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without the fear of damnation in hell? But you will say, * That is still mercenary, and as bad as slavish fears.' I answer, ‘Not so, this hope of salvation is the hope of enjoying God, and living in perfect pleasingness to him, and pleasure in him in glory; and the desire of this is a desire of love: it is love to God that makes you desire him, and hope to en
Lastly, I say again take heed of separating what God hath joined. If God, by putting in your nature the several passions of hope, fear, love, &c. and by putting a holiness into these passions, by sanctifying grace, and by putting both promises and dreadful threatenings into his word : I say, if God by all these means hath given you several motives to obedience, take heed of separating them. Do not once ask your heart such a question, Whether it would obey if there were no threatening, and so no fear ? Nor on the other side, do not let fear do all, without love. Doubtless, the more love constraineth to duty, the better it is; and you should endeavour with all your might that you might feel more of the force of love in your duties : but do you not mark how you cherish that corruption that you complain of? Your doubts and tormenting fears are the things that love should cast out. Why then do you entertain them? If you say, 'I cannot help it:' why then do you cherish them, and own them, and plead and dispute for them ? and say you do well to doubt, and you have cause? Will this ever cast out tormenting fears? Do you not know that the way to cast them out, is, not to maintain them by distrustful thoughts or words; but to see their sinfulness, and abhor them, and to get more high thoughts of the lovingkindness of God, and the tender mercies of the Redeemer, and the unspeakable love that he hath manifested in his sufferings for you, and so the love of God may be more advanced and powerful in your soul, and may be able to cast out your tormenting fears. Why do you not do this instead of doubting ? If tormenting fears and doubtings be a sin, why do you not make conscience of them, and bewail it that you have been so guilty of them? Will you therefore doubt because you have slavish fears? Why that is to doubt because you doubt; and to fear because you fear; and so to sin still because you have sinned. Consider well of the folly of this
And do you
Doubt 7. • But I am not able to believe; and without faith there is no pleasing God, nor hope of salvation ; I fear
I unbelief will be my ruin.'
Answ. 1, I have answered this doubt fully before. It is grounded on a mistake of the nature of true faith. You think that faith is the believing that you are in God's favour, and that you are justified; but properly this is no faith at all, but only assurance, which is sometimes a fruit of faith, and sometimes never in this life obtained by a believer. Faith consisteth of two parts. 1. Assent to the truth of the Word. 2. Acceptance of Christ as he is offered, which immediately produceth a trusting on Christ for salvation, and consent to be governed by him, and resolution to obey him ; which in the fullest sense are also acts of faith. Now do not you believe the truth of the Gospel ? not accept of Christ as he is offered therein? If you are truly willing to have Christ as he is offered, I dare say you are a true believer. If you be not willing, for shame never complain. Men use rather to speak against those that they are unwilling of, than complain of their absence, and that they cannot enjoy them.
2. However, seeing you complain of unbelief, in the name of God do not cherish it, and plead for it, and by your own cogitations fetch in daily matter to feed it; but do more in detestation of it, as well as complain.
Doubt 8. 'But I am a stranger to the witness of the Spirit, and the joy of the Holy Ghost, and communion with God, and therefore how can I be a true believer?'
Answ. 1. Feeding your doubts and perplexities, and arguing for them, is not a means to get the testimony and joy of the Spirit, but rather studying with all saints to know the love of God which passeth knowledge, to comprehend the height, and breadth, and length, and depth of his love ; and seeking to understand the things that are given you of God. Acknowledge God's general love to mankind, both
. in his gracious nature, and common providences, and redemption by Christ, and deny not his special mercies to yourself, but dwell in the study of the riches of grace, and that is the way to come to the joy of the Holy Ghost. 2. I have told you before what the witness of the Spirit is, and what is the ordinary mistake herein. If you have the graces and holy operations of the Spirit, you have the witness of
the Spirit, whether you know it or not. 3. If by your own doubtings you have deprived yourself of the joy of the Holy Ghost, bewail it, and do so no more; but do not therefore say you have not the Holy Ghost. For the Holy Ghost often works regeneration and holiness before he works any sensible joys. 4. You have some hope of salvation by Christ left in you: you are not yet in utter despair; and is it no comfort to you to think that you have yet any hope? And are not quite past all remedy? It may be your sorrows may so cloud it that you take no notice of it; but I know you cannot have the least hope without some answerable comfort. And may not that comfort be truly the joy of the Holy Ghost? 5. And for communion with God let me ask you ; Have you no recourse to him by prayer in
straits? Do you not wait at his mouth for the law and direction of your life? Have you received no holy desires, or other graces from him ? Nay, are you sure that you are not a member of Christ, who is one with him? How can you then you have no communion with him? Can there be communication of prayer and obedience from you; yea, your ownself delivered up to Christ; and a communication of any life of grace from God, by Christ and the Spirit? And all this without communion? It cannot be. Many a soul hath most near communion with Christ that knows it not.
