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Archive for the ‘Experimental Religion & the Cure of Souls’ Category

And O what a hard matter it is to deal with people that are ready to leave the world, and step in upon eternity! when their souls do, as it were, hang on their lips, and they have one foot (as we use to say) already in the grave! The minister is seldom sent for till the physician has given the patient over, and then they beg him to dress their souls for heaven, when their winding-sheet is preparing, and their friends are almost ready to dress the body for the funeral. Now, though some of these have lived well, and, like the wise virgins, have, oil in their lamps, yet it is a great matter to calm them, and to dispose their souls for that great change they are presently to undergo. But alas! it fares otherwise with the greatest part: they are yet strangers to the ways of religion; the work of their salvation is yet to begin, and their lusts to be mortified, their corruptions subdued, the whole frame of their souls to be changed: and though they have scarce so much strength as to turn them on their beds, yet their warfare against principalities, powers, and spiritual wickedness, is but newly commenced: their work is great, their disadvantages many, and the time very short that is before them. Perhaps they are dull and insensible, and we shall hardly persuade them of their danger: they will acknowledge they are sinners, and so are all others as well as they: they trust in the mercies of Christ, and have confidence enough of their salvation, and cannot be persuaded they want any thing that is necessary for the same. Others of these, again, are seized with fear, and call for the minister to comfort them: what shall he do? Shall he tell them that all their terrors are just, and it is now too late to repent? I know some divines are peremptory in this case, and think they should be left in despair: but sure it were a sad employment for a minister to go to visit a dying man, only to tell him he is damned: and withal, it is too great boldness in us to limit the grace and mercy of God. True and sincere repentance will never come too late, but certainly a death-bed repentance is seldom sincere; and it is hard either for the minister or the man himself to tell, whether it be only the fear of hell, or a true and godly sorrow that he feeleth in his soul. All that a minister can do, is to press him to all possible seriousness, and to resign himself to God for the event; or to lay before him in general, the terms and conditions of the gospel covenant: the application will be hard and uncertain. These, and many more, are the difficulties of the ministerial function.

-Henry Scougal (1650-1678)

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This late 17th century treatise on ministerial catechesis by Robert Doolittle is simply masterful. A few highlights are worth mentioning. He argues that catechesis should not just be a discipline for the young, but also for the old. One is also struck by the great importance he places on stocking the mind with the furniture of foundational, biblical doctrine. And it is hardly an academic exercise – eternity hangs in the balance. No knowledge, no salvation!

Below is a sample. I’ve simply inserted images from the document. Yes, it’s in an old script. But give it a go, and it will come before long. Note that some s’s look like f’s.

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The gospel is a discovery of a blessed contrivance that God has laid down for the salvation of sinners, for providing them a blessed supply of all [their] defects. There was from eternity a happy contrivance framed for providing sinful man with a garment, a robe of righteousness, that the shame of his nakedness may not appear; and for preparing eyesalve to him, to cure his natural folly and blindness; and riches to him, that he may have a sufficient stock to live upon in time and for eternity, even riches of grace, and riches of glory, the unsearchable riches of Christ…. There ensues the heart’s cleaving to this contrivance, even to the whole of it, with universal satisfaction, being fully content with it in all its parts, and preferring it to all other ways; nay, not only so, but counting them loss and dung, so it may have an interest in this way and method of God’s contriving. This is that acting of saving faith that gives a sure title to Christ and all his purchase

-Thomas Halyburton

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Thomas_Watson_(Puritan)“And there is another promise, ‘He is their strength in the time of trouble‘ (Psalm 37:39). ‘Oh,’ says the soul, ‘I shall faint in the day of trial.’ But God will be the strength of our hearts; He will join His forces with us. Either He will make his hand lighter, or our faith stronger.”

-Thomas Watson (1620-1686)

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X. Sess. 13 et ult., April 27, 1708.—Act and Recommendation concerning Ministerial Visitation of Families.

“. . . Seeing, for the faithful discharge of ministers’ work, they ought, besides what is incumbent to them in the public congregation, to take special care and inspection of the particular persons and families under their oversight and charge, in order to which, it hath been the laudable custom of this Church, at least once a year, if the largeness of the parish, bodily inability in the minister, or other such like causes, do not hinder, for ministers to visit all the families in their parish, and oftener, if the parish be small, and they be able to set about it.

“For the more uniform and successful management of which work, although in regard of the different circumstances of some parishes, families, and persons, much of this work, and the management thereof, must be left to the discretion and prudence of ministers in their respective oversights, yet these following advices are offered and overtured as helps in the management thereof, that it may not be done in a slight and overly manner.

(more…)

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A choice morsel from Puritan Thomas Brooks from his classic, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices (1652). Here he gives a remedy to Satan’s attempt to distract the Christian with vain thoughts while he is seeking the face of God.

Rem. 5. Labour more and more to be filled with the fulness of God, and to be enriched with all spiritual and heavenly things. What is the reason that the angels in heaven have not so much as an idle thought? It is because they are filled with the fulness of God. Take it for an experienced truth—the more the soul is filled with the fulness of God and enriched with spiritual and heavenly things, the less room there is in that soul for vain thoughts. The fuller the vessel is of wine, the less room there is for water. O then lay up much of God, of Christ, of precious promises and choice experiences in your hearts, and then you will be less troubled with vain thoughts. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart, bringeth forth good things, Matt. xii. 35.”

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“Every man must do two things alone; he must do his own believing and his own dying.”

-Martin Luther

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