2 COR. 1. 12. For our rejoycing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity, and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you wards.
THere are many very sad and prejudicial practi∣cal Errors and Mistakes concerning a tender Christians walk, whence it cometh to passe, that most persons lay the great stress thereof on things that will not bear it, while in the mean time, they neglect, and overlook those principal and weighty duties where∣in it mainly consisteth, that make less noise and shew be∣fore men, that are less subject to be counter•eited, and tend more to the life and power of godlinesse, then these other things, that are of more high esteem with men; among which this duty of often reflecting on a mans Conscience, and trying of his way at it's ba•, that he may know it's sense, and receive it's Testimony thereof, is one and not the least; and is, (as we con∣ceive) one of the pieces of a Christian tender walk, that cometh as near to the very Soul and Life of Religion, and hath as much influence on tenderness therein, as either much hearing of the Word, Prayer, Conference, and the like have; to which, when this is joyned, theyare very useful, but when it is utterly wanting, they are useless▪ it being not only an important duty in it self, but also Page 200 very helpful to other duties, contributing much to the reaping of those advantages that are to be had by them.
We Observed the other day from these Words, that a tender Christian will be often reflecting on his way, and taking notice what Conscience sayeth of it; and spoke somewhat to two uses of the point, as it cleareth a not∣able duty, and giveth an evidence and proof of a tender man.
We shall now proceed to speak to other two; The first, and principal whereof is this, If it be a main plece of a tender Christian walk, to be often examiningour selves, and trying what sense Conscience hath of our way and actions; then it serveth for Exhortation to all men and women that would live tenderly, to be putting this in practice, as a main piece of a Christian and tender walk, as a main duty called for from them, and as a main evi∣dence of their tenderness; That is, to be often seri∣ously reflecting on their bygone way, to be often bring∣ing their thoughts, words, and actions before the tri∣bunal of Conscience, for this end, that they may know what it sayeth of them; Not only to be deliberating, and advising with Conscience before they undertake any Action, and to be watchful in going about it, but to be reflecting when it is done, if it be rightly done, and so as Conscience may testify for them concerning the same: This is Pauls practice here, This is (sayes he) our re∣joycing, the testimony of our conscience; Which supposeth that he hath been laying his way before Conscience, try∣ing what it said of it, and that he hath received Consci∣ence its Testimony concerning it. That which we would in a word here commend to you, is, that Men and Wo∣men would •ake a back-look of, and reflect upon all their Actions, Words and Thoughts, and of, and upon all the circumstances of the same; and that they would so re∣flect upon them, as they may endeavour to know where∣in they have Conscience its Testimony for them; or wherein it standeth up to speak against them▪ That is, that they would not only study to gather into their me∣mory their Actions. Which is presupposed, and to lay Page 201 them before the Word, but further, when their Acti∣ons and the Rule of the Word are laid together, to hear Conscience its Sentence anent their performing of the same.
We shall not insist in particular explication of this Duty, ye have heard somewhat spoken of it these dayes past; If we could but gain this much of you, as to have you throughly convinced, that somewhat lyes on you, in reference to the examination of your hearts, and wayes as to things that are past, and to get you in good earnest, ingadged to make more Conscience of this Duty for time to come, it is the great thing we aim at; and if your Consciences were once duly convinced, and cleared of the necessity and usefulnesse of the Duty, and ye brought to be in love with it, ye would through grace be easily led on to the particulars requisit to the right way of performing it: Seriousnesse in, and affection to the thing would supply the roume of many directions; And there∣fore we would now earnestly press it upon you, to take sometime for this duty of self-searching, and examinati∣on, as well as for prayer, hearing, conference, and other such Duties; and to be as holily solicitous, and desirous to know when ye have done any action or duty, whether it be right or wrong, as ye think ye should be careful to advise before ye do it, that it be good upon the matter; sure the awe of the Majesty of God, and of your Consci∣ence his Depute, and a just regard to your own peace, should incline, swey, and determine you to the one, as well as to the other.
