That every peaceable frame of heart, and perswasi∣on of Gods love, is not a sure Testimony of saving Grace.
JOHN 8. 54.
IN this chapter we may observe several sharp skirmishes between Christ and the Pharisees: but as Satan in his conflict was overcome by him, so are his children in these hot disputes. The Pharisees in the latter end of this Chapter, charge two things especially upon him to make his doctrine odious, the one is, The he had a Divel, and so all his Doctrine and Miracles to come by Satanical impo∣stures: the other, That he did all out of vain glory, to have a multitude of Disciples, and to be admired by them: Our Saviour is both defensive in this cause, vindica∣ting himself from those horrid aspersions; and offensive, retorting the same things upon them, That they were of their Father the Divel, because he was a man slayer, and abode not in the truth: So saith he, You seeck to kill me, a man, that is cruelty, Who tells you the truth, that is ingratitude, Which he heard of God, that is impiety: and because they gloried in this, That Abraham was their father, he sheweth the dis∣parity between their works, and Abrahams works: because also they said, God was their Father, he driveth them also out of this refuge; for if they were of God, they would hear and know his Word; Children do presently discern their Fathers voice. To that accusation of vain glory, he answereth in my text, by shewing the vanity of all humane glory: if I should look at this, I should but catch at a shadow, open my mouth to swallow air: it is nothing. Now if Christ did judge all the glory which he should hear by his Doctrine and miracles, nothing; how should this make Ministers afraid, who affect honour for some new notions, excellent Sermons, and parts? Christ did not glorifie himself, why should we then? Yet least they should think him without glory, he tels them, There is one that honoureth him, viz. God the Father, by immediate testimony from heaven, and by many miraculous o∣perations: and to humble them the more, he saith, This that honoureth me thus, is he of whom you say, he is your Father, of whom you make your boast and braggs, that he is yours. I shall stand onely upon this passage, intending to shew that a people may have great confidence, and a bold perswasion of heart that God is their God, and yet they be of their Father the Divel. For whereas the last time I told you a man might have an historical, or dogmatical faith in matters of religion, and yet be destitute of Gods Spirit in a saving manner: now I shall shew you, he may have some fiducial application of Gods favour, and confidently repose himself in the bosom or arms of Christ, and yet Christ say to such, Depart, I know you not. A ne∣cessary subject to be handled, because most people who have no true claim or inte∣rest in God, yet it is strange to consider what quietness, and peace, and boldness Page 175 they have in their hearts, when indeed fear should compass them round about.
Doct. Every peaceable frame of heart, and confident perswasion of Gods love, is not asure testimony that such an one is in the state of Grace.
Paul, Rom. 7. Sheweth he was alive without the Law, That is, he had great qui∣etness and ease of mind; he thought himself in a sure and safe way: but alas, this was his ignorance, his blindness. Even as a man in a dungeon may think himself safe, when there are Serpents and poysonous creatures round about him, onely he doth not see them: or as a man in a Lethargy feels no pain, though he be near the gates of death: Such is the condition of many persons, they thank God they have no trouble, their soul is at much ease and quietness, they doubt not of Gods fa∣vour and love to them: hence in the midst of their afflictions they will say, I thank my good God, when (alas) we may say of such, as Christ of the Jews, You say he is your Father, but you have not known him; so they know nothing powerfully and practically about God.
To open this, Let us consider what is the nature of this secure quiet∣nesse. *
First, It is accompanied with a great deal of ease and peace in a mans heart, so that their consciences have no terrour, no tremblings, but all is well within them. Now that wicked men may be in such a condition, is plain by that where they say, Peace, peace, then shall come sudden destruction: and the Psalmist doth with some kinde of emulation, describe the joyful quiet condition of many wicked men. They have no bonds in their death: They seem to live more cheerfully, and dye more quietly then Godly men: so then, all peace and quietness in thy conscience, is not presently a good testimony; for this security may arise from blindness, from self-love, from a senseless cauterized heart, as is to be shewed: So that this frame of Spirit is so far from being boasted of, that it is indeed the wofullest and saddest calamity that can be; better to be so many Cains, fearing every thing will damn a man, then to be one of Lachish, sitting at ease, and fearing nothing. It is true, the Prophet saith, There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked: and is therefore compared to the sea, alwaies foaming and disquieted: So that by this place, we would think it were not possible for a man to be a wicked man, and have any peace, but the Scripture speaks there of a true and right peace, such as when the Apostle saith, Being justified by faith, we have peace with God: Insomuch that the wicked mans quietness doth not deserve the name of Peace. There is onely a for∣bearance of wrath: and it is because his heart is rotten, that it feeleth no pain; even as the member of a mans body rotten, is not sensible of any torment. The A∣postle speaks of some, who had cauterized consciences, Seared with an hot Iron, or cut off, as some expound it: and of others who were past feeling. They were so brawny and crusted over, they had no sense of any pain: Alas this cannot be called peace. Take heed therefore lest that security and quietness in thy heart, come not from a mere rotten, senseless, stupidity in thee. Certainly this truth doth much con∣cern us; do not think to put off God as Jacob did Isaak; do not think to steal a bles∣sing and heaven from God.
