Of the forme or manner of Examination requi∣red, which is touching the maine quallification of a worthy receiver, Faith: The demonstra∣tion whereof is made, first, from the causes secondly, from the nature of it.
HAving thus discovered the necessity of preparation, and that standing in the exami∣nation and triall of a mans Conscience; it followeth that wee conclude with set∣ting downe very compendiously the manner of this examination, onely naming some principall particulars. The maine querie is whether I am a fit guest to approach Gods Table, and to share in the fellowship of his sufferings. The suffrings of Christ are not exposed unto the rapine and violence of each bold intruder, but he who was first the Au∣thor, is for ever the despenser of them. And as in the dispensation of his miracles, for the most part, so of his sufferings likewise, there is either a question premised, beleevest thou, or a condition included, bee it unto thee as thou beleevest. But a man may bee alive, and yet unfit to eate, nor capable of Page 186 any nourishment by reason of some dange∣rous diseases, which weaken the stomacke, and trouble it with an apepsie, or difficulty of concoction. And so faith may sometimes in the Habit lye smothered, and almost sti∣fled with some spirituall lethargie, binding up the vitall faculties from their proper motions. And therefore our faith must be an operative, and expedite faith, not stupi∣fied with any knowne and practised course of sinne, which doth ever weaken our ap∣petite unto grace, they being things un∣consistent. The matter then wee see of this triall must bee that vitall quallification which predisposeth a man for the receiving of these holy mysteries, and that is faith. To enter into such a discourse of faith, as the condition of that subject would require were a labour beyond the length of a short meditation, and unto the present purpose impertinent. Wee will therefore onely take some generallities about the causes, nature, properties or effects of faith (which are the usuall mediums of producing assents) and propose them by way of interrogation to the Conscience, that so the major and minor being contriv'd, the light of reason in the soule may make up a practicall syllo∣gisme▪ and so conclude either its fitnesse or indisposition towards these holy my∣steries.
Page 187 First, for the causes of faith, not to med∣dle with that extraordinary cause, I meane miracles, the ordinary are the word of God, and the Spirit of God, the Word as the Seed, the Spirit as the formative and se∣minall virtue making it active, and effectu∣all: for the Letter profiteth nothing, it is the Spirit which quickneth. What the for∣mality of that particular action is, whereby the Word and Spirit doe implant this heavenly branch of faith in the soule.
(Faith it selfe having in its nature seve∣rall distinct degrees, some intellectuall of assent, some fiduciall of relyance, and con∣fidence, some of abnegation, renouncing, and flying out of our selves, as insufficient for the contriuance of our owne salvation, and so in congruity of reason requiring in the causes producing them severall man∣ners of causalities) as I take it not necessa∣ry, so neither am I able to determine. I shall therefore touch upon some p•incipall properties of either, all which if they con∣curre not unto the originall production, doe certainely to the raduation and establishing of that divine virtue, and therefore may just∣ly come within the compasse of those pre∣mises, from the evidences of which assumed and applied, the Conscience is to conclude the truth of its faith in Christ.
And first for the word, to let passe those Page 188 properties which are onely the inherent at∣tributes, and not any transient operations thereof (as its sufficiency, perspicuity, ma∣jesty, selfe-Authority, and the like) let us touch upon those which it carrieth along with it into the Conscience, and I shall observe but two, ItsaLight, and its bPower: Even as the Sunne where ever it goes doth still carry with it that bright∣nesse whereby it discovereth, and that Influ∣ence whereby it quickneth inferiour bodies. First, for the Word, the properties there∣of are first to make manifest and to dis∣cover the hidden things of darknesse, for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. The heart of man naturally is a labyrinth ofc darknesse, his workes,d workes of darknesse, his Prince, a Prince of darkenesse, whose projects are full of dark∣nesse, they area depths,b devices, ccraftinesse,d methods. The Word of God alone is that lighte which maketh manifest the secrets of the heart, thatf glasse wherein wee may see both our selves, and all the devices of Satan a∣gainst us discovered. And secondly by this act of manifesting doth light distinguish one thing from another. In the darke we gmake no difference of faire or foule, of right or wrong waies, but all are alike unto us: and so while wee continue in Page 189 the blindnes of our naturall estate, wee are not able to perceive the distinction be∣tweene Divine, and naturall objects, but the Word of God like a touchstone, dis∣covereth the differences of truth, and fals∣hood, good, and evill, and like fire seperateth the pretious from the vile.
Secondly, light is quickning, and a comforting thing. The glory of the Saints is ank inheritance of light, and they arel children of light who shall shine as the Sunne in the Firament, whereas darknes is both the Title, and the Porti∣on of the wicked. The times of darknes men make to be the times of their sleep∣ing, (which is an Image of Death,) tis in the light onely that men worke: And so the Word of GOD is a comforting Word; It wasmDavids delight, his hony-Combe. And it is a quickning Word too, for it is then Word of Life. Lastly,o light doth assist, direct, and guide us in our waies, and so doth the Word of GOD, it is ap Lanterne to our feete, and a light unto our pathes. Se∣condly, for the power of the Word, it is two fold, even as all power is, a govern∣ing power in respect of that which is under it, and a subduing power in respect of that which is against it. First the Word hath a governing power, in respect of those Page 190 which are subject to it; for which cause it is every where called a Law, and aq royall, that is, a commanding Soveraigne Law, It beares Dominion in the soule con∣forming each faculty to it selfe, direct∣eth the righteous, furnisheth unto good workes, raiseth the drooping, bindeth the broken, comforteth the afflicted, reclaim∣eth the straggling. Secondly, it subdu∣eth all emnity, and opposition, discom∣fiteth Satan, beateth downe the strong holdes of sinne, tisr a Sword to cut off, as weapon to subdue, at Hammer to breake in peeces whatsoever thought riseth up against it. Now then let a mans conscience make but these few demands unto it selfe.
