SECT. II. Containing many true Signs of Grace.
Handling Obedience as a Sign of Grace.
1 JOHN 2. 3.
I Have at large discussed the Doctrine and Usefulnesse of Signs, I shall now propound in so many distinct Sermons, several choice and select Signs, by which you may know how it is with you in reference to God. For if the Hea∣thens did so much admire that saying as an Oracle, Nosce teipsum, Know and be acquainted with thy own self, when yet they had neither true eyes, nor light to discover them∣selves by, how much rather doth this duty lie upon us, when by Gods grace we may have the seeing eye, and a sure light of Gods Word to guide us therein? And the first Sign shall be, An uni∣versal respect unto, and observation of Gods Commandments, out of the words read unto you, whereof the coherence is as followeth, The Apostle in the verses be∣fore, having comforted the children of God against their daily sins of infirmity, which cannot be avoided, he returneth again to his scope, which is to presse ho∣linesse of life; and certainly our faith ought to be as busie in embracing the pre∣cepts for holinesse, as the promises for comfort. The Argument for sanctity pressed by the Apostle, is from the profitable effect thereof, it will be a sure and comfortable sign to confirm us that we are in Christ: for to know God, to love him, to be in him, to dwell in him, to have Communion with him, are all one with this Apostle.
So that in the words you have two Propositions,
- First, That the knowledge of God makes us to keep Gods Commandments.
- Secondly, That this observation of Gods Commandments is a sign by way of an effect, to assure us that we know God, which is the cause.
In the first Proposition you have the Antecedent and the Consequent. The Antecedent is knowing of God; howsoever according to the Hebrew rule this Page 59 word Knowing signifieth Affectus & effectus consequentes: the affections and effects flowing from it, and so includeth love of God, and the like; yet it doth more properly signifie faith, according to that, This is eternal life, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent; for faith having several acts, know∣ledge, assent, fiducial application, the Scripture doth by a Synecdocke expresse the whole nature of faith by one act of it. Now because there is a three-fold know∣ledge, * The first perfect, which is only in Heaven; The second imperfect, but true and saving, which the godly only have; Hence Regeneration, Jer. 31. is expressed by this, They shall all know God, and be mught of God: A third knowledge which is imperfect and insincere, is that common gift of Gods Spirit upon temporary be∣lievers, whereby though they know the sense and meaning of divine truths, yet have not the saving effect and power of them upon their hearts, in which sense our Saviour making that open confession, and celebrating Gods power and sove∣raignty, saith, The things of God were hidden from the wise and prudent, Matth. 11. 25, 26. That is, the Scribes, Priests and Pharisees, who though very intelligent of the meaning of the Scripture, yet having not their eyes in a gracious manner en∣lightned, therefore had those divine things hid from them. A notable thing it is, and worthy all your consideration, and trembling at it, that the very things you know in Religion by parts and abilities, may yet be hid from you, in respect of any saving knowledge; Therefore to declare what kinde of Knowledge this is, observe the consequent, it is that which is operative and quickens us up to the Com∣mandments of God; for that proper and specifical difference, whereby saving faith is distinguished from the hypocrites, is in the cleansing and purifying nature of it, whereby it works by love; so that love is not the form of true faith, but to be operative and effective of love. Now according to the three-fold knowledge spo∣ken of, Zanchy doth well observe, there is a three-fold keeping of the Command∣ments; * for as our knowledge is, so is our holinesse. The first is, Perfect and com∣pleat, as Christ did, and the Saints in heaven do perfectly love God. The second is imperfect, but sincere, though the Scripture cals it perfect, because of the essential perfection, though it hath not a gradual. The third is external, with some internal affections, but altogether unsound. The Apostle as he meaneth the second kinde of knowledge, so the second kinde of observance of the Commandments, and how∣soever the translation be in the present tense, We know that we know him, yet in the original it is, We have known him, whereby it's plain, That good works doe not go before Faith or Justification, but follow it. The second Proposition is, that the keeping of Gods Commandments is a sign that we do know him, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, by which he doth not mean a conjectural knowledge, as the Papists would put it off, but a sure and certain knowledge. Now although the Apostle speaks indefi∣nitely, when he saith, Keeping the Commandments of God, yet because it is in a necessary matter, the Assertion is equivalent to an universal.
Hence the Doctrine is,
That an universal respect to, and keeping of Gods Commandments, is a sure signe*and infallible of our being in the state of Grace.
Thus Chap. 3. 22. he makes this to assure us in our prayer, because we keep his Commandment, and do that which is well-pleasing in his sight.
The Doctrine is to be opened in many particulars:
First, There are some considerations in which it is impossible to keep the Com∣mandments * of God, not absolutely and inse, as it is for a man to flie, for so it would be blasphemy to say, He commands impossible things, to do so cannot stand with his Justice, Wisdom and holinesse: but only it's impossible by accident through our corruption, who as the Saints in heaven have Felix necessitas, as Augustin called it an happy necessity of obeying God alway, so have we infelix necessitas an unhappy necessity of disobedience continually. Now this impossibility is two wayes.
First, In respect of every unregenerate man, who is dead in sinne, not sick or dis∣eased, but dead in sinne, and God justly doth require of us under pain of condem∣nation Page 63 to obey his Law, though we have lost the power. Neither is this as the Ar∣minians say, as if a Judge should sentence a mans eyes to be put out for a former fault, and then afterwards hang him, because he cannot see, for it lieth not as a mortal duty upon a man to see; nor hath any Magistrate such supream power over a man, as God hath over us. And by these commands of God is demonstrated our duty only, not our ability: hence God makes it his Promise, To give us a new heart, and to make us to walk in all his statutes; and although Arminians think it an absurdity to make the same thing Requisitum and Promissum, a conditi∣on required and yet a gift promised; there is nothing more ordinary in Scripture.
A second impossibility of keeping the Commandments is, In respect of the Re∣generate,*to whom God giveth not such a measure of grace, as that they are able to keep them according to the perfect obligation of it. Rom. 8. 3, 4. We keep Gods Com∣mandments in truth, not in perfection, not but that God is able to give us perfect grace, but he hath thought good to exalt imputed righteousnesse, rather then inhe∣rent in this life.
A third impossibility of keeping the Commandments of God, is not only Colle∣ctively,* that we are not able to keep them all, but fail in some, but distributively, there being not one Commandment we are at any time able to keep in any duty perfectly. And although it be easier to bring Arguments to prove we sin sometimes, and do not keep all the Commandments we should, then to prove we sin in every good duty, yet Rom. 7. 19. Gal. 5. 17. do strongly confirm, that because of the in∣nate corruption still abiding in us, we are not able to do any thing so perfectly as the Law requireth: in the most holy men there are both Defectus privantes, and Affectus obstantes, defects depriving us of the inward purity that ought to be in us, and affections contrarily withstanding the obligation of the Law.
In the next place we will shew the possibility of it, and that is, first, By a sin∣cere*inchoate Obedience, whereby we know God in part, love him in part, though not to such a full degree. This is affirmed of the godly, therefore it is possible, Luk. 1. 6. Thus Zachary and Elizabeth are said to be Righteous before God, walking in all his Commandments. David saith, Psal. 119. He shall not be confounded when he hath respect to all his Commandments. As the people of God have done this, so God hath promised this, I will circumcise their hearts to love me with all their heart and min••. So Jer. 31. and this is the universal keeping of Gods Commandments spoken of in the Text, and much pressed in several places; for there is the truth of all Obedience, though not the gradual perfection. It is no wonder that the peo∣ple of God are said to keep the Law of God, seeing they endeavour after it, and it's usual in Philosophy to call motions from the terminus to which they tend: Rege∣neration is the writing of the Law in their inward parts, whereby the Law is not a burden, but pleasing and matter of delight to them, as Paul professeth it was to him, Rom. 7. And by this means the Apostle saith, We do not abolish the Law, but establish it, because the grace of God giveth such ability and strength, that in some measure we are able to obey it: So that the act of Faith ad intra, which is recei∣ving of Christ, must not be opposed to, but conjoyned with that act of faith ad ex∣tra, whereby we walk in all the Commandments of God.
Secondly, The Possibility of keeping them is in an evangelical sense, that is, when * whatsoever we fail in, is pardoned unto us, for so it is through the Covenant of grace, that when we have sincerely applied our selves to the obedience of the whole Law, and falling short of our duty in many respects. God through Christ doth forgive us, and so our righteousnesse consists more in the remission of what is im∣perfect, then in doing what is perfect. In this sense Rom. 8. 3, 4. Christ is said to come in the flesh, that the righteousnesse of the Law may be fulfilled in us: and Rom. 10. Christ is the end of the Law for righteousnesse to the believer, not to the worker, so that in all exercises of sanctification we are to have a greater respect to what God doth forgive, then what we do, which hath made some say, Our perfection is to acknowledge our imperfection.
Page 64 Thirdly, We may be said to fulfill the Law, when although through daily infirmities we fail of the strict obligation, yet we do not by any grosse sin break it. In this sense * we keep it sine crimine, though not sine vitio, as Augustine sometimes, that is, without a crime, though not without sin. And although they are but few that do so, yet sometimes God gives some of his children to walk in such harmlesse and spotlesse lives. Thus Luk. 1. 6. Zachary and Elizabeth are said to be blamelesse. Phil. 2. 15. That ye may be blamelesse and harmlesse, the sons of God in the midst of a crooked generatiou: So it's required in a Bishop that he be blamelesse, that is, not without sinne, but without crime, for which he may justly be censured, in which sense the Apostle, 1 Cor. 13. praieth, that the Corinthians may do no evil, that is, no such crime, for which the Apostle should inflict a Church-censure, as formerly we asserted. Thus you have heard in what sense we are said to keep the Command∣ments, the former and the later being pertinent to our scope.
In the next place, let us consider how it is a sign, for even when signs are agreed on, yet there may be much deceit about the explication of the sign, cutting it too short, or stretching it out too long.
Therefore in the first place, This universal observance is seen, when our Obedi∣ence*is internal and spiritual as well as external. Could a man answer all the affir∣mative and negative precepts in the outward conversation, yet if not spiritual in all these, they were as a body without a soul. And herein the Pharisees hypocrisie was discovered, they rested wholly upon the outward obedience of the Law, when their hearts were Dens of thievish lusts; Hence our Saviour did so often presse them to make clean and wash the inward man: The Law is spiritual, saith Paul, and God is a Spirit, saith our Saviour, seeking them that worship in spirit and truth. Hence Matth. 5. our Saviour spends many words to convince the Pharisees that they were horrible violaters of Gods Law, wretched Adulterers and Murderers, though guil∣ty of no such outward crimes. Oh what a piercing and discovering signe must this be. This makes the moral, yea and religious man, whose piety is only in the out∣ward exercises of grace, to be without any hope. Alas all these externals are nothing if there be not an inward spiritual rectitude of the whole man. Hence Paul excel∣lently, Rom. 7. I delight in the Law of God, in the inward man.
The Antinomian pleads, That this universal Obedience cannot be a sign of grace, because Paul while unregenerated performed it, as appeareth Act. 13. 1. Act. 24. 16. *where Paul saith, He lived with a good conscience void of offence both towards God and man; Here (say they) Paul lived in an universal Obedience unblameably, and kept entirely to his conscience, yet was not in Christ.
But to answer this, A good conscience may be called good in a two-fold respect, * either when a man liveth not against the dictates of his conscience, or doth any thing against that as those Christians did, whom Paul compelled through fear of death to blaspheme: and thus Paul had a good conscience, because he verily thought he was bound to do as he did: in this sense a Papist, a Jew, any Heretick may be said to have a good conscience. Or else a conscience is said good, when renewed by Gods Spirit, and rightly informed and regulated by Gods word; and thus Paul had a very evil conscience, in which respect he called himself a Persecutor, and the greatest of all sinners, and so by the way you may see it's no argument of comfort for those who broach any damnable heresies, to excuse the matter, saying, Are they not conscientious men? Are they not to be pitied rather then punished? Is it not according to their light? All this might have been said for Paul, yet for all this his conscience was a very evil and wicked conscience, partly because it was not renewed, partly because it was not informed out of Gods word.
Secondly, Though Paul walked with a good Conscience, and that towards God as well as man, yet that was for externals only, he was not acquainted with all the sinfull motions of his heart, how much diffidence, ignorance, lukewarmnesse, love to the world, his credit and glory was in him more then of God, he did not per∣ceive. Now Gods Law requireth that internal good frame above all. That PaulPage 65 was thus at that time, appeareth evidently Rom. 7. where the Apostle mentioning that former time of his life, said, He knew not lust to be sinne till the Law said thus against it, and that he was alive till then, had good confidence and perswasion in himself, but afterwards he died, he was quite out of love with himself, and loa∣thed all that was in him: so that by this you see, how unblameable soever his lise appeared, yet it was farre from being in a right way. Oh therefore be per∣swaded to consider your selves you that live unblameable lives, diligent in the duties that relate to God and man, though thy outside be thus painted, thy in∣wards may be a noisome sepulchre! how uncomely is it for a man to have his porch and out-rooms very clean, but his chambers and in-rooms full of noisome filth? This is thy case, look in thy life, no irreligion or impiety to God, no in∣justice or oppression to men, yet thou art destitute of the Spirit, and void of all supernatural life.
2. As our obedience must be thus internal, as well as external; so it must be ex∣ternal * as well as internal; We must not please our selves with contemplative Me∣ditations or pretended Revelations, neglecting an active industrious life for God in our places and relations. In Popery there is the contemplative life, and the active life; the one they compare to Mary, the other to Martha; and they say, that contemplative life, like Mary hath chosen the better part, but this is to hide our talents in a napkin; and as Tacitus speaks of some men, That they were Solâ socordiâ innocentes, because of their sloathfulnesse, they did not come in harms∣way, as others did. It was not wisdom or justice, but meer sluggishnesse kept them from medling in dangerous matters; so we may say these are Solâ socordiâ pii, godly only by sloathfulnesse; To these we may adde some that pretend now adaies to live upon immediate Revelation, crying down all the Ordinances, Mi∣nistry, Sacraments and Sabbath, as empty forms: But how doth this stand with that universall Obedience unto all the injunctions of God made to his Church?
3. Universal Obedience is a sign when it doth carry us out equally to the duties of*the first table concerning God, and the second our neighbour. To pretend much de∣votion in matters of God, and to shew no conscience or equity in matters with man, is horrible hypocrisie. The Pharisees were notorious in this, who had their long prayers, and yet devoured widows houses, who taught that neither fa∣ther or mother might be relieved by their children of any thing they had, if it were Corban, that is, a gift consecrated to God. Those that are skilfull in the Jew∣ish customs tell us, That the Pharisees taught any man might vow the goods he hath to God, absolutely, or only in respect of this or that singular person, so that he shall have no benefit by it, and then when this vow was made they thought they might relieve no body, no though their Parents, and that in extream neces∣sity; but notwithstanding all this seeming Religion to God, how corrupt and carnal in their carriages to men? Fides est copulativa, and so must our Obedience be copulative. Thy Religion to God is no sign of grace, if there be unconsciona∣ble dealing towards men. Again, if thou beest carefull in duties to men, and neg∣ligent in the religious service of God, hence thy rottennesse of heart is manife∣sted, thou dost with all thy heart love a civil, just and righteous man, but thou canst not abide a forward religious man, thou lovest not strict keeping of the Sabbath, diligent and powerful Family-duties, Oh, what little hope is here of true grace in such a mans heart! It is ordinary with Scripture to describe all Reli∣gion and Piety by one duty sometimes, and sometimes by another, sometimes by praying to God, sometimes by keeping his Sabbaths, sometimes by fearing of an oath, because where one duty is graciously performed, there all the others will be also.
3. Universal Obedience is a sign, when we are carried thereby to receive the Cre∣denda, *as well as the Agenda, the things to be believed, as well as to be practised. Hence it's called, The obedience of faith; and this Apostle, 1 Joh. 3. 23. divideth the Page 66 Commandments of God in two parts, 1. Those things that concern faith in Christ. 2. Those things that relate to our love of others; therefore Gods Commandments must not only be limited to the prohibition of wicked lives, but must also be ex∣tended to false doctrines; therefore observe the Apostles in all their Epistles, they are as vehement and zealous against false teachers, as wicked livers, and therefore presse with an equal necessity true faith, and a good conscience; Therefore thy heart is then sincere, when its set against heresies, as well as prophaneness, and pro∣phaneness as well as heresies: If you have a man hot and vehement against ungod∣liness, but indifferent about false doctrines, that man may justly suspect his heart. Again, if a man cry out of heresies and the tolleration of them, yet can abide pro∣phaneness, can tolerate that in his family, or else where, this man also ought to fear himself. Whatsoever the Scripture speaks of impiety as destructive to salva∣tion, the same it also applieth to false doctrine. Is that the fruit or work of the flesh? so are heresies: Is that damnable? so are heresies: Is that to be cast out of the Church? so is false doctrine: Are wicked men prepared of old to destruction? so are false doctors: Are the sheep of Christ meek and innocent in their conversation? so they will flee from a stranger, and not hear the voice of a stranger. So that if thou wouldst try thy sincerity, mark whether thou desirest more liberty in matters of faith, then in matters of life. No doctrine revealed in Scripture to be believed, may be any more dispensed with, then the precepts declared in Gods word for practice.
