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I • THE Bl\U!SBD B.ZBD \ AND SMOKING FLAX; BEING THE SUBSTANCE OF SEVERAL SERMONS FROl! MATTHEW xii. 20. l~ OR THE BENEF'I 'r 01? WEAKER CHRISTIANS. BY RICHARD SIBBES, D.D. Formerly Master of Catherine Hall, Cambridge, and. · Preacher of Gray's Inn, London . LONDON: PRINTED FOR THE BOOK SOCIETY For promoting Religious Knowledge among the Poor.. J)epository, 12, King's Arms Yard, Coieman Str.eet. 182.5.

MATTI:IE'V XII. 20. A. BRUISED REED SHALL HE NOT BREAK, AND SMOK£NG FLAX SHALL HE NOT QUENCH, TILL HE SEND FORTH JUDGMENT UNTO VICTORY. PART I. CHRIST WilL NOT BREAK THE BRUISED REED. THE prophet Isaiah, being lifted up and carried by the prophetical spirit, passeth over all the time between hi1n and the appearing of Jesus Christ in the flesh, and seeth with ·the eye of prophecy and with the eye of faith, Christ as present; and presenteth him in the name of God to the spiritual eye of others in these words, ' ' Behold n1y servant whom I uphold, mine elect, in whom my soul de·- lighteth; which place is alleg~d by St. B

2 THE BRUISED REED Matthew~ as fulfilled now in Christ, wherein is propounded, I. The calling of Christ to his office : •' II. The execution of it. 1. His calling. God styleth him his righteous servant, &c. Christ was God's servant in the greatest piece of service that ever was; a chosen, and a choice servant. He did, and suffered all by commission from the Father; wherein we may see the great love of God' to us, who counts the work of our salvation by Christ the greatest service, and he will put his only beloved Son to that service. He might well prefix " behold," to raise up our thoughts to the highest pitch of attention and admiration. In time of temptation, misgiving consciences look so muc1i to the present trouble, that they need be roused to behold him1 in whom they may find rest for their distressed souls: in temptation, it is safest to behold nothing but Christ, the true Brazen Serpent, the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world. This saving object hath a special influence of comfort I on the soul, especially if we look not only o.n ~im,, but upon the Father's authority

ANn SMOKING FLAX. :3 and love in him. For in all that he did and suffered as mediator, we must see " God in him reconciling the world unto himself." What a support to our faith is this, that God the Father, the party offended by our ~ins, is so well pleased with the work of .redemption ! And what a comfort is this, that seeing God's love resteth on Christ as well pleased in him, we may gather that he is as well pleased with us, if we be in him. For his love resteth in a iWhole Christ, in Christ mystical, as well as Christ natural, because he loveth him and us with one love. Let us therefore · embrace him, and in him God's love, and build our faith safely on such a Saviour, who is furnished with so high a commission~-See here for our-comfort an agreement of all the Three Divine Persons: the Father gives a commission to Christ; the Spirit furnishes and sanctifies it : Christ himself executes the office of a mediator. Our redemption is founded on the joint agreement of all the Three. II. The execution of his calling. It is se down here to be n1odest, without making a noise or raising dust by any B2

4 THE. BRUISED l~EED pompous coming, as princes are used te> do ; " llis voice shall not be heard :" His voice indeed was heard, but what ·voice? " Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I -'vill give you rest." He cried, but how? " H.o! every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters." And as his coming was modest, so it was mild, which is set down in these ''vords, The bruised Reed shall he not break, wherein we may observe these three things. First, The condition ·of those that Christ had to deal with. 1. They were bruised reeds. 2. Smoking Flax. Secondly, Christ's carriage toward them. .He brake not the bruis.ed Reed, nor quenched the smoking Flax : where more is meant than spoken; for he will not only not break the bruised Reeu, nor quench, &c. but he will cherish them. Thirdly, the constancy and progress of this his tender care, until judgment come to victory; that is, till the sanctified frame of grace begun in their hearts be brought to such a perfection, that it prevaileth over all opposite corruptio?·

AND SMOKING I'LAX. 5 1. The condition of the men, with whom he was to deal : They were bruised Reeds, and smoking Flax; not trees, but Reeds; and not whole, but bruised Reeds. The church is compared to weak things, to a dove amongst the fowls, to a vine amongst th-e plants, to sheep amongst the beasts, to a 'voman-the weaker vess-el; and here · God's children are compared to bruised Reeds and smoking Flax. And first we will speak of them as bruised Reeds, and then as smoking F'lax. They are bruised reeds before conversion ; and oftentimes after. Before conversion, all are so, (except those to whom, as being bred up in the church, God bath delighted to shew himself gracious from their childhood) yet in different degrees, as God seeth fit : And as there is difference in regard of temper, parts, manner of life, &c. so is God's intended employment for the time to come, for usually he empties such of themselves, and makes them nothing, before l;le will use them in any great service. This bruised Reed is a 111an, who for the mo~t part is · in some misery, and con1es to Christ for help; by n1isery ,.. brought to see sin· the cause of it; (for ·

_,./ 6 THE BRUISED REEDwhatsoever pretences sin maketh, yet bruising or breaking is the end of it); he is sensible of sin and misery, even to bruising, and, seeing no help in himself, is carried with restless desires to have a supply from another with some hope, -<'vhich, a little, raiseth him to Christ; though he dareth not claim any present interest of mercy. This spark of hope, being opposed by doubtings and fears rising from corruption, maketh him as smoking Flax; so that both these together, a bruised Reed and smoking Flax, .make up the state of a poor distressed man. Such a one as our Saviour Christ termeth "poor in spirit," who seeth . a want, and withal seeth himself indebted to divine justice, and no means of supply from himself or the creature. He thereupon mourns, and upon some hope of mercy from the promise, and the examples of those who have obtained mercy, is stirred up to hunger and thirst after it. This bruising is required before conversion, that so the Spirit may make way for itself into the heart, by levelling all proud, high thoughts, and· that we may understand ourselves to be what indeed

