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iii. 5.) And when they should try whether the Spirit be in them, they are like those that "knew not whether there were a Holy Ghost to be received or no.” (Acts xix. 2.)
2. Some are such infidels that they will not believe that ever God will make such a difference betwixt men in the life to come, and therefore will not search themselves whether they differ here: though judgment and resurrection be in their creed, yet they are not in their faith.
3. Some are so dead-hearted, that they perceive not how nearly it doth concern them ; let us say what we can to them, they lay it not to heart, but give us the hearing, and there is an end.
4. Some are so possessed with self-love and pride, that they will not so much as suspect any such danger to themselves. Like a proud tradesman, who scorns the motion when his friends desire him to cast up his books, because they are afraid he will break. As some fond parents, that have an over-weening conceit of their own children, and therefore will not believe or hear any evil of them. Such a fond self-love doth hinder men from suspecting and trying their states.
5. Some are so guilty that they dare not try. They are so fearful that they shall find their states unsound, that they dare not search into them: and yet they dare venture them to a more dreadful trial.
6. Some are far in love with their sin, and so far in dislike with the way of God, that they dare not fall on the trial of their ways, lest they be forced from the course which they love to that which they loathe.
7. Some are so resolved already never to change their present state, that they neglect examination as a useless thing. Before they will turn so precise, and seek a new way, when they have lived so long, and gone so far, they will put their eternal state to the venture, come of it what will. And when a man is fully resolved to hold on his way, and not to turn back, be it right or wrong, to what end should he inquire whether he be right or not?
8. Most men are so taken up with their worldly affairs, and are so busy in driving the trade of providing for the flesh, that they cannot set themselves to the trying of their title to heaven. They have another kind of happiness in their eye, which they are pursuing, which will not suffer them to make sure of heaven,
. '9. Most men are so clogged with a laziness and slothfulness of spirit, that they will not be persuaded to be at the pains of an hour's examination of their own hearts. It requireth some labour and diligence to accomplish it thoroughly, and they will
rather venture all than set about it. :. 10. But the common and dangerous impediment is that false
faith and hope, commonly called presumption, which bears up the hearts of the most of the world, and so keeps them from suspecting their danger. .
Thus you see what abundance of difficulties must be overcome before a man can closely set upon the examining of his heart. I do but name them for brevity sake.
And if a man do break through all these impediments, and set upon the duty, yet assurance is not presently attained. Of those few who do inquire after marks and means of assurance, and bestow some pains to learn the difference between the sound Christian and the unsound, and look often into their own hearts; yet divers are deceived, and do miscarry, especially through these following causes :
1. There is such a confusion and darkness in the soul of man, especially of an unregenerate man, that he can scarcely tell what he doeth, or what is in him. As one can hardly find any thing in an house where nothing keeps his place, but all is cast on a heap together : so is it in the heart where all things are in disorder, especially when darkness is added to this disorder : so that the heart is like an obscure cave or dungeon, where there is but a little crevice of light, and a man must rather grope than see. No wonder if men mistake in searching such a heart, and so miscarry in judging of their estate.
2. And the rather, because most men do accustom themselves to be strangers at home, and are little taken up with observing the temper and motions of their own hearts. All their studies are employed without them, and they are nowhere less acquainted than in their own breasts. · 3. Besides, many come to the work with forestalling conclusions: they are resolved what to judge before they try: they use the duty but to strengthen their present conceits of themselves, and not to find out the truth of their condition, like a bribed judge, who examines each party as if he would judge uprightly, when he is resolved which way the cause shall go beforehand. Or, as perverse disputers, who argue only to maintain their present opinions rather than to try those opinions
uprightly, whor, as perveions rath
whether they are right or wrong. Just so, do men exaniine their hearts.
4. Also, men are partial in their own cause. They are ready to think their great sins small, and their sınall sins to be none; their gifts of nature to be the work of grace, and their gifts of common grace to be the special grace of the saints. They are straightway ready to say, “All these have I kept from my youth; and I am rich and increased,” &c. (Matt. xix. 20; Rev. iii. 17.) The first common excellency that they meet with in themselves, doth so dazzle their eyes, that they are presently satisfied that all is well, and look no further.
5. Besides, most men do search but by the halves.* If it will not easily and quickly be done, they are discouraged, and leave off. Few set to it, and follow it, as beseems them in a work of such moment. He must give all diligence that means to make sure.
6. Also, men try themselves by false marks and rules, not knowing wherein the truth of Christianity doth consist'; some looking beyond, and some short of the scripture standard.