What we would further say in this matter, shall be to shew you, what ye should aim at in this self examination, as to the manner of going about it (for we much mar and wound our own peace, by formality and overliness in this, as in other duties) which ye may take up in these Four, 1. We would labour in our self-examination to be up at that distinctnesse, that through grace may be win at, that we may be so very clear, as to be in case to say, I wot well, I was right at such a time, and wrong at such another time; in this I was right, and in that I was wrong; yea, so clear and distinct would we be as we might, if called to it, be ready to give our oath on it; Page 202 as Paul doth in the place we spoke on before. viz. Ro•. 9. 1. I say the truth in Christ (sayes he) and lie not, my conscience bearing me witness in the holy ghost; There would not be guessing at things, but we would be throughly distinct and clear; Therefore Iob speaking of the evidences of his integrity, Chap. 31. Proposeth them by way of curse; being so very confident, that he durst confirm what he asserted, with a curse on himself, if it should be found to be otherwise then he said. 2dly. We would examine, and look on our way till we be brought under some suitable impression of the awe and dread of the Majesty of God, and of his absolute Domi∣nion and Soveraignity over us; Thus holy▪ Iob sayeth of himself, when thus exercised, Chap 31. v. 23. Destruction from the Almighty was a terrour to me, and by reason of his high∣ness, I could not endure: We never follow our self-exami∣nation far enough, till it leave some impression of this kind on our Spirits. 3dly. It would be followed, till we be affected with what discovery we get in the search of our own way; Its not enough barely to take a look or view of it, but we would (I say) look on it so, as we may be suitably affected with it; that either it may give us solid peace and joy, from clearness that we are right, or else a sensible touch with the sharpness of a challenge, for that whereof we are clearly convinced is wrong: And men are never rightly exercised in the work of self-examination, and of reflection on their Conscience, till something of this be; there is a great difference be∣twixt bare light, and a well informed, and tender Con∣science; Consciences sense of a thing is of more weight, and is more divine, and hath some more of the Majesty of God in it, then bare Light, or conviction of the Judgement; It will neither smile nor •rown, but it will suitably affect the man with some inward comfort, or sorrow; For it representeth God, either as smiling or •rowning. 4ly. We would follow this work of self-exa∣mination, and self-reflection, till we be clear, and fully perswaded, as to the Duty we are called to, after such Examination; as when a man findeth things to be wrong; Conscience will say, there is here a necessity of Repen∣tance, Page 203 and humiliation, and of flying to Jesus Christ, for taking away the guilt thereof; and of setting about the righting and amending of things; and till a man come to be clear in that which he is called to, by self-exa∣mination, he followeth it not •th a right, and as he ought to do: The Apostle speaking of worldly, and of godly sorrow, 2 Cor. 7. 10▪ 11. Giveth these evidences of godly sorrow (a fruit of self-examination) that it not only was waited in the Corinthians with a fight of the Fault, but it touched them in the quick for it, and af∣fected them with holy indignation at it, and with true zeal to have it removed; And that with all it suffered them not to rest▪ till they indeavoured by all means a clearing of themselves; Behold (sayeth he, v. 11.) the self same thing ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what careful∣ness it wrought in you; •ea, what clearing of your selves; yea, what indignation, &c. A man that •ffers to •et about self-examination, and yet lyes still in the fault that is dis∣covered thereby, and is no more affected with it, then if he were not at all guilty of it, nor any more now after the discovery made in the search, inclined to flee to Christ then when he began; his self-examination is sure not right: We would therefore seriously recom∣mend to you these Four to be well headed, and carried along with you in your prosecuting this work of self-ex∣amina•on.
To press this a little, we would consider these three▪ 1. The clearness of the duty. 2. The profitableness▪ and excellency of it. 3. The necessity of it; By all which▪ we may be convinced of a necessity lying upon us, to press it, and upon you to practise it; The Lord him∣sel• bear in upon us all with a strong hand the conviction of the necessity of it.
For the first, It is as clear a duty, as it is for you to come to the Church to hear; as it is to read▪ or to pray, or to sanctify the Lords day; Hence it is that, 1. It is so often commanded▪ as L•m. 3. 40. Hagg•. 5. Gal.•. 4. and Psal. 2. 4. Commun• with your heart upon your beds, or speak with your hear•, or with your Consci∣ence (as often in the Old Testament the heart is put Page 204 for the conscience) for it's the Conscience property that giveth the answer, and not the heart; So 2 Cor▪ 13. 5. Examine your selves whether ye be in the saith, prove your own selves, &c. the command is doubled▪ nay some∣way tripled. 2. It's clear also from the ordinary pra∣ctise of the Saints (as hath been formerly instanced) so that hardly will ye find a tender man; but he is thus ex∣ercised, and the more tender he be, the more is he so; Tender David was much exercised this way, as he gives an account▪ Psal. 119. 59. I thought (saith he) on my wayes, and turned my feet unto thy Testimonies.