AND SMOKING FLAX. 7 we are by nature. VIe love to wander from ourselves, and to be strangers at home, till God bruiseth us by one cross or other, and. then we bethink ourselves, and come home to ourselves with the prodigal. A very hard thing it is, to bring a dull, and a shifting heart to cry with feeling for mercy. Our hearts, like malefactors, until they be beaten from all shifts, never cry for the mercy of. the judge. Again; this bruising maketh us set a high price upon Christ. The gospel then is the gospel indeed: then the fig.-leaves of morality will do us no good; and it maketh us more thankful, and from thankfulness more fruitful in our lives. For what maketh many so cold and barren, but that bruising for sin never endeared God's grace unto the1n? Likewise this dealing of God cloth establish us the more in his ways, having had often bruisings in our own ways. This is the cause of relapses, and apostasies, because n1en never smarted for sin at first; they were not long enough under the lash of the law; hence this inferior work of the Spirit, in bringing down high thoughts, is

8 THE BRUISED REED necessary before conversion. And for the most part, the Holy Spirit, to further the work of conviction, joineth some affliction, whieh sanctified bath a healing and purging power. Nay, after conversion, we need bruising, (that Reeds may know themselves to be Reeds, and not oaks)' by reason of the remainder of pride in our nature, and to let us see that we live by mercy; and that weaker Christians may not be too much discouraged when they see stronger shaken and bruised. Thus Peter was bruised, when he wept bitterly. The people of God cannot be without these examples. The heroical deeds of those great worthies do not comfort the church so much as their falls and bruises do. Thus David was bruised, until he came to a free confession without guile, Psalm xxxii. nay, his sorrows arose, in his own feelings, unto the ex·- quisite pain of breaking of bones, Psa. li. Thus Hezekiah complains that God had broken his bones as a lion, Isaiah xxxviii. 13. Thus , the chosen vessel, St. Paul, needed the messenger of Satan to buffet him, let he should be lifted up above measure, 2 Co·r. xii .

AND SMOKING FLAX. 9 Hence we learn, that we must not pass too harsh a judgment upon ourselves or others, when God exerciseth us with bruising upon bruising. There must be a conformity to our head Christ, who was bruised for us, that we may know how n1uch we ' are obliged unto him. Profane spirits, ignorant of God's ways in bringing his children to heav~n, censure brokenhearted Christians ,as desperate persons, when God is about a gracious good work with them. It is no easy matter to bring a man from nature to grace, and from grace to glory; so unyielding, and un·- tractable are our hearts ! The second point is, Christ will not break the bruised reed. Physicians, though they put their patients to pain, yet they will not destroy nature, but raise it up by degrees. Surgeons will lance and cut, but not dismember. A mother that bath a sick and froward child, will not therefore cast it away. And shall there be more mercy in the stream, than in the spring ? Shall we think there is more mercy in ourselves, than in God who planteth the affection of mercy in us ? But -for further declaration of Christ's

10 THE ·BRUISED REED mercy to all bruised reeds, consider the comfortable relations he bath taken upon him of husband, shepherd, brother, which he will discharge to the utmost. For shall others by his grace fulfil what he calleth them unto, and not he, that, out of his love, hath taken upon him these relations, so thoroughly founded upon his father'~ assignment, and his voluntary undertaking? Consider his borrowed names from the mildest creatures, as a lamb, a hen, to shew his tender care : consider his very name, Jesus, a Saviour, given him by God himself: consider his office, answerable to his name ; which is, that he should heal the broken-hearted. At his baptism, the Holy Ghost sat upon him in the shape of a dove, to shew that he should be a dove-like, gentle mediator. See the gracious manner of executing his offices : as a Prophet he came with blessing in his mouth, " Blessed are the poor "' in spirit," and invited those to come to him, whose hearts suggested most excep- - tions ag8inst themselves. ' ' Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden." I-Iow did his bowels yearn, when "he saw the people as sheep without a shepherd?"

AND SMOKING FlAX. 11 · lVIatt. ix. 36. He never turned any back that came unto him, though some went away of themselves. lie came to die as a Priest for his enemies. In the days of his flesh, he dict<:J.ted a form of prayer to his disciples, and put petitions unto God into their mouths, and his Spirit, to intercede, in their hearts, and now makes intercession in heaven for weak Christians. He sheds tears for those that shed his blood. He is so meek a King, that he will admit mourners into his presence; a King of poor and afflicted persons. As he bath beams of n1ajesty, so he bath bowels of mercies and 0 compassion.-A "Prince of Peace." Why was he tempted, but " that he n1ight succour those that are tempted ?' ' vVhat mercy may we expect from so gracious a Mediator, who took our nature upon him, that he might be gracious ? He is a Physician good at all diseases, especially at the binding up of a broken heart. l-Ie died that he might 0 . heal our souls with a plaister of his own . blood, and by that death save us, which we ourselves were the procurers of by our sins. And bath he not the same bowels · in heaven? " Saul, Saul, why persec':ltest