Hath the light, and power of Gods Word discovered it selfe unto mee? Have the Scriptures made me knowne unto my selfe? have they unlocked those crooked windings of my perverse heart? have they manifested unto my soule not onely those sinnes which the light of rea∣son could have discerved, but even those privy corruptions which I could not o∣therwise have knowne? have they ac∣quainted me with the devices of Satan, wherewith he lieth in waite to deceive? have they taught me to distinguish be∣tweene truth, and appearances, betweene Page 191 goodnes, and shaddowes, to finde out the better part, the one necessary thing, and to adhere unto it? am I sensible of the sweetnes and benefits of his holy Word, doth it refresh my soule, and revive me unto every good worke? Is it unto my soule like thea hony Combe, likeb pleasant pastures, likec springs of wa∣ter, like [d] the Tree of life? doe I take it along with me wheresoever I goe, to pre∣serve me from stumbling, and straggling in this valley of darknes, and shaddow of death? Againe doe I feele the power of it like a Royall commanding Law, bearing rule in my soule? Am I willing to submit, and resigne my selfe unto the obedience of it? doe I not against the cleere, and convincing evidence thereof, entertaine in my bosome any the least rebellious thought? Doe I spare noe Agag, noe ruling sinne? withdraw noe wedge or babilonish Gar∣ment, noe gainefull sin? make a league with noe Gibeonite, noe pretending sinne? But doe I suffer it like Ioshua to destroy every Cananite, even the sinne which for sweetnes I roled under my tongue? doth it batter the Towers of Ierico, breake downe the Bul-warkes of the flesh? lead into captivity the corruptions of nature? mortifie, and crucifie the old man in me? doth it minister comforts unto me Page 192 in all the ebbs, and droopings of my spi∣rit, even above the confluence of all earthly happines, and against the combi∣nation of all outward discontents? and doe I set up a resolution thus alwayes to sub∣mit my selfe unto the Regiment thereof? In one word, doth it convince me of sin in my selfe, and so humble me to repent of it? of Righteousnes in CHRIST, and so raise me, to beleeve in it, of his spi∣rituall judgment in governing the soules of true beleevers by the power of love, and beauty of his graces, and so constraine, and perswade me to be obedient unto it? These are those good premises out of which I may infallibly conclude, that I have had the beginnings, the seeds of Faith shed a abroad in my heart, which will cer∣tainly be further quickned by that holy spirit who is the next, and principall pro∣ducer of it.
The operations of this holy spirit being as numberlesse, as all the holy actions of the Faithfull, cannot therefore all possi∣bly be set downe, I shall touch at some few which are of principall, and obvious observation. First of all, the spirit is a spi∣rit of liberty, and a spirit of prayer, It takes away theb bondage, andc feare, wherein we naturally are (for feare makes us runne from God as from a pu∣nishing, Page 193 and revenging Iudge, never any man in danger fledde thither for succour whence the danger issued, feare is so farre from this that itd betrayeth and sus∣pecteth those very assistances which reason offereth) and it enableth us to have ac∣cesse and recourse unto God himselfe whom our sins had provoked: and in our prayers, like Aron, and Hurr, it supporteth our hands that they doe not faint nor fall. It raiseth the soule unto divine and unutte∣rable petitions, and it melteth the heart into sights and groanes that cannot be ex∣pressed.
Secondly, the holy Ghost is compared unto a witnesse, whose proper worke it is to reveale and affirme some truth which is cal∣led in question. There is in a mans bosome by reason of that enmity and rebellion be∣twixt the flesh and the spirit, and by meanes of Satans suggestions sundry dia∣logues, and conflicts wherein Satan questi∣oneth the title wee pretend to salvation. In this case the Spirit of a man (as one can∣not choose but do when his whole estate is made ambiguous) staggereth, droopeth and is much distressed: till at last the Spirit of God, by the light of the Word, the Te∣stimonie of Conscience, and the sensible motions of inward grace, layeth open our title, and helpeth us to reade the evidence Page 194 of it, and thus recomposeth our troubled thoughts.
Thirdly, thee Spirit of God is com∣pared to a Seale: thef worke of a Seale is first to make a siampe and impression in some other matter, secondly, by that means to difference, and distinguish it from all o∣ther things: And so the Spirit of God doth fashion the hearts of his people un∣to a conformity with Christ, framing in it holy impressions, and renewing the de∣cayed Image of God therein; and there∣by separateth them from sinners, maketh them of a distinct common-wealth under a distinct governement, that whereas be∣fore they were subject to the same Prince, Lawes, and desires with the world, being now called out, they are new men and have another character upon them. Secondly, a Seale doth obsignate, and ratifie some Cove∣nant, Grant, or conveyance to the person unto whom it belongeth. It is used amongst men for confirming their mutuall trust in each other. And so certainely doth the Spirit of Godb pre-affect the soule with an evident taste of that glory which in the Day of Redemption shall be actually con∣ferd upon it, and therefore it is called an hansell, earnest, and first fruit of life.
