Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word. Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud. And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
~ Matthew 5:3, Psalm 34:18, Isaiah 66:2, Proverbs 16:19, Matthew 18:3
In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: my sore ran in the night, and ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted. I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah. 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.O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar.
~ Psalm 77:2-3, Psalm 42:5-6
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I.
~ John 14:1, John 14:27-28
The Right Method for a Settled Peace of Conscience, and Spiritual Comfort in 32 Directions, by Richard Baxter. Written for the Use of a Troubled Friend. 1653. This is an excerpt from the text. The text contains material written in old English.
To the Poor in Spirit.
My dearly Beloved Fellow-Christians, whose souls are taken up with the careful thoughts of attaining and maintaining Peace with God: who are vile in your own eyes, and value the Blood and Spirit and Word of your Redeemer, and the Hope of the Saints in their approaching Blessedness, before all the Pomp and Vanities of this world, and Resolve to give up your selves to his Conduct, who is become the Author of Eternal Salvation to all them that obey him: For You do I Publish these following Directions: and to You it is that I direct this Preface. The only Glorious and Infinite God, who made the Worlds, and upholdeth them by his Word, who is attended with Millions of his Glorious Angels, and Praised continually by his Heavenly hosts: who pulleth down the Mighty from their seats, and scattereth the Proud in the Imaginations of their hearts, and maketh his Enemies lick the dust: to whom the Kings and Conquerors of the Earth are as the silliest worms, and the whole world is Nothing, and lighter then Vanity, which he will shortly turn into flames before your eyes: This God hath sent me to you, with that Joyful Message, which needs no more but your believing entertainment, to make it sufficient to raise you from the dust, and banish those terrors and troubles from your hearts, and help you to live like the Sons of God. He commandeth me to tell you, that he takes notice of your sorrows: he stands by when you see him not and say He hath forsaken you: he minds you with greatest tenderness when you say He hath forgotten you: He numbereth your sighs: he bottles up your tears: the groans of your hearts do reach his own. He takes it unkindly, that you are so suspicious of him: and that all that he hath done for you in the work of Redemption, and all the gracious workings of his Spirit on your souls, and all your own peculiar experiences of his Goodness, can raise you to no higher apprehensions of his Love. Shall not Love be acknowledged to be Love, when it’s grown to a Miracle? when it surpasseth Comprehension. Must the Lord set up Love and Mercy in the work of Redemption, to be equally admired with his Omnipotency manifested in the Creation? and call forth the World to this sweet employment, that in Secret and in Publick it might be the business of our lives? and yet shall it be so overlooked or questioned, as if you lived without Love and Mercy in the World? Providence doth its part, by heaping up Mountains of daily Mercies, and these it sets before your eyes: The Gospel hath eminently done its part by clear describing them, and fully assuring them: and this is proclaimed frequently in your ears: And yet is there so little in your hearts and mouths? Do you see and hear, and feel, and taste Mercy and Love? do you Live wholly on it? and yet do you still doubt of it? and think so meanly of it, and so hardly acknowledge it? God takes not this well: but yet he considereth your frailty, and takes you not at the worst. He knows that flesh will play its part, and the Remnants of Corruption will not be idle: and the Serpent will be suggesting false thoughts of God, and will be still striving most to obscure that part of his Glory which is dearest to him, and especially which is most conjoined with the Happiness of Man. He knows also, that sin will breed sorrows and fears: and that mans Understanding is shallow, and all his Conceivings of God are exceeding low: and that we are so far from God as Creatures, and so much further as sinners, and especially as Conscious of the abuse of his Grace, that there must needs follow such a strangeness, as will damp and dull our apprehensions of his Love: and such an abatement of our Confidence, as will make us draw back, and look at God afar off. Seeing therefore that at this distance no full apprehensions of Love can be expected: It is the Pleasure of our Redeemer shortly to Return, with ten thousands of his Saints, with the noble Army of his Martyrs, and the attendance of his Angels: and to give you such a Convincing Demonstration of his Love, as shall leave no room for one more Doubt. Your Comforts are now but a taste, they shall be then a Feast: They are now but Intermittent, they shall be then Continual. How soon now do your Conquered fears return? and what an unconstancy and unevenness is there in our Peace? But then our Peace must needs be Perfect and Permanent, when we shall please God