(Owen. The Glory of Christ, Part 2. File 4)

(... continued from File 3)

    II. The second thing proposed is, that notwithstanding all this 
provision for the growth of spiritual life in us, believers, 
especially in a long course of profession, are subject to decays, 
such as may cast them into great perplexities, and endanger their 
eternal ruin. 
    And these spiritual decays are of two sorts. 1. Such as are 
gradual and universal, in the loss of the vigour and life of grace, 
both in its principle and in its excellence. 2. Such as are 
occasioned by surprisal into sin through the power of temptation; I 
mean such sins as do waste the spiritual powers of the soul, and 
deprive it of all solid peace. 
    As for temporary believers, give them but time enough in this 
world, especially if it be accompanied with outward prosperity or 
persecution; and, for the most part, their decays of one sort or 
another will make a discovery of their hypocrisy. Though they retain 
a form of godliness, they deny the power of it, Prov. 1: 31; 2 Tim. 
3: 5. And if they do not openly relinquish all duties of religion, 
yet they will grow so lifeless and savourless in them, as shall 
evidence their condition; for so it is with them who are lukewarm, 
who are neither hot nor cold, who have a name to live, but are dead. 
    And herein lieth a signal difference in this matter between 
sincere believers and those who believe only for a time; for those 
of the latter sort do either not perceive their sickness and decays, 
- their minds being taken up and possessed with other things, - or 
if they do find that it is not with them as it has been formerly, 
they are not much concerned, and on any occasional new conviction 
they cry, "Yet a little more slumber, a little more sleep, a little 
more folding of the hands to sleep;" but when the other do find any 
thing of this nature, it makes them restless for a recovery. And 
although, through the many snares, temptations, and deceits of sin, 
or through their ignorance of the right way for their healing, they 
do not many of them obtain a speedy recovery, yet none of them do 
approve themselves in such a condition, or turn unto any undue 
    Now, that believers are subject to decays in both the ways 
mentioned, we have full testimony in Scripture; for as unto that 
general, gradual decay, in the loss of our first faith, love, and 
works, in the weakening of the internal principle of spiritual life, 
with the loss thereon of delight, joy, and consolation, and the 
abatement of the fruits of obedience, our Lord Jesus Christ does 
expressly charge it on five of the seven churches of Asia, Rev. 2, 
3. And in some of them, as Sardis and Laodicea, those decays had 
proceeded unto such a degree, as that they were in danger of utter 
rejection. And hereunto answers the experience of all churches and 
all believers in the world. Those who are otherwise minded are dead 
in sin, and have got pretences to countenance themselves in their 
miserable condition. So is it with the Church of Rome; and I wish 
others did not in some measure follow them therein. 
    And as unto those of the second sort, whereinto men are cast by 
surprisals and temptations, producing great spiritual distress and 
anguish of soul, under a sense of God's displeasure, we have an 
instance in David, as he gives us an account of himself, Ps. 38: 
1-10, "O Lord, thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth 
me sore. There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger; 
neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sin. For mine 
iniquities are gone over mine head; as an heavy burden they are too 
heavy for me. My wounds stink, and are corrupt, because of my 
foolishness," &c 
    It is certain that here is a description of a very woeful state 
and condition; and the Psalmist, knowing that he was called of God 
to be a teacher and instructor of the church in all ages, records 
his own experience unto that end. Hence the title of it is, "A Psalm 
to bring to remembrance." Some judge that David had respect unto 
some great and sore disease that he was then visited withal. But if 
it were so, it was only an occasion of his complaint; the cause of 
it was sin alone. And four things he does represent. 1. That he had 
departed from God, and fallen into provoking sins, which had 
produced great distresses in his mind, verses 3, 4. 2. That he had 
foolishly continued in that state, not making timely application to 
grace and mercy for healing, whereby it was grown deplorable, verse 
5. And this folly is that alone which makes such a condition 
dangerous, - namely, when men, on their surprise]s in sin, do not 
speedily apply themselves unto healing remedies. 3. That he had 
herein a continual sense of the displeasure of God by reason of sin, 
verses 2-4. 4. That he was altogether restless in this state, 
mourning, groaning, labouring continually for deliverance. 
