The Method of Grace
by John Flavel
Christ, the Physician of Souls
"But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole
need not a physician, but they that are sick." Matthew 9:12
Having opened, in the former discourses, the nature and method
of the application of Christ to sinners; it remains now that I press
it upon every soul, as it expects peace and pardon from God, to
apply and put on Jesus Christ, that is to get union with him by faith,
while he is yet held forth in the free and gracious offers of the
gospel. To which purpose I shall now labor in this general use of
exhortation, in which my last subject engaged me; wherein divers
arguments will be further urged, both from
1. The titles, and
2. The privileges of Jesus Christ.
The titles of Christ are so many motives or arguments fitted to
persuade men to come unto him. Among which, Christ, as the
Physician of souls, comes under our first consideration, in the text
The occasion of these words of Christ, was the call of Matthew
the publican, who, having first opened his heart, next opened his
house to Christ, and entertains him there. This strange and
unexpected change, wrought upon Matthew, quickly brings in all the
neighborhood, and many publicans and sinners resorted there; at
which the stomachs of the proud Pharisees began to swell. From this
occasion they took offence at Christ, and, in this verse, Christ
takes off the offence, by such an answer as was fitted both for
their conviction and his own vindication. But when Jesus heard that,
he said unto them, "The whole have no need of a physician, but they
that are sick".
He gives it, says one, as a reason why he conversed so much
with Publicans and sinners, and so little among the Pharisees,
because there was more work for him; Christ came to be a physician
to sick souls; Pharisees were so well in their own conceit, that
Christ saw that they would have little to do with him, and so he
applied himself to those who were more sensible of their sickness.
In the words, we have an account of the temper and state both
1. The secure and unconvinced sinner,
2. The humbled and convinced sinner. And,
3. Of the carriage of Christ, and his different respect to
First, The secure sinner is here described, both with respect
to his own apprehensions of himself, as one that is whole, and also
by his low value and esteem for Christ, he sees no need of him; "The
whole have no need of a physician."
Secondly, The convinced and humbled sinner is here also
described, and that both by his state and condition, he is sick; and
by his valuation of Jesus Christ, he greatly needs him: they that
are sick need the physician.
Thirdly, We have here Christ's carriage, and different respect
to both; the former he rejects and passes by, as those with whom he
has no concernment; the latter he converses with in order to their
The words thus opened, are fruitful in observations. I shall
neither note nor insist upon any beside this one, which suits the
scope of my discourse, namely,
Doctrine. That the Lord Jesus Christ is the only physician for sick
The world is a great hospital, full of sick and dying souls,
all wounded by one and the same mortal weapon, sin. Some are
senseless of their misery, feel not their pains, value not a
physician; others are full of sense, as well as danger: mourn under
the apprehension of their condition, and sadly bewail it. The
merciful God has, in his abundant compassion to the perishing world,
sent a physician from heaven, and given him his orders under the
great seal of heaven, for his office, Isaiah 61: 1,2. which he opened
and read in the audience of the people, Luke 4: 18. "The Spirit of
the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach; good
tidings unto the meek, he has sent me to bind up the broken-
hearted," &c. He is the tree of life, whose leaves are for the
healing of the nations: he is Jehovah Rophe, the Lord that heals
us; and that as he is Jehovah Tzidkenu, the Lord our righteousness.
The brazen serpent that healed the Israelites in the wilderness, was
an excellent type of our great physician, Christ, and is expressly
applied to him, John 3: 14. He rejects none that come, and heals all
whom he undertakes; but more particularly, I will,
First, Point at those diseases which Christ heals in sick
souls, and by what means he heals them.
Secondly, The excellency of this physician above all others:
there is none like Christ, he is the only physician for wounded
First, We will enquire into the diseases which Christ the
physician cures, and they are reducible to two heads, namely,
1. Sin, and,
First, The diocese of sin; in which three things are found
exceeding burdensome to sick souls.
