The Christian’s Great Interest
(The Trial of a Saving Interest in Christ)
William Guthrie (1620-1665)
Copyright: Public Domain
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THE CHRISTIAN’S GREAT INTEREST (P 2 of 3)
Of the New Creature.
The second great mark of a gracious state, and true saving interest in Jesus Christ, is the new creature: “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.” This new creation, or renovation of man, is a very sensible change; although not in those who are effectually called from the womb, or in their younger years; because those have had this new creature from that time in them, so that this change in after periods of time is not so discernible as in those who have been regenerated and brought in to Christ after they were come to greater age, and so have more palpably been under the “power of darkness,” before they were “translated into the kingdom of Christ.” But in all who do warrantably pretend to Christ, this new creature must be; although some do not know experimentally the opposite character and condition so much as others do; because they have not been equally, in regard of practice, under the power of darkness. This new creature is called “the new man,” which doth hold out the extent of it. It is not simply a new tongue, or new hand, but “a new man.” There is a principle of new life and motion put into the man, which is the new heart; which new principle of life sendeth forth acts of life, or of “conformity to the image of him who created it;” so that the party is renewed in some measure every way.
This renovation of the man who is in Christ may be reduced to these two great heads:–
I. There is a renovation of the man’s person, soul and body, in some measure.
1. His understanding is renewed, so that he judgeth “Christ preached” in the gospel, to be “the wisdom and power of God,” a wise and strong device, beseeming God. He knoweth the things of God really and solidly, not to be yea and nay, and uncertain fancies; but all to be yea and amen, solid, certain, and substantial things, having a desirable accomplishment in Christ, and resolving much into him: “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned: but he that is spiritual, judgeth all things.” “As God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay. Nor the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, even by me, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, was not yea and nay, but in him was yea. For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him amen, unto the glory of God by us.” Natural men, educated under gospel-ordinances, although they have some intellectual knowledge of God, Christ, the promises, the motions of the Holy Spirit, &c. so that they may confer, preach, and dispute, about these things; yet they look on them as commonly-received maxims of Christianity, from which to recede, were a singularity and a disgrace; but not as real, solid, substantial truths, so as to adventure their souls and everlasting being on them. The understanding is renewed also, to understand somewhat of God in the creatures, as bearing marks of his glorious attributes; they see “the heavens declaring his glory and power;” and somewhat of God in providence, and the dispensations that fall out: “His wondrous works declare that his name is near.” The understanding also perceiveth the conditions and cases of the soul otherwise than it was wont to do; as we find the saints usually speaking in Scripture: “O my soul, thou hast said unto the Lord, Thou art my Lord;” “My soul said, Thy face will I seek;” “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” “Return unto thy rest, O my soul.”
2. The heart and affections are renewed. The heart is made “a new heart, a heart of flesh,” capable of impressions, having a copy of his law stamped on it, and the fear of God put into it, whereby the man’s duty becomes in a manner native and kindly to the man: “A new heart also will I give you, And a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” It was before a “heart of stone,” void of the fear of God. The affections are now renewed; the love is renewed in some good measure; it goeth out after God: “I will love the Lord” after his law: “O how love I thy law!” after those who have God’s image in them. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.” This love to God’s people is upon a pure account, as they are the children of God, and do keep his statutes; it is “with a pure heart fervently;” and therefore it goeth towards all those whom the man knows or apprehends to be such: “I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts,” in all cases and conditions, even where there is nothing to beautify or commend but the image of God. And this love is so fervent many times, that it putteth itself out in all relations, so that a man seeketh a godly wife, a godly master, a godly servant, a godly counsellor, if ye have to choose upon: “Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me: he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me.” And “it is not quenched by many waters.” Many imperfections and infirmities, differences in opinion, wrongs received, will not altogether quench love. Also it is communicative of good according to its measure, and as the case of the poor godly requires: “Thou art my Lord, my goodness extendeth not to thee, but to the saints;” “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.” The man’s hatred is also renewed, and is now directed against sin: “I hate vain thoughts;”–against God’s enemies, as such: “Do not I hate them that hate thee?” The joy or delight is renewed, for it runneth towards God: “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee:” towards his law and will: “His delight is in the law of the Lord;” and towards the godly and their fellowship: “To the saints, in whom is all my delight.” The sorrow is turned against sin which hath wronged Christ: “Looking to him whom they have pierced, they mourn.” “The sorrow is godly” against what encroacheth upon God’s honour: “They are sorrowful for the solemn assembly, and the reproach of that is their burden.” There is some renovation in all the affections, as in every other part of the soul pointing now towards God.
3. The very outward members of the man are renewed, as the Scripture speaks,–the tongue, the eye, the ear, the hand, the foot; so that “those members which once were improved as weapons of unrighteousness unto sin, are now improved as weapons of righteousness unto holiness.”
II. A man who is in Christ is renewed in some measure in all his ways: “Behold all things are become new.” The man becometh new,
1. In the way of his interest. He was set upon any good before, though but apparent, and at best but external: “Many say, Who will show us any good?” But now his interest and business is, how to “be found in Christ,” in that day; or how to be obedient to him, and “walk before him in the light of the living,” which he would choose among all the mercies that fill this earth: “The earth, O Lord, is full of thy mercy, teach me thy statutes.” The interest of Christ also becomes the man’s interest, as appears in the song of Hannah, and in the song of Mary. It is strange to see people newly converted, and having reached but the beginnings of knowledge, concern and interest themselves in the public matters of Christ’s kingdom, so desirous to have him riding prosperously, and subduing the people under him.
2. The man that is in Christ, is renewed in the way of his worship. He was wont to “serve God in the oldness of the letter,” in appearance, answering the letter of the command in external duty, which one in whom the old man hath absolute dominion can do; but now he worships God “in newness of spirit,” in a new way, wherein he is “helped by the Spirit of God,” beyond the reach of flesh and blood. He “serveth now the true and living God,” “in spirit and in truth.” Having spiritual apprehensions of God, and engaged in his very soul in that work, doing and saying truly and not feignedly when he worshippeth; still “desiring to approach unto him as a living God,” who heareth and seeth him, and can accept his service. I grant he fails of this many times; yet I may say, such worship he intends, and sometimes overtakes, and doth not much reckon that worship which is not so so performed unto God: and the iniquity of his holy things is not the least part of his burden and exercise. To such a worship natural men are strangers, whilst they babble out their vain-glorious boastings, like the Pharisee, “Lord, I thank thee that I am not as other men;” or “to an unknown God.”
3. The man that is in Christ is renewed in the way of his outward calling and employment in the world; he now resolves to be diligent in it, because God hath commanded so: “Not slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;”–and to eye God in it as the last end, “doing it to his glory;” and studies to keep some intercourse with God in the exercise of his outward employments, as Jacob doth in his latter will, “have waited for thy salvation, O Lord;” and as Nehemiah did, “Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven:” so that the man resolves to walk with God, and “set him always before him,” in which I deny not he often faileth.
4. He becomes new in the way of his relations; he becomes a more dutiful husband, father, brother, master, servant, neighbour, &c. “Herein doth he exercise himself, to keep a conscience void of offence towards men as well as towards God,” “becoming all things to all men.”
5. He becomes new in the way of lawful liberties; he studies to make use of meat, drink, sleep, recreations, apparel, with an eye to God, labouring not to come under the power of any lawful thing: “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient; all things are lawful for me, but 1 will not be brought under the power of any:” nor to give offence to others in the use of these things. “For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.” “Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification; not using liberty as an occasion to the flesh.” Yea, he labours to use all these things as a stranger on earth, so that his moderation may appear: “Let your moderation be known unto all men.” And he always looks to God as the last end in these things; “doing all to the glory of God:” so that we may say of that man, “Old things are much passed away, all things are,” in some measure, “become new.” He that is so new a creature, is undoubtedly in Christ.
This renovation of a man in all manner of conversation, and this being under law to God in all things, is that “holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” Men may fancy things to themselves; but unless they study to approve themselves unto God in all well-pleasing, and attain to some inward testimony of sincerity in that way, they shall not assure their hearts before him. “The testimony of mens’ conscience is their rejoicing.” “By this we know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.” “And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God.” There is no confidence if the heart condemn. This is the new creature, having a principle of new spiritual life infused by God into the heart, by which it becomes new, and puts forth acts of new life throughout the whole man, as we have said, so that he pointeth towards the whole law.
1. Towards those commands which forbid sin; so he resolveth to set against secret sins, “not to lay a stumbling-block before the blind.” Little sins, which are judged so by many, the least things of the law: “Whosoever shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven.” Spiritual sins, filthiness of the spirit: “Having therefore, these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” Sins of omission as well as of commission, since, men are to be judged by these: “Then shall he say unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat, I was thirsty, and ye gave me, no drink,” &c. Yea, sins that are wrought into his natural humour and constitution, and thus are as “a right eye or hand” to him: “If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee,” &c. This new principle of life, by the good hand of God, maketh the man set himself against every known sin, so far as not to allow peaceable abode to any known darkness: “What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?”
2. As also he pointeth towards those commands which relate to duty, and the quickening of grace in man: it maketh a man “respect all God’s known commands;” to “live godly, righteously, and soberly:” yea, and to study a right and sincere way and manner of doing things, resolving not to give over this study of conformity to God’s will, whilst he lives on earth, but still to “press forward toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” This is true holiness, very becoming all those who pretend to be heirs of that holy habitation, in the immediate company and fellowship of a holy God: “We know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him.”
