A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds. For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.
~ Isaiah 42:3-4, Psalm 51:17, Psalm 147:3, Isaiah 57:15, Ezekiel 34:16, Hebrews 12:12-13
Directions for Fearful Troubled Christians That are Perplexed With Doubts of Their Sincerity and Justification, by Richard Baxter. This is an excerpt from his work, A Christian directory, or, A Sum of Practical Theology and Cases of Conscience Directing Christians How to Use Their Knowledge and Faith, How to Improve All Helps and Means, and To Perform All Duties, How to Overcome Temptations, And To Escape or Mortify Every Sin : in four parts. Chapter 25. The following is an excerpt, containing words written in old English.
A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory.
~ Matthew 12:20
1. Having Directed Families in the Duties of their Relations, and in the right Worshipping of God, I shall speak something of the special duties of some Christians, who in regard of their state of soul and Body have special need of help and counsel.
2. Direct. 1. Find out the special cause of your doubts and troubles, and bend most of your endeavours to remove that cause. The same Cure will not serve for every doubting soul, no nor for every one that hath the very same doubts: For the Causes may be various, though the doubts should be the same: and the doubts will be continued while the cause remaineth.
3. 1. In some persons the chief cause is a timorous, weak and passionate temper of body and mind: which in some (especially of the weaker Sex) is so Natural a disease that there is no hope of a total cure; Though yet we must direct and support such as well as we are able. These persons have so weak a Head, and such powerful passions, that Passion is their life; and according to Passion they judge of themselves, and of all their duties. They are ordinarily very high or very low: full of joy, or sinking in despair: But usually Fear is their predominant Passion. And what an enemy to quietness and peace strong fears are, is easily observed in all that have them. Assuring evidence will not quiet such fearful minds nor any Reason satisfy them. The Directions for these persons must be the same which I have before given against Melancholy and Despair. Especially that the Preaching and Books and means which they make use of be rather such as tend to in form the judgement, and settle the will and guide the Life than such as by the greatest servency tend to awaken them to such passions or affections which they are unable to manage.
4. 2. With others the Cause of their Troubles is Melancholy, which I have long observed to be the commonest cause, with those godly people that remain in long and grievous doubts: Where this is the cause, till it be removed, other remedies do but little. But of this I have spoken at large before.
5. 3. In others the Cause is a habit of discontent and pevishness and impatiency because of some wants or crosses in the world: Because they have not what they would have, their Minds grow ulcerated, like a Body that is sick or sore, that carryeth about with them the pain and smart: And they are still complaining of the pain which they feel; but not of that which maketh the sore, and causeth the pain. The cure of these is either in Pleasing them that they may have their will in all things (as you rock children and give them that which they cry for to quiet them, or rather to help to cure their impatiency, and settle their minds against their childish sinful discontents (of which before).
6. 4. In others the Cause is error or great ignorance about the tenor of the Covenant of Grace, and the Redemption wrought by Jesus Christ, and the work of Sanctification, and evidences thereof: They know not on what terms Christ dealeth with sinners in the pardoning of sin, nor what are the infallible signs of Sanctification: It is sound Teaching, and diligent learning that must be the cure of these.
7. 5. In others the cause is a careless life or frequent sinning, and keeping the wounds of Conscience still bleeding: They are still fretting the sore, and will not suffer it to skin: either they live in railing and contention, or malice, or some secret lust, or fraud, or some way stretch and wrong their Consciences: And God will not give his peace and comfort to them till they reform. It is a mercy that they are disquieted and not given over to a seared Conscience, which is past feeling.
8. 6. In others the Cause of their doubts is, Placing their Religion too much in humiliation, and in a continual poring on their hearts, and overlooking or neglecting the high and chiefest parts of Religion, even the daily studies of the Love of God, and the riches of Grace in Jesus Christ, and hereby stirring up the soul to Love and Delight in God. When they make this more of their Religion and business, it will bring their souls into a sweeter relish.
9. 7. In others the Cause is such weakness of parts and confusion of thoughts, and darkness of mind, that they are not able to examine themselves, nor to know what is in them: When they ask themselves any question, about their Repentance or Love to God, or any grace, they are fain to answer like strangers, and say, they cannot tell whether they do it or not. These persons must make more use than others, of the judgement of some able faithful guide.
