William Bradford Institute
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Early Settlement of America

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Eleven Degrees of Resting in Duties


by Thomas Shepard
"The Sincere Convert"


This resting in duties appears in these eleven degrees:

1. The soul of a poor sinner, if ignorantly bred and brought up, rests
confidently in superstitious vanities. Ask a devout Papist how he hopes to be
saved; he will answer, by his good works. But inquire, further, What are these
good works? Why, for the most part, superstitious ones of their own inventions,
(for the crow thinks her own bird fairest,) as whipping themselves, pilgrimage,
fasting, mumbling over their Paternosters, bowing down to images and crosses.

2. Now, these being banished from the church and kingdom, then men stand upon
their token profession of the true religion, although they be devils incarnate
in their lives. Look up and down the kingdom; you shall see some roaring,
drinking, dicing, carding, whoring, in taverns and blind alehouses; others
belching out their oaths, their mouths ever casting out, like raging seas,
filthy, frothy speeches; others, like Ismaels, scoffing at the best men; yet
these are confident they shall be saved. Why, (say they,) they are no Papists;
hang them, they will die for their religion, and rather burn than turn again, by
the grace of God. Thus the Jews boasted they were Abraham's seed; so our carnal
people boast: Am not I a good Protestant? Am not I baptized? Do I not live in
the church? And therefore, resting here, hope to be saved. I remember a judge,
when one pleaded once with him for his life, that he might not be hanged because
he was a gentleman; he told him that therefore he should have the gallows made
higher for him: so when you plead, I am a Christian and a good Protestant, (yet
you wilt drink, and swear, and whore, neglect prayer, and break God's Sabbath,)
and therefore you hope to be saved; I tell you your condemnation shall be
greater, and the plagues in hell the heavier.

3. If men have no peace here, then they fly to, and rest in, the goodness of
their insides. You will have many a man, whom, if you follow to his chamber, you
shall find very devout; and they pray heartily for the mercy of God, and
forgiveness of sins; but follow them out of their chambers, watch their
discourses, you shall find it frothy and vain, and now and then powdered with
faith and fidelity, and obscene speeches. Watch them when they are offended, you
shall see them as angry as wasps, and swell like turkeys, and so spit out their
venom like dragons. Watch them in their journeys, and you shall see them shoot
into an alehouse, and there swill and swagger, and be familiar with the scum of
the country for profaneness, and half drunk, too, sometimes. Watch them on the
Lord's day; take them out of the church once, and set aside their best clothes,
and they are then the same as at another time; and, because they must not work
nor sport that day, they think they may with a good conscience sleep the longer
on the morning. Ask, now, such men how they hope to be saved, seeing their lives
are so bad; they say, though they make not such shows, they know what good
prayers they make in private; their hearts, they say, are good. I tell you,
brethren, he that trusts to his own heart and his good desires, and so rests in
them, is a fool. I have heard of a man that would haunt the taverns, and
theaters, and whore houses at London all day; but he would not dare to go forth
without private prayer in a morning, and then would say, at his departure, Now,
devil, do your worst; and so used his prayers (as many do) only as charms and
spells against the poor, weak, cowardly devil, that they think dares not hurt
them, so long as they have good hearts within them, and good prayers in their
chambers; and hence they will go near to rail against the preacher as a harsh
master, if he do not comfort them with thisthat God accepts of their good
desires.

4. If their good hearts can not quiet them, but conscience tells them they are
unsound without, and rotten at core within, then men fall upon reformation; they
will leave their whoring, drinking, cheating, gaming, company-keeping, swearing,
and such like roaring sins; and now all the country says he is become a new man,
and he himself thinks he shall he saved; (2 Pet. 2:20;) they escape the
pollutions of the world, as swine that are escaped and washed from outward
filth; yet the swinish nature remains still; like mariners that are going to
some dangerous place, ignorantly, if they meet with storms, they go not
backward, but cast out their goods that endanger their ship, and so go forward
still; so many a man, going toward hell, is forced to cast out his lusts and
sins; but he goes on in the same way still for all that. The wildest beasts, (as
stags,) if they be kept waking from sleep long, will grow tame; so conscience
giving a man no rest for some sins he lives in, he grows tame: he that was a
wild gentleman before remains the same man still, only he is made tame now; that
is, civil and smooth in his whole course; and hence they rest in reformation,
which reformation is, commonly, but from some troublesome sin, and it is because
they think it is better following their trade of sin at another market; and
hence some men will leave their drinking and whoring, and turn covetous, because
there is more gain at that market; sometimes it is because sin has left them, as
an old man.

5. If they can have no rest here, they get into another avenue: they go to their
humiliations, repentings, tears, sorrows, and confessions. They hear a man can
not be saved by reforming his life, unless he come to afflict his soul too; he
must sorrow and weep here, or else cry out in hell hereafter. Hereupon they
betake themselves to their sorrows, tears, confession of sins; and now the wind
is down, and the tempest is over, and they make themselves safe. They would have
repented; that is, the heathen, as Beza speaks, when any wrath was kindled from
Heaven, they would go to their sackcloth and sorrows, and so thought to pacify
God's anger again; and here they rested. So it is with many a man; many people
have sick fits and qualms of conscience, and then they do as crows, that give
themselves a vomit by swallowing down some stone when they are sick, and then
they are well again; so when men are troubled for their sins, they will give
themselves a vomit of prayer, a vomit of confession and humiliation. (Isaiah
58:5.) Hence many, when they can get no good by this medicine, by their sorrows
and tears, cast off all again; for, making these things their God and their
Christ, they forsake them when they can not save them. (Matt. 3:7.) More are
driven to Christ by the sense of the burden of a hard, dead, blind, filthy heart
than by the sense of sorrows, because a man rests in the one, that is to say, in
sorrows, most commonly, but trembles and flies out of himself when he feels the
other. Thus men rest in their repentance; and therefore Augustine has a pretty
saying which sounds harsh, that repentance damns more than sin; meaning that
thousands did perish by resting in it; and hence we see, among many people, it
they have great feelings, they think they are in good favor; if they lack them,
they think they are castaways, when they can not mourn nor be affected as once
they were, because they rest in them.

