Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.
~ Psalm 42:5
Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.
~ Psalm 43:5
For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the LORD; because they called thee an Outcast, saying, This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after.
~ Jeremiah 30:17
Behold, I will bring it health and cure, and I will cure them, and will reveal unto them the abundance of peace and truth.
~ Jeremiah 33:6
But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.
~ Matthew 9:12
The Soul’s Conflict With Itself, and Victory Over Itself by Faith, by Richard Sibbes. The following contains the Introduction and Chapters One through Three of his work. 1635.
Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God; for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.
— Psalm 42:11
The Psalms are, as it were, the anatomy of a holy man, which lay the inside of a truly devout man outward to the view of others. If the Scriptures be compared to a body, the Psalms may well be the heart, they are so full of sweet affections and passions. For in other portions of Scripture God speaks to us; but in the Psalms holy men speak to God and their own hearts, as —
In this Psalm we have the passionate passages of a broken and troubled spirit. At this time David was a banished man, banished from his own house, from his friends, and, which troubled him most, from the house of God, upon occasion of Saul’s persecution, who hunted him as a partridge upon the mountains. See how this works upon him.
1. He lays open his desire springing from his love; love being the prime and leading affection of the soul, from whence grief springs, from being crossed in that we love. For the setting out of which his affection to the full, he borroweth an expression from the hart. No hart, being chased by the hunters, panteth more after the waters than my heart doth after thee, O God, ver. 1. Though he found God present with him in exile, yet there is a sweeter presence of him in his ordinances, which now he wanted and took to heart. Places and conditions are happy or miserable as God vouchsafeth his gracious presence more or less; and, therefore, ‘When, O when shall it be that I appear before God?’ ver. 2.
2. Then, after his strong desire, he lays out his grief, which he could not contain, but must needs give a vent to it in tears; and he had such a spring of grief in him as fed his tears day and night, ver. 3. All the case he found was to dissolve this cloud of grief into the shower of tears.
Quest. But why gives he this way to his grief?
Ans. Because, together with his exiling from God’s house, he was upbraided by his enemies with his religion, ‘Where is now thy God?’ ver. 3. Grievances come not alone, but, as Job’s messengers, Job 1, follow one another. These bitter taunts, together with the remembrance of his former happiness in communion with God in his house, made deep impressions in his soul, when he ‘remembered how he went with the multitude into the house of God,’ ver. 4, and led a goodly train with him, being willing, as a good magistrate and master of a family, not to go to the house of God alone, nor to heaven alone, but to carry as many as he could with him. Oh! the remembrance of this made him pour forth, not his words or his tears only, but his very soul. Former favours and happiness make the soul more sensible of all impressions to the contrary. Hereupon, finding his soul over sensible, he expostulates with himself, ‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me?’ &c.
But though the remembrance of the former sweetness of God’s presence did somewhat stay him, yet his grief would not so be stilled, and therefore it gathers upon him again. One grief called upon another, ver. 7, as one deep wave follows another, without intermission, until his soul was almost overwhelmed under these waters; yet he recovers himself a little with looking up to God, who he expected would with speed and authority send forth his lovingkindness, with command to raise him up and comfort him, and give him matter of ‘songs in the night,’ ver. 8. For all this, his unruly grief will not be calmed, but renews assaults upon the return of the reproach of his enemies. Their words were as swords, ver. 10, unto him, and his heart being made very tender and sensible of grief, these sharp words enter too deep; and thereupon he hath recourse to his former remedy, as being the most tried, to chide his soul, and charge it to trust in God.
CHAPTER I.—General Observations upon the Text
Obs. 1. Hence in general we may observe that grief gathered to a head will not be quieted at the first. We see here passions intermingled with comforts, and comforts with passions; and what bustling there is before David can get the victory over his own heart. You have some short-spirited Christians that, if they be not comforted at the first, they think all labour with their hearts is in vain, and thereupon give way to their grief. But we see in David, as distemper ariseth upon distemper, so he gives check upon check and charge upon charge to his soul, until at length he brought it to a quiet temper. In physic, if one purge will not carry away the vicious humour, then we add a second; if that will not do it, we take a third.