10. 8. But of all others, the commonest cause of uncertainty, is the weakness or littleness of Grace: When it is so little as to be next to none at all, no wonder if it be hardly and seldom discerned: Therefore,
11. Direct. 2. Be not neglecters of self-examination; but labour for skill to manage aright so great a work: But yet let your care and diligence be much greater to get grace and use it, and increase it, than to try whether you have it already or not. For in examination, when you have once taken a right course to be resolved, and yet are in doubt as much as before, your over-much poring upon these trying questions, will do you but little good, and make you but little the better, but the time and labour may be almost lost: whereas all the labour which you bestow in Getting, and Using and Increasing grace, is bestowed profitably to good purpose; and tendeth first to your safety and salvation, and next that to your easier certainty and comfort. There is no such way in the world to be certain that you have grace, as to get so much as is easily discerned and will shew it self, and to exercise it much that it may come forth into observation: When you have a strong Belief you will easily be sure that you believe: When you have a fervent Love to Christ and Holiness, and to the word and ways and servants of God, you will easily be assured that you love them. When you strongly hate sin and live in universal constant obedience, you will easily discern your Repentance and obedience. But weak grace will have but weak assurance and little consolation.
12. Direct. 3. Set your selves with all your skill and diligence to destroy every sin of heart and life, and make it your principal care and business to do your duty, and please, and honour God in your place, and to do all the good you can in the world: and trust God with your souls, as long as you wait upon him in his way. If you live in wilful sin and negligence, be not unwilling to be reproved and delivered! If you cherish your sensual fleshly lusts, and set your hearts too eagerly on the world, or defend your unpeaceableness and passion, or neglect your known duty to God or man, and make no Conscience of a true reformation, it is not any enquiries after signs of grace, that will help you to assurance. You may complain long enough before you have case, while such a thorn is in your foot! Conscience must be better used before it will speak a word of sound well grounded peace to you. But when you set your selves with all your care and skill to do your Duties, and please your Lord, he will not let your labour be in vain: He will take care of your peace and comfort, while you take care of your duty: And in this way you may boldly trust him: Only think not hardly and falsely of the Goodness of that God whom you study to serve and please.
13. Direct. 4. Be sure whatever condition you are in, that you understand and hold fast, and improve the General grounds of Comfort, which are common to mankind, so far as they are made known to them: and they are three (which are the Foundation of all our comfort). 1. The Goodness and Mercifulness of God in his very Nature. 2. The sufficiency of the satisfaction or sacrifice of Christ. 3. The universality and freeness and sureness of the Covenant, or promise of pardon and salvation to all, that by final impenitence and unbelief do not continue obstinately to reject it: (or to all that unfeignedly Repent and Believe). 1. Think not meanly and poorly of the infinite Goodness of God: Even to Moses he proclaimeth his name at the second delivery of the Law, (The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long suffering and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin—) Exod. 34. 6, 7. His mercy is over all his works: It is great and reacheth to the Heavens: It is firm and endureth for ever: And he hath pleasure in those that hope in his mercy, Psal. 147. 11. & 100. 5. & 33. 18. & 57. 10. & 108. 4. 2. Extenuate not the Merits and Sacrifice of Christ: but know that never man was damned for want of a Christ to dye and be a sacrifice for his sin, but only for want of Repentance and faith in him, Joh. 3. 16. 3. Deny not the universality of the conditional promise of pardon and salvation, to all that it is offered to, and will accept it on the offerers terms. And if you do but feel these three foundations firm and stedfast under you, it will encourage every willing soul. The Love of God was the cause of our Redemption by Christ: Redemption was the foundation of the Promise or new Covenant: And he that buildeth on this threefold foundation is safe.
14. Direct. 5. When you come to try your particular Title to the blessings of the Covenant, be sure that you well understand the condition of the Covenant; and look for the performance of that condition in your selves as the infallible Evidence of your title: And know that the condition is nothing but an unfeigned Consent unto the Covenant. Or such a Belief of the Gospel as maketh you truly willing of all the mercies offered in the Gospel, and of the Duties required in order to those mercies. And That nothing depriveth any man that heareth the Gospel, of Christ, and pardon, and salvation, but obstinate unwillingness or refusal of the mercy, and the necessary annexed duties. Understand this well, and then peruse the Covenant of Grace, (which is, but to take God for your God and Happiness, your Father, your Saviour and your Sanctifier): and then ask your hearts, whether here be any thing that you are unwilling of; and unwilling of in a prevailing degree (when it is greater than your willingness): And if truly you are willing to be in Covenant with your God, and Saviour, and Sanctifier upon these terms, know that your Consent, or Willingness, or Acceptance of the mercy offered you, is your true performance of the Condition of your title, and consequently the infallible evidence▪ of your title: even as Marriage Consent is a title-condition to the person and privileges: And therefore if you find this, your doubts are answered: You have found as good an evidence as Scripture doth acquaint us with: And if this will not quiet and satisfy you, you understand not the business; nor is it Reason or Evidence that can satisfy you, till you are better prepared to understand them. But if really you are unwilling, and will not consent to the terms of the Covenant, then instead of doubting, be past doubt that you are yet unsanctified: And your work is presently to consider better of the terms and benefits, and of those unreasonable reasons that make you unwilling? till you see that your happiness lieth upon the business, and that you have all the reason in the world to make you willing, and no true Reason for the withholding of your Consent: And when the light of these considerations hath prevailed for your Consent, the match is made, and your Evidence is sure.
