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leave you to peruse them if you be unsatisfied ; Rom. viii. 1-14. They that are in Christ Jesus, are they that walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. “ If ye live after the flesh ye shall die, but if ye by the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body ye shall live.” "Blessed are they that
· do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in by the gate into the city ;" Rev. xxii. 14, "He is become the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him ;" Heb. v. 9. « Take my yoke upon you, for it is easy, and my burden, for it is light. Learn of me to be meek and lowly, &c. and ye shall find rest,” &c.; Matt. xi. 28-30. John xvi. 27. Luke xiii. 24. Phil. ii. 12.
. . Rom. ii.7. 10. John xy. 12. 17. xii. 21. Matt. v. 44. Luke vi. 27.35. Prov. viii. 17.21. Matt. x. 37. 1 Tim. vi. 18,19.
x 2 Tim. ii.5. 12. Matt. xxv.41,42. James ii. 21-24.26. i. 22. ii. 5. Prov.i, 23, xxviii. 13, Luke xiii. 3.5. Matt. xii. 37. xi. 25, 26. vi. 12. 14, 15. 1 John i.9. Acts viii. 22. iii. 19. xxii. 16. Luke vi. 37. 1 Pet. iv. 18. i. 2.22. Rom. vi. 16.; with abundance more the like. Now when a poor
sinner that hath oft fallen into drunkenness, railing, strife, envying, &c. shall read that these are the works of the flesh, and that for these things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience; and that every man shall be judged according to his works, and according to what he hath done in the flesh; and that they that do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God; it cannot be but that his assurance of salvation must needs have so great a dependance on his obedience, as that these sins will diminish it. When he reads Rom. vi. 16., vants ye are to whom ye obey, whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness," he must needs think, how such a time, and such a time, he obeyed sin; and the oftener and the more wilfully he did it, the more doubtful will his case be ; especially if he be yet in a sinful course, which he might avoid, whether of gross sin, or any wilful sin, it cannot be but this will obscure the evidence of his obedience. Men cannot judge beyond evidence; and he that hath not the evidence of his true obedience, hath not the evidence of the sincerity of his faith.
3. Moreover, assurance and comfort are God's gifts, and without his gracious aid we cannot attain them. But God will not give such gifts to his children, while they stand out
6. His ser
in disobedience, but when they carefully please him. Paternal justice requires this.
4. And it would do them abundance of hurt, and God much dishonour, if he should either tell them just how oft, or how far they may sin, and yet be saved; or yet should keep up their peace and comforts, as well in their greatest disobedience, as in their tenderest careful walking with him. But these things I spoke of before, and formerly elsewhere.
You see then, that though some obedient, tender Christians may yet on several occasions be deprived of assurance; yet ordinarily no other but they have assurance; and that
: assurance and comfort will rise and fall with obedience.
And for all the Antinomian objections against this, as if it were a leading men to their own righteousness from Christ, I refer you to the twenty arguments which I before laid you down, to prove
that we may and must fetch our assurance and comfort from our own works and graces ; and so from our own evangelical righteousness, which is subordinate to Christ's righteousness, (which he speaks of, Matt. xxv. last, and in forty places more) though we must have no thoughts of a legal righteousness (according to the law of works or ceremonies) in ourselves. They may as well say, that a wo
, man doth forsake her husband, because she comforteth herself in this, that she hath not forsaken him, or been false and unchaste, thence gathering that he will not give her a bill of divorce. Or that a servant forsakes his master, or a subject his prince, or a parent is forsaken by his child; because they comfort themselves in their obedience and loyalty, gathering thence that they are not flat rebels, and shall not be used as rebels. Or that any that enter covenant with superiors do forsake them, because they comfort themselves in their keeping covenant, as a sign that the covenant shall be kept with them: all these are as wise collections, as to gather, that a man forsakes Christ and his righteousness, and setteth
his own instead of it, because he looks at his not forsaking, refusing and vilifying of Christ, his love and faithful obedience to Christ, as comfortable signs that Christ will not forsake and reject him. Do these men think that a rebel may have the love of his prince, and as much comfort from him as a loyal subject? Or a whorish woman have as much love and comfort from her husband, as a faithful wife? Or a stubborn, rebellious son or servant have as
much love and comfort from their father or mother as the dutiful? If there be so near a relation as hitherto we have supposed, between a sovereign and subjection to him, and a husband and marriage-faithfulness to him, and a master and service to him, and a father and loving obedience to him, it is strange that men should suppose such a strange opposition, as these men do. Certainly God doth not so, when he saith, “ If I be a father, where is mine honour ? and if I be a master where is my fear?" Mal. i. 6. And Isaiah i. 3, 4. “Hear O heavens, and give ear, 0 earth ; for the Lord hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib, but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider. Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters, they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel to anger, they are gone away backward.” And Jer. iii. 19. “Thou shalt call me, My father, and shalt not depart away from me." And 2 Tim. ii. 19. • The Lord knoweth who are his. And, let him that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” And Psalm lxvi. 18. “If I delight in iniquity, or regard it, God will not hear my prayers,” saith David himself. Doubtless Paul did not forsake Christ's righteousness by confidence in his own, when he saith, “This is our rejoicing, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity we have had our conversation among you;” 2 Cor. i. 12. with many the like which I before mentioned. Nor doth the Lord Jesus at the day of judgment turn men off from his righteousness, when he saith, “Well done, good and faithful servant, because thou hast been faithful in a very little, I will make thee ruler over much ;" Luke xix. 17. Matt. xxv. 23, and calls them thereupon righteous, saying, “ And the righteous shall go into life everlasting;” Matt. xxv. last.
