Containing Remedies against carnal Confidence with Directions to the Godly that mourns under the sense of Gods favour.
2 COR. 13. 5.
THe differences between carnal Presumption and godly Assurance have been at large declared. Let us in the next place consider what are the fit engines to batter down those strong holds, That the carnal-confident man runneth into, what way may be taken to undeceive such a man, and to put him in a way of Salvation.
And in the first place, This may be laid down as a most certain truth, That there*are none more indisposed for Christ, none have higher mountains and hils in the way, then the falsly perswaded Christian. Christ told the Pharisees, That the Publicans and Harlots got to heaven before them. Ille morbus vix est sanabilis, qui sanitatem imitatur, saith one, That disease is hardly curable that is like unto health: and the task must be great to remove such an one from his stedfastness, because two things are to be done; the former to make known his false righteousness he is perswaded of, and the latter the true righteousness he is to be assured of. As the Philosopher who was to teach one that was infected with false opinions, re∣quired a double fee, because his work was double, dedocere, to unteach, and do∣cere to teach. This was the great labour the Prophets of God were put upon; and Christ who had the tongue of the learned, preached many Parables to make the full hungry, and the rich empty in themselves. What the Heretick is in mat∣ter of Doctrine, the same is a carnal presumer in matter of practice and conver∣sation. Now as the former is seldom reduced, because there is obstinacy and contumacy in him against all admonitions; so is the latter scarce ever truly deba∣sed and humbled, because of the self-love that cleaveth to him.
But if ever any thing be able to overrule and conquer him, these remedies fol∣lowing are likely to do it.
First, A powerfull and soul-searching Ministry, that will so pierce into, and dis∣cover*the hidden things of the heart, that thereby he may come to be made known to him∣self. The Ministery of the Word is like the Sunne in the firmament, from whose light nothing is hidden. Thus the Prophets, the Apostles, they were lights. And what conviction might the Jews have had of all their self-fulness and hypocrisies, if they had not shut their eyes against the light, 2 Cor. 10. 4, 5. The weapons of the Ministry, though they be not carnal, yet are mighty to the pulling down of strong-holds, and every thing that exalteth it self, by this is meant all kinde of op∣position. What the woman of Samaria said concerning Christ, that he discover∣ed Page 33Whatsoever she had done: So sometimes may we say, Come and hear a Sermon that hath laid open all the vilenes and inward filthines, all the poverty and wretch∣edness that is within me.
A second Remedy is, A particular opening and applying of the Law in the purity*and rigidity of it. Matth. 5. What an excellent course did our Saviour there take, to make his hearers afraid of themselves, and to see more sins in themselves then ever they thought of! He makes the Law so spiritual, reaching so deeply into all the motions and lusts of the soul, that they must needs be as foul as Blackmoors in Gods eyes, while they did admire their own beauty. Thou blessest thy slf because of the innocency in thy outward conversation and freedom from all gross sins, but no dunghill is fuller of Snakes and Worms then thy heart is of filthy lusts. Thus Rom. 7. Paul, as good as he was in his own eyes, when he looked into the glasse of Gods word, his holy Law, he found so many blots and blemishes in him∣self, that he had no longer life or hope within him. Hence it is that men to keep themselves from appearing so deformed as they are, limit the sense of the Law, as if it were not so exact as it is, like the Elephant bemudding the water, that it may not see its own deformity.
The third Remedy is, To discover the fulnesse and necessity of Christ. And in∣deed * if Christ be so necessary, as the Scripture saith, and that in such a way, as that his Righteousness must be all in all; Then thereby is demonstrated, that all which we have is nothing but sinne and weakness. If Christ be commended un∣to us under the titles of a Saviour, Physician, Redeemer, then certainly we are sick, in bondage and utterly undone in our own selves. Why dost thou then (O vain man) boast so in thy own self! Why art thou so strongly perswaded of thy own sufficiency? If it be so, What needs a Christ? Was not he incarnated? Did he not suffer in vain? If a Starre were able to give light to the world, and to di∣spel all darkness, what need is there of a Sunne? If the stream hath enough to refresh, what use is there of the Ocean? Wouldst thou then come to be poor and miserable in thy own eyes? Consider in what glory, riches, fulness and ab∣solute necessity the Scripture sets Christ forth, and then thou maiest quickly ab∣hor thy self.
