The Advantages the Godly have by Assurance: How it may be known from Presumption; with Dire∣ctions to the godly that want it.
2 PET. 2. 10.
THe possibility and duty of this Assurance hath been already declared and proved; as also the practicall objections against it, removed. I now come to shew the great advantage of this certainty. Where the godly heart hath this holy assurance and perswasion wrought by Gods Spirit, there it hath ma∣ny helps which the tempted soul wanteth. It is therefore good to propound them to you, that so the profitablenesse of it in heavens way, may excite you to seek it.
And first, Where there is certainty of this heavenly priviledge, there the soul is*more inslamed and inlarged to love God. It's an assertion against all reason and ex∣perience, which the Papists utter, That assurance of Gods love in us would breed contempt, security and neglect of God. For with all ingenuous natures (and such the children of God are) the more perswasion of anothers love to them, the more they repay it with love again. The wife, the childe, the more they know they are beloved of husband or father, the more this inflames them. Love is fire, and fire turneth all things into fire. Thus David, when he could say, God had forgiven his iniquities, and healed his diseases, in particular; Then blesse the Lord, O my soul, and all within me praise his holy Name, Psal. 103. 1. Thus Paul in Rom. 8. 6. what puts him into those extaticall raptures, and transcendent ex∣pressions about God and Christ, but the assurance that he was such an one whom God had elected, called and justified? Oh then, know all the while thou hast doubtings and servile fears upon thee, so long thy love to God is very imperfect and cold. The fear of God brings hatred and wearisom thoughts of God: And hence the Apostle sheweth, that fear, viz. slavish, hath a torment with it; and that love casteth out this tormenting fear, 1 John 4 18. Love to God as a gracious Father, would allay all those tempestuous and swelling waves that are in the soul. Now this can never be done, but by some certainty that we are such whom God loveth. Tranquillus Deus, tranquillat omnia; when we know God is pacified, then the soul is also pacified. As it's with the sea, that is quiet as long as the air and windes from above are quiet and still; so it is here; The soul, that is calm, comfortable and gracious, all the while it can by assurance enjoy Gods favour. Now if we cannot so vigorously love God, while we are without this certainty, how should this provoke us to indeavour after it!
Secondly, Certainty of our calling and election will breed much spirituall strength*and heavenly ability to all graces and duties, to go through all relations with much Page 682 holinesse and lively vigour. For fear which is the opposite to this, that makes weak hands, and feeble knees, that disheartens, that saith, A lion is in the way: whereas the certainty of our good condition would put hope and life into us. The testimony of a good conscience made Paul so active in the course of his Mi∣nistry, 2 Cor. 1. 12. Certainty breeds joy, and the joy of the Lord is our strength, as Nehemiah said, Nehem. 8. 10. Take a piece of timber full of moths and worms eating into it, and it's no waies strong enough for any building. Grief is made rottennesse to the bones, which consumes the seat of all our strength: so spiri∣tuall dejections and sinfull doubtings about the work of grace in us, they con∣sume the very heart, they destroy the very foundations. No man but a sanctifi∣ed man can have a good conscience in a Scripture sense; they may have a quiet conscience, not accusing them for grosse sins committed against the light of na∣ture: But this is not a Scripture good conscience; for that is freed not only from grosse sins, but heart-sins, and soul-sins, and it is sprinkled with the bloud of Christ. And thus a good conscience is a continuall feast. Oh then, this should stir thee up for this holy certainty; thou wilt be farre more chearfull, more joy∣full in the work of the Lord: Thou wilt be more fervent and zealous; thou wilt be as the sun, like a giant running his race. We complain of our barrenness, of our weakness, of our slothfulness: What can be wings to us but this certain∣ty of our gracious estate, This will be like the Spirit in Ezekiels Wheels. This will be like the winde that gathered the dry bones together. Oh then that the people of God would more matter this. Thou couldst not be such a lump of earth, if this breath of life were breathed into thee.
