TO THE ENSUING TREATISE,
SHOWING THE NECESSITY OF CARING FOR THE SOUL
I. The only intent of this ensuing treatise, is to be a short and plain direction to the very meanest readers, to behave themselves in in this world, that they may be happy for ever in the next. But because it is in vain to tell men their duty till they be persuaded of the necessity of performing it, I shall, before I proceed to the particulars required of every Christian, endeavor to win them to the practice of one general duty preparatory to all the rest; and that is the consideration and care of their own souls, without which they will never think themselves much concerned in the other.
II. Man, we know, is made up of two parts, a body and a soul; the body only the husk or shell of the soul, a lump of flesh, subject to many diseases and pains while it lives, and at last to death itself; and then it is so far from being valued, that it is not to be endured above ground, but laid to rot in the earth. Yet to this viler part of us we perform a great deal of care; all the labour and toil we are at is to maintain that. But the more previous part, the soul, is little thought of, no care taken how it fares, but as if it were a thing that nothing concerned us, is left quite neglected, never considered by us.
III. This carelessness of the soul is the root of all the sin we commit, and therefore whosoever intends to set upon a Christian course, must in the first place amend that: to the doing whereof, there needs no deep learning, or extraordinary parts; the simplest man living (that is not a natural fool) hath understanding enough of it, if he will but act in this by the same rules of common reason, whereby he proceeds in his worldly business. I will therefore now briefly set down some of those motives, which use to stir up our care of any outward thing, and then apply them to the soul.
IV. There be four things especially, which use to awake our care: the first is the worth of the thing; the second, the usefulness of it to us, when we cannot part with it without great damage and mischief; the third, the great danger of it; and the fourth, the likelihood that our care will not be in vain, but that it will preserve the thing cared for.
The worth of the soul.
V. For the first, we know our care of any worldly thing is answerable to the worth of it; what is of great price, we are most watchful to preserve, and most fearful to lose; no man locks up dung in his chest, but his money, or what he counts precious, he doth. Now in this respect the soul deserves more care than all the things in the world besides, for it is infinitely more worth; first, in that it is made after the image of God, it was God that “breathed into man this breath of life” (Gen ii. 7). Now God being of the greatest excellency and worth, the more any thing is like Him, the more it is to be valued. But it is sure that no creature upon the earth is all like God, but the soul of man, and therefore nothing ought to have so much of our care. Secondly, the soul never dies. We use to prize things according to their durableness: what is most lasting is most worth. Now the soul is a thing that will last for ever; when wealth, beauty, strength, nay, our very bodies themselves fade away, the soul still continues. Therefore in that respect also, the soul is of the greatest worth; and then what strange madness is it for us to neglect them as we do? We can spend days, and weeks, and months, and year, nay, our whole lives, in hunting after a little wealth of this world, which is of no durance or continuance, and in the meantime let this great durable treasure, our souls, be stolen from us by the devil.
The misery of losing the soul.
VI. A second motive to care of any thing, is the usefulness of it to us, or the great mischief we shall have by the loss of it. Common reason teaches us this in all things of this life. If our hairs fall we do not much regard, because we can be well enough without them; but if we are in danger to lose our eyes or limbs, we think all the care we can take little enough to prevent it, because we know it will be a great misery. But certainly there is no misery to be compared to that misery that follows the loss of the soul. It is true we cannot lose our souls, in one sense, that is, so lose that they shall cease to be; but we may lose them in another, that we should wish to lose them even in that; that is, we may lose that happy estate to which they were created, and plunge them into the extremest misery. In a word, we may lose them in hell, whence there is no fetching them back, and so they are lost for ever. Nay, in this consideration our very bodies are concerned, those darlings of ours, for which all our care is laid out: for they must certainly after death be raised again, and be joined again to the soul, and take part with it in whatever state. If then our care for the body take up all our time and thoughts, and leave us none to bestow on the poor soul, it is sure the soul will for want of that care be made for ever miserable. But it is as sure that that very body must be so too. And therefore if you have any true kindness to your body, show it by taking care of your souls. Think with yourselves how you will be able to endure everlasting burnings. If a small park of fire lighting on the least part of the body be so intolerable, what will it be to have the whole cast into the hottest flames? And that not for some few hours or days, but for ever? So that when you have spent many thousands of years in that unspeakable torment you shall be no nearer coming out of it than you were the first day you went in. Think of this, I say, and think this withal, that this will certainly be the end of neglecting the soul, and therefore afford it some care, if it be but in pity to the body, that must bear a part in its miseries.
