« PreviousContinue »
And men's lesser erroneous opinions are but the scabs that adhere to their religion. Only the church of Rome is a very leper, whose infectious disease doth compel us to avoid her company. (As for any sort of men that deny the fundamentals, I will not call them by the name of Christians.) So also in duties of worship, satan will be casting in scruples. If they should hear the word, he will cause them to be scrupling the calling of the minister, or something in his doctrine to discourage them. If they should dedicate their children to Christ in the baptismal covenant, he will be raising scruples about the lawfulness of baptizing infants. When they should solace their souls at the Lord's supper, or other communion of the church, he will be raising scruples about the fitness of every one that they are to join with, and whether it be lawful to join with such an ignorant man, or such a wicked man; or whether it be a true church, or rightly gathered, or governed, or the minister a true minister, and twenty the like. When they should join with the church in singing of God's praises, he will move one to scruple singing David's psalms; another to scruple singing among the ungodly; another singing psalms that agree not to every man's condition ; another, because our translation is bad, or our metre defective, and we might have better. When men should spend the Lord's day in God's spiritual worship, he causeth one to scruple, whether the Lord's day be of divine institution. Another he drives into the other extreme, to scruple almost every thing that is not worship. Whether they may provide their meat on that day (when yet it is a solemn day of thanksgiving, and they scruple not much more on other thanksgiving-days) or whether they may so much as move a stick out of the
Others he moves to trouble themselves with scruples, as what hour the day begins and ends, and the like. Whereas, if they, 1. Understood that worldly rest is commanded but as a help to spiritual worship. 2. And that they must employ as much of that day in God's work as they do of other days in their callings, and rest in the night as at other times, and that God looks to time for the work's sake, and not at the work for the time's sake; this would cast out most of their scruples. The like course satan takes with Christians in reading, praying in secret, or in their families, teaching their families, reproving sinners, teaching the ignorant, meditation, and all other duties, too long to mention the
particular scruples which he thrusts into men's heads, much more to resolve them, which would require a large volume alone.
Now I would entreat all such Christians to consider, how little they please God, and how much they please satan, and how much they break their own peace, and the peace of the churches. If you send a man on a journey, would you like him better that would stand questioning and scrupling every step he goes, whether he set the right foot before ? Or whether he should go in the foot-path or in the road? Or him that would cheerfully go on, not thinking which foot goeth forward; and rather step a little beside the path, and in again, than to stand scrupling when he should be going ? If you send reapers into your harvest, which would you like better, him that would stand scrupling how many straws he should cut down at once, and at what height; and with fears of cutting them too high or too low, too many at once, or too few, should do you but little work ? Or him that would do his work cheerfully, as well as he can? Would you not be angry. at such childish, unprofitable diligence or curiosity, as is a hindrance to your work? And is it not so with our Master ? There was but one of those parties in the right that Paul spoke to; Rom. xiv. And yet he not only persuades them to bear with one another, and not to judge one another, but to receive the weak in faith, and not to doubtful disputations; but he bids them, “ Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” How? Can he that erreth be fully persuaded in his error? Yes, he may go on boldly and confidently, not troubling himself with demurs in his duty, as long as he took the safer side in his doubt. Not that this should encourage any to venture on sin, or to neglect a due inquiry after God's mind. But I speak against tormenting scruples, which do no work, but hinder from it, and stay us from our duty.
The same I say against scruples about your sins ; satan will make you believe that every thing is a sin, that he may disquiet you, if he cannot get you to believe that nothing almost is sin, that he may destroy you. You shall not put a bit in your mouth, but he will move a scruple, whether it were not too good, or too much. You shall not clothe yourself, but he will move you to scruple the lawfulness of it. You shall not come into any company, but he will afterward vex you about every word you spoke, lest you sinned.
The like I may say also about your condition, but more of that anon.
Direct. XXVII. · When God hath once shewed you a certainty, or but a strong probability of your sincerity and his especial love, labour to fix this so deep in your apprehension and memory, that it may serve for the time to come, and not only for the present. And leave not your soul too open to changes, upon every new apprehension, nor to question all that is past upon every jealousy ; except when some notable declining to the world, and the flesh, or a committing of gross sins, or a wilfulness or carelessness in other sins that you may avoid, do give you just cause of questioning your sincerity, and bringing your soul again to the bar, and your estate to a more exact review.'
Some Antinomian writers and preachers you shall meet with, who will persuade you, whatsoever sins you fall into, never more to question your justification or salvation. I have said enough before to prove their doctrine detestable. Their reason is, because God changeth not as we change, and justification is never lost. To which I answer, 1. God hated us while we were workers of iniquity; Psal. xi. 5.