1. The guilt,
2. The dominion,
3. The inherence of sin; all cured by this physician, and how.
First, The guilt of sin; this is a mortal wound, a stab in the
very heart of a poor sinner. It is a fond and groundless distinction
that Papists make of sins mortal and venial; all sin, in its own
nature is mortal, Romans 6: 25. "The wages of sin is death." Yet
though it be so in its own nature, Christ can and does cure it by
the sovereign balsam of his own precious blood, Eph. 1: 7. "In whom
we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins,
according to the riches of his grace." This is the deepest and
deadliest wound the soul of man feels in this world. What is guilt
but the obligation of the soul to everlasting punishment and misery?
It puts the soul under the sentence of God to eternal wrath; the
condemning sentence of the great and terrible God; than which,
nothing is found more dreadful and insupportable: put all pains, all
poverty, all afflictions, all miseries, in one scale, and God's
condemnation in the other, and you weigh but so many feathers
against a talent of lead.
This disease, our great physicians Christ, cures, by remission,
which is the dissolving of the obligation to punishment; the loosing
of the soul that was bound over to the wrath and condemnation of
God, Col. 1: 13, 14. Heb. 6: 12. Micah 7: 17, 18, 19. This remission
being made, the soul is immediately cleared from all its obligations
to punishment. Romans 8: 1. "There is no condemnation." All bonds are
cancelled, the guilt of all sins is hewed or removed, original and
actual, great and small. This cure is performed upon souls by the
blood of Christ; nothing is found in heaven or earth, besides his
blood that is able to heal this disease. Heb. 9: 22. "Without
shedding of blood there is no remission;" nor is it any blood that
will do it, but that only which dropped from the wounds of Christ.
Isaiah 53: 5. "By his stripes we are healed. His blood only is
innocent and precious blood, 1 Pet. 1: 19. blood of infinite worth
and value; blood of God, Acts 20:18 blood prepared for this very
purpose, Heb. 10: 5. This is the blood that performs the cure, and
how great a cure is it! for this cure, the souls of believers shall
be praising and magnifying their great Physician in heaven to all
eternity, Rev. 1: 5, 6. "To him that loved us, and washed us from
our sins in his own blood, &c. to him be glory and dominion, for
ever and ever."
Secondly, The next evil in sin cured by Christ, is the dominion
of it over the souls of poor sinners. Where sin is in dominion, the
soul is in a very sad condition; for it darkens the understanding,
depraves the conscience, stiffens the will, hardens the heart,
misplaces and disorders all the affections; and thus every faculty
is wounded by the power and dominion of sin over the soul. How
difficult is the cure of this disease! It passes the skill of angels
or men to heal it; but Christ undertakes it, and makes a perfect
cure of it at last, and this he does by his Spirit. As he cures the
guilt of sin by pouring out his blood for us; so he cures the
dominion of sin by pouring out his Spirit upon us. Justification is
the cure of guilt, sanctification the cure of the dominion of sin.
First, As the dominion of sin darkens the understanding, 1 Cor.
2: 14. so the Spirit of holiness which Christ sheds upon his people,
cures the darkness and blindness of that noble faculty, and restores
it again, Eph. 5: 8. They that were darkness are hereby light in the
Lord; the anointing of the Spirit teaches them all things, 1 John
Secondly, As the dominion of sin depraved and defiled the
conscience, Tit. 1: 15. wounded it to that degree, as to disable it
to the performance of all its offices and functions; so that it was
neither able to apply, convince, or tremble at the word: So, when
the Spirit of holiness is shed forth, O what a tender sense fills
the renewed conscience! For what small things will it check, smite,
and rebuke! How strongly will it bind to duty, and bar against sin.
Thirdly, As the dominion of sin stiffened the will and made it
stubborn and rebellious, so Christ, by sanctifying it, brings it to
be pliant and obedient to the will of God. "Lord, (says the sinner)
what will you have me to do!" Acts 9: 6.
Fourthly, As the power of sin hardens the heart so that
nothing could affect it, or make any impression upon it; when
sanctification comes upon the soul, it thaws and breaks it, as hard
as it was, and makes it to dissolve in the bosom of a sinner in
godly sorrow, Ezek. 36: 26. "I will take away the heart of stone out
of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh." It will now
melt ingenuously under the threatenings of the word, 2 Kings 22: 19.
or the strokes of the rod, Jer. 31: 18. or the manifestations of
grace and mercy, Luke 7: 88.
