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Remedies against Tediousness of Spirit.

The remedies against this temptation are these:

1. Order your private devotions so that they become not arguments and causes of tediousness by their indiscreet length, but reduce your words into a narrow compass, still keeping all the matter; and what is cut off in the length of your prayers supply in the earnestness of your spirit; for so nothing is lost, while the words are changed into matter, and length of time into fervency of devotion. The forms are made not the less perfect, and the spirit is more, and the scruple is removed.

2. It is not imprudent, if we provide variety of forms of prayer to the same purposes, that the change, by consulting with the appetites of fancy, may better entertain the spirit; and, possibly, we may be pleased to recite a hymn when a collect seems flat to us and unpleasant; and we are willing to sing rather than to say, or to sing this rather than that: we are certain that variety is delightful; and whether that be natural to us, or an imperfection, yet if it be complied with, it any remove some part of the temptation.

3.Break your office and devotion into fragments, and make frequent returnings by ejaculations and abrupt intercourses with God; for so no length can oppress your tenderness and sickliness of spirit; and, by often praying in such manner and in all circumstances, we shall habituate our souls to prayer by making it the business of many lesser portions of our time; and by thrusting in between all our other employments, it will make everything relish of religion, and by degrees turn all into its nature.

4. Learn to abstract your thoughts and desires from pleasures and things of the world; for nothing is a direct cure to this evil but cutting off all other loves and adherences. Order your affairs so that religion may be propounded to you as a reward, and prayer as your defence, and holy actions as your security, and charity and good works as your treasure. Consider that all things else are satisfactions but to the brutish part of a man; and that these are the refreshments and relishes of that noble part of us by which we are better than beasts; and whatsoever other instrument, exercise, or consideration, is of use to take our loves from the world, the same is apt to place them upon God.

5. Do not seek for deliciousness and sensible consolations in the actions of religion, but only regard the duty and the conscience of it; for although in the beginning of religion most frequently, and at some other times irregularly, God complies with our infirmity, and encourages our duty with little overflowings of spiritual joy, and sensible pleasure, and delicacies in prayer, so as we seem to feel some little beam of heaven, and great refreshments from the spirit of consolation, yet this is not always safe for us to have, neither safe for us to expect and look for; and when we do, it is apt to make us cool in our inquires and waitings upon Christ when we want them: it is a running after him, not for the miracles but for the loaves; not for the wonderful things of God, and the desires of pleasing him, but for the pleasures of pleasing ourselves. And as we must not judge our devotion to be barren or unfruitful when we want the overflowings of joy running over, so neither must we cease for want of them. If our spirits can serve God choosingly and greedily out of pure conscience of our duty, it is better in itself and more safe for us.

6. Let him use to soften his spirit with frequent meditation upon sad and dolorous objects, as of death, the terrors of the day of judgment, fearful judgments upon sinners, strange horrorid accidents, fear of God’s wrath, the pains of hell, the unspeakable amazements of the damned, the intolerable load of a sad eternity: for whatsoever creates fear, or makes the spirit to dwell in a religious sadness, is apt to entender the spirit, and make it devout and pliant to any part of duty; for a great fear, when it is ill-managed, is the parent of superstition; but a discreet and well-guided fear produces religion.

7. Pray often, and you shall pray oftener; and when you are accustomed to a frequent devotion, it will so insensibly unite to your nature and affections, that it will become a trouble to omit your usual or appointed prayers; and what you obtain at first by doing violence to your inclinations, at last will not be left without as great unwillingness as that by which at first it entered. This rule relies not only upon reason derived from the nature, of habits, which turn into a second nature, and make their actions easy, frequent, and delightful’ but it relies upon a reason depending upon the nature and constitution of grace, whose productions are of the same nature with the parent, and increases itself, naturally growing from grains to huge trees, from minutes to vast proportions, and from moments to eternity. But be sure not to omit your usual prayers without great reason, though without sin it may be done; because after you have omitted something, in a little while you will be past the scruple of that, and begin to be tempted to leave out more. Keep yourself up to your usual forms — you may enlarge when you will; but do not contract or lesson them without a very probable reason.

8. Let a man frequently and seriously, by imagination, place himself upon his death-bed, and consider what great joys he shall have for the remembrance of every day well spent, and what then he would give that he had so spent all his days. He may guess at it by proportions; for it is certain he shall have a joyful and prosperous night who hath spent his day holily; and he resigns his soul with peace into the hands of God, who hath lived in the peace of God and the works of religion in his lifetime. This consideration is of a real event; it is of a thing that will certainly come to pass. ‘It is appointed for all men once to die;’ and after death comes judgment; the apprehension of which is dreadful, and the presence of it is intolerable; unless, by religion and sanctity, we are disposed for so venerable an appearance.

9. To this may be useful that we consider the easiness of Christ’s yoke,237237See the Great Exemplar, Part iii. Disc. xiv. of the Easiness of Christian religion. the excellences and sweetnesses that are in religion, the peace of conscience, the joy of the Holy Ghost, the rejoicing in God, the simplicity and pleasure of virtue, the intricacy, trouble, and business of sin; the blessings and health and reward of that; the curses the sicknesses and sad consequences of this; and that, if we are weary of the labours of religion, we must sit still and do nothing; for whatsoever we do contrary to it is infinitely more full of labour, care, difficulty, and vexation.

10. Consider this also, that tediousness of spirit is the beginning of the most dangerous condition and estate in the whole world. For it is a great disposition to the sin against the Holy Ghost: it is apt to bring a man to backsliding and the state of unregeneration; to make him return to his vomit and his sink; and either to make the man impatient, or his condition scrupulous, unsatisfied, irksome, and desperate: and it is better that he had never known the way of godliness, than, after the knowledge of it, that he should fall away. There is not in the world a greater sign that the spirit of reprobation is beginning upon a man than when he is habitually and constantly, or very frequently, weary, and slights or loathes holy offices.

11. The last remedy that preserves the hope of such a man, and can reduce him to the state of zeal and the love of God, is a pungent, sad, and a heavy affliction; not desperate, but recreated with some intervals of kindness, or little comforts, or entertained with hopes of deliverance; which condition if a man shall fall into, by the grace of God he is likely to recover; but if this help him not, it is infinite odds but he will quench the spirit.

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