and Enjoy him in Perfection to Perpetuity. Certainly, Christians, your Comforts should be now more abundant, but that they are not ripe: It is that, and not this, that is your harvest: I have told you in another Book the mistake and danger of expecting too much here, and the Necessity of Looking and Longing for that Rest, if we will have Peace indeed. But, alas, how hard is this lesson learned? Unbelievers would have Happiness: but how fain would they have it in the Creature, rather then in God. Believers would rather have their Happiness in God then in the Creature: But how fain would they have it without Dying? And no wonder: for when Sin brought in Death, even Grace it self cannot Love it, though it may submit to it: But though Churlish Death do stand in our way, why look we not at the Souls admittance into Rest. and the Bodies Resurrection that must shortly follow? Doubtless that Faith by which we are Justified and Saved, as it sits down on the word of Truth as the present ground of its confident repose, so doth it thence look with one eye backward on the Cross, and with the other forward on the Crown: And if we well observe the Scripture Descriptions of that Faith, we shall find them as frequently magnifying it, and describing it from the latter as from the former. As it is the duty and glory of faith to look back with Thankful Acknowledgement to a Crucified Christ, and his payment of our Ransom: so is it the Duty and Glory of that same Justifying Saving Faith to Look forward with Desire and Hope to the Return of King Jesus, and the Glorious Celebration of the Marriage of the Lamb, and the Sentencial Justification, and the Glorification of his Saints: To Believe these things unfeignedly which we never saw, (nor ever spoke with man that did see) and to Hope for them so Really as to let go all present forbidden pleasures, and all worldly hopes and seeming happiness, rather then to hazard the loss of them: this is an eminent part of that Faith by which the Just do live, and which the Scripture doth own as Justifying and Saving: (For it never distinguisheth between Justifying Faith and Saving Faith, as to their nature.) It is therefore a great mistake of some to look only at that one eye of Justifying Faith which looks back upon the Cross, and a great mistake of them on the other hand that look only at that eye of it which beholds the Crown: Both Christ Crucified, and Christ Interceding, and Christ Returning to Justify and Glorify, are the objects even of Justifying Saving Faith, most strictly so called. The Scripture oft expresseth the one only: but then it still implyeth the other. The Socinians erroneously therefore from Heb. 11. (where the Examples and Elogies of Faith are set forth) do exclude Christ Crucified, or the respect to his Satisfaction, from Justifying Faith, and place it in a mere Expectation of Glory: and others do as ungroundedly affirm, that it is not the Justifying Act of Faith which Heb. 11. describeth, because they find not the Cross of Christ there mentioned. For as Believing in Christs Blood Comprehendeth the End, even the Expectation of Remission and Glory merited by that blood: so the Believing of that Glory doth always imply that we Believe and Expect it as the fruit of Christ’s Ransom. It is for health and life that we Accept and Trust upon our Physician: And it is for Justification and Salvation that we Accept and Trust on Christ. The Salvation of our Souls is the End of our Faith. They that question whether we may Believe and Obey for our own Salvation, do question whether we may go to the Physician, and follow his advice for Health and Life. Why then do you that are Believers, so much forget the End of your Faith? and that for which it is that you Believe? Believing in Christ for present Mercies only, be they temporal or spiritual, is not the true Believing. They are dangerously mistaken that think the thoughts of Heaven to be so accidental to the nature and work of Faith, as that they tend only to our Comfort, and are not necessary to Salvation it self. It is upon your apprehensions and expectations of that unseen felicity that both your Peace and Safety do depend. How contrary therefore is it to the nature of a Believer, to forget the Place of his Rest and Consolation. and to Look for so much of these from Creatures, in this our present Pilgrimage and Prison, as, alas, too commonly we do. Thus do we kill our Comforts, and then complain for want of them. How should you have any Life or Constancy of Consolations, that are so seldom, so slight, so unbelieving and so heartless in your thoughts of Heaven. You know what a folly it is to expect any Peace, which shall not come from Christ as the Fountain: And you must learn as well to understand what a folly it is to expect any solid Joys, or stable Peace, which is not fetched from Heaven, as from the End. O that Christians were careful to live with one eye still on Christ Crucified, and with the other on Christ coming in Glory. If the Everlasting Joys were more in your believing thoughts, Spiritual Joys would more abound at present in your hearts. It’s no more wonder that you are Comfortless when Heaven is forgotten, or doubtingly remembered, then that you are faint when you eat not, or cold when you stir not, or when you have not fire or clothes.
