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you love them, you should be more desirous to help them to good teachers; or plant them under a sound and powerful ministry, than to procure them any worldly benefits. One time or other the Word may prevail with them. It is hopeful to be still in mercy's way. Direct. 111. ‘The concord of their teachers among themselves, is a great help to the saving of the flock.” “That they all may be one, as thou Father art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me".” Concord much furthereth reverence and belief; and consequently men's salvation (so it be a holy concord). Direct. Iv. ‘The concord also of godly, private Christians hath the same effect.’ When the ignorant see here a sect, and there a sect, and hear them condemning one another, it teacheth them to contemn them all, and think' contemptibly of piety itself; but concord layeth an awe upon them. Direct. v. ‘The blameless, humble, loving, heavenly lives of Christians, is a powerful means of winning souls.” Preach therefore every one of you, by such a conversation to all your neighbours, whom you desire to save. Direct. vi. ‘Keep those whom you would save in a humble, patient, learning posture; and keep them from proud wranglings, and running after novelties and sects.” The humble learner takes root downward, and silently groweth up to wisdom; but if once they grow self-conceited, they turn to wranglings, and place their religion in espoused, singular opinions, and in being on this or that side, or church; and fall into divided congregations, where the business is to build up souls by destroying charity, and teaching sectaries to overvalue themselves, and despise dissenters. Till at last they run themselves out of breath, and perhaps fall out with all true religion. Direct. v11. Do what you can to place them in good families, and when they are to be married, to join them to such as are fit to be their helpers.” In families and relations of that sort, people are so near together, and in such constant converse, that it will be very much of the help or hindrance of their salvation. a John xvii. 21. 25.
Direct. vi.11. ‘Keep them also as much as is possible in good company, and out of bad, seducing company; especially those that are to be their familiars.’ The world's experience telleth us what power company hath, to make men better or worse: and what a great advantage it is to work any thing on men's minds, to have interest in them, and intimacy with them; especially with those that are yet to receive their deepest impressions. Direct. 1x. ‘Keep them from the most dangerous baits, opportunities, and temptations to sensuality.” Withdraw the tinder and gunpowder from the fire. There is no curing a drunkard ordinarily in an alehouse or tavern, or a fornicator, while he is near the objects of his lust, nor a glutton, at a full, enticing table. Set them at a farther distance from the danger, if you would have them safe. “Nemo diu tutus periculo proximus".’ Direct. x. “Take the advantage of their personal afflictions, or any other notable warnings that are near them. Keep them oft in the house of mourning, where death may be as in their sight; and keep them out of the house of foolish mirth.” The time of sickness is an awakening time, and powerfully openeth the ear to counsel. The sight of the dead or dying persons, the hearing of sick men's wishes and complaints, the sight of graves, and dead men's bones (if not too oft to make it customary) doth often force the most foolish and obstinate, to some manlike, profitable thoughts. When the noise of foolish mirth and sports, at rabble-meetings, stage-plays, and May-games, riotings, or immoderate, rude, or tempting plays, do kill all sober, saving motions, and indispose the mind to all that is good. Though seasonable and useful delights are lawful, yet such as are unseasonable, immoderate, ensnaring, scandalous, or unprofitable, are pernicious or poison to the soul. Direct. xi. ‘Engage them in the reading of the holy Scriptures, and of such books of practical divinity, as do at once most plainly acquaint them with the principles of religion, and piercingly set them home upon the conscience; that judgment and affection, head and heart may be edified at once. Such suitable books may be daily their companions; and it is a great advantage to them, that they may have a powerful sermon when they please, and read over * Seneca.