The danger the soul is in.
VII. The third motive to the care of any thing is its being in danger. Now a think may be in danger two ways: first, by enemies from without; this is the case of the sheep, which is still in danger of being devoured by wolves; and we know that makes the shepherd so much the more watchful over it. Thus it is with the soul, which is in a great deal of danger, in respect of its enemies; those we know are the world, the flesh, and the devil, which are all such noted enemies to it that the very first act we do in behalf of our souls is to vow a continual war against them. This we all do in our baptism; and whoever makes any truce with any of them, is false not only to his soul, but to his vow also, and becomes a forsworn creature: a consideration well worthy our laying to heart. But that we may the better understand what danger the soul is in, let us a little consider the quality of these enemies.
VIII. In a war, you know, there are diverse things that make an enemy terrible. The first is subtlety and cunning, by which alone many victories have been won; and in this respect the devil is a dangerous adversary; he long since gave sufficient proof of his subtlety, in beguiling our first parents, you yet were much wiser than we are; and, therefore, no wonder if he deceived and cheat us. Secondly, the watchfulness and diligence of an enemy makes him the more to be feared; and here the devil exceeds. It is his trade and business to destroy us, and his is no loiterer at it; “he goes up and down seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet v. 8), he watches all opportunities of advantage against us, with such diligence that he will be sure never to let any slip him. Thirdly, an enemy near us is more to be feared than one at a distance, for it he be far off we may have time to arm and prepare ourselves against him, but if he be near he may steal on us unawares. And of this sort is the flesh; it is an enemy, at our doors, shall I say? nay, in our bosoms, it is always near us, to take occasion of doing us mischiefs. Fourthly, the baser and falser an enemy is, the more dangerous. He that hides his malice under the show of friendship will be able to do a great deal more hurt. And this again is the flesh, which, like Joab to Abner (2 Sam iii. 27), pretends to speak peaceably to us, but wounds us to death; it is forward to purvey for pleasures and delights for us, and so seems very kind, but it has a hook under that bait, and if we bite at it we are lost. Fifth, the number of enemies makes them more terrible, and the world is a vast army against us. There is no state or condition in it, nay, scarce a creature which doth not at some time or other fight against the soul: the honours of the world seek to wound us by pride, the wealth of covetousness, the prosperity of it tempts us to forget God, the adversities to murmur at Him. Our very table becomes a snare to us, our meat draws us to gluttony, our drink to drunkenness, our company, nay, our nearest friends often bear a part in this war against us, whilst either by their example or persuasions they entice us to sin.
IX. Consider this all, and then tell whether a soul thus beset that leisure to sleep. Even Delilah could tell Samson it was time to awake when the Philistines were upon him. And Christ tell us, “If the good many of the house had known in what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken up” (Martt xxiv. 43). But we live in the midst of thieves, and therefore must look for them every hour; and yet who is there among us that hath that common providence for this precious part of him, his soul, which he hath for his house, in indeed the meanest thing that belongs to him? I fear our souls may say so to us, and Christ to His disciples (Matt xxvi. 40), “What? could ye not watch with me one hour?” For I doubt it would poise many of us to tell when we bestowed one hour on them, thou we know them to be continually beset with most dangerous enemies. And then, alas! what is like to be the case of these poor souls, when their adversaries bestow so much care and diligence to destroy the, and we will afford none to preserve them? Surely the same as of a beseiged town, where no watch or guard is kept, which is certain to fall a prey to the enemy. “Consider this, ye that forget God, nay, ye that forget yourselves, lest he pluck you away, and there be none to deliver you” (Ps l. 22).