    This is a clearer delineation of the condition of believers, 
when, either by the greatness of any sin, or by a long continuance 
in an evil and a careless frame, they are cast under a sense of 
divine displeasure. This opens their minds and their hearts, 
declaring how all things are within, which they cannot deny. It is 
not so with many, in the same measures and degrees, as it was with 
David, whose falls were very great; but the substance of it is found 
in them all. And herein the heart knoweth its own bitterness; a 
stranger intermeddleth not with it: none knows the groaning and 
labouring of a soul convinced of such spiritual decays, but he alone 
in whom they are. Hereon is it cast down to the earth, going 
mourning all the day long, though others know nothing of its 
sorrows: but it is of a far more sad consideration, to see men 
manifesting their inward decays by their outward fruits, and yet are 
little or not at all concerned therein. The former are in ways of 
recovery; these in the paths that go down to the chambers of death. 
    I suppose, therefore, I may take it for granted, that there are 
few professors of religion, who have had any long continuance in the 
ways of it, having withal been exposed unto the temptations of life, 
and much exercised with the occasions of it, but that they have been 
asleep in their days, as the spouse complains of herself, Cant. 5: 
2; that is, they have been overtaken with decays of one sort or 
another, either with respect unto spiritual or moral duties, - in 
their relation unto churches or families, in their judgements or 
their affections, in their inward frames or outward actions, they 
have been overtaken with the effects of sloth, negligence, or the 
want of a continual watch in the life of faith. I wish it were 
    I principally herein intend those gradual declensions in the 
life and power of grace which men in a long course of profession are 
subject unto. And these for the most part proceed from formality in 
holy duties, under the constant outward performance of them; 
vehement engagements in the affairs of life, an over valuation of 
sinful enjoyments, growth in carnal wisdom, neglect of daily 
mortification of such sins as men are naturally disposed unto, with 
a secret influence from the prevalent temptation of the days wherein 
we live; - which things are not now to be spoken unto. 
    III. But I come to that which was proposed in the third place, 
- namely, to show that this at present is the state of many 
professors of religion, that they are fallen under those spiritual 
decays, and do not enjoy the effects of the promises concerning 
flourishing and fruitfulness, which we have insisted on. To fasten a 
conviction on them, or some of them at least, that it is indeed so 
with them, is my present design; and this ought to be done with some 
diligence. The glory of Christ, the honour of the Gospel, and the 
danger of the souls of men do call for it. This is the secret root 
of all our evil, which will not be removed unless it be digged up. 
Who sees not, who complains not of the loss of, or decays in, the 
power of religion in the days wherein we live? But few there are who 
either know or apply themselves, or direct others, unto the proper 
remedy of this evil. Besides, it is almost as difficult to convince 
men of their spiritual decays as it is to recover them from them; 
but without this, healing is impossible. If men know not their 
sickness, they will not seek for a cure. Some, when they see their 
sickness and their wound, will apply themselves unto wrong, useless 
remedies, like them in the prophet Hosea, 5: 13. None will make use 
of any cure who see no disease at all. Wherefore, to fasten a 
conviction hereof on the minds of some, we may make use of the 
ensuing inquiries and observations. 