Some may think those things high attainments, and very hard to be got at. I grant it is true. But,
I. Remember that there is a very large allowance in the covenant, promised to his people, which makes things more easy. The Lord has engaged “to take away the stony heart, to give a heart of flesh, a new heart, a heart to fear him for ever;” he has engaged to “put his law in men’s heart; to put his fear in their heart, to make them keep that law; to put his Spirit in them, to cause them keep it.” He hash promised “to satisfy the priests with fatness,” that the souls of “the people may be satisfied with his goodness; and to keep and water them continually every moment.” And if he must be “inquired to do all these things unto men,” he engageth to “pour out the spirit of grace and supplication on them;” and so to learn them how to seek these things, and how to set him to it, to do all for them.
II. For the satisfaction of weaker Christians, I grant this new creature, as we have circumscribed and enlarged it, will not be found, in all the degrees of it, in every gracious person. But it is well if,
1. There be a new man. We cannot grant less: “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature;” and that is the new man, which all must put on who are savingly taught of Christ: “If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind: and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” There must be some renewing after the image of God in a man’s soul and body; there must be somewhat of every part of the man pointing towards God. Although I grant every one cannot teach this to others, neither discern it in himself, because many know not the distinct parts of the soul, nor those reformations competent to every part of the soul and body; yet it will be found there is some such thing in them, yea, they have a witness of it within them, if you make the thing plain and clear to them what it is.
2. There must be such a respect unto God’s known commands, that a man do not allow peaceably any known iniquity to dwell in him; for “what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” He must not regard iniquity: “Then shall I not be ashamed when I have respect unto all thy commandments.” “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” I grant men may be ignorant of many commands and many sins, and may imagine, in some cases, that some sins are not hateful to God: but supposing that they are instructed in these things, there can be no agreement between righteousness and unrighteousness.
3. Men must point towards all the law of God in their honest resolutions; for this is nothing else than to give up the heart unto God, to put his law in it without exception, which is a part of the covenant we are to make with God: “This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel–I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts.” I grant many know not how to point towards God’s law in all their ways; but if it be made manifest to them how that should be done, they will point at it. And it is true, they will many times fail of their resolutions in their practice; yet when they have failed, they can say, they did resolve otherwise, and will yet honestly, and without guile, resolve to do otherwise, and it will prove their affliction to have failed of their resolution, when the Lord discovers it to them, which he will do in due time.
4. When we are to judge of our state by the new creature, we must do it at a convenient time, when we are in good case, at least, not when we are in the worst case; for “the flesh and spirit do lust and fight against each other;” and sometimes the one and sometimes the other doth prevail. Now, I say, we must choose a convenient time, when the spiritual part is not by some temptation worsted and overpowered by the flesh; for in that case the new creature is driven back in its streams, and much returned to the fountain and the habits, except in some small things not easily discernible, by which it makes opposition to the flesh, according to the above scripture. For, now is it the time of winter in the soul, and we may not expect fruit, yea, not leaves, as in some other season: only here, lest profane Atheists should take advantage of this, we will say, that the spirit often prevails over the flesh in a godly man, and yet the scope, aim, tenor, and main drift of his way is “in the law of the Lord,” that is his walk; whereas, the path-way and ordinary course of the wicked is sin, as is often hinted in the book of the Proverbs of Solomon. And if it happen that a godly man be overmastered by any transgression, it is usually his sad exercise; and we suppose he keeps it still in dependency before God to have it rectified, as David speaketh, “Wilt thou not deliver my feet from falling!”
The Difference between a truly renewed Man who is in Christ, and Hypocrites.
Object. Atheists and hypocrites may have great changes and renovations wrought upon them, and in them, and I fear mine may be such.
Answ. I grant that Atheists and hypocrites have many things in them which do look like the new creature.
I. In regard of the parts of the man, they may,
1. Come to much knowledge–they are enlightened.
2. There may be a stir amongst their affections: “They receive the word with joy, as he that received the seed into stony places.”
3. They may reach a great deal of outward reformation in the outward man, both concerning freedom from sin, and engagement to positive duty, as the Pharisee did: “God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this Publican; I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.” Yea,
4. In regard of their practical understanding, they may judge some things of God to be excellent–the officers said, that “never man spake as Christ.”
II. Hypocrites may have a great deal of professions.
1. They may talkof the law and gospel, and of the covenant, as the wicked do–“What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldst take my covenant in thy mouth?”
2. They may confess sin openly to their own shame, as King Saul did: “Then said Saul, I have sinned: return, my son David; for I will no more do thee harm, because my soul was precious in thine eyes this day: behold, I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly.”
3. They may humble themselves in sackcloth with Ahab: “And it came to pass, when Ahab heard those words, that he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sack-cloth, and went softly.”
4. They may inquire busily after duty, and come cheerfully to receive it: “Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask me of the ordinances of justice: they take delight in approaching to God.”
5. They may join with God’s interest in a hard and difficult time, as Demas and other hypocrites, in the book of the Acts of the Apostles, who afterwards fell off.
6. They may give much of their goods to God and to the saints, as Ananias, if not all their goods: “Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” Yea,
7. It is not impossible for some such, being straitly engaged in their credit, to “give their bodies to be burned,” as in the last cited place.
III. Hypocrites may advance far in the common and ordinary steps of a Christian work; such as the elect have when God leads them captive. As, 1. They may be under great convictions of sin, as Judas was: “Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. So was King Saul often.
2. They may tremble at the word of God, and be under much terror, as Felix was: “And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season I will call for thee.”
3. They may “rejoice in receiving of the truth, as he that received the seed into stony places.”
4. They may be in some peace and quiet, in expectation of salvation by Christ, as the foolish virgins were.
5. All this may be backed and followed with some good measure of reformation, as the Pharisee: “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.” “The unclean spirit may go out of them.”
6. This work may seem to be confirmed by some special experiences and “tastings of the good word of God.”
IV. Hypocrites may have some things very like the saving graces of the Spirit; as,
1. They may have a sort of faith with Simon Magus: “Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.”
2. They may have a sort of repentance, and may walk mournfully: “What profit is it that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts?”
3. They may have a great fear of God, such as Balsam had, who, for a house-full of gold, would not go with the messengers of Balak, without leave asked of God, and given.
4. They have a sort of hope: “The hypocrite’s hope shall perish.”
5. They have some love, so had Herod to John: “And the king was exceeding sorry; yet for his oath’s sake, and for their sakes which sat with him, he would not reject her.” I need not to insist, it is out of all question they have counterfeits of all saving graces.
V. They have somewhat like the special communications of God, and the witnessing of his Spirit, and somewhat like “the powers of the world to come,” powerfully on them, with some flashes of joy arising thence. “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance.” Notwithstanding of all which, they are but “almost persuaded, with Agrippa, to be Christians.” It were tedious to speak particularly to each of these things, and to clear it up, that they are all false and unsound: I shall condescend upon some few things, in which a truly renewed man, who is in Christ, doth differ from hypocrites and reprobates.
1. Whatever change be in hypocrites, yet their heart is not changed and made new. The new heart is only given to the elect, when they are converted and brought under the bond of the covenant: 1 will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever.” “A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.” Hypocrites never apprehended Christ as the only satisfying good in all the world, for which with joy they would quit all; for then the kingdom of God were entered into them: “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.” The truly renewed man dare, and can upon good ground say, and hath a testimony of it from on high, that his heart hath been changed in taking up with Christ, and hath been led out after him, as the only enriching treasure, in whom “to be found he accounteth all things else loss and dung.”
2. Whatever reformation or profession hypocrites do attain to, as it cometh not from a new heart, and pure principle of zeal for God, so it is always for some wicked and by-end, as, “to be seen of men,” or to evade and shun some outward strait, to be free of God’s wrath, and the trouble of their own conscience: “Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge?” “What profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts?” In testimony of this, they never have respect to all known commands, else they should “never be ashamed;” nor do they, without approven guile in their own heart, resolve against every known iniquity, else they were freed of heart-condemnings, and so might justly have “confidence before God.” If in never so small a degree they did, from a principle of love unto, and of seal for Christ, and for a right end, confess and profess him, Christ were obliged by his own word “to confess them before his Father.”
3. Whatever length hypocrites advance in that work, by which people are led in unto Christ, yet, they never “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” “The one thing that is necessary,” namely, Christ’s friendship and fellowship, is never their “one thing,” and heart-satisfying choice, else that “better part would never be taken from it.”
4. Whatever counterfeits of grace are in hypocrites, yet they are all formed there, without any saving work of the Spirit of Christ; and it is enough to exclude them from the benefit of this mark, that they are never denied to these things, nor emptied of them, but still do rest on them as their saviour, so that “they submit not unto the righteousness of God;” and that is enough to keep them at a distance from Christ, who will never mend that old garment of hypocrites with his fine new linen, nor “put his new wine into these old bottles.”
5. We may say, Let hypocrites, reprobates, or Atheists, have what they can, they want the three great essentials of religion and true Christianity.
1. They are not broken in their hearts, and emptied even of their righteousness, the length of self-loathing, yet lying open for relief. Such “lost ones Christ came to seek and save.”
2. They never took up Christ Jesus as the only treasure and jewel that can only enrich, and should satisfy; and therefore have never cordially agreed to God’s device in the covenant, and so are not worthy of him; neither hath the kingdom of God savingly entered into their heart: “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.”
3. They never in earnest do close with Christ’s whole yoke without exception, judging all his “will just and good, holy and spiritual;” and therefore no rest followed on them by Christ “Take my yoke upon you, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” Therefore, whosoever thou art, who can lay clear and just claim to these three mentioned things, thou art beyond the reach of all Atheists, hypocrites, and reprobates, in the world, as having answered the great ends and intents of the law and gospel.
