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graces, can be known thus or not? And that it may, I prove thus :
1. From the natural use of this conscience, and internal sense, which is to acquaint us not only with the being, but the qualifications of the acts of our souls. All voluntary motions are sensible, and though the heart is so deceitful, that no man can certainly know the heart of another, and with much difficulty clearly know his own; yet, by diligent observation and examination, known they may be ; for though our inward sense and conscience may be depraved, yet not extirpated, or quite extinguished.
2. The commands of believing, repenting, &c., were in vain, especially as the condition of the covenant, if we could not know whether we perform them or not.
3. The Scripture would never make such a wide difference between the godly and the wicked, the children of God and the children of the devil, and set forth the happiness of the one and the misery of the other so largely, and make this difference to run through all the veins of its doctrine, if a man cannot know which of these two estates he is in.
4. Much less would the Holy Ghost bid us“ give all diligence to make our calling and election sure, if it could not be done.” (2 Pet. i. 10.) And that this is not meant of objective certainty, but of the subjective, appeareth in this ; that the apostle mentioneth not salvation, or any thing to come, but calling and election, which to believers were objectively certain before, as being both past.
5. And to what purpose should we be so earnestly urged to examine, and prove, and try ourselves, whether we be in the faith, and whether Christ be in us, or we be reprobates ? (1 Cor. xi. 28, and 2 Cor. xiii. 5.) Why should we search for that which cannot be found?
6. How can we obey those precepts which require us to rejoice always ? (1 Thess. v. 16:) To call God our Father : (Luke xi. 12:) To live in his praises : (Psalm xlix. 1–5:) And to long for Christ's coming: (Rev. xxii. 17,20; 1 Thess. i. 10:) and to comfort ourselves with the mention of it: (2 Thess. iv. .18): which are all the consequents of assurance. Who can do any of these heartily, that is not in some measure sure that he is the child of God ? :
7. There are some duties that either the saints only, or chiefly, are commanded to perform; and how shall that be done, VOL. XXII.
if we cannot know that we are saints ? (Psalm cxliv. 5, cxxxii. 9, xxx. 4, xxxi. 23, &c.)
Thus I have proved that a certainty may be attained ; an infallible, though not a perfect certainty : such as excludeth deceit, though it excludeth not all degrees of doubting. If Bellarmine, hy his conjectural certainty, do mean this infallible though imperfect certainty, (as I doubt he doth not,) then I would not much contend with him: and I acknowledge that it is not properly a certainty of mere faith, but mixed. .
Sect. V. 3. The third thing that I promised, is, to show you what are the hinderances which keep men from examination and assurance. I shall, 1. Show what hinders them from trying. And, 2. What hindereth them from knowing, when they do try, that so when you see the impediments, you may avoid them.
And, 1. We cannot doubt but Satan will do his part, to hinder us from such a necessary duty as this : if all the power he hath can do it, or all the means and instruments which he can raise up, he will be sure above all duties to keep you off from this. He is loth the godly should have that joy, and assurance, and advantage, against corruption, which the faithful performance of self-examination would procure them. And for the ungodly, he knows, if they should once fall close to this examining task, they would find out his deceits, and their own danger, and so be very likely to escape him; if they did but faithfully perform this duty, he were likely to lose most of the subjects of his kingdom. How could he get so many millions to hell willingly, if they knew they went thither? And how could they choose but know, if they did thoroughly try, having such a clear light, and sure rule in the Scripture, to discover it? If the beast did know that he is going to the slaughter, he would not be driven so easily to it, but would strive for his life before he comes to die, as well as he doth at the time of his death. If Balaam had seen as much of the danger as his ass, instead of his driving on so furiously, he would have been as loth to proceed as he. If the Syrians had known whither they were going, as well as Elisha did, they would have stopped before they found themselves in the hands of their enemies. (2 Kings vi. 19, 20.) So, if sinners did but know whither they were hasting, they would stop before they are engulfed in dainnation. If every swearer, drunkard, whoremonger, lover of the world, or unregenerate person whatsoever, did certainly know that the way he is in, will never bring him to heaven, and that if he die in it, he shall undoubtedly perish, Satan could never get him to proceed so resolvedly. Alas! he would then think every day a year till he were out of the danger; and whether he were eating, drinking, working, or whatever he were doing, the thoughts of his danger would be still in his mind, and this voice would be still in his ears, “ Except thou repent and be converted, thou shalt surely perish.” The devil knows well enough, that if he cannot keep men from trying their states, and knowing their misery, he shall hardly be able to keep them from repentance and salvation. And, therefore, he deals with them as Jael with Sisera; she gives him fair words, and food, and layeth him to sleep, and covereth his face, and then she comes upon him softly, and strikes the nail into his temples. (Judges iv. 19.) And as the Philistines with Sampson, who first put out his eyes, and then made him grind in their mills. (Judges xvi. 21.) If the pit be not covered, who but the blind will fall into it? If the snare be not hid, the bird will escape it: Satan knows how to angle for souls better than to show them the hook or line, and to fright them away with a noise, or with his own appearance.
Therefore, he labours to keep them from a searching ministry; or to keep the minister from helping them to search; or to take off the edge of the words that it may not pierce and divide; or to turn away their thoughts, or to possess them with prejudice. Satan is acquainted with all the preparations and studies of the minister; he knows when he hath provided a searching sermon, fitted to the state and necessity of a hearer; and therefore he will keep him away that day, if it be possible, above all, or else cast him asleep, or steal away the word by the cares and talk of the world, or some way prevent its operation, and the sinner's obedience.
