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shall not quarrel with them). At present I shall say but this, for the resolving of this great and weighty question.
1. It is not the bare act of sin in itself considered, that must determine the case; but the act compared with the life of grace, and with true repentance. Whoever hath the love of God and life of grace, is in a state of salvation; and therefore whatever sin consisteth with the fore-described essentials of sanctification, (viz. the habitual devotion of the soul to God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and the habitual renunciation of the flesh, the world, and devil,) consisteth with a state of life. And true repentance proveth the pardon of all sin: And therefore whatever sin consisteth with habitual repentance, (which is the hatred of sin, as sin) and hath actual repentance when it is observed, and there is time for deliberation, consisteth with a state of grace. Now in habitual conversion or repentance, the habitual willingness to leave our sin, must be more than our sinful habitual willingness to keep it. Now you may by this, much discern, as to particular acts, whether they are consistent with habitual hatred of sin. For some sins are so much in the power of the will, that he that hath an habitual hatred of them, cannot frequently commit them. And some sins are also of so heinous a nature or degree, that he that habitually hateth sin, cannot frequently commit them; not at all, while his hatred to them is in act. And he that truly repenteth of them, cannot frequently return to them; because that sheweth that repentance was indeed either but superficial, or not habitual. But some sins are not so great and heinous, and therefore do not so much deter the soul, and some are not so fully in the power of a sanctified will (as passions, thoughts, &c.), and therefore may oftener be committed in consistency with habitual repentance or hatred of sin. To examine particulars, would be tedious and digressive.
2. And I must further answer, that our safety, and consequently our peace and comfort, lieth in flying as far from sin as we can: And therefore he that will sin as much as will consist with any sparks of grace, shall bury those sparks by his sin, and shall not know that he hath any grace, nor have the comfort of it; as being in a condition unfit for actual assurance and comfort, till he be brought to actual repentance and amendment.
Thus have I shewed you, by what you must try your
sanctification, if you will know it; which I before proved to you from Scripture; and further may do, when the occasion will excuse me from the imputation of disproportion and unseasonableness, in repeating the proofs of all that we speak in explication or application of the principal point.
4. Another cause that many Christians are ignorant of their state of grace, is their looking so much at what they should be, and what others are that have a right degree of grace, and what is commanded as our duty, that they observe not what they have already, because it is short of what they ought to have. We are thus too much about outward mercies too. We mourn more for our friend that is dead, than we rejoice in many that are alive. We are more troubled for one mercy taken from us, than comforted in many that are left us. We observe our diseases and our sores, 'more sensibly than our health. David for one Absalom is so afflicted, that he wished he had died for him though a rebel! when his comfort in Solomon, and his other children is laid aside. As all the humours flow to the pained place, so do our thoughts, as was aforesaid, and so we overlook the matter of our comfort.
5. And it very much hindereth the knowledge of our graces, that we search upon so great disadvantages as hinder a true discovery. Among many others, I will instance but in two or three.
1. We surprise our souls with sudden questions, and look for a full and satisfactory answer, before we can well recollect ourselves, and call up our evidences; and we expect to know the sum or product, before our consciences have had leisure deliberately to cast up their accounts. Yea, when we have set to it, and by diligent search with the best assistances, have discovered our sincerity, and recorded the judgment, if conscience cannot presently recal its proofs, and make it out upon every surprise, we unjustly question all that is past, and will never rest in any judgment, but are still calling over all again, as if the cause had never been tried. And then the judgment passeth according to our present temper and disposition, when many of the circumstances are forgotten, and many of the witnesses are out of the way, that last assisted us.
2. Perhaps we judge (as I said before) in the fit of a passion of fear or grief, which imperiously overruleth or dis
turbeth reason: and then no wonder, if in our haste we say, that all men that would comfort us are liars. And if with David, (Psal. lxxvii. 2, 3. 7, 8, 9.) In the " day of our trouble, our souls do even refuse to be comforted ;" and if we remember God, and we are troubled more, and if our spirit be overwhelmed in us: when he holdeth our eyes waking, and we are so troubled that we cannot speak." And if we question whether "the Lord will cast off for ever, and will be favourable no more:" Whether "his mercy be clean gone for ever, and his promise fail for evermore:" whether" he hath forgotten to be gracious, and hath shut up his tender mercies in displeasure:" till a calm deliver us from the mistake, and make us say, 'This is our infirmity.' we think that God doth cast off our souls, and "hideth his face from us," when" our soul is full of troubles, and our life draweth nigh unto the grave: when we are afflicted and ready to die from our youth up, and are distracted, while we suffer the terrors of the Lord;" as he complaineth, Psal. lxxxviii. 3. 14, 15, 16. Passion judgeth according to its nature, and not according to truth.
3. Or perhaps we judge, when our friends, our memory, and other helps are out of the way, and we are destitute of due assistance.
4. Or when our bodies are weak or distempered with melancholy, which representeth all this in black and terrible colours to the soul, and will hear no language but forsaken, miserable, and undone. You may as well take the judgment of a man half drunk, or half asleep, about the greatest matters of your lives, as to take the judgment of conscience in such a state of disadvantage, about the condition of your souls.
5. Another hindrance to us, is, that we cannot take comfort from the former sight of grace that we have had, unless we have a continued present sight. And so all our labour in trying, and all our experiences, and all God's former manifestations of himself to the soul are lost, as to our present comfort, when our grace is out of sight: like foolish travellers, that think they are out of the way, and are ready to turn back, when ever any hill doth interpose, and hinder them from seeing the place they go to. As if it were no matter of comfort to us, to say, I did find the evidences of grace; I once recorded a judgment of my sin
cerity: but the former is still questioned rather than the latter. When with David, we should "consider the days of old, the years of ancient times, and call to remembrance our songs in the night, and commune with our hearts in such a diligent search," and remembrance of the mercies formerly received. ((Psal. lxxvii. 5, 6, 7.)
6. Lastly, The operations of man's soul are naturally so various, and from corruption are so confused and so dark, that we are ofttimes in amaze and at a loss, when we are most desirous to judge aright; and scarce know where, in so great disorder, to find any thing that we seek; and know it not when we find it: so that our hearts are almost as strange to themselves as to one another; and sometimes more confident of other men's sincerity than our own, where there is no more matter for our confidence.
Having thus shewed you the causes of our ignorance of our sanctification, I shall briefly tell you some reasons that should move you to seek to be acquainted with it, where it is.
1. The knowledge of God is the most excellent knowledge; and therefore the best sort of creature-knowledge is, that which hath the most of God in it. And undoubtedly there is more of God in holiness, which is his image, than in common things. Sins and wants have nothing of God in them; they must be fathered on the devil and yourselves. and therefore the knowledge of them is good but by accident, because the knowledge even of evil hath a tendency to good and therefore it is commanded and made our duty, for the good which it tendeth to. It is the Divine nature and image within you, which hath the most of God; and therefore to know this is the high and noble knowledge. To know Christ within us, is our happiness on earth, in order to the knowledge of him in glory "face to face," which is the happiness of heaven. To" know God, though darkly through a glass," and but in part, (1 Cor. xiii. 12,) is far above all creature-knowledge. The knowledge of him raiseth, quickeneth, sanctifieth, enlargeth, and advanceth all our faculties. It is "life eternal to know God in Christ." (John xvii. 3.) Therefore where God appeareth most, there should our understandings be most diligently exercised in study and observation.
2. It is a most delightful felicitating knowledge, to know that Christ is in you. If it be delightful to the rich to see their wealth, their houses, and lands, and goods, and money and if it be delightful to the honourable to see their attendance, and hear their own commendations and applause; how delightful must it be to a true believer to find Christ within him, and to know his title to eternal life? If the knowledge of" full barns," and "much goods laid up for many years," can make a sensual worldling say, "Soul, take thy ease, eat, drink and be merry," (Luke xii. 19, 20,) methinks the knowledge of our interest in Christ and heaven, should make us say, "Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and wine increased," (that is, more than corn and wine could put into theirs.) (Psal. iv. 7.) "Return unto thy rest, O my soul, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee." (Psal. cxvi. 7.) If we say with David, "Blessed are they that dwell in thy house; they will be still praising thee," (Psal. lxxxiv. 4,) much more may we say, Blessed are they in whom Christ dwelleth, and the Holy Ghost hath made his temple, they should be still praising thee." Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple." (Psal. Ixv. 4.) But this is upon supposition, that he be first blessed by Christ's approach to him, and dwelling in him.
If you ask, 'How is it that Christ dwelleth in us;' I answer, 1. Objectively, as he is apprehended by our faith and love: as the things or persons that we think of, and love and delight in, are said to dwell in our minds or hearts. 2. By the Holy Ghost, who as a principle of new and heavenly life, is given by Christ the head, unto his members; and as the agent of Christ doth illuminate, sanctify, and guide the soul. "He that keepeth his commandments, dwelleth in him, and he in him: and hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us." (1 John iii. 24.) That of Ephes. iii. 17, may be taken in either, or both senses comprehensively, "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith."
3. Did you know that Christ is in you by his Spirit, it might make every place and condition comfortable to you! If you are alone, it may rejoice you to think what company