12 THE BRUISED R'EED thou me?" cried the head in heaven, when the foot was trodden 'On, on earth. His advancement hath not made him forget his own flesh: though it hath freed him ·from passion, yet not from compassion towards us. The lion of the tribe of Judah will only tear in pieces those thnt will not have him to rule over them. lie will not shew his strength against those that prostrate themselves before him. vVhat should we learn from hence, but to come boldly to the throne of grace in all our grievances ? Shall our sins discourage us, when he appears the~:e only for sinners? Art thou bruised ? Be of good comfort ; he calleth thee : conc~al not thy wounds; open all before him: keep not Satan's counsel. Go to Christ though trembling, if you can but touch the hem of his garment, you shall be healed and have a gracious answer. Go boldly to the Son of God in our flesh. For this end that we might go boldly to him, he is "flesh of our flesh, and bone of our bone." Never fear to go to God, since we have such a Mediator with him, that is not only our friend, but our brother and husband. Well might the angels proclaim from hea- •

AND SMOKING FLAX. 13 ven, " Behold we bring you good tidings of joy." Well might the apostle stir us up to rejoice in the Lord again and again; he was well advised upon what grounds he did it. Peace and joy are two main fruits of his kingdom. Let the world be as it will, if we cannQt rejoice in the world, yet we may rejoice iri the Lord. I-Iis presence maketh any condition comfortable. " Be not afraid," saith he to his disciples, " it is I ; " , as if there were no cause of fear where he is present.'s course is first to wound, then to heal; no sound whole soul shall ever enter into heaven. Think in temptation, 'Christ was tempted for me.' According to my trials will be my graces and comforts. If he be so merciful as not to break me, I will not break myself by despair, nor yield myself over to the roaring lion, Satan, to break me in pieces. See the contrary disposition of Christ, and Satan and his instruments. Satan setteth upon us when we are weakest, as Simeon and Levi upon the Shechen1ites, when they were sore; but Christ will make up in us all the breaches which sin and Satan have made. He binds up the

14 THE BP.UISE.t> Rf.ED broken-hearted, as a mother tendeth most, the most diseased and weakest child ; so doth Christ most mercifully incline to the weakest : he putteth an instinct into the weakest things to rely upon something stronger than themselves for support. rhe vine stayeth itself upon the elm; and the weakest creatures have oft the strongest shelters. The consciousness of the church's weakness makes her willing to lean on her b~loved, and to hide herself under hi$ w1ng. But how shall we know whether we be such as may expect m• rcy? · By bruising here is not meant those who are brought low only by crosses, but such as by them are brought to see their sin, which bruiseth most of all. When conscience is under the guilt of sin, then every judgn1ent brings a report of God's anger to the soul, and all lesser troubles run into this great trouble of conscience for sin : as all bad humours run to the diseased and bruised part of the body, and as every creditor comes upon the debtor, wheu he is once arrested, so when conscience is once awakened, all former sins and present crosses join together to

AND "SMOKING FLAK. 15 make the bruise more painful. Now he that is thus bruised will be content with nothing, but with n1ercy from him that hath bruised him. He hath wounded, and he must -heal. Again, a man truly bruised, judgeth sin the greatest evil, and the favour of God the greatest good.-He had rather hear qf mercy, than of a king· dom.-He bath mean conceits of himself, and thinketh he is not worthy of the earth that he treads upon.-Towards others he is not censorious, as being taken up at home, but is full of sympathy and compassion to those that are under God's hand.-He thinketh those that walk in the comforts of God's Spirit the happiest men in the world.-He ' ' trembleth at the word of God,' ' and honoureth the very feet of those blessed instruments that bring peace unto him. He is more taken up with the inward exercises of a broken heart, than with formality, and yet careful to use all sanctified means to obtain comfort. But how shall we come to have this temper? We must conceive of bruising, either as a state into which God bringeth us, or

16 THE B-RUISED REE~ as a duty to be performed by us; both are here meant. We must join with God in bruising ourselves. When he humbles us, let us humble ourselves, and not stand out against him, for then he will redouble his strokes; and let us justify Christ in all his chastisements. His end in all his dealings towards us is to cause us to return into our own hearts. Ilis work in bruising, tendeth to our work in bruising ourselves. Let us lament , our own untowardness, and say, ' Lord, what a heart have I, that ne.eds all this, that none of this could be spared ?' We must lay siege to the hardness of our own hearts, and aggravate sin all we can. We must look on Christ, who was bruised for us; look on him whom we have pierced with our sins. But :1ll directions will not prevail, unless God by his Spirit convinceth us deeply, setting our sins before us, and driving us to. a stand. Then we shall look out for mercy. Conviction will breed contrition, and this humiliation. Therefore let us desire.God, that he would bring a clear and a strong light into all the corners of our souls, and accompany it with a Spirit of power to lay our hearts low.

AND SMOKJNG FLAX. 17 A ·set measure of bruising· ourselves· cannot be prescribed, yet it must be ·so far,-as may lead us to prize Christ above all, and see that a Saviour must be had,- and until we reform that which is amiss, though it be to the cutting off our right hand or pulling out our right eye. There is a dangerous slighting the work _of humiliation; some alleging, as a pretence for their slightly dealing with their own hearts, that Christ will not break the bruised Reed. But such must know that every sudden terror or short grief,_is not that which makes us bruised Reeds; not a little " hanging down our heads like a bulrush,' ' but a working our hearts to such a temper that ·sin shall be more odious unto us than punishment, till we offer a holy violence against it. Else favouring ourselves, we make work for God to bruise us and for sharp repentance afterwards. It is dangerous, I confess, in some cases with some spirits, to press too much and too long this bruising ; because they may die, under the wound and . ·burden, before they be raised up again . _Therefore it is good in mixed assemblies to n1ingle comforts, that every soul may G