Doubt 9. 'I have not the spirit of prayer: when I should pour out my soul to God, I have neither bold access, nor matter of
prayer, nor words.' Answ. Do you know what the spirit of prayer is? It containeth, 1. Desires of the soul after the things we want, especially Christ and his graces. 2. An addressing ourselves to God with these desires, that we may have help and relief from him. Have not you both these? Do you not desire Christ and grace, justification and sanctification? Do you not look to God as him who alone is able to supply your wants, and bids you ask that you may receive? Do you utterly despair of help, and so seek to none? Or do you make your addresses by prayer to any but God? But perhaps you look at words and matter to dilate upon, that you may be able to hold out in a long speech to God, and you think that it is the effect of the spirit of prayer. But where do you find that in God's word? I confess that in many, and most, the Spirit which helpeth to desires, doth
also help to some kind of expressions; because if a man be of able natural parts, and have a tongue to express his own mind, the promoting of holy desires will help men to expressions. For a full soul is hardly hindered from venting itself: and experience teacheth us, that the Spirit's inflaming the heart with holy affections, doth very much furnish both the invention and expression. But this is but accidental and uncertain; for those that are either men of unready tongues, or that are so ill bred among the rude vulgar, that they want fit expressions of their own minds, or that are of over-bashful dispositions, or especially that are of small knowledge, and of little and short acquaintance with those that should teach them to pray by their example, or that have been but of short standing in the school of Christ, such a man may have the spirit of prayer many a year, and never be able, in full expressions of his own, to make known his wants to God; no, nor in good and tolerable sense and language, before others to speak to God, from his own invention. A man may know all those articles of the faith that are of fat necessity to salvation, and yet not be able to find matter or words for the opening of his heart to God at length. I would advise such to frequent the company of those that can teach and help them in prayer, and neglect not to use the smallest parts they have, especially in secret, between God and their own souls, where they need not, so much as in public, to be regardful of expressions; and in the mean time to learn a prayer from some book, that may most fitly express their necessities; or to use the book itself in prayer, if they distrust their memories, not resolving to stick here, and make it a means of indulging their laziness and negligence, much less to reproach and deride those that express their desires to God from the present sense of their own wants (as some wickedly do deride such); but to use this lawful help till they are able to do better without it than with it, and then to lay it by, and not before. The Holy Ghost is said, (Rom. viii. 16.) to help our infirmities in prayer; but how? 1. By teaching us what to pray for; not always what matter or words to enlarge ourselves by; but what necessary graces to pray for. 2. By giving us sighs and groans inexpressible, which is far from giving copious expressions; for groans and sighs be not words, and if they be groans that we cannot express, it would rather
seem to intimate a want of expression, than a constant abounding therein, where the Spirit doth assist; though indeed the meaning is, that the groans are so deep, that they are past the expression of our words : all our speech cannot express that deep sense that is in our hearts. For the understanding hath the advantage of the affections herein ; all the thoughts of the mind may be expressed to others, but the feelings and fervent passions of the soul can be but very defectively expressed.
Lastly, All have not the spirit of prayer in like measure; nor all that have it in a great measure at one time, can find it so at pleasure. Desires rise and fall, and these earnest groans be not in every prayer where the Holy Ghost doth assist. I believe there is never a prayer that ever a believer did put up to God for things lawful and useful, but it was put up by the help of the Spirit. For the weakest prayer hath some degree of good desire in it, and addresses to God with an endeavour to express them; and these can come from none but only from the Spirit. Mere words without desires, are no more prayer, than a suit of apparel hanged on a stake, is a man. You may have the spirit of prayer, and yet have it in a very weak degree.
Yet still I would encourage you to bewail your defect herein as your sin, and seek earnestly the supply of your wants; but what is that to the questioning or denying your sincerity, or right to salvation?
Doubt 10. • I have no gifts to make me useful to myself or others. When I should profit by the word I cannot remember it: when I should reprove a sinner, or instruct the ignorant, I have not words: if I were called to give an account of my faith, I have not words to express that which is in my mind :
: and what grace can here be then ?' Answ. This needs no long answer.
Lament and amend those sins by which you have been disabled. But know, that these gifts depend more on nature, art, industry and common grace, than upon special saving 'grace. Many a bad man is excellent in all these, and many a one that is truly godly is defective. Where hath God laid our salvation upon the strength of our memories, the readiness of our tongues, or measure of the like gifts ? That were almost as if he should have made a law, that all shall be saved that have sound complexions, and healthful and youthful bodies ;