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that whosoever believeth in Christ shall not perish, but have everlasting life. He hath no where excepted late believers or repenters. Shew any such exception if you can.
2. The second sense in which it may be said that the day of grace is over, is this: When a man hath so long resisted the Spirit, that God hath given him over to the wilful, obstinate refusals of mercy, and of Christ's government, resolving that he will never give him the prevailing grace of his Spirit. Where note, 1. That this same man might still have grace as soon as any other, if he were but willing to accept Christ, and grace in him. 2. That no man can know of himself or any other, that God hath thus finally forsaken him ; for God hath given us no sign to know it by (at least who sin not against the Holy Ghost). God hath not told us his secret intents concerning such. 3. Yet some men have far greater cause to fear it than others; especially those men,
; who under the most searching, 'lively sermons, do continue secure and wilful in known wickedness; either hating godliness and godly persons, and all that do reprove them, or at least being stupified, that they feel no more than a post, the force of God's terrors, or the sweetness of his promises; but make a jest of sinning, and think the life of godliness a needless thing. Especially if they grow old in this course, I confess such have great cause to fear, lest they are quite forsaken of God; for
few such are ever recovered. 4. And therefore it may well be said to all men, “ To day if
“ you will hear his voice harden not your hearts,” &c. And ". This is the acceptable time; this is the day of salvation;" both as this life is called, “The day of salvation;" and be-, cause no man is certain to live another day, that he may repent; nor yet to have grace to repent if he live. ·5. But what is all this to you that do repent? Can you have cause to fear that your day of grace is over, that have received grace? Why, that is as foolish a thing, as if a man should come to the market and buy corn, and when he hath done, go home lamenting that the market was past before he came. Or as a man should come and hear a sermon, and when he hath done, lament that the sermon was done before he came. If your day of grace be past, tell me (and do not wrong God), Where bad you the grace of repentance? How came you by that grace of holy desires ? Who made you willing to have Christ for your Lord and Saviour? So that you had rather have him, and God's favour, and a holy heart and life, than all the glory of the world ? How came you to desire that you were such a one as God would have you to be? And to desire that all your sins were dead, and might never live in you more? And that you were able to love God, and delight in him, and please him even in perfection ? And that you are so troubled that you cannot do it? Are these signs that your day of grace is over? Doth God's Spirit breathe out groans after Christ and grace within you? And yet is the day of grace over? Nay, what if you had no grace ? Do you not hear God daily offering you Christ and grace? Doth he not entreat and beseech you to be reconciled unto him? (2 Cor. v. 19, 20.) And would he not compel you to come in? (Matt. xxii.) Do you not feel some unquietness
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sinful condition ? And some motions and strivings at your heart to get out of it? Certainly (though you should be one that hath yet no grace to salvation), yet these continued offers of grace, and strivings of the Spirit of Christ with your heart, do shew that God hath not quite forsaken you, and that your day of grace and visitation is not past.
Doubt 15. But I have sinned since my profession, and that even against my knowledge and conscience. I have had temptations to sin, and I have considered of the evil and danger, and yet in the most sober deliberations, I have resolved to sin. And how can such a one have any true grace, or be saved ?'
Answ. 1. If you had not true grace, God is still offering it, and ready to work it.
2. Where do you find in Scripture, that none who have true grace do sin knowingly or deliberately. Perhaps you will say in Heb. x. 24. "If we sin wilfully, after the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin, but a fearful looking for of judgment, and fire, which shall devour the adversaries." Answ. But you must know, that it is not every wilful sin which is there mentioned; but, as even now I told you, unbelief is peculiarly called sin in the New Testament. And the true meaning of the text is, If we utterly renounce Christ by infidelity, as not being thc true Messiah, after we have known his truth, then, &c. Indeed none sin more against knowledge than the godly when they
do sin ; for they know more, for the most part, than others do. And passion and sensuality (the remnant of it which yet remaineth) will be working strongly in your very deliberations against sin, and either perverting the judgment to doubt whether it be a sin, or whether there be any such danger in it; or whether it be not a very little sin; or else blinding it, that it cannot see the arguments against the sin in their full vigour. Or at least, prepossessing the heart and delight, and so hindering our reasons against sin from going down to the heart, and working on the will, and so from commanding the actions of the body. This may befal a godly man. And moreover, God may withdraw his grace as he did from Peter and David in their sin. And then our considerations will work but faintly, and sensuality and sinful passion will work effectually. It is scarce possible, I think, that such a man as David could be so long about so horrid a sin, and after contrive the murder of Uriah, and all this without deliberation, or any reasonings in himself to the contrary.