For the 2d. viz. the profitableness and excellency of it, it is not only a commanded duty, but a choise mean for bringing about many excellent ends; I shall instance its excellency amongst others in these three respects. 1. it's excellent in this respect, as it is a most clear, fresh, and refreshful evidence of a tender walk, and of a man that maketh Conscience of his way; He that doth truth (saith Christ, Iohn 3. 21.) cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest that they are wrought in God; He is not only content to abide a trial, but he putteth himself to it; He bringeth his deeds to the light, to see if they be wrought in God; on the contrary, he that doth evil hateth the light, and cometh not unto it, lest his deeds should he reproved; Must not this then be an excellent duty, which is so clear a character and property of one that walketh tenderly in all duties? Nay, let all duties be put together, without this none of them, nor all of them in a conjunction, can evidence a mans tenderness; for it's this that giveth him (as it were) a grip of his duties, and putteth them to the touch-stone, and sheweth what reality is in them; what are to be looked 〈◊〉 ac∣ceptable to God through Christ, what not; without this he is but a guesser. 2dly. It's excellent in respect of the great influence that it hath on the life of Religion, and power of Godliness; look to the most spiritual duties, it hath great influence on them, not on a few of them, but on them all, whether it be Mortification and Repen∣tance, it keepeth the heart as it were melting; the word •▪ Zech. 12. 10. They shall look upon him whom they havePage 205pierced, and shall mou• and be in bitterness; or humble walking before God, it's impossible without it; or the high•ning our thoughts of Gods grace, and the com∣mending of Christ to us, it exceedingly contributes to that; Every discovered infirmity in the search maketh a new earand to him; or the lively way of going about o∣ther duties, as praying in the Spirit, hearing profitably, singing in the Spirit, &c. they cannot be performed to pur∣pose without it: A person that hath been reflecting on a by-past duty as of Prayer, or of a Sermon that he hath heard, will readily have from it a memento or watch∣word not to be so superficial in the next. 3dly. It's excel∣lent in respect of the many advantages that come by it, as is already hinted in the two former respects, and might be instanced in a great many moe; its useful and advantagious for the preventing of sin, for the promov∣ing of holiness, for the composing of the Spirit, for esta∣blishing of peace, and for helping to comfortable and chearful walking with God.
For the 3. viz. the necessity of it; this appears much from what is already said; and is so very great, that its impossible to attain to holiness, to mortification, to peace, to be distinct in our way, to be spiritual in any duty, or to be tender in our walk without it: We may say that this duty in respect of a Christian life, is like weeding to a Gardens It's not sufficient, that a Garden have fresh Seeds sown, and fine Plants and Flowers set in it, if Weeds as they appear be not pulled up; without fre∣quent and careful weeding, the weeds will quickly over∣grow and choak the Flowers and Plants; It's just so here, there being so many lusts and corruptions in the heart of man, and it's so broody and se tile of these filthy weeds; that unless this self-examination 〈◊〉 conscionably and sea∣sonably exercised, it will be overgrown by and by, and fil∣led full, with the stinking weeds of those corruptions; and our coming over our heart and way by taking a re∣view of it, is like a careful Gardeners daily coming over his Garden with his Weeding-iron; the one is no more necessary to the Garden then the other is necessary to our heart and way: And the reason why so many heart Page 206 are like the s•uggards Garden, all •vergrown with n•ttles and briars, is the neglect of this self-examination: Many alace! take on a profession of Religion, but take no pains to be answerable to it, neither do they look to the weeds and hemlocks of sins, that in stead of good fruits to God, spring up in their heart, and over-spread their life: Therefore from all this I beseech you take this word of advertisement, as you would have the profession of your Religion well stuffed and filled up with the power of it, and would not have it as a Ghostly House, having a fair shew outwardly, and empty within, or as a painted Se∣pulchre, beautiful without, and full of rottenness and dead mens bones within, and as ye would not have much false bulk without substance; be much in the exercise of this excellent duty of self-examination, and serious in it.
I shall here answer two or three objections that may be proposed about putting this concerning duty in pra∣ctice.