4. Universal Obedience is a sign, when it comprehends not only general Duties, but*particulars of relation, not as a Christian absolutely only, but as a Magistrate, Mi∣nister, Husband, Wife, Childe or Servant; if a man discharge not the commands of these Relations, though his general conversation as a Christian be never so admi∣rable, yet he hath cause to suspect himself; relative and domestical graces do more demonstrate piety and true godliness then publick, general duties; for a mans pride, self-ends, may put him upon these, as we see in the Pharisees, according to that rule, Ambitio scenam desiderat, but it argueth truth of grace, to be dili∣gent in fulfilling of those relations we are ingaged in. Hence it is observable, how diligent the Apostle is in the close of his Epistles to declare the duties of relations, and to be large in the motives for them.
The Use is of Exhortation, to judge your selves by this sign. Art thou univer∣sal in thy Obedience, for all the waies and duties required by God, then thou * maiest take comfort; otherwise know, if thou hast not respect to all these, thou wilt be confounded, though with Ahab, Herod, ye do many things, yet if not all things, confusion will be upon thee. Oh then how few are they, who may claim a right to grace! Many men have an external Obedience only, and no internal, but most have a partial and not entire compleat Obedience, therefore it is, That many are called and few are chosen. Consider that terrible expression of James, Jam. 2. 10, 11. where the Apostle informeth believers, that if they be guilty but of that one sin, viz. Accepting of persons, they are transgressors of the Law in the ge∣neral, which he further urgeth by this Assertion, He that keepeth all, and offends in one, is guilty of all, not distributively with a guilt of every particular sinne, but in respect of the authority of the Law-giver, and the obligation of the Law, according to that, Cursed is every one that continueth not in every thing commanded by the Law; seeing therefore God in regeneration doth write his Law in our hearts, which doth seminally contain the exercise of all holy actions; so that there cannot be an instance of any godly duty, of which God doth not infuse a principle in us; and seeing that glorification will be universal of soul and body, in all parts and faculties, how necessary is it that Sanctification should be universal. Take heed therefore that the works of grace in thee be not abortive, or monstrous, wanting essentiall and necessary parts. Let not thy ship be drowned by any one leak, dwell upon this, universality is a sure rule of sincerity.
Handling Sincerity as a Sign of Grace.
2 COR. 1. 12.
AT the eighth verse in this Chapter, the Apostle beginneth a Narrative of his troubles, which he describeth from the place where (in Asia:) Some think this relates to the tumult raised by Demetrius against him, Act. 19. but it may referre to the many troubles he had severally in Asia. In the next place, these are amplified by the quality of them, it was a pressure above measure, above strength, it was not 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, an humane temptation; It was above the strength of nature, though not of grace. The heavinesse of it is expressed in that it made despair of life, to be altogether anxious not knowing any way to escape, in∣somuch that he had received the sentence of death in himself〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Though some understand it of some answer to be given immediatly by God, yet Beza doth most probably understand it as an expression from Malefactors who are sentenced to die: Further the Apostle illustrateth this from the finall cause, which was two-fold, first, not to trust in our selves; secondly, but in God which raiseth the dead. This is a comfortable consideration in all times of calamities, God who raiseth the dead. In the next place he declareth his deliverance amplified partly by their praiers for him, and partly by his sincerity towards them, so that in the words you have a twofold proposition: the first expresseth Pauls carriage in the world, especially in respect of his ministery, and that positively, then negatively; Positively in two emphaticall words, 1. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, simplicity, an heart that is not guileful, double, oppo∣sed to 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉; 2. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, sincerity, a word they say from the Eagle that tryeth her genuine young ones by the sun-beams, or rather in the sun-beams, there being both 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, lux, or light, and by the light thereof we see the least motes, and thus it signifieth a man whose heart being inligh•ened findeth out all the secret and hidden motions of sinne, or else in the sun-beams there is 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, heat, which doth separate those heterogeneal things that cold had congregated, and thus it doth signifie an heart purged from drosse, unmix'd with corrupt and sinfull ends, for as Aquinas observeth well, the soul may be joyned to things more noble then it self (as when silver is mingled with gold) and this doth not debase but ennoble the soul, for when it loveth God or is joyned to Christ, herein the soul is advanced: or se∣condly, it may be joyned to things inferiour to it, as when gold is mingled with lead, and this doth much debase and corrupt: now such a kinde of mixture is here denyed. The Apostle expresseth his carriage negatively, when he saith it was not in fleshly wisedom; wisedome may be called carnall or fleshly, either originally in respect of the fountain whence it floweth, or efficiently because it enclineth to, and pro∣duceth the works of the flesh, or finally, because it rules only for fleshly motives, and carnall ends. The second proposition in the Text is, that this sincere deport∣ment of Paul in the work of his ministery, was a sign unto him, a 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, a te∣stimony and witnesse of that goodnesse and grace which was in him, and so by con∣sequent the object of much joy and comfort to his soul.
Doct. That sincerity and uprightnesse of heart in our motives and ends, is a sure*Page 68and infallible sign of our being in the state of grace. To this purpose John also speaks, 1 John 3. 21, 22. If our hearts condemn us not, we have boldnesse with God.*
For the opening of this point, let us consider how unsafely it may be prest for a sign in some particulars, and then wherein the nature of it lyeth.
First, It is unwarrantably prest when uprightnesse is urged to the exclusion of all*respect unto any reward. For thus some do teach, Unlesse thou love God for himself, so that thou lookest neither at heaven or hell, unlesse in thy humiliation for sinne thou art so farre debased as to be willing to be damned, thy heart is not right. Hence I have read of one who passionately wished, there were neither heaven or hell, that so the party might know whether there was love to God purely, because of God. Whereupon many godly people are much troubled, and think the serving of God with eye to our salvation, is nothing but unlawfull self-love. But the pres∣sing of uprightnesse to such a strain and measure is unlawfull and uncomfor∣table.
1. Because the Scripture propounds heaven and salvation as a motive to obey * him, now no Scripture-motive can draw out any unlawfull affection, and what∣soever Gods Word requireth, the Spirit of God worketh in the heart of belee∣vers, which could not be if this desire of salvation be a sinne: therefore we reade of Moses, yea, and Christ himself, that they had an eye (yea, a sixed, constant eye, and firm, as the word signifieth) upon the reward: yet these cannot be denied to have upright hearts, all amor mercedis is not amor mercenarius: let not therefore the people of God condemn themselves for hypocrites, because of such affections. It is true there is in the people of God an ingenuous and supernaturall principle, whereby they love God, and holy things, because of the excellency of them: E∣ven as a carnall man loveth sinne, because of the suteablenesse of it with his own heart, but yet this is not exclusive of the love of our own happinesse: some make Gods glory and our happinesse, to differ as the supreme and subordinate ends, some as coordinate end• only; but to be sure, God hath so infallibly conjoyn∣ed them together, that one cannot be without the other.
2. It's uncomfortable, because it putteth a man upon the searching and finding out that which is impossible, for how canst thou ever come to know whether thou couldest be content to love God and serve him, if there were no heaven? Thou maist make metaphysicall abstractions about these things, but there can never be any reall separation of one from the other, and therefore it is impossible to know what thy heart would do in such cases. It is true, Paul Rom. 9. useth an hyper∣bolicall expression, I could wish to be an Anathema for my brethrens sake, that is, to be separated from Christ, and all communion with his priviledges, that so the Jews might be saved, for the saving of all them might seem to make more for Gods glory then the salvation of one man; but the Apostle speaks not absolutely I do wish, but I could wish, viz. if it were possible, or if it were lawfull; and in this he doth declare the vehemency of his love toward them. It is therefore good both for Ministers and people to be wary, that they lay no snares upon others or themselves in this point.
Secondly, This sign of uprightnesse may be prest unsafely when it is understood of such a perfect uprightnesse that hath no deceit or falshood at all joyned with it: but * as other graces are but in part, we know in part, we love in part, so we are sincere and upright in part. David though noted for sincerity, and a man after Gods own heart, yet cryeth out, Psal 19. Who can understand his error? There is more hypo∣crisie, self-ends in thee, then thou dost perceive, although there is so much disco∣vered in thee as to make thee humble, and to trust in Christ only; and Davids fail∣ing in sincerity made him so cry out Psal. 51. for truth in the inward parts, expect not therefore to finde thy heart freed from all guile and carnal respects thrusting of thee, and stirring in thee, more then from the reliques of other sinnes that still cleave close to thee. This is to manage the sign of integrity ill on the right hand. Then on the left; We may abuse this sign by going too low, and that may be these waies.
Page 69 First, When we take sincerity for quietnesse of conscience, that it doth not accuse.* Thus civill and formall men not being inlightned out of Gods Word, clear them∣selves, think their hearts and intentions good, when if they did throughly know themselves, they would be amazed. Thus Paul also, who said he walked with a good conscience, his conscience was good in that it was quiet, it did not check him, whenas if truly informed out of Gods Word, it would have given him as sad buf∣fetings as those of Satans: In this sense some of late have excused an heretick, that is willing to lose all temporall advantages for his conscience sake, yea, to die in the most exquisite way of •••ments rather then to forsake their judgement: how can these be judged any other (say they) then sincere upright men? But it is good to observe that then only may our hearts be said to be upright in a g〈…〉 manner, when they are according to Gods Word, which is the rule of uprightnesse. There∣fore if a man be now so fully perswaded of an heresie, that it is the truth of God, and take up his crosse and follow this errour, yet his heart cannot be called up∣right, for that is right which is according to the rule, to the measure which is the Scriptures. We grant therefore, that a Papist, a Socinian, or Arminian, may for his conscience sake endure joyfully the spoiling of his goods, refuse all earthly ad∣vantages that would thrust him against this, and thereupon finde incredible joy and peace in his soul, yet for all this, this man cannot be said to have an upright heart, because there wants true light within, and if the eye be dark, the whole body is dark also. In these times therefore it is good to have it pressed again and again, that in matters of opinions and doctrines a man may have a great deal of ease and com∣fort, and yet be in a very false way, and though such a man be not an hypocrite in a grosse sense, he doth not walk against the checks of his conscience, yet he is an hypocrite in a more refined sense, as hypocrisie is opposite to that which is true, and unfeigned: As we say a man doth many times lye, mendacium dicere, tell that which is false (a sin prohibited) when yet he doth not mentiri, go against his minde, or the light thereof. Therefore the conscience of every heretique, while under the saddest calamities for his opinion, is polluted and unclean.
Secondly, We abuse this in going too low, when we limit sincerity to one particular*fact, or to some particular passages only: For now even a naturall man, though not regenerated, may do some things in a naturall integrity and uprightnesse of his heart. Thus Abimelech Gen. 20. 5. said concerning Sarah, In the integrity of my heart, and innocency of my hands have I done this. Thus some take that U•iah whom the Prophet Esay called to be a faithfull witnesse unto him, to be the same with that Uriah the grosse idolater, who brought in the Altar of Damascus: If so, then as to that particular respect he was an intire man; Indeed no man is so to judge of him∣self by any particular time, but the constant course of his life is to be regarded. Hence a godly man is said to walk in the waies of uprightnesse; It is walking, and it is a way.
Thirdly, We then also go too low when we judge of sincerity by the proxime and*immediate ends of actions, not at all attending to the principall and main; Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Every gracious action comes from God originally, and tends to him finally, now a man may do many glorious and good actions, and that with reference unfeignedly to the immediate ends, yet shoot not so farre as the utmost white and mark of all, which is Gods glory: Take many Heathens for example, Aristides, Caio, Themistocl•s, and divers others, who did many good things unfeignedly for the common-wealth; they sought not wealth, neither did they inrich themselves, but the publique good was their end, they went no higher; now as a naturall conscience may much di•qu•et and accuse a man, witnesse many heathens, so it may also if obeyed give great comfort and content, as some of the Heathens also had, but it is not enough to make an action supernaturally good, to referre it to its proxime end, but it must be to the chiefest.
In the next place, let us consider what this uprightnesse is, and so wherein it is a sign.
Page 70 And 1. There is no sincerity, but where there is a full and powerfull change of the whose man by the grace of God. For every mans heart is naturally full of * guile, and doth uti not frui Deo, referre God to humane ends and himself, but not himself and all his ends to God, Omnes homines sunt latrones & quotidiè la∣trocinantur gloriam Dei: It was a saying of one which Cassianus doth much approve: The heart of a man naturally is said to be deceitfull above all things, who can know it? There is no truth, no integrity, till God hath changed it. It is as Tertullian said of the Peacock, versicolor, multicolor, semper idem & nunquam idem. If therefore thou wouldest have a plain and even heart, desire it may be polished by grace, for till this be, a man makes himself the center, and all lines to meet in him, but this is inward, and so cannot be perceived but by the motions and actions which flow therefrom; As Lazarus perceived he had life, not by the principle of life put in to him, but by the effects thereof: and Saul perceived he had another spirit by the o∣perations that did flow from it: so in conversion a man doth not perceive the im∣mediate habits and principles of grace, but by the effects and fruits of them he comes to know he hath such.
2. Uprightnesse is a sign and then acknowledged to be sincerity, when we do any good duty because God commands. As in matters of faith, then we properly pro∣duce * a divine act, when we beleeve quia ipse dixit, because God hath commanded it: so then is it properly upright obedience when it is quia ipse voluit, because he willeth and commands it. A man may obey a command because those actions may consist with some carnall ends, but to do it because of Gods soveraignty, this is acceptable. Hence Saul for that act of disobedience, though he pleaded carnall pretences, yet was judged to commit a sinne as hainous as witchcraft. Adams sin was to be aggravated from this, in that it was expresly disobedience; for there being no other ground of the command, then Gods will to command, it was bonum quia mandatum, not mandatum quia bonum; hence his sinne was in a high manner disobedience. Do not therefore this or that, because this will agree with thy ends, this will stand with thy lust, but do it because God hath required it.
3. Uprightnesse is seen in the universality of obedience; We do not pick or choose, but because God commands all, therefore we obey all: do that which crosseth us, * which is troublesome unto our flesh, which is self-denying, as well as those things that do not so much offend us. The Apostle Jam. 2. urgeth this argument, He that said Thou shalt not stea•, said also Thou shalt not commit adult•ry. Aquatenus ad om∣ne valet consequentia, to obey any commandment because it is Gods will, doth in∣cline a man to obey every commandment, because it hath the same superscription; Herod did many things, but not all things, therefore not any thing upon a right ground: Aristotle useth the first word 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 frequently for that which is opposite to 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉secundum quid. Thus saith he, a blackamore though he hath white teeth, yet cannot be called white 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, because it is in some respect only, so neither may a man be called sincere that hath only partiall obedience.
4. Then is uprightnesse a true sign when the motives of all our actions are pure and*heavenly; when all is done because of the glory of God, or for such motives that Gods word doth require: The Pharisees how glorious in praiers, fastings and alms, yet all they did was 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 to be on a Theater and admired by others ap∣plause: This is penetrating and discovers thousands of hypocrites: Jehu, who more zealous then he? who more active in reformation? yet it was not Gods glory he a•med at, but his own greatnesse. Mundus cadaver est, & petentes eum sunt canes, saith the Arabick Proverb, The world is a carcasse, and those that hunt after it are dogs; Oh how few then are Christs sheep, who are guided by direct and sincere motives, following Christ because of his precious ointment. All glorious acti∣ons without pure ends, are like sweet herbs upon a noisome dunghill.
5. Uprightnesse is when a man is very diligent and conscientious in internall duties*or secret, to perform them, and in spirituall or heart, sins and secret lusts to avoid them; God is a spirit, and Ioh. 4. he seeketh such that worship him in truth and spirit; and Page 71Paul expresseth himself thus, whom I serve in my spirit: The Pharisees (who were so often upbraided with their hypocrisie) were diligent in external obedience, when their inward vitals were wholly corrupt and rotten: Our Saviour directs us to pri∣vate duties in a most secret manner, with this encouragement, He that seeth in secret will reward openly: observe then how carefull thou art about the frame of thy heart, whether that be prepared and fitted with the graces of Gods Spirit; see how thou art in those things which none but God knoweth, and this will be a true touch-stone: Joseph made a notable discovery of his integrity when he said, how can I do this and sin against God? no secrecy or privacy could intice him. Therefore consider, that howsoever men know thee not, yet God knoweth thee; walk before me and be perfect, saith God to Abraham; eying of God sheweth sincerity.
