SECT. I. The Doctrine of Assurance and Signes.
How necessary and advantagious the Assurance of our being in the state of Grace is.
2 COR. 13. 5.
THe Church of Corinth, though it was a Garden immediat∣ly planted by the Apostles, yet quickly was filled with noisome weeds, whereupon the Apostle threatens it with severe Discipline, if they repent not; Ecclesiastical Di∣scipline being in the Church, as the Sword is in the Com∣monwealth. The Corinthians distaste this severity, and question his Apostolical power and authority: Love to mens lusts, and a desire of security in them, rather then any solid Arguments, make men question the Jus Divinum of Christs institu∣tions. The Apostle proveth his Calling by that spiritual success and power∣full efficacy which his Word had among them, and therefore instead of proving and examining him, he commands them to try their own selves. This very Argu∣ment may the faithfull Ministers of God in England use against many who now condemn their Calling.
In the words you have a Duty enjoyned. 2. The object matter of it, Which is illustrated from an absurd consequent, if this duty be neglected.
The Duty is set home in two emphatical words 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Examine your selves, and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Prove your selves. The former word doth in the general signifie to take an experimental knowledge of any thing that is either uncertain, un∣known or hidden. Hence that knowledge which we have by general arguments and abstracted reasons, cannot be called 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 an experimental knowledge. Now because, besides the bare knowledge, there may be also a good end or bad pro∣pounded in examination, therefore in an ill sense the word is applied to the devil and his instruments, and in a good sense to God, and here in the Text to our selves. It is further to be observed, that these words do imply that men are great strangers to themselves, and that so much self-love doth blinde them, that they know not themselves. Again, These words also imply that there are cer∣tain Marks and Signs, whereby a man may come certainly to know what he is, Page [unnumbered]〈1 page duplicate〉Page 1〈1 page duplicate〉Page 2 otherwise this command would be in vain. To the same purpose is the word al∣so 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 implieth a severe and diligent inquisition into our selves, so as to have a full experience of what is in us; hence Rom. 5. 5. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 is used for experience.
In the next place you have the object matter, Whether ye be in the faith. He doth not here speak of Fides quae creditur, the Doctrine of faith; but the saving grace of faith, as appeareth by the other particular, Know ye not that Christ is in you? The Apostle saith, Ye in the faith, rather then faith in you, to shew the large extent of faith, that we are Subjects who do not contain it wholly; as he useth contrary phrases to be in sinne, and in the flesh rather then sinne, and flesh to be in us; so some observe that, Enter thou into thy Masters joy, not thy Ma∣sters joy into thee; though that seem to be a fancy, and the true meaning is, Enter into the place of thy Masters joy, for so 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 is used in Esther. The Popish Commentators to elude this place when brought by the Orthodox, to prove, That a man may be certain of true grace in him, do answer, That the Apostle speaks not here of the saving works of the Spirit, but the miraculous works; This is made an Argument that they were the Apostles of the true Messias, be∣cause of the miracles wrought among them. And Gal. 3. 5. the Apostle proveth the true Doctrine of Christ to be among them, because of miracles done to them; we may adde also Math. 11. 5. when Iohns Disciples come to know, Whe∣ther he were the true Christ, Jesus returneth this answer, The blinde receive their sight, the lame walk, &c. As if he should have said, These wonderfull works demonstrate me to be the Messias. Now though it should be granted, that this were part of the meaning, when the Apostle cals them to an experimental proof of his Apostleship among them, yet this cannot be all, because Christ is not said to dwell in us, according to the Scripture phrase, or to be in us by a meer mi∣raculous faith only.
The consequent absurdity is in those words, Unlesse ye be reprobates. Pisca∣tor takes reprobates here as opposed to those that are predestinated; but I pre∣ferre Baza's judgement, who understands it of a corrupt and unsound minde, thus, They might easily discover the work of Christ to be in them, or among them, unlesse their understandings were in part depraved; for that he doth not suppose a totall unsoundnesse in them, appeareth by the Greek, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, where 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 doth mitigate the speech; therefore it is rendred by some, Unlesse in something you be unsound. That a reprobate minde is a corrupted minde, appear∣eth 2 Tim. 3. 8. Men of corrupt minde, reprobate concerning the faith, and Tit. 1. 16. Although we do not take reprobates here as opposed to predestinated, yet I see not why we may not well translate it Reprobates, not as taking it for such who are out of hope of salvation; but as the Scripture cals Reprobate silver, Jer. 6. 30. which hath no worth or fitnesse in it for trade. Though the Apostle writeth here to the whole Church, yet the duty is to be observed respectively by every believer; Neither is that true of Estius, who to avoid the orthodox Arguments for Assurance of grace, saith, It may be easilier known, Christ is in such a Church or Congregation, then in the heart of a particular believer: for the Text speaks not of Christs being in his Doctrine and Ordinances among them, which in∣deed is easily discerned; but of his spiritual inhabitation by sanctifying grace in them.
It is a duty of special concernment for the people of God to be assured of such a true*and saving work of grace in them, as thereby they shall be differenced from unsound hypocrites.
There are certain Notes and Sign• of grace, whereby a man may discern what he is.*
A Practical and Experimental knowledge of Grace doth farre transcend a meer Notional and Theoretical: There is a great difference between him that hath heard Honey is sweet, and him that hath tasted it. It is a rule among the Hebrews, That Verba notitiae, quandoque significaut Page 3 affectum & effectum. Words of knowledge do sometimes signifie the affections in the heart, and the effects thereof in life, how well were it if they did always so signifie among Christians. In former times Christians did much labour after an experimental knowledge, now they luxuriate into a meer brain-knowledge; howsoever in physick we call that man by way of contempt an Emperick, who goeth by experience only, and hath no knowledge of the nature of things, yet to be an Emperick in Christianity may have a good sense. In legendis libris non quaeramus scientiam, sed saporem, said Bernard, In reading books let us not so much look for science, as a savouriness of the truth upon our hearts. Now when the Apostle commands us to prove and try our selves, it is to endeavour to feel that in actu secundo, as they say, in actual working, which we perswade our selves is in us actu primo, or habitually. As for example, Every man thinketh he is a believer, he is regenerated; To prove or try our selves, is to apply those notes and marks which the Scripture makes of such, and thereby to have an ex∣perimental feeling of the actual exercise of these things. The Scripture Phil. 1. 9. cals this 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉sense or feeling, where the Apostle distinguisheth it from 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉; knowledge and judgement, making it to be the inward savoury sense and feeling of divine things upon their hearts.
Now that this practical experimental work of grace in our selves, whereby we are able to discern what is true, and what is imperfect and counterfeit, is very ne∣cessary, will be made manifest from several grounds. As
First, Our Saviour did in his Sermons much presse this point upon his hearers. If * that be true which the Heathen said, Quando sapiens loquitur, aulaea animi ape∣rit, when a wise man speaks he openeth the rich treasures and wardrobe as it were of his minde; This is much more true of Christ, in whom are the trea∣sures of wisdom. And of all practical points in Divinity our Saviour is most fre∣quently on this, That which is conceived his first Parable, Matth. 13. it is main∣ly to shew the difference of true grace from that which is like it only, and as be∣ing a matter of great concernment; it is said Luke 8. 8. after the Parable was ended, Jesus cried, He that hath ears to hear let him hear. Now that crying is ne∣ver attributed unto Christs speech, but when his affections were very earnest, and the matter of great importance. It is also to be considered that this he speaks to a multitude that thronged after him with great attention, yet to such he de∣clareth, That few have a good and honest heart to receive the Word. When therefore our Saviour himself shall thus preach, that you may in the use of the Ordinances finde much alteration made in your selves, you may have joy, faith, some kinde of reformation, and yet not be the good and right soil: what a pro∣vocation should this be to us never to leave, till we be truly qualified: Our Sa∣viour also spends another Parable to this purpose, Matth. 25. of the ten Virgins, where all are Virgins, that is, such who had preserved themselves from the Ido∣latries and grosse vices of the world; They both had lamps, they both go with confidence to meet the Bridegroom, and there is no differencing of one from the other, till the Bridegroom come: so that by this Parable it should seem, that a Professour having no more then a false imperfect or counterfeit work of grace, may live and die with a great deal of comfort and confidence, as if his condi∣tion were exceeding good, and not finde it otherwise till it be too late.
Again Matth. 7. 24, 25, 26, By two kinde of builders, one upon the sand, the other upon the rock; What is represented, but two kinde of believers, one that hath the outward profession and way of Christianity, and he is also truly rooted upon Christ; but there is another who builds upon the sand, who diggeth not deep enough; and this is the greatest part of Christians: thy faith, thy repentance, thy joy are not deep enough, now mark the consequence, The fall thereof was great. Thy damnation will be so much the more terrible, when all thy religious duties, all thy external profession shall fall to the ground. And it is a fall by way of rending, as the word signifieth, Oh how wofull to be rent from God, and Page 4 those duties which thou trustedst in. Therefore our Saviour at ver. 22. saith, Many will call to him at that day, Have not we prophesied in thy Name, eat and drunk in thy presence? that is, offered Sacrifices and received Sacraments? but for all that Christ knoweth them not. By all this you see, how necessary it is we be not deceived about the work of grace, and that we ought to have both our eyes in our head, least we take an whole spirituall estate in counterfeit coyn.
This experimental knowledge is of consequence, because of the easinesse and prone∣nesse in us to mistake. What Austin said of the Doctrine of the Trinity, in ni∣hilo*facilius & periculosius erratur, in nothing is the errour more easie and more dangerous; the same is applicable to this matter; for the words of examining and proving do imply the deceitfulness of our heart, that there are many false shapes and forms upon it. Hence are those phrases of searching our hearts and communing with our hearts; all which argue the difficulty of being fully acquain∣ted with what is in it. The Papists indeed presse this too farre, as if therefore none could ever tell when they did truly love God, or had a sincere heart; but the falsnesse of this is in time to be shewed, only there is much truth in this, that there is so much self-love and carnal confidence in us, that we easily perswade our selvs that we are indeed such as we ought to be. Ask every man one after another, who is not confident that he is regenerated, that he hath an interest in Christ, that his heart is good? and why are they so? but because they do not faithfullycompare the notes and characters of true grace, and diligently apply them to their own selvs. The Jews and Pharisees could never be beaten out of those vain hopes and car∣nal confidences. Hence the Apostle useth an emphatical word of a Jew, Rom. 2. 17. Thou restest in the law,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Thou art secure in the law, as in some admirable priviledge and signal testimony of Gods love; That which Christ promised, viz. Rest to their souls, they found in the law, so that no load of sinne could burden them, because they had rest here. As it is thus of a Jew, so we may say of a Christian, he resteth in the Doctrine of the Gospel, and the outward use of Or∣dinances, not feeling the weight of sinne. Insomuch that it were farre better to see people pray with fear, and eat their bread with trembling and astonishment, lest they have gone no farther yet then hypocrites, then to be so carnally and falsly perswaded of their good condition as they are. How many are indeed but Glow-worms, or white rotten trees, of base materials, though some shining there be in their conversation! Therefore this Text might be fastned upon the gates of the whole world, upon every door, every post, Examine, prove your selves.
Thirdly, It is very dangerous to miscarry in this matter. Oh the confusion that fell upon the foolish Virgins when their want of oil was discovered. How wary * are you to take clipt silver, or counterfeit coyn? but it is great danger to take counterfeit Repentance for true Repentance, counterfeit Faith for true Faith. If that praying, professing of thine, be not good and sound, thou art undone for ever. When the Apostle, Heb. 6. had reckoned up several particulars, which many among us do not attain unto, They were enlightned, they tasted of the good word of God, they were partakers of the holy Ghost, yet, saith he, I hope better things of you, and things that accompany salvation. What thunder and lightnings is here? better things then illumination, then participation of the holy things, better things then tasting of the good word of God? what, are not these things that do accompany salvation? May we not cry out with the Disciples in another case, This is an hard saying, who then can be saved? Yet so it is, we Ministers of Gods word may say, Except your righteousness exceed that of outward profes∣sion, of repeating of Sermons, of Family-duties, of common works of Gods Spirit, which are in temporary believers, you can never enter into the kingdom of heaven; and therefore we hope and pray for better things of you, even such as will surely accompany salvation.
Page 5 Fourthly, This practical discerning is of consequence, because of the difficulty to*finde out the true differences between true grace and its counterfeit. It is hard doctri∣nally to lay down the bounds, wherein they differ, insomuch that some Divines make the work of grace in the temporary believer to differ from that of the re∣generated person, gradually only, not specifically, but that is false. If then it be thus hard by way of Doctrine to set the bounds, how much more is it diffi∣cult for Christians in their practice to mark out the right way? The hypocrite feels a joy, feels a sorrow, feeleth a sweetness in the Ordinances, and so doth the godly, but to shew how one is sure he is not deceived, and the other is, this is hard, though indeed they do differ as much as one in a dream, or madness, that is really perswaded of, and affected with such great advantages, doth from him that is truly awake, and knoweth he is not in a dream. Therefore the words to try and prove, do suppose that a man must have knowledge of the rule: and the characters which do describe such a grace, he must also have skilfulness in mana∣ging by way of application these notes to himself, and this must be done out of a temptation, with much attending and persevering thereunto. For as in doctri∣nal controversies, that is the great Question, Which is the true Church, and that which doth not erre? as also, What are the essential marks that do consti∣tute a Church? So in practicals, This is the great doubt, What is the truth of grace? Whether I be the man that have it? And what are the notes to decipher it? And as for the former Question, we would fain have some visible infallible Judge to determine it that there might be no more dispute: So here, we would de∣sire such a peculiar revelation from heaven that should by name say unto us, we are those Christians in whom are no guile.
Fifthly, It is of concernment, because of the manifold advantages that will*come to us, when we have attained to such an experimentall knowledge of our selves. As
First, We shall account all our former knowledge of divine things, and all our parts though never so admirable, to have been but like a tinkling cymbal. When thou comest to have this inward feeling of holy things upon thy heart, thou wilt bewail all thy duties, and conferences, and religious performances done by thee, as a Parrat that had no understanding of these things. If a man reade in a book, or see in a map such and such countreys, he hath indeed some confused knowledge, but if he travel himself into those countreys, and see the Towns and buildings, he will say his former apprehension of them was but lame to what he hath now, or as the Queen of Sheba, who had heard rumours of Solomons wisdom, when she came to have an experimental knowledge of it, then she was astonish∣ed, and said, All that she had heard was nothing to that which she saw; So it is in matter of grace, if God work these savoury inward experiments in thee, thou wilt be astonished to see the difference between thy self now and once; all that thou hast heard, read or preached, is nothing to that thou feelest; But how is it to be feared, that many have seen godliness but in the Map only, they never had experience of the thing it self. How many are there that talk of conversion or repentance, as men do of bringing forth a childe, who never had the experi∣ence of the throbs and pains that then are endured. Paul, what a long time did he live in a road of religious duties, but when he came to have an experimental work upon him, he died, whereas he was alive before, that is, he became sensible of the damnable and dangerous estate he was in, whereas he had great confi∣dence of his good life and salvation before. And thus it is with every man that hath gotten experimental knowledge; Alas (saith he) I was alive once, I thought my self some body, when I could pray, write Sermons, dispute so understand∣ingly, but now I see I did not know what that faith was, or godliness was, that I did argue so much about, I never knew any thing of God, or of his gracious works till now, will that soul say.
Secondly, Where there is this experimental knowledge, that mans heart is as it *Page 6 were the Bibles counterpane. The Scripture is the original, and his heart is the copy of it, he can read over the Promises, the Threatnings, and can say, Pro∣batum est. David in his Psalms, Paul in his Epistles, speak that mans heart, feel that mans temptations, make that mans objections. Hence you have an ex∣cellent expression, John 3. 33. He that receiveth his testimony, setteth to his seal, that God is true. The Scripture speaketh of Gods sealing to us, and our sealing to him. In this place it is a Metaphor from their civil contracts which were con∣firmed and solemnly declared to be good by seals, Jer. 32. 10. So he that doth in∣deed receive the testimony of the Scripture, he doth solemnly declare by his life and conversation, that God is true; Therefore all those who in the general say, they believe, yet shew not a practical conversation accordingly, they set not their seal that God is true.
Thirdly, Where this is, it will powerfully dead the heart to all humane ex∣cellencies; * That as in man the Philosophers say, the vegetative and sensitive life is swallowed up in the rational; so in a Christian his natural and animal life is in great measure turned to his supernatural life. In the thorny ground there did the corn and thorns come up together, but where the life of grace is in the pra∣ctical exercise of it, all such suckers will be cut off. It is not head-notions, but heart-feelings that will exclude immoderacy of affections to other things. A man that a long while tasted of the wine of brain-knowledge, when he comes to taste of this experimental knowledge, he will say The new is best. Hence Gal. 2. 20. Paul denieth he liveth, but Christ liveth in him. Omnis vita est propter de∣lectationem, All life is for delight. Till therefore thou canst take delight and ex∣perimental sweetness in holy things, thy tongue indeed may be often about good things, but thy heart can never be in them. Love of the world may stand with the former kinde of knowledge, but not with the later. Aristotle obser∣veth, that dogs cannot hunt where the sent of sweet flowers is, because that di∣verteth the smell; so neither can we runne after Christ in the sweetness of his ointments, when the smell of worldly delights and earthly refreshments do in∣terpose.
Holding forth more advantages to Assurance.
2 COR. 13. 5.
THere remain more advantages, which will accrew to a Christian, that be∣sides a general notion-knowledge hath a practical and experimental disco∣very of grace in his heart.
