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the Spirit, that you cannot do the good you would. When you would pray with delight and unweariedness, the flesh draws back, and the devil is hindering you. And is it not so in too great a measure with the best on earth? Remember what Christ said to his own apostles. When they should have done him one of their last services, as to the attendance of his body on earth, and should have comforted him in his agony, they are all asleep. Again and again
, he comes to them, and findeth them asleep : Christ is praying and sweating blood, and they are still sleeping, though he warned them to watch and pray, that they enter not into temptation. But what doth God say to them for it? Why he useth this same distinction between humiliation for sin, and doubting of sincerity and salvation, and he helps them to the former, and helps them against the latter. “Could ye not watch with me one hour?” saith he. There he convinceth them of the sin, that they may be humbled for it. “ The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak,” saith he. There he utterly resisteth their doubtings, or preventeth them; shewing them wherein sincere grace consisteth, even in the Spirit's willingness; and telling them that they had that grace; and then telling them whence came their sin, even from the weakness of the flesh.
2. I have shewed you that as every man's will is but partly sanctified (as to the degree of holiness) and so far as it is imperfect, it will be unwilling ; so that there is something in the duties of secret prayer, meditation and reproof, which makes most men more backward to them than other duties. The last doth so cross our fleshly interests; and the two former are so spiritual, and require so pure and spiritual a soul, and set a man so immediately before the living God, as if we were speaking to him face to face, and have othing of external pomp to draw us, that it is no wonder, if while
e is flesh within us, we are backward to them! Especially the
We are so unacquainted with God, and while strangeness and conscious. 'ess of sin doth make us draw back : besides that, the
e busily binder us here than anywhere
on, therefore, is not, Whether you have an unwillingness and backwardness to good : for so have all. Nor yet,
cold ineffectual wishes: for so have the ungodly. But, Whether you
Ir willingness be not more than your un
devil will mo.
3. The questa
Whether you have any
willingness : and in that, 1. It must not be in every single act of duty ; for a godly man may be actually more unwilling to a duty at this particular time, than willing, and thereupon may omit it: but it must be about your habitual willingness, manifested in ordinary, actual willingness. 2. You must not exclude any of those motives which God hoth given you to make you willing to duty. He hath commanded it, and his authority should move you. He hath threatened you, and therefore fear should move you ; or else he would never have threatened. He hath made promises of reward, and therefore the hope of that should move you. And therefore you may perceive here, what a dangerous mistake it is to think that we have no grace, except our willingness to duty be without God's motives, form a mere love to the duty itself, or to its effect. Nay, it is a dangerous Antinomian mistake to imagine, that it is our duty to be willing to good, without these motives of God; I say, To take it so much as for our duty, to exclude God's motives, though we should not judge of our grace by it. For it is but an accusation of Christ (and his law) who hath ordained these motives of punishment and reward, to be his instruments to move the soul to duty. Let me therefore put the right question to you, Whether all God's motives laid together and considered, the ordinary prevailing part of your will, be not rather for duty than against it? This you will know by your practice. For if the prevailing part be against duty, you will not do it; if it be for duty, you will ordinarily perform it, though you cannot do it so well as you would. And then you may see that your backwardness and remaining unwillingness must still be matter of humiliation and resistance to you, but not matter of doubting. Nay, thank God that enableth you to pull down your ·
knees when you are unwilling; for what is that but the prevailing of your willingness against your unwillingness? Should your unwillingness once prevail, you would turn your back upon the most acknowledged duties.
Doubt 6. “But I am afraid that it is only slavish fear of hell, and not the love of God, that causeth me to obey ; and if it were not for this fear, I doubt whether I should not quite give over all. And perfect love casteth out fear.'
