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therefore, stand whining and complaining that thou art not pardoned and adopted, when thou shouldst take them, being offered thee? Were he not mad that would lie weeping, and wringing his hands, because he is not pardoned, when his prince stands by all the while offering him a pardon, and entreating, and threatening, and persuading, and correcting him, and all to make him take it? What would you say to such a man; would you not chide him for his folly, and say, If thou wouldst have pardon and life, why dost thou not take it?' Why, then, do you not say the like to yourselves? Know ye not that pardon and adoption are offered you only on the condition of your believing? And this believing is nothing else but the accepting of Christ for thy Lord and Saviour, as he is offered to theç with his benefits in the Gospel : and this accepting is principally, if not only, the act of thy will. So that if thou be willing to have Christ upon his own, terms, that is, to save and rule thee, then thou art a believer : thy willingness is thy faith; and if thou have faith, thou hast the suręst of all evidences. Justifying faith is not thy persuasion of God's special love to thee, or of thy justification, but thy accepting Christ to inake thee just and lovely. It may be, thou wilt say, 'I cannot believe; it is not so easy a matter to believe as you make it,' Answ. Indeed, to those that are not willing, it is not easy, God only can make them willing. But to him that is willing to have Christ for King and Saviour, I will not say, believing is easy: but it is already performed; for this is believing, Let me, therefore, put this question to every doubting, complaining soul, What is it that thou art complaining and mourning for? What makes thee walk so sadly as thou dost? Because thou hast not Christ and his benefits? Why, art thou willing to have them on the fore-mentioned condition, or art thou not? If thou be willing, thou hast him : thy accepting is thy believing : “To as many as receive him, (that is, accept him,) to them he gives power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” (John i. 12.) But if thou art not willing, why dost thou complain? Methinks the tongue should follow the bent of the heart or will, and they that would not have Christ should be speaking against him, at least, against his laws and ways, and not complaining because they do not enjoy him. Dost thou groan, and make such moan for want of that which thou wouldst not have? If, indeed, thou wouldst not have Christ for thy King and Saviour, then have I nothing to say but to persuadę thee to be willing. Is it not madness, then, to lie complaining that we have not Christ, when we may have him if we will? If thou have him not, take him, and cease thy complaints. Thou canst not be so forward and willing as he is : and if he be willing, and thou be willing, who shall break the match ? I will not say, as Mr. Saltmarsh most horribly doth, a that we ought no more to question our faith, which is our first and foundation grace, than we ought to question Christ the foundation of our faith. But this, I say, that it were a more wise and direct course to accept Christ offered, which is believing, than to spend so much time in doubting whether we have Christ and faith, or no.
Sect. III. Another cause of many Christians' trouble, is their mistaking assurance for the joy that sometime accompanieth it; or, at least, confounding them together. Therefore, when they want the joy of assurance, they are as much cast down as if they wanted assurance itself. Dr. Sibbs saith well, that as we cannot have grace but by the work of the Spirit, so must there be a further act to make us know that we have that grace : and when we know we have grace, yet must there be a further act of the Spirit to give us comfort in that knowledge. Some knowledge or assurance of our regenerate and justified state the Spirit gives more ordinarily, but that sensible joy is more seldom and extraordinary. We have cause enough to keep off doubtings and distress of Spirit, upon the bare sight of our evidences, though we do not feel any further joys. These coinplaining souls understand not: and therefore, though they cannot deny their willingness to have Christ, nor many other the like graces, which are infallible signs of their justification and adoption; yet, because they do not feel their spirits replenished with comforts, they throw away all, as if they had nothing. As if a child should no longer take himself for a son than he sees the 'smiles of his father's face, or heareth the comfortable expressions of his mouth; and as if the father did cease to be a father whenever he ceaseth those smiles and speeches.
Sect. IV. 4. And yet, further, is the trouble of these poor souls increased, in that they know not the ordinary way of God's conveying these expected comforts. When they hear that they
a Flowing of Christ's blood, &c.—p. 95.
b Mr. Paul Bayn (I think one of the holiest, choicest men that ever England bred) yet describeth the temper of his spirit thus: I thank God in Christ, sustentation I have, but suavities spiritual I taste not any.-In his Letters.
c In watchfulness and diligence, we sooner meet with comfort, thau in idle complaiuing ; our care, therefore, should be to get sound evidence of a good
are the free gifts of the Spirit, they presently conceive themselves to be merely passive therein, and that they have nothing to do but to wait when God will bestow them; not understanding that though these comforts are spiritual, yet are they rational; raised upon the understanding's apprehension of the excellency of God our happiness, and of our interest in him ; and by the rolling of this blessed object in our frequent meditations. The Spirit doth advance, and not destroy our reason; it doth rectify it, and then use it as its ordinary instrument for the conveyance of things to our affections, and exciting them accordingly, and not lay it aside and affect us without it; therefore, our joys are raised discursively, and the Spirit first revealeth our cause of joy, and then helpeth us to rejoice upon those revealed grounds; so that he who rejoiceth groundedly, knoweth why he rejoiceth ordinarily. Now these mistaken Christians lie waiting when the Spirit doth cast in these comforts into their hearts, while they sit still and labour not to excite their own affections; nay, while they reason against the comforts which they wait for. These men must be taught to know, that the matter of their comfort is in the promises; and thence they must fetch it as oft as they expect it; and that if they set thenselves daily and diligently to meditate of the truth of those promises, and of the real excellency contained in them, and of their own title thereto : in this way they may expect the Spirit's assistance for the raising of holy comfort in their souls.d But if they lie still, bewailing their want of joy, while the full and free promises lie by them, and never take them, and consider, and look into them, and apply them to their hearts by serious meditation, they may complain for want of comfort long enough before they have it, in God's ordinary way of conveyance. 'God worketh upon men as men, as reasonable creatures; the joy of the promises, and the joy of the Holy Ghost, are one joy. .