And first, It may be objected, that this is a very hard and difficultly practicable thing, we cannot do it, we dow not do it, it will not go with us, and indeed there is naturally in us all an aversness from nothing more than from this: And we conceive that who ever will essay it in earnest, will find it to be a difficult duty indeed, more difficult and harder to be gone about, then either Pray∣er, hearing of the Word, or conference on a spiritual subject; It being a duty wherein the inner man at the Bar of Conscience, and so in some respect at the Bar of Gods Tribunal, is exercised and taken up; which mak∣eth it difficult even to them that would sain go about it: We shall therefore in answer to this objection, 1. speak something in general. 2. We shall speak more particu∣lary to some directions or helps, for making it easie. In general, We say, 1. That the Duty would not be scared at, because of it's difficulty, for the most excel∣lent Duties that have the greatest influence on the prac∣tice of godlness, that strick most at the body of Death, and are most discriminating characters of the godly; •hen suitably discharged, are ordinarly most difficult, Page 207 and we would love them the better, and prefer them in some respect to others, that are more easie, and which Hypocrites, and meer Formalists may go about; and indeed such a one is this (as hath been shewed) And▪ therefore we have the greater reason to press towards the practice of it. 2ly. We would say, that though it be difficult, yet ye would essay it; and if ye do so seriously, and in the strength of Christ, ye will find it go far bet∣ter, and more easily with you, then possibly ye expect; And the truth is, that as to these Duties, that are more inward and spiritual▪ that which is called for from us, is our essaying of, and putting hand to them, and seri∣ously necessitating our selves to it; which, if we do, we have them, and this in particular, laid before us, in the Promise, As Ezek. 16. 63. That thou mayest remem∣ber and be confounded, &c. and 36▪ 31. Then shall ye re∣member your own evil ways, and doings that were not good, &c. And so particularly we come to speak in the 2d, place, of the Directions and Helps for making it easiy. The 1. whereof, is this, That we would essay it with an eye to the promise; for indeed this, and all other Duties ly in Promises; and albeit we cannot pray a right without the Spirit, yet we will essay it on this ac∣count; Even so should we do, as to this Duty, how dif∣ficult soever it may be. 2dly. And yet somewhat more particularly, we would endeavour to have a sober, se∣rious and sanctified frame, in the undertaking and pro∣secuting of this Duty; when our Spirits are Carnal, and Discomposed, and when there is a noise and clamour of worldly lusts swarming within us, it is no great wonder though we essay it, that it go not with us, but miscarry in our hand: We would therefore abstract, and com∣pose our selves, as in Gods presence, and study to have our hearts in a sanctified frame; as the Church doth▪ Lament. 3. 28▪ 29. Sitting alone, and keeping silence with a stopped mouth; We would table and state our selves before God, pursuing our selves, as if we were pleading for God against our selves; and hereby endea∣vouring a composed and fixed divine frame of Spirit, as being in a special way before him, whose deputy the Page 208 Conscience •s; and in such a frame reviewing our heart and way; it will not be every Frame, nor any common frame of Spirit that will fit and dispose to go rightly about this businesse. 3dly. We would be frequent in this Duty, and would not suf•er reckonings to run long on; for if they do, it maketh the work the more diffi∣cult: and thus alace! it is with many, They have been so long a es•aying of it, and so little in it, that they think it a desperat businesse to set about it now; Where∣as, if men were weekly, dayly, and on the back of eve∣ry Duty▪ or Action, stating and putting by their ac∣counts, it would be a great deal more easie: It is with many as to this, as it is with these who have a multitude of businesses on their hand r•velled, confused and through other; Or, as it is with these who have suffered their ac∣counts to ly long over unfitted; Whereas he that is day∣ly in this work, is like a man that every day fitting, and justing his accounts, doth it easily, and with little pains: And therefore the Direction in short, is, that these who would have their spiritual Accounts easie▪ would not suffer them to run long on. 4ly. We would be much in Prayer, begin it with Prayer, and carry Prayer along with it; and a• the heart starts our from it, by a look, by a darted up-b•ink, or e•aculation to God, bring it back again, and arrest it, as it were, and fix it be∣fore the Lord; because the heart cannot possibly be kept any, the least moment in Gods company, if it be left to it self; There would be a frequently renewed looking up to him, to fix it; I will (saith the Lord, Zech. 12. 10.) pour upon the house of David, and inha∣bitants of Ierusalem, the spirit of grace and supplication, they shall look upon him whom they have pierced, and shall •ourn. Christians are then tenderest, when looking to God, and so fittest for this Duty, and would therefore be much in it. 5ly. We would not only look on it as a Duty, but as a mean exceedingly contributive to our spiritual good, to the preventing of sin, to the promov∣ing of 〈◊〉, to the keeping of our Conscience calm and quiet, and to the attaining and maintaining of Peace, (as hath been said:) There are many things which we Page 209 count to be hard, and difficult, because we consider not the great profit of them; Therefore to make this insu∣perably like difficult Duty the more easie, we would fill the eye of the Soul with the many and choice advan∣tages that come by it; O! such mortification of Lusts, such progress and advances in holiness; such thriving and growing in Grace, with many other notable effects, that it through Gods blessing produceth. 