More Signs and Effects of Election. And Di∣rections to those that are overwhelmed with Thoughts and Fears whether they are Elected or no.
MAT. 22. 14.
THe Doctrine contained in the adversative or exceptive part of this Propo∣sition, carrieth much terror with it; for how easily may the soul be dis∣couraged under this consideration, The fewness of those that are elected or saved? Now although there are few who need encouragements, the greater part of our Auditors being presumptuous and self-confident; yet that I may handle this truth compleatly, I shall Answer this particular case of Con∣science,
What that person should do, who is overwhelmed with fears and thoughts whe∣ther he belong to Election or no, whether he hath any interest in the Covenant of * Grace; for though but few, yet some such there are, who through the tender∣ness of their own heart, and Satans subtil temptations, are many times cast down, as if there were no hope for them: Though God be gracious to others, yet not to them; insomuch, That they sit down like deflowred Tamar, weep∣ing and wailing, not knowing whether to go; would not therefore he be like a Messenger from God, that could tell how to ease the soul of this burthen? But before I apply my self to this satisfaction, I shall adde some further signs and effects of Election, to what I propounded the last day; and certainly, if the hearts of men were as careful to make their Election sure, as they are to make the Evidences of their Estates, or any outward advantage they enjoy, even a little said, may do good unto them. In worldly things that Rule is received, Tene certum, dimitte incertum, Hold that which is certain, and let * that go which is uncertain: Why then are ye not as wise in this respect? Thy outward mercies, thy security, and quietness of conscience, these are no cer∣tain signs of thy Election; therefore let them go and put no more confidence in them. We proceed to adde more, That he who is not convinced in the want of one, may be in the want of the other. And
First, They that are thus chosen, the preaching of the Gospel comes not unto them in word onely, but in a full and efficacious power on their heart, and assurance of their understanding: We Ministers of the Gospel may here take up our la∣mentations, * To whom is the Gospel preached, any more then meer bare words? Do not our Sermons, as the Psalmist said of our lives, Pass away as a tale that is told? Oh this is an ill sign! consider that place, 1 Thess. 1. 4, 5. Knowing (bre∣thren) your Election of God: The Apostle speaks so of others, either in the Page 650 judgement of charity, or from that spirit of discerning, which was vouchsafed some in the Apostles times: Well, how comes Paul to know this? by this glorious effect, Verse 5. For our Gospel came not unto you in word onely, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance: See what the end and issue of every Sermon should be, it should come with power, and with the Holy Ghost into your hearts; viz. The Spirit of God accompanying the word, works faith, conversion, and a through reformation of our lives: Its therefore very good to consider, with what power the word preached falls into thy heart: Doth it convince thee, humble thee, mollifie and soften thee, this argueth thou belongest to God. Iohn 8. Our Saviour argued on the contrary, that the Pharisees were not of God, because they did not hear with faith and obedience his word: Thus you see, great discoveries may be made of men, ac∣cording to the efficacy Gods word hath upon their hearts. Every faithful Mi∣nister is like Iohn, a voyce, but if he be no more, then he said of the Nightin∣gale, vox & praeterea nihil, a voyce, and nothing else; woe be to that Auditor who feels it no more: Ezekiel was no more to his hearers; God tell shim, He was like a pleasant song to them, Ezek. 33. 32. they would come and hear as his peo∣ple, but they would do nothing; If therefore the Election of God ever put forth any glorious power on thee, thou wilt finde it in this some time or other, that the word preached will be more then the word of a man, more then a meer humane Oration, or verbal Declamation: Oh! it will be like fire in thy bowels, like a two edged sword in the secret places of thy heart; thou wilt cry out, Ve∣rily God is here: Oh the power, the conviction, the meltings of my soul that I feel within me!