Fifthly, As the power of sin misplaced and disordered all the
affections, so sanctification reduces them again and sets them
right, Psalm. 4: 6, 7. And thus you see how sanctification becomes
the rectitude, health, and due temper of the soul, so far as it
prevails, curing the diseases that sin in its dominion filled the
soul with. True it is, this cure is not perfected in this life;
there are still some remains of the old diseases in the holiest
souls, notwithstanding sin be dethroned from its dominion over them:
but the cure is begun, and daily advances towards perfection, and at
last will be complete, as will appear in the cure of the next evil
of sin; namely,
Thirdly, The inherence of sin in the soul: this is a sore
disease, the very core and root of all our other complaints and
ailments. This made the holy apostle bemoan himself and wail so
bitterly, Romans 7: 17. because of "sin that dwelt in him." And the
same misery is bewailed by all sanctified persons all the world
It is a wonderful mercy to have the guilt and dominion of sin
cured, but we shall never be perfectly sound and well, until the
existence or indwelling of sin in our natures be cured too: when
once that is done, then we shall feel no more pain nor sorrows for
sin: and this our great Physician will at last perform for us and
upon us. But as the cure of guilt was by our justification, the cure
of the dominion of sin by our sanctification: so the third and last,
which perfects the whole cure, will be by our glorification: and
until then, it is not to be expected. For it is a clear case, that
sill like ivy in the old walls, will never be gotten out until the
walls be pulled down, and then it is pulled up by the roots. This
cure Christ will perform in a moment, upon our dissolution. For it
First, That none but perfected souls, freed from all sin, are
admitted into heaven, Eph. 5: 27. Heb. 12: 23. Rev. 21: 27.
Secondly, It is as plain, that no such personal perfection and
freedom is found in any man on this side death and the grave, 1 John
1: 8. 1 Kings 8: 46. Phil. 3: 12. a truth sealed by the sad
experience of all the saints on earth.
Thirdly, If such freedom and perfection must be before we can
be perfectly happy, and no such thing be done in this life, it
remains that it must be done immediately upon their dissolution, and
at the very time of their glorification. As sin came in at the time
of the union of their souls and bodies in the womb, will go out at
the time of their separation by death; then will Christ put the last
hand to this glorious work, and perfect that cure which has been so
long under his hand, in this world; and thenceforth sin shall have
no power upon them, it shall never tempt them more, it shall never
defile them more, it shall never grieve and sadden their hearts any
more: henceforth it shall never cloud their evidences, darken their
understandings, or give the least interruption to their communion
with God. When sin is gone, all these, its mischievous effects, are
gone with it. So that I may speak it to the comfort of all gracious
hearts, according to what the Lord told the Israelites, in Deut. 12:
8, 9. (to which I allude for illustration of this most comfortable
truth) "You shall not do after all the things that you do here this
day, every man whatever is right in his own eyes, for you are not
as yet come to the rest, and to the inheritance which the Lord your
God gives you." While you are under Christ's cure upon earth, but
not perfectly healed, your understandings mistake, your thoughts
wander, your affections are dead, and your communion with God is
daily interrupted; but it shall not be so in heaven, where the cure
is perfect: you shall not there know, love, or delight in God in the
manner you do this day; for you are not as yet come to the rest, and
to the inheritance which the Lord your God gives you. And so much
as to the diseases of sin, and Christ's method of curing them.
Secondly, As sin is the disease of the saints, so also is
sorrow: the best saints must pass through the valley of Bacha, to
heaven. How many tears fall from the eyes of the saints, upon the
account of outward as well as inward troubles, even after their
reconciliation with God? Through much tribulation we must enter into
the "kingdom of God;' Acts 14: 22. It would be too great a
digression in this place, to note but the more general heads under
which almost infinite particulars of troubles and afflictions are
found; it shall suffice only to show, that whatever distress or
trouble any poor soul is in, upon any account whatever, if that
soul belongs to Jesus Christ, he will take care of it for the
present, and deliver it at last by a complete cure.
First, Christ cures troubles, by sanctifying them to the souls
of his that are wider affliction, and makes their very troubles
medicinal and healing to them. Trouble is a scorpion, and has a
deadly sting, but Christ is a wise physician, and extracts a
sovereign oil out of this scorpion, that heals the wound it makes.