15. Direct. 6. Judge not of your hearts and Evidences upon every sudden glance or feeling, but upon a sober deliberate examination, when your minds are in a clear composed frame: And as then you find your selves, record the judgement or discovery: and believe not every sudden inconsiderate appearance, or passionate fear, against that Record. Otherwise you will never be quiet or resolved; but carried up and down by present sense. The case is weighty, and not to be decided by a sudden aspect, nor by a scattered or a discomposed mind: If you call your unprovided or your distempered understandings suddenly to so great a work, no wonder if you are deceived. You must not judge of colours when your eye is blood-shotten, or when you look through a coloured Glass, or when the object is far off. It is like casting up a long and difficult account; which must be done deliberately as a work of time; and when it is so done, and the sums subscribed, if afterwards you will question that account again, you must take as full a time to do it, and that when you are as calm and vacant as before; and not unsettle an exact account upon a sudden view, or a thought of some one particular. Thus must you trust to no examinations and decisions about the state of your souls, but those that in long and calm deliberation, have brought it to an issue.
16. Direct. 7. And in doing this, neglect not to make use of the assistance of an able faithful Guide, so far as your own weakness makes it necessary. Your doubting sheweth that you are not sufficient to dispatch it satisfactorily your selves: The Question then is, What help a wiser man can give you? Why, he can clearlier open to you the true nature of Grace, and the marks that are infallible, and the extent of the Grace and tenor of the Covenant; and he can help you how to trace your hearts, and observe the discoveries of good or evil in them: he can shew you your mistakes, and help you in the application, and tell you much of his own and others experiences: And he can pass a strong Conjecture upon your own Case in particular, if he be one that knoweth the course of your lives, and is intimately acquainted with you: For Sin and Grace are both expressive operative things, like Life that ordinarily will stir, or Fire that will be seen: Though their judgement cannot be infallible of you, and though for a while Hypocrisy may hide you from the knowledge of another, yet ordinarily Nature will be seen, and that which is within you will shew it self: so that your familiar acquaintance that see your lives in private and in publick, may pass a very strong conjecture at your state, whether you s•t your selves indeed to please God in sincerity or no. Therefore, if possible, choose such a man to help you, as is 1. Able, 2. Faithful, and 3. Well acquainted with you: And undervalue not his judgement.
17. Direct. 8. When you cannot attain to a Certainty of your case, undervalue not and neglect not the Comforts which a bare probability may afford you: I know that a Certainty in so weighty a case, should be earnestly desired, and endeavoured to the uttermost. But yet it is no small comfort which a likelihood or hopefulness may yield you. Husband and Wife are uncertain every day, whether one of them may kill the other: And yet they can live comfortably together, because it is an unlikely thing; and though it be possible, it is not much to be feared: All the comforts of Christians dependeth not on their Assurance: It is but few Christians in the world that reach to clear Assurance: For all the Papists, Lutherans and Arminians are without any Certainty of their salvation: because they think it cannot be had: And all those Jansenists, or Protestants that are of Augustines judgement are without Assurance of salvation, though they may have assurance of their Justification and Sanctification: Because their judgement is, that the justified and sanctified (though not the Elect) may fall away. And of those that hold the Doctrine of Perseverance, how few do we find, that can say, they are certain of their sincerity and salvation. Alas, not one of very many. And yet many thousands of these do live in some peace of Conscience, and quietness, and comfort, in the hopefulness and probabilities to which they have attained.
18. Direct. 9. Resolve to be much in the great delightful duties of Thanksgiving and the Praise of God: and to spend a considerable part (ordinarily) of all your prayers herein: especially to spend the Lord’s Day principally in these. And thus you will have three great advantages: 1. The very actings of Love, and Thanks, and Joy, will help you to comfort in a nearer way, than arguments and self-examination will do: even in a way of feeling, as the fire maketh you warm. 2. The custom of exercising those sweetest graces, will habituate your souls to it, and in time wear out the sadder impression. 3. God will most own you in those highest duties.
19. Direct. 10. Mark well how far your doubtings do help or hinder you in your sanctification: So far as they turn your heart from God, and from the Love and sweetness of a holy life, and unfit you for thankfulness and cheerful obedience, so far you may be sure that Satan is gratified by them, and God displeased, and therefore they should be resisted: But so far as they keep you humble and obedient, and make you more tenderly afraid of sin, and quicken your desires of Christ and grace, so far God useth them for your benefit: And therefore be not too impatient under them, but wait on God in the use of his means, and he will give his comforts in the fittest season. Many an one hath sweet assurance at his death, or in his sufferings for Christ when he needed it most, that was fain to live long before without it. Especially take care, 1. That you miss not of Assurance through your own neglect: 2. And that your doubtings work no ill effects, in turning away your hearts from God, or discouraging you in his service, and then you may take them as a trial of your patience, and they will certainly have a happy end.