Thirdly, This certainty and assurance of grace, would exceedingly keep up the heart under all afflictions and outward miseries. Had not Paul been assured of that * eternall weight of glory, he could not have judged these worldly miseries light and easie. When David was in all that misery, all outward hopes gone, He in∣couraged himself in his God, 1 Sam. 30. 6. His God, He knew God was his God, though he had lost all things else. And thus Paul is more then a conquerour; and doth so highly challenge all troubles to hurt him if they can, because he knoweth by Gods Spirit, that he is one called and chosen; and shall not this prevail with you? Is it not a miserable thing to fear to be killed by men, and to be damned by God at the same time: To be imprisoned by men, and imprison∣ed in thy own conscience, Oh what will provoke thee if not this? Alas! I am sure of nothing, not of my life, not of my outward comforts, not of any out∣ward injoyment, and wilt not thou then be sure of grace within thee? Oh our vanity! when will we be wise? We labour for those earthly things, which when we have, we cannot be sure off, but not at all for grace. Is it not with many men, as with the bees, when all the summer they have laboured to fill their combs with hony, then comes the husbandman and burneth them, and takes their hony. So thou hast a long while laboured to get up so much wealth, such an estate, and then comes death, or some sudden publique judgement, the sword and warre, and that takes all thy hony from thee. Oh when we can be sure of no outward thing we have, let us be sure of inward grace.
Fourthly, This certainty of grace is a strong and mighty buckler against all those violent assaules and temptations, that the devil useth to exercise the godly with. His * temptations are, That they are hypocrites, that all the calamities which fall upon them are because God is not reconciled with them, that they seek themselves and not the glory of God. Now there is no such brazen wall to repell all his darts, as the testimony and knowledge of the truth of grace in our hearts. This was the aqua vitae, that kept up Job. You know what fiery temptations he had, God seemed to be against him; godly friends judged him an hypocrite: The devil he assaults him; he saith, Doth Job serve God for nought? God hedgeth him in, and giveth him outward prosperity; no wonder then if Job serve God, Job 1. These are strong tempestuous windes, able to tear up the root of the Page 683 strongest oak; but yet he stands like an immoveable root; and all because of that integrity and sincerity which he knew to be in himself; he knew his aims and ends to be pure, he knew he served God for Gods sake. As this is of great consequence to defend against the devils accusations, so also against the calum∣nies and false clamours of the devils instruments. As the devil is 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, The accusér, so all wicked men do diabolize; they charge the generation of the god∣ly for hypocrites, for dissemblers, for painted sepulchres; but the knowledge of their own uprightnesse, and the graces of God in their soul, do abundantly for∣tifie them; whereas this is terrible to have other men condemning us, and God also, and our own consciences condemning us.
Fifthly, This certainty is a speciall means to breed contentation of minde, and a*thankfull, chearfull heart in every condition. As we told you, David in that great exigency of his, incouraged himself in his God: and in his Psalms, that the Lord was his portion, and his inheritance: Now this could not be known, unlesse he also were certain of his godlinesse; for God is not the portion or inheritance of wicked men. And upon this it is, that he saith, God had put more joy into his heart, then they have, when wine and oil increaseth, Psal. 4. If therefore thou wouldst have that happinesse on earth, true contentation of spirit, it must be from the knowledge of thy grace, and sense of Gods love in Christ, when thou canst say, Soul, take thy spiritual ease and heavenly quiet, for here are many good things stored up for thee: This is to be a godly Dives indeed, a Dives in soul, and to fare deliciously, in a spiritual sense, every day.
Lastly, This certainty of grace is a sure and speciall antidote against death in all*the fears of it. This makes the King of terrors, a King of all consolations: For seeing that by grace we are the members of Christ, death hath no more sting on us, then on Christ our head. And therefore the godly may in Christ triumph, O death where is thy sting, O grave where is thy victory! 1 Cor. 15. 55. These ser∣pents may be handled, because their stings are out. Let them howl and roar out at the approach of death, who know not whether God be their friend, or enemy, or rather may know he is their enemy; who have just cause to doubt, whether they are going to hell or heaven: Oh to such, the very name and thought of death and judgement, must be full of amazement and terror: But to those who are in a holy manner perswaded of their interest in Christ, that perceive the sure evidences of Gods grace in them; they may lift up their heads for their redem∣ption draweth nigh: And indeed this should much incite you, to seek after such a support at death. Hezekiah upon the sentence of death passed on him, suppor∣ted himself with this, 2 King. 20. 3. And what wilt thou do, when the hour of death approaches: here is no longer the comfort of thy riches, wife and chil∣dren to be injoyed; here is no longer the company of thy friends and acquain∣tance to be retained. Oh then! when thou art to be sure no longer of any earth∣ly comfort, would it not be better then a world to thee to be sure of heavenly comforts? Oh that you would be wise for your latter end. Do something that may stand you in stead, when you are dying men, gasping at the last. Drowning men use to catch hold on any thing. Oh dying and drowning men should be sure of a fast hold to lean upon; These are the advantages. *
But the godly heart may inquire, How shall I know this holy certainty and per∣swasion by Gods Spirit, from my own perswasion, from the self-flattery that is in me? Are there not thousands of people that call darkness light, and bitter sweet? that conclude the truth and goodnesse of their heart in all respects towards God. It's true it cannot be denied but that there are such foolish dreamers, who dream of their fulnesse when they are indeed empty; yet to a searching eye they may be quickly distinguished.
