Page images

assault of objections, as that a poor soul in such a relapsed estate should venture his everlasting salvation wholly on this, supposing that he were certain that he was once sincere. For my own part, I am persuaded that no rooted believer, that is habitually and groundedly resolved for Christ, and hath crucified the flesh and the world, (as all have that are thoroughly Christ's,) do ever fall quite away from him afterwards. But I dare not lay my salvation on this. And if I were no surer of my salvation, than I am of the truth of this my judgment, to speak freely, my soul would be in a very sad condition. 5. But suppose it as certain and plain as any word in the Gospel, (that a justified man is never quite unjustified ;) yet as every new sin brings a new obligation to punishment, (or else they could not be pardoned, as needing no pardon, so must every sin have its particular pardon, and consequently the sinner a particular justification from the guilt of that sin,) besides his first general pardon (and justification :) for to pardon sin before it is committed, is to pardon sin that is no sin, which is a contradiction, and impossibility. Now, though for daily, unavoidable infirmities, there be a pardon of course, upon the title of our habitual faith and repentance; yet whether in case of gross sin, or more notable defection, this will prove a sufficient title to particular pardon, without the addition of actual repentance; and what case the sinner is in till that actual repentance and faith, as I told you before, are so difficult questions, (it being ordered by God's great wisdom that they should be so,) that it beseems no wise man to venture his salvation on his own opinion in these. Nay, it is certain, that if gross sinners having opportunity and knowledge of their sins, repent not, they shall perish. And therefore I think, a justified man hath great reason upon such falls, to examine his particular repentance, (as well as his former state, and not to promise himself, or presume upon a pardon without it. 6. And besides all this, though both the continuance of faith, and non-intercision of justification be never so certain, yet when a man's obedience is so far overthrown, his former evidences and persuasions of his justification will be uncertain to him. Though he have no reason to think that God is changeable, or justification will be lost, yet he hath reason enough to question whether ever he were a true believer, and so were ever justified. VOL. I.


For faith worketh by love; and they that love Christ will keep his commandments. Libertines and carnal men may talk their pleasure;

but when Satan maintains not their peace, sin will break it : and Dr. Sibbs' words will be found true, "Soul's Conflict,” pp. 41, 42. “Though the main pillar of our comfort be the free forgiveness of our sins, yet if there be a neglect of growing in holiness, the soul will never be soundly quiet, because it will be prone to question the truth of justification; and it is as proper for sin to raise doubts and fears in the conscience, as for rotten flesh and wood to breed worms: where there is not a pure conscience, there is not a pacified conscience,” &c. Read the rest.

Thus much I have been fain to premise, lest my words for consolation should occasion security and desolation. But now let me desire you to peruse the Direction, and practice it. If when God hath given you assurance, or strong probabilities of your sincerity, you will make use of it but only for that present time, you will never then have a settled peace in your soul : besides, the great wrong you

do to God, by necessitating him to be so often renewing such discoveries, and repeating the same words to you so often over. If your child offend you, would you have him when he is pardoned, no longer to believe it, than you are telling it him? Should he be still asking you over and over every day, · Father am I forgiven, or no ? Should not one answer serve his turn? Will you not believe that your money is in your purse or chest any longer than you are looking on it? Or that your corn is growing on your land, or your cattle in your grounds, any longer than you are looking on them? By this course a rich man should have no more content than a beggar, longer than he is looking on his money, or goods, or lands; and when he is looking on one, he should again lose the comfort of all the rest. What hath God given you a memory for, but to lay up former apprehensions, and discoveries, and experiences, and make use of them on all meet occasions afterwards ? Let me therefore persuade you to this great and necessary work. When God hath once resolved your doubts, and shewed you the truth of your faith, love or obedience, write it down, if you can, in your book, (as I have advised you in my Treatise of Rest,) Such a day, upon serious perusal of my heart, I found it thus and thus with myself.' Or at least, write it deep in your memory; and do not suffer any fancies, or fears, or light surmises, to cause you to question this again, as long as you fall not from the obedience or faith which you then discovered. Alas! man's apprehension is a most mutable thing! If you leave your soul open to every new apprehension, you will never be settled : you may think two contrary things of yourself in an hour. You have not always the same opportunity for right discerning, nor the same clearness of apprehension, nor the same outward means to help you, nor the same inward assistance of the Holy Ghost. When you have these, therefore, make use of them, and fix your wavering soul, and take your question and doubt as resolved, and do not tempt God, by calling him to new answers again and again, as if he had given you -no answer before. You will never want some occasion of jealousy and fears as long as you have corruption in your heart, and sin in your life, and a tempter to be troubling you ; but if you will suffer any such wind to shake your peace and comforts, you will be always shaking and fuctuating, as a wave of the sea. And you must labor to apprehend not only the uncomfortableness, but the sinfulness also of this course. For though the questioning your own sincerity on every small occasion, be not near so great a sin as the questioning of God's merciful nature, or the truth of his promise, or his readiness to shew mercy to the penitent soul, or the freeness and sulness of the covenant of grace; yet even this is no contemptible sin. For, 1. You are doing Satan's work, in denying God's graces, and accusing yourself falsely, and so pleasing the devil in disquieting yourself. 2. You slander God's Spirit as well as your own soul, in saying, he hath not renewed and sanctified you, when he hath. 3. This will necessitate you to further unthankfulness, for who can be thankful for a mercy, that thinks he never received it? 4. This will shut your mouth against all those praises of God, and that heavenly, joyful commemoration of his great, unspeakable love to your soul, which should be the blessed work of your life. 5. This will much abate your love to God, and your sense of the love of Christ in dying for you, and all the rest of your graces, while you are still questioning your interest in God's love. 6. It will lay such a discouragement on your soul, as will both destroy