6. Uprightness is a sign when a man doth zealously set against those sins that he most*inclineth to, either through outward or inward temptations, and hateth sin most in himself, and in those that are nearest to him; as a man hateth a toad most in his own bosome. David professed he kept himself from his iniquity: Hypocrisie hath commonly some Dalilah, some wolf or other in its breast, to whose sheaf (as it were) all other sins must make their sheaves to bow. This is the good old mark that godly Divines in former ages did so much presse, and you shall see when all false do∣ctrines and corrupt notions go out in a stink, such truths as these will be precious with the godly; Our Saviour in nothing more discovered the hypocrisie of the Pha∣risees, then that they were not sensible of their own sinfulnesse, they judged others, but understood not how noisome they themselves were: You are they which justifie your selves, but what is highly esteemed before men, is abomination before God; see therefore how lothsome and abominable thy own sinnes, thy family sinnes are unto thee.
7. Uprightnesse is seen in taking those waies and using those means only God hath*appointed for the obtaining of lawfull ends: Many times lawfull means are not so vi∣sibly advantagious, as shifts and carnall projects are, we see how Jacob got the blessing by fraud; David often became guilty of that deceitfulness and guil, which he so much in his Psalms complaineth of in others, and so farre as they engaged in unlawfull waies, so farre hypocrisie acted in them; They did not trust in God, neither beleeve in him for the accomplishment of his own promise. But this is a grosse mistake of flesh and bloud, for Gods means only brings about Gods ends in a mercy. When by unlawfull or unwarrantable waies we get any thing, it is as the Eagle got a coal from the sacrifice, she carrieth it to her nest, and setteth all on fire, Jonah 3. They that seek to lying vanities forsake their own mercy. Hence it is that so many promises are made to the upright man, especially in the Proverbs, that his in∣tegrity shall preserve him, because in outward probabilities he is most likely to be undone.
8. Uprightnes is seen not only when we have respect to all Gods Commandments, but*when we have it in that due order and respect, as God commandeth. The duties of the first table before the second, the Commandements of greater duties above those of lesse duties: As in faith there are fundamentals absolutely necessary to salvati∣on, and praeter or circa fundamentals, so in obedience there is that which is wholly necessary for every one to have, and those things which in some respect come only to be so. The Pharisees hypocrisie was made manifest in that they tythed mint and cummin, but neglected righteousnesse and judgement. Many times it fals out, that where men are diligent where they ought not to be, there they are negligent where they should not be. As Melancthon sharply reproved the Italians, Vos Itali Deum vultis esse in p•ne, quando non creditis eum esse in coelis; Ye Italians will beleeve God to be in the bread, when ye do not beleeve there is a God in heaven. Therefore ob∣serve the graduall difference God appointed concerning duties.
Use, To discover the p••city of those that are in the state of grace. If uprightnesse * and sincerity thus in all our ends and means be an inseparable sign of grace, may we not cry out with the Psalmist, help Lord for the upright man is perished out of the Page 72 earth: And in what age may the absence of it be more deplored then now, when Parties, Factions, Interests, have devoured and eaten up sincerity? But as the body is a carkasse without the soul, so is all religion without integrity. It is a blazing Starre though it make a great lustre for the time, yet it ends at last in noi∣some vapours. This was a comfort to Hezekiah in his sad distresse, That he had walked before God, with an upright and perfect heart. He that walketh uprightly walketh safely. He that liveth uprightly, and dieth uprightly, liveth and dieth safely. This is acceptable even where many failings are, and where this is absent, the most perfect Sacrifices are rejected.
That Opposition against and Abstinence from sin is a Sign of Grace.
1 JOH. 3. 9, 10.
THe Apostle at the first verse having declared the glorious priviledge of be∣ing the sons of God, he doth vers. 3. mention also their Duty: for exter∣nal grace and inherent are inseparably joined together. Their Duty is to avoid sin, which is pressed from several Arguments;
1. From the native filthiness of it, It is a transgression of the Law.
2. From the end of Christs coming, which was To destroy the works of the devil.
3. From a collation or comparison between the two Fountains or Fathers of him that doth sinne, or him that doth righteousnesse; the one is of the Devil, the other is born of God; and this difference my Text amplifieth: So that in the words you read, you may observe five Propositions; first, He that is born of God sinneth not; what it is to be born of God is easily known, viz. to have the image and holiness of God stampt upon us by his Spirit quickning of us; we must not ima∣gine any communicating of the Divine Essence to us; in which sense the second Person is born of the Father, and so called, The Sonne of God; but by participati∣on of those supernaturall graces which make us resemble him; The greater doubt is about the predicate, He sinneth not; which hath much exercised the thoughts of men: some understand it of a perfection attained to in this life, not to sin at all. Thus Papists, Pelagians, some Anabaptists and divers of late; but if this were the meaning, the Apostle within a very little space would expresly contradict himself, for Chap. 1. 8, 10. he saith expresly, If we say we have no sinne we deceive our selves, and make God a liar. Not to sin therefore is not wholly to be without sinne. Others limit it to a certain kinde of sinne, in this sense, He sin∣neth not, viz. unto death, so that he shall be damned; and without question to this purpose the Apostle speaketh Chap. 5. 16, 17, 18. But this seemeth to straiten it too much. Others, as Arminians, he sinneth not, viz. in this respect, and so farre as he is born of God; but what an absurd sense would this be, and who knoweth not that a godly man doth not sinne in that he is godly, or because he Page 73 is born of God. The most genuine and unforced interpretation therefore is, to understand it not universally, but according to the subject matter, he sinneth not, as one who is of the Devil his father, he sinneth not as Cain, all within him is not corrupted; so that he makes sinne his trade, his custom and delight. The very opposition makes this the meaning, I do not ground this opposition upon the phrase 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, as if that did alwaies signifie more then 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, for I grant that that phrase sometimes signifieth no more then barely to sin, not de noting cu∣stom or delight, as Rom. 7.
But my foundation is upon the context, the opposition Paul makes between a righteous and unrighteous man, in respect of the roots whence they are, and then from the second Proposition, which is the reason why he sinneth not, be∣cause the seed abideth in him, by which metaphorically is meant the principle of grace wrought in him by the Spirit of God, and that not only so, for Adam had the seed of grace, yet sinned it away, but because its preserved by the Covenant of grace. This place is brought to prove perseverance in grace, and no strength of wit hath yet been able to overcome it. The third Proposition is higher then the former, for it doth not only deny the act of sin, but the power of it. Nei∣ther can he sin, viz. in the sense before explained; and the fourth Proposition is a ground of the third, because he is born of God. Some make this reason the same with the former, but there seemeth to be this difference, the one signifieth that inward permanent principle of grace: The other that divine resemblance of God which is in us by this regeneration. The first Proposition is, That this difference between the righteous and unrighteous about sinne is a sure sign, whereby the godly man is manifested both to himself and others that he is godly.
That an opposition against and abstinence from sin is a sure sign, by which a man may*be perswaded that he is in the state of Grace.
For there can be no better sign to discover principles by, then their proper incommunicable actions; thus we discover fire by burning, a rational life by speaking, now of all actions, this is most connatural to the permanent habit of grace to encline us to loath and abhorre those things that are destructive to the nature of it, which is only sinne: but because we may easily be deceived about this sign, for every one that is afraid of sin, yea bitterly crieth out of it, and lea∣veth it, is not yet regenerated. Therefore let us diligently consider how it is a sign. And
First, It is a sign, When we perceive a setled fixed frame of heart against sin. As * the reason in the Text implieth; The seed of grace abideth in a man, he is born of God, now these expressions do denote something in us by way of a new nature, whereby we have an enmity and hostility, yea and irreconcilableness with sinne; As some creatures have an antipathy against others; As on the contrary, he that is of the Devil, and so hath a fixed root of ungodlinesse in him, he hath a constant enmity and hatred against godliness, and those that are godly, Why so? Be∣cause their works are good, and his are evil, as John expresseth it; on the contra∣ry the godly cannot agree and delight in evil, or evil men, because their works are evil, and his good; The Apostle Rom. 12. cals it 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, hating sin as hell it self, and the exhortation is to cast away their transgressions, abj̄icere not deponere, because of the loathsomnesse they see in sin; So then, let Pharaoh, let the Israc∣lites in several calamities bewail their Idolatries, and sins against God, yet here is no sign of grace, because their hearts were not stedfast within them. These were sudden transient motions not permanent principles, if thou wouldst take com∣fort from this sign, do not judge of thy self by some fits or seasons, but by the habitual inclination of thy soul. God in regeneration doth first change our na∣tures, new mould us; and from this supernatural principle issue gracious actions.
Secondly, Then is this a sign, When there is an universal repugnancy in every part*of a man against sin, not only in his reason and conscience, but in his will, affections and Page 74 whole man. For this seed of grace is nothing, but Regeneration diffusing it self into the understanding, will and affections of the whole soul; so that in every part there is that which is regenerate and purified, as well as that which is cor∣rupt and defiled. Paul, Rom. 7. giveth you a large instance of this in himself, He delighted in the Law of God in the inward man, There was the Law of his minde in him (which was the seed of grace diffused through his whole soul) that did en∣cline him to every good thing commanded in the Law; so that although there was at the same time a law of the members, and the body of sinne captivating of him, yet he had also a setled life of grace opposing all those motions of sinne; and this particular is diligently to be marked; There is many a man comforts himself in this, my heart is set against sinne, and if I be overtaken at any time, my consci∣ence checks me for it, and I condemn my self, so that I say with Paul, The good I would not do that I do. Oh take heed thou do not deceive thy self! for there is a vast difference between the check or resistance of conscience against thy corrupt affections and lusts, and between the opposition of the regenerate part in a man against the unregenerate; for the former is only between two particular faculties, the conscience against the affections, but the later is universal, there is the rege∣nerate part of the will and affections against the unregenerate part. So that in such a case a Christian doth not only say, my conscience bids me do otherwise, I know better things, as Aristotle speaks of his incontinent person, but he also saith, I will better things, I love and delight in better things. Oh therefore consi∣der this sign aright! when thy heart crieth out of sinne, Oh thou wilt meddle with it no more! Is this opposition only from conscience enlightned? Is it from that faculty only? Alas if so (as commonly it is no more) thou hast no more sign of grace in thee, then many Heathens have had. When a man is regenera∣ted, not only his conscience is made spiritual to discover the loathsomnesse of sin, but his heart also, his love, his delight, whereby he is carried out in all the power of his soul against sinne; and if this be so, may we not cry out with the Psalmist, Help Lord, for they are few that do truly hate sin.
Thirdly, This is a sign, As hereby it works in a man a difficulty, yea a kinde of an impossibility to sinne with wilfulnesse and purposed continuance. He doth not sinne,*neither can he sinne, saith the Text. There being a root of grace in him, it's im∣possible he should sinne with such an universal content of soul, as wicked men do. There is a two-fold cannot, one moral, and is no more then that which dif∣ficultly is not so. Thus 2 Cor. 13. 8 We cannot do any thing against the truth but for the truth. Act. 4. 10. We cannot but speak the things we have heard and seen. And in this sense, the children of God may be said, They cannot sinne, because they have an aversnesse of heart to it. Secondly, There is a cannot, absolutely, so that the thing can never be, whether easily or difficultly, and in this sense the godly man cannot sinne totally and finally, so as to be wholly deserted of God. As for the instance of Peter, David, and others, and whether the sins of the godly may be called reigning sins, I have already spoken to that matter. This is certain, it's impossible for a godly man so to delight and live in sinne, as that the seed of grace should be quite extinct. Although the grace that is in Gods chil∣dren may for a time make no actual resistance, yet the principle of it by reason of Gods promise will never be fully removed out of the heart. The Apostle Peter, 1 Pet. 1. makes that new nature opposite to all earthly glory and greatnesse, be∣cause that is corruptible and fading, but this abideth for ever. If therefore thou wouldst have any comfort from this sign, see how the seed of grace within thee, doth so affect and overpower thy heart, that thou canst not sin with willingnesse, content, no nor commit the acts of grosse sins, How can I do this and sinne against God? How can I? and by this means you have a palpable discovery of many amongst us, not yet to be in the state of grace; How can I lie, swear, deal un∣justly, neglect Family-duties? Thou wouldst finde such a constraining and over∣ruling power of grace, that thou couldst not do it: and mark if this impossibility Page 75 to sinne ariseth wholly from a kindly work of grace within, otherwise a wicked man cannot sinne sometimes, because God puts a terrible restraint upon his con∣science; Balaam he could not sinne in that wherein he was sollicited, If thou wouldst give me (saith he to Balaak) this house full of gold, I cannot curse them, but must blesse those whom God blesseth. God many times puts a bridle upon the conscience of a wicked man, that he dareth not, nor cannot commit such a sinne, as his heart would carry him to, but this cannot sinne, is farre dif∣ferent from the godlies cannot sinne; The one is a violent motion, the principle is from without, the other is a natural motion, and hath its ground from within it.
Fourthly, This is a sign, in that hereby a godly man in some measure, and by de∣grees,*doth not only leave outward grosse sins, but even conquer and crucifie the inward body of sinne. Gal. 5. He hath crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts thereof; and he is said to crucifie the body of sinne, and the deeds of the flesh; and herein this sign is most eminently significant; for a man cannot simply take comfort from this, he hath indeed once been such and such an ungodly sinner, he hath wallow∣ed in such mire, but now he hath given over all those courses; a man (I say) cannot barely take comfort from this leaving of actual grosse sins, unlesse there be a mortifying of them in the root, in the affections and motions thereunto; for Peter speaks of some, who had escaped the pollution of the world, and that through the knowledge of Christ, yet were Swines and Dogs in their nature. Wherein doth Paul Rom. 7. so passionately bewail his captivity to sinne, but only in respect of the inward motions thereof? Thus David, Psal. 51. staieth not upon his mur∣der and adultery, but goeth to that foul fountain, He was conceived in sins, and intreats God to create in him a clean heart. If therefore thou would fain know whether thou art borne of God or no; See how pure and cleane thou desirest to make thy self within, how doth the fountain of bloud within thee dry up?
Fifthly, This is a sign, When a mans opposition to sinne, and leaving of it, is be∣cause*of the foul nature of sinne. It is contrary to God, it's a transgression of his Law, and upon this spiritual motive he is bent against it. The Apostle (as you heard) giveth this as a reason, why the sons of God should not sinne, because sinne is a transgression of the Law; and David Psal. 51. bewails his sinne, though pardoned, because God was offended thereby; so that though a man pour out flouds of tears for sins, though his conversation outwardly become white as snow, yet this is no symptome of grace, a man can take no comfort from hence, unlesse it be upon this ground, because God is displeased, and his law broken: look over the Scriptures, you may see wonderfull examples of mens remorse and sor∣row about sinne, yet those very tears were so foul that they needed washing; Take Ahab, observe the Jews, consider Judas, how were they cast down about their sinne? with what horrour of conscience did Judas cast away his thirty pie∣ces? Oh men may go very farre in sorrow for sinne, and in reforming of their lives about sinne, and yet this be no sign to them of the truth of grace. Why (you may say) what should work upon them, if it be not grace? Oh there are many other motives that work upon them, terrors of conscience, fear of Gods judgements, and the pressing calamities that lie upon them! Insomuch that true unfeigned hatred of sinne is very rare; I deny not but the judgements of God up∣on a man ought to work in him a sense and feeling of his sins, a severe judging and condemning of himself under Gods hand. But to have this the only ground argueth not the presence of grace in them. They are tied up from sinne as Masti••s and Wolves are, their natures are not changed.
Sixthly, This is a sign, When the inclination and bent of the heart against sin, is uni∣versal*in respect of all sinne: For a man highly in love with some sins, may yet ex∣treamly set against other sins. Therefore as sins run out in several streams, so do their affections proportionably: as there are sins of the heart, and sins of the out∣ward Page 76 man visible to others. The Pharisees who were free from outward wicked∣nesse, yet abounded with heart-defilements, as our Saviour chargeth them. But Paul doth deeply bemoan the evil motions of his heart, and Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart; That pride, unbelief, earthlinesse, and several lusts of soul are discovered by him, and crucified, and we read of no hypocrite that went so farre. Again, There are sins done in secret, which none, or few know, such as theft, uncleannesse, unlawful trading, crafty policies: or pub∣lick, that are as it were upon the Theatre in the eyes of all: now the godly man abhorreth the former as well as the later, he dareth not commit a sin in the eye of Almighty God, which is every where, he feareth Gods knowledge of it more then all the world.
Again, Sins are either of commission, by a positive disobedience unto the Law of God, or of omission, by defect or neglect, such are omission of holy religious du∣ties, neglect, lukewarmnesse and distraction therein; now a gracious heart ab∣horreth not only grosse sins, but defects in holy Ordinances. As God is angry, When we fall from our first love, when we strengthen not the things that are ready to dye, when we are not fervent in Spirit, serving the Lord. So also is a godly man much troubled and grieved herein.
Further, There are sins against the moral Commandments of God, which are of good things intrinsecally so; and against positive commands, which are only good, be∣cause commanded. A sanctified person feareth the sinne against the one, as well as against the other; thus he feareth to prophane the Sabbath, to use any false worship, to come to the Sacrament in an unprepared manner, as well as to be unjust and oppressive.