    1. Have you, in the way of your profession, had any experience 
of these spiritual decays? I doubt not but that there are some who 
have been preserved green and flourishing from their first 
conversion unto God, who never fell under the power of sloth, 
neglect, or temptation, at least not for any remarkable season; but 
they are but few. It was not so with scarce any of those believers 
under the Old Testament whose lives and walkings are recorded for 
our instruction; and they must be such as lived in an exact and 
diligent course of mortification. And some there are who have 
obtained relief and deliverance from under their decays, - whose 
backsliding have been healed, and their diseases cured. So it was 
with David, as he divinely expresseth it, Ps. 103: 1,3-5, "Bless the 
LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Who 
forgiveth all thine iniquities; who health all thy diseases: who 
redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with 
loving-kindness and tender mercies: who satisfieth thy mouth with 
good things, so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's." So does 
he celebrate his deliverance from that state whereof he complains, 
Ps. 38, - which we mentioned before. And there is no grace or mercy 
that does more affect the hearts of believers, that gives them a 
greater transport of joy and thankfulness, than this of deliverance 
from backsliding. It is a bringing of the soul out of prison, which 
enlargeth it unto praise, Ps. 142: 7. Of this sort I doubt not but 
that there are many; for God has given great warnings of the danger 
of a spiritually-decaying state; and he has made great promises of 
recovery from it; and multitudes in the church are daily exercised 
herein. But I speak in general unto all. Have you any experience of 
such spiritual decays, either in the frame of your spirits or in the 
manner of your walking before God; or, at least, that you are prone 
unto them, if not mightily preserved by the power of grace in your 
own utmost diligence? If you have not so, then I fear it is from one 
of these two causes: - 
    (1.) That, indeed, you have never had any flourishing spiritual 
state in your souls. He that has been always weak and sickly does 
not know what it is to want a state of health and strength, because 
he never had experience of it; much less does he that is dead know 
what it is to want life. But he that from an exquisite temper of 
health falls into languishing distemper, knows distinctly both how 
it was and how it is with him. And the frame of the minds of many 
professors of religion, with the manner of their walking, is such, 
as that, if they are not sensible of spiritual decays, it is evident 
that they never had any good spiritual health; and it is to no 
purpose to treat with such persons about a recovery. There are, 
amongst those who make an outward profession of true religion, many 
that live in all sorts of sins. If you should deal with them about 
backsliding, decays, and a recovery, you will seem unto them as Lot 
did to his sons-in-law, when he told them of the destruction of 
Sodom, - as one that mocked, or made sport with them, Gen. 19: 14; 
or you will be mocked by them for your pains. They have been always 
such as they are; it was never otherwise with them; and it is a 
ridiculous thing to speak to them of a recovery. We must be able in 
this case to say to men, "Remember whence you are fallen, and 
repent, and do the first works," Rev. 2: 5. They must have had an 
experience of a better state, or they will not endeavour a recovery 
from that wherein they are. Such, therefore, as see neither evil nor 
danger in their present condition, but suppose all is well enough 
with them, because it is as good as ever it was, will not easily be 
brought under this conviction; but they have that which is of no 
less importance for them to inquire into, - namely, whether they 
have had any thing of the truth of grace or no. Or, - 
    (2.) If you have not this experience, it is to be feared that 
you are asleep in security, - which is hardly distinguishable from 
death in sin. The church of Laodicea was sensibly decayed, and gone 
off from its primitive faith and obedience; yet she was so secure, 
in her condition, knew so little of it, that she judged herself, on 
the contrary, to be in a thriving, flourishing state. She thought 
herself increased in all church riches and goods, - that is, gifts 
and grace, - while "she was wretched, and miserable, and poor, and 
blind, and naked," Rev. 3: 17; in such a state as wherein it is 
questionable whether she had any thing of the life and power of 
grace to be found in her or no. And so is it with many churches at 
this day, especially that which boasts itself to be without error or 
blame. And it is strange that a church should suppose that it 
flourisheth in grace and gifts, when it has nothing but a noise of 
words in their stead. 
    So God testified concerning Ephraim, that "grey hairs were 
sprinkled on him, yet he knew it not," Hos. 7: 9. He was in a 
declining, dying condition, but did not understand it. Hence it is 
added, "They do not return to the LORD their God, nor seek him for 
all this," verse 10. If men will not learn and own their spiritual 
decays, there is no hope of prevailing with them to return unto the 
Lord. "The whole have no need of a physician, but the sick;" Christ 
"came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." Such 
persons are under the power of a stupid security, from whence it 
will be very hard to rouse them up. Hence it is that we have so 
little success for the most part in calling persons to look after a 
revival and recovery of their decays; they acknowledge no such thing 
in themselves, - such calls may belong unto others; yea, if any word 
seem to come near them unto their disquietment, they are apt to 
think it was spoken out of spite and ill-will towards them: they 
approve of themselves in their present condition. Hence is the 
complaint of Christ in the ministry of the Word, "I have called, and 
ye have refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded. 
Ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof," 
Prov. 1: 24, 25. Hence, let this truth be pressed a thousand times, 
it is not one of a thousand who will think himself so concerned as 
to apply himself unto a relief. A spirit of slumber seems to be 
poured on many. 
