Of Religious Melancholy.

A SERMON PREACH'D before the QUEEN AT White-Hall, March 6. 1691/2.

PSALM xlii. 6.

Why art thou cast down, O my Soul? and why art thou so disquieted in me?

By the Right Reverend Father in God, JOHN Lord Bishop of Norwich.

Publish'd by Her Majesty's Special Command.

The Fifth Edition.

LONDON: Printed and Sold by H. Hills, in Black-fryars, near the Water-side. For the Benefit of the Poor.

PSALM xlii. 6.

Why art thou cast down O my Soul? and why art thou disquieted in me?

A Man, in no part of his Life, wherein he is sensible he has offended God, can be exempted from the Duty of repenting presently; it being an obligation, which constantly lieth upon him, whenever he perceives his sin, to ask pardon for it, and to forsake it.

However, considering the multitude of business, and ma­ny diversions Men meet with in the ordinary course of Things that hinder them from repenting, as they ought to do, of their Sins; it is of absolute necessity that they should single out, and set apart several portions of their Time, wherein they may exactly consider their Spiritual Condition, severely judge their Actions, and narrowly search into the Occasions and Causes of their Errors and Failings, and endeavour to find the best means to prevent the same Crimes for the fu­ture.

A good part of that Season is now spent, which our Church hath appointed for a Review of our Lives, and to discover our Trespasses against the Divine Laws, that we might hum­ble our Souls for them, and amend whatever we find amiss. And during this Season, you have heard the Nature of Repen­tance often and fully explain'd, and the most prevailing Rea­sons urged to excite your Care, and engage your Diligence in a matter of such infinite consequence to your Salvition; and I hope with good effect on the minds of many, who in secret have blessed God most heartily, for these Publick Occasions of Reforming themselves, and making their peace with him.

But notwithstanding these solemn Seasons are designed for the benefit of all Men, that the bad may be converted, tha [Page 3]the weak may be confirmed; and that those, who have made a large progress in the ways of Virtue, may still proceed to further degrees of perfection; yet it is manifest, that as hard­ned Sinners, who have little four of God, and no regard of their Duty, do certainly grow worse by their contempt and neglect of these Opportunities; so also, that divers good Christians, but of timerous and melancholy Constitutions, do fear they do not become better, or recieve any improvement from them.

For they, feeling no present comfort from their long and strict Fasts, nor from their earnest and often-repeated Pray­ers, do conclude. That whatever they have been doing in the Service of God, is so mean and full of imperfections, that it will neither please him, nor profit their own Souls.

Wherefore at this time I shall not insist upon the Arguments which are proper to affect and awaken obdurate Offenders; but rather apply my self to the case of those melancholy Per­sons, who, notwithstanding they are in a safe condition, yet are in great need to have their minds quieted and composed. So that even they, who indeed most deserve it, may have their share of advantage, from such holy Seasons as these.

The scruples and fears which disturb them are manifold: I now can only have time to consider two or three of those Cases; which as more commonly, so more violently use to disorder and affright them; and shall give the most satisfactory answer to them that I can.

(1.) The first Case is of those who are apt to think, that the Reformation of their Lites hath not proceeded from a sin­cere love of God, and an unwillingness to displease him; but from a meer dread of those punishments which he hath threat­ned.

(2.) The second Case relates to them who find a flatness on their Minds, and want of Zeal, when they apply them­selves to any Religious Duty; which makes them fear, that what they do, is so defective and unfit to be presented unto God, that he will not accept it; insomuch that this coldness, when they are imploy'd in their Devotions, doth lamentably deject them, and even tempt them to lay the practice of them aside.

(3.) The third Case doth concern those unhappy Persons, who have naughty, and sometimes blasphemous thoughts start up in their minds, while they are exercised in the Worship of God; which makes ready to charge themselves with the Sin against the Holy Ghost; to pronounce their Condition to be without hope of Remedy, and that God hath utterly cast them off.