Fourthly, the Spirit of God is compa∣red to an oyntment; now the properties of Page 195 oyntments are first to supple to asswage tumors in the body: and so doth the Spi∣rit of God mollifie the hardnesse of mans heart, and worke it to a sensible tendernes and quicke apprehension of every sinne. Se∣condly, oyntments doe open, and penetrate those places unto which they are applied; and so thec Unction which the faithfull have, teacheth them all things, and openeth their eyes to see the wonders of Gods Law, and the beauty of his graces. Ind vaine are all outward sounds or Sermons, unlesse this Spirit be within to teach us. Thirdly, oyntments doe refresh and lighten nature, be∣cause as they make way for the emission of all noxious humours, so likewise for the free passage and translation of all vitall spirits, which doe enliven and comfort. And so the Spirit of God is a Spirit of consolation, and a spirit of life, hee is thee comfor∣ter of his Church. Lastly,f oyntments in the Leviticall Law, and in the state of the Iewes were for consecration and seque∣stration of things unto some holy use. As Christ is said to beeg annoynted by his Father unto the oeconomy of that great worke, the redemption of the world: and thus doth the holy-Ghost annoint us to be aa Royall Priest-hood, a holy Nation, a people set at liberty.
Fifthly, and lastly, I finde the holy Ghost Page 196 compared untob fire, whose properties are, first, to bee of a very active and wor∣king nature, which stands never still, but is ever doing something: and so the Spi∣rit of God and his graces are all opera∣tive in the hearts of the faithfull, they set all where they come on worke. Secondly, the nature and proper motion of fire is to ascend, other motions whatever it hath, a∣rise from some outward, and accidentall restraint, limiting the nature of it: and so the Spirit of God, ever raiseth up the af∣fections from earth, fastneth the eye of Faith upon Eternity, ravisheth the soule with a servent longing to bee with the Lord, and to bee admitted unto the fru∣ition of those pretious joyes which heere it suspireth after, as soone as ever men have chosen Christ to bee their Head, then pre∣sently ascendunt de Terra, they goe up out of the Land. Hos. 1. 11. and have their con∣versation above where Christ is. Thirdly, fire doth inflame and transforme every thing that is combustible into the nature of it selfe: and so the Spirit of God filleth the soule with a divine fervour,* and zeale which pur∣geth away the corruptions and drosse of the flesh, with the spirit of judgment, and with the Spirit of burning. Fourthly, fire hath a purifying and cleansing property, to draw away all noxious or infectious vapors Page 197 out of the Ayre, to separate all soyle and drosse from mettalls, and the like: and so doth the Spirit of God clense the heart, and in heavenly sighes, and repentant teares, cause to expire all those steemes of corrup∣tions, those noysome and infectious lusts which fight against the soule, Fifthly, fire hath a penetrating and insinuating quallity, whereby it creepeth into all the pores of a combustible body, and in like manner the ho∣ly Spirit of God doth penetrate the heart though full of insensible and inscrutible windings, doth search the reines, doth pry into the closest nookes, and inmost cor∣ners of the soule, there discovering and working out those secret corruptions which did deceive and defile us. Lastly, fire doth illighten, and by that meanes communicates the comforts of it selfe unto others: and so the Spirit being a Spirit of truth doth illuminate the understanding, and doth dis∣pose it likewise to discover its light unto others who stand in need of it: for this is the nature of Gods grace, that when Christ hath manifested himselfe to the soule of one man, it setteth him on worke to manifest Christ unto others, as Andrew to Simon. Iohn 1. 41. and the Woman of Samaria to the men of the City. Ioh. 4. 29. and Mary Magdalen to the Disciples. Ioh. 20. 17. It is like Oyntment poured forth, which cannot Page 198 be concealed, Proverb. 27. 16. Wee cannot (saith the Apostle) but speake the things which we have heard, and seene Acts 4. 20. And they who feared the Lord, in the Prophet, spake often to one another. Mal. 3. 16.
These propositions being thus set downe, let the conscience assume them to it selfe in such demands as these. Doe I finde in my selfe a Freedome from that spirit of feare, and bondage, which maketh a man like Adam to fly from the presence of GOD in his Word? doe I finde my selfe able with affiance, and firme hope to fly unto God, as unto an Alter of re∣fuge in time of trouble, and to call up∣on his Name? and this not onely with an outward battology, and lipp-labour but by the spirit to cry Abba Father? doth the testimony of Gods Spirit settle, and compose such doubtings in me as usually arise out of the Warre betweene Flesh, and Faith? doe I finde a change, and transformation in me from the vanity of my old conversation unto the Image of Christ, and of that originall Justice where∣in I was created? doe I finde my selfe distinguished, and taken out from the World by Heavenly mindednes, and rai∣sed affections, by renouncing the de∣lights, abandoning the corruptions, suppres∣ing Page 199 the motions of secular, and carnall thoughts? solacing my soule, not with perishable, and unconstant contentments, but with that blessed hope of a City, made without hands, immortall, undefi∣led, and that fadeth not away? doe I finde in my heart an habituall tendernes, and aptnes to bleed, and relent, at the dan∣ger of any sinne, though mainly crossing my carnall delights, and whatever plots and contrivances I might lay for further∣ing mine owne secular ends, if by indi∣rectnes, sinfull engagements, and unwar∣rantable courses, I could advance them? doe I finde my selfe in reading, or hear∣ing Gods Word, inwardly wrought upon, to admire the Wisdome, assent unto the truth, acknowledge the holines, and sub∣mit my selfe unto the obedience of it? doe I in my ordinary, and best compo¦sed thoughts preferre the tranquility of a good conscience, and the comforts of Gods Spirit before all out-side and glitter∣ing happines, notwithstanding any dis∣couragements that may bee incident to a concionable conversation? Lastly, are the graces of God operative, and stirring in my soule? Is my conversation more heavenly, my zeale more fervent, my cor∣ruptions more discovered, each faculty in its severall Sphere more transformed Page 198〈1 page duplicate〉Page 199〈1 page duplicate〉Page 200 into the same Image with Christ Iesus? Are all these things in me, or in defect of any, doe the desires and longings of my soule after them appeare to be sincere and unfeigned by my daily imploying all my strength, and improving each ad∣vantage to further my proficiencie in them. Then I have an evident, and infallible token that having thus farre partaked of the spirit of Life, and by consequence of Faith, whereby our soules are fastned unto Christ, I may with comfort approach unto this holy Table, wherein that life which I have received, may be further nourished, and confirmed to me.
