet by vir­tue of his place and authority, he hath mighty advantages of doing them good, and will be sure to be called to account how he hath improved his Stewardship in this particular.

Lastly, In a Family there are commonly some who under the general relation of Friends or Acquaintance, are either resident in it, or at least hospitably enter­tained by it; now as this lays an obligation upon the persons trea­ted, so it gives some authority to him who treats them: and con­sequently as such a Master of a [Page 253] Family is in some measure an­swerable towards men for the scandals and misdemeanours of his Guests; so is he much more responsible to God for any pro­faneness they shall be guilty of towards his Divine Majesty. For (as I said before) every man be­ing King in his own Family may give Laws to it, and oblige those who are under his protection to pay him Allegiance, and to serve and worship God with him, espe­cially he ought to do this, because the fourth Commandment re­quires at our hands that we use this authority, not only over our Sons and Daughters, our Man-Ser­vants and Maid-Servants, but over all those that are within our Gates. But so much in the general, let us now consider in the second place the particular duties of Religion in a Family; of which in the next Chapter.

CHAP. IV. Of Family Duties in special.

IN the first place I look upon it as the duty of every Fami­ly, that (besides Closet-Devotions, of which I have spoken before; and besides publick Worship, of which I shall speak anon) once a day at the least they join together in Prayers to God. I say once a day at the least, in fa­vour of mens occasions, and the peculiar circumstances of some Fa­milies, were it not for which, it would be very fit that there should be Prayers Morning and Even­ing, as is the general practice of most pious Families; but certain­ly it is wonderfully decent, that all the members of every Family should once in the day meet to­gether, and with one heart and one mouth glorify God and pay [Page 255] their homage to the great Master of the whole Family of Heaven and Earth; and it is very strange, if any excuse should be pleaded or admitted in this case. For as I said before, every several Family is a peculiar Body or Society, which hath its distinct circumstances, effects and consideration; it hath its respective needs to be supplied, and therefore hath occasion to make proper and peculiar re­quests to God, as that he will be pleased to continue it in health, to settle concord and unity a­mongst the several members of it, that the whole may enjoy pro­sperity and safety from Thieves, from Fire and other dangers. And every such Society hath also pro­per and peculiar mercies to give thanks to God for, as namely for success in affairs, for quiet habi­tation, that they are not molested with ill Neighbours, nor vexed [Page 256] with Law-Suits, for hopeful Chil­dren, faithful Servants, &c. for in several of these respects a man may be well and comfortable in his own person, and yet be un­happy in the Society; and contra­rywise the Society or Family may be happy in the general, and yet a particular person may be in ill circumstances: and therefore there is just reason of addresses and ac­knowledgments to God in relati­on to the Family, and by the whole Family in Conjunction, as well as by every single person a­part, and in his Closet.

And though perhaps there may be some Family wherein there is no person who can aptly and pro­perly represent the peculiar con­cerns of it to the Almighty, and it may be also there is no form of Prayer at hand that will express all the respective circumstances of such a Society; yet they may lift [Page 257] up their hearts and voices toge­ther in a general form, and sup­ply with their thoughts and affe­ctions whatsoever is wanting in the expressions.

And as there is just ground and reason for such family worship, so there is good cause to expect it will be singularly successful, when the whole community joins together, and present themselves and their tribute of praise before the Lord: no question but the ve­ry manner of doing it, as well as the matter, will be highly ac­ceptable to him; and when with prostrate bodies, devout hearts and hands, and eyes lift up to Heaven, they combine together to importune, and as it were, be­siege the Almighty, they cannot fail of a blessing; or however it is a mighty satisfaction to the minds of all such persons, and a great security to them that they [Page 258] have thus jointly and solemnly commended themselves to the di­vine protection.

Besides, that this course is an effectual means to conciliate peace and love and kindness, between all the members of this body, and to knit their hearts to one ano­ther, when they are thus accu­stomed to unite their hearts and join their hands in Gods service, and conspire to pray with and for each other, which is the great­est indearment of affection.

Perhaps some man will now say, there is no express Scripture which requires of men this daily office of Family Prayer: To which I answer, first, what if it were so, yet nevertheless it is a duty, seeing there is so apparent reason for it. For God who considered, that he gave Laws to reasonable men, did not think himself bound to prescribe every thing in parti­cular, [Page 259] especially in natural wor­ship, where the reason of man might supply him with direction what was fit to be done in such a case.

Besides, secondly, (as I discour­sed in the former part of this Treatise) it is a stingy and nar­row-soul'd trick, and an argu­ment of no true love to God and goodness, to stand upon so strict terms in our piety, as to require an express command in particu­lar, for that which is admirably good in the general, and hath al­so been the general practice of all good men, as this hath been.

But after all, I would in the last place crave leave to ask those men a plain question, who insist upon more express proof of Fa­mily Prayers, and it is no more but this, Whether they think there is any such thing as publick wor­ship required of men? if they do, [Page 260] then let them remember there was a time when there was no more publick Society than that of Families, namely at the first planting of the World, and then either publick worship must be this of Families or none at all; and to inlighten them in this case, let them consider that passage, Gen. 4. 26. when Seth had Enos born to him, it is said, then began men to call upon the name of the Lord, that is, so soon as there be­gan to be a Family in the pious line of Seth, then presently they set up Gods worship in it. Now this was not the beginning of se­cret worship, for no doubt but Seth was careful of that before E­nos was born; nor was it proper­ly publick or Ecclesiastick wor­ship, for in that minority of the World, there neither was nor as yet could be any Church esta­blished in such a sense: therefore [Page 261] it must follow that Family wor­ship is as antient as the being of Families themselves.

Or let pious and ingenious per­sons consider of that passage of the Gospel, Luke 11. 1. where in the first place we find our Saviour was at Prayers; and that it was not secret Prayer but with his Disciples, is more than probable, since they were present at them: and accordingly, when he had concluded, one of them asks him to instruct them how to pray. Now if this be acknowledged, then here is our Saviours Exam­ple for what we are discoursing of, forasmuch as the Disciples with whom he was at Prayer, were his Family. But that which I observe further is, they ask him to teach them to pray, as John taught his Disciples, that is, to prescribe them a form wherein they (who were his [Page 262] Family) might join together, as the Family or Disciples of John did; or not only to pray severally or secretly, but in Conjunction and Society: and this our Savi­our gratifies them in, by prescri­bing to them the well-known and admirable form: in which these two things are further remarka­ble to this purpose; first, that the Prayer is in the plural num­ber, which renders it far more probable, that it was intended for a social office. For though some other account may be given of his using that number, yet nothing is so natural as this reason which I have intimated. Secondly, The very petitions themselves (if they be considered) will incline a man to think, that though the Prayer was contrived with infinite wis­dom to fit other purposes, yet it was primarily intended for the use of a Family or Society, espe­cially [Page 263] such an one as this of our Saviours Disciples was; but so much for that.

2. The next instance of Fami­ly Duty is the sanctification of the Lords Day, and other days and times set apart for his service. As for the Lords Day, though it be undoubtedly true, that as the Jewish Sabbath (which is our Sa­turday) is not obliging to Chri­stians at all; so neither are we bound to observe any day with that Sabbatical nicety and strict­ness, which (for special reasons) was required of that people: yet that the first day of the Week, or the Lords Day, be observed pi­ously and devoutly, is recom­mended to us by the constant practice of the Christian Church.

And the sanctification of it principally consists in this, that we make it a day peculiar for the offices of Piety and Devotion, [Page 264] as other days are for common and secular affairs; for though the business of Religion must be car­ried on every day of our lives, and that be a profane day indeed in which God hath not some share allowed for his service, yet as God hath not required that it be the whole work of those days, but after a little of the time be conse­crated to him, the residue be ap­plied to the common affairs of Life; so on the Lords Day we are allowed to consult our infirmity, to provide for necessity, and to do works of humanity or mercy: but the proper business of the day is Religion, and to that the main of it must be applied.

And there is great reason for this, namely by this interruption of the course of Worldly affairs, in some measure to take our hearts off from them; for we should hardly avoid sinking ab­solutely [Page 265] into the cares and business of this life, if we went on in a continual course, and were not obliged at certain intervals of time to retreat from them, and betake our selves to things of another na­ture, by which means also, we begin to practise an Heavenly Sab­batism, and inure our selves by degrees to those spiritual imploy­ments which we are to enter up­on, and be everlastingly perform­ing in another World.

Let therefore the pious man thus sanctify the Lords Day by applying it to holy uses, that is (besides publick worship) to read­ing, Meditation, singing of Psalms, and grave Discourses of Religion, and let him according as he hath Warrant from the fourth Com­mandment oblige all those within his Gates to do so too, and not on­ly restrain his Family from com­mon labours, but from lightness [Page 266] and folly, tipling and gossipping, idle visits and impertinent talking of News; and use his indeavour to ingage them to be as much in earnest about the service of God and their Souls on that day, as they are about their business or pleasure on other days.

As for other holy days set a­part by the appointment of the Church, there is very good use to be made of them too: for be­sides, that the great Festivals are the ignorant mans Gospel, and bring to his mind all the great passages of our Saviour and his Apostles, it is certain also, that God hath not so strictly tasked us to the labour of six days, as that he will not be better pleased if we now and then apply some of them to his honour, and make a sally towards Heaven; but then the observation of these days is not to be made merely a relaxa­tion [Page 267] from servile work, nor much less a dispensation for looseness and profaneness, but God must be served on them with greater diligence than can be ordinarily expected on other days. And this is another branch of the pious mans duty in his Family.

3. There is another thing I would mention in the third place, amongst Family exercises, which I do not call a necessary duty, but would offer it to consideration, whether it be not adviseable in some cases for the promotion of Family Piety, that in every Fa­mily, where it can be done, some persons should be incouraged to take notes of the Sermons which are preached in the Church, and repeat them at home; forasmuch as this course would not only af­ford a very seasonable and excel­lent entertainment for the Family in the intervals of publick wor­ship [Page 268] on the Lords Day, but would also be very advantagious, both to Minister and People.

For the Minister, it would in­courage him to study and to de­liver weighty things, when he saw his words were not likely to perish in the hearing, and be lost in the air, but be reviewed and considered of; by which means one Sermon would be as good as two, and might serve accord­ingly.

For the People, it would put the most ordinary sort of them upon considering and indeavour­ing to remember and make some­thing of that which is delivered to them, when they observe, that some of the ablest of the Congre­gation think it worth their pains to take so exact notice of it as to write it down; at least they would be ashamed to snore and yawn, when others are so intent and se­rious.