(1.) I begin with those Persons, who are apt to think, that the Reformation of their Lives hath not proceeded from a sincere love of God, and an unwillingness to offend him; but from a meer dread of those Punishments, which he hath threatned to inflict on unrelenting Sinners. Their doubt is, that fear which hath had the greatest influence in reclaiming them from an ill Life, is but a slavish and sordid Passion, which God does despise, and that he will refuse all those Ser­vices, which do not spring from a nobler Principle: For see­ing God is Love, he will not be pleased with any Sacrifice, but what is offered by Love.

I answer, That there can be no question, but Love is a more noble Principle of Action than Fear: And therefore, that the Religious Service which hath its rise from Love, is more Perfect, more Angelical, and more grateful to God: But for all that, he will not turn aside his face from those weaker and less improved Servants of his, whose Service and Obedience owe themselves chiefly to their Fears.

They who have forsaken their evil ways, out of a horrible dread that they would lead them to the Pit of Hell, will, it is to be hoped, find a place in the glorious Kingdom of Hea­ven: For Hell was made on purpose to terrifie daring Sin­ners; and to reduce and confine them within the bounds of their Duty.

The thing then I affirm is this; That they who have de­parted from their Iniquities, out of fear, that had they conti­nued in them; they should have been condemned to dwell with everlasting Burnings, will at the Judgment of the Great Day be allowed to have been true Penitents, whom God will set on his Right Hand, and receive into the Bright Mansions of Infinite Happiness; which may be proved by the following Reasons.

(1.) Fear is one of the Passions God has planted in our Souls, as well as Love; they are both the Creatures of his Wisdom and Power; and whatever he did put in us, was for some end, and may have a good use. Wherefore, when the Passion of Fear doth serve the End for which God grafted it in our Minds, there can be no doubt but he will approve the good Effects which it doth produce.

Now the end for which God placed Fear in our Nature, was cheifly to beget in us an awful regard of his most Glori­ous Majesty; to make us dread violating of his Laws, and doing any thing contrary to his Righteous Will; and also when we trip or go astray from his Ways, to quicken our Returns to our Duty.

So that when Fear doth prevail upon a Man to amend his bad Life, he puts this passion to the very use for which he received it from God: and having thus applied it to the end for which it was made an Essential Ingredient of his Nature, we have no cause to question but God will own him, and graciously al­low his Obedience.

(2.) We may observe, That God hath enforced all the Laws he hath given to the Children of Men, by Threatnings, as well as by Promises; But as Promises are to work upon our Love, so Threats are to excite our Fears; God having made the Motives to our Obedience to answer the different Passions, with which he hath endued our Souls.

Wherefore there cannot be the least reason to conceive, that God should threaten Punishments against the Disobedi­ent, which naturally act upon the fears of Men, and yet not be pleased with the Service which these fears, raised by the Penalties annext to his own Laws, do bring forth. No, God therefore doth set Life and Death before Men, that the fear of Death may make them chuse Life; and he threatneth them with Everlasting Punishments, that the amazement and horrour, which the serious and due consideration of them will cause in their Souls, may powerfully engage them with all speed and care to labour to fit themselves to partake of the Di­vine Mercies.

(3.) Our Blessed Saviour first, and his Disciples after him in their Sermons, do address hemselves not only to the Pas­sion of Love, but also to that of Fear: which they never would have done, had they been conscious that the Sacrifices of Fear would not have ascended up to Heaven with a grate­ful savour.

He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. Mar. 16.16. Doth not Christ here intend to bring Men to a belief of his Gospel, and to yeild obedience to the Laws thereof, as well by the fears of Damnation, as the hopes of Salvation? And when he had cured the Man who had been afflicted with an Infirmity thirty eight Years, he bids him sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto him. The Argument our Lord used to engage the poor impotent Man to live innocently, was directed to the pas­sion of his Fear, taken from the danger of a Calamity, great­er than the very long Infirmity of which he was now cured, that would befal him, if he did still continue in his sins.

Knowing the terror of the Lord, saith St. Paul, we perswade Men. The Apostle well knew, that the greatness of these Terrors, exprest in the foregoing Verse; That we must all appear before the Judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done whether it be good or bad, 2. Cor. 5.10. if fully and maturely weighed, would be of irresistible force to recover Men from a lewd and prophane Conversation. They must be brought to a state of extream obstinacy or desperation, up­on whom an Argument of such worderful Power and Efficacy can make no impression.