First, He will enjoy the sweetness and benefit of the Ordinances, which men of parts * and gifts only do not. How many are there who in our Church-administrations are like old Barzillai that had lost his taste and hearing, and so cared not for Davids feasts and musick? David, Psa. 19. preferreth Gods Word in sweetnesse above the honey and honey-comb, Psal. 84. is spent in admiring the loveliness and beauty of Gods Ordinances: Now (alas) a man without the experimental work of grace upon his soul, can no more be affected with these, then a blinde man with colours, Cant. 1. 4. Because of thy ointment poured forth, therefore the Page 7 virgins love thee; Christ in his Ordinances doth as Mary, Open a box of ointment, which diffeseth a spiritual savour in Church-Assemblies to the godly, and this only the experimental Christian feels. Chrysostom sometimes in his Sermons speak∣ing of the more hidden and choice principles of the Christian Religion, useth this phrase, Sciunt initiati quid dico, Those that are initiated or admitted into our mysteries know what I mean. Thus also may the Ministers of God, preach∣ing either of the bitterness of sinne, the sadness of spiritual desertions, or the fulness of Christ, the sweetness of his fellowship and communion, say, The practised, exercised Christian knoweth what I mean; formal customary Christi∣ans are strangers unto that vertue and efficacy which is communicated in spiritual Ordinances. Cant. 4. 12. The Church is compared to a garden shut up, a fountain sealed, which is to be understood not only in respect of the defence and protecti∣on God vouchsafeth his Church, that none can destroy her; but also, because strangers and wicked men are not able to drink of her delicacies, or smell of her sweetness. A spiritual Sermon is a Fountain sealed up, the spiritual administrati∣on of a Sacrament, is a Garden inclosed; formal notional Christians understand not, or perceive the full sweetness thereof. There were many people in a throng and croud about our Saviour, but the infirm woman onely, felt efficacy come from him: so many may attend the Ordinances, frequent the Assemblies, but some few only finde the inward power of Christ derived unto their souls: As therefore Thomas, though upon an ill ground, said, He would not believe Christ to be risen, unlesse he saw his wounds, and put his fingers into them: So neither do thou believe thy estate to be good and sound, unlesse thou mayest see and feel the efficacy of Christ in his Ordinances upon thee. Austin speaks * experimentally of this fatness and sweetness in Gods Ordinances, Aliquando in∣tromittis me Domine in affectum multum inusitntum introrsus, ad nescio quam dulce∣dinem, quae si perficiatur in me, nescio quid erit, quod vita ista non erit.
Secondly, By this practical knowledge and exercise thou wilt be taken off from*all needlesse and vain disputations in matters of Religion, and wilt be more solicitous at home in thy own heart. In former times when the people of God were busie about the touch stone and trial of grace in themselves, they did not launch out into such deep and unprofitable Questions, but now of late since believers have busied themselves in disputes and controversies, and new opinions, this practi∣cal knowledge of grace is much neglected, you shall finde men sooner disputing about faith then living by faith, talking of heavenly-mindednesse then being so indeed. Thus the trees in Gods garden sprout up into suckers and barren boughs, and bear •ittle fruit upon them, 1 Tim. 6. 4. The Apostle doth excellently describe such a temper, he cals it Doting about Questions, or as it is in the Greek, Sick and lan∣guishing; Even as much fretting and vexation consumeth the flesh of the body, so do proud and vain affectations of new opinions pine away the soul. What is this but to think that a stone may become bread, and a serpent fish? As it is a Mini∣sters duty to preach only those things that are profitable, The sower went out to sow good seed, not poison, or empty chaff; so it is also required of private Chri∣stians, that they do think, conferre of, and study those things only that may edifie and practically build up their souls. I would not hereby discourage an indeavour in Christians to grow in knowledge. The Apostle reproveth some for being babes, and that he could not speak unto them as spiritual but as carnal, only they must know, that faith hath efficacious purifying acts as well as know∣ing acts, and therefore our increase must be equal both quoad notitiam, and effi∣caciam, in respect of knowledge and efficacy also. A Christian may grow either Quoad amplitudinem scientiae or efficaciam scientiae, the inlargement of his know∣ledge both in respect of the matter, he may know more things then he did, as also in the manner, more clearly, evidently and firmly then he did, or else in the efficacy of his knowledg, though he do not more things then he did, yet he know∣eth them more practically, they have a greater influence upon his heart and af∣fections, Page 8 they move and inflame him more then ever they did; now though the former way of increase be necessary and pleasing to God, yet this is much more. Take heed then that we be not like Pharaohs lean Kine, that devour many Que∣stions, but yet are as starved and ill-favoured as before. When one came with a curious Question to our Saviour, asking him, Whether many should be saved? How pertinently doth our Saviour answer him, Strive to enter in at the strait gate. This therefore discovers the necessity of importunate pressing and urging practical knowledge upon people in these dayes, Ubi malunt homines disputare quàm vivere, they had rather argue then live. As little boyes in sport strive who shall strike most sparks out of their iron, not intending to kindle thereby for their use, so do Christians strive who shall strike out the most subtil and finest spun notions, not intending the profit of their souls therein.
Thirdly, By this practical experience, a Christian shall attain to the end of all*knowledge, which is to do. If ye know these things, blessed are you if ye do them. It was said of some people that they had money only to tell it, they made no other use of it; it is as vain when we have knowledge in matters of religion only to know, Tit. 1. it is called, The acknowledging of the truth after godlinesse; inso∣much that in the Scripture phrase, They who have not the practical power of know∣ledge, are denied to have any knowledge at all. Hence are wicked men so often cal∣led fools, and said not to know God. By this means a private Christian may be said to know more of God, then a learned Doctor that hath nothing but orthodoxy; for you may have an orthodox learned man write and preach admirably about justifying faith, conversion, &c. yet in regard of the practical knowledge of these things no wayes comparable to some private man or woman, who feel the power of these things upon their own hearts: It is disputed, Whether Divinity be speculative or practical, and it is resolved by many upon good grounds, that it is practical, there being nothing in all Religion but what is to be improved for for practice one way or other, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉. It is well done that orthodoxy and true Doctrine be defended by books, disputations and Sermons; but above all things we are to indeavour that our life answer our Christian profession. When Christ looked upon the fig-tree that had only leaves on it, he cursed it. To him that knoweth how to do good, and doth it not, there is the greater sinne; as if he should have said, saith Bernard, Sumenti cibum, & non digerenti, perniciosum est ei; to him that takes meat, and doth not digest it, it is very dangerous. There must be true Doctrine, and a godly life joyned toge∣ther. Cyril considering Abrahams servant, who gave to Rebecca ear-rings and bracelets, applieth it to Christ and his Church, who vouchsafeth to her both true faith that cometh by hearing, and a godly life the practice or work of our hands.
Fourthly, By this experimental knowledge a man will be setled in the truth, and endure all persecution rather then forsake it. He will believe no fallacies or so∣phisms, * he will not be frighted out of it by any dangers. Its called tasting of God and his Word, and the rule is, Non est disputandum de gustu, there is no di∣sputing against taste. The sense of taste and feeling do herein differ from the other senses, that they are joyned really to the objects themselves, whereas see∣ing and hearing do receive only the intentional species, and therefore cannot make such a real and powerfull impression, as is in tasting or feeling. Pauls ex∣perimental knowing whom he did believe, made him boldly to speak: what makes men have a monethly or yearly faith, change their opinions as often as their garments, but because they have not felt the power of truth upon their own soul? The Schoolmen speak of a gift of the holy Ghost, which they call Sapi∣ence,* which they define to be Quoddam lumen divinorum, sub quo videntur & gu∣stantur divina per experimentum, A certain light of divine things, whereby they are seen and tasted by experience: or others describe it, A contemplation of God out of love, with a certain experimental sweetness in the affections. But what∣soever Page 9 their conceit is about this, it is certain the Apostle Heb. 5. 14 would have us by use to have our senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Where the Apo∣stle attributeth to the minde 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, which are properly the Organs of sense in the body, but he applieth it to the soul, because of the intuitive and experi∣mental knowledge the soul ought to have in good things; and therefore he speaks of use and custom which the people of God have in this spiritual discern∣ing: No wonder then that faith is called Heb. 11. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, The real subsistance of things believed in the soul. (Aristotle cals the thick cloud that by the reper∣cussion of the Sunne beams makes the Rainbow 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, and the Rainbow 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉,) and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 an undeniable conviction of the minde of man, because where this grace is operatively upon the soul, it makes a real impression. Hence also the whole work and way of grace is compared to life, Gal. 2. ult. because it is most real, it is not in imagination and fancy. That is notable Heb. 13. 9. Be not carried about with divers doctrines, for it is good to have the heart established with grace; Where the Apostle makes grace and godliness to stablish and settle the heart; and therefore men that are led aside into errors, are said to be carried about with them, a Metaphor from chaff and straw, which because of its em∣ptiness and lightness is blown this way and that way. Thus a man that is empty of grace, and not consolidated by the power of it upon his heart, he runneth from one opinion to another, without any stay at all. Therefore a savoury in∣ward knowledge of divine truths, would be an excellent ballast in the soul. And as it would thus keep the heart firm to the truth, so it would unite the heart to holy things as the best and sweetest, without hypocrisie, double-mindedness and inconstancy, and this is much to be considered, thy heart is one while for good things, another while as vehemently for the world, thy heart is divided between the Creator and the creature, how cometh this about? for want of real and experimental knowledge of the goodness of God, He that drinketh of this water (saith Christ) shall never thirst more, that is, Siti totalis indigentiae, with a thirst of total want. Now how great a mercy it is to be kept from that double-mindedness the Apostle speaks of, To be like a wave that is sometimes tossed up high to the heavens, and then presently sinks down low in the sea; or like the Grashoppers that leap up towards heaven, but immediatly fall down to the ground: When temptations of profit and pleasure come, how easily can they be repulsed by an heart who feels better things? So that till you have an inward feeling and joy about the things of God, you are not able to withstand other temptations, but you will alwayes be striving to make possible that which our Saviour hath pronounced so impossible, To serve God and Mammon.
I shall in the next place shew you what impediments and destructive principles * there are to hinder us in this experimental proof, which we are to make of our selves. For this duty here pressed of examining and proving of our selves is like the compound that the high-Priest was to make, consisting of choice materials; Now one dangerous principle is, when we go to prove and examine our selves, being prepossessed with self-love and carnal confidence, and where this founda∣tion is laid, its impossible to make any good superstruction. Hence all the pier∣cing and discovering Sermons which the Prophets and Christ made upon the Jews and Pharisees, could make no battery, give no shaking to their rotten foundation, and all because they had carnal confidence, and vain trust in them∣selves. Therefore when thou settest upon this duty, thou must say,
A second dangerous principle is, When we conclude that action to be done well,*which is for the matter good, whatsoever the principles, ends, motives or manner be. This destroyeth many thousands, Jehu did that which was according to Gods will, and this made him bold to say he is zealous for God, Come see my zeal, saith he; but though his actions were very great, and of high concernment to the Church of God, yet God would be avenged on him for these, Hos. 1. 4. Who would think God would be avenged on Jehu for dispossessing Jeroboam, killing Baals Priests, making so great a Reformation as he did? But because he himself did not do these things with an upright heart, therefore he is threatned. The Pharisees had an external righteousness, but there was a great gulf between them and true godliness. Hence they are called Vipers, which though they have a glorious skin, yet are full of poison; and how holy soever they appeared, yet like the Serpent they eat of the dust of the earth, live upon earthly advantages. A man therefore had need be Eagle-eyed, or like Ezekiels living creatures full of eyes, that would see into the bottom of his wayes: Thy profession, thy fa∣mily-duties, thy religious performances are plainly visible, every one that run∣neth may read them; but the ends and motives are secret and latent, the foun∣dations and roots of things lie under ground; The first letters in the book are garnished with many gaies, and we can hardly tell what they are. This made Paul distinguish between a Jew outwardly, and a Jew inwardly, circumcision of the flesh and circumcision of the heart; Especially the end, and motive that doth specifie and distinguish moral actions; Two may be in a family, both pray, both mourn for sinne, yet because one is done upon a pure motive and principle from God and to God, therefore it is right; and the other, because its defective in one of these, is rejected: who then is sufficient and prepared for so great a duty as this is?
A third way of misguidance is, When we try our selves by false Rules, when we weigh with false weights; This duty of examining and proving supposeth there is * some sure standard, which if we go by, we are sure not to be deceived, now that rule is the word of God; but as in matter of Doctrine men have left the Scriptures the sure rule, and taken up antiquity, universality, tradition, and the like for their guide, and by this means have fallen into the ditch; so in mat∣ter of godliness, when we should try our selves according to the characters and Page 11 signs that the Scripture deciphers, we take up principles in the world, the ap∣plause of others, the conversation of most in the world; And thus it is with us, as men in an Hospital, because every one is either wound∣ed or lame, or some way diseased, therefore none are offensive to each other.
The fourth and last dangerous way to miscarriage, is, When we mistake*about the object matter which is to be discovered, when we mistake what godlinesse is, and so think it to be in us, when it is not; And in this is the grand imposture; men take a good nature, morality, civility, the common graces of Gods Spirit for godliness, and when they see they have these, they conclude all is well. This is as if a man digging for gold should take lead or copper for it, and think him∣self rich, because he hath these. He therefore that would not be deceived in this great matter, must consider what the Scripture makes the nature and properties of godliness, and must conclude godliness is no lesse or inferiour a thing then the Scripture makes it. If a man shall not reach up to those Scripture directions, he is but a Glow-worm though he seem to be the Sun; but more of these things hereafter.
Let the Use be, to set us with all diligence, fear and trembling about this * work: How much better is it to eat and drink, to pray and hear with fear and trembling of heart, then to sit down secure when there is no cause? Believe not your hearts in times of danger, or fears of death, or any sudden fits; You see Pharaoh and Ahab can cry out of sinne under the judgements of God, but attend to pure motives only; In the civil law no credit is given to a testi∣mony that is given by one upon the wrack, because it is supposed, the torture and pain will make him say any thing to be eased. And thus in times of trouble and fear even a false and unsound heart will say any thing, hoping for some relief. Howsoever in this life we may satisfie our selves and others with a profession and external diligence in holy duties, yet at the day of Judgement we shall be astonished and silent before God. In the Parable, the man that was at the feast without a wedding Garment, when expostulated with, was presently speechlesse, he pretended not poverty, or difficulty to get a wed∣ding Garment, but was immediately speechlesse, even as if he had had a muzzle put on his mouth, as the word signifieth. At that day all the crooked and subtile windings, all the false pretexts of thy own heart, will be so discovered, that thou canst not but see it, and acknow∣ledge it.
Resolving, Whether Hypocrites may not attain to some measure of practical Knowledge in matters of Religion?
2 COR. 13. 5.
I Shall absolve this Doctrine, in handling of one practical Question, and that is, Whether Hypocrites may not attain to some measure of practical Knowledge in matters of Religion? Is that ignis, which in the godly is Calidus & lucidus, in hypocrites Lucidus tantúm? Can unregenerate men go no further then to meer knowledge and illumination? may not this oil poured upon their heads fall down upon the will and affections also? As they have imperfect knowledge, so may they not have inchoate affections about good things? and if they may, wherein shall we be able to give sound differences, or exact bounds and limits between the practical knowledge in the one and the other? This is a point of universal usefulness; And for the opening of this, consider there are three general sorts of men who go under the name and title of Christians, all pretending a right and interest to all the priviledges of the Covenant of Grace,
The first is of those who have only the Name and outward Ordinances of the * Christian Religion, but have not the least influence or power from it, In works they deny him. These are like some Apothecary boxes that may have the inscripti∣on of some cordial, but within is deadly poison; They are in names Christians, in actions Heathens; and the Prophet called the Rulers of the Jews for their wickedness, though circumcised, Princes of Sodom and Gomorrah. These are (as a Father said) Sine Christo Christiani, yea contra Christum, Christians with∣out Christ, yea against Christ. Howsoever in some respects they may be said to be better then Heathens, in which sense Arnobius said, Melior invenietur ju∣dicio Christianus fornicator, quàm castissimus idololatra. A Christian even in for∣nication is better then a most chast idolater; yet in other respects he is far worse: such as these are have no real and saving benefit by Christ, for Non actibus, sed finibus pensantur officia; They being like dead corpses, that have sweet fragrant flowers strewed upon them, but yet are not in the least degree made more savoury by them; and certainly it is an aggravation of the wickedness of such, that when moral Philosophy, and the principles of reason have been able to cure the outside ungodliness of many men; The truths of Christianity, which have a power to regenerate, and to work a new nature, should not so much as change the skinne of men. Yet if we cast our eye upon the greatest number of those who yet are baptized into the name of Christ, shall we not finde them in the rank of those, who have only a name in Christianity, and nothing else, who derive not the least efficacy or power from Christ, but are as a dead hand, or a withered branch, whose lives are a continual blasphemy to the Gospel of Christ?
2. Another sort is of those, who besides the name, have also some influence *Page 13 and operations of the Spirit of God upon them, and many of them are in such a way as an embryo to a childe, only they prove abortive, Matth. 13. The second and third kinde of hearers were in this number; Divines as they attribute to the former sort a meer historical faith, such as the devils have, though it may be thought they have no faith at all in any respect or notion, unlesse it be an hu∣mane assent; so they give to these later a temporary faith, which they make to differ from historical thus, because it is carried with some kinde of affections, both in revelantem, the person revealing it, who is God, and in rem revelatam, the matter revealed, whereas historical faith is without any affections at all; now although these who are in this condition, be in respect of their estate carnal and unregenerate, yet they differ from the former, as much as copper from dung, and howsoever comparatively to the godly, they are but counterfeit and false, yet they are as pearls and starres respectively to prophane men, for these have a pra∣ctical experience of some power of divine truths upon them (and howsoever the Spirit of Christ doth not dwell in them, because they are not members of the body of Christ, and as the soul of a man works not as a form to any part that is not uni∣ted to the body; so neither doth the Spirit of Christ operate savingly, but to the body of Christ) yet the Spirit of God works as an outward efficient cause breathing upon them. The Spirit of God works not in them, Ut in domicilio, but ut in organo, an instrument, which he useth for the good of the Church; Now in this sort there is a great latitude, some having a greater measure of these workings then others, as the third kinde of ground went beyond the second.
A third sort is of those who are indeed incorporated into Christs body, and * so do receive vivifical influence from him, that are in him, as a living branch in the Vine, as a living member in the body, and so are animated by that Spirit, though with an infinite disproportion, which Christ himself their head is; these are born of God, have an immortal seed in them, shall never perish, because Christ will not lose any of his mystical members; and these only have a proper, clear and full experimental knowledge of Christs sufferings and resurrection upon their soul; and these do differ from the former not gradually, as some thought, but specifically; a regenerate man though the lowest in that kinde, differeth from the hypocrite though the highest in his kinde, as much as the heavens, which according to some Philosophers is made of a fifth essence, from the sub∣lunary bodies, and the works of Gods Spirit upon hypocrites, if increased ne∣ver so high, would not come up to saving grace, as copper will never be gold. In the next place observe, That howsoever hypocrites, or temporary believers, do not attain to that which is indeed saving, yet great are the works of Gods Spi∣rit upon them, and they have many experimental motions of the truths in religion wrought on them. I will choose out some material ones, to awaken you, and make you tremble, least you be not in a form above them, yea happily many have not come up so far as they.