    2. To improve this conviction, I would ask of some, whether 
they have been able to maintain spiritual peace and joy in their 
souls. I take it for granted that ordinarily they are inseparable 
adjuncts of the life of faith, in an humble, fruitful walk before 
God. The Scripture testifieth that they are so; and no experience 
lies against it in ordinary cases. And I suppose that those unto 
whom I speak do in some measure know what they are, and do not 
delude themselves with fancies and imaginations: they have substance 
in them, however by some derided, and to some unknown. Have this 
peace and joy been maintained and borne away in your minds? Have 
they under all trials and surprisals been quickly composed by them? 
or are you not rather on all occasions uneasy and perplexed? This is 
certain, that a decaying spiritual state and solid spiritual peace 
are inconsistent; and if ever you had such peace, you may by the 
loss of it know into what state you are come. 
    3. Not to inquire farther into things internal and hidden, 
wherein men may justify themselves if they please, there are too 
many open, visible evidences of these decays among professors of 
religion; they have not kept them from the eyes of the church, nor 
yet from the world. Do not pride, selfishness, worldliness, levity 
of attire, and vanity of life, with corrupt, unsavoury 
communication, abound among many? The world was never in a worse 
posture for conformity than it is at this day, wherein all flesh has 
corrupted its way; and yet, as to things of outward appearance, how 
little distinction is left between it and those who would be 
esteemed more strict professors of religion! Was this the way and 
manner of the saints of old, - of those that went before us in the 
same profession? Was it so with ourselves in the time of our first 
espousals, when we went after God in the wilderness, in a land that 
was not sown? as Jer. 2: 2. Some understand what I say: if we have 
not, some of us, had better days, we never had good days in our 
lives; if we have had them, why do we not stir up ourselves to look 
after a recovery? 
    4. May not God say of many of us what he said of his people of 
old, "Thou hast been weary of me, O Israel? " Isa. 43: 22. Have we 
not been weary of God, until we have abundant cause to be weary of 
ourselves? The most, I presume, will be ready, with them in Malachi, 
to say, "How or wherein have we been weary of God?" Do we not abide, 
yea, abound, in the duties of his service? What can be more required 
of us? Wherein are we to blame? This were something indeed, but that 
it is often so, that men are weary of God when they even weary God 
with their duties and services, Isa. 1: 13, 14. God says in his 
Word, he is weary: they say in their hearts, they are weary, Mal. 1: 
13. But I answer, - 
    (1.) Many cannot with any modesty make use of this pretence. 
Their sloth, indifference, and negligence in the observance of the 
duties of divine worship, both in private and public, is notorious. 
In particular, is not the duty of family prayer neglected by many, 
at least as to its constancy and fervency? And although it be 
grounded in the light of nature, confirmed by the general rules of 
the Scripture, requisite unto the dedication of a family unto God, 
strengthened by the constant example of all the saints of old, and 
necessary in the experience of all that walk with God; yet do not 
many begin to seek out pleas and arguing to justify their omission 
hereof? Are not all things filled with the fruits of the negligence 
of such professors in the instruction of their children and 
servants? And has not God given severe rebukes unto many of us, in 
their fearful miscarriages? And as unto the public worship of God, I 
wish that sloth and indifference did not appear upon too many, under 
various pretences. But, - 
    (2.) This is not that which I do intend. Men may be weary of 
God, whilst they abide in the observance of a multitude of outward 
    [1.] They may be so, with respect unto that spirituality and 
intention of mind unto the exercise of all grace, which are required 
unto such duties. These are the life, the soul, the animating 
principle of them, without which their outward performance is but a 
dead carcass. Men may draw nigh to God with their lips, when their 
hearts are far from him. This is that which becomes God in his 
worship, and is useful to our own souls; for "God is a Spirit, and 
he will be worshipped in spirit and in truth;" which he is not, but 
in the exercise of the graces of his Spirit in the worshipers; "for 
bodily exercise profiteth little, but godliness is profitable unto 
all things," 1 Tim. 4: 8. 
    To keep up the mind unto this frame, to stir up all grace unto 
a constant vigorous exercise in all holy duties, is a matter 
whereunto great spiritual diligence and watchfulness is required. 