(2.) I come to a second Case often complained of by some serious Christians, which is a want of inclination to holy things, and a coldness in their Devotions: They do not come to God's House, nor address themselves to their Prayers, with such an appetite as they do to the Business of the World; but want ear­nest and fervent Desires for the success of the Petitions they put up to their Father in Heaven; they cannot warmly in­gage their Hearts in the Cause of their Salvation, but find a [Page 7]listlesness to Spiritual Exercises; which they apprehend to be a full proof of their Hypocrisie, and that God will re­fuse their Prayers and Thanksgivings, as vain and insincere Oblations.

Now before I proceed in the best and clearest Method I can, to relieve Persons in this unhappy Condition: I desire it may be first observed, that why many have no more Zeal and Life in God's Service, is their own fault, for which they are greatly to be blamed.

Because this dulness of Spirit that attends their Religious Exercises, does come from their own negligence, and want of consideration. They take care to make an appearance in the Congregation, but no care about what their Souls are there employed. They have not considered of what infinite im­portance it will be to them to serve God in the most accepta­ble manner, nor how they shou'd render their Service, accep­table; neither by what cause their Devotions have decay'd, nor by what means they may revive and increase them.

Now if they neither consider where they are, nor for what end they came, it is no wonder that their Minds should be flat and unactive all the time they stand before the Lord, and very little concern'd for the prosperous issue of the Prayers that are offered up by the Congregation.

As therefore it is high presumption for such careless Per­sons to hope for any benefit by that part they bear in the Pub­lick Worship; so they may cure their Malady, by retiring from their Business and their Pleasures, and by reflecting in good earnest upon the terrible dangers whereunto they do eve­ry hour expose their Immortal Souls.

But these are not the Men to whose Case I would speak at this time; but I direct my Discouse to those who have fre­quently striven to remove this coldness from their Souls, when they did approach the Heavenly Throne, and yet have failed in their attempt. Now, in abatement of their trou­ble, give me leave to lay the following Observations before them.

(1.) That the difference of degrees of affections, with which Men serve God, does often depend upon the difference of their Tempers and Constitutions. Some have such heavy Constitutions, that it must be a great matter that will work upon their hopes or fears; and it will require some time to make them very sensible either of their gain or loss.

But others have such a tenderness in their Natures, and such quickness of sence, that the least things do much affect them: A little prosperity makes all their Spirits to mount, and they are overflow'd with joy; and as small a cross sinks them down, and causes them to have sad and melancholy perswasi­ons of their Condition.

Now People of such various Dispositions notwithstanding they have equally endeavour'd to prepare themselves, cannot serve God with equal affections: but yet he may be alike pleased with what they both do. Because he will measure their Obedience by the sincerity of their minds, that lies in their own power; and not by the difference of their Constitutions, which was not made by themselves.

The Constitutions of some Men being much warmer than those of others, they easier take fire, whether they are paying Homage to God, or doing business among Men. Where therefore Men have more heat in their natural Temper, it is no wonder they should have more zeal in their Devotions. But God will not reject any Man, because he is of a cold Com­plexion; or disdain his reasonable Sacrifice, because it is offered with less vehemence of Passion.

(2.) We may say further, That they who are not carried by their Passions to the Service of God, but render worship to him upon rational motives, because he is the giver of all good things seem to act upon a higher and more sublime Principle: For notwithstanding they are destitute of that pleasing warmth in their Passions, which provokes others to pray unto God, and to be thankful unto him; yet they do not cease to celebrate his Praise, because it is their duty to do it, and because Reason suggests that they ought to make grateful acknowledgments of his Infinite Mercies.

(3.) We may observe, That the most zealous are not al­ways the best Men. For their zeal may be without know­ledge, or on the wrong side; as it was in St. Paul, when he Persecuted the Church. And it is his own observation, That notwithstanding a Man had such a zeal for the Cause of God, as would prompt him to suffer Martyrdom, and yet wanted Charity, his sharpest Sufferings would profit him no­thing.

