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then thou scarest me with dreams, and terrifiest me through visions.” (Job vii. 13, 14.)
6. Doth it not grieve thee to see the people of God so comfortable, when thou hast none thyself; and to think of the glory which they shall inherit, when thou hast no assurance thyself of ever enjoying it?
.7. What shift dost thou make to think of thy dying hour? Thou knowest it is near, and there is no avoiding it, nor any medicine found out that can prevent it. Thou knowest it is the “king of terrors,” (Job xviii. 14,) and the very inlet to thine unchangeable state. The godly that have some assurance of their future welfare, have yet much ado to submit to it willingly, and find that to die comfortably is a very difficult work. How then canst thou think of it without astonishment, who hast got no assurance of the rest to come? If thou shouldst die this day, and “who knows what a day may bring forth,” (Prov. xxvii. 13) thou dost not know whether thou shalt go straight to heaven or to hell ; and canst thou be merry till thou art got out of this dangerous state? Methinks that in Deut. xxviii. 25-27 should be the looking-glass of thy heart.
8. What shift dost thou make to preserve thy heart from hor, ror, when thou rememberest the great judgment day, and the everlasting flames? Dost thou not tremble as Felix, when thou hearest of it; (Acts xxiv, 25 ;) and as the elders of the town trembled when Samuel came in, saying, “ Comest thou peaceably?” (1 Sam. xvi. 4.) So methinks thou shouldst do when the minister comes into the pulpit; and thy heart, whenever thou meditatest of that day, should meditate terror, (Isa. xxxiii. 18,) and thou shouldst even be a terror to thyself, and all thy friends, (Jer. xx. 4.) If the keepers trembled and became as dead men, when they did but see the angels, (Matt. xxviii. 3, 4,) how canst thou think of living in hell with devils till thou hast got some sound assurance that thou shalt escape it? Or, if thou seldom think of these things, the wonder is as great, what shift thou inakest to keep those thoughts from thy heart, and to live so quietly in so doleful a state? Thy bed is very soft, or thy heart is very hard, if thou canst sleep soundly in this uncertain case.
I have showed thee the danger, let me next proceed to show thee the remedy.
If this general uncertainty of the world about their salvation, were constrained or remediless, then must it be borne as other unavoidable miseries, and it were unmeet either to reprove them
for it, or dissuade them from it; but, alas ! the common cause is wilfulness and negligence. Men will not be persuaded to use the remedy, though it be easy, and at hand, prescribed to them by God himself, and all necessary helps thereunto provided for them. The great means to conquer this uncertainty, is self-examination, or the serious and diligent trying of a man's heart and state, by the rule of Scripture. The Scripture tells us plainly who shall be saved, and who shall not: so that if men would but first search the word, to find out who are these men that shall have rest, and what are their properties by which they may be known; and then next search carefully their own hearts, till they find whether they are those men or not, how could they choose but to come to some certainty? But, alas ! either men understand not the nature and use of this duty, or else they will not be at the pains to try. Go through a congregation of a thousand men, and how few of them shall you meet with, that ever bestowed one hour in all their lives in a close examination of their title to heaven! Ask thy own conscience, reader, when was the time, and where was the place, that ever thou solemnly tookest thy heart to task, as in the sight of God, and examinedst it by scripture interrogatories, whether it be born again and renewed, or not; whether it be holy, or not; whether it be set most on God, or on creatures ; on heaven, or on earth; and didst follow on this examination till thou hadst discovered thy condition, and so passed sentence on thyself accordingly.
But because this is a work of so high concernment, and so commonly neglected, and men's souls do so much languish everywhere under this neglect, I will, therefore, though it be digressive, 1. Show you that it is possible, by trying, to come to a certainty; 2. Show the hinderances that keep men from trying, and from assurance; 3. I will lay down some motives to persuade you to it; 4. I will give you some directions how you should perform it; 5. And lastly, I will lay you down some marks out of Scripture, by which you may try, and so come to an infallible certainty, whether you are the people of God, for whom this rest remaineth, or not. And to prepare the way to these, I will, a little, first open to you, what examination is, and what that certainty is, which we may expect to attain to.
* The new creature, in all Christians, doth differ from the men of this world, by the renovation of the mind, and the calmness of their thoughts, and the love of God, and the heavenly love.-Macarius, Hom. lib. v.
Sect. II. This self-examination is, an inquiry into the course of our lives, but more especially, into the inward acts of our souls, and trying of their sincerity by the word of God, and accordingly judging of our real and relative estate.
So that examination containeth several acts : 1. There must be the trial of the physical truth, or sincerity of our acts; that is, an inquiry after the very being of them; as whether there be such an act as belief, or desire, or love to God within us or not: this must be discovered by conscience, and the internal sense of the soul; whereby it is able to feel and perceive its own acts, and to know whether they be real or counterfeit.