6ly. To make it easie, we would in the going about it, have a manifold respect to Jesus Christ, by the exercise of Faith on him, both in the undertaking, and performing of it; There is a respect to be had to Christ in all Duties; but here (as I just now said) a manifold respect would be had to him. 1: A respect would be had to him as our peace, who only can purge and pacify the Conscience; and take away guilt, and wash us throughly from it: It may be some under-take self-examination as a sort of pennance, or whipping of themselves; and indeed in that case it cannot but be a very hard exercise, when they mind nothing, but the bare ripping up of their sores, and the making of them (as it were) to bleid; but if they went about it with respect to Christ, to bring, and drive them to him, as to the Physician, that would make them to endure the smart and pain; and would make the Duty far more easie; the 〈◊〉 end of self-examination, not being simply to aff•ict us, but to send us to Jesus Christ for cure. 2ly. Respect would be had to him, not only as the healer of our sores, and wounds; but also, as the inablet and strengthner of us, to take a seriously reflecting view of them, and to look upon them indifferently, universally, and impartially; The First way of looking to him, maketh us to go about this Duty, not heartlesly, but with hope; And the Se∣cond way of looking to him, for influence and help from him, strengthneth us. 3ly. Respect would be had to him, as the pardoner of Sin (which is more generally hinted at in the first Respect) and therefore, as Sins are discovered in the search, they would be brought, Page 210 to him for this end; it makes it a very •oilsome, and unpleasant •xercise, when Souls come only to the Bar of Conscience to get its Sentence, that mightily faints, and they are ready in that case, to rew that ever they looked after, and searched out their Sin▪ when they find nothing but bitterness in it; Therefore we say that when a man hath gotten the Sentence of his Conscience, he would come forward, and bring his Sins to Christ, and lay himself and them at his Feet; and when Con∣science hath past the Sentence of Condemnation on him, he would flee to him for Ab•olution; This would make self-examination not to have such un-pleasantnesse, and bitternesse in it, as otherwayes it hath, and can hardly but have; and would much prevent our scarring at •t, and being frighted from it.
A 2d. Objection, Is this, That some may think and say, that if they shall essay this exercise, they know not where to begin, their condition is so confused, that its like a revelled hesp, or parcel of yarn, they cannot find an end in it, partly through their long and great neglect of the Duty, partly through the confusion of their Spi∣rits, and their Sins looking out on them with a very for∣midable aspect. To which we would Answer, 1. That though it be so, yet the Duty must not be delayed, nor neglected; The longer it be ere ye begin, it will be on these, and other accounts still the more difficult; There∣fore ye would fall the sooner about it, and the more se∣•iously about it, with the deeper humiliation for so much and so long neglecting of it, and the greater dependence on God for his assistance to win at it. 2ly. In your go∣ing about it, when ye discover much sin, and find your case to be very confused; if ye dar not hazard to wade (as it were) into the very midst of it at least at first, ye would endeavour to pi•ch on some particulars, where∣in ye may be distinct; as Souldiers use to do with an Army that is too strong for them; they are bussie in ga∣thering up the S•raglers as they come at them; and fall on some smaller Parties: Therefore such of you as se∣riously, Page 211 and sincerely mind this great work of self exa∣mination, though ye may incline at first to fall in, on the very bulk and heap of your Sins; yet honestly mind∣ing to balk •one, but to go through all, before ye give over the work; it will be better to betake your selves to the search, and examination of such or such a particular Duty, or of such or such a days work and duties; and thus ye will win the better in on it, and through it, and the heap will grow the less; But meddle not with another, till ye have, with some suitableness dispatch∣ed, and put by this. 3ly. If ye cannot win for the time so to fix on particulars, take your confused condition such as it is, to think on a while, and look not at this as nothing, that ye have found your condition to be con∣fused; Davids condition was somewhat thus, when he sayes, Psal. 44. v. 15 My confusion is continually before me; The taking, and laying of your case confused, as it is, before God and your Conscience, may help to hum∣ble, and kindly to affect your heart. 4ly. The more confused your case be, seek to take it so much the more to God, and to draw the nearer to him; let it be made a motive to set you on to deal the more seriously with him, to dispel your darkness and confusion; As Ie• does, while he sayes, Chap. 10. v. 15. I am full of confusion, therefore see thou to my affliction, As if he had said, Lord, I cannot ridde, no• order my case, therefore see thou to it, and give me clearnesse; For, though a person have a confused condition, yet he may be somewhat distinct, in laying it out before God, as it is, and may be clear in what Conscience sayeth of it, when it sayeth that it is confused. 5ly. Whether our condition be confused or no•, we would be suitably affected with every particu∣lar that we find in it; and this may be one reason of our confusion, that we have more clearness, then we im∣prove well; we see many things to be wrong, but the •ight affects us not, neither do we suitably indeavour to •epent of the evils which we see, nor to amend them, nor do 〈◊〉 flee to Jesus Christ to get them pardoned and Page 212 cured: But when the little clearness that we have is well improven, it's the way to get more; but what need is there of more light, and of more c•earness, when that which we have is not duely made use of?
