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To conclude: In fealing the believer he doth not make use of an audible voice, nor the miniftry of angels, nor immediate and extraordinary revelations, but he makes ufe of his own graces implanted in our hearts, and his own promifes written in the fcriptures; and in this method he usually brings the doubting trembling heart of a believer to reft and comfort.
2. Query. Why are none fealed till after believing?
Anfw. It cannot be denied, but that many perfons in a ftate of nature and unbelief, may have ungrounded confidences, and falfe comforts built thereupon. This is evident from Matth. vii. 22. Many will fay unto me in that day, Lord, "Lord, have we not prophefied in thy name?" And John viii. 54, 55. "Of whom ye fay that he is your God, and yet G ye have not known him." And, beyond all, is that startling fcripture, Heb. iv. 4, 5. "Who were once enlightened, "and have tafted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers "of the holy Ghoft, and have tafted the good word of God, "and the powers of the world to come, if they fall away," &c.
But for any, except real believers, to have thofe witneffes and fealings of the Spirit defcribed above, is utterly impoffible, and will evidently appear to be fo, whether we confider the author, nature, object, mediums, end and defign of this work.
First, Confider the author of this work, the Spirit of God, who is an holy Spirit, as the text calls him, and the Spirit of truth, as Chrift calls him, John xiv. 17. and it cannot be that ever he should give teftimony to a lie, or give a falfe witnefs, quite crofs to the very tenour of the written word, as he must do, fhould he feal an unbeliever. What though they be elect? yet, whilft unregenerate, they have no actual intereft in Christ and the promises, and therefore can have none sealed by the Spirit. Prius eft prædicare de effe quam de cognofci; we must be faints before we can be known to be fo.
Secondly, Confider but the nature of this work, and it cannot be that ever an unbeliever fhould be fealed by the Spirit ; for affurance is produced in our fouls by the reflexive acts of our faith the Spirit helps us to reflect upon what hath been done by him formerly upon our hearts; "hereby we know that
we know him," 1 John ii. 3. To know that we know, is a reflex act; now it is impoffible there fhould be a reflex before there hath been a direct act: no man can have the evidence of his faith, before the habit be infused, and the vital act first performed.
Thirdly, Confider the object-matter, to which he feals, and it will be found to be his own fanctifying operations upon our
bearts, and confequently to our privileges in Chrift, Rom. viii. 16. 1 John iii. 24. The thing or matter attested is, that Christ abideth in us, and that we are the children of God; but no such thing can be fealed till we believe, for neither our adoption nor fanctification can be before faith.
Fourthly, Confider the mediums or inftruments used by the Spirit in his fealing-work: the promises are his sealing instruments, and on that account he is called the Spirit of promife in the text; not only because he is the Spirit promifed, but as the promises contain the Spirit, fo the Spirit uses the promises, (i. e.) clears them to our understandings, and helps us to apply them to our fouls. But this he never doth, nor can do, till the foul, by faith, have union with Chrift; for till then, it hath no right in the promises.
Fifthly, and laftly, Confider the end and defign of this work of the Spirit, which is to fecure to the foul its peace, pardon, and falvation in Christ, he feals believers to the day of redemption, Eph. iv. 30. (i. e.) to their complete falvation; fo then it must be equally impoffible for an unbeliever to be fealed as to be faved.
3. Query. The next enquiry is, Whether all believers are fealed by the Spirit?
Anfw. The refolution of this query will depend upon feveral diftinctions that must be made upon this matter.
Diftinction 1. We must diftinguish the different kinds of the Spirit's fealing; all his fealing-work is not of one kind, nor to one and the fame ufe and end.
There is an objective feal, which distinguishes the person; and a formal feal, which clears and ratifies his intereft in Chrift and falvation: the firft he doth in fanctifying us, the fecond in affuring us,
When he feals objectively, that is, when he fanctifies us really by the infufion of grace, he feals us by way of diftinction from other men, which is one end of fealing; for though, in refpect of God's decree and purpose, there was a difference betwixt us and others before time, 2 Tim. ii. 19. and although in regard of Chrift's intention in his death, there was a difference betwixt us and others, John xvii. 9. yet all this while there is no perfonal actual difference betwixt us and others, till fanctification do make one, Eph. ii. 3. and 1 Cor. vi. 11. But the fanctification of the Spirit makes a real difference in the ftate and temper of the perfon, 2 Cor. v. 17. and manifests that difference which election put betwixt us and others before
time, I Theff. i. 4, 5. And yet all this while a man may not be formally fealed, i. e. his fanctification may be very doubtful to himself, and he may labour under great fears about it.
Diftinction 2. The feafons of the Spirit's fealing must be diftinguished; and thefe are to fome,
ift, Immediately upon the foul's first clofing with Christ at converfion, especially when converfion is wrought at à riper age, and is ufhered in by a greater degree of the Spirit of bondage, and deep inward terrors. Thus the Prodigal (the emblem of a convert fo brought home to God) was entertained with the fatted calf and mufic, but all find not this presently, as some do.
2dly, Times of eminent communion with God are fealing times. There are extraordinary out-lets of peace, joy, and comfort, at fome feafons, in duty, which makes the ftate of the foul very clear, and banishes all fcruples and fears from the heart.
3dly, Others are fealed upon fome eminent hazard they have been expofed to for Chrift, or fome extraordinary fufferings they have undergone for Chrift, wherein they have carried it with eminent meeknefs, patience, and felf-denial, 2 Cor. i. 4, 5. Thus the martyrs were many times fealed in the depth of their fufferings.
4thly, It is ufually found that a fealing-time follows a dark day of desertion, and fore combats with temptations; poft nubila phoebus. So that text, Rev. ii. 17. is expounded by fome,
To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden 6c manna, and will give him a white ftone, and in the ftone a new name written."
5thly, Dying-times prove fealing-times to many fouls, if their whole life hath been like that day defcribed by the prophet, Zech. xiv. 17. Neither dark nor light, a life betwixt hopes and fears, yet at evening-time it hath been light.
Diftinction 3. Liftly, We muft diftinguifh thefe feveral ways and manners of fealing: Some are extraordinary and immedi-` ate, vouchfafed only to fome perfons, at fome fpecial times and feafons. Thus Zaccheus was in an extraordinary and immediate way afcertained of his falvation; Luke xix. 9.
This day is falvation come to this house." And fo the palfyman; Mark ii. 5. "Son, (faith Chrift) thy fins be forgiven
thee." But thefe immediate ways are ceased; no man may now expect by any new revelation or fign from heaven, by amy voice or extraordinary inspiration, to have his falvation fealed, but muft expect that mercy in God's ordinary way and
method, fearching the fcriptures, examining our own hearts, and waiting on the Lord in prayer.
The learned Gerfon gives an inftance of one that had been long upon the borders of defpair, and at laft fweetly affured and fettled; and being afked how he attained that affurance, he answered, non ex nova aliqua revelatione, &c. Not by any new revelation, but by fubjecting my understanding to, and comparing my heart with the written word.
And Mr. Roberts, in his treatife of the covenants, speaks of another that fo vehemently panted after the fealings and affurance of the love of God to his foul, that for a long time he earneftly defired fome voice from heaven; and fometimes walking in the folitary fields, earnestly defired fome miraculous voice from the trees or ftones there: This was denied him, but in time a better was afforded, in a fcriptural way.
Now to refolve the query out of these distinctions.
First, Though all believers have not the formal fealings of the Spirit, yet they have the objective or material feal; that is, the Spirit is in them as a fanctifying Spirit, putting a real difference betwixt them and others, when he is not with thent by way of evidence and affurance of fanctification.
Secondly, Though all believers are not fealed at one and the fame time, yet there are few, if any believers, but do meet with one feason or other in this life, wherein the Lord doth feal them; if not at their first close with Chrift, as many have been fealed, yet in fome choice and eminent feason of communion with God: Such golden fpots of time, fuch precious feafons moft Chriftians can speak of; though, as Bernard fpeaks, it be rara hora, brevis mora, feldom, but fweet: Or if not in the course of their active obedience, it is a thousand to one but they shall meet it in the way of their paffive obedience, if God exercise them eminently under the cross, or after a dark cloud of defertion, or in a dying hour.
Thirdly, and laftly, though God now feals not men in an extraordinary and immediate way, by revelation, immediate infpiration, or voices from heaven, yet moft Chriftians are fealed in the ordinary way of the Spirit, under one ordinance or other, in one duty or other.
4. Query. What is the privilege of being fealed by the Spirit 2 Anfw. Much every way; words cannot exprefs the riches of this mercy: For let us but confider the four following particulars, and you will admire the mercy.
First, Confider whofe act and proper work fealing is. God doth not fend angels upon this errand; though, if he did, that
would be a great honour to poor duft and ashes, but he fends his Spirit to do it. O the condefcenfion of the great God to men! This is a greater honour than if millions of angels were employed about it.
And then, as to the certainty and fatisfaction, it is beyond all other ways and methods in the world; for in miraculous voices and inspirations it is poffible there may, fubeffe falfum, be found fome cheats or impofture of the devil; but the Spirit's witness in the heart, fuitable to his revelation in the fcripture, cannot deceive us.
Secondly, The conclufion or truth fealed is ravishing and tranfporting. All Chriftians vehemently pant for it, few have the enjoyment of it for any long continuance; but whilst they do enjoy it, they enjoy heaven upon earth, a joy beyond all the joys of this world. To have this conclufion furely fealed, Chrift is mine, my fin is pardoned, I shall be saved from wrath through him; Ó what is this! what is this!
Thirdly, Confider the fubject or perfon fealed, a poor finful wretch, that has, ten thousand times over, grieved the good Spirit of God, by whom, notwithstanding, thou art fealed to the day of redemption: Thou haft by every fin deserved to be fealed up to damnation: Thou haft reafon to account and efteem thyfelf much inferior in graces and duties to many thoufands of the faints that are panting after this privilege, and cannot obtain it: O the riches of the goodness of God!
Fourthly, and lastly, Confider the defigns and aims of the Spirit in his fealing thy foul, which are,
1. To fecure heaven to thee for ever.
2. As intermediate thereunto, to bring very much of heaven into thy foul, in the way to it; indeed to give thee two heavens, whilst many others muft fuffer two hells.
5. Query. Lastly, we will enquire, What are the effects of the Spirit's fealing upon our fouls, by which we may distin guifb and clearly difcern it from all delufions of Satan, and allimpoftures whatsoever.
Anfw. The genuine and proper effects and fruits of fealing are, 1. Inflamed love. 2. Renewed care. 3. Deep abasements. 4. Increase of ftrength. 5. A defire to be with the Lord. 6. Improved mortification to the world.
Wherefoever these are found confequent to our communion with God, and his manifeftations of himself to us therein, they put it beyond all doubt that it was the feal of his own bleffed Spirit, and no delufion.
1. The fealings of the Spirit cannot but inflame the love