But when Christians do not only let fall their expectations of the things Unseen, but also heighten their expectations from the Creature: then do they most infallibly prepare for their fears, and troubles, and estrangedness from God, and with both hands draw calamities on their souls. Who ever meets with a distressed complaining soul, where one or both of these is not apparent? their Low expectations from God hereafter, or their high expectations from the Creature now? What doth keep us under such trouble and disquietness, but that we will not Expect what God hath Promised, or we will needs Expect what he Promised not? And then we complain when we miss of those Expectations which we foolishly and ungroundedly raised to our selves. We are grieved for Crosses, for Losses, for wrongs from our Enemies, for unkind or unfaithful dealings of our Friends, for sickness, for contempt and disesteem in the World. But who bid you look for any better? Was it Prosperity, and Riches, and Credit, and Friends, that God called you to Believe for? or that you became Christians for, or that you had an absolute promise of in the Word? If you will make Promises to your self, and then your own Promises deceive you, whom should you blame for that? Nay do we not, as it were, necessitate God hereby, to embitter all our Comforts below, and to make every Creature as a Scorpion to us, because we will needs make them our petty Deities? We have less Comfort in them then else we might have, because we must needs have more then we should have. You might have more faithfulness from your Friends, more Reputation in the World, more sweetness in all your present enjoyments, if you looked for Less. Why is it that you can scarce name a Creature near you, that is not a scourge to you, but because you can scarce name one that is not your Idol? or, at least, which you do not expect more from, then you ought? Nay (which is one of the saddest Considerations of this kind that can be imagined) God is fain to scourge us most even by the highest Professors of Religion, because we have most Idolised them, and had such excessive expectations from them. One would thought it next to an impossibility…such men, and so many of they ever have been drawn to do that against the Church, against that Gospel-Ministry, and Ordinances of God (which once seemed dearer to them then their lives) which hath since been done, and which yet we fear. But a believing eye can discern the reason of this sad providence (in part:) Never men were more Idolised: and therefore no wonder if we were never so afflicted by any. Alas, when will we learn by Scripture and Providence so to know God and the Creature, as to look for More from him, and less from them. We have looked for Wonders from Scotland, and what is come of it? We looked that War should have even satisfied our desires, and when it had removed all visible Impediments, we thought we should have had such a glorious Reformation as the World never knew. And now behold, a Babel, and a mangled Deformation. What high Expectations had we from an Assembly. what Expectations from a Parliament. and where are they now. O hear the Word of the Lord, ye low-spirited People. [Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of? Isa. 2.22.] [Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord: For he shall be like the Heath in the Desert, and shall not see when Good cometh. Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose Hope the Lord is: For he shall be as a Tree planted by the Waters, &c. Jer. 17.5, 6, 7, 8.] [Surely men of Low degree are Vanity, and men of High degree are a Lye: to be laid in the balance they are altogether lighter then Vanity, Psal. 62.9.] Let me warn you all, Christians, for the time to come, Take the Creature as a Creature: remember its frailty: look for no more from it then its part: If you have the nearest, dearest, godly friends, expect to feel the sting of their Corruptions, as well as to taste the sweetness of their Grace: And they must expect the like from you.
If you ask me why I speak so much of these things here? It is, 1. Because I find that much of the trouble of ordinary Christians comes from their Crosses in the Creature, and the frustration of these their sinful Expectations. 2. And because I have said so little of it in the following Directions, they being intended for the cure of another kind of Trouble: therefore I have said this much here of this.
