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4. Moreover, if you are not firmly resolve il, your affections will not be sincere and steadfast; for all the affections are such as to their sincerity, as the will is, which doth excite or command them. And nothing is more mutable than the affections in themselves considered; they will be hot to-day, and cold to-morrow, if they be not rooted in the firm resolution of the will, which is the life of them.
5. Lastly, without a firm resolution, there can be no faithful obedience and execution of the will of God. For if men be not resolved, they will heavily go on, and lazily proceed, and easily come off; for their hands go to work without their hearts. It is the greatest work in all the world, that God calls you to; and none but the resolved are able to go through with it. Of which we shall give you a fuller account anon.
III. In the next place, let me entreat you in the fear of God, to look after this great and necessary part of your conversion. There are many degrees of good motions in the mind; but all that falls short of resolution is unsound. Many are brought to doubt whether all be well with them, and to have some fears thereupon, that yet will not be brought so far as to consider soberly of the matter, and deliberate what is best to be done, and to advise with their ministers for the furthering of their salvation. Many that are persuaded so far as to consider, and deliberate, and take advice, yet go no further than some cold wishes or purposes, which are all overcome by the love of the world, and the power of their sins. Many that do proceed to some kind of practice, do only take a taste or an essay of religion, to try how they can like it; and begin some kind of outward reformation, without any firm resolution to go through with it: or, if their purposes seem strong, it is but occasioned by something without, and not from a settled habit within. All these are short of a state of special saving grace, and must be numbered with the unconverted.
It is a common and very dangerous mistake, that many are undone by, to think that every good desire is a certain sign of saving grace; whereas you may have more than bare desires, even purposes, and promises, and some performances, and yet perish for want of resolution and regeneration. Do you think that Judas himself had not some good desires, that followed Christ so long, and preached the Gos
pel? Do you think that Herod had not some good desires, that heard John so gladly, and did many things accordingly? Agrippa had some good desires, when he was almost persuaded to be a Christian. They that for a time believe, have sure some good desires, and more; Matt. xiii. 20. And so had the young man, that went away sorrowful from Christ, when he could not be his disciple, unless he would part with all that he had; Luke xviii. 23. Matt. xix. 22. And doubtless those had more than good desires, "that had known the way of righteousness, and had escaped the pollutions of the world, through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ;" 2 Pet. ii. 20, 21. And so had those, Heb. x. 26.29. "that had received the knowledge of the truth, and were sanctified by the blood of the covenant;" and those, Heb. vi. 4-6. "that were once enlightened, and tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come." And sure Ananias and Sapphira had more than some good desires, when they sold all, and brought half the price to the apostles.
Believe it, sirs, there are none of your desires or endeavours that will serve turn, to prove you in a state of grace, unless they be accompanied with firm resolution. Be it known to you, that you are unconverted, if you are not habitually resolved. And therefore I must here entreat you all, to put the question close to your hearts, 'Are you resolved, firmly resolved, to give up yourselves and all to Christ, and to be wholly his, and follow his conduct, or are you not?' The question is not, 'What good meanings, or wishes, or purposes you may have;' but, Whether you are resolved, and firmly resolved?' Take heed, sirs, what you venture your souls upon : God will not be dallied with, nor be deceived. He will have no unresolved, false-hearted servants.
Before I proceed to urge you further, I shall here tell you what kind of resolution it must be, that will prove a man converted; and then I shall give you such motives as should persuade you to it.
It is not all kinds of resolution that will serve turn; but it is only that which hath these following properties, that will evidence a state of grace.
1. As to the matter, it must be the whole essence of
Christianity, that must be resolved on. It must be no less than a closing with God as your chiefest happiness, to be loved above all, and as your chiefest Lord to be obeyed before all; and a closing with Jesus Christ as your only Saviour, your Teacher, and your Lord; to bring your hearts again to God, and reconcile you to him; and a closing with the Holy Ghost as your Sanctifier, to make you a holy people, and cleanse you from all your sin of heart and life, and guide you by the ministry, word and ordinances, to everlasting life. Thus must you resolve to deliver up yourselves to God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, to be made a peculiar people, zealous of good works. Should you be never so resolute in some point of religion, and as Ananias to give God half, and to become half religious, and half holy, and half heavenly, this is to be but half Christians, and will not bring you half way to heaven. It is entire Christianity that must be resolved on.
2. You must also be resolved for present obedience, and to turn without any more delay; and not only resolve to turn to-morrow, or sometime hereafter. No resolution is sincere in this case, if it be but for the future; if you had rather stay but one day or hour longer in the state of sin, and service of the flesh, you are no true disciples of Christ, though you should be resolved to turn to-morrow.
3. And your resolution must be absolute and peremptory, not only without any secret reserves, but positively against any such reserves. Here it is that hypocrites commonly fall short. They see they must mend, and they are convinced that a holy life is necessary, and they resolve hereupon to change their course, and turn religious, but either it is with this secret reserve,' Provided always that I look to my credit, or estate, or life, whatever I do; and provided that I go no further in religion than will stand with these; provided that godliness be not my undoing in the world.' Or else, if he have not actually such thoughts, he hath them always virtually and habitually: he is not resolved against such reserves; he hath not considered that Christ will have no disciples that cannot and will not part with all; and that if he hope for heaven, he must not look for a treasure on earth, but only pass through the world as a traveller, or labour in it as the harvest of the Lord, in expectation of a reward and rest hereafter; and so resolved to take Christ on these self
denying terms. But he that will be saved, must be thus resolved; even to sell all, to buy the invaluable pearl; Matt. xiii. 46, 47. To make sure of heaven, though he lose all on earth by it; to lay up his hopes in the life to come, and venture and let go all rather than those hopes; to take Christ absolutely upon his own terms, for better and worse, as being certain that there is no other way to life, and that there is no danger of losing by him. The hypocrite is like a man that when he delivereth up possession of his house, will make his bargain that he will keep this room or that room to himself, for his own use. Or like a servant that will not be hired, but on condition that his master shall not set him to such and such work that he loves not; but Christ will have no such servants; you must deliver up all to him, or he will accept of none; you must give him leave to make his conditions for you, and tell yon on what terms you must serve him, and wholly refer the matter to him, even for life itself, and not offer to put conditions upon him, and think to bring him to any terms of yours. It is not true resolution unless it be absolute and unreserved, and against all reserves; yea, and that also as to perseverance; that you resolve to give up yourselves finally as well as totally, not only without any reserve of a revocation, but against any such revocation: it must not be a coming to Christ upon essay; or mere trial that if he like it he will stand to it, but he must make an unchangeable, everlasting covenant; it must be part of your covenant, that you will never revoke it.
4. Moreover, your resolution must be well grounded; you must know what the essentials are of that religion which you resolve on, and you must be moved to it by right and weighty considerations; and go upon reasons that will hold up your resolution. For should you resolve on the most necessary work (as this is) upon mistakes, or wrong, or insufficient, as the will of man, the custom of the country, the reputation of Christianity, or only such like; there is no likelihood that your resolution should endure, and it is not sincere while it doth endure.
5. Your resolution must be accompanied with a sense of your own insufficiency, to stand to it immutably, and execute it faithfully by your own strength; as knowing the corruption and deceitfulness of your own hearts. And it must be strengthened and supported by a confidence or de
pendence on the sufficiency of Christ, on whose grace and Spirit you must rely, both for the continuing, and the performing of your resolutions; as knowing, that without him you can do nothing, but that you can do all things (necessary) through Christ strengthening you.
6. Lastly, your resolution is not savingly sincere, unless it be habitually. It is a very hard question, how far some moving exhortation, or the approach of death in sickness, may prevail with the unsanctified for an actual resolution; undoubtedly very far. But that is a man's mind and will which is habitually his mind and will. When the very inclination and bent of your will is right, then only is your heart right. A bowl may, by a rub, or bank, be turned contrary to the bias; but when it is over the rub, it will follow the bias again. So the soul is, when hindered from ascending a little while, but when it is got over the stop, it will be mounting upward. A stone will move upwards against its nature, while it is followed by the strength of the hand that cast it; but when the strength is spent, it will quickly fall again. It is not an extraordinary act, that you can try yourselves by, but such a free course and tenor of your lives, as will prove that you have a new nature, or a heart inclined and habituated to God. The main business, therefore, is, to prove that you are habitually resolved. Set all these together now, and you may see what resolution it is that must prove you to be converted. 1. It must be a resolution for all the essence of Christianity, and not only some part. 2. It must be a resolution for present obedience, and not only for some distant time to come. 3. It must be an absolute, peremptory resolution, without and against reserves for the flesh, both total and final, without and against any revocation. 4. It must be soundly grounded, and moved by right principles. 5. It must be joined with a humble sense of your insufficiency, and a dependence on Christ, for continuing and performing it. And 6. It must be habitual, and such as sets right the bent and drift of heart and life. All this is of necessity.
Well, sirs, you see now what you must do; the next question then is, What you will do. A great many of motions God hath made to you, to let go your worldliness and wickedness, and become new creatures, and live to God; and never could you be got to resolve and obey them.