In the first place, They have an experimental knowledge of the common gifts of*Gods Spirit; They feel what it is to have assistance from God in those administrati∣ons. Thus Matth. 7. Have not we prophesied and cast out devils in thy Name? They did it by the power of Christ, and in virtue from him; and although we told you, this was not the whole scope of the Apostle here, to prove Christ was in them, by the miracles and wonderful works done amongst them, yet this was included as part: Thus Saul had another spirit, not in the way of sanctification, but political administration, whereby he had an experimental knowledge of Gods power and assistance in his place. And thus many a Christian may finde great assistance in duties, in parts and abilities, and may finde the power of the Lord going along with him; but this be nothing to his sanctification. And it is to be feared that in these times this is the furthest practical experience of Gods help that most have; if it be not so, why is it that people do so abound in opi∣nions, Page 14 disputations, and are so little in mortification and vivification, they sprout out into suckers and leaves, not into fruit; and we see in the Corinthians, that na∣turally men are more prone to desire the gifts of Gods Spirit, which are for publick administration, more then the graces of sanctification. But (alas) to be a good prea∣cher, a good disputant, to be able to make good enlarged prayers, do argue only Spiritum moventem, not inhabitantem, the Spirit of God breathing on thee, not dwelling in thee; neither doth God bestow this on thee for any love to thy soul, but because of his Church, as nurses to Princes children feed on delicate fare, not for their own sake, but for the childrens sake to whom they give milk: Hence it is that they preach that Gospel, that faith, that Christ to others, which they do not partake off, and so are like those posts in high-wayes, with hands on them, directing to such or such a way, but they never stirre out of the place they are in: Oh therefore that the Ministers of God could become sons of thun∣der in this matter, you have had experience of God inabling, inlarging, in∣creasing the common gifts of his Spirit, but what have you felt of Gods renew∣ing, sanctifying and healing of your lusts?
Secondly, They may have some practical experience of the bitternesse of sinne, and*the terrors that come by it. We may not think that the terrours upon Cain and Ju∣das, were by a meer natural light of conscience, for such could quickly be di∣stinguished, but there was also the Spirit of God convincing and setting sinne home upon the conscience, Hence Rom. 8. the Spirit of God is called, The Spi∣rit of bondage and fear, because it works such fear and trouble in the heart of a sinner, not the sinfulness of them, but the troublesom motions and stirrings of them in our souls: Thus we may not say, that those humiliations of Ahab and the Israelites, when they cried out to God because of their sins, were by the meer power of their natural free-will, but by the common work of the Spirit of God; and thus those many gripes and wounds of heart, which are inflicted up∣on many in the preaching of the Word, whereby the memory of their sins is like wormwood and gall to them, floweth from the Spirit of God; whatsoever is wrought instrumentally by the Word, is efficiently from Gods Spirit; and this experience confirmeth that many men who yet are not made new creatures, have an hell sometimes in their hearts, their consciences can tell that it is a bit∣ter thing to sinne against God. Yea because the time hath been, when they have had such wounds and blows, they therefore conclude, that they were in the new birth, and although they brought forth nothing but winde in all that pain, yet they rejoyce as if a man-childe, a new creature were born. It may not therefore be denied, but even one who is a wilde olive, and not yet implanted in Christ, may have the inward feeling of Gods displeasure for sinne, may be able to tell you the time hath been they could not eat, or drink, or sleep, but cry∣ed out, Oh their sins, sins, sins; but yet do not demonstrate Christ dwel∣ling in them.
Thirdly, They may have practical experience of desires and longing affections after things that are good. They having sudden and confused apprehensions of the goodness of spiritual things, may have some such general affections and desires after them; In such a temper they cry out, Joh. 6. 34. Lord give us evermore this bread; Christ told them, He was the manna and bread of life, and speaks of the benefits that come to such who eat and feed on him, it is bread not only that nourisheth, but giveth life (which no other bread doth) Hereupon in a confu∣sed manner with some good affections, they cry, Give us evermore this bread; They were like Peter in a transfiguration, not knowing what they said; Thus Balaam he is in such a transfiguration, for he foreseeing the happiness of the peo∣ple of God, Wishes to die the death of the righteous; yea is affected with the spi∣ritual Ordinances and worship of God among them, How beautifull are thy ta∣bernacles, O Israel? (saith he) in those sudden flashes upon him; How often are people deluded in this, because in some fits they have good affections and desires.
Page 15 Fourthly, They have a practical experience of some sweetnesse and joy in the Ordi∣nances*of God, and some assurance of Gods favour flowing thencefrom. Thus Matth. 13. They received the word with joy; and Johns hearers were said for a while to re∣joyce in his light; Ezckiel was to his hearers, As a pleasant Song; And Hebr. 6. Those, who had not things accompanying salvation, are said, To taste of the word of God; They did taste it as Jonathan did a little honey, but had not the full of it. Whereas the people of God are said to eat his flesh, and drink his bloud, yea rivers of living water are said to flow out of their belly; and from these experimental tastings arise some confidence of their condition, which is de∣clared in the foolish virgins, who with much boldness, and without any suspi∣tion of their want of oil, Go out to meet the Bridegroom; Now this is thought a great matter, if so be their hearts have been at any time sweetned and mollified in the Ordinances of God.
Fifthly, They have such an experimental working, as that it hath influence upon*their lives and conversations, it makes some alteration and change there. 2 Pet. 2. 10. Those Apostates who returned to their own vomit, and so never had true grace, are said to escape the pollutions of the world, through the knowledge of Christ, and therefore they are called Virgins, Matth. 25. though foolish ones, because they were kept from the prophaneness of others; Now, a man would think this were all in all, what would you have more? Those that stole steal no more, those that were drunk are so no more, those that were filthy are so no more; but yet as the Swine are Swine for their natures, though washed from their mire; thus are they unregenerate and filthy still, though outwardly cleansed: By these instances you see, that even men who are not in the faith after a sanctifying and saving manner, may yet have many seeming works of grace on their soul.
But yet there is a difference many waies, I shall but briefly and generally * touch at the differences, because they will come in more properly in the coun∣terfeits.
In the first place, There is a difference in the very nature of them. That which is in the godly differs from that in the most refined hypocrite, as much as gold from drosse, or true pearls from counterfeits; Hence Matth. 13. the fourth ground, or kinde of hearers, are only said to have an honest and good heart. So that the soil of one ground differs essentially from the other, and this may be abundantly cleared, in that the promises of Justification and eternal life are not made to any kinde of faith that an hypocrite hath, but they are made to the faith of a godly man, though it be in the least degree; so that a little infant in true grace, may by the hand of faith receive Christ, when a Gyant-like hypocrite, cannot take him: but more of this in time.
A second difference is in clearnesse and evidence; That which they do know * about the things of God is in a more confused manner, because that light in them is but by way of flash, and a sudden enlightning, not as permanent and abiding light in them; a little sip or taste of heavenly things cannot inable a man exactly to comprehend the excellency and worth of them. Therefore they see these things, as the man not perfectly cured of his blindeness, That saw men walking by like trees. It is true, the holiest that are do but see in part; and David prayeth, That his eyes may be opened to see the wonderfull things in Gods law. Thus Paul also prayeth for the Ephesians, who yet were light in the Lord, that their eyes might be opened, and they have the spirit of wisdom and revelation: but yet is not like the purblinde hypocrite, who doth by a question rather judge of godly things, then any way else.
A third difference is in the operation, for the experience of the godly inclineth * them spiritually, makes them more holy, carrieth them out of themselves, where∣as all that is done upon the unsound Christian ends in carnal effects, it makes him puffed up, vainly confident in himself. Thus the Pharisees, though they did abound in the duties of the Law, yet their greatest corruptions did run out there. Page 16 Hence a Pharisee praying, a Pharisee giving alms, was a Pharisee in all the pow∣er of his corruption. John 3. He that is not born of the Spirit, is flesh; and this flesh doth extend not only to his sins and corruptions, but also to his duties; Therefore observe whether the duties that for the matter of them be spiritual, are also spiritual in the effect, that they leave thee more humble, outed of thy self, more depending upon Christ and his grace, more mortified to the world, and the temptations thereof. It may fall out that a mans religious duties be the stage up∣on which all a mans lusts do eminently act, as the Pharisees who did all things to be seen of men.
We might be larger in giving you symptomatical differences, but because they will fall in upon the several particulars, or in the next Doctrine about the signs * and characters of grace, I forbear, concluding with a Use of Exhortation, not to be too credulous and facile in believing our selves to be good and right. Wo∣full may the cosenings and supplantations of thy own heart be. What may you not be? What may you not do, and yet be unsound? Oh how burdensome will it be when men shall say, Lord, Have we not been enlarged in thy service? Lord, Have we not mourned in thy presence? Have we not rejoyced in the good Word that hath been preached to us? and yet God to return this, Inas∣much as you did it not upon sound and sincere grounds, you did it not to me, Depart ye workers of iniquity. Draw off all your thoughts, disputes, medi∣tations from other points, and mind this one necessary thing. Thou disputest, Whether there be a true Church, a true Ministery, true Ordinances, Oh con∣sider, Whether there be true grace in thy heart. The Pharisees kept the feast of purifications, or cleansing of the Temple, but were foul and unclean in their own souls. As God declared his invisible Attributes of wisdom, power and good∣ness by the visible works he did in the Creation of the world, so do thou mani∣fest that secret and hidden efficacy of Christ in thee, by a powerfull and vigor∣ous life of godliness; These are miracles that will confirm thee to come from God. Good is that of Austin, when pride tickleth thee and would puff thee up, say, Ovem te putas, hircum fortè novit te Deus, Thou thinkest thy self a sheep, but it may be God knoweth thee to be a goat; and again, when despair and unbelief assaults thee, say, Hircum te putas, ovem te fortè Deus novit. Thou thinkest thy self a Goat, but God knoweth thee to be a sheep it may be. Not as if we perswaded you to doubting, or commended uncertainty, as the Papists do, but an holy fear and trembling to make our calling and election sure, which the Apostle Peter doth.
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.
Handling the Adjuncts of Assurance, viz. The Possibility, Excellency, Difficulty and Ne∣cessity of having it.
2 COR. 13. 5.
THis Text (as is proved) is a sure foundation of that profitable and necessary Doctrine, viz. The Certainty that a godly man may have of that Grace which is wrought in him, I come to adde two more Propositions, which may further declare the nature of this Truth,
As first, There are three things when we speak of Certainty, that are confounded by some Divines, and accurately distinguished by others; and they are Fides, Fiducia,* and Certitudo, Faith, Affiance or Confidence, and Assurance. In the writings of many Authors these are spoken of promiscuously, as the same thing; yea Faith is by many learned men defined to be a full perswasion of the heart, &c. which definition though it was maintained by them out of a good intent against all Po∣pish doubtings, yet it is not a Truth in the thing; for many have Faith, yea ju∣stifying Faith, who have none of this Assurance; and this definition hath plun∣ged many tender Consciences into sad Labyrinths, as if they had no Faith at all, because no Assurance at all: But of this more hereafter. Others therefore speak more distinctly, and also consonantly to that place of Scripture, Ephes. 3. 11. where Faith in Christ is said to have three effects, 1. Affiance or Confidence. 2. Boldness or Assurance, and both these come from Faith. 3. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Readi∣ness of accesse to call upon God in times of adversities, so that a believer is made Gods favourite, and it is not against Law (as Esthers was) to go in and speak to this great King. Now whether Faith, Confidence and Assurance differ onely as so many degrees; as a Childe, a Youth and a Man; or whether they differ as se∣veral kinds, is to subtil a dispute. This is certain, That unlesse our Faith go so far as in a special manner to apply Christ to us, it cannot justifie us, or do us any good: Others were in the croud besides the woman that had the bloudy flux, but she touching of him did partake of vertue from him. Though an Israelite had look∣ed upon all other Objects as well as the brazen Serpent, yet beholding that only did cure him; So though our Faith be carried out to the whole Word of God, yet it is the applying and resting upon Christ that doth justifie us: Let not then a gracious heart despair as if it had no interest in Christ, because it hath not yet attained to Assurance, God that hath begun to make thee desire Christ, that hath supported thee under thy fears and guilt, will at last give thee Assurance; for God bestoweth these mercies by degrees, even as Boaz did to Ruth; he first gave her gleanings, then her meals, and lastly his own self. God may come unto thee in mighty rushing winds before he come in a still quiet voice, Nil tam cer∣tum, quam quod ex dubio certum, nothing is so certain, as that which is so after doubting. The shaking of the Trees by mighty windes, doth make the root Page 23 more firm, and so may these temptations be a foundation of greater joy and boldness.
Secondly, The Assurance Gods people have of their estate of grace, is not so high*and full as that it excludes all doubting, for there is nothing Perfect in us in this life, whether it be Duty or Consolation, but as the Flesh lusteth against the Spirit in regard of Sanctification, so it doth also in respect of Consolation; We see Da∣vid subject to many Convulsion-fits, his Psalms sometimes discover Confidence and Assurance, sometimes again Dejection and great Diffidence, so that Samson with his Hair grown, and his Hair cut, doth not more differ from himself in strength and weakness, then David doth. We do not therefore maintain or plead for such an Assurance that excludeth all Doubting, all Conflicts and Agonies, such as the glorified Saints in Heaven have, but such a certainty as is grievously assault∣ed by Satan the Prince of darkness, and by the unbelief of our own hearts; and although we make Doubting as a grievous sin, yet we say it cannot be avoided, because of that remainder of corruption which is still in us, insomuch that it's a received Maxim in Practical Divinity, grounded also upon Scripture, That he which never Doubted never Believed; as he that will say he is never Proud, it is a sign he was never Humble; now the ground of this Truth is from that foun∣tain of sinne that is still in every man; so that he can neither do any Duty, or partake of any Comfort without the dregs of corruption; there is the leaven of sinne that doth sowr both. There is some Gall in all our Honey; and by this means godly Assurance (as is to be shewed) doth differ from all that carnal confidence and presumption which is in wicked men; and we may justly say to them that which Isaac did to Jacob, when he brought his counterfeit Venison, How comest thou by it so soon? This Land of Canaan is not so easily possessed, yea as the Aegyptians did most oppresse the Israelites when they were getting out of their power, so doth the Devil most buffet and assault those who have escaped his snares: And as the Trees that are fullest of fruit have their boughes most bro∣ken; so the people of God that carry about with them the richest Treasures of Gods Grace, have the greatest encounters from Satan. We read the Devil tem∣pting Christ upon this very Point, Whether he were the Son of God. It is no wonder then if he do frequently try thy strength and comfort. Besides, the failing in our Duties is a ground of coming short in our Comforts. Hence commonly the most active Christian hath the greatest Comfort, and he that walketh loosly and la∣zily, is fullest of Doubts; as the waters that runne swiftly breed no vermine, no croaking Frogs, but those that are sluggish, and are constagnated in a Pool.
Before we come to the practical Questions about this Assurance of Grace, we * will consider these Adjuncts of it. 1. The Possibility of it. 2. The Excellency of it. 3. The Difficulty of it. 4. The Necessity of it.
First, The Possibility of it is seen, in that the people of God have enjoyed it. When David doth so often call God his God and his Portion, acknowledging with joy and thankfulnesse that he had forgiven his sins, doth not this suppose a Certain∣ty? When that man said, O Lord, I believe, Did he speak he knew not what? And Paul, how often doth he manifest such an Assurance! and lest it should be thought he had it by some special Revelation, he doth Rom. 8. inferre this Assu∣rance from those grounds, which are common to all the people of God, do not therefore think it impossible, saying, Who will go up to Heaven and bring a Re∣velation for me, that God is my God? for thou hast the same wayes to obtain it, as the people of God have had heretofore.
Again secondly, The Possibility of it is seen in that a man may be assured of his*dogmatical Faith; That is, a man may be assured that he doth believe such Prin∣ciples of Religion upon a divine ground; and if so, why not also that he loveth God and his children upon true Motives; as also that his Repentance hath all Page 24 true Ingredients into it. And indeed if a man could not tell whether he did be∣lieve upon supernatural grounds, he could not truly but upon a bold venture say, he did believe in God in deed, that there is a Church of God, or a Resurrection of our bodies.
Thirdly, The Possibility of it appeareth from the Institution of Sacraments, as Signs and Seals particularly to witnesse Gods love to us; So that as the appointing * of Seals among men doth argue an intent of making bargains and contracts sure: Thus God appointing Sacraments in a visible particular Application, doth here∣by declare his Will, that his Children should be sure; so that to overthrow As∣surance is to take away the Sacraments; As a man doth prize that wax which is made up in a seal to confirm his inheritance to him, more then all the wax in the world; so do Christians look upon bread and wine consecrated and set apart for that use of signification and obsignation of the benefits of Christ, more then all other bread and wine.
Lastly, If Assurance were not possible, the defect would be either in the Object, or in the Means to attain it, or in the Subject. In the Object there can be no defect, * as all say, for Gods Promises are in Christ Yea and Amen; and no iota or tittle of Gods Word in the promising part of it, can any more passe away, then in the preceptive or threatning part of it. Then there can be no defect in the means to obtain it; for there is the Spirit of God efficiently to work it; There are the Sacraments appointed on purpose to confirm us; There are Ministers to instruct and inform about it. Neither is there any defect in the subject, for although the heart of a man be naturally deceitfull and full of crafty wickedness, so that the Scripture cals him a fool who trusteth in it; yet being now renewed by Gods Spirit, that guile and hypocrisie is in a great measure removed, and he doth not see and discern by his own strength meerly, but by the Spirit of God enabling and guiding of him; So that as Gods Spirit working by the Law, doth convince a man in particular of his sins, filleth him with despair of himself and every thing he doth, makes him to see he is an undone and a lost man; so the same Spi∣rit through the Promise of the Gospel, doth perswade us of Gods love, revealing it outwardly in the Word, and shedding it abroad inwardly in our hearts.
Secondly, The Necessity of it appeareth, 1. From the Nature of Faith. It * is of an establishing and setling Nature. It is a Pillar and an Anchor to the soul, and although Assurance is a separable effect from it, yet the Scripture makes Doubting and Fear to be opposite to believing. Hence is trusting in God compa∣red to rolling our selves upon him, to staying the minde, to resting of the heart, &c. So that by strong and customary Acts of believing on Christ, and patiently waiting, we come at last to be assured.
2. There is a Necessity from Gods Glory. It is not enough that God doth work Grace in us, and sanctifie us; but we are to know this, that we may praise and * blesse God for it: Can a man in his sleep, or in a swound, when his senses are stu∣pified, praise God that he liveth? no more can a Christian staggering with un∣certainties, and lying in all darknesse of minde: how therefore should this quicken us up to obtain this Mercy! How much Glory doth God lose by thy fears! As David argued, Doe the dead praise thee? So doe thou say, O Lord, Do they in darknesse and that have no light, glorifie thee for thy good∣ness to them!
3. Hereby we shall have more Joy and Peace in our hearts: Oh what an Hell must every mans heart be that hath not some little light at least of this in * his Soul? What Legions of tormenting Doubts must needs possesse him, till he have some support this way? How can a man be sick, be in dan∣gers, be under the stroke of death, who hath no knowledge of any Good that God hath wrought in him? See how this supported Hezekiah in his Page 25 sicknesse, Remember, O Lord, how I have walked before thee with a true heart. And thus Paul is animated to look Death in the face, because he knew He had fought a good fight: and is not this the complaint of many languishing on their death-beds? Oh if they had Assurance, how willingly could they de∣part out of this world!