[Page 269] And as for the Family in which the repetition is made, they would have further occasion to observe, with what clearness and evidence the doctrine was inferred from the Text, opportunity to weigh the arguments used to inforce it, and be put upon making applica­tion of all to their own Consci­ences.

But I foresee several objections (such as they are) will be made against this; it will be said, this course is unfashionable and puri­tanical, that experience hath dis­covered that writing after Ser­mons hath taught men to be con­ceited and captious, and present­ly sets up men for Lay-Preachers; and in a word, that repeating Ser­mons raised the Rebellion. But

In answer to the first of these, I observe, that it is neither unu­sual nor under any ill character in Courts of Judicature, for men [Page 270] to take Notes of the reasonings, determinations, and even the o­pinions of the Judges; and surely Religion is of as much moment as the municipal Laws; and Cases of Conscience are of as great con­sequence as meum and tuum: but if the Discourses of Preachers be not so considerate, their reason­ings not so close and weighty, nor their determinations so well grounded as to be worth noting, the more is the pity, to say no more. As for the second objecti­on, I answer, that if the Preacher handle only the indisputable Do­ctrines of Christianity, and press them home and close upon the Consciences of men, these will afford little scope for conceited­ness or captiousness; but some men that are of such an humour will be pragmatical and profane, whether they write after Sermons or no, and therefore let us lay [Page 271] this blame where it is due. To the third objection it is answered, that though writing after Ser­mons might perhaps furnish men with materials for Lay-preaching; yet it was impudence which dis­posed men to it, and the dissolu­tion of Government which gave opportunity for it: and if the last of these three things be taken care of, the second will be curbed, and the first harmless and inno­cent.

But lastly, whereas it is object­ed that writing and repeating of Sermons was accessary to the late Rebellion: I answer, that it is e­vident, it could be neither the writing nor the repeating, but the seditious matter of the Ser­mons that was in the fault; for it is certain, that good and pious Sermons are the most effectual way to prevent all mischief of that kind, tending to make good [Page 272] Subjects as well as good Christi­ans, and the writing and repeat­ing of such Sermons is a means to settle such Doctrine the deeper in the hearts of men, and there­fore I see not but that it would be good prudence to apply that to a good end which hath been abused to a bad one, unless we will countenance the humour of some late Reformers, whose me­thod was to abolish things for the abuse of them. Upon the whole matter, I see no just dis­couragement from this instance of Family-Devotion; however I will say no more of it, but pro­ceed to such as are unexception­able.

4. It is certainly a Family Du­ty to instruct all the young and ignorant persons in it, in the sub­stantial Doctrines of Religion, and rules of good life. The obligati­on to, and the advantages of this [Page 273] office, have been sufficiently re­presented before in the foregoing Chapter; now therefore only to speak briefly and plainly of the manner of discharging it, it com­prises these following particu­lars.

First, That care be taken be­times to subdue the unruly wills and passions of Children; which is ordinarily not very hard to do if it be minded time enough, whilest they are tender and plia­ble, but the defect herein (like an errour in the first Concoction) is hardly remediable afterwards: accordingly the wise man advi­seth, Prov. 19. 18. Chasten thy Son whilest there is hope, and let not thy Soul spare for his crying: By breaking his stomach now, we prevent the breaking of our own hearts hereafter; for by this means with the blessing of God upon it, we shall have comfort [Page 274] in a Child, and the State and pub­lick Society, a governable Subject; whereas contrariwise stubborness and malapertness in youth grows to contemptuousness of Parents, & to faction and sedition in the State, in age. In pursuance of this,

Secondly, Let them learn and be accustomed humbly to beg the blessing of their Parents and Progenitors; this (as meanly as some inconsiderate people think of it) is of mighty use: for it not only teaches Children to reve­rence their Parents, but wonder­fully provokes and inflames the affections of Parents towards them; and besides this, it is the usual method of conveying the blessings of God upon them: for though it be only God that be­stows the blessing, yet his way is to use the intervention and desig­nation of Parents, and generally those whom they bless (in this [Page 275] case) are blessed, and those whom they curse are cursed.

Thirdly, Then let them learn to read, to pray, and especially to say their Catechise; for though these things are not throughly understood by them now, yet they will stick by them, and be remembred when they are more capable of improving them: inso­much that it will be uneasy to one that hath been well princi­pled in his minority, to be impi­ous and profane hereafter; or if he should prove so, there will yet be some hopes of reclaiming him, because these things will some time or other revive and awaken his Conscience.

Fourthly, after this, let them be brought to the Bishop, that he may lay his hands upon them, pray over them, bless and con­firm them. For if the fervent Prayer of every righteous man avail [Page 276] much, as St. James tells us, un­doubtedly the solemn Prayer and Benediction of Christs immediate Substitute, and the prime Officer of his Church is not inconsidera­ble. Besides, when men have under­standingly and solemnly addicted themselves to the Christian Reli­gion, and made it their own act by a voluntary and publick choice, it will ordinarily have a great influence upon them in mo­desty, honour and reputation as well as Conscience, that they shall not easily go back from it, and renounce it: and though it is too true, that many have miscar­ried afterwards in point of pra­ctice, yet it is very observable in experience, that few or none who have been confirmed as aforesaid, have apostatized from the profes­sion of Christianity.

Fifthly and lastly, After such foundations are laid, it is no time [Page 277] yet to be secure, but these begin­nings must be followed with fur­ther instructions, that such per­sons may be brought to a savoury sense of Piety, and to understand the reasons of the Religion which they have imbraced, and so nei­ther be debauched with Exam­ples, nor tossed to and fro by every wind of new Doctrine; nay further, these young persons ought to be put upon all the ingenuous learning they are capable of recei­ving, and we are able to afford them, for the improvement of their minds, that they be the more serviceable to God both in Church and State, by the intent prosecution of which, they will not only be kept out of the dan­gers which rash and unimployed youth is ready to run upon, but become an Ornament to them­selves and to their Relations; and which is more, be able to imploy [Page 278] and enjoy themselves in elder years, without the usual diversi­ons of drinking and gaming, which commonly are the silly re­sorts and refuges of those who wanted Education in their youth.

5. There is a principal branch of Family Discipline yet remains to be taken notice of, and that is the curbing and restraining first of all profaneness and contempt of things sacred, whether it be by cursing, swearing, blaspheming, or any other impudent scurrility; and then in the next place, of all intemperance, drunkenness and debauchery; for such things as these do not only bring a stain and blemish, but a Curse upon the Family, and to be sure the al­lowance of them is utterly incon­sistent with any pretence to Piety.

And the care and concern for the suppressing these Vices, ex­tends [Page 279] not only so far as to the re­straining of it in all the constant and setled members of the Fami­ly, but also to the discountenan­cing of it in those that are only occasionally as Guests in it. For how can any man that loves God, indure to see him abused before his face, and not interpose for him, especially where he hath au­thority, namely, within his own Gates? Shall a man pretend Piety, and make his table become a snare to his own Soul, and his House a Sanctuary and priviledged place for prophaneness? Nor let any man think it becomes him in gen­tility and complaisance to take no notice of the one, or out of hos­pitality to indulge the other; for he that loves God as he ought to do, and hath any measure of manly courage, will not be so sheepish, but that he will at least discountenance such indecencies [Page 280] within his jurisdiction.

But as for those that are setled members of the Family, as Ser­vants and Relations; if any of them be guilty of such lewdness, I do not say, that they must pre­sently be banished the Society: for it may be divine Providence sent them thither on purpose for their Cure, and that we might have the glory of performing so wor­thy a work, and those Sinners the happiness of meeting with the means of reformation; and therefore we must when it hap­pens so, look upon it as our duty to apply our selves in good earn­est to recover them: but if after all good means used, there appear no hopes of reformation, it is cer­tainly a good mans duty to dis­miss such persons, both to avoid the scandal and the infection of them. And he that is truly con­scientious of Gods honour and [Page 281] the spiritual interest of his Family, will not stick to Sacrifice the pet­ty interests of an useful Servant, or a beneficial relation, there­upon.

CHAP. V. Family Discipline, Or by what means the several members of a Family may be brought to conform to the afore­said Duties.

HE that resolves to maintain Piety in his Family, must do it by such a method as this. First, Let him be sure to keep up the authority which God hath gi­ven him, and not through care­lessness, facility or sheepishness, [Page 282] level himself with those he is to govern, and suffer every body to do what is right in their own Eyes; for then no wonder if Piety and all things else be out of order. He that abjects himself shall be a meer cypher, and signify no­thing in his own House; but it is very much in a mans own power whether he will be despised or no: for he that values himself upon the dignity of his place, and asserts his own just authority, shall find Divine Providence stand­ing by him therein, and striking an awe upon the spirits of those that ought to be governed, and so he will be able to do good ser­vice, not only in his Closet, but within the whole sphere of his Family.

To this end let him observe, that as in the fourth Command God requires and expects, that every Master of a Family be re­sponsible [Page 283] for all those that are within his Gates; so accordingly in the fifth Commandment he hath invested him with honour under the title of Father and Mother, and both commanded and promi­sed to reward obedience to him: and let not any one think that God will desert his own institu­tion, so as to permit the autho­rity he hath here invested Parents with, to be either trampled upon by others, or prostituted by them­selves, without severe animad­version.

Let him consider also the great interest that lies in the conserving of paternal authority, in which the foundation is laid, both of Ci­vil and Ecclesiastical Government; forasmuch as accordingly as people are inured to order, and to be in subjection in private Fa­milies, such will be their beha­viour afterwards in Church or [Page 284] State: for he that suffers his Children and Servants to be con­tumacious towards himself, trains them up for instruments of Schism and Rebellion; and he that on the other side countenances Facti­on and Disobedience to publick Authority, makes a leading case for Rebellion and confusion in his own Family; but he that accu­stoms those which belong to him, to obedience at home, makes his House a Seminary of good Sub­jects, and of good Christians, and will feel the comfort, and reap the blessing of both.

Above all let him consider the nearness and naturalness of the Principles of Religion to the minds of men; insomuch that there are hardly any but are con­vinced of the necessity and obliga­tion of it in their own Conscien­ces; in other things Inferiours may perhaps dispute the wisdom [Page 285] of their Governours, and so be tempted to disobey their Com­mands; but plain matters of de­votion admit of no dispute, they are imposed by divine authority, written upon the hearts of men, and inacted and proclaimed with­in their Consciences, and there­fore people may with the greater readiness be brought to the obser­vance of them, if we do but stir up and awaken, or at most se­cond Conscience by our Authori­ty. But then

Secondly, This authority ought to be tempered with sweetness and benignity in the exercise of it; for a man is not to be a Tyrant but a Father in his Family, he must not superciliously com­mand, and imperiously will and require, but incline and perswade by the use of all motives and in­couragements, and by all the arts of indearment oblige men to their Duty.

