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ker is God;" ver. 10. "Moses feared not the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible;” ver. 27. So the three witnesses (Dan. iii.), and Daniel himself, (chap. vi.) and all believers have lived this life, as Abraham the father of the faithful did; who, as it is said of him,
Staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;" Rom. iv. 20. The faith of a Christian is truly divine; and he knoweth that God's truth is as certain as sight itself can be ; however sight be apter to move the passions. Therefore, if you can judge but what a rational man would be, if he saw heaven and hell, and all that God had appointed us to believe, then you may conjecture what a confirmed Christian is; though sense do cause more sensible apprehensions.
2. The weak Christian also, hath a faith that is divine, as caused by God, and resting on his word and truth. And he so far liveth by this faith, as that it commandeth and guideth the scope and drift of his heart and life. But he believeth with a great deal of staggering and unbelief; and therefore his hopes are interrupted by his troublesome doubts and fears; and the dimness and languor of his faith is seen in the faintness of his desires, and the many blemishes of his heart and life. And sight and sensual objects are so much the more powerful with him, by how much the light and life of faith is dark and weak.
3. The hypocrite, or best of the unregenerate, believeth but either with a human faith, which resteth but on the word of man, or else with a dead, opinionative faith, which is overpowered by infidelity, or is like the dreaming thoughts of man asleep, which stir him not to action. He liveth by sight, and not by faith: for he hath not a faith that will overpower sense and sensual objects; James ii. 14. Matt.
II. 1. A Christian indeed not only knoweth why he is a Christian, but seeth those reasons for his religion, which disgrace all that the most cunning atheist or infidel can say against it; and so far satisfy, confirm, and establish him, that emergent difficulties, temptations, and objections, do not at all stagger him, or raise any deliberate doubts in him of the truth of the word of God. He seeth first the natural evidence of those foundation-truths which nature itself maketh known; as that there is a God of infinite being, power,
wisdom, and goodness, the Creator, the Owner, the Ruler, and the Father, felicity and end of man; that we owe him all our love and service; that none of our fidelity shall be in vain, or unrewarded, and none shall be finally a loser by his duty; that man who is naturally governed by the hopes and fears of another life, is made and liveth for that other life, where his soul shall be sentenced by God his Judge, to happiness or misery, &c. And then he discerneth the attestation of God to those supernatural, superadded revelations of the Gospel, containing the doctrine of man's redemption. And he seeth how wonderfully these are built upon the former, and how excellently the Creator's and Redeemer's doctrine and laws agree; and how much countenance supernatural truths receive from the presupposed naturals; so that he doth not adhere to Christ and religion by the mere engagement of education, friends, or worldly advantages; nor by a blind resolution, which wanteth nothing but a strong temptation (from a deceiver or a worldly interest) to shake or overthrow it. But he is built upon the rock, which will stand in the assault of satan's storms, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it; Matt. xvi. 18. xiii. 23. vii. 25. John vi. 68, 69.
2. But a weak Christian hath but a dim and general kind of knowledge of the reasons of his religion; or, at least, but a weak apprehension of them, though he have the best, and most unanswerable reasons. And either he is confident in the dark upon grounds which he cannot make good, and which want but a strong assault to shake them; or else he is troubled and ready to stagger at every difficulty which occurreth. Every hard saying in the Scripture doth offend him; and every seeming contradiction shaketh him. And the depth of mysteries, which pass his understanding, do make him say as Nicodemus of regeneration, "How can these things be?" And if he meet with the objections of a cunning infidel, he is unable so to defend the truth, and clear his way through them, as to come off unwounded and unshaken, and to be the more confirmed in the truth of his belief, by discerning the vanity of all that is said against it; Heb. v. 12, 13. Matt. xv. 16. 1 Cor. xiv. 20. 1 Cor. xiv. 20. John xii. 16.
3. The seeming Christian either hath no solid reasons at all for his religion, or else if he have the best, he hath no
sound apprehension of them; but though he be never so learned and orthodox, and can preach and defend the faith, it is not so rooted in him as to endure the trial; but if a strong temptation from subtlety or carnal interest assault him, you shall see that he was built upon the sand, and that there was in him a secret root of bitterness, and an evil heart of unbelief, which causeth him to depart from the living God; Heb. iii. 12. Matt. xiii. 20-22. vii. 26, 27. Heb. xii. 15. John vi. 60. 64. 66. 1 Tim. vi. 10, 11.
III. 1. A Christian indeed, is not only confirmed in the essentials of Christianity, but he hath a clear, delightful sight of those useful truths, which are the integrals of Christianity, and are built upon the fundamentals, and are the branches of the master-points of faith. Though he see not all the lesser truths (which are branched out at last into innumerable particles), yet he seeth the main body of sacred verities, delivered by Christ for man's sanctification; and seeth them methodically in their proper places; and seeth how one supports another, and in how beautiful an order and contexture they are placed. And as he sticketh not in the bare principles, so he receiveth all these additions of knowledge, not notionally only, but practically, as the food on which his soul must live; Heb. v. 13, 14. vi. 1, 2, &c. Matt. xiii. 11. Eph. i. 18. iii. 18, 19. John xiii. 17.