I must confess, where a Man is zealously affected in a good matter, and his active Spirits are discreetly directed to the Ser­vice of God, such an one may prove a glorious Instrument for the propagating and promoting the Fear and Honour of God among Men; and also may have a more sensible pleasure in every Religious Performance. But all cannot raise their Affections to this pitch; however, God will not quench the smoaking flax, nor break the bruised reed; but pardon the wandrings, pity the weaknesses, quicken the aflections, and make gracious allowances for all the defects of infirm, but ho­nest Christians.

(4.) That the most holy Servants of God cannot main­tain an equal wamth in their Devotions at all times. Expe­rience doth teach them, that, in some Seasons, an unaccount­able heaviness will seize upon their Hearts while they are on their bended Knees, supplicating the forgiveness of their sins, who at other times can put their Souls all in a bright and pure flame, by intense meditations on the unspeakable love of God.

If therefore now and then you perceive your minds dull and heavy at your Prayers, it is but what sometimes doth hap­pen to the most sincere Christians, how great care and diligence soever they use to uphold life and vigour in their Souls; so that this is no just-cause of disquiet and dejection of Spirit. Moreover, Sickness Losses, and all Afflictions, do some­times so disorder the Passions, and oppress the Spirits even of the best Men, that it is hardly possible they should serve God with as much chearfulness under Calamities and Trou­bles as at other times; tho' they may have as much integri­ty, and as sincere desires to please him; and he will take [Page 10]what they then do, as kindly at their hands, and bountifully reward such Services.

Hence I gather, That since Men are notable at all times to keep their Affections at an equal height, when they address themselves to their Heavenly Father, either in the Church, or in their Closets, that he doth not expect it from them; and they ought not to give place to melancholy Fears, when they shall find it otherwise with themselves: God has made nothing the subject of our obedience, which is not within the bounds of our abilities; and he will at the Day of Judg­ment condemn Men for the Actions only, which proceeded from their Wills; and not for that want of heat in their Pas­sions, which was owing to the natural make of their Consti­tutions, that they could not help; or to outward unhap­py Circumstances, which they had not at their com­mand.

(5.) What hath been hitherto said about coldness and damps in the Minds of Men while they are engaged in Religi­ous Duty, has been to comfort those who are exceedingly grieved at it; and who yet have not been able to conquer it, tho' they have used true pains for that purpose. Now not­withstanding it is not to be expected, nor necessary, that these innocent Persons should meet with a compleat cure of their grief; yet I must tell them, that nothing will more en­liven their Spirits in the Service of God, than deliberate Me­ditations of him, and of themselves, before they enter upon any part of Divine Worship.

If they would often engage their minds in Contemplations about the Divine Attributes, and the Infinite Perfections of the Nature of God, it would strangely help to deliver them from that drowsy Stupidity, of which they so sadly complain and which hath so strong an influence on their Actions. For frequent thoughts of Almighty Power, will make the most sturdy Temper to tremble, and the proudest Heart to submit. There is no thinking so seriously of unsearchable Wisdom, without being wrapt up in admiration of it, and becoming very willing to be ruled by it: And will not the meditations of Infinite Love, diffusing it self over the World, oblige us [Page 11]to adore, to honour, to love, and to praise that most Glorious Spring from whence it floweth.

Do but consider, as the Providence of God watches over all the Works of the Oreation, so with what a particular care it hath preserved you, and deliver'd you from many and great dangers, which you did not foresee, and against which you could make no Provision; and certainly it will give a sensible touch to your Soul, and cause you to break forth into Songs and Hymns of Thanksgiving.

But if you proceed still further, to contemplate the deep Mysteries, and inconceivable love shewn by Christ in the mighty work of your Redempti­on, to consider the great Condescension of your Saviour, when he left the Heavens to dwell amongst us; the wonderful humiliation of himself, when he took our frail Mortal Nature upon him; the Pains, the Agonies, the Horrors of the most dreadful Death he suffered to save us ungrateful Sin­ners; this can hardly fail to dissolve the most obdurate and stony Heart, and make you firmly conclude, that you can sufficiently admire, love, serve or suffer too much for this most Blessed Saviour.

Can your Passions continue all puiet, when you look to this your most merciful Redeemer, who left the Bosom of his Father to seek you, when you had lost your selves in the ways of Sin, and the paths that lead to death! Who came to procure reconciliation for you with God, whom as you had heinously provoked, so you were in no respectable to make him satisfaction.