A 3d. Objection is, Some may think, and say, We are essaying self-examination, and yet we find much diffi∣culty, to know and take up Conscience its language, whether it be awell grounded challenge, or an approving Testimony: This Objection is much like unto that Question which we spoke to alittle in our second Sermon on Acts 24. v. 16. Viz. Whether Conscience its impulse might not sometimes be wrong? To which we Answered affir∣matively, and do yet grant, that it may mistake, and be mistaken by us, and what we said there, for finding out the mind of Conscience may be useful here towards the answering of this Objection; Yet we shall now speak a word further to it: For Answer then, we shall easily yeeld, that it is indeed sometimes difficult to find out the mind (to say so) of Conscience, and to understand its language, in reflecting, as well, as in deliberating; either, 1. through the dimness of peoples Light, that they scarcely know the Rule. Or, 2ly. Through their being partial and negligent, in comparing their way and actions with the Rule; but either hide it wholly, or at le•st some circumstances of it, without bringing it forth, and laying it to the Rule; Or, 3ly. It may be through some byas•e in their affection, that maketh them un∣single, so that they will not take with a challenge, when there is just ground for it; or, 4ly. It may be from some unwarrantable and groundless prejudice at them∣selves, and their own way, so that they will not take a testimony from Conscience, even when it giveth them a good one: And therefore in your self-examination, ye would carrie some advertisements along with you, which will be helpful to find out the mind of Conscience, 1. Ye would try whether Conscience be impartial, and if 〈◊〉 speaketh to both hands (to say so,) accusing •n some things, and excusing in others; in some things speak∣ing Page 213 peace, and in others challenging for sin; for, if when ye reflect, Conscience speak all, or only peace it is certainly wrong, because in the best there is less or more guilt contracted in what ever ye go about; but, if beside what is right, it points also at something that is wrong, it is Consciences right language; on the con∣trary when ye reflect, if Conscience speak all to be wrong, though there was some sincerity in your aim, it is mis∣taken; For when it speaketh a right, it speaketh always according to the mind of God, and what he sayes is wrong or right, it sayes so of it also; So in the epistle to Ephesus, Rev. 2. As the Lord chargeth them, that they are fallen from their first love, so doth Conscience; yet as he telleth them, that there is something right, in as far as they had laboured for his names sake, and hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which he hated, &c. So doth Conscience also testify the same; and so, in all the rest of the Epistles to these seven Churches; as God is im∣partial in his Testimony, so is Conscience when right. 2ly. Ye would advert to the ground of Conscience, it's speaking, or to that on account of which it testifies for you, or against you; for, as in our forbearing of one Action and in our choosing of another, we are to for∣bear, or to choose, and proceed, according as Consci∣ence holdeth ou• clear light, and reason for it; So upon the back of any Action, or Duty performed, when we go to reflect, we would try the ground, whether of Con∣science it's challenge, or of it's good Testimony; If it challenge, and accuse, try well whether it be indeed a sin, for which it doth so; if it approve, and speak peace, try on what ground it doth so, Conscience will some way testifie of the Action, but ye would try, if it be sinful, or not according to the Word ol God; Which supposeth knowledge in the thing, and of the mind of God concerning it; wherein any, especially more consider∣able defect, even in conscientious and •ender Christi∣ans, is waited with its own prejudice; Hence it came to passe (as the Apostle gives us an accou•t, Rom. 14.) Page 214 that many of the primitive Christians, through the weak∣nesse of their knowledge, were made to judge such and such things to be wrong, as the eating of such and such meats, (their Conscience judging according to their knowledge) when yet indeed the matter was not wrong; though (as the Apostle there sayeth) To him that esteem∣eth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean; There∣fore we would be the more holily jealous over our selves, least we found our peace on a deluded Testimony of our Conscience; And for preventing of that, we would put •t to give its reason for, and evidence of what it testifieth, for Conscience being but a subordinate Judge, we must go, to the law and to the testimony, and see if it speaketh accord∣ing to that; otherwayes it will not be an honest aim, or a good end proposed to our selves, in the doing of such or such a thing; or because we are in a pardoned state, that will be sufficient to make the Action truly good and acceptable, and to give us ground of peace. 