4. In the Usefulnesse of it, hereby we shall be enlarged and quickned up to all*holy Duties. He that hath this Hope purifieth himself, even as God is pure, 1 John 3. 3. And Having these Promises, saith the Apostle, viz. of God being our God, and we his people, Let us cleanse our selves from all filthinesse of flesh and spirit, 2 Cor. 7. 1. We believe, therefore we speak; and therefore it is an opinion against manifest Experience, that Assurance of Gods Love will beget Presum∣ption and carnal Security, whereas indeed this will be like fire in our bowels, wings to our Souls: Doth not the Childes Knowledge and Assurance that his Father loves him, beget all willingnesse, and readinesse of Obedience? And is not the Rule, Si vis amari, ama, Love if thou wouldst be loved? When there∣fore the Soul shall be perswaded that God in great Love hath wrought such mercies for him, Will not this make him seven times more enflamed to God?
In the third place, We have the Difficulty, few do attain unto it, and that from * these grounds,
First, Where the sense and feeling of the guilt of sinne is, there we present∣ly look upon God as an Enemy, think of him as of a Man that cannot for∣give, but will certainly avenge. Thus Cain and Judas, how prone were they to despair! And therefore the word to Assure, 1 John 3. 19. signifieth Per∣swade, implying that our Hearts have many froward and peevish Ob∣jections; and we are many times as Rachel mourning, and would not be com∣forted.
Secondly, It ariseth from the desperate Hypocrisie and falsenesse of our Hearts.* This is urged by the Papists too farre, as if it were such a Deep, that the Spi∣rit of God also could not assure us what we are; but thus farre it manifesteth, That Comfort or Assurance is not a Flower that groweth in our Garden, but if the Spirit of God should not both work Grace in us, and give us eyes to discern it, we should remain in a dark Chaos.
Thirdly, It ariseth from our pronenesse to walk negligently and carelesly. We * are beaten down with many Temptations, and therefore do quickly lose our hopes; for this Assurance is preserved in the continual exercise of Grace. Hence the Apostle useth two words 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, The rather give all Diligence to make your Calling and Election sure, 2 Pet. 1. 10. Implying that if we walk not carefully in the use of all the means of Grace, which God hath appointed, we cannot obtain it; but now, how are we in coldness, lukewarmness, earthliness, &c. often, and so grieve that Spirit of God which would seal us?
Fourthly, It is Difficult from outward Causes, as first from Satan, who hath fiery*Darts, is a Manslayer from the beginning, and endeavours to keep in doubts and fears, that so at last we may be even wearied out, and rage against God. When the Devil cannot hinder us in our Duties, he doth it in our Comforts and Conso∣lations; as the Spirit of God is the Comforter, because of that special benefit it brings to the people of God; So the Devil is the Tempter, and watcheth the opportunity to throw bitter wormwood into every condition we are in: As the Pirates do beset and wait for those ships that are fullest of gold, and other trea∣sures; yea therefore never are wicked men cast down with those fears and trou∣bles as the godly are; They know not the meaning of spiritual Temptations, nor what it is to have the light of Gods countenance denied them.
2. On Gods part, he makes it difficult, That hereby his favour may be the more prized. The Church that had carelesly put off her Beloved, afterwards makes Page 26 great and vehement enquiry after him, and cannot finde him. Though it arise not from the Doctrine of Assurance, to make us careless and negligent; yet sometimes this may be abused through our corruption.
Lastly, Here is the Excellency of this Priviledge several wayes;
First, This keeps up excellent Fellowship and Acquaintance with God. The Church * that could say, I am my welbeloveds, and my welbeloved is mine, did abound in spi∣ritual Society with Christ: Hence the Church glorieth in this expression four or five times; whereas fears and doubts keep us aloof off, and make us slavishly trembling about him.
Secondly, It will work a Filial and an Evangelical frame of heart. The Spi∣rit * of Adoption enabling us to call God Father, makes us also have the humble disposition of Sons; Hereby we are carried out to do him service for pure intenti∣ons and motives.
Thirdly, It will support, although there be nothing but outward misery and trouble. In those times when we cannot be assured of any thing, such as these are, not as∣sured * of our estates, safety or lives; yet if assured of the grace of God wrought in our souls, this will be like a wall of Marble that cannot be beaten down. Thus Rom. 8. Paul triumpheth over all difficulties upon this ground.
Fourthly, It will much enflame in Prayer, when we are assured of Gods love. This * kindles Desires, encreaseth Hopes to speed, and so makes the Soul more importu∣nate; and in this respect David doth encourage himself in prayer many times: If Experience breeds Hope, much more will Assurance.
Fifthly, It makes a man walk with much tendernesse against sinne; As being that only evil, which would put him out of the heaven he is in, for having now the * Experience how sweet the Lord is, and how greatly his favour is to be prized, he will take heed that he do not rob himself of so great a treasure as that is. How do men fear to displease those who can if they will, keep all their earthly Evidences from them? and shall we not much rather God, who can deny us our heavenly Evidence?
Sixthly, His heart will be impatient and earnest till the coming of Christ. When he shall have a full possession and accomplishment of all Glory, I desire to depart,* saith Paul, and to be with Christ. If the beginnings be thus wonderful and excel∣lent, What will Heaven it self be, when all fears shall be abandoned! If Seneca said of his wise man, Majore parte illic est, unde descendit, He is more in Heaven then in Earth; this is much more true of the godly.
Seventhly, A full acquiescency and resting in God and Christ, as sufficient for eve∣ry kinde of want, so as They desire nothing in Heaven but him, and nothing in Earth*besides him, and hereby having drunk of this water they thirst no more, but all their happiness is in him. Blessed is the man that is partaker of such a priviledge, and happy is he who in this manner hath God for his God, and Christ for his Christ.
Shewing the Difference between true Assurance and Presumption.
2 COR. 13. 5.
IN the next place we are to consider, What are the Characteristical Differences between Assurance and Presumption? You have heard it to be the greatest de∣lusion and madness that can be, to have a false perswasion of our estate, as if sound and godly, when its the contrary; and yet the greatest part of Christians are delivered up to such a carnal confidence, and are like that mad Athenian who thought all the Ships on the Sea were his. How many are there, who when they hear the exact Discoveries that are made of Grace, whereby they may evi∣dently conclude, That they are for the present shut out of this Kingdom, do yet blesse themselves, as if all were well with them! It is therefore worth the while to ransack such false Evidences, to discover between Drosse and Gold, Honey and Gall, what is of the Flesh and what is of the Spirit.
In the first place, We may finde a vast Difference in the efficient cause or principle*that is procreant of the one and the other. And although causes are like the root un∣der the ground, not so visible, yet they make much to the differencing of things. Assurance is a Fruit, whose Root is in Heaven, the Spirit of God in a two-fold act, Enlightening or Revealing, and Adopting or Corroborating the heart with Filiall Evangelical Affections; but carnal presumption is a rush that groweth in the pudled mire of our own hearts; There being these internal causes that give life and breath to it.
First, An ignorance with an unexperienced apprehension of the depth of sinne, and*danger thereby. They have never yet with Paul found the Law alive, and them∣selves dead; They have not seen the great abominations of their Nature; The foulness of sinne, the purity of the Law, the exactness of Gods justice; and for want of these Discoveries and Apprehensions, they come quickly to be per∣swaded that every thing is well with them; This was Pauls case, he was alive before these thoughts came into him, he had great confidence in himself; and generally this was the state of the Pharisees who justified themselves, and the Jews who trusted in their own righteousness, not that there was any ground for them so to do, but only they were blinde and ignorant, not knowing themselves, as those of Laodicea, who thought themselves rich and full, when they were poor and miserable: So that the presumption of unregenerate men ariseth from the stupidity and blindeness in them; whereas the godly Assurance is wrought out of a gracious Illumination about the heighth, depth and breadth of sinne, with a tender affection about the weight and burden of it. Art thou then one who presumest of the love of God, and restest in the goodness of thy heart? know, that if thou wert acquainted with all the wounds sinne hath made upon thee, if thy eyes were opened to perceive the filthiness and vileness of thy nature and wayes, thou wouldst sit like Job upon the dunghill, abhorring and loathing thy self.
Page 28 Secondly, Another internal cause is self-love; that is, the Ivy which cleaveth * so close unto us, till it hath devoured our substance; by this means we flatter our selves, making everything to be good within us, and to be God, whereas it's altogether fleshly and carnal. The wise-man observeth it, That every mans wayes are clean in his own eyes, but God pondereth the heart. Quisquis se excusat sibi, accusat Deo, Whosoever doth excuse and acquit himself to himself, doth accuse himself to God. This was also the epidemical disease of the Jews, what Pro∣phet could perswade them their hearts were not right with God? Who could bring them out of love with themselves? Art thou therefore fully perswaded of thy good estate? Dost thou blesse God for thy good heart and affections? Whence is the ground of this? Is it not from self-flattery and a carnal love to thy self? If thou wert diligent and observing of thy self, this would be found indeed the real ground of all thy carnal confidence; Whereas a godly Assurance ariseth from an utter displicency, and loathing of our selves.
A second vast Difference is, From the Motives and Grounds. The godly Assu∣rance * is from and through the word of God; That which is the means of our Regeneration, is also of our Assurance, That we through the Scriptures might have comfort, saith the Apostle, 2 Cor. 1. whereas a vain presumption comes from base and unworthy motives, As
1. A meer naturall light and judgement about the state of Regeneration and*Grace; but (as you heard) Assurance comes by the light of the Spirit shining in Gods word, and the works of Grace in our hearts can be no more discerned by a natural light, then the sensitive part can apprehend the actings and workings of reason, or the natural faculty of the Will have power to do that which is su∣pernaturally good. We see a clear instance in Nicodemus, how blockish was he about the work of Regeneration? Now this is the Motive of most mens Assu∣rance, their gross mistake about the work of Grace what it is. Do not the most of men think this Godliness consistent with frequent and constant Practices of Im∣pieties and daily neglect of holy Duties? How many say, They have a good heart, notwithstanding their bad tongues and lives? But if they are not so grosse as to be deluded herein, Do not many take a fair, civil and moral Conversation, void of scandal, to be the Scripture-godliness, and because they are so, though they have no more, are therefore perswaded of their sanctified condition? Nay, a mans mistake may yet go farre higher, viz. when they take those workings of Gods Spirit which are but for a season, or are in some imperfect and short De∣grees, being without root in the soul, for the peculiar saving work of Grace, which is in the truly regenerated only. Now how easie is to be deceived one of these wayes, and with the foolish Virgins Matth. 25. to die confidently, and boldly go to meet the Bridegroom, when yet they want oil? See therefore if the Motive of thy Assurance be not an absolute mistake about the nature of san∣ctifying Grace.
2. The Motive of a godly Assurance is not from any Worth, Merit or Perfection*we deem in our selves, but only from the Truth and Sincerity of Grace, with many defects that are washed away by Christs bloud. Hence Paul, Though he knew nothing by himself, yet he was not thereby justified. Therefore the Popish description of their Hope making it to arise partly from the merits of Christ, and partly from their own merits, is bold Presumption. We do not defend such an Assurance as shall arise from a full and perfect Obedience unto Gods Law; (nay we have an Assurance, such an Obedience cannot be in this life) but only a certain perswa∣sion of the uprightnesse of our hearts in the wayes of God. Now the Popish Arguments, they militate against Assurance chiefly upon this ground, Because none can say, he hath a clean heart, and that in many things we offend. These places argue indeed strongly against a perfection in this life, but not against a gra∣cious Assurance.
3. A carnal Presumption ariseth many times from the outward comforts and plenty*Page 29they enjoy. They look upon their Riches, Children, Honours, as so many Te∣stimonies of Gods Love to them, and Arguments of the Reward of their Obe∣dience. Because the Scripture hath many temporal Promises unto those that walk in Gods waies, they finding themselves blessed with such advantages, do thencefrom infer their Piety. But the Scripture gives many Antidotes against this tumor and swelling, telling us that such stand in slippery places, yea that these things may become a snare unto them, encreasing both their sinne and torment. Quandoque divitae dantur ad poenam, said Augustin, as Solomon observed, Riches, for the hurt of the owners. That place in Ecclesiastes, No man knoweth love, or ha∣tred by these things below, doth not, as the Papists would have it, prove no Assu∣rance at all, but no Assurance by outward mercies and favours, Dives received his good things in this life, and Lazarus evil things; but a genuine Assurance that is most powerfull and operative in all outward distresses and miseries. You see it in David by some of his Psalms, how confident in God, when all outward things did witnesse the contrary! Thus Hezekiah when under the stroke of death, is supported with the truth of Grace in his soul: but all carnal confidence vanish∣eth in time of distresse, they then rage and rave, not knowing what to do; See then what it is that beareth up thy heart, that keeps up thy Spirit: Is it thy Wealth, thy Estate? Alas, how are these things bestowed many times upon those whom God hates, if these go to happiness then Christ was not happy, who be∣came poor that we might be rich? It was well observed by Augustin, That God giveth Riches sometimes to wicked men, that we may not think they are good in themselves; and sometimes he giveth them to godly men, that we may not think them evil in themselves. God may give thee these things, and not Christ, but if he giveth us Christ, how shall he not with him give us all things else?
The third Difference is In respect of the Manner and Method the Spirit of God*doth usually work Assurance. For although The winde bloweth where it list, and Gods waies are many times diversified unto his people, yet commonly as Face an∣swereth face, so do the hearts of Gods people one another; Insomuch that what is Communis sensus fidelium, though it be not like Scripture, yet is of grave and serious Authority, now in these wayes the people of God come to have As∣surance,
1. By a deep and serious Humiliation for sin, and feeling the burden of it. Matth. * 11. such only are promised to finde rest in their souls; Christ did not assure Mary Magdalen Her sins were forgiven, till she wept much for them. We do not limit this to any time or degree of Humiliation, but unto the truth of it. Come we then to a man who is confident of all things, as well with him; Oh, But what travails hath thy soul had before the joy of such a man-childe born unto thee. Rom. 8. The Spirit of God, is a spirit of bondage, before it is a spirit of Adoption. And this very particular is enough to shake the foundations of many mens build∣ings. What deep digging was there in thy heart before this superstruction? I know this true and safe practical Divinity is rejected by some upstart flashie spirits, who turn Religion into Notions and Opinions. But Paul Rom. 7. and Chap. 8. doth fully describe such a progresse and method upon himself; first, The disco∣very of sin by the Law, whereby he judged himself miserable and out of measure sinfull, and then the apprehension of Christs Grace upon this. This Assurance will not grow upon an heart not ploughed up. The Needle must pierce the heart before this silk can follow.
2. Another Method whereby God worketh Assurance, is by conflicts of doubts, and*opposition of unbelief. For seeing that Assurance is a fruit of Gods Spirit, and doubting a working of the flesh, it cannot be but the Apostles ru•• must be made good, The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh. I like not the Assurance that never doubted; it is like the temper of that man, who said, All these have I kept from my youth. It cannot be thought that so great and spiri∣tual Page 30 a mercy should be brought into thy soul, and thy heart not be in many com∣motions. Apprehensions of Grace in us, accompanied with sense and feeling of our imperfections are alwaies good symptoms, as in that man, Lord, I believe (there was his Assurance of Grace in him) help my unbelief, There was a perceiving of his defects. As David hath sometimes the Sunshine of Gods favour, and it's clear with him; so at other times he is in the dark, and much wavering.
3. God worketh Assurance out of the vehement and fiery assaults of Satan. As * Christ himself escaped not his Arrows; so neither do his members. Wo to that man whose peace the Devil doth not disquiet. The strong one who is the Devil kept all things in quiet, till Christ the stronger come. As the Basilisk hateth the very picture of a man; so doth the Devil oppose the resemblance of Christ. Think therefore that vain Presumption, and not godly Assurance, which is not opposed by hell it self. It is an Aegyptian, not an Israelite, if Pharaoh do not oppresse him.
A fourth real Difference is In the Effects of godly Assurance, whereby it doth as*much out strip Presumption as light doth darknesse.
1. This godly Assurance is diligent in the use of the means, carefull to perform all Duties, and in the neglect of these it either perisheth, or is much weakned, Give all diligence (saith the Apostle) to make your calling and election sure, 2 Pet. 1. 10. So that where Diligence, and all Diligence is not used, there is no Assurance. This is the Oil which keeps the Lamp burning; in earnest Prayer, holy use of Sacra∣ments, walking universally in all Gods wayes, is this godly certainty maintain∣ed; whereas carnal confidence is big, and swelling even in the neglect, yea pro∣phane contempt of the means. A man that doth not pray, that polluteth himself with daily sins, yet he is throughly perswaded of his happiness. As therefore in the ordinary passages of Gods Providence, he is rightly judged a presumer who will perswade himself of life, when yet he will neither eat or drink, be assured of wealth and riches, when yet he will use no Diligence: such an arrogant sottishness is in a spiritual presumer.
2. Godly Assurance the more it is, the more doth it inflame the heart with love to*God. It is like the burning Glasse that by the reflection of the Sun-beams doth cause a fire to be kindled within, as we told you of David and Paul; and none do so highly blesse God and praise him, as those that have this Assurance: but carnal presumption worketh into a love of the creature, or comforts he enjoyes, and careth the lesse for God. As the Adulteresse the more confident she is of her husbands love, the more bold and impudent she is to abuse it. The Spirit of Adoption giving a filial Disposition, and Assurance of a Fathers love doth much melt a filial frame of heart; but if love be shewed to a servile slavish spirit, it makes more haughty and lofty. Consider therefore how thy Assurance worketh in thee, doth it put out all love to sin and the world? Doth it kill inordinate affections to things below, and raise up thy heart to God, delighting and rejoycing in him? This is a comfortable demonstration of good Assurance.
3. Godly Assurance is potent and able to keep up the heart under all discouragements*and desolations. Thus David in that sad exigence, Encouraged himself in the Lord his God. This Certainty of our Propriety and Interest in God, is an Ark to the soul in the midst of many waters; whereas take any carnal confident man, his heart becomes like a stone within him, when all carnal hopes fail. And this is a preci∣ous symptome, see in the midst of these confusions thou livest in, when Heaven and Earth seem to be mingled together, What makes thee rejoyce and to lift up thy head with gladness? Is it that Knowledge thou hast of God to be thy God? Is it those pledges and pawns in thy soul of his eternal love and goodness unto thee? This is something. But alas, as the hypocrites joy, so his confidence will quickly perish. It is not a Star fixed in the Orb made of quintessential matter, but a blazing Star composed of slimy materials, which will quickly consume and vanish away. True Adamant (saith Origen Hom. 3. in Jer.) is tried by this, if it Page 31 can endure the hammer, if under the hammer above, and the anvil below, it continue more obdurate, then it is true metal: So it is with true Assurance, it abideth though billows and waves come upon it. So that troubles will discern the truth of thy Graces and Comforts, sooner then any thing else. Hence Cameron observeth, That Mercies are never called Temptations in the Scripture, but Afflictions, because it is so difficult to be deprived of that we desire.
