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very few men can do all. I instance in the several ways of mortification, viz. by fastings, by watchings and pernoctations in prayer, lyings on the ground, by toleration and patience, laborious gestures of the body in prayer, standing with arms extended, long kneelings on the bare ground, suffering contradiction and affronts, lessenings and undervaluings, peevish and cross accidents, denying ourselves lawful pleasures, refusing a pleasant morsel, leaving society and meetings of friends, and very many things of the like nature; by any of which the body may be mortified and the soul disciplined or the outward act may be supplied by an active and intense love which can do every thing of duty: so also it is in alms, which some do by giving money to the poor; some by comforting the afflicted, some by giving silver and gold, others which have it not, do yet do greater things: but since it matters not what it is we are able to do, so that we do but what we are able,-it matters not how the grace be instanced, so that by all the instances we can, we do minister to the grace, it follows, that the law can be made to bend in any thing of the external instance, so that the inward grace be not neglected; but therefore it is certain that because every thing of matter can by matter be hindered; and a string or a chain of iron can hinder all the duty of the hand and foot, God who imposes and exacts nothing that is impossible, is contented that the obedience of the spirit be secured, and the body must obey the law as well as it can.
But there are some other considerations to be added to the main rule.
15. (5.) When the action is already done, and that there is no further deliberation concerning the direct duty, yet the law is not at all to be eased and lessened, if there be a deliberation concerning the collateral and accidental duty of repentance: and this is upon the same reasons as the first limitation of the rule: for when a duty is to be done, and a deliberation to be had, we are in perfect choice, and therefore we are to answer for God and for religion: and this is all one, whether the inquiry be made in the matter of innocence or repentance, that is, in the preventing of a sin or curing of it. For we are in all things tied to as great a care of our duty after we have once broken it, as before; and in some things to a greater; and repentance is nothing but a new
beginning of our duty, a going from our error, and a recovery of our loss, and a restitution of our health, and a being put into the same estate from whence we were fallen; so that at least all the same severities are to be used in repentance, as great a rigour of sentence, as strict a caution, as careful a walking, as humble and universal an obedience, besides the sorrow and the relative parts of duty, which come in upon the account of our sin.
16. (6.) But if the inquiry be made after the sin is done, and that there is no deliberation concerning any present or future duty, but concerning the hopes or state of pardon, then we may hope that God will be easy to give us pardon, according to the gentlest sense and measures of the law. For this, provided it be not brought into evil example in the measures of duty afterward, can have in it no danger: it is matter of hope, and therefore keeps a man from despair; but because it is but matter of hope, therefore it is not apt to abuse him into presumption, and if it be mistaken in the measures of the law, yet it makes it up upon the account of God's mercy, and it will be all one; either it is God's mercy in making an easy sense of the law, or God's mercy in giving an easy sentence on the man, or God's mercy in easing and taking off the punishment, and that will be all one as to the event, and therefore will be a sufficient warrant for our hope, because it will some way or other come to pass as we hope. It is all alike whether we be saved because God will exact no more of us, or because though he did exact more by his law, yet he will pardon so much the more in the sentence: but this is of use only to them who are tempted to despair, or oppressed by too violent fears; and it relies upon all the lines of the divine mercy, and upon all the arguments of comfort by which declining hopes use to be supported: and since we ourselves, by observing our incurable infirmities, espy some necessities of having the law read in the easier sense, we do, in the event of things, find that we have a need of pardon greater than we could think we should in the heats of our first conversion, and the fervours of our newly-returning piety; and therefore God does not only see much more reason to pity us upon the same account; but upon divers others, some whereof we know, and some we know not; but therefore we can hope for more than we yet see in the lines
of revelation, and possibly we may receive in many cases better measure than we yet hope for: but whoever makes this hope to lessen his duty, will find himself ashamed in his hope; for no hope is reasonable but that which quickens our piety, and hastens and perfects our repentance, and purifies the soul, and engages all the powers of action, and ends in the love of God, and in a holy life.
17. (7.) There are many other things to be added by way of assistance to them, who are pressed with the burden of a law severely apprehended, or unequally applied, or not rightly understood; but the sum of them is this.