18 THE BRUISED REKD have its due portion. But if we lay this for a truth, that there is n1ore mercy in Christ than sin in us, there can be no danger in thorough dealing. It is better to go bruised to heaven than sound to hell : therefore let us not take off ourselves too soon, nor puff off the plaister before the cure be ,wrought, but keep ourselves under this work till sin be the bitterest and Christ the sweetest of all things. When God's hand is upon us in any kind, it is good to divert our sorrow for other things to the roof of all, which is sin. Let our grief run ·most in that channel, that as sin bred grief, so grief may consume sin. But are we not bruised, unless we grieve more for sin than we do for punishment? Sometimes our grief from outward evils may lie heavier upon the soul, than grief for God's displeasure ; becau~e in such cases the grief works upon the whole man, both outward and inward, and hnth nothing to stay it but a little spark of faith, which, by reason of the violent impression of the grievance, is suspended in the exercises of it. And this is most felt in sudden distresses which come upon the

AND SMOKIKG FLAX. 1 g soul as a torrent or land-flood. This is .the case, especially, in bodily distempers, which, by reason of the sympathy between the soul and the body, work upon the soul so far that they hinder not only the spiritual, but often the natural acts. Hereupon St. J ames directs us in affliction to pray oursehres ; but in case of sickness, to " send for the elders," J arnes v. 14, that they may offer up the sick person to God in their prayers, being unable to present his own. God permitteth such a plea from the sharpness and bitterness of the grievance, as in the sixth Psalm; and in Psalm ciii. 14, " The Lord knoweth our frame, he remembereth that we are dust,'·' that our strength is not the strength of steel. It is a branch of his faithfulness unto us as his creatures; whence he is called a faithful Creator, 1 Peter iv. 19. " God is faithful, who will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able,'1 1 Cor. x. 13. There were certain commandments which the Jews called hedges of the law : as to fence men off from cruelty, he commanded they should "not take the dam with the young, nor seethe the kid in the mother's milk," Ex. xxiii. 19. c 2

20 THE BRUISED REED " Nor muzzle the mouth of the ox," 1 Cor. ix. 9. Hath God care of beasts, and not of his more noble creatures ? Therefore we ought to judge charitably of the complaints of God's people, which are wrung from them in such cases : Job had the estee-p.1 with God of a patient man, notwithstanding those passionate complaints. Faith overborne for the present, will get ground again ; and grief for sin, although it comes short of grief for misery in violence, yet goeth beyond it in constancy; as a running strean1 fed with a spring holdeth out, when a sudden swelling brook faileth. For the concluding this point, and our encouragement to a thorough work of bruising, and patience under it, let all know that none are fitter for comfort than those who think themselves furthest off. Men, for the most part, are not lost enough, in their own feeling, for a Saviour. A holy despair in ourselves is the ground of true hope. " In God, the fatherless find mercy." If men were more fatherless, they would feel more of God's fatherly affection from heaven ; for the God who dwelleth in the highest heavens,

A~~D SMOKING FLAX. 21 dwelleth likewise in the lowest soul. Isa. lxvi. 2. Christ's sheep are weak sheep and wanting in som~th1ng or other; he therefore applieth himself 'to the necessities of every sheep. He seeks that which was lost, and brings again that which was driven out of the way, and binds up that which was broken, and strengthens the weak. His tenderest care is over the weakest. The lambs he carriet11 in his bosom : " Peter, feed my lambs." lie was most familiar and open to the troubled souls. How careful was he that Peter and the rest of the Apostles, should not be too much dejected after his resurrection, " Go, tell my disciples, and tell Peter,' ' lVIark xvi. 7. Christ knew that the guilt of their unkindness in leaving_ him had dejected their spirits. I-Iow gently did he endure Thomas's unbelief, and stooped so far unto his weakness as to allow him to thrust his hand into his side.

22 THE BRUISED .REED PART II. CHRIST WILL NOT QUENCH THE SMOKING FLAX. FoR the second branch, God will not quench the smoking flax or wick, but will blow it up till it flameth. In smoking flax there is but a little light, and that weak, as being not able to flame, and this little mixed with smoke. The- observations hence are, first, that in God's children, especially in their first conversion, there is but a little measure of grace, and that little mixed with much corruption which, as smoke, is offensive ; secondly, that Christ will not quench this smoking flax. First. Grace is little at the first. There are several ages in Christians, some babes, some young men : grace is as that grain of mustard-seed, Mat. xiii. 31. Nothing so little as grace at first, and nothing more glorious afterwards : things of greatest perfection are longest attaining to their full growth. Man, the most perfect crea-

AND SMOKING fLAX. 23 ture, comes to perfection by little ; worthless things, as mushrooms or J onah's gourd, and the like, soon spring up and soon vanish. A new creature is the most excellent frame in all the world, therefore it groweth up by degrees. A mighty oak riseth of an acorn. It is.with a Christian as it was with Christ who sprung out of the dead stock of J esse, out of David's fan1ily when it was at the lowest. But he grew up higher than the heavens. It is not with trees of righteousness, as it was with the trees of Paradise, which all were· created perfect at the first. The seeds· of all the creatures in this goodly fram·e of the world, were hid in the chaos, in that confused mass at the first, out of which God did command all creatures to arise. In the small seeds of plants lie hid both bulk and branches, bud and fruit. In a few principles lie hid all comfortable conclusions of holy truth. All those glorious fire-works of zeal and holiness in the saints, had their beginning from a few spa-rks. Let .us not therefore be discouraged at the small beginnings of grace, but look ori ourselves, as "elected to be blameless,