Lastly, There are sins that become endeared by custome, education, complexion, by profit or pleasures. Now notwithstanding all these temptations, the godly man throweth them away like menstruous cloth, yea the sins they have been most enticed with, they manifest the greatest zeal against, and desire in all things to shew themselves approved. Oh (Beloved) if these marks and signs be in you, then may your joy abound. Do not henceforth argue thus, He must needs be a god∣ly man, for he hath such revelations, such enlargements in duties; he hath had such experimental workings upon him, he is of such opinions, for such a Church-government. These are nothing, Is he a man that dareth not sin? Is he a man that is afraid to offend God in any of those waies mentioned? This man is godly by Scripture-judgement, whereas the other may be only in the sight of themselves and others. And Oh that the good old Scripture-way of bringing men more into the sight of sinne, the loathing of it, were more preached and ur∣ged amongst us. If Jehu be not afraid to sinne, if Judas be not afraid to sinne, let them have all the glorious appearances of godlinesse that can be, they carry not a true badge of holinesse upon them.
Seventhly, This frame of heart against sinne, is so real and operative, that al∣though it cannot wholly dry up the fountain of corruption within them, yet it doth all*the foggy and miery puddles of grosse and enormous courses. The Apostle saith, The fruits of the flesh are uncleannesse, lasciviousnesse, idolatry, wrath, envyings, drun∣kennesse, revelling, with such like; and that they which do these things shall not inhe∣rit the Kingdom of heaven. Therefore an habituall, constant prophane person, cannot say, He is born of God. Oh do thou tremble, who livest and wallowest in thy gore bloud! Thy prophane Oaths, thy malicious hatred of the things that are good, do they not discover thou art in the gall of bitternesse and worm∣wood? Be not deceived, there are but two sorts of men, Either the children of light or of darknesse, of God, or of the devil. There is not any hearer this day, but is either in the state of grace, one of Christs sheep, or in the state of sinne, one of Christs goats; Now in which number art thou? Doe not actions betray some? Do not words betray others? Do not commissions some? Do not omis∣sions others? Oh that the word of God might fall like fire into your brests! why Page 77 sit you still? Why are not your consciences reflecting upon you? What am I, Lord, and what is my way?
Eighthly, This is a sign, as it doth not only oppose it in our selves, but set against*it in others. For being born of God, we now (though with great disproportion) re∣semble him; and therefore as God is of purer eyes then to behold iniquity; and he is angry with the wicked all the day long; such is a godly man in respect of his zeal against sinne where he liveth. Thus David, I hate them that hate thee, with a perfect hatred: And Lot, His just soul was tormented with seeing and hearing the wicked actions of the Sodomites. If therefore thou art born of God, thou wilt not bear ungodlinesse in thy family, the zeal of Gods house will make * thee see it be not a den of thieves; Oh that men in great place and power would put forth such a divine Indoles against sinne. What a shame is it to shew animosities, and an high spirit in a carnal way, and not able to de∣monstrate an heroick spirit against sinne, and the workes of Satan every where!
Ninthly, It is a sign, as it putteth a man upon the choosing of any outward affli∣ction*rather then to sinne against God. Job was charged to choose sinne rather then affliction, but herein he was wronged. It is a true touchstone of the pow∣erfull work of grace, that it makes a man fear the evil of sinne, because it depri∣veth us of an infinite good, rather then the evil of punishment, which takes away a finite good; Hence where this work of grace is, though storms and tempests arise, yet they are built upon a rock; They fear not miseries, death, they fear only to sin against God.
The Use is of Exhortation, To lay this sign close upon your hearts. Are you * such that cannot, that dare not, that have an habitual aversnesse from sinne, that are of God, hating evil as he hateth? behold what a sure evidence here is of thy eternal Salvation. But alas, where are the men? how few are they of whom this Text is true, They sinne not, neither can they sinne? The contrary is true, They love not that which is holy, neither can they, because they are of the wicked one. Naturae sequitur semina quisque suae. Fortes creantur fortibus; See an excellent Antithesis, John 8. 38, 39, 40, 41, 44, 45. How did the Pharisees see the devil do that which they did? They thought not so, for they said, They were of Abraham, but because they expressed in their lives such wickednesse as was in the devil. No doubt but many will take it ill to be said, They are of the devil, but their actions demonstrate it.
That for a man to be willing to have his Soul search∣ed by God, is a sign of Grace.
PSAL. 26. 2.
DAvid in the first verse of this Psalm, Prayeth for Gods preservation and de∣fence of him in the midst of all his adversaries, which he presseth from a two-fold consideration,
- First, His Integrity and Sincerity, which is not to be limited unto the righte∣ousness of his cause onely, but the innoceny also of his whole life, as the Psalm e∣videnceth.
- Secondly, His confidence and trust in God; for this is an ingaging argument with God, as it is with men.
Now as verse 3. He makes Gods Loving kindness the ground of his trust, so he manifesteth his sincerity,
- First, By appealing unto God in my text. Examine me, and try me. And
- Secondly, By the several effects of it, verse 4, 5, 6.
I shall consider that sign of his sincerity, wherein he desireth God would Try him, and search him: So that if there were any Hypocrisie, any false way, any un∣sound or imperfect principles he walked in, it was his hearty desire to have all discovered. And certainly there cannot be a greater argument of the truth of Grace, then a willingness to come to the light, and a readiness to be weighed in the balance; as on the other side you have not a surer character of an hypocrite, and an unsound Christian, then fear of the light, and unwillingness to be ransaked and searched into the very bowles by the word of God: But Davids hearty wil∣lingness in this particular appeareth, 1. In the several words he heaps up together in his Petition, Examine me; as Artificers doe, whether their gold be weight or no: try me by discovering whether I am inwardly sound or no: Prove me, (as the word signifieth) as when the Artificer melteth his silver in the fire, that separa∣teth the dross. 2. This doth appear in the object matter which he would have thus proved, and that is, His heart, his reins, which are the most inward and se∣cret motions of his soul, he would have a deeper searching into, and winnow∣ing of him then the world can do. Certainly David in this Petition doth disco∣ver great honesty, and faithfulness of Spirit. Now, here may be two doubts. 1. How God can be said to tempt, or try any man, seeing James 1. 13. God is said to tempt no man; and the divel is called 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, as if it were his work on∣ly. * The Answer is obvious, That there is a double Temptation: one evil, which is defective either in the principle, or means, or end of the Temptation. And thus the Divel and our own flesh Tempt. The other is a good Temptation, arising from a good principle, in a lawful way, to a good end; and thus God doth Tempt, that is, doth make a discovery what is in man; not as if he were ignorant Page 79 of it, but that hereby the person trusted may be better known to himself, and to o∣thers.
In the second place, we may doubt how David could lawfully pray to be Tem∣pted, seeing our Saviours rule is to pray, That God would not lead us (or cast us, for ne infer as, doth better Answer 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 then ne inducas) into temptation; But that is to be understood of the evil of temptation: so as God should withdraw his grace either, internal, subduing our corruptions, or external, repressing Satan and all outward power against us.
These things thus explained, observe, That it is a sure and comfortable sign of grace, when a man is willing to have his soul and all within searched by God. That which here David prayeth for, Psal. 17. 3. he there acknowledgeth what God had done, Thou hast proved my heart, thou hast tryed me, and hast found nothing; which is not to be understood as if David had no Dross in him, (for those words are taken from the Artificers that melt their gold and silver) seeing Psal. 19. He cryeth out, Who can understand his errors: cleanse me from secret sins. But of total and universal hypocrisie; neither doth David speak this arrogantly, as presuming of himself, but takes comfort from this in his grievous troubles, as a testimony that he belongs to God.
Job also in his cala mities hath his face and heart answering Davids, Job 23. 10. When he hath tryed me, I shall come out like Gold; so that from hence we may see, that a love and willingness to have our hearts searched by God, is such a testimony of the truth of Grace, that it is a great bulwark in times of sad afflictions: It is therefore worth the enquiry into the nature of this sign; for if the wiseman said even of these petty outward things, False weights are an abomination unto the Lord, how much more abominable must those false ballances be wherein men through blindness and self flatterry weigh themselves.
In the first place. Let us consider how God doth try, that so we may perceive * our willingness therein. And the first way is by his word, Eph. 5. 13. Whatsoever doth manifest, and so reprove evil, is light. Now the Scriptures are like the Sun, into which God put all light, and other things shine with light borrowed from thence. David commends Gods word for a light and lanthorn to his feet; and that by which he was forewarned from sin; and for this profit coming by them, he commends them for preciousness and sweetness above fine Gold, and the hony combe: See here a true touchstone of Grace; thou lovest the word of God above any treasures in the world, not onely for the promissary part of it, but the discovering part of it: It acquainteth thee with all the evil of thy heart, and thy wayes: It speaks bitter things against pride, lusts, lasiness, immoderate love of the world: It makes me an undone man; it will give me no comfort in any evil way, and therefore I can read it, and meditate on it with hearty delight, Heb. 4. The word of God is quick, and powerful, discerning the Intima, and the Minima, most deep things of man, and the least sins in him.
As by the light of the Sun beams we see the little motes, and flyes in the air, so by Gods word shining into our hearts, we come to see many things sinful and un∣lawful, which we did not perceive before: Oh then consider your selves herein; do you love the word of God because it finds out thy sins, never speaks any good to thy corrupt wayes? dost thou pray, O Lord, let thy word still enter with more light and power upon me? this is a comfortable sign; but on the other side, if thou art in a continual fear of the light, darest not look into the Bible because it speaks against such and such sins thou art guilty of, be afraid thou art not right. Tertullian called Hereticks Lucifugae Scripturarum, they were like Bats and Owls, they could not endure the light of the Sun: And our Saviour saith, The theif hates the light, because his deeds are evil. Oh then take heed you who have a leprosie of sin plainly appearing upon you: doth not the word of God meet thy drunken∣ness, thy lusts, thy oaths, thy pride, as a Bear robbed of her whelps: Oh thy soul must needs hate the word of God, because it is so contrary to thee.
Page 80 A second Way whereby God proveth, (and the sincere rejoyce therein) is a*powerfull and soul searching Ministry, which like thunder and lightening, makes the mountains to melt like wax, and the Hindes to calve in the fields, I mean the stoutest and obstinatest sinner, to finde his soul thereby in a spiritual travel and agonie longing to be delivered. A gracious heart loveth that Ministry which like the word of God is a two edged sword in his heart, of which he can say as the woman, of Christ, It hath told me all that ever I did. That shaking of heaven and earth which the Prophet Haggai speaketh of, is the Ministry of the Apostles, and in the Hebrew is the word, from whence Bonarges cometh. Then are ye like the Eagles young ones, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, when ye can look upon the sun beams: when light is not offensive to your sore eyes. It was a speech infal∣lible betraying Ahabs rotten heart, when he said of the Prophet Michaiah, I hate him, because he alwaies speaks evil to me. You have just cause to suspect the sound∣ness of your hearts, when you delight onely in a lazy, formal, general, and dull mi∣nistry: when you would have Prophets that should sing onely Pleasant songs, daub with untempered morter; encourage you, notwithstanding your sins you are in. And if this be a symptome of an unsound heart, may we not say Hypocrisie hath fallen upon the hearts of most in England, who rejoyce not in those Ministers and Prophets that rouse their consciencies, that trouble them for their sins, that would reform them from their superstitions and prophanies? do not the faithful Ministers of God meet with the same hatred and opposition as the prophets did by Jerusa∣lem? and why is all this? That of our Saviour will answer it, The thief hates the light, because his deeds are evil. Therefore is thy heart afraid, and unwilling to have a Ministry that shall discover thy sins, because thy Conscience is full of Ulcers and sores: whereas now if thou didest love to be reformed, how wouldest thou re∣joyce in the light of the Ministry. The more spiritual, powerful, operative, thou didest finde it in thy heart, thou wouldest bless God the more: thou wouldest cry out with thankfulness, O Lord I bless thee that light shineth in every dark corner of my heart: Oh let it still be a ministry, as if to me onely, to mind me of my sins, to bring my iniquites to remembrance. O Lord, my heart doth not rage, nor rise against this light; it doth not hate, or rebel against it, but I set open the Gates of my soul to receive more in.
3. The work of Conscience within us, that also doth prove us. God hath set up a light within us, and when this is enlightened by the word, then it makes a mans * brest full of light. Now a faithful godly man, he loveth this should be tender, a∣ctive, speaking out of Gods word for every duty, and against every sin. You see the quickness of it in David, when it's said, His heart smote him: and 1 John 3. If thy heart condemn thee, God is greater then thy heart. Alas, if thou within thy own self judgest thy self to sin thus and thus, God doth much more. Try thy integrity: art thou willing to have a tender conscience, and an informed conscience? Dost thou love to hear what that speaks out of Gods word? whether peace or Duty, this is comfortable. But on the other side, if thou art a man that rebelest against the light of it; wouldst sain put out the sting of it; wouldst be glad to feel no such living thing in thy breast, then thou hast cause to suspect thy self: Oh it is to be feared that there are many that give themselves to lusts, and carnal pleasures, that so they may put a foggy mist between this sin and them. Others digg into the world, labouring to become senceless, that so there may be an eclipse of this light by the interpositi∣on of the earth. Others run to damnable Heresies, denying Scriptures, God, Hea∣ven, Hell; pleading for an universal salvation of all: What are these but refuges of guilty consciences. It is true, we must distinguish between our carnal concupi∣sence, and conscience; between deluded imaginations, and conscience; between an erronious, and scrupulous conscience, and a well grounded, and truly informed conscience; and when we have done so, we must follow conscience as far as that follows the word.
4. God tryeth us by the illuminations of his Spirit, and strong convictions thereby.Page 81 Thus God proveth us, and makes us to know what we are, and wherein we fail. John 16. The spirit of God convinceth of sin, and of righteousness; and we are for∣bidden to quench the spirit: a metaphor (as some say) from the fire in the Temple that was not to be put out. And again it is the character of the stiffnecked Jewes, as fitted for destruction, that they alwaies resisted the spirit of God. If therefore thou wouldest have comfort from this sign, consider how the illuminations and motions of Gods Spirit are cherished, and nourished by thee. As soon as the cock croweth, doest thou go out and weep bitterly? Is not the Spirit of God grieved, and imbittered by thee? Oh, though they be dear, and pleasant, or profitable sins, yet the Spirit of God convinceth thee of them, makes thee forsake them: and doest thou rejoyce under this work of Gods Spirit upon thee? Doest not thou resist and rise up against it? Oh, (beloved) deeply weigh this. Though it may be there are some so swinish and beastly, that the spirit of God never moveth or worketh in them: Yet there are others who are not yet forsaken by God, but in the ministrie he stands at the dore, and knocks; he beckens unto thee to come unto him. Oh, now is God proving thee, examining thee. Now is he trying thee, if truth be in thee thou wilt be glad in this work of God upon thee, and desire still more and more burning, and shining light within thee.
5. God tryeth, when by his Providence we are put upon many duties and com∣mands, which it may be at other times did not concern us. Thus God examined A∣braham by a command to offer up his onely son Isaak. Thus God tryed the young man, who had great confidence in himself, by that personal com∣mand, to go and sell all he had and to follow him. Now times of persecution, are com∣monly such times of tryal: Whether then we love Father or mother, houses or chil∣dren, or lives themselves, better then him? Thus the second kind of Ground, that had an hopeful sprouting, was quickly discerned to have no root when the sun arose.
The vessels soundness is tryed in the fire: The Mariners skill in a storm: The trees in a windy tempest. In winnowing all the chaff flyeth a way. There is a com∣fortable place to the Godly, Zach. 13. 9. God promiseth he will refine them as Gold by their afflictions, they shall only lose their dross.
6. And this is the sixt way of Tryal, viz. When God brings us under his chastise∣ments. This manifesteth what mettal we are of. 1 Pet. 1. 7. The tryal of the God∣ly by those troubles, is said to be more excellent then that of the gold in the fire, be∣cause that is perishing, and this abideth for ever. Hence afflictions are onely called Temptations, and not Mercies, though they many times discover what we are. Now indeed, we are not to pray to God that God would afflict us, that he would bring us into the fire; but when he doth it, we are to make this advantage, The Lord doth it to humble us, and try us, to see what is in our hearts; whether we will remain constant and faithful unto him: Therefore we do not despise the af∣fliction, or murmur against God; but rejoyce that this purging of us, makes us to bring forth more fruit.
As God useth these several waies to prove us, and the soul of a Godly man is rea∣dy * herein, so in these three cases especially doth a Godly man give up himself to be examined.
