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to be most like to natural, necessary acts, as those are of blessed spirits in heaven: when the least intimation from God prevaileth, and the will doth answer him with readiness and delight. And when it taketh pleasure to trample upon all opposition, and when all that can be offered to corrupt the heart, and draw it to sin, and loosen it from God, prevaileth but as so much filth and dung would do; Phil. iii. 7-9. This is a confirmed state of will.
3. When the affections do proceed from such a will, and are ready to assist, excite, and serve it, and to carry us on in necessary duties: when the lower affections of fear and sorrow do cleanse, and restrain, and prepare the way, and the higher affections of love and delight adhere to God, and desire and hope do make out after him, and set the soul on just endeavours; when fear and grief have less to do, and are delivering up the heart still more and more to the possession of holy delight and love: and when those affections which are rather profound than very sensible immediately towards God himself, are sensible towards his word, his servants, his graces, and his ways, and against all sin; then are the affections, and so the man in a confirmed state.
4. When ourselves, our time, and all that we have, are taken to be God's and not our own, and are entirely and unreservedly resigned to him, and used for him when we study our duty, and trust him for our reward: when we live as those that have much more to do for heaven than for earth, and with God than with man or any creature: when our consciences are absolutely subjected to the authority and laws of God, and bow not to competitors: when we are habitually disposed as his servants to be constantly employed in his works, and make it our calling and business in the world; as judging that we have nothing to do on earth, but with God, or for God: when we keep not up any secret desires and hopes of a worldly felicity, nor purvey for the pleasure of the flesh under the cloak of faith and piety, but subdue the flesh as our most dangerous enemy, and can easily deny its appetite and concupiscence: when we guard all our senses, and keep our passions, thoughts and tongues, in obedience to the holy law when we do not inordinately set up ourselves in our esteem or desire, above or against our neighbour and his welfare; but love him as ourselves, and seek his good, and resist his hurt as heartily as our own;
and love the godly with a love of complacence, and the ungodly with a love of benevolence, though they be our enemies when we are faithful in all our relations, and have judgment to discern our duty, that we run not into extremes; and skill, and readiness, and pleasure in performing it, and patience under all our sufferings; this is the life of a confirmed Christian, (in various degrees, as their strength is various).
II. And now I shall proceed to persuade such to value and seek this confirmation, lest with dull, unprepared minds my following Directions should be lost; and then I shall give you the Directions themselves, which are the part that is principally intended. And first for the Motives.
1. Consider that your first entrance into Christianity is an engagement to proceed; your receiving Christ obligeth you to walk and grow up in him. A fourfold obligation your very Christianity layeth upon you, to grow stronger, and to persevere. (1.) The first is from the very nature of it; even from the office of Christ, and the use and ends to which we do receive him. You receive Christ as a Physician of your diseased souls; and doth not this engage you to go on to use his medicines till you are cured? What do men choose a physician for, but to heal them? It were but a foolish patient that would say, 'Though my disease be deadly, yet now I have chosen the best physician, I have no more to do; I doubt not of recovery.' You took Christ for a Saviour, which engageth you to use his saving means, and submit to his saving works. You took him for your Teacher and Master, and gave up yourselves to be his disciples, and what sense was in all this, if you did not mean to proceed in learning of him? It is a silly conceit for any man to think that he is a good scholar, merely because he hath chosen a good master or tutor, without any further learning of him. When Christ sent out his apostles, it was for these two works; first, to disciple nations, and baptize them; and then to go on in teaching them to observe all things whatsoever he commandeth them; Matt. xxviii. 19, 20. Christ is the way to the Father; but to what purpose did you come into this way, if you meant not to travel on in it?
(2.) Moreover, when you became Christians, you entered a solemn covenant with Christ; and bound yourselves by a vow, to be faithful to him to the death: and this vow is
you. It is better not to vow, than to vow and not perform;" Eccles. v.5. In taking him to be the Captain of your salvation, and listing yourselves under him, and taking this oath of fidelity to him, you did engage yourselves to fight as faithful soldiers, under his conduct and command to your lives' end. And as it is a foolish soldier that thinks that he hath no more to do but list himself and take colours, and need not fight; so it is a foolish and ungodly covenanter that thinks he hath nothing to do but to promise, and may be excused from performance, because that promising was enough, when the promise was purposely to bind him to perform.
(3.) Moreover, when you became Christians, you put yourselves under the laws of Christ; and these laws require you to go further till you are confirmed; so that you must go on, or renounce your obedience to Christ.
(4.) Lastly, when you became Christians, you received such exceeding mercies, as do oblige you to go much higher in your affections, and much further in your obedience to God. A man that is newly snatched as from the jaws of hell, and hath received the free forgiveness of his sins, and is put into such a state of blessedness as we are, must needs feel abundance of obligations upon him, to proceed to stronger resolutions and affections, and not to stop in those low beginnings. So that if you lay these four things together, you will perceive that the very purpose of your receiving Christ was that you might walk in him, and be confirmed and built up.
2. Consider also, that conversion is not sound if you are not heartily desirous to increase. Grace is not true, if there be not a desire after more; yea, if you desire not perfection itself. An infant is not born to continue an infant, for that were to be a monster; but to grow up unto manhood. As the kingdom of Christ in the world is likened by him to a little leaven, and to a grain of mustard-seed, in the beginning, which afterward makes a wonderful increase; so his kingdom in the soul is of the same nature too. If you are contented with that measure of holiness that you have, you have none at all, but a shadow and conceit of it. Let those men think of this that stint themselves in holiness, and plead for a moderation in it, as if it were intemperance or fury to love God or fear him, or seek him or obey him, any more than
they do; or as if we were in danger of excess in these. If ever these men had feelingly, and by experience known what holiness is, they would never have been possessed with such conceits as these.
3. Consider what abundance of labour hath been lost, and what hopes have been frustrated, for want of proceeding to a rooted confirmation. I say not that such were truly sanctified; but I say, they were in a very hopeful way, and went far, and by going farther might have attained to salvation. The heart of many a minister hath been glad to see their hearers humbled, and bewailing sin, and changing their minds and lives, and becoming forward professors of godliness; when a few years' time hath turned all this joy into sorrow; and one of our hopeful, seeming converts doth grow cold, and lose his former forwardness; another falls to desperate sensuality, and turns drunkard, or fornicator, or gamester; another turns worldling, and drowneth all his seeming zeal in the love of riches, and the cares of this life; and another, (if not many to one,) is deluded by some deceiver, and infected with some deadly errors, and casts off duty, and sets himself, like a hired instrument of hell, to divide the church, oppose the Gospel, and reproach, and slander, and rail at the ministers and professors of it, and to weaken the hands of the builders, and strengthen the ungodly, and serve the secret enemies of the truth. Those that once comforted our hearts in the hopes of their conversion, do break our hearts by their apostacy and subversion, and become greater hindrances to the work of Christ, and greater plagues to the church of God, than those that never professed to be religious. Those that were wont to join with us in holy worship, and went up with us to the house of God as our companions, do afterwards despise both worshippers and worship. Whereas if these men had been rooted and confirmed, you should never have seen them fall into this misery. O how many prayers, and confessions, and duties do these men lose! How many years have some of them seemed to be religious, and after all have proved apostate miscreants; and the world, and the flesh, and pride, and error swallow up all. See then what need you have to be rooted, confirmed, and built up in Christ.
4. Consider also, how much of the work of your salvation is yet to do, when you are converted. You have hap
pily begun, but you have not finished. You have hit of the right way, but you have your journey yet to go. You have chosen the best commander, and fellow-soldiers, but you have many a battle yet to fight. If you are Christians indeed, you know yourselves that you have many a corruption to resist and conquer, and many a temptation yet to overcome, and many a necessary work to do. And there is a necessity of these afterworks as well as of the first. For these are the use and end of your conversion, that you may "live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts;" Tit. ii. 11, 12. "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them;" Eph. ii. 10. And how can infants go through all these works? Which of you would desire an infant or cripple to be your servant? But though God be in this more merciful than man, yet he may well expect that you should not be still infants. What work are you like to make him, in this decrepid and weak condition? O pitiful blindness! that any man that knows that he hath a soul to save, should think an infant's strength proportionable to those works and difficulties that stand between him and everlasting life! In the matters of this life, you feel the need and worth of strength; you will not think an infant fit to plough or sow, or reap or mow, or travel or play the soldier, and yet will you rest satisfied with an infant-strength, to do those great and matchless works, which your salvation lieth on?
5. Moreover, the weak, unconfirmed souls are usually full of trouble, and live without that assurance of God's love, and that spiritual peace and comfort, which others do possess. One would think no other argument should be necessary to make men weary of their spiritual weaknesses and diseases, than the pain and trouble that always attendeth them. It is more pain to a sick man to travel a mile, than to a sound man to go ten. To the lame or feeble, every step hath pain, and all that they do is grievous to them; when far more would be a recreation to one that is in health. O therefore delight not in your own languishings! Choose not to live in pain and sorrow! But strive after confirmation and growth in grace, that overgrowing your infirmities you may overcome your sad complaints and groans, and may be acquainted with the comfortable life of the confirmed. O