3ly. Ye would advert, and take good heed, if Conscience challengeth equally, for one sin as well as for another, and for the neglect of one Duty, as well as for the ne∣glect of another; and if, as the sin is comparatively greater, or lesser, so its challenges be lesser or greater; for, if Conscience its challenge lead you to the Word; the more weight that the Word layeth on sin, the more weight will Conscience lay upon it, when it is right: Sometimes persons will be challenged for some things much extrinsick to Religion, or for omitting this or that wherein very little, if any thing of Religion consists, or at least lyeth very remo•e; who yet will not be much troubled, for taking of Gods name in vain, or for ne∣glect of Prayer, and the like: I remember the saying of a godly man, to a Person under exercise for a little sin, little in comparison of others (for no sin is little in its own nature▪) That he thought the hand, or work of the Devil 〈◊〉 be in it, to lay a ground for Spiritual Pride, because the person was so much troubled with so •ittle a thing; or to divert from taking a view of grosser Page 215 sins, for their deeper humiliation: when Conscience is right, it challengeth equally, and more or less, as the sin is more or less aggravated; It is an evil in this time, that extrinsick, and remo•e things trouble some so much, while in the mean time known sins, and duties are but little minded, and laid to heart; as i• forsooth the Consciences of such were more delicat and tender, then the Consciences of the Saints of old; Nay there are not a few, who will disdain to be challenged for neglect of uncontroverted duties, who yet make a great deal o• businesse, and noise about these things, that are but of little moment, as if the whole, and sum o• Religion lay in them: This certainly shews a great deal of untender∣ness, and slighting of Conscience, what ever pre•ensi∣ons may be made to the contrary; and while a person is much, or wholly taken up with an extrinsick, or very little thing, which, it may be, is but a meer circum∣stance, and is more affected with, and exercised about that, then with, and about another of far greater con∣cernment; it is not sure any aw of God, nor of Conscience, but somewhat flowing from the mans own Inclination, or interest, that so might•ly influenceth, and stirreth him in the one, beyond what he is in the other. 4ly. Ye would advert in a special manner to this, If Consci∣ence in the challenge maketh the sin vile and abominable to you, and your selves loathsome to your selves; When Conscience whets (to say so) the edge of the challenge, not only to the making of Gods wrath terrible, and the awe, fear and dread of him weighty; but also to the deep affecting of our selves with the vilenesse and loathsome∣ness of the thing, its an evidence, that the Conscience is right; for, as its a good token of the soundness of Re∣pentance, when it maketh sin as such loathsome▪ so its a good token of Conscience speaking rightly, when it hold∣eth forth convincingly the sinfulness of sin. 〈◊〉. Ye may know when Conscience speaketh a right, by the na∣tive fruits that follow upon it; such as these, 1. It maketh a deep impression of the awe of God, and of the Page 216 fear of sin on the heart; It maketh the Spirit more com∣posed, stayed, and present, when after self-examinati∣on rightly gone about, Conscience speaketh its own lan∣guage, for it knoweth that God speaketh, and hath a sort of divinness with it. 2ly. It maketh the man more watchful, and the loather to adventure on sin, for the time to come. 3ly. It stilleth, and calmeth the heart; O! but that be a stately and majestick Word, Psal. 46. Be still, and know that I am God. For we cannot con∣ceive God to be speaking, if we be right, but the Spi∣rit will be calmed to hear, and will be gathered in, from its waverings, gadings and vaigings, when it knoweth that he speaketh, all which we may see, Psal. 4. 3. 4. Stand in awe and sin not; Where he exhorteth to holy fear, and watchfulness; and the mean to bring both a∣bout, is, Commune with your hearts upon your beds; Be∣take your selves to this work (as if he had said) of self examination; and then the 3d. Follows, Be still, as being stayed and fixed, quieted and calmed, against reilling-to and fro, up and down, and against all strug∣ling with God, and fretting at his providence, because ye have to do with him, and not with men.