Do but with some seriousness recollect how often the Lord hath spar'd you, when your own hearts have told you that you did deserve Punish­ment; how very often you have highly offended him, and fearfully look­ed when he should destroy you; and yet you are still suffered to be in the Land of the Living, as so many Monuments of his Compassion; and he is not yet wearied with waiting for your return, that he may be gracious unto you: Do, I say, but meditate upon these mercies of your God, and try whether your Hearts will not all melt into Love and Affection.

Can we say too much, or think too long of this Saviour, who did joyn himself to our Flesh, that he might loose the bands of our Iniquity; who being in the Form of God took the Form of a Servant, that he might destroy the power of those sins, which would have enslaved both our Souls and Bo­dies, and made us for ever miserable?

Surely we cannot but fall down before the Lord, with the deepest re­verence, and esteem him above every thing in Heaven and Earth, who hath created us according to his own Image; who hath redeemed us with the Blood of his own Son, and who doth daily assist us with the Graces of his most holy Spirit, and who hath provided for us a House not made with Hands, in the Heavens.

Let such Subjects as these be the Arguments with which you entertain your Thoughts, before you begin any Religious Duty, and it will strangely conduce to the filling of your Souls with Light and Life, and make you di­ligently study to obtain God's Favour, and bleed in you most passionate Desires to dwell in his presence to all Eternity.

(3.) I come to the last Case I proposed to speak to, which doth relate [Page 12]to those unhappy Persons, who have naughty, and sometimes Blasphe­mous Thoughts start in their Minds, while they are exercised in the Wor­ship of God, which makes them ready to charge themselves with the Sin against the Holy Ghost, to pronounce their condition to be without hopes of remedy, and to fear that God hath utterly cast them off. Now to give them the best ease and relief I am able, I will endeavour these two things.

  • (1) To shew that their Case is not so dangerous as they take it to be.
  • (2) To give proper Advic for their Behaviour under these tumultu­ous Disorders of Mind, and for their recovery from them.

That their Case is not so dangerous as they apprehend it, I shall endea­vour to shew by the following Considerations.

  • (1.) Because these frightful Thoughts do for the most part proceed from the disorder and indisposition of the Body. And this I take to be evi­dent, because they are most rife, and troublesome, and insult most over a Man after a fit of Sickness, or a great Disappointment, or a heavy Loss; which hath deprest his Spirits, and mada them gross and heavy: but when it pleaseth God that he shall recover his health again, and his spirits grow finer, and move more briskly, and his strength doth become more confirm­ed, then these Perplexing thoughts use much to abate, and by degrees quite to vanish.
  • (2) Because they are many good People, who are exercised with them. For bad Men. whose Heads are busied in laying one Scene of Wick­edness or other, how they may gratifie their Malice, or execute their Re­venge, or over-reach their Neighbours, or violate their Trusts, or satisfie their beastly Lust, rarely know any thing of these kind of Thoughts, or use to complain of them. But they are honest and well-meaning Chri­stians of unhealthy Constitutions, and melancholy Tempers, who are so miserably harrass'd with them; who above all things earnestly desire an interest in their God and Saviour, and for that reason the least dishonour­able thought of him, which insinuates its self into their Minds, is so dread­ful unto them.
  • (3) Because it is not in the power of those disconsolate Christians, whom these bad Thoughts so vex and torment, with all their endeavous to stifle and suppress them. Nay often the more they struggle with them, the more they encrease; and when they are vehemently opposed, they do more domineer and terrifie Men. And the true reason is, because by un­successful strivings they do but feed this melancholy Humour, and grow more dejected, So that there is good cause, as I observed, to judge them to be Distempers of the Body, rather than Faults of the Mind.
  • (4) We may observe, that they who labour under the burthen of such dismal Thoughts, are seldom betray'd into any great or deliberate Sin. For they having a very low opinion of the Condition of their Souls, are jealous of the least Temptations, and tremble at the appearance of a­ny notorious Evil. Which is the cause they commonly set a strict guard over their Words and Actions.