Secondly, As there is nothing but quietness within, so there are bold and confident perswasions about God, and his love towards them. Now a mans condition cannot be * more desperate then when he is deluded with a resolute perswasion that God loveth him; even as some mad men have been perswaded that they were great Kings and Emperors, and had such great Kingdomes, when at the same time they were under cruel hardship. Oh such a madness is upon most men, that do not, with the Divel, look upon all the Glory of the world, and say falsly, all that is his, but upon all the Glory of heaven, and say presumptuously, all that is his: This was the Pharisees impudencie, who were confidently perswaded that God was their Father, that he he loved them, when they were the miserable wretched Impps of Satan! This al∣so was the grand cause of all those expostalations the Prophets had with the Jews;Page 176 they trusted in Gods love, though they did lye, steal, swear, yet they would come into his Temple, and call upon him, which the Prophet Jeremiah with much hea∣venly zeal expostulates with them for. Oh, this gross impudencie is too visible in our daies: have you not many prophane sinners? many lyars, cursers, opposers of what is good? Yet they will come here, and say, Our Father: nay, you cannot meet with any beastly sinner, but his heart is filled with this bold impudencie, to think and hope that God is his Father; So that we may cry out, Oh that God would touch these mountains, that they might melt before him, Oh that God be∣fore whom the very earth did tremble and quake, would also make such mens hearts afraid before him.
Thirdly, Where such bold apprehensions are concerning God, there is not only confidence in the general, that God is merciful, but they have also a fiducial application, & appropri∣ation*of God to their own selves in particular: And herein they have a great resem∣blance of justifying faith, as Paul said, Who loved me, and gave himself for me: so these will apply Christ to their particular: I thank my Christ, my Redeemer, my Saviour. In the Godly such applications are of saith in the most excellent manner, in the wicked it is of meer presumption, without any true ground at all. It is indeed the glorious fruit of the covenant of Grace, that thereby God becomes the God of his children, Hosea 2. They shall call me Ishi, and no more Baali, that is, My Husband, not my Lord: they shall have more dear and appropriated meditations of God; and at the end of the Chapter, I will be their God, and they shall be my peo∣ple. Hence Jeremiah, 4. 3, 4. God would have the Church repenting, say, My Father. Fiducial applications of Gods love to us are a duty, as the learned prove a∣gainst the Papists: Hence faith is called, Eating and drinking of Christ. When a true broken heart loaded with sin, cryeth out with Thomas, My God, my Lord, this is not carnal presumption, but holy believing. But now when men whose hearts were never smitten with Gods displeasure for sin, find no burthen of it, and so cry not for ease to Christ; when (I say) such say, I thank my God, and my Redeemer, this is bold presumption in them. God is not the God of the dead, we may say, but of the living; he is not the God, the Father of such who live in, and love their wickedness. It would be a dishonour to be a Father of such Children: but he in∣viteth those to call him Father, and my Father, who are deeply humbled for sin un∣der his hand, who are of self-emptyed and poor spirits, acknowldeging his Grace onely. As therefore we are not to discourage the wounded heart, but to imbolden him to appropriat Christ to himself in particular, and that he is to set against all se•∣vile fears and doubts that would like the Divels to the possessed man, keep him alwaies about the tombes, and make him gash and wound himself; so we are also to set a flaming sword, as God did to Adam, to a prophane man, lest he venture to come into this Paradise. Oh then he advised and consider, whether it be faith or presumption makes thee say, My God, my Redeemer. A Paul may say so, and a Pha∣risee may say so.