By afflictions, our wise Physician purges our corruptions, and so
prevents or cures greater troubles by lesser; inward sorrows by
outward ones. Isa 27: 9. "By this therefore shall the iniquity of
Jacob be purged, and this is all the fruit to take away his sin."
Secondly, Christ cures outward troubles by inward consolations,
which are made to rise in the inner man as high as the waters of
affliction do upon the outward man, 2 Cor. 1: 5. One drop of
spiritual comfort is sufficient to sweeten a whole ocean of outward
trouble. It was an high expression of an afflicted father, whom God
comforted, just upon the death of his dear and only son, with some
clearer manifestations of his love than was usual: "O (said he)
might I but have such consolations as these, I could be willing
(were it possible) to lay an only son into the grave every day I
have to live in this world." Thus all the troubles of the world are
cured by Christ. John 16: 33. "In the world you shall have trouble,
but in me you shall have peace.
Thirdly, Christ cures all outward sorrows and troubles in his
people by death, which is their removal from the place of sorrows to
peace and rest for evermore. Now God wipes all tears from their
eyes, and the days of their mourning are at an end; they then put
off the garments and spirit of mourning, and enter into peace, Isaiah
57: 2. They come to that place and state where tears and sighs are
things unknown to the inhabitants; one step beyond the state of this
mortality, brings us quite out of the sight and hearing of all
troubles and lamentations. These are the diseases of souls; sin, and
sorrow; and thus they are cured by Christ, the Physician.
Secondly, Next I shall show you that Jesus Christ is the only
Physician of souls, none like him for a sick sinner; and this will
be evident in divers respects.
First, None so wise and judicious as Jesus Christ, to
understand and comprehend the nature, depth and danger of soul-
diseases. O how ignorant and unacquainted are men with the state
and case of afflicted souls! But "Christ has the tongue of the learned,
that he should know how to speak a word in season to him that is
weary," Isaiah 50: 4. He only understands the weight of sin, and
depth of inward troubles of sin.
Secondly, None so able to cure and heal the wounds of afflicted
souls as Christ is; he only has those medicines that can cure a sick
soul. The blood of Christ, and nothing else, in heaven or earth, is
able to cure the mortal wounds which guilt inflicts upon a trembling
conscience; let men try all other receipts and costly experience
shall convince them of their insufficiency. Conscience may be
benumbed by stupefactive medicines, prepared by the devil, for that
end; but pacified it can never be but by the blood of Christ, Heb.
Thirdly, None so tender-hearted and sympathizing with sick
souls as Jesus Christ; he is full of affections and tender compassions
to afflicted souls; he is one that can have compassion, because he
has had experience, Heb. 5: 2. If I must come unto the surgeon's
hands with broken bones, give me such an one to chose whose own
bones have been broken, who has felt the anguish in himself. Christ
knows what it is by experience, having felt the anguish of inward
troubles, the weight of God's wrath, and the terrors of a forsaking
God, more than any or all the sons of men: this makes him tender
over distressed souls. Isaiah 42: 3. "A bruised reed he will not
break, and smoking flax he will not quench."
Fourthly, None cures in so wonderful a method as Christ does;
he heals us by his stripes, Isaiah 53: 5. The Physician dies that the
patient may live: his wounds must bleed, that ours may be cured; he
feels the smart and pain, that we might have ease and comfort. No
physician but Christ will cure others at this rate.
Fifthly, None so ready to relieve a sick soul as Christ; he is
within the call of a distressed soul at all times. Are you sick for
sin, weary of sin, and made truly willing to part with sin? lift up
but your sincere cry to the Lord Jesus for help, and he will quickly
be with you. When the prodigal, the emblem of a convinced, humbled
sinner, said, in himself; I will return to my father, the father ran
to meet him, Luke 15: 20. He can be with you in a moment.