X. But I told you there was a second way whereby a thing may be in danger, and that is from some disorder or distemper within itself. This is often the case of our bodies, they are not only liable to outward violence, but they are within themselves sick and diseased. And then we can be sensible enough that they are in danger, and need not to be taught to seek out for means to recover them. But this is also the case of the soul, we reckon those parts of the body diseased that do not rightly perform their office; we account it a sick palate that taste not aright, a sick stomach that digests not. And thus it is with the soul when its parts do not rightly perform their duties.
XI. The parts of the soul are especially these three: the understand, the will, and the affections. And that these are disordered, there needs little proof; let any man look seriously into his own heart and consider how little it is he knows of spiritual things, and then tell me whether his understanding be not dark? How much apter is he to will eveil than good, and then tell me whether his will be not crooked? And how strong desires he hath after the pleasures of sin, and what cold and faint ones towards God and goodness, and then tell me whether his affections be not disordered and rebellious even against the voice of his own reason within him? Now, as in bodily diseases, the first step to the cure is to know the cause of the sickness; so likewise here it is very necessary for us to know how the soul first fell into this diseased condition, and that I shall now briefly tell you.
The first covenant.
XII. God created the first man Adam without sin, and endued his soul with the full knowledge of his duty, and with such a strength, that he might, if he would, perform all that was required of him. Having thus created him, He makes a covenant in obedience to God without committing sin, then first, that strength of soul, which he then had, should still be continued to him, and secondly, that he should never die, but be taken up into heaven, there to be happy for ever. But on the other side, if he committed sin and disobeyed God, then both he and all his children after him should lose that knowledge and that perfect strength, which enabled him to do all that God requires of him; and secondly, should be subject to death, and not only so, but to eternal damnation in hell.
XIII. This was the agreement made with Adam and all mankind in him (which we usually call the first covenant), upon which God gave Adam a particular commandment, which was no more but this, that he should not eat of one only tree of that garden wherein He had placed him. But he, by the persuasions of the devil, eats of that tree, disobeys God, and so brings that curse upon himself and all his posterity. And so by that one sin of his, he lost both the full knowledge of his duty and the power of performing it. And we being born after his image, did so likewise, and so are become both ignorant in discerning what we ought to do, and weak and unable to the doing of it, having a backwardness to all good, and an aptness and readiness to all evil; like a sick stomach, which loathes all wholesome food, and longs after such trash as may nourish the disease.
XIV. And now you see where we got this sickness of soul, and likewise that it is like to prove a deadly one, and therefore I presume I need say no more to assure you our souls are in danger. It is more likely you will from this description think them hopeless. But that you may not from that conceit excuse your neglect of them, I shall hasten to show you the contrary, by proceeding to the fourth motive of care.
That our care will not be in vain.
XV. The fourth motive is the likelihood that our care will not be in vain, but that it will be a means to preserve the thing care for; where this is wanting, it disheartens our care. A physician leaves his patient when he sees him past hope, as knowing it is then in vain to give him anything; but, on the contrary, when he sees hope of recovery, he plies him with medicines. Now in this very respect we have a great deal of reason to take care of our souls, for they are not so far gone but they may be recovered; nay, it is certain they will, if we do our parts towards it.
XVI. For thou by that sin of Adam all mankind were under the sentence of eternal condemnation, yet it pleased God so far to pity our misery as to give us His Son, and in Him to make a new covenant with us, after we had broke the first.
The second covenant.
XVII. This second covenant was made with Adam, and us in him, presently after his fall, and is briefly contained in those words (Gen iii. 15) where God declares that “the seed of the woman shall break the serpent’s head”; and this was made up as the first was, of some mercies to be afforded by God, and some duties to be performed by us.