So should we deal with our souls. Perhaps one check, one charge will not do it, then fall upon the soul again; send it to God again, and never give over until our souls be possessed of our souls again.
Again, in general observe in David’s spirit that a gracious and living soul is most sensible of the want of spiritual means.
Reason. The reason is because spiritual life hath answerable taste, and hunger and thirst after spiritual helps.
We see in nature that those things press hardest upon it that touch upon the necessities of nature, rather than those that touch upon delights; for these further only our comfortable being, but necessities uphold our being itself, acrius urgent quæ necessitatis sunt, quam quœ spectant ad voluptatem. We see how famine wrought upon the patriarchs to go into Egypt: where we may see what to judge of those who willingly excommunicate themselves from the assemblies of God’s people, where the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are present, where the prayers of holy men meet together in one, and, as it were, bind God, and pull down God’s blessing. No private devotion hath that report of acceptance from heaven.
Obs. 3. A third general point is, that a godly soul, by reason of the life of grace, knows when it is well with it and when it is ill, when it is a good day with it and when a bad. When God shines in the use of means, then the soul is, as it were, in heaven; when God withdraws himself, then it is in darkness for a time. Where there is but only a principle of nature, without sanctifying grace, there men go plodding on and keep their rounds, and are at the end, where they were at the beginning; not troubled with changes, because there is nothing within to be troubled; and, therefore, dead means, quick means, or no means, all is one with them, an argument of a dead soul. And so we come particularly and directly to the words, ‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me?’ &c.
The words imply, 1, David’s state wherein he was; and 2, express his carriage in that state.
His estate was such that in regard of outward condition, he was in variety of troubles; and that in regard of inward disposition of spirit, he was first cast down, and then disquieted.
Now for his carriage of himself in this condition, and disposition, he dealeth roundly with himself. David reasoneth the case with David, and first checketh himself for being too much cast down, and then for being too much disquieted.
And then layeth a charge upon himself to trust in God; wherein we have the duty he chargeth upon himself, which is to trust in God, and the grounds of the duty:
First, from confidence of better times to come, which would yield him matter of praising God.
And then by a representation of God unto him, as a saving God in all troubles, nay, as salvation itself, an open glorious Saviour in the view of all, The salvation of my countenance. And all this enforced from David’s interest in God, He is my God.
Obs. 1. Whence observe first, from the state he was now in, that since guilt and corruption hath been derived by the fall, into the nature of man, it hath been subjected to misery and sorrow, and that in all conditions, from the king that sitteth on the throne to him that grindeth on the mill. None ever have been so good or so great, as could raise themselves so high as to be above the reach of troubles.
1. And that choice part of mankind, the first-fruits and excellency of the rest, which we call the church, more than others; which appears by consideration both of the head, the body, and members of the church. For the head Christ, he took our flesh as it was subject to misery after the fall, and was, in regard of that which he endured, both in life and death, a man of sorrows.
2. For the body, the church, it may say from the first to the last, as it is, Ps. 129:1, ‘From my youth up they have afflicted me.’ The church began in blood, hath grown up by blood, and shall end in blood, as it was redeemed by blood.
3. For the members, they are all predestinated to a conformity to Christ their head, as in grace and glory, so in abasement, Rom. 8:29. Neither is it a wonder for those that are born soldiers to meet with conflicts, for travellers to meet with hard usage, for seamen to meet with storms, for strangers in a strange country, especially amongst their enemies, to meet with strange entertainment.
A Christian is a man of another world, and here from home, which he would forget, if he were not exercised here, and would take his passage for his country. But though all Christians agree and meet in this, that ‘through many afflictions we must enter into heaven,’ Acts 14:22, yet according to the diversity of place, parts, and grace, there is a different cup measured to every one.
Use. And therefore it is but a plea of the flesh, to except against the cross, ‘never was poor creature distressed as I am.’ This is but self- love, for was it not the case both of head, body, and members, as we see here in David a principal member? when he was brought to this case, thus to reason the matter with himself, ‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me?’