Hence it is apparent that the sins which most easily captivate others, [Page]can sarce make an entrance into them. They have little Temptation to Covetousness, who can find no satisfaction in Riches. They cannot be hard-hearted to their Neighbours in distress, who are so ready to beg the Prayers and Help of all about them. They are in no danger of being swel­led with Pride, who think a great deal worse of their own state than it de­serves. They being then thus humbled into a mean apprehension of themselves, by the calamitous disorders of their Mind, do contend the more abundantly to keep themselves blameless and unspotted from the World, wherein they discovering no ease, no relief for their doleful Com­plaints, are not allured by any of its glittering or sensual Baits to transgress the Divine Laws.

From what has been said it plainly follows, that there is more trouble than danger in the case of the dejected Christians, which we have been consi­dering. Altho' I own that none do more deserve our pity, so black and dismal is the Sentence they pronounce against themselves; and yet I make no question but God in his own season, and when he sees it most proper for them, will in some measure settle and quiet their Minds, and also bestow a large Recompence on them for all the Troubles and Sorrows they have sus­tained out of fear that he was highly displeased with them.

I am now arrived at the last Part of my Subject, which is to give the best Advice I can, for their Behaviour under these perplexing Disorders of Mind, and for their Recovery from them. Which I shall endeavour in the following Particulars.

(1) Frequently oberve how your Thoughts are imployed. If they are engaged in a good Matter, encourage them to persevere, and se­cure them, all you can, from outward disturbance and di versions. If they are taken up in trifling and vain Subjects, of no real benefit to you, translate them to some more noble and useful Argument. For as your Thoughts are, so your Actions will be: Men cannot think foolishly and act wisely. Besides, idle Thoughts are Neigbours to bad ones, and there is a straight and short passage from one to the other.

But if they are exercised in any evil design, it highly behoves you to ex­tinguish and suppress them, for if the Fountain be muddy, all the Streams must partake of its Impurity. And this Work you ought to take the first opportunity to do, and that with all your Might, not only because it is of absolute necessity to the Health and Peace, and Innocence of your Soul; but because the Victory over them will be much easier at their first appe­rance, then after, by suffering them to dwell with you, you have given them some countenance and encouragement: and so that Conquest which would have cost you but small pains may become doubtful, where you are to contend with Thoughts, whose long standing hath confirm'd, and al­most rooted them in your Nature.

Thus frequent Reviews taken of your Thoughts, will produce both Pow­er and Skill to manage them wisely, and may in good measure prevent or cure the Troubles complained of by these Melancholy Persons.

(2.) Endeavour to keep all your Passions within due bounds, since Storms of Passion confound the Soul, and make way for evil Thoughts. And whatever was the first Cause of the Passion, it is apt before it goes off [Page 14]to run them into those frightful Reflections, which they so much dread, and after the weakness and indisposition which a strong Passion leaves be­hind it, they will be less able to repel them. So that it is very bad for Splenetick Persons to give way to their Passions, which both bring their Distemper upon them, and unfit them to grapple with it.

Nay, they cannot safely give any scope to the most pleasing Passions; for they sometimes shall find as bad effects in the excesses of Joy, as of a­ny of the sowre and churlish Passions, and be as greatly dejected after them.

It would be much for their advantage to bring themselves to an equal and steady temper, so as none of the Affairs of the World may make a deep impression upon them; to be mild and gentle in their Behaviour, to avoid all needless Contentions and Heats; to be ready to do good to eve­ry body; but never to do things seemingly hard, except where great ne­cessity requires it. Neither to set their Hopes, nor their Fears too high; nor groundlessy to despair, where God has pronounced no Threats: nor fondly to presume, where he hath made no Promises.

(3.) Do not leave your Callings, nor forsake the Post wherein Pro­vidence hath placed you. As before it was my Advice not to set your Hearts too much on the World, nor to suffer your Passions to run vehe­mently after it; so now I exhort not to quit your Imployment, and ut­terly to forsake it, by reason of the trouble of your Mind: For no but siness at all is as bad for you as too much; and there is always more Me­lancholy to be found in a Cloyster, than in the Market-place. As when a Man is too full of business he is ready to forget God, so when he is idle and destitute of all Employment, his Head is apt to become a Cage, not only of unruly, but unclean thoughts.