Watch unto prayer. A thousand pretences rise against it; all the 
arts of sloth, formality, weariness of the flesh, and the business 
of life, do contend to frustrate the design of it. And the 
suitableness of resting in the work done, unto the principles of a 
natural conscience, gives efficacy to them all: and when men come to 
satisfy themselves herein, it may be it were better that for a time 
such duties were wholly omitted; for in that case conscience itself 
will urgently call on men, not hardened in sin, to a consideration 
of their condition: wherefore much spiritual labour and diligence is 
required in this matter. The outward performance of religious 
duties, be they never so many, or however strictly enjoined, as the 
daily and nightly canonical hours amongst the Popish devotionists, 
is an easy task, - much inferior unto the constant labour which some 
men use in their trades and callings. And in them, in the 
performance of them, either public or in their families, men may be 
weary of God: and according as they are remiss in the constant 
keeping up of spirituality, and the exercise of grace in sacred 
duties, so is the degree of their weariness. And there is almost 
nothing whereby men may take a safer measure of their decays or 
growth, than by the usual frame of their minds in these duties. If 
they do constantly in them stir up themselves to take hold of God, 
Isa. 64: 7, it is an evidence of a good temper of spiritual health 
in the soul. But this will not be done without the utmost 
watchfulness and care against impressions from the flesh and other 
temptations. But sloth and formality herein is a sign of a 
thriftless state in the inner man: and all inventions of such 
formality are disserviceable unto the interest of grace. 
    [2.] So is it with them also, who, attending unto the outward 
duties of religion, do yet indulge themselves in any known sin; for 
there is nothing of God in those duties which tend not unto the 
mortification of all sin: and men may keep up a form of godliness, 
to countenance themselves in the neglect of its power. And in 
particular, where any known sin is indulged unto, where the 
mortification of it is not duly endeavoured, where our religious 
duties are not used, applied, and directed unto that end, there is a 
weariness of whatever is of God in them; nor has the soul any real 
intercourse or communion with God by them. 
    5. If we should make a particular inquiry into the state of our 
souls with respect unto those graces which are most useful, and tend 
most to the glory of God, it is to be feared that the decays of many 
would be made very evident; such are zeal, humility, contriteness of 
heart, spiritual-mindedness, vigour of soul, and delight in the ways 
of God, love, charity, self-denial, and the like. Are we fat and 
flourishing in these things, even in old age? Are they in us, and do 
they abound? as the apostle speaks, 2 Pet. 1: 8. Do we bring forth 
the fruit of them, so as to show the faithfulness of God in his 
supply of grace? I shall not make a particular inquiry into them, 
but only give two general rules, whereby we may try ourselves with 
respect unto them all. 
    (1.) The loss of a spiritual appetite unto the food of our 
souls is an evidence of a decay in all these graces. Spiritual 
appetite consists in earnest desires, and a savoury relish; so it is 
described by the apostle, 1 Pet. 2: 2, 3, "As new-born babes, desire 
the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby; if so be ye 
have tasted that the Lord is gracious." There is required unto this 
spiritual appetite an earnest desire of the Word, grounded on an 
experience of the grace of God in it, unto this end, that we may 
grow and thrive spiritually thereby. And this appetite will give us 
as just a measure of the state of grace in us as a natural appetite 
unto wholesome food, with due digestion thereon, does give of a good 
state of health in the body. 
    This, therefore, we are to inquire into. Does it abide in us as 
formerly? We hear the Word preached as much as ever; but do we do it 
with the same desire and spiritual relish as before? Some hear to 
satisfy their convictions, some to please their fancies, and some to 
judge of the persons by whom it is dispensed. It is but in few that 
the necessary preparation for the due receiving of it is found. 
    When men grow in age, they lose much of their natural appetite 
unto food. They must eat still for the maintenance of life; but they 
do it not with that desire after it, and that gust in it, as in the 
days of youth and health. Hence they are apt to think that the meat 
which they had formerly was more savoury than what is now provided 
for them; though what they now enjoy is much to be preferred before 
what they then had. The change is in themselves. So we may find not 
a few professors, who are ready to think and say that the preaching 
which they had in former days, and the religious exercises which 
they were engaged in, were far to be preferred above what they now 
enjoy. But the change is in themselves; they have lost their 
spiritual appetite, or their hunger and thirst after the food of 
their souls. 