Object. I am clear sometimes, I think, to lay claim to that mark of the new creature; yet at other times sin doth so prevail over me, that I am made to question all the work within me.”
Answ. It is much to be lamented, that people professing his name, should be so abused and enslaved by transgression, as many are. Yet, in answer to the objection, if it be seriously proposed, we say, The saints are found in Scripture justly laying claim to God and his covenant, when iniquity did prevail over them; as we find: “Iniquities prevail against me; as for our transgressions, thou shalt purge them away.” Paul “thanks God through Christ,” though he acknowledges “a law in his members leads him captive unto sin.” But, for the better understanding, and safe application, of such truths, we must make a difference between gross outbreakings, and ordinary infirmities or heart-evils, or sins that come unawares upon a man, without forethought or any deliberation. As for the former sort, it is hard for a man, whilst he is under the power of them, to see his gracious change, although it be in him; and very hard to draw any comfort from it, until the man be in some measure recovered, and begin seriously to resent such sins, and to resolve against them. We find David calling himself God’s servant, quickly after his numbering of God’s people; but he was then under the serious resentment of his sin: “And David’s heart smote him after that he had numbered the people. And David said unto the Lord, I have sinned greatly in that I have done: and now, I beseech thee, O Lord, take away the iniquity of thy servant, for I have done very foolishly.” Jonah layeth claim to God as his master under his rebellion; but he is then repenting it, and in a spirit of revenge against himself for his sin. Next, as for these sins of infirmity, and daily incursion of heart-evils, it is like they were such as those whereof Paul doth complain.
We shall draw out some things from the seventh chapter to the Romans, upon which Paul maintains his interest in Christ; and if you can apply them, it is well.
1. When Paul finds that he doth much fail, and cannot reach conformity to God’s law, he doth not blame the law as being too strict, so that men cannot keep it, as hypocrites use to speak; but he blames himself as being carnal, and he saith of the law, “that it is good, holy, and spiritual.”
2. He can say, he failed of a good which he intended, and did outshoot himself, and he had often honestly resolved against the evil which he fell into: “For that which I do, I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. For I know that in me that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good, I find not. For the good that I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do.”
3. He saith, that the prevailing of sin over him is his exercise, so that he judges himself wretched, because of such a body of death, from which he longs to be delivered.
4. He says, that whilst he is under the power and law of sin, there is somewhat in the bottom of his heart opposing it, although over-mastered by it, which would be another way; and when that gets the upper hand, it is a delightsome thing, Rom. vii. 22-25. Upon these things he “thanks God in Christ that there is no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Now, then, look if you can lay claim to these things.
1. If you do blame yourself, and approve the law, whilst you fail.
2. If you can say, that you do often resolve against sin honestly, and without known guile; and do so resolve the contrary good, before the evil break in upon you.
3. If you can say, that you are so far exercised with your failings, as to judge yourself wretched because of such things, and a body of death, which is the root and fountain of such things.
4. If you can say, that there is a party within you opposing these evils, which would be at the right way, and, as it were, is in its element when it is in God’s way, it is well only be advised not to take rest, until in some good measure you be rid of the ground of this objection, or, at least, until you can very clearly say, you are waging war with these things. Now, a good help against the prevailing power of sin, is to cleave close to Christ Jesus, by faith, which, as it is a desirable part of sanctification, and a high degree of conformity to. God’s will, and most subservient unto his design in the gospel: “The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” I do not frustrate the grace of God; and so should be much endeavoured after by people, as a work pleasing unto God: “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent:” so it is the ready way to draw life and nourishment from Christ the blessed root, for fruitfulness in all cases “Abide in me, and I in you: as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself; except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me, ye can do nothing.”
Of the special Communications of God, and the singular gracious Operations of his Spirit.
Object. I do not partake of those special communications of God mentioned in the Scripture, and of those actings and outgoings of his Spirit, of which gracious people often are speaking, and to which they attain. The want of these things makes me much suspect my state.
Answ. I shall shortly notice some of these excellent communications; and I hope, upon a right discovery of them, there will be but small ground found for the jealous complaints of many gracious people.
1. Besides these convictions of the Spirit of God, which are wont to usher Christ’s way into the souls of men, and those also which afterwards do ordinarily attend them, there is a seal of the Spirit of God spoken of in Scripture, the principal thing whereof is the sanctifying work of the Holy Ghost, imprinting the draughts and lineaments of God’s image and revealed will upon a man, as a seal or signet doth leave an impression and stamp of its likeness upon the thing sealed. So it is: “The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his; and, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” And thus I conceive the seal to be called “a witness:” “He that believeth hath the witness in himself;” that is, the grounds upon which an interest in Christ is to be made out and proved, are in every believer; for he hath somewhat of the sanctifying work of God’s Spirit in him, which is a sure, although not always a clear and manifest witness.
II. There is communion with God much talked of among Christians, by which they understand the sensible presence of God refreshing the soul exceedingly. But if we speak properly, communion with God is a mutual interest between God and a man, who has closed with him in Christ. It is a commonness, or a common interest between God and a man not only is a man interested in God himself, but in all that is the Lord’s; so the Lord hath a special interest in the man, and also all that belongs to him. There is a communion between husband and wife, whereby they have a special interest in each others’ persons, goods; and concerns; so is it here: there is such a communion with God, he is our God, and a things are ours, because he is ours. This communion with God all true believers have at all times; as we shall afterwards show. I grant there is an actual improvement of that communion, whereby men do boldly meddle with any thing that belongs unto God, and do meddle with himself, as their own, with much homeliness and familiarity; especially in worship, when the soul doth converse with a living God, partaking of the divine nature, growing like unto him, and sweetly travelling through his attributes, and, with some condence of interest, viewing. these things as the man’s own goods and property: this we call communion with God in ordinances. This indeed is not so usually nor frequently made out to men, and all his people do not equally partake of it: and it is true, that what is in God, goes not out for the behoof of the man to his apprehension equally at all times; yet certainly communion with God, properly so called, namely, that commonness of interest between God and a man, who is savingly in covenant with him, does always stand firm and sure; and so much of communion with God in ordinances all believers have, so that their heart converses with a living God there, now and then, and is in some measure changed into that same image; and there needeth be no doubt about it any further.
III. There is what is called fellowship with God, often mistaken also amongst believers. If by fellowship be meant the walking in our duty, as in the sight of a living God, who seeth and heareth us, and is witness to all our carriage, it is a thing common unto all gracious men; they all have it habitually, and in design:, “I have set the Lord always before me.” Yea, and often they have it actually in exercise, when their spirit is in any good frame; they walk as if they saw God standing by them, and have some thought of his favour through Christ: “Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” If we by fellowship mean a sweet, refreshing, familiar, sensible conversing with God, which doth delight and refresh the soul, besides what the conscience of duty doth; it is then a walking in the light of his countenance, and a good part of sensible presence: and although it seems Enoch had much of it, whilst it is said, “He walked with God,” yet it is not so general as the former, nor so common to all Christians: for here the soul is filled as with marrow and fatness, following hard after its guide, and singularly upheld by his right hand: “My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips. My soul followeth hard after thee, thy right hand upholdeth me.”
IV. There is what is called access unto God; and this I take to be the removing of obstructions out of the way between a man and God, so that the man is admitted to come near. We are said to have access to a great person when the doors are cast open, the guards removed from about him, and we are admitted to come close to him; so it is here. Now this access, in Scripture, is sometimes taken for Christ’s preparing the way, the removing of enmity between God and sinners, so as men now have a patent way to come unto God through Christ. “For through him we both have an access by one Spirit unto the Father.” Sometimes it is taken for the actual improvement of that access purchased by Christ, when a man finds all obstructions and differences, which do ordinarily fall in between him and God, removed: God is not reserve to him, nor as a stranger, keeping up himself from him, or frowning on him; but the man is admitted to “come even to his seat.” Of the want of this doth Job complain, whilst he saith, “Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: on the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him.” The first sort of access is common to all believers; they are brought near by the blood of the covenant, and are no more afar off, as the deadly enmity between God and them is removed but access in the other sense is dispensed more according to the Lord’s absolute sovereignty and pleasure, and it is left in the power of believers to obstruct it to themselves, until it please the Lord mercifully and freely to grant it unto them again; so it is up and down, and there needs be no question as to a man’s state about it.