First, In matters of Doctrine: Although Heresie may be meerly in matter of Con∣science and Opinion, yet for the most part, carnal principles and motives are inter∣woven therewith: now a Godly man having a right understanding how obnoxi∣ous he is to E•rors, and subject to blindness in every thing; and how deceiptfull his heart also is, pretending for God, when indeed it is for nothing but self, is therefore more ready to hearken to all light and reproof: As the spirit of God doth lead into Truth, so it doth also at the same time affect with much modesty and humility. It is good to observe the excellent temperament of Paul, 1 Cor. 7. in determining that case of conscience about marriage to the Corinthians: His expressions are, Yet not I, but the Lord; and I think I have the spirit of God. The same candor and in∣genuity Page 82 doth he work in his children: If therefore a Godly man doth err any dan∣gerous error, it is with him as in other sins; he doth not flatter himself; his heart is apt to smite him. Errare possum Haereticus esse nolo, he will not be obstinate; he is earnest to have all things searched and tryed; whereas it is the nature of Hypo∣crisie to maintain those positions which are for profit, and self-interest, against all light. Are not the Pharisees a sad instance for this, who though they had no just ground to oppose our Saviour, yet because Christs way was destructive to their ap∣plause and credit; when they could not fairly answer, they would fouly blas∣pheme: Whereupon our Saviour chargeth them with blasphemy against the Holy Ghost.
2. In matter of received worship, and traditional service of God. Although it be worship that can plead custom from prescription many years, commendation of the universality of learned men; yet an heart truly sincere, desireth to have all things examined and proved out of Gods word: Christ said he was truth, not cu∣stome, as the Father observed well; and Christ dyed not onely to deliver us from our sinful waies, but the Tradition of our Fathers, John 4. You may observe the carnal disposition of all men about an accustomed way in serving of God, in that woman of Samaria; she presseth the argument that all silly and ignorant people do now for any Superstition, Our fathers worshipped, &c. but our Saviour instructeth her of a Worshipping God in spirit and truth, which she before was wholy ignorant of. Therefore in this matter a man may discover much integrity of his heart, where∣as if any be thus affected, I care not what Scriptures you bring, I hearken not to what Arguments are fetched out of Gods word, it is plain this man carnally adhe∣reth to his own imagination, and is not willing to be searched: As that Papist, Cornelius Massus said, If a thousand Austins and Chrysostomes said thus and thus, he cared not, he would believe what the Pope said.
3. This is eminently discovered in matter of practise. Although a man hath been addicted to sinful waies of pleasure, profit, or any advantage whatsoever, yet all those things that he accounted gain, afterwards he will judge loss for Christs sake. Paul though much engaged in a way against Christianitie, yet when once wrought upon, He consulteth not with flesh and blood, Gal. 1. He considers not any carnal reasoning, but applieth immediately, and that without any limitation, to Gods commands, Lord what wilt thou have me to do? (saith he:) He giveth up his heart as a blank, let God write down what he pleaseth. Thus Elihu, supposing upon a false ground Job to be an Hypocrite, doth give him excellent counsel, Job 34. 31, 32. Surely it is meet to be said unto God, I have born chastisement, I will offend no more. That which I see not, teach thou me; and if I have done iniquity, I will do so no more. Therefore herein mayst thou see the truth of thine heart: canst thou heartily say, that which I see not, teach thou me, Neither profit, pleasure, or any consultation with flesh and blood shall hinder me from my dutie. Whereas if you observe the half-conversi∣ons of any to God, the Israelites, Jehu, many in the New Testament, you shall find they all flew back upon this ground, They consulted with flesh and blood.
In the next place let us consider what are the effects of such a gracious temper in the heart. And
1. Where this is, it doth not excuse or mitigate sin, but takes in with God a∣gainst its own self. The Apostle speaking of the Corinthians repentance, acknow∣ledgeth their zeal, fear, and indignation, and revenge against them selves. See 1 Cor. 11. If we would judge our selves, we should not be judged of the Lord.
2. Not resting upon generals, but particularly applying matters of Duty. The Pro∣phet Jeremiah complaineth, no man saith? What have I done? The young man comforted himself well enough in the general, till our Saviour in particular tryed him, and then he went away sorrowful: particular applications and discharge of duty, will try, as the jealousie water did the suspected woman. A man may speak and preach for godliness in the general, but when it comes to particulars, he cannot Page 83 abide it. The Pharisees, they commended the Prophets that lived before them; but Christ, and those that lived at that time who reproved them for their sins, they could not abide. Therefore it is a good rule of the Ancient, When, saith he, you hear a man commending those ancient doctors that went before: see how he is affected to his present Teachers. That opposition which wicked men shew to those present men alive that discover God to them, they would do to Peter and Paul; to Austin and Chrysostom, if they were alive. But when a thing is general, or afar off, it doth not move at all: particular present things, do discover what men are, and a sincere heart loveth those best.
3. A sincere heart loveth a Godly reproof, and those that give it. See it in David; Let the righteous smite me, and it shall be better then oyl: Whereas a man of a false and Hypocritical heart, he rageth and flyeth in the face of those that reprove him, though it be done with all prudence and compassion. Therefore try how thou canst bear a reproof. Doth it work Humilitie, Love, Reformation in thee? this is good.
To all this which hath been delivered, this caution must be remembred, which holdeth also in all other signs. We must not expect a punctual perfection herein, for even those who are truely sanctified, have yet discovered much falshood and hypocrisie. Take David for an instance in that gross guilfull way of the Murther of Uriah: could he then say, Examine mee, prove me? Was not there dross e∣nough to be found in him? Therefore though David desired such an inward searching of him, yet that he had no confidence in himself, appeareth by that u∣niversal principle he layeth down in another place: If thou (O Lord) be strict to mark what is done amiss, no flesh shall be justified in thy sight. Thus Asa, though he was a godly man, yet when reproved by the Prophet for his sin, how did corrup∣tion stirre within him, in so much that he threw the good Prophet into prison for doing his duty!
Use of Examination: Here is a touchstone and trial for your selves. Is there love of the Light, or fear of the Light: are you afraid of the word of God, a soul-searching Ministrie, close and particular applications? then suspect all is not sound within thee. But if thou rejoicest in that thy sores are discovered, thou art glad when thy Hypocrisie is made known to thy self, and thou criest out, More Light, Lord, more searching of my inward man, here is a good comfortable sign. Hence David, Psal. 19. when he had said, Who can understand his Errors? he prayeth, Cleanse me from secret sins. Doest thou so? Lord I fear much secret, and unknown cor∣ruption in me: I know not how bad I am; a great deal of filthiness lieth undisco∣vered in me; Oh let me be tried and proved by thee.
Growth in Grace a Sign of Grace.
JOHN 15. 2.
A Fifth sign of the state of grace, shall be growth and further progresse in san∣ctification, out of these words, which are a part of that valedictory or fare∣well Parable our Saviour spake to his Disciples, encouraging them in their duty and consolation: For in the former Chapter our Saviour having informed them of two particulars, which might justly trouble their hearts, whereof one was his departure from them, and the other the sad calamities which would fall upon them: By this Parable he giveth a twofold remedy to that twofold grief. For the first, though he be corporally absent, yet he is spiritually present, and that with a very near union, for he is the Vine and they the branches, so that spirituall efficacy shall alwaies be communicated to them. 2. For the latter, he exhorts them to per∣severe and abide in him, notwithstanding all persecutions, from arguments ab effectu utili & pernicioso: This is the scope.
In the Parable you have first the similitude laid down generally, I am the true Vine, and my Father the Husbandman. The true Vine 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, because the properties of a naturall Vine to its naturall branch, are nothing in respect of what Christ is to his spirituall branches.
In the second verse you have a distinction of two kinde of branches in Christ, which also doth insinuate exhortation to look to our selves. The first kinde of branch is, that which is in him not bearing fruit. He doth not by this mean an hea∣then or a flagitious wicked man, but an hypocrite that hath the visibility of a branch but not the reality: he doth not say, Every briar or nettle that bringeth not forth fruit, but every branch; But how is an hypocrite in Christ? not by any in∣ternall union, but outward profession, by the Sacraments, and in the judgement of others, he is in Christ, as a sciens newly grafted on a tree, which yet hath no coa∣lition with it, or receiveth any juyce or nourishment from it, and see that terrible judgement that impendeth this unprofitable branch: A nettle in the garden, weeds among corn, ill branches in a vine, are in the greater danger, and so is a Christian in the Church, not inwardly participating of efficacy from Christ. In the first place he doth 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, take him away, which is more particularly amplified ver. 6. he is cast forth of the vineyard, Christ bids them depart, then he withers, for though he had no fruit, yet he had leaves, and all this decaies; and lastly, he is cast into the fire to be burnt. The other kinde of branch is that which being in Christ brings forth fruit, and concerning this observe the care and love of the vine-dresser, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, he purgeth it, for that is necessary for vine-branches: Therefore the Hebrew word for a branch or vine is called 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉Zamorah a resecando, Numb. 3. 24. Ezek. 15. 2. because it must be often pruned. Now although this purging be commonly under∣stood of afflictions and persecutions, which like dung, though noisome in it self, yet makes this ground fruitfull; yet we are to understand it more generally of all Page 85 those means which God hath appointed for our progresse and encrease in grace, especially the word of God, as appears ver. 3. Now ye are 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 (the same word in the originall with the former) through the word I have spoken unto you. In the next place our Saviour describeth this purging from the end, that ye may bring forth more fruit: now that they may be partakers of this growth, he useth severall arguments worthy observation, Verse 4. Abide in me, and I in you, because the branch cannot bear fruit, separated from the vine, no more can ye (saith Christ:) 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, without or rather separated from me: he doth not say, saith Austin, that ye can do no greater thing without me, but no thing, and he doth not say ye cannot perficere perfect, but facere, ye cannot do; which our Saviour doth not apply unto that generall aid of God that is needfull in all naturall and morall actions, but of the speciall assistance of grace, whereby as branches we bring forth spirituall fruit, and observe that there is our abiding in Christ, and Christs abiding in us, and Christs immanency or indwelling in us, is properly the cause of spirituall fruit, not our dwelling in him; as the branch beareth fruit, not so much because it is in the vine, as because the vine is in it communicating juyce to it. Lastly, This growth and fruitfulnesse is spoken of as an absolute property, in my Text: And vers. 8. If ye bring forth fruit, so shall ye be my Disciples; that is, this is a necessary property to demonstrate that ye are indeed my Disciples, and then our Saviour speaks of it as a sign, v. 11. These things have I spoken, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full; now they could have no joy in these things, unlesse they could know they did bring forth fruit, and therefore were Christs Disciples.
That growth and encrease in grace is a necessary property and an infallible sign of our*being in the state of grace. Our Saviour saith not, Every branch in me, that is green and flourisheth with leaves and blossomes, but that beareth fruit, he makes it to bring forth more fruit. It is not every Christian that hath the flourishing green∣nesse and leaves of common abilities, and parts in religion, that is regarded by God, but that man whose talent of grace, as five, hath gained ten: Therefore in that Pa∣rable our Saviour bid them all negotiate, play the merchants, and trade in the waies of grace, and one man hath his portion among hypocrites, though he had not idlely spent his talent, but because he had not improved, propter lucrum cessans, though not propter damnum emergens; so that the opening of this mark will be of great use, because encrease of grace is so rare: and whereas all men endeavour to have their health, wealth and estates better, they are not carefull to have better gra∣ces, to pray better, to hear better, to be more strong in beleeving and heavenly-mindednesse. To affect you therefore herein, consider first,
That as there is a necessity of being converted and translated from sinne to a state of grace, so there is also a necessity when we are put therein, to grow and encrease to a fur∣ther stature in holinesse. Thus in the Text, Every branch he purgeth to bring more fruit, Eph. 4. 16. Col. 2. 19. In which places every godly man is said to be knitted to Christ, and thereby partaketh of his spirit and nourishment, wherein he encrea∣seth with the encrease of God, that is, with a divine and spirituall encrease, in op∣position to the naturall growth of the body: so that whosoever findeth himself set∣led upon his lees, continuing still in the same formall, empty, barren way, he may justly suspect whether he be of the body of Christ; but as the glasse eye and artifi∣ciall leg receiveth no nourishment from the body, but have still the same dimen∣sions, is no longer or broader, so is every unregenerate man destitute of the vivifi∣call influence of Christs spirit, and therefore is the same without any change, he was many years ago. Yea, that the necessity of the growth of grace may appear, the Apostle Eph. 4. 12, 13. makes it the great end of the Ministery, the end why God hath given Pastors and Teachers to his Church, not only for conversion, but further edification, till we all come unto the measure of the stature of the fulnesse of Christ: which is not to be understood in the life to come, but in this life, as ap∣peareth by the verse following, that we be not hence forth like children carried with every winde of doctrine; so that God hath appointed a Ministery not only for lay∣ing Page 86 the foundation of godlinesse in the peoples hearts, but for superstruction; and oh that the Ministers of God could see this glorious effect. What hast thou been more instructed in? wherein hast thou been more quickned up to godlinesse since thou hast enjoyed the Ministery? Oh (beloved) if Christ should come and look up∣on our persons, families, may he not curse us with the figtrees curse, never fruit grow on you? Know God is not only angry with thee in the state of sin and love thereof, but also with the coldnesse, lukewarmnesse, that thou hast not thriven and en∣creased more in every grace. Hence are those manifold exhortations to this duty, 2 Pet. 3. 18. 1 Pet. 2. 2. so that the blessing which God gave at first to the creatures, encrease and multiply, is especially to be seen in the new creature.
2. As growth is thus necessary, so it can only be, where there is an inward princi∣ple of life pre-existent. Nothing groweth but what hath either a vegetative, sensi∣tive, or rationall life in it. Rowl a snow-ball up and down, though you make it much bigger, yet it doth not grow, because it is by extra-addition, not by intra-reception. An house made larger and bigger, yet doth not grow, because here is no vitall principle within. By this means a civill man, a formall man, a temporary beleever, he cannot grow spiritually, because he doth not live spiritually. There may be indeed a growth in knowledge, parts, inlargements, and duties, but this doth not prove a true growth. These sproutings are not from internall union with Christ, but are outwardly in a common way bestowed by Christ upon them. As in a field of corn, the weeds have a better flourishing then in a barren wilder∣nesse, yet the husbandman was not at all that cost and charges to have weeds come up, but corn; so Christ died not, or set his Officers in the Church to furnish the wicked with any abilities, but yet living in his Church, they partake of several pri∣viledges by him, which yet were not the chief intent of his death: so then, there only is a supernaturall growth, where there is a supernaturall life, and as you see the picture of a childe, it will never come up to be a man, because it is a picture only, there is no life; so in any man, that hath only a form of godlinesse, not feel∣ing the power of it; he is still upon the same hinges where he was, he goeth on in the circle of duties, prayeth as he did, cometh to Church as he; but if you en∣quire for encrease, Hast thou more faith? more communion and fellowship with God? dost thou partake of more vertue and efficacy from him? herein they are wholly ignorant. Oh that we who desire better times, better trading, better setling, did also desire, better beleeving, better mortification; but this cannot be unlesse there be some great work of God within first. As he said to his picture which he would fain have had stood, and it would not, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, there wants something within, life within; so may we say, thou praiest, thou hearest, thou pro∣fes•est, but there wants something within; till grace be infused, it cannot in thy conversation be diffused, It must be shed in thy heart before it can be shed abroad in thy life.
3. As growth is alwayes upon a supposed principle within, so it is uniform and aptly proportionable: as the Apostle implyeth in that comparison, every part hath its proportionable nourishment, so that in true growth of grace, every particular grace hath its sutable encrease, and herein the people of God are very negligent; if they grow in beleeving, they do not the same time grow in repentance and hu∣miliation, if they grow in joy, they do not encrease in fear and trembling. This is their weaknesse and corruption, for all true encrease of grace is uniform. As in naturall bodies, every part groweth, one as well as the other, the little finger as well as the great, whereas now if one part prove bigger then in proportion it should to the other parts, we call it not growth but a disease: a tympany, a wen, are not growth in the body, but tumours, neither doe they come from a naturall life, but from some accidentall defect: so then, if thou growest in knowledge, in abilities, and not in a practicall conformity to them, this is not properly growth, but swellings. And is not this the sad calamity of this age, men growing out into suckers not into fruit, into opinions, parts, not holinesse, how many monsters 〈◊〉Page 87 there to be seen, whose heads are bigger then all their bodies? and so the hypocrite with his partiall obedience, Jehu with his severall acts of reformation, Herod with his many things he did, yet encreased not in grace, because here was not an u∣niform proportion in all.
3. In growth though every part do grow as well as the other, yet not equall to the other; aequè but not aequalitèr. This is that uniformiter difformiter, as the Phi∣losophers speak of so much, and Eph. 4. The Apostle speaks of the particular mea∣sure of grace suteable to every part, so that the eye groweth with the nourishment peculiar to the eye; the hand with nourishment peculiar to the hand, and so one part needeth not so much nourishment as another, because it is not to grow so big as another: and this is diligently to be noted, for where there is true grace, there is a peculiar encrease of grace, according to the relation thou art in: If a Magi∣strate, in the graces of a Magistrate, if a Minister, in the graces of a Minister, If a husband, a childe, a servant, in the graces sutable to those relations: and again, this is also for comfort, because many of Gods servants are troubled, as if they had no grace, because they have not so much as others; They have not such an ex∣cellent temper as Paul and David had, they cannot finde themselves able to doe such things as they did, and therefore they doubt of their grace, but this is as if the little finger should think it doth not grow, because it is not as big as the arm or leg. Every member in Christs body hath not the same occasions, is not under so many obligations, stands not in such particular relations as others do: and there∣fore the personall graces of the one do farre transcend the other, insomuch that some are dwarfs, and others gyants, some are babes and others are strong men.