2. The next is, the trial of the moral truth, or sincerity of acts; whether they are such as agree with the rule and the nature of their objects. This is a discursive work of reason, comparing our acts with the rule; it implieth the former knowledge of the being of our acts, and it implieth the knowledge of Scripture in the point in question, and also the belief of the truth of Scripture. This moral, spiritual truth of our acts, is another thing, far different from the natural or physical truth; as far as a man's being differeth from his honesty. One man loveth his wife under the notion of a harlot, or only to satisfy
8-Some of our divines (beyond sea) are so foully mistaken in this, as to tell the papists confidently, that every man that hath true faith, doth know and feel it; not only that he hath faith, but that it is true and saving. Even ju. dicious Testardus is peremptory here, and his learned neighbour Chamier avers : Hanc operationem Spiritus Saucti sentiri ab unoquoque in quo fiat, nec relinquere quenquam ignarum sui. -De Fidei Objecto, tom. 3. lib. xiii. c. 2, 3, But our English divines in this point are the most sound of any in the world ; being more exercised, I think, about doubting tender consciences. You see practice discovereth some truth, which mere disputing loseth. Idem Chamier. pessime asserit, Neminem credere in Christum, qui non credat sibi remissa esse peccata, se esse justificatum. Ibid. c, 5, et pejus adhuc, tom. 3, lib. xiii. c. 6. sec. 14. Si plane cognoscere (nos esse prædestinatos) intelligas reminisci rem ita se habere, et certam esse, concedo. Hoc enim fides habet vera, nec est vera si non habet. When a papist discovers one or two such, O how it hardens them against all our doctrine, and makes them read all the rest with invincible prejudice; even as we suspect the more all theirs, because of those errors that we palpably discern. Nec melius magous Calvinus 'Institut.' lib. iii. c. 2. sect. 16. Fidelis non est nisi qui suæ salutis securitati innixus, diabolo et morti confidenter insultet. Sic alibi passim, et ipse, et Lutherus, et alii plurimi. Vere fidelis non est nisi qui solida persuasione Deum sibi propitium benevolumque patrem esse persuasus, de ejus benignitate omnia sibi pollicetur : nisi qui divinæ erga se benevolentiæ promissionibus fretus, indubitatam salutis expectationem præsumit. Id. Ib. At hæc in sect. 17. mollificat Calvinus, haud sanetamen judicans fidei naturam in certitudine hac positam esse, etsi concedit eam tentationibus et inquietudine aliquando esse impetitam.
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his lust; another loveth his wife with a true, conjugal affection: .the former is true, physical love, or true in point of being; but the latter only is true, moral love. The like may be said in regard of all the acts of the soul. There is a believing, loving, trusting, fearing, rejoicing, all true in point of being, and not .counterfeit; which yet are all false in point of morality and right being, and so no gracious acts at all. . 3. The third thing being contained in the work of self-examination, is the judging or concluding of our real estate; that is, of the habitual temper or disposition of our hearts, by the quality of their acts; whether they are such acts as prove a · habit of holiness, or only some slight disposition; or whether they are only, by some accident, enticed or enforced, and prove neither habit nor disposition. The, like, also of our evil acts. Now, the acts which prove a habit must be, 1, Free and cheerful; not constrained, or such as we had rather not do if we could help it. 2. Frequent; if there be opportunity, . 3. Thorough and serious : where note also, that the trial of the soul's disposition by those acts, which make after the end, as desire, love, &c., to God, Christ, heaven, is always more necessary and more certain, than the trial of its disposition to the means only. .
4. The last act in this examination, is to conclude or judge of our relative estate, from the former judgment of our acts and habits. As if we find sincere acts, we may conclude that we have the habits ; so from both, we may conclude of our relation. So that our relations, or habits, are neither of them felt or known immediately, but must be gathered from the knowledge of our acts, which may be felt; as for example : 1. I inquire, whether I believe in Christ, or love God? 2. If I find that I do, then I inquire next, whether I do it sincerely, according to the rule and the nature of the object? 3. If I find that I do so, then I conclude that I am regenerate or sanctified. 4. And from both these, I conclude that I am pardoned, reconciled, justified, and adopted into sonship, and title to the inheritance. All this is done in a way of reasoning, thus :
1. He that believes in spiritual sincerity, or he that loves God in spiritual sincerity, is a regenerate man: but I do so believe and love; therefore, I am regenerate.
2. He that believes in sincerity, or he that is regenerate, for the conclusion will follow upon either, is also pardoned, justi. fied, and adopted: but I do so believe, or I am regenerate; therefore, I am justified, &c.
do so bher, is also ;
. Sect. III. Thus you see what examination is. Now let us see what this certainty or assurance is; and indeed it is nothing else but the knowledge of the fore-mentioned conclusions, that we are sanctified, justified, shall be glorified, as they arise from the premises in the work of examination.
So that here you may observe, how immediately this assurance followeth the conclusion in examination, and so, how ne-, cessary examination is to the obtaining of assurance, and how conducible thereunto.
Also, that we are not speaking of the certainty of the object, or of the thing itself considered, but of the certainty of the subject, or of the thing to our knowledge,
Also you may observe, that before we can come to this cers tainty of the conclusion, That we are justified, and shall be glorified, there mụst be a certainty of the premises, And in respect of the major proposition, He that believeth sincerely, shall be justified and saved; there is requisite in us, 1. A certainty of knowledge ; that such a proposition is written in Scripture. 2. A certainty of assent or faith ; that this Scrips ture is the word of God, and true. Also, in respect of the minor proposition, But I do sincerely believe, or love, &c.; there is requisite, 1. A certainty of the truth of our faith in point of being; 2. And a certainty of its truth in point of morality, or congruence with the rule, or its right being. And then fola lowėth the assurance, which is the certainty that the conclusion, Therefore I am justified, &c. followeth necessarily upon the former premises.
Here also you must carefully distinguish betwixt the seven ral degrees of assurance. h All assurance is not of the highest degree. It differs in strength, according to the different degrees of apprehension, in all the fore-mentioned points of certainty which are necessary thereunto. He that can , truly raise the foresaid conclusion, that he is justified, &c., from the premises, hath some degree of assurance, though he do it with much weakness, and staggering, and doubting. The weakness of our assurance in any one point of the premises, will accordingly weaken our assurance in the conclusion.
Some, when they speak of certainty of salvation, do mean only such a certainty as excludeth all doubting, and think nos: thing else can be called certainty, but this high degree. Per
Vide Greg. De Valen.' tom. iii. disp. 8. q. 4. punct. 4.