The second medium formerly proposed for the tryall of Faith was the nature, and essence of it. To finde out the for∣mall nature of Faith we must first con∣sider that all Faith, is not a saving Faith. For there is a Faith that worketh aatrembling as in the Divels, and there is a Faith whichb worketh life, and peace as in those that are justified. Faith in generall is an assent of the reasonable soule, unto revealed truths. Now every medium, or in ducement to an assent is drawnec ey∣ther from the light which the obejct it selfe proposeth to the faculty, and this the blessedd Apostle contradistinguisheth from faith by the name of light; or else Page 201 it is drawne from the authority, and Au∣thenticalnes of a narrator, upon whose re∣port while we relie without any evidence of the thing it selfe, the assent which we produce is an assent of faith or credence. TheeSamaritans did first assent unto the miracles of CHRIST by the re∣port of the woman, and this was faith, but afterwards they assented because them∣selves had heard him speake, and this was sight. Now both those assents have an∣nexed unto them, either evidence, and in∣fallibility, or onely probability admitting degrees of feare, and suspition. That faith is a certaine assent, and Certitudine rei in regard of the object, even above the e∣vidence of demonstrative conclusions is on all hands confest: because howsoever qan∣tum ad certitudinem mentis, in regard of our weakenes, and distrust wee are often subject to stagger, yet in the thing it selfe it dependeth upon the infallibility of Gods owne Word, which hath said it, and by consequence is neerer unto him who is the Fountaine of all truth, and therefore doth more share in the proper∣ties of truth which are certainty, and in∣fallibility, then any thing proved by meere naturall reasons, and the assent produ∣ced by it is differenced from suspition, he∣sitancie, or dubitation in the opinion of Page 202 Schoole-men themselves.
Now then in as much as we are bound to yeild an evident assent unto the Arti∣cles of our christian Faith, both intel∣lectuall in regard of the truth, and fiduciall in regard of the goodnes of them respe∣ctively to our owne benefit, and salva∣tion. Necessary it is that the understand∣ing, be convinced of those two things. First that GOD is of infallible Authority, and cannot lie nor deceive, which thing is a principle unto which the light of na∣ture doth willingly assent. And secondly that this Authority which in Faith I thus relie upon is indeede, and infallibly Gods owne Authority. The meanes whereby I come to know that may be eyther extroardi∣nary, as revelation; such as was made to prophets concerning future events: or else ordinary, and common to all the Faithfull. For discovery of them we must againe rightly distinguish the double Act of Faith. First that Act whereby wee assent unto the generall truth of the object in it selfe, secondly, that Act whereby we rest per∣swaded of the goodnes thereof unto us in particular, with respect unto both with these doth a double question arise.
First touching the meanes whereby a beleever comes to know that the testimo∣ny, and authority within the promises, Page 203 and truths of Scripture hee relieth upon, are certainly, and infallibly Gods owne Authority. Which question is all one with that how a Christian man may infallibly be assured (ita ut non possit subesse falsum) that the holy Scriptures are the very dictates of Almighty God.
For the resolution whereof in a very few words wee must first agree, that as noe created understanding could ever have invented the mystery of the Gospell, (it being the counsell of Gods owne bosome,* and containing such manifold wisdomes as the Angels are astonished at) So, it be∣ing dictated, and revealed by Almighty God, such is the deepnes, excellency, and holines of it, that the naturall man, whose faculties are vitiated by originall, and contracted corruption cannot by the strength of his owne naked principles be able to understand it. For notwithstand∣ing the gramaticall sense of the words, and the logicall coherence,* and connexion of consequenses, may be discerned by the common light of ordinary reason, yet our Saviours 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, conviction, and the A∣postles 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, demonstration, and manifestation of the spirit, is a thing surpassing the discovery,* and comprehensi∣on of naturall men.* And therefore it is called a knowledge which passeth knowledge.Page 204 And this doth plainly appeare upon this ground. One principall end, we know, of the Gospell is, To cast downe every high thing that exalteth it selfe against the know∣ledge of GOD,*and to bring into capti∣vity every thought to the obedience of Christ. So that untill such time as the light of Evangelicall truth have thus farre prevai∣led over the conscience, certaine it is that the practicall Judgment is not yet fully convinced of it, or acquainted with it. It is an excellent speech of the Phylo∣sopher that according as every man is himselfe in the Habit of his owne nature,* such likewise doth the end appeare unto him. And therefore naturall men whose inclinations, and habit of soule are al∣together sensuall, and worldly, never have a supernaturall good appeare unto them under the formall conceite of an ultimate, and most eligible end, and therefore their knowledge thereof must needs be imperfect, and defective.
