Comfortable Directions to poor Doubting Christi∣ans.
1 COR. 6. 11.
I Shall conclude the work of grace at this time expressed in the Text, under the notion of Sanctification, and that shal be by handling some practical cases which may justly be propounded by a godly sanctified heart, for seeing this is the evidence of our election, and justification. No marvail, if the soul may have doubts to be informed about therein. And,
First, It may be demanded Why, if I perceive those common gifts and abilities which come from the holy Ghost in me; I may not thence conclude the Spirit of * sanctification in me? There were in the Primitive times extraordinary gifts vouch∣safed by the Holy Ghost, according to the promise of old, Ioel 2. Now all these were from the same spirit, as the Apostle witnesseth, 1 Cor. 12. 4. And although those extraordinary works of the Holy Ghost now cease, yet there are many gifts still dispensed unto men, that cannot be called the works of the slesh, but the gifts of Gods Spirit; such as believing for a season, joy in the word preached: illumi∣nation of mind, tasting experimentally the sense of Gods word, in which the A∣postle saith, They are partakers of the Holy Ghost, Heb. 6. May we not then, where we feel these things in our selves, or see them in others, conclude there is the work of sanctification?
To this in the first place I Answer, That amongst men, who judge by outward ap∣pearance,*and cannot try the hearts and reins, which is Gods Soveraignty, these things are much admired, and received for Sanctification. Hence if we see a man have good utterance and gifts in prayer, with affectionate inlargements; if he speak of some joy and sweetnesse he hath in the Ordinances; if he can confer and dispute with some illumination of mind and understanding in religious things; we are apt to take all that glisters thus, for gold: and because others doe put such an esteem upon them; therefore they that have such gifts do easily perswade themselves that they are sanctified also. But these gifts of Gods Spirit are not sanctification. A man may have all those enumerated excellencies, and yet be an unregenerated man. For,
First, You have many instances of those who have had these gifts, and yet no true*members of Christ. As those Hebrews 6. which the Apostle speaks of; and there∣fore though the Apostle had reckoned up those great things, yet he saith, I hope better things of you, and things that accompany salvation. In this number was Iudas, the foolish Virgins, the third kind of hearers, such are compared to Swine washed; though washed, yet Swine still. Oh then think it not such a matter, if because of parts and abilities in prayer, discourse and conference in Religion, thou art eminently admired by others; for these are no sure signe of Sanctification. Here Page 398 may be light, but no oyl; and therefore though it be our saying ordinarily; Such an one is an able Christian; VVhy so? because of gift in Praier, abilitie to speak in divine things; yet that is not so. He is an able Christian, who is strong in the works of Sanctification, who is able in believing, in heavenly mindednesse, in humi∣lity, in uprightnesse and sincerity of heart. If ever the Professors of England nee∣ded any truth, they ought to give diligent heed to this: For how is that which is indeed true godlinesse neglected, and curious Disputes, and needlesse Controversies exalted in the room thereof!
Secondly, These doe not sanctifie; because a man that hath these gifts of the Holy Ghost, is still carnal and unsavoury, improving them wholly to carnall and * corrupt ends. It's commonly objected by Arminians, and others, when we say, That an unregenerate man is wholly flesh, and altogether corrupt: and yet may have many gifts of Gods Spirit: how then can they be wholly corrupt? Are those gifts of God evill? and its answered, The men are altogether corrupt and carnall, though some good gifts of God be in them; for they improve all these to a sinfull end, for self-advantage one way or other; even as they doe the external Gifts of God, Riches, Honour and Glory: so that as by these they are not made holy, but their corruptions are more drawn out by them: So it is here, they are not made holy by these Gifts and inlargements, but rather internall and soul∣corruption is more strengthened thereby, But I have spoken at large, that the com∣mon gifts of Gods Spirit are no evidences of grace.
A second doubt therefore may be, what a true godly man, who is indeed sanctified, should doe, when he findes no evidences of his sanctification. All * the Sermons he heareth preached about it, put him into fear and tremblings of heart: for alas! he goeth home, and looketh in his soul, compareth himself and the symptomes and properties of sanctification together, and O the disproporti∣on he presently discovers! Insomuch that he hath little joy in himself, and none know∣eth but his own soul, what sad temptations, and heavy anxieties of spirit he lyeth under.