Answ. I have answered this already. Love will not be perfect
self on your
in this life. In the life to come it will cast out all fear of damnation; and all fear that drives the soul from God, and all fear of men, (which is meant in Rev. xxi. 8. where the fearful and unbelievers are condemned; that is, those that fear men more than God.) And that 1 John iv. 17, 18. speaketh of a tormenting fear, which is it that I am persuading you from, and consisteth in terrors of soul, upon an apprehension that God will condemn you. But it speaketh not of a filial fear, nor of a fear lest we should by forsaking God, or by yielding to temptation, lose the crown of life, and so perish ; as long as this is not a tormenting fear, but a cautelous, preserving, preventing fear. Besides the text plainly saith, “ It is that we may have boldness in the day of judgment, that love casteth out this fear;" and at the day of judgment, love will have more fully overcome it. It is a great mistake to think that filial fear is only the fear of temporal chastisement, and that all fear of hell is slavish. Even filial fear is a fear of hell ; but with this difference. A son (if he know himself to be a son) hath such a persuasion of his father's love to him, that he knows he will not cast him off, except he should be so vile as to renounce his father ; which he is moderately fearful or careful, lest by temptation he should be drawn to do, but not distrustfully fearful, as knowing the helps and mercies of his father. But a slavish fear, is, when a man having no apprehensions of God's love, or willingness to shew him mercy, doth look that God should deal with him as a slave, and destroy him whenever he doth amiss. It is this slavish tormenting fear which I spend all this writing against. But yet a great deal, even of this slavish fear, may be in thuse sons, that knew not themselves to be
But suppose you were out of all fear of daipnation ; do not belie you own heart, and tell me, Had you not rather be holy than unholy; pleasing to God than displeasing? And would not the hope of salvation draw you from sin to duty, without the fear of damnation in hell? But you will say, “That is still mercenary, and as bad
, as slavish fears.' I answer, Not so, this hope of salvation is the hope of enjoying God, and living in perfect pleasingness to him, and pleasure in him in glory; and the desire of this is a desire of
love : it is love to God that makes you desire him, and hope to en
Lastly, I say again take heed of separating what God hath joined. If God, by putting in your nature the several passions of hope, fear, love, &c. and by putting a holiness into these passions, by sanctifying grace, and by putting both promises and dreadful threatenings into his word : I say, if God by all these means hath given you several motives to obedience, take heed of separating them. Do not once ask your heart such a question, "Whether it would obey if there were no threatening, and so no fear?' Nor on the other side, do not let fear do all, without love. Doubtless, the more love constraineth to duty, the better it is; and you should endeavor with all your might that you might feel more of the force of love
duties : but do you not mark how you cherish that corruption that you complain of? Your doubts and tormenting fears are the things that love should cast out. Why then do you entertain them? If you say, 'I cannot help it: why then do you cherish them, and own them, and plead and dispute for them? and say you
do well to doubt, and you have cause? Will this ever cast out tormenting fears? Do you not know that the way to cast them out, is, not to maintain them by distrustful thoughts or words; but to see their sinfulness, and abhor them, and to get more high thoughts of the lovingkindness of God, and the tender mercies of the Redeemer, and the unspeakable love that he hath manifested in his suffering for you, and so the love of God may be more advanced and powerful in your soul, and may be able to cast out your tormenting fears. Why do you not do this instead of doubting? If tormenting fears and doubtings be a sin, why do you not make conscience of them, and bewail it that you have been so guilty of them? Will you therefore doubt because you have slayish fears? Why that is to doubt because you doubt; and to fear
fear; and so to sin still because you have sinned. Consider well of the folly of this course.
Doubt 7. · But I am not able to believe; and without faith there is no pleasing God, nor hope of salvation; I fear unbelief will be
ruin.' Answ. i. I have answered this doubt fully before. It is groundVol. I.
ed on a mistake of the nature of true faith. You think that saith is the believing that you are in God's favor, and that you are justified; but properly this is no faith at all, but only assurance, which is sometimes a fruit of faith, and sometimes never in this life obtained by a believer. Faith consisteth of two parts. 1. Assent to the truth of the Word. 2. Acceptance of Christ as he is offered, which immediately produceth a trusting on Christ for salvation, and consent to be governed by him, and resolution to obey him; which in the fullest sense are also acts of faith. Now do you not believe the truth of the Gospel? And do you not accept of Christ as he is of fered therein ? If you are truly willing to have Christ as he is offered, I dare say you are a true believer. If you be not willing, for shame never complain. Men use rather to speak against those that they are unwilling of, than complain of their absence, and that they cannot enjoy them.
2. However, seeing you complain of unbelief, in the name of God do not cherish it, and plead for it, and by your own cogitations fetch in daily matter to feed it; but do more in detestation of it, as well as complain.
Doubt 8. · But I am a stranger to the witness of the Spirit, and the joy of the Holy Ghost, and communion with God, and therefore how can I be a true believer?"
Answ. 1. Feeding your doubts and perplexities, and arguing for them, is not a means to get the testimony and joy of the Spirit, but rather studying with all saints to know the love of God which passeth knowledge, to comprehend the height, and breadth, and length, and depth of his love; and seeking to understand the things that are given you of God. Acknowledge God's general love to mankind, both in his gracious nature, and common providences, and redemption by Christ, and deny not his special mercies to yourself, but dwell in the study of the riches of grace, and that is the way to come to the joy of the Holy Ghost. 2. I have told you before what the witness of the Spirit is, and what is the ordinary mistake herein. If you have the graces and holy operations of the Spirit, you have the witness of the Spirit, whether you know it or
3. If by your own doubtings you have deprived yourself of the joy of the Holy Ghost, bewail it, and do so no more ; but do