Shewing that Assurance may be had.
2 COR. 13. 5.
WE come to the second Doctrine, which though implied only, yet is of necessary use. The Apostle pressing them to try, whether they be in Christ, and in faith or no, doth thereby suppose, that there are such signs and symptomes of this state and condition, that a man diligently attending thereunto by the help of Gods Spirit, may come to be assured that he is in such a Page 17 state, for whereas Becanus the Papist would argue against Assurance from the Text, That the Corinthians were uncertain of their spiritual estate, otherwise it had been a vain thing and absurd to exhort a man to examine himself about that of which he is certain; The answer is easie, That although they might de facto not have assurance, yet the Apostle his urging this upon them doth evidently suppose it possible, and not only so, but their duty to have it. Although none do hold such a certainty in this life, as the Saints in Heaven have, which exclu∣deth all weaknesses; Therefore the certainty Gods people do reach unto hath its degrees, and doth admit of changes.
There are such characters and signs of the state of grace laid down in Scri∣pture,*that a godly man by the faithfull application of them to himself, being thereunto guided and inabled by the Spirit of God, may be assured that he is in such a state.
In the Doctrine there are three main particulars must be spoken unto and open∣ed: 1. Assurance and Certainty: 2. The Signs and Marks of Grace: 3. The work of Gods Spirit in this; and much excellent practical matter will flow from every one of these fountains; and marvel not if I be large ere this subject be ful∣ly finished, for it is a subject of the greatest concernment that may be, and if men be willing to spend so much time and cost in evidencing their Titles and Proprieties in Land or earthly Goods, how diligent should we be about hea∣venly!
I shall therefore first speak to the matter of Assurance or Certainty; and for * this take notice of these particulars,
First, A Certainty or Assurance may be had of a thing divers waies, as There is a certainty of sense, such as Thomas desired to have by putting his fingers into Christs wounds; and this Philosophers say is infallible about its proper object, if there be no defect or impediment in the sensitive faculty.
Again, There is a certainty of Science or Knowledge, and that is either of first principles which are assented unto by all, without any discourse or debate at all, or else of such conclusions as are deduced from those principles.
Lastly, There is a certainty arising from the Authority of those who do declare or witnesse such things; for the testimony of him whom I believe to be the supream truth and infallible about such or such things, doth beget a firm and sure per∣swasion that they are true; now this Authority is two-fold, either Humane; and as the men who witnesse are for number few or lesse, or for quality more or lesse worthy of credit, so more or lesse is that Certainty; and this breeds an humane faith, or moral certainty only (now it is much to be feared that the greatest part of Protestants even in matters of Religion, have no more then this humane faith, believing upon no higher a motive then humane tradition, or the authori∣ty of man,) or else it is Divine, from Gods authority and revelation, and this be∣gets an undoubted assent, which cannot be over-mastered by any contrary tem∣ptation. Hence it is that this certainty of faith is above all certainty of sense or reason, because the ground of it is more firm and immutable; and although the nature of things believed be far above our understandings (as in the doctrine of the Trinity and incarnation of Christ) yet the testimony of them is clear and evident, so that the certainty of faith may not be called obscure, as Papists term it, but clear and evident; for that is true which Aquinas saith, No man belie∣veth that which he doth not see to be credible, and therefore in every thing be∣lieved there is evidentia credibilitatis, a clearness and evidence of the grounds why I do believe, though there be not alwaies evidentia rei, a clearness of the thing assented to; now if you ask, To what kinde of certainty is that reduced, which the people of God have about their being in Christ, and in the state of grace; I answer it is a mixt or compounded certainty, partly a certainty of faith, and partly of sense and in experience, which sense is spiritual, and wrought by Page 18 the Spirit of God in us, so that it doth farre transcend probable conjectures and moral perswasions arising in us, because of such bodily affections or dispositions of joy and grief, which we sometimes finde in our selves, and hypocrites also are many times made partakers thereof.
Secondly, A man may be assured that the condition he liveth in is damnable, and*such a wicked man is to be assured of that as long as he continueth in that life, he is without the state of grace: So that we may truly say to many the contrary in this Text, Examine your selves, try your selves, whether you be in the flesh, and power of sinne or no; Know ye not that the devil dwelleth and reigneth in you? The Apostle saith, Gal. 6. The works of the flesh are manifest, and therefore such who live in the practice and habitual custome of grosse sins, may and ought to conclude unto their own souls that they are in the state of gall and wormwood, and that they have no portion in Christ or his benefits; and O that such would make such pra∣ctical conclusions and judgements against their own selves, it might be an effe∣ctual preparation to awaken and rouse them out of their security, whereas through self-flattery, and a groundlesse perswasion of Gods mercy, they utterly destroy themselves.