XVIII. God therein promises to send His only Son, who is God equal with Himself, to earth, to become man like unto us in all things, sin only excepted, and He to do for us these several things.
XIX. First, to make known to us the whole will of His Father, in the performance whereof we shall be sure to be accepted and rewarded by Him. And this was one great part of His business, which He performed in those many sermons and precepts we find set down in the Gospel. And herein He is our Prophet, it being the work of a prophet of old not only to foretell, but to teach. Our duty in this particular is to hearken diligently to Him, to be most ready and desirous to learn that will of God which He came from heaven to reveal to us.
XX. The second thing He was to do for us, was to satisfy God for our sins, not only that one of Adam, but all the sins of mankind that truly repent and amen, and by this means to obtain for us forgiveness of sins, the favour of God, and so to redeem us from hell and eternal damnation, which was the punishment due to our sin. All this He did for us by His death. He offered up Himself a sacrifice for the sins of all those who heartily bewail and forsake them. And in this He is our Priest, it being the priest’s office to offer sacrifice for the sins of the people. Our duty in this particular is, first, truly and heartily to repent us of and forsake our sins, without which they will never be forgiven us, though Christ have died. Secondly, steadfastly to believe that if we do that, we shall have the benefits of that sacrifice of His; all our sins, how many and great soever, shall be forgiven us, and we saved from those eternal punishments which were due unto us for them. Another part of the priest’s office was blessing and praying for the people; and this also Christ performs to us. It was His special commission from His Father to bless us, as Saint Peter tells us (Acts iii. 26), “God sent His Son Jesus to bless you”; and the following words show wherein that blessing consists, “in turning away every one of you from his iniquity”; those means which He has used for the turning us from our sins are to be reckoned of all other the greatest blessings; and for the other part, that of praying, that He not only performed on earth, but continues still to do it in heaven, “He sits on the right hand of God, and makes request for us” (Rom viii. 34). Our duty herein is, not to resist this unspeakable blessing of His, but to be willing to be thus blest in the being turned from our sins, and not to make void and fruitless all His prayers and intercessions for us, which will never prevail for us whilst we continue in them.
XXI. The third thing that Christ was to do for us, was to enable us, or give us strength to do what God requires of us. This He doth, first, by taking off from the hardness of the law given to Adam, which was, never to commit the least sin upon pain of damnation, and requiring of us only an honest and hearty endeavour to do what we are able, and where we fail, accepting of sincere repentance. Secondly, by sending His Holy Spirit into our hearts to govern and rule us, to give us strength to overcome temptations to sin, and to do all that He now under the Gospel requires of us. And in this He is our King, it being the office of a king to govern and rule and to subdue enemies. Our duty in this particular is to give up ourselves obedience subjects of His, to be governed and ruled by Him, to obey all His laws, not to take part with any rebel, that is, not to cherish any one sin, but diligently to pray for His grace to enable us to subdue all, and then carefully to make us of it to that purpose.
XXII. Lastly, He has purchased for all that faithfully obey Him, an eternal glorious inheritance, the Kingdom of Heaven, whither He has gone before to take possession for us. Our duty herein is to be exceeding careful that we forfeit not our parts in it, which we shall certainly do if we continue impenitent in any sin. Secondly, not to fasten our affections on this world, but to raise them according to the precept of the Apostle (Col iii. 2), “Set your affections on things above, and not on things on the earth”; continually longing to come to the possession of that blessed inheritance of ours, in comparison whereof all things here below should seem vile and mean to us.