A fourth Remedy are Outward and sad afflictions accompanying the Word. For * when God shall thus by his Word thunder in their ears and hearts; When he shall also outwardly scourge and afflict, then is a man many times taken off from his lofty imaginations. That as we deal with mad men, who have false conceits of their outward happiness, throw them into Dungeons, use them hardly, and that is the way to bring them to the knowledge of themselves; thus God when he would have a man reject all his carnal presumptions, abhorre all high thoughts of himself, he hangs many clogs upon him, causing many thorns to run into his side. How much better were it for many men to be kept by God in darkness, and sad plunges of their own spirit, then to be set alwaies upon the pinacle of the Temple (as it were.) Be therefore awakened out of thy security, fear lest thou hast lived thus many years in a meer dream of thy holiness and interest in Christ.
Fifthly, The examples of such who have made great progresse (as might be*thought) in the wayes of Religion, and have had high thoughts of themselves, whose ends notwithstanding have been very dreadfull and terrible, is, or may be a special help to rouse us out of false presumptions. How should that place be like a sword in our bowels, Heb. 6. where some had illumination, yea and a savoury tasting in some degree of the goodness of God and his Word, yet had not things accompa∣nying Salvation! So likewise the instance of the foolish Virgins, who were so bold and confident in their preparation for the Bridegroom, how wofully were they deluded! Now look over these examples, and consider again and again, lest their cases and thine be alike. Think and tremble lest the time be coming when thou shalt cry for oil, because all thine is spent, and there is none to help thee. Page 34 Our Saviour by many Parables to this purpose would teach us how prone all are to be thus abused.
Sixthly, Let a presumptuous man consider how apt he is to mistake in other things, and therefore fear lest he do also in this of the greatest concernment. Every man is * full of blindeness, stupidity, ignorance, how often is he deceived even in natu∣ral and moral things? How often in truths supernatural? And is it any wonder then, if in the workings of his own heart, wherein he is commonly carried by self-love? If a natural man doth not perceive many times natural things, how can he perceive the things of God? As our Saviour said, If you understand not earthly things, how the things of Heaven? If a godly man, out of whose heart guile and hypocrisie is in a great measure removed, do yet cry out, Who can un∣derstand his errors, Cleanse me from secret sins, How much more is this true of him who is wholly in the leaven of hypocrisie? If David hath much unknown pride and corruption in his heart, how much hath a Pharisee or an unregenerate man? It is a good speech of Amesius, Praesumentes sunt eo magis desperati, quo mi∣nus sunt desperantes; Presumers are therefore in the more desperate condition, by how much they are the lesse despairing.
The next Question shall be, What ought a man to do, who hath indeed the truth of Grace in him, but he knoweth it not? Though God hath wrought supernatural cures upon his soul, yet he doth not believe any such mercy is done for him. And as when a man hath Assurance of the truth of grace in his soul, there is also a complication of the Assurance of Election, Justification, Perseverance and Glo∣rification; so when the soul is in darkness about the former, and hath no know∣ledge * of that, it is also involved in ignorance about the other things. Now how∣soever carnal men know not the sadness of such an estate, yet Davids Psalms make mention of the heaviness of such a condition, expressing it by all those similitudes which may make it to appear very horrid, He compareth it to broken bones, not one broken bone, but all his bones broken, What intolerable pain was that? Christ who wanted the light of Gods favour in his Agony, though no corporall bone was broken, yet was full of these broken bones.
First, Let him consider whether some sin, unreformed of, that he liveth in, know∣ing it to be sinne, doth not eclipse all his certainty. Davids Adultery drave away the * spirit of gladness and joy from his soul. Oh that is a cursed joy and confidence, which is not expelled by the committing of known grosse sins! How can there be Assurance and Peace, as if grace were in thee, when thou demonstratest such works of the flesh and Satan in thee? Is it any wonder then to see men who take upon them the profession of Religion, and yet live loosly, tumbling now and then in∣to foul sins, if they have often an hell upon their consciences, and frequent terrors upon their soul? As when vapours are gathered together in the bowels of the earth, it cannot but make an Earthquake; so sinne gathered together in the heart, will one time or other make an heartquake. That place Ephes. 4. Grieve not the Spirit of God, supposeth sin doth grieve him, and how just is it then that Gods Spirit should grieve us?
