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cular evidences in point of certainty. For these four corner-stones are fast founded beyond all possibility of removal, so that they are always of as undoubted certainty as that the heaven is over your head; and they are immutable still the same.
These you are commanded strictly to believe with a divine faith, as being the clearly revealed truths of God; and if you should not believe them, yet they remain firm and true, and your unbelief should not make void the universal promise and grace of God.
of God. But your own evidences of special grace are not so certain, so clear, or so immutable; nor are you bound to believe them, but to search after them that you may know them. You are not bound by any word of God strictly to believe that you do believe, or repent, but to try and discern it. This then is the first part of this Direction, That you always discover whether your troubles arise from low unbelieving, or ignorrant thoughts of God's mercifulness, Christ's gracious nature and office, general satisfaction, or the universal promise. Or, whether they arise from want of evidence of sincerity in yourself. And accordingly in your thoughts apply the remedy.
The second part of the Direction is, that you hold fast probabilities of special grace, when you lose your cer
, tainty, and that you hold fast your general grounds, when you lose both your former. Never forget this in any of your doubts.
You say, your faith and obedience have such breaches and sad defects in them, that you cannot be certain that they are sincere. Suppose it be so : Do you see no great likelihood or hopes yet that they are sincere? If you do (as I think many Christians easily may, that yet receive uot a proportionable comfort) remember that this is no small mercy, but matter of great consolation,
But suppose the worst, that you see no grace in yourself, yet you cannot be sure you have none; for it may
be there, and you not see it. Yea, suppose the worst, that you were sure that you had no true grace at all, yet
remember that you have still abundant cause of comfort in God's ge
think you must needs despair, or give up all hope and comfort, or conclude yourself irrecoverably lost, because you are graceless? Why, be it known to you, there is that ground of consolation in general grace, that
may make the hearts of the very wicked to leap for joy. Da I need to prove that to you? You know that the Gospel is called," Glad tidings of salvation,” and the preachers of it are to tell those to whom they preach it, “ Behold, we bring you tidings of great joy, and glad tidings to all people." And you know before the Gospel comes to men they are. miserable. If then it be glad tidings, and tidings of great joy to all the unconverted where it comes, why should it not be so to you? And where is your great joy? If you be graceless, is it nothing to know that God is exceeding merciful, “slow to anger, ready to forgive, pardoning iniquities, transgression, and siu," loving mankind ? Is it nothing to know that the Lord hath brought infinite mercy and goodness down into human flesh ? And hath taken on him the most blessed office of reconciling, and is become the Lamb of God? Is it nothing to you, that all your sins have a sufficient sacrifice paid for them, so that you are certain not to perish for want of a ransom? Is it nothing to you that God hath made such an universal grant of pardon and salvation to all that will believe? And that you are not on the terms of the mere law of works, to be judged for not obeying in perfection? Suppose you are never so certainly graceless, is it not a ground of unspeakable comfort, that you may be certain that nothing can condemn you, but a flat refusal or unwillingness to have Christ and his salvation? This is a certain truth, which may comfort a man as yet unsanctified, that sin merely as sin shall not condemn him, nor any thing in the world, but the final, obstinate refusal of the remedy, which thereby leaveth all other sin unpardoned.
Now I would ask you this question in your greatest fears that you are out of Christ : Are you willing to have Christ to pardon, sanctify, guide, and save you, or not? If you are, then you are a true believer, and did not know it. If you are not, if you will but wait on God's word in hearing, and reading, and consider frequently and seriously of the necessity and excellency of Christ and glory, and the evil of sin, and the vanity of the world, and will but beg earnestly of God to make you willing, you shall find that God hath not appointed you this means in vain, and that this way will be more profitable to you than all your complainings. See therefore when you are at the very lowest, that you forsake not the comforts of general grace.
And indeed those that deny any general grace or redemption, do leave poor Christians in a very lamentable condition. For, alas! assurance of special grace (yea, or a high probability) is not so common a thing as mere disputers against doubting have imagined. And when a poor Christian is beaten from his assurance (which few have), he hath nothing but probabilities; and when he hath no confident, probable persuasion of special grace, where is he then? And what hath he left to support his soul? I will not so far now meddle with that controversy, as to open further how this opinion tends to leave most Christians in desperation, for all the pretences it hath found. And I had done more, but that general redemption or satisfaction, is commonly taught in the maintaining of the general sufficiency of it, though men understand not how they contradict themselves.
