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Helps for conversing with one in a doubtful state.
1. Exhort him to a diligent search into his own heart, in the words of the Psalmist, "Search me, “O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; see if there be any wicked way " in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Ps. cxxxix. 23 and 24. Represent the importance of knowing the true state of the case, and especially inculcate the deceitfulness of the heart.
2. Incline him to be willing to know and fear the worst. Represent that he cannot make his case better by entertaining false hopes; shew him 10 the necessity of renewed acts of repentance, and in proportion to the doubtfulness of the case urge these things more strongly.
3. Give him your own judgment plainly and seriously. Remember particularly to pray to God that he would lead him into the knowledge of himself.
this,) if you find him penitent, exhort him to glorify God by making an ample confession of his sins in private, with all their heinous aggravations, and not be afraid to see the worst of himself.
10. If his penitential sorrow still continues, you may begin to administer the consolations of the Gospel so far as you may have reason to believe him sincere.
Other Helps for conversing with one in a doubtful state. In your conversation with such an one you cane not be too cautious. If there be no apparent danor ger of death,
1. Endeavour to give him just notions of a particular Providence, that though men do not so often attend to it as they ought, yet it is certainly evident both from Scripture and reason, that whatI ever befals every man on earth, is under the im
mediate direction of Providence. And as to his affliction in particular, persuade him to regard and consider it as coming from the hand of God.
2. Then discourse on the wisdom and goodness of God in sending these occasional rebukes of Providence, which (whatever we think) are sent for the best ends. Afflictions are the physic of the soul, designed to purify and purge it.
3. Under this view of things, press on him the exercise of patience, submission, and a total resignation to the Divine will; and direct him to look on the present dispensation (though grievous) as sent in mercy to him, and as what may hereafter produce the most excellent effects.
4. Tell him, that in the best of men there are sins and follies sufficient to justify the severest dispensations of God's providence; that many good Christians have suffered worse; and what reason he has to be thankful, that his case is not still more calamitous.
5. Remind him of many mercies mixed with the present afflictions.
6. If it should please God to restore him, exhort him faithfully to concur with the design of this visitation, by his constant endeavour to amend that for which his conscience now smites him.
But if there should be apparent symptoms of approaching death,
1. Exhort him seriously to review his past life, and to call to mind the most remarkable transgressions of it; for which he should now greatly humble his soul before God, and sincerely renew his repentance.
2. Endeavour that his repentance may be sincere and unfeigned, to make him sensible of the evil and guilt of sin, from its contrariety to the holy nature of God, and shun the inevitable ruin to which it exposes the soul.
3. When he is thus humble and penitent, revive
him with the consolations of the Gospel, the amazing compassion and goodness of God to a world of sinners, in sending his Son to redeem them by his death, and the merits of the Redeemer's sufferings, whose blood cleanseth from all sin.
4. Then open to him in a plain and easy manner the Gospel method of salvation by Jesus Christ, and the only terms of pardon there proposed, namely, repentance, faith, and renewed obedience. And tell him that salvation in Christ consists in the lively exercise of love to him, a desire to serve and please him, and an humble dependence on his merits for justification and pardon, and in a deep self-abhorrence for his sin.
5. Remind him to settle his affairs as well as he can, and then to think no more of worldly things. 6. Leave him with some suitable texts of Scripture, which you apprehend most applicable to his
Helps for conversing with one in a good state.
If you have reason to believe that he is a real Christian, your work will not be difficult: it may be pleasant and useful; and you may possibly receive more advantage from him than he does from you. For the graces of a real Christian are at such a time commonly most lively, and the tongue very faithful to the sentiments of the heart, so that you will presently see what it is that lies mostly on his mind, and your present business will be (I) to administer consolation; and (2) if he has any doubts to remove them.
1. The consolation may be taken from his past experience. Direct him to look back to the goodness of God to him, and the sensible experience he has had of his love and presence. Bid him think what God has done for his soul, and thence draw David's conclusion, "Because the Lord has
Helps for conversing with one who is sick, in order to discover to which of the foregoing states he may belong.
Consider and enquire his general character, especially from those who are best acquainted with him; and, above all, from religious persons. As, for instance, from a pious parent for a child; or from a master for a servant.
Get what information you can from himself; especially if you have good reason on the whole to think ill of him. If you have only a general reason to think he is wrong, without great immoralities to charge upon him, then be so much more solicitous to gather something from his own mouth, on which to form a plain and awakening address. You may ask the sick person seriously whether he has arry thing in particular to say to you with regard to the state of his soul.
And if he has, you may then say to his relations or attendants, that perhaps it might be more agreeable to him if he was left alone with you.
Put to him some of the following questions which are the distinguishing characteristics of a good man; and by which he will see and acknowledge his own defects.
Have you been used to secret prayer?
Have you been accustomed to read the Scripture? and, if you have, do you delight in it, and has it been profitable to you?
Has sin ever been your grief and burden?
Have you struggled against temptations, and strove to avoid them?
Have you endeavoured to subdue the corrupyour own heart?
What are your hopes, and on what foundation built?
Are your thoughts of the new covenant of grace comfortable, and are you grateful for them?
Have you considered Christ as your Prophet to teach you, your Priest to intercede for you, and as your King to subdue the dominion of sin in your heart? There is no room for hope but in and through him.
Have you enquired after the remedies for the particular diseases of your own mind? and have you endeavoured (so far as you have understood) to make use of such remedies?
Have you found a cure gradually going on? Have you endeavoured to govern your thoughts and affections as well as your outward conduct? Do you grow in grace, and in the knowledge and love of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ? 2 Pet. iii. 18.
Helps for conversing with a Formalist.
No part of the ministerial office, perhaps, is so difficult to discharge as a conversation with a Formalist, for he is generally too self-righteous to receive any profit either from the pulpit, or in private. The method, which has sometimes had the desired effect, is to ask him a few serious questions as to inward and heart religion, secret prayer, and the government of the thoughts; and to say, that if he desire any assistance from you as a Christian minister, he must allow you to deal plainly with him. Shew him some texts of Scripture which describe inward religion, and the necessity of making heart work of it*. Entreat him to consi
* Such as the following, "With the heart [not with the understanding only] "man believeth to righteousness, and with the "mouth confession is made to salvation." Rom. x. 10.
"The whole head is sick and the whole heart is faint." Isa. i. 5. "This people draw near with their mouth, and with their lips do "honour me, but have removed their heart far from me: and their "fear toward me is taught by the precepts of men." Isaiah xxix. 13.