« AnteriorContinua »
ry thing in this world is valuable as it is useful. A useless or unprofitable love, is a worthless love. It is a trifling, or a childish, or a beastly love, which helpeth you but in trifling, childish, or beastly things. Do you love your wife, and yet will leave her in the power of satan, or will not help to save her soul? What! love her, and yet let her go to hell! and rather let her be damned than you will be at the pains to endeavour her salvation! If she were but in bodily pain or misery, and you refused to do your part to succour her, she would take it but for cold, unprofitable love, though you were never so kind to her in compliments and trifles. The devil himself maketh shew of such a love as that; he can vouchsafe men pleasures, and wealth, and honour, so he may but see the perdition of their souls. And if your love to your wife or husband, do tend to no greater matters than the pleasures of this life, while the soul is left to perish in sin, bethink yourselves seriously how little more kindness you shew them than the devil doth. O can you see the danger of one that you love so dearly, and do no more to save them from it? Can you think of the damnation of so dear a friend, and not do all that you are able to prevent it? Would you be separated from them in the world that you are going to? Would you not live with them in heaven for ever? Never say you love them, if you will not labour for their salvation. If ever they come to hell, or if ever you see them there, both they and you will then confess, that you behaved not yourselves like such as loved them. It doth not deserve the name of love, which can leave a soul to endless misery.
What then shall we say of them that do not only deny their help, but are hinderers of the holiness and salvation of each other"! And yet (the Lord have mercy on the poor miserable world!) how common a thing is this among us! If the wife be ignorant and ungodly, she will do her worst to make or keep her husband such as she is herself: and if God put any holy inclinations into his heart, she will be to it as water to the fire, to quench it or to keep it under. And if he will not be as sinful and miserable as herself, he shall have little quietness or rest. And if God open the eyes of the wife of a bad man, and shew her the amiableness and
n 1 Kings xi. 4. Acts v. 2. Eve is Adam's tempter. Job ii. 9.
necessity of a holy life, and she do but resolve to obey the Lord, and save her soul, what an enemy and tyrant will her husband prove to her, (if God restrain him not!) so that the devil himself doth scarce do more against the saving of their souls, than ungodly husbands and wives do against each other.
2. Consider also that you live not up to the ends of marriage, nor of humanity, if you are not helpers to each other's souls. To help each other only for your bellies, is to live together but like beasts. You are appointed to live together as heirs of the grace of life "." "And husbands must love their wives as Christ loved his church, who gave himself for it that he might sanctify it and cleanse it, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, without spot or wrinkle, holy and without blemish P." That which is the end of your very life and being, must be the end of your relations, and your daily converse.
3. Consider also, if you neglect each other's souls, what enemies you are to one another, and how you prepare for your everlasting sorrows: when you should be preparing for your joyful meeting in heaven, you are laying up for yourselves everlasting horror. What a dreadful meeting and greeting will you have at the bar of Christ, or in the flames of hell, when you shall find there how perversely you have done? Is it not better to be praising God together in glory, than to be raging against each other in the horror of your consciences, and flying in the faces of one another with such accusations as these?- "O cruel husband! O merciless, deceitful wife! It was long of you that I came to this miserable, woeful end! I might have lived with Christ and his saints in joy, and now I am tormented in these flames in desperation! You were commanded by God to have given me warning, and told me of my sin and misery, and never to let me rest in it, but to have instructed and entreated me, till I had come home by Christ, that I might not have come to this place of torment: but you never so much as spake to me of God, and my salvation, unless it were lightly in jest or in your common talk! If the house had been on fire,
• 1 Pet. iii. 7.
P Ephes. v. 25–27.
4 1 Thes. v. 11. Heb. xii. 15. Col. ii. 19. Eph. iv. 16. 1 Cor. vii. 5. Gen. xxxv. 2. 4. Lev. xix. 17.
you would have been more earnest to have quenched it, than you were to save my soul from hell! You never told me seriously of the misery of a natural, unrenewed state! Nor of the great necessity of regeneration and a holy life! Nor ever talked to me of heaven and hell, as matters of such consequence should have been mentioned; but morn ing and night, your talk was nothing but about the world, and the things of the world'. Your idle talk, and jesting, and froward, and carnal, and unprofitable discourse, was it that filled up all the time; and we had not one sober word of our salvation. You never seriously foretold me of this day you never prayed with me, nor read the Scripture and good books to me. You took no pains to help me to knowledge, nor to humble my hardened heart for my sins, nor to save me from them, nor to draw me to the love of God and holiness by faith in Christ: you did not go before me, with the good example of a holy and heavenly conversation: but with the evil example of an ungodly, fleshly, worldly life. You neither cared for your own soul, nor mine; nor I for yours or mine own. And now we are justly condemned together, that would not live in holiness together!" O foolish, miserable souls, that by your ungodliness and negligence in this life, will prepare each other for such a life of endless woe and horror!