It will be therefore much to your detriment to hide your selves from your Friends, and to quit the Calling wherein you were exercised; in that People of dejected Tempers never fare worse than by themselves, and when they have nothing to do. For when they have neither Company not Secular Affairs to take up their time, they will be musing perpetually upon the Objections they make against themselves, and their thoughts will all fix and centre upon the desperate Condition, wherein their disturbed Phancy hath placed their Souls. Whereas vertuous and cheerful Conver­sation, innocent Recreations, and moderate Business, will give a great Diversion to the Distemper, and much conduce to chase away these gloo­my Apprehensions.

(4.) When you find these thoughts creeping upon you, be not mighti­ly dejected, as if they were certain Tokens of your Reprobation; For so far as they depend upon the disposition of the Body, which for the most part they chiefly do, I take them, no more to be marks of the Divine Dis­pleasure than Sickness, or Losses, or any other Calamity you may meet with in the World.

Neither violently struggle with them; since experience doth teach that they increase and swell by vehement opposition; but dissipate and waste a­way, and come to nothing when they are neglected, and we do not much concern our selves about them; for it is the Custom of the Mind of Man, [Page]much oftener to think and reflect upon those things, which either delight or grieve him, than upon those which he judges are to be despised.

I know this would be no good Advice, did these Thoughts lye within our Power, and were the Products of our Choice, as all sins are: For then the sooner and the more vigorously we resist them, so much the better it will be for us; for at first sin is weak, and has little Interest in us, and Conscience is tender, and is made extream uneasie by any compliance with it; so that if we did bravely oppose it in the beginning of the Siege, the Victory would be most certain: But when in length of time sin hath got both strength and confidence, our very Nature must undergo a great change before it can be subdued. But now having proved that these bad thoughts do result more from the weakness of the Body, than from the vitiousness of the Mind, it is evidently apparent, that by another sort of treatment they must have a cure.

It is not therefore a furious Combat with Melancholy Thoughts, which will but weaken and sink the Body, and so make the Case worse, but a gentle Application of such comfortable things are restore the Strength, and recruit the languishing Spirits, that must quash and disperse these disorder­ly Tumults in the Head.

Whenever therefore these troublesome thoughts begin to stir, do not fall into any violent Passion, which will abate the Courage, and shatter the Re­solutions of your Soul; but having first commended your miserable Case to the the tender care and compassions of your Heavenly Father, who will not let you be afflicted above measure, endeavour with a meek and sedate temper quietly to bear them.

(5.) Do not think the worse of God for them, or accuse his Providence of want of care of you. For he might have permitted such thoughts to have continued perpetually, or at lest to have visited you much oftener and in a more frightful manner, and all this without the least diminition of his Justice But as his Mercy appears in the degrees and intervals of your Sufferings, so it doth also in the ends of them. He sending these Afflictions for wise and kind Reason; that that they might be powerful Preservatives of your Souls against the heinous sins of a crooked Generation in which you live, that cry loudly to Heaven for Vengeance; they m [...]ght lessen your Inclinations to the Enjoyments of this Life; that they might de [...]den your Appetites to Sensual pleasure, and take your Hearts of the perishing Goods of the World, which can afford you small Satisfacti [...]n so long as your Minds are haunt­ed with these black thought.

Nothing will dispose you more to have compassion on your Suffering Brethren than your own Sorrows; and no [...]hing make you less envy the towering height and prosperi­ty of others, which to Persons in your mournful state must be so insipid and uncom­fortable, that you will indeed be concern'd for the many dangers of their station; but never wish you could supplant them. In a word, nothing will cause you more to feel your own Infirmities, and a want of the Divine Assistance; nothing will oftener carry your thoughts to Heaven than your present Disconsol [...]tion and Trouble, whose length and accuteness will also make Heaven it self taste the sweeter, whensoever God of his infinite Mercy, shall bring you thi her.