Having premised this advice, I take my self bound to adde one thing more: that is, An Apology for the Publication of this Imperfect Piece: whether just or insufficient, other men must judge. I confess I am so apprehensive of the Luxuriant Fertility, or Licenciousness of the Press of late, as being a design of the Enemy to bury and overwhelm in a crowd those Judicious, Pious, Excellent Writings that before were so commonly read by the People, that I think few men should now print without an Apology: much less such as I; who hath more lamented this inundation of impertinencies. or more accused the Ignorance and Pride of others •hat must needs disgorge themselves of all heir Crudities, as if they were such precious Conceptions, proceeding from the Holy Ghost, that the World might not, without very great injury, be deprived of: and it were pity that all men should not be made partakers of them? And how come I to go on in the same fault my self? Truly I have no Excuse or Argument but those of the Times, Necessity and Providence: which how far they may Justify me, I must leave to the Judge. Being in company with a troubled complaining Friend, I perceived that it must be some standing Counsel which might be frequently perused, that must satisfactorily answer the Complaints that I heard, and not a transient Speech, which would quickly slip away: Being therefore obliged as a Pastor, and as a Friend, and as a Christian, to tender my best assistance for relief, I was suddenly (in the moment of speaking) moved to promise one sheet of Paper, which might be useful to that End. Which promise when I attempted to perform, the one sheet lengthened to thirty, and my one daies (intended) work was drawn out to a just month, I went on far before I had the least thought to let any eye behold it, except the Party for whom I wrote it: But at last I perceived an impossibility of contracting, and I was presently possessed with confident apprehensions, that a Copy of those Directions might be useful to many other of my poor Neighbours and Friends that needed them is much: Upon which apprehension I presently permitted my Pen to run more at large, and to deviate from the case of the Party that I wrote for: and to take in the common case of most troubled doubting souls. By that time I had finished it, I received Letters from several parts, from Learned and Judicious Divines, importuning me to print more (having understood my Intentions to desist, as having done too much already, even at first:) I confess I was not much moved by their Importunity, till they seconded it with their Arguments: whereof one was, The Experience of the success of former Writings, which might assure me it was not displeasing to God. I had many that urged me: I had no one but my self to draw me back. I apprehended that a writing of this nature might be useful to the many weak perplexed Christians through the Land. Two reasons did at first come in against it. The first was, That if there were no more written on this Subject then Doctor Sibs’s Bruised Reed, and Souls Conflict, and Mr Jos. Symonds Deserted Souls Case and Cure, there need no more: Especially there being also Doctor Prestons Works, and many of Perkins, to this use: and Mr. Ball and Mr. Culverwel of Faith, and divers the like. To this my own Judgement answered, That yet these brief Directions might adde somewhat that might be useful to the weak, as to the Method of their proceedings, if not to the matter: And my Brethren stopped my mouth by telling me, that others had written before me of Heaven and Baptism: and yet my labours were not lost. Next this, I thought the Crudity and weakness of the Writing was such, as should prohibit the publication, it being unfit to thrust upon the World, the hasty undigested lines that were written for the use of one person. To this my thoughts replied, That 1. For all that, it might be useful to poor Women, and Country people, who most commonly prove the troubled spirits for whose sakes I wrote it. Had I writ for the use of Learned men, I would have tried to make it fitter for their use: and if I could not, I would have suppressed it. 2. It was my Pride that nourished this scruple, which moved me not to appear so homely to the World, and therefore I cast it by. One thing more I confess did much prevail with me to make these Papers publick: and that is, the Antinomians common, confident obtrusion of their Anti-Evangelical doctrines and methods for comforting troubled souls. They are the most notorious Mountebanks in this Art, the highest pretenders, and unhappiest performers, that most of the Reformed Churches ever knew. And none usually are readier to receive their doctrines, then such weak women or unskilful people, that being in Trouble, are like a sick man in great pain, who is glad to hear what all can say, and to make trial of every thing by which he hath any hope of ease. And then there is so much Opium in these Mountebanks Nepenthes, or Antidote of Rest: so many principles of carnal security and presumption, which tend to the present case of the Patient, (whatever follow) that it is no wonder if some well-meaning Christians do quickly swallow the bait, and proclaim the rare effects of this Medicament, and the admirable skil of this unskilful Sect, to the ensnaring of others, especially that are in the like distress. Especially when they meet with some Divines of our own, who do deliver to them some Master-points of this System of Mistakes, which are so necessarily concatenated to the rest, that they may easily see, if they have one, they must have all, unless they will hold Contradictions. As to instance in the Doctrine of Justification before Faith: or the dissolving the Obligation to Punishment (which is nothing but Remission of sin) before Faith: So that nothing remains since Christs death (as some) or since Gods Decree (as others) but only to have our Pardon manifested, or to be Justified in Conscience, or (as some phrase it) to have that Justification which is terminated in Conscience. There is a very Judicious man, Mr. Benjamin Woodbridge of Newbury hath written so excellent well against this Error, and in so small room, being but one Sermon, that I would advise all private Christians to get one of them, and peruse it, as one of the best, easiest, cheapest Preservatives against the contagion of this part of Antinomianism.
I had not troubled the Reader with this Apology, had I thought so well of this Writing as to be a sufficient Apology for it self: or had I not taken it for a heinous Crime to speak Idly in Print.
