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cular application of the promises, and from seeking those particular remedies from Christ, which our case requireth : And so our mercies lie by neglected, while we need them, and do not understand our need.
And thus I have shewed you why you should labour to know your sinfulness.
II. I am next to persuade believers to know their graces and their happiness. Good is the object of voluntary knowledge, but evil of forced involuntary knowledge, unless as the knowledge of evil tendeth to some good. Therefore methinks you should be readiest to this part of the study of yourselves: and yet, alas, the presumptuous are not more unwilling to know their sin and misery, than some perplexed Christians are backward to acknowledge their grace and happiness. How hard is it to convince them of the tender love of God towards them, and of the sincerity of their love to him; and to make them believe that they are dear to God when they loathe themselves! How hard is it to persuade them that the riches of Christ, the promises of the Gospel, and the inheritance of the saints, belong to them! And the reasons, among others, are principally these:
1. The remnant of sins are so great, and so active and troublesome, as that the feeling of these contrary dispositions doth hinder them from observing the operations of grace. It is not easy to discern the sincerity of faith among so much unbelief, or the sincerity of love where there is so much averseness: or of humility where there is so much pride or of repentance and mortification, where there is so much concupiscence and inclination to sin: especially when grace by its enmity to sin doth make the soul so suspicious and sensible of it, as that the observation of it turns their mind from the observation of the contrary good that is in them. Health is not observed in other parts, when the feeling of the stone, or but the tooth-ach, takes us up. The thoughts are called all to the part affected; and sickness and wounds are felt more sensibly than health. The fears of misery and sin, are more easily excited, and more passionate than love and hope, and all the affections that are employed in the prosecution of good. And in the midst of fears it is hard to feel the matter of our joys: fear is a tyrant if it exceed, and will not permit us to believe or ob
serve the cause of hope. Quod nimis metuunt miseri, hos facile credunt, et nunquam amoveri putant,' saith Seneca. What we too much fear, we too easily believe, and hardly believe that it is gone, and the danger past. These fears are useful to our preservation, but they too often pervert our judgments, and hinder our due consolation. Qui insidias timet, in nullas incidet: nec citò perit ruina, qui ruinam timet. Semper metuendo sapiens vitat malum,' saith Seneca. He that feareth snares, doth not fall into them: nor doth he quickly perish by ruin, that feareth ruin: A wise man escapeth evil by always fearing it. And the Holy Ghost saith, "Happy is the man that feareth alway; but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief." (Prov.xxviii. 14.)
Moderate fears then are given to believers for their necessary preservation, that walking among enemies and snares, they may take heed and escape them. But when this passion doth exceed, it abuseth us, and drowns the voice of reason: it maketh us believe that every temptation is a sin, and every sin is such as cannot stand with grace, and will hardly ever be pardoned by Christ. Every sin against knowledge and conscience doth seem almost unpardonable: and if it were deliberate after profession of religion, it seems to be the sin against the Holy Ghost. As children and other fearful persons that fear the devil by way of apparitions, do think in the dark he is ready to lay hold on them, and they look when they see him: so the fearful Christian is still thinking that thing he feareth is upon him, or coming upon him. The fear of an unregenerate, unpardoned state, doth make him think he is in it; and the fear of the wrath of God doth make him think that he is under it; and the fear of damnation makes him imagine he shall be damned. It is wonderful hard in a fearful state, or indeed in any passion that is strong, to have the free use of judgment for the knowing of ourselves, and to discern any grace, or evidence or mercy, which is contrary to our fears, especially when the feeling of much corruption doth turn our eyes from the observation of good, and we are still taken up with the matter of our disease.
2. Another cause that we hardly know our graces, is because they are weak and small; and therefore in the midst of so much corruption are oftentimes hardly discerned from A little faith, even as a grain of mustard-seed, may
save us: a little love to God that is sincere will be accepted; and weak desires may be fulfilled: but they are frequently undiscerned, or their sincerity questioned by those that have them, and therefore bring but little comfort. Peter's little faith did keep him from drowning, but not from doubting and fearing he should be drowned, nor from beginning to sink. "He walked on the water to go to Jesus; but when he saw the wind boisterous he was afraid, and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt!". (Matt. xiv. 29, 30, 31.) So the little faith of the disciples kept them from perishing, but not from their fear of perishing. "When a great tempest arose, so that the ship was covered with waves, they cry, Lord, save us, we perish: and he saith to them, Why are ye afraid, O ye of little faith?". The little faith of the same disciples entitled them to the fatherly protection and provision of God: but it kept them not from sinful cares and fears, about what they should eat or drink, or wherewith they should be clothed, as is intimated in Matt. vi. 25. 28, 30. "Take no thought for your life, what you shall eat, or drink, or for your body what you shall put on Why take you thought for raiment ?—If God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, 0 ye of little faith?" So in Matt. xvi. 7, 8. The seed that Christ likeneth his kingdom to, (Matt. xiii. 31,) hath life while it is buried in the earth, and is visible while a little seed; but is not so observed as when it cometh to be as a tree. Though God," despise not the day of little things," (Zech. iv. 10,) and though he "will not break the bruised reed, or quench the smoking flax," (Isaiah xlii. 3,) yet ourselves or others cannot discern and value these obscure beginnings, as God doth. But because we cannot easily find a little faith, and a little love, when we are looking for it, we take the non-appearance for a non-existence, and call it none.
3. Sanctification is oft unknown to those that have it, because they do not try and judge themselves by sure infallible marks, the essentials of the new man; but by uncer tain qualifications, that are mutable and belong but to the beauty and activity of the soul.
The essence of holiness, as denominated from the object, is the consent to the three articles of the Covenant of Grace. 1. That we give up ourselves to God, as our God and reconciled Father in Jesus Christ. 2. That we give up ourselves to Jesus Christ, as our Redeemer and Saviour, to recover us, reconcile us, and bring us unto God. 3. That we give up ourselves to the Holy Ghost as our Sanctifier, to guide and illuminate us, and perfect the image of God upon us, and prepare us for glory.
The essence of sanctification, as denominated from its opposite objects, is nothing but our renunciation and rejection of the flesh, the world, and the devil; of pleasures profits, and honours, as they would be preferred before God, and draw us to forsake him.
The essence of sanctification, as denominated from our faculties, which are the subject of it, is nothing but this preferring of God, and grace, and glory, above the said pleasures, profits, and honours. 1. By the estimation of our understandings. 2. By the resolved habituate choice of our wills. 3. And in the bent and drift of our endeavours in our conversations. In these three acts, as upon the first three objects, and against the other three objects, lieth all that is essential to sanctification, and that we should judge of our sincerity, and title to salvation by, as I before shewed. But besides these, there are many desirable qualities and gifts, which we may seek for, and be thankful for; but are not essential to our sanctification. Such are,
1. The knowledge of other truths, besides the essentials of faith and duty, and the soundness of judgment, and freedom from error in these lesser points.
2. A strong memory to carry away the things that we read and hear.
3. A right order of our thoughts, when we can keep them from confusion, roving, and distraction.
4. Freedom from too strong affections about the creatures, and from disturbing passions.
5. Lively affections and feeling operations of the soul towards God, in holy duty, and tender meltings of the heart for sin; which are very desirable, but depend so much on the temperature of the body, and outward accidents, and are but the vigour, and not the life and being of the new creature, that we must not judge of our sincerity by them. Some
Christians scarce know what any such lively feelings are; and some have them very seldom, and, I think, no one constantly and therefore if our peace, or judgment of ourselves, be laid on these, we shall be still wavering and unsettled, and tossed up and down as the waves of the sea: sometimes seeming to be almost in heaven, and presently near the gates of hell: when our state doth not change at all, as these feelings and affectionate motions of the soul do; but we are still in our safe relation to God, while our first essential graces do continue, though our failings, dulness, weaknesses and wants, must be matter of moderate filial humiliation to us.
6. The same must be said of all common gifts, of utterance, in conference or prayer, and of quickness of understanding, and such like.
7. Lastly. The same must be said also of all that rectitude of life, and those degrees of obedience that are above mere sincerity; in which one true Christian doth exceed another; and in which we should all desire to abound; but must not judge ourselves to be unsanctified, merely because we are imperfect; or to be unjustified sinners, merely because we are sinners.
In our judging of ourselves by our lives and practices, two extremes must be carefully avoided: on the left hand that of the profane, and of the Antinomians. The former cannot distinguish between sinners and sinners, sanctified and unsanctified, justified and unjustified sinners; and when they have once conceited that they are in the favour of God, whatever they do, they say, We are but sinners, and so are the best.' The latter teach men, that when once they are justified, they are not for any sins to doubt again of their justified state, lest they should seem to make God changeable.
On the other hand must be avoided this extreme of perplexed doubting Christians, that make all their sins, or too many of them, to be matter of doubting, which should be but matter of humiliation.
I know it is a very great difficulty that hath long perplexed the doctors of the church, to define what sins are consistent, and what inconsistent with a state of holiness and salvation (which if any distinguish by the names of mortal and venial, taking the words in no other sense, I