The Eighth Rule, or Direction.
Or if thou beest declined, Labor to keep a tenderness of spirit, so a• to be sensible of the beginnings of declining. It's true, we have a great deal of corruption while we remain here in this world, and our hearts are drawn quickly from the waies of God, I but if we could keep a spirit sensible of the beginnings of declining, we might yet keep our walk with Page 330 God: That so soon as we are got but one step from God, if we did but begin to bethink our selves; where are we? what are we doing? Oh this would cause us to return, and not to go so far off from God. For a man to go far from God is very dangerous, for then he begins to have many thoughts of dispair, and so many times he growes even de∣sperate in his course, and gives up himself to excesse even to satisfie the lusts of the flesh with greedinesse: There are some men that are convinced in their consciences that they are out of the way, and though they be convinced of it yet still they go further and further off from God.
Why (you will say?) is that possible?
Yes, Because having once made profession of Religion, and departing from God, now the Devil follows him with dispairing thoughts, he thinks now God will not receive him and accept of him upon his returning to him, and therefore he is resolved that he will satisfie himself to the full; and I verily belee•• this is the great reason why ma∣ny Apostates turn so notoriously wicked as they do: when you see a man that hath been forward in Religion, and afterwards not only fall off, but you shall find him to be a drunkard, a whoremaster, a scorner, you may almost con∣clude that this is the very ground of it, that though his conscience be convinc'd that he is out of the way, yet he is in a desperate manner set to have his pleasure, because he thinks God hath forsaken him, and he hath: forsaken God, and his lusts he will have, and poor creature that's all that he hath to satisfie himself withal; Oh take heed of getting far from God: hearken to this you that are far from righteousnes as the Scripture speaks: Oh it's a terri∣ble thing to be gone far from God, labor to keep thy heart watchful of the beginnings of declining, and be tender and sensible of them.