Secondly, A further effect of Predestination, is a conformity to the image of Christ:* Thus the Apostle expresly affirmeth, Rom. 8. 26. Whom he did foreknow, he did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his son: This is a glorious fruit, to be made like Christ, to have the image of Christ in us, affections like Christ, zeal and heavenliness like Christ. This conformity unto Christ, may be in three things:
First, That which is future and to come; viz. To be glorified, as he is glori∣fied: Thus the Apostle elsewhere saith, Our vile bodies, shall be made conformable unto his glorious body, Phil. 3. 21. and as we have carried the image of the earth∣ly, so we shall the image of the heavenly, 1 Cor. 15. 49. An inestimable priviledge it is: But I intend not that.
The Second particular of conformity, is the grace and holiness of Christ; that as he was altogether holy, humble, doing the will of God readily in eve∣ry particular, so should we. Hence we are commanded To be followers of him, and, To put on the Lord Iesus Christ, Rom. 12. 14 as a garment which covers the whole body; so that we are to express the savor and life of Christ in all that we do, let nothing of our sin, our nakedness appear, but every thing like Christ: How excellently did Paul arrive to this, when he could say, I no longer live, but Christ within me. Hierom said of Austin, That he did Diligere Christum habitantem in Augustino, he loved Christ dwelling in Austin: Oh! this image and superscription they bear who are elected; they shall, at least ere they dye, manifest the life and power of Christ dwelling in them. Consider then, are thy affections, thy thoughts, thy actions such as resemble Christ? Those that are elected, are predestinated to such a conformity.
Thirdly, There is a conformity unto Christ, in regard of his sufferings, and patient obedience thereunto: This some interpreters make to be the chief scope of the place; that as Christ had in this life a suffering, afflicted and persecuted life, in all which he was full of humility and patience, and after this he was exalted to glory; so it will fall out with every member of Christ; every mem∣ber, as well as the head, shall have a state of humiliation, before a state of ex∣altation: Page 651 Let not those then who will live in the power of godliness, expect great and comfortable things always in this world: Though they be chosen ones with God, yet with the world they may be the off-scouring and dregs of mankinde.
Thirdly, The third effect, Is thankfulness, and continual hearty gratitude un∣to*God for this so great and unspeakable a mercy: You can no more keep in the heart from overflowing, when its sensible of this everlasting love of God, then you can put bounds to the sea: See Paul, Ephes. 1. and in other places, with what heavenly joy and inlarged thankfulness he amplifieth the love and grace of God in electing of us before the foundations of the world; he cannot satisfie himself with any words, but heaps them up one upon another; and certainly, in that God hath elected and chosen thee, he hath done more for thee, then if he should give thee all the glory of the world. That elect Lady Iohn wrote un∣to, was more happy in being elected, then in all the external glory she had; How then is thy heart affected with joy, and praise, and thankfulness in this matter? He that bestoweth great things, looks for great return of thanks, especially this being all we can do.
Fourthly, Those that are elected, have a spirit of heavenly fortitude and courage*bestowed upon them, whereby they are able to rejoyce and triumph in all adversities and troubles: The apprehension of this doth so animate them, that like Salaman∣ders, they live in the fire of persecution; like the Ark, they are so far from be∣ing drowned in the waters, that thereby they are exalted nearer Heaven. Read Rom. 8. What glorious triumphs doth Paul, in the person of all the elected, make over all kinde of Enemies that can be thought on! he challengeth every adversary to put forth his sting: Now whence comes all this boldness and con∣fidence? even because God had elected, and nothing can separate them from this unchangeable love: How can men endure the loss of goods, estates, name and life it self, did not a gracious assurance of this, raise them up above all humane strength? This is the Aqua fortis unto their despondent spirits; this makes them, with Paul, say to all friends that would hinder them in sustering for God, Why do you break my heart? I am ready not onely to be bound, but to dye for Christs sake.
Fifthly, The last and glorious effect of Election, is perseverance, and a stedfast continuance in that way of grace they are at first set in: Final Apostacy, and to∣tal * backsliding from the ways of God, can never befal those that are thus cho∣sen: If it were possible, Mat. 24. 24. The elect would be deceived with the signs and wonders of lying Prophets: They went from us, because they were not of us, said the Apostle, 1 Iohn 2. 19. many places might be brought to this purpose; especially that promise, Ier. 32. 40. which is nothing but the Covenant of Grace, and the execution of Gods decree from all eternity, I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall never depart from me: Oh what a blessed mercy is this! when there are so many hours of temptation in the world, so many blustring storms and tempests, that are able to raise up the very roots, did not that im∣mortal seed preserve them. Thus having added some more necessary effects, that demonstrate this calling and election of God, I now apply my self to pour oyl into that wounded heart I mentioned, to that tender conscience who is sur∣prized with fear and trembling, least not so much as the crums that fall from this table do belong to it; that refuse to be comforted, saying with Zion, God hath forsaken her. And
First, Let such an one consider, that it is no new or strange temptation, even for the*godly to be possessed with these thoughts and fears, that God hath left them, God hath forsaken them: How often may you have the Church sighing such complaints in Davids Psalms, Hath the Lord cast off for ever? will he be gracious no more? and so in Isaiah, Zion hath said, The Lord hath forsaken me: But all that she said, and she thought was not true; nay, what need we wonder at this, seeing that *Page 652 even Christ himself was tempted in this manner, though without sin: Was not this the meaning of those heavy groans and crys, the Apostle saith he uttered, saying, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? My God, my God, there were the expressions of faith, adhering and relying; but, why hast thou forsaken me? they were the words of one not feeling the sensible comfort and support of God at that present; which was not simply a sin, but part of that soul∣agony, and soul-sufferings he did undergo for us. Well then, let no tender heart, and troubled soul be dejected, if it be exercised with such black tempta∣tions; for these things have befallen the godly, yea, Christ himself.
Secondly, Lay this down assuredly, that all those thoughts and suggestions, as*if thou wert not chosen, come onely from the Devil, and are his poysoned arrows that he darts into thee: He is the Prince of darkness, and loveth to keep the soul in darkness; he is the Accuser of the Brethren, not onely to God, but accuseth God to them, as an hard master, as one that did watch to damn and destroy: Now that they come from Satan, is plain, because they are contrary to the scri∣pture: All spirits must be tryed by the Scripture, and so thou must try thy spi∣rit by the Scripture: Well then, thy spirit saith, God hath not chosen thee, God hath not ordained thee to eternal glory; now say, Where doth the Scri∣pture reveal any such thing? where doth Gods word manifest any such thing? If then the Scripture discover no such thing, it comes but from that lying spi∣rit, and thy lying heart together; say therefore in all such temptations, Get thee behinde me Satan, these things savour not of the Scripture, these things come not from Gods spirit; therefore Gods spirit is called The Comforter, because he in∣clineth the soul to believe in Gods gracious promises; Gods spirit, is the spirit of Adoption, which inableth us to cry, Abba Father; thus the spirit of God, where that is, dispels all tormenting fears, all sinful dejections, carrieth on the heart to Evangelical considerations: Now this should exceedingly prevail with the tender heart, when it feels all those sad and heavy pressures: All these things are contrary to Gods spirit, they grieve the spirit of God, as well as my own spirit.
Thirdly, Consider, We are not to live by our own experiences and feelings that we have, whether of joy, or fears, but by the word of God: Its a very dangerous * delusion, when a man makes his own sense and experience, the rule to walk by: He must bring his heart, and all things to the word, to be directed by it, guided by it. Now the word of God that commands every one in particular to believe, to repent, to draw near to God; this the word enjoyneth every one, Why then art thou troubling thy self about the secret things of God, which can never be known? These revealed commands and duties, they belong to thee; How much better were it therefore to shake off all those temptations, as Paul did the Viper from his hand; and say, Let me rise up and fall to my duty: The command is plain, unquestionable, Come unto me all ye that are heavy laden, Mat. 11. Ho every one that thirsteth come, John 7. Now then, if these Texts be so clear, so evident, how darest thou refuse them? If sin trouble thee, then let sin against these Commandments trouble thee. We have a most pregnant in∣stance in this case, Mat. 11. 22. The woman of Canaan when she desired help from Christ, see what a repulse Christ gave her, Its not fit to give childrens bread to Dogs: He calls her a Dog, he tells her, childrens bread did not belong to her; Whose heart would not this break? was not this in effect to tell her, she was a reprobate, the promise of Grace did not belong to her? Though Christ spake this by way of tryal, to draw out her importunity the more: Well, what saith the woman to all this? yet she will catch some thing for an argument still of hope, Truth Lord, yet the Dogs eat of the crums that fall from the table: Let me be a Dog, let me be unworthy, I confess my self so, I feel my self so, yet de∣ny not the crums, the least mercy I shall prize; and upon this answer what great commendation did Christ give her faith? Look you then, here is a Page 653 copy for thee to write after, endeavor to be like this woman; O Lord, though I feel no comfort, though I be a Cast-away, though I be a dog, yet let me have but the crums, the least expressions of thy love, and they will refresh me: So that you see, these temptations are not to deject, but to draw out thy im∣portunity, to quicken up thy affections, as you shall hear afterwards.
Fourthly, Thou oughtest to be so far from being discouraged, because of these sad*temptations and fears, that thou oughtest the more to rejoyce, and to take these groans and crys, as the sure signs and simptomes of thy predestination; For so we told you, where this election was, there the spirit of God did accompany the soul with prayers and groans unutterable: So that those exercises and troubles of heart, they are to be a great ground of comfort and hope to thee; thou art to rejoyce and bless God, that puts thee in such agonies, such exercises, though for the present so heavy and unsupportable: Alas! he that is a reprobate, and indeed forsaken by God, he is never thus troubled, he is given up to a stony heart, as Pharaoh was; and therefore such are said to have a blinde eye, a deaf ear, a fat heart, that cannot understand: No, those that are thus forsaken by God, they make a mock of sin, they eat and drink, and go down quick to hell: Let not then, those things which ought to comfort thee, be matter of discouragement to thee: Turn not honey into gall.
Fifthly, Consider, The unprofitableness, and sinfulness of all such fears: They * come to no good at all, they are thorns in thy side, and hinder thee in all that liveliness and power of godliness that ought to be; they hinder thy praying, thy obedience, thy comfortable discharge of thy relation, duties: The joy of the Lord is your strength, said Nehemiah, Nehem. 8. 10. and fear, that makes feeble hands, and feeble knees: so that as that timber which is eaten into by worms, cannot serve for strong building; so neither can those who are devoured by these temptati∣ons, be for that while serviceable unto God: Know then, if thou wilt fear, thou hast cause to fear these fears, thou hast cause to take heed thou doest not run in∣to sin, while thou art afraid of sin.
Sixthly, Examine thy self, whether thou doest not live in some known secret sin un∣repented*of; and that puts thee upon the question of all; or whether thou hast not grosly fallen from thy former love, and power of godliness: These things many times raise a dark and gloomy mist upon the soul. Psal. 32. when David kept close his sin, and did not confess it, that made great trouble and perplexity in his soul. As vapors got in the bowels of the earth, and finding no vent, make a terrible earthquake.
Seventhly and lastly, Grant all thy fears and troubles to be upon just grounds, yet if*thou must perish, perish depending upon God: Take up Jobs resolution, Though he kill me, yet will I trust in him; as Hester, venter to go into Gods presence, and say, If I perish, I perish, and thou wilt finde as she did, the King of Heaven * holding out the Scepter of grace: Thou art sure to be damned by unbelief, and by keeping off from God, but its possible to meet with salvation, yea, its sure, if thou draw near to God: As those Lepers were sure to perish with famine, if they staid in the place they were in, therefore they would venture, though in the enemies Countrey: And thus much for application of comfort.
I shall conclude with an Use of Admonition, Try your selves about these fore-mentioned fruits of election; do not reject these things, as nothing belonging to thee: Oh! doest not thou see thy self as yet in the state of gall and bitter∣ness? what mean those gross impieties, those unfruitful and unreformed ways, under so much preaching? Put thy mouth in the dust, if yet there may be hope; pray, and again pray, God would deliver thee from those sins that overcome thee.