« PreviousContinue »
of this Saviour did sanctify God's elect from self ? Hast thou not found the motions, the efthe beginning; and gave them the same holy fectual operations, the renewing changes of this and heavenly dispositions, in some degree, be- Spirit in thee, long ago ; and is he not still the fore Christ's incarnation, as is given since : agent and witness of Christ, residing and operyea, it is called the Spirit of Christ,' which was ating in thee? Whence else are thy groanings before given : and this Spirit was then given after God; thy desires to be nearer to his glory: to more than the Jews. Christ hath put that to know him better, to love him more? Whence part of the world that hear not of his incarnation, came all the pleasures thou hast had in his sacred into no worse a condition than he found them truth, ways, and service? Who else overcame in: that as the Jews' covenant of peculiarity thy folly, pride, and vain desires, so far as they was no repeal of the universal law of grace, are overcome ? Who made it thy choice to sit made by God with fallen mankind in Adam and at the feet of Christ, and hear his word, as the Noah; so the covenant of grace of the second better part, and to despise the honours and pre. edition, made with Christ's peculiar people, is ferments of the world, and to account them all no repeal of the foresaid law in the first edition, as dung and dross ? Who breathed in thee all to them that hear not of the second. All that those requests that thou hast sent up to God? wisdom and goodness, that is in any without Overvalue not corrupted nature ; it brings not the Christian church, is the work of the Spirit forth such fruits as these: if thou doubt of that, of the Redeemer; as the light which goes before remember what thou wast in the hour of tempsun-rising, and after sun-setting, and in a cloudy tation; even of poor and weak temptations: and day, is of the same sun which others see, even how small a matter hath drawn thee to sid, when to them that see not the sun itself. The God did but leave thee to thyself: forget not more any without the church are like to the the days of youthful vanity: overlook not the sanctified believers, the better they are, and the case of the miserable world; even of thy sinful more unlike the worst ; so that all these things neighbours, who in the midst of light still live being undeniable, it appears, that it is the same in darkness, and hear not the loudest calls of Spirit of Christ which now gives all men what God. Look about on thousands, that in the real goodness is any where to be found. But same land, and under the same teaching, and it is notorious that no part of the world is, in after the greatest judgments and deliverance, run heavenliness and virtue, comparable to true and on to all excess of riot, and, as past feeling, are serious Christians.
greedily vicious and unclean. Is it no work of Let it be added, that Christ, who promised Christ's Spirit that hath made thee to differ? the greatest measures of the Spirit, which he ac- Thou hast nothing to boast of, and much to be cordingly hath given, did expressly promise this, humbled for: but thou hast also much to as a means and pledge, first-fruits and earnest of thankful for. the heavenly glory: therefore it is a certain Thy holy desires are, alas ! too weak; but proof that such a glory we shall have. He that they are holy: thy love hath been too cold ; bat can and doth give us a spiritual change or reno- it is holiness, and the most holy God, that vation, which in its nature and tendency is thou hast loved. Thy hopes in God have been heavenly, and sets our hopes and hearts on too low; but it is God thou hast hoped in, heaven, and turns the endeavours of our lives and his love and glory that thou hast hoped to the seeking of a future blessedness, and told for. Thy prayers have been too dull and us before-hand that he would give us this pre- interrupted; but it is holiness and heaven that paratory grace, as the earnest of that felicity, thou hast most prayed for : thy labours and enmay well be trusted to perform his word in our deavours have been too slothful ; but it is God actual glorification.
and glory, and the good of mankind, that thou Now, O weak and fearful soul ! why shouldst hast laboured for. Though thy motion were too thou draw back, as if the case were yet left weak and slow, it hath been Godward ; and theredoubtful ? is not thy foundation firm ? Is not fore it was from God. O bless the Lord, that the way of life through the valley of death, made hath not only given thee a word that bears the safe by him that conquers death ? Art thou not image of God, and is sealed by uncontrolled yet delivered from the bondage of thy fears, miracles to be the matter of thy belief, but hath when the jailor and executioner who had the also fulfilled his promises so often and notably to power of death, hath by Christ been put out of thee, in the answer of prayers, and in great and his power, as to thee? Is not all this evidence convincing deliverances of thyself and many true and sure? Hast thou not the witness in thy- / others ! And hath by wonders often assisted thy faith. Bless that God of light and love, who, made by a holy, heavenly, fruitful life, as one besides the universal attestation of his word, long whose soul is taken up with the hopes and fears ago given to all the church, hath given thee the of things of such unspeakable importance ? Who internal seal, the nearer indwelling attestation, could stand dallying as most men do, at the door the effects of power, light, and love, imprinted of eternity, that did verily believe his immortal on thy nature, mind, and will, the witness in thy- soul must be shortly there ? Though such a self that the word of God is not a human dream, one had no certainty of his own particular title or lifeless thing ; that by regeneration hath been to salvation, the certainty of such a grand conhere preparing thee for the light of glory, as by cern, that joy or misery is at hand, would surely generation he prepared thee to see this light, and awaken him to try, cry, or search; to beg, to converse with men. And wilt thou yet doubt strive, to watch, to spare no care, or cost, or laand fear against all this evidence, experience, bour, to make all sure in a matter of such weight: and foretaste ?
it could not be but he would do it with speed, I think it not needless labour to confirm my and do it with a full resolved soul, and do it with soul in the full persuasion of the truth of its own earnest zeal and diligence. What man that once immortal nature, and of a future life of joy or saw the things which we hear of, even heaven misery to mankind, and of the certain truth of and hell, would not afterwards, at least in deep the Christian faith. The being of God, and his regard and seriousness, exceed the most resolved perfection, hath so great evidence, that I find believer that you know: one would think in reano great temptation to doubt of it, any more son it should be so thought: I confess a wicked than whether there be an earth or a sun; and heart is very senseless. the atheist seems to me to be in that no better I confess that there is much weakness of than mad: the Christian verity is known only the belief of things unseen, where yet there is by supernatural revelation ; but by such reve- sincerity : but surely there will be some proporlation it is so attested externally to the world, tion between our belief and its effects. Where and internally to holy souls, as makes faith the there is little regard, or fear, or hope, or sorruling, victorious, consolatory principle, by which row, or joy, or resolved diligence, for the world we must live, and not by sight: but the soul's to come, I must think that there is, in act at immortality and reward hereafter is of a middle least, but little belief of it, and that such persons nature, viz. of natural revelation, but incompar. little know themselves how much they secretly ably less clear than the being of a God; and doubt whether it be true. I know that most comtherefore by the addition of evangelical, super- plain almost altogether of the uncertainty of their natural revelation, is made to us much more clear title to salvation, and little of their uncertainty of and sure. I find among the infidels of this age, a heaven and a hell : but were they more certain that most who deny the Christian verity, do al- of this, and truly persuaded of it at the heart, it most as much deny or question the retribution would do more to bring them to that serious, reof a future life: they that are fully satisfied of solved faithfulness in religion, which would help this, find Christianity so excellently congruous them more easily to be sure of their sincerity, to it, as greatly facilitates the work of faith. than long examinations, and many marks talked Therefore I think that there is scarcely any of, without this, will do. verity more needful to be thoroughly digested I confess that the great wisdom of God hath into a full assurance, than this of the soul's im- not thought meet that in the body we should mortality, and hope of future happiness. have as clear, sensible, and lively apprehensions
When I consider the great unlikeness of men's of heaven and hell, as sight would cause. For hearts and lives to such a belief, as we all pro- that would be to have too much of heaven or hell fess, I cannot but fear that not only the ungodly, on earth; for the participation would follow the but most that truly hope for glory, have a far perception, and so full a sense would be some sort weaker belief, in habit and act, of the soul's im- of a possession, which we are not fit for in this mortality, and the truth of the gospel, than they world. Therefore it must be a darker revelation seem to take notice of in themselves. Can I be than sight would be, that it may be a lower percertain or fully persuaded, in habit and act, of ception, lest this world and the next should the future rewards and punishments of souls, and be confounded ; and faith and reason should that we shall be all shortly judged as we have be put out of office, and not duly tried, exlived here, and yet not despise all the vanities ercised, and fitted for reward. But yet faith of this world, and set my heart with resolution is faith, and knowledge is knowledge; and and diligence to the preparation which must be he that verily believes such great transcendent things, and though he see them not, will have | soul either long, or cry, or strive in vain. some proportionable affections and endeavours. Punish not my former grieving of thy Spirit, by
I confess also that man's soul in flesh is not deserting a soul that cries for thy grace, so near fit to bear so deep a sense of heaven and hell, its great and inconceivable change: let me not as sight would cause ; because it here operates languish in vain desires, at the door of bope: on and with the body, and according to its nor pass with doubtful thoughts and fears from capacity, which cannot bear so deep a sense this vale of misery : which should be the season without distraction, by straining up the organs of triumphant faith, hope, and joy, if not when too much, till they break, and so over-doing I am entering on the world of joy? O thou would undo all : but yet there is an over-ruling that hast left us so many consolatory words of proseriousness, which a certain belief of future things mise, that our joy may be full, send, O send, the must needs bring the soul to, that truly hath it. promised Comforter, without whose approaches He that is careful and serious for this world, and heavenly beams, when all is said, and a and looks after a better, but with a slight, un- thousand thoughts and strivings have been aswilling, half-regard, as if in the second place; sayed, it will still be night and winter with the must give me leave to think, that he believes soul. but as he lives, and that his doubting or unbe- But have I not expected more particular and lief of the reality of a heaven and hell, is greater more sensitive conceptions of heaven, and the than his belief.
state of blessed souls, than I should have done, O then! for what should my soul more pray, and remained less satisfied, because I expected than for a clearer and a stronger faith. “I be- such distinct perceptions to my satisfaction, lieve, Lord, help my unbelief :' I have many a which God doth not ordinarily give to souls in thousand times groaned to thee under the burden Aesh? I fear it hath been too much so: a disof this remnant of darkness and unbelief: I have trust of God, and a distrustful desire to know many a thousand times thought of the evidences much good and evil, for ourselves, as necessary of the Christian verity, and of the great necessity to our quiet and satisfaction, was that sin which of a lively, powerful, active faith. I have begged has deeply corrupted man's nature, and is more it: I have cried to thee night and day, Lord, in- of our common depravity than is commonly obcrease my faith : I have written and spoken that served : I find that this distrust of God, and of my to others, which might be most useful to myself, Redeemer, hath had too great a hand in my deto raise the apprehensions of faith yet higher, sires of a more distinct and more sensible know. and make them more like those of sense: but ledge: I know that I should implicitly, and abyet, yet, Lord, how dark is this world ? what a solutely, and quietly trust my soul into my Redungeon is this flesh ? How little clearer is my deemer's hands; of which I must speak more sight, and little quicker are my perceptions, of afterwards. It is not only for the body, but also unseen things, than long ago ? Am I at the for the soul, that a distrustful care is our great highest that man on earth can reach ; and that sin and misery. But yet we must desire that when I am so dark and low ? Is there no growth our knowledge and belief may be as distinct and of these apprehensions more to be expected ? particular as God's revelations are ; and we can Does the soul cease its increase in vigorous per- love no further than we know ; and the more we ception, when the body ceases its increase or know of God and glory, the more we shall love, vigour of sensation ? Must I sit down in so desire, and trust him : it is a known, and not low a measure, while I am drawing nearer to the merely an unknown, God and happiness that the things believed ; and am almost there where soul doth joyfully desire. If I may not be ambelief must pass into sight and love? Or must bitious of too sensible and distinct perceptions I take up with the passive silence and inactivity, here of the things unseen ; yet must I desire which some friars persuade us is nearer to per and beg the most fervent and sensible love to fection ? and under pretence of annihilation and them that I am capable of. I am willing in part, receptivity, let my sluggish heart alone, and say, to take up with that unavoidable ignorance, and that in this neglect I wait for thy operation ? o that low degree of such knowledge, which God let not a soul that is driven from this world, and confines us to in the flesh, so be it he will give weary of vanity, and can think of little else but me but such consolatory foretastes in love and immortality; that seeks and cries both night and joy, which such a general imperfect knowledge day, for the heavenly light, and fain would have may consist with, that my soul may not pass sonie foretaste of glory, and some more of the with distrust and terror, but with suitable trifirst-fruits of the promised joys : let not such a umphant hopes to the everlasting pleasures.
O Father of lights, who givest wisdom to them and that worse is still nearer them than they that ask it of thee, shut not up this sinful soul in feel, and they hardly believe any words of darkness ! Leave me not to grope in unsatisfied hope. doubts at the door of the celestial light! Or if Satan knowing the power of these passions, my knowledge must be general, let it be clear and having easier access to the sensitive than to and powerful ; and deny me not now the lively the intellectual faculties, doth labour to get in at exercise of faith, hope, and love, which are the this back-door, and to frighten poor souls into stirrings of the new creature, and the dawnings doubt and unbelief: in timorous natures he doth of the everlasting light, and the earnest of the it with too great success, as to the consolatory promised inheritance.
acts of faith. Though yet God's mercy is wonBut we are often ready to say with Cicero, when derfully seen in preserving many honest, tender he had been reading such as Plato, that while souls from the damning part of unbelief, and by the book is in our hands, we seem confident of their fears preserves them from being bold with our immortality, and when we lay it by, our sin : when many bold and impudent sinners turn doubts return ; so our arguments seem clear and infidels or atheists, by forfeiting the helps of cogent, and yet when we think not of them with grace. the best advantage, we are often surprised with Indeed irrational fears have so much power to fear, lest we should be mistaken, and our hopes raise doubts, that they are seldom separated; be vain ; and hereupon, and from the common insomuch that many scarcely know or observe fear of death, that even good men too often the difference between doubts and fears : many manifest, the infidels gather that we do but force say they not only fear but doubt, when they can ourselves into such a hope as we desire to be scarcely tell why, as if it were no intellectual true, against the tendency of man's nature, and act which they meant, but an irrational passion. that we were not made for a better world.
If therefore my soul see undeniable evidence But this fallacy arises from men’s not distin- of immortality; and if it be able by irrefragable guishing sensitive fears from rational uncertainty, argument, to prove the future blessedness exor doubts; and the mind that is in the darkness pected, and if it be convinced that God's proof unbelief, from that which hath the light of mises are true, and sufficiently sealed and atfaith.
tested by him, to warrant the most confident When I look into eternity, I find in myself belief, and if I trust my soul and all my hopes too much of fear, interrupting and weakening upon this word, and evidences of truth, it is not my desires and joy. But I find that it is very then our aversion to die, nor the sensible fears much an irrational, sensitive fear, which the dark- of a soul that looks into eternity, that invalidate ness of man's mind, the greatness of the change, any of the reasons of my hope, or prove the the dreadful majesty of God, and man's natural unsoundness of my faith. aversion to die, do in some degree necessitate, But yet these fears prove its weakness, and even when reason is fully satisfied that such fears were they prevalent against the choice, obediare consistent with certain safety. If I were ence, resolutions, and endeavours of faith, they bound with the strongest chains, or stood on the would be prevalent against the truth of faith, or surest battlement, on the top of a castle or steeple, prove its nullity ; for faith is trust ; and trust is I could not possibly look down without fear, and a securing, quieting thing : 'why are ye fearful, such as would go near to overcome me ; and yet Oye of little faith,' was a just reproof of Christ I should be rationally sure that I am there fast to his disciples, when sensible dangers raised up and safe, and cannot fall. So is it with our pros- their fears. For the established will hath a po. pect into the life to come : fear is often a necessi- litical or imperfect, though not a despotical and tated passion : when a man is certain of his safe absolute power over our passions. Therefore our foundation, it will violently rob him of the com- fears show our unbelief, and stronger faith is the fort of that certainty: yea, it is a passion that best means of conquering even irrational fears. irrationally doth much to corrupt our reason it. Why art thou cast down, O my soul, and why self, and would make us doubt because we fear art thou so disquieted in me! trust in God,' &c. that we know not why: a fearful man doth hard is a needful way of chiding a timorous heart. ly trust his own apprehensions of his safety, but And though many say that faith hath not among other fears is still ready to fear lest he evidence, and think that it is an assent of the be deceived : like timorous, melancholy persons mind, merely commanded by the empire of the about their bodies, who are ready still to think will, without a knowledge of the verity of the that every little distemper is a mortal symptom, s testimony; yet certainly the same assent is
BEING WITH CHRIST.
ordinarily in the scriptures called indifferently, us for a heavenly life, and for attaining it, which knowing and believing : and as a bare command are not vain,—especially the ministration of will not cause love, unless we perceive an angels, and their love to us, and communion with amiableness in the object; so a bare command us ;-and, by accident, devils themselves conof the law or of the will, cannot alone cause be- vince us by the nature of their temptations,-by lief, unless we perceive a truth in the testimony possessions: which though it be but a satanical believed : for it is a contradiction, or an act operation on the body, yet is so extraordinary as without its object. Truth is perceived only so operation, that it differs from the more usual, as far as it is some way evident: for evidence is if I may so compare them, God's Spirit's operanothing but the objective perceptibility of truth; tions on the saints, that are called his dwelling or that which is metaphorically called light. So in them, or possessing them, are different from that we must say that faith hath not sensible his lower operations on others. evidence of the invisible things believed ; but faith is nothing else but the willing perception
CHAP. II. of the evidence of truth in the word of the assertor, and a trust therein. We have and must THE HOPE, THE CERTAINTY, AND BLISS OF have evidence that scripture is God's word, and that his word is true, before, by any command of the word or will, we can believe it.
HAVING proved that faith and hope have a I do therefore neither despise evidence as un- certain future happiness to expect, the text dinecessary, nor trust to it alone as the sufficient, rects me next to consider why it is described by total cause of my belief: for if God's grace do being with Christ;' viz. What is included in not open mine eyes, and come down in power our "being with Christ, that we shall be with upon my will, and insinuate into it a sweet ac- him : why we shall be with him. quaintance with the things unseen, and a taste To be with Christ, includes presence, union, of their goodness to delight my soul, no reasons communion, or participation of felicity with will serve to establish and comfort me, how un- him. deniable soever : reason is desirous first to make Is it Christ's Godhead, or his human soul, use of notions, words, or signs; and to know or his human body, that we shall be present terms, propositions, and arguments, which are with, and united to, or is it all? It is all, bat but means to the knowledge of things, is its first variously. employment, and that, alas ! which multitudes of We shall be present with the divine nature learned men take up with : but it is the illumin- of Christ. But are we not always so? And ation of God that must give us an effectual ac- are not all creatures always so? Yes, as his quaintance with the things spiritual and invisible essence comprehends all place and beings : but which these notions signify, and to which our not, as it is operative and manifested in and by organical knowledge is but a means.
his glory. Christ directs our hearts and tongues To sum up all, that our hopes of heaven have to pray, our Father which art in heaven: ard a certain ground appears from Nature, from yet he knew that all place is in and with God: Grace, from other works of gracious Providence. because it is in heaven that be gloriously oper
I. From the Nature of man-made capable of ates and shines forth to holy souls: even as it-obliged even by the law of nature to seek man's soul is eminently said to be in the head, it before all ;— naturally desiring perfection, because it understands and reasons in the head, habitual, active, and objective. From the nature and not in the foot or hand, though it be also of God,-as good and communicative,-as holy there. As we look a man in the face when we and righteous,—as wise : making none of his talk to him, so we look up to heaven when we works in vain.
pray to God. God who is, and operates as the II. From Grace,-purchasing it,-declaring it root of nature in all the works of creation, 'for by a messenger from heaven, both by word, and in him we live, and move, and are,' and by the by Christ's own and others' resurrection.—Pro- way of grace in all the gracious, doth operate, mising it,—sealing that prontise by miracles and is by the works and splendour of his glory, there ;-and by the work of sanctification to the eminently in heaven: by which glory therefore end of the world.
we must mean some created glory : for his III. By subordinate Providence, God's actual essence bath no inequality. governing the world by the hopes and fears of We shall be present with the human nature of another life,-the many helps which he gives Christ both soul and body: but here our present