It remains now that I further acquaint you what use you should make of this observation, concerning the dependance of assurance upon actual obedience. And 1. I advise you,
your soul remain in doubts and troubles, and you cannot enjoy God in any way of peace and comfort, nor see any clear evidence of the sincerity of your faith, take a serious view of your obedience, and faithfully survey your heart and life, and your daily carriage to God in both. See whether
there be nothing that provokes God to an unusual jealousy; if there be, it is only the increase of some carnal interest in your heart, or else the wilful or negligent falling into some actual sin, of commission or of omission. In the making of this search, you have need to be exceeding cautious; for if I have any acquaintance with the mystery of this business, your peace or trouble, comfort or discomfort, will mainly depend on this. And your care must lie in this point, that you diligently avoid these two extremes: first, That
do not deal negligently and unfaithfully with your own soul, at that labour which you must needs be at before you can know it. Secondly, That you do not either condemn yourself when your conscience doth acquit you; or vex your soul with needless scruples, or make unavoidable or ordinary infirmities to seem such wilful heinous sins, as should quite break your settled peace. O how narrow is the path between these two mistaken roads, and how hard a thing, and how rare is it to find it and to keep in it! For yourself, and all tender-conscienced Christians, that are heartily willing to be ruled by Christ, I would persuade you equally to beware of both these; because some souls are as inclinable to the latter extreme as to the former (during their troubles). But for the most Christians in the world, I would have them first and principally avoid the former, and that with far greater diligence than the latter. For, 1. Naturally all men's hearts are far more prone to deal too remissly, yea, unfaithfully with themselves, in searching after their sins, than too scrupulously and tenderly. The best men have so much pride and carnal self-love, that it will strongly incline them to excuse, or mince, or hide their sins, and to think far lighter and more favourably of it than they should do, because it is theirs. How was the case altered with Judah towards Thamar, when he once saw it was his own act! How was David's zeal for justice allayed, as soon as he heard, “ Thou art the man!” This is the most common cause why God is fain to hold our eyes on our transgressions by force, because we are so loath to do it more voluntarily; and why he openeth our sin in such crimson and scarlet colours to us; because we are so apt either to look on them as nothing, or to shut our eyes and overlook them: and why God doth hold us so long on the rack, because we would still ease ourselves by ingenious excuses and extenuations :
and why God doth break the skin so oft, and keep open our wounds; because we are still healing them by such carnal shifts. This proud, sin-excusing distemper needs no other proof or discovery, than our great tenderness and backwardness in submitting to reproofs : how long do we excuse sin, and defend our pretended innocency, as long as we can find a word to say for it. Doth not daily experience of this sad distemper, even in most of the godly, discover fully to us, that most men (yea naturally all) are far more prone to overlook their sins, and deal faithlessly and negligently in the trial; than to be too tender, and to charge themselves too deep.
Besides, if a Christian he heartily willing to deal impartially, and search to the quick, yet the heart is lamentably deceitful, that he shall overlook much evil in it, when he hath done his best. And the devil will be far more industrious to provoke and help you to hide, excuse, and extenuate sin, than to open it, and see it as it is. His endea-. vour to drive poor souls into terrors, is usually but when he can no longer keep them in presumption. When he can hide their sin no longer, nor make it seem small, to keep them in impenitency, then he will make it seem unpardonable and remediless if he can; but usually not before. So that you see the frame of most men's spirits doth require them, to be rather over-jealous in searching after their sins, than over-careless and confident of themselves.
2. Besides this, I had rather of the two that Christians would suspect and search too much than too little, because there is a hundred times more danger in seeing sin less than it is, or overlooking it, than in seeing it greater than it is, and being over-fearful. The latter mistake may bring us into sorrow, and make our lives uncomfortable to us (and therefore should be avoided); but usually it doth not endanger our happiness; but is often made a great occasion of our good. But the former mistake may hazard our everlasting salvation, and so bring us to remediless trouble.
3. Yea, lest you should say, 'This is sad language to comfort a distressed, wounded soul,' let me add this one
So far as I can learn by reading the Scriptures, and by long experience of very many souls under troubles of conscience, It is most commonly some notable cherished corruption, that breedeth and feedeth the sad, un