Fifthly, We may finde a palpable Difference in the Companions or Concomitants of*it. As
1. It's accompanied with holy fear and trembling, for as Gods Word doth not contradict it self, when in some places it cals upon us to make our Calling sure, and in other places to work out our Salvation with fear and trembling; So neither may these two Graces contradict one another, as they are in the subject. So then, they who are assured, though they rejoyce, yet they rejoyce with trembling. Those who are assured they shall stand, yet take heed lest they fall. As a man that looketh down from some place where Battlements are, though while he holds on them, he knoweth he cannot fall, yet when he looks to the ground, that is so deep below him, he cannot but fear he should fall; so that at the same time he hath both an Assurance of not falling, and a fear of falling, though not from the same considerations. Thus it is with the people of God, whereas carnal pre∣sumption excludeth all kinde of fear, obstructeth all diligence.
2. A second Companion is Humility and lowlinesse of minde. For the greater mer∣cies * God bestoweth upon his people, the lowlier they are in their own eyes, as the Virgin Mary witnesseth in her Song, and David in Gods kindness to him, whereas in carnal presumption, the more confidence, the more pride in our selves, and despising of others. How might we prove that a Pharisee had not Assurance of Grace in him, but vain-confidence; by this, viz. that he despised other men as sinners to him? And this may make us justly doubt, whether many that speak of immediate Revelations and Assurances they have from Gods Spirit, be not in a proud delusion, by contemning others as low, and not acquainted with the Spirit of God. For if there be such a danger even in godly men, when lifted up to great priviledges, as in Paul, Wrapt up into the third Heavens, of becoming proud, that Paul is assaulted with buffetings of Satan, to keep him low, and he repeats it twice 2 Cor. 12. 7. Lest I should be lifted up above measure, in the begin∣ning of the verse; and again, Lest I should be lifted up, in the end of the verse. Hierom compareth this Temptation of Satan exercising Paul in the midst of his Revelations, to the Boy that was a Monitor, who cried aloud to him that rode in triumph, Mementote esse hominem, Remember thy self to be a man. If, I say, there be such danger even in godly men, when they have the real works of Gods Spi∣rit, what cause is there of pride in corrupted men, who have only puff-paste de∣lusions of Satan? When therefore thy perswasion of Gods love to thee, raiseth up lofty mountains in thy soul, thou lookest upon thy self in heaven, while others grovel upon the ground, thou deemest thy self to be as much above other Chri∣stians, as an Angel is above a Worm; then fear this, coming from the devil trans∣forming himself into an Angel of light.
Lastly, It differeth in the contrary or opposite which will destroy it. Assurance be∣ing * wrought by Gods Spirit, is only interrupted by sin. Grieve not the Spirit of God, by which ye are sealed. So that even corrupt and idle communication, even little sins (as the world judgeth) may greatly disturb our certainty: But carnal presumption is not weakned through sinne, only outward troubles or horrours of conscience vanquish that. As the Casuists give a difference between me∣lancholy, and trouble of conscience for sinne; Melancholy is removed by bodi∣ly remedies, merry company, variety of imploiment; but trouble of consci∣ence can onely be taken away by comforts out of the Scripture. Though Cain travailed and builded Cities, yet that could not free him from that trembling guilt within him. Thus it is on the contrary, Peace in the holy Ghost wrought by Page 32 Assurance, is only excluded by sinne or lukewarmnesse in holy Duties: but sin∣full confidence abideth the same, till it be shaken, or removed by some outward troubles.
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.
Holding forth divers Propositions and Distinctions about Marks and Assurance.
2 COR. 13. 5.
WE come now to the second general part of the second Doctrine, which is, That there are such Characters and Signs of Grace, whereby a man may know whether he be in the state of Grace or no. It is a point worth dis∣cussion, and I know not any thing more necessary at this time, seeing there are many who wholly cry down Ministers that preach signs of Grace, and discourage Christians that use such a method for a trial. It is also necessary, because there is much prudence required in the Minister, while he preaches about signs; and it is an art of arts for a Christian, to manage that way, so as not to split himself upon some rock or other. Therefore that this whole Doctrine may be more exact∣ly discovered, consider these introductory particulars.
First, That by the inherent Grace of Sanctification in us, we come to have a super∣natural*being. So that as natural things have a natural being by that natural form which is in them: Thus also the godly have a spiritual and supernatural by that infused principle of an holy life in them, 2 Pet. 1. 4. we are hereby said to be Par∣takers of the divine nature, 2 Cor. 5. 17. Such a regenerated man is called a new creature, and indeed the very word of regeneration, or new birth, supposeth a new being not essentially, but in respect of those gracious habits and qualities which the Spirit of God worketh in him; This also is called the inward man, 2 Cor. 4. 16. Nerimbergius the Jesuite thinketh Paul fetcheth that distinction of an inward and outward man from Plato, who maketh such a difference; This work of Grace is that image of God in us, whereby we resemble him, so that godliness is not a notion, a meer fiction, but a supernatural, power full reality, whereby a man hath a new denomination, of ungodly he is become godly, even Page 38 as in natural things by a physical motion there is a reall transmutation, as of cold to become hot; or in moral things, as of a fool to become wise. Let not there∣fore any dream of holiness in themselves, unlesse there be such a powerfull alte∣ration from the state of sinne. Hence it is compared to the Resurrection, and indeed Regeneration makes no lesse glorious change of the soul, then that doth of the body, as by the latter Our vile bodies are made like his glorious body; so our vile and corrupted souls are become like his gracious and holy soul. Tully said, in regard of our souls, which he thought a divine spark from the glorious Essence of God, Scito te esse Deum, Know thy self to be God: This was upon a danger∣ous foundation; but we may truly say, because of those supernatural principles, even the image of God within thee, what God once did ironically, Behold, man is become like one of us.
Secondly, Inherent Grace being thus in us as a supernatural permanent principle*of holy actions, it hath therefore as all other things have, something that is internal and constitutive of it, and something that is consecutive or flowing from it. That which is constitutive of godliness, is the nature of the habits of graces with all their particular differences, as animal rationale is that which intrinsecally makes a man. 2. There are properties which do flow and issue from these, and these are properly the marks and signs, whereby we come to know that grace in us: for as in Philosophy, Formae nos latent, we do not know the forms or internal constitutive differences of things, Vitrum lambimus, pultem non attingimus, as Scaliger said, only we come to know the nature of things by their properties and effects; hence we have few definitions, but many descriptions of things from their properties and effects, all our knowledge being for the most part a posterio∣ri, rather then a priori, as a man that cannot see the Sun it self, because of it's glorious lustre, can behold it in a bason of water. Hence some have denied that we have a demonstrative knowledge of things, which is from the causes to the effects. To apply this to our purpose, the inward principles and immediate na∣ture of grace, is not evidenced unto us, but by the effects and proper motions, even as in a natural life there is no discerning of it, but by the motions of life; hence by inherent grace we are said to live, Gal. 2. 19, 20. Rom. 1. 17. So that as natural motions discern natural life, thus do supernatural a supernatural life; with this difference, that to this latter there is required also a peculiar illumination of Gods Spirit, Rom. 8.
Thirdly, There are differences about the signs of Grace, even as Grace it self is di∣stinguished. The Scripture cals those several gifts of extraordinary Office, Apo∣stleship, *&c.〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Graces; so that all who have an immediate call from God to any Duty, they have a grace from God; now howsoever all extraordinary Prophets have not wrought miracles to confirm their Doctrine, as John wrought no miracles, yet many times they were furnished with such a power; hence Christ and his Apostles by vertue derived from him, wrought divers miracles, insomuch as Gal. 3. this is made an argument of the presence of Gods Spirit among them.
2. There are common Graces of Gods Spirit, and to this there are common effects*and signs sufficient, such are, an historical belief, a visible profession, an outward acceptation of Christ and his Laws, when there may be no inward change of the heart at all: for as God doth call many by an outward call, whom he doth not inwardly call; so many do outwardly accept of, and prosesse the faith of Christ, which do it not inwardly; and by this means they have a visible holiness as op∣posite to the unconverted world, 1 Cor. 7. 14. There is holiness and believing op∣posed to Heathenism and Paganism; hence Heb. 10. 29. that Apostate who never had true sanctifying grace, is yet said to be sanctified by the bloud of Christ. Hence also because of the outward Sacraments men are said to be in Christ, and to have put on Christ Jesus; and upon this ground the Apostle writeth to the Churches as a company of Saints, regarding the term from which they are called, viz. the Page 39 world, and the term to which, viz. Communion and fellowship with Christ. Now the notes and marks of this common grace are easie and plain, and it may fall out that a visible number of people may have these, so that they are to be accoun∣ted a visible Church, and the Ordinances not denied to them, yet be without those signs that do indeed accompany Salvation. But we intend not to speak of such notes and characters that are enough to make one a visible member of the Church, and so to qualifie us that we may not have the Ordinances denied us, in which sense the Apostle, vers. 7. of this present 13th Chapter praieth to God, that the Corinthians may do no evil, which is not meant of evil absolutely, but restrictedly, viz. such an evil for which the Apostle should punish with Church-censures, as the context doth abundantly witness. It is true, the greatest sort of Christians satisfie themselves with common characters and signs, such as Baptism, external profession, and outward abstinence from sin; hencefrom arguing for their Sanctification and Acceptation with God: But more of this hereafter. As we must not make the signs of grace higher then the Scripture makes them, so nei∣ther ought we to draw them down lower.
Fourthly, The Scripture speaks of such marks of grace, whereby others may know that we belong to God, and of such as we may in our own hearts be evidenced thereof.* Of the first see Joh. 13. 35. By this shall all men know ye are my Disciples, if ye love one another; He doth not say, If ye work miracles, if ye raise up the dead, but if ye love one another; now what a kinde of love this ought to be, the Scripture in other pla∣ces describeth, viz. not a love in word, but in deed and in truth; now the knowledg we have of other mens graces is but charitative and conjectural; The Apostle ex∣presseth it by a supposing and a perswasion that faith is truly in such; Though men may give clear and undoubted signs of their wickedness and naughtiness, yet they cannot of their godliness and piety; because there is not any thing in Religion which may be expressed to another, which may not flow from an hypocritical heart, as well as a sound; yet the Scripture 1 Cor. 11. speaks of the end of here∣sies, That the approved may be made manifest, viz. to others: So 2 Cor. 3. 3. the *Corinthians are said to be manifestly declared To be the Epistle of Christ; but this in respect only of a moral certainty, so farre as men can perceive, otherwise it is made Gods prerogative to know who are his: Therefore the Apostle cals the in∣wards of a man, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, The hidden things of the heart. In the second place, The Scripture makes such signs, whereby we may know in our selves that we are of God, and his Spirit dwelleth in us, 1 John 2. 3. Hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments; and John is very frequent in describing grace by way of signs, in his Epistles, as is more largely to be shewed; now this knowledge and evidence which the godly have in themselves of their own grace, is farre more clear and certain, then what they have of anothers; Insomuch that it is made by some to be a certainty of faith, or at least the sense and experiment of faith, howsoever such a knowledge it is that it cannot deceive us, or be de∣ceived.
Fifthly, Those signs which the Scripture gives of grace are proper and peculiar to*the godly man only. So that whosoever hath these hath grace, and he that is with∣out them must also be without grace. Thus Matth. 13. the good ground, which is also the good and honest heart, is described by such a temper and constitution, that it differs specifically from those works which are upon hypocrites: So that howsoever that be true of Calvin, Reprobates (simili firmè sensu afficiuntur ac electi) are affected almost in like manner with the elect, yet it is but almost, and the difference between them is not gradual, but specifically, as is more largely to be shewed against Antinomians on the one side, and Arminians on the other; so that the sorrow, the faith which the godly have differ from that tanquam, as it were, sorrow and faith, which the hypocrites have, as the Philosophers say, The matter of the heavenly bodies, which they make quintessential, distereth from Page 40 that of the sublunary; so that no extension of parts, intension of degrees, pro∣tension of time, could ever make temporary faith saving faith, for Species non fit ex specie, as the maxim in Philosophy is, One distinct kinde is not compound∣ed of another, but this matter is of larger debate.
Sixthly, The Scripture describing the Marks of a godly man makes them*of different sorts, some Negative, some Positive, and the Positive do signifie more evidently then the Negative. James 1. 27. Pure Religion is described by ma∣ny Positives, and by one Negative: to be unspotted from the world. Psalm. 15. is a professed description of a godly man, wherein are six Positives and six Ne∣gatives; Now it is true, neither Negatives or Positives, as they are outwardly and visibly expressed, can be a sure testimony of godliness; for a man may doe that which is good, and abstain from that which is evil upon severall cor∣rupt grounds, every one of which is a dead Flie in a box of Ointment. In the first Psalm, a godly man is described by his Negatives; first, That he doth not sit in the counsell of the wicked, nor walketh with the ungodly, onely Ne∣gative signes doe not come up to so full a manifestation of grace, as Positive; and the reason is, because grace lieth most in the things we ought to doe, and good is more good then evil is evil, and therefore our love to the one is more to be exercised then our hatred of the other; Therefore it is a deceitfull and vain way, to argue our grace from Negatives onely, as the Pharisee did, I am no extortioner, no adulterer. For God at the day of Judgement will proceed in this form, according to the good things we have done; yet the generality of people have no other claim or plea, but what is upon Negatives, they are no such wic∣ked or prophane persons; But godliness doth not denote a meer absence of evil, but a Positive concurrence of good.
Seventhly, The Properties and Effects of Grace, may be considered Absolute∣ly,*as they are Properties, or Relatively, as they are Signs. Now the Scripture speaks of these both wayes, Gal. 6. 25. He that is Christs, hath mortified the flesh with the affections and lusts thereof. So 2 Cor. 5. 17. He that is in Christ is a new creature; Old things are past away, and all things are become new. Thus also Rom. 8. 1. Those that are in Christ Jesus are said to walk after the spirit, not after the flesh. All these Texts and the like, are only indicative, and descriptive of those subjects who are godly in their Properties; but John in his Epistles doth speak of these as they are signes, whereby we know we are of God; as more largely is to be shewed. There is a great difference between these two, for a Christian may have all the adjuncts and fruit of grace, and yet they not be signes to him, for he may be ignorant that they are in him, yea he may be strongly perswaded through temptation that he hath them not; and how often are the people of God in this sad darknesse, concluding themselves hypocrites, A barren wilder∣nesse, unsavoury salt, when yet they are the pleasant Garden of Christ! Now if these Effects were in them by way of signes, it is impossible but they should conclude themselves in a state of grace and peace: So that to be a signe is a Rela∣tive Being, by which we are brought into remembrance of something else. Thus the Sacraments are signes. Thus Rahabs red thred was a signe to remember the Israelites for her preservation. Then are the Effects of Grace by way of Marks and Signes, when in the beholding of them, we see the causes that wrought them, we see Election, Justification, Adoption and Rege∣neration from whence these flow, concluding thus, All these great and heaven∣ly things could not be in my soul, were not Christ and his Spirit there; this rich and glorious furniture could not be in my soul, were not the King of Glory there. The flowers of this garden would not smell so sweetly, did not the winde blow upon them.
Eighthly, Signs (as to our purpose) may be divided into two ranks. Natu∣ral,* which by a necessary consequence signifie; Thus smoke doth signifie there Page 41 is a fire; or Voluntary by will and appointment, such as the Sacraments are; for howsoever there be some natural Analogy and fitnesse in the Sacraments be∣tween the signes, and the things signified, yet the determinate appointing of such a signification, is meerly by the appointment of God; now concerning the Properties and Effects of Grace, as they are signes, we cannot say, they are meerly Natural, nor meerly Voluntary, but of a mixt Nature; They are not meerly Naturall, because then whosoever hath grace working in him, would perceive and know he hath so, but experience confuteth that; therefore the Spirit of God witnessing and assuring is required, besides the presence of grace in us. It is true, that saying of Augustines is much celebrated and used against Popish doubting, Quisquis credit, sentit se habere fidem in corde, Whosoe∣ver doth believe, perceiveth in himself that he doth believe. Hence it is that our Divines say, As he that hath fire in his bosom feeleth fire is there; He that tasteth of a sweet object, perceiveth the sweetnesse of it, and he that is awake, knoweth he is awake; so he that hath the operations of Gods Spirit, knoweth that these are wrought by God in him, and that he is not deceived. But howsoever these are true in re∣spect of the genuine and proper work of that supernatural life in us, yet there may be several impediments from within through sinne, especially unbelief inter∣vening, or obstructions without, by Gods desertion and forsaking of us, that we cannot perceive the good things God hath done for us, Thus they are not Signes in a meer Natural way. Nor yet can we say they are meerly Voluntary signes, for the Effects of grace are the proper and genuine fruit of grace; and wheresoe∣ver Sanctification is, there is supposed Justification inseparably. They are there∣fore evidences of our interest in Christ, yet so as they manifest this, Onely by the light of the Spirit; as some Philosophers say of the Starres, that they have an in∣nate light of their own, but yet they are not conspicuous and visible without the light of the Sunne. The gracious fruit of those supernaturall principles in us, have an aptitude and fitnesse to make us know that we are in Christ, but they cannot actually remove all darknesse without the Spirit of God, even as the light of the Sunne onely, not that of the Starres, can dispell the darknesse of the night.
Hence in the ninth place, We must take heed that we do not so gaze upon our selves*to finde graces in our own hearts, as thereby we forget those Acts of Faith, whereby we close with Christ immediately, and rely upon him onely for our Justification. The fear of this hath made some cry down totally the use of signes, to evidence our Justification. And the truth is, it cannot be denied but many of the children of God, while they are studying and examining, Whether grace be in their souls, that upon the discovery thereof, they may have comfortable perswasions of their Justification, are very much neglective of those choise and principall Acts of Faith, whereby we have an acquiescency or recumbency up∣on Christ for our Acceptation with God. This is as if old Jacob should so re∣joyce in the Chariot Joseph sent, whereby he knew that he was alive, that he should not desire to see Joseph himself. Thus while thou art so full of joy, to perceive grace in thee, thou forgettest to joy in Christ him∣self, who is more excellent then all thy graces: But of this more after∣wards.