O therefore resolve without delay, to live together as heirs of heaven, and to be helpers to each other's souls. To which end I will give you these following Sub-directions, which if you will faithfully practise, may make you to be special blessings to each other.
Direct. 1. If you would help to save each other's souls, you must each of you be sure that you have a care of your own; and retain a deep and lively apprehension of those great and everlasting matters, of which you are to speak to others. It cannot be reasonably expected that he should have a due compassion to another's soul, that hath none to his own; and that he should be at the pains that is needful to help another to salvation, that setteth so little by his own, as to sell it for the base and momentary ease and pleasure of the flesh. Nor is it to be expected that a man should speak with any suitable weight and seriousness about
Numb. xvi. 27. 32.
• Gen. i. 18.
those matters whose weight his heart did never feel, and about which he was never serious himself. First see that you feel throughly, that which would speak profitably; and that you be what you persuade another to be; and that all your counsel may be perceived to arise from the bottom of your hearts, and that you speak of things which by experience you are well acquainted with.
Direct. 11. Take those opportunities which your ordinary nearness and familiarity affordeth you, to be speaking seriously to each other about the matters of God, and your salvation.' When you lie down and rise together, let not your worldly business have all your talk; but let God and your souls have the first and the last, and at least the freest and sweetest of your speech, if not the most. When you have said so much of your common business as the nature and dispatch of it requireth, lay it by, and talk together of the state and duty of your souls towards God, and of your hopes of heaven, as those that take these for their greatest business. And speak not lightly, or unreverently, or in a rude and wrangling manner; but with gravity and sobriety, as those that are advising together about the greatest matter that ever they had to do in the world.
Direct. 111. When either husband or wife is speaking seriously about holy things, let the other be careful to cherish, and not to extinguish and put an end to the discourse.' There are two ways to cherish such discourse: the first is, by taking your turn, and bearing a due proportion in the discourse with wisdom and gravity; but all cannot do this, some are but learners, and those must take the second way, which is, to ask for resolution in matters of which they doubt, or are uninstructed, and to draw on more by pertinent questions. The two ways by which such discourse is silenced are these: the first is, by the constant silence of the hearer; when a man talketh as to a post, that giveth him no answer, nor putteth any pertinent question, he will be wearied out at last, and will give over the second is, by a cross, contradicting, cavilling, wrangling against what is spoken, or by interruptions and diversions; when you come in presently with some worldly or impertinent talk, and wind about from sober conference to something that is unedifying and some that will not seem merely profane, and vain,
and worldly, will destroy all holy, fruitful conference, even by a kind of religious talk; presently carrying you away from heart-searching and heavenly discourse, to some controversy, or doctrinal, or formal, or historical matter, that is sufficiently distant from the heart and heaven. Take heed of these courses, if you would help each other.
Direct. IV. 'Watch over the hearts and lives of one another, and labour to discern the state of one another's souls, and the strength or weakness of each other's sins and graces, and the failings of each other's lives, that so you may be able to apply to one another the most suitable help.' What you are unacquainted with, you cannot be very helpful in; you cannot cure unknown diseases; you cannot give wise and safe advice, about the state of one another's souls, if you are mistaken in them. God hath placed you nearest to each other, that you might have so much interest in each other, as to quicken you to a loving care, and so much acquaintance with each other, as to keep you from misunderstanding, and so from neglecting or deceiving one another. And you should be always provided of those fit remedies, that are most needful and suitable to each other's case. If that preacher be like to be dull and unsuccessful that is all upon mere doctrine, and little or nothing in close and lively application, you may conceive that it will be so also with your familiar conference.
Direct. v. See that you neither flatter one another through fond and foolish love, nor exasperate one another by a passionate or contemptuous kind of reprehension.' Some persons are so blinded with fond affection, that they can scarce see in husband, wife, or children any aggravated sin or misery; but they think all is well that they do, or not so ill as in another they would perceive it; but this is the same course that self-loving sinners take with their own souls, to their delusion and perdition. This flattering of yourselves or others, is but the devil's charm to keep you from effectual repentance and salvation: and the ease of such anodynes and narcotics doth endure but a little while. On the other side, some cannot speak to one another of their faults, without such bitterness of passion, or contempt, as .tendeth to make the stomach of the receiver to loathe the
t Matt. xxvii. 19.