V. There is what is called liberty before God; and this property is freedom, or free speaking unto God. Many do much question their state, because of the want of this now and then, since the Scripture hath said, “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty;” but they do unjustly confine that liberty spoken of there unto this free speaking before God. I grant, where the Spirit of the Lord doth savingly discover God’s will in the Scriptures to a man, there is liberty from any obligation to the ceremonial law, and from the condemning power of the moral law, and from much of that gross darkness and ignorance which is on natural men’s hearts as a veil hiding Christ in the gospel from them. I grant also, that sometimes even this liberty, which is a free communing with God, and “ordering of our cause before him, and filling of our mouth with arguments,” is granted to the godly, but not as liberty taken in the former senses. Although the Lord hath obliged himself to “pour out the spirit of prayer upon all the house of David” in some measure, yet this communication of the Spirit, which we call liberty, or free speaking unto God, dependeth much on the Lord’s absolute pleasure, when, and in what measure to allow it. This liberty, which we call freedom or free speaking with God in prayer, is sometimes much withdrawn from any great confidence in the time of prayer, at least, until it draw towards the close of it; it stands much in a vivacity of the understanding to take up the case which a man is to peak before God, so that he can order his cause: and next, there be words, or verbal expressions, elegant, suitable, and very emphatical, or powerful and pithy. There is also joined a fervency of spirit in prayer, of which the Scripture speaks; the soul is warm and bended, and very intent. There is also usually in this liberty a special melting of the heart often joined with a great measure of the “spirit of grace and supplication.” So the soul is poured out before God as for a first-born. Such is the liberty which many saints get before God, whilst, in much brokenness of heart and fervency of spirit, they are admitted to speak their mind fully to God, as a living God, noticing (at least) their prayer. Sometimes this liberty is joined with confidence, and then it is not only a free but also a bold speaking before God. It is that “boldness with confidence.” “In whom we have boldness and access with confidence, by the faith of him.” This is more rarely imparted unto men than the former, yet it is ordinary: it hath in it, besides what we mentioned before, some influence of the Spirit upon faith, making it put forth some vigorous acting in prayer. There is a sweet mournful frame of spirit, by which a man poureth out his heart in God’s bosom, and, with some confidence of his favour and good-will, pleadeth his cause before him as a living God; and this is all the sensible presence to which many saints do attain. There is no ground of doubt concerning a man’s state in the point of liberty before God, in this last sense, because there is nothing, essential to the making up of a gracious state here: some have, it, some want it, some have it at some times, and not at ether times, so that it is much up and down; yet I may say, gracious men may do much, by a very ordinary influence, in contributing towards the attaining and retaining, or keeping, of such a frame of spirit.
VI. There is what is called influence, or breathing of the Spirit. This gracious influence (for of such only do I now speak) is either ordinary; and this is the operations of the Holy Spirit on the soul, and the habits of grace there, whereby they are still kept alive, and in some exercise and acting, although not very discernible. This influence, I conceive, always attends believers, and is that “keeping and watering night and day, and every moment:” or, this influence is more singular and special, and is the same to a gracious, although a withered, soul, as the “wind and breath to the dry bones,” putting them in good case, and “as the dew or rain to the grass,” or newly mown field and parched ground. Such influence is meant, by the “blowing of the southwind, making the spices to flow out.” When the Spirit moveth thus, there is an edge put upon the graces of God in the soul, and they are made to act more vigorously. This is the “enlarging of the heart,” by which a “man doth run in the ways of God.” This influence is more discernible than the former, and not so ordinarily communicated. Also here, sometimes the wind bloweth more upon one grace, and sometimes more discernibly upon another, and often upon many of the graces together; and, according to the lesser or greater measure of this influence, the soul acteth more or less vigorously towards God: and since faith is a created grace in the soul, this influence of the Spirit is upon it, sometimes less, sometimes more, and accordingly is the assurance of faith small or great
VII. There is the hearing of prayer, often spoken of in Scripture; and many vex themselves about it, alleging that they know nothing of it experimentally. I. grant, there is a favourable hearing of prayer; but we must remember it is twofold. Either,
1. It is such as a man is simply to believe by way of argument on scriptural grounds: as if I have fled unto Christ, and do approach to God in him, pray according to his will, not regarding iniquity in my heart, exercising faith about the thing I pray for absolutely or conditionally, according to the nature of the thing and promises concerning it: I am obliged to believe that God heareth my prayer, and will give what is good, according to these Scriptures: “Whatsoever ye ask in my name, I will do it.”–“This is our confidence, that whatsoever we ask according to his will, he heareth us.”–“Believe that ye receive, and ye shall have what ye desire.” “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear:” then, if I regard not iniquity, I may believe that he doth hear me. Or,
2. A man doth sensibly perceive that God hears his prayer: it is made out to his heart, without any syllogistical deduction. Such a hearing of prayer got Hannah; “Her countenance was no more sad.” Surely the Lord did breathe upon her faith, and made her believe that she was heard: she could not make it out by any argument; for she had not grounds upon which to build the premises of the argument, according to Scripture, in that particular: God did stamp it some way upon her heart sensibly, and so made her believe it. This is but rarely granted, especially in cases clearly deducible in Scripture: therefore people are much to be satisfied in exercising their faith about the other, and ought to leave it to God to give of this latter what he pleaseth. A man’s gracious state should not be brought into debate upon the account of such hearing of prayer.
VIII. There is assurance of God’s favour by the witnessing of our own spirits; which assurance is deduced by way of argument syllogistically, thus: Whosoever believeth on Christ shall never perish: but I do believe on Christ; therefore, I shall never perish. Whoso hath respect unto all God’s commandments shall never be ashamed: but I have respect unto all his commands; therefore, I shall never be ashamed. I say, by reasoning thus, and comparing spiritual things with spiritual things, a man may attain to it good certainty of his gracious state. It is supposed; “That by loving the brethren in deed and in truth we may assure our hearts before God–And that a man may rejoice upon the testimony of a good conscience: “A man may have confidence towards God, if his heart do not condemn him.” We may then attain to some assurance, although not full assurance, by the witness of our own spirits. I do not deny that in this witnessing of our spirits concerning assurance, there is some concurrence of the Spirit of God: but, I conceive, there needs but a very ordinary influence, without which we can do nothing. Now, this assurance, such as it is, may be reached by intelligent believers, who keep a good conscience in their walk. So, I hope, there needs be no debate about it, as to a man’s gracious state; for if a man will clear himself of heart-condemnings, he will speedily reach this assurance.
IX. There is a “witnessing of God’s Spirit,” mentioned as “bearing witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” This operation of the Spirit is best understood, if we produce any syllogism by which our spirit doth witness our sonship; as, for example, Whosoever loveth the brethren is passed from death to life, and consequently is in Christ: but I love the brethren; therefore, I am passed from death to life. Here there is a threefold operation of the Spirit, or three operations rather: The first is a beam of divine light upon the first proposition, convincing of the divine authority of it; as the word of God. The Spirit of the Lord must witness the divinity of the Scriptures, and that it is the infallible word of God, far beyond all other arguments that can be used for it. The second operation is a glorious beam of light from the Spirit, shining upon the second proposition, and so upon his own graces in the soul, discovering them to be true graces, and such as the Scripture calls so. Thus we are said to “know by his Spirit the things that are freely given unto us of God.” The third operation is connected with the third proposition of the argument, or the conclusion, and this I conceive to be nothing else but an influence upon faith, strengthening it to draw a conclusion of fall assurance upon the foresaid premises.
Now, with submission to others, who have greater light in the Scripture, and more experience of these precious communications, I do conceive the witness of the Spirit, or witnessing of it, which is mentioned, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God,” is not that first operation upon the first proposition; for that operation is that testimony of the Spirit by which he bears witness to the divinity of the whole Scriptures, and asserts the divine authority of it unto the souls of gracious men; and such an operation may be upon a truth of Scripture, which does not relate to a man’s sonship or interest in Christ at all. The Spirit may so shine upon any truth, relating to duty, or any other fundamental truth, impressing the divinity of it upon and unto the soul, and speak nothing relating to a man’s interest in Christ. Neither is the third operation of the Spirit, by which he makes faith boldly draw the conclusion, this witnessing of the Spirit; for that operation it nothing else but an influence upon faith, bringing it out to full assurance: but that upon which this full assurance is drawn or put out is somewhat confirmed and witnessed, already; therefore I conceive the second operation of the Spirit upon the second proposition, and so upon the graces in the man, is that witness of God’s Spirit, that beam of divine light shining upon those graces by which they are made very conspicuous to the understanding. That is the witness, the shining so on them is his witnessing: for only here, in this proposition, and in this operation, doth the Spirit of God prove a co-witness with our spirit: for the main thing wherein the witness of our spirit lies, is in the second proposition; and so the Spirit of God witnessing with our spirits, is also in that same proposition. So these two witnesses having confirmed and witnessed one and the same thing, that is, the truth and reality of such and such graces in the man, which our own spirit or conscience doth depone according to its knowledge, and the Spirit of the Lord doth certainly affirm and witness to be so; there is a sentence drawn forth, and a conclusion of the man’s sonship by the man’s faith, breathed, upon by the Spirit for that purpose: and this conclusion beareth the full assurance of a man’s sonship. It may be presumed, that some true saints do not partake of this all their days: “And deliver them, who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”
X. I speak with the experience of many saints, and, I hope, according to Scripture, if I say there is, a communication of the Spirit of God which is sometimes let out to some of his people, that is somewhat besides, if not beyond, that witnessing of a sonship spoken of before. It is a glorious divine manifestation of God unto the soul, shedding abroad God’s love in the heart: it is a thing better felt than spoken of: it is no audible voice, but it is a flash of glory filling the soul with God, as he is life, light, love, and liberty, countervailing that audible voice, “O men, greatly beloved,” putting a man in a transport with this on his heart, “It is good to be here.” It is that which went out from Christ to Mary, when he but mentioned her name: “Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni, which is to say, Master.” He had spoken some words to her before, and she understood not that it was he: but when he uttereth this one word MARY, there was some admirable divine conveyance and manifestation made out to her heart, by which she was so satisfyingly filled, that there was no place for arguing and disputing whether or no that was Christ, and if she had any interest in him. That manifestation wrought faith to itself, and did purchase credit and trust to itself, and was equivalent with “Thus saith the Lord.” This is such a glance of glory, that it may in the highest sense be called, “the earnest,” or first fruits, “of the inheritance,” for it is a felt manifestation of the holy God, almost wholly conforming the man unto his likeness, so swallowing him up, that he forgetteth all things except the present manifestation. O how glorious is this manifestation, of the Spirit! faith here riseth to so full an assurance, that it resolves wholly into sensible presence of God. This is the thing which doth best deserve the title of sensible presence, and, it is probable, is not given unto all believers, some whereof “are all their days under bondage, and in fear;” but here, love, almost perfect, casteth “out fear.” This is so absolutely let out upon the Master’s pleasure, and so transient or passing, or quickly gone, when it is, that no man may bring his gracious state into debate for want of it.