Secondly, Suppose no grievous sin fallen into make such a great gulf between him and Assurance, that he can neither come to that, or that to him, yet negligent, and*carelesse use of the means of grace, will much weaken a mans Certainty. You heard that place, Give all diligence to make your Calling sure; So that without constant Diligence this Assurance cannot be obtained; for although sincere and zealous endeavours after godlinesse be not the cause, yet they are the sign and testimony of Gods love; and so without these there cannot be any comfort at all. Ferven• and gracious performances of holy Duties are the Oil, without which this Lamp would not shine. When the Apostle exhorted to Prayer, That we should make our requests known, he addeth, And the peace of God shall rule in your hearts. It is therefore an unworthy thing to speak of doubting, and complain of the losse of Gods favour, and that thou hast no Assurance, when all thy Page 35 Duties and Performances are careless and withered.
Thirdly, If yet thou hast no Assurance, then know that it is a free and arbitrary*Priviledge, which God bestoweth when and where he listeth. We did briefly, and shall more at large shew, that it is the Spirit of Adoption, which doth work that filial affection, and inable to cry Abba Father. It is the Spirit of God that doth seal unto us; so that Assurance doth not flow from the workings of grace in us by a natural and necessary consequence, but by the immediate dispensation of Gods love unto us. Hence 2 Cor. 1. God is called, The God of all consolation who comforteth us; For God doth not as a Christian friend or Minister may do to one tempted about sin, outwardly propound comfort, and give him arguments of consolation, but cannot inwardly turn and change his heart; but God he doth so outwardly command his people to be assured and comforted, that he doth in∣wardly fashion and form their hearts to receive it. That same power of God in converting grace, which is called by the Father vorticordium, is seen also in this of consolation. God therefore would by this teach us, That Assurance is not a flower that will grow of it self in the garden of our hearts.
Fourthly, Is there the truth of Grace in thee, and thou art not aware of it? Is it*with thee, as with Hagar, who had a fountain of water by her, and she did not see it? yet still go on in the constant exercise of thy graces. Thou art bound to love God, trust in him, perform all Duties, though thy heart should never feel Gods love to thee; for although the Assurance of Gods favour be like coals of fire poured upon the soul to melt it, yet we stand obliged to the spiritual exercise of holy Duties, though God should not give us this encouragement thereunto, To him that overcometh, I will give the white stone, and the hidden Manna. This priviledge of Assurance is given to those who have a long time been acquainted with God, much exercised in his wayes, and enduring much for him. Not but that God doth to new Converts also many times discover the love of his Espousals to them, because they are most tender and need it, being much oppressed with sinne. As Aristotle observeth it a special instinct of nature, whereby Parents are most tender of the youngest childe, because that can least take care for it selfe.
The third Question, Why doth God when he hath wrought Grace in us, not pre∣sently*enable us to believe, and see it in our souls? David, though the Prophet told him his sinne was taken away, yet in that Psal. 51. how importunately and ear∣nestly doth he pray for pardon and joy. Which implieth, that though God cau∣sed this outwardly to be declared to him, yet he did not by his almighty power effectually perswade him of it, and the Question seemeth the greater, because this Assurance would be wings and legs in a mans service to God. It would en∣flame him more to promote Gods glory: And besides, God loseth much of his glory and honour; for how can the soul rejoyce to give God the praise for that mercy which he knoweth not that he hath received? so that not to know our pardon, and not to have it, are all one, as to the matter of thankfulness: yet for all these reasons, how frequently doth God keep his own people in darkness? How many times are they ready (with Zion) to say, God hath forsaken us!
But for all this there are divers good reasons, why God, though he hath put grace in our souls, may yet not publish it in our consciences.
First, That hereby we may taste and see how bitter sinne is. The longer that guilt * with the consequents of it is upon our soul, the greater cause have we to bewail it and abominate it. If grace or the Assurance of it were in our power to have it when and as soon as we would, how sleighty and perfunctory would our thoughts be about sinne? Davids length of time under the guilt of murder and adultery, wrought in him greater hatred and dislike of those sins. And howsoe∣ver it may seem to be a servile low spirit to awe sinne, because of the bitterness of it, and not only because of love of God, and delight in him; yet no better •is the frame of the most refined and reformed godly man that is. Be therefore con∣tent Page 36 under those black desertions, though thou knowest not how it is with thee, yet Gods end is good, to keep thee low and weary of sin.