Obs. 2. From the frame of David’s spirit under these troubles, we may observe, that as the case is thus with all God’s people, to be exercised with troubles, they are sensible of them oftentimes, even to casting down and discouraging. And the reason is (1), they are flesh and blood, subject to the same passions, and made of the same mould, subject to the same impressions from without as other men. And (2) their nature is upheld with the same supports and refreshings as others, the withdrawing and want of which affecteth them. And (3) besides those troubles they suffer in common with other men, by reason of their new advancement and their new disposition they have in and from Christ their head, they are more sensible in a peculiar manner of those troubles that any way touch upon that blessed condition, from a new life they have in and from Christ; which will better appear if we come more particularly to a discovery of the more special causes of this distemper, some of which are, 1. Without us. 2. Some within us.
CHAPTER II.—Of Discouragements from without
I. Outward causes of discouragement
1. God himself: who sometimes withdraws the beams of his countenance from his children, whereupon the soul even of the strongest Christian is disquieted; when together with the cross, God himself seems to be an enemy unto them. The child of God, when he seeth that his troubles are mixed with God’s displeasure, and perhaps his conscience tells him that God hath a just quarrel against him, because he hath not renewed his peace with his God, then this anger of God puts a sting into all other troubles, and adds to the disquiet. There were some ingredients of this divine temptation, as we call it, in holy David at this time; though most properly a divine temptation be, when God appears unto us as an enemy, without any special guilt of any particular sin, as in Job’s case.
And no marvel if Christians be from hence disquieted, when as the Son of God himself, having always enjoyed the sweet communion with his Father, and now feeling an estrangement, that he might be a curse for us, complained in all his torments of nothing else, but ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Matt. 27:46. It is with the godly in this case as with vapours drawn up by the sun, which, when the extracting force of the sun leaves them, fall down again to the earth from whence they are drawn. So when the soul, raised up and upheld by the beams of his countenance, is left of God, it presently begins to sink. We see when the body of the sun is partly hid from us, for totally it cannot, in an eclipse by the body of the moon, that there is a drooping in the whole frame of nature; so it is in the soul, when there is anything that comes between God’s gracious countenance and it.
2. Besides, if we look down to inferior causes, the soul is oft cast down by Satan, who is all for casting down, and for disquieting. For being a cursed spirit, cast and tumbled down himself from heaven, where he is never to come again, [he] is hereupon full of disquiet, carrying a hell about himself; whereupon all that he labours for is to cast down and disquiet others, that they may be, as much as he can procure, in the same cursed condition with himself. He was not ashamed to set upon Christ himself with this temptation of casting down, and thinks Christ’s members never low enough, till he can bring them as low as himself.
By his envy and subtilty we were driven out of paradise at the first, and now he envies us the paradise of a good conscience; for that is our paradise until we come to heaven, into which no serpent shall ever creep to tempt us. When Satan seeth a man strongly and comfortably walk with God, he cannot endure that a creature of meaner rank by creation than himself should enjoy such happiness. Herein, like some peevish men which are his instruments, men too contentious and bred up therein, as the salamander in the fire, who when they know the cause to be naught, and their adversaries to have the better title, yet, out of malice, they will follow them with suits and vexations, though they be not able to disable their opposites’ title. If their malice have not a vent in hurting some way, they will burst for anger.
It is just so with the devil; when he seeth men will to heaven, and that they have good title to it, then he follows them with all dejecting and uncomfortable temptations that he can. It is his continual trade and course to seek his rest in our disquiet, he is by beaten practice and profession a tempter in this kind.
3. Again, what Satan cannot do himself by immediate suggestions, that he labours to work by his instruments, who are all for casting down of those who stand in their light, as those in the psalm, who cry, ‘Down with him, down with him, even to the ground,’ Ps. 137:7; a character and stamp of which men’s dispositions we have in the verse before this text; ‘Mine enemies,’ saith David, ‘reproach me.’ As sweet and as compassionate a man as he was, to pray and put on sackcloth for them, Ps. 35:13, yet he had enemies, and such enemies, as did not suffer their malice only to boil and concoct in their own breasts, but out of the abundance of their hearts, they reproached him in words. There is nothing the nature of man is more impatient of than of reproaches; for there is no man so mean but thinks himself worthy of some regard, and a reproachful scorn shews an utter disrespect, which issues from the very superfluity of malice.