XI. There is what we call peace, about which many do vex themselves. This peace is either concerning a man’s state, that he is reconciled unto God by Jesus Christ, or it is concerning his present case and condition, that he is walking so as approven of God, at least, so far as there is no quarrel or controversy between God and him threatening a stroke. Both of these are either such in the court of Scripture, and consequently in God’s account; or in the court of a man’s own conscience. Peace concerning a man’s state, as being in Christ, is sure in the court of Scripture and of heaven, when a man doth by faith close with Christ and the new creature: “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God.” It being sure and solid in the court of Scripture, it should hold sure in the court of a man’s conscience, if it be rightly informed; for, in that case, it still speaks according to Scripture: but, because the conscience is often misinformed and in the dark, therefore, there is often peace concerning a man’s state according to Scripture, whilst his conscience threatens the contrary, and still condemns, and refuses to assoilzie the man, as being reconciled unto God through Christ. In this case, the conscience must be informed, and the man’s gracious state made out by the marks of grace, as we showed before; and here the witness of my own spirit will do much to allay the cry of the conscience: and if the Spirit of the Lord join his witness and testimony, the conscience is perfectly satisfied, and proclaimeth peace to the man.
The other peace concerning a man’s present case or condition, that is, that it is approven of God in a gospel-sense, it may be wanting, and justly wanting, although the peace concerning a man’s state be sure. This peace concerning a man’s case and condition, is either such in the court of Scripture; and this is when a man is not regarding iniquity, and respecting the commands of God without exception; then the Scripture saith, he stands in an even place, and he needeth fear no stated quarrel between God and him, in order to a temporary stroke: and when it is thus, his conscience should also assoilzie him that same way, and would do so, if it were rightly informed: but because the conscience is often in the dark, therefore a man may be alarmed with evil in the court of conscience, as if he were justly to expect a stroke from God because of his sin, and some quarrel God hath with him, although he intend salvation for him. This is enough to keep a man in disquiet, and to prohibit him the rejoicing allowed to him, whilst he is walking in his integrity: therefore a man must here also inform his conscience, and receive no accusations nor condemnings from it, unites it make them clear by Scripture. At that bar let every man stand, both concerning his state, and his condition or case; and let him appeal from all other courts to that, and not receive any indictment but what is conformable to the truth of God, by which the conscience is to proceed in all things. And if this were well looked to, there would not be so, many groundless suspicions amongst the Lord’s people, either concerning their state, or their condition, upon every thought which enters their mind.
XII. There is the joy of the Holy Ghost; and this is when the Spirit breathes upon our rejoicing in God, which is a grace very little in exercise with many, and makes it set out sensibly and vigorously; and he excites and stirs the passion of joy and of delight in the soul, so that there is an “unspeakable and glorious joy in the soul,” in the apprehension of God’s friendship and nearness unto him: “In whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” This joy followeth upon peace, and peace followeth righteousness: “The kingdom of God–is righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” This joy generally will not fail to be according to the measure of the assurance of faith, as el In whom believing, ye rejoice.” So that the removal of mistakes about other things will allay doubts concerning this.
Now, because some of these excellent communications of the Spirit, after they are gone, are brought in question as delusions of Satan; for vindication of them, we say, that the special operations of God’s Spirit in any high degree, usually are communicated to people after such brokenness of spirit: “Make me to hear joy and gladness, that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. After singular pains in religious duty: “And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplication, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes.–And whiles I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin–the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me.” Or in time of much suffering for righteousness: “Rejoice, in as much as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you.” Or if they break in as the rain that waiteth not for man, then they do so humble and abase the person: “Woe is me, for I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips—for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” And there are found so many evidences of grace in the man: “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” Or these things do so provoke unto holiness, and to have every thing answerable and conformable unto these manifestations of God: “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ, depart from iniquity.” The person under them doth loathe all things besides God’s friendship and fellowship: “Peter said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here:” and these things carry on them and with them so much authority and divine superscription, whilst they are in the soul, that afterwards they may appear sufficiently to be special communications of God, and singular gracious operations of his Spirit, and no delusions of “Satan transforming himself into an angel of light.” Nor such common flashes of the Spirit as may admit afterwards of irrecoverable apostacy from God: “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come; if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance.”
Now then, to conclude this part of the work that relates to the trial; I say to all those who complain of the want of the precious out-pourings of the Spirit,
1. Bless God if you want nothing essential for the making out of a saving interest in Christ. God hath given unto you Christ Jesus, the greatest gift he had; and since your heart is laid out for him, he will, with him, give you all things that are good for you in their season.
2. I do believe, upon a strict search and trial, after you have understood the communications of the Spirit, you are not so great a stranger to many things as you suspected yourself to be. But,
3. Remember the promises of life and of peace with God are no where in Scripture made unto those special things of which you allege the want: the promises are made unto faith, followed with holiness; and it may be presumed, that many heirs of glory do not in this life partake of some of these things, but “are in bondage all their days through fear of death; so that there should be no mistake about these things: we may seek after them, but God is free to give or withhold them.
4. Many do seek after such manifestations before they give credit by faith to God’s word. He hath borne record that there is life enough for men in Christ Jesus; and if men would by believing set to their seal that God is true, they should partake of more of these excellent things.
5. I may say, many have not honourable apprehensions and thoughts of the Spirit of God, whose proper work it is to put forth the foresaid noble operations. They do not adore him as God, but vex, grieve, quench, and resist him: and many people, complaining of the want of these things, are not at the pains to seek the Spirit in his outgoings, and few do set themselves apart for such precious receptions: therefore, be at more pains in religion, give more credit to his word, and esteem more highly of the Spirit of God, and so you may find more of these excellent things.
PART II. HOW TO ATTAIN A SAVING INTEREST IN CHRIST.
Having, in the former part of this Treatise, put every man’s state to the trial, it now remains that, in this following part, we give advice to those, who neither can nor dare lay claim to the marks formerly mentioned.
Quest. II. What shall they do who want the marks of a true and saving interest in Christ, already spoken of, and neither can nor dare pretend to them?
Answ. If men do not find in themselves the marks of a saving interest in Christ, spoken of before, then it is their duty, and of all that hear the gospel, personally and heartily to close with God’s device of saving sinners by Christ Jesus, and this will secure their state.
Some things premised for the Information of those who are more Ignorant.
For the better understanding of this, we shall premise some things for the information of those who are more ignorant, and then speak more directly to the thing. As for the things to be premised:–
1. The Lord, at the beginning, out of his bounty, made a covenant with man in Adam: “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die”–and enabled man to abide in that covenant: “God hath made man upright;” but man, by eating of that forbidden fruit, did break that covenant: “They, like Adam, have transgressed the covenant,” and made it void for ever: “By the deeds of the law, there shall no flesh be justified in his sight;”–and involved himself in all misery thereby: “As by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”
2. The Lord did most freely from everlasting, purpose and intend to save men another way, that is, by Christ Jesus, and the covenant of grace, in which he intended reconciliation with the elect through Christ Jesus, God and man, born of a woman in due time, to make this agreement effectual. And this device of satisfying his own justice, and saving of the elect by Christ, he did at first intimate to our parents in paradise, where he saith, “That the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head.” And the Lord hath in all generations made this known to his church.
3. The Lord hath in all ages covenanted to be the reconciled God of all those, who by their subjection to his ordinances did profess their satisfaction with this device, and obliged themselves to acquiesce in it, and to seek salvation by Christ Jesus, as God doth afar him in the gospel; so all the people of Israel are called the Lord’s people, and are said to avouch him to be their God, and he doth avouch them to be his people: “Thou hast avouched the Lord this day to be thy God, and to walk in his ways, and to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and to hearken unto his voice: and the Lord hath avouched thee this day to be his peculiar people, as he hath promised thee, and that thou shouldest keep all his commandments.” Yea, the Lord doth also engage himself to be the God of the seed and children of those who do so subject themselves to his ordinances. The covenant is said to be made between God and all the people, young and old, present and not present that day; and all are appointed to come under some seal of that covenant, as was enjoined to Abraham. Not only was it so in the Old Testament, but it is so in the New Testament also. The Lord makes offer of himself to be our God in Christ Jesus; and the people professing their satisfaction in that offer, and in testimony thereof subjecting themselves unto the ordinances, they are reckoned a covenanted people, and are joined unto his church in thousands, receiving a seal of the covenant, without any further particular previous trial: “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins. Then they that gladly received the word were baptized; and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.”
4. Many do deal treacherously with God in this covenant: “Nevertheless, they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues; for their heart was not right with him, neither were they stedfast in his covenant.” And although they profess their estimation of Christ the Saviour, and their heart satisfaction with that device of saving sinners by him, and having the image of God restored by him in them; yet their heart is not right with God, and they do content themselves with an empty title of being in a sealed covenant with God. “Abraham is our father,” say they. For although the Lord obligeth every man, who professeth his satisfaction with Christ Jesus, the devised ransom, to be cordial and sincere herein; and only to these who are so, doth he make out the spiritual promises of the covenant, they only being “privileged to be the sons of God, who do really receive Christ;” yet the Lord doth permit many to profess their closing with him in Christ, both in the Old and New Testament, whilst their heart is not engaged; and he doth admit them to be members of his church, granting unto them the use of ordinances, and many other external mercies and privileges denied to the Heathen, who are not in covenant with him.