Againe the Scripture every where, be∣sides the externall proposing of the object, and the materiall, and remote disposition of the subject (which must be ever a reaso∣nable creature) doth require a speciall helpe of the grace of CHRIST to open, and molifie, and illighten the heart, and to proportion the Palate of the practi∣call Page 205 Judgment unto the sweetnes, and goodnes of supernaturall truthes.* He it is who openeth the eye to see wonders in the Law, giveth an heart to under∣stand, and to know GOD, teacheth all those which come unto Christ, without which teaching they doe not come, gi∣veth us an understanding to know him, illightneth the understanding to know what is the hope of our calling, enableth us to call Iesus Lord, and draweth away the Vaile from before our eyes, that we may see with open face the Glory of God.
Againe, there is a vast distance, and dis∣proportion betweene a supernaturall light, and a naturall faculty, the one being spi∣rituall the other sensuall, and spirituall things must bee spiritually discerned. *Two great impediments there are where∣by the minds of meere naturall men are bound up, and disabled from receiving full impressions, and passing a right sentence, upon spirituall things. First the native, and originall blindnes of them which is not able to apprehend 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the heighth, and majesty of the things which are taught. Secondly, That which the A∣postle calleth 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉,*the wisdome of the flesh which is enmitie against God. For as the appetite of the flesh lusteth against the Page 206Spirit, so the wisdome of the flesh reasoneth, and rebelleth against the Spirit. For such ever as are the wayes, and Wills of men whereby they worke, such likewise would they have the light, and the Law to bee which ruleth them in their working. And therefore where there is a meeke Spirit, and a heart devoted unto the obedience of Christ, and a purpose to doe the things which the Gospell requireth, there is ne∣ver any swelling, nor resistance against su∣pernaturall truths, for as the cleanenesse of the window doth much conduce to the admission of light,* so doth the cleanenesse of the Conscience to the admission of Truth. If any man will doe his will, hee shall know of the Doctrine whether it be of God,* and hee will reveale his secrets to them that feare him.
And yet by all this which hath been spo∣ken wee doe not goe about so to disable Naturall Reason, as to leave it no roome at all in matters of supernaturall Assent. For though Nature alone bee not able to compre∣hend Grace, yet Grace is able to use Nature, and being it selfe a spirituall Eye-salve, when it hath healed and rectified Reason, it then applyeth it as an Instrument more exactly to discover the connexion and mutuall con¦sequences, and joynings of spirituall Do∣ctrines together. Besides thus much vigour Page 207 wee may safely attribute to Naturall Reason alone, that by the force of such premises as it selfe can frame, the falsenesse, vanity, and insufficiency unto humane happinesse, of all other Religions or Doctrines which are not Christian may by a wise man bee evidently discovered, neither have there *beene wanting amongst Infidels and Ido∣laters, men of more generous, piercing, and impartiall judgments, who have made bold to confesse the vanity of that polutheisme and corrupt worship which was amongst them.
Naturall Reason then being (notwithstan∣ding any remainders of strength, or vigour in it) too impotent to discover the certain∣ty of Gods Word, and unable alone to present the Gospell, as objectum credibile, and as the infallible Oracle of God. It remai∣neth that wee consider by what further meanes this may bee effected. And, in one word, there is a three-fold different, but sub∣ordinate causality requisite to the founding of this Assent.
The first is ministeriall, dispositive, and in∣troductory by Ecclesiasticall dispensation, which is likewise two-fold. First, to those that are bred in her bosome, and matriculated by Baptisme, and so from their infancie trained up to have a reverend and due esteeme of her authority, there is her act of Tradition,Page 208 delivering to her children in this age,* as shee her selfe by a continued succession hath also received, this as an indubitate principle to bee rested on, that holy Scriptures are the Word of God. Secondly, If the Church meete with such as are without her bosome, and so will not ascribe any thing to her maternall Authority in Testification and Tradition, except shee can by strength of argument evince what shee affirmeth, shee is not in that case destitute of her Arma praelusoria, valid and sufficient arguments to make preparation in mindes not extreamely possessed with prejudice and perversenesse for the entertaining of this principle.
As first, that all Sciences have their Hypotheses and Postulata. Certaine princi∣ples which are to bee granted, and not disputed, and that even in lower Sciences and more commensurate to humane reason, yet Oportet discentem credere, hee must first Beleeve principles for granted, and then af∣ter some progresse and better proficiency in the study, he shall not faile more clear∣ly to perceive the infallibility of them by their owne light. That therefore which is granted unto all other Sciences more de∣scending to the reach of humane judgment than Divinity doth, cannot without un∣reasonable pertinacy be denied unto it, Es∣pecially considering that of all so many Page 209 millions of men, who, in all ages, have thus been contented to beleeve, first, upon Ecclesiasticall Tradition and suggestion, there hath not in any age been enough to make up a number, who upon inducements of ar∣gument, and debate have forsaken the Scrip∣tures at the last, which is a strong pre∣sumption that they all who persisted in the embracing of them, did after triall, and further acquaintance by certaine taste and experience finde the Testimony and tradition of the Church to bee therein faithfull, and certaine.