For the Doctrine here contained, it is of a Middle strain, between (I think) the Extremes of some others. I have laboured so to build up Peace, as not thereby to fortify Presumption. And perhaps in some Points you may see my meaning more plainly, which through the obscurity of former Writings I was mis-understood in. As for the Manner of this Writing, I must desire them that expect Learning or Exactness, to turn away their eyes: and know, that I wrote it not for such as they. I use not to speak any thing be plain English to that Sex, or to that Use and End for which I wrote these Lines I wrote to the utmost verge of my Paper before I thought to make it publick, and so had no room for Marginal Quotations (nor time to transcribe that Copy that might have room) nor indeed much min• of them, if I had had both room and time.
As in all the Removes of my Life have been still led to that place or state which was furthest from my own thoughts, and never designed or contrived by my self: so all the Writings that yet I have published are such as have been by some sudden unexpected occasion extorted from me, while those that I most affected have been stifled in the Conception: and those that I have most laboured in, must lie buried in the dust: that I may know it’s God that is the Disposer of all. Experience persuadeth me to think, that God, who hath compelled me hereto, intendeth to make this hasty writing a means for the calming of some Troubled Souls: Which if he do, I have my End. If I can do nothing to the churches publick Peace, either through my own unskilfulness and unworthiness, or through the prevalency of the Malady: yet will it be my comfort to further the Peace of the poorest Christian. (Though to the former also I shall contribute my best endeavours: and am with this sending to the Press some few sheets to that end, with our Worcestershire Agreement.) The full accomplishment of both: the subduing of the Prince of Darkness, Confusion and Contention: the destroying of that Pride, self-esteem, self-seeking, and carnal-mindedness, which remaining even in the best, are the disturbers of all Peace: the fuller discovery of the sinfulness of impeaceable Principles, Dispositions and Practices: the nearer closure of all true Believers, and the hastening of the Churches Everlasting Peace: These are his daily Prayers, who is —
A zealous desirer of the Peace of the Church, and of every faithful soul, Richard Baxter, 7th of May, 1653.
The Right Method For a Settled Peace of Conscience and Spiritual Comfort.
It must be understood, that the Case here to be resolved is not, How an unhumbled profane sinner that never was Convinced of Sin and Misery, should be brought to a settled Peace of Conscience. Their Carnal Peace must first be broken, and they must be so far humbled, as to find the want and worth of Mercy, that Christ and his Consolations may not seem contemptible in their eyes. It is none of my business now, to give any advice for the furthering of this Conviction or Humiliation. But the Case in hand is; How a Sinner may attain to a settled Peace of Conscience, and some competent measure of the Joy of the holy Ghost, who hath been convinced of Sin and Misery, and long made a Profession of Holiness, but liveth in continual doubtings of their sincerity, and fears of Gods wrath, because of an exceeding Deadness of spirit, and a want of that Love to God, and Delight in him, and sweetness in Duty, and witness of the Spirit, and Communion with God, and other the like Evidences which are found in the Saints. How far the party is right or wrong in the Discovery of these Wants, I now meddle not. Whether they Judge rightly or wrongly the Directions may be Useful to them. And though I purposely meddle not with the unhumbled that feel not the want of Christ and Mercy, yet most that falls may be useful to all that profess the Christian faith. For I shall study so to avoid the extremes in my doctrinal Directions, as may conduce to your escaping the desperate extremes, of Ungrounded Comforts, and Causeless Terrors, in your own spirit.
Of my Directions the first shall be only General, and the rest more particular. And in all of them I must intreat you —
1. To observe the Order and Method as well as the Matter; and that you would practise them in the same order as I place them.
2. And to remember that it is not only Comfortable words, but it is Directions for your own practice which here I prescribe you: And therefore that it is not the bare Reading of them that will Cure you; but if you mean to have the benefit of them, you must bestow more time in Practising them then I have done in Penning them: yea you must make it the work of your life. And let not that startle you or seem tedious to you; for it will be no more grievous a work to a well tempered soul, then eating, or drinking, or sleep, or recreation is to a healthful Body; and then it is to an honest woman to Love and Delight in her Husband and her Children: which is no grievous task.
1. Get as clear a discovery as you can of the true Cause of your Doubts and Troubles: for if you should mistake in the Cause, it would much frustrate the most excellent means for the Cure.