Fourthly, Where this boldnesse is, there is a shifting and putting off all those consi∣derations that may bring us to make any doubt, or any question about our selves: and * truely that is a real demonstration; thy peace, thy comfort is not right, thou art so unwilling to be brought to light: the thief hateth the light saith our Saviour: now observe it, many of those persons who have such bold perswasions of Gods love, they cannot abide to hear terrible Sermons, they love not to hear of hell, and the day of judgement: they cannot endure to hear of the differences of Gods work upon mens hearts, and how far hypocrites and reprobates may go: Oh these things cut them, and make them mad; and why is all this? but because the peace and comfort they have, is a false and unsound one, which will abide no touchstone, cannot endure any shaking or moving at all. What was the cause that the Pharisees were so immoveably perswaded of Gods love towards them? did hate and op∣pose Christ even to death? It was onely because he manifested their godlinesse was not true godlinesse, their comforts were not true comforts, their peace was not Page 177 true peace, and thus woful self-flattery was their ruin. God seeing such a pro•e∣nesse to deceive our selves, makes expresse provision against it: If a man when he heareth all the curses of the Law, shall yet blesse himself in his heart, and say, None of these evils shall come upon me, God will expresly set against such a man. Oh it is terrible when God curseth thee, the Law curseth thee, the Ministers of God de∣clare his curses against thee, yet thou to bless thy self, and to say, God loveth thee, and will do good to thee: Oh take heed of these cursed shiftings: this untempered morter will not hold out, though thou daub it up never so craftily: do not ev••e and say, These judgements of God, these threatnings do not belong to me; for I love God, I have a good heart, I do that which is just and good to all; for all this slippery Ice will thaw when the sun ariseth.
Fifthly, Where this quietness is, there is much boasting and glorying in this, that they have a good heart, and so rely much upon this. It is a wonder to hear men that * live in a constant neglect of holy duties, yea sometimes wallow in the filth and mire of laothsom sins, yet how they will boast in this, They have a good heart, and that as good as any of the strictest professors have: What wilde Logick is this? How can there be a good heart, if there be not a good life? How can there be a good tree, if there be not good fruit? Is that a good fire that burneth not, that warmeth not? Is that good meat that nourisheth not? Oh, why do not such consider that excel∣lent Aphorism of the wise man, He that trusteth in his own heart, is a fool? Oh take heed that all thy boastings of thy heart being good, whatsoever thy failings be, are not meere folly. It is folly to trust in a mans heart, because it is so deceitful: He thinketh he doth repent, when he doth not: he thinketh he loveth God, when he doth not. Dost thou therefore appeal to thy heart, and call thy heart to witness for thy godlinesse? Oh, that is the very cheat and cousener in the world: It is deceit∣ful in all things saith the Prophet, who can know it? Do not thou rest on that which is naturally full of •es, and hypocrisies: It is true, when the heart is enlightened by Gods spirit, as in the godly, then it is made a true heart, and a faithful heart though not perfectly: and so those graces in us, which of themselves would never evidence themselves, by Gods Spirit become visible; even as some relate of a pre∣cious stone, which will not cast any glorious lustre unlesse the sun-beams shine up∣on it.
Sixthly, This carnal presumption and boldnesse may hold in the midst of Gods cala∣mities and wrath, yea at the stroaks of death it self. The people of Israel, though * smitten by God for their abominations which were evident, yet saith the Prophet Micah, would come and lean upon God: they were either actually under Gods judgements, or under the terrible denunciation of them by the Prophet: yet they would lean upon God, as if he were their God, and that such secure confidence may hold to death, appeareth by the foolish Virgins, who found no lack of oyl till it was too late: And we see those condemned persons at the day of judgement, pleading for themselves, with a wonder why they should be condemned, for they neglected no duty required of them: When saw we thee sick, and visited thee not? So that it is no sure sign, though a man even at deaths door abateth not his confi∣dence in God for all that. The Psalmist saith, they have no such bonds in their death, or pain and fear as sometimes other men may have: a godly man may dye doubt∣ing, and a wicked man presuming: It is not then the saying, and the professing they have a great deal of peace in God, but the grounds why, and the motives, they must be searched into. Therefore though we blame Papists for teaching to doubt, and making a doubt a duty, yet we presse for an holy search, and a godly fear and trembling in the trying of our hearts, lest we be deceived.