Sixthly, None so willing to receive and undertake all
distressed and afflicted souls as Jesus Christ is, he refuses none
that come to him. John 6: 37. "He who comes unto me, I will in no
wise cast out." Whatever their sins have been, or their sorrows are
however they have wounded their own souls with the deepest gashes of
guilt; however desperate and helpless their case appears in their
own or others eyes, he never puts them off, or discourages them, if
they be but willing to come, Isaiah 1: 18, 19.
Seventhly, None so happy and successful as Christ; he never
fails of performing a perfect cure upon those he undertakes; never
was it known that any soul miscarried in his hands, John 3: 15, 16.
Other physicians, by mistakes, by ignorance, or carelessness, fill
church yards, and cast away the lives of men; but Christ suffers
none to perish that commit themselves to him.
Eighthly, None so free and generous as Christ; he does all
gratis; he sells not his medicines, though they be of infinite
value; but freely gives them; Isaiah 55: 1. "He who has no money, let
him come." If any be sent away, it is the rich, Luke 1: 53. not the
poor and needy: those that will not accept the remedy as a free
gift, but will needs purchase it at a price.
Ninthly, and lastly, None rejoice in the recovery of souls more
than Christ does. O! it is unspeakably delightful to him to see the
efficacy of his blood upon our souls; Isa 53: 11. "He shall see the
travail of his soul, (I. e. the success of his death and sufferings)
and shall be satisfied." When he foresaw the success of the gospel
upon the world, it is said, Luke 10: 21. "In that hour Jesus
rejoiced in Spirit". And thus you see there is no physician like
Christ for sick souls
The uses of this point are,
For information and direction
First, From whence we are informed of many great and necessary
truths deducible from this: As,
Inference 1. How inexpressible id the grace of God, in
providing such a physician as Christ, for the sick and dying souls
of sinners! O blessed be God that there is a balm in Gilead, and a
Physician there! that their case is not desperate, forlorn and
remediless, as that the devils and damned is. There is but one case
exempted from cure, and that, such as is not incident to any
sensible, afflicted soul, Matthew. 12:31. and this only excepted, all
manner of sins and diseases are capable of a cure. Though there be
such a disease as is incurable, yet take this for your comfort, never
any soul was sick, that is sensibly burdened with it, and willing to
come to Jesus Christ for healing; for under that sin the will is so
wounded, that they have no desire to Christ. O inestimable mercy!
that the sickest sinner is capable of a perfect cure! There be
thousands, and ten thousands now in heaven and earth, who said once,
Never was any case like theirs; so dangerous, so hopeless. The
greatest of sinners have been perfectly recovered by Christ, 1 Tim.
1: 15. 1 Cor. 6: 11. O mercy, never to be duly estimated!
Infer. 2. What a powerful restraint from sin is the very method
ordained by God, for the cure of it! Isa 53: 5. "By his stripes we
are healed." The Physician must die, that the patient might live; no
other thing but the blood, the precious blood of Christ, is found in
heaven or earth able to heal us, Heb. 9: 22, 26. This blood of
Christ must be freshly applied to every new wound sin makes upon our
souls, 1 John 2: 1, 2. every new sin wounds him afresh, opens the
wounds of Christ anew. O think of this again and again, you that so
easily yield to the solicitations of Satan. Is it so easy and so
cheap to sin as you seem to make it? Does the cure of souls cost
nothing? True, it is free to us, but was it so to Christ? No, it was
not; he knows the price of it, though you do not. Has Christ healed
you by his stripes, and can you put him under fresh sufferings for
you so easily? Have you forgot also your own sick days and nights
for sin, that you are careless in resisting and preventing it? Sure
it is not easy for saints to wound Christ, and their own souls, at
one stroke. If you renew your sins, you must also renew your sorrows
and repentance, Psalm. 51 title. 2 Sam. 12: 13. you must feel the
anguish and pain of a troubled spirit again, things with which the
saints are not unacquainted; of which they may say, as the church,
"Remembering my affliction, the wormwood and the gal], my soul has
them still in remembrance," Lam. 3: 19. Yes, and if you will be
remiss in your watch, and so easily incur new guilt, though a pardon
in the blood of Christ may heal your souls, yet some rod or other,
in the hand of a displeased father, shall afflict your bodies, or
smite you in your outward comforts, Psalm. 89: 23.
Inference. 3. If Christ be the only physician of sick souls, what sin
and folly is it for me, to take Christ's work out of his hands, and
attempt to be their own physician.
Thus do those that superstitiously endeavor to heal their
souls by afflicting their bodies; not Christ's blood, but their own,
must be the plaster: and as blind Papists, so many carnal and
ignorant Protestants strive, by confession, restitution,
reformation, and stricter course of life, to heal those moulds that
sin has made upon their souls, without any respect to the blood of
Christ: but this course shall not profit them at all. It may, for a
time divert, but can never heal them: the wounds so skinned over,
will open and bleed again. God grant it be not when our souls shall
be out of the reach of the true and only remedy.
Inference. 4. How sad is tile case of those souls, to whom Christ has
not yet been a physician? They are mortally wounded by sin, and are
like to die of their sickness, no saving, healing applications have
hitherto been made unto their souls: and this is the case of the
greatest part of mankind, yes, of them that live under the
discoveries of Christ in the gospel. Which appears by these sad
First, In that their eyes have not yet been opened, to see
their sin and misery; in which illumination the cure of souls begin,
Acts 26: 18. To this day he has not given them eyes to see, Deut.
29: 4. but that terrible stroke of God which blinds and hardens
them, is too visibly upon them, mentioned in Isaiah 6: 9, 10. No hope
of healing, until the sinner's eyes be opened to see his sin and
Secondly, In that nothing will divorce and separate them from
their lusts; a sure sign they are not under Christ's cure, nor were
ever made sick of sin. O if ever Christ be a physician to your soul,
he will make you loathe what now you love, and say to your most
pleasant and most profitable lusts, Get you hence, Isaiah 30: 22. Until
then, there is no ground to think that Christ is a physician to you.
Thirdly, In that they have no sensible and pressing need of
Christ, nor make any earnest enquiry after him, as most certainly
you would do, if you were in the way of healing and recovery. These,
and many other sad symptoms, do too plainly discover the disease of
sin, to be in its full strength upon your souls; and if it so
continue, how dreadful will the issue be? See Isaiah 6: 9, 10.
Inference. 5.. What cause have they to be glad, that are under the
hand and care of Christ, in order to a cure, and who do find, or
may, upon due examination, find their souls are in a very hopeful
way of recovery! Can we rejoice when the strength of a natural
disease is broken, and nature begins to recover ease and vigor
again? And shall we not much more rejoice, when our souls begin to
mend, and recover sensibly, and all comfortable signs of health and
life appear upon them? particularly, when the understanding, which
was ignorant and dark, has the light of life beginning to dawn into
it; such is that in 1 John 2: 27. When the will which was rebellious
and inflexible to the will of God, is brought to comply with that
holy will, saying, "Lord, what will you have me to do?" Acts 9: 6.
When the heart, which was harder than an adamant, is now brought to
contrition for sin, and can mourn as heartily over it, as ever a
father did for a dead son, a beloved and only son; when its
aversations from God are gone, at least have no such power as once
they had; but the thoughts are now fixed much upon God, and
spiritual things begin to grow pleasant to the soul; when times of
duty come to be longed for, and the soul never better pleased than
in such seasons: when the hypocrisy of the heart is purged out, so
that we begin to do all that we do heartily, as unto the Lord, and
not unto men, Col. 3: 28. 1 Thess. 2: 4. when we begin to make
conscience of secret sins, Psalm. 119: 118. and of secret duties,
Matthew. 6: 5, 6. when we have an equal respect to all God's
commandments, Psalm. 119: 8. and our hearts are under the holy and
awful eye of God, which does indeed over-awe our souls, Gen. 17: 1.
O what sweet signs of a recovering soul are these! Surely such are
in the skillful hand of the great Physician, who will perfect what
yet remains to be done.
Second use for direction.
In the last place, this point yields matter of advice and
direction to poor souls that are under the disease of sin; and they
are of two sorts, which I will distinctly speak to: namely, First, Such
as are under their first sickness of spiritual sorrow for sin, and
know not what course to take: or, Secondly, Such as have been longer
in the hands of Christ the Physician, but are troubled to see the
cure advance so slowly upon them, and fear the issue.