24 THE .BltUIStD :REED and without spot.'' Let us look on out imperfect beginning, only to enforce fur... ther strife to perfection and to keep us low in our own eyes. Otherwise, in case of discouragement, we must consider ourselves as Christ doth, who looks us to be such as he intendeth to fit for himself. Christ valueth us by what we shall be. We call a little plant a tree, because it is growing up to be so. "Who is he that despiseth the day of little things?" Christ would nqt have us despise little things. The glorious angels disdain not attendance on little ones : little in their own eyes, and little in the eyes of the world. Grace, though little in quantity, yet is much in vigour and worth. It is Christ that raiseth the worth of little and mean places and persons. Bethlehem the least, and yet not the least: the least in itself, not the least because Christ was born there. The second temple came short of the outward magnificence of the former : yet more glorious than the first, because Christ came into it. The Lord of the temple came into his own temple. The pupil of the eye is very

AND ~}.1:0K1NG l~ LA:X. 25 little, yel seeth great part of the heaven at once. A pearl, though little, yet is of much esteem. Nothing in the world of so good use as the least dram of grace. But grace is not only little, but mingled with corruption; whence it is that a Christian is said to be smoking flax. Hence we see that Grace doth not waste corruption all at once, but some is left to conflict with. The purest actions of the purest men need Christ to perfume them~ and such is his office. \Vhen we pray, we need to pray again for Christ to pardon the defects of our prayers.-See some instances of this smoking flax : Moses at the Red Sea, being in great perplexity, and not knowing what to say or which way to turn, groaned to God. In great distresses we know not what to pray for, but the Spirit makes request with sighs . that cannot be expressed. Broken hearts can yield but broken prayers. When David was before the king of Gath, and disfigured himself in an uncomely manner, 1 Sam. xxi. in that smoke there was some fire also ; you may see what an excellent psaln1 he makes upon that occasion ; wherein upon experience,

26 THE BRUISED RE 'ED he saith, " the Lord is near unto them . that are of a contrite spirit,'' Psalm xxxiv. 18. " I said in my haste, I am ·cast out of thy sight," there is smoke; " yet thou heardest the voice of my prayer," there is fire. Psalm xxxi. 22. " 1\'Iaster, carest thou not that we perish ?" Mark iv. 38. here is smoke of infidelity, yet so much light of faith, as stirred them up to pray to Christ. " Lord, I believe," there is light; but " help my unbelief," there is smoke. J onah cries, " I am cast out of thy sight," there is smoke ; " yet will I look again to thy holy temple,'' there is light. Jonah ii. 4. " 0 wretched man, that I am,' ' saith St. Paul upon sense of his corruption, but yet breaks out into " thanks to God through Jesus Christ our Lord." Rom. ' vii. 24, 25. I_n the seven churches, which for thei~~ light are called seven golden candlesticks;~ most of them had n1uch smoke with theif. light, Rev. ii. and iii. The reason of this mixture is, that we have in us a double principle, grace and nature. The end df it is especially to

AND SMOKING 1.-LAX. 27 preserve us from those two dangerous rocks which our natures are prone to dash upon, security and pride. Our spiritual fire is, like our ordinary fire here below, mixed. But fire is most pure in its own element, ahove: so shall all our graces be, when we are where we would be, in heaven, which is our proper elell)ent. From this 1nixture it is that the people of God have such different judgments of themselves, looking sometimes at the work of grace, sometimes at the remainder of corruption; and when they look upon that, then they think they have no grace. Though they love Christ in his ordinances and children; yet they dare not challenge so near acquaintance as to be his. As a candle in the socket sometimes sheweth its light, and sometimes the light is lost; so sometimes they are well persuaded of their own state, sometimes at . a 1oss. Secondly. Christ will not quench the smoking flax; because this spark is from heaven,-it is his own,-it is kindled by his own Spirit ;-and because it tendeth t? the glory of his powerful grace in his

28 THE .BRUISED . REED children, he preserveth light in the midst of darkness, a spark in the midst of the swelling waters of corruption. There is an essential blessing in that little spark, " When wine is found in a · cluster, one saith, destroy it not, for there is a blessing in it." We see how our Saviour Christ bore with Thomas in his doubting; and with the two disciples that went to Emmaus, who doubted whether he came to redeem Israel or not, Luke xxiv. He quenched not that little light, in Peter, which was smothered: Peter denied him, Matt. xxvi. but he denied not Peter. ' ' If thou wilt thou canst," said one poor man in the gospel : " Lord if thou canst, ~' said another; both were thus smoking flax, neither were quenched. If Christ had stood upon his own greatness, he would have rejected him tha.t came with big If, but Christ answers, his If with a ~;racious and absolute grant, " I will, be thou clean." The woman that was diseased with an issue, did but touch, and with a trembling hand, and but the hem of his garment, and yet went away both healed and comforted. In the Seven Churches, we see, he acknowledg'"·

AND SMOKING FLAX. 29 eth and cherisheth any thing that .was good in them, Rev. ii. and iii. Because · the disciples slept through infirmity, being oppressed with grief, our Saviour frameth a comfortable excuse for them, "the spirit is willing, but -the fle~h is weak," Matt. xxvi. 41. If Christ were not merciful he would miss of his own ends ; there is mercy with thee that thou mayest be feared. Now all are willing to come under that banner of love which he spreadeth over his. " Therefore to thee shall all flesh come," Psalm lxv. He useth moderation and care, " lest the spirit should fail before him, and the souls which he hath made." Christ's heart had compassion, the text saith, when he saw them without meat, lest they should faint : much more will he prevent our spiritual faintings. IIere see the . opposite disposition between the holy nature of Christ, and the impure nature of man. Man for a little smoke will quench the light : Christ we see cherisheth even the least beginnings. I-Iow did he bear with the many imperfections of his poor disciples '! If . he ~harply checked them, it was in love, ~nd