    "The full soul loatheth an honey-comb; but to the hungry soul 
every bitter thing is sweet," Prov. 27: 7. Men being grown full of 
themselves, and of a good conceit of their own abilities, have lost 
their spiritual appetite unto the Word of God; and this makes the 
Word lose its power and efficacy towards them. That Word, which the 
Psalmist says is "sweeter than honey, or the honey-comb," Ps. 19: 
10, has little or no taste or relish in it unto them. If they were 
hungry, they would find a sweetness in the bitterest of its 
reproofs, beyond what they can now find in the sweetest of its 
promises. They come to hear the Word with sick desires, and low 
expectations, as if they were invited to eat after a feast, being 
self-full before. But this loss of a spiritual appetite is an 
evidence of the decay of all other graces whatever. 
    (2.) A neglect of making religion our principal business, is 
another evidence of the decay of all sorts of grace in us. For where 
grace is in its proper exercise, it will subordinate all things unto 
religion, and the ends of it, as David twenty times declares in the 
119th Psalm. All things, all occasions of life, shall be postponed 
thereunto. The love and valuation of it will bear sway in our minds, 
our thoughts, and affections; and the practice of it shall give rule 
unto all other concernments. But is it so with many amongst us. It 
is well if religion be one thing, - it is far enough from being the 
one thing; every other thing is preferred before it, and it can 
hardly crowd in to possess any place in their minds. To see men 
continually plodding in the affairs of the world, regulating all 
their acting by their concernment in them, diverting on]y at some 
seasons, as it were out of their way, unto duties of religion, - it 
is vain to say that they make religion their business. But there is 
scarce a more certain evidence of a frame of mind spiritually 
decaying in all sorts of graces, if ever any of them were in it in 
sincerity and power, than this one, that men do not make religion 
their chiefest business. And a little self-examination will help men 
to judge what it is that they make so to be. 
    (3.) Lastly, I might also instance the uselessness of men in 
their profession; in want of love unto all saints, barrenness in 
good works, unreadiness and unwillingness to comply, in any 
extraordinary manner, with the calls of God unto repentance and 
reformation; in love of the world and pride of life, with passions 
suited unto such principles, predominant in them: for they are all 
undeniable evidences, that those with whom they are found had never 
any true grace at all, or that they are fallen under woeful decays. 
But what has been spoken may be sufficient unto our present purpose. 
    This is the third thing that was proposed, - namely, an 
endeavour to leave convictions on the minds of some concerning their 
spiritual decays, and the necessity of seeking after a revival by 
the means that shall be insisted on. And I intend it principally for 
those of us who, under a long profession, are now come unto age, and 
shall not have much time for duty continued to us. And the truth is, 
I meet with none who are Christians of any considerable experience, 
and are spiritually-minded, but they are sensible of the danger of 
such decays in this hour of temptation, and how difficult it is, in 
the use of all means, to keep up a vigorous, active frame of mind, 
in faith, love, holiness, and fruitfulness. And for those who are 
not concerned herein, I confess I know not what to make of them, or 
their religion. 
    IV. I proceed unto that which was proposed in the fourth or 
last place, - namely, the way and means whereby believers may be 
delivered from these decays, and come to thrive and flourish in the 
inward principle and outward fruits of spiritual life; which will 
bring us back unto consideration of that truth which we may seem to 
have diverted from. And to this end, the things ensuing are proposed 
unto consideration: - 
    1. The state of spiritual decays is recoverable. No man that is 
fallen under it has any reason to say, There is no hope, provided he 
take the right way for his recovery. If every step that is lost in 
the way to heaven should be irrecoverable, woe would be unto us; - 
we should all assuredly perish. If there were no reparation of our 
breaches, no healing of our decays, no salvation but for them who 
are always progressive in grace; if God should mark all that is done 
amiss, as the Psalmist speaks, "O Lord, who should stand?" nay, if 
we had not recoveries every day, we should go off with a perpetual 
backsliding. But then, as was said, it is required that the right 
means of it be used, and not that which is destructive of what is 
designed; whereof I shall give an instance. When trees grow old, or 
are decaying, it is useful to dig about them, and manure them; which 
may cause them to flourish again, and abound in fruit. But instead 
hereof, if you remove them out of their soil, to plant them in 
another, which may promise much advantage, they will assuredly 
wither and die. So it is with professors, and has been with many. 