(6.) Let not these afflicting Thoughts discourage you from the exercise of your De­votions; not tempt you to omit, or negligently discharge any one Christian Office or Duty. Go still on in the ways of Religion, and do the work of the Lord, notwith­standing these Performances to your selves may seem flat, and heavy, and such as will neither be grateful to him, not procure good to your Souls. Let your Prayer; ascend up to Heaven continually, altho' at present you find no Answer or Return to your Pe­titions. Is any among you afflicted, says St. James, let him pray. Prayer is the natu­ral [Page]and the only safe Refuge for the Afflicted. It is a sure stay to the Heart, when no­ [...]hing else in the World can support it. Nay, the liftleness to Prayer, so grievous to weak Christians, will be remov'd by nothing so soon and so effectually, as by Prayer it self: For Prayer refines the Thoughts, purifies the Heart, and exalts the Soul above its natural pitch; so that he who did enter upon his Prayers with some coldness, shall often receive wonderful joy in his Mind, before he comes to the end of them. No­thing will make the Soul partake so much of the Divine Nature, and so closely unite it to God as Devout Prayer.

But further, at these disconsolate Seasons especially, let the matter of your Prayers be such as doth imply your reposing an extraordinary confidence and trust in God, altho' he seems now to hide his face from you: for it will be a thing most acceptable to him, and a strong proof of your Integrity, that you cease not to do your Duty, even when you find little pleasure in it; and still continue to cast your self and cause wholly up­on him, when he does appear to be afar off, and to have no regard to your Cries and your Tears.

And here it may be sit to give you a Caution against long Prayers; for your Heads, under this disturbance, will bear nothing which requires length of attention: Let your Prayers therefore be frequent rather than long; such as may cause delight, and not prove tedious. There is no time or place, or imployment do so engage you, but you may have leisure now and then to send up your desires to Heaven, and if they be sincere and servent, they will prevail with God, how short soever they are: for it is not the multitude of your words, but the honest disposition of your Heart, which will incline him to hear you. And this Advice is therefore to be insisted upon, because melancholy Christi­ans have been observed to suffer by the length both of their Prayers and their Fasts.

Moreover, do not forsake the Table of the Lord, notwithstanding there also you meet no comfort, and should be altogether unable to move and affect your hearts with holy reflections upon the most cruel and shameful death of your blessed Saviour: For that Heavently Bread will refresh your Souls, and encrease your Graves, and replenish your Hoarts with joy, as soon as ever God shall find you qualify'd for so great Mercies.

What evil thoughts then soever are injected into your Minds, so long as you persist in a godly course of Life, there can be no colour of doubt but God will love you, and ap­prove your Services. For he no where hath said, that Men shall be condemn'd for their ungovernable thoughts, over which they have no Dominion: But he hath promised, that all those who are not weary in well-doing, shall in due season reap everlasting life.

Now sh [...]uld these perplexing thoughts last as long as you live, which is the hardest thing you can suppose in this case; yet that (as I said before) would be no more an Ar­gument of God's Anger, than a Feaver, or a Fire, or the loss of a Friend, or any other Affliction; nor of the unsoundness and hypocrisie of your mind, who in this matter are only the Sufferer; for as you did not invite them, so they continue with you much against your consent.

Let not therefore your present Tryals and Humiliations make you despair of finding favour with a God of boundless Mercy, and most tender Compassions: Persevere in your Duty, and confide in his infinite Goodness, and at length the Clouds, which now darken your Minds, shall all vanish, and be succeeded by steady and pure light; your fears shall be turned into full assurances of unconceivable happiness; and all the Disor­ders. Tumults, and Confusions in your Souls, shall be changed into Eternal Peace, and undisturbed and endless Joys.

Give me leave to conclude all in the words of the Psalmist, who had been a Man of So [...]rows from his youth, and yet ever received Supplies from the Lord answerable to his Distress. Ye that fear the Lord, praise him, for lie hath nor despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted: Neither hath he hid his face from him, but when he cry­ed unto him he heard. Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thy Heart. I will be glad and rejoyce in thy Mercy, for thou hast consider'd my trouble; Thou hast known my Soul in adversities. I will sing unto the Lord, because he hath dealt bountifully with me; yea, I will hope continually, and yet praise him more and more. O how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee: O love the Lord all ye his Saints; for the Lord preserveth the faithful. They that know thy Name will pur their trust in thee; for thou hast not forsaken them who seek thee,


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