And was angry with us when we were children of wrath ; Ephes. iii. 1-3. And afterward he laid by that hatred and wrath; and all this without change. If we cannot reach to apprehend how God's unchangeableness can stand with the fullest and most frequent expressions of him in Scripture, must we therefore deny what those expressions do contain ? As Austin saith, 'Shall we deny that which is plain, because we cannot reach that which is obscure and difficult? 2. But if these men had well studied the Scriptures, they might have known that the same man that was yesterday hated as an enemy, may to-day be reconciled and loved as a son, and that without any change in God; even as it falls out within the reach of our knowledge: for God ruleth the world by his laws; they are his moral instruments; by them he condemneth ; by them he justifieth, so far as he is said in this life, before the judgment day, to do it, (unless there be any other secret act of justification with him, which man is not able now to understand). The change is therefore in our relations, and in the moral actions of the laws. When we are unbelievers, and impenitent, we are related to God as enemies, rebels, unjustified and unpar
doned; being such as God's law condemneth and pronounceth enemies, and the law of grace doth not yet justify or pardon; and so God is, as it were, in some sense obliged, according to that law which we are under, to deal with us as enemies, by destroying us; and this is God's hating, wrath, &c. When we repent, return, and believe, our relation is changed; the same law that did condemn us, is relaxed and disabled, and the law of grace doth now acquit us; it pardoneth us, it justifieth us, and God by it: and so God is reconciled to us, when we are such as according to his own law of grace he is, as it were, obliged to forgive and to do good to, and to use ys as sons : is not all this apparently without any change in God? Cannot he make a law that shall change its moral action according to the change of the actions or inclinations of sinners? And this without any change in God? And so, if it should so be that a justified man should fall from God, from Christ, from sincere faith or obedience, the law would condemn him again, and the law of grace would justify him no more (in that state), and all this without any change in God. 3. If this Antinomian argument would prove any thing, it would prove justification before, and so without, Christ's satisfaction, because there is no change in God. 4. The very point, That no justified man shall ever fall from Christ, is not so clear and fully revealed in Scripture, and past all doubt from the assault of objections, as that a poor soul in such a relapsed estate should venture his everlasting salvation wholly on this, supposing that he were certain that he was once sin
For my own part, I am persuaded that no rooted believer, that is habitually and groundedly resolved for Christ, and hath crucified the flesh and the world, (as all have that are thoroughly Christ's,) do ever fall quite away from him afterwards. But I dare not lay my salvation on this. And if I were no surer of my salvation, than I am of the truth of this my judgment, to speak freely, my soul would be in a very sad condition. 5. But suppose it as certain and plain as any word in the Gospel, (that a justified man is never quite unjustified ;) yet as every new sin brings a new obligation to punishment, (or else they could not be pardoned, as needing no pardon, so must every sin have its particular pardon, and consequently the sinner a particular justification from the guilt of that sin,) besides his first general par
don (and justification): for to pardon sin before it is committed, is to pardon sin that is no sin, which is a contradiction, and impossibility. Now, though for daily, unavoidable infirmities, there be a pardon of course, upon the title of our habitual faith and repentance; yet whether in case of gross sin, or more notable defection, this will prove a sufficient title to particular pardon, without the addition of actual repentance; and what case the sinner is in till that actual repentance and faith, as I told you before, are so difficult questions (it being ordered by God's great wisdom that they should be so,) that it beseems no wise man to venture his salvation on his own opinion in these. Nay, it is certain, that if gross sinners having opportunity and knowledge of their sins, repent not, they shall perish. And therefore I think, a justified man hath great reason upon such falls, to examine his particular repentance, (as well as his former state,) and not to promise himself, or presume upon a pardon without it. 6. And besides all this, though both the continuance of faith, and non-intercision of justification be never so certain, yet when a man's obedience is so far overthrown, his former evidences and persuasions of his justification will be uncertain to him. Though he have no reason to think that God is changeable, or justification will be lost, yet he hath reason enough to question whether ever he were a true believer, and so were ever justitied. For faith worketh by love; and they that love Christ will keep his commandments. Libertines and carnal men may talk their pleasure; but when satan maintains not their peace, sin will break it: and Dr. Sibbs's words will be found true, “Soul's Conflict,” pp. 41, 42. Though the main pillar of our comfort be the free forgiveness of our sins, yet if there be a neglect of growing in holiness, the soul will never be soundly quiet, because it will be prone to question the truth of justification; and it is as proper for sin to raise doubts and fears in the conscience, as for rotten flesh and wood to breed worms : where there is not a pure conscience, there is not a pacified conscience,” &c. Read the rest.
Thus much I have been fain to premise, lest my words for consolation should occasion security and desolation. But now let me desire you to peruse the Direction, and practise it. If when God hath given you assurance, or strong probabilities of your sincerity, you will make use of