Page images
PDF
EPUB

a

a

these resolutions ? Then need you not doubt but the Spirit of Jesus is victorious in you. .

Doubt 2. But I have oft read and heard, that a man cannot come to Christ till he feel the heavy burden of sin. It is the weary and heavy-laden that Christ calleth to him. He bindeth up only the brokenhearted; he is a Physician only to those that feel themselves sick; he brings men to heaven by the gates of hell. They must be able to say, I am in a lost condition, and in a state of damnation, and if I should die this hour I must perish for ever, before Christ will deliver them. God will throw away the blood of his Son on those that feel not their absolute necessity of it, and that they are undone without it. But it was never thus with me to this day.'

Answ. 1. You must distinguish carefully between repentance as it is in the mind and will, and as it shews itself in the passion of sorrow. All that have saving interest in Christ, have their judgments and wills so far changed, that they know they are sinners, and that there is no way to the obtaining of pardon and salvation but by Christ, and the free mercy of God in him; and thereupon they are convinced that if they remain without the grace of Christ, they are undone for ever. Whereupon they understanding that Christ and mercy is offered to them in the Gospel, do heartily and thankfully accept the offer, and would not be without Christ, or change their hopes of his grace for all the world, and do resolve to wait upon him for the further discovery of his mercy, and the workings of his Spirit, in a constant and conscionable use of his means, and to be ruled by him, to their power. Is it not thus with you? If it be, here is the life and substance of repentance, which consisteth in this change of the mind and heart, and you have no cause to doubt of the truth of it, for want of more deep and passionate humiliation. 2. I have told you before, how uncertain and inconstant the passionate effects of grace are, and how unfit to judge by, and given you several reasons of it, Yet I doubt not but some work upon the affections there is, as well as on the will and understanding ; but with so great diversity of manner and degrees, that it is not safe judging by it only or chiefly. Is there no degree of sorrow or trouble that hath touched your heart for your sin or misery? If your affections were no whit stirred, you would

[ocr errors]

hardly be moved to action, to use means, or avoid iniquity, much less would you so oft complain as you do. 3. If God prevented those heinous sins in the time of your unregeneracy, which those usually are guilty of who are called to so deep a degree of sorrow, you should rather be thankful that your wound was not deeper, than troubled that the cure cost you no dearer. Look well whether the cure be wrought in the change of your heart and life from the world to God by Christ, and then you need not be troubled that it was wrought so easily. 4. Were you not acquainted with the evil of sin, and danger and misery of sinners, in your very childhood, and also of the necessity of a Saviour, and that Christ died to save all sinners that will believe and repent? And hath not this fastened on your heart, and been working in you by degrees ever since? If it be so, then you cannot

, expect that you should have such deep terrors as those that never hear of sin and Christ till the news come upon them suddenly in the ripeness of their sin. There is a great deal of difference betwixt the conversion of a Jew, or any other infidel, who is brought on the sudden to know the doctrine of sin, misery and salvation, by Christ; and the conversion of a professor of the Christian religion, who hath known this doctrine in some sort from his childhood, and who hath a sound religion, though he be not sound in his religion, and so needs not a conversion to a sound faith, but only to a soundness in the faith. The suddenness of the news must needs make those violent commotions and changes in the one, which cannot ordinarily be expected in the other, who is acquainted so early with the truth, and by such degrees. 5. But suppose you heard nothing of sin and misery, and a Redeemer in your childhood, or at least understood it not (which yet is unlikely), yet let me ask you this : Did not that preacher, or that book, or whatever other means God used for your conversion, reveal to you misery and mercy both together? Did not you hear and believe that Christ died for sin, as soon as you understood your sin and misery? Sure I am that the Scripture reveals both together; and so doth every sound preacher, and every sound writer (notwithstanding that the slanderous Antinomians do shamefully proclaim that we preach not Christ, but the law). This being so, you must easily apprehend that it must needs abate very much of the terror, which would else have been

