« AnteriorContinuar »
E N G L A N D 'i DUTY,
Under the present
FE A R.
Wherein the various kinds, uses, causes, effecls and rente* dies thereof are distinctly opened and prescribed, for the rettef aud encouragement of all those that fear God in these doubtful and distracting times.
To the Right Worshipful Sir John Hartop, Knight and Barenet,
S I R,
AMONG all the creatures God hath made (devils only ex-> ** cepted) man is the most apt and able to be his own tormentor; and of all the scourges with which he lasheth and as* flicteth both his mind and body, none is found so cruel and intolerable as his ownfears> The worse the times are like to be, the more need the mind hath of succour and encouragement, to consirm and fortify it for hard encounters; but from the worst prospect, fear inflicts the deepest and most dangerous wounds upon the mind of man, cutting the very nerves of its passive fortitude and'bearing ability.
The-grief .we suffer from evil felt, would be light, and easy, were it nor4ncensed by fear; reason would do much, and religion more, to dem.ulce and lenify our sorrows, did not fear betray the succours of both. And it is from things to come that this prospecting creature rai-leth up to himself vast hopes and fears: if he have a fair and encouraging prospect of serene and prosperous days, from the scheme, and position of second causes, hope immediately Mils his heart with chearfulness, and displays the signals of it in his very face, answerable to thac fair, benign aspect of things: but if the face of things to come, be threatening and inauspicious, fear gains the ascendant over the mind; an unmanly, and unchristian fameness pervades it, and, among the many other mischiefs it inflicts, this is not the least, that it brings the evil of to-morrow
upon to-day, and so makes the duties of to-day wholly unserviceable to the evils of to-monow; which is as much as if a man having an intricate, and difficult business cut out lor the next day, which requires the utmost intention, both of his mind and body, and (haply) might be prosperously managed, if both were duely prepared, should lie, all the night, resiles* and disquieted about the event, torturing and spending himself with his own presaging fears, so that when the day is come, and the business calls for him, his strength is no way equal to the burden of it, but he faints, and fails under it.
There is indeed an excellent use that God makes of our fears, to stimulate our slothful hearts, to greater vigilance and preparation for evils; and there is a mischievous use Satan makes of our fears, to cast us under despondency and unbecoming pusillanimity: and I reckon it one of the greatest difficulties of religion, to cut, by a thread, here, and so to manage ourselves under threatning or doubtful providences, as to be touched with so much fense of those approaching evils, as may prepare us to bear them; and yet to enjoy that constancy and firmness of mind, in the worst times, that may answer the excellent principles we are professedly governed by.
These last times are certainly the most perilous times; great things are yet to be acted upon the stage of this world, before it be taken down; and the feena antepeuultima, latter-end, I fay not the last, will be a tragedy. There is an ultima clades adbuc metuenda, a dismal slaughter of the witnesses ot Christ yet to be expected: the last bite of the cruel beast will be deadly, and if we flatter not ourselves, all things seem to be disposing themselves in the course of providence towards it. , But, Sir, If our union with Christ be sure in itself, and sure to us also; if faith give us the daily visions and praelibations of the world to come, what well-composed spectators shall we be of these tragedies! Let things be tossed /usque, deque, and the mountains cast into the midst of the lea, yet then Pfal. xlvi. the assured Christian may sing his song upon Alamoth, A song composed for God's hidden ones. This so poiseth and sleddies the mind, that we may enjoy the comfort and tranquillity of a resigned will, when others arc at their wit's end.
'With design to promote this blessed frame, in my own and others hearts, in these frightful times, I meditated, and now publish this small tract, to which a dear friend (from whom I have often had the fair idea and character of your excellent spirit) hath occasioned the prefixing of your worthy name; I beg