And those seducers, who, in their ignorance, misguide poor souls in this point, do exceedingly wrong them while they persuade them so to expect their comforts from the Spirit, as not to be any authors of them themselves, not to raise up their own hearts by argumentative means; telling them that such comforts estate, and then to keep those evidences clear.-D. Sibbs' Preface to Soul's Conflict.
d As if a poor man should complain for want of money, when a chest full stands by him, and he may take what he will; is it not better to take it out, than lie complaining for want ?
are but hammered by themselves, and not the genuine comforts of the Spirit. How contrary is this to the doctrine of Christ !
Sect. V. 5. Another cause of the trouble of their souls is, their expecting a greater measure of assurance than God doth usually bestow upon his people. Most think, as long as they have any doubting they have no assurance; they consider not that there are many degrees of infallible certainty below a perfect or an undoubting certainty. They must know, that while they are here they shall know but in part; they shall be imperfect in the knowledge of Scripture, which is their rule in trying; and imperfect in the knowledge of their own obscure, deceitful hearts; some strangeness to God and themselves there will still remain; some darkness will overspread the face of their souls ; some unbelief will be making head against their faith ; and some of their grievings of the Spirit, will be grievous to themselves, and make a breach in their peace and joy. Yet, as long as their faith is prevailing, and their assurance doth tread down and subdue their doubtings, though not quite expel them, they may walk in comfort and maintain their peace; but as long as they are resolved to lie down in sorrow till their assurance be perfect, their days on earth must then be days of sorrow.
Sect. VI. 6. Again, many a soul lies long in trouble, by taking up his comforts in the beginning upon unsound or uncertain grounds. This may be the case of a gracious soul, who hath better grounds and doth not see them; and then when they grow to more ripeness of understanding, and come to find out the insufficiency of their former grounds of comfort, they cast away their comfort wholly, when they should only cast away their rotten props of it, and search for better to support it with. As if their comfort and their safety were both of a nature, and
e God will keep the rich store of consistent and abiding comforts till the great day, that when all the family shall come together, he may pour out the fulness of his hidden treasures on them; we are now in the morning of the day, the feast is to come; a breakfast must serve to stay the stomach, till the King of saints, with all his friends, sit down together.- Simonds' Deserted Soul, p. 507.
So some think they are God's people, because they are of such a party, or such a strict opinion, and when they change their opinion they change their comfort. Some that could have no comfort while they were among the orthodox, as soon as they have turned to such or such a sect, have comfort in abundance ; partly through Satau's delusion, and partly because they think their change in opinion bath set them rigbt with God; and therefore they rejoice. Su, many hypocrites, whose religion lieth only in their opinions, have their comfort also only there,
both built on the same foundation, they conclude against their safety, because they have discovered the mistake of their former comfort. And there are many much-applauded books and teachers of late, who further the delusion of poor souls in this point, and make them believe that because their former comforts were too legal, and their persuasions of their good state were ill grounded, therefore themselves were under the covenant of works only, and their spiritual condition as unsound as their comforts. These men observe not, that while they deny us the use of marks to know our own state, yet they make use of them themselves, to know the states of others; yea, and of false and insufficient marks too: for to argue from the motive of our peruasion of a good state, to the goodness or badness of that state, is no sound arguing. It followeth not that a man is unregenerate because he judged himself regenerate upon wrong grounds: for perhaps he might have better grounds, and not know it; or else, not know which were good and which bad. Safety and comfort stand not always on the same bottom. Bad grounds do prove the assurance bad which was built upon them, but not always the state bad. These teachers do but toss poor souls up and down as the waves of the sea, making them believe that their state is altered as oft as their conceits of it alter. Alas! few Christians do come to know either what are solid grounds of comfort, or whether they have any such grounds themselves, in the infancy of Christianity. But as an infant hath life before he knoweth it; and as he hath misapprès hensions of himself, and most other things, for certain years together, and yet it will not follow, that therefore he hath no life or reason; so it is in the case in hand. Yet this should persuade both ministers and believers themselves, to lay right grounds for their comfort, in the beginning, as far as may be ; for else, usually when they find the flaw in their comforts and assurance, they will judge it to be a flaw in their safety and real states. Just, as I observe, most persons do, who turn to errors or heresies; they took up the truth in the beginning, upon either false or doubtful grounds, and then, when their grounds are overthrown or shaken, they think the doctrine is also overthrown; and so they let go both together, as if none had solid arguments because they had not; or none could manage them better than they. Even so when they perceive that their arguments for their good state were unsound, they think that their state must needs be as unsound.