In the next place let us consider, why such bold confidence is not to be relyed up∣on: * And
First, Because it comes not from a true and genuine ground, which is the spirit of a∣doption, the comforter, the seal, who onely quieteth the heart in a gracious sure way, but it cometh from carnal self-love, and self flattery: we are in love with our Page 178 selves, and we think God loves what we love. Thus the Psalmist notably to the secure wicked man, Thou thoughtest I was such an one as thy self: as the Roman painter being in love with a woman, painted every goddess like the woman he lo∣ved; so doth every man set up such a God in his thoughts and affections, which he would have, and is most like himself: and by this means, because he saith, all is well, he judgeth all good within him, therefore he supposeth God doth so also. Oh then know, that self-love and the Spirit of Adoption, differ more then heaven and hell. Indeed if thy assurance, if thy boldnesse come in the Spirits way, it were a comforting by it, a rejoycing by it, then thou mightest rejoyce and be glad in God: But when it cometh from thy muddy and filthy heart, all this will wash a∣way. It is God that justifieth, and it is God that condemneth; it matters not though a thousand hearts justifie us, if God do not. If a malefactor be condemned, and hath a pardon from inferior magistrates, he judgeth that nothing, unless the su∣preme Magistrate absolve him. Oh, therefore judge thy self: think, it may be for all my good thoughts God saith otherwise: I blesse it may be, but God curseth it may be; and know, it cannot come from any thing but carnal love, if thou hast this boldnesse, and yet livest in grosse sins unrepented of, and unre∣formed.
Secondly, It is because Satan doth not frown upon, trouble and molest them. Now that cannot be called a good quietnesse, or a good peace which is so onely because * the Divel looks upon them as his own, and so will no wise disturb them: our Savi∣our doth abundantly confirm this, when he saith, That as long as the strong man keepeth the house, all things are at quiet: Thus those that are under Satans Domini∣on, they have jollity, security, hardnesse of heart, that so they may not be sensible of their misery, and thereby seek an escape out of his snares. Pharaoh then used the Israelites most cruelly, when they began to be weary of their bondage, and to seek comfort somewhere else; so that thou hast little cause to be glad of this thy peace, for it is a peace thou art beholding to the Divel for; it is he that har∣dens thy heart; it is he that makes thee desperate; that hath put out thy right eye that thou canst not behold the enemy that lyeth in wait against thee: Therefore do thou no more be secure in this quietnesse.
Thirdly, This bold confidence doth not arise from a good motive: It cometh from general apprehensions of Gods goodnesse and mercy, such as heathens have. They * conceive of God in general, as one who is altogether merciful: they think he that made them, will save them: whereas divels might thus argue for hope, because God made them, yet he will not save them. What a miserable support is it to have no more ground for thy salvation, then the damned spirits in hell have? But a true gracious confidence is from the Covenant of Grace in Christ; it hath respect not to the nature of God absolutely considered, but relatively, as in Christ reconciled with us. Hence the promise of God is mutual, I will be their God, and they shall be my people: Do not thou think that any natural apprehension about God can give the least hope, know this must come wholly by revelation: set the word of God aside, which doth reveal Gods good pleasure to believers, and the way of pardon and salvation is no more possible then that of the Divels: so then the godly mans confidence is from Scripture revelation and direction, whereas the presumptuous mans is from natural suggestion.
Fourthly, This confidence is defective, because it doth separate and divide those things which God hath inseparably joyned together, and that is the means and the end.* The presumptuous mans confidence is maintained and kept up, though he go not in the right way, yea, though he walk in a contrary way: as those wicked men who though they defiled themselves with abominations, said, No evil shall come nigh us: and such as had made a Covenant with Hell and death: but the godly mans faith, it cleanseth the heart; and he that hath this hope, purifieth himself even as God is pure. How unsufferable is it to see a man confident of Gods love, and yet walk continually in the wayes he hateth! There is no making our calling and e∣lection Page 179 sure, but by the gracious f〈…〉 of Gods Holy Spirit. Think not to •o into the North, by taking a journey So〈…〉d: and it is as absu•d to call God •hy God, when God• wa〈…〉 are not thy w〈…〉, Gods commands are not obeyed by thee. The Spirit of God that sealeth and comforteth, doth al•o sanctifie and make holy: Think not therefore to have 〈◊〉, and no heat.