But although a man may for the present conclude that he is in a slate of sinne * and death, Yet none may assure themselves that they are reprobated by God, and that they have such signs upon them that they can never be saved, because no man can come to such a certainty out of the Scripture; and as for a particular revelation, as God doth not assure believers by any such extraordinary way, much lesse may we think he will the reprobate by that way. We therefore speak of the present estate of a wicked man, let such an one cast up his accounts, come to a perem∣ptory conclusion how it is between God and his soul, do not live in vain hopes, be not as one that knoweth not what to do, or what will become of him, how many are there who on their death-beds cry out, Live they cannot, and die they dare not, though they must? Dost thou not see the plague-tokens upon thy soul as yet? Are not thy oaths, thy lusts, thy neglect of holy duties a full demonstra∣tion that thy heart is barren of all grace?
Thirdly, It is easier for a particular Church to know it is a true visible Church, then for a particular Christian to know that he is a true believer. For to a true visi∣ble * Church are required only those notes and marks which are external, as the pure preaching of the Word with an external submission unto it, or receiving of it, and where this is, a man may conclude there is a true visible Church for the es∣sence of it; but to the truth of grace in a mans heart, there is required internal and secret operations of Gods Spirit by a powerful and most effectual change of a mans soul. Now as in the notes and marks of a true Church, some take general marks which are common to false Churches, as the Papists, Signs of universality, antiquity and temporal felicity, &c. And again, Others they make the whole dispute about the marks of a Church uselesse and of no profit at all (as Epis∣copius that Remonstrant) so for the signs of grace, some are too large, and make those things arguments of grace which any hypocrite may attain to, as Baptism, Morality, external conformity to Gods Law, &c. So others, as the Antinomi∣ans, do wholly overthrow the Doctrine about signs of grace, and make it al∣together uselesse to preach about them: but this is to be confuted in its time.
Estius the Papist would make this exhortation of the Apostle in the Text, to be only for trial, Whether they were a true Church, and whether Christ dwelt in them by true Doctrine, Miracles and his Ordinances? But that cannot be the total meaning, partly, because every believer had not Christ dwelling in him by Miracles, and therefore such an one could not have acknowledged Pauls ministe∣rial power; and if so, then Paul would not have provoked to that, partly be∣cause this place, and that of Ephes. 3. 17. may explain one another; now there Christ is said, To dwell in their hearts by faith, where it must needs be justi∣fying faith; and certainly Christ is in us, as we are in Christ, for Joh. 14. 10. Page 19 these are put together, now we are not in Christ by a faith of Miracles, and there∣fore he is not in us by such a faith.
Fourthly, No man can by any natural light or evidence in him, come to be assured*of the grace wrought in his soul. Hence I shall shew you, that it is Gods Spirit which doth seal to us what we are; and that as a man cannot see the Sunne but by the light of the Sunne, so neither can he see Christ or his graces in him but by the Spirit of Christ. Hence a man may be in the state of grace and not know it, even as the childe in the womb may be an heir to a great inheritance, and not understand it; and therefore as it is not the power of a mans free-will to subdue and conquer sinne, but that belongs to the Spirit of God sanctifying, so it is not the light of a mans natural understanding that can assure us of the things of God in us, but it belongs to the spirit of Adoption in us. Hence it is that a man na∣turally is destitute of all comfort, as well as grace, his heart is like an hell; as there is the unquenchable fire of lust, which never goeth out, so there are worms of doubts and fears perpetually gnawing which never die. For the Promises be∣ing divine and supernatural, we have no more inclination to them, or compli∣ance with them then the commands of God, which require holinesse. Hence it is that as a man while unconverted doth resist the Spirit of God, convincing and sanctifying; so when converted and humbled for sin he doth often refuse Gods Spirit comforting and witnessing his love to him. And hence is the spiritual com∣bat and conflict the people of God have, which is not only between corruption and holinesse, but also between doubting and faith. Assurance therefore doth not follow the work of grace in us by a necessary consequence, as heat doth the light of the fire, but is separable from it, as we see in many of Davids Psalmes, who though full of grace and holinesse, yet was in darknesse, and felt not Gods presence with him, or his love of him; and this should make us keep with all fear and trembling any measure of Assurance that we have, seeing if we sin it away we are no more able to call it into our souls again, then we can bid the Sunne stand still in its race.