Neither went they behind his back, but were so impudent to say it to his face. A malicious heart and a slandering tongue go together, and though shame might have suppressed the uttering of such words, yet their insolent carriage spake as much in David’s heart, Ps. 39:1. We may see by the language of men’s carriage what their heart saith, and what their tongue would vent if they dared.
And this their malice was unwearied, for they said daily unto him, as if it had been fed with a continual spring. Malice is an unsatiable monster, it will minister words, as rage ministers weapons. But what was that they said so reproachfully, and said daily? ‘Where is now thy God? ver. 3. They upbraid him with his singularity, they say not now, Where is God, but Where is thy God, that thou dost boast so much on, as if thou hadst some special interest in him? where we see that the scope of the devil and wicked men is to shake the godly’s faith and confidence in their God. As Satan laboured to divide betwixt Christ and his Father, ‘If thou beest the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread,’ Matt. 4:3, so he labours to divide betwixt Father and Son and us. They labour to bring God in jealousy with David, as if God had neglected him bearing himself so much upon God. They had some colour of this, for God at this time had vailed himself from David, as he does oft from his best children, for the better discovery of the malice of wicked men; and doth not Satan tip the tongues of the enemies of religion now, to insult over the church now lying a bleeding! What’s become† of their reformation, of their gospel? Nay, rather what’s become of your eyes, we may say unto them? For God is nearest to his children when he seems farthest off. ‘In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen,’ Gen. 22:14; God is with them, and in them, though the wicked be not aware of it; it is all one, as if one should say betwixt the space of the new and old moon, Where is now the moon? whenas it is never nearer the sun than at that time.
Quest. Where is now thy God?
Ans. In heaven, in earth, in me, everywhere but in the heart of such as ask such questions, and yet there they shall find him too in his time, filling their consciences with his wrath; and then, where is their God? where are their great friends, their riches, their honours, which they set up as a god? what can they avail them now?
But how was David affected with these reproaches? Their words were as swords, ‘as with a sword in my bones,’ &c., ver. 10, they spake daggers to him, they cut him to the quick when they touched him in his God, as if he had neglected his servants, whenas the devil himself regards those who serve his turn. Touch a true godly man in his religion, and you touch his life and his best freehold; he lives more in his God than in himself; so that we may see here, there is a murder of the tongue, a wounding tongue as well as a healing tongue. Men think themselves freed from murder if they kill none, or if they shed no blood, whereas they cut others to the heart with bitter words. It is good to extend the commandment to awake the conscience the more, and breed humility, when men see there is a murdering of the tongue. We see David, therefore, upon this reproach, to be presently so moved, as to fall out with himself for it, ‘Why art thou so east down and disquieted, O my soul?’ This bitter taunt ran so much in his mind, that he expresseth it twice in this psalm; he was sensible that they struck at God through his sides; what they spake in scorn and lightly, he took heavily. And indeed, when religion suffers, if there be any heavenly fire in the heart, it will rather break out, than not discover itself at all. We see by daily experience, that there is a special force in words uttered from a subtle head, a false heart and a smooth tongue, to weaken the hearts of professors, by bringing an evil report upon the strict profession of religion; as the cunning and false spies did upon the good land, Num. 13:27, as if it were not only in vain, but dangerous to appear for Christ in evil times. If the example of such as have faint spirits will discourage in an army, as we see in Gideon’s history, Judges 7, then what will speech enforced both by example and with some show of reason do?
4. To let others pass, we need not go further than ourselves, for to find causes of discouragement; there is a seminary of them within us. Our flesh, an enemy so much the worse, by how much the nearer, will be ready to upbraid us within us, ‘Where is now thy God?’ why shouldst thou stand out in a profession that finds no better entertainment?