5. Although the greater part of people do foolishly fancy, that they have closed with God in Christ Jesus sincerely and heartily; or, at least, they do, without any ground or warrant, promise a new heart to themselves before they die; yet there be but very few who do really and cordially close with God in Christ Jesus, as he is offered in the gospel; and so there be but very few saved; as is clear: “Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be who find it.” “Many are called, but few are chosen.” If people would believe this, it might help to alarm them.
6. Although none at all do cordially close with God in Christ Jesus, and acquiesce in that ransom found out by God, except only such as are elected: “But the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded;”–and whose hearts the. Lord doth sovereignly determine to that blessed choice: “No man can come to me, except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him;” yet the Lord hath left it as a duty upon people who hear this gospel, to close with his offer of salvation through Christ Jesus, as if it were in their power to do it; and the Lord, through these commands and exhortations, wherein he obligeth men to the thing, doth convey life and strength to the elect, and doth therein convey the new heart to them, who cordially embrace God’s device of saving sinners, and receive Christ in his covenant-relations; or, it is the Lord’s mind; in these commands and invitations, to put people on some duty, with which he uses to concur for accomplishing that object between him and them. So then, it is a coming on our part, and yet a drawing on his part: “No man can come to me, except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him:” it is a drawing on his part, and a running on our part: “Draw me, we will run after thee.” It is an approaching on our part, and yet a “choosing and causing to approach on his part.” It is a believing or receiving on our part: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name;” and yet “it is given us to believe.”
SECT. I.–What it is to close with God’s Device of saving Sinners by Christ Jesus, and that it is a necessary Duty.
Having premised these things, I say, If men do not find in themselves the marks of a saving interest in Christ, spoken of in the former part of the Treatise; then, for securing their state, they are obliged, with all diligence, personally and heartily to accept of and close with God’s device of saving sinners by Christ Jesus, held out in the gospel.
In handling of this, we shall,
I. Show what it is to accept of and close with that noble plan.
II. We shall show that it is the necessary duty of these who would be in favour with God, and secure their souls.
III. What is previously required of those who perform this duty.
IV. What are the qualifications and properties of this duty, if rightly managed.
V. What are the native consequences of it, if it be performed aright.
I. As for the First, What it is to close with God’s device of saving sinners by Christ Jesus, held out in the gospel. Here we must remember, as we showed before, that at first God willed man to abide In his favour, by holding fast his first integrity in which he was created; but man by his transgression lost God’s favour, made void that covenant of works, and put himself into an utter incapacity to regain the Lord’s friendship, which he had lost by his sin, and to rescue himself from the curse and wrath now due to him for sin, or any way to procure his own salvation: but the Lord hath freely manifested another way of repairing man’s lost estate, that is, by sending his Son Christ Jesus in the flesh, to satisfy his justice for the sins of the elect, and to restore in them his image now defaced, and to bring them unto glory; and he hath made open proclamation in the church, that whosoever will lay aside all thoughts of saving themselves by the covenant of works, or inherent righteousness, and will agree heartily to be saved by Christ Jesus, they shall be restored to a better condition than formerly man was in, and shall be saved. So then, to close with God’s device of saving sinners by Christ Jesus, is to quit and forego all thoughts of help of salvation by our own righteousness, and to agree to this way which God hath found out; it is to value and highly esteem Christ Jesus as the treasure sufficient to enrich poor man, and with the heart to believe this record, that there is life enough in him for men; it is to be pleased with this invention, and to acquiesce in it, as the only way to true happiness: it is to point towards this Mediator, as God holds him out in the gospel, with a desire to lay the stress of our whole state on him. This is that which is called faith, or believing, the “receiving of Christ,” or “believing on his name.” This is that “believing on the Lord Jesus Christ,” commanded to the jailer for his safety; this agreeth to all the descriptions of justifying faith in the Scripture. This doth answer the type of “looking to the brazen serpent lifted up in the wilderness,” and this is supposed in all these ordinary actings of faith to which promises are annexed in the Scripture; and will be found in all who have got the new heart from God, and it will be found in none else.
II. As to the Second thing, namely, That this is the necessary duty of all such who would be in favour with God and secure their souls; it appears thus:
1. This closing with God’s device, or believing in Christ, is commanded every where in Scripture by the Lord as the condition of the new covenant, giving title and right to all the spiritual blessings of the covenant; for it is, upon the matter, the receiving of Christ. This is commanded, whilst God bids men “come and buy,” that is, appropriate all, by closing with that device: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” The weary are commanded to come unto him thus, for their rest: “This is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ.” This is enough to prove it a duty incumbent. But further, it is such a duty as only gives title and right to a sonship; for only they who receive him are privileged to be sons: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”
2. It appears to be the necessary duty of all, thus: No less than this doth give an opportunity for God, offering himself to be our God in Christ; and no less than this doth answer our profession, as we are in covenant with him, as members of his visible church. The Lord offereth to be our God in Christ; if we do not close with the offer, laying aside all thoughts of other ways by which we may attain to happiness, we give no opportunity to him. He saith, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” If we close not with the offer, we give no answer to God. Moreover, we are all “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins;” now, unless we close with Christ, as we said, we falsify that profession; therefore, since this is the thing which doth answer God’s offer in the gospel, and maketh good our profession, as members of his church, it is a necessary duty lying upon us.
3. Whatsoever a man hath else, if he do not thus close with God’s device concerning Christ Jesus, and do not receive him, it doth not avail, either as to the accepting of his person, or of his performances, or as to the saving of his soul. Men are accepted only in Christ the beloved: “To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved.” Abel and his offering are accepted by faith: “Without faith it is impossible to please God;” and “He that believeth not is condemned already, and shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” For want of this, no external title doth avail: “the children of the kingdom are cast out,” if this be wanting. The people of Israel are like other Heathens, in regard of a graceless state, lying “open to the wrath of God:” “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will punish all shew which are circumcised with the uncircumcised, Egypt, and Judah, and Edom for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart.” If men do not believe that he who was slain at Jerusalem, who was called Christ Jesus, and witnessed unto by the prophets, and declared to be the Son of God by many mighty works: I say, if men do not believe that he is the way, and close not with him as the only way, they shall die in their sins: “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.”
We say, then, it is a most necessary duty thus to close with Christ Jesus, as the blessed relief appointed for sinners. Every one who is come to years of understanding, and heareth this gospel, is obliged to take to heart his own lost condition, and God’s gracious offer of peace and salvation through Christ Jesus, and speedily to flee from the wrath to come, by accepting and closing with this offer, heartily acquiescing therein as a satisfying way for the saving of lost sinners. And, that all may be the more encouraged to set about this duty, when they hear him praying them to be reconciled unto him, let them remember that peace and salvation is offered to the people in universal terms, to all without exception: “If any man will,” he shall be welcome. If any thirst, although after that which will never profit, yet they shall be welcome here, on the above-mentioned condition: “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money: come ye, buy and eat: yea, come buy wine and milk without money, and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? And your labour for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.” All are “commanded to believe.” “This is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ. The promises are to all who are externally called by the gospel. God excludes none, if they do not exclude themselves: “The promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” So that if any have a mind for the thing, they may come forward, “he will in nowise cast them out;” being “able to save to the uttermost them who come to God through him.” And those who have long delayed to take this matter to heart had now the more need to look to it, lest what belongs to their peace be hid from their eyes. But all these words will not take effect with people, until “God pour out his Spirit from on high,” to cause men approach to God in Christ; yet we must still press men’s duty upon them, and entreat and charge them by the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ, and their reckoning to him in that day, that they give the Lord no rest, until he send out that “Spirit, which he will give to them who ask it,” and cause them know what belongs to their peace, and bring them to their duty.
SECT. II. What is previously required of those that would believe on Christ Jesus.
III. WE come now to speak of the Third thing, which is previously required of those who are to perform this duty. Men must not rashly, inconsiderately, and ignorantly, rush in upon this matter, saying, they are pleased with that device of saving sinners by Christ, and will acquiesce and rest on him for safety. Often men do deceive themselves here, and do imagine that they have done the thing. We shall therefore hold out some things pre-required in a person who is to close with Christ Jesus; which; although we offer noir as positive qualifications, fitting a man for Christ that way: “Come–without money, and without price;” yet they are such things, as without them a man cannot knowingly and cordially perform the duty of believing on Christ Jesus.
Besides the common principles which are to be supposed in those who live under gospel-ordinances; as the knowledge that men have immortal souls; that soul and body will lie united again at the last day; that there is a heaven and hell, one of which will be the everlasting portion of all men; that the Old and New Testament is the true word of God, and the rule of faith and manners; that every man is by nature void of the grace of God, and is an enemy to God, and an heir of condemnation; that reconciliation is only by the Mediator Christ Jesus; that faith unites unto him, and is the condition of the new covenant; that holiness is the fruit of true faith, and is to be followed, as that without which no man shall see God; I say, besides these things, the knowledge of which is necessary, it is required of him who would believe on Christ Jesus,
First, That he take to heart his natural condition: and here he must know some things, and also be very serious about them; I say, he must know some things; as,
1. That as he was born a rebel and outlaw unto God, so he hath by many actual transgressions disobeyed God, and ratified the forfeiture of his favour: yea, a man should know many particular instances of his rebellion in every way; as that he is a liar, Sabbath-breaker, blasphemer, or the like; as Paul speaketh very particularly of himself afterwards: “Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious.”