Fifthly, This secu•e confidence is not fil〈…〉〈◊〉 a Evangelical in its operation: It is not spiritual and in〈…〉: they are not hereby ca〈…〉 out to ob•• Gods com∣mandements, * out of lov• and delight in God: love apprehend by 〈…〉vil•〈…〉sh dispositions, makes them more d〈…〉, they turn the grace of God i〈…〉 wan•on∣nesse, and make 〈…〉 lov• aboundeth: But love shed abroad in the hea•• of G〈…〉, it works Evangelically, graciously, d〈…〉 to become like God, w〈…〉 us. Having these Promises (〈◊〉 the Apo〈…〉) let 〈◊〉 cleanse our selves from all filthiness. 2 Cor. 7. 1. The promises were, That God would be our God and Father: So then, conf〈…〉 of Gods love in an unrege∣nerate hear, is like some unkinde influences of the stars, that cause diseases and pu•i•factions. When Papists o〈…〉 against 〈◊〉 assurance, that it b•ee•s con∣tempt, neglect of means, and d〈…〉, We Answer, Presumption indeed •oth, and a vain p〈…〉, which wi•••d men have of Gods love; but in the godly it breedeth a 〈◊〉 like 〈◊〉, and holy f•ar to displeas• that God, whose goodnesse we so 〈◊〉 taste of. Examine therefore what the operations of this confidence are upon thee: D〈…〉 thou her by take libertie in the waies of 〈◊〉? This is ungodly.
Sixthly, It is not a c〈…〉 arising out of spiritual conflict and agony: and this * is indeed a •o〈…〉 discovery of all 〈◊〉 confidences: carnel pr〈…〉 of Gods favour, it m〈…〉 no opposition: 〈◊〉 man so carried away, never 〈…〉t trou∣ble of sin is, what the terrible d••ts of the A〈…〉 are, how difficult and su∣pe〈…〉 a work it is to rely upon Gods promises; but all his joy and peace comes with a great deal of ease to him: but in the godly it is otherwise, I 〈…〉 my unbelief: so Davids Psalms, what ebbing and flowing •e hath, confident of Gods savour at one time, then presently as much dejected and despondent: See how he expostulat•th, Why art thou cast down, O my soul? still trust in God Now the ground of this difficulty and combat, is from the opposition every thing spiritual, hath to that which is carnal: an unregenerate heart doth oppose Gods spirit seal∣ing and comforting, as well as convincing and sanctifying. The easinesse therefore that thou findest in having this comfort, may justly make thee suspect it: say, My quietnesse is from the Divel, else my heart would oppose it more, I could not get into a true Canaan, unlesse I went through some wildernesse.
7. This carnal security is at that time, & in those conditions, when the Scripture calls for the contrary, Therefore it cannot be of God. As for example, Thou art thus per∣swaded * of Gods love, though thou livest in constant waies of prophanenesse; though thou neglect〈…〉 the exercise of all holy duties. Now remember, doth 〈◊〉 Scripture call upon thee to believe that God is pleased with thee? That he loveth thee? No, Gods word commands thee clean contrary: it bids such mourn and w•ep: it calls upon such to believe that the threatnings of God belong to them; that God is not their God; that their sins are not pardoned: Oh then, why will ye presumptuously, and wilfully believe a lie? Why do you applie promises to you, when you should do threatnings? Thou must make a new Bible, a new Scripture, e're thou canst take any comfort to thy self: Oh therefore if thou didst know what thou didst, and how it is indeed with thee, what an alteration would there be? For all that quietnesse, horrour and trembling; for all that jollitie, mourning and howling: for that easiness to believe, thou wouldst find it most difficult; Oh, who can believe? Lord make me to believe.
Use of Exhortation, To awaken, if possible, all such secure persons: Do not * the generality of Christians, as those of the Jews, glory in this, God is their Fa∣ther? But how comes this about? Where is your evidence? How will you prove Page 188 it? put your hearts to it. If this confidence of God being your Father were right, and of God; thy life would differ from what it is, as much as light from dark∣nesse, a wildernesse from a garden. Oh how may the Ministers of God with Jere∣my say, Our souls shall mourn in secret for you. Had we not as good set our shoul∣ders to a great Mountain to remove that, as make men begin to search whether their peace be a good peace or no, their quietnesse a good quietnesse? Oh do ye not say to us as the devils to Christ, Why are ye come to torment us? As we would not unsettle or put doubts into any that truly fear God, so on the other side, to those that vainly rely upon God, when yet he is not theirs; we could desire these words might be as arrows shot into their hearts, wounding of them; so as to take no rest till they have a true peace indeed.