2. A weak Christian (in knowledge) besides the principles or essentials of religion, doth know but a few disordered, scattered truths; which are also but half known, because while he hath some knowledge of those points, he is ignorant of many others, which are needful to the supporting, and clearing, and improving of them; and because he knoweth them not in their places, and order, and relation, and aspect upon other truths. And, therefore, if temptations be strong, and come with advantage, the weak Christian, in such points, is easily drawn into many errors; and thence into great confidence and conceitedness in those errors; and thence into sinful, dangerous courses in the prosecution and practice of those errors. Such are like “ children tossed up and down, and carried to and fro by every wind of doctrine, through the cunning sleight and subtlety of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;" Eph. iv. 14. 2 Cor. xi. 3. Col. ii. 4. 2 Tim. iii. 7.
3. The seeming Christian having no saving, practical
knowledge of the essentials of Christianity themselves, doth therefore, either neglect to know the rest, or knoweth them but notionally, as common sciences, and subjecteth them all to his worldly interest. And, therefore, is still of that side or party in religion, which, upon the account of safety, honour, or preferment, his flesh commandeth him to follow. Either he is still on the greater, rising side, and of the rulers of religion, be it what it will; or if he dissent, it is in pursuit of another game, which pride or fleshly ends have started; 2 Pet. ii. 14. Gal. iii. 3. John ix. 22. xii. 42, 43. Matt. xiii. 21, 22.
IV. 1. The Christian indeed, hath not only reason for his religion, but also hath an inward, continual principle, even the Spirit of Christ, which is as a new nature, inclining and enlivening him to a holy life; whereby he mindeth and savoureth the things of the Spirit. Not that his nature doth work blindly, as nature doth in the irrational creatures; but at least it much imitateth nature as it is found in rational creatures, where the inclination is necessary, but the opera tions free, and subject to reason. It is a spiritual appetite in the rational appetite, even the will, and a spiritual, visive disposition in the understanding. Not a faculty in a faculty; but the right disposition of the faculties to their highest objects, to which they are by corruption made unsuitable. So that it is neither a proper power in the natural sense, nor a mere act, but nearest to the nature of a seminal disposition or habit, It is the health and rectitude of the faculties of the soul. Even as nature hath made the understanding disposed to truth in general, and the will disposed or inclined to good in general, and to self-preservation and felicity in particular; so the Spirit of Christ doth dispose the understanding to spiritual truth, to know God and the matters of salvation, and doth incline the will to God and holiness, not blindly, as they are unknown, but to love and serve a known God. So that whether this be properly or only analogically called a nature, or rather should be called a habit, I determine not; but certainly it is a fixed disposition and inclination, which Scripture calleth the "Divine nature" (2 Pet. i. 4.), and "the seed of God abiding in us;" 1 John iii. 9. But most usually it is called the Spirit of God, or of Christ in us.. "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, the same is none of his ;". Rom. viii. 9. "By one
Spirit we are all baptized into one body;" 1 Cor. xii. 13. Therefore, we are said "to be in the Spirit, and walk after the Spirit, and by the Spirit to mortify the deeds of the body;" Rom. viii. 1.9. 13. And it is called, "the Spirit of the Son, and the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father;" or are inclined to God, as children to their father; and the "Spirit of grace and supplication;" Rom. viii. 15. 23. 26. Gal.iv.6. v. 17, 18. Eph. ii. 18.22. iv. 3, 4. Phil. i.27. ii. 1. Zech. xii. 10. From this Spirit, and the fruits of it, we are called new creatures, and quickened, and made alive to God; 2 Cor. v. 17. Eph. ii. 15. Rom. vi. 11. 13. It is a great controversy, whether this holy disposition and inclination was natural to Adam or not, and consequently, whether it be a restored nature in us, or not. It was so natural to him as health is natural to the body, but not so natural as to be a necessitating principle, nor so as to be inseparable and unlosable.
2. This same Spirit and holy inclination is in the weakest Christian also, but in a small degree, and remissly operating, so as that the fleshly inclination oft seemeth to be the stronger, when he judgeth by its passionate strugglings within him. Though, indeed, the Spirit of life doth not only strive, but conquer in the main, even in the weakest Christians; Rom. viii. 9. Gal. v. 17—21.
3. The seeming Christian hath only the ineffectual motions of the Spirit to a holy life, and effectual motions and inward dispositions to some common duties of religion. And from these, with the natural principles of self-love and common honesty, with the outward persuasions of company and advantages, his religion is maintained, without the regeneration of the Spirit; John iii. 6.
V. From hence it followeth, 1. That a Christian indeed doth not serve God for fear only, but for love; even for love both of himself, and of his holy work and service. Yea, the strong Christian's love to God and holiness, is not only greater than his love to creatures, but greater than his fear of wrath and punishment. The love of God constraineth him to duty; 2 Cor. v. 14. "Love is the fulfilling of the law" (Rom. xiii. 10.), therefore, the Gospel cannot be obeyed without it. He saith not, 'O that this were no duty, and O that this forbidden thing were lawful;' though his flesh say so, the Spirit, which is the predominant part, doth not.