[Page 286] A mans Family is his own Bo­dy, and may be called himself, con­sidered at large and in all his capacities, therefore unnecessary harshness and severity is as inde­cent in this Society, as cruelty to his own flesh is unnatural. And it is commonly as insuccessful as it is indecent; for power without goodness is a weapon without edge, which will go no further than mere force carries it. When men only fear, they will hate too, and be sure to obey no more than needs must. Therefore the Apo­stle Eph. 6. 4. advises, Fathers pro­voke not your children to wrath, and v. 9. forbids Masters to use threat­nings towards Servants, but espe­cially Col. 3. 19. all bitterness to­wards wives is prohibited; for these courses (in such near Relations) ordinarily make them worse in­stead of mending them, and stir up all the mud and dirt of their [Page 287] temper. Besides, it is to be consi­dered, that the interest of ma­king men good is very great and valuable, and he doth a very ac­ceptable service to God who obli­ges his Family to serve and ho­nour him; for by so doing a man promotes the Salvation of his own Soul, and he will have great al­lowances made for his personal in­firmities at the day of Judgment, who in his more publick capaci­ty hath advanced Gods glory in the Salvation of others. There­fore it is exceedingly worth the while, that we should deny our selves, and condescend to any ho­nest art and method of ingaging men in Religion.

Especially this is to be consi­dered, that the instances of Piety and Devotion are above all things to be voluntary, free and chearful, or they are nothing worth; and therefore harshness and severity [Page 288] are the most improper instru­ments for such an effect; conse­quently it must be wise Discour­ses, obliging carriage, sweetness of temper, kindness and benigni­ty, that are the most likely me­thods of prevailing in such a case; and ordinarily to gain this point, no more is requisite, than that a man discriminate between the good and the bad, that he favour the one and discountenance the other; and this alone will in time make a strange change in a Fa­mily. Especially

Thirdly, If in the third place the Governour of a Family be a great Example of Piety himself: Rules without Examples are nei­ther understood nor considered by those to whom they are pro­pounded; and he that goes about to over-rule his Family to Piety without making Conscience of it in his own practice, nay, who [Page 289] doth not make his own life a great pattern of what he perswades to, undermines his own indeavours, and shall not only fail of success, but be ridiculous for his pains; for every body is aware of this, that if Devotion be necessary to one, it is so to another; if the Ser­vant ought to pray to God, so ought the Master; if one ought to be zealous, certainly the other ought not to be careless or pro­fane; or if one may be excused the trouble of Religion, so may the other also.

And indeed it is hardly possible for a man in these matters to have the confidence earnestly to press the observation of that upon those under him, which is not conspicuous in his own practice; or at least, if he have the fore­head to do it, and can so well act the part of the Hypocritical Pha­risee, as to lay heavy burdens upon [Page 290] others, which he himself will not touch with one of his fingers; yet as he cannot do it heartily, so he must be very vain if he thinks men will not be able to see through the disguise, and very sottish if he can expect that such commands of his should carry any authority with them.

But there is a majesty in holy Example, it not only commands but charms men into compliance; there is life and spirit in it, inso­much, that it animates and in­flames all about a man; it makes Piety to become visible, and not only shews it to be necessary, but represents it with all its advanta­ges of goodness, beauty and or­nament; it confutes mens mi­stakes of it, answers their obje­ctions against it, removes their suspicions, shames their cowar­dice and lukewarmness: in a word, it doth (after the manner [Page 291] of all great Engines) work pow­erfully, though almost insensi­bly.

We find by common experi­ence, that men are sooner made wise and fit for great actions by the reading of History than by stu­dying of Politicks; because mat­ter of fact strikes us more power­fully, and the circumstances of things as they are done, instruct us more effectually than all dry rules and speculations can do: to which purpose it is to be remark­ed, that the way of the holy Scri­pture is rather to teach men by Examples than by rules; and ac­cordingly the whole sacred Writ consists principally of the History of the Lives of holy men, Almigh­ty Wisdom thinking that way the fittest, not only to express the Laws of Virtue, but to make im­pression of them upon the spirits of men; and indeed (which is [Page 292] further remarkable) there are some of the more curious and ex­cellent lines of Piety, which can hardly be exprest by words, but are easily legible in the lives of holy men.

Therefore let him who would ingage his Family to Devotion, give them a fair Copy of it in his own Example, and then he shall not fail of the honour and com­fort to see it transcribed and imi­tated by those about him.

4. But that he may with the more certainty and expedition at­tain this desireable effect, it is very necessary, that he neither make the lives of those he would gain upon, burdensome to them, and exhaust their spirits by too great and constant drudgery a­bout the affairs of the World, nor that he make the business of Reli­gion irksome and unpleasant to them by unnecessary length and [Page 293] tediousness of Family-Devotion▪ For the former of these will take off their edge, and leave them with no heart to Religion; and the lat­ter will beget an utter aversation to it.

As for the former, our Saviour hath told us, we cannot serve God and Mammon, and that no man can serve two Masters; i. e. either one of them must be neglected, or both served very remisly: for it's cer­tain, when men are harassed with secular business, they cannot have spirits enough to attend Religion with any vigour.

And for the other, if the duties of Religion be drawn out phan­tastically to a tedious length, it will be impossible (whilest men are men) that they should either be inclined to go to them with such chearfulness, or persevere in them with such delight and fer­vour as is requisite.

[Page 294] Therefore let the World be so moderately pursued, as that time, and strength and room, may be left for Devotion; and let the Duties of Religion be so contri­ved, that they may be pleasant and easy, and then (besides that Devotions so performed are most acceptable to God) it will be no hard matter to bring our Fa­milies to comply with them. Es­pecially

5. If in the fifth place the Governours of Families take care to order and methodize affairs so, that these different things intrench not upon each other, neither the World incroach up­on Religion, nor Religion shut out and exclude the common af­fairs of life; but both may take their places in a just subordina­tion.

We commonly observe, that things in an heap, and which are [Page 295] not digested into any order, look vast and numerous, so as to amuse our minds in the contemplation of them, insomuch that we nei­ther apprehend any of them di­stinctly, nor comprehend them all together; and in a crowd of business, we are either so con­founded with the multiplicity, or distracted with the variety of things before us, that we apply our selves to nothing at all effe­ctually; for one hinders and sup­plants the other. So it is here in the case between the affairs of the two Worlds, if both lie in gross before men, and no distinct place be assigned to each of them; the effect is, that both together being an intolerable burden, one of the two must necessarily be neglected, and that commonly falls to be the lot of Religion: or if it happen that these offices are not totally omitted, they will be [Page 296] sure to be superficially performed; the minds of men neither being sufficiently prepared for them, nor united enough to attend them without distraction and wanderings. Therefore as the wise man tells us, there is a time for every thing; so let every man, who would promote Religion in his Family, appoint set hours for Prayer, and all the offices of De­votion, and then it will neither be difficult to obtain the constant observance of them, nor so ordi­nary to perform them carelesly and formally.

6. Sixthly and lastly, It will be the wisdom of every Master of a Family who would bring those which are under his care and tui­tion to an uniformity in Religi­on and the worship of God, and to seriousness and heartiness there­in, that he express all tender affe­ction to them and regard of [Page 297] them, when any of them happen to be sick, or under any adversi­ty, and by that means make to himself an opportunity of obli­ging them to take his counsel, and follow his direction in all o­ther cases.

We use to say, he that will gain an interest in any man, so that he may be useful to him, or compliant with him in his pro­sperity, must lay the foundation of his Friendship in that mans ad­versity. For no man knows who are his Friends till he hath occa­sion to make experiment of them, which cannot be done but in ad­versity; for every man is a Friend to him that hath no need to him, but he that like the good Samari­tan, deserts us not in our greatest difficulties, him we have just grounds to value and confide in. Now above all kindnesses men are most sensible of those which are [Page 298] done to their Bodies, and they commonly take the measures of all Friendship and sincerity from thence, and therefore he that will win upon the minds of men, must first oblige them in their bodily interests.

Besides, as we observe, that all inferiour Creatures are most tra­ctable and docible at such times as wherein they are lowest and can least help themselves; so mankind is most disposed to take advice, and most obedient to counsel when he is at a non-plus in his affairs, and especially when the vanities of this World, which dazled his Eyes before, be­gin to vanish, and there seems to be but one way left with him (that is, to prepare for another life) he will then freely admit of Discourse of the other World, and be glad to comply with all seri­ous advice in order thereunto. [Page 299] These seasons of adversity there­fore are by no means to be let slip by him who is tender of the Souls of those who are under his charge.

To which add, that forasmuch as it is the constant method of all the Zealots and Emissaries of false Religions to insinuate themselves into sick and calamitous persons, to the end that by such an op­portunity they may gain Disci­ples to their party, and they too frequently find this subtilty suc­cessful: the consideration hereof ought to awaken the diligence, and incourage the hopes and in­deavours of all those that sin­cerely desire to save their own Souls, and those that are imbar­qued with them, to apprehend and improve such opportunities to better purposes; especially see­ing that in such seasons men are as capable of good principles as of [Page 300] bad, if there be not as much shameful and supine carelessness on the one side, as there is com­monly vigilance and application on the other. And so much for Family-Piety.

CHAP. VI. Of publick Piety, and particularly of governing a mans self in re­lation to the Church and publick assembly of Christians.

AS it is certain we were not born for our selves, so nei­ther is it a sufficient discharge of our duty, that we be useful in our private Family, or amongst our Kindred and Relations only, but that we express a zeal of Gods glory and the good of Mankind, answerable to the full extent of our capacity, and let our light so shine out before men, that we may provoke, as many as are within our reach, to glorify our Father which is in Heaven.

Now every private man is in [Page 302] some measure concerned in the Neighbourhood and Parish where­in he dwells, and whereto he be­longs; and therefore should so far at least dispense the influence of his zeal for God and Religion: for Almighty God, who hath ap­pointed the bounds of mens habita­tion, having thus setled every man in his station, expects that he should look upon this as his proper sphere, and adorn it as his peculiar Province.

No private man hath any just reason ordinarily to prompt him to go beyond this, forasmuch as if every good man would do his part within these bounds, the whole World would be amended, and he that is remiss and negli­gent in this, cannot easily satisfy himself that he hath demonstra­ted such love to God as becomes him, nor can he expect to reap all those comforts and benefits [Page 303] which otherwise by a conscienti­ous discharge of himself in this particular might redound to him.