30 THE BRUISED REED that they may shine the· brighter. Can we have a better pattern to follow than his by whom we hope to be saved?" We that are strong ought to bear with the infirmities of them that are weak," Rom. xv. 1. " I became all things to all men, that I might win some,'' 1. Cor. ix. Oh that this gaining and winning disposition were more in us! Many, so far _as in us lieth, are lost for want of encouragement. See how that faithful fisher of men, St. Paul, labours to catch hisjudge, " I know thou believest the prophets," Acts xxvi. and then wisheth him all saving good, but not bonds; he might have added them too, but he would not discourage one who made but an offer. He would therefore wish Agrippa only that which was good in religion. Careful was our blessed Saviour of little ones, that they might not be offended. How cloth he defend his disciples from the malicious imputations of the Pharisees? How careful " not to put new wine into old vessels," Matt. ix. 17. not to alienate new beginners with the austerities of .religion, as some do indiscreetly. Oh, saith he, they will have time to fast when I

AND SMOKING FLAX. 31 ·am gone, and strength to fast when the Holy Ghost is come upon them. Matt. ix. 15. Acts i. 8. It is not the best way to blame young - beginners for some lesser vanities, but to shew them a more excellent way, and train them up in _obedience to positive ·commands, and other things will be quickly out of credit with them. It is not amiss to conceal their wants, to excuse some failings, to commend their performance, to cherish their l:owardness, to remove all rubs out of their way, to help them in every thing to bear the yoke of religion with greater ease, to bring them to love God and his service, lest they distaste it before they know it. For the most · part we see Christ planteth in young beginners a love which we call the first love, to carry them through their profession with more delight, and cloth not expose them to crosses before they have gathered strength, as we breed up young plants and fence them frorn the weather, until they be well rooted. Mercy to others should move us often to deny ourselves in our lawful liberties, when in danger of offending weak ones. It is the

32 THE BRUISED REED little ones who are offended. The weakest are apt to think themselves despised, therefore we should be most careful to give thern content. It were a good strife among Christians, to labour to give no offence, and to labour to take none. The best men are severe to themselves, tender over others. Yet people should not tire and wear out the patience of others ; nor sbould the weaker so far exact 1noderation from others, as upon their indulg~nce, to rest in their own infirmities, with danger to their own souls,. and scandal to the church. · The church suffereth much from weak ones, therefore we may challenge liberty to deal with them mildly, so oftentimes directly. The scope of true love, is to make the party better, which by concealment is often hindered . With some a spirit of meekness prevaileth most, but with some a rod. Some must be pulled out of the fire with violence, and will " bless God for us in the day of their visitation." We see our Saviour multiplies woe upon woe, when he was to deal with hard-hearted hypocrites; for hypocrites need stronger conviction than gross

AN D SMOKI~ G FLAX . sitiners, because their will is naught, and thereupon usually conversion is violent. A hard knot must have an answerable wedge, else in a cruel pity we betray their souls. A sharp reproof sometimes is a precious pearl and a sweet balm. The wounds of secure sinners will not be healed with sweet words. The I-Ioly Ghost came as well in fiery tongues as in the likeness of a dove; and the same Holy Spirit will vouchsafe a spirit of prudence and discretion, (which is the salt to season all our words and actions) and such wisdom will teach us " to speak a word in season n both to the weary and also to the secure soul. And indeed he had ne-ed have the tongue of the learned who would either raise up or cast down: but in this place I speak of mildness towards those who are weak, and are sensible of it : these we must bring on gently and drive softly, as J acob did his -cattle, Gen . xxxiii. 14. according to the pace, and as his children were able to endure. Weak Christians are like glasses, which are hurt with the least violent usage, but if gently handled will continue a long time. This honour of gentle use we are n

34 THE BRUISED REED to give to the weaker vessels, by which we shall both preserve them, and likewise make them useful to the church and ourselves. Divines had need take heed how they deal with such, in divers particulars. Let them be careful they strain not things too high; making those general and necessary evidences of grace which agree not to the experience of many a good Christian, and lay salvation and damnation ,upon those things which are not fit to bear so great a weight. Hence men are groundlessly cast down lower by them, than they can soon be raised up again by themselves or others. The ambassadors of so gentle a Saviour should not be overmasterly, setting up themselves in the hearts of people, where he alone should sit as in his own temple. How careful was St. Paul, in cases of conscience, not to lay a snare upon any weak conscience! ;1 Cor. viii. 12, 13. They should take heed likewise that they hide not their meaning in dark speeches, speaking in the clouds. Truth feareth nothing so much a~ concealment, and desireth nothing so much as clearly

AND SMOKI1\G FLAX . 35 to be laid open to the view of all. - When it is most naked, it is most lovely and powerful. Our blessed Saviour as he took our nature upon him, so he took upon him our familiar manner of speech, which was part of his voluntary abasement. Saint Paul was a profound man, yet became as a nurse to the weaker sort. 1 Thess. ii. 7 . That spirit of mercy which was in Christ, should move his servants to be content to abase themselves for the good of the meanest. What made the kingdom of heaven suffer violence after John the Baptist's time, but that comfortable truths were laid open with such plainness and evidence, that the people were so affected with them, that they offered a holy violence to them? Christ chose those to preach 1nercy, who had received most mercy, as St. Peter and St. Paul, that they might be ex-. amples of what they taught. St. Paul became " all things to all men," 1 Cor. ix. 22. stooping unto then1 for their good. Christ came down from heaven, and ernpiied himself of majesty, in tender love to souls. Shall not w:e come down from D2