Fifthly, There are four special priviledges and mercies that a Christian even in this*life may be assured of, his Election, Remission of sinne, Sanctification of his nature, and Perserverance in that state, with future glory at the end thereof. And the assu∣rance of our Sanctification or present grace must be the foundation for the other certainties; so that there can be no certainty of Predestination, of Justification, of Glorification, if there be not a certainty of Renovation in us. We therefore ought the more diligently to attend to this; for he that hath a false perswasion about his grace in him, hath also a false perswasion of his pardon of sin, and of his Salvation, and so at last all his hopes will miserably fail him. Tell me there∣fore thou that hast such confidence that thy sins are forgiven, such boldnesse as to hope for salvation, what works or fruit is there of sanctifying grace; there you must begin, and you build in vain unlesse this foundation be laid. Not that we are to trust in our graces, but to gather Gods love by them as so many signs and te∣stimonies, otherwise our certainty is in dignatione Dei, not in dignitate nostra, said Bernard; And Ambrose, Non gloriabor quia justus sum, sed quia redemptus sum; non gloriabor quia vacuus peccati sum, sed quia peccata mihi remissa sunt.
Therefore sixthly, It is a most sad delusion for an ungodly or unregenerated man to*be perswaded, his estate is an estate of grace, whenas indeed it is nothing but of sinne and death. We pitie those that are bewitched or possessed with devils, but this is the most terrible possession, when a man is possessed with the devil turned into an Angel of light. Thus the Pharisees who blasphemed sometimes, saying, Christ had a devil, they themselves were possessed with one; you are they that justifie your selves (saith our Saviour) now all are very prone to this corrupt judgment, E∣very mans ways are right in his own eyes (its the wise-mans Apophthegm) but the Lord pondereth the heart; and in this bewitchery most men lie. For who is there that is not confidently perswaded of the goodness of their spiritual estate, who is not like Page 20Laodicea perswaded of their riches and fulness, when indeed they are naked and empty. Oh therefore that such had the spiritual eie-salve, that such had their eies opened to judge righteous judgement. How great will thy confusion be when thy gold shall be found dross, thy wine water, thy graces corruption, and thy goodness nothing but sin! Do not therefore give credit to thy deceitful heart. Be afraid lest thy self-love hath blinded thy eies and hardned thy heart, pray un∣to God that he would make known thy self unto thy self. The better thoughts thou hast of thy self, it may be, it is the worse with thee; such a righteousnesse and godlinesse as satisfieth men like thy self, is not presently acceptable unto God. Men may live fourty or threescore years, and yet be great strangers unto their hearts. We pitie those deluded mad men, who are perswaded they are such great persons, and have such large estates, when in the mean time they lie miserable and naked, bound up in chains in a dark dungeon; such a spiritual madnesse is upon most, who never searched to the bottom of all that filthinesse which is in them, and thereupon call themselves grapes and figs when they are thorns and thistles.
Seventhly, Consider that the soul of man hath two kinds of acts or workings. The former are direct acts, such as go immediatly to their object; as when by faith I * take Christ and adhere to him; the latter are reflex acts, which are only in rea∣sonable subjects, and this is when a man doth perceive and discern those direct acts in him, as when I perceive that I do thus adhere to Christ, that I do love God. Now Certainty or Assurance is properly in this latter way, when we know that*we believe; and therefore this Assurance it is called by some Sensus fidei, the feel∣ing or perceiving of Faith. Now you must know that this feeling or per∣ceiving of Faith is from Gods Spirit as well as Faith it self; so that it is not a meer humane sense or discerning, which is subject to falshoods and delusi∣ons, but is infallible, even as faith is; for as the Spirit of God cannot externally witness any thing that is false; so neither can it inwardly in the soul of a man per∣swade of that which is false, so that as a man knoweth by the help of Gods Spi∣rit, His word to be the word of God, and is never fully confirmed till that come, so though a man may have probable hopes and conjectures of grace in his heart, yet he never comes to be setled, till the Spirit of God doth thus corroborate him.