Now that which we mean by the relation to a Neighbourhood or a Parish hath a double consi­deration. First, As every Parish is or ought to be a branch or member of the Church. Secondly, As it is a branch or member of the Commonwealth. Accord­ingly there is a double obligation lies upon every man that is with­in the bounds of it, and from thence arise duties of a different nature: for brevity and perspicu­ity, I will distinguish them by the names of Ecclesiastical and Civil Piety, and then shew what each of them comprehends, be­ginning with that which I call Ecclesiastical Piety, or the dis­charge of such publick duties as especially concern the Society of a [Page 304] Church. And this consists in these few following particulars.

1. That a man join himself to, and carry himself as a member of the Church, and not out of pride, phantastry or contempt separate himself from it, or schismatically set up Factions and Conventicles against it. It is evident, that our Lord Jesus Christ established the Society of a Church; that is, ap­pointed that all those who would be his Disciples, should not content themselves singly and particular­ly to believe on him, but should all be obliged to associate them­selves, and make up a body or spi­ritual corporation wherein they were to hold Communion with each other, as members, as well as with him their head. The ends and uses of this institution were very many and great; for besides that by this means order and unity is promoted, which is [Page 305] very beautiful in the Eyes of God himself, our Lord hereby provi­ded that the truth of Christianity might be jointly held up in the World, and the several members of this Society become mutually more helpful and comfortable to each other, and also that by a constant method of Christian in­tercourse here, they may be fit­ted for Eternal Friendship and So­ciety in Heaven. In subserviency to all these ends, publick Officers were appointed in the Church to govern and to instruct the seve­ral members of it, which it were plainly impossible for them to do (unless their numbers were al­most infinite and equal to that of the people) if it had not been that the people were to join together, and become a common flock for those Officers to govern and in­struct.

Moreover it was also the in­tention [Page 306] of our Saviour, that this Church of his should be but one, and Catholick, imbracing all the true Believers all the World over, and therefore it is called his Body and his Spouse: from whence it follows that every man who will partake of the benefits which flow from him, must be a part of this Body, and thereby hold Commu­nion with him by Conjunction with that, which is otherwise impossible to be done, than by joining with that part of the Ca­tholick Church where it hath pleased the Divine Providence to settle our abode and habitation, that is, in the Parish and Neigh­bourhood where we dwell; for without this, though it's possible we may retain the fame Faith in our hearts with the Catholick Church, yet we cannot perform the offices of members, nor serve the ends of such a Society. The [Page 307] result is therefore, that it is ordi­narily every Christians Duty to communicate in all the offices of Christianity, to submit to the Of­ficers, to be subject to the cen­sures, ahd to comply with the orders of that part of the Church amongst which the Divine Pro­vidence hath placed him.

I say ordinarily, because it may happen that the Society of Chri­stians amongst whom a man lives may be heretical in their Doctrine, or Idolatrous in their Worship, and then it will not be his sin but his duty to separate from them; but bating that case, and where the Doctrine is sound, and the worship free from Idolatry, I see not what else can acquit him of Schism that separates, or what can be sufficient to dissolve the obligation of joining with the Catholick Church by Conjuncti­on with that particular Society, [Page 308] or Member of it, where he is placed.

Therefore let not the good Christian without flat necessity, suffer himself to be alienated from the particular Church, lest by so doing he lose the comforts and benefits of the Catholick Church; but let it be his care and indea­vour (so far as it is in his power) that there may be but one Church in the World, as was the inten­tion of our Saviour: to this pur­pose let him not hearken to the fond pretences of purer Ordinan­ces and double refined worship, or to the vain boasts of greater edification in other Assemblies; for besides that a man may justly expect most of Gods blessing up­on those means which are most his duty to apply himself unto; it is also evident, that if such sug­gestions be attended to, it will be flatly impossible that there should [Page 309] ever be such a thing as unity or order in the Christian Church; nay these conceits will not only distract and confound the order of the Church, but they serve to fill mens heads with endless dis­putes, and their hearts with per­petual scruples about purity of administrations, so that they shall rest no where, but under pretence of soaring higher and higher, shall ramble from one Church to ano­ther, till at last they cast off all Ordinances as the highest attain­ment of spirituality.

Nor let him give ear to any peevish insinuations against the Church and publick worship, up­on account that there are some Rites or Ceremonies made use of which are only of humane insti­tution; for it is not only reason­able to hope that God will be well pleased with humility, peaceable­ness and obedience to humane [Page 310] Laws, but certain, that there is no Church in the World, that is or can be without some observan­ces, that have no higher original than humane institution. But a­gainst these, and all other such like principles of separation, let him indeavour to secure himself; First, by dismissing the prejudi­ces of Education, and the unne­cessary scrupulosities of a melan­choly temper, and above all, ac­quit himself of pride and pragma­ticalness, and then he will easily and comfortably comply with any sound part of the Christian Church. In pursuance whereof

2. He must diligently frequent all the publick offices of Religi­on in that Society, whether it be Prayers, Preaching or reading the word of God, or Administration of the Sacraments, &c. For it is a mighty shame that a man should pretend to be of the [Page 311] Church, who cares not how lit­tle or how seldom he comes at it, and who slights the advantages of its Communion. For such a man, however he may hector and swagger for the notion of a Church, manifestly betrays that all is but humour or interest, and no true principle of Christianity at the bottom; and really, he doth more dishonour to that Society, than the professed Schismatick doth or can do. For besides that he incourages them in their con­tempt of it, and discourages good men in their zeal for it; he fo­ments the suspicion of Atheisti­cal men, that Religion is but a politick trick to catch silly per­sons with, whilest those that are privy to the plot, keep out of the bondage of it: I need not adde, That he defeats the institution of our Saviour, that he baulks his own Conscience (if he have any) [Page 312] and aggravates his own Damna­tion, which are all very sad things.

On the other side, the blessings and comforts of frequenting the offices of the Church are so ma­ny and great, that it is not ima­ginable how any man who is con­vinced of the duty of Communi­on in general, should be able to neglect the particular instances of it. For besides that the Church is Gods House, where he is espe­cially present, and where we meet him, and place our selves under his eye and observation, and from whence he usually dispenses his favours; it is a great furtherance of our zeal and piety, to be in the presence of one another, where the example of holy fervour and devotion in one, powerfully strikes and affects others. There is also an extraordinary majesty in the word of God, when it is not only [Page 313] fitted to our peculiar condition, but authoritatively pronounced, and applied to our Conscience by Gods Messenger. Above all, in Prayers, when our Petitions and requests are not only put up to Almighty God, by his own Mi­nister appointed for this purpose; but our weakness is relieved, our spirits incouraged, and we are in­abled (notwithstanding our pri­vate meanness or guilt) to hope for acceptance and success in our desires, by the concurrent Devo­tions of so many holy men as there join with us in the same suit, and in the same words, and whose united importunity besie­ges Heaven, and prevails with Almighty Goodness for a blessing. Wherefore let no man permit the private exercises of Piety it self, such as Prayer, reading, or Me­ditation, to supersede or hinder his attendance upon the publick offi­ces [Page 314] of the Church, seeing that as these yield more publick honour to the Divine Majesty, so they are more effectual for our own benefit; much less let sloth or too great eagerness upon the affairs of the World, make us forget or neglect them; but least of all let any lukewarm indifferency or A­theistical carelessness seise upon any man in this particular; but let the man who glories to be of the Christian Church, be sure to be found there in the Assemblies of Gods Servants.

3. And more particularly, let him not neglect the opportunities of receiving the Sacrament of the Lords Supper, as often as they are presented to him, unless some weighty occasion hinder or disa­ble him. It is well known to have been the use of the primitive Church to administer this holy Sacrament as often as it held any [Page 315] solemn Assembly for divine wor­ship, and the Christians then as duly received it as they came to Church; nor did the frequency of it abate their reverence to it, but highly increased it rather. And this office they therefore called the Communion, because it was the symbol of a compleat mem­ber of the Church, and the fullest instance of that Society. To have been kept from it by any acci­dent, was then looked upon as a great Calamity; but to be debar­red from it by the censure of the Church, was as dreadful to them as the Sentence of Death. They sought to be restored to it with tears, with prostrations in Sack­Cloth and Ashes, with all the in­tercession of their Friends, and all the interests they could make.

There was no need in those times to use arguments to con­vince men of the duty, or repea­ted [Page 316] exhortations to press them to the performance of it; the Mini­sters of the Church had no trou­ble in answering objections a­gainst it, or removing imperti­nent scruples about it, much less was there any occasion to urge the observance of it by humane Laws; for they remembred it was instituted by their Saviour on the same night in which he was be­trayed, for the Commemoration of his Passion, and recommended to their observance by the most obliging circumstances; they found the constant solemnity of it setled in all Churches by the Apostles, and they were well a­ware of the unspeakable comforts of it.

Now the reason of all these things holds as much in these times as then (saving that men are not so conscientious and de­vout as they were): for in the first [Page 317] place, it hath been the custom of the Church in all times since, to make this Sacrament the badge and cognizance of her members, until of late those have pretended to be Churches where there was neither Order nor Unity, neither Sacraments administred nor in­deed persons qualified to admini­ster them; and it's great pity and shame that such an unhappy no­velty should prescribe against all Antiquity. And then secondly, as for the institution of this Sa­crament by our Saviour, it is ma­nifest, that he did not deliver him­self by way of counsel and advice, so as to leave it to our discretion or courtesy to observe this Sacra­ment or omit it, but by express and positive command, Do this in remembrance of me; and therefore there is no room for the cavil a­gainst mixt Communion, as if we were excused from celebrating [Page 318] the Lord's Supper, because others do it unworthily; which is as much as to say, because some do it as they should not, I may chuse whether I will do it at all. But (as I said) here is an express command that we do it, and there­fore we have no liberty to omit it upon any such pretence. And upon the same account it will be in vain to pretend I am not pre­pared for it, and therefore must be excused; for when our Lord hath made it our duty to do it, it is our duty also to do it as we should do, and the neglect of one duty will not excuse another, i. e. our sin of unpreparedness will be no apology for our sin in total o­mission of the Sacrament. The whole truth is, here are two things required of us, one expres­sed and the other implied; the express duty is; that we celebrate the memorial of our Saviours Pas­sion; [Page 319] the implied duty is, that this be done with such preparati­on as agrees with so sacred a my­stery; both these therefore are to be performed: for as my com­ing to the Sacrament will not ex­cuse my coming unpreparedly, so much less will my unprepared­ness excuse my not coming at all. But of the two, it seems far the more pardonable to come, though somewhat unpreparedly, than not to come because of unprepared­ness; for that is neither to come nor prepare neither. I say, though neither ought to be done, yet it is plainly better to offend in the point of an implied duty, than of an express one; but especially, it is more tolerable to commit one sin than both, as he that comes not to the Lords Supper at all, no­toriously doth.

