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their own and other's conceits of their holiness. And " verily they have their reward;" Matt. vi. 2. But those of them that place their chief happiness in the love of God, and the eternal fruition of him in heaven, and seek this sincerely according to their helps and power, though they are misled into some superstitious errors, I hope I may number with those that are sincere ; for all their errors and the ill effects of them.
XXIV. 1. A confirmed Christian doth ordinarily discern the sincerity of his own heart, and consequently hath some well-grounded assurance of the pardon of his sins, and of the favor of God, and of his everlasting happiness; and therefore no wonder if he live a peaceable and joyful life. For his grace is not so small as to be undiscernible, nor is it as a sleepy, buried seed or principle; but it is almost of continual act; and they that have a great degree of grace, and also keep it in lively exercise, do seldom doubt of it. Besides that they blot not their evidence by so many infirmities and falls. They are more in the light, and have more acquaintance with themselves, and more sense of the abundant love of God, and of his exceeding mercies, than weak Christians have ; and therefore must needs have
They have boldness of access to the throne of grace, without unrererent contempt ; Ephes. iï. 12. ii. 18. They have more of the spirit of adoption, and therefore more childlike confidence in God, and can call him Father with greater freedom and comfort than any others can : Rom. viii. 15, 16. Gal. iv. 6. Ephes. i. 6.
1 John v. 19, 20. “ And we know that we are of God, and that the whole world lieth in wickedness :" &c.
2. But the weak Christian hath so small a degree of grace, and so much corruption, and his grace is so little in act, and his sin so much, that he seldom if ever attaineth to any well-grounded assurance, tiil he attain to a greater measure of
He differeth so little from the seeming Christian, that neither himself nor others do certainly discern the difference. When he searcheth after the truth of his faith, and love, and heavenly-mindedness, he findeth so much unbelief and averseness from God, and earthly-mindedness, that he cannot be certain which of them is predominant; and whether the interest of this world or that to come, do bear the sway. So that he
is often in perplexities and fears, and more often in a dull uncertainty. And if he seem at any time to have assurance, it is usually but an ill-grounded persuasion of the truth; though it be true which he apprehendeth, when he taketh himself to be the child of God, yet it is upon unsound reasons that he judgeth so, or else upon sound reasons weakly and uncertainly discerned ; so that there is commonly much of security, presumption, fancy, or mistake, in his greatest comforts. He is not yet in a condition fit for full assurance, till his love and obedience be more full.
3. But the seeming Christian cannot possibly in that estate, have either certainty, or good probability that he is a child of God, because it is not true : his seeming certainty is merely self-deceit, and his greatest confidence is but presumption, because the spirit of Christ is not within him, and therefore he is certainly none of his; Rom. viii. 9.
XXV. 1. The assurance of a confirmed Christian doth increase his alacrity and diligence in duty, and is always seen in his more obedient, holy, fruitful, life. The sense of the love and mercy of God, is as the rain upon the tender grass : he is never so fruitful, so thankful, so heavenly, as when he hath the greatest certainty that he shall be saved. The love of God is then shed abroad upon his heart by the Holy Ghost, which maketh him abound in love to God; Rom. v.1-4. He is the more stedfast, immoveable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord, when he is most certain that his labour shall not be in vain in the Lord; 1 Cor. xv. 58.
2. But the weak Christian is unfit yet to manage assurance well, and therefore it is that it is not given him; graces must grow proportionably together. If he be but confidently persuaded that he is justified and shall be saved, he is very apt to gather some consequence from it, that tendeth to security and to the remitting of his watchfulness and care. He is ready to be the bolder with sin, and stretch his conscience, and omit some duties, and take more fleshly liberty and ease, and think, “Now I am a child of God, I am out of danger, I am sure I cannot totally fall away. And though his judgment con
' clude not, therefore I may venture further upon worldly, Aeshly pleasures, and need not be so strict and diligent as I was,' yet his
heart and practice thus conclude. And he is most obedient when he is most in fear of hell, and he is worst in his heart and life, when he is most confident that all his danger is past; Heb. iv. 1, 2. iii. 14 -16.
3. But the seeming Christian, though he have no assurance, is hardened in his carnal state by his presumption. Had he but assurance to be saved without a holy life, he would cast off that very image of godliness which he yet retaineth. The conceit of his own sincerity and salvation, is that which deludeth and undoeth him. What sin would not gain or pleasure draw him to commit, if he were but sure to be forgiven? It is fear of hell that causeth that seeming religion which he hath; and therefore if that fear be gone all is gone ; and all his piety, and diligence, and righteousness, is come to nought; Gal. vi. 3. John viii. 39. 42. 44.