2. The man must know that the wrath of God, denounced in Scripture, is standing in force against those very sins of which he is guilty, and so, consequently, he is the party undoubtedly against whom God, who cannot lie, hath denounced war. A man must know, that when the Scripture saith, “Cursed is he that offereth a corrupt thing unto God,” it speaketh against him for his superficial service performed unto God with the outward man, when his heart was far off. When the word saith, “The Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain,” the man must know it speaketh against himself, who hath often carelessly profaned that dreadful name, before which all knees should bow,” and “which his enemies do take in vain.” When the word saith, “Cursed is he that doth the work of the Lord negligently,” the man must know that it speaks against himself, who hath irreverently, with much wandering of heart and drowsiness, heard the word preached; and without sense, faith, or understanding, hath often prayed before him. When the word saith, “Woe be unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, and putteth his bottle to him, to make him drunk also, that he may look on his nakedness,” the man must know that it is spoken against himself, who hath gloried in making his neighbour drunk, and that dreadful wrath is determined by the Lord against him, according to that Scripture. When the word saith, “God will judge unclean persons,” and will exclude them from the “New Jerusalem, and they shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone,” the man must know that the Scripture speaketh these very words against him, he being an unclean person; so that he is the person against whom the curses of the law do directly strike.
3. A man must know that he hath nothing of his own to procure his peace, and to set him free from the hazard under which he lieth; because “all his righteousness is as an unclean thing.” His prayers, his other service done to God, his alms-deeds, &c. are not acceptable before God, since they came not from a right principle in his heart, and were not performed in a right way, nor upon a right account, nor for a right end; his “sacrifices have been an abomination unto God.”
4. He must know, that as he is void of all the saving graces of the Spirit, as the true love of God, the true fear of his naive, godly sorrow for sin, &c. so particularly, that he wants faith in Christ, who taketh away the sins of all them who believe on him. Until a man know this, he will still leave all his debt and burden, without care or regard any where else, before he bring it to the surety.
Now, not only must a man know these things, as I said before, but must also very seriously take them to heart; that is to say, he must be affected with these things, and be in real earnest about them, as he useth to be in other cases, in which he useth to be most serious; yea, he should be more in earnest here, than in other cases, because it is of greater concern unto him. This seriousness produces,
1st, A taking of salvation to heart more than any thing else. Shall men be obliged to “seek first the kingdom of God?” Is there but “one thing necessary?” Shall Paul “count all things loss and dung” for this matter? Is a man a gainer, “gaining all the world, if he lose his soul?” Shall this, be the only ground of joy, “that men’s names are written in the book of life?” and shall not men, who would be reckoned serious, take their soul and salvation more to heart than any thing else? Surely it cannot fail. Let none deceive themselves. If the hazard of their soul, and the salvation thereof, and how to be in favour with God, hath not gone nearer to their heart than any thing in the world beside, it cannot be presumed, upon just grounds, that they ever know sin or God, or the eternity of his wrath, aright.
2d, This seriousness breaks the man’s heart, and makes the stoutness of it faint, and leads it out to sorrow, as one doth for a first-born. I grant their sorrow will better suit that Scripture afterwards, when they apprehend Christ pierced by their sins.
3d, It leads the man to a self-loathing: A man taking up himself so, cannot but loathe himself for his abominations, whereby he hath destroyed himself. There is somewhat of that spirit of revenge, which is mentioned as a fruit of true repentance: “This self-same thing that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you–yea, what revenge?”
4th, This seriousness makes the man peremptory to find relief; since it is not in himself, he dare not put off and delay his business as before: and this is indeed required, that he find himself so pursued and urged to it, that he flee for refuge somewhere. I grant some have a higher and some a lesser degree of this seriousness, as we showed in the former part of this Treatise: but if we speak of the Lord’s ordinary way of working with those who are come to age, we say, they must very seriously take their soul’s state to heart, despairing of help in themselves, “since the whole need not a physician, but those who are sick.” As for the measure, we plead only that which probably supposes that a man will be induced thereby to transact cordially with Christ, on any terms he offers himself to be closed with.
The second thing pre-required of him who would believe on Christ Jesus is, he must know and take to heart the way of escape from God’s wrath: the Spirit must convince him of that righteousness. Here a man must understand somewhat distinctly, that God hath devised a way to save poor lost man by Jesus Christ, whose perfect righteousness hath satisfied offended justice, and procured pardon and everlasting favour to all those whom he persuadeth, by this gospel, to accept of God’s offer: “Be it known unto you therefore–that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins; and by him all that believe are justified from all things.” “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” So that no person is excluded, of whatsoever rank or condition, whatsoever hath been his former way, unless he be guilty of the sin against the Holy Ghost, which is a malicious hatred and rejection of the remedy appointed for sinners, as we shall hear: for, all manner of sin is forgiven unto those who accept of the offer in God’s way: “He is able to save to the uttermost those that come unto God through him.”
The third thing pre-required is, A man must know, that as God hath net excluded him from the relief appointed, so he is willing to be reconciled unto men through Christ, and hath obliged men to close with him through Christ Jesus, and so to appropriate that salvation to themselves. He not only invites all to come–“Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money: come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money, and without price,”–and welcometh all that come, as we find in the gospel, and commandeth those who come as the centurion, and the woman of Canaan, and chideth for not coming and closing with him: “And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life;” and condemneth for not closing so with him: “He that believeth not is condemned already;” but also he commandeth all to believe on Christ: “This is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ.” So that a man is not to question the Lord’s willingness to receive men who go to Christ honestly, for God hath abundantly cleared that in Scripture. Unless a man know so much, he will scarcely dare to lay his heart open for that noble device of saving sinners, or adventure the whole weight of his salvation upon Christ Jesus.
The fourth thing pre-required is, The man who would close with Christ Jesus must resolve to break all covenants with hell and death: “Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us; for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves.” Whatsoever known evil men are engaged in, they must resolve to forego it: “for there is no concord between Christ and Belial.” The Lord requireth that they who would expect “him to be for them, should not be for another.” This is far from evangelical repentance, which I grant doth not precede a man’s closing with Christ by faith there is little here beyond a disregard of these things to which a man was formerly devoted, and a slighting what he was mad upon, because he seeth himself destroyed thereby, and relief now offered: upon which his heart begins to be more intent than formerly it was. After this, when Christ is looked upon alone, his worth and beauty doth appear, so that among all the gods there is none like unto him, and he appeareth as a sufficient covering of the eyes to all who get him: upon which the heart loves God’s device in the new covenant, and loves to lay its weight upon Christ rather than any other way, bending towards him; and so the man becomes a believer.
Now, I will not say that all these things of which we have spoken, are formally, orderly, and distinctly, found in every person before he close with God in Christ; for the way of the heart with Christ may be added to “the four wonderful things.” It is difficult to trace the heart in its translation from darkness to light; yet we hold out the most ordinary and likely way to him who asks the way; debarring thereby ignorant and senseless persons from meddling, and discharging them to pretend to any interest in him while they remain such.
SECT. III. The Properties and native Consequences of true Believing.
IV. THE Fourth thing we proposed to speak to is, The properties of this duty, when rightly gone about. I shall only mention a few.
1. Believing on Christ must be personal; a man himself, and in his own proper person, must close with Christ Jesus: “The just shall live by his faith.” This saith, that it will not suffice for a man’s safety and relief, that he is in covenant with God as a born member of the visible church, by virtue of the parent’s subjection to Gods ordinances neither will it suffice that the person had the initiating seal of baptism added, and that he then virtually engaged to seek, salvation by Christ’s blood, as all infants do: neither doth it suffice that men are come of believing parents; their faith will not instate their children into a right to the spiritual blessings of the covenant: neither will it suffice that parents did in some respect engage for their children, and give them away to God; all these things do not avail. The children of the kingdom and of godly predecessors are cast out; unless a man, in his own person, put forth faith in Christ Jesus, and with his own heart be pleased and acquiesce in that device of saving sinners, he cannot be saved. I grant, this faith is given unto him by Christ; but certain it is, that it must be personal.
2. This duty must be cordial and hearty: “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” A man must be sincere, and without guile, in closing with Christ, judging him the only covering of the eyes, not hankering after another way. The matter must not swim only in the head or understanding, but it must be in the heart; the man not only must be persuaded that Christ is the way, but affectionately persuaded of it, loving and liking the thing, having complacency in it; so that “it is all a man’s desire,” as David speaketh of the covenant. If a man be cordial and affectionate in any thing, surely he must be so here in this “one thing that is necessary.” It must not be simply a fancy in the head, it must be a heart-business, a soul-business; yea, not, a business in the outer court of the affections, but in the flower of the affections, and in the innermost, cabinet of the soul, where Christ is formed. Shall a man be cordial in any thing, and not in this, which comprises all his chief interests and his everlasting state within it? Shall “the Lord be said to rejoice over a man as a bridegroom rejoiceth over his bride,” and to “rest in his love with joy?” and shall not the heart of man go out and meet him here? The heart or nothing; love or nothing; marriage-love, which goeth from heart to heart; love of espousals, or nothing: “My son, give me thine heart.” “Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” I will not say that there is in all, as soon as they believe, a prevailing sensible love, which maketh sick; but there must be in believing, a rational and kindly love, so well-grounded, and deeply engaging, that many waters cannot quench it. It is strong as death, and jealousy in it burneth as fire.”