Eighthly, This Certainty a Believer hath cannot be made known or demonstrated unto another, but remaineth unexpressible in his own heart. Even as a man cannot * describe unto another, what it is to be a father or a mother, only those that are so, and feel the bowels of such a relation, they can in themselves feel what it is; and thus when a man becomes perswaded of the truth of grace in his own soul, as differing from hypocrites, this cannot be discovered unto another, only the man himself rests satisfied; Therefore its called, The white stone which none know∣eth but he that hath it. As it is thus only known to a mans self, so neither can others by a judgement of Certainty, but of charity only judge who are so. For it is God only that knoweth the hearts, and there is nothing visible in Christia∣nity, which an hypocrite may not upon false grounds do, as well as the godly upon true, and if some did in the primitive times know what was in mens hearts, it was by a peculiar extraordinary revelation, not of customary discerning. And that discerning of spirits which was given to some in the Church, was in respect of Doctrines, to difference the true from the false, not of mens hearts and affe∣ctions: This is to be observed against that errour of some, that hold, A man may certainly know whether another be godly, Peter was deceived about Simon Ma∣gus, and he cals Sylvanus a faithful brother, as he supposeth, 1 Pet. 5. 12. It is true there is a great sympathy and conformable working of Gods Spirit in godly men, and their hearts answer one another as the face in the glasse, but yet here is no infallibility, and many whom the godly have admired as stars, have fallen from heaven; and others whom they did not expect have remained firm to God.
Ninthly, In all the acts of Faith, whether they be direct or reflex, the firmnesse*Page 21and certainty of them doth more depend upon Gods Spirit confirming us, then in the clear∣nesse of the argument. Our Assurance doth consist more in that firm adhesion of the subject, then in the evidence of the object. If you consider it in those asser∣tive acts of faith, whereby we believe truths revealed in Scripture, their firmness and immovablenes doth more depend upon the work of Gods Spirit strengthning the inward man, then upon the arguments; hence it doth believe them even un∣to Martyrdom, though it be not able to answer all the objections brought against it; and thus it is in these reflexive acts, the confidence that a Believer hath of the truth of grace wrought in him, comes more from Gods Spirit removing our slavish fears and bondage disposition, as also staying and supporting the soul, then from that excellency and beauty of grace which is within us.
Tenthly, Consider that as a man in his animal or rational life doth perceive the*motions of his sensitive and rational soul, so doth a Believer in his supernatural feel the motions of his spiritual life. 1 Joh. 3. 14. We know we are translated from death to life, because we love the brethren; a place much to be insisted upon hereafter. In this Text are two things, the first is general, Those that love the brethren are tran∣slated from death to life; The second is more particular, we love the brethren, and therefore know we are translated from death to life; so that as he who hath fire in his bosom, he feels that heat within him; Thus he that loveth God, feeleth the motions of love within him, so that as a man as sensitive doth perceive the mo∣tions of sense within him, thus doth a man spiritual feel infallibility the super∣natural motions of an heavenly life within him, yet here is this difference, a man doth discern bitter from sweet, and a seeing man white from black without any temptation or opposition at all, but it is not so in supernatural motions.
Eleventhly, It is a vain thing to distinguish between the certainty of Hope, and a*certainty of Faith, as if a man might have a certain Hope of Grace and Godlinesse in him, but not a certain Faith, for the firmnesse of Hope doth depend only upon the certainty of faith; So that where there is no certainty of Faith, there can∣not be any firmnesse of Hope. It is true, a man may have a strong desire of that which he hath no certain Faith for, but that desire cannot be called Hope, and this is more especially true in divine Hope, which makes not ashamed, and the rea∣son is, because it is the fruit of Faith, which is built upon the Promise and word of God; what Certainty therefore Faith hath it doth transmit to Hope; and as God hath placed such a natural Affection as Hope in a man, to bear him up against all the difficulties he meeteth with for the obtaining of the good he desi∣reth, so he hath placed a supernatural frame in the heart to support the soul till it obtaineth those good things it believeth to have.
Twelfthly, The Scripture speaking of this Certainty hath many significant words to*express it by, Rom. 7. 38. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, for although the word is common both to a mo∣ral or conjectural perswasion, in which sense Paul useth it of the faith of the Ro∣mans, Rom. 15. 14. and of the Galatians conversion, Gal. 5. 1. yet it is also used of a di∣vine Faith, and that in Doctrines of Religion, Rom. 14. 1. 2 Tim. 1. 12. and the context doth evidently shew it to be such a perswasion (because it is not a confi∣dence against a separation from God, but a possibility of it, Who shall separate us?) It useth also the word Know in that of John, 1 Joh. 3. and in many other places. Ephes. 3. 12. you may there see Faith the root, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, and from that flow∣ing 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Confidence, and from his Confidence flowing 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, but the word that the Scripture doth most fully expresse this by is 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Rom. 4. 21. Rom. 14. Col. 2. 2. Heb. 6. 11. It is used in an ill sense, Eccles. 8. Hence there is 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 in wicked men, and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 in the godly.