7. Moreover, there is so great likeness between the lowest degree of special grace, and the highest degree of common grace, that it is no wonder if the unskilful be mistaken. It is a great question, whether the main difference between special grace and common be not rather gradual than specifical. If it should be so, as some think, then the discovery will be much more difficult. However, to discern by what principle our affections are moved, and to what ends, and with what sincerity, is not very easy; there being so many wrong ends and motives, which may excite the like acts. Every grace in the saints hath its counterfeit in the hypocrite.
8. Also, men try themselves by unsafe marks ; either looking for a high degree of grace, instead of a lower degree in sincerity, as many doubting Christians do: or else inquiring only into their outward actions, or into their inward affections, without their ends, motives, and other qualifications; the sure evidences are, faith, love, &c., which are essential parts of our Christianity, and that lie nearest to the heart. · 9. Lastly: Men frequently miscarry in this working, by setting
* I doubt not but a Protestant, upon a dogmatical faith or belief of his tenets and principles, might, among Papists, die upon thein, and yet come far short of salyation. How far would the name of Abraham have carried a Jew, in letter?-Mr. Vines' Sermons, Numb, xiv. 24. p. 29.
on it in their own strength. As some expect the Spirit should do it without them, so others attenipt it themselves, without seeking or expecting the help of the Spirit. Both these will certainly miscarry in their assurance. How far the Spirit's assistance is necessary, is showed before, and the several acts which it must perform for us.
Further Causes of Doubting among Christians. ,
Sect. I. Because the comfort of a Christian's life doth so much consist in his assurance of God's special love, and because the right way of obtaining it is so much controverted of late, I will here proceed a little further in opening to you some other hinderances which keep true Christians from comfortable certainty, besides the fore-mentioned errors in the work of examination : though I would still have you remember and be sensible, that the neglect or slighty performance of that great duty, and not following on the search with seriousness and constancy, is the most common hinderance for aught I have yet found.
I shall now add these ten more, which I find very ordinary impediments, and therefore desire Christians more carefully to consider and beware of them.
1. One common and great cause of doubting and uncertainty is, the weakness and small measure of our grace. A little grace is next to none: small things are hardly discerned. He that will see a small needle, a hair, a mote, or atom, must have clear light and good eyes ; but houses, and towns, and mountains, are easily discerned. Most Christians content themselves with a small measure of grace, and do not follow on to spiritual strength and manhood. They believe so weakly, and love God so little, that they can scarce find whether they believe and love at all ; like a man in a swoon, whose pulse and breathing is so weak and obscure that it can hardly be perceived whether they move at all, and consequently whether the man be alive or dead.
The chief remedy for such, would be to follow on their duty, till their graces be increased.' Ply your work; wait upon God in the use of his prescribed means, and he will undoubtedly bless you with increase and strength, Oh! that Christians would bestow most of that time in getting grace, which they bestow in anxious doubtings whether they have any or none; and that they would lay out those serious affections in praying, and seeking to Christ for more grace, which they bestow in fruitless complaints of their supposed gracelessness! I beseech thee, Christian, take this advice as from God; and then, when thou believest strongly, and lovest fervently, thou canst not doubt whether thou do believe and love or not, any more than a man that is burning hot can doubt whether he be warm ; or a man that is strong and lusty can doubt whether he be alive. Strong affections will make you feel them. Who loveth his friends, or wife, or child, or any thing strongly, and doth not know it? A great measure of grace is seldom doubted of; or, if it be, you may quickly find when you seek and try i
Sect. II. Another cause of uncomfortable living is, that Christians look more at their present cause of comfort or discomfort, than they do at their future happiness, and the way to attain it. They look after signs which may tell them what they are, more than they do at precepts which tell them what they should do. They are very desirous to know whether they are justified and beloved, or not; but they do not think what course they should take to be justified, if they be not; as if their present case must needs be their everlasting case, and if they be now unpardoned, there were no remedy. Why, I beseech thee, consider this, O doubting soul! What, if all were as bad as thou dost fear, and none of thy sins were yet pardoned; is not the remedy at hand? May not all this be done in a moment? Dost thou not know that thou mayest have Christ and pardon whenever thou wilt? Call not this a loose or strange doctrine. Christ is willing if thou be willing. He offereth himself and all his benefits to thee: he presseth them on thee, and urgeth thee to accept them. He will condemn thee, and destroy thee, if thou wilt not accept then, Why dost thou,
2 You sit poring and searching for pillars of hope within you, and bestow much pains to answer your own fears : but the ready way to make the business clear, is by going to Christ. Stand not so much as upon this question, Whether you have believed in truth or not; but put all out of doubt by a pre-sent saith. The door is open, enter and live ; you may more easily build a new fabric of comfort, by taking Christ, than repair your old dwelling, aud clear all suits that are brought against your tenure.- Simonds' Descrted Soul, p. 554.