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first (mixing with this the discovery of their natural misery by sin, which must be first known) and next we shew them the danger of rejecting Christ and his office. 2. When we find men settled under the preaching of free grace, in a base contempt or sleepy neglect of it, preferring the world and their carnal pleasures and ease, before all the glory of heaven, and riches of Christ and grace, is it not time for us to say, “ How shall ye escape, if ye neglect so great salvation ?" Heb. ii. 3. “ And of how much sorer punishment shall he be thought worthy, that treads under foot the blood of the covenant ?” Heb. x. 26. When men grow careless and unbelieving, must we not say, "Take heed lest a promise being left, of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it?” Heb. iv. 1.3. Hath not Christ led us, commanded us, and taught us this way? “Except ye repent, ye shall all perish,” was his doctrine; Luke xiii. 3. 5. « Go into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature:” (what is that Gospel?) “He that believeth shall be
: saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned ;" Mark xvi. 16. “Those mine enemies that would not I should reign over them, bring hither and slay them before me;" Luke xix. 27. Doth any of the apostles speak more of hellfire, and the worm that never dieth, and the fire that never is quenched, than Christ himself doth? And do not his apostles go the same way; even Paul, the great preacher of faith? (2 Thess. i. 7-9. ii. 12, &c.) What more common? Alas, what work should we make, if we should stroke and smooth all men with Antinomian language? It were the way to please all the sensual, profane multitude, but it is none of Christ's
way to save their souls. I am ready to think that these men would have Christ preached as the Papist would have him prayed to; to say, “Jesu, Jesu, Jesu,' nine times together, and this oft over, is their praying to him; and to have Christ's name oft in the preacher's mouth, some men think is the right preaching Christ.
Let me now desire you hereafter, to be glad to hear ministers awaken the profane and dead-hearted hearers, and search all to the quick, and misapply nothing to yourself ; but if you think any passage doth nearly concern you, open your mind to the minister privately, when he may satisfy you more fully, and that without doing hurt to others : and consider what a strait ministers are in, that have so many of so different conditions, inclinations, and conversations to preach to.
Direct. XXIX. 'Be sure you forget not to distinguish between causes of doubting of your sincerity, and causes of mere humiliation, repentance, and amendment; and do not raise doubtings and fears, where God calleth you but to humiliation, amendment, and fresh recourse to Christ.'
This rule is of so great moment to your peace, that you will have daily use for it, and can never maintain any true, settled peace without the practice of it. What more common than for poor Christians to pour out a multitude of complaints of their weaknesses, and wants, and miscarriages; and never consider all the while that there may be cause of sorrow in these, when yet there is no cause of doubting of their sincerity. I have shewed before, that in gross falls and great backslidings, doubtings will arise, and sometimes our fears and jealousies may not be without cause; but it is not ordinary infirmities, nor every sin which might have been avoided, that is just cause of doubting; nay, your very humiliation must no further be endeavoured than it tends to your recovery, and to the honouring of mercy: for it is possible that you may exceed in the measure of your griefs. You must therefore first be resolved, wherein the truth of saving grace doth consist, and then in all your failings and weaknesses first known, whether they contradict sincerity in itself, and are such as may give just cause to question your sincerity: if they be not (as the ordinary infirmities of believers are not), then you may and must be humbled for them, but you may not doubt of your salvation for them. I told you before by what marks you may discern your sincerity ; that is, wherein the nature of saving faith and holiness doth consist; keep that in your eye, and as long as you find that sure and clear, let nothing make you doubt of your right to Christ and glory. But, alas ! how people do contradict the will of God in this ! When you have sinned, God would have you bewail your folly and unkind dealing, and fly to mercy through Christ, and this you will not do; but he would not have you torment yourselves with fears of damnation, and questioning his love, and yet this you will do. You may discern by this, that humiliation and reformation are sure of God, man's heart is so backward to it; and that vexations, doubts and fears in true Christians that should be comfortable, are not of God, man's nature is so prone to them (though the ungodly that should fear and doubt, are as backward to it).
I think it will not be unseasonable here to lay down the particular doubts that usually trouble sincere believers, and see how far they may be just, and how far unjust and causeless; and most of them shall be from my own former experience;
and such as I have been most troubled with myself, and the rest such as are incident to true Christians, and too usual with them.