The very same Doubts and Complaints may come from several Causes in several Persons, and therefore admit not of the same way of Cure: sometime the Cause begins in the body, and thence proceedeth to the mind: sometime it begins in the mind, and thence distempereth the body: sometime in the mind, it is most or first from worldly crosses and thence proceedeth to spiritual things: And of spiritual matters, sometimes it begins upon scruples or differences in Religion, or points of Doctrine: sometimes and most commonly, from the sense of our own Infirmities: sometimes it is only from ordinary Infirmities: sometimes from some extraordinary decays of inward Grace: sometime from the neglects of some weighty duty: and sometimes from the deep wounds of some heinous secret, or scandalous sin: And sometimes it is merely from the fresh discovery of that which before we never did discern: And sometimes from the violent assault of extraordinary Temptations: which of these is your own Case, you must be careful to find out, and to apply the means for Cure accordingly. Even of true Christians, the same means will not fit all. The difference of Natures as well as of actual Cases must be considered. One hath need of that tender handling which would undo another: and he again hath need of that rousing which another cannot bear. And therefore understand that when I have given you all the Directions that I can, I must (in the end hereof) advise you to take the Counsel of a skilfull Minister in applying and making use of them: For it is in this, as in the Case of Physick: When we have written the best Books of Receipts, or for Methodical Cures, yet we must advise people to take heed how they use them without the advice of a learned and faithful Physician. For Medicines must not be only fitted to Diseases but to Bodies. That Medicine will kill one man, which will cure another of the same distemper: such difference there may be in their age, strength, complexion and other things. So is it much in our present Case. And therefore as when all the Physick Books in the world are written, and all Receipts known, yet will there be still a Necessity of Physicians; so when all Discoveries and Directions are made in Divinity, there will still be a Necessity of a constant standing Ministry. And as ignorant Women and Emprikes do kill oft times more then they Cure, though they have the best Receipts, for want of Judgment and experience to use them aright: so do ignorant Teachers and Guides by mens souls, though they can say the same words as a Judicious Pastor, and repeat the same Texts of Scripture. Not that I mean, that such can do no good: Yes, much no doubt, if they will humbly, compassionately and faithfully improve their Talents, within the verge of their own Calling: which if they go beyond, ordinarily a remarkable Judgment followeth their best labours; both to the Churches and particular souls that make use of them. And therefore because (if my conjectural prognisticks fail not, as I daily pray they may) we are like to be more tried and plagued this way, then ever were any of our forefathers since Adam’s days till now, and seeing this is the hour of our Temptation, wherein God is purposely separating the chaff, and discovering to the world, the dangers of injudicious misguided Zeal; I shall therefore both first and last advise you, as ever you would have a settled Peace of Conscience, keep out of the hand of vagrant and seducing Mountebanks, under what Names, or Titles, or pretences soever they may assault you. Especially suspect all that bestow as much pains to win you to their party, as to win you to Christ.
2. Make as full a Discovery as you can, how much of the trouble of your mind doth arise from your Melancholy, and bodily distempers, and how much from discontenting afflictions in your worldly Estate, or Friends, or Name. And according to your Discovery make use of the Remedy.
I Put these two Causes of trouble here together in the beginning, because I will presently dismiss them, and apply the rest of these Directions only to those Troubles that are raised from sins and wants in Grace.
1. For Melancholy, I have by long experience found it to have so great and common a hand in the fears and troubles of mind, that I meet not with one of many that live in great Troubles and fears for any long time together, but Melancholy is the main seat of them: Though they feel nothing in their body, but all in their Mind. I would have such persons make use of some able godly Physician, and he will help them to discern how much of their Trouble comes from Melancholy. Where this is the Cause, usually the party is Fearful of almost every thing: a word, or a sudden thought will disquiet them: Sometime they are sad and scarce know why: all Comforts are of no continuance with them: but as soon as you have done comforting them, & they be never so well satisfied, yet the trouble returns in a few days or hours, as soon as the dark and troubled spirits return to their former force: They are still addicted to musing and solitariness, and thoughts will run in their minds, that they cannot lay them by: If it go anything far; they are almost always assaulted with Temptations to Blasphemy, to doubt whether there be a God, or a Christ, or the Scriptures be true; or whether there be a Heaven or a Hell: and oft tempted to speak some blasphemous words against God; and this with such importunity that they can hardly forbear: and oft times they are tempted to make away themselves. When it goes so farre, they are next to the loss of the use of reason, if it be not prevented.