Secondly, That man being made by God, and subject to his will, and owing unto him worship and obedience, which in rea∣son ought to bee prescribed by none other than by him to whom it is to bee perfor∣med, that therefore requisite and congruous it is, that the Will of God should bee made knowne unto his Creature, in such a manner, and by such meanes, as that hee shall not without his owne willfull neglect mistake it; in as much as Law is the rule of obedience, and promulgation the force of Law.
Thirdly, that no other Rule or Religion can bee assigned, either of Pagans or Ma∣humetans, which may not manifestly by the strength of right reason bee justly disproved, as not proceeding from God, either by the Page 210 latenesse of its originall, or the shortnesse of its continuance, or the vanity and bru∣tishnesse of its rules, or the contradictions within it selfe, or by some other apparent imperfection. And for that of the Iewes, notwithstanding it had its originall from Divine ordination, yet from thence like∣wise it may bee made appeare out of those Scriptures which they confesse, to have re∣ceived its period and abrogation. God pro∣mising that as hee had the first time sha∣ken the Mount in the publication of the Law, and first founding of the Mosaicall Pedagogie, so he would once againe shake both the Earth, and the Heaven, in the promulgation of the Gospell. To say no∣thing, that force of reason will easily con∣clude, that with such a God, as the old Scriptures set forth the Lord to be, the bloud of Bulls, and Goates could not pos∣sibly make expiation for sinne, but must necessarily relate to some greater sacrifice, which is in the Gospell revealed. And be∣sides whereas the Lord was wont for the greatest sinnes of that people, namely Ido∣latry, and pollution of his worship, to cha∣stice them notwithstanding, with more to∣lerable punishments (their two greatest cap∣tivities having beene that of Egypt, which was not much above two hundred yeares, and that of Babylon, which was but seventie;) yet Page 211 now, when they hate Idolatry as much as ever their fathers loved it, they have lien under wrath to the uttermost, under the heaviest judgment of dispersion, contempt, and basenesse, and that for fifteene hundred yeeres together; a reason whereof can bee no other given than that fearefull impreca∣tion, which hath derived the staine of the bloud of Christ upon the children of those that shed it unto this day.*
Fourthly, the prevailing of the Gospell by the ministery of but a few, and those unarmed, impotent, and despised men, and that too, against all the opposition which power, wit, or malice could call up, making it appeare, that Christ was to rule in the midst of enemies. When Lucian, Porphyrie, Libanius, and Iulian, by their wits; Nero, Severus, Diocletian, and other Tyrants by their swords, the whole world by their scorne, malice, and contempt, and all the arts which Satan could suggest, laboured the suppression, and extinguishing of it. The prevaling, I say, of the Gospell by such meanes, against such power, in the midst of such contempt, and danger, and that over such persons as were by long custome and tradition from their fathers trained up in a Religion extreamely contrary to the truth, and very favourable to all vitious dispositions, and upon such conditions to Page 212 deny themselves, to hate the world, and the flesh, to suffer joyfully the losse of credit, friends, peace, quiet, goods, liber∣ties, life and all, for the name of a cru∣cified Saviour, whom their eyes never saw, and whom their eares daily heard to bee blasphemed, such a prevailing as this must needs prove the originall of the Gospell to bee divine, for had not God favoured it as much as men hated it, impossible it must needs have been for it, to have continued.
Fifthly, that the doctrines therein deli∣vered, were confirmed by miracles, and divine operations. And certaine it is, that God would not in so wonderfull a man∣ner have honoured the figments of men, pretending his Name, and Authority to the countenancing of their owne inventi∣ons. And for the Historicall Truth of those miracles, they were not, in those A∣ges when the Church in her Apologies did glory of them, and when, if faigned, they migh most easily have been dispro∣ved, nor yet by those enemies who mar∣vailously maligned and persecuted Christian Religion, ever gain saied.
Lastly, That were it not so that omne mendacium est pellucidum, and hath ever something in it to bewray it selfe, yet it could not bee operaepretium for them to lie in publishing a Doctrine whereby they Page 213 got nothing but shame, stripes, imprison∣ment, persecution, Torments, Death. Es∣pecially since the holinesse of their lives, their humility, in denying all glory to themselves, and ascribing all to God, must needs make it appeare to any reasonable man, that they did not lay any project for their owne glory, which they purposely disclaymed, refused to receive from the hands of such as offered it, yea, and registred their owne infirmities upon perpetuall Re∣cords.
With these and many other the like ar∣guments is the Church furnished to prepare the mindes of men, swayed with but ordi∣nary ingenuity, and respect to common Reason, at the least to looke further, and make some sad inquiry into the Doctrine of the Gospell. There being therein especi∣ally promises of good things made with∣out monie or price, of incomprehensible value, and of eternall continuance.
But now though a Philosopher may make a very learned discourse to a blinde man of colours, yet it cannot bee that any formall and adaequate notion of them should bee fashioned in his minde, till such time as the faculty bee restored, and then, all that preceeding Lecture being compared with what hee afterward actually seeth in the things themselves, doth marvailously Page 214 settle and satisfie his minde. So though the Church by these and the like induce∣ments doth prepare the minds of men to as∣sent to divine Authority in the Scriptures, yet till the naturall ineptitude and disposition of the soule be healed, and it raised to a capacity of supernaturall light, the worke is no whit brought to maturity.