Secondly, Hereby God would keep us low and humble in our selves. We many times upon the discoveries of Gods works on our hearts are apt to grow high and * contemn others; we are apt to think God hath raised us up above others, that we know and feel more of God then other men do. Now that all such worms of pride may be killed in us, God hides his face from us, and thereby we see no∣thing but sin and weaknesses in us; all our whole life appeareth to us nothing, but as Anselms did to him, Aut peccatum, aut sterilitas, either sin or barrenness. When thy heart seeth nothing but sinne round about thee, then thou canst lie before the throne of God who is rich in grace, like Lazarus before the rich mans gate full of sores; and as Chrysologus said of him, that he had Tot clamantia ora, quot vul∣nera, as many mouths crying for help, as he had sores, so wilt thou have as ma∣ny mouths begging for pardon, as thou hast sins and infirmities. It is said of Mo∣ses his face, that it did shine so, as the people of Israel were not able to behold it, and yet he knew not of it. How excellent is it when others can behold and admire the graces of God in thee, yet thou apprehend none of these in thy own self! It was Gregories expression, That a man ought Nesciendo scire, & sciendo nescire, by not knowing to know, and by knowing not to know the graces of God in him.
Thirdly, God may therefore keep Assurance from our knowledge, that so when we have it, we may the more esteem it, and the more prize it, taking the greater heed how*we lose it. We see the Church in the Canticles, when she had despised her Spou∣ses love, how earnest she was to get it again, but it cost her much ere she could have it. Sol nisi cum deficit spectatorem non habet, said Seneca, No body admires the Sun unlesse when eclipsed, so neither do any highly esteem the favour and love of God, unlesse when in the losse of it. As it is in temporal mercies, so in spiri∣tual, they are prized Carendo magis, quam habendo, by the wanting of them, more then the having of them: Dost thou therefore pray, and again pray for Assurance, yet can•t not obtain it? then think this delay may be to encrease my appetite the more after it, the more to blesse God when my soul shall en∣joy it.
Fourthly, God doth it that thou mayest demonstrate thy obedience unto him, and give the greater honour to him. For to relie upon God by faith, when thou hast * no sensible testimonies of his love to thee, is the purest and meerest act of obedi∣ence that can be. Such faith of adherence did Christ put forth in his agonies. A man may desire Assurance, as it breeds peace and ease to his soul, but to depend upon God in spiritual desertions, is wholly to give all to God and nothing to him∣self; such a faith is a kinde of a spiritual Martyrdom. The way of Assurance brings more comfort to thy self, but the way of believing gives more glory to God. When Abraham did not stagger in his Faith, though Sarahs womb was a dead womb, this was giving glory to God No lesse is thy action, when thou overlookest all thy own sense, feeling and sad temptations, trusting in God for acceptance. To walk by Assurance is a kinde of walking by sense, and it suppo∣seth us children, if we cannot be quiet unlesse in the mothers bosom.
Fifthly, God withholdeth the sense of pardon, that thou mayest be an experienced Christian able to comfort others in their distresse. This is true of Christ himself, that * he was tempted about the wrath of God, that so he might have a sympathy and fellow-feeling with those who are in the like manner exercised. Paul makes this end of Gods comforts in his tribulations, that they might comfort others in the like case. He that is not tempted about the pardon of sin, wonders at those who are so afflicted, and therefore is altogether unskilful to apply fit remedies. We see carnal and natural people judge such mad and distracted, they bid them go to merry company, feast and recreate themselves, thinking this carnal plaister will heal their spiritual sore. Job 33. 23. Elihu describing the condition of a man Page 37 chastened for sin, so that he utterly refuseth all comforts, makes it a great mercy to have a messenger that can shew to such a man his uprightness. This messenger he cals one of a thousand: make therefore this good use of such temptations, God hereby would raise me up to be a Joseph to my brethren in their need.
Let the Use be to raze up the foundations of all carnal presumers. This is a * common sin and damneth thousands, insomuch that presumption is made a more grievous sin then despair, for in despair a man is weary of himself, abhorreth his own estate, would if he could admit better counsel; but a presumer pleaseth himself, and so will not hearken to any good admonitions; Oh how sadly art thou deluded, how frustrated will thy expectations be, when thou shalt see no∣thing but hell and confusion in stead of all that joy and comfort thou didst promise to thy own self! The foolish Virgins saw their undone condition, when it was too late to help themselves: do thou fear least thou be plunged into such horrid extremities. The nearer the haven thou art, if thou suffer shipwrack, the more lamentable it is. The Church made this an aggravation of misery, We looked for peace, but behold trouble.