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1. The constant experience of the greatest part of believers tells us that certainty of salvation is very rare. Even of those that live comfortably and in peace of conscience, yet very few of them do attain to a certainty. For my part, it is known that God in undeserved mercy hath given me long the society of a great number of godly people, and great interest in them, and privacy with them, and opportunity to know their minds, and this in many places (my station by providence having been oft removed,) and I must needs profess, that of all these I have met with few, yea very few indeed, that if I seriously and privately asked them, “Are you certain that you are a true believer, and so are justified, and shall be saved," durst say to me, 'I am certain of it.' But some in great doubts and fears : most too secure and neglective of their states without assurance, and some in so good hopes (to speak in their own language) as calmeth their spirits, that they comfortably cast themselves on God in Christ. And those few that have gone so far beyond all the rest, as to say, They were certain of their sincerity and salvation,' were the professors, whose state I suspected more than any of the rest, as being the most proud, self-conceited, censorious, passionate, unpeaceable sort of professors ; and some of them living scandalously, and some fallen since to more scandalous ways than ever; and the most of their humble, godly acquaintance and neighbors suspected them as well as I. Or else some very few of them that said they were certain, were honest godly people (most women) of small judgment and strong affections, who depended most on that which is commonly called, · The sense or feeling of God's love;' and were the lowest at some times as they were the highest at other times; and they that were one month certain to be saved, perhaps the next month were almost ready to say, they should certainly be damned. So that taking out all these sorts of persons, the sober, solid, judicious believers that could groundedly and ordinarily say, 'Tam certain that I shall be saved,' have been so few, that it is sad to me to consider it. If any
other men's experience be contrary, I am glad of it, so be it they be sober, judicious men, able to gather experiences; and so they live not among merc Antinomians, and take not the discwery of their mere opinion, for a discovery of experience. For I have seen in
divers professors of my long acquaintance, the strange power of opinion and fancy in this thing. I have known those that have lived many years in doubting of their salvation, and all that while walked uprightly: and in the late wars, falling into the company of some Anabaptists, they were by them persuaded that there was no right way to their comfort, but by being re-baptized, and associating themselves with the re-baptized church, and abstaining from the hearing of the unbaptized parish-priests (as they called them.) No sooner was this done, but all their former doubtings and troubles were over, and they were as comfortable as any others (as themselves affirmed) which no doubt proceeded from partly the strength of fancy, conceiting it should be so, and partly from the novelty of their way which delighted them, and partly from the strong opinion they had that this was the way of salvation, and that the want of this did keep them in the dark so long; and partly from satan's policy, who troubleth people least, when they are in a way that pleaseth him ; but when these people had lived a year or two in this comfortable condition, they fell at last into the society of some Libertines or Familists, who believe that the Scriptures are all but a dream, fiction, or allegory; these presently persuaded them, that they were fools to regard baptism or such ordinances, and that they might come to hear again in our congregations, seeing all things were lawful, and there was no heaven or hell but within men, and therefore they should look to their safety and credit in the world, and take their pleasure. This lesson was quickly learned, and then they cried down the Anabaptists, and confessed they were deluded, and so being grown loose while they were Anabaptists, to mend the matter, they grew Epicures when they had been instructed by the Libertines; and this was the end of their new-gotten comfort. Others I have known that have wanted assurance, and falling among the Antinomians, were told by them that they undid themselves by looking after signs and marks of grace, and so laying their comforts upon something in themselves ; whereas they should look only to Christ for comfort, and not at any thing in themselves at all; and for assurance, it is only the witness of the Spirit without any marks that must give it them ; and to fetch comfort from their own graces and obedience, was to
make it themselves instead of Christ and the Holy Ghost, and was a legal way. No sooner was this doctrine received, but the receivers had comfort at will, and all was sealed up to them presently by the witness of the Spirit in their own conceits. Whence this came, judge you. I told you my judgment before. Sure I am that the sudden looseness of their lives, answering their ignorant, loose, ungospel-like doctrine, did certify me that the Spirit of comfort was not their comforter ; for he is also a Spirit of holiness, and conforteth men by the means of a holy gospel, which hatlı precepts and threatenings as well as promises.