But then thirdly, for the com­forts of this holy Sacrament, those [Page 320] are so vastly great, that the man is as well insensible of his own good as of the honour of Christ Jesus, who willfully neglects the Lords Supper. For in the first place, by commemorating the Passion of our Lord in that holy Feast, we not only perform an office of obedience and gratitude to our Saviour, but we strengthen our Faith in the efficacy of his Death and Sacrifice for the expia­tion of sin, which affords the greatest relief to our guilty Con­sciences that can be. And together herewith we melt our own hearts into contrition, fears and sorrow for those sins of ours which re­quired such an atonement. For who can consider what his Savi­our suffered, and look upon him whom we have pierced, and not mourn heartily for his sin and his danger? Again, by eating and drinking at the Lords Table we [Page 321] are made sensible of the happy estate of Friendship with God, which we are now restored to by the intercession of our Lord Je­sus. Moreover by commemora­ting his Death, and the ends and effects of it, we fortify our own minds against the fear of Death, and by feeding upon his body and blood we have the pledges of our own Resurrection and Immorta­lity, and to say no more (though in so copious and comfortable a subject) by partaking of his bo­dy and blood we become united to him, and partake of the same spirit that was in him.

And now after all this, who will make that an excuse for o­mitting the Sacrament, that they do not find or observe, that either themselves or others profit by it? What, is it no profit that we have done our duty and exprest our gratitude to so great a Benefactor? [Page 322] Is it no profit to see Christ Cruci­fied before our Eyes, and to see him pour out his heart blood for Sinners? Is it no profit to be made ingenuously to weep over our own sins? Is it no priviledge, no comfort to be admitted to the Lords Table, in token of Friend­ship and reconciliation with him? Certainly there is no body but profits something more or less by these things; and if there be any man who doth not profit greatly by them, he must needs have a very naughty heart indeed, and had need to prepare himself, and go often to the Sacrament that it may be mended. But however let the good Christian gladly im­brace all opportunities of this holy solemnity, and not doubt to find comfort by it.

4. As for the other offices of the Church, such as Prayers espe­cially, let him remember to fre­quent [Page 323] them constantly and intire­ly. By constancy of attendance up­on publick worship, I mean, that he should not only apply himself to it on the Sundays or Lords Days, but every Day of the Week if there be opportunity: and by intireness of Gods Service, I under­stand it to be his duty both to go at the beginning, and to join in it both Morning and Evening, that by all together he may not only sure himself and his own Consci­ence of his heartiness and since­rity, but demonstrate to all about him the great sense he hath of the moment of Religion, and that he looks upon the serving of God as of greater consequence than all other interests whatsoever.

As for the first of these, viz. the frequenting the publick Pray­ers every day (where they are to be had) it is observable in the cha­racter of Cornelius, Acts 10. 2. that [Page 324] amongst other instances of devo­tion it is said of him that he prayed to God always, which cannot well be understood of any thing else but his daily frequenting the pub­lick Prayers, because his private Prayers could not be so well known as to make his Character. But most expresly it is said of all that believed, Acts 2. 46. that they continued daily with one accord in the temple, which must needs prin­cipally have reference to this duty of publick Prayer; and it is very hard if any man be so put to it, that he cannot spare one hour in a Day to do publick honour to the Divine Majesty, or rather it is a great sign of unbelief in his pro­vidence as well as want of love to him, if a man cannot trust God so far as to hope that such a time spent in his service shall be recom­pensed by his blessing upon the residue of the Day; or however, [Page 325] a good Christian will be well contented, and gladly sacrifice so much of his secular interests (as this comes to) to the Divine Ma­jesty.

As for the second point, viz. going at the beginning of Pray­ers, it is a shameful neglect which several persons are guilty of, who will not altogether be absent from the Church, but yet will come commonly so late, that they not only lose part of the Prayers, but enter very abruptly and irreve­rently upon that which they par­take of. It is possible a man may sometimes be surprized by the time, or diverted from his inten­tion by some emergency; but to be frequently tardy is an argu­ment that he loves something bet­ter than God and his worship. For doubtless a good Christian would ordinarily choose rather to stay for the Minister, than that [Page 326] the publick office should stay for him, and thinks it fitter to spend a little time in preparing and dis­posing his heart for the duties of Religion, than either to enter in­to the divine presence rudely, or to serve him only by halves.

And as for the third branch of this instance of Devotion, viz. the resorting both to Morning and Evening Service, it is observable Acts 3. 1. that the Apostles were at the temple at the hour of Prayer, being the ninth hour, which is both a proof of their frequenting the Evening Service as well as that of the Morning, and also an exam­ple of observing the just and sta­ted times of publick worship; and surely it will become every good Christian to be lead by such a precedent, especially seeing the Gospel worship which we resort to is so much more excellent and comfortable than the Jewish was [Page 327] (which those holy men thus care­fully frequented) as we shall see by and by.

5. In the next place it is to be minded, that in all these publick approaches to Gods House, we are to express a great reverence towards the Divine Majesty: by which I do not only mean that we ought in our hearts to think worthily of him, and prostrate all the inward powers of our Souls to him, but that in our outward man, in our carriage and bodily deportment we express an awful regard to him, by all such ge­stures and signs, as according to the common opinion of men, are taken to betoken the highest re­verence and observance, such as standing, kneeling, bowing, and prostrations of our selves before him.

For though the heart be that which God principally looks at, [Page 328] yet forasmuch as he made our bo­dies as well as our Souls, and we hope he will save both, he there­fore expects we should glorify him, both with our souls and with our bo­dies which are his, and which he hath bought with a price, 1 Cor. 6. 20. And indeed there is such a nearness and sympathy between our bodies and spirits, that they ordinarily move by consent, and draw one another into compli­ance. Insomuch, that he who truly bows his Soul to God, can scarcely forbear at the same time to bow his knees to him also; and he on the other side that bows his knee to him, is by that very mo­tion of his body in some measure put in mind to entertain reveren­tial thoughts and affections to­wards him.

And this care of bodily wor­ship is the more important in publick service, and especially in [Page 329] Gods House, because (as I noted before) then and there his honour and grandeur is concerned, and any indecent carriage in such a case, is an affront to him, and exposes him to contempt in the eyes of men, and therefore that carriage which in secret worship might admit of excuse, will in publick be intolerable profane­ness.

Wherefore let not the pious man be affrighted by any one out of the expressions of bodily reve­rence, under the notion of super­stition, which is become a Bug­bear, by which weak men are made afraid of every instance of a decorous or generous Devotion. There can be no culpable super­stition in our worship, so long as we have the true object for it, and whilest we use not such expressi­ons of our Devotion as he hath forbidden; but this of bodily re­verence [Page 330] is so far from being for­bidden, that it is expresly requi­red in the holy Scripture, and hath been constantly practised by all holy men.

Nor let the phancy of a spiri­tual worship, required under the Gospel, beguile any man into a contempt or neglect of bodily re­verence; for it is plain, that al­though the Christian Religion raises mens inward Devotion higher, yet it abates nothing of outward adoration; but rather when it requires the former should be more intense and affe­ctionate, it supposes the other should be answerable, because it is natural so to be; for this being the accessory cannot but follow the principal.

It is true, there is a possibility that more stress may be laid upon the shadow than the substance, and some men may hope to com­plement [Page 331] God Almighty out of his right to their hearts, by the ad­dresses of their bodies: but the fault in this case is not, that there is too much of the latter, but too little of the former; and the good Christian therefore will be sure to join both together; and as he will come to Gods House with the most elevated affections, so he will express his apprehensions of the infinite distance between him and the Divine Majesty by the lowliest postures of his body.

6. Next to this let the pious man think it his duty to pay some measure of reverence to Gods Mi­nister as well as to the Divine Ma­jesty, and for his sake. In the Old Testament, God took special care of the respect and dignity of his Ministers as well as of their main­tenance; for indeed all contumely towards them redounds upon [Page 332] himself: And the new Testament is very full and express in this particular, they are those that watch for our souls, and must give account for them, they are Gods Embassadors, and workers together with him, those by whose hands he pardons and blesses his people, and therefore he holds them as the stars in his right hand, and those who slight them that speak in his name on earth affront him that speaketh from heaven, but a­mongst the many passages in the New Testament to this purpose, that of the Apostle to the Thessal. 1. Ep. 5. 13. is very considerable, the words are these, We beseech you brethren to know those who labour a­mongst you, and are over you in the Lord, and to esteem them very high­ly in love for their works sake. The last words are so emphatical they cannot be expressed in English, [...], to give [Page 333] them greater esteem than other­wise is due to them for their work and office sake, i. e. to va­lue them above their parts and merits and quality in other re­spects, for the sake of that rela­tion they stand in to God, and for their office and usefulness to­wards our Souls.

And indeed touching that last particular, it is evident in experi­ence, that all those who have any regard to their own Souls, are such as indeavour to raise in their hearts an esteem for their Mini­ster; not only that they may in­courage his studies and sweeten his labours to him, but that they may render themselves the more capable of following his counsels and receiving benefit by his in­structions: and on the other side, those that slight and vilify the per­sons of such, neither do nor pos­sibly can (ordinarily) receive any [Page 334] benefit by their Ministry, and therefore the Prophet Hosea 4. 4. speaking of a profligate and hope­less sort of people, useth this ex­pression, this people are as those that strive with the Priest, q. d. they are not only horribly vicious and pro­fane, but they are incorrigible too. Therefore the piously disposed man will be sure to reverence Gods Ministers, both for Gods sake and his own too, and this leads me to another duty of kind to the former, viz.

7. That the good Christian ac­count it an office of publick Piety as well as of common justice, to pay truly and faithfully his Tithes and Church dues to the Minister: this the Apostle intimates by the expression of double honour, 1 Tim. 5. 17. Natural reason and the com­mon sense of mankind requires that they which serve at the Altar should live upon the Altar. And in [Page 335] the Old Testament when God himself setled the provision for his Ministers, he did it most amply and honourably; and under the Gospel pious antiquity took care that the Christian Church and Ministry thereof should be libe­rally indowed, till the envy and rapacity of after-times deprived it of a great part of its rights; but now after those depredations it would be an horrible sin and shame to rob the Church of any part of that remainder, or frau­dulently to diminish or impair it. For it is evident, that no man can pretend any right to it, as having neither purchased it nor hired it, nor had it descend upon him by inheritance; the Churches due being a reserved estate, or a rent­charge upon every private estate. And it is notorious that it is what pious Ancestry consecrated to this use, and therefore no part of [Page 336] it can be invaded, intercepted or incroached upon without Sacri­ledge and the Curse of God.