To Answer this: First, it cannot be denyed, but that even a sanctified person * may be in great darknesse, and heavy blacknesse of soul, that he cannot but judge himself for the present to be a Reprobate and a Cast away; to be an hypocrite, and all that he had done, in hypocrisie. David sometimes casteth forth despairing words in his Psalms about his condition, as if he had no hopes of God: Heman the Psalmist complains of the terrors of God, that made him even distracted there∣by, Psalme 88. 15. This is no new thing, for a child of light to lye and walk in darknesse; for a child that is heir to a great inheritance, to be in the dark close womb, knowing nothing of it. God hath wise ends in this, both in reference to the persons themselves, that are thus exercised, to humble them, and to keep them low; as also to teach wicked men, that if Godly men be thus scarcely saved, where shall the wicked appear? Although wicked men for the most part suck poison hence; and God maketh this an heavy stumbling-block to them; that they con∣clude the contrary, as if it were godlinesse, and the too much following of Ser∣mons, and the means of Grace, made them so. But oh miserable deluded souls, to fall at such stones, and to harden themselves in wickednesse by that, which should indeed humble them. But to direct the tempted soul in this matter: First he must give up himself to the instruction and information of others, who are godly and wise; for he being in a temptation is not fit to judge, nor can he passe righteous judgement. A man in the dark cannot see his face in the glasse, nor in muddyed and turbulent water. Thou art sick, and we see Physicians themselves, though ne∣ver so wise, will yet hardly venture to be their own Physicians in dangerous disea∣ses, but require the assistance of others; Christ himself had an Angel to help him; The same word 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, in the Scripture is both to exhort and comfort, because comfort is not received in a gracious heart, but by frequent and daily exhortati∣ons. Doe not then regard thy own thoughts, and thy own determinations. Its Page 399 said Abraham staggered not through unbelief, Rom. 4. 20. That implyeth, that there are temptations, which doe as it were give a man a great blow in the head, making him dizzy and staggering. Now as a man in such an unex∣pected blow knoweth not what he doth, nor understandeth himself; so nei∣ther doth a Christian in such temptations. Remember therefore thy self in this black condition: Say, I am not wise enough, nor able enough to judge my self.
Secondly, Art thou in doubt about thy condition? consider whether there be not some great sin committed, and unrepented of, that doth justly provoke God * to cast thee in this darknesse. This was Davids case after those foul enormities; then he could not tell what to say, or think of himself. This David insinuateth when he prayeth so earnestly for truth in the inward parts, Psalme 51. Wonder not then if such foggy mists raise so great a darknesse, that it obscure the very Sun. Thou desirest impossibilities; thou wouldst have evidence of sanctification, when its evident thou dost not mortifie thy sinnes; Therefore repair that crack in thy building, that leak in thy Ship. David in another Psalme 32. speaketh also that he had no quietnesse in his bones, till he had confessed that sinne which troub∣led him. Doe not then deceive thy own soul; till thou hast put that Dalilah away from thee, never think to enjoy the joy of the Lord, which is thy strength.
Thirdly, It may be thou dostnot distinguish between the presence of Grace, and * the power of it; between weak graces and strong graces. And that which is little, or which is not to thy desire and mind, thou accountest nothing at all. A little infant hath a mans nature in him, as well as he that is grown. As it was in the building of the Temple, they were not to despise the day of small things; so neither is a godly man to contemn or disregard the beginnings, and the small things of grace. Our Saviour would not despise the smoaking Flax, and wilt thou? Take ••ed there∣fore of thinking thou hast no evidences, because they be imperfect and weak: One spark argues fire as well as an whole flame. The child of God while he looketh to the rule, and considereth what he ought to be, never remembers that the conformi∣ty to this rule is more or lesse in those that believe; so then though thou art in the lowest form, yet thou art still in Christs school, and needest to look backward for what hath been done, and fore-warn'd for what remaineth to be done.
Fourthly, remember the evidences thou hast enjoyed formerly. This is a special * way to keep the heart up against all assaults. The time hath been when thou didst walk in the comfortable demonstrations of grace in thy heart and life. The time was, when light did shine into thy breast and thou couldst with much thankfulnesse acknowledge the good things God wrought for thee; let not then the present darknesse obscure all former light; live by the remembrance of what thou hast felt, if thou canst not by any present sense and experience; for if ever thou hast upon good grounds discovered thy self to be in the state of sanctification, thou are still: whatsoever thy present fears may be to the contrary, God is the same, Christ and the promise continue still the same. Think then of those Bottles of tears thou hast filled, and remember it was once day, though now it be night, and it will be day again.