2. And as the experience of the state of believers assureth us that few of them attain to certainty ; so experience of the imperfection of their understanding shows us, that few of them are iinmediately capable of it. For how sew believers be there that understand well what is sound evidence and what not? Nay, how many learned men have taught them, that the least unfeigned desire of grace, is the grace itself, as some say, or at least a certain evidence of it, as others say. Whereas, alas! bow many have unseignedly desired many graces, and yet have desired the glory and profits of the world so much more, that they have miscarried and perished. How many have taught them, that the least unfeigned love to God or to the brethren, is a certain mark of saving grace; whereas many a one hath unseignedly loved God and the brethren, who yet have loved house, land, credit, pleasure, and life so much more that God hath been thrust as it were into a corner, and hath bad but the world's leavings. And the poor saints have had but little compassion or relief from them, nor would be looked on in times of danger and disgrace. As Austin and the schoolmen used to say, “ Wicked men do, 'uti Deo, et frui creaturis,' Use God and enjoy the creatures; godly men do • frui Deo, et uti creaturis,' enjoy God and use the creatures. The meaning is, both regenerate and unregenerate have some will or love, both to God and to the creature : but the wicked do will or love the creature as their chief good, with their chiefest love, and they only love God as a means to help them to the creature, with a love subordinate to their love to the creature : whereas the godly do will or love God as their cbiel good, with their chiclest love or com
placency; and love the creature but as the means of God, with an inferior love.
If then the nature of sincerity be so little known, then the assurance of sincerity cannot be very common. More might be said to prove that certainty of salvation is not common among true Christians; but that it is labor in vain, as to them, seeing experience and their own ready confession doth witness it.
Now what is the use that I would have you make of this? Why it is this. If assurance of sincerity and justification (much more of salvation) be so rare among true Christians, then you have no cause to think that the want of it proveth you to be no true Christiari. You see then that a man may be in a state of salvation without it; and that it is not justifying faith, as some have imagined, nor yet a necessary concomitant of that faith. You see that you were mistaken in thinking that you had not the spirit of adoption, because you bad no assuring witness within you effectively testifying to you that you are the child of God. All God's children have the Spirit of adoption. (For because they are sons, therefore hath God sent the Spirit of his Son into their hearts, whereby they cry, • Abba, Father ;' Gal. iv. 6.) But all God's children have not assurance of their adoption, therefore the Spirit of adoption doth not always assure those of their adoption in whom it abideth. It is always a witness-bearer of their adoption; but that is only objectively by his graces and operations in them, as a land-mark is a witness whose land it is where it standeth ; or as your sheepmark witnesseth which be your sheep; or rather as a sensible soul witnesseth a living creature, or a rational soul witnesseth that we are men. But efficiently it doth not always witness; as a landmark or sheep-mark is not always discerned ; and a brute knows not itself to be a brute; and a man is not always actually knowing his own humanity, nor can know it at all in the womb, in infancy, in distraction, in an epilepsy, apoplexy, or the like disease, which deprives him of the use of reason. Besides, it is no doubt but the apostle had some respect to the eminent gift of the Spirit, for tongues, prophecies, miracles, and the like, which was proper to that age; though still as including the Spirit of holiness.
You see then that you need not be always in disquict when you
want assurance. For else how disquiet a life should most Christians live! I shall shew you more anon, that all a man's comforts depend not so on his assurance, but that he may live a comfortable life without it. Trouble of mind may be overcome; conscience may be quieted ; true peace obtained; yea, a man may have that joy in the Holy Ghost, whereiu the kingdom of God is said to consist, without certainty of salvation. (If there be any passages in my Book of Rest, part iji. pressing to get assurance, which seem contrary to this, I desire that they may be reduced to this sense, and no otherwise understood.) This shall be further opened anon, and other grounds of comfort manifested, besides assurance.
Direct. XV. Yea thus much more I would here inform you of, “ That many holy, watchful and obedient Christians, are yet uncerlain of their salvation, even then when they are certain of their justification and sanctification ; and that because they are uncertain of their perseverance and overcoming; for a man's certainty of his salvation can be no stronger than is his certainty of enduring to the end and overcoming.'
That you may not misunderstand me in this, observe, 1. That I do not say perseverance is a thing uncertain in itself. 2. Nor that it is uncertain to all Christians. 3. But that it is uncertain to many, even strong and self-knowing Christians. Divines use to
distinguish of the certainty of the object and of the subject; and the former is either of the object of God's knowledge, or of man’s. I doubt not but God knows certainly who shall be saved, which, with his decree, doth cause that which we call certainty of the object as to man's understanding; but men themselves do not always know it.
If a man have the fullest certainty in the world that he is God's child, yet if he be uncertain whether he shall so continue to the end, it is impossible that he should have a certainty of his salva
for it is he only that endureth to the end that shall be saved. Now that many eminent Christians of great knowledge, and much zeal and obedience, are uncertain of their perseverance, is proved by two infallible arguments. 1. By experience : if any should be so censorious as to think that none of all those nations and churches abroad, that deny the doctrine of certain persever