But perhaps you will say, “This is cold comfort; for I may as well argue, thus, Christ will damn sinners; I am a sinner, therefore he will damn me; as to argue thus, Christ will save sinners; I am a sinner, therefore he will save me.' I answer, There is no shew of soundness in either of these arguments. It is not a certainty that Christ will save you, that can be gathered from general grace alone ; that must be had from assurance of special grace superadded to the general. But a conditional certainty you may have from general grace only, and thus you may soundly and infallibly argue, 'God hath made a grant to every sinful man, of pardon and salvation through Christ's sacrifice, if they will but repent and believe in Christ; but I am a sinful man, therefore God hath made this grant of pardon and salvation to me,'
Direct. XXXI. 'If God do bless you with an able, faithful, prudent, judicious pastor, take him for your guide under Christ in the way to salvation ; and open to him your case, and desire his advice in all your extraordinary, pressing necessities, where you have found the advice of other godly friends to be insufficient; and this not once or twice only, but as often as such pressing necessities shall return. Or if your own pastor be more defective for such a work, make use of some other minister of Christ, who is more meet.'
Here I have these several things to open to you. 1. That ịt is your duty to seek this Direction from the guides of the church. 2. When and in what cases you should do this,
3. To what end, and how far. 4. What ministers they be that you should choose thereto. 5. In what manner you must open your case, that you may receive satisfaction.
1. The first hath two parts, (1.) That you must open your case. (2.) And that to your pastor. 1. The devil hath great advantage while you keep his counsel; two are better than one; for if one of them fall, he hath another to help him. It is dangerous, resisting such an enemy alone. An uniting of forces oft procureth victory. God giveth others knowledge, prudence, and other gifts for our good ; that so every member of the body may have need of another, and each be useful to the other. An independency of Christian upon Christian, is most unchristian ; much more of people on their guides. It ceaseth to be a member, which is separated from the body; and to make no use of the body or fellow members, is next to separation from them. Sometimes bashfulness is the cause, sometimes self-confidence (a far worse cause); but whatever is the cause of Christians smothering their doubts, the effects are oft sad. The disease is oft gone so far, that the cure is very difficult, before some bashful, or proud, or tender patients will open their disease. The very opening of a man's grief to a faithful friend, doth oft ease the heart of itself. 2. And that this should be done to your pastor, I will shew you further anon.
2. But you must understand well when this is your duty. 1. Not in every small infirmity, which accompanies Christians in their daily most watchful conversation. Nor yet in every lesser doubt, which may be otherways resolved. It is a folly and a wrong to physicians to run to them for every cut finger or prick with a pin. Every neighbour can help you in this. 2. Nor except it be a weighty case indeed, go not first to a minister. But first study the case yourself, and seek God's direction : if that will not serve, open your case to your nearest bosom friend that is godly and judicious. And in these two cases always go to your pastor. 2. In case more private means can do you no good, then God calls you to seek further. If a cut finger so fester that ordinary means will not cure it, you must go to the physician. 3. If the case be weighty and dangerous ; for then none but the more prudent advice is to be trusted. If you be struck with a dangerous disease, I would not have you delay so long, nor wrong yourself so much, as to stay while you tamper with
every woman's medicine, but go presently to the physician. So if you either fall into any grievous sin, or any terrible pangs of conscience, or any great straits and difficulties about matters of doctrine or practice, go presently to your pastor for advice. The devil, and pride, and bashfulness, will do their utmost to hinder you ; but see that they prevail not.
3. Next consider to what end you must do this. Not, 1. Either to expect that a minister can of himself create peace
in you ; or that all your doubts should vanish as soon as ever you have opened your mind. Only the great Peacemaker, the Prince of peace, can create peace in you: ascribe not to any the office of the Holy Ghost, to be your effectual comforter. To expect more from man than belongs to man, is the way to receive nothing from him, but to caus God to blast to you the best endeavours. 2. Nor must you resolve to take all merely from the word of your pastor, as if he were infallible: nor absolutely to judge of yourself as he judgeth. For he may be too rigorous, or more commonly too charitable in his opinion of you: there may be much of your disposition and conversation unknown to him, which may hinder his right judging. But, 1. You must use your pastor as the ordained instrument and messenger of the Lord Jesus and his Spirit, appointed to speak ä word in season to the weary, and to shew to man his righteousness, and to strengthen the weak hands and feeble knees; yea, and more, to bind and loose on earth, as Christ doth bind and loose in heaven. As Christ and his Spirit do only save in the principal place, and yet ministers save souls in subordination to them as his instruments; Acts xxvi. 17, 18. 1 Tim. iv. 15, 16. James v. 20. So Christ and the Spirit åre, as principal causes, the only comforters; but his ministers are comforters under him. 2. And that which you must expect from them are these two things. 1. You must expect those fuller discoveries of God's will than you are able to make yourself, by which you may have assurance of your duty to God, and of the sense of Scripture, which expresseth how God will deal with you : that so a clearer discovery of God's mind may resolve your doubts. 2. In the mean time, till you can come to a full resolution, you may and must somewhat stay yourself on the very judgment of your pastor: not as infallible, but as a discovery of the probability of your