1. If the sense be hidden or dubious, do nothing till the cloud be off, and the doubt be removed.
2. If the law be indifferent to two senses, take that which is most pious and most holy.
3. If it be between two, but not perfectly indifferent, follow that which is most probable.
4. Do after the custom and common usages of the best and wisest men.
5. Do with the most, and speak with the least.
6. Ever bend thy determination to comply with the analogy of faith, and the common measures of good life, and the glorifications and honour of God, and the utility of our neighbour.
7. Then choose thy part of obedience, and do it cheerfully and confidently, with a great industry and a full per
8. After the action is done, enter into no new disputes, whether it was lawful or no, unless it be upon new instances and new arguments, relating to what is to come,and not troubling thyself with that, which with prudence and deliberation thou didst (as things were then represented) well and wisely choose.
The positive Laws of Jesus Christ cannot be dispensed with by any human Power.
1. I HAVE already in this book given account of the indispensability of the natural laws, which are the main constituent parts of the evangelical; but there are some positive laws whose reason is not natural nor eternal, which yet Christ hath superinduced; concerning which there is great question made whether they be dispensable by human power. Now concerning these I say, that all laws given by Christ are now made for ever to be obligatory, and he is the King of heaven and earth, the head and prince of the catholic church, and therefore hath supreme power; and he is the "wonderful Counsellor, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace," and his wisdom is supreme, he is the wisdom of the Father, and therefore he hath made his laws so wisely, so agreeably to the powers and accidents of mankind, that they can be observed by all men and all ways, where he hath passed an obligation. Now because every dispensation of laws must needs suppose an infirmity or imperfection in the law, or an infirmity in the man, that is, that either the law did infer inconvenience which was not foreseen, or was unavoidable; or else the law meets with the changes of mankind with which it is not made in the sanction to comply, and therefore must be forced to yield to the needs of the man, and stand aside till that necessity be passed: it follows that in the laws of the holy Jesus there is no dispensation; because there is in the law no infirmity, and no incapacity in the man for every man can always obey all that which Christ commanded and exacted: I mean, he hath no natural impotency to do any act that Christ hath required, and he can never be hindered from doing of his duty.
2. (1.) And this appears in this; because God hath appointed a harbour whither every vessel can put in, when he meets with storms and contrary winds abroad: and when we are commanded by a persecutor not to obey God, we cannot be forced to comply with the evil man; for we can be secure against him by suffering what he pleases, and therefore dis
Chap. 1. rule 10.
obedience to a law of Christ cannot be made necessary by any external violence: I mean, every internal act is not in itself impedible by outward violence: and the external act which is made necessary, can be secured by a resolution to obey God rather than men.
3. (2.) But there are some external actions and instances of a commandment, which may, accidentally, become impossible by subtraction of the material part; so for want of water a child cannot be baptized; for want of wine or bread we cannot communicate; which indeed is true; but do not infer, that therefore there is a power of dispensing left in any man or company of men; because in such cases there is no law, and therefore no need of dispensation; for affirmative precepts, in which only there can be an external impediment, do not oblige but in their proper circumstances and possibilities and thus it is even in human laws. No law obliges beyond our power; and although it be necessary sometimes to get a dispensation even in such cases, to rescue ourselves from the malice or the carelessness, the ignorance or the contrary interests, of the ministers of justice, who go by the words of the law, and are not competent or not instructed judges in the matter of necessity or excuse, yet there is no such need in the laws of God. For God is always just and always wise, he knows when we can and when we cannot; and therefore as he cannot be deceived by ignorance, so neither can he oppress any man by injustice, and we need not have leave to let a thing alone, which we cannot do if we would never so fain; and if we cannot obey, we need not require of God a warrant under his hand, or an act of indemnity, for which his justice and his goodness, his wisdom and his very nature, are infinite security: and therefore it cannot be necessary to the church, that a power of dispensing should be intrusted to men, in such cases where we cannot suppose the law of God to bind. That is our best security, that we need no dispensation.
4. (3.) In external actions and instances of virtue, or of obedience to a commandment of Jesus Christ, wherever there can be a hinderance, if the obligation does remain, the instance that is hindered, can be supplied with another of the same kind. Thus relieving the poor hungry man, can be hindered by my own poverty and present need, but I can visit him that is sick, though I cannot feed the hungry, or I