Doubt 1. I have often heard and read in the best divines, that grace is not born with us, and therefore satan hath always possession before Christ, and keeps that possession in peace, till Christ come and bind him and cast him out; and that this is so great a work that it cannot choose but be observed, and for ever remembered by the soul where it is wrought; yea, the several steps and passages of it may be all observed : first casting down, and then lifting up; first wounding and killing, and then healing and reviving. But I have not observed the distinct parts and passages of this change in me, nay, I know of no such sudden observable change at all : I cannot remember that ever I was first killed, and then revived: nor do I know by what minister, nor at what sermon, or other means that work which is upon me was wrought: no, nor what day, or month, or year it was begun. I have slided insensibly into a profession of religion, I know not how; and therefore I fear that I am not sincere, and the work of true regeneration was never yet wrought upon my soul.'
Answ. I will lay down the full answer to this, in these propositions. 1. It is true that grace is not natural to us, or conveyed by generation. 2. Yet it is as true that grace is given to our children as well as to us. That it may be so, and is so with some, all will grant who believe that infants may be, and are saved: and that it is so with the infants of believers, I have fully proved in my Book of Baptism; but mark what grace I mean. The grace of remission of original sin, the children of all true believers have at least a high probability of, if not a full certainty ; their parent accepta ing it for himself and them, and dedicating them to Christ, and engaging them in his covenant, so that he takes them
for his people, and they take him for their Lord and Saviour. And for the grace of inward renewing of their natures or disposition, it is a secret to us, utterly unknown whether God use to do it in infants or no. 3. God's first ordained way for the working of inward holiness is by parents' education of their children, and not by the public ministry of the word; of which more anon.
4. All godly parents do acquaint their children with the doctrine of Christ in their infancy, as soon as they are capable of receiving it, and do afterwards inculcate it on them more and more. 5. These instructions of parents are usually seconded by the workings of the Spirit, according to the capacity of the child, opening their understandings to receive it, and making an impression thereby upon the heart. 6. When these instructions and the inward workings of the Spirit are just past the preparatory part, and above the highest step of common grace, and have attained to special saving grace, is ordinarily undiscernible: and therefore, as I have shewed already, in God's usual way of working grace, men cannot know the just day or time when they began to be in the state of grace. And though men that have long lived in profaneness, and are changed suddenly, may conjecture near at the time; yet those that God hath been working on early in their youth, yea, or afterwards by slow degrees, cannot know the time of their first receiving the Spirit. 8. The memories of all men are so slippery, and one thought so suddenly thrust out by another, that many a thousand souls forget those particular workings which they have truly felt. 9. The memories of children are far weaker than of others; and therefore it is less probable that all the Spirit's workings should by them be remembered. 10. And the motions of grace are so rious, sometimes stirring one affection, and sometimes another, sometimes beginning with smaller motions, and then moving more strongly and sensibly, that it is usual for later motions which are more deeply affecting, to make us overlook all the former, or take them for nothing. 11. God dealeth very variously with his chosen in their conversion, as to the accidentals and circumstantials of the work. Some he calleth not home till they have run a long race in the way of rebellion, in open drunkenness, swearing, worldliness and derision of holiness: these he usually humbleth more deeply, and they can better observe the several steps of the
Spirit in the work; (and yet not always neither). Others he so restraineth in their youth, that though they have not saving grace, yet they are not guilty of any gross sins, but have a liking to the people and ways of God: and yet he doth not savingly convert them till long after. It is much harder for these to discern the time or manner of their conversion ; yet usually some conjectures they may make: and usually their humiliation is not so deep. Others, as is said, have the saving workings of the Spirit in their very childhood, and these can least of all discern the certain time or order. The ordinary way of God's dealing with those that are children of godly parents, and have good education, is, by giving them some liking of godly persons and ways, some Conscience of sin, some repentance and recourse by prayer to God in Christ for mercy; yet youthful lusts and folly, and ill company, do usually much stifle it, till at last, by some affliction, or sermon, or book, or good company, God setteth home the work, and maketh them more resolute and victorious Christians. These persons now can remember that they had convictions, and stirring consciences when they were young, and the other forementioned works, perhaps they can remember some more notable rousings and awakenings long after, and perhaps they have had many
such fits and steps, and the work hath stood at this pass for a long time, even many years together. But at which of all these changes it was that the soul began to be savingly sincere, I think is next to an impossibility to discern. According to that experience which I have had of the state of Christians, I am forced to judge the most of the children of the godly that ever are renewed, are renewed in their childhood, or much towards it then done, and that among forty Christians there is not one that can certainly name the month in which his soul first began to be sincere ; and among a thousand Christians, I think not one can name the hour. The sermon which awakened them, they may name, but not the hour when they first arrived at a saving sincerity.
My advice therefore to all Christians, is this: Find Christ by his Spirit dwelling in your hearts, and then never trouble yourselves, though you know not the time or man-, ner of his entrance. Do you value Christ above the world, and resolve to choose him before the world, and perform