« PreviousContinue »
To be without law is to be without government. We are without the law; that is, of works or of Moses, but not without law; Jesus Christ is our ruler, and he hath made us a law of grace; an easy yoke, and commands that are not grievous. This law hath precepts, promises, and threats ; it must needs be either obeyed or disobeyed; and so the pe
; nalty must be due or not due ; and the reward due or not due. He that performs the condition, and so to whom the reward is due, and not the penalty, is righteous in the sense of this law. As when we are accused to be sinners against the law of works, and so to deserve the penalty of that law, we must confess all, and plead the righteousness of Christ's satisfaction for our justification. So when we are accused to be final unbelievers or impenitent, and so not to have performed the conditions of the new covenant, we must be justified by our own faith and repentance, the performance of that condition; and must plead, not guilty. And so far our own acts are our evangelical righteousness, and that of such necessity, that without it no man can have part in Christ's righteousness, nor be saved. I would desire any man else to tell me, what else he will plead at judgment, when the accuser chargeth him (or if he do so charge him) with final unbelief? Will he confess it, and say, Christ
• hath believed and repented for me?' That is as much as to say, • Christ was a believer for infidels, that he might save infidels. All false. If he will not say thus (and lying will do no good) then must he plead his own believing and repenting, as his righteousness, in opposition to that accusation. And if it be of such use then, and be called a hundred times in Scripture, “our righteousness,” and we righ
” teous for it, then doubtless we may accordingly try by it now, whether we shall then be able to come off and be justified, or no; and so may build our comfort on it.
3. Conscience is a witness and judge within us, and doth, as under God, accuse and condemn, or excuse and acquit. Now if conscience must absolve us only so far as we are innocent, or do well, or are qualified with grace, then it is impossible but these our qualifications and actions should be some ground of our comfort. See Acts xxiv. 16. xxiii. l. Rom. ii. 15, 16.
4. Those which are our graces and works, as we are the subjects and agents, are the graces and works of God, of Christ, of the Holy Ghost dwelling in us.
If therefore we may not rejoice in our own works, or graces, then we may not rejoice in the works or gifts of God, Christ, or the Holy Ghost. And,
5. Our graces are the spiritual life or health of the soul, and our holy actions are the vital operations. Now life and health are necessary; rejoicing, delighting things of themselves; and vital actions are necessarily pleasant and de
6. Our graces and holy actions must needs rejoice us in respect of their objects ; for the object of our love, trust, hope, meditation, prayer, conference, &c. is God himself, and the Lord Jesus, and the joys of heaven. And how can such actions choose but rejoice us!
7. Yea, rejoicing itself, and delighting ourselves in God is not only one part of our duty, but that great duty wherein lieth the height of our Christianity. And how vain a speech is it to say, that we may not take up our comforts from our own works, nor rejoice in any thing of our own; when even rejoicing itself, and delighting, and comforting ourselves, is one part of our duty ?
8. As God in Christ is the chief object and ground of our comfort (so that we must rejoice in nothing but God, and the cross of Christ, in that kind, or in co-ordination with them); so it is the office of every grace and holy work, and ordinance, and means, to be subservient to Christ, either for the attaining of Christ, or applying his merits, or they are the effects of his merits. Now if we must love and rejoice in Christ principally, then must we needs love and rejoice in all those things that stand in a necessary subordination to him, in their places. And therefore to say, We must rejoice in Christ only, and therefore not in any graces or duties of our own,' is as wise, as if a wife should cast her husband's clothes and meat out of doors and say, * You charged me to admit none into my chamber but yourself. Or as if a physician, having told his patients, ‘I will cure you, if you will trust me only for the cure;' thereupon the patients should cast away his medicines, and shut the doors against his servants and apothecaries, and say, “We must trust none but the physician.'
9. All the failings of our duties are pardoned, and they accepted in Christ; and therefore we may rejoice in them.
10. Our duties have a double tendency to our salvation. 1. As the condition to which God hath promised it as the crown and reward (in a hundred texts of Scripture), and may we not comfort ourselves in that which God promiseth heaven to? 2. As a natural means to our obedience and further protection (as watchfulness, meditation, &c. tend to destroy sin), as Paul saith to Timothy, “Take heed to thyself, and to thy doctrine, and in so doing, thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee;" 1 Tim. iv. 16. and may we not take comfort in that which tends to save our own and our brethren's souls ?
11. We shall be judged according to our works; therefore we must judge ourselves according to our works; and 80 must judge our state good or bad, according to our works. · For can man judge by a righter way than God.. will ? At least is it not 'lawful for man to judge as God doth ?
12. We must judge of others in probability, according to their external works, even the tree by the fruits; therefore we must judge of ourselves in certainty, according to our internal and external works together, which we may certainly know.