CHAPTER III.—Of Discouragements from within
But to come to some particular causes within us. There is cause oft in the body of those in whom a melancholy temper prevaileth. Darkness makes men fearful. Melancholy persons are in a perpetual darkness, all things seem black and dark unto them, their spirits, as it were, dyed black. Now to him that is in darkness, all things seem black and dark; the sweetest comforts are not lightsome enough unto those that are deep in melancholy. It is, without great watchfulness, Satan’s bath; which he abuseth as his own weapon to hurt the soul, which, by reason of its sympathy with the body, is subject to be misled. As we see where there is a suffusion of the eye by reason of distemper of humours, or where things are presented through a glass to the eye, things seem to be of the same colour; so whatsoever is presented to a melancholy person, comes in a dark way to the soul. From whence it is that their fancy being corrupted, they judge amiss, even of outward things, as that they are sick of such and such a disease, or subject to such and such a danger, when it is nothing so; how fit are they then to judge of things removed from sense, as of their spiritual estate in Christ?
II. Causes privative, of discouragement in ourselves
1. To come to causes more near the soul itself, as when there is want of that which should be in it, as of knowledge in the understanding, &c. Ignorance, being darkness, is full of false fears. In the night time men think every bush a thief. Our forefathers in time of ignorance were frighted with everything; therefore it is the policy of popish tyrants, taught them from the prince of darkness, to keep the people in darkness, that so they might make them fearful, and then abuse that fearfulness to superstition; that they might the better rule in their consciences for their own ends; and that so having entangled them with false fears, they might heal them again with false cures.
2. Again, though the soul be not ignorant, yet if it be forgetful and mindless, if, as the apostle saith, ‘you have forgot the consolation that speaks unto you,’ &c., Heb. 12:5. We have no more present actual comfort than we have remembrance; help a godly man’s memory, and help his comfort; like unto charcoal, which, having once been kindled, is the more easy to take fire. He that hath formerly known things, takes ready acquaintance of them again, as old friends; things are not strange to him.
3. And further, want of setting due price upon comforts; as the Israelites were taxed for setting nothing by the pleasant land. It is a great fault when, as they said to Job, ‘the consolation of the Almighty seem light and small unto us,’ Job 15:11, unless we have some outward comfort which we linger after.
4. Add unto this, a childish kind of peevishness: when they have not what they would have, like children, they throw away all; which, though it be very offensive to God’s Spirit, yet it seizeth often upon men otherwise gracious. Abraham himself, wanting children, Gen. 15:2, undervalued all other blessings. Jonah, because he was crossed of his gourd, was weary of his life. The like may be said of Elias, flying from Jezebel. This peevishness is increased by a too much flattering of their grief, so far as to justify it; like Jonas, ‘I do well to be angry even unto death,’ Jonah 4:9; he would stand to it. Some, with Rachel, are so peremptory, that they ‘will not be comforted,’ Jer. 31:15, as if they were in love with their grievances. Wilful men are most vexed in their crosses. It is not for those to be wilful that have not a great measure of wisdom to guide their wills; for God delights to have his will of those that are wedded to their own wills, as in Pharaoh. No men more subject to discontentments than those who would have all things after their own way.
5. Again, one main ground is, false reasoning, and error in our discourse, as that we have no grace when we feel none. Feeling is not always a fit rule to judge our states by, that God hath rejected us, because we are crossed in outward things, whenas this issues from God’s wisdom and love. How many imagine their failings to be fallings, and their fallings to be fallings away; infirmities to be presumptions; every sin against conscience, to be the sin against the Holy Ghost; unto which misapprehensions, weak and dark spirits are subject. And Satan, as a cunning rhetorician, here enlargeth the fancy, to apprehend things bigger than they are. Satan abuseth confident spirits another contrary way; to apprehend great sins as little, and little as none. Some also think that they have no grace, because they have not so much as grown Christians; whereas there be several ages in Christ. Some, again, are so desirous and enlarged after what they have not, that they mind not what they have. Men may be rich, though they have no millions, and be not emperors.
6. Likewise, some are much troubled, because they proceed by a false method and order in judging of their estates. They will begin with election, which is the highest step of the ladder; whereas they should begin from a work of grace wrought within their hearts, from God’s calling them by his Spirit, and their answer to his call, and so raise themselves upwards to know their election by their answer to God’s calling. ‘Give all diligence,’ saith Peter, ‘to make your calling and election sure,’ 2 Pet. 1:10, your election by your calling. God descends down unto us from election to calling, and so to sanctification; we must ascend to him, beginning where he ends. Otherwise it is as great folly as in removing of a pile of wood, to begin at the lowest first, and so, besides the needless trouble, to be in danger to have the rest to fall upon our heads. Which, besides ignorance, argues pride, appearing in this, that they would bring God to their conceits, and be at an end of their work before they begin.