For first, Holy certainty is kept up in all exercises of grace, and constant tender avoiding of all known sin: but presumption will agree with the practice of all these. He is confident of Gods love, of his own good heart; yet a notorious Page 684 beast, a constant swearer, a constant liar, unjust in his dealing, lustfull and volup∣tuous in his life. Oh these must needs be horse-beetles that can live in such dung; not Christs doves who delight in neat and sweet places. What? thou hope in God? thou trust thou hast a good heart and a good conscience when so much wickednesse is in thy life! This is impudent presumption, and Gods eies are purer then to accept or love such. Doth a man then think he hath grace in his heart, how carefull is he to practise all good known duties, and to avoid all known sin.
Secondly, Presumption is unwilling to be searched and tried. It flieth from the light, it cannot abide the touchstone; but this holy certainty loveth a deep search. * It is here as between the Heretique and the Orthodox man; Heretiques they are lucifugae Scripturarum, as Tertull, said, The bats and owls that fly from the light. The thief hates the light, saith our Saviour, John. 2. 20. But the true doctrine, that desireth to be tried and dived into. Then thus, where a true knowledge of grace is, that man crieth with David, Prove me, Lord, examine and try if there be any false way, Psal. 26. 2. But where presumption is, that would not have a cracked title, or a forged evidence brought before the Judge.
Thirdly, Presumption beareth up a mans heart, till a man come to some great and extraordinary calamities, and then this bubble vanisheth away. Its not truly root∣ed, * and so will not abide a violent storm. They fall from presumption into de∣spair. But see how Job and David can go through the hardest brunts; though they be under many briars, yet these innocent sheep lose not their wooll. Dross will melt in the fire, but gold will be the more refined. The winde makes chaff fly away, but leaveth the corn more purified. The righteous hath hope in his death, Prov. 14. 32. then when the presumptuous mans hope doth most wither many times.
Fourthly, Presumption is not opposed nor assaulted by the devil. Satan doth not tempt and labour to drive people out of it, but nourisheth them in it. But out of * this holy certainty, the devils main scope is to drive them. You see he was not afraid to shoot out his fiery dart even at Christ himself, upon this, Whether he was the Son of God. And his stratagem was to make Job think, and condemn himself for an hypocrite. So that godly assurance is much opposed, both by the devil and the unbelieving heart of man; its hardly obtained, and hardly retain∣ed. But of presumption we may say, as Isaac did of his sons counterfeit venison, how comest thou by it so quickly my son? How come you to be confident thus quickly, thus easily? This man-childe is born, and your soul hath not been in tra∣vell and pangs: this is not Gods way.
Fifthly, It is the sure character of presumption, that it divideth the means and the end. It hopes for such priviledges, though it never do the duties: Now this is * not assurance, but a presumptuous delusion, whereas you see this text is, To give all diligence to make your calling sure. Presumption is like that charity James speaks of, that giveth good words, bids the party go home and be warmed and cloathed, but doth not give any thing; and in this presumption most men live: They hope for that end, the means whereof they are never conversant in. Should they tempt God about their naturall life (they will not eat and drink and think to live) all men would say it were horrible presumption: but though they do it pal∣pably about supernaturall life (they will neither repent or forsake sin, or live ho∣lily) and yet hope Christ will be their Saviour. Though they do thus, yet men see not their own folly and madnesse therein.
Sixthly, Presumption is but a self-deceiving, false logick that a man deceiveth himself with. Whereas you heard this certainty is a knowledge wrought by Gods * Spirit in us. The Apostle James saith, If any man seem to be religious and bridle not his tongue,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, he makes a false syllogisme, James 1. 26. He takes non causa, procausa; and indeed all presumption is nothing but a false syllogisme; a man takes that for a cause which is not a cause: or else it is an ignoration of the proper state of the question, that it is to be indeed godly, how much goeth to the nature of it.
Page 685 Seventhly, The presumptuous man is full of haughty arrogance and proud preferring*of himself, contemning and undervaluing others. Thus that Pharisee, Lord I thank thee that I am not as other men, &c. Whereas true assurance is accompanied with deep humility, and a pitifull respect to others, praying and mourning for others; Oh that their eies were opened; Oh that they were inriched with the grace of God, as they are. Humility and self-emptinesse is an inseparable effect of godly assurance, and of precious esteem with God. Minimum de se sensisse, tam mag∣num est quam maximas res fecisse, The lowest love, and the least thoughts of our selves, is as great, as to have done the greatest and most excellent things.
In the next place it may be questioned, What that godly person should do, * who hath not this assurance; though grace be in him, he knoweth it not, yea he thinketh the clean contrary. Even as Luke 24. 16. When Jesus after his resur∣rection appeared to the disciples, though he drew nigh to them, and talked to them, yet saith the text, Their eies were holden, that they did not know him. So it is with many a gracious heart, Christ is spiritually in the soul, grace is present, yet he cannot feel this. Though the sun of righteousnesse be in his heart, yet he walketh in darknesse.
Now to such an one we say, Let him walk in a faith of adherence and dependance when he hath none of these evidences. This the Scripture cals trusting, relling, lean∣ing and staying of the soul upon God. David in many Psalms hath only this plank to stand upon in the great Ocean: For this you must know, though assu∣rance be a duty, and to be pressed after, yet it is not the faith that justifieth. Thou maiest belong to God, and have an interest in the promise, though thou feel no evidences of it. Who is he that feareth God, walking in darknesse and hath no light, let him stay himself upon God? Isa. 50. 10. So then, if thou findest thy soul like a parched heath; thou goest bowed down, thinking thy self a withered branch, a dried tree; consider what is thy duty, what doth God require of thee? even a depending and waiting on him. And this dependance of faith is far more noble then the assurance of faith.
For first, In assurance, there I go on in holy duties, and love of God, because * of the sensible sweetnesse and delight that I have; but in dependance there I trust in God, when I have no sense or feeling: So then, as it is a greater act of love to God, when I love him though he afflicts me, though he blesseth me with no out∣ward mercies; so it is a greater act of obedience to wait and depend on God, when I feel my own unworthinesse and load of sin, then when the goodnesse of my heart is cleared up unto me.
Secondly, To depend and wait on God, though darknesse be in thy soul, ar∣gueth * thy faith more firm and strong. As when the woman of Canaan would not give over, though Christ called her dog, yet this made her faith to appear great faith. It was an high expression in Iob, Though he kill me I will trust in him. Do not then give over thy constancy in holy duties, be not discouraged in wait∣ing, on God for assurance, for he will at last cause the sun to arise, and the dark night to fly away.
And thus I shall conclude this text, still pressing you to be upon more sure and certain terms about your souls, then many are. God bid Hezekiah set his house in order before he died: Oh do thou set thy soul in order, cast up all thy spiritu∣all accounts. It is a wofull thing when thou art dying, then to cry out, Oh I know not what to do, live I must not, dy I dare not; every thing is in disorder, there is nothing sure about my soul. What do you think my beloved brethren? Are not these things the greatest reason in the world we perswade you to? How unexcusable will ye be? when will ye go away and say, It is true indeed, we should be upon sure terms, It is an happy thing to be so, but the world, that hinders me, my lusts they hinder me. I tell you the consideration of these things have so affected men heretofore, that they have gone and lived in cells, and holds of the earth; they have shut themselves up in woods and wildernesses, that they Page 684〈1 page duplicate〉Page 685〈1 page duplicate〉Page 686 might attend to this great matter the salvation of their souls. This indeed was their blinde zeal and indiscreet forwardness, but it will certainly at the day of Judgement rise up and condemn thy jollity, thy carnall security in a sinfull way.