Tenthly, The Scripture attributeth Blessednesse and Salvation to several Signs*thereof. Sometimes Fear of God is a signe, sometimes Poverty of Spirit, some∣times Hungring and thirsting after Righteousnesse, sometimes Repentance, some∣times Love, and sometimes Patience: So that if a godly man can finde any one of these in himself, he may conclude of his Salvation and Justification, though he cannot see all those in him; and many times the people of God perceive one sign in them, when they cannot another. So that it is not here in the signes of our Justification, as the Learned speak about the marks and signes of Christ and Page 42Antichrist, it may fall out that some other have some of the signs which did be∣long to the Messias, but none could have them all, but he that was truly Christ indeed: So there are many descriptions of Antichrist, and it may fall out that some other besides him may have some of those marks, but none have them all cumulatively and collectively, but the true Antichrist. It is not so with the marks of grace, for if a man upon good grounds can be perswaded but of one, he may undoubtedly conclude he hath all the rest, though he doe not yet feel them in himself.
Eleventhly, The Signes and Marks which the Scripture makes of true grace, are*to be insisted upon or used, although it may fall out that Hypocrites may be strongly confident they have them, when indeed they have them not. It is therefore no argu∣ment against signes of grace, because an hypocrite is confident he hath them, and yet is deceived. The wise Virgins who had prepared oyl, knew their Bride-groom, and went out to meet him; although the foolish who wanted oyl, went out at first to meet the Bridegroom as confidently as the wise; doe not therefore despair of discerning the true marks of grace in thy self, because many have falsly perswaded themselves thereof. Many a dreamer hath pleased himself that he en∣joyed such riches or delicacies in his dream; yet that hindreth not, but that the man awake knoweth when he hath riches, and is not deceived. An hypocrite then, he may be bold, he is secure of Gods favour, he dieth with confidence, calling God his God, and Christ his Christ, it cannot be denied; but this hin∣dereth not, that the true believer knoweth he is in the right, and not deceived. As in matter of Religion, the Turk is confident of his, the Jew of his, the Pa∣pist as he, yet it followeth not that the Protestant therefore may not confident∣ly know, he is in the truth, and all other deceived.
Twelfthly, Signes or Notes of any thing must be according to the Nature of that*which they notifie: So that if the Essence be imperfect, then the marks thereof have also imperfection. This is a rule of grand comfort in practice, for the godly they look for perfect signes of grace in themselves, and if they finde hypocrisie, carnal ends, lukewarmnesse, or any such distempers, they begin to doubt of their whole estate, but they must consider, that as their graces themselves are not perfect; so neither can the signes thereof be perfect. Hence it is, that al∣though we grant that the godly may, as Hezekiah and Paul did, take comfort from the truth of grace in themselves, yet it was not from it as a cause, or merit of their Justification, for even at the same time they did also espie much imperfe∣ction in themselves.
Shewing the Lawfulness and Duty of proceeding by way of Signs, and proving that inherent gracious Qualifications within a man evidence his Justifi∣cation.
2 COR. 13. 5.
WE have laid down several Propositions tending to the clearer Discove∣ry of this truth about Signs or Marks of Grace. I now come to shew The Lawfulnesse, yea the Duty both of Ministers and People to proceed by this method. For although my proper work is onely to speak of the fruits of Grace, as they evidence a principle of Sanctification within, yet I shall in this grasp also that other Question Of evidencing our Justification by inherent gracious*Qualifications within us, this latter being expresly written and preached against; so that by this means godly Christians are plunged into several intanglements of conscience, and know not how to come out. I shall therefore (God assisting) bring Arguments to confirm us in this Duty: onely let us first understand, What the true practical Case and Question is. And first the Question is not, Whether a * Christian in his first act of Faith, whereby he closeth with Christ, applieth him, and is engraffed in him, ought to see inherent Qualifications in him, by way of Signs and Evidences? for this is not possible: we must first by faith be implanted in Christ, before there can be any fruits demonstrating this our insition in him. The Apostle John, 1 John 2. 5. maketh the observation of Gods Commandments a sign that we are in Christ, therefore we are in Christ before by faith; and thus in all the Promises, where a Christian loaden with sin is invited to Christ, there is not required a Knowledge or Certainty of what condition he is in, Whether his graces be true or no, but only out of the sense and feeling of his own unwor∣thiness to apprehend Christ It is therefore a falshood to preach thus, Thou maiest not relie upon Christ for Justification, till thou hast certainty and evidence in thy heart, whether grace be truly in thee or no? for the Scripture makes them blessed that hunger and thirst, that mourn, and cals those that are burdened, and they shall have ease, although they may not have certainty of the work of grace at that time. This therefore is diligently to be attended unto, because it cannot be denied but at this Rocke many a tender Christian splits himself.
Nor secondly is the Question, Whether a godly man in sad temptations, having no light at all, should then make search for the motions and workings of grace in his soul? for that would breed further fears and uncertainties. The soul in temptations being like the muddied water, where nothing can be clearly represented, and as in the night the imagination is prone to represent nothing but objects of fear and terrors; so is the heart apt to do in those desolations: Hence David in such exi∣gences Page 44 cals upon his soul to trust in God, and to wait on him as the only remedy. And indeed in such cases, the proper duty of a godly man is to throw himself boldly upon the promise, and as Peter ventured to go upon the waters, when Christ called him; so because of the Promise and gracious invitations, to go unto God, and relie upon him, in which sense Job said, Though he kill me, yet will I trust in him.
Thirdly, The Doubt is not, Whether a godly man should look for perfect Signs, such as will fully rise up to the obligation and perfection of the Law? for it is plain such Signs can never be found. Therefore it is but an odious mistake, when an Antino∣mian* argueth against universal Obedience as a sign, because no man can perform such, or if it should be limited to purpose of heart, yet none hath such a constant purpose, because of many corrupt suggestions and concussions within by lusts; for none do urge such Signs, and therefore the least grace discovered in the soul, that is sincere and upright, though it be not grace to satisfie the desire of a Chri∣stian, yet it ought to be a sign sure enough to confirm his judgement of his inter∣est in Christ.
Fourthly, The case is not, Whether inherent Qualifications of grace, be eviden∣ces of themselves without the lustre of Gods Spirit? For all say, this certainty ari∣seth efficiently from the Spirit of God; Therefore Ephes. 1. sealing is attributed to the Spirit of God; so that we must not oppose a godly life, or graces to the Spirit of God, but conjoyn them together; even as in the certainty we have about the Scripture, we do not oppose those Argumenta insita, imbred arguments that prove the Divinity of the Scripture, such as the style, majesty, purity, &c. to the Spirit of God: but we say, Gods Spirit doth perswade in, and by those Argu∣ments; so it is here, Gods Spirit doth seal unto us our interest in Christ by those graces which are wrought in us.
Fifthly, The scruple is not, Whether these works of Gods Spirit in us, be to be rested on as causes or merits of our Justification? This is such Pharisaical Popery as is just∣ly to be detested, we say not that a Christian finding such graces in him, should build the comfort of his Justification upon them, or rest on them in stead of Christ, but he is to make use of these, as Signs of Christs dwelling in him, where∣by as from an effect of Gods love he may rejoyce in, and be thankfull unto God.
Sixthly, I will not draw in that dispute neither, Whether this certainty Gods Spi∣rit works in the godly, in and through the graces of Sanctification, be the only witnes∣sing and sealing that is? or, Whether there be not an immediate testimony of Gods Spirit to the soul, either before or without those gracious fruits of holinesse? For my part, I think the former kinde of witnessing, viz. by fruits of holiness, the on∣ly safe and sure way, and which the Scripture doth for the most part commend. These things promised, I bring the grounds of this Duty, to proceed to certainty of Ju∣stification and regeneration, by the fruits of holinesse issuing therefrom.
The first sort of Arguments shall be from those places of Scripture, which are de∣scriptive*and characteristical of true grace from counterfeit; For therefore are those differences so diligently pressed, that every man may take heed, and discern the one from the other: Matth. 13. how copious is our Saviour in that Parable to give exact differences between the several grounds that received the seed, that is, the several workings upon mens hearts by the preaching of the Word, wherein some go very farre beyond others, yet only the good and honest heart was indeed ac∣cepted. Now upon this our Saviour saith, He that hath ears to hear let him hear, as if he should say, This matter doth deeply concern you, Examine your selves in what rank you are, how farre the word of God hath prevailed over you. If therefore the auditor could not have told when he was good ground, and when thorny, such descriptions had been to no purpose; so John 10. 4, 5. there you have a description of Christs sheep, They hear his voice, a stranger they will not follow, but flee from him; where it is good to observe, that as in other places it is Page 45 made a mark of grace to take heed of sin, and to love holinesse; so here it is made a sign of Christs sheep, to take heed of errors and false teachers; They are afraid of false doctrines, as well as wicked waies: Oh how necessary is this sign of grace to be pressed in these times, to a people afraid of being led aside from the true faith by any deceitfull pretexts whatsoever. Col. 3. 12. there you have a catalogue of several graces, which flow from Election; Put on (as the elect of God) bowels of mercies, &c. and generally wheresoever you finde descriptions of the properties of godliness, there ought we to parallel our lives with those precedents, and see whether we express them or no.
A second sort is From exhortatory places, where we are commanded to make*this search, Whether grace be truly in us or no? Now if such a trial were not law∣full and usefull, who dare say, the holy Spirit would prescribe it? The Text I am upon, how clear is it, Examine, prove your selves, whether ye be in the Faith? Now if any one should reply against the Apostle, This is such a duty it cannot be done, its derogatory to Christ, it will make us rest in our selves: how unsufferable had such gain-saying been, Gal. 6. 4. But let every man prove his own work, &c. where you have the duty of examining and searching the works we do, in the nature, ground, and intentions of them; and this is commanded as a remedy against arro∣gancy and pride, as appeareth vers. 3. and this is also commended from the profi∣table effect thereof; he shall have rejoycing in himself alone, that is, his excellen∣cy shall not be apprehended by comparing himself with others that are worse, or because he is reputed godly in the judgement of others, but his comfort will be from within: and observe, in some sense a rejoycing in a mans self is lawfull, viz. as it is accompanied with a thankfull acknowledgment of the grace of God bestowed on a man. But if we speak in respect of Justification, then all matter of rejoycing or boasting is excluded. In 1 Pet. 1. 10. you have a text that putteth this duty out of all question, Wherefore the rather brethren, give all diligence to make your calling and election sure; You will all grant election cannot be made more sure in respect of God or it self, but only in respect of us, that we may be more perswaded of it. And how is that? he shewed in the verses before, by adding grace to grace, and causing those things to abound in them. This was the way to make all sure, so that to proceed by way of Signes and Marks, is plainly enjoyned out of Scri∣pture.
A third rank is From those places of Scripture which by way of example and in∣stance,*do prove, that the godly took their graces for signs and testimonies of Gods love, and thereby received much comfort; Yea, urged these, as an argument in praier for mercy, not by way of merit or causality, but as the effects of Gods grace, and so a further engagement for God to perfect his own work, 2 King. 20. 3. Hezekiah after he had laboured in a further Reformation, then any ever did before him, be∣ing the true Hercules that purged the Augaean stable, is stricken with a mortal dis∣ease from God, and now in what exigencies is he plunged! a great Army against him, no visible successour in his Throne, all his Reformation is like to goe back∣wards! In the midst of all this darknesse see with what he supports himself, Re∣member, O Lord, how I have walked before thee with an upright and perfect heart, &c. Thus he used his graces for a sign to confirm. The like did Nehemiah, Chap. 13. several times, especially see his expression vers. 14. Remember me, O my God, and wipe not out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God. This place pro∣veth no Popery, as if Nehemiah thought his good deeds perfect, and so a cause of mercy, for mark his expression vers. 22. Remember me, O my God, and spare me ac∣cording to the greatnesse of thy mercy. Those good deeds needed mercy and pardon, yea greatness of mercy; As it goeth not so high to establish perfection or merit of works, yet it doth fully confirm this truth, That a godly man may take comfort from his graces as signs and testimonies of Gods love to him. And whereas Gro∣tius upon that passage of Hezekiahs maketh such a narration of graces by the god∣ly, peculiar only to the Old Testament; it is like many other of his notions, false Page 46 and rotten; for Paul who was a continuall Trumpet of the grace of God, who counted all his own righteousnesse dung and drosse to set up Christ, yet he proceed∣eth also by way of signs, 2 Tim. 4. 5. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, hence forth is laid up for me a crown of glory; 2 Cor. 1. 12. Our rejoycing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in godly sincerity, we have had our conversa∣tion in the world, &c. So that by this of Paul, you may see, that a Christian may at the same time exalt Christ and his grace, going out of his own righteousnesse for Justification, yet take comfort also from it. The History of Job doth also abun∣dantly confirm this truth, for when in the opinion of others God had cast him off as an hypocrite, yet he would not part with the comfort of his integrity till death. In this case Job had no immediate consolations from God, The arrows of the Al∣mighty stuck deep in him, he possessed the sins of his youth, and there was nothing which did stay him, but the comfort of his upright heart; so that a godly mans sense and feeling of Gods grace within him, is a great bulwark in time of tempta∣tions: Neither is that of the Papists able to weaken this Assertion, when they say, These experimental suavities which are felt in religious duties, do only beget a con∣jectural knowledge not an assurance of faith, because the object thereof is not re∣vealed in Scripture; for it may well be granted that this sense of believing is not an act of faith, and that a man doth not properly believe he doth believe, but in∣wardly perceiveth and feeleth he doth believe, and so love God, &c. Yet this sense is not fallacious, because it is from a supernaturall principle within.
A fourth rank shall be From those comparative expressions the Scripture useth, when it speaks of Grace. Thus they are called fruits, Luk. 3. 8. Gal. 6. 2 Cor. 9. 10. * Now our Saviour laieth down an undeniable Maxim, Matth. 12. 33. The tree is known by its fruit, a good tree by its good fruit: Hence a good heart is also called a good treasury from whence good things flow; now although trees because without reason and sense, know not themselves by their fruit, but others only do: yet the chil∣dren of God are by their good fruit both known to themselves and others, yea more to themselves then others, Because no man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of a man: Grace also in the workings thereof is often compared to life, Gal. 2. 22. Now as a natural life is discerned by the actions thereof, as by so many signs, so also is supernatural life: but as in some diseases the party affected percei∣veth not any life; so neither do the godly in some sad temptations.
The fifth rank of Arguments may be From all those promissory places of Scripture, which speak comfort and encouragement to those that have such and such exercises of*grace: now these Promises would afford no comfort at all, if a Christian could not by way of signs gather when he had them. The Scripture in several places attributes Blessednesse to him that feareth alwayes, To him that keeps the Law of God, To him that is undefiled therein, To him that endureth persecution for a good cause, To him that is pure and me•k in spirit. Now what encouragement could any godly man have, if he could not have this practical syllogisme, The Scripture makes him that feareth, believeth, &c. Blessed: but I am such an one that doth fear, believe, &c. therefore I am blessed; now although the major of this Proposition be Scripture, yet the Assumption is from experience, a godly man being assisted therein by the holy Ghost, and therefore the conclusion is undeniable.
Sixthly, Another rank of Arguments may be From all those places of Scripture that are indicative, or estensive of this truth; And for this, let us take John in his * first Epistle, who is most expresse in this way, as if he would on purpose destroy the contrary errour, 1 John 2. 3, 4, 5, Hereby we know that we know him, if we keep his commandments, &c. The Apostle compareth our imperfect or hypocritical know∣ledge with a true knowledge of Christ. The true knowledge is operative, and bringeth obedience: The hypocrites knowledge is light only, and no heat at all. Now the Apostle laieth down two Propositions, first, That where there is a true knowledge of Christ, there is an observation of his Commandments; Secondly, Page 47 That by this observation of his Law, we may know that our knowledge is good. To the same purpose also he speaketh in the two following verses; first, For our faith, that it must not only be carried to Christ as a propitiation for sinne, but also to him as an example whom we are to imitate, he ought to walk as Christ walked, and by this imitation of Christ (saith the Apostle) we know we are in him, where observe two things; First, That by saith we come to be implanted in Christ. Se∣condly, That we discover this our being in him by an holy walking; None there∣fore that plead for Sanctification as an evidence of Justification, make our graces to be those things that put us into Christ, and by which we are justified; but these are testimonies and witnesses to declare the truth of our real being in Christ. Pro∣ceed we to the third Chapter, vers. 10. In this the children of God, and the chil∣dren of the devil are manifest, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 in this, that relateth to the axioms going before, He that is born of God sinneth not, which is thus to be understood, viz. He sinneth not, from such a full and habitual purpose of will, so as that his sin extingui∣sheth the seed of grace within him; now howsoever this manifestation of the chil∣dren of God and of the devil to others be but conjectural, yet to the godly man, whose heart by regeneration is cured in part of that innate guile which cleaveth to it, it is clear without any deceit. At v. 13. the Apostle exhorteth the godly not to won∣der, if the world hate them; and to amplifie their consolation herein he addeth v. 14. We know we are translated from death to life, because we love the brethren. This is the great sign of godliness, to love another godly man, because he is godly, and the more any is godly, the more to love him: as on the other side, to hate another because his waies are good, and thine evil (which is too ordinary) is a demonstration thou art of the devil; now this love of our brethren is not a cause of our translation from death to life, for the very word [translated] supposeth it a grace of God from without us, but it is a sign only. Now although a Papist loveth a Papist, a Jew a Jew, thinking them more godly, when they are deceived therein, yet that doth not hinder a true godly man from loving another that is godly, and he have solid comfort therein: but more of this hereafter. The Apostle having made love of the brethren a sign, he further explicates what this love is, not a complemental feign∣ed love, but real and operative, for love is like fire, Si non operatur, non est, if it do not work it is an argument it is not at all, whereupon he maketh this again a sign, by that expression peculiar to the Apostle, hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him, perswade our hearts, as it is in the Greek, which implieth, That though the heart be full of doubts and unbelief, yet the discovery of such grace within us, is able to satisfie our hearts, hereupon vers. 10. he saith, If our hearts condemn us not, we have confidence towards God: Now here are two doubts; first, Whose heart doth not condemn him of much pride, va∣nity, neglect, &c. therefore none can have confidence: But the Apostle speaks of such a condemning, as is for total and reigning hypocrisie, not for partiall corru∣ption which is in the most godly. A second doubt may be of those who persecute the truth and the people of God, as the Jews and Paul did, whose hearts did not condemn them, but rather they thought they did God good service; but the A∣postle speaketh of Christians endued with the true Doctrine and Knowledge of Christ out of his Word, and as for such, if their hearts reprove them not for hy∣pocrisie, they have boldness with God. This Apostle is very frequent in urging the fruits of godliness by way of signs; but these may suffice to confirme the Do∣ctrine.