XXVI. 1. For all his assurance, a confirmed Christian is so well acquainted with his manifold imperfections, and daily failings, and great unworthiness, that he is very low and vile in his own eyes; and, therefore, can easily endure to be low and vile in the
of others. He hath a constant sense of the burden of his remaining sin ; especially he doth even abhor himself, when he findeth the averseness of his own heart to God, and how little he knoweth of him, and how little he loveth him, in comparison of what he ought; and how little of heaven is upon his heart, and how strange and backward his thoughts are to the life to come. These are as fetters upon his soul. He daily groaneth under them as a captive, that he should be yet so carnal, and unable to shake off the remnant of his infirmities, as if he were sold under sin; that is, in bondage to it; Rom. vii. 14. He hateth himself more for the imperfections of his love and obedience to God, than hypocrites do for their reigning sin. And O how he longeth for the day of his deliverace; Rom. vii. 24. He thinketh it no great injury for another to judge of him as he judgeth of himself, even to be less than the least of all God's mercies. He is more troubled for being overpraised and overvalued, than for being dispraised and vilified; as thinking those that praise him are more mistaken, and lay the more dangerous snare for his soul. For he hath a special antipathy to pride; and wondereth that VOL. II.
any rational man can be SO
blind as not to see enough to humble him. For his own part in the midst of all God's graces) he seeth in himself so much darkness, imperfection, corruption, and want of further grace, that he is loathsome and burdensome continually to himself. If you see him sad, or troubled, and ask him the cause, it is ten to one but it is himself he complaineth of. The frowardest wife, the most undutiful child, the most disobedient servant, the most injurious neighbor, the most malicious enemy, is not half so great a trouble to him as he is to himself. He prayeth abundantly more against his own corruption, than against any of these. O could he but know and love God more, and be more in heaven, and willinger to die, and freer from his own distempers, how easily could he bear all crosses, or injuries from others. He came to Christ's school as a little child (Matt. xviii. 3.), and still he is little in his own esteem ; and, therefore, disesteem and contempt from others, is no great matter with him. He thinks it can be no great wrong that is done against so poor a worm, and so unworthy a sinner as himself, (except as God or the souls of men may be interested in the cause). He heartily approveth of the justice of God, in abhorring the proud ; and hath learned that, Rom. xii. 10., “In honor preferring one another," and Gal v. 26, “Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.”
2. But the remnant of pride is usually the most notable sin of the weak Christian ; though it reigneth not, it foully blemisheth him. He would fain be taken for somebody in the church; he is ready to
l step up into a higher room, and to think himself wiser and better than he is. If he can but speak confidently of the principles of religion, and some few controversies which he hath made himself sick with, he is ready to think himself fit to be a preacher. He looketh through a magnifying-glass upon all bis own performances and gifts; he loveth to be valued and praised; he can hardly bear to be slighted and dispraised, but is ready to think hardly of those that do it, if not to hate them in some degree: he loveth not to be found fault with, though it be necessary to his amendment; and though all this vice of pride be not so predominant in him, as to conquer his humility, yet doth it much obscure and interrupt it. And though he hate this his
pride, and strive against it, and lamenteth it before God, yet still it is the sorest ulcer in his soul. And should it prevail and overcome him, he would be abhorred of God, and it would be his ruin; 2 Chron. xvi. 10. 12. Luke xxii. 24–26.
3. But in the hypocrite pride is the reigning sin. The praise of men is the air which he liveth in. He was never well acquainted with himself; and never felt aright the burden of his sins and wants ; and, therefore, cannot bear contempt from others. Indeed, if his corrupt disposition turn most to the
way of covetousness, tyranny, or lust, he can the easier bear contempt from others, as long as he hath his will at home; and he can spare their love, if he can be but feared and domineer. But still his pride is predominant; and when
. it affecteth not much the reputation of goodness, it affecteth the name of being rich or great. Sin may make him sordid, but grace doth not make him humble. Pride is the vital spirit of the corrupted state of man.
XXVII. 1. A confirmed Christian is acquainted with the deceitfulness of man's heart, and the particular corrupt inclinations that are in it; and especially with his own; and he is acquainted with the wiles and methods of the tempter, and what are the materials which he maketh his baits of, and what is the manner in which he spreadeth his nets. He seeth always some snares before him; and what company soever he is in, or what business soever he is about, he walketh as among snares, which are visible to his sight; and it is
of his business continually to avoid them. He liveth in a continual watch and warfare. He can resist much stronger and more subtle temptations than the weak can do. He is always armed, and knoweth what are the special remedies against each particular snare and sin; Eph. vi. 2 Cor. ii. 11. Prov. i. 17. And he carrieth always his antidotes about him, as one that liveth in an infectious world, and in the midst of a froward and perverse generation, from which he is charged to save himself; Phil. ii. 15. Acts ii. 40.
2. And the weak Christian is a soldier in the army of Christ, and is engaged in striving against sin (Heb. xii. 4.); and really taketh the flesh and world, as well as the devil, to be his enemies, and doth not only strive, but conquer in the main ; but yet, alas, how poorly is he