Fifthly, lay down this also for a true and comfortable rule, That if thou canst * not finde such marks of grace, yet if there be earnest desires and strong groans af∣ter these, there is grace begun in thee. These sprouts cannot be, but where sanctifi∣cation is. Hence it is, that those who hunger and thirst after righteousnesse are said to be blessed, because they shall be satisfied, Matth. 5. Though therefore corrup∣tions are potent, they bear thee down, earthly affections, immoderate passions are prevalent over thee; yet because thou pantest and breathest after more grace, this is an argument of spirituall life in thee. Paul that complained of the Law of sinne within him, found also the life of Grace within him; so that as long as thou dost not willingly give up thy self to sin, and obedience to the lusts thereof, here is no Page 400 matter of dejection, but incouragement, Paul and others have in this manner been exercised.
Sixtly, If thou hast no comfort from sanctifying grace, then make the more of justifying grace. God many times hides those works of his in us from our own eyes, * that so we may the more esteem his grace without us. The hungry will prize the Honey-comb, and the sick the Physician. Those that sit in darknesse, they long for light. Thus David, when he was in many sad and spirituall exercises, gets into this Ark, in the midst of those waters that did over-flow. There is a time when God wil put a christian to the life of faith, and make dependance and adherence the grea∣test honour a Christian can bring to him; and this is most eminently seen, when to his own sense and feeling he is a barren Wildernesse; the sense and discovery of grace in us makes much indeed for our comfort; but dependance on the promise and adherence to it, even while we are ready to sink and to be damned, is the grea∣test honour to God.
Seventhly, Consider this also, that as the heart is very deceitfull in a presumptuous man, flattering him upon false grounds to believe in God; so its as deceitfull in a * tempted Christian to make him doubt of all things, fear all things, to regard his sins onely, and not his graces. How prevalent the deceit of heart is in Pharisaical men, is evident to all the world; for how confident and bold are such? When have they any fears or doubts about their condition? When doe they ever say, It may be all this is but a smooth skin, no sound vitals at all? But in a godly man tempted, there his deceit worketh in a contrary way, not taking notice of the great things God hath done for his soul, he believeth, and mourneth for sin, he would not commit any known sin for all the world, yet at the same time cannot see the uprightnesse and sinceritie of his heart: Say then, I have a deceitfull heart in my fears and doubts, as well as presumptions.
Eighthly, Know this also, That it is a great and grievous sinne to deny the works of God in us, to betray the uprightnesse and integrity of our hearts. You see *Iob stands like a strong Oak against all the viosent blasts that are upon him: He is a man outwardly and inwardly afflicted, and that by extraordinary judgements from God, which made his godly friends conclude, that certainly he was an Hy∣pocrite, God did not use to give such extraordinary blowes, but where there were great faults: now see how resolute Iob was in all this, He would not part with his integrity till he dyed, Iob 27. 5. As there is nothing wherein the devill doth more desire to shake thee, than in the integrity and truth of thy grace; so in this thou oughtst to be the more peremptory, and its no presumption; but great unthankful∣ness, not to acknowledge Gods gifts in thee. Besides this is a bearing false witnesse against thy own self, not in matters of goods or life and death, but everlasting peace and comfort.
Ninthly, Though thou sit in never so much darknesse, not knowing what to doe or think, yet humble thy self under Gods hand, give not way to fretting impati∣ence, * entertain no hard thoughts against God and his proceedings: Say, O Lord, if I should never see good day in this world. O Lord, though thou shuttest me up in a prison and dark Dungeon all my life time, that I can never get out, yet I may not expostulate with thee; my heart must not swell or fret; for it is thou (Lord) that dost it. Thus if we would follow Peters Exhortation, To humble our selves under his mighty hand, then he would exalt us, 1 Pet. 5 6. It is indeed very hard to rebuke those roarings of the soul, to quiet those tempests and waves; we see what sad effects they had upon Iob. Into what horrid passions he breaketh out; and when he was reproved for this, (O saith he) if your souls were in my souls stead, you would doe as I doe. Well, the stouter the Adversaries are thou grapplest with, the greater honour it will be to conquer; if it be a Goliah, then David will be more exalted.
Lastly, if thy temptations be thus violent, that as hitherto thou art perswaded thou hadst no grace, yet from this time begin; it is not too late now: If God will Page 401 call thee in at the heat of the day, refuse not to labour in the Vineyard. While thou art fearing and doubting about thy condition, the day is spending, and night is coming on; so that though thou shouldest grant, that all which hath been done by thee, hath been in Hypocrisie, and on false grounds; yet now begin to lay the first stone in a good foundation: Say, O Lord, Let all these fears, all these doubts be sanctified to me, to make a sure work: Qui nil dubitat, nil discit He that doubt∣eth of nothing, will never seek out to learn; and it may be well for thee that God hath shaken thee thus, it may be to make the root stronger; There may be a clearer calm after these boisterous troubles.