Now to those that find that Melancholy is the Cause of their Troubles I would give this advice. 1. Expect not that Rational, Spiritual Remedies should suffice for this Cure: For you may as well expect that a good Sermon or comfortable words should cure the falling Sickness, or Palsy, or a broken head, as to be a sufficient Cure to your Melancholy fears. For this is as real a bodily disease as the other: Only because it works on the spirits and fantasy, on which words of advice do also work, therefore such words, and Scripture, and Reason, may somewhat resist it, and may palliate or allay some of the effects at the present: but as soon as time hath worn off the force and effects of these Reasons, the distemper presently returns.
For the Humour hath the advantage —
1. Of continual presence,
2. Of a more necessary, natural and sensible way of working. As if a man be in an easy Lethargy; you may awake him so long as you are calling on him aloud, but as soon as you cease, he is asleep again: Such is the case of the Melancholy in their sorrows: For it is as natural for Melancholy to cause fears and disquietness of mind, as for Phlegm in a Lethargy to cause sleep.
Do not therefore lay the blame on your Books, Friends, Counsels, Instructions (no nor all on your Soul,) if these Troubles be not cured by words. But labour to discern truly how much of your Trouble comes this way, and then fix it in your mind in all your Enquiries, Reading and Hearing, that it is the other part of your Trouble which is truly Rational, and not this part of it which is from Melancholy, that these means were ordained to remove (though God may also bless them extraordinarily to do both.) Only constant importunate Prayer, is a fit and special means for the Curing of all.
2. When you have truly found out, how much of your Disquietness proceeds from Melancholy, acquit your soul from that part of it: Still remember in all your self-examinations, self-judgings and reflections on your heart, that it is not directly to be charged with those sorrows that come from your Spleen: save only remotely, as all other Diseases are the fruits of sin: as a Lethargick dullness is the deserved fruit of sin; but he that should charge it immediately on his soul, should wrong himself, and he that would attempt the Cure must do it on the Body.
3. If you would have these fears and troubles removed, apply your self to the proper Cure of Melancholy.
1. Avoid all passions of sorrow, fear and anger as much as you can; and all occasions of discontent and grief.
2. Avoid much solitariness, and be most commonly in some cheerful company: Not that I would have you do as the foolish sinners of the world do, to drink away Melancholy, and keep company with sensual, vain and unprofitable persons that will draw you deeper into sin, and so make your wound greater instead of healing it, and multiply your Troubles when you are forced to look back on your sinful loss of time: But keep company with the more cheerful sort of the Godly: There’s no mirth like the mirth of Believers, which faith doth fetch from the blood of Christ, and from the Promises of the Word, and from experiences of Mercy, and from the serious fore-apprehensions of our everlasting Blessedness. Converse with men of strongest faith that have this heavenly mirth, and can speak experimentally of the Joy of the holy Ghost; and these will be a great help to the reviving of your spirit, and changing your Melancholy habit, so far as without a Physician it may be expected. Yet sometimes it may not be amiss to confer with some that are in your own Case, that you may see that your Condition is not singular: For Melancholy people in such distresses are ready to think, that never any was in the Case as they are in, or at least, never any that were truly godly: when you hear people of the most upright lives and that truly fear God, to have the very same complaints as you have your self, it may give you some hopes that it is not so bad as you before did imagine. However be sure that you avoid solitariness as much as you well can.
3. Also take heed of too deep, fixed, musing thoughts: studying and serious meditating be not duties for the deeply-Melancholy (as I shall shew more in the following Directions) You must let those alone till you are better able to perform them; lest by attempting those duties which you cannot perform, you shall utterly disable your self from all: Therefore I would advise you, by all means to shake and rouse your self out of such musings, and suddenly to turn your thoughts away to something else.
4. To this end, be sure that you avoid Idleness and want of employment: which as it is a life not pleasing to God, so is it the opportunity for Melancholy thoughts to be working, and the chiefest season for Satan to tempt you. Never let the Devil find you unemployed: but see that you go cheerfully about the works of your Calling, and follow it with diligence; and that time which you redeem for spiritual exercises, let it be most spent in Thanksgiving, and Praises, and heavenly Conference.
These things may do much for prevention, and abating your disease if it be not gone too far: but if it be, you were best have recourse to the Physician, and expect Gods blessing in the use of means: and you will find when your Body is once cured, the disquietness of your Mind will vanish of it self.