3. The truth is, though this be no good cause for any repenting sinner to doubt of salvation, yet it is a very grievous aggravation of sin, to commit it against knowledge and conscience, and upon consideration. And therefore I advise all that love their peace or salvation, to take heed of it. For as they will find that no sin doth more deeply wound the conscience, and plunge the sinner into fearful perplexities; which ofttimes hangs on him very long, so the oftener such sin is committed, the less evidence will such a one have of the sincerity of their faith and obedience; and therefore, in the name of God, beware. And let the troubled soul make this the matter of his moderate humiliation, and spare not. Bewail it before God. Take shame to yourself, and freely confess it, when you are called to it before men. Favour it not, and deal not gently with it, if you would have peace; but give glory to God, by taking the just dishonour to yourselves. Tender dealing is an ill sign, and hath sad effects. But yet
every sin against knowledge, to doubt of the truth of grace, is not right, much less to doubt of the pardon of that sin when we truly repent of it. Are
you feignedly sorry for your sins against conscience, and resolve against them for the future, through the help of God's
grace? If so, then that sin is pardoned now, through the blood of Christ believed in, whether you had then grace or not.
Doubt 16. “But I have such corruptions in my nature, that I cannot overcome. I have such a passionate nature, and such a vanity of mind, and such worldly desires, that though I pray and strive against them daily, yet do they prevail. “And it is not striving without overcoming that will prove the truth of grace in any. Besides, I do not grow in grace as all God's people do.' Answ. 1. Do
think sin is not overcome as long as it dwelleth in us, and daily troubleth us, and is working in us? Paul saith, " The evil that I would not do, that I do ;" and, "We cannot do the things that we would.” And yet Paul was not overcome with these sins, nor had they dominion over him. You must consider of these sins as in the habit, or in the act. In the habit as they are in the passions they will be still strong; but as they are in the will they are weak and overcome.
you were void of these passions than not, and that you might restrain them in the act? Are you not weary of them, and daily pray and strive against them? If so, it seems they have not your will. 2. And for the actual passion (as I may call it) itself, you must distinguish between, 1. Those which the will hath full pow. : er of, and which it hath but partial power over.
2. And between the several degrees of the passion. 3. And between the inward passion and the outward expressions.
Some degree of anger and of lust will oft stir in the heart, whether we will or not. But I hope you restrain it in the degree; and much more from breaking out into practices of lust, or cursed speeches, or railings, backbitings, slanderings, or revenge. For these your will, if sanctified, hath power to command.
Even the acts of our corruptions, as well as the habits, will stick by us in this life ; but if it be in gross sins, or avoidable infirmities carelessly or wilfully continued, I can tell you a better way to assurance and comfort than your complaints are. Instead of being afraid lest you cannot have your sin and Christ together, do but more heartily oppose that sin, and deal roundly and conscionably against it, till you have overcome it, and then you may ease yourself of your complaints and troubles. If you say, : 0 but it is not so easily done. I cannot overcome it.
I have prayed and strove against it long. I answer, But are you heartily willing to be rid of it? If you will, it will be no impossible matter to be rid of the outward expressions, and the high degree of the passion, though not of every degree. Try this course awhile, and then judge. 1. Plainly confess your guiltiness. 2. Never more excuse it, or plead for it, to any that blameth you. 3. Desire those that live and deal with you, to tell you roundly of it as soon as they discern it, and engage yourself to them to take it well, as a friendly action which yourself requested of them. 4. When you feel the passion begin to stir, enter into serious consideration of the sinfulness, or go and tell some friend of your frail inclination, and presently beg their help against it. If it be godly persons that you are angry with, instead of giving them ill words, presently as soon as you feel the fire kindle, say to them, I have a very passionate nature, which already is kindled, I pray you reprehend me for it, and help me against it, and pray to God for my deliverance.' Also go to God yourself, and complain to him of it, and beg his help. Lastly, be sure that you make not light of it, and see that you avoid the occasions as much as you can.
If you are indeed willing to be rid of the sin, then do not call these directions too hard. But shew your willingness in ready practising them. And thus you may see that it is better to make your corruptions the matter of your humiliation and reformation, than of your torment. And for the other part of the doubt that you grow not I
1. The promises of growth are conditional, or else signify what God will usually do for his people: but it is certain that they be not absolute to all believers. For it is certain that all true Christians do not always grow; nay, that many do too oft decline, and lose their first fervour of love, and fall into sin, and live more *carelessly. Yea, it is certain that a true believer may die in such decays, or in a far lower state than formerly he hath been in. If I thought this needed proof, I could easily prove it; but he that openeth his eyes may soon see enough proof in England. 2. Many Christians do much mistake themselves about the very nature of true grace; and then no wonder if they think that they thrive when they do not, and that they thrive not when they do. They think that more of the life and truth of grace doth lie in passionate