6. If they have no rest here, then they turn moral men; that is, strict in all
the duties of the moral law, which is a greater matter than reformation or
humiliation; that is, they grow very just and square in their dealings with men,
and exceeding strict in the duties of the first table toward God, as fasting,
prayer, hearing, reading, observing the Sabbath: and thus the Pharisees lived,
and hence they are called "the strict sect of the Pharisees." Take heed you
mistake me not; I speak not against strictness, but against resting in it; for
except your righteousness exceed theirs, you shall not enter into the kingdom of
heaven. You shall find these men fly from base persons and places, like the pest
houses, commend the best books, cry down the sins of the time, and cry against
civil or moral men, (the eye sees not itself,) and cry up zeal and forwardness.
Talk with him about many moral duties that are to be done toward God or man, he
will speak well about the excellency and necessity of it, because his trade and
skill, whereby he hopes to get his living and earn eternal life, lies there; but
speak about Christ, and living by faith in him and from him, and grounding the
soul upon the promises, (pieces of evangelical righteousness,) he that is very
skillful in any point of controversy is as ignorant almost as a beast, when he
is examined here. Hence, if ministers preach against the sins of the time, they
commend it for a special sermon, (as it haply deserves, too;) but let him speak
of any spiritual, inward, soul-working points, they go away and say he was in
their judgment confused and obscure; for their part they understood him not.
(Beloved,) pictures are pretty things to look on, and that is all the goodness
of them; so these men are, (as Christ looked on and loved the natural young man
in the gospel,) and that is all their excellency. You know, in Noah's flood, all
that were not in the ark, though they did climb and get to the top of the
tallest mountains, they were drowned; so labor to climb never so high in
morality, and the duties of both tables, if you enter not into God's ark, the
Lord Jesus Christ, you are sure to perish eternally.

7. If they have no rest here in their morality, they grow hot within, and turn
marvellously zealous for good causes and courses; and there they stay and warm
themselves at their own fire: thus Paul (Phil. 3:6) was zealous, and there
rested. They will not live, as many do, like snails in their shells, but rather
than they will be damned for want of doing, they are content to give away their
estate, children, any thing almost, to get pardon for the sin of their soul.
(Micah 6:7.)

8. If they find no help from hence, but are forced to see and say, when they
have done all, they are unprofitable servants, and they sin in all that which
they do, then they rest in that which is like to evangelical obedience; they
think to please God by mourning for their failings in their good duties,
desiring to he better, and promising for the time to come to be so, and therein
rest. (Deut. 5:29.)

9. If they feel a lack of all these, then they dig within themselves for power
to leave sin, power to be more holy and humble, and so think to work out
themselves, in time, out of this estate, and so they dig for pearls in their own
dunghills, and will not be beholding to the Lord Jesus; to live on him in the
want of all; they think to set up themselves out of their own stock, without
Jesus Christ, and so, as the prophet Hosea speaks (14:3,4), think to save
themselves, by their riding on horses, that is, by their own abilities.
10. If they feel no help here, then they go unto Christ for grace and power to
leave sin and do better, whereby they may save themselves; and so they live upon
Christ, that they may live of themselves; they go unto Christ, they get not into
Christ (Psalm 78:34,35), like hirelings that go for power to do their work, that
they may earn their wages. A child of God contents himself with, and lives upon,
the inheritance itself the Lord in his free mercy has given him.

But now we shall see many poor Christians that run in the very road the Papists
devoutly go to hell in.

First. The Papist will confess his misery, that he is (and all men are) by
nature a child of wrath, and under the power of sin and Satan.

Secondly. They hold Christ is the only Saviour.

Thirdly. That this salvation is not by any righteousness in a Christ, but
righteousness from a Christ, only by giving a man power to do, and then dipping
men's doings in his blood, he merits their life. Thus the wisest and most
devoted of them profess, as I am able to manifest; just so do many Christians
live. First. They feel themselves full of sin, and are sometimes tired and weary
of themselves, for their vile hearts, and they find no power to help themselves.
Secondly. Hereupon hearing that only Christ can save them, they go unto Christ
to remove these sins that tire them, and load them, that he would enable them to
do better than formerly. Thirdly. If they get these sins subdued and removed,
and if they find power to do better, then they hope they shall be saved: whereas
you may be damned, and go to the devil at the last, although you should escape
all the pollutions of the world, and that not from thyself and strength, but
from the knowledge of Jesus Christ. (2 Pet. 2:20.) I say, woe to you forever if
you die in this estate; it is with our Christians in this case as it is with the
ivy, which clasps and grows about the tree, and draws sap from the tree, but it
grows not one with the tree, because it is not engrafted into the tree; so many
a soul comes to Christ, to suck juice from Christ to maintain his own berries,
(his own stock of grace:) alas! He is but ivy, he is no member or branch of this
tree, and hence he never grows to be one with Christ.


 

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