And for proof of this, we need no more than to observe the com­mon success of such men as pur­loin from the Church, and (as their own phrase is) are always pinching on the Parsons side. They are generally a querulous, uneasy, lean, hungry and un­thrifty sort of people, God Al­mighty blowing upon and blast­ing their other labours for the sake of this accursed thing in their Tents; or if any of them thrive for the present, yet, one time or other, a Coal from the Altar will take hold of, and fire their Nests. Whereas on the other side, those that are just to God in this parti­cular, ordinarily find the benefit of it in the success of their affairs, and they are commonly chearful in their spirits and prosperous in the World.

[Page 337] But the good Christian will not need these arguments, for he loves God and his service, and his Mi­nisters, and thinks it fit that he that reaps spiritual things ought li­berally to sow temporal things, at least he will rather abridge him­self than wrong the Church, al­though it may be never so clever­ly done, under the countenance of a corrupt custom or prescrip­tion. So far from it, that

8. In the eighth place he will be an example of pious munificence, and put himself to some volunta­ry cost for the Ornaments of Re­ligion and the House of God, and that his publick service may be performed with gravity, decency and solemnity. For he thinks it very fit that the great Majesty of Heaven and Earth should not on­ly be worshipped with sincerity and devotion, but with grandeur and magnificence. He will not [Page 338] therefore humour the profaneness of degenerate times so much as to forswear building of Churches, if it be in his power, nor much less will be backward or stingy in re­pairing of them when there is oc­casion; for he cannot find in his heart to let Gods House lie waste when he builds his own, nor frame his mind to think that is good enough for the uses of Reli­gion which he could not be con­tented with for his private ac­commodation, if better were in his power, and therefore will in all Parish-meetings about these matters vote for God against his own Purse, for he is of Davids mind, who had no fancy for a cheap Religion, nor would serve God with that which cost him no­thing, 1 Chron. 21. 24. And as he Psal. 84. verses 5, 6, 7. blesses those that took pains to repair the ways, and to make the pas­sage [Page 339] easy towards God House at Jerusalem; so the pious Christian will indeavour by his counsel and example, that the whole external face of Religion may be light­some, beautiful and decorous in the place where he dwells, to the end that not only his animal spi­rits may the more chearfully comply with the devotion of his mind, but that those also may be invited to frequent Gods House and worship, who have not yet experimented the spiritual ravish­ments of it. In further pursuance whereof

9. The pious man (we speak of) will together with all the aforesaid allurements, use also his utmost indeavours by perswasions, incou­ragements, and all other fit means to prevail with the whole Neigh­bourhood or Parish to frequent the Church. For as he would not go to Heaven alone, nay knows as­suredly [Page 340] he shall not come there, if he do not indeavour to carry o­thers along with him; so neither is he contented to feed upon the fatness of Gods House alone, but would have others partake with him.

He hath a holy indignation to observe Theaters to be filled, Ex­changes and Markets thronged, and Gods House unfurnished with Guests. He wonders at the incon­siderateness of men who incur such a guilt by the contempt of Religion, and pitties their folly that deny themselves so many comforts and advantages as Gods House affords above any other place of resort whatsoever.

Besides, he considers, that not only God is more honour'd by a general confluence to his service, but that his own heart is more inlarged and chearful, and his af­fections more raised (as it were [Page 341] moving in Consort) when there is a brave concourse in Divine Of­fices.

Psal. 122. 1, 2. I rejoiced (saith the holy man) when they said, Come, let us go up to the House of the Lord, our feet shall stand within thy gates O Jerusalem. Well-dispo­sed persons (it seems) then were wont to call upon and provoke one another, and to flock toge­ther in Companies towards the Temple, and it was a pleasant spectacle to the Psalmist to behold it. And let good Christians be ashamed to be outdone in any thing of this kind, since our Church and worship is so incom­parably more excellent than theirs. What was it that a zea­lous Jew could provoke his Neigh­bours to go up to the Temple for? to see a Beast slain and a smoke made with the fat and entrails, or to muse upon the obscure Hiero­glyphicks [Page 342] in the Fabrick, the U­tensils, the Ornaments and Ser­vice of that House? But a Chri­stian goes to the Church to hear the lively Oracles of God, to see Heaven opened in all its glories, and to be shewed the way thi­ther.

Therefore he that is sensible of the great odds on the side of the Christian worship, and who hath so much Prudence and Charity as to render him serviceable a­mongst his Neighbours to such a purpose, will jog and awaken them out of their sloth and negli­gence of going to the Church, by wise and manly Discourses, and friendly and familiar Exhortati­ons, from the considerations of the scandal to Religion, and dis­couragement to the Minister by the peoples remissness, and of the duty and benefit of diligent atten­dance, and he will with the same [Page 343] zeal and care indeavour to answer their objections, and remove their scruples about it; and especially considering, that this is common­ly better taken, and sinks deeper into such men as need it, when it is done (not only by the Minister, who is presumed by these incogi­tant persons to do it for his inter­est or the reputation of his per­son or profession, but) by those who are upon the same terms with themselves.

To all this, the pious man a­foresaid will wisely improve the interest of his Charity to oblige the poorer sort to their duty, dis­pensing most liberally to them who are most inclinable to fol­low his counsel in this particular; and for the middle sort of men, he will trade and buy and sell up­on choice with those that are best affected to the Church and Reli­gion. But if all this should not do, [Page 344] and that he cannot prevail upon all, yet

10. In the last place, he will not fail at least to over-rule his own Family, that they shall uni­versally and constantly frequent the Church, and so be an exam­ple to the Neighbourhood. This I have shewed before, every Go­vernour of a Family hath autho­rity from God to do, and the ho­ly Scripture affords us several in­stances of the efficacy and success of making use of it to this pur­pose; amongst the rest, by virtue hereof, Joshua undertook for his House, that they should serve the Lord; and Cornelius prevailed up­on those under him so, that he is said to fear the Lord with all his House.

And indeed a Master of a Fa­mily will be able to give a very sorry account of his Family, if he cannot oblige them to go to [Page 345] Church with him; for we find by woful experience, that where under pretence of scruples about the publick worship, inferiours have claimed the priviledge of exemption, and been permitted to resort to Conventicles, the ef­fect hath been, that such persons have not only grown captious and insolent, and by degrees to de­spise their Superiours, but having by this means gotten from under the Eye of their Governours have made no scruple to run into De­bauchery.

Therefore let the pious man strictly charge himself thus far, and look upon himself as very in­significant in his place, if he do not so much publick honour to God and Religion, as to bring his Family to the House of God.

CHAP. VII. Of Civil Piety, Or, How a good man may carry him­self so, as to promote Gods ho­nour, and the publick good, together with his own peace and comfort, in the Parish, consi­dered only as a Civil Society or Neighbourhood.

WHen our blessed Saviour, Mat. 5. 13. saith to his Disciples, Ye are the salt of the earth, he did not direct himself only to his Apostles, or to them and their Successors, the Pastors of his Church (as some have ima­gined) but to all his Disciples in general. For besides that the Beatitudes which he pronounces [Page 347] in the former part of the Chapter, and his other Discourse (pursu­ant of them) which immediately precedes these words, apparently concern all Christians, so far as they are qualified for them; It is evident also by S. Luke, Chap. 14. comparing the 25 Verse with the 32. that it was his intention to apply this title of being the salt of the earth, to the whole body of true Christians.

And then the importance of that expression will be this, That the true spirit of Christianity is and ought to be a principle of activity; and the Professors of this Religion are not to content them­selves with passive innocency, and that they escape the contagion of evil Example, nor be corrupted and debauched by the temptati­ons or customs of the World: But that they must look upon it as their duty to better and improve [Page 348] the state of Mankind, to influ­ence upon it, to season and pre­serve others from corruption as well as themselves.

Nor is this activity of true Christianity to be strictly confi­ned within the limits of the Church, or to display it self mere­ly in the great duties of Religion properly considered. For as our Saviour designed not only to shew men a way to another World a­bove, but also to amend the con­dition of this present World be­low, and to make it a more quiet and comfortable habitation: so doubtless when he calls his Disci­ples the salt of the whole Earth, he intended to require, that eve­ry good man should (within his whole sphere) indeavour to pro­mote humanity, morality, and the civil and political happiness of mankind. The discharge of which is that which I call civil Piety, [Page 349] and the measures whereof (at least so far as concerns the pur­pose in hand) are briefly descri­bed in the following particu­lars.

1. The first office of civil Piety is to maintain Government and Order, to keep up the honour and dignity of the Prince, to pre­serve the reverence of Magistracy and the Laws of a mans Country. For the doing of this, we have as express and urgent commands of God as any are to be found in the whole Scripture; and therefore the conscientious discharge here­of is as acceptable to him as any act of immediate worship. For God Almighty needs nothing at our hands for himself, or for his own use and advantage, but makes the publick good of his Creatures the matter and reason of his Laws: Now publick Peace and tranquil­lity (which are only to be preser­ved [Page 350] by Laws and Magistracy) are of mighty concernment to man­kind, as well as beautiful in the Eyes of him that calleth himself a God of order. For without Go­vernment we could have no quiet in our habitations, no security of our persons, no propriety in our Estates, no defence against Fo­reign Invasion, nor any refuge from the inraged multitude or combined force of evil men; but the weak would be a prey to the strong, the slothful would eat the labours of the industrious, the World would be filled with Mur­ders, Rapine and Violence, and become an Hell upon Earth; and therefore it is not only worthy of a wise mans care to uphold Go­vernment, but must be his impor­tant duty to indeavour it.

And the being instrumental herein, is not only very honour­able to Religion, and consequent­ly [Page 351] procures the benign aspect of Princes towards it, and provokes them to become nursing Fathers of it, but is peculiarly commodi­ous to all the offices and exercises thereof. Therefore it is observa­ble, that the Apostles generally in all their Writings, immediate­ly after they have discoursed of the peculiar Duties of Christia­nity, subjoin earnest exhortations to obedience to humane Laws and civil Powers; and the primitive Christians were so infinitely ten­der herein, as if they thought that God could not have his ho­nour, and glory, and service rightly performed to him, unless Peace and Order were preserved in the World.