36 THE BRUISED REED our high conceits, to do any poor soul good? Shall man be proud after God bath been humble? We see the minis~ ters of Satan turn themselves into all shapes to make proselytes. A Jesuit will be every man. We see ambitious men study to accommodate themselves to the humours of those by whom they hope to raise themselves: and shall we not study to be like Christ, by whom we hope to be advanced, nay, are already, as it were, sitting with him in heavenly place,s? After we are gained to Christ ourselves we should labour to gain others to him. Holy ambition and covetousness will move us to put on the disposition of Christ; but first we must put off ourselves. We should not rack their wits with curious or doubtful disputes, for so we shall distract and tire them, and may lead them to cast off the care of all. That age of the church which was most fertile in nice questions, was most barren in re· ligion ; for it makes people think religion to be only a matter of wit in tying and untying of knots. The heads of men, given that way, are hotter usually than their hearts . Yet, when we are cast into

AND SMOKING l ' LAX. 37 -times and places wherein doubts are raised about main points, people ought to labour to be established. God often suffers questions to arise for trial of 'our love and exercise of our parts. Nothing is so certain as that which is certain after doubts. , Shaking settles and roots. In a contentious age, it is a wise thing to be a Christian, and to know what to fix our souls upon: it is an office of love here to take away the stones and to smooth the way to heaven. Therefore we must take heed that, under pretence of avoiding , disputes, we do not suffer an adverse party to get ground upon the truth : for thus may we easily betray both the truth of God and souls of men. And likewise those who fail by much austerity, drive back troubled souls from having comfort by them. For by this carriage, many smother their temp~ations and burn inwardly, because they have none into whose bosom they may vent their grief 'and ease their souls. We must neither bind where God looseth, nor loose where Go4 bindeth; nor open where God shutteth, nor shut \vhere God openeth. The right use of

:38 TilE nr. U ISED REED the keys is always si1ccessful. In personal application there must be great heed taken. For a man may be a false prophet and yet speak the truth, if it be not a truth to the person to whom he speak- - eth ; if he grieve those whom God bath not grieved, by unseasonable truths, or by comforts in a bad way; the hearts of the wicked may be strengthened. One man's meat may be another's bane. If we look to the general temper of these times, rousing and awakening scriptures are fittest; yet many broken spirits need soft and oily words. Even in the worst times the prophets mingle sweet comfort for the hidden i·emnant of faithful people. God hath comfort, " Comfort ye my people,'' as well as " Lift up thy voice as a trumpet.' ' And here likewise there needs a caveat. Mercy doth not rob us of our right judgment, as that we should take smoking firebrands for smoking flax. None will claim mercy more of others than those whose portion-is due severity. This example doth not countenance lukewarmness; nor too n1uch indulgence to those ·who need quickening. Cold diseases

AND SMOKING l7LAX. 39 must have hot remedies. It was the just con1mendation of the church of Ephesus, " that it could not bear them which are evil, Rev. ii. 2. We should so bear with others, as to discover at the same time a dislike of evil. Our Saviour Christ would not forbear sharp reproof, where he saw dangerous infirmities in his most beloved disciples. It bringeth men under a curse " to do the work of the Lord negligently,'' even where it is a work of just severity. Those whom we suffer to be betrayed by their worst enemies, their sins, will have just cause to curse us another day. It is hard to preserve just bounds of mercy and severity, without a spirit above our own; which we ought to desire to be led by in all things. That " wisdom which dwelleth with prudence,' ' will guide us in these particulars, without which virtue is not virtue, truth not truth. The rule and the case must be laid together : for if there be not a narrow insight, seeming likeness in conditions will breed errors in our opinions of them. Those fiery, tempestuous, and destructive spirits in Popery, who seek to promote their

40 THE Bl\ U ISED f t EED. religion by cruelty, shew that they are strangers to that wisdom which is from above, which maketh men gentle, peaceable, and ready to shew that n1ercy which they have before felt themselves. It is agreeable to Christ, and likewise to man's nature, to prevail by forbearance and moderation. .And yet oft we see a fal se spirit in those who call for moderation. It is but to carry their own projects with the greater. strength, and if they prove of the prevailing hand, they will hardly shew that moderation to others, which they now call for from others. There is a proud ·kind of moderation likewise when men will take upon them to censure either party, as if they were wiser . than both, though, if the spirit be right, a looker-on may see more than those that are in the conflict. So, in the censures of the church, it is more suitable to the Spirit of Christ to incline to the milder p'art, and not to shut men out of heaven 'for a trifle. The very snuffers of the tabernacle were made of pure gold, to shew the purity of those censures whereby the light of the church

AND SMOI\:JNG FLAX . 41 is kept bright, That power which is given to the church is given for edification, not destruction. How careful was St. Paul that the incestuous Corinthian should not be swallowed up with too much grief! As for the civil magistrates-they for civil exigencies and reasons of state, must let the law have its course. Yet thus far they should imitate this mild king, as not to mingle bitterness and passion with authority derived from God. Authority is a beam of God's majesty, (and prevaileth most where there is least mixture of that which is man's. It requireth more than ordinary wisdom to manage it aright. This string must not be too n1uch strained up nor too much let loose. Justice in rigour is oft extreme injustice, where some considerable circumstances should incline to moderation; and the reckoning will be easier for bending rather to moderation than rigour. Insolent carriage towards miserable per· sons, if humbled, is unseemly in any who look for mercy themselves. Misery should be a load-stone of mercy, not a _foot-stool for pride to trample on. Sometimes it falleth out that those who