4. Whereas in naturall growth there is a terminus prefixed both for the time, and dimensions, insomuch that when there is an arrivall to such a stature and age, they grow no more; there is nutrition alwaies but not augmentation; Nature hath her maximum quod sic, beyond which she moveth not: but now it is not so in the way of grace; For there we cannot attain to any such degree of grace, but still there is a large room for more; and it is our sinne if we presse not forward to at∣tain it, Phil. 3. Paul did forget all that was behinde, and did〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, and〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉ear∣nestly pursue and endeavour after that before him. It is true indeed, God hath ap∣pointed to every man that measure of grace he shall receive in this life; yet not so, but that it is his duty to do more, even as much as the perfect Law of God re∣quireth, so that here is no time to stand still. Thy faith ought to be greater and stronger, there is no grace in thee but it might be better: Thou canst never say of thy spirituall good things, as Dives of his temporall; Soul, take thy ease, thou hast enough laid up in store for thee.
5. In naturall growth, the progresse is carried on by naturall strength, with the generall concourse of Gods providence. But in this spirituall progresse, the en∣crease is of God. At our first conversion we being wholly dead in sinne, God puts into us supernaturall principles of grace, wherein man is not cooperant, but meer∣ly a subject recipient, but afterwards the heart of man being enlivened and healed thus by grace, he doth cooperate with the grace of God, yet so as that a further degree of any grace is wrought by God: Hence he is said in those that are alrea∣dy converted to work the will and the deed, and that good man praied to God to encrease his grace, and Gods promises are also frequent in the Scripture, to com∣pleat and perfect that grace already begun in us. God doth not beleeve or repent in us, these flow immediatly and formally from a man regenerated, but Gods grace doth efficiently excite and stir up the will to do these good actions: hence it is that when the people of God have through negligence or any corruption grieved the spirit, that doth forsake him, and so his Sunne goeth many degrees backward; for that assertion is no waies justifiable, that a godly man cannot fall from any degree of his grace; for its plain David did, who therefore praieth to have a new heart created in him; and the Church is blamed for falling from her first love, and so is com∣manded Page 88to repent, and to do her first things, to strengthen the things that are ready to die. The ordinary comparisons are, that a godly man may be like the tree in winter, that hath life in the root, but yet the branches and outside discover none, or as the fire that lyeth buried up in ashes.
6. As in naturall growth, there are many pull-backs, sometimes a progresse and then a regresse. Thus it is with corn, trees, and man himself before he comes to his term prefixed, and therefore we must not say Such corn doth not grow, because for such a season it may wither and go back: it is enough that in the end it cometh to its full growth and ripenesse: so it is with a godly man, he is not to passe sentence of himself according to some seasons and temptations, for how often is he in a withered and barren condition? but he is to compare one season with another. Yea, godly mens slumblings do many times make them go the faster: as sometimes after sicknesse children grow the faster, so true is that of Luther, that to the godly not only their mala passiva, but also mala activa, through the goodnesse of God further their growth in holinesse.
These principles are laid down to explain the nature of encrease in grace. In the next place consider how many waies we may improve grace.
1. We bring forth more fruit, when the habits of our graces are more intense and enlarged: for in this supernaturall habits agree with morall, that they are capable of intension, whereby faith may be made stronger, love more active, patience more refined. Their natures do not consist in indivisibili, neither do any attain to the utmost of any grace, Christ only had fullnesse, and the spirit of God was gi∣ven unto him without measure; but in us it is otherwise: hence the Disciples fallen into some ambition, our Saviour tels them, except ye be converted, that is, further converted and carried on in sanct fication, ye cannot enter into the kingdom of hea∣ven; so it is said of the disciples upon some remarkable passage which Christ did, that they beleeved on him, which is not to be understood, as if they did not before beleeve on him, but they were confirmed more. Oh therefore look upon it as a necessary testimony of grace, to thrive more in godlinesse, to have many cubits added to thy stature, say with thy self, oh if the life of grace were in me, should I alwaies be at such a stay, would it be no more active and operative; do wicked men grow worse and worse, and shall not I better and better? We complain of our children if sent to school, and they are still the same, stand at a stay; and may not the Ministers of God complain of their people, if they be still the same? how severely and terribly doth Paul speak to the Hebrews, because they were babes stil, when they might have been strong men? he threatens them with the sinne against the holy Ghost, and totall apostasie, for not to go forward is to go backward, as it is with the boats in the river, if they cannot go on, they are driven backward: Now these habits of grace may be made more intense, partly by more fervency, when our graces arise to a greater heat, our faith and love more burning within us; partly by more easinesse, the waies of godlinesse are not so difficult, corrupti∣on is more subdued, for habits are like a second nature, which doth facilitate and make all actions welcome, so that his Commandements are not grievous; partly by more delight and joy, for this floweth from the former: hence when the peo∣ple of Israel offered so willingly, they rejoyced in that they had such hearts. Now see if thou maist not in all thy graces be more fervent, more delighting, how often art thou languishing, dull, and unwilling? how often are good things even irksome and tedious to thee? Oh dost thou not need purging to bring forth more fruit.
2. Our graces may encrease by a deeper rooting of them in our hearts; The more they root downwards, the more they bear fruit upward. The Schoolmen dispute whether habits do encrease by addition of new degrees, or deeper radication in the subject: But I take it for granted, that in supernaturall habits both these are different; If therefore thou wouldest take any comfort from thy grace, see whe∣ther holy things •e now ingrafted in thee, do cleave closer to thy heart; for cer∣tainly true grace brings such sweetnesse with it, that it makes the soul have more Page 89 plenty and fullnesse of it, 1 Pet. 2. 3. and would be transformed into it, I no lon∣ger live, saith Paul, but Christ in me. As therefore originall corruption is seated in thee and soaked into thy very bones, so do thou desire grace may be incorpora∣ted into thee: you see meat while it is in the mouth, it may be taken away, but when it's once turned to nourishment, turned into our flesh and bloud, then it's impossible to take it out of our body. The unhappy builder therefore suffered that losse, because he did not dig deep enough.
3. Graces grow by the actuall exercise of them, by actuall loving and beleeving the habits of faith and love are more firm and strong. Hence the commands of God are for the acts of grace. Thou shalt love, and this is his commandment to beleeve. The habits are commanded obliquely as the fountain, the acts as the stream. In morall Philosophy acts make the habits more intense. In Christs Parable of the talents, he only is said to have, that doth exercise and actually improve his graces; and as our graces encrease by the exercise of them, so by the cooperation of them all together: Adde to your faith temperance, to temperance brotherly kindenesse: which is not to be understood of the habits of grace, for they are all infused toge∣ther; and a man may as well be happy with one particular act of glory, as regene∣rate with one habit of grace: but we are to interpret it of adding the acts to one another.
4. The growth of grace is by meliorating or making better the means and instru∣ments of grace. The Word and Ordinances are appointed by God as the means to grow, and to cleanse us more and more. Now if thou wouldest have thy gra∣ces flourish, thou must be more diligent and carefull in the prepared use of them; hear better, pray better, make a better improvement of the Ministery. The Dis∣ciples were mending their nets because they were instruments to get their fish. The Artificer must sharpen his tools, if he would live by his trade. Now these exter∣nall Ordinances are the spiritual tools and instruments by which the soul is promo∣ted in the way of godlinesse, and if thou languishest and art carelesse here, it will quickly appear in thy whole conversation.
5. Where growth is, there is a speciall care, of all graces to look to that which helps to nourishment, and that is Faith. Faith is the mouth to suck the milk of the promi∣ses, it is the bunch of hysop that sprinkles Christs bloud upon us to puri•ie us, it is the feeding upon Christ: Now then if a man would be nourished and encrease in grace, he must be sure this grace hath no obstructions. As a man is justified only by faith, so in some sense, we may say a man is sanctified, that is, encreaseth in new obedience, by faith: By faith the branch is preserved in the olive-tree, and par∣taketh of the fatnesse thereof. Christ praied for Peter, that his faith might not fail, as if that grace were kept up, then his courage, zeal, self-deniall, and all other graces would be kept up: Non per opera venitur ad fidem, sed per fidem ad opera.
6. There is a growth objectively, and that is, when the glorious fullnesse of God is manifested to us more and more. Though the Sun cannot in it self encrease or be glo∣rious, yet it may to us more and more: therefore it hath its dawning, and its noon; so though God and Christ cannot be better or more lovely objects then they are, yet they may be so to thy affections and desires, Christ a new Christ, grace new grace, because there are further apprehensions and applications of their sweetnesse and efficacy.
Now to prevent mistakes, there is a twofold disposition like growth, that is not.
1. An encrease in knowledge, parts, and abilities. This is not growth of grace: There is an encrease (as you heard) quoad amplitudinem scientia, and quoad efficaci∣am, the latter is the crown and the perfection of the former.
2. There is a growth in temporary faith, and love, and such affections, Which hy∣pocrites may have, but temporary faith will never grow to be justifying; no more then an Ape would grow to be a man, or copper to be gold, for these differ specifi∣cally.
Page 90 3. There is a growth in externals meerly, men are grown more civil and reformed in their lives. We may behold a wonderfull alteration and change in them, but yet because there is no inward juice of grace, therefore it's not growth of godli∣nesse; and such Peter speaks of, Who had escaped the pollutions of the flesh, yet were dogs and swines in their inward disposition.
4. There is a growth in additionals of worship and service. When men judge not the prescribed way by God enough, but institute of their own. This is a mon∣strous growth, as if a man should have two heads or six fingers. Thus superstiti∣on is an excesse in worship, not in the quality of worship; for a man can never worship God too purely, too fervently, but in the quantity, by instituting new means. Hence growth of grace doth not lie in multiplication of duties more then God requireth, but the intention of qualities therein.
Use of Exhortation, Judge your selves by this touchstone. Let this Sermon be * to you what Elisha's body was to the dead body that fell on it, make life to come into you. Do you increase in grace? Are you not at a stand? the same ve were many years ago? consider God is provoked not only against grosse sins, but lazy, decaying duties. Do you grow in light but not in heat; in enlargements, but not mortifications? Oh let thy soul be afraid and tremble under this truth! In∣treat God, as he did about his withered hand, Oh Lord, restore this withered hand, this withered soul of mine! I doubt me, in these times many have broke in their Religion, as well as in their states, as Paul said to Timothy, Let your pro∣fiting appear to all.
Spiritual Performance of Duties a Sign of Grace.
1 JOH. 4. 13.
THe Apostle John, as he was the beloved Disciple, so doth he frequently and vehemently presse the duty of love to the Church of God, for that being a spiritual body, love is as necessary to preserve them, as nerves and ligaments are in a natural body.
The Arguments used in this Chapter for love are many: As
First, That love is a stream issuing from no lesse glorious fountain then God himself is.
Secondly, That it is a demonstration of our spiritual Nativity, That we are born of God.
Thirdly, From the Nature of God, He is love, viz. Originally and Causally, which he proveth by a clear and unparallel'd manifestation of it, He gave us his only begotten Sonne; which love he also amplifieth by the removal of any impul∣sive cause on our part, it was not because we loved him first; and withall he giveth a reason, why a natural man loveth not God, because he seeth him not. The di∣sputes about the Vision of the Essence of God, and that by corporal eyes, is wholly impertinent to this place, for the Greek word is 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, and signifieth a Page 91 contemplation and constant beholding of the beauty and lustre of Gods Attri∣butes, his Wisdom, Holinesse, but especially his Love to us in Christ, all which doth kindle love in us again. And from this beholding of God doth arise that neer union with God, which is Gods dwelling in us, and we in him. All which the Apostle makes manifest to us by the effect, viz. by the Spirit, of which he hath given us. It is needlesse to trouble you with the several acceptions of the word Spirit; It is enough to know, That by Spirit is not meant the essence of the Spi∣rit, for that is impartible; nor of any immediate testimony of the Spirit, as the phrase will imply, He hath given us of his Spirit, which denoteth some effects of the Spirit, and of effects, not the common effects, for they are not a sure Argu∣ment of Gods dwelling in us, and we in him; it remaineth therefore that it be understood of the gracious works of Gods Spirit, whereby in all our duties we are lifted up by Gods Spirit to do them in an higher manner, then natural strength could enable us unto: so that the Observation is,
The spiritual performing of holy duties, is a sure sign and demonstration of our be∣ing*in God. and God in us.
Thus the same Apostle 1 John 3. 24. for as miracles did truly demonstrate those that did them, to be endued with the power of Gods Spirit from above, and they wrought miracles to confirm men in this belief, that they were sent of God; Thus the spiritual doing of those things required of thee, are a kinde of miracles to confirm thy soul, that thou art of God. And as actual discourse and laugh∣ter do infallibly prove a rational life, because these actions transcend a sensitive life; so do spiritual praying, hearing, &c. evidence a spiritual life, because of their transcendency.
For the opening of this point, which is necessary (and the want of which Paul did so greatly bewail in the Corinthians, I could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as carnal) take notice of these things by way of a foun∣dation.
First, As in natural things there is a sensitive soul above the vegetative, and a ratio∣nal above the sensitive, so (with more disproportion) there is a spiritual life vouchsa∣fed by the holy Ghost above a rational. Insomuch that take the most rational man, that is endued with all intellectual abilities and moral perfections; so that he be Ultimus conatus naturae, as one said of Aristotle, yet he is no more able to do any thing spiritually, or to apprehend what are those spiritual operations, then a worm can comprehend the reason of the most wise men. Thus Paul saith, The natural man perceiveth not the things of God,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, that is, one who doth excolere animam, minde the polishing and dressing of his soul, such as Plato and Seneca. Now howsoever prophane men mock at the word Spirit, and the works thereof, yet that there is such an immediate participation of the holy Ghost in the operations thereof, the Scripture doth abundantly testifie, John 3. 6. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit, where our Saviour makes such a spiritual birth absolutely necessary to salvation, and sheweth two contrary kinds of sinne, one carnal, abiding in the condition they were born in, the other spiritual, made so by God; and the Apostle in both pla∣ces useth the abstract for the concrete, for more efficacy. This afterwards he cals, Being born of the Spirit. So that as a man born of a man, hath indolem humanam, is and doth more then a beast: so he that is born of the Spirit, hath indolem di∣vinam, and doth more then a man. Indeed our Saviour makes the original of this spiritual being unknown to us, which he expresseth by a comparison from the winde, or as Maldonat will have it from the soul of a man, which we do not perceive infused into us, or how we come by it; so in this great work of Gods Spirit, Motum sentimus, modum nescimus; God breathed into Adam a natural life, and a soul, but this is a great mercy which God doth for his people. And be∣cause the spiritual being and working is of such important consequence, you may observe the Scripture in other places diligently inculcating of it. Therefore ob∣serve Page 92 them diligently, whether you finde such things in you or no, for notwith∣standing all parts and religious duties, if the Spirit of God dwell not and work in you, you are no more a true member of Christ, then an Ape is a man. Rom. 8. 1, 5, 6, 9, 13, 14. where the Apostle speaking of the glorious benefit of Justification, See to whom he appropriateth it, To those who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit, whereupon he is industrious to make a difference between the one and the other; and he useth several descriptions, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Who are after the Spirit, which he explaineth by being spiritually minded:〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 denoteth not only acts of the understanding, but chiefly of the will and affections; it seemeth to answer the Hebrew word Jetzer, The imaginations or frame of the heart. So that as the ima∣gination and frame of a carnal heart is wholly upon things of the flesh: Thus the affections, imaginations, designs and purposes of a spiritual man, are upon spiri∣tual things. As the Apostle cals them 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, so vers. 9. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Those that are in the Spirit, that is, Possessed of the Spirit, as if the holy Ghost were as wonderfull in gracious operations upon the heart of man; as in those pro∣phetical and extatical Afflatusses, for they were said at those times, To be in the Spirit, and the Grecians call such 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉; it is a similitude, saith Grotius, taken from those who are guarded on every side by keepers, and are wholly under their power; so mighty and efficacious is Gods Spirit in believers; and (by the way observe) this is called promiscuously, The Spirit of God, The Spirit of Christ, The Spirit of the Father, and that dwelling in us, which doth prove the holy Ghost to be a person, not a meer vertue and force, or power from God, as some hereticks of old would have it; and a person that is one in the Trinity, not the chiefest of the created Angels, as one of late would blasphemously maintain. In Adam, the holy Ghost wrought his holinesse, as the third Person in the Godhead; but now he worketh grace in us by another oeconomy or dispensation, as the Spirit of the Father, and of Christ. And that all this operation of Gods Spirit may not be rejected as a fancy, he saith, He dwels in us as in his Temple, which deno∣teth a fixed permanency, and abiding in us; It is true, the godly dispute, Whe∣ther a godly man be made partaker of the graces of Gods Spirit only, or besides these of the Spirit it self? The learned differ herein, but certainly these expressi∣ons do inferre, That the godly do not only receive the graces of Gods Spirit, but the Spirit also it self, only how to explain this, seemeth to me very difficult, if not impossible.
