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102

THE

EPISTLE TO

THE READER.

Ε'

VERY creature, by the inftinct of nature, or by the light of reason, strives to avoid danger, and get out of harm's way. The cattle in the fields prefaging a ftorm at hand, fly to the hedges and thickets for fhelter. The fowls of heaven, by the fame natural instinct, perceiving the approach of winter, take their timely flight to a warmer climate. This * naturalifts have observed of them, and their obfervation is confirmed by fcripture-teftimony of the cattle it is faid, Job xxxvii. 6, 7, 8. "He faith to the fnow; Be thou on the earth, likewise the small "rain, and the great rain of his strength; then the beafts go "into dens, and remain in their places;" And of the fowls of the air it is faid, Jer. viii. 7. "The ftork in the heavens know"eth her appointed times, and the turtle, and the crane, and "the swallow, observe the time of their coming."

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But man being a prudent and profpecting creature, hath the advantage of all other cratures in his forefeeing faculty: "For "God hath taught him more than the beasts of the earth, and "made him wiler than the fowls of heaven," Job xxxv. II.

And a wife man's heart difcerneth both time and judgment," Eccl. viii. 5. For as there are natural figns of the change of the weather, Matth. xvi. 3. fo there are moral signs of the changes of time and providences: yet fuch is the supineness and inexcufable regardlefnefs of moft men, that they will not fear till they feel, nor think any danger very confiderable, till it become inevitable.

We of this nation have long enjoyed the light of the glorious gofpel among us; it hath fhone in much clearness upon this finful ifland, for more than a whole century of happy years: but the longest day hath an end, and we have caufe to fear our bright fun is going down upon us; for the fhadows in England are grown greater than the fubftance, which is one fign of approaching night, Jer. vi. 4. "The beafts of prey creep out of "their dens and coverts," which is another fign of night at hand, Pfal. civ. 20." And the workmen come home apace from "their labours, and go to reft," which is as fad a fign as any of the reft, Job vii. 1, 2. Ifa. Ivii. 1, 2. Happy were it, if, in

* Plin. 1. 18, c. 35. Virg. Georg. l. 1.

fuck a juncture as this, every man would make it his work, and business to secure himself in Christ from the storm of God's indignation, which is ready to fall upon these finful nations. It is faid of the Egyptians, when the storm of hail was coming upon the land, Exod. ix. 20. "He that feared the word of the Lord "made his fervants and cattle flee into the houses." It is but an old fight to fee the prudence of an Egyptian, out-vying the wisdom, and circumfpection of a Christian.

God, who provides natural fhelter and refuge for all creatures, hath not left his people unprovided with, and deftitute of defence and fecurity, in the most tempeftuous times of national judgments. It is faid, Mic. v. 5. "This man (meaning the man Christ Jesus) fhall be the peace, when the Affyrian shall come into our land, and when he shall tread in our palaces." And Ifa. xxvi. 20. "Come, my people, enter thou into thy "chambers, and faut thy doors about thee; hide thyfelf as it "were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpaft."

My friends, let me fpeak as freely, as I am fure I fpeak, feafonably. A found of Judgment is in our ears; "the Lord's "voice crieth unto the city, and the man of wisdom shall see thy name hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it," Micah vi. 9. All things round about us feem to posture themfelves for trouble and diftrefs. Where is the man of wifdom that doth not forefee a fhower of wrath and indignation coming? "We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace. "Ask ye now, and see whether a man doth travail with child? "Wherefore do I fee every man with his hand on his loins, as "a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into palenefs?

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Alas, for that day is great, fo that none is like it; it is even "the day of Jacob's trouble, but he fhall be delivered out of "it," Jer. xxx. 5, 6, 7.

Many eyes are now opened to fee the common danger, but fome forefaw it long ago; when they faw the general decay of Godliness every where, the notorious prophanity and atheism that overspread the nations; the spirit of enmity and bitterness against the power of Godliness wherever it appeared: and tho' there feemed to be a prefent calm, and general quietness; yet thofe that were wife in heart could not but difcern diftrefs of nations, with great perplexity, in these feeds of judgment and calamity: But as the ephah fills more and more, fo the determined wrath grows more and more visible to every eye and it is a fond thing to dream of tranquillity, in the midft of fo much iniquity. Indeed, if these nations were once fwept with the befom of reformation, we might hope God would not sweep

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them with the befom of deftruction; but what peace can be ex pected, whilft the highest provocations are continued?

It is therefore the great and prefent concernment of all to pro vide themselves of a refuge before the ftorm overtakes them: for, as Auguftin well obferves, Non facile inveniuntur praefidia in adverfitate, quae non fuerint in pace quaefita. O take up your lodgings in the attributes and promifes of God before the night overtake you; view them often by faith, and clear up your interest in them, that you may be able to go to them in the dark, when the minifters and ordinances of Christ have taken their leave of you, and bid you good night.

Whilft many are hafting on the wrath of God by profane nefs, and many be fmiting their fellow-fervants; and multitudes refolve, if trouble come, to fish in the troubled waters for fafety and preferment, not doubting (whenfoever the overflowing flood comes) but they fhall ftand dry. O that you would be mourning for their fins, and providing better for your own fafety.