the sweetness of all duties to you (which is a great evil,) and thereby make you backward to them, and heartless in them : you will have no mind of praying, meditation, or other duties, because all will seem dark to you, and you will think that every thing makes against you. 7. You rob all about you of that cheerful, encouraging example and persuasion which they should have from you, and by which you might win many souls to God. And contrarily you are a discouragement and hindrance to them. I could mention many more sinful aggravations of your denying God's graces in you on every small occasion, which methinks should make you be very tender of it, if not to avoid unnecessary trouble to yourself, yet at least to avoid sin against God.

And what I have said of evidences and assurance, I would have you understand also of your experiences. You must not make use only at the present of your experiences, but lay them up for the time to come. Nor must you tempt God so far as to expect new experiences upon every new scruple or doubt of yours, as the Israelites expected new miracles in the wilderness, still forgetting the old. If a scholar should in his studies forget all that he hath read and learned, and all the resolutions of his doubts which in study be hath attained, and leave his understanding still as an unwritten paper, as a receptive of every mutation and new apprehension, and contratry conceit, as if he had never studied the point before, he will make but a poor proficiency, and have but a fluctuated, unsettled brain. A scholar should make all the studies of his life to compose one entire image of truth in his soul, as a painter makes every line he draws to compose one entire picture of a man; and as a weaver makes every thread to compose one web; so should you make all former examinations discoveries, evidences, and experiences, compose one full discovery of your condition, that so you may have a settled

peace of soul : and see that you tie both ends together, and neither look on your present troubled state without your former, lest you be unthanksul, and unjustly discouraged; nor on your former state without observance of your present frame of heart and life, lest you deceive yoursell, or grow secure. O that you could well observe this Direction! How much would it help you to escape extremes, and conduce to the setting of a well

grounded peace, and at once to the well ordering of your whole conversation !

Direct. XXVIII. Be very careful that you create not perplexities and terrors in your own soul, by rash misinterpretations of any passages either of Seripture, of God's providence, or of the sermons or private speeches of ministers: but resolve with patience, yea, with gladness, to suffer preachers to deal with their congregations in the most searching, serious and awakening manner, lest your weakness should be a wrong to the whole assembly, and possibly the undoing of many a sensual, drowsy or obstinate soul, who will not be convinced and awakened by a comforting way of preach-. ing, or by any smoother or gentler meansi'

Here are three dangerous enemies to your peace, which (for brevity) I warn you of together.

1. Rash misinterpretations and misapplications of Scripture. Some weak-headed, troubled Christians can scarce read a chapter, or hear one read, but they will find something which they think doth condemn them. If they read of God's wrath and judgment, they think it is meant against them. If they read, “Our God is a consuming fire,” they think presently it is themselves that must be the fuel ; whereas justice and mercy have each their proper objects; the burning fire will not waste the gold, nor is water the fuel of it; but combustible matter it will presently consume. A humble soul that lies prostrate at Christ's feet, confessing its unworthiness, and bewailing its sinfulness, this is not the object of revenging justice ; such a soul bringing Christ's mercies, and pleading them with God, is so far from being the fuel of this consuming fire, that he bringeth that water which will undoubtedly quench it. Yet this Scripture expression of our God, may subdue carnal security even in the best, but not dismay them or discourage them in their hopes. Another reads in Psalm 1. “I will set thy sins in order before thee;" and he thinks, certainly God will deal thus by him, not considering that God chargeth only their sins upon them that charge them not by true repentance on themselves, and accept not of Christ who hath discharged them by his blood. It is the excusers, and mincers, and defenders of sin, that love not those that reprove them, and that will not avoid them, or the occasions of them, that would not

« PreviousContinue »