Two things therefore doe yet remaine after this ministry and manuduction of the Church. First, an Act of the Grace of Gods Spirit healing the understanding, and ope∣ning the eye that it may see wonders in the Law, writing the Law in the heart, and so making it a fit receptacle for so great a light. Secondly, the subject being thus by the outward motives from the Church pre∣pared and by the inward Grace of God re∣paired, then lastly the object it selfe being proposed, and being maturely considerd by reason thus guided, and thus assisted, doth then shew forth such an Heavenly light of holinesse, puritie, majesty, authority, efficacy, mercy, wisedome, comfort, per∣fection, in one word, such an unsearcha∣ble Treasurie of internall mysteries, as that now the soule is as fully able by the native light of the Scriptures to distinguish their Divine originall, and authenticalnesse from any other meere humane writings, as the eye is to observe the difference betweene a Page 215beame of the Sunne, and a blaze of a Can∣dle.
The second question is how the Soule comes to bee setled in this perswasi∣on, that the goodnesse of these truths foun∣ded on the Authority of God, doe parti∣cularly belong unto it? Whereunto I an∣swere in one word, That this ariseth from a two-fold Testimonie grounded upon a prece∣ding worke of Gods Spirit. For first, the Spirit of God putteth his feare into the hearts of his servants, and purgeth their consciences, by applying the bloud of Christ unto them, from dead workes, wish affe∣ctions strongly, and very sensibly altering the constitution of the minde, must needs notably manifest themselves unto the soule, when by any reflex act shee shall set her selfe to looke inward upon her owne ope∣rations.
This being thus wrought by the grace of God, thereupon there ensueth a two∣fold Testimonie. The first of a mans owne spirit, as wee see in the examples of Iob, David,*Hezekiah, Nehemiah, Saul, and o∣thers, namely, That hee desireth to feare Gods name, to keepe a conscience void of offence, to walke in all integrity towards God, and men, from which, and the like personall qualifications, arise joy in the ho∣ly-Ghost, peace of conscience, and experi∣ence Page 216 of sweetnes in the fellowship with the Father, and his Sonne. Secondly, the Testimony of the holy Spirit, bearing witnes to the sincerity of those affections, and to the evidence and truth of those per∣swasions which himselfe, by his grace stirred up. So then first the Spirit of God writeth the Law in the heart, up∣on obedience whereunto ariseth the Testi∣mony of a mans owne spirit: And then he writeth the promises in the heart, and by them ratifieth and confirmeth a mans hops, and joyes unto him.
I understand not all this which hath been spoken generally of all assents unto objects Divine, which I take it in regard of their evidence, firmnes, and stability doe much differ according unto the divers tempers of those hearts in which they reside; but principally unto the cheife of those as∣sents which are proper unto saving Faith. For assent as I said in generall is com∣mon unto Divils with men, and there∣fore to make up the creature of true Faith. There is required some differencing pro∣perty whereby it may be constituted in the entire essence of saving Faith. In each sense we may observe that unto the gene∣rall faculty whereby it is able to per∣ceive objects proportioned to it, there is annexed ever another property whereby Page 217 according to the severall nature of the objects proposed it is apt to delight or be ill affected with it: for example, our eare apprehendeth all sounds in common, but according as is the Harmony or dis∣cord of the sound, it is apt to take plea∣sure or offence at it. Our taste reacheth unto whatsoever is the object of it, but yet some things there are which grievously offend the Palate, others which as much delight it, and so it is in Divine assents. Some things in some subjects bring a∣long with them tremblings, horrors, feare∣full expectations, aversation of minde, un∣willing to admit or be pursued with the evidence of Divine truths, as it is in Di∣vils, and despayring sinners. Other as∣sents on the contrary doe beget serenity of minde, a sweete complacency, delight, adherence, and comfort: Into the hearts of some men doth the Truth of GOD shine like Lightning with a penetrating, and amasing brightnes, in others like the Sunne with comfortable, and refreshing Beames.
For understanding whereof wee are to observe that in matters practicall, and Divine (and so in all others,* though not in an equall measure) the truth of them is ever mutually embraced, and as it were insolded in their goodnes; for as truthPage 218 doth not delight the understanding un∣lesse it be a good truth, that is such as un∣to the understanding beares a relation of convenience (whence arise diversities in mens studies, because all men are not a∣like affected with all kindes of truth) so good doth noe way affect the will, un∣lesse it be a true,*and reall good. Other∣wise it proves but like the banquet of a dreaming man, which leaves him as hungry, and empty as when he lay downe. Goodnes then added unto truth doth to∣gether with the assent generate a kinde of rest, and delight in the heart on which it shineth.