This great secret of God’s eternal love to us in Christ is hidden in his breast, and doth not appear to us, until in the use of means God by his Spirit discovereth the same unto us; the Spirit letteth into the soul so much life and sense of God’s love in particular to us, as draweth the soul to Christ, from whom it draweth so much virtue as changeth the frame of it, and quickeneth it to duty, which duties are not grounds of our state in grace, but issues, springing from a good state before; and thus far they help us in judging of our condition, that though they be not to be rested in, yet as streams they lead us to the spring-head of grace from whence they arise.
And of signs, some be more apt to deceive us, as being not so certain, as ‘delight and joy in hearing the word,’ Mat. 13:20, as appeareth in the third ground; some are more constant and certain, as love to those that are truly good, and to all such, and because they are such, &c. These as they are wrought by the Spirit, so the same Spirit giveth evidence to the soul of the truth of them, and leadeth us to faith from whence they come, and faith leads us to the discovery of God’s love made known to us in hearing the word opened. The same Spirit openeth the truth to us, and our understandings to conceive of it, and our hearts to close with it by faith, not only as a truth, but as a truth belonging to us.
Now this faith is manifested, either by itself reflecting upon itself the light of faith, discovering both itself and other things, or by the cause of it, or by the effect, or by all. Faith is oft more known to us in the fruit of it, than in itself, as in plants, the fruits are more apparent than the sap and root. But the most settled knowledge is from the cause, as when I know I believe, because in hearing God’s gracious promises opened and offered unto me, the Spirit of God carrieth my soul to cleave to them as mine own portion, Eph. 1:13. Yet the most familiar way of knowledge of our estates is from the effects to gather the cause, the cause being oftentimes more remote and spiritual, the effects more obvious and visible. All the vigour and beauty in nature which we see, comes from a secret influence from the heavens which we see not; in a clear morning we may see the beams of the sun shining upon the top of hills and houses before we can see the sun itself.
Things in the working of them, do issue from the cause, by whose force they had their being; but our knowing of things ariseth from the effect, where the cause endeth. We know God must love us before we can love him, and yet we oft first know that we love him, 1 John 4:19; the love of God is the cause why we love our brother, and yet we know we love our brother whom we see more clearly, than God whom we do not see, ver. 20.
It is a spiritual peevishness that keeps men in a perplexed condition, that they neglect these helps to judge of their estates by, whereas God takes liberty to help us sometime to a discovery of our estate by the effects, sometimes by the cause, &c. And it is a sin to set light by any work of the Spirit, and the comfort we might have by it, and therefore we may well add this is one cause of disquietness in many, that they grieve the Spirit, by quarrelling against themselves and the work of the Spirit in them.
7. Another cause of disquiet is, that men by a natural kind of popery seek for their comfort too much sanctification, neglecting justification, relying too much upon their own performances. St Paul was of another mind, accounting all but dung and dross, compared to the righteousness of Christ, Philip. 3:8, Philip. 3:9. This is that garment, wherewith being decked, we please our husband, and wherein we get the blessing. This giveth satisfaction to the conscience, as satisfying God himself, being performed by God the Son, and approved therefore by God the Father. Hereupon the soul is quieted, and faith holdeth out this as a shield against the displeasure of God and temptations of Satan. Why did the apostles in their prefaces join grace and peace together, but that we should seek for our peace in the free grace and favour of God in Christ?
No wonder why papists maintain doubting, who hold salvation by works, because Satan joining together with our consciences will always find some flaw even in our best performances; hereupon the doubting and misgiving soul comes to make this absurd demand, as, Who shall ascend to heaven? Ps. 24:3, which is all one as to fetch Christ from heaven, and so bring him down to suffer on the cross again. Whereas if we believe in Christ we are as sure to come to heaven as Christ is there. Christ ascending and descending, with all that he hath done, is ours. So that neither height nor depth can separate us from God’s love in Christ, Rom. 8:39.
