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you professed it before. The objections of the devil and heathenish seducers, which have drawn you from Christ and Scripture, have but discovered the sandiness of your former foundation, and weakness of those grounds on which you had so carelessly built your faith, but they have not discovered the weakness of religion, and the christian doctrine itself, nor the weakness of those reasons by which other men can maintain it, though you could not, or cannot. And is it not a desperate betraying of your souls, that you Ay discourse with those that have studied more than
you, and will not open your doubts to those that have better reasons than
have to resolve them? Should not any probability of eternal misery be avoided with greater diligence than thus much? You think, by opening your doubts, men will account you blasphemers, and so you shall lose your credit, and you are confident that you are in the right, and you know already all that they can say, and therefore you will not open them to any that are able to judge of them; but you do not know what can be said against them. Ministers do not use to deal with such blasphemous errors ordinarily in public, nor is it wisdom to do it; and therefore you hear not what they can say. However, it is worthy your trying to hear the utmost, before you venture on eternal misery.
2. As you should thus meditate on the certain truth of Scripture, when you are tempted to doubting, so also when your hearts are dull, and need quickening and exciting to duty; as also when conscience growe'sh sleepy, and you dare, more easily than formerly, venture on sin. As it is the belief of the truth of Scripture and christian doctrine that is the first means of quickening the dead soul, and purifying the defiled heart; of mortification and vivification : so the same means that bred a spiritual life must breed spiritual strength, and maintain that life. By illumination God shows men the truth of his word, and the goodness of the things offered and promised therein ; even the desirableness of Christ, and the glory of his kingdom. By this sight the heart is touched, the will inclined to God, and longing desires after Christ provoked. Hereby love is kindled to Christ and glory, and the heart taken off from all inferior vanity, so that the apprehension of the truth and goodness of the christian doctrine, and that which it holdeth forth, is the very instrument by which God doth his other works in the soul. Here other graces enter; and here the conversion of a sinner doth begin. This being so, it is evident that when any grace languisheth,
or any corruption reviveth or gets strength, you must observe the same way in strengthening that grace, and destroying and getting down that corruption. Do you feel your love to Christ grow cold? Go take a serious view of the truth of Scripture in general, and of those Scriptures in particular, that express his loveliness, and tell you what he hath done and suffered for you. Then it will make the fire break forth, and you will say,
Hath the Lord Jesus taken my soul from the very gates of hell, and ransomed me when all the world could not have done it? and hath he chosen me to be one of his peculiar people, and renewed my dead corrupted soul, and, with the stamp of his image, marked me for his own ? Hath he pardoned, adopted me, and promised and prepared for me everlasting glory? And shall I not love him? or shall I love any thing else before him? God forbid.' If you feel the love of the godly, or any of your brethren decay in you, go to Scripture, and consider the truth of those passages where Christ hath made this the mark of all his people ; and saith, that he is a liar that professeth to love God, whom he never saw, and loveth not his brother, whom he seeth daily. (1 John iv. 20.) And where Christ hath given you his own ensample, both in stooping to wash his disciples' feet, and in laying down his life in love to us, and charged us even so far to imitate him, as if need be to lay down our lives for our brethren. And when you consider thoroughly that this is true, as being the word of God, it will do much to the cure; especially if you believe also what God saith of your loveliness in his own eyes, and how tender he is of them for all their infirmities, and how you must be one body with them for ever in glory. If you feel your hearts grow dull to duty, that you grow customary in prayer, and hearing, and reproof, and meditation, do but take a serious consideration of the truth of Scripture, and it will do much to quicken you to think : is it not a certain truth of God, that these are appointed means for bestowing grace? Is it not a real state of torments that I pray against; and a glory that
I hath God's own word for the ascertaining it which I pray for ? Oh, this will put life in prayer! When you hear sermons, or read Seripture, and mix them not with this faith, they do not profit you. (Heb. iv. 2.) As much as you actually and firmly believe the truth of Seripture, when it speaketh of spiritual and eternal matters to you, so much and no more will it work upon your hearts. And therefore what great need have all ministers to help their people to believe the word of God, seeing, according to this belief, all the after-work succeedeth ? O with what reverence would men read every chapter, and with what affectionate workings of soul would every sermon be heard, if the truth of Scripture were firmly believed ! Could men believe the reports of judgment, heaven, and hell, and make so light of it as usually men do? The same means, also, must quicken you in meditation, to consider deeply of the truth of what you think of. It is a dangerous case when Christians give way to a daily, customary deadness in duty, and go on in it without trouble, or any great resistance: it is the common way of backsliding, and declining in grace; the common way by which men grow strange to God. If thou have had never so sweet incomes this
and communion with God in these duties, yet if thou once grow heartless in them, and seek God as if thou didst not care for finding him, he will hide his face, and will not be found of such a careless soul. The lively reviews of the truth of Scripture is the way to awaken thy heart again, and make thy addresses to God more serious. Think, oh! how certainly shall the same wretch that is now kneeling before God, and begging mercy in so dull a manner, be shortly at the dreadful bar, (where there will be no mercy to those that prevail not for mercy now,) and there be sentenced to everlasting life or death. So when you are talking to one another of the life to come, or the way to it, see that you speak as men that believe the truth of Scripture, and then your words will be as the oracles of God, and all your speeches be seasoned with salt. 2. The same means you must use, also, when corruption gets strength, or you grow venturous on sin. Oh! who durst let loose the reins to flesh-pleasing sensuality, that did but believingly consider, “ If ye live after the flesh ye shall die!”
! (Rom. viii. 13;) and the fleshly mind is enmity to God? Who durst give way to the fire of lust and passion that did believingly consider of the fire of hell ? Who durst give his heart to this present world, and turn all his thoughts, and words, and care about it, that did believingly consider of its vanity; or how inuch better things he might have in God; and that he that
! loveth the world, the love of the Father is not in him ? (1 John ii. 15.) And that to be a friend of the world is enmity to God. (Jam. iv. 4.) Who durst neglect holiness that did believe he should not see God without it? (Heb. xii. 14.) Who durst harbour unholiness, pride, and malice in his heart, that did believe the image of the devil doth consist in them, and how sure a destruction attendeth them? Durst careless sinners spend their
time in drunkenness, sporting, or the like vanity or wickedness,
3. Another season when this lesson should be most made use
for the future, and reveal it to their present knowledge ; but if they think not on this believingly, no wonder if they live in sadness for all this. If
any man'make you a deed of gift of all his lands, if you believe it not to be current, you will be nothing comforted by it. O how it would raise these drooping spirits that are so depressed by present afflictions and distresses, if they did but once a-day look on the promise of everlasting glory, and say, 'How infallible and certain a word is this?' and would look to their approaching enjoyment of Christ, and say, 'I shall shortly see the face of my dear Saviour, and then I shall be full ; I shall want, and suffer, and complain no more.' Though now we see him not, yet thus believingly we might rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. (1 Pet. i. 8.) Certainly, if there were but one promise in God's book, it would make a Christian live comfortably, if it were well believed : had we but that one in John iii. 16, “God so loved the world that he,” &c., how merrily might a true believer live! If Satan should say, 'Thou shalt be damned, thou shalt never see life;' or if all the enemies we have in the world endeavoured our destruction, we could tell them all, God's word shall stand ; I have his promise that I shall not perish, but have everlasting life.' If Christians that live in never so great affliction, through sickness, poverty, oppression, or the like, did well believe that one promise, “ All things shall work together for good,” (Rom. viii. 28,) how easily might they bear their sufferings. For what man will be so much grieved at that which he knoweth is for his good ; yea, and so great a good as the working and exceeding, eternal weight of glory?
Second Use. As you have seen in the First Use the certain truth of Scripture and the christian religion ; so then see, next, what is the main argument by which the christian religion hath still been proved, and must be proved to the world's end; even the Spirit of Jesus, working miracles and wonders in the first age of Christianity, openly in all the world, and working faith, and holiness, and consolation, in all saints, in all ages.
I together, for they are but several gifts of one and the same Spirit, though either of them alone is sufficient to convince. Christ was to convince men of things so unlikely to common reason, and so far above nature, and also of so great concernment and necessity, that he must' needs bring most evident,