This is the first hinderance.
Sect. VI. Wicked men also are great impediments to poor sinners when they should examine and discover their estates, 1. Their examples hinder much. When an ignorant sinner
1 At hic tritissima quæque via et celeberima maxime decipit. Nihil ergo magis præstandum est, quarn ne pecorum ritu sequamur antecedentium gregem, pergentes non qua eundum est, sed qua itur. Nulla res nos majoribus malis implicat, quam quod ad rumorem componimur; uptima rati ea, quæ magno assensu recepta sunt, quorumcunque exempla multa sunt: nec ad rationem, sed ad similitudinein vivimus. Inde ista tanta coacervatio aliorum super alios ruentium. Quod in strage hominum magna evenit, cum ipse se
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seeth all his friends and neighbours do as he doth, and live quietly in the same state with himself; yea, the rich and learned as well as others, this is an exceeding great temptation to him to proceed in his security. 2. Also, the merry company, and pleasant discourse of these men, doth take away the thoughts 'of his spiritual state, and doth make the understanding drunk with their sensual delight : so that if the Spirit had before put into them any jealousy of themselves, or any purpose to try themselves, this jovial company doth soon quench them all. 3. Also, their continual discourse of nothing but matters of the world, doth damp all these purposes for self-trying, and make them forgotten.'. 4. Their railings also, and scorning at godly persons, is a very great impediment to multitudes of souls, and possesseth-them with such a prejudice and dislike of the way to heaven, that they settle resolvedly in the way that they are in. 5. Also, their constant persuasions, allurements, threats, &c., hinder much. God doth scarcely ever open the eyes of a poor sinner, to see that all is nought with him, and his way is wrong, but presently there is a multitude of Satan's apostles ready to flatter him, and daub, and deceive, and settle him again in the quiet possession of his former master. “What,' say they, 'do you make a doubt of your salvation, who have lived so well, and done nobody harm, and been beloved of all? God is merciful : and if such as you shall not be saved, God help a great many: what do you think is become of all your forefathers : and what will become of all your friends and neighbours that live as you do : will they all be damned; shall none be saved, think you, but a few strict precisians ? Come, come, if ye hearken to these books or preachers, they will drive you to despair shortly, or drive you out of your wits : they must have something to say: they would have all like themselves : are not all men sinners; and did not Christ die to save sinners ? Never trouble your head with these thoughts, but believe and you shall do well.?t Thus do they follow the soul that is escaping from Satan, with restless cries, till they have brought him back : oh, how many thousands have such charms kept asleep in deceit and security, till death and hell have awakened and better inforined them! The Lord calls to the sinner, and tells him, “ The gate is strait, the way is narrow, and few find it: try and examine whether thou be in the faith or no: give all diligence to make sure in time.” (Luke xiii. 24; 2 Cor. xiii. 5; 2 Pet. i. 10.) And the world cries out clean contrary, never doubt, never trouble yourselves with these thoughts : l entreat the sinner that is in this strait, to consider, that it is Christ, and not their fathers, or mothers, or neighbours, or friends, that must judge them at last; and if Christ condemn them, these cannot save them : and therefore common reason may tell them, that it is not from the words of ignorant men, but from the word of God, that they inust fetch their comforts and hopes of salvation. When Ahab would inquire among the multitudes of flattering prophets, it was his death. They can flatter men into the snare, but they cannot tell how to bring them out. Oh, take the counsel of the Holy Ghost, “Let no man deceive you with vain words : for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience : be not ye therefore partakers with them;" (Ephes. v. 6, 7 ;) and, “Save yourselves from this untoward generation.” (Acts i. 40.) .
populus premit, nemo ita cadit, ut non alium in se attrahat; primi exitio sequentibus sunt. Nemo sibi tantum errat, sed alieni erroris causa et autor est.-Seneca de Vita Beat. c. l.
s Read on this subject Mr. Young's books, which handle it fully.
* Ompem operam dedi, ut me multitudini educerem, et aliqua dote notabilem facerem. Quid aliud quam telis me opposui, et malevolentiæ quod morderet ostendi ?-Seneca de Vita Beat. c. 2. You see among the very heathers goodness had still the most enemies.
3. But the greatest hinderances are in men's own hearts. : ,
Sect. VII. 1. Some are so ignorant that they know not what self-examination is, nor what a minister means when he persuadeth them to try themselves; or they know not that there is any necessity of it; but think every man is bound to believe u that God is his father, and that his sins are pardoned, whether it be true or false; and that it were a great fault to make any question of it; or, they do not think that assurance can be attained; or, that there is any such great difference betwixt one man and another ; but that we are all Christians, and therefore need not to trouble ourselves any further ; or, at least, they know not wherein the difference lies, 'nor how to set upon the searching of their hearts, nor to find out its secret motions, and to judge accordingly. They have as gross conceits of that regeneration, which they must search for, as Nicodemus had. (John
u Or, as Mr. Saltmarsh saith, every man is bound to believe, but no man to question, whether he believe or not.--pp. 92, 93. And this faith, he saith, is being persuaded more or less of Christ's love.—p. 94. So that by this doctrine every man is bound to believe that Christ loveth him, and not to question his belief; if it were only Christ's common love, he might thus believe it, but a special love to him is nowhere written.