The last Argument to prove this method by way of signs, may be thus urged, If * a Christian may not gather the grace of Justification and Sanctification, by the fruits thereof, it would be for one of these grounds, either first the impossibility of it, as the Papists urge, it would not be possible for a man to know when grace is in him: but that is false, for howsoever a mans heart is naturally deceitfull, yet when regenerated, God takes away that guile in it, and so farre as it is spiritual it is sincere and cannot lie; Or secondly, This would be uselesse, having Assurance Page 48 by Gods Spirit, what needs evidences by inherent graces; This is to light a candle when the Sunne shineth; but the testimony of the Spirit, and the evidence of gra∣ces make up one compleat witnesse, and therefore are not to be dis-joyned, much lesse opposed, as is further to be cleared. Thirdly, It may be thought prejudiciall, and that two waies, either to Christ and his righteousness, as if the comfort from these would take us from relying wholly upon Christ; but we told you Paul, who did so omnifie and exalt Christ and his righteousnesse, yet took comfort from his graces wrought in him; or else it may be thought the discovery of grace in us may make us proud and secure; but neither will this follow, because hereby the graci∣ous heart is stirred up to more thankfulness, watchfulness, least we lose such a trea∣sure, and to fruitfulness.
Let the Use be to try our selves by this way of marks and signes which the Scri∣pture giveth, and certainly there was never a time, wherein marks of grace may be more urged then now: how many place Religion in Opinions, in Disputations, in Revelations! and the true power of Godlinesse and Mortification is altogether neglected; This made the Apostle James in his Epistle, and Paul frequently in his to speak against the Gnosticks, a sect risen up in their time, that planted Religion in Knowledge, and arrogated that to themselves only, for which reason the Apo∣stles so much pressed a godly and holy life: Therefore that thou maiest not deceive thy own self, study the Scripture-characters of grace, it may be all those signes by which thou comfortest thy self, such as abilities in duties, great enlargements, main∣taining a different Church-government from others, are not in Scripture any marks of holinesse, especially consider it's the property of Christs sheep, not to hear strangers, to flie from errours. Certainly our Saviour Joh. 15. describing the branches that are in him, takes no notice of their leaves, their blossoms, but their fruit: Oh be afraid lest Christs coming to thee be like that of his to the fig-tree, he saw leaves on it, but no fruit; whereupon he pronounced that curse, Never fruit grow on thee more: So Christ finde opinions, disputations, many abilities and out∣ward duties, but no true holinesse, and therefore he curse thee, saying, Never fruit grow on thee, Shoot forth into leaves and branches, but never bear fruit. It is to be feared many live with such a visible curse upon them; Holiness of life must bejoined to the abilities of the head, Quae bona opera Christianus facit, tot aureos annulos in digitos miserit, As many good and holy actions thou dost, so many rings thou hast upon thy hand; These adorn thee more then gold or silver.
Further proving the Lawfulness and Obligation of proceeding by way of Signs, and Answering many Doubts about them.
2 COR. 13. 5.
THere remain more places of Scripture to prove the lawfulness and obligati∣on also of proceeding by way of signs, but because there are different Ex∣positions of them, I shall rank them in the order of controverted places, which probably at least confirm this truth.
And the first is Rom. 8. 16. The Spirit it self beareth witnesse with our spirit, that*we are the sons of God. In which words we may observe the Authour of the testi∣mony, the manner, and the object of it. The Author is said to be The Spirit it self, where the Apostle makes it no Presumption or Arrogancie for the people of God, to call God Father, because they are encouraged and emboldened here∣unto by the Spirit of God. It is not a delusion from the Devil, but an Assurance from Gods Spirit. In the next place there is the Manner of the Testimony, it is a conjoined Testimony, not a single Witnesse; Therefore it is said 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, it witnesseth with. It is true, Grotius takes the word, though compounded, for a simple, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 for 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, alledging two places for a parallel, 1 Cor. 2. 17. 1 Cor. 2. 2. where the Apostle speaketh of the Conscience bearing witnesse, but these Texts are not cogent, for the conscience in testifying doth witnesse with ano∣ther, which is God, and therefore it is called 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, so that the witnesse of the conscience is not a single Testimony. It being therefore to be understood of a Joint-witnesse, the Question is, What is the other partner that is joined with Gods Spirit in this action? Some understand the spirit of a man not to be the co∣witnesser, but the subject only receiving the Testimony, and they render it thus, The Spirit beareth witnesse to our spirit, not with our spirit, and then, some make the joint-witnesse to be Christ, that as vers. 10. the Apostle had affirmed, Christ dwelleth in us, then his Spirit, and that the Spirit made us to cry Abba Fa∣ther; so here, the Spirit, with Christ, and the Father also supposed, as if it were the same with that 1 John 5. 7. There are three that bear witnesse in heaven. But others referre it to that Voice caused in us by Gods Spirit, and that is to be under∣stood of the gift of Regeneration. Thus Chrysostom, The Spirit of God, by or in that gift, which he bestoweth on us; and in this sense it will be all one whether we translate it, to or with our spirit. So then the meaning is, The Spirit of God beareth witnesse unto us, with those gifts and graces that are the fruit of the same Spirit. So that he speaks not of such an immediate Testimony, as the Prophets had in their visions, when they heard God speak immediately to them, but me∣diately by and with our spirits, being enlightned and sanctified: So that al∣though the Spirit of God be the alone Author of this Assurance, yet it is in an or∣dinary way by the fruits of the Spirit. Now the Spirit of God may be conceived Page 50 witnessing this infallibly and surely, or else conjecturally, and by way of pro∣bability. Popish Commentators expound it the latter way, but it is very unwor∣thy and derogatory, to make the Spirit of God Author of a conjectural Certainty only, for it being a divine Testimony it cannot but have infallibility: and cer∣tainly if he said of the conscience, which yet hath much error and falshood in it, that it was mille testes a thousand witnesses, how much rather may this be said of the Spirit of God? but more of this place hereafter.
The second place is Ephes. 1. 13. In whom after ye believed, ye were sealed with*the holy Spirit of Promise. Where you have this Witnessing or Assurance expres∣sed metaphorically by sealing, which is used to ratifie and confirm things; now God doth thus seal us, not for his sake, but ours, that we may be perswaded of his love; God doth not seal as a Merchant his wares, that he may know them, but as a Father doth his Testament, or deeds of Gift, to assure his Childe of such favour towards him. But you will say, What is this sealing? The Meta∣phor will declare it: As in sealing, the Seal makes an impression of its own like∣nesse in the wax; so God in sealing unto us makes an impression of his own holy image in us, and by this we are assured. They therefore who understand this sealing of the extraordinary and miraculous gifts of Gods Spirit, hit not the mark, because these were not necessary signes of Adoption, and also they were not be∣stowed upon every particular believer; we must therefore understand it of the sanctifying graces of Gods Spirit: And here you may also observe that faith whereby we receive Christ first, is not the evidence, as some plead, because it is after their believing, for the word is in the time past: that it is meant of holi∣nesse, doth appear also by the words following, Sealed by the holy Spirit of Pro∣mise, where the Spirit of God is called the Spirit of the Promise, either because he doth confirm the Promises, or else because he is the fruit of the Promise; and holy, because of the holinesse he works in his children, which is their sealing; so that as God the Father is said to seal Christ, when he gave him those abilities which were required to a Mediator, annointing him with all grace, and witnes∣sing by miracles he was his Son; Thus doth God the Father seal his children to him by furnishing them with all the graces of his holy Spirit, and by these they know they are of God.
The third Text and last is, 1 John 5. 8. There are three that bear witnesse on earth,*water, and bloud, and the Spirit. I should quickly tire you out, to speak all that is said by Expositors on this place, I shall therefore briefly assert this Exposition, as most sutable to other places of Scripture; By Water is meant that purifying and cleansing from the filth of sinne, which we receive by Christ, signified in the outward seal of Baptism: By Bloud is meant that expiation of the guilt of sinne, and satisfying of Gods wrath, which is also sealed in the Sacrament of the Lords Supper: And by Spirit is meant Gods Spirit, not immediately testifying, for so it is a Witnesse in heaven, but by the fruits thereof, stirring up faith to a vigo∣rous and powerfull way of holinesse, by which means we perceive the fruit of water and bloud accomplished in our souls. But I must not stay longer on these places, I shall propound some Doubts only to make this duty of going by signes more clear and easie to you.
As in the first place, Doth it not argue weaknesse and unbelief in a Christian to walk by signs? Is not this to derogate from the glorious promise of grace, as if that*were not enough?
But to answer, First, Signs do not argue an absolute weaknesse, but comparative only. In heaven, all Sacraments, which are signes and seals, shall cease. Whether *Adam had any Sacrament in the state of perfection, is disputed. The Tree of life is judged so by some, but it could not be a Sacrament in that particular sense as ours are, which seal Remission of sin and Mortification of it, but in a more ge∣neral way, for Sacraments have two things in them, 1. That which is general, to continue God to be our God, and we his children, its also our communion with Page 51 others. And in this sense Christ was baptized, and was made partaker of other Sacraments (for we may not say, Christ therefore used the Sacraments, that he might sanctifie them, for they were sanctified by their institution.) 2. There is that which is special in the Sacraments, viz. Remission of sinne, encrease of grace, &c. and thus onely the members of the militant Church do partake of them.
Secondly, It cannot be denied but that it is a more noble and excellent way to be∣lieve*in the Promise, by a faith of dependency and adherence, then to believe upon the sense and evidence of Graces in us, yet this latter also is lawfull and encouraged by God; For therefore it was that God gave the gift of miracles, that by such won∣derfull things appearing to sense, they might be perswaded to believe in God. We have a clear instance in Thomas John 20. where he is reproved for his unbe∣lief: but upon his seeing and feeling the wounds of Christ, he makes a clear con∣fession, My God, and my Lord. This was laudable in him, but yet saith our Sa∣viour, Blessed are they that believe and see not. Where Thomas is not excluded from blessednesse, though he did believe and see, but only the former shew forth a more blessed work of grace upon themselves. We may therefore believe because of Gods Word; and we may believe because of sense: this may be an help to our faith, and therefore God hath appointed Sacraments for this end, not that the things we see are properly the object of our faith, for Ubi vides, non fides, Faith is the evidence of things not seen. Thus Thomas had one thing for the object of his sight and feeling, which was the wounds of Christs body, and ano∣ther thing for the object of his faith, which was, That Christ was God. Thus in the Sacrament, That which is the object of our sense, is not the object of our faith, only we are helpt by these, as motives to believe. Although therefore to have any help from sense to believe, be a comparative weaknesse, yet supposing this condition we are in, it is a duty to be encouraged thereby. Hence he that did believe because of miracles, did his duty, and sinned not therein: yea Ahaz is severely rebuked, because he would not take a signe to confirm his faith in the promise God made for the Kingdoms deliverance.
A second Doubt, When we receive evidence from our graces, do we not receive an*humane testimony, to witnesse the things of God, and how incongruous is that? Such as the object is, such the testimony ought to be, but the object witnessed is Di∣vine, viz. that we are the children of God, and therefore the Witnesse al∣so ought to be Divine. This some have pressed against evidences by sanctifi∣cation.
But first, An humane testimony may be an introductory preparation, to believe that*which is Divine. And in this sense, there is an humane Witnesse to the things of God. Thus the woman of Samaria witnessed of Christ, and they wer moved by her testimony, although afterwards they did believe, because of Christ himself. Thus also John Baptist bare Witnesse of Christ; and in this sense our Divines ac∣knowledge the Authority of the Church, and so explain that of Augustine, who said, He would not have believed the Scriptures, had not the Authority of the Church moved him.
Secondly, We say not the Graces of Gods Spirit, can or do witnesse of themselves,*The sealing and witnessing is efficiently from the Spirit of God, they are only the means by which Gods Spirit makes known it self. And therefore as colours, though they be the object of sight, yet they cannot actually be seen without light shining up∣on them: so neither are we able to behold the good things God hath wrought for us without the Spirit of God.
Thirdly, The Graces of God thus collustrated, are not an humane testimony, but di∣vine*and infallible. For its a supernatural testimony, both in the efficient cause, and in the means by which; so that as the godly actions we do are not humane, or by the power of free-will, but divine arising from a supernatural principle of grace within us; so neither is this testimony or consolation flowing from it, to be Page 52 attributed to our reason and understanding, but unto God only. The Papist in∣deed makes these experimental works of grace within us to be onely moral con∣jectures, and probable indications of Gods Spirit dwelling in us: onely they say, it is such a certainty as may morally exclude all doubting, for they instance, that we may be as sure that we are in the state of grace, as that there is such a City as Rome or Constantinople (if we have not seen those places) but this is not enough, because they deny them to be the infallible witnesse of Gods Spirit.
A third Doubt, Are not evidences of Grace by signs uselesse, seeing the Spirit of God doth immediately work in our hearts a strong Assurance of faith? and having*this Assurance, what need we any other? If we have the Sun, what need is there of a candle? Hence some have reduced the whole Doctrine of evidences to two heads; 1. The revealing evidence, and that they make an immediate Revelati∣on made by Gods Spirit to the soul. Even as when the Sun-beams are immedi∣ately darted into a dark room. And the second is a receiving evidence, and that they make faith, and you know it hath formerly been generally received, That Faith is a full perswasion of Gods love to a mans self in particular; which if so, the whole businesse of evidence seemeth to be accomplished before we come to any signes.
But to answer first, It may justly be questioned, Whether out of the Scripture there can be proved any such immediate voice spoken by Goas Spirit to a man, that his*sins are forgiven him, and he is in the state of grace? So that although they take this for granted, that God doth immediately come into the soul, and witnesse unto it, yet we see by the Texts opened before, that its more consonant to Scri∣pture, to make the Scriptures testimony active in respect of the effects and fruits thereof: Some Divines do not indeed deny the possibility of such an immediate Testimony, but yet they conclude the ordinary and safe way, is, to look for that Testimony, which is by the effects, and fruits of Gods Spirit. Therefore when we speak of the Spirit of God revealing, which is often mentioned in the Scripture, we may either conceive of it, as it did reveal in an Enthusiastical man∣ner by an immediate influence, or else that the Spirit of God doth enlighten the understanding to see grounds and reasons, why it should be perswaded so. And here is a vast difference between these two; we may explain this about the Scri∣pture, A believer is fully perswaded of the Divine Authority of the Scripture, through the Spirit of God revealing this to him; now this may be understood two waies, either by immediate Dictates of the Spirit, telling the soul it is so, or else by enlightning the understanding to see those implanted arguments in it, and by them to perswade of the Authority thereof. As it is thus for the Word, so for the work of Gods Spirit in us, we come to be perswaded of Gods love to us, and assured of it, not because of an Authority testifying this immediately, but because Gods Spirit doth so efficiently enlighten the heart, that seeing such gra∣cious operations there, we come confidently perswaded of Gods love to us: Thus the Sunne manifesteth it self to be the Sunne by the light that cometh from it. A learned man proveth himself to be learned by the learning he discovers, and thus the Spirit of God by and with the holy operations thereof, manifests it self to be the Spirit of God dwelling in us, Argumento insito, non extrinsecus as∣sumpto; but of this more in time.
Secondly, It ought to be denied, that faith is such a full perswasion. The Scri∣pture words which expresse faith, speak of it as Affiance and Adherence, rather * then a Perswasion, for that is a reflex Act in the soul, whereby we know that we do know (as the Apostle John expresseth it) and that we do truly repent and be∣lieve.
Thirdly, Suppose such evidences were granted, yet this by way of signes were not in vain, for it hath pleased God to multiply those things which may confirm our faith.* Thus although every word of God hath immutable verity in it, Yet he confirmed it also with an oath, after the manner of men, to end all those controversies which Page 53 diffidence and distrust may raise between God and us. The Apostle aggravateth this Heb. 6. 16. That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolations. Again, although God hath given us his Promise, and nothing can be surer then that, yet he addeth Sacraments to seal and confirm his Promise unto us; Therefore though such Assurances were granted, yet there is great usefulnesse of the evidences we have by signes.
A fourth Doubt may be from that universal received Maxim, None may be at the*same time Reus and Judex, the Person questioned and the Judge: but this absurdity would follow, if we proceed by evidences, for the heart of a man is questioned, whe∣ther it hath true grace in it, and the heart also must be Judge of this at the same time.
We answer, This would not follow, for although the heart be in supposed guilt, and*so questioned, yet the judging of this, is by the Spirit of God, and our hearts not as guilty, but as sanctified; and all this according to the rules of Scripture. Indeed this absurdity followeth in a pharisaical or formal man, who is altogether carnal, and hath not the Spirit of God, or any supernatural principles; when he acquitteth himself, he is both the guilty Person, and the Judge too; and by this means they give false judgement, calling evil good, and darknesse light, but it is not thus with believers.
A fifth Doubt may be from the difficulty, if not impossibility of any certainty by*signes: for take we any signe, suppose love of the brethren, that must be explained of such love as is because they are brethren, and of such a love as proceedeth from upright principles, and pure motives, and with many other qualifications, which will be as hard to know, as the inward root of grace it self.
Now to this we answer these things: First, That the Scripture giveth many*Signs and Symptomes of grace; So that if a man cannot finde all, yet if he dis∣cover some, yea, if but one, he may assuredly gather all the rest are there, for the whole harmony and connexion of grace is compared to the image of God, which doth consist of all its due lineaments; so that it is hard if a Christian doubt of all, so that he can finde nothing of Gods Spirit in him.
Secondly, There is a two-fold Knowledge, one Distinct and Demonstrative, which * is à priori, from the cause to the effect, and that is, when we know the principles and root of grace within us, and so proceed to the effects of it. The other is more General, and that is from the effect to the cause, and this is a knowledge à poste∣riori, we proceed from the streams to the fountain, and this kinde of knowledge as it is most easie, so we are prone to, and the Spirit of God guideth us in this way, as being most sutable to our natures.
Thirdly, Although a man may doubt of some Signs, yet it doth not follow he will*doubt of all, because his temptation may be stronger about one Sign then another, and one Sign may be more easily perceived then another; And so a godly man may argue from that which is lesse known, to the other that is more known; even as in the matter of the Canon of the Scripture, some have doubted whether such books were Canonical or no, because the Arguments of Divine Authority were more irradiant in the other then in them, yet from those Books concerning the Autho∣rity of which they were not tempted, they were at last induced to believe the Authority of those that were controverted. In this manner it may be about the signes of grace. It is more difficult to finde some of them in our selves then others, yet we are to proceed from those that are more facile, to those that are more difficult.