Finding themselves under manifold decays, and little or nothing of 
the life and power of religion left in them, they have grown weary 
of their station and have changed their soil, or turning from one 
way in religion unto another, as some have turned Papists, some 
Quakers, and the like, apprehending that fault to be in the religion 
which they professed, which was indeed only in themselves. You 
cannot give an instance of any one who did not visibly wither and 
die therein; but, had they used the proper means for their healing 
and recovery, they might have lived and brought forth fruit. 
    2. A strict attendance unto the severities of mortification, 
with all the duties that lead thereunto, is required unto this end; 
so also is the utmost diligence in all duties of obedience. These 
things naturally offer themselves as the first relief in this case, 
and they ought not to be omitted. But if I should insist upon them, 
they would branch themselves into such a multitude of particular 
directions, as it is inconsistent with my design here to handle. 
Besides, the way which I intend to propose is of another nature, 
though consistent with all the duties included in this proposal; 
yea, such as without which not one of them can be performed in a due 
manner. Wherefore, as unto these things, I shall only assert their 
necessity, with a double limitation. 
    (1.) That no duties of mortification be prescribed unto this 
end, as a means of recovery from spiritual decays, but what for 
matter and manner are of divine institution and command. All others 
are laid under a severe interdict, under what pretence soever they 
may be used. "Who hath required these things at your hands?" Want 
hereof is that whereby a pretended design to advance religion in the 
Papacy has ruined it. They have, under the name and pretence of the 
means of mortification, or the duties of it, invented and enjoined, 
like the Pharisees, a number of works, ways, duties, so called, 
which God never appointed, nor approved, nor will accept; nor shall 
they ever do good unto the souls of men. Such are their confessions, 
disciplines, pilgrimages, fastings, abstinence, framed prayers, to 
be repeated in stated canonical hours, in such a length and number. 
In the bodily labour of these things they exercise themselves to no 
spiritual advantage. 
    But it is natural to all men to divert to such reliefs in this 
case. Those who are thoroughly convinced of spiritual decays, are 
therewithal pressed with a sense of the guilt of sin; for it is sin 
which has brought them into that condition. Hereon, in the first 
place, they set their contrivance at work, how they may atone divine 
displeasure and obtain acceptance with God; and if they are not 
under the actual conduct of evangelical light, two things 
immediately offer themselves unto them. First, Some extraordinary 
course in duties, which God has not commanded. This is the way which 
they retake themselves unto in the Papacy, and which guilt, in the 
darkness of corrupted nature, vehemently calls for. Secondly, An 
extraordinary multiplication of such duties as, for the substance of 
them, are required of us. An instance in both kinds we have, Micah 
6: 6, 7, "Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself 
before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt-offerings, 
with calves of a year old? will the LORD be pleased with thousands 
of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my 
firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of 
my soul?" And by this means they hope for a restitution into their 
former condition. And whereas spiritual decays are of two sorts; 
first, from the power and effect of convictions only, which are 
multiplied among temporary believers; and, secondly, from degrees in 
the power and effects of saving grace; - those whose decays are of 
the first sort are never to be diverted from attempting their relief 
by such means; and when they find them fail, for the most part they 
cease contending, and abandon themselves to the power of their 
lusts; for they have no evangelical light to guide them in another 
    Unto them who are of the second sort is this direction given, 
in an endeavour for a recovery from backsliding, and thriving in 
grace, by a redoubled attendance unto the duties of mortification 
and new obedience: Let care be taken that, as unto the matter of 
them, they be of divine appointment; and as to the manner of their 
performance, that it be regulated by the rules of the Scripture. 
Such are constant reading and hearing of the Word, prayer with 
fervency therein, a diligent watch against all temptations and 
occasions of sin; especially an endeavour, by a holy earnestness, 
and vehement rebukes of the entrance of any other frame, to keep the 
mind spiritual and heavenly in its thoughts and affections. 

(continued in file 5... )

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: owgch2-4.txt