the same things as oft as the frailty of their memories do require. Such private, innocent companions have saved many a soul. Direct. x 11. ‘Engage them in a constant course of prayer, (whether it be with a book, or form, or without, according to the parts and condition of the person).” For the often approaching to God in so holy a work, will affright or shame a man from sin, and stir him up to serious thoughts of his salvation, and engage him to a godly life. Direct. x 111. “If you would have all these means effectual to men's conversion and salvation, shew them all hearty love and kindness, and do them all the good you can.” Men are naturally more easily sensible of the good of their bodies, than of their souls; and a kindness to the body is thankfully received, and may prepare them to receive a greater benefit. What you are unable to do for them yourselves, solicit those that are able to do; or, if you cannot do that either, at least shew your pity and good-will. Love is the most powerful preacher in the world. Direct. xiv. ‘Be sure that you have no fallings out, or quarrels with any that you would do good upon. And to that end, usually it is the best way, to have as little to do with them in buying and selling, or any worldly matters, where mine and thine may come into competition, as possibly you can: or, if you cannot avoid it, you must be content to part with somewhat of your right, and suffer some wrongs for fear of hurt to your neighbour's soul.” Even godly persons, yea, parents and children, brethren and sisters, usually fall out about mine and thine. And when self-interest hath bred the quarrel, they usually think ill of the person who is supposed to injure them; and then they are made incapable of receiving any spiritual good by him, and if he seem religious, they are oft alienated from religion for his sake. And all unconverted persons are selfish, and usually look that you should fulfil their desires, and suit yourselves to their interest, without respect to right or wrong, or to your own sufferings' Yet such as these must be pitied and helped; and therefore it is usually best to avoid all chaffering or worldly dealings with them, lest you lose them. And when that cannot be, you must judge a little departing from your own right, to be a very cheap price to procure the good of a neighbour's soul.
Direct. xv. “See that in matters of religion you neither run too far from such men in things lawful, nor yet do any thing sinful in compliance with them.” By concurring with them in any sin, you will harden them, and hinder their conversion; and so you will by singular or violent opposition in things indifferent. Those persons are quite mistaken, who think that godly men must go as far from the ungodly as ever they can, in lawful things; and say, ‘The ungodly do thus, and therefore we must do otherwise.” Paul was of another mind and practice, when he circumcised Timothy, and “became all things to all men, to save some.” To place religion in things indifferent, and to cry out against lawful things as sinful, or to fly from others by needless singularities, is a great cause of the hardening and perdition of multitudes, turning their hearts against religion, and making them think that it is but unnecessary scruple, and that religious persons are but self-conceited, brain-sick people, that make to themselves a duty of their superstition, and condemn all that be not as humourous as they. Lay not such stumbling-blocks before any whose souls you desire to save.
Special Directions for Christian Conference, Exhortation, and Reproof.
Tit. 1. Motives to Christian Conference and Exhortation.
The right use of speech being a duty of such plain importance, as I have before shewed about the government of the tongue; and it being a way of communication, by which we are all obliged to exercise our love to one another, even in the greatest matter, the saving of souls, I shall first endeavour to persuade them to this duty, who make too little conscience of it; and that by these following considerations. Mot. 1. ‘Consider that it is the exercise of our humanity: reason and speech do difference us from the brutes. If by being reasonable we are men, then by using reason we live as men ; and the first communicative use of reason is by speech; by thinking, we exercise reason for ourselves; by speaking, we exercise it (first) for others.’ Therefore if our reason be given us for the highest uses to ourselves, (to know God and eternal life, and the means thereto,) then certainly our speech is also given us, for the same highest uses, by way of communication unto others. Use therefore your tongues to those noble ends, for which they were given you. Use them as the tongues of men, to the ends which human nature is created for. Mot. ii. “There is no subject so sublime and honourable for the tongue of man to be employed about, as the matters of God, and life eternal.” Children will talk of childish toys, and countrymen talk of their corn and cattle, and princes and statesmen look down on these with contemptuous smiles, as much below them: but crowns and kingdoms are incomparably more below the business of a holy soul! The higher subjects philosophers treat of, the more honourable (if well done) are their discourses. But none is so high as God and glory. Mot. 111. ‘It is the most profitable subject to the hearers.’ A discourse of riches, at the most, can but direct them how to grow rich; a discourse of honours usually pusfeth up the minds of the ambitious: and if it could advance the auditors to honour, the fruit would be a vanity little to be desired. But a discourse of God, and heaven, and holiness, doth tend to change the hearers’ minds into the nature of the things discoursed of: it hath been the means of converting and sanctifying many a thousand souls. As learned discourses tend to make men learned in the things discoursed of; so holy discourses tend to make men holy. For as natural generation begetteth not gold or kingdoms, but a man; so speech is not made to communicate to others (directly) the wealth, or health, or honours, or any extrinsical things which the speaker hath; but to communicate those mental excellencies which he is possessed of “The sweetness of the lips increaseth learning. Understanding is a well-spring of life to him that hath it".” “In the lips of * Prov. xvi. 21, 22.