Now forasmuch as the greatest Kingdoms consist of so many se­veral lesser Bodies, as the integral parts thereof; and those again of so many Parishes: And foras­much [Page 352] as it is impossible there should be peace and good order in the Whole, if the particular parts or members be out of order: Therefore it must not only be the duty, but be within the power of every private person to contri­bute something towards the great ends aforesaid; first by disposing himself, secondly by principling his Family, and thirdly, by per­swading and inclining his Neigh­bours to favour and assist the Go­vernment towards the attainment of the design of humane Society. And this the good Christian ought at this time especially to set himself about with the greater zeal, because the looseness herein seems to be one of the peculiar evils of the present age we live in, and that which not only makes an ill reflection upon Re­ligion, but indangers the state of it.

[Page 353] In order therefore to the up­holding of Government, let the good man indeavour in converse with his Neighbours to possess them with an apprehension of the necessity of submitting private interests to common utility, and particular opinion to publick dis­cretion, and so bring them into a good opinion of the reasonable­ness of the Laws, and of the wis­dom of their Governours. Let him labour to remove peoples discontents, to confute their jea­lousies, and to make them chear­ful and well-pleased with the state of the World, which God hath ordered. Let him discoun­tenance all seditious Libels and News, not permit in his Compa­ny any pragmatical censuring of the Laws or publick Counsels; no traducing the persons or ex­posing the infirmities of Gover­nours; nor no repining at, and en­vying [Page 354] the glory and splendour of those that are preferred above themselves.

That he may be successful in all this, let him be careful to pre­serve and keep up the distinct ranks, orders and degrees of men, and that those differences which it hath pleased the Divine Provi­dence to make in the fortunes and conditions of men be observed, I mean in respect of age and youth, riches and poverty, honour and obscruity; the neglect of which is not only a malapert Quakerly humour, but a principle of sedi­tion and confusion in the World. For as it is evident, that there can be no peace and quiet in the World, if there be no Govern­ment; so it is as certain, there can be no Government where there is no Order, nor the different degrees amongst men observed: and there­fore he that would either level the [Page 355] condition of all men, or (which is the same things in effect) would destroy that reverence which keeps up that distinction and di­versity of condition, dissolves the very sinews of humane Society.

God Almighty indeed could ea­sily have levelled the condition of all men, and taken away or pre­vented the differences of Rich and Poor, honourable and ignoble; and of old and young too, if he had so pleased. But then, it is not imaginable how there could have been any Society amongst men, at least, unless he had also by his omnipotency made them all to be wise and good too: but forasmuch as he resolved to have order and government amongst men, and yet would not effect it by violence; he therefore resolved by means of those different con­ditions aforesaid, to subordinate them one to another, and to unite [Page 356] them together in the Bonds of mutual usefulness and depen­dance.

So he ordered that some should be poor to ease the rich of labour and drudgery, and others rich to imploy and incourage their indu­stry; that the one might have su­perfluity to relieve the others want, and the other be obliged by their bounty: the same Provi­dence ordered that there should be some men in power and dig­nity, and others in privacy and obscurity; that the man of ho­nour standing by and countenan­cing the ignoble as his Client, he on the other side should observe and acknowledge him as his Pa­tron, and so harmony arises out of this discord.

Again, he ordered the World so, that all should not be of a sta­ture and capacity of body or mind, but that there should be [Page 357] old men able to counsel and advise others, but not of strength to exe­cute; and young men of spirit and vigour for Execution, but desti­tute of counsel and wisdom: that the former by their experience and observation instructing the latter, and the latter by their strength and courage assisting the former; they might be mutually indeared to each other as mem­bers of the same Body.

He therefore who incourages or suffers (if he can help it) the Poor to be surly and insolent to­wards the Rich, or the private person to be contumacious to­wards those in dignity, or the young to be rude and malapert towards the aged, opposes him­self to Divine Providence, and is the Author of dissolution of Go­vernment and confusion in the World. But he that perswades the poor to be modest, as well as [Page 358] the rich to be charitable; that puts private persons in mind of subjection, as well as great men of generosity and mildness; that disposes young men to reverence the gray hairs of the aged, as well as them to do worthily of their respect and gravity, subserves the Divine Providence in his wise method of preserving peace and order, and lays the first founda­tion of good Government. For the foundation of all Laws and Magistracy is to be laid in the hearts and principles of men; and unless a modest reverence of su­periority be first setled there, the exercise of mere power and au­thority will be very difficult and insuccessful. So that it is in the power of private persons to pro­mote publick Government, and the office of virtuous men to do so.

2. The second office of a Chri­stian [Page 359] in his Parish is to promote justice and honesty amongst the Neighbourhood in all their deal­ings and transactions one with another. It is commonly and truly said, that justice is the Pillar of the World, and therefore it is observable, that the great Crea­tor and Governour of the World usually interposes by a visible Providence, more in behalf of this Virtue than of any other; insomuch, that oppression, and those secret instances of injustice, which cannot ordinarily be di­scerned and punished by the hand of the Magistrate, seldom escape a curse and Divine Vengeance in this Life. For besides the mis­chief that such sins do to humane society, they are Arguments of great Infidelity and Atheism; forasmuch as it plainly betrays that man to have no perswasion of a World to come, who can be [Page 360] tempted for the sake of the pre­sent World to do such base and un­unworthy actions; and therefore it is as well an act of Piety to­wards God, and of Charity to men, as of advantage to the state of civil Society, to use all indea­vours to prevent such kind of transgressions.

But it is not only strict justice which I here intend, but my mean­ing is to take it in the full lati­tude, so as to comprise truth, and faithfulness, and equity also; that men be true in their assertions, faithful and steady in their pro­mises, and equitable and candid in all their dealings, and so far from doing violence to each other, that they do not enterprize to out-wit, surprize, or over reach one another, but that they use a humane temper, and express a publick spirit; and in a word, that they govern themselves by [Page 361] that golden Rule of doing to others as they would be content to be done un­to, every man making the case of his Neighbour to be his own.

And this I the rather represent to the good Christians care, be­cause this kind of injustice is be­come another very common and epidemical sin of the age, and men seem to applaud themselves in being able to cheat beyond the cognizance of humane Laws, and to play upon and abuse the simplicity, credulity, or inadver­tency one of another.

For prevention and remedy of which, the Person we speak of, must in the first place render him­self a great example of integrity and equity, especially because the measures of these Virtues cannot be so well delivered by the pre­scription of any Laws whatsoe­ver, as they may be exprest in the Life, and observed in the conver­sation [Page 362] of good men. And in the next place he ought to endeavour by discourse to make those he converses with, sensible of the baseness and villany of injustice, by representing the sordid love of the World from which it pro­ceeds, the distrust in Gods Provi­dence with which it is accompa­nied, or rather the utter unbelief of a God by which it is incouraged. How treacherous and cowardly a thing it is to work upon other mens necessity or facility: how selfish and un-neighbourly a thing to have no respect to any thing but our own private interest: how little is commonly gotten at last by such kind of courses: and to how little purpose, since a man cannot but expect the curse of God upon his honest endea­vours (otherwise) for the sake of his unjust acquisitions.

3. The third office of good [Page 363] neighbourhood is to indeavour to bring into fashion again that al­most antiquated Virtue of sim­plicity and plain-heartedness in our discourses and communicati­ons; that men, especially Neigh­bours, should ordinarily be free and open and plain to one ano­ther without cunning and scrupu­lous reservation, than which no­thing is more suitable to the rela­tion of Neighbours, nothing more friendly and obliging; for it makes conversation safe and easy when men express a moderate confidence one in another: and although this like some of the les­ser stars, make no great shew in the World; yet is it of very great influence to sweeten the tempers of men, and improve the com­forts of Society. Besides, it is an argument of sincerity of heart, of competent assurance of a mans own judgment, and a real in­stance [Page 364] of true greatness of mind; whereas little artifices of conceal­ment are justly looked upon as the disguises of weakness, or the prefaces to fraud, and consequent­ly render a man either dangerous or contemptible to those he con­verses with.

Some men indeed please them­selves much in closeness and cau­tion, and count it not only a point of prudence, but a piece of state and greatness to live in the dark to all about them; but it is easy to observe, that if any men ad­mire such persons for their depth, they withal suspect them for their designs, and to be sure do not love them.

I acknowledge there is such a thing as a prudent and virtuous secrecy and taciturnity, which is very commendable and necessary in some cases; for no man values him that labours under a loose­ness [Page 365] of tongue, and an inconti­nency of mind, so that he cannot keep his own counsel: and who shall trust him with their secrets who is a blab of his own? And it is well enough said, that na­kedness of mind is as undecent as that of the Body. But then on the other side, must a man be ac­counted naked unless he cloath himself in Armour? To be al­ways upon the Ward, and to stand continually upon our guard, as if we were in an Enemies Country, is at least un-neigh­bourly and disobliging. For be­sides that such an artificial con­versation is very troublesome to both Parties, in regard on the one hand it is very difficult to the reserved man always to stand bent, so as never to betray him­self, and then he spoils all his de­sign: And on the other hand, it puts other men upon their guard [Page 366] too; for men are naturally shy of those whom they observe to be constantly and rigidly close, and so conversation is interrupted; whereas nothing unlocks other mens hearts, like the opening of our own to them.

Again too great reservedness as it is always entertained with jea­lousy and suspicion for the pre­sent, so it commonly breeds dis­putes and contests in the conclu­sion; whereas plain-heartedness hath no rubs nor difficulties in its way, nor no after-game to play: for every man believes and trusts such a man as plays upon the square, and such a conversa­tion is pleasant and acceptable.

Moreover cunning is always lookt upon as an argument of a little mind and of a cowardly temper; for what should tempt a man to dissemble and work un­der-ground, but mistrust of his [Page 367] own abilities or consciousness of evil designs; and this is so far from affording a man any securi­ty, that it provokes other men, first to pry the more curiously into him, and then to counter­mine him, and at last to expose him.

To all which add, that if this reservedness we speak of pro­ceeds from insincerity and design, it betrays great unbelief of God and of Providence; for the clear apprehensions of those great points will incourage a man to be open, and plain and confident: but if it proceed from temper and constitution only, yet even then it doth far more harm than good, and particularly (as I said before) it makes life and conversation ve­ry uncomfortable, and good Neighbourhood plainly impossi­ble; and therefore it is well wor­thy of the care and indeavours [Page 368] of a good man to reduce and re­cover the antient sincerity and simplicity, instead of that hollow complemental hypocrisy which hath of late supplanted and ex­cluded it.