42 THE BRUISED REED are under the government of others, are ,most injured by waywardness and harsh censures, herein_disparaging and discouraging the endeavours of superiors for public good. In so great weakness of man's nature, and ~specially in the present state of the world, we ought to take, in good part, any moderate happiness we enjoy by government ; and not be altogether as a nail in the wound, exasperating things by misconstruction. Here love should have a mantle to cast over the lesser errors of those above us. Oftentimes the poor man is the oppressor by unjust clamours. We should labour to give the best interpretations to the actions of governors, that the nature of the actions will possibly bear. In the last place, there is something for private Christians, even for all of us in our common relations, to take notice of. Vv e are debtors to the 'veak in many things. Let us be watchful in the use of our liberty, and labour to be inoffensive in our carriage, that our example compel the1n not. There is a con1manding force in an example., as in Peter, Gal. ii. 1L A

AND SMOKING l~ LAX . 43 looseness of life is cruelty to ourselves and to the souls of others ; though we cannot keep them fron1 perishing who will perish, in regard to the event, yet if we do that which is apt ofitselfto destroy the souls of others, their ruin is imputa~· ble to us . .Let men beware of taking up Satan's office, in depraving the go<;>d actions of others, as he did J ob's.-" Doth he serve God for nought?" or slandering their persons, judging of them according to the wickedness which is in their own hearts. The Devil getteth more by such discouragements and those reproaches which are cast upon religion, than by fire and faggot . These, as unseasonable frosts, nip all gracious attempts in the bud, and as much as in them lies, with I-Ierod, labour to kill Christ ·in young professors. A Christian is a hallowed and a sacred thing, Christ's temple : and he that destroyeth the temple, him will Christ destroy. Amongst the things that are to be avoided, there is amongst private Christians a bold usurpation of censure, not considering each others temptations . Some

44 THE BRUI SED RE ED ~ill unchurch and unbrother in a passion. But distempers do not alter true relations. Though the child in a fit should disclaim the mother, yet the mother will not disclaim the child. There is therefore, in these judging times, good ground for St. J a.mes's caution that there should not be too many masters; that we should not smite one another by hasty censures,, especially in things of an indifferent nature. Some things are as the mind of him is that doth them, or doth them not; for both may be unto the Lord . · An holy aim in things of a middle nature, makes the judgments of men, though seemingly contrary, not so much blameable . Christ, for the good aims he seeth in us, overlooketh any ill in us so far as not to lay it to our charge . Men must not be too curious in prying into the weaknesses of others . We should labour rather to see what they have that is for eternity, to incline our hearts to love them, than into that weakness which the Spirit of God will in time consume, to ~strange us. Some think it strength of grace to endure nothing in the weaker;

.AND SMOKlN G !'' LAX . 45 whereas the strongest are readiest to bear · with the infirmities of the weak. Where most holiness is, there is most modera-- tion, when it n1ay be without prejudice of piety to God and the good of others . We see in Christ absolute holiness, with great moderation in this text . What had become of our sal'vation, if he had stood upon terms, and hot stooped thus low unto us? We need not affect to be more holy than Christ. It is no flattery to do as he doth, so it be to edification. The Holy Ghost is content to dwell in smoky offensive souls. Oh, that this Spirit would breathe into our spirits the like merciful disposition. · We endure the bitterness of wormwood and other distasteful plants and herbs, because we 'have experience of some wholesome quality in them. And why should we reject men of useful parts and graces, for some harshness of disposition only, which, as it is offensive to us, s.o it grieveth themselves. Grace, whilst we live here, is in souls imperfectly renewed, and which dwell in bodies subject ~o several humours, which will incline the soul sometimes to

46 THE BRr iSED REED excess in one passion, sometimes to excess in another. Bucer was a deep and a moderate divine. Upon long· experience he resolved to refuse none in whom he saw something of Christ. The best Christians, in this state of imperfection, are like gold a little too light, which needs some grains of allowance to make it pass. You must grant the best their allowance. We must supply, out of our love and mercy, that which we see wanting in them. The church of Christ is a common hospital, wherein all are in some measure sick of some spiritual disease or other, that we may all have ground of exercising mutually the spirit of wisdom and meekness. That we may better do this, let us put on the Spirit of Christ : the Spirit of God carrieth a majesty with it. Corruption will hardly yield to corruption. Pride is intolerable to pride. The weapons.of this warfare must not be carnal, Luke xxiv. 49. The great apostles would not set upon the work of the ministry, until they ~ere clothed, as it were, with power from on

AND SMOKING FLAX. 47 high. The Spirit will only work with his own tools . And we should think what affection Christ would carry to the party in this case. That great physician, as he had a quick eye ap.d a healing tongue, so he had a gentle hand and a tender heart. Again, Let us suppose ourselves in the condition of him with whom we deal. We are, ·or have been, or may be such. Make the case our own, ·and withal consider in what near ·relation a Christian standeth unto us, even as a brother, a fellowmember, heir of the same glorious salvation. Therefore let us take upon ourselves .a tender care of them every way, and especially in cherishing the peace of their consciences. Conscience is a tender and delicate thing, and so must be used. Let us improve this part of the subject, by way of TRIAL-to see whether we are this smoking flax,_ which Christ will not quench; and in this trial remember these rules: 1. We must have two eyes; one to see imperfections in ourselves and others ; the other to see what is good. I am black, saith the church, but yet comely. Those