Now goodnes Morall, or Divine hath a double relation. A relation unto that origi∣nall in dependency on, and propinquitie whereunto it consilleth, and a relation unto that faculty or subject wherein it resideth, and whereunto it is proposed. Good in the former sense is that which beares in it a proportion unto the Fountaine of good; for every thing is in it selfe so farre good as it resembles that originall which is the author, and patterne of it, and that is GOD. In the second sense that is good which beares a conveniency, and fitnes to the minde which entertaines it. good, I meane not alwayes in nature, but in apprehension. All Divine truths are Page 219 in themselves essentially good, but yet they worke not alwaies delight, and com∣forts in the minds of men untill pro∣portioned, and fitted unto the faculty that receives them. As the Sunne is it in it selfe equally light, the water in a Fountaine of it selfe equally sweete: but according unto the severall Temper of the eye which perceiveth the one, and of the ves∣sell through which the other passeth, they may prove to be offensive, and distastfull. But now further when the faculty is thus fitted to receive a good, it is not the generality of that good which pleaseth neyther, but the particular propriety, and interest thereunto. Wealth and honor as it is in it selfe good, so is it likewise in the apprehension of most men; yet we see men are apt to be griev'd at it in o∣thers, and to looke on it with an evill eye, nothing makes them to delight in it, but possession and propriety unto it. I speake here onely of such Divine good things as are by God appointed to make happy his creature, namely our blessed Lord, and Saviour Jesus Christ, his Obedience, Satisfaction, Resurrection, Ascension, Intercession, Glory, and what∣ever elce it is of which he hath been unto his▪ Church the Author, Purchaser, con∣veyer, and Foundation.
Page 220 Now, unto these as unto other good things there is a double right belonging by free donation from him unto the Church, a right of propriety unto the thing, and a right of possession in the thing. This latter is that which here in Earth the Church suspireth, and longeth after; that other onely it is which here we have, and that confirmed unto us by a double Title. The first as the Land of Cannan was confirmed unto the Israelits by some few clusters of Grapes, and other Fruits of the Land, I meane by the earnest first fruits, and pledges of the spirit: Second∣ly, by the free promise of Christ who cannot deceive. Thus then at last we have discovered the proper, ultimate, and com∣plete object of faith, which is all Divine truth, and goodnes, unto which there is a right and propriety given to all such as are Christs, though not in actuall pos∣session, yet in an infallible promise, and the Acts by which they entertaine that object, assenting, adhearing, and de∣lighting in it as particularly good. By these two, to wit the object and the Act. (as all other habits of the minde) so is this of faith to bee defined. So that from these observations I take it wee may conclude that the nature of saving faith admits of some such explications Page 221 as this, Faith is a particular, personall, applicative, and experimentall assent unto all Divine Revelations, as true, and good not in general onely, but unto me arising out of that sweete correspondency which is betweene the soule, and from that re∣lish, and experience of sweetnes which the soule, being raised, and illightned by Gods Spirit, doth finde in them.
I have been over teadious in finding out this definition of the nature of faith, and therefore brieflie from these grounds, let the conscience impartially examine it selfe in such demands as these. Doe I finde in my selfe a most willing assent un∣to the whole compasse of Divine truths, not out of constraint, nor with griefe, reluctancie, and trembling of spirit? doth Gods Word shine on me not like light∣ning which pierceth the Eye-lids though they shut themselves against it, but doth this finde in my heart a wel∣come, and a willing admittance? Am I glad when I finde any Divine truth dis∣covered of which formerly I had been ig∣norant? doe I not of purpose close mine eyes, forbeare the meanes of true infor∣mation, stifle and smother Divine prin∣ciples, quench the motions, and dictats of Gods Spirit in me? am I not ignorant willingly of such things, the mention where∣of Page 222 would disquiet me in my bosome sin, and the inquiry whereunto would crosse the reserved resolutions, and unwarran∣table projects which I am peremptory to prosecute? am I not so in league with mine owne corruptions that I could har∣tily wish some Divine truths were not revealed,* rather then being so they should sting my conscience, and disable me from secure enjoying some beloved sinne? doe I assent unto all Divine truths as a like pretious, and with equall adherence? am I as little displeased with the truth of GODS threats as of his promises? doe they as powerfully worke upon me to re∣forme, as the other to refresh me? doe I beleeve them all not onely in the Thesis or generall, but in the Hypothesis, and respectively to mine owne particular? againe, doe I finde my heart fitted unto the goodnes of Divine truth? am I for∣ward to embrace with much affection, and loving delight whatsoever promises are made unto me? doe I finde a spiritu∣all taste and relish in the food of life? which having once tasted of, I finde my selfe weaned from the love of the World? from admiring the honours, pursuing the preferments, hunting after the applause, adoring the glories, and selling my soule and liberty for the smiles thereof? doe Page 223 the sweetnes of those promises like the fruits brought by the spies from Canaan, so much affect me as that to come to the full possession thereof, I am at a point with all other things, ready to encoun∣ter any Cananite, or sinfull lust that shall oppose me, to adventure on any difficul∣ties that might deterre me, to passe thorow a Sea, a Wildernes, through fiery Serpents, the darts of Satan; yea, if neede were by the gates of Hell? briefly doe I finde in my heart (however in it selfe froward, and wayward from any good) a more then naturall livelinesse, and vigor which disposeth me to approve of the word, promises, and purchases of my salvation as of an unvaluable Jewell, so pretious as that all the things in this World are but as dung in comparison? to a most fervent expectation, and longing after them, to a heavenly perswation of my happines by them, and Lastly, to a sweete delight in them, working peace of conscience, and joy in the holy Ghost, a love of CHRISTS appearing, an en∣deavour to bee like unto him, and a desire above all things to be with him, and enjoy him, (which are all so many secret, and pure issues of the spirit of a∣doption)? I may from these premises infallibly conclude that I am possessed of Page 224 a lively faith, and thereby of those first fruits which bring with them an assurance of that great harvest of glory in the day of redemption. And in the meane time hav∣ing this wedding garment, I may with much confidence approach Gods Table to re∣ceive there the renewall of my Patent un∣to life.