Secondly, As the Spirit of God doth thus dwell in his children, and thereby they*have an habitual, supernatural, spiritual being, so is the same Spirit acting, lead∣ing and moving of them unto those things that are holy. Hence the godly are said to be led by the Spirit, Rom. 8. Gal. 5. which doth not denote the first enlivening of us; in which sense the poet said, Mens agitat molem, but a powerfull conti∣nual inclination of our hearts unto those things that are spiritual; and this deno∣teth that even in the progresse of Sanctification, we need a continuall help and influence from Gods Spirit, according to that of Augustine, Et agis & ageris, & tunc benè agis, si à bono agaris, and when we obey these conducts of Gods Spirit, We are said to walk in the Spirit. Thus Gal. 5. 24. Living in the Spirit, and walk∣ing in the Spirit, are distinguished as the cause and the effect; we therefore walk in the Spirit, because we live in it, and the Greek word 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 doth import a care∣full, orderly, methodical walking; A spiritual walking is a methodical walking; so then, as original sinne by the Scripture is described to be in us, not as a sluggish idle quality, but as alwaies working, as a fountain alwaies streaming, insomuch that though it be not peccatum actuale, yet it is actuosum; Thus the Spirit of God doth powerfully send forth vertue and strength unto those in whom he * dwelleth.
Now from these two laid together, two Corollaries issue,
First, That to have the Spirit of God in the Scripture sense, is more then to be a mo∣ral, honest, civil man. This is no more a testimony that we are of God, then any Page 93 baser mettal can plead it self to be gold, because of some common accidents there∣with, and therefore their morality, intellectual perfections are altogether flesh∣ly; for so it's good to know that as Spirit differs from Spirit, one spiritual man from another, as one Starre differs from another in glory, insomuch that one would wonder how the same heaven should at last receive men so different: so one carnal man differeth from another carnal man, as much as a garden from a dunghill, and one would wonder that the same hell should be at last the same re∣ceptacle of so different conversations. Corruption is not only in grosse actions, but in the minde and understanding of a man, yea the more glorious it appeareth to be many times, it is the more carnal; As you see the Devils are called unclean spirits, who yet are not guilty of grosse bodily sinnes. Oh therefore that you would consider, there is an higher and more glorious way of living then that which most attain unto: Christianity stampt upon a meer civil man, destitute of Gods Spirit, is but like the Kings Picture upon a brasse shilling, as long as the materials are counterfeit, the superscription will not advantage. Baptism, Chri∣stianity, and all other glorious superscriptions put upon thee abiding in a morall estate, is no advantage for heaven; there must be power from Gods Spirit in thee.
A second Corollary is, That the gracious and sanctifying works of Gods Spirit,*are only a testimony of being in God, not those common gifts of his Spirit, such as parts, abilities, assistance and enlargements in Duties, no nor Prophecies and Revelations, if such were to be had. These indeed men most covet after, as accompanied with more applause and admiration; but it's better to speak one word with the grace of Gods Spirit, then ten thousand with the meer gift of his Spirit. One would wonder indeed, why God should distribute such glorious gifts to those, whom he doth not love to eternal life; but his waies are alwaies just, though some∣times unknown to us; yea there are other workings of Gods Spirit that come nearer to sanctification, and yet are not it. Such are, some sorrow about sinne, some illumination in judgement, some joy and delight in the Ordinances, yet these argue only Gods Spirit working in us, not dwelling in us. And these opera∣tions are only transient not permanent; and it is a good rule of Bonaventures, Illa tantum dicuntur esse in animâ, quae sunt in eâ per modum quietis, caetera sunt magis ab animâ, quam in animâ. Those things are properly in the soul which are in it by way of rest, and centre in it. Yea hence it is (which is much to be observed) that all those operations of Gods Spirit in an unregenerate man, whether of the for∣mer or latter sort, they are provocative or excitative of the flesh onely in a man. Thus Judas by all those gifts of Gods Spirit to him, was made more fleshly. A temporary believer by all his faith and joy is made more fleshly; for hereby he groweth more confident in himself, lesse poor in his Spirit, and so lesse perceiving the need of Christ, and his grace, by which he is more setled in a carnal way. There∣fore observe, whether all thy assistance, enlargements, transient motions of Gods Spirit, have not this event in thee, to make thee carnal and corrupt in a refined manner.
In the next place, Let us consider in what way this spirituality is manifested. * And
First, The nature of them is different from all meer humane actions. The acts of faith, love, and other graces, are above the whole sphear and power of nature; Jannes and Jambres were able to do some wonderfull things, as well as Moses, but there were others again, in which they had no power at all. Thus there are ma∣ny humane actions of prudence and justice, that make men very lovely and ad∣mirable in the eyes of others; but then there are other actions, such as the ope∣rations of habitual graces, and to this they can no more reach, then a dwarf can touch the heavens. Hence the Scripture sometimes addeth the word Spirit, when it would difference grace from humane actions, 2 Cor. 4. 13. Having the same Spi∣rit of faith, Ephes. 6. 18. Supplication in the Spirit. Phil. 3. 3. Which worship God in Page 94 the Spirit. Col. 1. 18. Your love in the Spirit. Now this addition [in the Spirit] im∣lieth that there are many actions that are done by us, but unlesse they be per∣formed in the Spirit, they come short of that divine and excellent nature, which God looketh at. Gratia non tollit, sed attollit naturam, Grace doth not destroy the natural faculties and actions of the soul, but it elevateth or sublimateth them to a more noble consideration; and this is the reason why a natural man can do no∣thing that is truly and theologically good, because of the transcendent excellen∣cy of it's nature, but this is hardly discerned; and if there be many, yea most things in nature, whose essence we perceive not, it is no wonder if we be so dull in supernatural.
Secondly, Spiritual actions are discovered by the fountain from whence they flow,* A spiritual principle, which the Scripture cals a divine nature, yea the life of God. As Isaac is called A childe of the promise, because he was born by the meer word and power of God, Sarahs womb being a dead womb; Thus also all godly actions, are actions of the promise, having their existence meerly by that, mans natural power being altogether a dead womb. And this also can little help as a signe, be∣cause the root of our actions, like those of trees, lieth under ground, and is so un∣discerned.
Therefore thirdly, In spiritual actions, those motives and ends that are attractive*are spiritual. Every action is specified by the formality of the object, and so re∣ligious actions they are spiritual, when the reason or motive of doing them is spi∣ritual. Hence they are called Virgins, and they follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. This is that godly simplicity Paul speaks of in himself, whereby, as of God, and to God he did all things. For want of this, God by the Prophet rejects the humi∣liations and fastings the Jews did, which yet were specious enough, because they did it not to him, even to him; and this is a sign that may by the help of Gods Spirit be discerned in us. For as the voluptuous man is carried out to sinful plea∣sures, because of the sweetnesse in them; or as a rational man is desirous to finde out truth, because truth is a pleasing connatural object to his understanding; so is a spiritual man inclining to all spiritual objects, because of those spiritual con∣siderations that are therein. Delicata anima quasi abominatur, per modum commodi vel praemii diligere Deum. Now in all religious duties there are many spiritual at∣tractives, such as the command of God, enjoying of, and communion with him, the light of Gods countenance and increase of grace. Goe therefore and exa∣mine thy own self, What is the loadstone in all holy Duties? What is the mark thou aimest at? It is the intention that is the pulse to feel how thy heart is.
Fourthly, Spirituality is discerned by the manner. Where the Spirit of God is * there is zeal, fervency, activity. So that a formal, customary, superficial perfor∣ming of holy duties is extreamly opposite to a spiritual deportment in them. Nes∣cit tarda molimina Spiritus sanctus. Hence it was that it appeared in fire, and in a mighty rushing winde. Thus Stephen and others are said to be full of the holy Ghost, when there was strong and powerful workings of grace in them. Elias was a man of fire and zeal for God, and God gave him a sutable reward, He was carried to heaven in a fiery chariot, as a conquerour triumphing over all enemies. This the A∣postle speaketh of, when Rom. 7. 6. he speaks of the oldnesse of the letter, and the newness of Spirit. It is an excellent expression, and an happy frame of heart, though some of late have abused that phrase to dangerous errours. Hence the Scripture in an Hebraism cals the excellency and efficacy of a thing, The Spirit of it; As the Spirit of wisdom, The Spirit of understanding, The Spirit of meeknesse. As the body without the soul is dead, so is a mans spirit without Gods Spirit in any duty. Oh think of this, you who spend your daies in an empty formal way of Religion; call as God by the Prophet doth, Come, O winde, and cause these dry bones to gather together and live. Cry as the Church doth, Arise, O North, and blow, O South, upon our Gardens, that our spices may smell; How few spiritual Christians? How few spiritual Duties, publick or private are there? The ship of Page 95 thy soul brings home no rich traffick, because it wants this winde. Not that a man who finds himself dead and cold, without the effectual power of Gods Spi∣rit, should neglect Praier and other Duties, till the Spirit breathe on him, as some have perniciously taught. For our Saviour Matth. 7. supposeth that we are to pray for the Spirit; and David, how often doth he pray, That God would quic∣ken him? But truly such is the coldnesse, emptinesse, that now all Religion is fallen into, that if ever one might desire a Sermon to be cloathed with as much dread and terrour as the promulgation of the Law was, it might be desired in this point. Till therefore thou eject those spirits that are so contrary to Gods Spirit, as the Spirit of the world especially, never look to take any comfort by thy Religion.
Fifthly, Lest this Spirit should be a delusion, therefore in the next place, The*workings of Gods Spirit are orderly, not inordinate, but exactly to the Rule. I build this particular on the Greek word, Gal. 5. 25. If we live in the Spirit, let us walk by the Spirit, that is as the word implieth, orderly, methodically, as when it's said, As many as shall walk by this canon or rule, Peace be on them. The Spirit of God putteth a man upon nothing that is against the principles of nature and sound reason, nor against the word of God; but verbum est vehiculum spiritus, the word is that fiery chariot in which the Spirit of God cometh. When the Apostle in the Chapter before, vers. ult. had given us this as a sign of our being in God, that we have of his Spirit, presently he addeth, Believe not every Spirit. Whoso∣ever pretends operations, instincts and revelations from the Spirit for duties not justifiable by the Word, sets up a false and unholy spirit, for the pure and holy Spirit of God: But of this more largely in the false signs. All the motions and operations of Gods Spirit are soft, quiet, ordered and consonant to Gods word.
Sixthly, Where spiritual operations are, there is a free and spontaneous inclination*unto the duties God requireth. As there is in an hungry man to eat, and a thirsty man to drink. Gal. 5. 18. If ye be led by the Spirit, ye are not under the Law. The Apostle meaneth not the Antinomian sense, as if they needed not the Law to di∣rect, guide and excite them, for he presseth with commands in the same Chapter to mortifie sinne; and they may as well deny the use of the whole Scripture, as the Law in that sense, for all the word of God is a rule and a guide; but he speaks of the terrifying threatning and extorting power of the Law, whereby a man doth that which is good with the same Spirit, as the Israelites made brick under Pharoahs oppression; of this the Apostle speaks, and that so farre as they are re∣generate, for the unregenerate part findes the Law a Pharaoh to it, commanding brick and giving no straw, injoining work and giving no strength. Therfore where the Spirit of God is, there they are a willing people, yea willingnesses, as Psa. 110. in the plural number, and abstract it self. And so again, Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
Lastly, Where the Spirit of God thus worketh, there are strong oppositions and com∣bats*by the flesh and unregenerate part. Gal. 5. And this opposition is not of the inferiour appetite to the understanding, but of every sanctified part to the un∣sanctified part in the same faculty, an holy regenerate will against the unholy un∣regenerate will; Therefore it's a great falshood of the Hemisnites, that say, Its impossible for the same will to be at the same time good and bad in part, therefore they say, It is successively good or bad, and so by this consequence a man may have a regenerate and unregenerate will successively a thousand times in a day. But of this combate we have spoken already.
Use of Exhortation, Not to rest in any Naturals, Morals or Intellectuals, but * to breathe after Spirituals. As the body of a man is first Natural, and then by the resurrection it will be made glorious; so it is with the soul. If therefore you take all your ingenuous and lovely perfections, which you have by educati∣on Page 96 or restraining grace for true saving grace, you take John Baptist (as it were) for Christ. Be therefore in the number of spirituall ones; Morall Philosophy, the Lectures of Socrates and other Heathens, have put a man upon an external Reformation, but Gods word only is the instrument to convey his Spirit into our hearts.
Love to the Godly is a Sign of Grace.
1 JOH. 3. 18. 〈◊〉
THe Apostle John in this Epistle doth much presse the Grace and Duty of Love, as the fire that ought to be on the Altar of our hearts, for every Sa∣crifice towards God or man; not onely the Holy of Holies, and the most inward parts of the Temple were covered with gold, but the Pavements and Out∣works also. Thus all our actions whether towards God or man ought to be done in love.
At the 11th verse of this Chapter, he commends this duty from the Antiqui∣ty of it, it's the Commandment they heard from the beginning; which is illustra∣ted from a contrary example of Cain, described from his original, He was of that wicked one; and from his actuals, He slew his brother; and this is amplified from the impulsive cause or motive of this his horrid wickednesse, He slew him, be∣cause his own works were evil, and his brothers righteous. Semper aliena virtus for∣midolosa est, said Tacitus. In Gen. 4. we have the occasion of Cains envy, God had respect to Abel and not to Cain, which as most judge, was by some extraordinary testimony that God gave to Abels Sacrifice, as the Apostle emphatically expres∣seth it with an Article Heb. 11. 4. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, it's gene∣rally judged by fire suddenly falling from heaven (as God did at other times) therefore the word to have respect is translated by Theodotion,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Inflam∣mavit Deus super Abel; but why Abels Sacrifice was better then Cains is also que∣stioned; Paul Heb. 11. saith, Abel offered by faith,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉a better Sacrifice, which some referre to the Quantity, as if Cain took the refuse, and Abel offered the best. Some to the Quality, He offered in faith, and the other not. A learn∣ed man Clop. de Sacrific. thinks that Cain offered onely an Eucharistical Sacrifice of fruit of the ground, and so did not beg for pardon of sin; but Abel offered an Hilastical Sacrifice by way of expiation, whereby through Christ he praied for pardon, and therefore was accepted, so that he resembleth Cain to the Pharisee, that only gave thanks to God, and Abel to the Publican, who humbled himself, supplicating for pardon, And so went away justified rather then the other.
Hereupon because every Abel will have a Cain (as the Fathers proverbial speech is) vers. 13. he comforts the godly against their afflicted condition. It is no won∣der if the world hate that which is of heaven; and ver. 14. he returneth to ano∣ther argument for this gracious Love, and that is from the profitable effect, it is a sign we have passed from death to life.
Page 97 In the words, you have two Propositions;
First, That the godly even in this life are already passed from death to life. Some render the Greek word translated, and thereupon Estius observes, because we are passive in this priviledge, that it is not to be attributed to our merits, but to the grace of God: Now the Apostle useth the Preterperfect tense, and not the Present, because of the certainty of it, and his right to it, Qui jus ad rem habet, rem ipsam habere videtur, saith the Lawyer; you have the like expression John 5. 24. By this life some understand the life of grace, and by death, the death of sinne, as if the love of the Brethren were a sign of our being in the state of grace, and then there is good reason for using the Preterperfect tense. But although this may be part, yet it doth not comprehend all, for eternal life, and glory is al∣so included herein.
The second Proposition is, That Love of the Brethren is that sign and mark whereby we know assuredly, that we are in this happy estate; so that our love is no merit or cause, but a sign only; hence it is good to observe, that this very self-same priviledge of passing from death to life, is attributed to faith, Joh. 5. 24. but in a different sense to faith, as that instrumental cause, which puts us into such a condition, to love as an effect or sign only; for though love uniteth us to Christ as well as faith, yet faith doth it Intus recipiendo, by inward receiving of Christ to us, love extra agendo, by going out in our works for him; Hence the union by love is posterior to that of faith; Hence also it is that if love should ju∣stifie, the dignity of it would arise from the act of love, because it's union con∣sists in doing something out of us, but in faiths union, the dignity is wholly from the object, viz. Christ imbraced, because this union is by inward reception and application.
That love of the brethren is a sign of true grace.*
As the Apostle makes it here a sign to our selves, so in other places to others, Hereby shall all men know ye are my Disciples, if ye love one another; he doth not say, If ye work miracles, if ye cast out devils, but if ye love. Hence the Apo∣stle Peter, 2 Pet. 1. 7. bids them adde to Godlinesse, brotherly kindenesse. As if we could not have any true comfort from all our religious duties towards God, un∣lesse this also be added to it, or with it, for so 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 is used for cum, as the Hebrew 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 is sometimes.