The sixth Doubt, A man may be easily deceived in these wayes of Signs, for this*Knowledge consisteth of a practical Syllogism thus, Every one that loveth the brethren is translated from death to life, But I love the brethren, Therefore I am translated from death to life. Therefore a late Authour (Cornwell in his Treatise of Justification, Page 54pag. 17.) denieth, The faith wrought in such a practical Syllogism, to be by the power of the Lord Almighty, but only in the strength of humane reason, and therefore is only an humane faith. But this is a very dangerous Assertion, and like that which the Jesuites would impose upon the Protestants concerning a doctrinal Faith thus, There is Veroniana Methodus, by which the Jesuites would conclude the Protestants have no faith, because (say they) the object of faith must be according to the Protestants, Purum putum verbum Dei, the meer word of God, but now there is nothing, which the Protestants believe, but they conclude it by way of a Syllogism, and in this Syllogism, the Assumption or the meer infe∣rence is not in Scripture, or they may erre in making the inference, and so they have no conclusion de fide. But all this is sophistry, for a proxim and immediate conclusion is in the principle, and so believed with the same faith that the princi∣ple is, and when a man by reason makes a conclusion, his reason is only the In∣strument, not the Argument of his faith, his reason is not the ground of his faith, nor doth it suggest the matter to be believed, but is the instrument to discover it. As he that diggeth in a mine of gold, his instruments he useth in removing the earth that covered it, do not make the gold, but discover it. And as for this practical Syllogism, it is not made by meer humane reason, for when the soul makes the assumption, it doth it, being sanctified and enlightned by the Spirit of God, and so is an instrument in his hand, for there is the same proportion be∣tween the Spirit of God in spiritual things, and reason in philosophical things; so that as in Philosophy, reason makes the major and minor in any Syllogism; so in spiritual things, the Spirit of God enableth a man to make a whole Syllogism for a believers comfort and establishment.
Use of Instruction, How much they are deceived, who visibly expresse the power of sin and Satan in their lives, yet acquit themselves as the children of * God! Oh say to thy self, Whose Image and Superscription is this pride, is this earthlinesse, is this malice and hatred of what is good? Though our Saviour told the Pharisees, They were the children of the Devil, and his works they did, yet they would flatter themselves that they were the Children of Abraham. Doth not the Apostle say, The works of the flesh are manifest, envyings, railings, drunkennesse, &c. Yet how bold are men that live in these impieties? Do the Sacraments seal these things to be done? Doth the Word command these? Did Christ die to make us such a people? Oh what a mad delusion is that, that thou shouldst live in lying, swearing, uncleanness, any grosse wickedness, and yet perswade thy self to be in a good estate!
Shewing how many wayes men may miscarry in the work of Self-examination by Signs.
2 COR. 13. 5.
I Shall now close up this Text, finishing also that Discourse about the signes of Grace. The work that remaineth at this time, is to advertise you against those many rocks you may split at, while you proceed by signs; for although this method (as you have heard) be lawfull, and a duty, yet there is required much art and skill to mannage this work, insomuch that herein he ought to have his senses exercised to discern between good and evil.
Now the miscarriages about Signs may be divers waies: As
First, About the Signs themselves; and that either on the right hand, or left; * on the right-hand, By prescribing to our selves such Signs as are impossible to be at∣tained in this life. Thus there is an Anabaptistical and a Popish perfection, where∣by men are taught to finde such a perfect mark of grace, a• that no sin shall be in them, at least for some space of time: but it is no marvel if the soul be perpetual∣ly tormented that seeketh for such a ground of comfort within it own self. John who 1 Joh. 3. makes the keeping of Gods Commandments a signe whereby we are of the truth, doth yet Chap. 1. 8. say, That if we say we have no sinne, we de∣ceive our selves; yet herein Gods children make many sad wounds for themselves, not distinguishing between the truth and essence of grace, and the degrees of it. Whereas the Scripture makes them blessed that hunger and thirst, yea it doth often describe the godly by their desires, and seeking of his face; now this error is the more fastened upon them, because when they reade in books, or hear Ministers preach about the nature and properties of any grace, they are not able to finde it in such a vigorous and powerfull manner in themselves, whereas they ought to know, it is one thing to speak of grace in Idea in se, in its own nature and definition, another thing to speak of it, as in subjecto, as the Subject partakes of it. When the Ministers of God presse any grace upon you, they commonly do it in the ab∣stracted nature of it, as it hath its perfectest lineaments and shape, but as this grace is received in the subject, so it is much debilitated.
But as some torture themselves by seeking that in themselves which cannot be found, So there are more that turn to the left side, making many things signs of grace,*which are not proper characters. Thus the Sacraments, outward Ordinances, mat∣ter of Opinion and Judgement, great Abilities in religious Duties, but all these may be in an heart unregenerated, as appeareth in those, who said, Have not we prophesied in thy name? Hence the Apostle saith, That neither circumcision, or uncircumcision availeth any thing, but a new creature. They therefore that de∣scribe godliness by these common Marks, do as Socrates (if I mistake not) that defined a man to be animal bipes implume; and Diogenes brought a Cock plucked of his feathers, to shew this was Socrates his man. As a man is to be defined by that only which is essential, so must a godly man be notified by that only which Page 56 notifieth godlinesse. Therefore those many Symptoms, by which many impro∣priate grace and godlinesse to themselves, as outward Ordinances, a different way of Church-Government, great inward enlargements of it, are no infallible tokens; Therefore to drive people out of their holds, I shall in time select the choisest false signs, and make distinct Sermons upon them; for as the false Pro∣phets and Antichrist shall come with false signs, which shall be so specious that the very elect will be in danger to be deceived; so the hypocrisie and guile of our own hearts is so exceeding great that we many times take our copper graces for gold. Know then that whatsoever signs are taken up by thee, if they be not such as are essential, from which there is a necessary inference of the state of grace, thou venturest thy soul upon uncertain reeds.
Secondly, There is a danger about marks of grace, when we try not our graces by*a true touchstone. When the Apostle commands us to examine and prove our selves, it supposeth there is a sure Canon and Rule to go by, which is to measure and re∣gulate those things we doubt of. And that is the word of God, which David cals the light and lanthorn to his feet; and Paul commends them as those that are able to make us wise to Salvation; So that as when we are commanded to try the Spirits, and Doctrines of men, there is implied a recourse to the Scriptures, which is the only Starre to lead us, insomuch that the whole building of our faith must be cut out of this Mountain, and from this brook are all Davids to fetch their stones, which they shall sling in the head of every Goliah (I mean every heretick) insomuch that in matters of Doctrine, a man doth truly say, Non credo, quia non lego, I do not believe it, because I do not read it. Thus it is also in those injunctions, which are to search and try our hearts, for those do sup∣pose the Scripture to be the true Standard, and whatsoever is too light or faulty, must be discovered by this; for as God is the Principium essendi, the beginning or cause of the being of grace; so Gods word is the Principium cognoscendi, the principle by which we know what is true grace; now from this it is that most men do so easily perswade themselves of their being in a good estate, because they judge of godlinesse, by the principles of the world and humane grounds, not by Scripture-directions; Scripture-godlinesse is as different from the moral mans godlinesse as the Sunne is from a Glow-worm. Though this hath a little lustre in a dark night, yet indeed it is nothing but a slimy, earthy worm, insomuch that we may truly say of all the civil, moral and refined lives of men in Christianity, who have not the power of Regeneration in them. What Erasmus said of Se∣neca, Si i•spicias illum ut Paganus, Christianè scripsit, si ut Christianus, Paganicè. If you look as an Heathen upon him, then he seemeth to you to write as if he were a Christian; but if you look upon him as a Christian, then he seemeth to write as an Heathen. Thus it is here, look upon many mens lives, they are so full of ingenuity, righteousnesse and justice in their dealings, so much sweetness and candour in their spirits, that if as an Heathen you would look upon them, you would call them divine and holy men, but then look upon them as a Christi∣an instructed out of the Scripture, and observe how unacquainted they are with a broken and contrite heart, how ignorant of Faith and the inward work of Re∣generation, then you will say, they are only baptized Heathens, for even among them we can shew such men. If therefore you would not precipitate your soul into a gulf, take up the right rule, before you go to measure your selves. Thou maiest be admired and much applauded by others for thy goodness and piety (as the Pharisees were) and yet be abominable before God.
Thirdly, Then do we miscarry about Signs, when we make use of them in a preju∣dicial way to those direct and immediate acts of Faith, whereby we receive and apply*Christ to our souls. For the great work of a Christian is out of the sense and feeling of its own want and spiritual poverty, to roll himself, and rest only upon Christ for Atonement and Reconciliation, that is that faith 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, (a phrase not known to humane Authours, which the Scripture so often requireth and com∣mands: Page 57 This is that whereby we are justified; this is that whereby we set up Christ, and give glory unto God. Now it many times fals out, that while a godly man is poring and digging into his own heart to finde grace there, he for∣gets to exercise applicative acts of Faith, so as thereby to close with Christ. Alas, though the sight of thy graces be comfortable, yet that of Christ ought to be much more. These graces are but the handmaids and servants that wait upon Christ, they are but tokens from him, they are not himself: A man is not only to go out of his sins, but also out of his graces unto Christ. See Paul, Phil. 3. how excellently doth he debase all his own graces to be found in Christ. Let not therefore the desire after inherent righteousnesse make thee forget imputed righ∣teousnesse; This is to take the friend of the Bridegroom for the Bridegroom it self; and for this end (without doubt) it is that the people of God are so often in darknesse and have no light, see no comfortable sign or token of Gods love unto them, that so they may stay themselves upon God. This trusting in God and in Christ, when we feel nothing but guilt and destruction in our selves, is the greatest honour we can give God, and therefore though the living by signes be more comfortable to us, yet the living by faith is greater honour to God. Hence it is that the life of a godly man, is called a life of faith, because though God may many times encourage him with those sensible evidences, yet he doth morefre∣quently call them to combate and conflict with sense & reason. Do not therefore be unacquainted with this way of relying on Christ in the midst of all darkness, for God many times will cause an eclipse of thy signs, thou shalt many times look into thy heart, and find no comfort at all, see nothing but barrennes, hypocrisy, and every thing that may make thee tremble and be astonished at thy self, and then the im∣mediate depending upon, and adhering unto a promise, will be thy only refuge.
4. We miscarry about Signs, when we make them more then Signs, even grounds and*causes of our comfort and hope, thus making them in Christs stead. The fear of this hath made many so hot against signs; but these things may well be composed; comfort by signs & recumbency only upon Christ, & when we go further to take pride in them, or put carnal confidence in them, this is woful wronging our souls. It is worthy our observation, when Peter in the name of the Apostles Mat. 8. 24. had professed they had left all and followed Christ, with some kind of pride and carnal confidence, there∣upon asking, what should they have? our Saviour to humble them, and to keep them low in theirown eies, speaks a Parable to infer this truth, That many which are first shall be last, and many that are last shall be first, which whether you expound in this sens (as some do) many that were first, both in order of time and zeal of affection to do God service, yet wanting the truth of grace and inward humility; Shall be last, that is none at all in the Kingdom of heaven, or if you explain it (as others) Ma∣ny that are first, that is, who have been exceeding forward and active for God, and that with truth of grace, yet being puft up with pride, and trusting in themselves, as the Apostles at that present were; Shall be last, that is, shall have lesse glory and ho∣nour in heaven. Whether (I say) of these Expositions you take, they are both terri∣ble, and sufficient to take us from pride and security. when we discover Gods gra∣ces in us, the discovery of grace in thee, is to make thee walk more comfortably and thankfully unto God, not to cause any tumors or swellings in thy own self.
5. When we try our selves by Signs, we shall deceive our own selves, if we cast not*out two cursed corrupt principles out of us; the former is Self-love, and Self-flatte∣ry, whereby we perswade our selves of grace, when there is no such matter. Hence the Scripture bids us, Commune with our own hearts, and search and try our wayes, which supposeth that without diligent scrutiny, we shall alwayes be strangers to what is in our own souls. Thus many deceive their own souls, saying, They do repent, they do believe, they do love God with all their heart, when (alas) they know not the power of these things upon their own souls, thy heart is na∣turally a liar, and therefore believe it not. Thus the Pharisees did not know their own hearts, when they prayed, fasted and gave alms: Thus the Jews did Page 58 not know their own hearts, when they cried The Temple of the Lord, and aboun∣ded in Sacrifices. This knowing of our own hearts is a supernatural lesson, taught only by the Spirit of God. Oh this self-flattery, how doth it damn its thousands, men making it no question, but they do repent and love God, when yet Christ hath said, Many are called, but few are chosen, that is, of those many that are called by God to the enjoyment of Church-Ordinances and Priviledges, few have those true works of grace, which are proper to the elect only! O how should this terrible sentence spoken by Christ himself, make thee question again and again, yea a thousand times again, whether thou art called only, and no more, not chosen at all! for they are few.
The other sinfull principle to be ejected, is unbelief and suspitious jealousie over our selves, not giving credit to what we see and feel in our own souls, but argue and cavil against it. For as while a man is in the state of unregeneration, he is al∣waies in love with himself, and cannot be brought to loath and dislike himself, as you see in Paul while unconverted; so when the Spirit of God hath throughly humbled us, made us see our beastlinesse and filthinesse, then we run into ano∣ther extream, not taking notice of, but even denying the work of God upon our hearts; Their hearts did once so deceive them, that now they know not how to trust them any more. Hence the people of God are subject to no temptation so much as this, Whether they be sincere and upright, they look only to the evil they finde in themselves, not the good God hath wrought in them; whereas it is their duty to take notice of all the good God hath vouchsafed to them: for how shall they be thankfull unto God, and acknowledge him, if they be igno∣rant herein?
Sixthly, When they do not take the fit season, then they also are in danger of miscar∣riage. Now then it is unseasonable, when they are full of dark, and black tem∣ptations, * for then are they in a mist, and not able to see things aright, while He∣man is distracted with Gods terrors upon him, that doth eclipse his judgement; How often doth David in sad exigents think God hath forsaken him? When the looking-glasse is broke in several pieces, it doth represent the face of a man much deformed; The muddied water is not fit to give the true shape of the face, and thus it is here, the heart full of temptations within, and sollicited with Satans injections from without, putteth the soul upon an amazement. The incestuous person, though truly repenting of his sin, yet takes no comfort, but is even swal∣lowed up by Satan, Signs thereof from within do not at such times affect, and no marvel when Gods signs without, the Sacraments that are seals of his love, do not perswade him.
Seventhly, When they apprehend no Sign sufficient, unlesse they have had an actu∣al perseverance to the end. Now although it be true, that the good ground dif∣fered * from the bad, in that it held out to the end, yet that was not the only, nor the principal difference, but this perseverance was an effect flowing from the nature of the good soul. Although therefore afflictions and persecutions do detect the false∣ness of many, as appeareth Matth. 13. yet it doth not follow, that therefore none can have Assurance, but such who are come to their journies end. The Ar∣minians indeed much presse this, and therefore they hold, There is no absolute and peremptory Election, but upon perseverance in faith and obedience. Hence they joyn with that of the Poet, Ante obitum, No man is happy before his death, be∣cause they may decline and apostatize from what they had. It cannot be denied but the revolt and degeneration of those who have seemed pillars in the Church of God, hath much affrighted the godly, making them also fear, as if one day or other, in one temptation or other they should fall away: but they are to con∣sider, That wheresoever grace is already truly wrought in a mans heart, there God hath made a promise to keep us till the end, so that we may be assured of perseverance as well as of our present righteousnesse, for God who beginneth a good work in us, will also make an end; and we have a gracious promise of Gods care to Page 62 us in 〈◊〉 Prophet Isaiah, That as he gave us being at first, and bore us in his arms, so he wi••lso carry us on to old-age it self; as Gods grace hath planted, so he will water it, 〈◊〉 give encrease to it. *
Eighthly, When in the searching for evidence by Signs, we do not above all pray to God for his Spirit, so to enlighten our eyes, that in and through these Marks we may come to be perswaded. For the Spirit of God is the efficient cause of all this Cer∣tainty; Even as its in matter of Doctrine, though a man reade the Scripture again and again, though 〈◊〉 diligently peruse all Authors that are diligent in wri∣ting of Arguments for the truth, yet all these do not move him, till the Spirit of God set it home upon him; So likewise about sin, though a man read the threat∣nings over and over, though he know himself guilty of those sins the word of God condemneth, yet all this doth not touch his heart, to make it bleed, till Gods Spirit doth convince him: After this manner •t is in matter of evidence. Al∣though those godly exercises of grace be plentifull and copious in thee, yet thy heart is not perswaded of this, till Gods Spirit establish and confirm thy heart. Do not therefore think that by the strength of thy natural light, thou canst attain to this certainty.
Ninthly, When we think it a duty not to lay hold on Christ at all, till we have this*Certainty by Signs. Believers are very prone to think, that the first work they have to do, when called to God, is to see whether they have true qualifications in them; and upon the Certainty of this, then to apply Christ for Justification. But this is not the Scripture method, for that cals the hungry, the thirsty, the loaded and burdened; and where this need and desire of Christ is, such are called to come unto him; Therefore certainly that we have truth of grace is not an antecedent to justifying faith, but a consequent fruit of it. Hence that received opinion, That faith is a fiducial or strong perswasion that my sins are pardoned, hath justly caused many doubts, for this is not justifying faith, but a fruit of it. Hence Ephes. 3. we are said To have boldnesse and accesse to him through faith. And when the Apostle, Gal. 2. saith, The life he liveth is by faith in Christ, who gave himself for me, and loved me; he was not justified by this believing, but this did rather suppose him justified before, and united to Christ by a precedent act of faith.
If therefore a Christian should not come into Gods presence, or lay hold on a promise, till he have this Assurance of his inward qualifications, he may be debarred all his life; and the truth is, the soul in time of straights, is like Esther to go into the Kings presence though it perceive not the Scepter held out. We must not be assured and then lay hold upon Christ, but by laying hold on Christ we come to be assured: Christ many times doth that for a godly man, which in another case he said to Peter, Thou knowest not yet what I do to thee, but thou shalt know.
Lastly, We miscarry about Signs, when we compose not our selves, and put our*selves in a disposed and prepared way to receive this evidence of Grace; For we must not expect that God will assure us, whether we will or no. We by our unbelief and peevishnesse may refuse those good consolations the Spirit doth offer; So that although this sealing of Gods Spirit be efficiently from him, as conversion also is, yet we may in the former as well as in the later resist the Spirit of God: And it is a great sin to rebell against Gods Spirit, whether convincing of sin and duty, or comforting against doubts and distrusts: yea this is a greater sinne, for though the Spirit of God do convince, reprove, yet it hath a denomination from this operation especially, that it is a Spirit of Adoption enabling us to call Abba Father: Therefore when we do peevishly refuse the Spirits work herein, we do in a most eminent manner oppose it in that wherein its greatest glory is.