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nying it, lest you have never such a motion more. know not, but God that calls you to it, may be resolved, that it shall be now or never. I do beseech you, yea, as his messenger I charge you in his name, that you delay not an hour longer, but presently be resolved, and make an unchangeable covenant with God, and as ever you would have favour in that day of your distress, delay not now to accept his favour in the day of your visitation. O what a blessed family were that, which, upon the reading of this, would presently say, 'We have done exceeding foolishly in delaying so great a matter so long. Let us agree together to give up ourselves to God, without any more delay. This shall be the day; we will stay no longer. The flesh, and the world, and the devil, have had too much already. It is a wonder of patience that he hath borne with us so long. We will abuse the patience of God no longer, but begin to be absolutely his this day.' If this may be the effect of these exhortations, you shall have the everlasting blessing: but if still you delay, I hope I am free from the guilt of your blood.
Direct. XII. The last Direction that I shall give you, for preventing your miscarriage in the work of conversion, is this, Stop not in weak and wavering purposes and faint attempts; but see that you be groundedly, unreservedly, and habitually (or firmly) resolved.'
There are many good thoughts and meanings in the soul before resolution; but you are not truly converted till you are resolved, and thus resolved as is here expressed. Here I shall shew you, I. What this resolution is. II. Why it is so necessary. III. I shall urge you to resolve. And iv. I shall direct you in it.
1. Resolution is the firm or prevalent determination of the will upon deliberation.
In opening this definition, I shall first shew you how we are led up to resolution by deliberation; and 2. What is this deliberation of the will.
1. There are several steps, by which the will doth rise up to resolution, which I shall set before you. And first it is presupposed, that in the state of corrupted nature, the soul is unresolved for God, if not (in many that are exceeding wicked) resolved against him. At first the sinner doth ei
ther resolve to be as he is, or else he hath no resolution to return. But God breaks many a wicked resolution, or else woe to the ungodly; for there were no hope. Many wicked wretches have not only neglected their souls, but also resolved that they would never lead a holy life, nor ever join themselves to the communion of saints, nor ever leave their drunken company, or be so precise, and make so great a matter of sin as the godly do. When we urge them with the plainest words of God, and the most unquestionable reasons, so that they have not a word of sense to speak against it; when we have told them of the command of God, and told them of the certain danger of their souls, they will plainly tell us that they are resolved never to be so precise. When they have nothing else to say, but nonsense, they will put us off with this, That they are resolved to venture their souls without so much ado. But as resolute as they are, God will break and change their resolution, and make them as much resolved of the clean contrary, if ever he will save them. For woe to them that ever they were born, if he should take them at their word, and resolve as they resolve! Now in this case there are many degrees that men go through, before they come to be resolved for God.
1. The first thing that usually befalleth such a soul, is, some further light, which shews him that which before he understood not. 2. This light causeth him to begin to doubt whether all be so well with him as he thought it had been; and whether he were so wise in his former resolutions as he thought himself. 3. When light hath bred these doubtings in his mind, these doubtings breed some fears with him, and he begins to be a little awakened, lest evil be nearer him than he was aware of, and lest the threatenings of God and his ministers should prove true. 4. These fears do drive him to consider of the matter, and to deliberate what he is best to do to consider whether these things be so or not, and what course he must take if they should prove true. 5. Though sometimes God may bless the very first considerations to be the present means of true conversion, yet that is no usual thing; but ordinarily the first considerations do help the mind to some slight convictions, so that the man begins to see a great deal more than he did before; and so much as puts him now past doubt that he was before mistaken, and out of his way. 6. Finding himself in this case
his fears increase, and his grief comes on for his former folly and he finds himself in a miserable case, and at a loss for a remedy. 7. By thus much he is quickened to a purpose or resolution, to hearken to those that can instruct him, and inquire of them that he thinks are in the right, and to use such means as he is acquainted with, to find out what he must do to be saved. And accordingly he goes among good company, and begins to hear more diligently and sensibly, and to mark and regard what he hears and reads, and also to cry to God in prayer for mercy and relief. But all this is but from the natural fear of misery, awakened in him by common preparing grace. 8. In the use of these means of grace, he begins better to understand and relish the doctrine of redemption by Jesus Christ, and the nature and necessity of true sanctification by the Holy Ghost. And though sometimes these evangelical illuminations may be special saving works at the first, yet it is more usual, especially with us that are bred up under the Gospel, to have a more superficial, common illumination, before the saving light come in. And by this common light, men have at first but a general glimmering and confused knowledge of a Saviour, and of redemption, and of mercy to be had by him. And sometimes they have a distinct knowledge of some parts only of the Christian faith, and sometimes a distinct knowledge and belief of every article; but only superficial, and not savingly effectual. 9. By this general or superficial knowledge of Christ and mercy, a kind of hope ariseth in the heart, that yet there is a possibility of escape, and a kind of comfort answerable to this hope. 10. These hopes are accompanied with some desires to understand yet more of the mystery of the Gospel; and to be made partakers of the saving mercy of which he hath a confused light. 11. And herethere is further kindled in the will a purpose or resolution, to go further on in learning, and inquiring into the will of God, and using his means. And 12. This purpose is performed, and means are further used. And thus far the soul is but in preparation, and under the common works of grace, and possibly may fall off and perish. The first degree may be so stifled, that it shall not reach unto the second; or the second so stifled, that it shall not reach unto the third: but the most common stop is at the third degree; when men are a little frightened, they will not follow it on to considera
tion and they that follow consideration diligently, do usually speed well, and get through all the rest.
But when the soul is brought thus far, if God will save it, he next proceeds to this much more: (1.) He giveth a clearer light into the soul, which giveth a more distinct, or at least a more piercing, convincing, deep and savoury apprehension of the essentials of Christianity, than he ever had before.
Where note, of this special heavenly light, 1. That being usually the consequent of a more common knowledge, therefore most ordinarily the sum of Christian doctrine is in some manner known before. 2. That it doth not reveal only some one point of faith alone, and then another, and so on; as if we savingly knew one essential point of faith, when we have no saving knowledge of the rest; for that is a contradiction. But finding all these truths received in the mind before by a common knowledge, the special light comes in upon them all at once; and shews us the anatomy of Christianity, or the part of God's image in one frame, as to the essentials. 3. For the understanding of which you must further know, that there is such an inseparable connection of these truths, and such a dependance of one upon another, that it is not possible to know one of them truly, and not know all. For example, believing in Jesus Christ, is an act so inseparable from the rest, that (if the essentials of Christianity be not essential to it) certainly you cannot do this without them. For to believe in Christ, is essentially to believe in him as God and man, two natures in one person, by office, the Mediator, our Redeemer and Saviour, to save us from guilt and sin, from punishment and pollution, and to give us by the Holy Ghost, a holy nature and life, and to give us the forgiveness of sin and everlasting life, and so to restore us to the mutual love of God here, and fruition of him hereafter; and all this as merited and procured by his death, obedience, resurrection, ascension, and intercession for his church. Whether here be all that is essential to Christianity, and absolutely necessary to salvation to be believed, I leave to consideration; but sure I am, that all this is essential to saving, justifying faith. And Christ is not taken as Christ, if he be not thus taken; for the ends thus enter the definition of his relation as the Redeemer, and Saviour, and Lord.
So that the love of God as our felicity and end, and the belief in Christ as the way, are both together in the same mi
nute of time, which soever of them be first in order of nature; (which is a question that I dare not here so unseasonably handle).
(2.) Upon this special illumination of the soul, and the special consideration with which it doth concur, the deliberating soul is presently resolved. And in these two acts which always go together, consisteth the special sanctifying work even in the illumination and estimation of the understanding, and in the true resolution of the will.
2. The determination of the will is its own free act, performed by its natural self-determining power, procured by the special grace of God, (I mean in this special case) it followeth deliberation. While we are unresolved, we deliberate what to resolve upon; that is, we are considering which is best and most eligible, and which not; and as we practically judge, we use to determine and to choose. And when this choice after deliberation is peremptory and full, it is called resolution.
So that my meaning is to let you understand, that when the matter of our faith is set open to the soul, it is not a wavering, fickle purpose, that is a saving closure with it, but it must be a firm resolution. Much less will it ever bring a man to heaven, to be thinking and deliberating what to do, as long as he is unresolved. And now I shall prove the necessity of this.
11. Till you are resolved, you are not converted, and that appeareth by these evidences: 1. If you are not firmly resolved, it is certain that you do not firmly believe; for such as your belief is, such will be the effects of it upon the will. An unsound opinionative belief, will produce but tottering, languishing purposes; but a firm belief will cause a firm resolution of the will. And if your belief be unsound, you must confess you are unconverted.
2. Moreover, if you do not esteem God above all creatures, and heaven above earth, and Christ and grace above sin, you are certainly unconverted. But if you have such a true estimation, you will certainly have a firm resolution; for you will resolve for that which you highly esteem.
3. If God have not your firm resolution, he hath not indeed your heart and will; for to give God your hearts and wills, is principally by firm resolving for him; and if God have not your hearts, you are surely unconverted.