To open this duty of love to the Brethren three things are considerable, which we shall speak to, 1. The Act it self, Love. 2. The Object, Our Brethren. And 3. The Effects.
First therefore, This love we speak of, is not a flower growing in Natures gar∣den, * we naturally love our parents, our children, but not so the godly, hence love is made the fruit of the Spirit; To love a man, because of the image of God in him, because he is holy, is wrought only by Gods Spirit. Naturally we hate * God, because he is an holy God, his Law, because it is an holy Law, and his children, because they are an holy people. Hence the Schoolmen say, That love to God and to our neighbour, because of God, are not two acts of love, no more then the will of the end by means, is a two-fold act of the will; and this appear∣eth by the command Matth. 19. 37. where we are commanded to love God with all our might, all we have and can do, and yet our neighbour also, which could not be if our love to another in subordination to God be not considered, as the same with the act of loving God; and this is much more true in loving of a godly man, whom we do love, not only because of Gods command, and for God (as we ought to do all men) but because of God in him, his image there, in which sense Hierom said, he did Diligere Christum habitantem in Augustino. There is a rule out of Aristotle, Idemest motus animae in imaginem & rem. It is the same moti∣on whereby the soul is carried to the image or species of a thing, and the thing it self, as we see it in the acts of the understanding and of the senses, which rule Aquinas, and other Papists wretchedly abuse, to prove the same religious wor∣ship Page 98 both in kinde and degree, to be given unto the image of God, and God himself but in our instance it is true, when we love God himself, and a godly man, because of Gods image in him, this is the same act or motion of the soul, and ariseth from the same habit of grace, and therefore doth this Apostle argue necessarily from the position of the one to the position of the other, and the ne∣gation of one to the negation of the other, he that doth not love his brother, lo∣veth not God, according to the rule of the Hebrews, Qui amat supra amat infra. We are not then speaking of a love, which cometh by the power of free-will, but of a grace infused into us by Gods Spirit, which as it's supernatural in it's original, so also in it's operations and motives; The effects are supernatural, bu∣sying and emptying themselves in industry about their souls; and their ends also, because they see Gods likenesse in them.
Secondly, This love is not verbal or complemental, such as that of the world, * which hath great veins, but little bloud in them, but it is a most inward deep affe∣ctionate grace, moving all the bowels within. Thus Rom. 12. Be kindely affectio∣nated to one another in love,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, doth imply an inward root∣ed inclination, such as is in mothers to their tender infants. There are those who seem to love godly men, but it is when the times favour them, if there be any benign constellations for such, then they respect them, otherwise in their heart and inclinations they can no waies endure those that are godly. When therefore we speak of loving godly men, we mean not a fair loving carriage, a kinde behavi∣our towards them, which makes thee farre from all railing or opposing of them, but such an affection as is rooted in thy heart.
Secondly, In respect of the object, Brethren, this is included,
1. That this love be to them, because they are brethren. We may love godly men * for other respects then their godlinesse, because they may be wise men, learned men, potent men in the Kingdom, or men that have loved us, and shewed us much kindnesse, but this is nothing of grace, here is onely nature all the while. Hence the Apostle Peter saith, Love the brotherhood in the Abstract, because it is the brotherhood. The Wasps flie about the Tradesmans shop, not out of love to him, but the hony and fruit that is there. The Crows and Vultures sit by the dying beast, not because they love it, but for themselves. Thus godly men may be loved for carnal ends and advantages, and no wonder at this, seeing such a mercenary and hypocriti∣cal love may be profered to God himself, as we see in the hypocrites of Israel.
2. As to the brethren, because godly, so the more godly the more we love them; For as the covetous man, the more wealth increaseth the more he loveth it; And * the voluptuous man, the more sweetnesse and delight in lusts, the more greedy is he of them; thus it is here, he loveth all the godly, but those that most excell in the purity, power and practice of it, he loveth them most, Sicut se habet sim∣pliciter ad simpliciter, ita magis ad magis, if godlinesse be the reason why we love, then the more godlinesse, the more love. And this is much to be observed, be∣cause it discovers much hypocrisie in many men, who fancy to themselves that they love godlinesse in the Idea, in the notion, but when it cometh to be practi∣sed by wife, children or neighbours, then they cannot endure it. As also those, who love godly men in low principles, not walking so exactly and accurately as they ought, better then the godly with high principles, that are alwaies putting on to more godlinesse.
3. It implieth we love all godly men, for so that phrase in the Abstract, Love the*Brotherhood, supposeth, that is, Take every godly man, rich as well as poor, de∣spised as well as honoured, low and base as well as high and esteemed, thou dost love all of them. It may be thy love is restrained to love godly men onely, that are of thy constitution, condition or opinion; but then there are others upon whom thou castest no favourable aspect at all. The Apostle James doth much condemn that practice of differencing the poor godly from the rich, Jam. 2. 1, 2. where the Apostle doth not absolutely prohibit a civil differencing of men in Page 99 place from others, but when it is done with an humane respect, immoderately regarding wealth more then godlinesse, and when it's done to the contempt and disgrace, or discouragement of the godly poor; hence he bids them consider that though they be poor, yet God hath chosen them rich in faith: Now this carnal respect of persons the Apostle makes a great sinne, both because hereby he saith, They become judges of evil thoughts, that is, these thoughts of theirs in judg∣ing thus are wicked and sinfull, and partly because hereby the name of God is blasphemed; hence vers. 1. he cals Christ, The Lord of glory, implying, that those things which are godly and gracious should be glorious to us. So then as hatred of sin is totius speciei, we hate every kinde of sinne; so is love of the Brethren, of all Brethren, making no difference in this respect. Indeed there is a love of fa∣miliarity which we may shew more to one godly man then another; thus Christ loved John more then the other Disciples; but we speak of a gracious love; and in this we ought not to attend to humane respects but evangelical meerly; There∣fore the Apostle cals it 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, that is, when we in judging look to some∣thing else then the merits of the person, or the cause. This we are all apt and very prone unto; See we therefore that in Gospel-love we attend only to Gospel∣considerations.
In the next place, Consider the effects by which this love to the godly discovers it self.*
And 1. By not being ashamed to own them as Brethren, and joyn with them in the times of persecution. The Church of God hath had many Swallow-friends that will stay with her no longer then Summer; our Saviour foreseeing this proneness to Apostasie, antidoteth against it, He that is ashamed of me in the midst of a crook∣ed generation, of him my Father also will be ashamed before the Angels. The world that is full of scorns and reproaches, The holy Brethren, The holy Sisters, now men are through their pride and corruption ashamed of such waies. This argu∣eth thou hast no love to them. It was observed by the Heathens how the Primi∣tive Christians loved one another, Ecce quam se mutuò diligunt & fratres se vocant! Now then as it is noted of God, Heb. 11. that he was not ashamed to be the God of believers; thus also may we observe of thee, thou art not ashamed to be called one of the believers; Thy speech, conversation, whole deportment shall betray thee to be one that followeth Christ. It's observed by some, That there were but few hypocrites comparatively in the first Plantation of the Churches by Christ and his Apostles, because there was such certain and present danger to all those that imbraced their way, and no advantage at all to carnal considerations, yet for all that some hypocrites there were. It was a weaknesse in Nicodemus, who came to Jesus by night, he dared not publickly own him, because of the Jews. Examine therefore thy self, if thou lovest the godly, then this will appear when godlinesse is the onely scorned, reproached and persecuted way that is. It is strange to observe how godlinesse in the power of it doth diminish respect in the world, Bonus vir Caius & prudens, nisi quod Christianus, A learned man, a wise man, a good man, but only too precise, too puritanical, enclining too much to strictnesse. If it were an Heathen that derideth all Christianity that saith thus, it would be no wonder; but for a Christian, who by his profession is ingaged to all this practice of holiness, it is unsufferable; if we may have too much godliness, then too much of heaven and happiness.
Secondly, By rejoycing and delighting in other mens godlinesse and abilities where∣by*the Kingdom of God is advanced, though it be an umbrage and over shadowing of all our glory, though we be laid aside and accounted as no body. As in the sweetest fruit sometimes worms do grow; so in the choisest Christians there will be envies, emulations and repinings at one anothers excellencies. Thus the Disciples of Christ did twice strive about greatnesse, Johns Disciples muttered because all runne after Christ; but how graciously doth John deal with them, I must decrease and he encrease. So that this love of the Brethren is a more spiritual and difficult work then we are aware off. Thou lovest a godly man that liveth remote from Page 100 thee, but how art thou to one that is thy neighbour of the same profession and calling? now it may be the eminency of his graces and worth carrieth away the esteem and repute from thee, Canst thou for all this rejoyce in his graces and abilities, praise God for him, and so that his glory be advanced, thou carest not though God lay thee aside, as a broken vessel? This is a good symptome of grace. Oh (Beloved) if we consider the jealousies, heart-burnings, contenti∣ons, envyings, strifes that are among the godly, Doth not this demonstrate that they are in a great measure carnal? Are not most of these contentions from the flesh, who shall have most power, whose way shall have most followers and ad∣mirers? Whereas true love to godlinesse manifesteth it self in this, that it rejoy∣ceth in the graces of others, praiseth God for them. It is an high sinne to make godlinesse a faction, a party, as that whereby I will have carnal advantages. The Apostle contradicteth this, when he saith, We know no man, no not Christ himself after the flesh. By reason of this self-pleasing it is that at last we inclose godlinesse, and monopolize it to our own selves, that none shall be godly but those in our way. Thus the Donatists would call no men Christians but themselves. Thus Tertullian, when he turned Montanist, pretending to Revelations of the Spirit, wrote a book against the Orthodox, which he called Adversus Psychicos, as if they all were but carnal, and natural men. Thus many rigid Lutherans dispute the Question, Whether Calvinists may be reckoned as Brethren, and they de∣termine negatively. Take we heed therefore, how we envy the graces of others that overtop us. Augustine thought this to be the sinne against the holy Ghost, or ve∣ry near. But it cannot be so, because we have instances even of some godly men who have been tainted this way. It is an hard thing not to look upon godlinesse and the truths of God, as ours, more then as Gods, which doth breed carnal and humane dispositions in us. Know therefore that so farre as thou enviest and grudgest at the excellency of anothers godlinesse overtopping thee so far, thou hast no love to the Brethren.
Thirdly, This love to the Brethren is manifested by the contrary, viz. A zeal*against sinners, an impatiency and holy grief at the wickednesse of others. That as the Apostle saith Cain hated Abel, because his own works were evil, and Abels good, so a godly Abel is grieved at the conversation of the wicked, because his own are good, and the others evil. Thus a godly man is described by this Character, Psal. 35. 4. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned, but he honoureth those that fear the Lord. You have a notable instance of this in Lot, 2 Pet. 2. 8. where righteous Lot is said to vex his soul by hearing and seeing the wicked Sodomites. The Greek word signifieth to torment his soul, and it is used of the damned in hell. There is also an emphasis in the phrase, his soul, he doth not say himself, but his soul, as if a sword had pierced. Thus God saith, His soul shall have no pleasure in the backeslider, when he would expresse his great abhorring of such an one. Fur∣ther this torment is amplified in the instruments by which, both in seeing and hear∣ing. Lot was among the Sodomites as the Dove among Hawks, a Sheep among Wolves, a rose among thorns, a bright Starre in a dark night; and this did so much afflict him, that August. in praef. Psal. 69 cals this a persecution, and saith, The evil deeds of the Sodomites were a persecution of Lot. Hereupon the same Father proves, That the persecutions of godly mens souls by wicked scandals, is worse then that of Tyrants killing the bodies. And Bernard speaks excellently to this purpose of the Churches bitternesse, Amara prius fuit in nece Martyrum, amarior postea in conflictu haereticorum, sed amarissima in moribus domesticorum. Try thy love to the godly, by thy grief and trouble that cometh to thee, through the wicked∣nesse of others; for seeing by their evil deeds, God is so much dishonoured, how can it be but that with David, Rivers of water should runne down thy eyes, because men keep not Gods Law? and David said, He hated those who hated God with a perfect hatred, that is, a full, absolute, irreconcilable hatred, which is to be under∣stood of their will not their persons.
Page 101 Fourthly, This emptieth it self in doing and procuring all spiritual good to them.* To love is to will good to another, that is, their proper, convenient good. Thus to love the Brethren is to pray much for them, to be diligent in the exhorting and provoking of one another to good; for of such a love and hatred which re∣gards spiritual things, the Apostle speaketh, as by his instance in Cains hatred ap∣peareth, which was from a spiritual consideration, Prov. 27. 17. As iron sharpneth iron, &c. so a man sharpneth the countenance of his friend, that is, as the instrument which is rusty, or edge dulled, is made serviceable by the file; so is one godly man quickned up by another. The Church is compared to a flock of sheep, whereof every one brought twins, that is, their fruitfulnesse, and vers. 9. in the same Chapter, Christian love is compared to Ointment and Perfume, which hath much sweetnesse and strengthning in it; yea reproof is sometimes necessary, as David witnesseth, when he said, Let the righteous smite me, and it shall be bet∣ter then oil: yea this love is so farre commanded that sometimes it's our duty to lay down our lives for the Brethren.
Lastly, This is seen in bearing their burdens, and forbearing their infirmities;* Bearing their burdens; hence as members of the same body they are to weep with those that weep, and rejoyce with those that rejoyce. They are to be like the strings of an instrument, touch one, and they all sound; And forbearing infirmities, Gal. 6. 1. Ye that are spiritual restore such an one; The word signifieth, Set him in joint again, as if a godly man overtaken by sinne should cause as much grief to the whole body, as a dis-jointed member useth to do; So that to love the Brethren (if all things be considered) is a choice and difficult sign of grace; it is not every one that is thus affected. Now here is a proper Question, Whether if Brethren be fallen into heresies and wicked errours, it be not against the love of brethren, to set against them, to endeavour the suppression of them? And certainly the matter may be so carried, as thou maiest discover not only an hatred of their er∣rours, but their godlinesse also; again it may be so, that thou maiest most of all discover thy love to their godlinesse, only hatred to their false doctrines: but this is a large field, and many things are to be said to it, else we cannot give full satisfaction to the Point.
Now to all this there is an Objection made, Love of the Brethren, say they, *cannot be a sign of grace, because if it be true love it must have all those properties de∣scribed, 1 Cor. 13. Charity suffereth long, envieth not, &c. Now who doth not finde some envyings, some impatiencies?
The Answer is easie. We are not seeking for perfect signs, but true signs; and if * we finde true signs we may gather much comfort, though several defects cleave to us. Wilt thou think there is no honey or milk in Canaan, because Jebusites and wilde beasts are left there?
But again they object, Every sect thinketh their sect the true Brethren. Hence the Papist loves a Papist, thinking him a true Brother, and so men may comfort them∣selves with false signs.
The Answer is, True signs are indeed so, though men blinded and deceived are se∣duced by counterfeit. A true Pearl is judged to be true by a skilfull Artificer, and he knoweth he is not deceived; though the unskilfull takes much counterfeit pearl for true; so a man awake is sure he is awake, although men in a dream think themselves also awake, but are indeed deceived.
Lastly, They say, The Apostle speaks this love as it is a sign to others, not to our selves.
Thus the Antinomian, and Estius to this purpose, The Apostle speaketh (saith he) of the whole Church as it is a Society, not of every particular person. But as the A∣postle intends that every particular man should love the Brethren, so he also ma∣keth this as an Argument, because hereby every man in particular may be assured he is translated from death to life.
If love to the Brethren demonstrate our spiritual life, then hatred, opposition, * scoffs and reproaches of such, demonstrate the actors therein to be of the devil. Page 102 Oh how many Cains are there, that therefore hate and stomack others, because their courses are contrary to their sins! There cannot be a surer symptom of thy rotten, yea devilish heart, then to say, I could love such an one, honour such an one, but I cannot abide his strictnesse. Like delights in like. Davids delight is in the Saints of the earth; if thine be in Swine and Dogs who wallow in their vo∣mit and mire, tremble at thy disposition; Canst thou say thou lovest God and hatest his Image? that which resembleth him here upon the earth? The saying is, Noscitur ex socio, &c. You may know a man by those he delighteth and re∣joyceth in, and converseth with.
Use 2. To bewail the neglect of this even among the godly, How doth this * manifest that we have the faith of Christ in respect of persons? Do not abuse godlinesse to make it an occasion of thy carnal pride, envy, or earthly advantage? The Apostle therefore makes heresies and schisms the fruit of the flesh, because these arise from carnal motives one way or other. Yet this is not so to be ur∣ged, as if a prudent and godly Zeal were not to be urged against the false doctrines of godly men; it is one thing to set against a man because of his god∣linesse, that is devilish; and another thing because of his corruption, whether in practice or opinion. But love like Eliyah hath left the Church, and is carried up to heaven in a fiery Chariot.