Reader, it is thy one thing neceffary to get a cleared intereft in Jefus Chrift; which being once obtained, thou mayeft face the ftorm with boldnefs, and fay, come troubles and distreffes, toffes and trials, prifons and death, I am provided for you; da your worst, you can do me no harm: let the winds roar, the lightnings flash, the rains and hail fall never fo furiously, I bave a good roof over my head, a comfortable lodging provided for me: "My place of defence is the munition of rocks, where "bread fhall be given me, and my waters fhall be fure," Ifa. Xxxiii. 16.

The defign of the enfuing treatise, is to affift thee in this great work; and though it was promifed to the world many years paft, yet providence hath referved it for the fittest feafon, and brought it to thy hand in a time of need.

It contains the method of grace in the application of the great redemption to the fouls of men, as the former part contains the method of grace in the interpretation thereof by Jefus Chrift. The acceptation God hath given the former part, fignified by the defires of many, for the publication of this, hath at last prevailed with me (notwithstanding the fecret confciousness of my inequality to fo great an undertaking) to adventure this fecond part alfo, upon the ingenuity and candour of the reader.

And I confent the more willingly to the publication of this, because the defign I first aimed at, could not be entire and complete without it; but especially, the quality of the subject-matter, which (through the bleffing and concurrence of the fpirit)

may be useful both to ronze the drowsy confciences of this fleepy generation, and to affift the upright, in clearing the work of the ipirit upon their own fouls. Thefe confiderations have prevailed with me against all difcouragements.

And now, reader, it is impoffible for me to speak particularly and diftinctly to the cafe of thy foul, which I am ignorant of, except the Lord fhall direct my difcourfe to it in fome of the fol lowing fuppofitions.

If thou be one that haft fincerely applied, and received Jefus Chrift by faith, this discourse (through the bleffing of the Spirit) may be useful to thee, to clear and confirm thy evidences, to melt thy heart in the fenfe of thy mercies, and to engage and quicken thee in the way of thy duties. Here thou wilt fee what great things the Lord hath done for thy foul, and how thefe dignities, as thou art his fon or daughter, by the double title of regenerá tion and adoption, do obtige thee to yield up thyself to God entirely, and to fay from thy heart, Lord, whatever I am, I am for thee, whatever I can do, I will do for thee, and whatever I can fuffer, I will fuffer the; and all that I am, or, have, all that I can do, or fuffer, is nothing to what thou hast done for my foul.

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If thou be a stranger to regeneration and faith a person that makest a powerless profeffion of Chrift; that haft a name to live, but art dead; here it is poffible thou mayeft meet with fome thing that will convince thee how dangerous a thing it is, to be an old creature, in the new creature's drefs and habit; and what it is that blinds thy judgment, and is likelieft to prove thy ruin; a feasonable and full conviction whereof, will be the greatest mercy that can befal thee in this world, if thereby at Taft, God may help thee to put on Christ, as well as the name of Chrift.

If thou be in darkness about the ftate of thy own foul, and willing to have it faithfully and impartially tried by the rule of the word, which will not warp to any man's humour or intereft, here thou wilt find fome weak affiftance offered thee, to clear and difentangle thy doubting thoughts, which (through thy prayer, and the fupply of the Spirit of Jefus Chrift) may lead thee to a comfortable fettlement and inward peace.

If thou be a proud, conceited, prefumptuous foul, who haft too little knowledge, and too much pride and felf-love, to admit any doubts or fcruples of thy ftate towards God, there are many things in this treatife proper for thy conviction, and better in formation; for woe to thee, if thou shouldst not fear, till thou VOL. II.

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begin to feel thy mifery, if thy troubles do not come on till all thy hopes are gone off.

I know all these things are performed by me with much infirmity; and that the whole management is quite below the dignity of the fubject. But when I confider the fuccefs of fermons and books in the world, hath but little relation to the elegancy of language, or accuracy of method, and that many may be useful, who cannot be excellent, I am willing in all humility and fincerity to commit it to be the direction of providence, and the bleffing of the spirit.

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One thing I fhall earnestly request of all the people of God, into whofe hands this fhall fall, that now at laft they will be perfuaded to end all their unbrotherly quarrels and ftrifes among themfelves, which have wafted fo much precious time, and decayed the vital spirits of religion; hindred the converfion of multitudes, and increased and confirmed the atheism of the times, and now at last opened a breach, at which the common enemy is ready to enter, and end the quarrel to our coft. O put on, as the elect of God, bowels of mercy, and a spirit of charity and forbearance, if not for your own fakes, yet for the church's fake : Si non vis tibi parcere, parce Carthagini.

I remember it is noted in our English history as a very remark. able thing, that when the Severn overflowed part of Somersetshire, it was observed that dogs and hares, cats and rats, to avoid the common destruction, would swim to the next rifing ground, and abide quietly together in that common danger, without the leaft discovery of their natural antipathy.

The ftory applies itself, and O that Chriftians would every where depose their animofities, that the hearts of the fathers might be turned to the children, and the children to the fathers; left God come and fmite the earth with a curse.

O that you would dwell more in your closets, and be more frequently and fervently upon your knees. O that you would, fearch your hearts more narrowly, and fift them more throughly than ever, before the day pass as the chaff, and the Lord's fierce anger come upon you: look into your Bibles, then into your hearts, and then to heaven, for a true discovery of your conditiand if this poor mite may contribute any thing to that end, it will be a great reward of the unworthy labours of

ons;

Thy fervant in CHRIST,

JOHN FLAVEL.

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