4. But yet care is to be taken withal, that this plainness and simplicity degenerate not into rudeness, or frothy and foolish conversation, and therefore it is the fourth office of a virtuous man amongst his Neighbours, to indeavour to render conversation favoury, and manly and profita­ble as well as sincere; that is, that it be neither trifled away with flat, inspid and gossiping imper­tinence, nor misimployed in light and idle drollery, nor turned in­to an occasion of tipling and sen­suality, much less debauched by profaneness and malapert reflecti­ons on things sacred, but that it be applied to the furtherance of [Page 369] real business, to the bettering of mens understandings, to virtuous purposes, and especially to the ad­vantage of Religion. These last things are useful to the World, and worthy of men; but the other are a mis-expence of time, a de­grading of our selves, a reproach to our reason, and the bane of conversation.

With a peculiar respect to such things as these it is that Christians are called the salt of the earth (as I observed before) because they are not only to prevent the rot­tenness and putrefaction, but also the flatness and insipidity of con­versation. And as for that which I intimated in the last place, namely, the consulting the ad­vantage of Religion, I must now say further, that although it be true that that is not the only sub­ject of good Discourse, forasmuch as God allows us both the re­freshment [Page 370] of our spirits, and a moderate concern about the af­fairs of this life; and therefore consequently the affair of another World ought not to be impor­tunely thrust in upon all occasi­ons to the exclusion of other en­tertainments: yet most certainly it ought to have its place and share in our friendly communica­tions, as being the most weighty and important subject, and if it be dexterously managed, the most gentile and obliging. Neither will it be so very difficult as is commonly imagined, to turn the stream of Neighbourly Discourse this way, if men would be per­swaded to try, and apply them­selves seriously to it: and surely he that hopes to attain the joys of Heaven himself, cannot but wish his Neighbours in the way thither also; nor can he whose heart is throughly affected with [Page 371] the apprehensions of it, omit now and then to let fall something or other that way tending; at least every good man owes so much to God and Religion, as to inter­pose a good word sometimes in their behalf, which besides that it gives some countenance to Pie­ty for the present, may by the blessing of God make a greater impression than we are aware of, and redound to his own comfort­able account another day. But

5. It is unquestionably the du­ty of every Christian to labour to the utmost of his power to make and preserve peace amongst his Neighbours. To this purpose it is very observable, that our Savi­our, Mark 9. 50. joins these two things together, have salt in your selves, and have peace one with ano­ther; as if he had said, ‘Though you are the salt of the Earth, yet you must take care you be not [Page 372] too sharp and acrimonious. You must indeed preserve the World from corruption, but yet you must not exasperate it into pas­sion and disorder; for you must compose men to peace and qui­etness, and quench their com­bustions as well as inflame their Zeal and Devotion.’

And indeed the latter of these can never successfully be under­taken, unless at the same time, the former be provided for; for Religion never takes place in mens hearts, nor brings forth fruits in their lives, when the spi­rits of men are imbroiled with heats and animosities. Men are not fit to consider of the counsels of the Gospel, nor to estimate the reason and importance of them, when their minds are in a flame, and their thoughts in an hurry. Nor if they were already perswaded of them, could they [Page 373] be in a temper to comply with them, or to make any fit expres­sion of love and service towards God, whilst they are at variance with their Brethren, and there­fore the Apostle tells us, the fruits of righteousness are sowen in peace, James 3. 18.

And as peace is very advanta­gious to Gods service, so the ma­king and procuring it is very ho­nourable and comfortable to them that are imployed about it. They are under one of our Saviours Be­atitudes, and he intitles them the Children of God in a peculiar man­ner, Mat. 5. 9. viz. as being those who especially imitate and resem­ble him. And one instance of the blessedness of such men is this, that they which make peace, commonly reap the fruits of it, both in the benign and kindly chearfulness of their own spirits, and in the fair and courteous u­sage [Page 374] they generally meet with from other men, as well as in the repose and quiet they enjoy when all the World is peaceable and still round about them; whereas Makebates and Incendiaries tor­ment themselves first before they torture other men, and besides, bring the fire home to their own Houses when they have inflamed other mens.

The Good Christian therefore is not only peaceable himself, but a Peacemaker in his Parish, to which end he will in the first place discountenance all Whisper­ers, Eves-Droppers and Tale­Bearers as the pest of Society; for these are the Bellows that blow up a spark into a flame.

He will indeavour to prevent and take up Law-Suits, which commonly begin in passion and end in malice: for the decision of them rather immortalizes the [Page 375] quarrel than finishes the dispute; and he that overcomes, very often like the Bee, destroys himself whilst he fastens his sting upon another.

He sets a mark upon them that single themselves from the rest of their Neighbours, and divide in­to parties as men of a great deal of Pride, but of little Wit; for a great and generous mind would be easily able to animate such a Society as a Parish, and render himself considerable in the whole without tearing it in pieces that he may lead a Faction.

He detests and abhors all affe­cted singularity, though the in­stance of it be in it self unblame­able (so long as it is not absolute­ly necessary) because he consi­ders such things first raise Jealou­sy, then provoke Emulation; and at last end in alienation of affecti­ons.

[Page 376] He indeavours that no new Opinions in Religion may be broached amongst the Neigh­bourhood, as knowing well there can be no new Gospel, or new way to Heaven, and he hath learnt by experience, that whilst men stand gazing after new lights they make halt in the race of virtue, and lose the way of peace, with­out which they shall never come at Heaven.

He indeavours therefore to keep up the antient Landmarks, both in spiritual and temporal affairs; but if any disputes be raised, he will presently bring Water to quench the Fire in the beginning, and by discreet and temperate Discourses incline both Parties to coolness and moderation, by re­presenting the littleness of the matter in Controversy between them, the great benefit of Unity and Concord amongst Neigh­bours, [Page 377] and especially by putting them in mind of the approaches of Death, which will very short­ly take away the subject of the Question, and the Disputants too.

6. Sixthly, Next to this and to the intent that his indeavours of making Peace may be the more successful, he will contrive to ren­der his person acceptable and fit to be interposed in quarrels, by making himself remarkable for all other offices of Charity and Beneficence, such as relieving of the Poor to the very utmost of his ability, and by sympathizing with those he cannot help, by vi­siting the sick, counselling the weak and injudicious, comforting the disconsolate, vindicating the injured, rescuing the oppressed, and taking the part of the Widow and Fatherless; by all which and several other good offices he will become a common Father and [Page 378] Friend to the whole Neighbour­hood.

Most of these things may be performed without much cost or trouble, or if they be chargeable either way, the expence will be abundantly recompensed by the delight that attends the discharge of them: for they are commonly as comfortable in the doing to those that undertake them, as they are beneficial to those for whose sake they are undertaken. Thus at a cheap rate a man be­comes a Benefactor and a blessing to the times and places where he lives, and besides, doth a singu­lar service to God, vindicating his Providence in the inequal distri­bution of his temporal blessings, and he renders Religion lovely in the Eyes of all the World, and he very effectually consults the com­fort of his own Soul, giving proof to himself, that he loves God whom [Page 379] he hath not seen, because he loves his Brother whom he hath seen.

7. Seventhly and lastly, (and to speak summarily) it is the du­ty and the practice of a good Christian by all the means he can devise, to promote the welfare and prosperity of his Parish and Neighbourhood, not only because it is far more comfortable living amongst those who are in a pros­perous condition (as to their out­ward affairs) in regard that mo­derate prosperity sweetens mens spirits and betters their temper, as much as pinching want and necessity, soures and disorders them: but also because generally God is better loved and served by men whose hearts are chearful and easy, than by the querulous and unhappy.

In order therefore to the wealth and prosperity of the place where he dwells, the good Christian [Page 380] will in the first place take care to prevent the idleness of the Inha­bitants by bringing in some ma­nufacture or other (if it be possi­ble) that so all hands may be set on work in some honest way of living; for Idleness, besides that it makes a very ugly figure, clothing the slothful persons with Rags, it commonly inclines peo­ple to be great Eaters, having nothing else to do but to mind their Bellies, and so they become a sort of Caterpillars which de­vour other mens labours; it also tempts them by their necessity to pilfer, cheat, lie and steal, and do any base action imaginable; and moreover such people are gene­rally envious, malicious, busy bodies, medlers in other mens matters, and in a word, being desperate in their fortunes, they are past fear and shame. Whereas on the other side, honest industry, [Page 381] besides that it is attended with the blessing of God, renders peo­ple modest, quiet, governable, chearful, good natured, and pub­lick spirited.

In the next place, and in pur­suance of the same ends, the pious Parishioner will, as far as he is able, prevent tipling and drunk­enness amongst his Neighbours, which is well known to be the common cause of want amongst the inferiour sort of People; for this beastly way they will swill down presently that which might go a great way in the mainte­nance of their Families, besides, that the custom of it loses their time, softens and relaxes their Nerves, and makes them impati­ent of labour; it raises their pas­sions, and abates their discretion, and so disposes them to be quar­relsome with their Families when they come home; and which is [Page 382] worst of all, renders them proud, insolent and ungovernable.

Furthermore, the good man will indeavour (if it be wanting, and the place be capable of it) to get a good School setled in the Parish, which besides the great advantage of it, for the education of youth, doth generally inrich the place, and is more beneficial than a manufacture; for this af­fords some imployment for those poor that are there already, and makes no more, nor draws other such to the place as manufacture usually doth.

And lastly, to all this, a good Neighbour will indeavour to bring all vicious and incorrigible people to shame and punishment, than which nothing conduces more to the honour of Religion, to the peace of the Inhabitants, or the felicity of the place.

There are notwithstanding [Page 383] some fond and incogitant people who think this course quite con­trary to good Neighbourhood, and look upon those as the best Townsmen that will connive at mens Vices, and let every Body do what they list: but with their leave, as it is the greatest kind­ness toward such vicious persons, to make use of the provision which the wisdom of Laws hath made for their amendment, so he is the best Christian that discri­minates between good and bad men, as well as the best Towns­man who will not permit virtue and industry to be discouraged by the impudence and impunity of some lewd persons; but so much for that.

These things which I have now treated of in this Chapter, are a certain kind of lesser Mo­rals, and the peculiar instances of that which I called Civil Piety; [Page 384] But if the good Christian will (as he ought) take care of them, he will do at least a collateral ser­vice to Almighty God, by being a Benefactor to the World; he will render the attendance upon Religion more easy, and make his own passage through the World towards Heaven the more quiet and comfortable, which is the thing aimed at all along in these Papers.

THE END.

This keyboarded and encoded edition of the work described above is co-owned by the institutions providing financial support to the Text Creation Partnership. This Phase I text is available for reuse, according to the terms of Creative Commons 0 1.0 Universal. The text can be copied, modified, distributed and performed, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission.