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II. Now, many things may be done, that yet need not; yea, that ought not to be done; this both OUGHT and MUST BE ENDEĂVOURED, for the necessity, and benefit of it.
This charge here, as it implies the possibility; so it signifies the convenience, use, profit, necessity of this assecuration: for, sure, if it were not beneficial to us, it would never be thus forcibly urged upon us. And, certainly, there needs no great proof of this: for nature, and our self-love grounded thereupon, easily invites us to the endeavour of feoffing ourselves in any thing that is good. This being, then, the highest good, that the soul of man can be possibly capable of, to be ascertained of salvation; it will soon fo!low, that, since it may be done, we shall resolve it ought, it must be endeavoured to be done.
Indifferent things, and such as without which we may well subsist, are left arbitrary to us; but those things, wherein our spiritual well-being consisteth, must be mainly laboured for: neither can any contention be too much to attain them. Such is this, we have in hand: without which, there can be no firm peace; no constant and solid comfort to the soul of man.
Three things, then, call us to the endeavour of this assurance; our Duty, our Advantage, our Danger.
1. We must do it out of DUTY; because our God bids us. God's commands, like the Prerogatives of Princes, must not be too strictly scanned. Should he require ought, that might be loss-full or prejudicial to us, our blindful obedience must undertake it with cheerfulness: how much more then, when he calls for that from us, than which nothing can be imagined of more or equal behoof to the soul! It is enough, therefore, that God, by his Apostle, commands us to give diligence to make our calling and election sure. Our Heavenly Father bids us: what sons are we, if we obey him not? Our Blessed Master bids us: what servants are we, if we set not ourselves to observe his charge? Our Glorious and Immortal King bids us : what subjects are we, if we stick at his injunction? Out of mere duty, therefore, we must endeavour to make our calling and election sure.
2. Even where we owe no Duty, oftentimes ADVANTAGE draws us on; yea, many times, across those duties, which we owe to God and man: how much more, where our duty is seconded with such an advantage, as is not parallelable in all the world beside! What less, what other follows upon this assurance truly attained, but peace of conscience, and joy in the Holy Ghost? in one word, the beginning of heaven in the soul? What a contentment doth the heart of man find, in the securing of any whatsoever good! What a coil do money-masters keep, for security of the sums they put forth! and, when that is taken to their mind, are ready to say with the rich man in the Gospel, Soul, take thy ease. Great venturers at sea, how willingly do they part with no small part of their hoped gain, to be assured of the rest! How well was Hezekiah appaid, when he was as sured but of fifteen years added to his life! How doth Babylon applaud her own happiness to herself, when she can say, I sit as a queen: I shall not be a widow: I shall know no sorrow! It inust needs follow therefore, that, in the best things assured, there must be the greatest of all possible contentments. And surely, if the heart have once attained to this, That, upon good grounds, it can resolve,“ God is my Father: Christ Jesus is my Elder Brother: the angels are my guardians: heaven is my undoubted patrimony;" how must it needs be lift up, and filled with a joy unspeakable and glorious! What hold defiances can it bid to all the troops of worldly evils, to all the powers of hell! With what unconceivable sweetness, must it needs enjoy God, and itself! How comfortably and resolutely must it needs welcome death, with that triumphant champion of Christ, I have fought a good fight: I have finished my course: I have kept the faith ; and, now, from henceforth, there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, &c! 2 Tim. iv. 7, 8. Out of the just advantage, therefore, of this assurance, we must endeavour to make our calling and election sure.
3. Neither is the Advantage more in the performance hereof, than there is DANGER in the neglect. In all uncertainties, there is a kind of afflictive fear, and troublesome mis-doubt. Let a man walk in the dark, because he cannot be confident where safely to set his steps he is troubled with a continual suspicion of a sudden miscarriage; and, therefore, goes in pain. What can there be but discomfort in that soul, which knows not in what terms it stands with God? Yet, while there is life, there may be hope of better. But, if that soul be surprised with an unexpected death, and hurried away with some sudden judgment, in this state of irresolution; in how deplored a condition is it, beyond all expression! I cannot but, therefore, lament the woeful plight of those poor souls, that live and die under the Roman Discipline; who, when they have most need of comfort in the very act of their dissolution, are left pitifully disconsolate, and given up by their teachers to either horror or suspense. Even the most saint-like of them, (except his soul fly up in martyrdom like Gideon's angel in the smoke of his incense,) may not make account of a speedy ascent to heaven. Insomuch as Cardinal Bellarmin himself, of whom our Coffin dares write, that his life was not stained with mortal sin; page 27: he, that could call heaven Casamia; and whose canonization the Cardinals thought fit to be talked of in his sickness: when Cardinal Aldobrandino desired him, that, when he came to heaven, he would pray for him, answered, “ To go to heaven so soon, is a matter too great for me: men do not use to come thither in such haste; and, for me, I shall think it no small favour to be sure of purgatory, and there to remain a good while;" page 42: which yet, himself can say, differs not much, for the time, in respect of the extremity of it, from hell itself. And, to be a good while there! O terror, past all reach of our thoughts! And, if the righteous be thus saved, where shall the sinners appear? For ought they can, or may know; hell may, but purgatory must be their portion: heaven may not be thought of, without too high presumption. Certainly, if many despair under those uncomfortable hands, I wonder that no more: since they are bidden to doubt; and beaten off from any possibility of the coufidence of rest and happiness.
But, while I urge this danger of utter discomfort in our irresolution, I hear our adversaries talk of a double danger of the contrary certitude: a danger of Pride; and a danger of Sloth. The supposed certainty of our graces breeds Pride; saith their Cardinal: the assurance of our election, Sloth; saith their Alphonsus a Castro, out of Gregory:
And, indeed, if this cordial doctrine be not well given, well taken, well digested, it may, through our pravity and heedlessness, turi to both these noxious humours; as the highest feeding soonest causech a dangerous plethory in the body. How have we heard some bold ungrounded Christians brag of their assurance of glory, as if they had carried the keys of heaven at their girdle! How hare we seen even sensual men flatter themselves, with a confident opinion of their undoubted safety, and unfailable right to happiness! How have we known presumpiuous spirits, that have thought themselves carried with a plerophory of faith; when their sails have been swelled only with the wind of their own self-love! How many ignorant souls, from the misprision of God's infallible election, have argued the needlessness of their endeavours, and the safety of their ease and neglect! As ye love yourselves, sail warily; betwixt these rocks and sands, on either side.
But, if these mischiefs follow upon the abuse of a sound and wholesome doctrine, God forbid they should be imputed to the truth itself: as if that God, who charges us to do our endeavour to make sure work of our calling and election, did not well foresee the perils of these mistakings: and if, notwithstanding the provision of these errors, his infinite wisdom hath thought fit to enjoin this task, how safe, how necessary is it, for us to perform it! Did these evils flow from the nature of the doctrine, we had reason to disclaim it; but, now that they flow from the corruption of our nature, fetching evil out of good, we have reason to embrace the doctrine, and to check ourselves.
What a slander is this! Doth the known certainty of our graces breed Pride? Surely, did we challenge these graces for our own, there might be some fear of this vice; but, while we yield them to be God's, how can we be puffed up? What a madness is it in a man, to be proud of another's glory? It is a great word of the Apostle, I can do all things; but, when he adds, through hiin that strengthens me, now, the praise is all God's, and not his: now, he boasts all of God; nothing of himself. No: presumption is proud, but faith is humble. There can be no true faith, without repentance; no repentance, without self-dejection. Yea, the very proper básis of all grace whatsoever is humility; much more, of faith: since a man cannot so much as apprehend that he hath need of a Saviour, till he be vile in his own eyes, and lost in his own conceit. Yea, so far is the known certainty of grace from working pride, as that it is certain there can be no grace, where there is pride of grace: so as, while Gregory can say, Si scimus nos habere gratiam, super
bimus ; “ If we know we have grace, we are proud:" I shall, by a contrary inversion, not fear to say, Si superbimus, scimus nos non hubere gratiam; “ If we be proud, we know we have no grace.”
Sloth, and Security, is the more probable vice. Why may not the spiritual sluggard say, “ If I be sure of my calling and election, and God's decree is unchangeable, what need I care for more ? Sit down, soul, and take thine ease. Ut quid perditio hæc? To what purpose dost thou macerate thyself, with the penal works of an austere mortification? What needest thou toil thyself, in the busy labours of a constant devotion? What need these assiduous prayers, these frequent sermonings, these importune communicatings? Thou canst be but sure of thine election: thou art so already: sit down now, my soul; and take, not thy ease only, but thy pleasure: let thyself freely loose to those contentments, wherein others seek and find felicity. Be happy here, since thou canst not but be so hereafter.” A man might, perhaps, speak thus: but can a Believer say so; whose faith quells the very thought of this pernicious security, and excites him more to a careful endeavour of all good actions, than reward can the ambitious, or fear the cu ardly? Lo, this man will be sure to do so much more good, by how much he is more sure of his election; and will be more afraid of sin, than another is of hell. He well knows the inseparable connexion betwixt the end and the means; and cannot dream of obtaining the one, without the other: he knows, that mortification of his corruptions and the life and exercise of grace, are the happy elects of his gracious and eternal election. If he look to his calling, he meets with that of the Apostle; IVe are called, not to uncleanness, but to holiness ; 1 Thess. iv. 7: if to his election; We are chosen that we might be holy, and without blame before him in love; Eph. i. 4. Both calling and election call him to nothing but holiness: and he will more busy himself in the duties of piety, charity, justice, out of love; than a servile nature would, out of constraint: and will do more good, because he is elected; than a mercenary disposition would do, that he might be elected: and will be more careful to avoid sin, because he makes account of heaven; than a slavish mind can or will be, that he may avoid hell. Hezekiah hath fifteen years promised to be added to his life: he is sure God cannot deceive him: What then? Doth he say, “Though I take no sustenance, I shall live: let me take poison: let me run into fire or water, or upon the sword of an enemy: fifteen years is my stint; which can no more be abridged, than prolonged: I will never trouble myself with eating or drinking: I will rush fearlessly upon all dangers ?” None of these: he, that knows he shall live, knows he must live by means; and, therefore, feeds moderately; demeans himself no less carefully that he may live, than any other whose life is uncertain. It is for ignorant Turks to make so ill use of their predestination, that, because their destiny is written in their foreheads, they need not regard danger; but may securely sleep upon the pillow of him, that died the day before of the plague: wise men know that Divine Proyi dence is no exemption of our best care. It cannot stand with a true favourite of heaven, to make so ill use of God's mercies, as to be evil, because he is good; to be secure, because he is bountiful and unchangeable.
What remains, then, but that, out of our duty to the command, out of our sense of the advantage, out of our care to shun the danger of the neglect, we should stir up ourselves, by all means possible, to make our calling and election sure? Away with our poor and
petty cares, wherewith our hearts are commonly taken up: one cares to make his house or his coffers sure, with bosts and bars: another cares to make his money sure, by good bonds and counterbonds; another, his estate sure to his posterity, by conveyances and fines; another, his adventure sure, by a wary pre-contract. Alas! what sorry, worthless things are these, in comparison of eternity! And what a slippery security is that, which our utmost endeavours can procure us in these transitory and unsatisfying matters! Oh our miserable sottishness, if, while we are studiously careful for these base perishing affairs, we continue willing unthrifts in the main and everlasting provision for our souls! Religion gives no countenance to ill-husbandry: be careful to make your houses sure; but be more careful to make sure of your eternal mansions: be careful for your earthly wealth; but be more careful of the treasures laid up in heaven: be careful of your estate here; but be more careful of that glorious patrimony above: briefly, be careful to live well here; be more careful to live happily for ever.
Ye have seen that we May, and that we Must endeavour to make sure our calling and election.
III. Our next work is, to shew HOW and BY WHAT MEANS they may and must be endeavoured to be assured.
In some few Greek copies, which Robert Stephens had seen; or, in two copies, as Beza found it; or, in aliquo codice, as Mariana; there is an addition of words to the text δια των καλών έρίων; By good works. The Vulgate reads it thus, and the Council of Trent cites it thus, and some of ours : so the text runs thus; Give diligence, that, by good works, ye may make your calling and election sure:
I enquire not how duly; but, certainly, there is no cause that we should fear or dislike this reading : good works are a notable confirmation to the soul, of the truth of our calling and election: though Cardinal Bellarmin makes ill use of the place; striving hereupon to infer, that our certitude is therefore but conjectural, because it is of works. For the solution whereof, justly may we wonder to hear of a conjectural certitude : certainly, we may as well hear of a false-truth! What a plain implication is here of a palpable contradiction! Those things, which we conjecture at, are only probable; and there can be no certainty in probability:
Away with these blind peradventures. Had our Apostle said, and he knew how to speak, “ Guess at your calling and election by good works,” his game here had been fair; but now, when he says, By good works endeavour to make your calling and election sure, how clearly doth he disclaim a dubious hit-l-miss-I; and implies a feasible certainty!