But we must remember, though the main pillar of our comfort be in the free forgiveness of our sins, yet if there be a neglect in growing in holiness, the soul will never be soundly quiet, because it will be prone to question the truth of justification, and it is as proper for sin to raise doubts and fears in the conscience, as for rotten flesh and wood to breed worms.
8. And therefore we may well join this as a cause of disquietness, the neglect of keeping a clear conscience. Sin, like Achan, or Jonah in the ship, is that which causeth storms within and without. Where there is not a pure conscience, there is not a pacified conscience; and therefore though some, thinking to save themselves whole in justification, neglect the cleansing of their natures and ordering of their lives, yet in time of temptation they will find it more troublesome than they think. For a conscience guilty of many neglects, and of allowing itself in any sin, to lay claim to God’s mercy, is to do as we see mountebanks sometimes do, who wound their flesh to try conclusions upon their own bodies, how sovereign the salve is; yet oftentimes they come to feel the smart of their presumption, by long and desperate wounds. So God will let us see what it is to make wounds to try the preciousness of his balm; such may go mourning to their graves. And though, perhaps, with much wrestling with God they may get assurance of the pardon of their sins, yet their conscience will be still trembling, like-as David’s, though Nathan had pronounced unto him the forgiveness of his sin, Ps. 51, till God at length speaks further peace, even as the water of the sea after a storm is not presently still, but moves and trembles a good while after the storm is over. A Christian is a new creature and walketh by rule, and so far as he walketh according to his rule, peace is upon him, Gal. 6:16. Loose walkers that regard not their way, must think to meet with sorrows instead of peace. Watchfulness is the preserver of peace. It is a deep spiritual judgment to find peace in an ill way.
9. Some again reap the fruit of their ignorance of Christian liberty, by unnecessary scruples and doubts. It is both unthankfulness to God and wrong to ourselves, to be ignorant of the extent of Christian liberty. It makes melody to Satan to see Christians troubled with that they neither should or need. Yet there is danger in stretching Christian liberty beyond the bounds. For a man may condemn himself in that he approves, as in not walking circumspectly in regard of circumstances, and so breed his own disquiet, and give scandal to others.
10. Sometimes also, God suffers men to be disquieted for want of employment, who, in shunning labour, procure trouble to themselves; and by not doing that which is needful, they are troubled with that which is unnecessary. An unemployed life is a burden to itself. God is a pure act, always working, always doing; and the nearer our soul comes to God, the more it is in action and the freer from disquiet. Men experimentally feel that comfort, in doing that which belongs unto them, which before they longed for and went without; a heart not exercised in some honest labour works trouble out of itself.
11. Again, omission of duties and offices of love often troubles the peace of good people; for even in time of death, when they look for peace and desire it most, then looking back upon their former failings, and seeing opportunity of doing good wanting to their desire (the parties perhaps being deceased to whom they owed more respect), are hereupon much disquieted, and so much the more because they see now hope of the like advantages cut off.
A Christian life is full of duties, and the peace of it is not maintained without much fruitfulness and looking about us. Debt is a disquieting thing to an honest mind, and duty is debt. Hereupon the apostle layeth the charge, ‘that we should owe nothing to any man but love,’ Rom. 13:8.
12. Again, one special cause of too much disquiet is, want of firm resolution in good things. The soul cannot but be disquieted when it knows not what to cleave unto, like a ship tossed with contrary winds. Halting is a deformed and troublesome gesture; so halting in religion is not only troublesome to others and odious, but also disquiets ourselves. ‘If God be God, cleave to him,’ 1 Kings 18:21. If the duties of religion be such as will bring peace of conscience at the length, be religious to purpose, practise them in the particular passages of life. We should labour to have a clear judgment, and from thence a resolved purpose; a wavering-minded man is inconsistent in all his ways, James 1:6. God will not speak peace to a staggering spirit that hath always its religion and its way to choose. Uncertain men are always unquiet men: and giving too much way to passion maketh men in particular consultations unsettled. This is the reason why, in particular cases, when the matter concerns ourselves, we cannot judge so clearly as in general truths, because Satan raiseth a mist between us and the matter in question.