We shall not proceed further for the time; only ye may see from what hath been said, if we look singly on it, that there is here a most clear, useful, and necessary duty at all times, and more especially at this time: We say especially at this time, for these reasons. 1. Be∣cause of the common and general security, and formal way of going about duty, that is stollen in amongst Christians at this time, and there cannot be a better mean to help this, then to give our selves to the exercise of self-exami∣nation▪ and to the tryal of our wayes; This seriously gone about would make us re•ze, and stir up our selves in good earnest, to cry mightily to God: and if this be a time, that hath such an evil in it, as great security and formality; and if this be a duty▪ that may throw Gods blessing help the same, let none complain of over liness, coldness, and life-lesnesse in Religion, that is not seri∣ously Page 217 minding, and going about this, as a necessary, pro∣fitable and excellent mean to amend it▪ 2ly. Because there is much false bulk, and empty shew of a professi∣on; Which we are afraid, but a very little tryal will quickly evidence, and discover to be so, even to be unsure work; I will not say, but there may be some sickernesse, and solidity in the profession of some, but it is to be feared, that many others are but building ca∣stles in the air, castles of come down when the rain shall descend, the winds blow, and the floods beat, having much more shew then substance, and solid work; and the way to make it sicker, sure and solid work, that will abide the tryal, is to lay it to the Rule, and to try it thereby; many profest Christians are like to foolish builders, who build by guess, and by rule of thumb, (as we use to speak) and not by Square and Rule; and if they have but bulk enough, they look not much to the solidity, and straightness of the Fabrick: There are many engadgements come under, many fastings, prayers, hearings of the Word, &c. (which are good in themselves, and commendable) but there would be Self-examination, to see what solidity is in them all; else we will be like the men, who expend all their stock on the stone and timber-work of a large house, and leave nothing to plenish, and furnish it within; whereas, when a person is suitably, and seriously taken up with Self-examination, it maketh a house (to speak so) though it should be lesse, to be well filled and furnish∣ed; and albeit there be no great noise of a Profession there, yet there is more kindly Repentance, more se∣riousnesse in Prayer, and in other Duties, more profiting by hearing of the Word, and more holinesse of Life, then where this exercise of Self-examination, and reflection is either altogether or very much neglected, albeit there should be then, a far greater profession. 3ly. Because we have been engadged in, and have put many things, (to say so) through our hands, these years past; and we are afraid, that many have not much consulted, Page 218 nor looked well into Conscience, in medling with them; There have been several strange, un-couth, and scarce∣ly heard of things in the way of some, and lesser failings, slips and escapes, in the way of others: and no doubt the lesse pains was taken by men to be cleared and satisfi∣ed in their Conscience, before such things were med∣led with, and ingadged in; there would be so much the more pains taken now, to reflect on them when past, and to bring them in before Conscience, to receive it's verdict of them; and sure we can never walk for time to come, with that straightnesse and solidity, if we be not at some point, by Self-searching, as to things past, and present. 4ly. Because, if we know not what hath been right or wrong in things past; the dispensations of divine providence, which we have met with, call aloud on us, to examine what God speaketh to us by them; for he hath made us to be witnesses of very strange things, of publick dispensations, such as neither we, nor our fathers ever saw the like; and hath not this same place in particular, fallen under strange providences, both as to our Temporals and Spirituals? and if the dis∣pensations of God, call and press any to this exercise of Reflection, and Examination, then certainly they call and press us to it: Therefore seing we are called to this, not only as a duty common to all times, but as somewhat pe∣culiar to this time, and to us in this place, we would make the more Conscience of it; and would also know, that if it be slighted, the greater will our guiltiness be, that have so many things urgently calling us to it: Whe∣ther then, ye remember all, or most, or many particu∣lars, or not, remember, and carry along with you this general, that ye have a Conscience, and that ye are cal∣led and concerned to remember to reflect on, and to examine your wayes, at the Bar of Conscience well informed by the Word; And if ye be suitably serious in the general, God will graciously condescend to lay parti∣cular helps to your hand.