First, As to those that are in their first troubles for sin,
and know not what course to take for ease and safety; I would
address to them these following counsels.
First, Shut your ears against the dangerous counsels of carnal
persons, or relations; for as they themselves are unacquainted with
these troubles, so also are they with all proper remedies: and it is
very usual with the devil to convex his temptations to distressed
souls, by such hands; because, by them, he can do it with least
suspicion. It was Augustine's complaint, that his own father took
little care for his soul; and many parents act, in this case, as if
they were employed by Satan.
Secondly, Be not too eager to get out of trouble, but be
content to take God's way, and wait his time. No woman that is wise,
would desire to have her travail hastened one day before the due
time; nor will it be your interest to hasten too soon out of
trouble. It is true, times of trouble are apt to seem tedious; but a
false peace will endanger you more than a long trouble: a man may
lengthen is own troubles to the loss of his own peace, and may
shorten them to the hazard of his own soul.
Thirdly, Open your case to wise, judicious, and experienced
Christians, and especially the ministers of Christ, whose office it
is to counsel and direct you in these difficulties; and let not your
troubles lie, like a secret, smothering fire, always in your own
breasts. I know men are more ashamed to open their sins under
convictions, than they were to commit them before conviction: but
this is your interest, and the true way to your rest and peace. If
there be with you, or near you, an interpreter, one of a thousand,
to show you your righteousness, and remedy, as it lies in Christ;
neglect not your own souls, in a sinful concealment of your case: it
will be the joy of their hearts to be employed in such work as this.
Fourthly, Be much with God in secret, open your hearts to him,
and pour out your complaints into his bosom. The 102 Psalm bears a
title very suitable to your case and duty; yes, you will find in
Your troubles work kindly, and God intend a cure upon your souls,
that nothing will be able to keep God and your souls asunder:
whatever your incumbrances in the world be, some time will be daily
redeemed, to be spent between God and you.
Fifthly, Plead hard with God in prayer for help and healing.
"Heal my soul, (says David) for I have sinned against you," Psalm.
41: 4. Tell him Christ has his commission sealed for such as you
are: he was sent to "bind up the broken hearted," Isaiah 61: 1. Tell
him he came into the world, "to seek and save that which was lost,"
and so are you now, in your own account and apprehensions. Lord,
what profit is there in my blood? Will you pursue a dried leaf? And
why is my heart wounded with the sense of sin, and mine eyes open to
see my danger and misery; Are not these the first dawnings of mercy
upon sinners? O let it appear, that the time of mercy, even the set
time, is now come.
Sixthly, Understand your peace to be in Christ only, and faith
to be the only way to Christ and rest; let the great enquiry of your
souls be after Christ and faith; study the nature and necessity of
these, and cry to God day and night for strength to carry you to
Christ in the way of faith.
Secondly, As to those that have been longer under the hands of
Christ, and yet are still in troubles, and cannot obtain peace, but
their wounds bleed still, and all they hear in sermons, or do in the
way of duty, will not bring them to rest; to such I only add two or
three words for a close.
First, Consider whether you have rightly closed with Christ
since your first awakening, and whether there be not some way of
sin, in which you still live: if so, no wonder your wounds are kept
open, and your souls are strangers to peace.
Secondly, If you be conscious of no such flaw in the
foundation, consider how much of this trouble may arise from your
constitution and natural temper, which being melancholy, will be
doubtful and suspicious; you may find it so in other cases of less
moment, and be sure Satan will not be wanting to improve it.
Thirdly, Acquaint yourselves more with the nature of true
justifying faith; a mistake in that has prolonged the troubles of
many; if you look for it in no other act but assurance, you may
easily overlook it as it lies, in the mean time, in your affiance or
acceptance. A true and proper conception of saving faith would go
far in the cure of many troubled souls.
Fourthly, Be more thankful to shun sin, than to get yourselves
clear of trouble: it is sad to walk in darkness, but worse to lie
under guilt. Say, Lord, I would rather be grieved myself, than be a
grief to your Spirit. O keep me from sin, however long you keep
me under sorrow. Wait on God in the way of faith, and in a tender
spirit towards sin, and your wounds shall be healed at last by your
Thanks be to God for Jesus Christ.