6

unavoidable. If you had read or heard that you were a sinner, and the child of hell, and of God's wrath, and that there was no remedy, (which is such a preaching of the law, as we must not use to any in the world, nor any since the first promise to Adam, must receive); yea, or if you had heard nothing of a Saviour for a year, or a day, or an hour after you had heard that you were an heir of hell, and for the remedy had been but concealed from you, though not denied (which ordinarily must not be done), then you might in all likelihood have found some more terrors of soul that hour. But when you heard that your sin was pardonable, as soon as you heard that you were a sinner, and heard that your misery had a sufficient remedy provided, if you would accept it, or at least that it was not remediless, and this as soon as you heard of that misery, what wonder is it if this exceedingly abate your fears and troubles! Suppose two men go to visit two several neighbours that have the plague, and one of them saith. It is the plague that is on you; you are but a dead man.' The other saith to the other sick person, “It is the plague that you have ; but here is our physician at the next door that hath a receipt that will cure it as infallibly and as easily as if it were but the prick of a pin, he hath cured thousands, and never failed one that took his receipt, but if you will not send to him, and trust him, and take his receipt, there is no hopes of you.' Tell me now whether the first of these sick persons be not like to be more troubled than the other? And whether it will not remove almost all the fears and troubles of the latter, to hear of a certain remedy as soon as he heareth of the disease ? Though some trouble he must needs have to think that he hath a disease in itself so desperate or loathsome. Nay, let me tell you, so the cure be but well done, the less terrors and despairing fear you were put upon, the more credit is it to your physician and his apothecary, Christ and the preacher, or instrument, that did the work, and therefore you should rather praise your physician, than question the cure.

Doubt 3. But it is common with all the world to consent to the religion that they are bred up in, and somewhat affected with it, and to make conscience of obeying the precepts of it. So do the Jews in theirs; the Mahometans in

VOL. IX.

a

true;

theirs. And I fear it is no other work on my soul but the mere force of education, that maketh me religious, and that I had never that great renewing work of the Spirit upon my soul; and so that all my religion is but mere opinion, or notions in my brain.'

Answ. 1. All the religions in the world, besides the Christian religion, have either much error and wickedness mixed with some truth of God, or they contain some lesser parcel of that truth alone (as the Jews); only the Christian religion hath that whole truth which is saving. Now so much of God's truth as there is in any of these religions, so much it may work good effects upon their souls; as the knowledge of the Godhead, and that God is holy, good, just, merciful, and that he sheweth them much undeserved mercy in his daily providences, &c.But mark these two things, 1. That all persons of false religions do more easily and, greedily embrace the false part of their religion than the

and that they are zealous for, and practise with all their might, because their natural corruption doth befriend it, and is as combustible fuel for the fire of hell to catch in; but that truth of God which is mixed with their error, if it be practical, they fight against it, and abhor it while they hold it, because it crosseth their lusts, insomuch that it is usually but some few of the more convinced and civil that God in providence maketh the main instruments of continuing those truths of his in that part of the wicked world. For we find that even among Pagans, the profaner and more sensual sort did deride the better sort, as our profane Christians do the godly whom they called Puritans. 2. Note, That the truth of God which in these false religions is still acknowledged, is so small a part, and so oppressed by errors, that it is not sufficient to their salvation (that is, to give them any sound hope), nor is it sufficient to make such clear, and deep, and powerful impressions in their minds, as may make them holy or truly heavenly, or may overcome in them the interest of the world and the flesh.

This being so, you may see great reason why a Turk or a heathen may be zealous for his religion without God's Spirit, or any true sanctification, when yet you cannot be so truly zealous for yours without it. Indeed the speculative part of our religion, separated from the practical, or from the hard and self-denying part of the practical, many a wicked

man may

be zealous for; as to maintain the Godhead, or that God is merciful, &c. Or to maintain against the Jews that Jesus is the Christ; or against the Turks, that he is the only redeemer and teacher of the church; or against the Papists, that all the Christians in the world are Christ's church as well as the Romans; and against the Socinians and Arians that Christ is God, &c. But this is but a small part of our religion; nor doth this, or any heathenish zeal, sanctify the heart, or truly mortify the flesh, or overcome the world. They may contemn life, and cast it away for their pride and vain-glory; but not for the hopes of a holy and blessed life with God. This is but the prevalency of one corruption against another, or rather of vice against nature. There is a common grace of God that goeth along with common truths, and according to the measure of their obedience to the truth, such was the change it wrought; which was done by common truths, and common grace together, but not by their false mixtures at all. But God hath annexed his special grace only to the special truths of the Gospel or Christian religion. If therefore God do by common grace, work a great change on a heathen, by the means of common truths, and do by his special grace work a greater and special change on you, by the means of the special truths of the Gospel, have you any reason hereupon to suspect your condition? Or should you not rather both admire that providence and common grace which is manifested without the church, and humbly, rejoicingly, and thankfully embrace that special saving grace, which is manifested to yourself above them?

2. And for that which you speak of education, you have as much cause to doubt of your conversion, because it was wrought by public preaching, as because it was wrought by education, For, 1. Both are by the Gospel: for it is the Gospel that your parents taught you, as well as which the preacher teacheth you. 2. I have shewed you, that if parents did not shamefully neglect their duties, the word publicly preached would not be the ordinary instrument of regeneration to the children of true Christians, but would only build them up, and direct them in the faith, and in obedience. The proof is very plain : If we should speak nothing of the interest of our infants in the covenant grace, upon the conditional force of their parents' faith, nor of their

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »