« ForrigeFortsæt »
means, which are fitted to their ends, and are mighty to bring down all oppositions: and [2.] In the commands and institution of God; whose wisdom and goodness may easily resolve us, that he will not appoint us means in vain, nor set his creatures on fruitless labour: and [3.] Also from the issue; for no man can stand forth and say, Such an one did his best in the use of means, and yet could not attain the end, but fell short of the grace and glory of God.
The diseases of men's souls are wilfulness and blindness; the means of cure are the persuasions, with the revelations of the Gospel. Men have the natural powers of understanding and willing: but they want that right disposition which we call the habit, or moral power, which is no more than to say, They are habitually blind and wilful. It is so far from being unreasonable to teach and persuade men that are under such an impotency as this, that there is nothing in the world that doth more bespeak our teaching and pérsuasions; for this is the natural and instituted way to cure them, and give them power. What means of overcoming ignorance like teaching? And what means of overcoming habituated wilfulness, like persuasion, added to informing truths? We do not use to reason men out of a natural impotency, nor to persuade them to do that for which they have no faculties or object; but it is the very means of overcoming a moral impotency, and making men willing of the good which they rejected. And with this means doth God set in, and infallibly cause it to be effectual with his chosen. Thus no man cometh to the Son, except the Father draw him; and then for the two following degrees of holiness in our sanctification, and glorious perfection, God hath promised them to those that have this first degree. For the Spirit of holiness is promised to all that truly repent and believe, and salvation to all that are sanctified, and persevere. So that the right to these inheritance mercies, being a relation, is conveyed as other rights and relations, of which we are next to speak.
(2.) As the Spirit by the operation of the word upon the heart conveyeth the foresaid inherent benefits or qualities and acts, so the promise of grace, indited by Christ and the Spirit, doth as a deed of gift, or testament, or act of oblivion, bestow on us our rights and spiritual relations; and from
these they do result, as the immediate instrumental cause. Thus doth he give" power or right to as many as receive him, to become the sons of God;" John i. 12. Thus doth he give us pardon, justification, adoption, and our right to further grace and glory. And these promises are conditional; and our repenting and believing in Christ, is the condition. And therefore till conversion do bring us to repent and believe, we have no right to any of these benefits of the promise. And therefore though our repentance and faith be none of the proper cause of our justification, or right: yet the main work, in order to the procurement of these benefits, that is now to be done, is to persuade the sinner to repent and believe; to turn that he may live; for God's act of grace is past already, and the conditional pardon is granted long ago, and will effectually pardon us as soon as we perform the condition, and not before. Till then, we hinder the efficacy of the deed of gift; for unbelief and impenitency are true causes of men's condemnation, though faith and repentance be no proper causes of their salvation.
These promises being conditional, we cannot be assured of our part in the benefits, but by being assured that we perform the condition. By this you may see the nature of presumption; when men say, they believe that which never was promised; or believe that they have right to the blessings that are promised to others, and thus they believe that they shall have the benefits promised, when they perform not the conditions; all this is presuming, and not true believing. If men believe that God is reconciled to them, and will pardon them, and justify them, and save them, when they are unconverted, impenitent, unregenerate men; this is not indeed a believing of God, that hath never made them any such promise, nor ever told them any such matter, but the contrary; but it is a believing the false delusions of the devil and their own hearts. He that will claim any title to Christ, and pardon, and salvation, must have something to shew for it; yea, and something more than the most of the world have to shew; for the most shall be shut out. Every man, therefore that regardeth his salvation, must seriously ask his soul this question, What have I to shew for my title to salvation, more than the most of the world can shew? It is not saying, I hope to be saved, that will serve the turn, except I can give a reason of my hope. Thousands that lay
claim to salvation shall miss of it, because they have no title to it.' And that which you must have to shew, is this, A promise, or deed of gift on God's part, and the fulfilling of the condition on your part. God saith to all men, "Whosoever repenteth, believeth, or is converted, shall be saved." When you have found that you repent of all your sins, and truly believe, and are converted to God, then, and not till then, you may conclude that you shall be saved.
6. The sixth point to be understood and believed, concerning these benefits of Christ, is the infallible certainty of them. While men look on the promised glory to come, as on an uncertain thing, they will hardly be drawn to venture, and let go the profits and pleasures of the world to attain it; much less to part with life itself. The life of all our Christian motion, is the unfeigned belief of the truth of God's word, and specially of the unseen things of the world to
Such as men's belief of heaven and hell is, such will be the bent of their hearts, and the course of their lives, and such and such they will be in yielding to sin, or in resisting it, and in all the service they do for God. As all men would take another course, if they did but see heaven and hell with their eyes; so all men would presently throw away their worldly, fleshly pleasures, and turn to God and a holy life, if they did but as thoroughly believe the joys and torments to come, as if they saw them. Flesh and blood can hardly judge of things, without the help of sense; and fleshly men take all things to be phantasms or nothings, that are not within the judgment of their senses. They must see it, or feel it, or taste it, or hear it; and believing is a way that hardly satisfies them; though it be God himself that they are to believe. Believing is trusting the credit of another; and we are naturally loath to trust to any but our eyes or other senses. We are so false ourselves, that we are ready to measure God by ourselves; and to think that he is a deceiver, because that we are such. And hence it is that the world is so ungodly that they venture on sin, and will not be at the cost and labour of a heavenly life; because they take the matters of the life to come, to be but uncertainties, and have not so true a belief of them, as might possess them with a deep apprehension of their reality. How should the word profit them, that mix it not with faith, (Heb. iv. 2.) unless by begetting faith itself? O what a change would a
sound belief of the Scriptures make in the world! But having spoken so oft of this in other writings, I shall say no more of it now. So much of the knowledge of Christ.
II. I have shewed you the first part of this Direction, How Christ must be received understandingly, I now come to the second, which is, That he must be received heartily. As God must be beloved, so Christ must be believed in, with all the heart, and soul, and strength. If not with all in a perfect degree, (for that will not be till we come to heaven) yet with all in a prevalent degree. There are many convictions, and good meanings, and wishes, and purposes, which may proceed from common grace, and be found in those that never shall be saved: these may be called (analogically) faith, and love, and desire, as those that are found in the truly regenerate; and yet the persons in whom they are found, may not fitly be called believers or lovers of God; because a man is to be denominated from that in him which is predominant, and hath the chief power on his heart. The soul of man is not so simple as to move but one way its state in this life is to stand between two differing competitors, God and the world, spirit and flesh; and there is no man that is totally given up to either of them. No man is so good and spiritual, that hath not something in him that is bad and carnal; and no man is so fully addicted to God, but the creature hath too much interest in his heart. Nor is there any man so given up to the creature, in whom God hath no manner of interest at all, in his estimation and affections; if he indeed believe that there is a God. At least it is not so with all that are unconverted. Otherwise, 1. What is it that common grace doth, if it no whit dispose them towards God? Certainly it would not else be grace. 2. And if this were not so, then we must say, that no unregenerate man hath any good in him, that is truly moral; for if there be no interest of God in his mind or will, there can be no good in him. But this is contrary to Scripture and experience. It was undoubtedly some moral good, which Christ loved the man for, in Mark x. 21. who was not far from the kingdom of God. 3. Otherwise all men must be equally departed from God, which is contrary to experience. 4. Yea, all men must be as bad on earth (privately) as in hell; which certainly is false. I may well say, that on earth there is some good in the worst; much more in those
that are almost persuaded to be converted Christians. Many a thought of the goodness of God, and the necessity of a Saviour, and of the love of Christ, and of the joys of heaven, may be stirring and working in the minds of the unsanctified; but if they take not up the heart for Christ, the person is not a true believer. As the Gospel must be believed to be true, so Christ that is offered us in the Gospel as good, must be heartily and thankfully accepted accordingly: and the glory, the justification, reconciliation with God, and other benefits procured by him, and offered with him, must be valued and desired above all earthly, fleshly things. If you are convinced that sin is evil, as contrary to God, and hurtful to you, and hereupon have some mind to let it go, and some wishes that Christ would save you from it, and yet still have a love to it that is greater than your dislike; and the bent of your hearts is more for it, than against it, and your habitual desires are rather to keep than to leave it: this is not sanctification, nor a saving consent to be saved by Christ. If you have some convictions that holiness is good, as being the image of God, and pleasing to him, and necessary to your salvation, and so should have some mind of holiness on these grounds; yet if you have on the other side a greater averseness to it, because it would deprive you of the pleasures of your sin, and the habitual inclination of your will is more against it than for it; certainly this will not stand with true sanctification, of faith in Christ, to save you from the power of sin by his Spirit. Thousands deceive themselves, by misunderstanding some common passages, that are spoken to comfort afflicted consciences: viz. That the least true desires after grace, do prove the soul to be gracious. This is true, if you speak of the least desires, which are predominant in the soul; when our desire is more habitually than our unwillingness, and we thus prefer Christ before all the world, the least of this is an evidence of saving grace. But such desires as are subdued by the contrary desires; and such a will as is accompanied with a greater unwillingness, habitually; and such a faith, as is drowned in greater unbelief; these are not evidences of a saving change; nor can you justly gather any special comfort from them. He that hath more unbelief than belief, is not to be called a believer, but an unbeliever; and he that hath more hatred or dislike of God and holiness than love to them, is not to be cal