This may suffice to comfort those who stand thus suspended from God, and cast * like Absolom from Davids face. What incouragements may be given to that Christian, who findes indeed Sanctification in him, but in a low degree, he is a Babe, a child, not a grown man: now to such an one, no comfort ought to be admini∣stred, so as to make him sit still, that he should have a nil ultra. No, Paul himself, who ran like the Sun swiftly fulfilling his race, Phil. 3. yet forgets what is behind, and makes fast on to what is before: so that to grow in grace is a necessary duty, and we ought to be carryed on to perfection, Heb 6. Yea it many times may give ground of suspition to Gods people, whether they have grace in them, or no; because they are at such a stand: yea not so well, but sometimes in decayes and great dulnesse; so that if the increase of riches add to the desire of them, how much rather should the increase of grace still provoke thee more and more? But yet thou art not without many grounds of hope and comfort.
For first, In that God hath bestowed the least degree of sanctification upon thee, * he hath done more unto thee then if he should give thee all the glory and honour of this world. To be rich in faith, though poor in the world, is better than to be rich in the world and poor in faith. Oh then with what thankfulnesse shouldst thou admire Gods goodnesse to thee? Hath he given thee but this little Mustard-seed of Grace? Hath he but begun this great work in thee? This is happier and more excellent than all the outward advantages of the earth. Its a woeful thing to have our portion in this world. As Ismael had many great gifts, but Isaac had the inheritance; so it may be God gives thee great outward abundance; but as for the spiritual inheritance, that he giveth to others: rejoyce then, and be excee∣ding glad, all you who find but the very first fruits of this happinesse.
Secondly, The promise of justification and pardon is made unto the truth of * Grace, not to the measure and degrees of it: The little hand of a Child, may hold a Pearl, as well as a Giants hand; so that though thou hast not as much grace and godlinesse as a Paul, or a David, yet thou maist as comfortably apply the Covenant of Grace to thy soul, as they did. Its not, he that beleeveth thus much shall be sa∣ved, but he that beleeveth, John 6. 35.
Thirdly, Thou who art weak, yet seest this and be wailest it, hast this advantage, * which a stranger hath not, to walk more humbly, to depend more firmly and strongly upon Christ. Sometimes great Cedars, as David and Peter fall fouly, when lesse shrubs stand still. The more eminent a Christian is, the more danger he is in, of pride, and self-confidence, and thereupon they fall more fouly; but the little child, that is afraid to go, will not let the Mothers hand go, is kept from falling.
Fourthly, The weaker thou art, in some respects God hath the more care and * tender respect over thee. Christ will not quench the smoaking Flax, Mat. 12. 20. The husbandman is most careful of his tenderest plants; Aristotle saith, Nature hath put it into parents to have most love to their youngest and weakest children. Thus God takes those that are weakest, and giveth them more consolations and the greater support.
Fiftly, There is no Christian so weak, but he may some way or other doe God * much service: and this he should comfort himself in, as the greatest honour he is capable off. The Apostle often useth this similitude of a mans body, and sheweth Page 402 how that though one part be more noble than another; yet even the most ignoble hath its proper use, the body knoweth not how to be without it: The eye cannot say to the foot, I have no need of thee; yea, the Apostle exhorts all, That they should esteem of every man better than himself, Rom. 12. Even the meanest Christian doth in some thing or other exceed a stranger.
Use. Be exhorted to this great duty and priviledge of Sanctification. If there be any honour, any happiness, any excellency, it is in this: Thou art not fit for any * holy duty, for any religious approach unto God, without Sanctification. Thy Christianity, and the doctrine of Christ obligeth thee unto it. This is the proper and peculiar benefit that is in Christs Church. There is no holinesse among Heathens, no Sanctification without the Church of God: well, though now thou art a prophane despiser, and it may be an opposer of holinesse, yet one day it will be in request, when Riches, Honour, Greatnesse will do thee no good. Consider, this is the will of God, your Sanctification, 1 Thes. 4. 3. All the commands in Scripture drive to this, they tend to this; If thou art not holy, thou hast no right to happinesse, to have an inheritance among them that are sanctified. Acts 26. 18. Holinesse is pro∣mised under the Gospel to be in a large measure. Zech. 14. 20, 21. Every Vessel shall have Holinesse unto the Lord: An excellent Promise to be improved by us.