13. If we may not rejoice in any of our graces, then we may not be thankful for them, for thankfulness is accompanied with joy; but we must be thankful.
14. If we may not rejoice in our duties, we may not repent or sorrow for the neglect of them; and if we may not rejoice in our graces, we may not lament the want of them (for these are as the two ends of the balance, that one goes down when the other goes up; or as day and night, light and darkness). But the consequent is intolerable.
15. This would overthrow all religion. For what a man cannot rejoice in, he cannot love, he cannot esteem, regard, be careful to obtain, be fearful of losing, &c.
16. God delighteth in our graces and holy duties, and is well pleased with them; and therefore it is lawful and needful that we do as God doth; Jer. ix. 24. Heb. xi. 5. Abel's sacrifice by faith obtained testimony that he pleased God. " To do good, and to communicate forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased ;" Heb. xiii. 16.
17. The saints of God have not only tried themselves by their graces and duties, and commanded others to try by
them, but have gloried and rejoiced in their duties and sufferings. “This is our rejoicing, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, we have had our conversation among you;" 2 Cor. i. 12. “ They gloried that they were counted worthy to suffer for Christ;" Acts v. 41. “I have therefore whereof I may glory in Jesus Christ, in those things which pertain to God;" Rom. XV. 17.
“ We glory in tribulation,” &c.; chap. v. 3. “ Though I should desire to glory, I should not be a fool. I glory in mine infirmities ;" 2 Cor. xii. 6. 9. Let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me;" Jer. ix. 24. “I had rather die than any should
make my glorying void;" 1 Cor. ix. 15. “Let every man prove his own work, so shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another;" Gal. vi. 4.
18. Scripture nameth many of our own graces and duties, as the certain marks of our justification and right to glory. Even Christ with his own mouth, gives us many; "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also ;" Matt. vi. 21. “He that doth evil hateth the light, &c. but
. he that doth good cometh to the light, that,” &c.” John iii. 10. Matt. v. is full of such ; "Blessed are the poor in spirit, the pure in heart,” &c.
19. We may rejoice in other men's good works and graces (and do, if we be true Christians), therefore in our
that we may
20. We may rejoice in God's outward mercies; therefore much more in inward, and such as accompany salvation. All these arguments prove, that we may take up our comfort from our own gracious qualifications and actions (not in opposition to Christ, but in subordination to him), and most of them prove
fetch our assurance of salvation from them, as undoubted evidences thereof.
I have said the more in answer to these objections, 1. Because never any came with fairer pretences of exalting Christ, and maintaining the honour of his righteousness and free grace, and of denying ourselves and our own righteousness. 2. And yet few doctrines more dishonour Christ, and destroy the very substance of religion. Even as if a man should cry down him that would praise and commend obedience to the king, and say, 'You must praise nothing but the king. So do these cry down our looking at, and rejoicing in our love to Christ, and our thankfulness to him, and our obedience, and all under pretence of honouring him. Nay, they will not have us rejoice in one part of Christ's salvation (his saving us from the power of sin, and his sanctifying us) under pretence that we dishonour the other part of his salvation (his justifying us). If ever satan transformed himself into an angel of light, and his ministers into ministers of light, it is in the mistakes of the Antinomians; and no people in the world (except carnal libertines, whom this doctrine fits to a hair) are in more danger of them, than poor, doubting Christians, under trouble of conscience; especially if they be not judicious, and skilled in the doctrine of Christ. For the very pretence of extolling Christ and free grace, will take much with such; and any new way will sometimes seem to give them comfort, upon the very novelty and sudden change.
Having thus proved that you may, and must fetch your special comfort and assurance from evidences, and that your first evidence is your faith, I shall open this more fully under the next Direction.
Direct. XI. In the trial of your state, ‘Be sure that you make use of infallible signs of sincerity, and take not those for certain which are not.'
And to that end remember what I said before, that you must well understand wherein the nature of saving faith, and so of all saving grace doth consist. And when you understand this, write it down in two or three lines; and both at your first trial, and afterward, whenever any doubts do drive you to a review of your evidence, still have recourse only to those signs, and try by them. What these signs are, I have shewed you so fully in the forecited place in my Book of Rest, that I shall say but little now. Remember that infallible signs are very few; and that whatsoever is made the condition of salvation, that is the most infallible evidence of our salvation, and therefore the fittest mark to try by; and therefore faith in God the Father and the Redeemer, is the main evidence. But because I have elsewhere shewed you, that this faith is comprehensive of love, gratitude, resolution to obey, and repentance, let me more particularly open it to help you in the trial. To prove any grace to be saving, it is necessary tb at you prove that salvation is fully promised to him that hath it. Now if
Now if you will