3. The third property or qualification of believing, as it goeth out after Christ, is that it must be rational. By this I mean, that the man should move towards God in Christ, in knowledge and understanding, taking up God’s device of saving sinners by Christ as the Scripture holds it out; not fancying a Christ to himself otherwise than the gospel speaketh of him, nor another way of relief by him than the word of God holdeth out. Therefore we find knowledge joined to the covenant between God and man as a requisite: “And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.” “And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord.” I mean here also, that a man be in calmness of spirit, and, as it were, in his cold blood, in closing with Christ Jesus; not in a simple fit of affection, which soon vanisheth: “He that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;” nor in a distemper through some outward distress, as the people were: “When he slew them, then they sought him–and proved not steadfast in the covenant;” nor under a temptation of some outward temporary interest, as Simon Magus was when he believed. A man must act here rationally, as being master of himself, in some measure able to judge of the good or evil of the thing as it stands before him.
4. The fourth is faith; as it goeth out rationally, so it goeth out resolutely. The poor distressed people in the gospel did most resolutely cast themselves upon Christ. This resoluteness of spirit is in respect to all difficulties that lie in the way; violence is offered to these. The man whose heart is a laying out for Christ Jesus, cannot say, “There is a lion in the street.” If he cannot have access by the door, he will break through the roof of the house, with that man–“And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the house-top, and let him down through the tiling, with his couch, into the midst before Jesus.” He often does not regard that which the world calls discretion or prudence, like Zaccheus climbing up on a tree to see Christ, when faith was forming in his bosom. This resoluteness of spirit looks forward to what inconveniencies may follow, and disregards all these; at least, resolving over all these, like a “wise builder, who reckoneth the expense before-hand.” This resoluteness is also in regard to all a man’s idols, and such weights as would easily beset him, if he did not follow after Christ over them all, like that blind man who cast his garment from him when Christ called him. This resoluteness in the soul proceedeth from desperate self-necessity within the man, as it was with the railer, and from the sovereign command of God, obliging the man to move towards Christ. “This is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ;” and from the good report gone abroad of God, that “he putteth none away that come unto him through Christ, but commends such as do adventure over the greatest difficulties, as the woman of Canaan. But, above all, this resoluteness doth proceed from the arm of JEHOVAH, secretly and strongly drawing the sinner towards Christ “No man can come to me, except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him.”
I will not say, that every one, closing with Christ in the offers of the gospel, has all the above thoughts formally in his mind; yet, upon search, it will be found, if he be put to it, or put in mind of these things, they are then uppermost in the soul.
From what is said, it manifestly appears, that many in the visible church had need to do some what further for securing of their soul, when they come to years of discretion, than is found to have been done by them before, in the covenant between God and the church, sealed to them in baptism.
From what is said also, there is a competent guard upon the free grace of God in the gospel; held out through Christ Jesus; so that ignorant, senseless, profane men cannot, with any shadow of reason, pretend to an interest in it. It is true, believing in Christ, and closing with him as a perfect saviour, seems easy, and every godless man saith, that he believes on him: but they deceive themselves, since their soul has never cordially, rationally, and resolutely gone out after Christ Jesus, as we have said. It may be, some wicked men have been enlightened, and have found some disturbance in their fear—Felix trembled: or in their joy–“He that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it”–and “Herod heard John gladly;” but not “having engaged their heart in approaching to God,” have either sitten down in that common work, as their sanctuary, until the trial came–“When tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended;” or “they return back with the dog to their vomit,” from which they had in some measure “escaped, by the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour;” or they utterly fall away to the hatred and malicious despising and persecuting of Christ and his interests, “from whence hardly can they be recovered:” “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” “For if we sin wilfully, after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.–Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite into the Spirit of grace?” Which things sold provoke men to be serious in this great business.
We come now to speak to the Fifth thing proposed; and that is, What are the native consequences of true believing? I shall reduce what I will speak of them to these two; namely, Union with God, and Communion. First, then, I say, when a sinner closes with Christ Jesus, as has been stated, there is presently an admirable union, a strange oneness, between God and the man. As the husband and wife, head and body, root and branches, are not to be reckoned two, but one; so Christ, or God in Christ, and the sinner closing with him by faith, are one: “We are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones,” &c. “He that is so joined unto the Lord, is one spirit.” “As the Father is in the Son, and Christ in the Father; so believers are one in the Father, and the Son: they we one, as the Father and the Son are one. The Father in Christ, and Christ in believers, that they may be made perfect in one.” O what a strange interweaving, and indissoluble union there!
Because of this union betwixt God and the believer,
1. They can never hate one another. Henceforth, the Lord will never hate the believer: “As no man hateth his own flesh at any time, but cherisheth and nourisheth it,” so doth Christ his people. He may be angry, so as to correct and chastise the man that is a believer; but all he doth to him is for his good and advantage. “All the Lord’s paths must be mercy and truth to him.” “All things must work together for good to him.” On the other side, the believer can never hate God maliciously; for “he that is born of God sinneth not.” For the Lord hath resolved and ordained things so, that his hand shall undoubtedly so be upon all believers for good, that they shall never get leave to hate him, and be so plucked out of his hand.
2. Because of this union, there is a strange sympathy and fellow-feeling between God and the believer. “The Lord is afflicted with the man’s affliction.” He doth tenderly, carefully, and seasonably resent it, as if he were afflicted with it. “He who toucheth the believer, toucheth the apple of the Lord’s eye.” “He is touched with the feeling of their infirmities;” and “precious in his sight is their blood.” In a word, what is done to them, is done unto him; and what is not done unto them, is not done unto him: “He that receiveth you, receiveth me.” “In as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.–In as much as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.” On the other part, “the zeal of his house” worketh in the heart of the believer. “The Lord’s reproach” lighteth on the believer. If it go well with his affairs, that is the business of his people. So there is a strange sympathy between God and believers, all by virtue of the union between them because of which, men should hate every thing which would compete with him in their love or affections, and should disdain to be slaves to the creatures, since these are the servants of their Lord and husband, and their servants through him. What a hateful thing for a queen to have evil intercourse with the servants of her prince and, husband: it is also a shame for a believer to be “afraid of evil tidings,” since the Lord, with whom he is one, alone ruleth all things, “and doth whatsoever pleaseth him in heaven and earth.” “All things are yours, and ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” “Surely he shall not be moved for ever, he shall not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord; his heart is established, he shall not be afraid.” “Our God is in the heavens, he hath done whatsoever he pleased.”
The other great consequence of believing, is an admirable unparalleled communion, by virtue of which,
1. The parties themselves belong each to the other. The Lord is the God of his people: he himself, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is their God, in all his glorious attributes; his justice as well as his mercy; his wisdom, power, holiness, &c. for he becomes the God of his people, as he often speaks in the covenant. On the other part, the believers are his people. In their very persons they are his, as the covenant doth speak; they shall be his people; their head, their heart, their hand, &c. whatsoever they are, they are his.
2. By virtue of this communion they have a mutual interest in one another’s whole goods and property, in as far as can be useful. All the Lord’s word belongs to the believer, threatenings as well as promises, for their good; all his ways, all his works of all sorts, special communications, death, devils, even all things, in so far as can be useful: “All things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours, and ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” On the other side, all that belongs to the believer is the Lord’s; heritage, children, life, wife, credit, &c. all is at his disposing; if any of these can be useful to him, the believer is to forego them, else he falsifies that communion, and declares himself, in so far, unworthy of Christ; “If any man come to me, and hate not his father–yea, and his life also, he cannot be my disciple.”
3. By virtue of this communion, there should be much intimacy and familiarity between God and the believer. The Lord may interfere with any thing which belongs to the believer, and do unto him what seemeth good to him; and the man is not to mistake, or say unto God, “What dost thou?” except in so far as concerns his duty; yea, he is still to say, in every case, “Good is the word and will of the Lord.” On the other part, the believer may, in a humble way, be homely and familiar with God in Christ; he may “come with boldness to the throne of grace,” and not use a number of compliments in his addresses unto God; for “he is no more a stranger unto God,” so that he needs not speak unto God as one who has acquaintance to make every hour, as many professors do; which makes a great inconsistency in their religion.
The believer also may lay open all his heart unto God: “I have poured out my soul before the Lord,” and impart all his secrets unto him, and all his temptations, without fear of a mistake. The believer also may inquire into what God doth, in so far as may concern his own duty, or in so far as may ward of mistakes respecting the Lord’s way, and reconcile it with his words; so Job says, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him; but I will maintain mine own ways before him.” The believer is a friend in this respect, as “knowing what the Master doth.”
The believer also may be homely with God, to go to him daily with his failings, and seek repentance, pardon, and peace, through Christ’s advocacy: “Him hath God exalted with his right hand, to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins:” “If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” O how often in one day may the believer plead pardon, if he intend not to mock God, or to turn grace into licentiousness! The Lord hath commanded men to “forgive seventy times seven times in one day;” and has intimated there in the parable, “of a King who took account of his servants,” how much more the Master will forgive.
The believer also may be homely to entrust God with all his outward concerns, for he doth care for these things: “If God so clothe the grass of the field–shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat; or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things:” “Casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you.” Yea, the believer may humbly require of God to be forthcoming to him in all such cases as beseemeth, and to help him to suitable fruit in every season, “even grace in time of need.” Yea, how great things may believers seek from him in Christ Jesus, both for themselves and others! “It we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:” “Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do:” “Ask of me things to come concerning my sons; and concerning the work of my lands command ye me.” It is the shame and great prejudice of his people, that they do not improve that communion with God more than they do: Christ may justly upbraid them, “that they ask nothing in his name.”
By what is said, it appears of how great consequence this duty of believing is, by which a man doses with Christ Jesus, whom the Father hath sealed, and given for a covenant to the people. It is so honourable to God, answering his very design, and serving his interest in the whole contrivance and manifestation of the gospel; and it is so advantageous to men, that Satan and an evil heart of unbelief do mightily oppose it, by moving objections against it. I shall hint some of the most common.