XXIII. This is the sum of that second covenant we are now under, wherein you see that Christ hath done; how He executes those three great offices of King, Priest, and Prophet. As also what is required of us, without our faithful performance of which, all that He hath done shall never stand us in any stead; for He will never be a Priest to save any who take Him not as well for their Prophet to teach and their King to rule them; nay, if we neglect our part in this covenant, our condition will be yet worse than if it had never been made, for we shall then be to answer, not for the breach of law only, as in the first, but for the abuse of mercy, which is of all sins the most provoking. On the other side, if we faithfully perform it, that is, set ourselves heartily to the obeying of every precept of Christ, not going on wilfully in any one sin, but bewailing and forsaking whatever we have formerly been guilty of, it is then most certain that all the aforementioned benefits of Christ belong to us.
XXIV. And now you see how little reason you have, to cast off the care of your souls, upon a conceit they are past cure, for that it is plain not; nay, certainly they are in that very condition, which of all others makes them fittest for our care. If they had not been thus redeemed by Christ, they had been then so hopeless, that care would have been in vain; on the other side, if His redemption had been such that all men should be saved by it, though they live as they list, we should have thought it needless to take care for them, because they were safe without it. But it hath pleased God so to order it, that our care must be the means by which they must receive the good, even of all that Christ hath done for them.
XXV. And now, if after all that God hath done to save these souls of ours, we will not bestow a little care on them ourselves, we very well deserve to perish. If a physician should undertake a patient that were in some desperate disease, and by his skill bring him so far out of it, that he were sure to recover, if he would but take care of himself, and observe those rules the physician set him, would you not think that man weary of his life that would refuse to do that? So certainly that man is weary of his soul, wilfully casts it away, that will not consent to those easy conditions by which he may save it.
XXVI. You see how great kindness God hath to the souls of ours, the whole Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost have all done their parts for them. The Father gave His only Son, the Son gave Himself, left His glory, and endured the bitter death of the Cross, merely to keep our souls from perishing. The Holy Ghost is become as it were our attendant, waits upon us with continual offers of His grace, to enable us to do that which may preserve them; nay, He is so desirous we should accept those offers of His, that He is said to be grieved when we refuse them (Eph iv. 30). Now what greater disgrace and affront can we put upon God, than to despise what He thus values? That those souls of ours, which Christ thought worthy every drop of His blood, we should not think worth any part of our care? We use in things of the world to rate them according to the opinion of those who are best skilled in them; now certainly God Who made our souls, best knows the worth of them, and since He prized them so high, let us (if it be but in reverence to Him) be ashamed to neglect them, especially now, that they are in so hopeful a condition, that nothing but our own carelessness can possibly destroy them.
XXVII. I have now briefly gone over those four motives of care Iat first proposed, which are each of them such as never misses to stir it up towards the things of this world; and I have also showed you how much more reasonable, nay, necessary, it is they should do the like for the soul. And now what can I say more, but conclude in the words of Isaiah xlvi. 8, “Remember this, and show yourselves men.” That is, deal with your soul as your reason teaches you to do with all other things that concern you. And sure this common justice binds you to; for the soul is that which furnishes you with that reason which you exercise in all your worldly business; and shall the soul itself receive no benefit from that reason which it affords you? This is as if a master of a family, who provides food for his servants, should by them be kept from eating any himself, and so remain the only starved creature in his house.
XXVIII. And as justice ties you to this, so mercy doth likewise; you know the poor soul will fall into endless and unspeakable miseries if you continue to neglect it, and then it will be too late to consider it. The last refuge you can hope for is God’s mercy, but that you have despised and abused. And with the fact can you in your greatest need beg for His mercy to your souls, when you would not afford them your own? No, not that common charity of considering them, of bestowing a few of those idle hours, you know not (scarce) how to pass away, upon them.
XXIX. Lay this to your hearts, and as ever you hope for God’s pity when you most want it, be sure in time to pity yourselves, by taking that due care of your precious souls which belongs to them.
XXX. If what hath been said have persuaded you to this so necessary a duty, my next work will be to tell you how this care must be employed; and that, in a word, is in the doing of all those things which tend to the making the soul happy, which is the end of our care, and what those are I come now to show you.